The 30/30 Project: September 2021

Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.

The volunteer poets for September 2021 are Barbara Audet, Seneca Basoalto, Kristen Brida, Jane Hammons, Sharayah Hooper, Olivia Ivings, Alicia Rebecca Myers, Kimberly J Simms, Andrew Walker, and Karen Warinsky. Read their full bios here.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and warm up your pen!

Poem 23 / Day 23

Summer Serenade / by Barbara Audet

Veiled, as if humidity were the fabric of my mask.
Lifted, as if descending front, newly cold,
could inflate collapsed lungs.
Arrived, as if the turning of the planet
righted the character of climate,
ending its thievery of time outdoors.
Released, as if the door opened
to no draft of hungering heat for the first time
in the history of summer ending
and autumn delivered.
Unhinged, as if the President,
the governor,
all the kings and queens,
commanded leaves to drift in baths of color,
your spirit washed beside these,
with your mood so glued
to the workings of the weather,
degrees down sets you free.
Beguiled, as if the tiny creatures in your mind
could not nag you woken to the sense that mercury lies,
and you’ll regret the early celebration for broken breezes
because they smuggle winter in past the fall.

Self-Portrait as Delco / by Kristen Brida 
“Ruin is formal.” –Emily Dickinson

when I left home, there was
the question of my voice

how if I am to demonstrate
my intellect and poetry

my voice must echo
that same sentiment

now all I keep thinking is
how fear surrounds a dialect

until it earns
Kate Winslet an Emmy.

In spite of this newfound fame
I let loose my throat

let my L’s glide
into any surrounding vowels,

my O’s propel forth
phlegm from my sinuses

shift my thinking from my voice:
a nasally garbage disposal into my own cadence.

Still, some changes
cannot be undone

I miss the way wooder
pools and flows out my mouth

I used to joke the phrase “Delco Poet”
is the strangest combination

how foolish that was, how I
did I not register that so much

poetry depends on a sound

 

Family Portrait: California 1938 / by Jane Hammons 

Imperial Valley
rain
peas
           in March
apricots
           in June
Santa Clara
rain
Fresno
grapes
strawberries
Monterey
pears
Yolo
tomatoes
Tehama
prunes
blueberries
El Dorado
rain

3,000
up and down the state
miles
of mud and rain
hope starved
by the side of the road

Someone had a camera

 

In the dream / by Olivia Ivings 

My grandfather rests on a kitschy hearse,
toes tipping out of a white sheet.

Two mannequins perch on the body
rather than the horses or the rumble seat.

The corpse glistens in oil when I pull the sheet back;
blood pools like any other rotting mass.

My grandmother has gone feed crows,
and my parents are watching my youngest brother

run a race while I stare at a yellowing shin,
thinking about how one might dress a corpse.

When the mannequins start jumping on the body,
I can’t breathe, but the corpse animates.

My grandfather stands, says nothing, but takes off
to watch my brother run.

When I wake to the sound of my dog pushing
my phone off the bed, my teeth hurt.

 

Bear Shreds Interior / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

Many times I’ve run
a non retractable claw along
a door panel. Before wreaking
havoc on upholstery, my glinting
eyes, the width of a beam
axle, rib you through the driver’s
window. Don’t leave anything out
you wouldn’t want taken.
I crawl inside to fatten up:
pry open your adolescence
to extract seeded cadence,
rip apart a dinner party
story just for juicy
measure. What I love most
about flying foam is how it lands
in patterns barely audible.
I never slash from a place
of aggression, only hunger
for the sound of polyester
tearing. Listen. It’s the music
of trucks and Colorado.
Hear chassis. Hear ouster.

 

Elk have Antlers. / by Kimberly J Simms

Tigers have tusks. Homo sapiens pack a punch.
Teen boys are locking horns in the locker room,
in the abandoned field, raw courage unyielding.
Planting their heels in their evolutionary past,
the proportions of their hands curl into fierce fists.

They’re seeking the bone of contention, rough and tumble
nature that’s evolved for male-male competition. 
The bones in their faces designed for the siege.
Their upper bodies commanding weapon-grade force.
Their blood is rising like sap in the oak.

 

Keeping Summer / by Karen Warinsky 

Yes, yes, it’s the first day of fall
but I am not rushing to put out pumpkins,
slap a leafy orange garland around my door,
drink pumpkin ale.

Why the hurry?
The recollective cold
and dreary dark days are coming.
Can’t we just use our sense and will power
to keep the fawns,
the green soft grass,
the shoeless, fleece-less summer
one month more?

I’ll willingly kill the mosquitos,
sweep up those prompt, premature fallen leaves
from the steps,
the deck,
the end of the driveway,
and brush them off my geraniums,
my potted ivy
just to see sweet Sol’s face
shining back at me, his loyalist lover.

I want my windows open,
my ceiling fan turning, humming its quiet refrain,
restraining me from worry,
from fear,
keeping the mood light,
the summer sunset in the sky.

 

 

 

when the phone rings, I get anxious and bite at the tips of my fingers so I rarely ever pick up but / by Andrew Walker 

when Scam
             Likely calls,
I answer,
             desperation
puppetting
             my phone
to my ear
             thirsty for
the whet
             of even
a machine’s
             voice but
there is
             nothing
but footsteps
             or a clock
ticking and
             I don’t know
how I know
             but it is
ticking down
             and I breathe
with it like
             an exercise

             in

                                                             out

you get it

             i get lost in
the emptiness
             between each
click in my
             throat when I
finally say
             hello?
I hear my want
             get gulped
by the always
             open mouth
of silence
             and I close
myself
the phone
             before I
fall too
             deep into

Poem 22 / Day 22

An Earth in Motion / by Barbara Audet

To move from roof to sky to roof once more, 
tasks the insecure to risk a loss of footing.
Dispersion by design snubs its nose 
at protecting emotional property.
Determined, fear suspended, 
in-the-open flight 
requires steady flows of liberty.  

Sky to roof. Hearts rendered up for social viewing.

Steps taken, one way underway, those in transit fight,
hands pressed up against transfixing natures, 
the secure, the More,
whose business is to disempower generations 
stained, oppressed, cross-checked off 
by motion robbing, taxing ambiguities, 
resistant to release the Less 
from make mine macro, make mine micro bondage.

Roof to sky. Restrictions apply.

Diaspora is man kindled. 
Holding the lead, man most mean. 
Whips burn. Ropes burn. Chains burn.
We’ve gotten so good at setting skin ablaze.
We do it in courtrooms. We do it on horseback. 
We do it with words, with slurs, 
with anger rapt with that tone of righteous rapture.
All to tie down, keep pruned the branch of privilege, 
sprung from guarded trees, a putrid forest of humanity 
passionate to limit the size of its stark love affair with fireside security.
Who are we really?

Sky to roof. Policing, policy for senses. 

And on two days in September, how can two, 
such diverse in thought, meaning, flights take off at once?
A rocket speeds past the rim of Earth, its cargo, average men, average women,
exploding to a place where other worlds can see them, 
see them cast their shadows on a plane below, 
its cargo, media moment dregs, diaspora reneged, 
on a heading to potential death, definite obscurity.
Humans marching, loaded into a ship again, 
one crew on its own, one crew pushed by man, again, 
carried by machine again, this time on air currents 
that can either save or send to perdition.

Roof to sky. Unending.

Animals once knew how to win a sweepstakes route endeavor.
Defying hazards, on two feet, on four feet, they island’d over, 
maneuvered in, ahead of hold you back mechanisms. 
Over and over. Clawed for each 
and every square inch of Earth’s substance, 
soils, loams, clays that lodge under overgrown fingernails.
Created a vocabulary for what we live in, 
live on, ought to share more of. 
Earth’s inventory’s no longer up for grabs.
Oceans. Lakes. Ponds. Pools. Reservoirs. Rivers. Flora. Fauna.
Words that harbor deep desire to control, resent competition.

Fathers, blistered feet led us before, beyond familiar shorelines,
to shores that bore the mark of familiarity
at one juncture or another.

Roof to sky.  Who are we really.

Toes & Tall Tales / by Seneca Basoalto 

I know too well how tempting the grave can be
when your husband who was placed inside of his
has found a way to take flight into your room

your bed, where he can’t sleep / next to the pillow
that belongs to the man who murdered him
who only comes to visit four times a year
bearing banter against mood rings at solstice

forget about my spine
how I spin under sheets

it’s the pills that tame me
then take me to wonderland

I always assumed the soil was a canon
from which your body would explode into
nothing

have you come to prove to me that I was wrong?
or are you here because of skin? those who are left
to dawdle are said to be tied to something remaining
here on earth

all these toes & tall tales / I’ve always had a loose
tongue, you said you loved / & maybe this is why
you cannot go, being written again & again into a poem

if so, just know that someday I know I will get mine,
scratching / & still alive, like Alice burning in her casket

Notes on a harvest moon in the city / by Kristen Brida 

night shifts, the moon
moves towards the skyline
spire, a blade
halves the full moon

moon’s pointillism
blurred—the satellites
twinkle and provides
an image on my phone
a tree turns into a
shadow of itself, behind
a flameless and burning moon

I lay a hand
on my apartment window.
I spread my fingers
so the lights
from the Liberty tower
pool in the spaces between them.

Bergamo (March 2020) / by Jane Hammons 

Obituary
Obituariusa: record; death record
February 9
One page
               in L’Eco de Bergamo
March 13
ten-page-record
               re
               cord
in a viral video Giovanni Locatelli
counts aloud
             over the whisper
of obituary pages
             1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
folded one over the other
rectangular portraits faces of the dead
laid down the cards dealt

Bergamo (June 1986)

Driving down from the Alps
we stop because the rain is torrential
and we’re lost
In the hotel room, I read NYRB
he reads Rolling Stone
we fall asleep to bells tolling
bells tolling wake us
sunshine and we are on the road again
but first
we drive to an old part of the city
where the post office is on a hill
a white horse swishes its tail below
in a pasture
the earth is red
bells tolling tolling bells

             L’Eco de Bergamo L’Eco de Bergamo L’Eco de Bergamo

Work From Home / by Olivia Ivings 

       I. 

Hawks and squirrels tip-toe 
across the fence like funambulists.
They don’t break bones, create 
blood-bubbling canyons like I would
if I tried to follow in their likenesses. 
I’d plummet into buckled concrete, 
even at my best: tall, akimbo posture 
and fly-aways tucked into a skull-tight ponytail.

       II. 

An orange cardinal stands on the bay laurel. 
My knees straighten, mouth widening
in joyful adoration because something 
so dingy exists. None of my friends believe me 
when I tell them about the encounter 
over pints of warm beer; Google validates
what my eyes have seen.

Light in Its Prime / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

When a woman ages, it isn’t just that a network of fine cracks and intendations overlays her skin to give her a webbed but familiar appearance; her entire facial infrastructure falls.  Bones lose mass and drift. The orbital rim widens, causing a sunken, tired look around the eyes. Fat travels south and pools in paunchy pockets at the jawline. We shape-shift, seemingly overnight and in individual fashion, from oval to square, from heart to bog.  Most difficult to accept is how a single miscalculation from my past, a sunburn from an impromptu beach trip, can manifest decades later as loss of elasticity. Now, when I observe my forty-four-year old face in the mirror, I catch sight of how I appeared at thirty. Transient luminous threads. What elicits fear is the disconnect between my expectations and physical evidence. As a child, I thought the word was ultraviolent. It’s a myth we gaze up at the sky and wish upon the light from long-dead stars. Visible stars are still very much alive.

Hard to Give a Shit These Days / by Kimberly J Simms
With nods to Lou Reed and Wilfred Owen

Hard to hear St. Paul’s bells, this constant parade
of funerals, this is no time for shaking hands,
no time for us to disengage. There is no time. 

Only the monstrous anger of the nurses,
drawing down the blinds, with patients drowning
from covid-corrupted lungs, each day another thousand, 
a shortage of hearses. There is no time.

No consolations, please. The janitor is teaching
math to fourth grade. If you could hear the cacophony 
of children wheezing, parents brought to tears. 

The white-collar bankers spent a spring indoors,
the news droning on, but no one wants to hear it anymore.
No one wants to be here without you.

No time to think of the voices we’ll never hear again
while maskless politicians salute their flags
clutching Miami, Boise, New York in a black garbage bag.

Omission / by Andrew Walker 

“Jesus is just a Spanish boy’s name” – Frightened Rabbit

     Cupped in a palm like a wafer, my body
is washed in prayer. I hold god

     in holy hand—though I am white 
I am told I look like Jesus,

     though I am full, I am told
I look starved. I have drowned

     in wine and tasted my blood, 
I do not float upon the surface 

     of this sea but grasp at any arm
reaching out to touch me. Perhaps

     winter is a warning of recurrence. Perhaps
winter is the reason I still find

     my fingers folding over each other,
each breath a countdown, taunting 

     the parts of myself still afraid 
of what comes next. Perhaps

     it is my own omission that traps 
me here, ties me to a faith resurrected

     each time I see the shadow of a cloud
consume a mountain. Every April, 

     when the snow only hides at the peaks
of ourselves, I do not tell those

     who bring me gifts for my birthday 
that I was born on Easter. 

The Case for Hope / by Karen Warinsky 

All we have really,
our treasure
inviolate and sacred,
is this feeling
rising in our chests,
radiating from eyes and smiles
and hugs,
(real, virtual or an elbow touch)
that we can go on.

Imagination lifts us to the future
and we pave its road
with golden bricks of envisaged experiences,
encounters with friends and strangers,
chances to right what is wrong.

That is how we do this.
That is how we conquer our current despair.

Poem 21 / Day 21

Penny Thoughts / by Barbara Audet

God paid me
a penny
for the privilege
of living low today.

Found, winking,
just a shine
on the asphalt,
Lincoln facing forward,
(no coward ever he,
whether man or minted).

Quickly toe-nudged
with my clever
tip of the toe,
flipper girl with style,
just for luck’s sake,
to hold on
in transport.

Sorry Abe,
but that is the way of it.
I don’t know why.

Superstitious stuff
these wayward, wayside
copper coins.
Though hardly copper,
—copper in name, now.

Should I dare
to make a Federal case
of altering how it came
to rest, from hand
or pocket
or a game of pitch
against the curb
for closest
to the curb
bragging rights?

I date myself talking pennies
at the curb, I know.

I never flip a dime
or urge a nickel over,
or heaven forbid
do anything
but snatch
the quarter.
These tidbits
are salary worthy.
I stoop proud for them
brazenly promise,
crossed fingered,
I won’t spend them.

Mom says hi in my head
as I bend to bring
the dime to home.
Dad says hi in my head
with a nickel necessary curtsy.

A quarter reminds me
of buying full bags
of penny candy
to take to the drive-in.
Spaghetti red laces,
Gumballs wider
than a puckered mouth.

Keen sight gifted,
downward observation
training lessons,
by way of introversion,
sees
pick-abled pennies
fastest.

Coins on the ground
are a lost art,
scant and far between,
too many wasted in wishing,
leaving few to find
for fortune’s folly,
these stingy digital days.

Aubade as Gus / by Kristen Brida 
(as requested by Katie Richards!)

I stretch and regard the sun
my eyes blink, their shine
twins the morning light.
I go up to my mother’s desk
I chew her African violets
I promptly spit them out
I clean my mess, scratching
the mahogany in the process.
My father locks me out,
at which point, I pound on the door
as if I had been abandoned, until
one of my subordinates caves,
and feeds me my breakfast
forty-five minutes ahead of schedule.

Today they appear
to have bought me a new bowl.
They have placed it by the television.
It dispenses my food.
But they are still sleeping?
Still, I will throw
my mother’s AirPods
I will pry open my father’s
dresser and swat his socks
until they say goddammit Gus
and gesture me to my new bowl
for I still need them to regard me
for mama to receive my head butts
before I dare grace them
before I curl up between them
like a shrimp scrampi
and rest my peeties on my papa’s arms.

Scans / by Jane Hammons 

I scan my sister’s ashes.
And other things.
Her jewelry. Scarves. Baby teeth. Hair.

I want to write a memoir.

Bits of bone. Tissue. Bits of me. My kidney that became hers.

One of her earrings—Tiger’s Eye—rectangle with a circle cut out of the center I plug with ash. The scanner fills it all with light I shatter like a kaleidoscope with my photo app’s healing tool.

I want to write a memoir.

Instead I’m looking. Seeing. Rearranging. Knowing differently. Learning. Breaking. Healing.

A necklace. Turquoise. Coral. Silver. Her colors. Also red. In her last years she turned to purple black. The last gift I gave her was a bright orange vest. Faux fur. To keep her warm. To brighten her (did she want to be faux warmed and brightened?) She was always cold, losing weight, not eating so she wouldn’t have to adjust her insulin.

I polish her jewelry scan filter fade crop. Manipulate.

I want to write a memoir.

I upload the images to edit instead. Play with color. Saturation. Exposure. Bringing out scratches on the surface of my scanner. Scratches made by her bones not reduced to ash.

My sister’s ashes cling to photographs contracts and other documents I scan.

I want to write a memoir.

The ashes won’t have it.

 

Untitled / by Olivia Ivings 

I.
Crumpling under July’s humidity,
I notice a few fireflies blinking
on the unlit path. I’m a thousand miles
from Nacogdoches and your parent’s 
concrete floors where we sat, 
making plans to skip class.
We were supposed to stomp 
the Psalms during a square dance,
but instead, we went to the Indian restaurant
across the street from our Episcopal school.

II.
Tonight, I’m thinking about you—
your moon-round mouth widening—
singing the opening words
to “May the Circle Be Unbroken”
with the choir during chapel.
Remember when you broke your arm
falling during a hike past Lanana Creek? 
Your left limb halved like a blood orange; 
juice pooled beneath papery skin.

America Is / by Alicia Rebecca Myers
Written using language from an 1987 textbook found on a sidewalk in Ithaca on 9/20/21

Freethinking Headstone Wounded Kindergarten
Conscripted Skyscraper Supreme
Barbeque Primary Stranger
Forever Dollar Gilded
Census Cipher
Engine

Second Fortune Found Poem / by Kimberly J Simms

Do not give up, the beginning
is always the hardest. A new
path will improve your true timing.

Your strong ability to trust
fuels your ability to love.
Your yesterday is unjust

but your tomorrow has new truths.
A former flame will return home.
Beware, don’t throw away your youth!  

Send a letter to squash an old 
dispute. Your heart will skip a beat.
Remember, in all things be bold.

If you don’t like today’s fortune
a new one can be told.

Hidden Sugars / by Andrew Walker 

Cupping candy in my hand
I wait to see the colors
fate has chosen for me, wanting
blue or yellow, understanding
they will all taste like chocolate.
I carry it with me as I leave,
in hopes to find somewhere I can
enjoy my sugars in silence, without
direction or attention. It would be
a place well hidden, like my candy,
space where form is not sealed
behind melting rainbows. Wandering,
I feel lost but not homesick,
anticipation claws at the corners
of myself, revealing the blood (the sugars?)
beneath my coat. When my stomach
grumbles, I find a spot behind
a bench advertising a weightloss
pill, plastered beside a belly
that looks not too different from mine
and lick what remains from my sweaty
palm, savoring the light crunch
from the shell,
                            or maybe bone.

The Other Cheek / by Karen Warinsky 

There becomes a point where it is too red,
too raw,
and turning that cheek
requires the whole body, too,
and the mind,
and the ability to walk away.

The offering plate of love and friendship
rejected
in ways you never imagined
you must stop,
though you persisted long years
with talks and compliments and gifts,
all pushed back at you
until any feeling
or sentiment for the person,
the situation,
left your body,
a bird off a limb
an evaporating cloud,
and you won’t return
though this forgiveness seems accomplished,
you are removing yourself
and your cheek.

Poem 20 / Day 20

That Dickinson Woman / by Barbara Audet

Dear Emily D said funerals seared her brain,
set her reeling toward a failing plank is life disaster,
while others, only mourners in her way,
saw spectacle rehearsed alone.

Dear Emily D said her broad heavens tolled,
but the churching crowds were deaf,
walking, kneeling, hovering, happily
drummed out of pulsed religion.

Dear Emily D saw costs for regal’s clothing,
accounting chalices, robed robin mouths
open for drops of worm meat,
we all must envy as we starve.

Dear Emily D sheltered a smile
for knowledge so profound,
so awkward in her era of weighted gowns,
when unvapored women were diseased if sane.

10 HABITS I WISH I COULD QUIT / by Seneca Basoalto 

Following my father underground / as if I have fogottom that he is the living embodiment of an escape
room / the painting whose eyes move when you move / something about a black light will unleash your
aura

Responding with haste / undermining the tangible muscle of comfortable desperation / I recognize that
vein & the twitch in his eye / it is just like mine

Rationalizing why I should not let go / move on / break free / only learning how to count so I can
understand years, ages, and history / how many sutures have come loose from where another white
man mutilated me

Spinning myself into a sadness / as if I couldn’t stop seeing the ghosts if I would just tell them goodbye /
but I don’t and I won’t / I am a globe

Appropriating eternity & calling it loyalty / love, without self interest / just tunnel vision set to repeat so
that it replays until plans become 6 feet of mud on a damp summer afternoon somewhere in the humid
south

Purposely killing your garden & laughing when you cry about how these are our children / I throw
bluebells at you so you can wipe your tears / as it makes me uncomfortable & we both know I cannot
console you

Peeling the film of opiates from my buck teeth as my father begs for me to let him lick it off instead /
ignoring the presence of the man he murdered so he would not have to cancel his proposal / okay, go
ahead & lick me clean

Stealing hearts & diamond rings that I will never give back but do not care enough about to not misplace
/ yes, I will marry you / yes, I will love you / but I refuse to be happy about it

Miseria / her haunts / catching them like the fireflies of her youth & eating them whole / we cannot live
like this / with only an idea of ecstasy

Calling my father by another name / daddy / Desi / old man / captain / killer / cry baby / volcano /
husband / secret / epitome of all & yet never being enough

Petrichor / by Kristen Brida 

After the party, we waited
for our ride back to the city.

The moon’s jeweled jaundice
turned thick pines into gossamer

and I had mentioned how we,
usually surrounded by glass and light

pollution, never get to see the moon
and how I did not realize this

until I saw this distant yolk.
You had nodded along

as if this yearning for the moon
was an inherent fact

I had said something about the smell
of rain mixing with asphalt, grass

and exhaust residue,
how I loved it. We were both

staring at the moon’s crenellations
when you had said there is name

for the scent that follows the rain.
When called it petrichor

you twinned the sky.

How you brought me language,
another word for something

I sought to name, and you
know how I love to name, to call

I felt a form of burning
without flames

Real Estate / by Jane Hammons 

I have written stories poems and essays about places—the farm I grew up on—a house my
children and I lived in (once a man broke into the basement and shit on the floor!)

The story of my folks’ house—a second home to my children and to me—I have told mostly
with photography. Birthdays. Holidays. Summer vacations. Weekends. Many many days
decades spent on the beach. Sand waves body surfing kelp crabs buckets sun screen towels.

If I were to write about that house on Santa Cruz Ave now
I’d write about decline decay and disrepair
grab bars to steady the wobbly
walker in the entry way
raised chairs for shower and toilets
I prefer to dwell in memory

Today I dealt in real estate after weeks of emails New Listings for Jane!
Hearting things on Trulia. Driving by houses to see if I want a further look.

Today I looked then tallied for all interested parties my worth
accounts and assets
phone calls followed and texts emails e-signatures on documents
I made
an offer

The house I hope to buy has been home to only the couple who built it in 1993.
On paper we are Seller and Buyer
             But in that house they
raised a daughter
             in the garage
restored an old Chevy truck
             in the backyard
dug a well

The listing for my parents’ home will someday read
             location location location
             walking distance to Seacliff Beach
             all that can be said for the raggedy bungalow
A teardown
             trying hard not to fall apart before they go
The lemon tree gone already
             hundreds of lemons their juice tart—blossoms sweet—glorious the meringue pies
Near the front door under the eaves, friends placed a bench in memory of my brother who died
             when he was 40
Upstairs in my folks’ closet my sister’s ashes sit in a tub on a shelf above the shoe rack.
In the side yard beneath the kitchen window the rock garden my mother insisted on moving
             from New Mexico pieces of mica lava flint and grinding stones

I’ve invested in that real estate but memory and story are not tendered in exchange for an
abode. And so I turn to Seller’s home.

If there are poems about it I will read them.
If there are poems in it I will write them.

This is my offer.

Ode to a Bookshop / by Sharayah Hooper 

I love to be surrounded by words,
the scent of them printed on paper close enough to touch.
Spines against my fingertips
feel like home.
Every twitch of my eye beholds a new story,
a lexicon to latch onto.
I inhale sentences and absorb images.
Heros and villians alike
dance around my shoulders in an epic battle
that continues long after I close the door behind me.

Parasomnia II / by Olivia Ivings 

My grandfather is in this dream.
He has spent fourteen years
in a casket, body
filled with formaldehyde—
it’s turned his breath ripe, death
-rot so sharp I can smell
it even in my dreams.
His dry eyes have decayed,
but he still has a lisp
when he says his Sweetie
is the finest lady
this side of the divide.

Beautiful Music / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

The way to play the theramin is to never touch
the instrument. Interference creates melody. Even
swaying can alter the electromagnetic field.
Our house shakes from the vibration of trucks
on the deteriorating highway. I mostly feel
these tremors in the bedroom when I set out
to write, distracted by the sound of a circular
saw or the shadows made by moving hands
in videos of theremin players. I prefer not knowing
what will come next. In fifth grade, when I got
my first period in Morehead Planetarium,
it suddenly made sense, the way a curved mirror
gathers and concentrates light. The distance
between what I intend to write and what
I actually do is a kind of confirmation
and faith in prospect, in span, in air.

5 Balloons in the Sky / by Kimberly J Simms

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I notice five foil
balloons sailing above the oak canopy.
My mind immediately pictures a tearful child
wearing a party hat, the bright stars, hearts,
and circles slipping from chubby fingers:
birthday candles on a cartoon cake, streamers,
the squealing of tag, the excitement of presents.

Then my mind goes to a white country church,
heartfelt remembrances scrawled on slips
of paper to be bound to each balloon,
a memorial for a thirty-something mother.
Two distraught girls trying to write final words
to lift up to heaven on the wings of a foil balloon.

Are these shines in the afternoon sky
more remembrances from youngsters left behind?
How many balloons will sail from 120,000
Covid-19 orphans in a world that is so unkind?

That Hole / by Karen Warinsky 

Feet solid on the ground
ethics held fast
most challenges faced
I was immovable, committed,
sorrows didn’t break me.

But.

There it is some days,
some nights,
the hollow center
that never filled with
chores or books
or movies or children.

It yawns like a bored lover,
a pang I try to fill
with words
on this page,
this keyboard’s touch
my truest companion,
letting me pound out truths,
delete some,
rewrite others,
sometimes create what I’d like to be.

The David Byrne Clause / by Andrew Walker 

When David Byrne flippy flops himself from the Hollywood Pantages stage and onto my living room floor, my American instincts kick in and I grab the baseball bat I keep by the front door in cases of intruders or Mormons and begin playing whack-a-mole with the tiny man in a big suit and find myself thinking that for a man so difficult to pin down artistically, he isn’t very versatile when it comes to dodging the blows of a person afraid for his life and with his last breath he chokes up something nebulous like a lyric or a curse and I ignore it but maybe I shouldn’t have because when I wake up the next day I find myself trapped inside his massive suit, spacious and hanging from my limbs like icicles from a tree and I find myself speaking in tongues and shaking anxious and growing smaller inside the suit (or maybe it is growing around me) until I can slip through the threads and I am lying on my floor, naked and afraid of my shrinking body just like before, same as it ever was.

Poem 19 / Day 19

A Tale of Two Women / by Barbara Audet

One barren, dull
as dank dishwater
December morning.
Tensely sweeping,
once halted, then intensely urgent,
a prison ticking
of maladjusted clock hands
around a doomsday circumference
swept past, upended
the forward motion
of two Barbaras.
Never met, never to meet
except by 70 point headline histrionics.
Byline states circumstances
of the younger’s death, strangulation.
Her last squeezed to finality breaths
whipstitched in a time-corrugated
lead type permanence,
just before the murder moment.
The elder Barbara’s unwilling
… could it be,
vicarious self-desecration,
no, mere pure survival,
miles down the lone,
now always lonely
stretching,
connecting
highway,
undocumented
except by her still beating heart.

If One lived the Other died.
Not a Potter prospectus
for literary stomachs.
Its tempestuous,
root tooth-pulled,
eardrum rupturing truth.
A Mayan-worthy disappearing act
of sacrifice, of fatal mayhem
misconstrued by officials
in the early day.
Undeserved, unsought,
unexplainable.
She was never a missing person.
She was a precious victim.
Bones reaching from a roadside
for Pennsylvania spring air,
available for reconsideration
of a life stolen.

The elder looked
into his face three times.
Can I get you a soda from the machine over there.
Her parka hid her face.
Can I give you a ride into town.
The shadows made her appear younger than her years.
The bus looks late.
I can help you.

Murderer, target.
Gazes met.

The arrow missed its mark.
winged past her shoulder.

My God, you are too old for me
to waste my time killing you.
I need another.

Recognition of type, flesh not metal,
one desired,
one not
forever bonded
the mutual end of a child,
loss of innocence of all.

Two Barbaras greeted
his black truck driving death.
One hid from him in her book of Sherlock Holmes stories.
The other whisked from a schoolbound street,
her backpack on her shoulders,
no defense against hand-wrenched determination.
His open trench coat over black T-shirt.
His crooked teeth.
FBI profiles, warn
serials sport facial deformity.
The elder sketched him in her mind.
Transcribed the terror into pencil scratchings,
faxed his features
to an ignoring band of badges.
She just ran away.
Pay no attention
to the Barbara
behind the screen.
The parka princess will return.
Her lady in waiting is just overly nervous.

He circled them like any prey.
Came close enough
to leave her
shattered
when the child
was taken in her place.

cold wild / by Seneca Basoalto 

All flesh
            picked apart
& yes

snow settles in the desert
even if it doesn’t survive

camping out in ashen feathers
of peregrine that have circled
to stalk

funny
that they would think there
is anything left here, on my
jaw
from where I once howled

that was something I could
have become a      coyote
instead of a woman, eating
flesh, & not just bargaining

for its safety

a small part of me still holds
out hope for how I am earth

I have to believe
bones that are cold can still
find a way to rush the wild

UNSETTLING / by Jane Hammons 

thrown for a loop
(another failed romance)
left uneasy

I’d planned to retire early anyway
(I hadn’t planned to move)
but 30 years in California I thought, just go

that I went in the direction of the failure was coincidence
few dared ask if I moved to Austin because of him
(he lives in Houston)

I bought a place
(first time homeowner at 62!)
I didn’t intend to stay

so long in Texas
(why buy?)
then COVID made selling moving finding a place to live

difficult
(scary)
then vaccines and Austin prices balloon

I land in New Mexico
(grew up here; home? don’t know)
13 days until the lease on my sublet ends

I have no plan
(I’m 68; I do have a will)
I have been a lot of ages

but have not
(yet)
found the number that

settles things

Parasomnia / by Olivia Ivings 

Mom drops me off in a convent.
All the rooms look like hers:
yellow walls, red curtains,
but the tub brims with blood.
A nun steeps in hemoglobin
and uses a claw cracker 
to break my friend’s nose off,
drinks from his skin-wrapped skull
like a tourist drinks 
a rum cocktail out of a coconut.

Extrospection / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

Sliver of expired finishing powder
Vintage enamel box with naval scene
Moon’s anorthositic cratered highlands
Camouflaged fawn separated by design
Hairline-cracked blue cornflower casserole dish
I wish I wasn’t distant as a daughter

Some Things Stay Dark / by Karen Warinsky 

The heart of her story is worse than mine.
Don’t think I could have survived that
or shared with readers.
I keep most of my pain
hidden,
share what feels safe
though the darker stories lounge in beach chairs
around the pool of my mind,
sometimes ask for a drink,
know they don’t have to move much
to get me to respond,
just a wave of a hand.

They have no deadlines to meet.
No place they have to be.
Know they can’t really be evicted,
though I have tried.
Tried everything.

Time didn’t heal all wounds
as promised
but they have faded like a magazine
left in the back window of a car,
sun bleaching out the color,
and those random tears that come up
during melancholy songs or sad movies
can be lived with,
wiped quickly so others don’t see
don’t know
what I carry inside.

I E X A M / by Andrew Walker  

Neither number one nor number two
are actually better but I say “one”

because I have tricked myself
into believing this was a test

I could fail. When the doctor
asks me to read the third line

I see I A M N O T
I say I A N M C T

and he scribbles a number somewhere
before staring deeply into me.

After, I am trying on glasses
without my glasses, glancing

into a reflection I cannot recognize.
When I pay the kind woman

at the front, the receipt says
“1 Arm (1 Leg will do)”

and in my indecision, I lob
off both and drag myself

into the sunlight that looked,
more or less, exactly the same.

Poem 18 / Day 18

Autumn Thespian / by Barbara Audet

Wiping off alcohol airbrush
before citrine dressing room lights,
interrupted by violet-braced shadows.
Eye by eye, lash, brow.
Her skin clean, raw, new.
Her costume minded
to her hips,
the benefit
of hours spent
rising, falling
at the whim
of paying customers.
Talking tarot,
Wands, cups, pages.
Practice hallows divination
to manage rent, lights, food.
Silver protein strands
reflect the woman
behind dramatic myth.
YouTubuliar success
with all in range
staring at the face
behind the makeup.
The show goes on.

Capote / by Seneca Basoalto 

I live in venerable skin of temple, fermented & miscarrying
                                                                damned & haunted
by the eradication of how all at once you existed,
then all at once, you did not

alabaster emblem is your mouth
coughing & leaving earthquakes along the potholes &
sidewalk weeds / you snuff the paparazzi with pelicans
invading chin and belly / a bellow of monologue
stampeding the ball of your fist like Capote
and a guilty catholic priest
as empty pizza trays lodge
like lust inside the pockets of your cheeks, decaying teeth
as one by one you lost Leo sunrise for midnight in Cancer

the script presumes this is why it’s so easy for you to understand the classics, mocking men who don’t dare
as you dare / intrusive baritone & indecision barrage,
the alphabet of erotic timing comforted by a youth
rottingly raised in sleepy hollow banks that revere
the way you come to life against a farmhouse sink
inside a house you broke into
in a town no one can pronounce

I authored my worth from how stiff your bones became
when your fingers were plump & turned air to plums
& I puckered my strep throat to siphon your life like maple
from stumpy legs that knotted roots with the libertine

I did everything to deserve how traumatic this all became.

At the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History / by Jane Hammons 

I am only interested in Oppenheimer-related artifacts and information
obsessed for much of my life with the man who fell in love with New Mexico
              Jemez
              Los Alamos
              Santa Fe
a sickly child he rode horseback
wrote poetry
recovered his health
rejuvenated
returned
again and again

In his published letters and his poetry Oppenheimer writes of beauty
river sky sunrise towering trees bird songs colorful sunsets
nature
easy to love

I look at weapon casings identical to those used for Fat Man and Little Boy
photographs
the handsome man
deep poetic eyes
romantic tousle of untamed mad scientist hair
sexy knee-high rider’s boots

Oppenheimer wrote no words of love for the Jornada del Muerto
dry xeric shrublands
no poems for this section of the great
Chihuahuan Desert or
volcanic
Oscura Mountains
no horseback rides in
Caballo Mountains
no poems for the Fra Cristóbal Range
no San Andres
rejuvenation
In Los Alamos Enrico Fermi calculated the odds of incinerating the entire state of New Mexico:
1 in 100
In the mountains where theories were developed plans made bombs built
Oppenheimer’s brother Frank designed
escape routes

Outside I find the replica tower—the thing I came to see—holding its replica of
The Gadget: the tower is higher than I imagined; The Gadget smaller. I feel nothing.

Exit is only possible from the inside. I hurry through educational interactive sections of my
history—Cold War Cuban Missile Crisis Fall of the Berlin Wall Yellow Cake.

It is a display of toys—Lionel Trains—that slows my departure.
Radioactive Waste Flat Car (1985)
Three Mile Island Boxcar (1979)
              gadgets
Oppenheimer
unrelenting
the production
              gadgets
unpoetic
the creation
              gadgets
the spawn

Burnout / by Olivia Ivings 

Eventually, summer’s heat wanes,
and winter emerges from a low-lying fog.
Even in the subtropics, people cover their cacti 
in sheets a few nights a year.
The orange trees open like hands,
displaying the fragrant fruit to a blue sky
before dropping them to rot in the weeds.
Three dead birds lay splattered
in the road this morning. Two are barely recognizable, 
the other somewhat whole.

It’s like Polluck and Dali made a love-child
on the asphalt for some unsuspecting jogger
to see. They lay open like flowers
and drain across the canvas. When moving
fast enough, the view is surreal,
but this isn’t beautiful.
It’s gruesome; bodies so destroyed
they’ll never experience rigor mortis. 
Will the scavengers even know to eat them?
Who scrapes the unrecognizable dead
from the places they are forced to give in?

Hot Peppers / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

Without announcing it, I leave the dinner table
to go in search of hot peppers. A hollowed-out
black walnut like a motorcycle helmet nearly trips me,
but I remove my shoes, plunge a big toe
into its crevice. I think about my parents
selling their home. I bet they were elated 
when they first brought me back from the hospital.
At night, I go through my son’s folder
and stuff his artwork into the trash, hide it
at the bottom, because minimalists teach us
process matters more than paper. I’ve bitten
into three peppers already and can’t find one
hot enough. I call to our feral cat
over the hum of an emerging brood
of bigger cicadas. Riverbank grape vines
overrun our brick oven.  Earlier on the phone,
my mom said, “Do you want
the butter churn? What about those flowers
preserved behind glass?” I can’t visualize,
so I asked her to describe them in more
detail. “You know. Pressed.”
I want to make this easier for them.
I agree to take what I can.

The Clermont Lounge / by Kimberly J Simms 
Atlanta 2021

The legend of Atlanta and the Clermont Lounge
aka Blondie, an entertainer since the eighties
crushing beer cans with her ample gifts
spouting spoken word with each twist of her hip.

Fringed fushia hot shorts shake it.
For sixty-four years she’s been making it.  
Now she’s spiritually guiding the new generation,
tricks-of-the-trade with a dose of salvation. 

She’s a spark who’s no dumb blond. 
Gyrating over race barriers; she’s an Atlanta icon.

One Dream / by Karen Warinsky 

So, now I’ve had a dream about you,
which is more than just
idle wondering
during the day
what it might be like
to be in your orbit,
or have you in mine.

It was a short dream and
fairly easy to comprehend.

We’re standing together in a house.
A party or some event was happening
because there were several people,
but suddenly it felt menacing
and then there were loud sounds
and pieces of the house were shaking
and wind was blowing outside and
we grabbed onto each other,
faces close,
a sincere grasp, a grasp of survival,
and I told you…you know…

Bloody Mary / by Andrew Walker 

On my 27th birthday I whisper
Bloody Mary into my mirror
but three times and I am
still alone. As a child she came,
replacing my body with hers
and though I could not see her mouth
I knew that briefly she smiled
and whispered my name back. Now,
on my 27th birthday, I sit
to watch a scary movie
in which a woman is trapped
inside somewhere but I fall asleep
and wake up in the bathroom
looking so deeply into my ghost
I almost jump. Instead I smash
myself through the glass in hopes
to disappear the image I conjured.
I fall fast and frightened,
grappling with every shard
of glass that holds me within it.

After my hands are bloodied
and the falling has stopped
feeling like falling, I close
my eyes tight—
       turn out the lights—
spin through the air
and whisper the name
of everything I am frightened
to call myself.

Poem 17 / Day 17

You exist inside a spring that can’t be replaced / by Kristen Brida
After Your Lie in April

The summer a friend of mine
died, I spent my mornings sleeping
and my nights listening in loops
to songs we had sung in the car
on the way home from Sunday breakfasts
with last night’s alcohol grated
through our voices.
I spent my nights listening
until the language fell through itself
and the music was no longer
an invocation to memory.

Then in the winter,
I walked around the neighborhood
My hands dug into my pockets
I tore away at the slow build of grey lint
I let the lint bury beneath my nails
The stars glittering
in spite of the lampposts in the distance.
I’ve never felt worse before,
and still how each star glistens
like cherry blossom petals in the rain.
I screamed—
I watched my loud breath
a silk screen over Pleiades my vapor no match
for the hot blue of Pleiades.

N. Scott Momaday Read Remember My Horse / by Jane Hammons

As the commencement speaker at my 1975 graduation from the University of New Mexico
Scott Momaday read
            Remember my horse
Next to him on the stage was his mother
            Natachee Scott Momaday
together they spoke Kiowa
            Remember my horse
I didn’t understand
but I listened
            Remember my horse
My family
            mother step father father step mother sister brother-in-law grandfather
            no grandmother
attended
I was not the first in my family to attend a four-year university
but I was the first to graduate
            Remember my horse
My grandmother who made sure I went to college was too sick to attend
she was too drunk to attend
When Scott Momaday started reading that poem I wanted my grandmother and her sister my
         Auntie
            who like me and Scott Momaday attended UNM
            but just for two years then married
I wanted them there
they would not understand Kiowa
they would not understand Cherokee
the language they were born to forget
except for a few phrases
            Osiyo
they taught us as children
            Gvgeyu
but they would have listened
the way I listened
longing
My Auntie returned every year to Tahlequah where she and her sisters were born
and brought back cornmeal from Golda’s Mill at Bitting Springs a place that no longer exists
            where it used to be is behind a private fence now
            Remember my horse
I can taste her sweet cornbread
when she fried corn cakes she left fingerprints in the batter
            I ate them
I had not planned to attend my graduation ceremony but I was the first and my grandmother
told me
            walk across that stage and get a diploma  
She knew she would not be there she was never anywhere but in her kitchen with a glass of
vodka looking out the window
She did not know Scott Momaday would be on that stage she would not have known who he
was until he stood and spoke Kiowa with his mother and then she would know he was a poet
who brought his mother to a ceremony at his alma mater and spoke Kiowa with her in front of
hundreds of people who could not understand
            Remember my horse
and she would have been glad
and I was glad
            Wado

Ode to a Crowded Highway / by Sharayah Hooper

The asphalt is constantly speckled with automobiles
of all shapes and sizes and colors.
Cherry red lights illuminate pathways
and white blinds through mirrors.
It is enough to make your knuckles pale.
But in the chaos that escalates to a silence
that can fog the brain,
a song is sung, a story is told.

My Dad and I On the Way to St. Petersburg, On the Way to Nowhere / by Olivia Ivings

It is a straight commute from Sarasota.
The inundated landscape, flat with swamp,
a tower, billboards, and bahiagrass
could possibly be teeming with displaced birds.

My dad can’t notice any of this, though;
his eyes are drawn to road—Diogenes, 
a cynic, deems this act unnatural.
My father reads so much philosophy,
does not believe that climate change exists
but wants a dinosaur when they return.

It takes an hour to drive to the museum.
He talks about the Christmas lights at home:
I’ve got to get them up tonight. You’re home
for three days. I tell him I’ll help instead
of saying  nobody cares, which we both know.

What Are the Chances, What Are the Odds / by Alicia Rebecca Myers

A boy gets head lice six weeks into quarantine.
His mother meticulously takes a comb to the nits,
sticking them onto pieces of tape. She folds the tape
back in on itself. The boy likes to soak toilet paper cores
in sink water and flatten out the cardboard,
adhering diamonds to the wall in desultory patterns.
The name of his most recent installation: People Floating
Near the Sun. The last time they left the house to go hear
live music was a performance of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
He captured a ladybug that landed on his program
in marker: a living, spotted creature dumbly wandering
beside its rendering. Sometimes, she looks in the mirror
and sees her own mother. In the upper-left corner
of her reflection, more cardboard diamonds.

Going Biblical / by Kimberly J Simms

I’m vexed by the walk-up ATM.
It’s out of money. I kick the wall a little
and a yellow locust lands on my boot.
I look up, checking for a red sky,
wondering if some revelation is at hand.

The caelifera have sung their mild
melodies all August. This locust
a potential Hyde to the hoppers’ Jeckyll. 
Back legs violining a pheromone
that transforms solitary souls 
into gregarious monsters in hours.

Stronger, louder, darker, faster 
than their former grasshopper 
selves, they assemble in millions;
they can block out the sun.
It’s disheartening to contemplate
the anarchy of their transformation 
from solitary dunces into a super-charged
plague subduing the horn of Africa.
I ponder this pandemic pressure-cooker,
pheromone cocktails rising in our bones
as we rub our palms cannily, throwing back
our masked faces, lungs tingling while the worst
rise up in swarms of passionate intensity.

Flowers / by Karen Warinsky

We stand like flowers in a field,
blooming slow,
faces seeking sun.
Finding that jovial warmth and lazing there is bliss,
but we cannot stay;
practicalities take over, demand attention,
so we sweep the floor and straighten the bedclothes,
cook the food and pay the bills.

Just as we understand how to live,
how to enjoy,
to see as an artist sees, feel with an artist’s hands,
we are pulled from that sundrenched field,
tossed onto an empty plot and told to move on,
to transform,
our demise making way for new plants,
new flowers,
another’s life.

When It’s All Gone, Something Carries On / by Andrew Walker 
for Scott Hutchison

I listen to Craig Finn sing your song
             but there is less sadness in his voice
                           than the rivers that poured from you.

On a podcast I hear your name
             and find my past self. I’d like to think

that I am making tiny changes
             to my own Earth, walking further
                           from the version of myself I saw in you.

My future is just a cover, the same words
             interpolated through the breath of someone new.

Poem 16 / Day 16

Thrift Shop Introduction / by Barbara Audet

Coming down
the mismatched
T-shirt aisle,
he walked, no cart.
An older man,
balding, short,
an aging Cagney
but in face, Cecil B. DeMille.
Looking for new business.
Funeral planning business.
What was it about me
that he gathered
my world
was deadly?
My steel,
wheeled basket
booked solid,
after paintings,
glassware that dated my preferences for living?
I cannot remember
after three hours
who spoke first.
I spoke last.
He shared
his name,
his story
well beyond
a need to set
my life’s end
world in motion.
It was no pick up.
It was a pick me up intro.
Flies planes.
Loves trains.
Came to San Antonio
to read Louis L’Amour
western fiction,
to get warm.
Proud
of his clothes,
all of them,
paid no more
than fifteen dollars.
Thrift adventure
gains prior
to our meeting.
Never buys
new cars.
When a car dies,
the funeral impresario
seeks old ones,
used transport,
thrifty brand
demanding
Hondas only.
He delights
in used
car chases.
I knew at hour two
his driving retinue
for three vehicles
worth of his life.
Canadian, New Brunswick,
Prince Edward Island.
Church Pentecost.
Can recite
the Pledge of Allegiance
in Spanish.
With no encouragement
does it well with the medium,
large shirts as audiences.
We both acknowledge
plethora of siblings.
My Canadian soul
at first thought
we two
were brethren
chipped Limoges
on the shelves.
He had his Judy still.
I told him
about my loss, Edward.
Judy might be worried.
Jerry survived
one heart attack
two years before
decade three.
The nerve damage
in his face,
neurologists diagnosed.
His brain is chancey.
Risky.
Rusty cells
black him out
without notice.
His grandchildren twins.
My children are unmarried.
My dog is twin less,
I say foolishly.
He hands me his card.
Old sales pros
do that still.
Cards are quaint.
Did I know
vaccines
were dangerous?
Chemically toxic?
I tense,
panic for him.
I bite my lip
about to say
I’m vaccinated
and maybe,
hopefully
have no need
for funeral services
yet.
He slides a photo
of a heron
from his wallet,
talks Canada
once more.
Sadness drives
the conversation past
the awkward blink
of nerve-damaged eyes.
Once, in Canada,
he, Ernie and Laurel,
a Stand By Me worthy trio,
went swimming.
Those two,
those never out
of memory
friends drowned.
Young Ernie.
Young Laurel.
Near where he shot
that picture
of the heron
that he carries
everywhere
to share
with death’s clients.

You might be a Virgo if / by Seneca Basoalto 

the pandemic doesn’t inspire you like it should,
you feel fine, just fine, alone, in front of the television,
an entire pot of coffee, touch–starved
but still fine, just fine, you’re not sure anything has really
changed because you haven’t left the house but you
COUGH / cough / coUGH during
the best part of Hoarders, now you have to
rewind, and it feels like a chore to pretend
that you feel different than you did before
when you always kept 6 feet of space
between you and strangers near the ramen noodles
at Target, but, you want to go to Sephora and buy
mascara because you’re out, though you’ve
not been out, still doing makeup at 10 a.m.
because self–care doesn’t stop just because
your neighbors might be dying, as if it’s
your fault they don’t realize you have
chronic depression and rely on a good face mask
to talk you out of poisoning your food
and dropping dead with your head in the toilet
wondering who the cops will think murdered you,
wondering why you’re wearing your fur coat in the middle
of the night and why you’re watching a show Netflix is
saying you’ve already seen, boring ass baby
you don’t even enjoy cleaning, you just love how bleach
reminds you of nude bodies in California swimming pools,
shut up for once, try something new, do something fun,
take a risk, play with yourself during Rick and Morty,
no one will know, NO ONE IS HERE,
why can’t you just let your guilty pleasures be
regular pleasures, who hurt you, COUGH, why
the hell COUGH are you like this COUGH
just enjoy your succulents and eat ice cream for
breakfast, no one cares, you’re literally dying
from coronavirus just eat the ice cream and
do some drugs, you got fired anyway, you have
nowhere to go and nowhere to be, you’re not an artist
you’re a goddamn statistic and you’re not productive
you won’t ever be productive stop trying to be productive
you’re giving yourself a migraine, WHY do you always
do this to us fuckin Virgo ass bitch, fresh air is fatal,
time isn’t real, truth is exposition, you suck at calligraphy,

you’re fine, okay, you’re just fine.

Portrait with where the lights don’t hit / by Kristen Brida 

When a friend of mine
died I could only see

the invisible intervals
everywhere. I couldn’t look

out of a window
without wondering a body

‘s impact, a car without pretending
it swerved out of the street

and into my body.

It was impossible
this new plane of seeing,

or rather, this plane
I had always ignored 

The Grief Thesaurus / by Jane Hammons 

Grief
13c hardship suffering pain bodily affliction
from injustice misfortune calamity
from PIE (Proto-Indo-European) root *gwere—heavy mental pain sorrow

21c PPE (lack of) Zoom (sub for f-2-f) dream (hallucinatory sleep)
from injustice misfortune calamity
from PTSD (Prime-Trumpian-Social-Disorder) root *kleptocracy—voracious family greed theft

Examples:
         activity
                    delayed
         joy
                    denied
         routines
                     suspended
         celebrations
                    cancelled
         funerals
                     Zoom
         last words
                     on phone with nurse with no PPE no sleep
         failure
                      to feel
                              OR
         to feel fever when there is none pain where it isn’t

sleepy all the time

to feel sore throat maybe seasonal allergies maybe seasonal maybe
what season month year day is it
panic
take temperature once twice three times four

to feel
               disposable
to feel
               betrayed
to feel
               sacrificed to the insatiable reality show maw

Florida / by Olivia Ivings 

Fall’s morning breath spreads 
across the panhandle. 

We’re close enough
to Georgia for cool weather

but far enough that we’re sweaty, 
shivering comets traveling too fast.

A garbage truck peters 
down the broken street. 

A wildflower opens its eye
to a fast-food wrapper. 

On her porch, my neighbor sips 
iced coffee while her dog chews a leaf.

My single friends have pets
and spend their days drinking

espresso in coffee shops, 
dreaming of publishing books.

Turkey Tails span the logs 
lining the trail. 

Trees canopy the walkway,
but between the branches, 

scavengers circle, looking for rabbits, 
broken and rotting.

In the creek, families sift
for shark’s teeth.

Saltwater hasn’t brimmed 
the dip in two thousand years.

COUNT EACH BREATH / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

If you throw a coin into a fountain
full of fish it will make those fish sick. Gasp
at the surface. The flaming fan of a red
mosaic guppy, the vinegar shine
of a wheat penny.

The last time my father hauls the hulking
bucket high above the tank his body
lingers. He hovers — feet apart, bird on a
copper wire feeling words run underneath.
The air collects with such
intensity of living.

Are you Working Tonight? / by Kimberly J Simms 
1999, London UK

I’m standing in line for the loo
in the Turkish bar in Stoke Newington.
It’s after midnight and the pool tables
are populated with a strange mix 
of post-gig hipsters – drummers, singers, 
comedians, and poets – and middle-eastern
immigrants. Our group of misfits has spilled
over from the Campden Head’s stand-up poetry.
The guys are drinking pint cans of EFES,
while I’m having vodka and cherry juice.
The forty-something man with a check scarf
around his neck, quietly questions:
            “Are you working tonight?”
I obliviously answer, “No I work in marketing.”
            “Are you American?” He is astounded.
“Yes,” I drawl in six syllables, “South Carolina”
            “Kuwait.” he offers, “What you doing here.”
I tip my drink, “What are you doing here?”
            “I can’t sleep. Nightmares from the war.”
I look at the group of olive-skinned men 
lounging around the last pool table.
Turkish asylum seekers, secularists, I assumed.
But a new influx of refugees streams into Britain daily.
My mind briefly flutters to missiles and machine gunfire.
My British beau takes my elbow as I exit the water closet,
steering me back to our group. “What he’d want?” he worries.
“To sleep, I think. Oh, and a prostitute.”

The Deer / by Andrew Walker 
after Maggie Smith

In the yard—well, in the tree
in the yard—hangs a dead deer
but I am not sure how it got there
or how it died. His eyes look alive
and his antlers hang half molted,
part dull brown fuzz, part blistering red.
When I approach the deer, shockingly
fearless, I find ringlets around his nose
and for a moment briefer than air
swear I feel his sticky hot breath
leech to my skin. I am unsure
of how to get the dead deer down.
My father was never a hunter,
and when he fished, he gave 
the river back what he had borrowed. 
When I call him in hopes that he holds 
the answer to my question, I only
get a robot, telling me that the person 
I am trying to reach has not yet 
decided to set up his voicemail inbox. 

Halley’s Comet / by Karen Warinsky 

I missed Halley’s comet in ‘86
no idea why,
but I did watch May’s Blood Moon eclipse,
not from a romantic outdoor vista,
but in bed with my laptop
accidentally seeing the word LIVE on NASA’s website,
an electronic, crimson shout
that the rare red moon was in the sky,
like the comet, an infrequent visitor.

Persuaded, I watched with thousands
keeping vigil on this Super Flower Blood Moon,
this Hunter’s Moon
this chance at renewal,
pictures of its sanguine circumference filling the screen,
chat box comments from my fellow humans,
people I’ll never know
catching my attention.
Many of them obviously young,
their funny screen names and avatars beguiled me.

“I am lonely,” one said.

“I am scared,” said another,
dozens of scrolling comments tethering us to this moon
and I typed
“I love you guys,” in a gush of abandon,
meaning it,
wanting to hold all their hands,
let them know as they sat in Greece, in Australia, South America, Asia,
than an American woman living in the darkest of days
saw what they saw,
felt what they felt,
wished also for better times.


To read poems from the first 15 days, click here.

Thanks for following along this month!