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 2022 are Hannah Eads, Lane Falcon, Lindsay Illich, Row Light, LKN, Nikolas Macioci, David Maduli, Aline Soules, and Jess Tower. 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!
Day 27 / Poem 27
Nighttime in its Wild State / Hannah Eads
Over at the cemetery, two animals, unknown as to what kind, are heard fighting or mating, the sound of one yelping and the other growling and gnashing its teeth. Nothing stays normal, stability is not a promise but a period of grace. The sun begins to set and one side of the street is day while the tree-lined side is blanketed in nightfall, the bats already flapping overhead. I am careful to step over a shoe-sized crater in the ground that is being sutured together by tree roots, careful still not to glance too long at the brown animal who turned his back on me. Nothing wants your attention; nothing wants to change you; nothing wants to set you free.
Force of Nature / Lane Falcon
I adopted the humiliations
that came after
as quickly as the idioms
as a child A “watchpot”
never boils” without parsing
the words that comprise them.
It always felt like me
the one standing in the middle
of all this empirical evidence,
each damage, a state in my body’s
isolated nation, integral
to the whole.
This is what I know:
every wrong has space at the center
of it, a closet, where something
We are all our own
universes, a microcosm of the greater
universe, and something
sets everything in motion.
I am the smallest matryoshka doll
in the stack— that space
inside me was sacred.
Onions / Lindsay Illich
For Sandra Martinez
At the gym today I caught a glimpse of a man who for a second
I thought was Oscar. He was graying at the temples with workout clothes.
I so wish it would have been him. I have been thinking about you all day.
About when you kept D. after I left his dad. I felt broken and afraid
every day, and then I would drive to your house and see you and sometimes
Oscar. A little at a time I started feeling ok again. How did you do it?
I think it was the love you built in your home than emanated
from it that brought me back. I would hang around longer than you
probably wanted me to, but I never felt unwelcome. I wish
I could be there for you now. But the thing is there are some people
you don’t worry about because they know things. Like, one time
you told me about putting onions on the soles of your feet, how they
will draw out the body’s pain. It was a woman’s way of knowing the world:
how to make a thing that makes you cry into a thing that heals.
To a little me / Row Light
Does every day still feel like a field trip in late September, with the wet gravel coming loose just for your bright blue sneakers, strings getting caught in the grooved rubber sole —
Did the rain on the bus drip like so many siblings left behind when the ark took off with their cousins?
Who is next to you now — did you choose a seat mate after careful rounds of interviews and written examinations, fastidious note passing, dares accepted and posed?
Or did you seat yourself first as some wild thing, waiting to see what came along the procession in a fit of perverse social gambling —
Whose sandwich was thickest? Who crunched their pickles with vigor? Surely, salt and vinegar pruned hands wiped themselves guiltlessly on the bowling alley looking bus seats, little carpets for everyone.
I bet the bus just hit a bump so large that your friend shot up into the air and hit her head on the ceiling, needing staples to put her together again.
It was one of those buses with a DVD player and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” was on, rated G quite inappropriately, since
I remember them saying bad words — or imagine remembering it — and some teacher would tell us, “Things were different in the ‘80s,” while the helpers in the back held my friend’s head together to stop the curtains from pulling open and lighting up her dark room brain.
The screens clucked on as usual, or at least they did in the story I heard. I slept right through the whole ordeal, so asking you, we’ll never be sure.
Culmination / LKN
water first / David Maduli
In Praise of the Unchosen / Aline Soules
blessed are the protesters
for they shall march to free the unjustly imprisoned
unite against the dogged determination of the chosen nine
burn their hijabs in the street
rage at the death of the innocent black man
battle for their right to keep their own country
blessed are the risk-takers
for they shall endure years in the prisons of the powerful
suffer childbirth from rape at the hands of their aggressors
die at the hands of morality police
cry justice for the death of their loved ones
suffer the horrors of torture for their freedom
blessed are the beleaguered,
the sufferers, the down-trodden
blessed are the rejected, the isolated, the unloved,
the eternally unchosen
Trap Rap / Jess Tower
is a hit playlist
on my pop-y Spotify.
I don’t get out much.
Day 26 / Poem 26
Honey Alchemy / Hannah Eads
Honey alchemy by mouth
Deeper, sweeter, the red darker
One thought of wildest repurity
To wash the mouth of sailor lives
We’ll dip the apples in the honey
Darken deeper, become richer
Burn the bitterness to a damper hell
Mouth the words to a new year
Too Confessional / Lane Falcon
The first poem I wrote was too confessional
so this is the poem after, outside the confessional
where this woman finally tells the truth, the hum outside
the booth though you can’t hear the words, a litany
of sins marching neatly out of her month.
She gobbled them up, they tore up her stomach
and here’s one without his head, another missing an arm,
now embedded like an iud in her soul.
Of her own she goes and goes, this is the space
outside of where the literal ends, the rhythmic inventory
of losses and hurts and grievances laid on her
like pins in a drawer. This is where she sees them and knows
she is one too— just one more thing
Go to Sleep Sonnet / Lindsay Illich
We affixed a paper bat swarm on the front porch,
the smaller ones near the bottom, attenuated by distance,
with the larger ones near the top. It turns out,
depth is fairly easy to represent. We had a moment
this morning when you refused to help clean up
your toys. I tried everything: hand over hand,
taking away preferred activities. You were not having
any of it. I swept the hall and the kitchen. The day
kept going. There were towels to be folded.
D. unclogged a commode. Shit was real.
It’s dark. I’m accounting for the hours the way I do,
alone in the soft glow of a machine. You are trying
to get to sleep. Remember what we said last time?
Imagine you’re the fog, settling in the hollows. Now lower.
Hold it in / Row Light
Clipped breath in the bubble gum fuck
I used to think I could hold my breath forever in the space of one unpopped pocket
And I’d store my forever where you can hear the wind whistle through a stale kernel, where the machine’s metal bottom heats each piece into a cicada shell salted on the sidewalk
and each crunch lasts a minute and thirty seconds
Closing around this possible moment something pulled at me like the too tight strand in a high ponytail
Or a knot at the base of the skull that never seems to come unrooted, strains during neck rolls, threatening to snap like vital ligaments with the pain it boasts
Though none of the organs would suffer its elastic cut
And breath would still crystallize in so much disconnection
Over Seas / LKN
On Ancestry / David Maduli
guitar: your hair unbound
bass: will be here, under the pavement, waiting for your fingers to grow
trumpet: nothing but your voices on the ramp up to the playground
those words that get stuck in between teeth
need a length of waxed thread
a tongue to run over the ridges
to say what needs to be said
when the soundtrack’s so loud i jump. don’t worry, i’m ok. when the scene is sad i might get sad too. got my own seat, my own knees to hug. just sit next to me so i know you’re here. when it’s dark, screen is bigger than i thought a screen could be. when the camera pans feels like i’m falling. on days when i’m quiet, if close my eyes it’s like this. except i can see further in all directions, and my heart is what rumbles in stereo surround.
integrated roll cage safari
steel wheel bench seat four
wheeler zebra for off-roading
through your imagination
a bouncy house can be a trite metaphor
for the tumbles and bumps
and laughs you’ll have along the way
but let’s not make it that
just take your socks off
don’t try to stay on your feet
Those Old Romans Knew a Thing or Two / Aline Soules
Wandering the Colosseum, the guide drones on
about gladiator fights and battles in the arena they flooded
from the stream that once ran on the site.
The little boys are thrilled, imagining themselves
as gladiators fighting lions, or captains commanding ships
in epic conquests with steam cannons and fiery cannonballs
made of clay and filled with Greek fire, an invention
The boys don’t care if 9,000 wild animals were killed
during the inaugural games, or that fire destroyed
the upper levels of the amphitheater and earthquakes
regularly rocked it, the worst in 1349 when the south side
collapsed on less stable alluvial terrain.
So what if the tumbled rubble was reused to build
palaces, churches, hospitals, and other Roman buildings
you can find today?
But that’s where the miracle lies. Wily Vitruvius knew
to make mortar from lime and pozzolana, volcanic ash.
He didn’t know that when seawater percolated the cement,
Al-tobermorite and phillipsite formed to strengthen the concrete
We gave up on that concrete in favor of speed, making it
with Portland cement, not strong enough to hold without rebar,
good for only about fifty years. We’re still trying
to recreate Roman cement and haven’t done it yet.
god the bait / god the switch / Jess Tower
they despise like they’ll suddenly split
from the established mirage the only
important the most distinguished new
testament o sympathetic coldness
what they are not: faithful friend
and sometimes eyes already know charm
and sometimes eyes are all influence and oils
all angled water His first top His first bottom
were sewn into moment and yet He pities you
o powerful o wonderful betrayed fumes
His initial weakness will end His life
Day 25 / Poem 25
First Born / Hannah Eads
First, born out of august heat,
one expects a life of sparks—
circus tents, beasts
and the pressure to entertain
First-born; a clot;
a penny; weeks;
profundity out of
pure momentum at first
Born—the material acts
as kindled firewood.
The writer sees herself
in the flames and begins
a dance begot centuries ago
Where do you live? / Lane Falcon
Behind my heart
In its nest of veins
or are you weather
native to other people’s brains
and not mine?
Are you the ghost
my spine releases
when I twist my torso
and all the little joints
or are you the confetti
when I rub my eyes,
the indigo room?
Can we measure you
with time, or are you
The ribbon, the reel, the hole
in the middle, the space.
Saturday Sonnet / Lindsay Illich
H. helped me arrange the cockscomb and pumpkins on the porch.
We bought them this morning from Eagle Farm. She was studious
about it, running her fingers over the bumps of the knuckleheads
and the sharkskins of the fairytales. I didn’t know there were so many names
for pumpkins. Now we’re the ones, far flung who barely ever get to see
the family. D explained that just because heavenly bodies in the heliosphere
don’t orbit the sun doesn’t mean they aren’t affected by its gravity.
On his break, he told me that he and two other kids were the only Americans
on his conference call. He is representing Laos. Sometimes
just writing down in very specific details what is happening
is a revelation. Later, H. attended a tea party with four princesses
and Spider Ghost. She wore her Black Power Ranger costume.
The tea was warm watermelon juice. I am so thankful I get to do this,
to sit in the grass with royalty, watch a bumblebee settle among the blades.
Doom Juice / Row Light
Hands loose noodles and
the predictable fixtures of a long night out
while I tryyyy to tap that wiry part
the red and blue confusion tied to words
But without a sugary post dinner palette cleanser I’m aching full of punch bowl and pumpkin cookies with white chocolate chips swallowed near whole as I planted myself at one end of the party and changed my face every few words I was meant to have heard
You / LKN
The Death Nurse / David Maduli
Summer’s End / Aline Soules
The summer unfolds. I bask
like a lizard in stretched-out chair,
sleep, read, drink iced tea
from a wet glass.
My son turns a year older.
His party sparkles with balloons,
sprinkles on cake, candles’ light
Daylight turns to gloaming.
I fold the summer closed
and store it for a bitter January day.
Like a treasure in my son’s pocket,
I will pull it from a secret corner
of my mind.
In late evening, I will open it like a jar
of home-made peaches to savor
with the dried bittersweet
I keep in a faded vase by the fire.
Your Diabetes Robs / Jess Tower
your laughter & songs
the way my poems
brush your cheeks
the nice weather
energy, both yours & mine
Day 24 / Poem 24
Solace in Submarines / Hannah Eads
underground, the heavy rain
pummels our overhead windows
and it is like I live inside
a kaleidoscope like the only way
to view the world is through
its own distorted reflection
I knew this day would come
when the rain heavied
and ceased to give out
threatening to crack the glass
my wet windows now barricaded
with a black steel shield
soon the dirt will swell and
I’ll not imagine bodies
floating by; the house will rise
and buoyed only by the will
to go on, we’ll submarine
the newest oceans day by day
Tequila with A / Lane Falcon
out that door,
all the tentacles I attached to it
smarting the thoughts
right out of me.
So bless that one
before the slamming
shut and the taste
Take Me Instead – A Golden Shovel With Lines From Ada Limon’s “The Last Thing” / Lindsay Illich
For Dobie on his 15th birthday
After E left, you and L & L when upstairs to your room while I
stayed downstairs to babysit H and the puppy (who I can’t
get to stop barking at every little thing). I think it would help
if the curtains were up. I brought home pizza and wings. It
was 47 degrees this morning, and I was feeling smug, so I
looked up how hot it was going to be in Texas today (98). Will
you need me to take your friends home later? That’s fine. I never
heard back from you about what you want me to tell people to get
you for your birthday. Do you remember that summer fighting over
Nerf guns with your little cousins? They were hoarding darts and making
you upset. I said, they’re just kids, and you said, But I’m a kid! Everything
feels so all at once. The night the house burned down. So much smoke. Such
intensity. When H & I made it to the neighbor’s yard, there were a
few seconds I thought you were still in the house & I was yelling as big
as I could make my voice. I was calling God. I was making a deal.
Currently / Row Light
Questioning whether I’ve ever had good taste;
I thoroughly enjoyed Lindsay Lohan
in the Elizabeth Taylor biopic
Even knowing it’s terrible green screen Italy gave the bare minimum,
all the paps looked CGI
(Though, at least they had the etymology for paparazzi in play
so the audience learned this slang for mosquito)
Lindsay gave the role her all —
every accent she picked up partying or dealing peace or making candles
between mainland Europe and Ibiza
(Well, Lohan Beach Club filmed in Mykonos, but needless to say, the vibe was scattered)
Violet color contacts did their work,
the lip and cheek fillers, either prosthetics or Linds true to life, executed Taylor’s own mods to perfection
And the confused look on Lindsay’s face throughout felt truthful and sad,
while her sobs seemed summoned from a deeper place, spent in Store-Brand Richard Burton’s paper arms,
nearing convulsions as he continued
But Linds found her chemistry wherever she could get it,
so we believe this desperate love she’s left everything behind for
(Including Debbie Reynolds’ misplaced husband)
And no one in this movie will give anyone a damn divorce
and Sybil, Burton’s wife, is about as appealing as I imagine the von Trapp’s governess was before Maria
(And yes, that’s Welsh versus Austrian, but we’re still going off vibes alone here)
Then came the Liz Taylor my generation knew better —
divorced twice from Burton (et al.),
hair stuck straight up like a full-headed baby,
her signature eyeliner embellished with that 80s blue-green
the face unaged by 52 from Linds playing Liz at 29,
her mother, in most rooms with her, also time-capsuled the same
Then Burton hemorrhaging at 58
Liz fainting at the news,
skipping the funeral for all the mosquitos, but visiting the grave sometime later
(Where we wondered if she slept there all night long, a la Heathcliff)
We returned to the couple’s breaks in the fourth wall,
the shot, chest up on 29-year-old Liz, Burton in the dark by her side,
both sitting in those director-looking chairs
Liz left to narrate alone now,
I feel like I could cry —
but Burton’s back for the final shot
where they hold hands and I forget
ever missing him on her behalf
After the film, I read Vanity Fair about a letter Retail Burton sent Liz just three days before he died in real life
(I don’t remember this from the movie)
It said something like, “Home is where you are, and I want to come home.”
And then I do cry.
contTAGion / LKN
Dear Horizon— / David Maduli
You, beyond the furthest reach of vision
Forward pause forward stop rewind
Universe breathes and stretches
Inner truth outer dimensional
Border without borders
Morning robes you in a coverlet of down stratus
Slumber late into Saturday with Mt. Diablo’s treeline
Are you Openness
Are you the border between what is known and unknown?
Or are you the checkpoint?
Do they know how much you love to dance?
Freudian Dream / Aline Soules
After La Persistencia de la Memoria, Salvador Dali, 1931
Who can forget his drooping clocks,
time as insignificant as a wet rag?
We struggle through the exhaustion of raising young children, only to look back and see the days have passed in an instant. We watch the clock hand inch around its face until we can leave work, but our vacation slips away in moments.
Physicists question the existence of time, tell us it’s an assumption we’ll find only in our minds, or that it might not exist at any level. But causation remains, the sense in which one thing can bring about another.
If we drop a plate, it will break and if it breaks,
we will be short one dish for dinner. Acing an exam may secure us a better place in college. Interviewing well for a better job may enable us to buy a better house.
The mortgage payments will be due like clockwork, enslaving us to the thing that may not exist, despite the brilliant Dali who induced hallucination to reach his subconscious while painting.
Surprised and terrified by the images, he rendered them as he saw them, even if they were only dreams of a landscape near Port Lligat, its rocks lit by melancholy twilight, an olive tree with cut branches and no leaves.
In the Museum / Jess Tower
I step forward & the little voice, enriched
with recorded faith, tells me stories both
plausible & profound. Suddenly,
I’m being printed onto canvas; eyes swirling –
I’m concerned about so much glass within
this room of art, this room of marble.
Pink hands & pearly mouths. Coarse human
souls etched into being – indelibly carnal.
The earbuds catch, pulling me back, though
some say I still remain there, consciously divine.
Day 23 / Poem 23
Animal / Hannah Eads
Great gushing black clouds
Across the brow of my city
All trees sideways fingers
Pointing in the wind
The same figure from your
Dreams standing in front of you
And he is bent crooked
Scraping up the pumpkin
With a spoon, you remember
It vaguely like your own birth,
The husk of human body
Sweating into the couch
Forgetting each and every value
And the light bent and blinding
Until you seemed to burst forth
Sweeping up the hallways
Burning candles, baking
Walking miles for groceries
This new blood like gasoline
Prey scent floating on the breeze
Smoke Box / Lane Falcon
What kind of resignation would that be?
Fuck [‘ve dreamt it—backtracking to how, when
tasting the smell: enfolded by that paradox:
I know not to create an addiction. Do you now?
Wouldn’t it take less than a day for you to set the old system
back up, guardrail your life with addiction:
pass through TSA twice just so you can smoke
outside the baggage claim during your
1 hr. 15 minute layover. Wouldn’t it take less than
one second for that switch to get flipped,
by a boyfriend or by your own dumb hand,
just wanting to see what’s in this room.
Just for a second.
Ephemera / Lindsay Illich
C stopped at my desk on his way out and told me that no teacher
had ever once written great job on any of his papers. It wasn’t just
that the rain had stopped for the first time all morning or that I was thinking
about B’s pink kicks against the spokes of her new bike. It was just.
In my grandmother’s teaching things, I found an answer key to a quiz
on logical fallacies with some of her handwriting in red ink in the margin.
It said, you never loved me the way I wanted to be loved. I was floored.
It’s raining again. Do you run in the rain? Sometimes when I’m running
my breath settles into a rhythm that reminds me of writing, the pavement
an empty page. I can almost see them, the words. Why didn’t she just tell him?
It’s almost dark. It’s your birthday. I’m thinking about ephemera.
C. is writing his first draft about moving from the Dominican Republic
when he was nine and learning English. It’s still early. There’s still time.
Time enough to love and be loved the way we always wanted to be.
New love is / Row Light
Sharing everything but a shoe size,
and even then, taking turns Goldilocksing
Falling asleep still on the phone, mumbling awake into a quiet 4am
Missing the knitted dinosaur, holding vigil with a Valentine’s bear
Repotting plants, untangling their roots to grow again
Forgetting everything and hours and days
Marking time by Sunday afternoons
Looking too good to make it out of the house
Rescheduling plans to do more nothing
Keeping two to-do lists in solidarity
Remembering their medicine before your own
Meeting at the middle bowl of porridge
Finding their hair alone in the shower
Writing shitty poetry or nothing at all
Letting old heartbreaks spill across pages you reread together
Phasing embarrassment out of meaning
Always meaning to copy keys
Feeling like nothing is too far to walk
Needing reminders that the world is on fire
Wiping their tears before your own
Catapulting with mid-life vigor
Earning nothing when the work is worthwhile
Forgoing the work to sing them to sleep
Knowing everything is just right
Who is Playing Who? / LKN
Looking for parking by the school and seeing five students walking away from school / David Maduli
After the Funeral / Aline Soules
Champagne, hors d’oeuvres of salmon mousse, fried calamari
chicken salad in fried wontons, all chosen by the woman
we buried that morning.
Remember the party when someone said ‘oops,
I lost the jello’ when she was unmolding
the dessert she’d brought and it slipped down the drain?
Judy was thrilled. She hated jello, wouldn’t eat it on a bet
but didn’t want to say so.
She would have loved her own party. Good food, good wine,
the closest of friends eating off her best china in the home
Remember when we drove to the beach in that rattletrap
model T she insisted on keeping going? How it broke down
on the road, no one had a part to fix it, and we slept
on the picnic rug on the beach. We forgot
about the sand fleas until they bit.
We told the stories Judy used to tell, shared times
we shared with her long into the night, reluctant to let go
of her voice, so strong it came through the night over z
and over, even after she’d gone.
Losing Words / Jess Tower
A complicated issue: I need to write a poem,
but I have no words. Overdoing exercise
with functional neurological disorder
plus this weather plus my cycle – a very bad
combo. I’m hobbling around again –
can’t will my legs to go correctly –
at least I’m not using a cane this time.
What’s funny is I thought that was all
of it – that maybe I was cured from this
from my treatments so far. But FN
is a wily, sticky thing. It knows no boundaries
& like my chronic pain, can creep in whenever
it pleases. I feel like I’m a river overtaken by
an ocean – I slipped too far away from peace &
the safety of my comfort zone & wound up here,
suffocating in myself.
Though walking is hard, words also aren’t
coming as fluidly(?) to me – wait –
what’s that word again?
Day 22 / Poem 22
Protection Spells / Hannah Eads
I’ve this cinnamon stick and
For it to work I must believe in it
The incense too and every ash
I broke into my secret stash
Fixate on mother images, red
roses on a dark dress, skinny legs
Find a glass container, crystalline
To keep us kept and bodies clean
As we stand sideways from antagonist
Pass us over as if inanimate
Protect us from these earthly aches
So shall it be, by the nights and days
Adult Child / Lane Falcon
My own mother, that day at Dairy Queen
when I watched her lips close over the top
of the chocolate-dipped ice cream, her eyes slide
to the side, my own echoing, a bell in my chest
and I knew I couldn’t trust her to keep me from
that shame knew inside of her the hollows
the red— saw it rise up from her
Afterwards, I thought about that moment time
to time and felt naked,
a burning behind my sternum
I could only swallow
Remembered it when I needed to see her as
other than mistaker, denier
when I needed to see her also as a daughter
a loved girl possessed by her own shame,
desire to go unseen.
Besser / Lindsay Illich
Last night Hazel told me she wanted to go on a date, and I asked her
who she wanted to go on a date with, and she said, food–no wait, dessert.
I wondered about her future. I wondered about mine. We made eggs.
Eggs were our future. I’m tired of making things
so complicated. What I love about Nebraska is getting to the top
of the hill by Saint Charles Church and the whole valley opening up.
You feel bigger somehow. Expansive. Do people still call you Besser?
I loved calling you Besser. Saying it felt warm. Like I knew you better
than I actually did. I saw the first bit of red in the trees
along the parkway today. I wanted to cry. Because the next thing
you know our girls will be gone. It sneaks up on you. First a few leaves
then it’s like that thing they say about going broke: slowly,
then all at once. But for sure there will be at least one day, peak season,
the gold stunning us into forgetting how fast it’s over.
After the Flood (cont’d) / Row Light
The pages waterlog into the damp kiss on my pinky cushion,
the place where so much lead had smeared its blurry story,
evidenced my worthwhile clenching
the tool that changed me and my page.
I don’t have a place for soggy odds and ends,
You’ve Got Mail pencil bouquet
the water pitcher you called a chamber pot
new imposter laptop extra sensitive to my frustrated touch
its instructions pleading for surface space beyond these flat thighs,
fearing that microwave misnomer about frying my unhatched eggs.
Wrinkle on the Ridge / LKN
Ode to the Ollie, Landing on a Line from Teju Cole / David Maduli
the first scrape and drag of the
board’s tail is a striking match
one motion to get two feet to griptape
four wheels from driveway to
deep space street
enough vibration between rocky asphalt
and polyurethane wheels to circulate
blood from feet to fingertips to cumulous clouds
from the bottom of the hill sounds like a strafing
curb is a looming island
gather spirits from pine and aluminum
pop of the tail is the sidewalk’s
lunge at the cracks in air
above the white granite rock lawn
disappearing into the fence
the day offers no shade or shadows
each morning is the beginning of a summer
heavy waters above and flowing waters below
Early Morning / Aline Soules
those early morning hours, in the winter dark
with the whole world to myself, or when the promise
of a summer day shimmers in the dew
those early hours were precious when my family was safe
upstairs sleeping and I could wander at will, my boots
crunching new snow or bare feet in the warming grass
when our son was small, my night-owl husband and I
covered all twenty-four hours of a day between us,
learning the value of two parents for a single child
morning ended as my husband’s three alarms blared, one
under his pillow, one on the side-table next to his bed, one
on the dresser on the other side of the room as I woke him
in my late years, morning is still my best time of day. Living
further south than I’ve lived before, the contrast between winter
and summer is less extreme. I get up and sit outside to write
I picture death coming at 4 a.m. I’ll wake, barely, pick up
my night-time book or go outside to write. The words will no longer
make sense. The letters will leave the page and I’ll follow.
The Princess and the Pea / Jess Tower
Day 21 / Poem 21
The Graceful and the Fruitful / Hannah Eads
I weep without children
filling buckets as prayer
so that a new river might form
so that I might irrigate this soil
claw a new path inside me
Oh God, so that he might
walk the path inside of me
I weep without children
sent sleeping to me by boat
they’ve never dreamt, I fold
my wings over their eyes
so that they might only
wake when they are wanted
Oh God, another day unshackled
and restless beneath this tree
The Escape / Lane Falcon
I haven’t gone back to that place— the vacuousness
I felt while they dripped fentanyl into my infant son’s bloodstream
back when he couldn’t breathe without a trach. How I’d go
on a panicked run every day in a city where opioids reigned
and see men falling to their knees, women freezing under the overpass.
In the waiting room, after his second airway reconstruction surgery,
a grandmother cried, her daughter just dead from overdose,
unbeknownst, her grandson waking from general anesthesia.
How fucked up it felt that night when I begged the nurse to hurry up
and give my son more, enough to slide off the tip of a needle,
dull his pain or mine I didn’t know, the fear I saw open in his eyes
when he first woke, the lone crystal tear. How small a unit
they lent. How small the graces we get, how incremental,
gradual then sudden when we are rowing in grief. I remember
making the same joke to every nurse who arrived, pulling
a little coffee creamer container full or drug from her pocket:
I’m the one who needs it. I remember imagining shooting
it back. The thing is: even then, I didn’t want to forget my misery,
I wanted to hold onto it, keep it close, so it couldn’t sneak up on me.
The pain, I guess, had something it wanted to teach me.
Mama Sestina / Lindsay Illich
So you want me to write a poem about you. What you ask is impossible.
It would be easier to write about hot dogs or fungible assets. Here’s the deal:
the great poets at some point have to rebel against their main influence, their agon.
And babe, you are it. Like I hate you I love you teenager I see through your
bullshit, it. Here’s what I know: I am forty-five years old and have never gone
to the grocery store without a full face of makeup. I have spent my life in mirrors.
Which is the hardest thing, because self reflection is all about holding up a mirror
to see yourself the way others see you. The task is painful, almost impossible,
especially lately when the face I think of myself as having is almost gone.
It happens so fast. And it’s totally unfair. After everything we have to deal
with, add to it a self worth we learn is about beauty that ends up being your
downfall, a house of sand. Listen: I’d rather be beautiful that be in agony–
but also, I’ve learned the hard way that beauty is its own kind of agony.
You start to think it’s why people love you. And then it’s about mirrors
again, because you’re afraid of losing them. And then you’re
trapped. Because time is a real bitch. Beating her is impossible.
Being alive means understanding a body is a blow you’re dealt.
And I’m finally (finally) beginning to believe that it’s better than being gone.
Besides, everyone who is going to leave you is already long gone.
You can relax. Just think of all the time you’ll save not agonizing
over an outfit. Here’s the thing: loving someone isn’t an ordeal
to survive. It’s the only thing. Here’s another: behind the mirror
is a door, and the door is freedom. Or to put it Emily’s way: possibility,
just dwell in it. Just, you know, you do you. Do your
thing, Emerson says. I’m finally starting to really understand you.
It only took forty five years, even though I still don’t think of myself as grown.
But I don’t think you think of yourself as grown, either. What’s possible
is that no one is who they will be eventually. I can’t wait to see you again.
For Christmas, I’m thinking we should hang lots of those mirrored
disco balls. We can wake up early and make a fire, drink real
hot chocolate from the Santa mugs from Dee’s house. The ideal
morning. The house still sleeping, the morning still dark. You
are beautiful. The light from the fire flung like dialing stars, a mirror
of the night sky in time lapse. Which is how it feels. LIke almost gone.
Like I can feel it, the precarity of it all, of you. It’s like agony.
You want me to write a poem about you? Mama, that’s impossible.
Universal/Consumed / Row Light
I’d love to chat sometime
On what’s been bothering me
In our classes together;
I need to bring up
Demanded at a level
Surpassing the care
With which new material
Is read. I’ve recently felt
That being queer
Puts the missing key
In my pocket,
But we’re all trying
At different doors
And no one wants to go
Where I’m going
I also understand
That writing requires a level
Reading and combing
Through unflossed work
But must we
Push harder than need be
To find that nugget
Of truth at its core?
(Though everyone knows
It’s worth the most)
In dealing with intensely
It matters if we’re ready
To be invaded
The story otherwise
To its own therapizing
Whether on the couch or off;
Dichotomy of pizza crumbs
On tile, between cushions
We decide, presume,
When it’s polite to probe,
Past polite or possessed
Of appropriate mind;
Who do we answer to
When we get it wrong?
How to undo
In relation to
A painful past
Shots, Fired / LKN
drink my borrowed skin better than your sin
let every gulp slide, your guilt set aside
imbibe a youth’s grin, your conscience will spin
respect is a stride—a dollars-worth bride
visa is easy, when age is dizzy
legs can bend its curve. i’m ready to serve
like a colony, swigged in makati
red-rigged to deserve a foreigner’s verve
as neon lights blur, law becomes a slur
i kiss your paid night, my tongue will incite
a frosty-shoot stir: three-hour offer
turning right is my right, sogo is in-sight
deal is in motion, like my free nation
i proceed with caution—high, exploitation
Ledisi at Café Du Nord / David Maduli
The Beat Goes On / Aline Soules
My friend and I remember the queen’s coronation. Five at the time,
we went our separate ways. She watched the pageantry
on a minuscule black-and-white TV owned by a neighbor.
My family traveled to London. My first time on a sleeper.
Imagine sleeping on a train! It rocked and I felt seasick,
which I wouldn’t admit, but I fell asleep somewhere on the way.
In the morning, we were fed tea and two biscuits as the train
rolled into London. Biscuits for breakfast!
We went to a friend of Mother’s along the processional route
and watched the parade from her balcony. A gold coach
carried the Queen and her consort. Cinderella never
had a coach as magnificent. I was given a flag to wave
but dropped it over the balcony. No one got angry.
Someone gave me another one and we waved on.
Now I’m the one watching TV. My friend’s somewhere
along the route the coffin will follow. Drums, trumpets, feet, unison,
the pounding beat marches the mile-and-a-half long cortege
through the streets of London.
The long walk to Windsor Castle adds more miles
to the new monarch’s 73-year-old feet. Perched
on the coffin, the orb and crown remind the monarch
that authority comes from God, the scepter announces
the power of the monarch. Symbols first used
by King Henry VIII at his coronation in 1509.
Solemn, serious, an outpouring of a people’s love for their Queen,
consistency, stability, changelessness, the sensations we crave
gone in an instant, if you believe they ever existed.
Supper Tonight / Jess Tower
Day 20 / Poem 20
Sick-thoughted / Hannah Eads
These are not my children—
these are my brains. Venus burns
and she is raunchy in the twilight breeze
Each word is
a lick on the lollipop, proposing to a player,
totems of indecency: rabbit, rabbit, rabbit
Leaking softly on display
I first choose the image
then the perfect lighting
Votive / Lane Falcon
We come to each other bearing
our little rugs to kneel on and pray
at the other’s alter
for a moment
to note the crosses that hang
in one another’s church
to scratch the match against
it’s little match runway
and light the first votive
to love the first light, to bask
a little while in depriving
our pasts of their power.
Love Begins / Lindsay Illich
Love begins slight and proximal,
Edges touching. An eye met with.
A visit. A leg upon. Love begins
in singularity: your crown, an orbit.
Love reaches up, accretes. Our bodies,
flashlit and tumble and touch and teeth.
Love mornings and love admits
a second clutch, a windfall, the full
throat. Love begins. Love
begins, again. And that is all.
Reverse / Row Light
Today I got ‘fucking bitch’-ed
By an older man on a bike
As I sat in a parked car in the alley by the bar
With plenty of sidewalk riding my tail
And the window cracked just enough.
White-haired hatred caked
The last three quarters I had left
Keeping myself a glass dessert,
Bell curved toward the place
Someone drops un-cats on their heads,
Shatters kissing points to
Teardrop open wounds.
I traced his easy path behind
As if he might find invisible stairs,
Catch 2,000 pounds surprised,
And push warm metal to prove his mass.
Shaking his mirrored head, side, rear, side
He became thousands still muttering
Behind streets in my eyes.
I rushed to reverse this infinite playback Pedaling as though
Reflections had never turned me to stone.
I wished at a reason, karma-ed myself for
Road rage or boyish confusion.
Splashing through that open quarter
Must’ve been a bare chest to the dry eye Squinting me out with garbled sound
I wish I’d turned to music.
Hours later, unable to out-clothe distress
I crunch leather bags for their fractal failings. Finally dial the numbers I need to hear
That shame in sadness
Is parking on a Sunday.
We’ll let ourselves
Owe nothing for once.
rEVOlution / LKN
when i woo
i don’t shout at them
like a filibuster
feeling a bust
in a war of tantrums
when a quickie
i honour the process
it’s hard work
ranting a swear
will get you nowhere
i swoon not with expletives
to expel the fears
of not knowing who i’m loving
and why i’d be loved
i profess with open palms
not with an iron first
happiness can’t be given
when my hands are closed
with an unending loss
i gain when i listen
noise can’t be accepted
like a bouquet of screams
i can’t name myself
converse like a solution
to acquaint hellos
beyound the romantics
intention is my attention
to celebrate an emotion
being free to live, passed
giggles of complaints
giddy protests of getting
answers i didn’t expect
whining like a fanatical cavil
of grumbled conditions
i don’t sensationalize reasons
the w-hues—are propagandas
of how to be a militant ego
i lay down my pride
of rallying my vanity
i seek a relationship
that has no leaflets
no banners, no effigies
of anything i can’t give myself
i’m not a denial
of who i am, what i can do
love is not a sprint
of making myself heard
it’s a marathon of what
i’ve done, will do—for love
how about you
how do you love?
On Ancestry / David Maduli
Lantern Parade / Aline Soules
After The Lantern Parade, by Thomas Cooper Gotch (England) 1918
Rooted in ancient history, people mark the end
of the agrarian year and prepare for winter, bringing animals down to nearby pastures, harvesting crops, and storing food for the cold, dark time ahead.
The veil between life and death rises, allowing the living and the dead to mingle as the Celtic year ends on November 1.
Dark comes early. Walkers make lanterns. Handmade and fragile,
they represent life’s transience, reflecting the dying fall, reminding us that death will come someday,
but not today. The lanterns offer the pleasure of creation, the joy of parading them. The orange glow turns the girls into ghostly figures in white, color drained from everything but the lanterns.
The girls walk sure of foot, sure of their place in the world, sure of belonging to a tradition that parades every year, rain or snow, warm or cold.
Meditating / Jess Tower
Someone told me they saw weed in space the first time.
Space imagery is common, I said. Because how many molecules
must we still in order to still our brains (an impossible task)?
We’re still monkey-brained, no matter how hard we try to reduce
mind to matter. The grove within our brain continues its whispers,
despite. The body sleeps while the mind is awake, my meditation
instructor often says. They can’t both still – I think, in that case,
we’d be dead. Will death be like meditating? Or will we finally be
one hundred percent still? I believe it’s something more
other-ed & meditation is the closest we’ll get
to experiencing death, without drugs.
Day 19 / Poem 19
At the edge of everything / Hannah Eads
Hot tubbing under a Blue Moon
Aged alchemical connection—escalation—
Wandering the same planet wobbly
Trying to get better at that
To work at something
To see where we’ve arrived and forget
All time stretched or condensed
at the bottom of a barleywine glass
And not knowing how to ask about it
Wanting to predict where the light will be
Mastering ways to avoid it
Should probably try shrooms again
Hard to secure what we seek
In a cabin, kayak, riverside—what hides?
A fallen tree limb feels alive
Dusty flowers, missing out
Bloodsucked yet the puzzle stays put
Waits to coalesce—all edges snug and proud
All edges tucked in, as in Fate, belonging
To the space between—beckoning or
solidifying our spots in space
This eternal way we hold each other
Love poem #19 / Lane Falcon
I want you to say
the words that have vaporized
in my chest—the negative of them,
which, for once, isn’t the impassive
but the passion, with all its malignant
fingers clutching my brain.
The passion that collapsed
when you pulled the pin. I don’t love you
right now— why is that what hurts
most? Not the rejection, not the fierce
abandon of the small walls I cobbled
together, the mock fortress
to protect those wells of raw hurt
you leapfrogged over. I want
you to know, even though I miss
the wilderness of lust— I miss you—
I don’t miss you enough to want to lay
my head on your chest,
that wooden pillow.
The Pumpkins / Lindsay Illich
A year later, the pumpkins had taken over.
R took a backhoe and plowed them under.
That was before he built the easement
and put in utilities. Before you lost Birdy.
Before you had Penny Kate. I still think of them,
the green vines and orange bellies popping,
the very image of abundance. What happens
when love takes root. It keeps growing.
Some seasons, there’s so much
we have to return it to the ground.
Aftertaste / Row Light
My dust meets their dust
tenants past slipping through vents
scraping long gone bed frames across hardwood floors
in a real estate horror showing,
the first curling fan slicing our midday breeze
You saw the city one time and said, that’s for me,
but didn’t see the cheese fuck stuck in my teeth, pro forma
in Parma love, Italian sunrise
kind of drinks with Aperol aftertaste,
while we pardoned the uncobbling roads
their lush avalanche, after all
dipped blistering toes in fountains for wishes,
requested ten tiny dish towels
to wear on the tops like piles of wet hair
Near dry by the time
our leather squelch finds the green chipped door
up the dark gold alley it dares not cross
the slanted threshold
in all this sweet gin sweat,
so we put foreheads to the dusk cooled brick
probably a hundred years older than we are
Insert a Box in The Boom Box / LKN
is a mix tape
taping the tapping
bundled like embraces
that would change
jumping from one
abandonment to another
it leaves me with tracks
that tracks questions
answered by punches
the feels of the bruises
rewinding with fingers
hurled like a platinum hit
i’d get addicted to it
i know i can loop it
like my mother, leaving
fast-forwarding my head
bobbing, jiving on my bed
|like a early suicide can
record—is to re-cord
a five year old
to cry, laugh, being sane
knowing; pause—is a ruse
memory doesn’t stop… whys
it keeps on playing
why i’m not like others
innocence is cheaper
when parents tinker
putting together pains
in a cassette, being cased
set to tune me to remember
i am a bestseller
cut, grouped together
like a compendium of mistakes
like a freebie of miss-takes
that i still listen to
up to this day
it makes me wonder
in the future, when i have kids
should i make a mix tape
out of them too
On Ancestry / David Maduli
truckfull of late summer
stalls in eastbound traffic
gridlock of flames
fleece and eyelash
how many blinks
til we are memory
has many branches
two seedlings to plant
in this fertile soil
the waters of my family
flow down a steep slide into unburied teal
let the vast oceans
scrub your shadows cerulean
Mirror Lake / Aline Soules
After Mirror Lake, by Franklin Carmichael (Canada) 1929
We camped by the lake many times, taking our young son. Every day brought its own rhythm. By day, we climbed the granite rocks, rested under the pines, or swam the cold water to the island where we warmed our bodies on the sunned rocks.
On a still day, the hills and trees framed our reflections in the lake, my husband in his black Greek fisherman’s cap, my son with his wide grin, my face hidden by my long hair hanging down. We watched ourselves until my son rippled our images with his fingers, our reflections disappearing as fast as the fleeting day.
We canoed and fished, gutted the entrails and cooked our supper over a fire pit. If the sky was clear in the day, at night it was filled with stars, stars we could see in true dark. If the sky was cloudy, the night was so black, we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces. On those nights, we sat by the fire telling stories—Robert Service, Stephen Leacock, Farley Mowat—
then went to our tent to dream.
Walking / Jess Tower
It’s weird to be able to walk through the orchard
without much pain – the kind of simple & fun day
I thought I’d never have again. We’re talking about
how we’ll split the apples – easy, I don’t like apples
on their own, so you guys take them. No. You need
to take at least four. They’re good for you. Eugenia laughs.
What about apple pie? You can just bring me some, there,
it’s settled. Maru doesn’t like it – how! She asks her mom
to make apple cider instead. But Eugenia doesn’t have everything
to make it, so I walk alongside them, thinking of apple pie.
We’re picking apples for $21 – an overpriced way to
do the farmer’s work, Maru jokes. I take a few photos
of the contrasting colors – blue sky, green trees, red apples.
I wonder how Maru can be so sweet for someone who hates
apple pie. I bet she thinks the same of me: I didn’t say so, but
I’ve never liked cider. We head back & I take two apples.
Day 18 / Poem 18
Multiplied / Hannah Eads
after Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”
And what will we do when the one is un-twosed?
What will we do when the tools have been used?
I’ll rest at my sister’s to heave with the waves
I’ll steer bent over singing to muscle through pain
And what will we be when the cave is found out?
What will we be when the morning clears doubt?
We’ll be solved of our symptoms, of ginger-tinged spit
We’ll be someone, somewhere fully rid of it
And what did it take?
What did it take?
It took one empty night and a road worth driving
It took six hundred plenty of grad party prizes
It took spreading so wide you thought oceans were bluffing
Peering in just enough to submit I know nothing
Loose Legend / Lane Falcon
Rumor is that’s how my great grandmother died,
a dirt road in Corpus Christi, a horse draw carriage
the man she was chasing on his way home to another woman.
Imagine her there, trampled over in her skirts—did she care
she’d bleed a legacy? Rumor is the state of Texas took
my grandmother’s children away— not the first two,
one of whom was my father, but the batch after.
The tuberculosis remised in her lungs, still her troubled body
couldn’t outrun her mind. Sometimes I know where it landed:
the frantic clawing, the wanting from a man what he runs
to keep safe, that settled intimacy, eyes on eyes, the hearth
of iris warming iris. Wanting a contract: cannot leave
after I’ve given you all my gift-wrapped ruins: this happened,
then this happened, then this happened. Wanting him to thwart
the legacy of my wanting, or to open and close the door,
let it in and out like a stray cat, primal and safe. Wanting
from a man, what could only be given by god, that acceptance
of all my mangy wounds, adoration, for him to tickle my back
until I fall asleep, knowing when I wake I’ll be where I should be
where I always was, no matter where, this place, this body.
I Was On a Boat Feeling Feelings / Lindsay Illich
The night we left, I was on the deck
looking out at all that water. The water
we were moving through and the water inside us.
About buoyancy. I felt free. The sky was orange and pink.
How we tinder grief for love. The listing, the navy sea.
The girl on the prow pointing to the first star.
Remember the hibiscus on the island? We were
taking an Uber and they were on both sides
of the road, nodding in a chorus. The driver
said his father used to fry shark liver
and hang a vial of the leftover grease
from a tree branch. It would tell him
what the weather would be.
And then later the fire coral
from the glass bottom boat.
The fire coral waving in surrender.
Do you remember?
That feeling like being free?
Late September / Row Light
The thought comes on like a bad cramp,
wondering when I’ll run out of words.
And maybe it’s here, at the registrar’s feet
painted blue six months ago, now a mold green, the sandals veering from ankles like wronged magnets.
I’ll ask one more time, have since given up on CCing her boss, won’t embarrass the pink from the rashing throat, neck, won’t remind her that anxiety and dying enjoy the same gene pool.
We wade together at odds, poorly filtered ends where I won’t be asking her to play mermaids because she’s sloping down that bathing suit ruiner, spackle in the concrete unweathered boulder.
So I weight train underwater just for the compression, the thousand gallon hug,
saying, keep pushing, It girl!
Without shame-pimpled marigolds and tweenage ducks and the mobster in therapy sweating swear words with chlorine, the midday BO gasses up from the cushions and SPF burns and cools my watering right eye.
We both only write when we’re sleepy busy, but I’d blank slate graduate if she’d register these hours, Dewey decimal ants, my queen mattress balanced on their shiny foreheads,
and I’d wave and parade at her from my cloud, announce the next time it’s going to rain.
E-Level / LKN
elevators depress me
the feeling of waiting
for a door to open
feels like a good pill
taking time to affect me
control is ushered by time
like a psychiatrist, to tryst
entrances like gaslighting
elevators do have great lighting
perfect for selfies
that fixes me in frames
on buttons, that chooses no one
moving-up high, is a lie
a tick to tuck a toxin in me
positivity are the levels
leveling pauses in emotions
found in my wrist
with numbers that bounds
the needles of time
making me: a make-believe
no one really gets over
the stops, that taps me
“it’ll get better”
the flights force me
thinking… i am gravity
as the monitor becomes
a dictator of my progress
kraepelin, wundt, freud, weber
oh… that german efficiency
sliding me in compartments
as mirrors reflect
what i could be, not who i am
like a hallucination, lifting
in each session of being still
stuck in a diagnosis
of being a dependent
on a prescription to stand-up
looking like a patient, lost
in every beep of an illusion
feeling like: i’m next
to get-off at my destination
i’ll never arrive at
On Ancestry / David Maduli
Let it All Hang out / Aline Soules
After Bazille’s Studio, by Frederic Bazille (France) 1870”
Nude paintings on every wall or propped behind a sofa,
while the men are clad from head to toe, prim and proper,
playing on a piano or conversing. Are they unaware
or is this so normal they simply ignore? One man
climbs the stairs, both hands on the railing and the voyeur
can only wonder if one of those naked women is upstairs, waiting.
It’s an age-old story. Bazille, Manet, they’ve all painted some version
of the same thing. But that was then, and this is now, you argue.
But images on Google reveal the same thing, the women naked
and nubile, but in this 21st century, sprinkled among the photos
are naked men and clad women, and naked men and naked women.
What do you think? Progress or the naked truth about sex?
Mothering / Jess Tower
I could make grilled cheese & tomato soup.
Do you bake? We could bake something after.
So specifically kind. It feels like creepy-crawlies, but
also like sunlight. I don’t have to freak out, all alone.
I’ve never had someone mother me because my own couldn’t
& I couldn’t leave. Even she used to say, “at least you have
Brianna & her parents.” She also used to say “nobody cares”
& I believed, strongly, in the harshness of that phrase.
That phrase was the Easter Bunny & Santa Claus to me.
(Often repeated around the holidays, too.)
Now, the steam & cheese sit snug on my plate.
I half believe that phrase… I half don’t.
Day 17 / Poem 17
Time & Space / Hannah Eads
People love what they think
they understand I used to understand
you only in the way I understood
myself unidirectionally and
therefore not complete
we began to meet again
after years of no belonging
as flames in the valley
of a red canyon we trekked
across its ridges our hands brushing
whipping up wildfires in the dry heat
you swallowed up the smallness
of what my dreams used to be
now my days feel like
walking through a moving picture
I count the hours til I can
lie down and drift to you
this is only just beginning:
you and I and all our lives
our eternal conversation
stretched across the moons
like a black cat
Untitled / Lane Falcon
There is nothing like it
pushing that final stride
and knowing you’re going to hit before
her forelegs left from the ground,
the hind readies to spring.
The thing to remember: it was never you,
This speed, this gathering under
this lurching Forward,
centering her before the first fence,
then pushing, pushing.
All this was instinct
quick tightening of the calves
loosening the rein so she could
do what she knows to do
thrashing her head under her
As she lands, and don’t forget
that last moment—
all four legs lifted from the ground—
where for a second you felt like a god,
your head light on your body
success singing through your skin
Love / Lindsay Illich
for Doris Tomlin
What can I say of it beyond
the words I learned from you:
bougainvillea, day lily, Tex,
pecan, day lily, tea length
colleen, the keys of the piano,
the opening chords of
in the garden, red piping
on a boucle jacket, cigarette
tamale, first down, the way
you say Mama
when you talk about yours
17 / Row Light
I found an old web bookmark for 21 things to have in your closet before you turn 21 from Seventeen magazine. It was written in 2017, so I must have been 19 or 20,
must’ve felt smushed like so many sweatshirts in a suitcase – breathing through stitches zippering up the side, threads of hair pulled and knotted.
Now I write what zodiac signs should listen to Britney Spears, compare chain hair salons
And Lifetime movies.
I’m still no Seventeen,
Though a playwright tells me I’m a journalist,
Says, hey, they! because I’m publicly drifting between lanes.
Your car has this automatic sensor that kills your firstborn when you swerve,
So I drive extra slow thinking of our future.
Dine-in / LKN
i bought freedom
for only 50 pesos
served in brown trays
like the skin of a nation
ready to be handed
by 20 million reasons
why hunger is in a burger
i wanted to be modest
staging a war between
a stomach and the eyes
of others, stating questions
i sat in a corner, away
from the glass, where
poverty is kept outside
while unwrapping the white
privilege around my meal
the scent—is liberty
a whiff of a manifest destiny
to munch a punched gift
opening an independence
from my lisps of lips
to sink my fangs
48 degrees, on the bun
it is soft and hospitable
welcoming my bite
to its juicy and tender patty
singed in a pacific sun
winning tastes good
like a good lunch should
grinding each fibre
sucking the meat’s every inch
to colonize my craving
this territory of the insatiable
is digested like a wealth
common to accent-tongues
to savour, to relish a dish
unti i’ve swallowed it all
i burped my satisfaction
left anything i couldn’t demolish
i stood-up, unapologetic
manners are not in order
when it’s my right to devour
sketches/studies: middle kingdom / David Maduli
gold: double-headed leopard’s last
breath before dusk, almost yesterday
illuminated on peeling walls
carnelian: baby coals clear
a dagger’s path, feathers inlaid on
a sleeping phoenix
feldspar: every luminous crystal color, every
color crystal illuminated, color
lapis lazuli: ocean frozen into beads on the neck of a goddess, cobra’s belly twisting
around the wrist of tomorrow
Bliss / Aline Soules
After Time to Dance, by Nikki Basch-Davis
When the body moves by itself,
and the rhythm of music permeates
each atom, the atoms align – body, guitar,
dancer, air, world. Bliss so intense
you can hardly breathe.
When you stand halfway up a mountain,
stare across the tops of hills
that reach to the horizon, you cry tears you can’t explain.
When you look into the eyes
of your firstborn, pain forgotten, you ache
with love for this being who came
from your womb, yet, seemingly
from nowhere and everywhere.
When the sun hits a fall leaf,
translucent in its last days, and the glow of yellows and reds makes you gasp,
only one word will do — bliss.
My PMDD is a Rose / Jess Tower
Sometimes, late blood stings my eyes like rose thorns.
I shake off the kiss because I can’t miss out. Between all my smiles,
I’m holy hell this sucks. My breath rises unexpectedly & then:
is breathing aware? Of the way two trains can folly
& go full steam against the other. The way they can veer
into deserts and kill their passengers, bitter. The way blood
on those trains looks like a 70s movie, where the life
is sucked out of victims & any semblance of hope is flung
off the rear door into a lake.
Does breath know? That what makes us aware is sprouting
wings & leaping off that train, half sure we’ll be killed
& half hoping we’ll survive. We pluck the thorns out &
blood opens like water.
Day 16 / Poem 16
Season of Abundance / Hannah Eads
Season of abundance
Their bodies haunt
before they learn
Dying a noisy
by the sounds,
woke in humid
spring to scream
and swing on
of their making
Text: Aware I seem Crazy, here / Lane Falcon
you go: a window into my flaming
amygdala, air show crashed by
defunct firecrackers: yes, my
impulses misfire and again, I try and
explain myself. Looking back I will
see I say and say the same
thing: I want you and want you to
want me but maybe I have let you
see too many weeds the sodden
and soggy the knife edged and
bleeding maybe I have let you see
the snaily, clitoral captain of
crazy and now you want to run
screaming but before you party off,
wings on your ass, I want you to see
this pink pure, this skin slick,
this message viscera.
Dear Kerri / Lindsay Illich
I’ve been watching a payloader haul dirt in my side yard all morning. It seems
like they’re getting nowhere. When the ground is finally level, they’re putting in pavers.
The guy said the ones like dinosaur teeth. They’re also putting in some pinky winkies,
lilacs, and forsythia. Our first spring here, I noticed the forsythia everywhere,
even before all the snow was gone. Like girls gone wild but with yellow.
At the reading last night, R said that the unspoken last line of every poem is
I am going to die. It made me think of Harvard and then of you. At Harvard I heard
M say that all poems say Thank you or I love you or Help. Which is also the entire Beatles
discography. Which makes me wonder what’s the point? G said that he tells poets to
say the fucking thing when they’re being avoidant. What’s Chicago like right now?
The sky in Boston today reminds me of Texas when they get those dust plumes from the Sahara
that give the sky a milky haze. Like a vintage filter on Insta. Just think of it, getting swept up
and moving over the face of the deep. Even if I’m not around next spring, don’t worry.
There will be so much yellow. I didn’t know there could be so much yellow.
Lost Titles / Row Light
This golden year
I am a million flawed strangers.
The split self
For long silent
Over our chasm of everything.
We let the rest rot,
Let it rot
In some generous place
They know nothing about water.
Under the mask of non-sense
A secondhand lonely
Is lonely mine.
The Bond at The Bund / LKN
drinks wine with me
being left behind
is kindred to us both
looking at the 8PM quay
on how the wind ruffles
the water, too depressed
it forgot how to swim
why doesn’t it fly instead
as we felt the edge
of the year, close
like the bill at the counter
we’re on the 33rd floor
the level looked like butterflies
about to soar
on top of Singapore
where the breeze is too cool
like our arms, suspended
beside our pains
we’re always abandoned
like the cruise ships
that pass by conveniently
the sea was too far already
the pavement looked at us
with a smile, rare in this city
it felt like a family i didn’t know
manila is 1,474 miles away
it never became that near
that safe, that happy
it was waiving at us
as we were about to rise
the missing, missed the chance
as fate called-off our feet
from that ledge of dreams
“call: andrea recto”
my other home, called me home
i left marina bay that night
december waved goodbye
years have jumped between us
we visit each other still
our wine dates remain
both of us—apparently knows
how to stay, and someday
december and i won’t walk away
we’ll leap! but we both know
it is not today
THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A MORE SUCCESSFUL WOMAN / Nikolas Macioci
Death, clad in a sparkly, red, spaghetti-strap dress,
shouldering a Prada leather mini bag, and
shod in Jimmy Choo heels, and inevitability,
sachets up and down Figueroa Street in LA. .
Soon, a Kia Optima SX pulls to the curb,
passenger window down. He offers to pay
her for time. She looks him over. Paul wears
a Navy polo shirt and pasty pallor.
She gets in, and they drive away. He coughs,
and the sound echoes deep and phlegmy.
She’s amazed he’s lasted this long, but not
surprised he’s come to her for a last fling.
They drive to a predetermined destination.
Later, he drops her off where he picked her up,
then steers into inescapable night.
Back on the street, she waits for her next client.
Everyday, all night and day, she continues
this routine to afford expensive clothes, apartment,
a car. Many have begged her to quit, to retire,
but she’s stubborn as a fact, and would miss
too much all the people who drive down her Street
Over There / David Maduli
To the West
Sun sinks between the cars swarming the 880 bend
Chain link fences rise toward the freeway
To one side of the enclosed field
Row upon row of new condos at various stages
Of rebar framing plywood concrete roofing siding marketing
Fronted by a row of pastel blue and silver flags as if awaiting royal procession
To other other side
An encampment of battered trucks and RVs
Piles of mattresses wooden pallets clothing furniture discarded objects of such volume and mass they are unidentifiable
A man weaves a rusted bike over ankle deep ruts in pavement shattered by abandoned rails
Stopping occasionally at cars that pull up
Inside the fence
To one side under tall floodlights crisp warmup-clad players run soccer drills on the unblemished turf
An array of coaches and assistants guard the sideline also partitioned with cones
To the other side on lumpy grass patches interspersed with dirt mud sinkholes erosion loose edging
A small team’s practice starts
And is immediately doused by the sprinklers that turn on
I enter the gate on the turf side with son under my arm
An eager assistant coach sees us coming first, intercepts without hesitation thin smile encircling a mouthful of teeth, offers
—Hi guys, you must be looking for that group over there
Scenes from America / Aline Soules
After Little Boy, Big Gun, by Nikki Basch-Davis
A small boy, head level with the waist
of the two adult men standing at his side
one with his hand in his pocket, the other
with a gun strapped to his side
The boy’s face looks straight at the viewer,
his eyes looking left at something outside
What is the viewer to make of this?
Is the boy in custody? Perhaps his parents
are gone – dead, incarcerated, who knows?
Is the boy lost? Perhaps in a mall,
although the gun looks too menacing for a mall.
Has the boy committed a crime? The young
vandalize, steal, even kill.
This is a scene from America
with its well-clad people and its prominent guns.
The boy may look away no
but what about
when he is ten, fifteen, twenty? What then?
Will he be the one to pick up a gun
and enter a school? Or will he be the one
still in school, trapped in a room with a gunman
seeking his fifteen minutes of fame?
The innocent face could be the two faces
of Janus. Only time will tell.
Mansplaining / Jess Towers
You under-vehemently exclaimed:
the stretched wave, perhaps surprisingly,
becomes the grave over time.
I say sounds difficult
Yes and then these animate into nothingness
& while winds lay fast, the scientific creator’s
reflection would seem like pain.
I say um
Yes and then this all leads the woman to where
the flower-stars fell, smiling & there, only there,
she is able to survive. Off the fruits of his labor.
I say in English, please?
Oh I just mean I just mean I just mean
Day 15 / Poem 15
My Cat the Astronaut / Hannah Eads
She opened up her mouth one day, Mako,
and said, it’s time! I asked, where will you go?
She booked a boat (hates planes) across the
Atlantic to trot through Venetian streets, then
found her godly roots amidst Egyption tombs,
completed her studies and became the
second cat to make it into space.
She writes me on occasion, describes
the smallness of our state, the emptiness
that is somehow also full of what she
claims are “funny secrets” that the universe
hides behind the wink of blinking stars
and the laughter of many species.
Unscripted / Lane Falcon
If I die first, tell no one
to put lilacs on my casket,
drink lavender, wilt the roses
by caressing their yellow.
Ditch my ashes at a gas station
because no one knew me—
death brings it to a head
coagulated preferences: the flowers,
colors, songs I kept
bunched inside, spread
for people who didn’t care to see:
she loved nothing
and nothing loved her.
New Love / Lindsay Illich
When everything is lost
a tomb opens
where the ghosts live in amber
and like a cougar
you pace through it, there
legs of a chair that held
you the mantle the heart
the bolt ambitious for the jamb
love is an errand you run
through it each room a keep
for memory you fill her up
with everything you’ve lost
Today / Row Light
you ask the scariest thing
and I say, call me whatever you want.
Voiding an insistent me, syllabic shrugs
want you to fill these blanks
with favorite colors, shapes, and moods.
I don’t regret this life as me,
addressed just how we would expect.
Yet, I love you the more for asking,
wishing you could answer too.
The Lore of Custom Eyes / LKN
a new mythology is built
mental health is my new god
i pray in my temple
that shuns the unfaithful
of not putting me a priority
my deity smites with
unfollows, unreads, unanswered
breaking the causes
of my ego like an incense
with a middle finger
as the altar alters opinions
dis-aligned to its wishes
words are omnipotent
i need not to be told
self-diagnosis is divine
pride is heaven
a haven of immortal ego
using depression to raise hell
on a vindictive paradise
it wields my weakness
like a weapon to lash
crash my self-worth on them
to not mind their mortality
compassion is a passion
reserved to my hollow
its sake is hallow
taking a holy rant
as a legend of survival
anyone can suffer
as long my god is safe
in the suffrage of protecting
the numen i worship
monuments of its aether
cancels the welfare
of anyone who denies
the epic precendence
being the messiah of choice
its preservation is paramount
others can be sacrificed
my god is demiurge
to deluge any plights but mine
it’s a jealous creator
in its sacred tabernacle
of envious seclusion
i need to ever protect my faith
my presence is enough
if anyone wants to reach me
you always have to say—yes
for my god is always right
do you have a god like that too?
The World Stunned by Leaves / Nikolas Macioci
I awaken to leaves withering
outside. It will be the warmest day
in October. I glance at relentless blue
sky unblemished by cloud but scratched
with trails of jet exhaust. My heart
grows wild with longing. The leaves trick me
into melancholy. I don’t know why,
and I don’t know what I want exactly,
but I want it more than I’ve ever wanted anything.
I turn back into the room, totter into clothes,
ready to rake beneath the giant oak.
Next door, a neighbor burns what he has gathered.
I inhale acrid smoke as bitter as memory,
a time spent stumbling out of a relationship.
I rake the leaves wearing the blush of red.
Air crisp as an edge of paper, sharp as a thorn.
I breath deeply, exhale from beneath my heart.
No flaws mar this day of smooth sunshine
soaking a sweatshirt, warming the skin
like the touch of new romance. I bag the leaves,
brittle, crackling crumbles in my hands.
For a long time, I stand still holding the rake,
searching corners of thought for how being
alive feels when I’ve been ankle-deep
in remnants of death.
Untitled / David Maduli
And I can never remember names
But I remember eyes
And I can’t find the words
But I found my shoes I was looking for
In the side of the closet
And I can’t remember what I went up to the room to look for
But I found this postcard and it reminded me of you
And I stopped to read the page it was slipped in as a bookmark
And the handwriting was definitely yours
But I could not remember the sound of your voice
Although you called my name my whole childhood
And called my phone into adulthood
And then passed on a month before I got married
Before your grandchildren doubled
Before published books
But we talk about you with your grandchildren
Who now have no living grandparents
And I am moving the piano soon as I
Get the measurements and hire someone
Because your grandson will play it
But it won’t remind me of you and dad
And me and sis
Because we never played it
And you never played it
Instead he will play it
And I hope it will remind us
To listen and stop
Looking for shoes
Tipping Points / Aline Soules
A two-hour journey to Pacific Grove in my hybrid car and I’m in a traffic jam.
It’s Saturday morning, not even rush hour.
Our global heat rise is already 1.1C, the Paris agreement target, 1.5-2.0C.
Another piece of news on the car radio as we inch along emitting carbons,
soot, and unburned fuel,
while the environmental expert lists the tipping points of global warming at 2.0C,
the collapse of the ice sheets in Greenland and the West Antarctic,
the death of the tropical coral reef, and the abrupt thaw of Northern permafrost.
I shouldn’t spend two hours heading to the coast in my car, but it would take
several hours and three transfers to get there by public transit.
Someday, old age will force me to give up driving, but I don’t want to face it now
or think about what comes next, whether it’s the loss of my independence
or the expert’s prediction about Barents Sea ice loss, Labrador Sea current collapse,
and mountain glacier loss.
I used to think my personal tipping point into oblivion would come
before the heat dome I experienced last week, my car relegated to the scrap heap,
along with my worries for the next generations, my family, my grandson.
I recycle, reuse, dispose of waste appropriately, tell myself it matters
when I’m not sure it does. Yet, I drive on, arrive at the coast, relieved
at the lower temperature, even as I wonder when nature will flick us
gendered locker rooms / Jess Tower
strange beautiful intelligent: an entirely too-lacking
description of trans
When people ask if I’m trans, I say no but thank you
for the compliment
Years prior, I gently iced into fluidity, then, suddenly
became dilated with fire & emerged
no fear of the cross
the thank you approach turned
the no approach
I became a fluid woman
For the cis – I’m comfortable with myself
the fact is my individuality forgot how much
superstition becomes galvanized with complex horror
until one laugh about my leg hair became far too many
& I had forgotten myself
I then forgot all too much about gender until
I found myself walking into the
women’s locker room, angry; then & only then,
the beginning of this poem happened.
Day 14 / Poem 14
Hyperfixation / Hannah Eads
The one thing my Lazarus promised me
was peace. He shape-shifts
at once a vampire with gleaming teeth
velvet robe and darkness
And then again the piece of a puzzle
a spool of ribbon next to the glue gun
Anna Karina’s blue skirt, Colombo’s
trench coat and cigar, the mien of mystery
to guide me onto the appropriate
plane. Serenity is in the forgetting
the surgical, the rolling of a stone.
Adam / Lane Falcon
I was happier before I met him—
isn’t that the sentence I always land on?
I’m going to love you until I don’t.
Cut from a rib, I took my swim
beyond this dead-end bone.
I was happier before I met him,
before his body stoned mine dumb,
right after I bloomed into Woman.
I’m going to love you until I don’t,
claw at this goddamn fable’s paper rim
until God takes punitive action.
I was happier before I met him.
Now I know night’s amber hum:
picnic table, smoke and wanton moon.
I’m going to love you until I don’t,
until I don’t hear the drum
of this foolish longing (girl, you’re on your own).
I was happier before I met him.
I’m going to love you until I don’t.
Tonight I say Mercy / Lindsay Illich
This morning when the rain
started, I said mercy,
look at the daylilies, their
orange heads bowing
in deference to the sweet-heavy
rain. The stuck July
just waiting for its rays
of sunshine to come
calling. I miss you.
The sky is falling.
The azaleas popping
off like teenagers.
The world waits as the cars
sip by. And I’m in it.
I say okay
between each small thing
to clear the implacable
air. To appear industrious.
The tranche of evening
is unfolding like a blanket,
like a page, like mercy.
After the Flood / Row Light
We two slink toward a four-way stop,
the wheel naturally spinning toward
the parking sign behind the defunct
old ladies home turned to
grad student housing
like it’s made a clever point.
Car heat drying me, I close up
to rekindle that damp mouth, eyes,
futz with nose cartilage and remember
the lids as bent over dust pans
to stop the sweeping lash.
And I know I won’t come back
sure as we won’t make it through all this,
at least not the way we are just now –
that is, Polaroids and snack bags crushing, me shifting into crisscross so the seat heater
gets the sides of the ankles
like some therapy trick
as I reach below for cakey cereal.
Watching the trucks
have a roadside sleepover
we thumper our feet
like we drive Fisher Price,
see trips as swimming laps
back and forth
The signal for your brights
looks like grasshopper wings
(and yes, they can fly)
next to a hesitant hazard,
a check when you can
on becoming not stuck.
road-trip to think.
I need to:
go blank, flood with sound,
careless dreams or mad libs,
joke on meds and constipation,
tickle memories until they shit themselves.
I want: my sister hating radio static,
playing the same song every 5 minutes, audiobooks kidnapped
from the unsuspecting library,
the voice actor who cracks
the main character’s name in two
like a complaint.
I once ran over and drove with
an empty jug of gas
under my car for a mile
at six miles above the limit –
is this a cry for help or a thank you?
AdVent / LKN
all eyes, stares the 3pm in me
like a gospel they needed
sitting on monobloc chairs
being a congregation
of a faith-fool pew
listening to their ignorance
loitering on the hope
i read in my poetry
as they snap their spines
curved by the bars i slap
like it’s a homily of sin
they wear on the gaping jaw
buttoned-down for service
as they gasp their contrition
on the lines of my garment
it said: “freedom”, printed
in bold letters of kumbaya
yet the crowd is lower-cased
while i punch metaphors
on their mouths of expletives
they’re swearing themselves
omgs, doesn’t spare their gods
from lies they try to hide
becoming a host of stanzas
the bystanders of spotlights
a communion of spectators
ready to receive a speck
of truth they can’t live
people just want to know
a salvation is in a show
clapping their awe
as my bow smirks
a 5-minute mass, to amass
their mass of pretentiousness
thanks be their tickets
my words got bought
by their vapid cheers
on my commercial poem
relating to their naivety
i got paid for—to serve
an undeserving audience
is this poet’s confession
October Is What I Am / Nikolas Macioci
Autumn drapes thinner light over burning
bushes that have already turned lipstick red.
Gold coinage of elm and purple plumage
of sourwood bespeak how death entombs
elegance. Even if I weren’t a romantic,
I would say my blood has turned to woodsmoke,
made me the cornfield scarecrow waiting
for shadowy birds to land on my shoulders,
transform me into one of a million pumpkins
in a ten-acre field. Becoming autumn
is not a feat. It is a furious longing
I can only begin to satisfy by identifying
with a sundial and letting leaves tremble
across my surface. I might lift myself
into the air as an umbrella and catch
early October drizzle. Moreover, what makes
me want to be the harvest moon, orange
as a rusted medallion or chrysanthemums
yellow as corn on the cob. I am
slow to accept that I cannot become this
season, so, afflicted by nostalgia, I lean
an elbow on the windowsill, stare at
spiraling leaves and that moon again large
as an airplane. I ache from falling in love
with fall, a wistful hunger for the unnameable
that almost kills me for wanting it.
At The Black Lily / David Maduli
Pain / Aline Soules
After The Two Fridas, by Frida Kahlo, 1939
Someone can cut out your heart
if you let him. The surprising stab,
the knife sawing through skin
in a circle large enough to excise
the beating organ.
So much easier to cut out your own heart,
bypass the sudden pain inflicted
by someone else, someone
who was supposed to love you.
So much better to control your own suffering,
when it starts, how long it might last.
Wield those scissors with care, cut only
what you want to remove, choose
how much blood to let fall in your lap,
manage your own pain as if, somehow,
you can lessen it by absorbing it
in small doses.
Later, you can thread the needle
with a long cord attached to a plug.
When you can’t stand the pain anymore,
or you’ve inflicted enough of it on yourself,
sew your heart back in, leave the stitches
like a tattoo, and jump start yourself
with the plug.
discovering my father during a disability phone call at age 28 / Jess Tower
how many daughters will need to be pleasantly out of frame
for the men who left them fatherless to have enough
of assessing the degree of evil within the mothers?
The evil continuing onto the hims, harshly, because
the once-fathers’ stiff spikes only wire through the uterus,
retaining the baby’s genes & unfortunately,
retaining even his scent on the baby until the daughter
is hated by the mother, too, her once-glorious she
turned mistake turned wished-for-skeleton
her(s) eyes closed, once unsuccessfully
there was no help back then I did what I had to
I don’t mean she tried to kill me, though sometimes I do wish on shooting stars
the unsuccessful-mothers bear drug-trauma formed into babies
until they no longer know who they were once sang sharply once stand-up kind
until they can’t even tell the daughter her father’s name
Day 13 / Poem 13
Mountaineering / Hannah Eads
for holy chariots
for chilled wine
to stain my lip
(She has to be
what gifts to bring
to whichever mountain
I’m called to climb
a collection of candles
courage to deny making
content out of climb
No Vacancy / Lane Falcon
Back before payphones were eradicated
from the city,
snake cord relics, the black handle
we pressed against our cheeks—
tears streaming down
as we clung to some attenuated
voice on the other end—
haunted by nostalgia,
I used to call my children’s father
from one at 190th/Broadway.
My sob-sodden voice,
the words I said, bail
slid under bulletproof glass,
asked for some return.
What he wanted from me,
and what the others after wanted
from me—Why couldn’t I just see it
for what it was? A few words,
the ding the quarter makes
that falls clear through the chute.
Why is what we remember most
the only temporary?
Fire / Lindsay Illich
You have to give it to her: she published
her desire in ash, her whole body the cusp
of another thing, like a daughter I drew her
a bath & she was laughing I noticed
a row of teeth pushing up behind the baby
ones old and new at once lampblack
plume & char, singe & orange how useless
our attempts to remain she fucked the house
like it was hers, like she’d had it with being inside
a shock of rage in her hair my feet beat the wet grass
the daughter in my arms, the fire blooming
against the dark sky & then a blanket
swung around our shoulders
the air thick with our survival
Friend / Row Light
I used to be afraid of feet, now I warm
their nakedness with my socked self
You still do that snorting, hacking sound without realizing, but there’s a lot worse you could do –
I say my object permanence leaves something to be desired, quite truly abandons that once-loved thing, plant, friend, though I fight against the last losing itself in my peripheral dark
You speed through the fog and I feel
Too powerful, as we say, in a really great outfit
Or with the remote in hand, the infant decider courting a dangling marshmallow
This is still your bedroom stage and my spot on the futon, sitting at rapt attention should you sweep through the door in some long skirt or denim marvel
I’m afraid of forgetting it all, your million perfumes and dropping me off in the quiet wet driveway and those first mind melds and too long car songs with just one more and past 10 and appointments with your bed because it’s really all now, and I’ll hug you through the seatbelt even if it chokes us both.
A Black-Tie Gala / LKN
death is entertained
while selfishness holds
my hands, tight enough
to choke my grandmother
from the gift of resting
peace is queued in lines
green—to lie like a play
playing god is an inheritance
i steal the still steel script
is still—like a spiel
of stretching her breath
on a stage to stage my ego
in contracting a contract
of my indomitable guilt
on my inconquerable grief
hiding in a backstage
of appearing i care for her
it’s for me… i can’t let go
of extending the frames
of holding her patience
kissing her understanding
embracing her hope
of my constant abandonment
why didn’t i come sooner
regret is always late
all I have is a monitor
to direct the intermissions
in this self-serving production
of her suffering, and my pride
compassion is set aside
i exhaust her pain
to benefit my greed
with a standing ovation
but death is the only one clapping
while my grandmother and i
bowed—to the end
we did put up a good show
but blame is my only encore
October Feels Like A Place / Nikolas Macioci
It’s where yellow leaves unfasten from birch
trees, and the smell of woodsmoke prevails.
It’s a place near a pumpkin patch where
you turn the last page before winter.
It’s crows on a cornfield fence rail, black
throats rattling caws. I’s a place where
a profusion of chrysanthemums suddenly
mean more than any other flower.
It’s where walking in leaves is absolute
contentment, where coming upon a hillside
of crayoned trees or leaving footprints
in early morning frost are surprise gifts.
It is a place where an enormous white moon
quickens the pulse, a place where nostalgia
gushes up from contemplation and throws
longing into gear. Mark October a place
where a multitude of bones, bats, and black
cats fill imagination with a flutter of welcome
fear, and you recoil from the rat-a-tat-tat
of a witch’s fingernails on your window.
It’s where roadside markets display a dozen
different baskets of apples, and jugs of cider,
the color of sunset, become broth of the season.
Let someone special stand in this place with you.
Let leaves fall around you both and feel
nothing less than love.
scratch /’skraCH/ / David Maduli
verb 1.to score or mark the surface (of something) with a sharp pointed object. The cheek of the sun was scratched by a comet. 2. cancel or strike out (writing) with a pen or pencil. The skin’s sadness was scratched out by tears. 3. to produce a rhythmic scratching sound by moving a phonograph record back and forth under a phonograph needle. The DJ scratched the record, samples of cosmos chopped by crossfader.
noun 1. a mark or wound made by scratching. The scratch bled drips of father, mother, homeland. 2. a test of courage Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch; marry, ‘tis enough. Go, villain, fetch an editor. Ask for this tomorrow and you will find it a grave poem.
The Coolest Summer of the rest of My Life / Aline Soules
We broke a record in Danville, California this September,
120 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the 1960s, Mother and I crossed the Mojave Desert
in our non-airconditioned car. Needles, California,
117 at midnight.
This past June Mojave registered 130, close to the hottest
degree ever recorded on the planet, 134 in Death Valley.
Dry heat in this state, said to be easier to bear.
We wake to hot dawns, even now, huddle
in our air-conditioned houses. I think of those
in heat and humidity with no refuge,
suffering through the faults of others, of me.
The rich consult experts, New Zealand or Iceland,
buy acres, build bunkers with swimming pools
and gyms. Their children will grow up insulated,
isolated, unaware until someone turns off their power.
Restocking Shelves / Jess Tower
When the rejected kids of narcissists
regard their peers, it’s often icy, brief.
They are used to it –
being on the lowest shelf, I mean.
I tempted fate back then &
nature had waned
from then to right now.
So, while holding his hand,
hold the vision from before
the vision from now
& we fall,
Day 12 / Poem 12
Next Great Revenge / Hannah Eads
what other way out but diurnal isolation!
I am the bachelor of my thoughts
living in my work and the romanticization
translating woes into personal renaissance
the rain breaks and cracks
against my window like eggs
I sing my way home in solipsistic fury
the horror of one’s day ends
at the start of a hearty nap
when I awake to frenzied phone calls
I’ll write the next great revenge!
Joy Reliquary / Lane Falcon
the only place you can push someone is away,
and I don’t listen,
never can I keep my hands from wanting
to touch the treasure, from grazing the glass case.
Never can I keep my mind from turning
the tiny and ornate over and over,
trying to remember a pattern
I can’t memorize,
that adheres to an unknown artist’s seam.
Like the crickets that chirp each night in threes,
the strumming then,
all part of a tapestry I can’t see whole.
Someone said pleasure
passes through you,
and the more you try to cling, the sooner
it leaves. So what should I do then,
feel myself fill, then not try to stop the draining?
Let myself go empty again,
surrender to it?
Watch the joy bleed out but for what dries
along the edges
into a brittle crust
I can’t touch without breaking?
Patient / Lindsay Illich
As we await the call to schedule the procedure
the storm blows in and begins to pour forth.
As we await the return to appetite, what it must
feel like to be free in the casual afternoon.
As we await the road opening to the clearing
where you can see all the letters of our city
spelling I love you, like a revival
and then the woods again in a gulp
of the deep wood, the tangle of limbs above
hanging over us, the heat of our bodies
the clean of longing, how it makes you wait
for it to come, the black ribbon in the rearview
the air like static, the eyes of animals watching us
wait for the call to schedule the procedure.
Moat / Row Light
You say I opened my mouth wider than I ever have in my sleep and I ask really? Remembering how my jaw unhinges like a snake’s when I get the things I want or hear the news or forget to check around corners (I jump easy and drawbridge the same. The castle kind, not fraternal sides, though my face kind of melts in a two way mirror).
And after you say what that sleeping looked like, I tell you I dreamt of drowning in a few inches of rainwater.
So when the apartment floods and books make icebergs I know it’s my fault. I say things to myself that, if you told me straight, I’d burn you at the stake or take back your birthday present or throw us both in the river to see who floats.
Lull A Bye / LKN
mother is like time
it won’t wait for you
leaving you behind
like a requirement
in a bed of screams
numbers are deaf
it doesn’t sleep
like your tears
it tears the sheets
like a calendar
meant to rip a goodbye
even in a fevered moment
it is still, it is cold
to walk over your pain
you’re just a happenstance
nothing, but a stroke
forgotten, as it leaves you
it knows abandonment
like how your pillows
acquaints the waits
of your lips, your teeth
it is mute, deaf, blind
senseless to a sigh
mother is your dawn
but you’re not her midnight
you will never own
all the seconds
that puts you aside
like a worn-out sleep
awake on a wake
being just a number
in a series of events
like an inconvenience
you’re never a priority
hours will miss you
no matter how you miss it
no matter how you shout
hail all the marys
counting the slaps of hours
without your value
to continue—is constant
the con is sent
under the mattress of hope
of your dreams
that someday, somehow
mother will sit
watch you, like a watch
she forced your wrist
that’s the twist
mother is the beginning
time is the end
you’re but a middle
a blink of an option
between two eternities
A November Life / Nikolas Macioci
Diane has taken up knitting.
She sags in an occasional chair
by the casement window. The mantel
clock tick-tocks language of lost hours.
Late afternoon sun makes transparent art
on hardwood floor.
She’s seventy-two, doesn’t know how
to dismiss the thought she has nothing
to expect but death.
She reads Shakespeare, listens to Mahler,
makes ceramic Christmas trees. Once,
she had a romantic relationship with a man
named Paul. They had worked together
in the state office building downtown where
she handled clerical tasks. He was her supervisor.
She wasn’t prepared for love to tire so soon.
“Men” she thinks, “are never as present
as they appear to be, roving among detritus
of their own egos.
Autumn light becoming less, she places
her knitting on a side table, wraps a coat around her
shoulders. Outside, on the back patio, she breaks bread
for birds, stands still, watches sunset dissolve.
After sun has cooled, she ambles back inside,
snaps on a lamp that throws a circle of light
on the table. Unfinished knitting lies within the glow.
Microzoogressions / David Maduli
You are at the front of the line for the merry-go-round at the Oakland Zoo. Your two children, giddy, jump and spin in anticipation. You ask them what animals they want to ride.
“Eeeaaagle!” cheers your son.
“I can ride the horse next to him,” offers your daughter.
The mom in line behind you, well actually standing next to you now since her daughter has pushed her way to the front, gestures at her toddler and says, “She likes the eagle.” You nod and smile, thinking that’s nice.
“There’s only one,” she continues, “if your son likes to ride the eagle then we will have to wait for the next turn.”
“She really can’t ride anything else? There’s so many animals,” you gesture to the circling menagerie.
“I tried, she will cry. Are we going to fight over the eagle?”
Chuckling, shaking your head, you turn back to your children, giving them each a ticket. The ride has stopped and parents are boosting their kids down and exiting.
The woman bends down and starts talking directly to your son.
“Ooh, look at the elephant! The elephant is the best, so beautiful.”
She points and your son points. Yeah, he likes elephants too. The operator opens the gate. The woman lifts her daughter and rushes past you to the carousel, buckles the girl on the back of the eagle, avoids your glare as you walk past.
Earwig / Aline Soules
Forficula Auricularia, pincher bug
My friend Christine and I explore the seed pod
of the poppies Mother planted by the side of our house
last spring. Elbows on knees, chin in hands, we stare
at an earwig crawling up the stem into the seed pod,
the petals long gone. What is it doing?
Decades later, in California, I harvest swiss chard I grow
for food banks. I disturb a nest of earwigs, wingless
in North America, but equally painful. My fellow farmer
sprays them with bug killer. I wonder why I don’t feel guilty
when my childhood memory pierces me to this day.
Romeo, the CEO / Jess Tower
Romeo, no! I think my Pom
understands, but chooses chaos
most times. Yesterday, I got the food
with the chunks in gravy. Romeo hates
the chunks in gravy. Romeo won’t
drink water unless it’s ice cold.
No room temp or tap for him. Little jerk!
He’s like the CEO of a big-name company.
But: his tap, tap, taps on the floor are my heart.
His paw on my leg. His kisses on my face; he marks
my glasses with dog spit. Even his little growls.
This dog is like my child; I basically birthed him.
Unfortunately, he gets the stars. Spoiled from the start;
my dying grandpa fed him cornflakes from his palms.
Pandemic pup, sort of, but adopted so it’s better!
My grandpa: it will be great to get a puppy right now,
ya know, since I’m dying! Grooming – a hassle.
He’s house trained but bites. Barks at my cat.
Barks at my neighbors. But he’s mine.
Next dog, I’ll do better. No puppies next time.
Day 11 / Poem 11
Birds / Hannah Eads
“feathers fall around you
and show you the way to go
it’s over”. -Neil Young
In her dream all her thoughts
were numbers the numbers fought
for space flying up and at her
like enraged birds flapping their
massive black wings in a space
endlessly escaping itself like a
black hole she woke up in
darkness the window silently perched
and watchful as she gasped
for air wading into consciousness
meeting with the tide
Three Sunflowers at a Citgo Station / Lane Falcon
To think, all summer
I drove by this trio of sullen travelers
without noticing, wondering who planted them,
cared enough to brace their necks so they wouldn’t
topple over at four ridiculous feet, so they’d keep growing.
Now I do, and not only because his favorite flowers are sunflowers,
but because a sadness has hooded us, a weeping matched by anonymous flowers,
standing tall at a gas station.
Unfinished Sonnet / Lindsay Illich
What makes absence holy is how it holds the shape
of what’s missing. It’s morning. The moon is gone,
but I remember it bright and rising. What makes absence holy
Is how it holds the deer prints in the snow, or the picture of us
the one at the peach orchard. I was trying to appear
unaffected by looking away but the truth is I was undone.
There were so many peaches! Like love! I wanted people
to know about it and remember you and so many peaches.
In their minds. Like they remember the tread of a bootprint
in moondust. Like the flag frozen in a wave. I know why
The astronaut left the picture of his dead daughter
On the moon. She would always be there. The blue dawn
is pinking. I remember you. I remember everything.
seven o’clock / Row Light
My baby sleeps diagonally —
I hold the extra throw
Over my eyes so that the holes
Make sunshine (its vague
Slits in the blinds) look like
A star-peppered orange.
Who was the first
to salt their fruit?
To pour the eyes
Back into sleep, or
Juice and squeeze
In all this knowing?
To Those Who Smith Words / LKN
when did humility
visit your perfection
to bow lower
than your curation
of manicured creation
as a privileged right
to leave behind faults
like a divine—gone wrong
are you proud
being the unblemished
the pure puritan
rearranging your humanity
polished to lie
lying to cover the raw
like it’s wrong
to learn—becomes torture
for a pretension
an immaculate execution
murdering the naked
to impress an empyrean
rejecting the non-utopian
need to flaw
a god of edit
to vacate the err of errors
begging the ideal
to slit the mistake
of your origin
to bow only to: what ifs
is the greed of cupidity
being the revised versions
of your loss, is gained
a fabrication of falsity
an unyielding high-flying
forgetting the ground
i bore you in
like all of my children
modesty—is a travesty
you always wanted
to be more than real
deleting the candid nature
is an ambition, fabricating
a love—now rewritten
in a scripted-manuscript
that had written you more
than your own paper
with an ink who doesn’t know you
when you ommited me
Grandpa Mohr / Nikolas Macioci
Blindness did not deter him from shuffling
every day down the path along the Canal
at Buckeye Lake to Harry’s Bar for a few
beers, white cane, a gift from the Lions
Club, extended in front of him like a giant
ant feeler. Perpetual attire consisted of
shirt, pants, Romeo slippers and soiled
cardigan. He smelled slightly of urine.
Returning to the cottage, he slid tiny steps
forward until he nudged his naugahyde
recliner, dropped onto the seat and exhaled
a sigh. Then he would close his eyes,
merely a formality, and sleep.
I used to stand nearby, stare at work-worn
hands and wait for him to awaken. He never
hugged or shook hands with me. His touch
had replaced light and was only a tool against
wrong turns and guesses.
The man who took careful steps to his chair
used to walk a herd of cattle fifty miles
from Bainbridge, Ohio to Columbus. Later
in life, he painted letters on railroad cars
at the roundhouse in Columbus, ran a farm
tractor after he came home from painting,
sometimes into the night, and helped to raise
ten kids with perfect table manners.
Seventy years later, I stand in my garage
on Frebis Avenue, wrap fingers around his
shovel and hoe, hoist them to my shoulder
and head toward the garden. I will break soil
in his memory.
Immeasurable / David Maduli
Waves faded to night under no moon
Winds pulled back
Joules charged in defibrillator
Seconds between heartbeats
Worries seeped in propofol
Hopes masked and gloved
Blood cells in a plastic bag
Secrets disappeared into skin
Sand disappeared into sand
Dunes that were far away
Then gone again
Flash Floods / Aline Soules
Sing-song lines from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Water, water, everywhere, nor a drop to drink.
I lived by the salt sea. The ocean. What else could it mean?
In my air-conditioned condo, the news shows
Bangladeshi wading up to their waists, chests.
They drink dirty water, lack food, have no place to rest,
leave the flood shelters for their homesteads,
share cooking utensils, furniture. They’ve lost
crops, seeds, fodders, have no earnings for a daily meal,
suffer diarrhea from typhoid, cholera, giardia, dysentery,
the list goes on. They call the helpline about violence
against children and women. The children stand
in front of unclean, broken schools, their faces unreadable.
The bell rings in the high school, adjacent to my complex,
signaling the end of another day. I hear shouts and a coach’s whistle
from the Olympic-sized pool where the kids are swimming laps.
Neurodivergence / Jess Tower
If I could tell you how I didn’t know
the dead Queen wasn’t perfection,
I’d tell you it’s my neurodivergence
I see many things upside down.
My apologies won’t do much but grate rage into
pieces and that’s harder to explain. I attempt
to learn the neurotypical thought patterns, yet again.
Words from all the normal people splatter across
the ten Wikipedia pages tabbed on my MacBook.
Feels like no way off the bridge but jumping, because
I can’t see the stairs a few feet behind me. Feels like
I’m in a completely white room, alone in my
misunderstandings. The room is so bright – too intense! –
and I need darkness, but I can’t find my way outside
to the only other room: completely black.
Thinking it’s gotta be this one way
(it makes sense, right? This is how they must think.)
while my friends(?) laugh at my again-failed
understandings of this world, this society
that puts my brain in a constant state
of paste; of hatred of myself.
This place doesn’t get me either, though.
I wasn’t meant to be too much.
I was meant for streams and strawberries;
for slow-paddling interspersed
with fast-dances; for carving who I am
into tree bark. But I’m here.
And there’s too much hustle here; no beds
with huge, dark covers silking around
my body – sore, raw.
As a child, I was freer than most.
Now, I can’t adult.
School? 4.0’s all around.
Life? Throw me off that bridge now.
Day 10 / Poem 10
In Conversation / Hannah Eads
It’s possible: a connection deeper than
molecules in wavelength conversations with
the cricket on the heater
the spider perched above the cabinet
the mother and her baby deer
And in nausea, fever, clouded face
I feel their presence like a friend
as if in a field, the rustle in the brush
is the language of the soul
My Daughter Asks Me Why I Stayed / Lane Falcon
My will is weak,
I don’t say,
because what good
would that do her anyways?
She with the girl-fire,
the exalted torch.
Why tell her what
that fire is up against?
How her body,
now wholly her own–
the dreams it shores up–
might someday bruise
or go blank
under the weight
of someone else’s writhing.
How shame sinks
into the body, a stain
so set in the fabric,
you forget it’s there.
Question Sonnet / Lindsay Illich
What if we’re our own Cassandras? What if
the oceanic feeling wasn’t a memory
but a collective premonition? Of the coasts,
of flooding. What if dementia is this, also
A problem in the system would be registered
in the entire organism. Is memory loss
proprioception of the earth’s body in crisis?
Could the unevenness in our memory crisis
reflect the unevenness of the effects of climate
change? And what about the ones who walked
into the water? What’s the relationship
between the Earthbody in crisis and another
loss, the loss of empathic capacity?
If the Earth is sick, are we not sick, also?
On Leaving / Row Light
The six month chug turned summer, flowering
in new mulch – it can be wood or soil,
a category for that which aids in growth, sets the scene.
You transplant frothing pink things across the yard
for their looks, never mind the beach roses
nuzzling the tin roofed garage.
They, of course, were mentored by the maze of bricks,
tilting path with mini golf carpet,
once a runway for an elderly dog.
I help you lay planks across the chipping porch
just a half-foot above ambitious grass
weaseling its way into conversation.
I nudge the elbow in my gut –
I think I need to go tomorrow.
I whisper toward a turned back, black shirt
absorbing hot breath.
Can you understand?
I twitch every second in and out
of the mind to walk these ruined streets.
To point generously toward homes with good bones
poking out their sides like my left protruding rib.
Their bare potential streams through me and I imagine
being still in unwatered grass forever, tendrils
only surpassing the hair curling on toes
by the length of insects’ legs.
Some margin smaller than the dirt film
covering just-forgotten plaques
With little wind whipped evidence, leveled etches
only guess at words
that hold the lives below.
I think to ask a mourning dove
why we mourn what we never loved.
A Secret Hide, Out / LKN
the rain twists its grace
when my wrist kisses the blade
that’s god’s meeting place
they’ve been longing, long
enough—to touch each other
sooner than a sin
seen by drops of graze
to gaze immortality
oh… like an equal
moaning in tranquil
flooding of one’s liberty
to stare directly
to touch is freedom
to slide a colonizing
a fine dripping line
pointing a red rendezvous
and a holy spine
spilling a conversation
between their own lies
blessed be the knife
where choices place a venue
assembling a fate
to commune a painful joy
abut in a storm
The Roundhouse / Nikolas Macioci
When I was a kid, Mom often drove
her ’51 yellow Mercury to Johnson’s
restaurant on South Parsons Avenue,
directly across the street from a train
building called the roundhouse. It
was semicircular and reminded my
pre-adolescent mind of an angel food
cake cut in half. The building sat
atop an embankment and was used
to store and service locomotives.
She told me her dad used to paint
letters on train cars there for B&O
railroad until he went blind. She
would tell me this every time we
went to Johnson’s. She said he was
the best painter who worked there
and did it all freehand, no stencils.
Whenever I heard these words, I
would sit a little straighter, feel
pride that Grandpa Mohr had the
touch of an artist who painted
words on railroad cars that traveled
as far away as the Appalachian
Mountains. Mom made it sound
like the roundhouse was a family
monument to which I owed respect.
Seventy-one years later, I don’t live
in the South End of Columbus, Ohio
anymore. I dwell in the small town
of Groveport, about fifteen minutes.
from Columbus, and I only pass
the roundhouse occasionally. Its
windows are broken, waist-high
weeds proliferate, and the building
itself is crumbling, vacant, and useless
as the words he once put into motion.
Villanelle Lost / David Maduli
lost coast buried sun steel smog haze
ash earth quakes in anticipation
pacific’s heart broken into tectonic plates
asbestos brain abandoned sea cliff maze
humanity melting ground glass grey lungs
left coast buried in sun steel smog haze
civilization dusk carbon fiber demise
area code unknown sleep stars thunder
pacific heartbroken into tectonic plates
water first water last sand salivates
new skins & piercings damp smoke death noon
lost cause burn steel smoke sun into haze
otherside of blind spots fade blue places
lost violet summer slim paradise dune
pacific’s heart broken in tectonic planes
cactus amber mojave pacific coral mesa
offshore desert august ocean atlantean june
last coast buried
At the Installaation / Aline Soules
Black on Black Spirals, Alexander Calder, 1970
gouache on paper one spiral striated
sky sun. bright blood the other black
Lawrence Kalmbach BBA ’92
etched in steel object label on gold frame
hung on a bare library wall
ribbon-cutting reception for the few
Dad granite-faced Mom in mute tears
the Dean and I watch
students study at nearby tables an ordinary college day
no one speaks no one says suicide
Is blood on black spiral or black spiral on sun sky?
hell’s happiness / Jess Tower
To lovingly surrender your corpse:
accomplished, the already-dead wave to you.
Even the smoke meditates here, even
the tempered oysters are ancient. The sea is to see
as death is to be. Inflamed love: all you need.
The dichotomy’s so foreign to me. I’d much rather
go to hell because I’m not there
for anyone but myself. Champagne
tight around my once-esophagus. A party
to remember, if I still had a brain.
The tame gates of heaven
make me nauseous.
I’ll take the old gods over golden fetuses any damn day.
Day 9 / Poem 9
The Luck of Life / Hannah Eads
Solace begets a bursting purpose
begets a burning out begets
catastrophe, rinse and repeat
this luck that I possess
Relief, figures projecting where
the worry was released, a gorgeous
gold landscaped with honey hills
and manna freely falling from the sky
Lucky to have found this way
like walking thirsty through the desert
forgetting you’re a snake,
learning each time that you remember
The Other Woman / Lane Falcon
I want to write a poem
about the sleeves
of images in between
when he comes and goes
each night, not a chapter
but the whole story
bound and burned by daylight.
I want to show why she
Invites him to close the door
behind himself, flick
the dead bolt shut,
and follow her up into
this house, past her sleeping
how this woman—
how long, how hard, how desperate,
how wanting— closes
the blinds and lets his body
Guilt hides behind
every curtain, pulls the cloth
from his face just enough
so she blinks and sees white.
peopled with worry
buzz just outside
where she chooses to look.
What happens inside
her body, the inner cascade
of worth, should be,
must be worth writing.
Mirrors and Doors / Lindsay Illich
for Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop and Dr. Gina Opdycke Terry
The petition states that the titles need to be
removed, removed to protect the children.
Respectfully, I have some questions.
Which children? What will happen
if they read them? What are you so afraid of?
Maybe it’s because you already heard.
A book is a mirror. A book is a door.
Maybe that’s what you’re so afraid of.
stay / Row Light
The new sofa becomes these blue walls,
tightened in the corner around a gangly lamp.
Its smooth patterns raise like scars,
invisibly inked tattoo magic.
The fringe molests the backs of my ankles
so I swirl the knees into containment,
kneading the toes as black cat socks.
A popcorn shell enmeshed in my smile,
I think to jog its memory. But it beams
into an upper chamber, sticks
unreachable and proud.
So I decide to let it stay.
Luc / LKN
i wish the mirror lied
when i asked
i’m not alright
five years, still
my bones are still-naked
facing my refraction
rape never allows you
to wear anything
i live, but survivors
are never proud
respect, to shatter
in a reflection
on eight lies
looking at me
behind the glass
of my recollection
showing the broken parts
that mend the pieces
of their immortal moans
on my memorized thumbs
the fog, the dew
in the few hours
on my face, that can’t face
trauma can erase
the joy of looking at myself
all it permits me to see
are blurred images
of who i wasn’t, who i won’t be
what i am—is clear
a molested manifestation
bearing the likeness
of an unrecognizable person
dis-forgiveness stares in me
stripped, of me—by me
have i been raping myself too?
Outside Denver. Colorado / Nikolas Macioci
Like morning communion, ground clouds
evaporates on a tongue of sun. We have pulled
to the berm to snap photos of Pikes Peak.
My three travel-mates open car doors, slam them
shut. Metal echoes follow these companions
as they wade through bluebells Indian paintbrush,
and thistle. They press cameras to their eyes,
ready, eager to bring home souvenir shots
of the Rockies.
I take pleasure in being alone for the moment.
From the dashboard stereo, Kenny G’s saxophone
sweetens the air with “Songbird.” My friend
have trudged deeper into the field, look like
lost errants who have wondered off course.
Sun through glass, a cosmic arm around my
solitude, warms away a forenoon chill.
I think I could hide here forever, throw away
my name, become as content as the Lark Bunting
settled on the post of a piece of abandoned fence.
When friends return and open car doors, tranquility
flies elsewhere like seeds from a milkweed pod.
Back home, in a freezing moment of winter,
I will remember welcome isolation beside this road,
gigantic mountains yellowed by early morning
sun, serenity at my fingertips, and, yes, I will retrieve
my own photos from the trip, preserve the best one
in a frame from Walmart, place it near lamplight
on a desk where no songbird will be singing.
textual studies / David Maduli
The Dancer’s Life / Aline Soules
After “The Dance Class”, by Edgar Degas (France) 1874
Ignore the pain of toe point. Pretend
your chaperones aren’t watching. Ignore
the dance master leaning on his stick.
Fluff your tutus. Check your positions
in the mirror, the flowers in your hair,
your ribbons and sashes.
Be ready to dance, pretend that elegance
is easy, that the line of the body
is natural, not art.
Ignore, too, that you dance
not for love of art, but to attract attention,
to catch the eye of a man.
After the dance, behave as expected.
Accompany him, climb upstairs
to serve this evening’s master
so that tomorrow, you can eat
and feed your children and be ready
to dance again.
Restless Peace / Jess Tower
Not perfection, but continuity.
Will there be chaos, or an overwhelming
sense of change? Like our Mother,
we too are adrift. History is a circle –
it’s not unlike women to flatten it out,
fleetingly. For just a moment, there’s
bread on the table & semi-equal rights.
We’re not all progressive, but something
about women in charge screams
God. Save. The. Queen.
How is it that life can so often hinge
on one single person & when they’re gone,
the world shatters? Men pick up the pieces,
a little too carelessly, maiming a few women
too close to power & soon, we forget that bright-hued
love, replaced so easily with dollars & pounds.
I think to myself, God saved the Queen much too soon.
Day 8 / Poem 8
The Chiseler and the Charlatan / Hannah Eads
Almost successful, he finished his story about
men’s and women’s favorite tendencies, almost
successful in suggesting a major human limitation.
Fragments of night lights twinkled in his glass.
I listened as an old friend walked by, remembering
fragments of all the wrongs I had done or thought about
doing. Allegedly, this was all a part of our cosmic
poetry, the perverse betrayal of one’s betrothed.
An odd thing: hearing what you thought was your
own naturally-grown pessimism falling verbatim from
the mouth of someone you wanted to prove it all wrong.
The mirror folded back on itself and began to show
its truths rather than its projections. Ah, I say,
years after I downed that pensive drink, I see.
Septic / Lane Fields
Don’t think about where it goes, that floor beneath you,
how wide it stretches or whether it opens up to some kind of horrible
basement, mummies reaching through their bandages
green with red eyes dying to meet you.
Don’t think about how you know it’s more than a ravine,
a fissure in dirt widened with every creak
of the earth, rocking back and forth you know where it goes,
cool tunneling up
wrapping around your ankles then waist
then neck pulling you in
Don’t think about where it goes, what it does to you
even now as you i walk your dog across a residential bridge
and look out over the septic creek water, bottles stuck
bottom up in the mud.
After Roe There Can Be No Sex Positivity / Lindsay Illich
On the bank, a clutch of pink mylar.
Cicadas. The air is thick with heat.
The midge merrily. A man is carrying
a watermelon under his arm.
The weight of it doesn’t seem
to bother him. What’s another piece
of fruit? The boat drifts downstream.
The yellow arc of the fly line
threading through the blue sky.
For the first time, I hope no fish will bite.
Indiana shift / Row Light
Biking through midnight, lid-less
the streetlamps orb out in mist.
The nylon red pant leg twists in the chain
released with chilled fingers from strangulation.
8am sunlight, grainy chicken smell,
small talons etching through the pile.
I yawn at the glisten
behind the stretched cotton ball
sky, settled on its side after the restless night.
I daze into the house, knee up stairs,
knock encouragements framed on walls
so they jostle each other’s confidence.
The bath mat warm enough to wet, pruned feet,
stripped slick socks smack tile,
as gasping heat gropes its way inside.
And the half-wet body stumbles toward,
catches the fall as a twitching dream.
I set the clock for the next
and consume these buttery hours.
Tell-Tale Vault / LKN
privilege is a poverty
sitting on my insecure security
while i check on my bank account
that accounts the complacency
of a newly industrialized body
from a corruption as old as ignorance
i’m presumptive to assume
that my educated english
my colonizer’s complexion
and my imported clothes
packages the right to be left
away from queues, to cue tantrum
like a first world entitlement
skipping the mass of mass
it’s not my job to understand a life
i’m not meant to live
not everyone is born to backtrack
as exclusivity that forwards a manager
to bow lower than his pay grade
someone has to be a bottom
topping a pleasantry’s demand
to slap a check on a cheque
like a vault of treaty—to name
a filled blank on their faces
while ignorance withdraws
the fluent-affluence i sign
in minimum wage earners
waging an protest of disgust
of how a brat gets his way
around their tired finger
whose palms are unscathed
of callous determination
to wait, to persevere, to hope
that a thick envelope will be handed
just as i received one myself
before leaving a “thank you”
like a good embargo would
to ensure i’ll get the same immunity
being served, without impunity
this is the liberty of being developed
rich as a gold standard
that most people aspire, to respire
an escape from the mundane lives
that will forget them soon enough
this is their fantasy—a dream
of pulling the stature of strings
it begins when sleep pushes me
and ends—when sunrises can see
denial is never wealthy
At The Festival Of The Leaves / Nikolas Macioci
Sun tangles in trees. Its cat’s cradle
floods my windshield. I am driving
among hills of southern Ohio on Route 56
toward Bainbridge, a town small enough
to put a fence around. My destination
draws me out to view aspen yellow as
amber, the rust of black tupelo, scarlet
I park several blocks on the outskirts
because town’s people are meandering
in droves. Booths, shops, street vendors
offer everything from sandwiches to furniture,
socks to hand-carved canes. Humming
under my breath, I watch people watching
people. Life is simple. Since my parents
died, I have lived without anyone, so I stroll
the sidewalk, ice cream in hand, craving
Just for fun, I pay a boisterous young man
to guess my age and weight. It costs three
dollars, and he’s wrong in either case. My
prize is a necklace with two interlocking hearts.
Real Sweat / David Maduli
The gift of the moon / Aline Soules
After “Celestial Pablum, by Remedios Varo (Mexico, b. Spain) 1958”
With my long-handled spoon, I feed you, crescent moon,
what the dream grinder crushes from the night before.
Every day, you take my dreams, my nightmares,
my fleeting thoughts when I’m half-wake –
blooming plumbago, the sound of the sea,
the taste of bitter oats, my son’s cry from his crib,
rubber duckies in the bathtub, dances in the rain,
the clinking splinters when the antique bowl falls,
books by the firelight, peach galette in the park,
our last picnic, my memory of you –
morning after morning, I feed what comes from the dark sky into your white light
The Used Book with a Scribbled Circle / Jess Tower
on its cover: your name, right next to KEEP,
couldn’t leave my hands into the garbage can.
Even my therapist (saying: I don’t believe in these things, but)
thought the words, so clear, were like a sign.
Your eyes like boulders – fierce strength unknown to most.
You’re my favorite person because of this.
Because of all your pain added together with mine.
But, how do we make sense of air?
The space between sentences & becoming.
A vacation, a look, that mysterious book
that told me to keep you, despite?
Eyes unchanged when I told you my new name
& another time, explaining pronouns. Your eyes
have seen the bottoms of countless lakes.
I’m the same: doe-eyes terrified of lacking.
Chronic illness & growing up with youth left & swept
under the family table with 3 decisive, clockwise strokes
all taught me what most people don’t know.
I know how to explore constellations with you,
now, this time. Your eyes a map. My voice a guide.
I stashed that book somewhere only you can find.
Day 7 / Poem 7
For All Intents / Hannah Eads
The opening line is the hardest:
she wants so badly to please
then the story follows, conservatively
dressed in an elegant turtleneck
and a pencil skirt, our eyes begging
to outline her covered curves
before someone else does, but
we hear the sick first note of a
love song in the background,
one we hoped we wouldn’t
and yet, of course, what else should
cause the tension and the turbulence?
At long last we rest upon the writer’s
intention: to hold their heaviest weight and
crumble as the world softly melts our names
The Imposture / Lane Fields
Inside I wake cold, though he snores lightly beside me:
human man, the other,
and, in this moment, an imposture, I fear,
of someone who “loves” me.
Why is it— when night crawls out of me,
engulfs me like a frenzy of ants—
the hardest thing to believe is that I’m worth saving?
I can’t tell you how many times this has happened.
I drop, and gravity— obsessed with my falling— attacks.
Zillions of particles claw at me, swoop me under,
and then, in that moment,The Prince walks in,
sword kicking at his side.
Nurselog / Lindsay Illich
I don’t know if it’s perimenopause or something
to do with having COVID last month. I’ve been bleeding
on and off for three weeks. I was in Bismarck.
My driver told me the town used to be in two time zones.
When the bars closed on the east side, the drunks
would migrate to the bars on the west side. They came
from the future. The plane to Portland was delayed.
At the falls I considered that it could be cancer.
I saw a tree growing from a fallen tree. The basalt
formation at the base of the falls appeared orderly,
like stacked black squares. I wondered if I could be
rugged. I considered the fern fronds and moss.
I felt something like ongoingness. I don’t know
if it was about the blood or about the water.
incisors / Row Light
Keep your mouth on
the whoosh of air going up and through.
You’re not trying hard enough
to clear the fluoride-
sounds like radio static
or the wrong input.
and mean about it.
You’re wearing a hot pink towel
to humor me.
Make yourself a circus trick,
Roar like I’m the asshole,
as if you could hurt my feelings.
Take Out Counter / LKN
let me swallow your pride
while you wallow on a side
you, and your conquerable laughter
that snickering i’ve been hearing
makes a hunger in me
to devour such a grub-frivolity
i’ve waited for your banter
to simmer longer than it should
i like it medium-well done
not mediocre, not great either
just an aftersnack
cleansing a palete, by the smirk
your shock and envy
is more delectable than your ego
your grimace said so
thank you for the quick bite
let me know when your pride
is charred, i know you’ll hide
but i fancy a fancy guffaw
when i gnaw your literacy
even if i know it’s gluttony
i’ll sin just to see your jealousy
between my spiteful toilet
and your half-cooked pamphlet
yes… i’m a vindictive poet
but i’m just returning the favor
even if your alibi lacks flavour
next time… put your mime
in a backburner. not all wordsmiths
can bite your meat-less rancor
sometimes… we can answer
scribbling up—a lackluster
to be more than just an aether
Seattle Fatal / Nikolas Macioci
I’m not rich, but I have enough money
and loose change in my pocket to fly
to Settle for a week’s vacation and afford
a fifty-five-dollar-a-night-hotel room
in a disreputable part of town.
Before going out to explore the district,
I raise a window in lieu of an air conditioner
that dangles like defeat on the window’s edge
and won’t turn on. A strip of white curtain,
turned gray as abandoned wedding veils, hangs
on either side. Pink and orange swirls
of cloud initiate sunset, a backdrop
for unsavory behavior below. Headlights
reveal pimps, prostitutes, and weary travelers
who watch from the sidelines. I don a blue
golf shirt and khaki shorts. The August night
is as hot as a day in Death Valley.
I leave the room, step into the hallway
onto worn, red, flowered carpet. Stale cigarette
odor permeates the air. I wait beside bronze,
elevator doors. In the elevator, a man
and woman watch me with brief glances.
Outside, under half-burnt-out light from
the hotel’s neon sign, a red-hot tongue
offering dark a promiscuous kiss, I linger,
count upward to locate my room on the fifth
floor. Some windows are squares of yellow
illumination, rectangles of butter on red brick.
I find my room, wonder how many people
have lain on the single bed, smoking a cigarette,
the last-stop room that looks the same anywhere
in the world.
I amble on down Aurora Avenue North,
most corners occupied by shadowy figures,
offers of sex, stories of unfulfillment.
Two men slump against a building’s wall,
share a bottle in a paper bag, argue unintelligible
In six more days, I will board the plane to Columbus,
Ohio. Cornfields will shine a green innocence below,
and I will be wiser from the teachings of night,
from the many, disaffected lives that settle for the street.
Financial Literacy / David Maduli
Make money working
Make money work for you
Make monkey work for you
Work monkey, work
Monkey work, you make
Work, make, you monkey
Monkey, work you make
Money, work, make you
Make money money
Take money money
Take monkey money
Monkey take money
Money monkey, you
Dream / Aline Soules
Bagpipes skirl as I float on the ocean. My father calls,
don’t drown, don’t drown.
I’m a salmon seeking the river of my birth, the Tay,
Tatha, Tausa, the silent one, the strong one, flowing.
River and sea, fresh and salt.
Gray granite town at the river mouth, Broughty Ferry, sentinel
of the firth. In its heyday, the 1800s, people summered
on its pebble beach, women dressed from neck to ankle,
sitting in deck chairs, black and white grainy photos
capturing them for posterity.
Whaling big then, too, museum photos of men standing in a line
holding spades, blubber pikes, boarding knives. The same faces
in photos in Nantucket and Lahaina. Gone.
The tide takes me past Dundee, town of my early years, home
and school, my best friend. We’re playing in our gardens,
in the coal house, on the shore, in the hills, smelling sea in the river.
The ocean’s incoming tide fingers stretch long, push me to Perth.
I must swim now as the tide weakens and salt gives way to fresh.
It’s tougher going. I sing Rabbie’s Birks of Aberfeldy as I swim
under that town’s Wade’s Bridge.
Long, narrow Loch Tay takes me west to Killin.
The Loch Tay Boat Song fills my head. The Trossachs, Loch Tay,
Loch Lubhair, Loch Dochart, across the Highlands to Beinn Laoigh
at the head of Glen Fyne.
Where am I going? I ask my dream, but my dream doesn’t answer.
West, always west. I rise above the water, soar over the land, higher
and higher, the place where I began dwindling in the mists.
My parents, my friend, the salmon, the songs, the river ebb. My face
to the wind, my back to the place of my birth. My mother whispers
don’t turn, don’t turn.
Class Divide / Jess Tower
Mouths of steel, hearts of lead.
Their teeth don’t chatter like hers do. They hammer.
They bite a hundred bucks and spit it out in front
of the dying mother, cackling wealth.
Her song gone wrong. A hundred million wrongs.
This country is becoming a jail for many,
not just the unheard who’ve been unheard far too long –
we never listened & now, we wish we did.
A secret: I ration food. Do you, too?
Do you also know their teeth on your skin, biting, biting
whitening the space around the blood,
until there’s just a bruise, don’t whine, at least you’re still alive?
Day 6 / Poem 6
The Omens / Hannah Eads
Standing at the fringe of wet trees
they caution me drive carefully
I slow down as they turn back
to the woods twitching
Driving home their babies play
in the parking lot or dance down
the stone trail curious at what
we are and what the line is between us
Holding what I thought was centered
I leave it for them at the foot at a tree
as a question or a worry to be
acknowledged fortified or forgotten finally
Once In The Car, Though / Lane Falcon
Once in the car though,
I reclined the passenger seat and slept
as my mother drove me home
from the abandoned warehouse
where I’d been partying.
She stopped at a Dunkin Donuts drive through
for two chocolate honey dipped donuts
and a fountain coke, then drove the rest of the way home
Once, she stopped at the local community college
on the way home from the hospital, my two weeks
of psychotropic-induced constipation abruptly ending.
I walked out of that bathroom not wearing shorts.
I still have that dream—my t-shirt won’t cover my ass
and everyone looks. My only defense is denial. Still have
that other dream too, the silverfish sliding down the wall
to cover my body with its plated body, consume me
in my sleep.
But these are the things,
like the thoughts that erupted in my mind,
she couldn’t control. They burrowed,
covered themselves up with loaded soil,
sprout green winglets that unfurled into leaves.
Still, I cough on the residue of blame.
All the humiliation that came after,
the snatching of my body, the clouding
of my brain, before I took myself
into the deepest hidey hole I could find,
barricaded in a teepee made of cushions
from the cameras of solitary confinement—
once in the car though,
she told me
I had gifts— that was the problem.
And there were always those when grace,
The boundaries too weak to hold,
Flooded in. Not to hold me in,
To hold me over.
Speak, September / Lindsay Illich
In her sorrow, she echoes
summer. Summer as aegis,
summer a flowering.
She holds fast and yet
grows heavy. Rainsoaked.
She utters, a delivery.
Her pitch changes.
She is weathering. She’s
been practicing for this
oh, for ages. She points
toward the end. September
reminds us not to forget
where this is all headed. It’s
her way, to make us remember
the light, how quickly it’s gone.
Lazy Left Pinky / Row Light
I slip between cracks in lined paper
and pinstriped stool cushions.
Use sticky notes as name tags
Scribed grade school letters
pass under the bar; I dare you to dance,
to sing just for me-
do they have any Miley on this machine?
I must say, I don’t love what’s happening here.
Want corner store ice cream
(or whatever they’re selling).
But skirting the man sitting on Pepsi stock
means I better make do
with our last sweaty cider.
I used to write parties,
now I party writing-
sip too close,
stick up the keyboard.
Wind up making love to an aaaaaa.
Lazy left pinky leaves
the rest heavy lifting.
Reliable right pointer works J through P,
though, could really use some PTO.
These parts won’t unionize anytime soon;
don’t have it together, don’t communicate.
Just keep to — and out compete — ourselves.
As the system asks us
to fight for her love.
It Takes Two, To Tort / LKN
makes us all masochists
as pale memories, impale
it plays the plays of plays
stabbing ourselves with pains
like a loop that gains nothing
but wailing, weeping, wallowing
becomes a blade of replays
being on-hold, pressing
stuck with the lame edge
of hurting ourselves like a joy
that we’ve not gotten over
being gotten over with
there’s a hope, still
desiring to be slit by
people, emotions, situations
that turned the hilt on us first
we’ve picked it up like an alibi
goodbyes become addictions
to inflict lower than our worth
slicing a whole-forgiveness
to make a hole in our persons
playing the victim card
being the injury of an afterthought
a hobby to harm the survivors
pleading inside us of a hallucination
like as if that’s our justice
a coward still lives
in a bliss for the forsaken
to inflict a punishment we think
deserves the scars we carve
our unoccupied peace of mind
piece-by-piss, bleeding ourselves
in the pain of being left behind
torture becomes us
doesn’t that make us sadists too
either way—we’re both
a casualty, and a causality
with a finger to point at someone
while three fingers point back
but it’s always from the same hands
Zooming / Nikolas Macioci
I have yet to attend a zoom meeting
in more than my shirt and boxers.
After all, who can see under the table
or desk? If it weren’t so conspicuous
I would take off my shirt, too. At least,
so far, I haven’t tried to stand up
and do the Macarena or been arrested
for indecent exposure. It’s not that I’m
so immodest. It’s just more comfortable
to be as unclad as possible. I worry
about days when we will go back to
in-person conferencing. Dare I say
I will be tempted to attend in my skivvies.
The difference between shorts and a pair
of boxers is a matter of an inch or two
more cloth. Also, how do I know
what’s going on under other people’s tables
or desks? Maybe they’re doing a Lady
Godiva while I am more clad than Tarzan.
If anyone ever discovers my attire, or lack
of it, they have been in the wrong place
at the wrong time. What’s the point of clothes
anyway? People always wonder what’s under
them. Why not satisfy their curiosity
and resolve the question once and for all.
In conclusion, all I can say is at my computer,
nudity is looming while I am zooming.
Untitled American Sonnet / David Maduli
twelve year old totes gun to school. district notice states
one round was discharged, a student was hit~
in the crowd of families waiting outside to pick up their kids,
a little sibling spins around peering up at cloud patterns,
seeing them spiral. marine layer moves in a slow wave over
the coastal hills, ocean finds~
remembers~ its flow even in another form
of matter. through the cattle guard fence
trees on the ridge are an overgrowth of storm, rebel evergreen
choked by oak disease, a havoc of leaves. trail kicks
dust up to the knees, drought is a constant state of being.
parched throat, reach for water bottle in backpack
side pocket, tip contents, unlatch safety,
squeeze the trigger~ drink.
Crossing the Pentland Firth 2 / Aline Soules
There’s still a night ferry, nine hours from Thurso to Stromness,
but I took the day ferry, three and a half hours. The first difference
from my childhood, time and speed more important now.
I parked the car in the ship’s bay, ready to climb from one deck to another,
surprised by an elevator with braille signs, a ding on every level, and voice over.
The engines thrummed. I found a chair on the upper deck, a sealed enclosure
with a slanted window, like an enormous car or a tilted television screen,
the show turned on for my viewing pleasure. Gray sky. Gray sea. Blurred horizon.
Rain beat on the window, the only way I knew there was a storm. The ship
plowed through, oblivious. I felt none of the whitecaps, the crests, the troughs.
I found a cafeteria on one deck, a snack bar on another. Fish and chips, burgers,
mushy peas. Trays. Paper plates. I asked an old-timer about the old china plates
with the St. Ola crest. You must have been a wee girl to remember that.
At Stromness, we drove off in one flowing motion, as smooth
as a newly paved road. So many improvements. Why did I miss the past?
I flew back. Three and a half flying hours, Kirkwall south to Inverness over Highland,
an amalgam of the shires of my childhood, Caithness, Sutherland, Inverness.
I want to see the firth as we rise up and over the wild water, see it swirl and eddy
through the narrow firth, whitecaps fierce, tides driving all. I look for signs of MeyGen,
the largest tidal stream project in the world.
Being built in the inner sound between Stroma and the Scottish mainland,
East Mey through Gills Bay to Duncansby Head, the tide race no longer a danger,
turned now to serve the human need for energy.
Looking down, I see only the water’s surface. Like Atlantis buried, tidal turbines
on the sea bottom, churn their blades through dense water,
silent giants gathering power in the tide race, predictable, reliable, answering only to the moon.
it all began with weakness / Jess Tower
it all began with weakness
then, breathing became
as bad as anti-maskers
then, legs turned boulders
turned sparkly blue cane & “all normal”
i became heart rate itself
time no longer felt me, i felt it
i became velvet – old, old, old
i became a cat left out to die
i became a wrung-out towel left in rain
then, suddenly, i became bone-dry
shivering in heat
blue marks on my feet – so, so cold
home health aide
gatorade after gatorade
test after test
dying crying dying
then, some humanity
finally, life no longer a chore: diagnosis
Day 5 / Poem 5
Assembly Instructions / Hannah EadEADS_Assembly-Instructions-crop-1
Years Later, I Dream of Saving Him / Lane Falcon
It was my old friend,
the one who stepped off a hotel balcony,
one look at the girl who was with him before
he climbed the gate.
It all happened so fast,
fucked up as usual, his lime green
eyes a stamp on her forever, their beauty
its own boundary.
In last night’s dream,
he was against me, didn’t get my dry humor,
banished me to a forest where I flew above the trees,
aware I was running out of fuel.
An animal— muskrat mixed with wolf—
squealed along the forest edge. I landed to speak with him,
hoping for an answer, directions to
an open door.
But only my friend could channel the hum
buried in radio frequency, could penetrate
the strata of white noise
with his listening. And how I long
for his approval still, for him to let me in,
open the automatized door,
and let me swim behind his eyes,
bathe in inner green.
Nosebleed / Linsday Illich
We left the store as soon as you felt it coming on,
holding your nose with your head back.
In the car, a mess of blood–on your legs,
your jawline, around your ears, a smear.
We drove home in silence, the inside
now outside. We were buying pens.
I was telling you how I hated red pens,
how they make young writers stall out.
The red ink against the page is too much.
There’s nothing left to say. A drop
of your blood is on the console.
We drive home in silence.
Notebook / Row Light
Day 1 as a wall.
Like compulsive bedroom sketches
before I’ve read the lease.
Taking my notebook into the bathroom
chest covered in its moleskin.
What a strange way to say something meant to rehome
our still-warm thoughts.
Like, was this hard hat not good enough
to womb them?
Did we really need to peel,
like chewed up furniture?
As a fan of things being meant to be,
I still think we need a stronger verb.
Like meant to mean, to breathe.
Mean as a sign, to puncture, fill.
Shorthand for become, behold;
pass between hands;
mind the gap;
expect even less than we’re getting now?
continue to burn;
not work too hard;
in no man’s land.
been beened, used to, had then;
coated in now;
wet the stage;
Bored/Board / LKN
passport is greed, made diplomatic
the license to yearn anything beyound
one’s own boarders—the hoarders
of malcontent contents, cased
like all consular pleasantries
some call it: adventure
to long a long wanting of ungratefulness
of anything, anyone who’s already present
to queue-up for an application form
formed by being a nomad of desire
to be lost—while your own nation, lost
to another rapacious citizen
who’s still unfamiliar of its origin
still hungry not to be still
traversing to gateways, with a courtesy
of not knowing what we’re leaving
forward—is too fast, we easily forget
how slowly we can kill our foundation
when home is a destination
of being transients of our identity
when being local—is foreign
conveniently found in visas
being worldly, but neglecting ethnicity
like it’s a need to be someone else
somewhere else, but our own
aren’t we all tourists of our own selves
obsessing to covet something different
traveling is to explore what’s out there
but do we know what we’ve left behind?!!
No Words / Nikolas Macioci
There are no words in this poem. Imagine
you are looking at a white, wentletrap,
seashell you found this morning several
inches from the Atlantic. Sun, a fist of fire,
spread silver fingers across waves crumbling
to shore, smoothed a palm of light over sand,
but no words washed shoreward. A kind of
seeing did and permeates your brain with
pictures like a second sight. You watch
a gull scream out of the sky, half bird,
half hymn. So far, no words have washed in
on whitecaps either. I am right there with you,
wanting to see what follows the chill of no
language. Look up. Attach to sky and clouds
the inside color of an oyster shell. Does it
seem you loiter on the lip of the world, waiting
for verbal variables to beach like rare driftwood?
The ocean is a deep mirror. Look into it. Witness
elegant fluctuation of shadowy fish. Feel sensual
flourish of centuries-old breezes fan your flesh, all
without language. Wade through seagrass,
rouse the spice of feeling, yellow-green whispers
brushing your ankles. The moment is personal
as breath, and you can’t nor want to name it
because you have no names. Nothing
approximates an amble along coastline when
sunset washes everything in finality, yellowish-red
of Hell hovering at the horizon. No marks on
paper can conjure that ancient sight. Letters
stumble. Sentences deceive. I have given you
sun, sea, grass without pen or pencil. You did not
see me scribble these things on a pad. It was
sort of a dance between experience and deception.
You have seen spume off whitecapped waves,
night crawling into place like a black spider,
futility of a useless grip on the urgency
of words. Leave your legal pad empty.
A blank page delivers the highest level
Inverse Function / David Maduli
Sharp shard of metal
Flame, arrow sharpened with sun-
Set, painter’s spear. Sky-
Scraper in reverse, top floor
Teasing the ground. Water-
Fall of sky and blood, ocean at
First light. Yellow ochre
Field boils, rushing into
Underneath. All streaks
Streak to the point.
Asymmetry to the core. Star-
Light on your left, dusk on
Your right. Corners counter-
Act, waves aim for third eyes. Floating
Is just a memory.
Crossing the Pentland Firth I / Aline Soules
My father drove on to the ferry for our overnight journey
from Thurso to Stromness. Even as a wee bairn, I’d been in boats before,
rowboats, sailboats, even the Kylesku ferry that inched its way
across the narrow passage where Loch Glencoul and Loch Glenn Dubh
meet Loch a’Chàirn and link to Eddrachillis Bay.
This was different, across the Pentland Firth, known for strong tides,
overfalls, and tide races. Reeds Nautical Almanac listed dangers—
Duncansby Head, Swilkie Point, Men of Mey Rocks, Pentland Skerries,
Muckle Skerry, Old Head, Lother Rock, Dunnet Head.
The grownups filled the car with laughs and jokes, except for my mother,
the seasick one. We were still anchored and, already, I didn’t like the choppy water.
We rocked out of harbor late in summer evening, my joy complete in staying up
past bedtime, leaning on the rail to watch the sun set at ten thirty, pink sky
deepening for another half hour.
Sunset—the cue to party in the dining cabin. Mother’s attempts to put me to bed
were overridden by raucous drinkers absorbing whatever lay behind the bar,
eating dinner off St. Ola gold-crested china. I drank orangeade until my stomach hurt.
The noise rivaled the growing wind.
A judder and pitch ended frivolity. The ferry rose and slapped down, peaked
and plunged as waves crested and troughed. The crew demanded we go
to our cabins, making our seasickness worse. The few hardy stomachs in our midst
drank on in the bar.
We lurched and tossed our way to Stromness, laying to in the harbor for the rest
of the night. My mother offered to help the galley crew wash dishes
from the night before. The head cook opened the porthole, tossed out the plates,
listed them as broken in the storm. We debarked early in the morning
to a watery sun.
Myself, Adjusting / Jess Tower
seems this strange place will never
shake off the absurd
a piece of candy
containing 8% alcohol
3 cold brews, black
& sugared scones
a space beneath the trees
while smoking trees
the Commons, shaking
the wind itself
while a thread called time
we take hits pretending this
is intelligence pretending this
is creating poetry
Day 4 / Poem 4
Equilibrium / Hannah Eads
apple cinnamon & bay window seats
as night splits open the day
remember sliding glass doors
& brownies, the kitchen a quiet womb
above a smokey garage. laughter echoes
at bent ears above the chilly vents. playing
with a telephone cord. the familiar
footsteps of an attic ghost’s heavy pace
one baby humming, two toddlers whisper
four people snore one-by-one
Smoking Outside at Night / Lane Fields
The world becomes porous,
my body a sponge moldy with old,
and pending, accusations, haunted
by the scent of mildew,
my mother’s Catholic guilt.
I call myself every name before she can,
lower the bucket into the well
by telekinesis, wash my face with
half-truths: Eve, Hester,
the mother on the news
who lay herself down at all costs,
I who didn’t get up from under
her own lust. I desire to step aside
some nights, from the life
waving from my chest,
the mirage: a locked house,
my sleeping children–
the cricket song, a wall of noise,
I want to absorb me.
Say I love you without saying I love you / Lindsay Illich
After Point Roberts, the sun was gone.
Darkness settled around the boat,
our moving through water as we are
moved by it. A point of navigation.
Sometimes a light. The air is a witness.
There are forests between us, a season.
Sometimes a stirring so near grief
that you seem far away. Which like
the water is a kind of grace. We float
on, buoyed up. We fill the berth
with it. The tines of our antlers,
conifers, our summer coats.
junk drawer / Row Light
– I still can’t spell Sagitttarrrius
Can’t even Aperol project, or whatever
Sign emails “bet” instead of “best”
– “Love gaily forward, don’t go straight,”
You call a Mark-ism, ooooohhhhh
– Cicadas in Chicago sound like dental instruments
Squawk like a hamster when you save his life —
Junior scratched a brand new spine in my chest,
must not like this slow heartbeating
– To take pressure off of any achy house,
molding basement, splinter shutter,
I tell my sister,
“It’s shit before you get there,
shit while you’re there,
and shit after you leave”
– Though it’s soil we grow in, please question the soil
My secrets still can’t choose when to focus
or see through sunglasses
But sort our tools, like no big deal
Who’s still there? / LKN
forgiveness doesn’t knock
even if i kept on screaming
papa! papa! papa
silence is even mute
when death becomes a door
colder than apathy
it can’t care for the abandoned
that tears tears, begging
for a drop of warmth
in a one-way corridor
that slips a key-less regret
in my memory’s pocket
he’s gone—my papa’s gone
locked away by my youth
i should have been here
when life still swung
his kisses and embraces
now—a mere remeberence
of a son can easily forget
sorry… is an alibi’s misery
that can’t open an apology
the way is shut
my sin of recklessly loosing
his last breath
in finding my selfishness
is my unatonable mistake
my requite is in his requiem
that i can never attend
all i have is the coldness
of the floor, his body
that can’t lie to my excuse
confessions are always too late
the dead can’t forgive a living
who made his quietus—too quiet
papa just wanted to feel
he’s worthy to be called: father
he is… he is… he is
my punishment is on the knob
it is as mute, as stuck as god
unyielding, like my grief
papa can no longer say: it’s ok
he can’t pat me on the back
pick me up at the entryway
tonight… someone died
RITUAL DIVE / Nikolas Macioci
Ever since I’d dreamed of doing so,
to dive into Indian Lake at night
felt necessary. For a weekend getaway,
I’d rented a ninety-five-dollar-a day
cabin within walking distance of water.
The lake shimmered a hint of blue under
golden, glare of sunlight, and I’d swum
through such sunlight yesterday afternoon
when I arrived. The dream, however,
had awakened me to a compulsive urge
to risk a night dive. Though only
eighty-five miles from where I live
in Groveport, Ohio, Indian Lake felt
like an exotic escape, and the idea
of entering foreign water at night
seemed irresistibly adventurous.
Whereas sun sparkled water in daylight,
tonight, moon, the size and color
of a white, overcoat button, casts
a milky path to the dock on which
I ready myself for the dive.
My curved body falls forward through
moon’s watery skin that heals shut
behind me. In an instant, I turn
into a comic book hero, wear a liquid
cape that lets me surface like a surprise.
I dog paddle in place, hold my head
as high as I can, loose, neck skin stretches
tight as a young man’s. Legs kick aside
resistance, body slices through water,
a living knife. Arms steer to the ladder.
I pull myself up. Pearls of moonlight
roll off me. Content, like after a baptism,
I’m satisfied to have taken handsful of night
with me as if I were on a spiritual journey
with a sacred purpose.
Ghazal of Broken Granite / David Maduli
Virginia winter driveway pops poured rock
Salt, saltw ater Waimea local boys jump rock.
Climbing coconut trees pass cousin
Husks like Stockton passed the rock.
Raw coconut meat meets Kalihi breeze across
Street from belief this temple this rock.
This sea these straits navigate Pacific
Slip Atlantic under Gibraltar’s Rock.
And you don’t stop. And you don’t
Quit. Rock to the rhythm rock
Rock y’all Stevland soars- You
Took me riding in your rocket,
Gave me a star. System sola
Planetary the sun’s third rock.
Third millennium twenty-first century
In the year of the lord Chief Rocka.
Number One. Busy Bee. Frosty Freeze. Pretty Flaco-
One for Charlie Hustle, two for Steady Rock.
Shock G’s piano keys Flavor Flav’s clock
Sizzla Kalonji swings- I’m so solid as a rock.
From the block to Alcatraz free Leonard
AIM hangs banners on The Rock.
All land back all water return all keys
Hammond B-3 Remember: when we used to rockaway.
Pangasinan. Puerto Rico. Palestine.
Turtle Island to Jamrock.
Hard knock academy
’Til the colonizers kick rocks.
Ancestors cocked in David’s slingshot.
Levitate stones bounce roll skate rock.
Saturday / Aline Soules
A sleepy Saturday morning, the two of us alone together.
We languish in each other’s arms, stir to intimacy, sleep again.
You want to go out to breakfast, but weekend chores beckon.
I make breakfast instead.
You mow the lawn. I weed the flower beds.
You fix the broken chair. I launder the sheets.
In mid-afternoon, you fall at my feet.
We will never speak again.
I want organ donation, I say, late in the afternoon.
Nurses hook my husband to more machines.
I call our teenage son, tell him to come home from college
to see his father’s body for the last time.
He drives home overnight, and we go to the hospital.
Someone comes to ask me questions, our son sitting beside me.
What did he do for a living?
Was he around chemicals in his work?
Did he smoke?
Did he drink?
When was the last time you had sex?
How did you usually practice sex?
Transplantation takes place that Sunday, heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, bone,
his sacrifice, his offering.
Our son and I go home to a week of decision-making: cremation, memorial service,
notifications, death certificates, financials, legal issues, health insurance for our son.
On Saturday, our son returns to college, colleagues to work,
neighbors and friends to their houses and lives.
How could I have known that our last time together
would be the first day of my new alone?
We should have skipped our chores, lingered in bed all day,
not eaten breakfast at all.
Bonded / Jess Tower
It’s difficult to write about my family.
Words were knives, slicing like-real flesh &
I was never allowed to relax with all the screaming,
banging, the kicking down of my doors if I talked back.
So I’d people-watch; for a long time I just watched & learned.
But alone-ness doesn’t give that same just-sunburnt flush
of needing, of being cared about. Family isn’t all blood
& blood doesn’t always have to spill.
It began to still within my body when I met Brianna.
My best friend’s family became mine –
beginning with a nickname, Stinky, when I left my clothes
one whole time on the floor of their bathroom; then another,
Jeddica, when Brianna’s first child began to talk.
The years becoming floral swatches spreading like butter
on my moonlight. Then, finally, the sun so brightened
through hobbling beyond the caves of my Dark Ages
& by their generations of compassion.
I’m now bonded
& my blood no longer spills.
Day 3 / Poem 3
We Shall See Him As He Is / Hannah Eads
One domino hits the next
some call it destiny, complex
coincidence godless fevers
one wild hair seizing in the ether
sticking to a sweaty forehead
in a nightclub going, gone, dead
before bed I look at my domino,
not sure what this world seems to suggest
Serenity Prayer / Lane Falcon
Sometimes I think you’re the chemicals
in my brain, and it isn’t fair
that I can’t tilt my face to you naturally.
Sometimes I think you’re the crickets
on August nights, the seamless continuation
every summer. Or the dragonfly larva
that zigzags in leftover rainwater, the seconds
wonder ceases me, small miracle,
through my bruised perception.
Sometimes I feel myself let myself go,
let the horse gather beneath me,
the shattering gallop, then I remember
and go stiff at the reins. Sometimes
I think you’re the chemicals in my brain.
The Music / Lindsay Illich
It begins when a corona appears
at the edges of the curtains and by minutes
slowly brightens. In the distance I hear
the highway filling with blood. A plane’s
gearing overhead, the redeye readied
for landing. Down the street a rumbling
then a clatter, the refuse getting hauled
away. I wait for the house to stir. I’m thinking
about the day. I’m not ready to face it.
The room is becoming distinct among birds.
The bows are drawing up, the bassist
stands.The world is ready to be heard.
The first note from the trees in susurrus;
would you like to join me in the chorus?
*note: Songs learned at an early age are deeply embedded in the memory and are sometimes easily recalled even by those who suffer cognitive impairment and memory loss. Singing a familiar song with someone who suffers is often a comfort.
I – / Row Light
Can’t even spell Adderall. Brain BEST FRIEND,
She looks ALLLL the way out for this body —
Curbs I can’t cut, diminished
Motives rocketing pinball innards. I am GRATEFUL
For her and those cousins who clock in and out of delinquency —
9 to 5 Dolly Partons, phantasmic Western shootouts,
slipped seductions smoking out these day-gone hours.
With our TRUE heroes, work gets DONE to medium, even WELL —
Like foolproof, break a tooth, it’s THAT good, almost unfair
To the veal, which goes down easy and won’t get stuck.
Please remind me of the ways we digest love in secret – remind me, I ATE today
(And probably will tomorrow) If I ever feel the stuckness unmoving through me —
I’ll mourn him like a friend, grieve a second time down this body
(Which was always too sad to touch veal as a child
That never-lived darling more stuck than I’ve been)
((Except that quaran-time all I moved through was legs in an open window
and the air itself was fire and the pollution particles were ready to disease me
into my final sorry))
A medical professional in a Hawaiian button-up gets vacation days outside this mess,
(Usually, I imagine, caked in zinc like a baby’s day out, maybe blue bonneted
over his curly greys)
But leaving symptoms on his desk, I still ask, Will this help?
He blames athletic bodies’ particular lows, says I’m spoiled
With a heartbreak pace, the actual rhythm un-sitting still and unwilling sleep.
But I AM IN CHARGE here, with you, bottles made preschool music egg shakers,
Throbbing Boomwhackers (I had to look up, these many years later)
Colored from bruised green to chick light to algae blue, still making me gum hungry.
Oh, I may not b-focused — I’ll charge by the hour in delusional states
of I THINK I THINK and then BURST into it, and trust me, it’ll be worth the wait,
I say with my headband too tight where thought temples should pulse.
I say, DONE with delusion and dog watching and curbside pickup and a child
Spilling avocado up and down her girl power t-shirt.
When her father says she could feed someone with just what she’s spilled
I just hope she’s full
and can run if she wants.
In Cession / LKN
politics, legislates in my blood
with a congress of duty
passing the loss of laws
to make bills, that bills
my choices like taxes
that pays the offices of sins
being born, sworn-in already
to interpolate what’s best
for the no-oneness
filing the legacy of corruption
lined-up in a committee
that chooses friends, lovers
diplomas and careers
like a machination of a nation
with a podium on my last name
identity is my bible
that swears at me, when i swear
i just want to be… myself
who’s a nuisance in a chamber
full of foolish recognitions
where fame is an audience
i can’t lose face
my family wears it
like a mask of articles
they use me as a platform
elections are won by lies
as people rise, to a ruse
everyone is a vote
loyal only to self-propaganda
to campaign an agenda
to reign with an insane idea
when the sun rises in a son
and the plenary begins
from day one
Uncle Bob / Nikolas Macioci
During last hours of his life, he asked
to have his feet rubbed. This is the uncle
who only came to visit when he was
drunk, belligerent, argumentative,
and wanted to fight.
Now, he lies on a crumpled bedsheet,
pugnacity gone, strains for last breath
from lungs at war with bacterial
pneumonia. Nurses become the
government in the room, regulating
machines to avert death.
Family members gather near
the bed, moment to moment wither
into acceptance that the benefit of doubt
has been taken away. It is as if they watch
a magic show when the magician fails
to pull a rabbit from a hat.
The room is made of whispers.
This is a time when even the water glass
on the bedside stand becomes a reminder
of options of the living, commentary
on the mundane.
When death delivers Bob’s last breath,
a nurse attempts to close eyes.
They remain reluctant until her third try.
Family stare at the body, each other,
the floor, and then at nothing
infinitesimal calculus / David Maduli
Visiting Chimayo, New Mexico / Aline Soules
We stop for an hour at Chimayo
to see the sanctuary, the art, the gift shops.
I wander past a whitewashed building
with black lettering: Santos. Woodcarving. Popsicles.
Statues everywhere—in and out
of the church. Three Cultures draws my eye,
ten feet high, of stone.
The sanctuary is small, but filled with altar,
pews, a rack of votive candles, side chapels.
The stations of the cross appeal,
their clean lines, their bold colors,
except that someone is going to his execution.
I would need a long time to count
the Christs and Marys, longer to count the candles
in the church and outdoor alcoves,
even longer to count the crosses and crucifixes
strewn around the property
and embedded in chain link fences.
Having toured the tiny town, I enter an art gallery
and café, order black tea. The owner
explains his wares. He carves. His wife paints.
Their religious art, crammed on walls and tables,
pop with colors, but what draws my eye
are two pencil drawings of landscapes.
Understated among the gaudy, the delicate lines
stand out. The owner sighs, admits
they were drawn by a friend.
The landscapes tell me what to do. I go outside
to the edge of the property, find a creek
with only a trickle of water.
Beyond is a field with a large bull.
Beyond that, the mountains.
The Rock Collectors / Jess Tower
As a child, I’d fling lumps of clay into the gray
water at the equally gray beach near my home.
One time, my little brother (a rock collector)
got stuck in the baby swing & I ran
to the neighbor’s, my clay-stained hands
inking the doorbell. Wanted butter to slide him
up & out. Heard mom say it once & thought
it was factual. Thinking, a girl’s gotta do
what a girl’s gotta do. They called the firemen
& two of the guys flung him out so hard
I thought he’d break easy, just like the clay
from minutes ago. Then, a huge, ugly rock
tumbled out from my brother’s pocket.
The crowd laughed.
Another time, I found a little frog in the yard.
I put it by the ocean to save him. Frequent
misunderstandings like this for Miss Jessica.
I’m just like you, but I don’t collect rocks.
I need the feeling of that clay between my fingers,
squishing my frustrations away. A little bit older, I
was told the umbilical cord had wrapped around
my neck in the shape of a cross. Doctor in awe,
mother screaming to help me breathe. I was always
touching, but wasn’t touched in that way again
for a long time. She didn’t understand that I needed
that intense hug to last just a little bit longer.
Day 2 / Poem 2
September’s Fall / Hannah Eads
Ugly to be falling from a tree
with no context the concept is
not new but awful nonetheless
would an artist ever miss
the chance to beg for more?
Ugly to be quitting like this like
one more time I’ve reached
the other side and found out
nothing more no relevance
to hold on to this universe
Ugly to be walking where there are
no deer no luck no shooter on
the corner like there was yesterday
squinting in the sunset rays
to look for other shiny apples
Dinner with Claire / Lane Falcon
While she was talking about the rarity– to be at ease
with other creatures– I was watching her talk, the “I love You”
installation bright pink behind her, the busker singing At Last,
people buzzing along the pier— the last day of August.
I was thinking about the horse I ride,
and how her spine curves hands above me
when I rinse her after the heat, scrape the water
from her dazzling hide. I was thinking about
how we curve against each other without touching–
that’s what ease is, right, with being?
To coexist but warmly, without stimulus between you,
the blinking shards of image, the plate of orzo and emerald
greens before me, the shine of the glass I drank from,
I was watching her talk, her painters’ brain its own source
of magic. I told her I felt like Queen Anne on horseback.
I wanted her to know I can guide a horse lightly,
the hooves clapping behind me, a sense of something soft,
and silver, between us.
At Auke Glacier I Consider the Mystery of Desire / Lindsay Illich
The wait want that flowers that’s you
or draw me into rain I run rivulets
your face the image of the sea
at the end of desire a color then
opalescence I turn away the night
undoes her things I hold you
close I ask about fireweed &
counterweights the boat shoulders up
the coast through the deep
fir & fog in the cliff face that’s you
the islands I’m making my way back
Unable still to sing in the morning / Row Light
Sandpaper throat, I overindulge you
In hot mint that breaks toothpaste down for damages
I am – not ? dying ? or the way I slept wrong on the neck
Won’t mean the end, I woke up lightning
A supple body molded against my side shivering for the noise
The burst of air, swallowed into myself, pooling spit – is un-spit,
Just saliva? Drool moves slower, more romantic –
I’m not sure I’ve said anything yet – but
Rabbit rabbit rabbit, passed through the teeth, looking on
At the glistening face, damp forehead hairs –
I push away the wrappings, then tuck the body tighter.
Murmer, there / LKN
i was taught to pray
with fingers crossing
the steps of innocence
eyes, lowered like in a burial
of a child’s submission
corruption begins with fear
that hell lives in me, still
needing to knead the knuckles
bowing a shame that can point
how not to be a messiah
can save, even a church
being built in me, with every litany
it’s the legacy of making a door
out of my mouth, to shut
on the scripted faith
in the mystery of our hailing
glory be to the parenthood
of repetitive guilt of being young
they’re making a knelt-limbo
when i close my penitent eyes
making ignorance—my gospel
reading the begging salvation
making a homily out of a son
then, hand-feeds a contrition
to contract a host in my body
a ceremony to sacrifice a child
who stands up to be a hallelujah
worthy to burn for a lifetime
why is it always the lamb
that gets offered first
why can’t we offer god instead
LIBRARY EPILOGUE / Nikolas Macioci
Homeless, he slouches at a wooden table
in the reference room, Columbus
Dispatch open in front of him, an excuse
for being there. Fluorescent light glares
over newsprint he mostly ignores.
It is almost closing time. He replaces
The paper, drags himself toward the door.
Last orchestral notes echo
from the audio-visual room. A blast
of finale, frenzy of sounds remind him
of teaching music before layoff,
poverty, and no housing forced him
to the streets. Leaving, he trudges
past a showcase displaying Shawnee
artifacts, a bit of history about which
he is indifferent.
Bronze doors lock behind him, tight as
a secret. Night surrounds like
an inescapable hand. July evenings
make it easy for him to sleep
outside wherever he can. Plodding
down Grant Avenue, he passes wishless
faces, familiar comrades struggling
to stay alive.
As a child, his parents turned him away,
tortured him with abandonment
and foster care. Now, he blesses beauty
of skies, lives within safety of sadness,
is burned raw from the stars.
bedtime / David Maduli
Footprints / Aline Soules
All summer long, we children clattered across the pebble beach at the mouth of the River Tay or built mud castles, our toes splayed by the ooze, our feet chill on hot afternoons. As sun faded and the tide rose, we ran across sea grass to scrape the mud from our feet, but there was still enough to leave footprints above the high tide line. The next day, we found their traces, argued over whose footprints were whose.
tide pools filled with jellyfish,
My husband and I took our son and his friend to camp at Killbear Provincial Park on Georgian Bay, the northeastern arm of Lake Huron. No mud here, but gneiss, smooth except for the chattermarks of boulders that once scraped the rocks under the weight of glaciers. Ideal for climbing, the rocks enticed the boys to climb and play pirates. They swam in the clear blue and we canoed to a nearby island for more adventure. We fished for trout, bass, and walleye. At night, we read Treasure Island by the campfire, while they sickened on smores. They didn’t want to know the inspiration came from somewhere else – Braemar or Bristol or Point Lobos.
climbing rocks, swimming
sandy beaches, windswept pines
rocky island shores
The first time I went to the shore with my son’s family, my grandson was three, happy to dig in the sand with his new spade, fill his bucket, upend it, and bang on the base to release the packed sand. Oblivious to the drainage ditch, ignoring the crowded beach, he built more and more cylinders. We lined them in rows, like soldiers, then squared a fort, filling the small space we could claim as ours for the day. When he wanted me to stop the rising tide lapping at his creations, I told him the story of King Canute commanding the tides to halt – in vain.
dogs running, tossed paper cups
kids playing frisbee
complex post-traumatic stress disorder / Jess Tower
I’m holding myself, mirrored, in my bed.
Sleeping or not. Heal me, heal me not.
I’m drowning myself by the neck. Pulling myself
out of its ball, leaving a bare naked thread.
They scare itself. A red scream, a calculative
dream, a wild seam, a dead stream. It pulls itself
close, it smiles like veins. It unwinds hair
from my heads & clamps them together with spit,
a far cry from healing. No no no yes no no.
Pulls lashes from its eyes like flowers
in the schoolyard. It smells like home –
cigarettes, lavender, unscented bathroom spray.
Its black hair matted with red, red blood. Smells like home!
Dead like it’s supposed to be. Maybe I’m still pretend.
Maybe the sleep & wake cures fakely.
The other me slows into the other side of my bed. I see
a tan dog (oh! my dog)
on top of my white pillow (it’s soft)
& then I (the fullness of myself) slip
into bed (the fully real one) & sleep.
Day 1 / Poem 1
Barehanded / Hannah Eads
Something caused the nest to fall
and—cupped by a bush—lie
open-faced, a black hole looking up
Circling itself, a snake peers out
from inside a stone wall to remind me
of those I can’t forget
When later I find its molted skin
I still feel his black eyes on me as I pick
up broken blue eggshells barehanded
On “True” Intimacy / Lane Falcon
The reflexive white lies I sent scattering
into their corners every time he asked a question
I was too embarrassed to answer:
What were you doing? (napping.) Writing.
All those alert and ghostly night bunnies
that popped their heads out I scared back
into their corners. I was gonna do it right this time.
NO lies, my pockets emptied on the table down to the grit
along the liner. I was going to open myself up
like those faceless demons on stranger things,
my whole chest blossoming from a hungry core.
I wanted just once for him to reach in,
to pull out something beautiful, the glass bear
he bought me at the zoo, the promise of joy
when one let’s go,
when all the old harms have been
polished, named and set in their forever places,
the promise one more gift is in that bowl.
In the end, he too left, just a man after-all,
left me with God to point out the stars, to name
the uncharted colors of my soul.
Fall / Lindsay Illich
I wasn’t my best today, not even close.
I forgot a friend’s move and that her father
has been ill. I forgot another friend’s hip replacement.
I was short with my beloved. I recognized all this
in the moment it was happening, and then again
later, when the night’s pause throws
back all the day’s mistakes, in waves.
I’m on my little raft, the glow of my phone
on my face. It’s almost September.
I am still learning how to be around company.
I go to school and listen. K pulls a leaf
from my hair. A dragonfly lights on my sleeve.
I feel the night pulling me out to sea.
I am still learning how to be.
But mine, / Row Light
I imagine you and gauze wrapped around a telephone pole.
Half-written, half-printed sign of the ways we can and cannot stay.
We’ve designed this thing so airtight it seatbelts.
You tell me you love me —
our kind sprouts just peeking
as May drops to zero.
I would be the love of everyone’s life —
but where would we keep all the hangnail pillow feathers,
spent pencil skins?
I wish back cloth napkins, favorite closed lips,
too polite to mention whatever’s leftover.
Con Ferment / LKN
Toward Fall / Nikolas Macioci
Among the oaks, incantations of leaves
are a chant, a crooning across the breeze
of something losing a hold. In the garden
a string of aluminum pie pans brush
against each other making a metallic echo.
Like black needles, crows sew clouds onto cobalt
sky, careen and capture tops of elms.
Bees comb begonias, wings cloaked
in pollen. I amble toward the birdbath,
and when I reach it, September light shines
soft creases across my face on the water’s
surface. I erase the lines with the full force
of the hose and watch water rain over
ceramic edges then level off like
a symmetrical puddle on a pedestal.
Above my head, dogwood foliage has become
brittle with crimson edges. Its leaves,
like simple truths, spiral to the ground forgotten.
A complex emotion brings me to a standstill,
leads to a moment of valuing everything:
the squirrel whose gaze follows me, the black
lab next door with its paws on the fence,
the sass of bluebirds on a telephone line.
All these entities remind me that I am
still able to walk away from death,
to live the fact of this day, bright and lush
as the shine of juice from a sliced apple.
Heterosigma akashiwo / David Maduli
Sun sets into the Bay and detonates into wildfire, lava’s testimony, volcanic rust, estuary of napalm, Hell’s marina, Lake Merritt’s shore is metallic, upon closer look mounds of dead fish like fallen leaves from a silver tree, OPD chief says ShotSpotter activated, officers dispatched to the scene, multiple vehicles collision, shell casings, wastewater effluent, warmer temperatures a factor, bicyclist struck as one car fled, striped bass, sturgeon, smelt, driver, passenger, biker, harmful algal bloom, multiple gunshot wounds, pronounced dead, cascade of choke, six homicides in four days, low dissolved oxygen, underlying causes, red tide, red tide.
Diary of the Dead Oak on the Madrone Trail / Aline Soules
A junco pecks at the fallen trunk, thick as a giant’s arm,
its base buried beneath the road, the rest arching
down the hill like a hand reaching out from the depths
of the earth, fingers pointing, tips touching the ground.
A swallow perches, launches an attack on an insect
too small to be identified by my human eye.
The bird pays no attention to the snake
draped across the middle finger to sun itself.
A shadow warns of a gliding hawk and the snake
slithers away. A squirrel darts with an acorn
between his paws seeking a snag made by
a woodpecker when the tree still stood.
The echoing rat-a-tat in a nearby tree
gives the woodpecker away as he drills for grubs.
Spiders, ants, and caterpillars feast on the tree limbs
and nest in its hollows.
Termites, ants, beetles, and butterfly larvae
break through protective resin to reach the wood
and feed on cellulose and lignin.
Saplings, aptly named, sustain themselves on the bark
while fungi break down the rest of the tree
and send nutrients to the soil.
I tell my grandson that if he set up a camera and tripod,
he could make a time-lapse diary to show
the tree vanish. It might disappear by the time
he’s eighty, but dead trees can live longer than we do,
centuries or millions of years if you count trees
mummified in the far north. He laughs at the idea of the dead
living longer than humans as he climbs on the trunk
to walk its length and jump up and down on its yielding bole.
Inheritance / Jess Tower
I thought it was a joke the first time I heard the word
used in an actual sentence by actual people I knew.
I think that was when my inner child died: I’m truly trying
to swim out of a whirlpool within a hot tub
to get to the pool just inches away,
but even when I finally, thank god, surfaced,
the pool monitor wouldn’t let me in, so I just went back
to the place
so tiny & deep, so I wouldn’t drown in the fresher air.
I’ve listened to countless white men whine
about their parent’s money,
making sure to “mhmm” in the right spots
while wiping peanut butter off
my crumpled shirt.
They think I’m the same. Haha.
I’m so good at pretending to be well.
My inheritance: A jealousy so intense.
A “wow, so sweet,” then “WOAH.”
The ability to code switch: poor bitch & rich friend.
Mental illness up past my head. But, also, black sheep.
I limbo the space between hot tub & pool.
My left ear hears cunts while my right picks up continents.