The 30/30 Project: December 2018

 

TP3030-logo-360Welcome 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 volunteers for December 2018 are Steve Bellin-Oka, Karen Craigo, Jefferson Duval, Kelle Grace Gaddis, Kelle Grace Gaddis, CR Green, Liezel Moraleja Hackett, Jeffrey Levine, Sarah Terry, and Emily Vieweg. Read their full bios here.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and and warm up your pen! To read more about the Tupelo Press 30/30 project, including a complete list of our wonderful volunteer poets and to read their poems, please click here.

Day 9 / Day 9

Self Portrait in a Side-View Mirror / by Steve Bellin-Oka

This dying bee—a wonder it’s lived
until this late in the year, last week’s snow

an insulin shock dose to the raving leaves,
which lift and swirl in whirlpools

of wind. The November sun’s mad buzz
through the gauze of clouds. I watch

a hawk veer west, clasp a dove
in its talons. Say as a child I believed

sugar water in eyedroppers would save
vulnerable creatures. Now I know

malarial sepsis will hatch in the blood
of the weak. Despite pity, despite quinine.

Grandmother, are we dying? / by Jefferson Duval

Of course we’re dying my love
not the lay me down gently
not the accidents will happen
nor at the well composed ending of lines

it’s happening in the absence
where there’s more time
forgetting we ever spoke
than remembering who we are
everlasting

look here now
lies are symbols just the same
in the vacuum’s freezing
our books burn brightest
a mighty echo goes, I hope

in seeking you find, I am

we were out in the yard
passing slowly underneath
the sky’s milky abscess…

Fallen / by Kelle Grace Gaddis

The tree gives way like a girl unable to see herself,
limbs and spirit broken, unable to fight off her assailants.
The girls, not the one cut down, are fearful gossips and, far
in the distance, undeniably—human.

A raised eyebrow, lip, or hand won’t mend or lend hand or tissue.
They put me in the chipper, to clarify my lack of belonging.

My words are the tree’s prayer of years, rings, evergreen. Silence
is a mantra, like the sky. Needles are a dirge, like thrown stones and
bark—

as if I know anything.

Today’s plight is wavering faith. I fear there’s sap
trickling off my leafs.
God?

I put aside the obvious injustices of life, who gets a
thumbs up and who is slain by a chainsaw to consider
what God allows.

I believe we all deserve to live and be loved, to be
saved and to not suffer at another’s hands, words.

Help.

I also believe that God grows us into who we are
meant to be through trials.

Tried.

Can it be that some are cut down, abandoned,
abused, and emotionally destroyed so that others
can live?

Fallen.

I’ll tell you a story from childhood, from when I was a seedling
in Catholic school just before my birthday, Christmas.

I’m cast in a play as Mary, Mother of God.
I am told where to stand, what to say, what to do.
The other girls wanted my role.

The audience weeps for Christ’s birth, his future
suffering, his salvation. Nobody weeps for Mary
who is lonely, at the periphery of angry angels.

Young girls and, as I’ll learn years later, women, find
pleasure in rejecting, cutting down. I have fallen many
times and long to be planted in better soil.

The play is long over, yet, never ending. I want another script,
one that allows me to laugh with the angels with gold tinsel halos.

As awful as they were and are today, by new names, I want
to grow in the forest. It’s cold and dark on the ground.

It hurts to be severed from my roots, to decay at the feet of
everyone dancing in the wind.

Gestures / by CR Green
Found Poem after reading ¨Notes on Gesture¨ by Alex Kitnick
in Art in America, November, 2018, and watching the funeral
service for George HW Bush at the National Cathedral

If, after all, Warhola could become an irascible or not
Warhol and Bush remain a Bush, then I´m an artist and
you´re an artist displaying in private or public gesture
a flick, a fling, a twist, a turn, free to live in this world

of liberation, practice private or public idiosyncrasies
of self as they both did: leave Pittsburgh, learn to live
with grief and loss, wear a wig or silly socks, be silent or
tell jokes forgetting punchlines, be shot out of a fighter plane

or in the stomach, experience life-long love and friendship
leave children, grands, greats or none at all. You and I are free
to express something of our inner selves: pull apart paintings
float silver balloons over New York City or ourselves in the folds

of parachutes over the Atlantic, pull down or deconstruct walls
But were they or are we each truly free to to go our own ways?
Do we artists, now not known as sculptors or painters
only live to call attention to ourselves

become only certain figures in the more or less excellent
excess of gesture? The Presidents sit shoulder to shoulder–
who will be next they wonder and so do we. They gesture
nods or not, bow heads or not, shake hands or not, lift lined

faces to lines they read or do not, shed tears, shut eyes or not
At home on our sofas we gesture or not for all kinds of reasons
We raise our voices or hands because we want to. We will not raise
them if we don´t want to. We have not lost our free will

to go to war, to worship some center we question will hold
paint, prophesy, change appearance, Americanize the world
make a living selling our names. our grooming habits
our hair and lifestyles, our very own souls

A Windy Day / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

The wind is chatty today.
She runs through my hair,
whispers at my elbows,
admires my scarf, touching its embroidery.

Her prickly nails grace my neck
as she gossips about
the scent of magnolias nearby
where a happy couple is walking-
told me he still puts on a nice aftershave
when they go out for breakfast in the morning.
Surrounded by twenty-something girls
waiting in a line out the door, but
he still looks only at her.

Then the wind spins as she whispers
about the freshly baked baguettes and butter.
Is that where you’re getting coffee? She asks.

She dances through the trees
and sends yellow leaves
down to greet me.
My frozen hands
cling to a hot cup
and a bag of fresh
hot almond croissants.
She follows me home and
asks me to write something.
I say no.
I just want a day off and coffee
and she’s making my ears cold.

She kisses my forehead
and whispers sternly
You can’t not write. So, write-
to feel words on the page
to say what’s unsaid-
to try to understand things
to understand each other
to capture the beauty we spend
most of our lives chasing.

Her cold front embrace
wraps around me.
She leaves to
part the clouds and
give me a sunbreak.

Guernica Postscript / by Jeffrey Levine

They’d been shooting tequila with salt and lime

when the great horse gave a wild shake of his head

that sent his black mane shimmering through falling mist.

At such times every sound is finer than every other sound,

and if a glass vase shatters, water splashing forth,

iron-clad horsemen charging, swords and halberds

clanging, the pfft of rending silk and spill of blood,

not a word survives, only the autumn moon a white sickle

through the river’s heart, sparks quick upon the dynamite.

That’s how nothingness is lessened.

Water falls.

Birds fall.

Horses fall.

Love Story, But a Real One / by Sarah Terry

Three hundred and fifteen days out, or so says
the very persistent app on my phone (and no,
I have not started researching photographers yet
but this is not about the photographers (although
shit, I do need photographers)) – anyway – everyday
and there is another thing that makes me say, wow,
you know, I love this guy more than peanut sauce
and glitter eyeshadow, and even that vegan General Tso’s
not-chicken at Whole Foods, Earl Grey and lemon candles,
Deep Space Nine, like, this is a very serious case
of the ever-afters. And I think, right, this is lucky
in the sense that we made this happen and I’ve never
believed in luck. As my father once said, there are
really (probably) many people we could have ended
up with (which is true but extremely un-romantic) except
also it’s empowering because sure, the world is stuffed
to the gills with fascinating people but I still found you.
The you who doesn’t get mad when I scream
during boss fights but don’t actually want any help.
Who brushes my hair and reassures me that I’m not
dying from a brain tumor each time I have a headache.
Doesn’t freak out (too much) when goats are so adorable
that I start crying (all the twee bullshit I live for), and frankly,
if ghosts waltzing in a graveyard in the middle of the woods couldn’t
pull us apart, then I think we’ve got a damn good shot at always.

Prime / by Emily Vieweg

Before you squint to the rooster’s call,
you are six again;
bacon bubbles on the stove;
hot chocolate percolates in the pot;
kitty sharpens her claws (again) on the sofa;
the barn owl hoots his good nights;
a phone rings next door;
a string of sunshine brushes your brow;
you squeeze teddy one more time;

Day 8 / Day 8

First Snow in New Mexico / by Steve Bellin-Oka

Even the snow won’t tell the truth. Though
it hides the witchgrass beneath its cold cotton,
its patina of white muslin, the tawny
discoloration of straw bleeds through. As if
I were a child and not a man, last night
he said, there, there as he held me, sobbing
for no reason. Or for the thousand reasons
I sob for, uncountable as hairs. I knew

what he was thinking—he’s afraid he’ll
have to commit me again, the way he did
that winter in Charlottetown when blizzards
battered the island every day for months.
I’d smashed my face into the bathroom mirror.
I’d hung a noose like pendant from the banister.
When was it I first started playing this game

in reverse, erasing the letters, calling out
vowels until only the hanged man’s head,
eyeless round circle clipped to the scaffold,
remains? I’ll be fine, I said, when I could breathe
again. This morning a bewildered hummingbird,
its wings stationary, hovers outside its empty
feeder, crust of coagulated nectar red as blood
someone else rinses from the lip of the sink.

circumcision quilt / by Jefferson Duval

sleeves of men
scab collection

mountainous dried rings
of dick jerky
stitched together with
collective gasp and awe
condom-like stretched over
gaia ball

once distant
mother’s sister’s daughter’s and lover’s
reclamation from the void now calls

as below severed
so sewed above
domination seeded within
books of origin

the same rings
crown our dying
drone kings

prosthetic power hung
on falling scaffolding.

En Route To The Afterlife Party / by Kelle Grace Gaddis

“If ever there was a time to rise to the occasion
this is it!” I said to the man disconnecting the
last of the illusion from his arm.
“Heroin got me,” he said. I nodded and shrugged
while he said, “Chiva, H, dope, dragon, drugs.”
I walked to the front of the bus disappointed
that it was a bus and not a plane, train, or boat
but forgot all about the bus being a bus when I
saw it travelled on light or in light. Earth parties
never started this good. If anything, being en route
to the afterlife party gave me a reason to live.
Then, the bus became an ambulance, a hospital, a ward.
I was under a light, a knife, attack wanting nothing more
than to have the afterlife back.

Out Like Flynn / by CR Green
Found Poem from The Times
December 7, 2018

From Inner Circle to Outer Limits
From International Interaction to Domestic Deception
From Lock Her Up to Set Me Free
From Widened Net to Narrowed Escape
From Seizing the Day to Seizing a Way
From Key Member to Unlocked Lead
From Hunted Witch to Freed Man
From Facing the Music to Saving the Face
From Chance to Rail Cad to Get Out of Jail Card
From Heavy Redaction to Light Recommendation
From Out of Sight to Out of Mind

Haiku / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Your warm fingertips
traced the lines of melted dreams
beneath my snowflakes.

The Father Appears out of Deep Mid-Winter / by Jeffrey Levine

The Tao moves its crooked fingers these cold winter nights
lighting smudges to keep the foxes at bay while the dead
make offerings of cherry flowers and spider orchids,
aloof plants, bizarre plants with rich brown lips, offerings
to the dense forest, and within it, my ancient father astride
the stallion, bearing over his shoulder like a burglar
a worn sack, making way toward the river where, muttering
in an alien language, he dismounts under the pointed firs,
and only the horse breathes, his black mane and black eyes
wet with snow, both listening to what the night wants,
something like the sound of a guitar played only
as thieves play to absence and its prominent bones,
something like the sound of a guitar played wet
with snow, both listen to what the night wants,
and only the horse breathes, his black mane and black eyes
muttering an alien language, he dismounts under the pointed firs
with a worn sack (making way toward the river, leading
the stallion) borne over his shoulder like a burglar
in the dense forest, and in it, my ancient father astride
aloof plants, bizarre plants with rich brown lips, offerings
made of cherry flowers and spider orchids,
lights smudges to keep the foxes at bay while the dead
move their crooked fingers these cold winter nights.

This is the Plan / by Sarah Terry

Step One: we are gonna be deliriously happy and live in a cloud and cry rainbows,
only we’ll never actually cry because we will be too goddamn happy. In Point of Fact:

the tree of knowledge has started growing honeycrisps and I have eaten them all. Therefore
I can tell you the following truths, that { “life”: [“is not tender”, “like risen bread”, “but we tie on

our vital organs for balloon strings”, “anyway”] } because it’s the only real way to love.
Wash your eyes of yesterday’s madness! No, I never said I was human, but I have two hands

that I’ve been training to hold you. I’ve gotten very good at working the panini press
and improvising minor musicals to keep you entertained: dear bird who lives

in the IKEA parking garage, the difference between an egg and an oval is breath!
Make sure you’re imagining that adagio, in 3/4 time. Waltzing is best when you least

expect the voyage. Step Two: starstruck and shaking, let’s remember Earth as a place
without enough green pens, but otherwise full of foxes, disco balls, and chickpea curry.

I will slide across your skin like a river flowing upward – two souls and whatever a sun
will sing of us – cricket-cry from the basement and a rumble of winds on Mars.

Paralysis / by Emily Vieweg

before I pry my eyes open
I sprint in slow motion
hunt a red beetle through traffic
my vocal chords: stunned

I swallow dry twice; cough, sputter
a muffler threatening failure
trapped

even the iron will of a mother tiger
may not escape this

knowing her cub is endangered

locked in the hyena’s jaws

Day 7 / Day 7

The Asian Carp / by Steve Bellin-Oka

for Daisuke

—jump, startled, in four foot arcs out of the Mississippi

—time is a river where mottled metal is sunk, Francis Bacon said

—to not look below a river’s surface is another way of dying

—I’ve seen the hole in water a 90 lb fish makes

—this memory of you: invasive species, long submerged, now leaping

slugfest / by Jefferson Duval

somewhere between
the last guest
before finishing a half-warm
plate of leftovers
after she fell back pulling
my wooden stool
crashing onto her face
exhale
the guest who stays
this sustenance screen
gives it’s hollow gleam
into a room i call work
trying to trick
this passing sadness
choosing micro-channels
alternating currents
my thoughts real good
pretending to weather.

As Suddenly As Spring / by Kelle Grace Gaddis

At the bottom of a pit of coal-black pain it’s
a struggle to imagine light when all is rain
Each day is winter, a steady deluge of endless night
since closed eyes insist that the sun isn’t bright
When lids flutter open to reveal a sky that’s happy blue
I’ll know it’s because love’s finally come through
It will stun with a rainbow as new trees beckon with
fluttering leaves, signing “There is life after grief.”

Even After Ten Years / by CR Green

you, retired, and I, almost, are still shy
with one another, but we have a morning ritual
that begins each of my working days:
the boldness of your coffee
the terseness of our greeting
your gnarled, swollen hand held out
my wrinkled, smaller one responding
our quick prayer of thanksgiving
Leaving the younger dog inside, you leash
the old one while I start the car
You stand, waiting, while I roll down
the window. I lean out. You lean in
We kiss–just in case, later in this day,
one of us is no longer here

Tired now from my journey home
to this sedated house, my nose promises me
the sympathetic porch swing isn’t far.
So, come, my love, my heart wants
my mouth to say, rise up, sit with me–
it’s just a few steps beyond this sliding door
But, I hear you sleeping so peacefully
Perhaps you are dreaming: you have been
in this house where she also lived–
all by yourself, all day, with the two dogs
The setting sun still warms the swing–
its cushion is savory with smells of more summers
than I have lived here with you
Before I rest, I will breathe in what the young dog–
whose own nose is its only leader–I will breathe in
what this new life–which only knows to gnaw
at the edges of everything–has done while I was away
I will inhale the essence of things past and present
things done and undone: lettuce, basil, mint–even pillow
piss, bone and pottery shard

Will Power / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Two-thousand nine hundred and twenty times
between the lines
I’ve fallen down and scrambled to stand
no
I’ve yelled at my wrists for being useless
one
I’ve yelled at my eyes for crying too much
sees
I’ve yelled at my hands for being numb
will
I’ve walked with knees the size of cantaloupes
power
I’ve yelled at myself for not being faster
stand
I’ve needed help getting dressed
under
Two thousand nine hundred and twenty days
the
I just wanted to dance but couldn’t
rubble
I’ve lost my balance
of
I’ve walked in pain.
Pain
I’ve refused myself everything.

Four-hundred and seventeen weeks
Five years
Six years
Seven years
Eight.

I’m taking it all back.

To Have It Back / by Jeffrey Levine

You have to admire what Mondrian was after,
rigorous straight lines and demand for harmony,
but the rivers know nothing of that, no “I drank hard
last night, don’t be too hard on me.”
Lava, liquid sun and scented acre
the earth holding out for adoration, like perfection
in the abstract, drawing lines upon lines
of visitors, while the rivers beg for listeners.
What luck we get to be ourselves,
even if it means having a job we can never quit,
or the occasional withered hand, whether or not
we hear what the rivers have to say,
their polyphony of sentences dashing down
as usual, in search of a way into speech,
a way toward a future endings,
into the next day, and into the next,
which is not a plot but a stage direction,
the field notes that make language possible,
and then nothing but the din and hum of regret
ripping on like a furnace, while your own fingers pull on
their blue yarmulke and the doorway
to your room seems suddenly enormous,
wide enough to wheel a bed through.

Helplessly Hoping / by Sarah Terry

We have very good reason,
Sullen Companion, to never
give him our names. Friendly,
direct gazes double-exposed
over a torrent of green ash –
seven hundred and fifty three
fluttering word-flowers sewn
into the breathing skin of a tower
to remember us by, if
we are really worth remembering.

The earth adjusts. Can’t help
but wonder at our own gullibility,
huh? We can’t stay here, this place
of superstitions and red lines to mark
the margins, nursery rhymes full
of salt air and princes
with the floppy hair of rock stars.

I’ll miss the color of flame on a stovetop.
Languages that were just out of sight.

If only this were more of a mystery –
“you can stay here,” he says,
knowing that we wouldn’t. If only
we could wear down everything
with our brackish water and fill
our mouths with cattail reeds.
But don’t worry. Not overmuch,
anyway. I’ll hold your hand
on the staircase as we’re carried
out of sight.

Dangerby Emily Vieweg

Before my eyes open, I am dangling my feet
over the edge of the Grand Canyon
stroking the divide with my toes
twisting the knot tighter into my stomach
and willing myself to stay

The mood is doom, like the winter solstice
such a short period of light, less than half
a full day of witness, fingernails bite into my palm
nearly drawing blood, at least then i could feel
something more obvious than nothing

These fears are roaches hiding from the
whisper of sunshine, crittering at my feet
snaking up my spine, revealing herself
only when a stream of a beam bakes her
like a vampire, shrieking in immortal pain.

Day 6 / Day 6

Sestina for Pete Shelley / by Steve Bellin-Oka

— December 6, 2018

Nothing has to look like this, December, ground
the color of rust. Sometimes I make up names
for migrant children locked in a border cage: Star,
Safe-in-My-Arms, Never-Go-Hungry-Again.
I’m not wanted in the place I live either, another queer
like the men who broke off from the caravan, banned

together for safety like firewood. The first Bush banned
any refugee with AIDS from kissing American ground.
He died. They shut the government down. None of the queers
I know mourned. Instead, we thought of the quilt, the names
of the lost stitched in wool, as if they were infants again,
in pink and sky blue thread. Some of them were stars:

Hudson, Halston, Mercury. Nureyev with spangled stars
on his tights. And you, I was 15 when the BBC banned
“Homosapien.” I heard it on MTV, heard it again
on the Hippo’s dance floor, synthesized bass, the ground
like a submarine’s depth charge. I’ve forgotten the names
of the boys I slept with, still telling myself I wasn’t queer—

that’s a lie. I’d let any homosuperior who turned his queer
eye to mine take me in the parking lot under the stars.
Like Tantalus, the virus just out of reach. I embraced the names
I’d always been called—faggot, fudgepacker, sissy, banned
from paradise. Two men’s semen in streaks on the ground.
Still, I hate how your death makes me remember this again,

how I survived and hundreds of thousands didn’t. Again
I think of irony: the underage, awkward eighties queer
with his White Russian watered down, surveying the grounds
for someone to take his will to live away. As if there were stars
in his fingertips. No wonder the bouncer never once banned
me, light brown hair and rattail. His was one of the names

I found on a matchbook and never called back. His name
I remember—it’s on the AIDS quilt. That name again.
Pete, your explicit song about the wish to be fucked banned
from the airwaves in England but not here, where every queer
with half a brain knew what it meant. We were stars,
at least for three-and-a-half minutes. One night I ground

a whole banned bottle of Paxil up, drank it dissolved. Again
I woke and wasn’t in the ground. My pupils dilated as stars,
I burned the queer matchbooks, exhaled the dead names.

Vanishing Pointsby Jefferson Duval

the “f” was never for you
a shepherd’s crook and staff

“o”, frozen stiff could never roll

see the “r” at best a short crutch
in arthritic hands it rests

“g” seems handy to have around
stubborn, won’t get off the ground

now “i” is a lonely beggar
back turned he’ll cast out your eye

“v” has auspicious markings
too easily tears a hole in the sky

“e” just too eccentric
doubling back to forward unravel

“u” stays lost in wandering

on roads “s” is yet to travel.

After You Drain the Swamp / by CR Green

Everyone, like you
fully male, fully female
no both/ands
only either/ors

acting as you
doing as you
believing as you
no apologies

no exceptions
same denials
same cover ups
same sales pitch

same lies
same language
same underbellies

walking the croc walk
stacked high by you–the
sated, steamroller baby–

seated atop babbling tower
tiny arms heiling to you
unable to seize life

tumbled, jumbled
felled, fallen, underwater
floating away, surfacing

strangled in unison

Shell / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Empty spaces, empty halls
empty cupboards with
faded floral liner
or striped print- from when
they ran out of the other

I used to say a shell was
just that thing a hermit crab
outgrew
Leaving an empty space for the next
voyager, scavenger,
thief, dreamer

A shell is an empty space
that used to be full
maybe overly full of
trinkets and talismans
tales and songs
love letters

A space is not empty
until every single memento
has been removed
has been measured and weighed
to give or throw away

An empty space was once full
where we fought
over the last slice of pie
and negotiated
to share the ice cream
where we gathered and laughed
where life used to happen
and where it ended

Empty is
eyes staring at outlines on walls
where frames used to hang
where dust lines form shadows
where there are only whispers
kicking up dust in every corner

Empty is
where I stand now.

The Musicians, Caravaggio and the Fado, c. 1595 / by Jeffrey Levine

Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together. Anais Ninn, 1939

Here are the seminal tunes:
Rainbow Cloak and Feather Robe
Entre dos Aguas
Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11
Maybellene
That’s All Right Mama
El Prormpompero

But as for Caravaggio, were not talking borrowed blues,
rather, one who has grown up with sorrow sing only like this.

As fado is defeated souls, lost nights, bizarre shadows,
Foi Deus, Lagrimas, all this exists, all this is sad, all this is the fado
as might have been sung (the literature so damnably vague, what
did Jason and the Argonauts hear, what Ulysses?)
The clear-voiced Sirens, who withered seamen with languidness.
How withered seamen with languidness?
We know only how quickly then they weighed
the anchor stone and set the gear in order.

So this Carravaggio then.
Look, there’s Cupid, there are his grapes!
It’s a toga party, ergo, an allegory. A fraternity kind of thing
seen though a bit of classical throwback haze.

Look again, there’s an unclaimed violin in the foreground.
It’s yours. It’s what Caravaggio wanted.
Invitingly small, he wants you to have it.

You don’t fit in? Self-conscious. Can’t play.
Not to worry.

Not a single figure in this picture relates to any other,
they’re not listening, as with our circle of friends,
our lunch table, our cocktail parties,
our separate selves melting into the distance,
glasses dissolving into the furniture, and that one, there,
a self-portrait, not sad, rather pretty.

Just last week he finished it, rinsed off the brushes with strega,
stood it against the wall opposite the southern light.
Not so much homage to the self, as a study.
What to do with that?
Just a teaser, like Beethoven’s Op. 18.
Like early Mozart (by which I mean, Mozart at 13)
And where’s our dark, our black our shadows?
Where’s our devout, frightened iconography?
Enough the other kind of light.
Put me here behind the door,
where everyone can hear me sing.

I Am a Giant Toy That Eats Other Toys / by Sarah Terry
or, when my fiancé made me watch Transformers: The Movie (1986)

If I
could digest
all of space-
time
through my navel,
human germ, oh –
there would be no
stopping me.
Would you like
to beg
for all your lives
now?
Somewhere
inside my caverns,
corridors, is
an ocean strained
through electric
sapphires
and peripatetic
rage. What good
are wings
without gravity
to hold them?
Don’t ask questions
and never trust
your broken
eyes. Sometimes
it helps, but
really,
here I am
with open arms,
synth riffs,
Leonard Nimoy,
and lasers firing,
and aren’t I
everything
you ever wanted
while you find
your way
to oblivion?

Bristle / by Emily Vieweg

before my eyes open, i hear your voice,
the way you would care from the downstairs sofa bed
when we’d visit for two weeks each summer –

dad’s wallet seated next to yours in the
desk drawer alongside bills, letters, car keys, and
pre-stamped envelopes.

i see the worm things floating above the pool,
attached by silk to the breeze,
“wind’s too strong,” you’d say, “and they’ll die –
then the birds’ll have nothing to feed the babies.”

did all the cousins feel like favorites, too?

on the two-day drive home, i’d wonder
if you’d maintain your softened gruff
after the grandkids went home.

grandma, too, has dissipated from
the afghan, but every now and then,
hints waft from the foot of my bed.

Day 5 / Day 5

Lunettes of the Medician Villas / by Steve Bellin-Oka

           — painted by Giusto Utens, 1599-1602

They are simulacra of themselves, white limestone
and terracotta-roofed structures seen as if from a balloon.

The Boboli gardens green as the one I took you
behind when we were 19 and dropped to my knees.

Why paint on a wall what you can see through a window
three feet away? Hedgerows, late afternoon, a river.

I shaved my head in penance when you left me.
Now I cup the razor in my palm like steel water.

In only one lunette are there figures—horseback men
& dogs hunting a fox. Off frame, perhaps thunder.

Old lover, I’ve tricked myself in parks: Loch Raven
Reservoir, Duboce Triangle, Mission Delores hill.

This pull between the real & the artificial, like
a dream in which you’re dreaming of wine grapes.

I never told you—once I took a coring knife & cut
my inner thigh in zigzag lines, like an opening zipper.

heart tongue / by Jefferson Duval

Watching her eyes take in moving images
finches to bushes to feeder to fence
my narration, ‘bird people, bird people’
her enwonderment casting
more than any knowing
patterned tone feelings
waves she can ride
this unspoken prayer
bringing language alive in relation
let the tree invoke season, ant chains
perching returns, wind speak
underworld roots – anchoring what’s seen
Coffee, mountainous hillside oceans of green-red fruit
rippling sun tanned berries
olfactorys of morning’s glow
slow smiles with no words.
May our language be revived, composted alive
welcome death’s feeding of life
through the wellspring nurtured imagination
of our children.

Towards Sunset / by Kelle Grace Gaddis

I am concave today
sunken in the hollow

Missing nails a picture
in my heart space

Hope’s light could be lifting,
if it weren’t exposing

We were children once
clipped out of ruled paper

hands gripped tightly
sisters of a sort

until time, alleged healer
severed our common

We had laughter in summer,
a wholeness like the sun, it

as a fresh cantaloupe split,
the juicy of the living,

two halves bursting with seeds
Gangly girls dangling in Evergreens

Our feet ahead of themselves
running toward sunset,

ever present in our skin, as yet
unable to imagine the end

Death Awaits the Unwaryby CR Green
Don’t have a casual attitude about climbing and its risks.
Distraction and that cavalier attitude cause many climbing
accidents. Stewart Green in ThoughtCo., June 11. 2018

¨Higher up, higher up,¨ Marriage called
Divorce held out no arms
to catch her

Assumption was no protection
when climbing required attention
on unreached summits

Ignorance was no excuse
when two attempted to belay
in anchored ascent

Repetition was no substitute
for vigilance in seeking
sought-after higher ground

¨I will rappel myself,” Divorce answered
Pinioned legs and feet kept her
from climbing higher

Head over heels in hate
unroped, she fell, her echoing
screams repelled his shouts

Always Show Them Your Form by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

 

Grammar and punctuation
are important,
because they see my differences
before my similarities
because they hear my accent
before my sentiment
because they won’t share
the language that also belongs to me.

Have you ever watched a poem move?
Grammar and punctuation
exist in dance-
the language I speak.
Sentences formed by
stringing movements together,
pausing to listen
to converse and converge
with the music.

My posture is a statement.
My accent is my lean.
I pause, I listen, I linger
to be heard, to be known
to be found in translation
to be visible.

So that they can hear me
with perfect grammar,
see my form and
understand me-
So that they can’t doubt
what i stand for.

Grammar and punctuation
in any dance
is always about
showing them your form.

Why Not Nothing? / by Jeffrey Levine

My Nana, wife of Poppy, told the story
only once, how she and he were in the cattle car,
holding hands, he was my Adam, she says, my good
heart, my Patroklos, and when the SS officer called
out for doctors, he said “I am,” and she “a nurse,” though he
a pattern cutter, she a baker of bread and honey cake,

so why not pray to be spared from the nothing
of nothingness, and so they were delivered.
And why not nothing? Well, first of all,
gift-horse leaps to mind, even as those few chosen
to work entered the town built on the marshes, even if
real nothingness would forbid that! It merely encodes
what it means for nothing whatever to exist. You want
proof, then know me by my proof.

Consider once again the orchestra struck up,
and the people chosen to work, the chosen, the elect,
after the officer had stalked down the ranks
in his fur-collared greatcoat making impatient
gestures, pointing at people, pointing at him.

They entered together the town built on the marshes,
dark water, rusty black, smelling of decay, filthy shreds of rags,
bloodstained clothes discarded by the camp operating
theaters, yet sometimes a child’s song, key to something
that is not, surely not, nothing, as after Patroklos is speared.

Remember how the first tribute comes from Zeus himself,
he who has just engineered Patroklos’ death,
and now sings of him “gentle and strong” then
“faithful friend” croons Athena, “His warmth of heart,”
Nestor’s son, Antilokhos hums, and “Our best man,”
“irreparable loss and grief” incapacitated
by grief, all of them, how is it, oh monsters
of cruelty, encoders of nothingness, turners
away from the nothing that is, escapees, my Nana,
my Poppy, singing lullabies to their gift horses,
those palominos of the here and now, dappled
with the dew of the living.

Drink This, You’ll Feel Better / by Sarah Terry

Some lessons for contemporary civilization –
aren’t we all just Argos, waiting patiently for love
to come home? Fuck no, raise up the crenellations

around this twenty-four hour light-strung shrine of
R-E-S-P-E-C-take a number and cower in the blaze
of my eternal style. Mr. Off-Piste can kiss my glove

and learn a thing or two at the foot of my chaise
lounge. Baby, never trust a man’s word about a sorceress,
or a nostos lasting longer than three thousand days.

Circe has shown up in her finest evening dress,
and the category is: Twinkling Center of all Kaleidoscopes.
No one should live or die for a sea-sogged caress.

Message / by Emily Vieweg

before I open my eyes
I glide along a hallway
with white-flowered maroon silk walls
you find in Victorian castles.
I do not see you, the seated figure,
until you turn from the
fully-flamed fireplace,
the wing-back chair holding your
former form; you are healthy and
strong again. I think,
“I miss you,” and before
I can part my lips to speak,
you smile a gentle calm.
I inhale deeply, willing
my senses to remember your
scent – and when I open my eyes
you are gone.

Day 4 / Poems 4

Rain Psalm / by Steve Bellin-Oka

the hundreds of sparrows // are lies the ghost told us // in a gutted cathedral // the stars pinholes in an aging roof // come sea, come salt // drowned toddler face-down on a beach // and the ghost said // a little water clears us of this deed // the body is two-thirds water, one-third desiccating bone // I will make hail to sweep // away your houses // sponges soaked in gall // come storm surge, come lightning // extinguish the candles in our hands // skulls of horses in the Sonora // // the multitudinous seas incarnadine // making the green one red // swallow the islands // unsplit the desert rock // unmake the division of waters from the land // lay the glaciers low // come hurricane, come wind // flood the parched cities of the plain // ask anything in the ghost’s name // and it shall be granted // it will be rain // so let it come down // a hand// on a fevered forehead

4. / by Karen Craigo

This time of year I get off when it’s dark
and on the interstate I find my groove.
I’ll ride it in the way needles move
across the vinyl surface—then the jerk,
the bump that sends it screaming wide.
It makes you start and feels like a close call
but not as close as car confronting wall.
We hit the thing you tried most to avoid.
It’s thirty-one minutes door to door,
true silence not an option on the way.
I spin a record at the start of day
then crane to hear the backmask on return.
With higher speed, higher goes the tone
You whisper “Shush,” but look—you’re all alone.

R. Bachusby Jefferson Duval

the kind of guy
who doesn’t come towards you
either draws or repels
tall, thin, strong and squinting
as if to take you in as part of an
approaching design

smoking outside with the front door
wide open as if to say
I’m out here, but the smoke goes
wherever it wants to go

he speaks the language of machine
they speak back to him
his fluency scares bosses and coworkers
not caring, he serves only proper functioning
he talks to me of things I don’t understand
maybe if I did we’d have a better chance of laughing

serving hardened steel he assuages still
from inside an occasional gift appears
his heart’s likely twice the average size
pumping thickened blood like oil
through his stalky hose veins and chambers

he struggled but told me
not coming by for dinner was only
because he didn’t know how to be
plainly, doing the best he can
having as a kid been busted up bad

and raising his young sweet son I now see
one committed, loving dad.

Never Again / by Kelle Grace Gaddis

For years I fed you dinner
my heart in every dish

As certain as a lioness, I gave
all to my lion and cubs

I chopped beasts and greens
so our gathered family could eat

I did not consider the wellness
of other animals, only my own

I made dinner for us
a sacred family trust

On lean days when no
check arrived to purchase

chicken, vegetable or stock
I did not growl in complaint

turning what remained
in cupboard into our

savory our sweet
Only when another

lioness nestled in my den,
did I break the contract

of only feeding kin
I quit hunting, preparing

growing thin as I looked
for another place to stay

one without a kitchen
or dishes or demands

I’ll never hunt again
not even if he asks

I cannot give to something
that threatens not to last

No Statue / by CR Green

You gave the world wise words, but only
I heard them to recall now, To be happy
and productive with what talents I have
been given, knowing they are not
the greatest, is my challenge.

You did not hide, hoard or take hostage what
you were freely given. Driven by those gifts,
however small in the world´s eyes, you sensed
even to divide requires knowledge of multiplication,
that what is sown in weakness will rise to spread

No statue in or on your resting place, your remains,
in communion with others, contained within
a simple wall where large words carved in stone remind
that love is stronger than death; lesser words in metal
recall a Creative Artist existed in the world

Unlike the hardness of metal and stone, your own
boundaries were not rigid or compressed. I still see
the rounded contours of your ruddy full-cheeked face
facing the wind close to Mt. Sinai where your ancient
people began their travails

Jerusalem to North Africa, Spain to Odessa
New York to Alberta, Los Angeles to Aotearoa
Always mindful of the past, Not everyone is made
to live long, you said. Talents are given
for the future´s use.

No statue will show your long fingers
the wide spaces between each where mine–
carried over time from Ireland, England, Scotland,
France and Germany–fit so easily, gently, generously
urging me to use my own meagre gifts

No statue, yet I know for sure you stand
solid somewhere waiting to receive me
with arms open in welcome wide
to continue our journey on into
that prepared and promised place

where no fear of harsh or punishing hand
where all is whole, eternal, and you take
my hand again, not to strive in works, but to rest
in delightful ones, your tender, enlarged heart
beating, not beaten, by the long past

temporal cast of death

Two Haiku / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Vast

I was once canyon-
Wet clay earth forged into stone;
Memory’s echo.

Becoming

We orbit the moon
recalling when we were once
roots, arms, dust, ash – earth.

On the Origin of Weaving, A Rip in the Air / by Jeffrey Levine

Open your mouth and receive the host of the wounded word”
Vicente Huidobro (“Unravelling”)

On the occasion of her 95th birthday,
a constellation of darkness (don’t say “darkness”)
another of light (enough already with the “light”)
a gesture to be completed by light (what did I tell you about “light”?)
she knows none of us, not her daughter or her son,
neither her nieces nor her grandson,
nor whose birthday it is, yet
she is her own epiphanic experience,

her hours, such as they are, ripe with divination,
and so the flickering lights (again, are you serious?!) produce
a certain trance, and a gleam in the dark is seminal
(of course it is, like, I mean, the spark at the beginning
of the beginning, by definition, comes first)
let’s call it an instant, let’s call it a gaze
as Celan says, “there are still songs to be sung
on the other side of mankind,”
and so we sing the required song, all of us,

as the poet has also used discarded materials since well before
Lautreamont defined beauty in 1868
in Les Chants de Maldorar, as “the chance encounter
between (here he tells us what) and (here he tell us
something else) on (and here he tells us where).”
Even Santa and Mrs. Claus join in, ceremonial red and white,
so we create sound, sound from swen, swen meaning chant,
an incantation, voice as thread, voice as weaving,
folding together the thread and the threadlike writing
to form a nest of sound, she folds into herself,
her hands working at something small.

Imagine, for example, the first cross
interweaving of branches and twigs to make,
yes, a nest, the first cross of warp and weft, the first
knowledge, beginning of the spiral, a rip in the air.
Two or three lines, a mark, and silence (no no no no no)
begins to speak (isn’t that an affectation, a cheap effect?)
BE MORE PARTICULAR: call it the meeting of sun and bone,
call it a path the hands knows how to follow,
like a planet waiting to sprout

Love Story at Absolute Zero by Sarah Terry

Kelvin, ask me how badly my atoms long
to be held on chilly winter evenings. These
fingers painted Prussian Blue, Winsor & Newton,
darling, of course, and nothing but
Dvořák in my un-sweltered heartstrings,
mellifluous as a supercollider.

What do you know about singing?
Kel, I swear, I’ll send us both to the moon
and we’ll be washing the regolith from our hair
for weeks – each grain sharpened like shattered glass.

I can make you believe me. Dewy-eyed
and dreadful, you can slide past the inky skin
of my fortress like a dagger in Rusalka’s lake,
and isn’t that just what you wanted?

Let’s pretend we asked for the happy ending.
Spin me supersymmetrically through your arms.

Call / by Emily Vieweg

before the cat’s tongue tugs on my bangs,
before the kitten’s paws knead my chest,
before my eyes open to the lamp coded to rise like the sun
and chirrup like spring birds,
I realize that I have company;

but today is Tuesday, so I must carefully wriggle out from
under the zebra-printed comforter tucked
between my daughter’s 5 year old fists.
She is so cozy, warmer than grandma’s afghan;

mechanical birdsong chatter negotiates with my will,
reminding me of mama robins scolding brown squirrels,
of cardinals, blue-jays and sparrows,
chatting each summer morning outside my
childhood second-floor bedroom window,
music-noted wallpaper adhered to the east wall,
ballerina music box resting on my dresser,
and the carpet, still olive-green.

Day 3 / Poems 3

Daylight Savings Time / by Steve Bellin-Oka

This borrowed hour dissolves like peppermint
on the tongue. Dusk comes upon you, a feather
dropped from a departing bird. A few days ago,
the birch leaves were yellow as softened butter.
Now their branches are bare,

fractured arms in white casts no one cares to sign.
Though we can’t behave like people in novels,
nail a gourd to your door anyway, a 97th thesis:
though winter is long, though

for months you must wake before the crows,
April will come. Refuse to give your hour back.

3. / by Karen Craigo

One night I saw a fire up ahead,
and traffic slowed nearly to a stop.
Smoke rose into the black backdrop,
the underside of sky stained garnet red.

If you wait, eventually you get your chance
to study what combustion makes of us—
we slowed our cars and swung out wide to pass
and watched the burning from a safe distance.

I think I saw the driver on the berm,
this night so different from the one he’d planned—
parade outpaced by its reviewing stand,
faces at the window feeling warm.

I’ll admit—I slowed down traffic just to stare,
the need to witness still a type of prayer.

Sammy, so long sweet / by Jefferson Duval

fall leaves fall
that way down the ride of a lifetime
they     sure     do

from the docks i watch
a tidal, familial drift
the boat an upturned homogenous mask
with cracks
around this gently wrested matriarch

strength arcs up from behind emptiness
unrecognizable

the hole is torn
waters released
though stretched thin from living
enough to catch that warm breezy calm
the worldly veils
change our ways in
rearranging scar path matrices

elements unfed
call the unsure footed
toward the musty smell crumbling
earth at the edges
unwetted
now may suck stray uncles over and through
or a child too pure for wading the malaise
those who’ve fed sorrow with sorrow
pain with punishment
meaning with empty cardboard boxes
recyclable, yes

let there be joy
coming in around caged smoke
welcoming the warm host for discomfort
lovely contractions
tearing the heart muscle strong
pointing the way home.

Knowing What to Keep / by Kelle Grace Gaddis

When you went to war, I wore pearls
around my neck. On it, I counted your
years away as if it were a rosary. We
thought war a necessity for country.
Those pearls were lost in a move
and you, as if in trade, were brought
back to me. A red, white and blue scarf,
given by the brass before you arrived,
hung loosely over my shoulders, when I
raced towards you it blew off. I let it lie
where it lay, unwilling to let you go.

How Now to Eat the Earth? / by CR Green
On Ruth Watson´s Geophagy following RikTheMost´s Spoken Word Workshop.
Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCa)
Christchurch, New Zealand

Born with all senses, but not listening,
is this what you have left of the earth to eat?
All right, then. Touch it. Pick it up.

Go ahead. While this roley poley baby blue
still rolls around, let the viscose, polyester, nylon,
rayon, spandex, 100 % cotton, linen blends

fall through your swollen fingers. The earth´s
disposable, isn´t it? So, do it quickly before it´s past
its use-by date. Let your eyes feast on the packed

and piled flavours: the sweetest of stripes, rainbows
and calicos, four seasons of bitter frocks and jackets,
mountains of savory pants and pantaloons.

Devour rocks with your nose. You have my permission
to blow it. Strain them through your remaining teeth.
Smell the timeline of marbled chocolate strata, inhale layers

of melted icing, Pavlova icebergs topped with Passion Fruit,
baked Alaskan volcanoes waiting to set the ocean on fire.
Let your tongue polish them until chaos shines so bright

an audience of angels wants to stare. Let them look deep
into your core. Is there a flame of feeling, something,
anything there?

Even though you can´t hear their wings, listen to what
those angels say about the days you have left to eat.
Count them, they are saying. They are numbered.

Blue Words / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

My blue is hidden

a toll bridge bell rings

warm hands hold hot paper cup
possible splinter
raindrops in my hair

Gray falls from

a blank canvas sky
the absence of blue-
rain drops

cling to my lashes

break surface of the lake
hear ripples
see ripples
dog climbs out of water
shakes himself dry
tail wags like an otter
wet nose sniffs the air

wind in my face
hot paper cup of coffee
steam at my nose
liquid on my tongue
shoulders at my ears
cold cheeks
angry breeze-
words on the page

my breath when i exhale
a callous from this pen.

Yellow leaves

fallen into gutter
warm hands holding

hot paper cup
wind blows rain sideways

toll bridge falling

down back into place

Gray rain drops
a blank canvas sky
my breath when i exhale
the absence of blue
words on the page.

Agnus Dei / by Jeffrey Levine

Friends called near midnight from the house on Derby Hill
where another eight inches of snow masses in the prospect.
Here in Vermont, there is no stopping to measure
each thigh-swept sweep of snowfall, but
only the season’s swaddling
of whitened landscape, as if to preserve it
for something more important, farther off.

It’s reliably Medieval, Vermont snow; we skate
a quarter turn past solstice and there it is.
No more rain, only the permanence of snow
and what there is to say about it. How fresh snow
holds the pod of childhood weightless on its tongue,
how hard you have to listen, still and faint,
to Gregorian chant rising from every whorl and tuft—

alleluias and antiphons, and like the graduals,
the snow falls and falls in Latin, in elongated
melismas, snows fall into the shapes prepared
by Palestrina, by Orlando di Lasso, these
are the tablets of the law, frozen ground,
frozen sky, the pale vulnerable bark of birches,
the frozen streams wanting sleep and more sleep.

They’re home atop their mountain, my friends,
the chimney plumes an Kyrie of smoke and embers
into the blue-black night, books piled on the floor,
and something baking as if answering the need to dream.

The snow through the window blinks
like imploring winglight falling white and gold
through a nimbus of uncurtained glass,
powder falling mute into the valleys below,
falling where no rain—neither spring wash nor
frozen—sets unbound the streets and stores.
Not until the lone midnight skater tucks
one more turn through time. Glide again,
chanter of snows, reaper of seasons,
dona nobis pacem.

Love Story in Stop-Motion / by Sarah Terry

Forty-seven degrees –
the way I love
your outstretched finger
as it taps against
my skin – the gasp
and breath – remove
your eyes for softly
falling lids
that settle on my cheek
like ash – a flash –
and when your heart beats,
each second blooms
in fireworks of torn cotton
on a wire-scaffold sky.

Homecoming / by Emily Vieweg

Before you open your eyes,
an old barn door slides open
your left foot inches in
narrowly missing Tom,
guardian of the realm.
He sniffs your mud-caked
sneakers, lets out a low snort,
lowers his ears, and retracts
to the corner, annoyed
at the intrusion to his day.
The Gelding pads his hoof in the
third stall, he can already smell
the carrots hiding in the trunk.
After twelve years, the only new tenants
at your parents’ farm
are the litter of kittens
nibbling the cabbage leaves
in the back garden.

Day 2 / Poems 2

A Visit from The Shadow / by Steve Bellin-Oka

Under the velvet, wide-brimmed hat pulled low,
I thought I saw a piece of white bandage
on his cheek. The cloak lined with crimson
the color of dried plum juice. I held the door
open, but he was already in the kitchen, leaning
against the scratched refrigerator. Who knows what
evil, he said, lurks in the vegetable crisper? Then
he was floating through the hallway, pointing
his black-gloved finger at a photo hung
on the wall: you weren’t there when your sister
died. You weren’t there when anyone died.
He patted the dog’s head as it sniffed his leg.
Kicked off his shoes and lay across the bed,
staring up at the ceiling fan blades churning,
the frosted lamp cover. You never told him—
but my superpower is disappearing. Where
is Steve Oka now? Those are his jeans draped
over the scuffed blue wingback chair. Someone
should tell him he left behind his favorite maroon
scarf, a wilted carnation, a handwritten note
on the bedside table saying, All your fruits
are bitter weeds. All your shadows know.

 

2.by Karen Craigo

We all have sought a place to make our den,
each traveler who treks from end to end
of road first pressed by hoof into the land
where some deer made its way once, then again.

I’ve always had this theory of the road:
It had to start with one sole passing through—
ten-thousand-year-old feet pursue a doe,
and passage rises from primeval tread.

And so one day’s decision carves the way
and caravan and wagon reinforce
and tamp down, broaden, verify the course
that’s smothered under interstate today.

Once a mother, too exhausted to move on,
laid down her mat, and there sprang up a town.

approaching tracks / by Jefferson Duval

On an early Sunday morning drive behind
the familiarity that allows the mind to slow
time to wander into passing houses by

here in one, a light on
i see a dark mask on the wall

feeling a large armature
humming
moving currents through
no events
an operator’s beaconing
passing with fine feathers
symbols and meaning for flocks
across this dividing line.

A Note Left By the Rare Green Woman / by CR Green

But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth…
Revelation 12.16

Our pestles though cracked
cracked at the edges still do the job
the job we and they seem created
to do, to do now when herbs are fresh
fresh cut from your ears
fresh hewn from felled grain
clipped from your nostrils
in need of dehulling

Our mortars stay sound
yet sound life´s alarm:
all is not right
You watch, provide providing
we serve in continued pounding
yet continued provision
requires balance for nature’s
natural order to be ordered aright

Bread, bred from two bodies, rises
Vined fruit from your beard becomes
blood blended: life-giving blood
letting past blood be passed at table
yet you, seated, sated with other
green men of misunderstanding
misunderstand the service
we green women serve

Firebird / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Blade flying through night
Edges sharpened by falling-
She is fire rising.

Lamentations on the Twenty-Fifth Amendment / by Jeffrey Levine

He feels sad about us, you’re certain, even when she tears
open her shirt and holds God’s leathery knuckles to her breasts
as they walk together through the meat-packing district,
first the right breast, then the left.

What do you want to know about perfectibility? God asks
his lover. Every gesture says, “For some things I am not responsible.”

Tenement windows heave open like mouths gaping wide
with wonder at this vision of holiness, this midnight sublime,
blessing God more deeply into a provisional vision of greatness,
mopping God’s damp brow against the aching of the Rabbis.

God, who had been minding his own business, painting
a religious scene in his Soho walk-up—let’s say, a heart-stopping
Madonna who remembers a little of her Latin and can cook–
presses an oil-flecked fist to her cheek, slight lift of turpentine,
as if requiting her the price of beauty even as a thin blue mist sieves
through the night’s fluorescence sighing to steam
upon the summer pavement.

Weary, proud, Puritan heart, you are gasping for air.
You promise to do better next time: a perfect stew
on the slow burner, a coarser bread cooling on the sill,
hospital corners more crisply tucked. Each path swept clear
should He decide to touch you again
with His infinitely gentle indifference.

 

Telesilla 2049 / by Sarah Terry

Pizza topped with vinegar loops and delusions of white lace – Telesilla!
Plug yourself into the wall of blistered dreams and come alive.

Home is now a city collecting pistols, watching marbles
as they fill the empty circles of your father’s prying eyes.

Plait a prayer around the gates. Ablution rides on neon waves.
The torrent housed inside you hatches brightly like a flame.

You have stolen every hour from the countdown clock above you,
torn the wires from your rafters with your rampart skin unfurled –

Telesilla! Hear them cry it like a violent vow from heaven!
Upright palms in exultation as the rains come down in chrome.

 

Grit / by Emily Vieweg

Before I open my eyes, a princess,
armed in sunset-orange, sits
atop a violet unicorn. Its jet black mane
flows through the tsunami winds,
guarding a palace constructed of
generic lime green legos.
Perched on the north tower,
a green-gray granite gargoyle
blinks
twice
and as the princess draws her sword
from its sheath, its hilt blooming
in the evening dew,
the moon falls,
a pink sun rising over the horizon,
the ever-vigilant guardian
eases her talons from the slate,
releasing a morning sigh
against a torrent of
hail.

Day 1 / Poems 1


Disappearing Acts / 
by Steve Bellin-Oka

Black smoke waft of a train
over a stone trellis in late afternoon. White

trees. Mist in stalemate above winter
river. Catgut of a broken

violin string. Eurydice’s body crumbling
to dust on her path upward. When you

walked out of the Amtrak station
in Charlottesville, I thought I’d

memorized the lyre shape of your back:
I’d seen it bare so often. The once

you’d let me touch it, my fingers
shook like crinoline on a clothesline.

I moved them lower & you did not stop me.

Will you ever look behind you where
I sit hunched on the wooden bench? The porter

straps my bags to a cart tenderly, as if
they were travelling cellos. Look back—

I’ve crumpled like a white tissue paper bird.

You paused at the station door & listened.
At the station door you listened & did not look back.

 

Commuter Crown / by Karen Craigo

1.

Impossible, but yes, that was a bear
I spotted a black heap of yesterday
as I topped eighty on the right-of-way,
no time to pause for scrutiny or prayer.
I’d finally found a job, and it was new,
and what I’d witnessed wasn’t thought to be.
What can’t be there, but nonetheless we see—
it complicates our effort to pass through
easily. I’d hunted for a place
to take me, out of work for two-plus years,
and chances very nearly rare as bears
toppled by some speeder’s coup de grace.
Uprooted once and twice and then again,
we each had sought a place to make our den.

 

Time untrendsby Jefferson Duval

I died again
laid down the friend
retired my skills
leaving luggage lost

now Born again
seeds opening
cynical thought trains
composting
infirm

Mid-life again
on our marks begin
level scales nosing up
a still-life, winking
smiling back across.

 

Inside and Outside / CR Green
Los Angeles, 1954

We live inside the city
Small house next to my elementary school
rent reduced because my teacher-father
watches the school on weekends to make sure
no one climbs fences to play on the playground

Outside is connected to a school garden
Gardening teacher, Mr. Nelson, show us
chicken eggs incubating. He points to an
embryo chart: hard shell of protection, soft
cushion of albumin, an eye, a brain, a heart

Mr. Nelson gives my father the chicks once
hatched–they grow large inside a dark
dusty shed beyond the house. Outside in
sunshine I see my father’s hands wring
a chicken’s neck

It runs around and around until it drops
Following my father when wilted chicken
is carried into the house by its feet, I see
it presented to my mother who accepts
gives him a tight smile, plops it in the sink

I see her pull its feathers out one by one
Bumpled skin looks like mine when water
grows cold in the bathtub. I see her hold
the chicken up to the light. I see pale arms
a fat torso, chubby legs–a baby!

A knife appears in the hand that holds
my head when I am fevered, holds my stomach
when I vomit. I watch the mouth from which
emerge stories, now concentrated, as if saying
someone before me did this, I can do it, too

I see her hand slice the baby down the middle
arms, legs quickly removed, insides now outside
liver, kidneys, even the heart I love to eat
sorted, stacked. From the floor where I sit
I look up to my mother who turns and says

“This is why we give thanks.”

 

Pandanggo sa Ilaw (A Dance of Lights) / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

First, we show them
a box to waltz in
and then we give them
a circle to waltz around
then we separate into lines-
a candle in each hand
and one on the head.

We share a story about
somewhere far away
a small seaside village
where fishermen out at sea
are searching the dark
for a light to guide them home.

The light is you.

We sway and we turn
We smile and interact-
villagers standing with oil lamps
at the water’s edge
That is when the candles dance.

Each step, each turn
we take in the dark-
Without it
the light we carry
cannot be seen.

This light is for you.
It’s the light you showed me
The light you taught me to carry
A light that burns
and makes itself known in the night.
A light that guides us home.
A light that can never die.

 

The rare wine, which is drunk / by Jeffrey Levine

It was this time of year, cold, and he was the kind of guy
who says the thing you most want from him—in this case, money—
is “done” and then he takes you out to dinner,
the small place with no name yes exactly like the horse,
some little jewel box on the Jersey Shore where
he’s going to toast to your dream because he says
it’s the right dream, a good dream, a dream of poetry,
and he’s wealthy beyond measure, and after all it doesn’t
matter, the money, to him, and he dandy’s in four bottles
of rare, nearly priceless Bordeaux, two for the chef,
who he doesn’t know but he wants to matter to the celebrity,
and he figures rare, nearly priceless wine will do the trick,
and two for the two of us, of course, the best the French
have to offer, and we open and we pour and we swirl
and we toast our mutual designs, and I put away the plan
because he doesn’t need to see it, we need only to drink
the best of the Chateau sip-by-sip, and something happens,

something gone forever, wine like a living animal,
you might say, the horse, say, there, now, then
a purpling of the light, as where the whole dissolves
to fetch up a molecule, and the birds alight on the windowsill
and from across the table this man holds his hands to his heart
as he rocks in place, like a secular sort of davening,
as if trying to capture something particulate, something beyond
the prescribed liturgy, as if spontaneously composing
an erudite monograph of the age of the earth or the footprint
of what’s numinous, as if it’s possible to tell the difference
between those sudden shudderings of the sacred and the mystical,
we creatures composed of millions and millions of tiny robots,
each trying to locate stuff in the moonlight, working like hell-
bent, well, robots, to take satellite pictures of the putative self
and put them back together, reassemble them more or less randomly,
because how could we, poor mortals, know the difference, so
he stands up, wavers, lifts up on his toes and bends from the knees
like Astaire savoring himself, saving himself, closing his eyes
and humming some counterpoint to the Eurotrance electropulse
otherwise madness-inducing drone, the closed-in part pushing
outward toward the hand on his chest, the wine folded in,
unchangeable then, forgive, says the man, you with whom
he is pleading, the wine was moon-cold, forgive me,
it was colder than you think, though it didn’t hurt
much, this business of slipping into an other life, full
of nothing like the drone of ours.

 

Tripartite, like a painting, like a god / by Sarah Terry

Lie down on the path.

Force your hands into the gravel and feel it run from you,
mice from thunder, goosebumps from the cold.
Tiny shivers of life desperate to escape undoing.

Go deeper. You eat vengeance like air.
Your skin is nothing but an event horizon –
all that’s left inside is yearning.

I could have told you. Oh, but it wouldn’t have mattered.
You already knew.

Lie down on the path.

She’s eight years old. Did she look back when she was taken away?
We tear our hearts open like hands to hold her.
Did someone tell her not to?

There are no gifts and no curses. You are power because
she had to be – raw and mighty like the broken mountains.

When I take your hand, our breaths catch, our eyes focus.

Lie down on the path and become the way.

 

Good by Association / by Emily Vieweg

David gifted this title.
I wonder how to live this line.

On bad/sad/sick/ days I find myself
crass and a little too honest
like the uncensored pucker
of the sour-lemon-sucker.

Holiday hooplah and hullaballoo
fogs over the house and
clogs window screens, a/c unit filters and
garage door gears.

i wonder if santa is watching, if
rudolph consumes enough vitamin A and
if father christmas ever ate chocolate?

will this spirit evolve, too?