The 30/30 Project: February 2019

 

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 February 2019 are Lindsay Adkins, Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Anna Harris-Parker, Ava M. Hu, Manfred Luedge, Jayne Marek, Matthew Mumber, Sol Smith, and Valerie Spain. 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.

Poem 19 / Day 19

Still Life / by Lindsay Adkins

for painter Mary Endico

At dawn I wait, brush erect,
for light to seep through
the slatted shutter.

This is how it feels to begin:

Birch trees bristle, toss
marbled sun to the ache
of frozen pond out back,

kettle steam sighs,
crests into a corner
(newly unseen),

a breeze arcs over the roof,
the colors run after the canvas
is stroked.

There is a blue my mind
can only find in midnight sleep,
the body gravid in the mattress—

I see it now, I bring it
into the morning on a wave
of mixed oils and cotton

and for a blurry moment,
what I have waited for
isn’t yet a thing of the past.

To Deliver into the Hand / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Had I been titan enough—entered sea
deep in the drag of centuries. Had I
followed tide pull, roll of broken shells and
bones, shadows of light breathing on moving
sand. Had I journeyed that deep until I
found what luminescence lurked under there, I
may have found my body of light. May have
floated, no bloomed, to the surface of air
and screamed in a voice that could split the sky.

Instead, I sit on my island and count
tides. Watch waves wash away all that I build
waiting for a sign to wash up. Handsel.
My hand aches for its weight and action.
Even as the island breaths its days and nights.

Notes on Osmosis / by Ava M. Hu

Language of tea leaves

as they settle into a cup.

 

Breath. Condensation. Vital force.

We float between god and gravity.

 

Pliant, steady. The mind concentrated

purified light. Here, now. This.

 

Fluid atmosphere registers

all desires on earth.

 

Soul. Body. Body. Soul.

Exits through a silver cord in the spine.

 

The atmosphere registers

all desires on earth.

 

Water into root. Root

into water.

 

Drops of water in the ocean

can be counted by the wisdom

trance of the six syllable mantra.

 

We reach for one another.

Night birds sing all night long.

 

“Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha[…]” -14th Dalai Lama

Photography by Josh Axelrod

Confession / by Manfred Luedge

I see myself
as a wannabe Buddhist.
I do some sitting practice
and I feel compassion
for the next guy quite soon
after he pissed me off
and I think there shouldn’t
be an “I” in mindful.
But whatever I do, it’s a far cry
from having my ego dismantled
to the point where it stays
completely out of the way
and allows me to dwell
at the midpoint between denying
what is real and clinging to it
as if it were.

Worm / by Jayne Marek

a wet orange segment signals
a gray earthworm half in, half out of leaf cover
amid loops of mud and gravel
at our feet under bare alder and beech trees
that channel up, spread
into the winter sky just above
that wears a shaggy scarf of fog
and, between its strands, penumbral clouds
elliptical as our planet’s orbit
around the wet orange sun
just visible, at this point in its own path
amid space dust and stars at great distances
moving invisibly yet continually
centrifugal as thought

my pride before the fall / by Matthew Mumber

I

am a self-made satellite,

so high in orbit,

I rival the stars,

celestial.

I

consume anger,

regurgitate nonviolence,

always a winner,

loser,

vengeance an option.

 

I

will take less than I need,

while everyone is watching,

my noble sacrifice,

legendary.

I

can fix anything,

by myself alone,

making me

irreplaceable.

I

never cease to amaze me:

accomplishments,

possessions,

humility.

 

there is a cord between us

that can never be cut,

that signifies your

indebtedness

for all I have done.

 

at the very least,

you could say

thank you.

you are welcome

to my kingdom,

bow, and I will blush.

This is 40 / by Sol Smith

“We have no business
being 40,” my wife says,
standing at the cusp of the age.
“We were just ten.”

This piercing reality, so clearly stated,
wakes up my blood
and opens a hundred calculations.
I’m 40, and it hardly feels possible.
It’s not just me, who has gotten older,
the entire planet was 40 years younger
When I was born.
Every plant, every mountain, every
ancient drop of water
has grown older, too,
and held my hand on their
endless journey.

40 years is a blink between
inches of circle
for the trees.
When the they saw me take my first steps,
they smiled at the passing clouds,
proud to see the progress.
When I learned to swim, the water
sent warm feelings to the stones.

My wedding was attended by
a herd of grasses, aloof birds, and stoic
carbons, all holding back tears to see
me get so grown-up.
The gap between my birth
and my daughters’
was a breath for the redwoods,
and I can feel their grandmother
gazes when we gather below their canopy.

We camp and the dry logs release
the sunlight that their mother trees
gathered over their years,
surrendering their partnership in our
aging.

“40 will be great,” they whisper through flames. “We’ve been there, we know.”

Poem 18 / Day 18

Ode to the Paper City / by Lindsay Adkins

A place of beginnings before our own,
of triassic rock cut by water from the north,
of paper birch toddling the edge of the ridge,
their catkins bowing out to oaks and pines
higher up-peak, the river mist in their branches,
of deer by the banks, of beavers gnawing through bark,
of the red-land hawk and the bass unhooked.
And endings, endings, we’ve got those, too:
the Pocomtuc, the lynx, and cougar—

No this isn’t how I want to start.

Praise it: the streetlights, the orange glow
over the lower wards, curled into the canal,
over the empty mills like split lips, their busted brick,
their gap-cracked windows and boarded-up holes.
Praise the workers now gone, spinning silk
that would never thread their own blue collars,
pounding paper for letters they’d never write.
Praise first the Irish, before they moved uphill
with their lace, then the French-Canadians,
keeping their language in their mouths,
then the Polish, the Germans, the Puerto Ricans.
Write out a graffiti lullaby…

Fuck it.

I want to write poems for this city.
I want to give it a voice. But it has one.
The voice of this city sounds like the historian
I met at Dunkin’ Donuts. He said the middle school
is going to be razed for a strip mall.
And that a car drove into the barber shop
across the street after the drugged-up driver nodded off.
The voice of this city sounds like my cousin
telling her high school class, seats filled
with Spanish-speaking ESL students, that the state
requires they read Beowulf.
The voice of this city sounds like that kid from high school
spinning his own artist space in an old paper mill.
The voice of this city sounds like a retired cop
who says no, no the crime rate is actually down
because less people live here now.
The voice of this city sounds like a five-college
Puerto Rican freshman asking her roommate,
where can you get empanadillas and mofongo around here?
The voice of this city sounds like the whole neighborhood
out in their pajamas and bathrobes watching
this month’s condemned building turn to fire and smoke,
shaking their heads because they know how quick
paper takes the flame but
the voice of this city sounds like
put it out put it out.
The voice of this city is sugared as
a mother calling her boys in from the pick-up
game in the alley. It is scratchy at the edges,
asks you for a cigarette in a tone that
reminds you of train wheels shrieking
on the tracks. It is persistent as church bells,
as rosaries said daily, as a store-front window
saying Jesus loves you. It is careful as
the thick-thighed woman in a mini-skirt
crossing the street to the park, and it is loud
as the car horns that blast at her.
Watch where you’re going, watch it, watch it
but also
You look so good baby, so fine to me—
get in.

Heliacal Rising / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

1. Albedo

The darkness was everywhere even in
the powder of stars. I was under soil
as if underwater without a course.
The seasons drifted in like a fog. See
it hanging on the far off trees like wreaths?
I am good at holding my breath, even
for this length of time. But, without air, one
loses sense – time softens like a bank of
a creek that’s slowly been washed out. I
forgot my story of origin — what
I’ve whispered to myself since I bloomed on
the sun-facing mountain in full purple.
Planted, my bones become weapons: Jag
of jawbone, saber of hip. I’ll fight out.

2. Pleiades

Then, one dark night, the swift cluster of stars
appears—seven glowing jewels hovering
on the eaves of the forest that hedges
our house as if they are still doves roosting,
awaiting dawn’s pink syrupy call. Once
their heliacal rising signaled the
beginning of a journey. So, too, I rise
from my grief into catasterism.
Shall we play a game of erasure? How
many times have their stories been re-told.
I’d like to believe they were the daughters
of Amazons. Women, too strong, to stay
rooted to the ground when the Gods pursued.
So they became, muscles, feathers and air.

3. Reintroduction

There is power in the re-telling. To
write the story on top of the story.
Up here, boomeranged in my orbit, time
refocuses, becomes the old friend it
once was. Seven strong bodied sisters are
pulling me up. We flex at the moon. Rain
is our power. Creeks, river, streams gather
our strength. Together we can disappear
whole cities in the wake of our mud. Once
I was a wild iris blooming on a
stony slope. Risked boots and their trample. Now,
celestial, my star weaves through the thick
arms of six others. Night falls and we will
rise into the true story of our lives.

Breaking Up with Bezos: An American Sonnet / by Anna Harris-Parker

I’d like to say it isn’t you, it’s me,
but as the title of this hardcover by baseball great
Jimmy Piersall (available with free shipping from your website,
of course) reads, The Truth Hurts. Our fifteen-year affair began
when we bonded over a used copy of En Un Acto:
Diez Piezas Hispanoamericanas
. From there,
our shared interests grew to include these tokens:
a black leather KU iPhone case, a Japanese stainless steel
Hori-Hori knife, one copy of The Parrot Heads Documentary.
Your penchant to provide instant gratification wooed me,
as did your friends Midge Maisel and Billy McBride,
but as our anniversary approaches, I find myself pulled in
a different direction—toward Main Street signs.
Two-day shipping, twitching, and streaming, buh-bye.

Poem Eighteen: Snow (Sermon) / by Ava M. Hu

 

This white flower.

Describe it using no words.

 

The outline of my hands

definite as this snow,

 

definite as the language

of birds come morning.

 

The angel forbidden

to speak his true name.

 

We appear and disappear

like magic.

Photography by Josh Axelrod

Yosemite, yesterday / by Manfred Luedge

Uncle Jack has made a spectacle
of himself once again.
Abundance and total lack
of restraint is what leads to such
displays. Maybe he had a wager
that he could clean a bowl
of whipped cream without a spoon
without a finger, just licking it
down to the bottom.
And now his beard is layered
with a thick lush white.

This is what the trees look like.
and it is a spectacle, a miracle
of sorts. The mountain side,
the rock formations, El Capitan
and all the others, the Firs
and Sugar Pines and Sycamore,
the fields and roads and hiking
trails, all blanketed in snow.

And now and then thick dollops
of whiteness break loose and slide
to the ground and with a puff
release a dusty plume of snow.
The landscape almost lost
all color. There’s only light and
dark, all shades of white and black
and all the greys between.
The snow topped mountains blend
seamless with the clouds and fog.

Sometimes, when it’s still enough,
you stand and listen
half expecting the howls
of a distant wolf pack or
the rustle of a winter coated
rabbit hustling for cover.
Then you resume your walk
and each step reminds you
of the sound you made as kids
grinding your teeth over
rubber bands or of the sound
of row boats strapped to the dock
gently rocking with the waves
and water slapping against
the wooden piers.

There’s nothing happening.

A Lover’s Quarrel / by Jayne Marek

But I am not a visionary
and water could not teach me to write
despite the patient way it braided and unbraided
its own hair to show me

and storm did not teach me to write
despite blue boulders it dashed to earth
and its way of stopping to listen to the aftermath
of a particular word
before starting again with its yammer

and no, not morning glories
that crept in the maidengrass, wearing pale bells
that wanted to ring
no, I chopped those tendrils with a hoe
they returned the next day
for more chopping

when I walked in desert, the sand did not teach me
to write
when I pared the stinking rind of cheese
to try something that had grown old in its way
and touched it to my tongue,
that did not

I am waiting
for something to teach me to write

a pickling vat
the disassembling layers of a hunk of plywood
leaning against a porch
not my own
a pair of sheep clippers abandoned
frowzy with filaments
no bag of wool in sight

nutriments / by Matthew Mumber

when things fall apart,

which they often do,

questions emerge,

first sprouts of spring.

When I am

patient,

visceral,

slow to judge

after the fall,

the fertile soil of failure

nurtures new resolve,

sustenance not provided by

success.

A Perfect Night / by Sol Smith

It’s cold and clear and covered
with stars. It’s a perfect night
to go to the beach and wish
we brought heavier sweaters.

But that’s not all we could do,
because it’s a perfect night
for staying in and dimming the lights
and our senses. A perfect night
for washing our hair and folding
clothes and running hot water
over our skin and
perform other little acts of
self care.

It’s a perfect night to tap
out patterns in the air in low voices
and share time and touches
and retell stories that need
repetition to become more real.

It’s a perfect night to breathe
and sleep
and roll over in sync
and pretend
we can afford our rent
and that our future will be brighter
than our past beyond statistical
error

and to forget the bruises we’ve
been dealt anyway
and smash open the reasons
we’ve conformed the ways we
have conformed and
to build and build
our little life before we race each
other to old age and death and
everything else.

After all, it’s cold
and clear
and covered
with stars.

salt lake / by Valerie Spain

the swans fly into the salt lake
behind the dunes
and we follow them

their feathers wash up on shore
scattered along the lake shore
are white feathers
rotting grasses and algae
the discarded shells of periwinkle and clam
and the delicate carapaces of crabs
all swaying in the tide

we walk ankle deep in warm water
you walk ahead
our son on your back
and I make a game of walking
in your footsteps

the soles of your feet
are covered with swan feathers
but you are oblivious
as always
to the possibility of flight

Poem 17 / Day 17

Sifting / by Lindsay Adkins

You pull my arm
around and over

your belted hip
the next morning

while we are standing
at the café counter

watching the baker
flurry confectioner’s sugar

over the day’s scones
and while he sifts the powder

I remember the way
you covered me last night

like a dusting,
the first light snow

that melts into
the November mud,

not meant
to stay the winter.

Strong / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

When you look through the glass wall toward the hills
that spell golden to the sea, do you feel
the power that is coming to you? It’s
the same power you sent to me the day
the world echoed with my mother’s death. I’m
here to remind you that sometimes when we
enter the gym we carry everything:
our torn up hearts, a rage that comes from not
having control of our lives. You know you
can’t lift a heavy barbell with all that
ballast. But, trust that when you grip the bar
your mind will clear, your muscles will pull taut.
And, suddenly, you will become weightless.
A machine that roars with your own power.

Golden / by Anna Harris-Parker

for Kyle

Sometimes, I miss living
in that first floor apartment
at 409 North Rock Road
in Wichita, surviving

on Special K and wine.
On weekends, we read poems,
ours and others, around
a green dining table.

Vassar Miller’s “If I Had Wheels
or Love” stayed taped to my fridge
for months. One winter weekend,
we flew to NYC, took in

Hairspray and Avenue Q,
ate late at some hole-in-the-wall,
laughed with delight when the Times
Square bellhops asked if we were

from LA. We were golden,
my huckleberry friend.

Poem Seventeen: Murmuration / by Ava M. Hu

Light doesn’t hold for long.

Water runs from one body to the next.

I believe everything you say.

There are a thousand words for snow.

Audible outlines of holy language.

Bright faces of flowers turn towards the dark.

Language can be misunderstood.

Add thought to place. Add place to thing.

Dark substance we find ourselves floating in.

Those who live collectively.

Those who move through space.

Shoulder bent forward from bearing rain.

Hand who takes you in.

Shed skin like a snake.

Earth spilling on earth.

Transfer thought to thought.

The bright mouth of the sun.

Murmuration.

Photography by Josh Axelrod

The enrollment interview / by Manfred Luedge

He’s a skinny kid,
grew up on the rough side of town.
Got himself tattooed.
All over his arms. Up his neck
and who knows where else on his body.
Even on the carefully shaved
right halve of his head.
To look tough.
To keep the bullies away.
He’s got skulls and cross bones
and a heart with wings,
one each for “Mom” and Beyoncé.

His dark hair where he lets it grow
is woven into tiny braids
each with a brightly colored bead
tied to its end.

His boss sent him over
to get enrolled in that
Obamacare ‘cause he don’t want him
on his workman’s comp
after some stupid late night fight.

Your boss is a smart man, I say.
I know, says he, he’s givin’ me one
more chance but only if
my parole guy agrees.
He shrugs.

I’m sitting there in my buttoned-down shirt
and tie, looking at him across my desk.
I’ll need your Social and your driver’s license
and I need to know how much you make
each month to see if you qualify.
But the ethnic background questions
are optional!

He looks at me. A sly grin
pulls at the corners of his mouth
making the silver ring
around his lower lip slide
to the right a bit further.
Yeah, sure, he says.

But his grin says,
you bet your white ass
they’re optional.

I tuck at my collar.
It’s too tight and I’m too hot.
And I blush.

Robins / by Jayne Marek

Today they’re clamorous in the brow
of the bare maple trees, now that snow
has relented and the birds can see
yard dirt with all its promises, some green

nubs edging through the yellowy
bulb leaves I never cleared away
and that now probably hide
a few beetles. And I’d scattered

small raisins during the worst
part of last week’s hard freeze.
Now the robins fluff their orange
breasts in mutual challenge,

having made it through, and begin
to run through the variety of songs
they reserve for spring.
In the trees,
among the round robin tummies.

a few svelte, crested silhouettes,
shorter bodies, tell-tale masks.
Silent, waiting to dart out
in quick bug-catching flights,

five cedar waxwings keep an eye
on the other birds, on us, behind
the window. I’m grateful, because
the robins’ chatter that alerted us

to their belief in spring’s arrival
reminded us of other unfurling
signals of life returning, whether or not
we sing, or simply admire and wait.

The Big Day / by Matthew Mumber

it arrives,

and no matter what,

I am never really

ready,

every detail not stone

set,

momentum takes over,

time to

go.

 

my body lets me know

something is up.

warm hollow gut feel

first, followed by

imperceptible sweat.

then thoughts scatter,

too many to filter,

some spill

into robotic actions,

some into

unexpected words.

feelings trail,

numbed delay.

 

I’ve been here before:

first day of school,

child birth,

marriage,

new house.

Holmes and Rahe

had it pegged:

social readjustment

measured in

life change units,

awareness welcome.

 

regardless,

I have learned

the hard way:

the path to control

rests

on the fragile ground

of surrender.

Warming Light / by Sol Smith

Outside the tent,
there’s a bird who seems to be
in some kind of panic,
but only when I start to drift off.

The coals are still hot
enough to kindle flame
to a morning log
and the fire is hot enough
to make coffee.

The coffee doesn’t ward
off the panicking bird,
but her voice doesn’t bother
those left in the tent.

It’s easier to breathe in
the warming mountain light.
It’s easier to be awake,
my hands full with a book
and a mug.
The bird was panicked
that I would sleep through
this realization.

Poem 16 / Day 16

But Her Emails: A Ghazal / by Lindsay Adkins

for Abbie Spies

My mother needed to sleep—but her emails,
those nighttime prayers for anything but her emails.

Marie Curie, with her husband’s electrometer, his radioactivity,
the x-ray machines that showed what? Her emails.

The pastor, he shot Keanna in Detroit just
because she wanted to strut her emails.

And I know why the sky swallowed Amelia’s plane—
before boarding, she forgot to jut her emails.

When applause came for Lorraine’s Raisin, the FBI started
to watch her, investigate, aimed to smut her emails.

Monica, those bangs and red matte pout, collared
shirts pouring over with baby fat. Slut! HER emails!

In Puerto Rico, Luisa was first to go out in pants,
was jailed because a lady should shut her emails.

She had to go to the stake, you see. I mean Joan. Nuts.
Raided her computer and they were nuts, her emails.

Sojourner is a woman without my saying it, but after
the speech a white lady still wanted to gut her emails.

A new Genesis: after she was slashed from his rib and the
snake ruined it all, Eve took God’s scissors to cut her emails.

That Lindsay, why can’t she write some happy shit?
After reading this, you’ll want to tut-tut her emails.

Sink Hole / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

History is built on a fault, she said
as the river caught its underground current.

Driveway has washed out. We are done drifting
our cartography from place to blown place.

A silver boat lies like a question on
the side of the road. River keeps rising.

It is our heritage to continue
through dust storm, drought, fire, flood, mudslide, earthquake.

The woods around our house lean in listening
for what the seasons have to offer up.

When you re-route a river; re-stitch a
seam. Something breaks. Hope is our escape route.

My grandmother sat close as her radio
spit hate. Even a small spark can ignite.

When you live this close to a river, this
close to the woods, this close to a faultline—

better know your way out, fast. How will I
pack all her hate? Once saw a river stitched

into the ceiling. Blue, silver sequins
snaking across; as if change could be caught.

This time we will dig out. We will sandbag.
This time our mouths are dry, stuffed with feathers.

On Faith / by Anna Harris-Parker

Truth be told, I envy
those who walk with Jesus,

talk with God, say things
like You’re in my prayers.

The Lord will provide.
without batting an eye.

I do believe
in a higher power,

particularly in
the small morning hours

when nature first wakes:
a yellow-breasted finch

lands on the bare branch
outside my office window,

a double daffodil
catches the climbing sun.

As for me and my heart,
we shall serve the lore

of a different kindness:
faceless, nameless—

out there all the same.

Afterlife / by Ava M. Hu

To close, conceal, intitiate.

Under ice, alternate states of consciousness, cold water.

Two characters stand in a field. The origins of reincarnation obscure.

The river frozen over, the afterlife.

 

Under ice, alternate states of consciousness, cold water.

Between faith and doubt, adjectives for precipitation.

The river frozen over, the afterlife.

Fruit of the dead. One hand clapping.

 

Between faith and doubt, adjectives for precipitation.

Cross the muddy river. Silk slips from your hand.

Fruit of the dead. One hand clapping.

Suspension of disbelief, the hidden will of God.

 

Cross the muddy river. Silk slips from your hand.

Two characters stand in a field. The origins of reincarnation obscure.

Suspension of disbelief, the hidden will of God.

To close, conceal, initiate.

Photography by Josh Axelrod

Life is an endless list of losses. / by Manfred Luedge

Some trivial. You lost your glasses,
your wallet, your homework.
Some more severe: the loss of
a job, a home, a friend, a parent.
Sometimes, what’s lost can be found
again, regained, replaced.

Some things are gone for good,
irretrievable. And sometimes
the loss is for the better even
if that realization is long in coming.

How close our clinging heart
has been to the lost object
relates directly to how bad
we feel about the loss, how hurt,
how deserted, robbed, cheated
out of what is rightfully ours…

We’re losing skin cells at such a rate,
our living space needs dusting once
a week. But we don’t care.
Nor do we care about nail clippings,
naval lint, and beads of sweat. Some men
can even handle their loss of hair.
But more essential parts and functions?
A digit, a limb, an ear, your eyesight.
How do you deal with that?

How do you not feel un-whole, disfigured,
when you lost your face to a piece
of shrapnel, or your breast
to cancer?

Some losses I can only imagine
and some I can’t imagine at all.

There are the teachings and there’s
the life in which we’re so caught up.

There is no blame.

Change / by Jayne Marek

Wind leaps around house corners
to rattle the trees,
tossing tops, side branches,
the lower sweeps of pines,
the flexible young alders.
They reach, are pushed apart,
leaves and needles
spin to the ground.
Your shoes on the porch
flip over,
one then the other,
hop across the street.
The wind’s accusation
squeals along rooflines,
window sills, doorframes,
shaking
till they loosen.
One shoe has vanished.
The other hesitates,
rolls
into a ditch.

liminal / by Matthew Mumber

in between

unknown and

known

there is a

space

pregnant

quivering

liquid mercury

 

I wait there unformed

longing

for life to shape me

So. / by Sol Smith

Sponges drew carbon
from the oceans
making limestone
on a planet that was mostly empty space.

The land was void,
even of rivers,
without the regulating forces
of roots and grass.

What was it even doing here,
for half a billion years,
establishing life and
a sense of identity?

Imagine the overwhelming
effort applied when a
repetitive drop of water
Makes a stalactite.
But each drop build a step
in the story of a billion creatures,
living, dying, and evolving.

The face of the planet,
far from static,
even the stars in the night
projected changing forms
over the coming forevers.

The slate is wiped clean
a few times
with dramatic flourish,
directions change,
or seem to.

But each step, each life,
each quake and each storm
was the quickest path
through an impossible maze of probability
that has climaxed
with you
reaching your fingers
out to mine.

Poem 15 / Day 15

Precious Blood Fire / by Lindsay Adkins

On the Feast of Corpus Christi, May 27th, 1875 the French-Canadian Precious Blood church in Holyoke, Massachusetts, burned down after a candle ignited the veil on top of the Blessed Virgin statue. Seventy-eight people died, 55 of them women and girls.

We know this now: if we breathe,
the flame will swell its chest, too, inhale
deeper than our lungs can reach, strapped
in corsets laced, tight skirts, petticoats.

The logs and wood, shaped into worship,
into Amen, into Seigneur Dieu, prends pitié
de nous—filled with sun and heat they birthed
their bark backwards, into fire and smoke.

It ended with our burnt bodies in the ground,
stacked as those logs. But if you drift like ash
over your own shoulder, past the schoolhouse
morgue, where the rough R’s in our names clogged

the palates of the English officials, past the spray
of the hose, the screams, the smell of scorched skin,
even past the pile of humans at the door that opened
only inward, our footsteps on the narrow staircase,

you will hear us singing of wheat and holy water,
how it melts into divine flesh on our tongues.
You will see us turn our heads as a breeze
lifts through a sanctuary window,

kicks up the lace around the head
of the Blessed Virgin statue, so it curls
into the lighted candle. You wouldn’t believe
how fast a woman’s prayer can ignite.

Letting the Drought Go / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

What’s under field’s vinculum: apple-seed,
soil, quiet whispers of roots, cricket’s
liquid silver voices waiting to sing
the stars back to life. Above, we’re all weight
and pressure, stuffed with our to-dos. Mind gone
callous as our hands. Rain pummels the tin
roof until there’s no way out, driveway’s washed
away – What will we do when we can no
longer feel our way?
Still, sun will cut through,
a bevy of quail scurry down the blown
driveway in search of seeds freed by rain— we
forget the days were once fragile, made of
dust and drought. Can’t see we aren’t center
of this pulsing, untamable world.

Forgiveness, Not Permission / by Anna Harris-Parker

“Mothers of daughters are daughters of mothers and have remained so, in circles joined to circles, since time began.”—Signe Hammer

I have something to tell you—
no joke or anecdote
but a confession.
I am writing our women.
I am sorting through
twenty years of questions:
Did you ever? Did you know?
For how long? When did you?
What did you? Wasn’t there?
Why didn’t you? Who else?
What else? I believe
prolonged grief transitions
into trauma and trauma
is hereditary—
like arched eyebrows, clapping
a hand over a gaping
mouth to hide crooked teeth.
I am writing you and me—
what it means to be descendant
of you, your daughter:
such mystery, such liberty.

After Sonnets to Orpheus Rainer Maria Rilke / by Ava M. Hu

No fret, no dark string across

this white landscape can resist him.

 

Palpitating air. Intimations.

Even the rocks have ears.

 

Leave no bread on the table.

It invites the dead.

 

Spells and incantations.

Even the rocks have ears.

 

Her hands still mark you.

Invite the dead.

Photography by Josh Axelrod

+Found words from Sonnets 1-5

Rain / by Manfred Luedge

I used to wake up
in a panic from the sound of it.
Good god, we don’t have tarps
at the job site.
Jeans, shoes, jacket.
Call the guys on my way
to the lumber yard.
Tell the client not to worry.
I do enough of that
to last for all of us.

Now, I listen enrapt
to the rhythmic patter:
fingers drumming
on a tin can.
The plop, plop of the first
fat drops announcing
boldly what’s to come
from those thick, black
clouds billowing across
the sky like smoke
from the sun chariot’s
rubber tires.
The gurgle of water
and debris rushing
down gutters and spouts.

All of it a symphony of life,
an Ode to Joy,
a Gregorian choir
singing praises.

What Did You Love About Sisley? / by Jayne Marek

Was it the broken light of day amid
winter oaks, with their empty branches,
that spoke for you, whom you thought no one heard?
You liked the snowy paintings best,
in which a single trail of footprints wandered
through the drifted streets of old French villages.
Sometimes a garden wall prickly with vines
framed human figures, tiny in the landscape.

Fog and mist, the dust of summer fields,
haze of sun over a river, all were strategies
Sisley used to soften worlds of work.
As the artist did, a viewer falls in love,
forgets, for a few minutes, to worry, forgets
the loneliness, the hard stones underfoot.

need me / by Matthew Mumber

Hello, my name is Matt.

I am a help-aholic.

My tan baseball cap

inscribed “need me”,

is a re-minder.

Addiction to being needed

can be a good and fine thing,

as long as I stay

aware.

When I catch myself

serving for some expected return,

I must stop,

remember:

true gifts come from

the already owned,

there is no use

in counting costs.

Alarm / by Sol Smith

Four a.m. rolls along mercilessly.
Close your eyes and you’re
already there, a scratched record
skipping over a favorite chorus
of some song.

Time necessitates effort.

he said / by Valerie Spain

he said
it will be holy
what we do
he said
it will be a sacrament

believe me
he said
I would not lie
to you

that’s what he said

what he did
was different

 

To Read Our February 2019 Poets’ First 14 Days of Poetry, Click Here!