The 30/30 Project: August 2020

Backup / Restore

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.

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The volunteers for August 2020 are Daisy Bassen, Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum, Taiyon Coleman, Mary Crockett Hill, Cole Depuy, William Erickson, Daniel Fitzpatrick, and Lee Parpart. Read their full bios here.

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

Poem 13 / Day 13

Turritopsis dohrnii, philosopher’s stone, monstrous moonshine / by Daisy Bassen

Immortal jellyfish, as their name blasts in your face,
Live forever. And what do they do with that?
What sonnets have they written? What thoughtful proofs
Have they submitted to a jury of their mathematical peers?
I’d settle for an aria of unsurpassed beauty,
One you’d do whatever necromancy required (herbs,
A piebald goat’s thymus, an incantation about the firstborn)
To bring Maria Callas back to sing.
                                                               To think there are people
Alive who heard Callas, maybe not in her prime,
But when you are supreme, the shoulder season is glorious.
Like roses. They’re bred for continual beauty
Or fragrance, even if they are not the top note
In any perfume I want to wear; grey amber,
Ambergris, floated in to cold beaches, whales’ beneficence.

Remind me why we left the sea? We come back every year
If we can. Implausible, scaly mermaids (never mermen)
Cannot lose their appeal. Dolphins, my son tells me,
Are always ready to fuck.

YOU ARE THE MOON THAT BREAKS THE NIGHT FOR WHICH I HAVE TO HOWL / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

after Florence Welch

You, in all your shining wealth and glory,
are not worthy of any praise, and yet —
the life you promise glimmers like a wet
moon. I have heard story after story
that tells of your betrayal, unholy
breaks of the vows which signers don’t forget,
the lies which make me wish we hadn’t met —
night falls, leads me into desire’s quarry,
for your appeal is greater than my sense,
which flees with every small validation.
I hope not to be kept long in suspense,
have the strength to feed you my creation —
to God, though, I cannot make my defense,
howl when fame has lost me heaven’s station.

I Got the Power: Mr. Charles Gregory[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

I walk west on 103rd street to the south side salon because going
to get your hair “did” only happens on special occasions. “Baby
girl come on in,” warmly welcomes me, and there I sit safe for hours
waiting not daring to complain of time. At the salon, I get to be grown,
as I lowkey ear hustle on grown folks’ business. “Yes girl!” “no child!”
and Praise God!” bounce around. Men and women tell their stories, cry
deep cries and receive much needed advice. From the shampoo chair to
the deep conditioning dryer, warm bodies and stealth stylists coif conversations,
confidence and finesse hair of black and brown bodies like the survival
waves of a middle passage. Once in the shop chair, blistering old-school
marcel curlers click and clack like the Matrix while hot combs sizzle
and fry. “Pop,” and the heat over the top of my ear and the quick mint
breath of the stylist soothes the warmth of what I know is a burn. No bother.
As the chair is pumped up, I am turned to the mirror that only gifted artists
create forging iron, hair, fire and fate. You see the hairdresser is sacred,
like entering a string theory dimension. You are only there because you
know someone, who knows another somebody who gets their hair done
there, and you were able to get fit in. Hooked up. If you are lucky, the stylist
may like you, and you may get to come back to avoid walking around looking
crazy.

[1] (11Alive), Author: Jason Braverman. “Tyler Perry Loses Longtime Crew Member to COVID-19, Begs Black People to ‘Take This Seriously’.” 11Alive.Com, 9 Apr. 2020, www.11alive.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/tyler-perry-loses-longtime-crew-member-to-covid-19-begs-black-people-to-take-this-seriously/85-dc5d285a-ce05-4a77-aad8-cbe86165910c.

It’s Thursday and I Google Paranoia / by Mary Crockett Hill

did the woman in dollar general have corona

is it wrong to judge a woman for getting chicken nuggets

it is wrong to judge a woman if she doesn’t wear a mask

is it wrong to judge a woman for bringing all six of her kids into the dollar general for frozen chicken nuggets and all of them without masks

woman with polite sad chipped tooth smile so skinny red hair and I could tell some suffering in there

how close for transfer of corona

i could only see her smile because no mask

reasons someone wouldn’t leave little kids in a car with the older kids

is it wrong

what does it mean if you can taste someone’s breath through your mask

are corona droplets as small as smell

is corona as small as cigarette smoke

is corona as small as cigarette smoke smell

how small is smell

how small is scent

size of smell molecules

what does tiny mean

can you smell in n95 mask

symptoms of corona

how long between exposure and symptoms corona

what if anne shirley never got out

is corona going to kill us

what to do if exposed to corona

why am i so stinky

loss of smell and corona

does everyone who has corona lose sense of smell

how long until smell loss corona

she was sweet to her kids in the boisterous selfconscious way of the poor

of my past

size of smell molecule vs size of coronavirus droplet

can you smell in coffin

friends but maybe not close

is mask filter working if you can smell

how exactly small is motherfucking smell

Letter of Recommendation to Yale for a Houseplant / by Cole Depuy

Dear Yale College Admissions Committee,

I have known Ivy Goldchild since she sprouted, having served as both her gardener & her supervisor at the Horticultural Center Biodiversity Initiative. I believe Ivy would make a great addition to Yale’s Forestry & Environmental Studies Program.

While a plant at the Goldseed’s residence, Ivy always branched out to any & all of her peers. She is well-trimmed, low maintenance & a pleasure to anyone with a green thumb. Ivy even has the ability to be propagated, if one of her just isn’t enough!

Ivy also excels in both partial & full sun. She has been fertilized every month, Spring-Fall, for her entire life & she has produced some insightful, thought-provoking foliage. Her ability to be pruned from such a young age has given her deeper roots than many of her fellow vines.

I knew she was special when she began growing faster than the other plants. That’s when I began speaking to her nightly in an effort to get to know one another. Two years later, she was Smithfield’s Plant of the Month for July 2020.

Ivy has shined in some of the nation’s finest pots & I’m confident she will continue to do so. She would bring so much to Yale, both inside and outside of the greenhouse.

Sincerely,
Meadow Reed

Consideration of the House Finch / by William Erickson

Consider this house finch
I hold, the weight it carries
not felt by my hand.

A couple of dollars will
buy seed and a cigarette,

or will stretch to eternity
as often as is given

my two cents, my two minutes
passed by for a wing beating.

More than once today
I forgot my heart pulsing
on the bar like fruit

gone sincerely ripe,
myself and an apple core,
no trees in the yard

but a couple of seconds
to grow in spring when it’s here.

I count six beats of the wings
before I cannot feel them.

How many of them have I
spent on my cigarette break.

Inheritance / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

In the three realms of the dead
I learned Italian and began to speak
with my great-grandfather who ran
a grocery in the thirties and sent
my great-grandmother to live alone
deep in the bend of the River
with a knife taped to a mop handle
tucked beneath her bed.

I met Lydia, my godmother, her arms
to the elbows like wine with kneading
wool in pools of dye. She rested on
the rim of the silver tub, and cochineal
licked down her fingers. It clung
to the waxing crescent nails and vanished

into itself as we began again with what
I’d whispered into her ear while the others’
glances swung between the door and
the three o’clock darkness at the windows,
wondering what way death would come.

And we spoke our remembered language,
and a motionless candle cast its opacity
upon the purple surface till a face
appeared. It spread itself in limbs
and silver hair and turned the baleful frame
of its glance to taste our newborn tongue.

It lifted its candid arm and was
my great-grandmother, ecstatic, still
gripping the impromptu lance of her
spurned hermitage. She could not speak
to us, and in the chill insistence of her voice

I returned to myself on the hard grass,
staring into the stars and surrounded
by three urns. Cana came to me.
Lignite, emerald, porphyry, the three
stood full and frozen, hissing now and then
as drops rained from the stars
in the slow melt of memory.

Love-Love / by Lee Parpart

for Andre and Margaret, if those are your real names

In this dive bar for tennis virgins, lonely singles, and the recently wounded, no one keeps score. This works for me. I have a preference for hitting instead of games.

I meet you there, at the practice wall behind Holy Name school: two Ukrainians with
racquets fresh from Canadian Tire.

We’re keeping six Jesuses between us and chatting when you confess you’ve never played.

I watch you flail for a while, then look for an opening and offer a few tips. This could have been obnoxious, but I am full of easy charm today, and am forgiven my trespasses.

It helps that you are quick studies, taking your ground strokes from a 3 to a 6 while I cheer from the sidelines.

On your way out, we smile at a distance, share names, talk of seeing each other around the neighbourhood.

We could have swapped numbers. Enough intimacy had passed between us: lists of broken bones, glories and defeats. I told you about my right knee. You described the fall that ended your volleyball career.

Truth sails into the air, a weak lob waiting for an overhead smash. We squint too long at the sun and the chance never comes.

Is it my original sin to thrive on these fleeting games with strangers I’ll never see again?

What if Adam and Eve had gone their separate ways, never shared a meal?

Poem 12 / Day 12

Liar’s Paradox / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

You’re fine.
Trust me.
I’m not lying.
Actions speak
louder than words.

This is not a poem.

“Downstream Effects[1]: Milton McGriff“[2] / by Taiyon Coleman

My momma never learned how to swim
“so, if you don’t come back with my kids
you better not bother coming back at all,”
she shouted at Brother as his truck pulled
out. “Nothing’s going happen to your kids
Cheryl! Damn. They’re wearing life jackets,”
uncle yelled and kept driving, and the day
went pretty much like that. We jug fished
from my uncle’s boat, roasted marshmallows
and ate hotdogs on the banks until the darkness
forced us and our bleach bottle traps back to
the strip pit shores. Alive and dry we returned
to Momma, and after that day, she stopped telling
the stories of her childhood friend, a black redbone
boy, who drowned in Sparta lake.

Because of Momma, my kids live a different life
with lessons at the local YMCA. Though small,
they swim like schools of stygian fish never
questioning that they once breathed water, and my
heart leaps and beats with their every tread, flip,
and dive, as I watch them submerge my fear to push
their lapis joy forward. They don’t know that their
Grandma wasn’t allowed to swim in the “whites only”
swimming pool and that their momma didn’t learn how
to swim until she was an adult because there was no blue
chlorinated water for inner-city Chicago latchkey kids.
To swim was to fly and flying came with fear.

At a play date pool party, I still made my children
wear life vests. Yes, they could swim, but there were
no duty lifeguards, and I couldn’t trust a backyard pool
party with suburban moms, small talk and gluten free
foods. Respectful, my kids laughed and swam like
ocean buoys, not complaining about the conspicuous
weight of their vests. “You’re making it harder for them.
They will do better without the jackets. They really can
swim,” my friend told me, and initially, I was offended.
“Good mothers build safety nets,” I snapped back at him,
“but your kids aren’t in danger of dying,” he snapped back.
Eventually, the party ended, and I was left with his words
like grit and sand between my toes. “Did you have a good time?”
I asked my kids. “Yeah!” they replied. It would be awhile
before I noticed the preserver ring his words had thrown me,
swaying. I grasped on tight. See I was the one drowning,
and my kids were working overtime to rescue me. 

[1] Amy Goldstein, Emily Guskin. “Almost One-Third of Black Americans Know Someone Who Died of Covid-19, Survey Shows.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 26 June 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/health/almost-one-third-of-black-americans-know-someone-who-died-of-covid-19-survey-shows/2020/06/25/3ec1d4b2-b563-11ea-aca5-ebb63d27e1ff_story.html.

[2] WRITER, Chanel Hill TRIBUNE STAFF. “Activist and Former Tribune Journalist Milton McGriff Dies at 81.” The Philadelphia Tribune, 27 Apr. 2020, www.phillytrib.com/obituaries/activist-and-former-tribune-journalist-milton-mcgriff-dies-at-81/article_c134a6ff-5755-5e20-99e1-3eebb3c90090.html.

Bigfoot Talks to the Space above His Head / by Mary Crockett Hill

Stan who is dead was my own chest drum
but all my lovers are named Joe
so Stan must be been Joe…?
It’s this kind of thing that makes it
hard to get off of the rock in the morning.
But Stan who is also Joe, he
gave me once these rubbing sticks
to make my fire-starting easier.
He never tried to take my picture.
He ate my soup.
It was nice.
Stan called it groovy.
I know you are just birds and branches and everything
but sometimes I think you get me.
You knew Stan, too.
You knew his beautiful hair.

The Fugitive / by Cole Depuy

the foxtail fern
on the bookshelf is dying
yellow pines splinter the carpet

outside
I shake it like a reckless child

grasshoppers disperse
yellow wings tumble
the dirt
how they filter window screens
I do not know

crouching
my hand cups one
feels a tickle of its jump

I squeeze
until black paste parts my knuckles
my tongue tracing the length
of my palm’s sun line

natural success
I bury the brine in my chest

I Can’t Understand Your Secrets / by William Erickson

All day there has been a
hummingbird following me,
telling me secrets I can’t
understand because we
do not speak the same
language. I left the house
for a while — went for a
walk to the gas station,
where they sell secrets
behind the counter and
cigarettes above it,
remembered the smoke
that my sister couldn’t keep
secret but that I could,
somehow. The hummingbird
waited outside while I
picked up a lighter so it
didn’t feel like I’d gone there
for nothing. Walking back,
the sky was silver and the
hummingbird silver and
for a moment I lost all the
difference between them,
nothing more than another
imaginative breach in the
summer-thin clouds. For lunch
I made scrambled eggs
out of tofu so that I didn’t ruin
the secrets of chickens eggs,
and the hummingbird rested
a second then lifted itself
to my ear. Its voice was the sound
of a solar system, the sound of
a sun being cooled by the ocean.
It was the smallest I’d ever been,
no bigger than its heartbeat.
I became lost.
I became a trivial thing.
By evening its voice was the rain
in October a couple of months yet
to fall, something artless on the
windowpane keeping secrets
with the moonlight and I.
When I slept there was no
hummingbird at all, just myself
and the blood that keep secrets
even from me.
There are never any secrets.
There are evenings and mornings
and ways to feel small.

Habit / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

You must know that the limbs rise higher
on the maple’s northern side
and when the Fish would flicker
on your end of the horizon
if you wish to see the bear.

You must go past the last cut stump
to the lightning’s final carving.
Rest your gun in the raw gash
and hang the compass and bottle
from the bark’s charred tines

and stop beside the oxbow so
your face might be the fly
the brooding bass has never seen
and let it rise. Nothing itself will swell
in its rippleless disappearance.

After months hunting woods most
remote you’ll hear a neighbor’s seen it
pawing the packed earth beneath
the feeder. Your brother, dropping by
between D.C. and Dallas, will snap

a photo up the road as he pulls in.
Keep on until its stench blinds you,
until it rises, daring your eyes to climb
to invisible stars simmering on its shoulder.
No one will know, and nothing will descend again.

Our Two Countries / by Lee Parpart

                                    for Tes

At the register, we handle produce and
talk taxes, wonder

at our two countries, the only ones that
follow their citizens forever.

You weigh nearly ripe avocados and
whisper Eritrea, without longing.

I fill my bin with apples, Ambrosia, and
cringe at the state

of things to the south, country of my
birth.

I speak as though it existed unbroken.

Your wife had a baby two months ago,
a healthy girl, and the hospital stay was
just fine.

I buy produce, more than I need.
I like the owner too much to leave.

Poem 11 / Day 11

Rimas dissoulatas when up is down / by Daisy Bassen

I wrote my letter to the ethicist
On the shore, well aware of the tide’s reach;
The iterations of incursion clear
As bite marks, as the signatures of old
Voters who learned a proper penmanship.

It was a struggle to find words; they resist
Being forced to a pointless task when each
Could do more with more respect. Something dear,
Necessary, beautiful, stories told
That remind you of our jocund kinship

With terns, damselflies, all aloft: a list
Where we’re grateful for dead last. You can’t teach
Me what I already know, my just fear
Doesn’t merit, warrant judgment. I hold
Truths to be self-evident. Get a grip.

Endurance / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Meredith

If at first, we can survive,
soon we will learn to persist.
And once we’ve tried to abide
by these new rules, let’s sustain
what we have gained, continue
to resist despair — endure.

What form of this endurance
determines our survival?
Is it our continual
prayer, aerobic persistence,
support for sustainable
energy, mask compliance?

What have the rich abided
that the poor have more endured?
What wounds have others sustained,
and possibly not survived?
If few had not persisted,
what harm would have continued?

Along these continuing
lines, let’s find abiding
love for the ones persisting.
The shared act of enduring
pain — suffering, surviving —
is vitally sustaining.

When we seek more sustenance
than simple continuance
and the title, “survivor,”
it’s time for the abider
to build their own endurance
and become the resistor.

Though avarice still persists
and against the grain sustains
vitriol, he who endures
pure torture and continues
outshines the one who abides.
She who fights the tide, survives.

Endurance and the urge to persist
survive every failed nation, sustain
continued unrest — this we abide.

“Can’t Turn Around: Rana Zoe Mungin”[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

“Everybody can’t sing the solo,” my choir director shouts
and that was just fine with me. There was something about
the song that sounded just right when I was alone, but when
I sang it in front of others, all the words sounded staccato.

I never really wanted to be in the spotlight anyway. Who wants
all that bright fright when Sister was really the star? She died
of asthma fifteen years ago, and I still hear her singing “We Come
this Far by Faith”[2] in the mornings before I get out of bed. Cardinals
fly by my window, and Spirit tells me it’s her, ruby red, light and free.

“Every black person can’t sing,” I tell my choir director. “Yeah. Just
not you!” he replies, and I wonder am I really made “black and bid to sing.”[3]
What good is a love of words, writing and music and teaching others when
it’s all filtered through the expectations of my skin? To be beautiful is not the
best thing in the world. Being smart is better, to be able to sing is wonderful
but breathing is best.

[1] Graham, Renée. “A Beloved Teacher Dies from Coronavirus. Unconscious Bias in Health Care May Have Hastened Her Death. – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com, The Boston Globe, 1 May 2020, www.bostonglobe.com/2020/05/01/opinion/beloved-teacher-dies-coronavirus-unconscious-bias-health-care-may-have-hastened-her-death/.
[2] Malaco Gospel. “We’ve Come This Far By Faith.” Rev. Milton Biggham – , 17 Oct. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=81a7V0MhJpg.
[3] “Yet Do I Marvel by Countee Cullen.” By Countee Cullen – Famous Poems, Famous Poets. – All Poetry, allpoetry.com/Yet-Do-I-Marvel.

Bigfoot Considers the Tip of Ursa Minor’s Tail / by Mary Crockett Hill

little bear, so far away
your bright stutter seems
a sort of forgiveness
though i understand
from my reading
it’s really more a matter of
thermal distortion,
atmospheric scintillation,
light deflected
as if through a body
of water

is that what stands between our worlds
–an ocean that changes
how we make each other out?

how i wish i could
take you by the hand
and show you my forest
that one tree by the water
with the tenderest acorns

i was something like a little bear once, too

but i know if i stood at the center of your being
i would burn

digging the new leviathan / by William Erickson

If you scratched a circle around the America of your mind and plopped me in the centre
                                          – Mary Crockett Hill

I seem to be clenching these white
pickets like eye teeth, a fist full of
grass and too ripe tomatoes, roses
trained to grow through the fence
and take the neighbor’s advice.
I seem to be a Tuesday’s child, and
it is early in the day to be drinking
the view but the skyline appeals to
my bloodlust in the way that it
mimics an interest rate, a jagged
run on sentence confusing and
lovely and easy to say.

The grammar of spectacle.
The image of self as investment.
The selves of a freshly cut lawn
and a withering lack of complaints.

I seem to be clenching in circles
that circumscribe selves like
the plot of a fan blade pushing
hot air through the pupil of this
closing venn diagram, this
narrowing sense that both
duty and debt are the fruit
of my labor.

Casting the Pond at the Lacombe Carmel / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

Pitted and split, the post still stands
at the southeast corner of the pond.
Once they were young, all young, not
as you and I were but as the hills
still cooling, and the hatchery
truck spit its fingerlings and fry into the fountain
that fed the mason’s waterfall and sloshed
back past the spreading cemetery.

One bent into the summer surface musk
for a pole, avoiding the goose tracks,
and cast and culled a healthy blue
and nailed it, head-up, flapping till
the grey skin stuck to cedar.

A second came clicking along
before the solar swirl of black stars
dying already around the dry body
and slit the skin behind the dorsal fin
and peeled, with pliers, toward the dark grass.

And she, third, gripped the feathered flesh
and popped the spine to pull the ribs
and hollow free, and it was enough
as they sat smiling facing away
from the stain of the bayou that then still
flooded them with fish like Leonora’s nunscape

until they’d grown all old, again as the hills,
watching me circling like a fly. It was
a hundred casts to every bite and three
bites to every fish, the other two up
raking the air with blood bright gills
to throw the sun bleached spinner bait.
Back lash snarled into silence. I circled
and descended and learned the look
of an otter in the shallows after six weeks
undisturbed by rain. Stumps took a hundred
hooks, though they disclosed themselves

like the bottom of a rotten mouth
when I stood level with the fountain unfurling
every fifteen minutes to touch the back
of my neck. A moccasin slid from oak
to swallow its reflection as the pileated flame
rowed near, laughing. Sister Donna stood in the corner, swinging cold corn to the bluegill, and I
imagined her young, before the excavators spread
the swollen air and molded clay and waited
for rain. In irresponsible spring a tail tips
from jewel weed and fans the air.

I’m considering killing my sourdough starter / by Lee Parpart

It was a bad sign when I could never settle on a name.
Writer friends Christened theirs Yeast of Eden and
Waiting for Godough, while I drew a blank, skipped feedings,
eyed the moldering mason jar from our couch.

It lives, yet, an erratically nurtured latchkey kid,
only because I can’t decide the best way to cut
the cord. I could no more withhold food and watch
a slow death than I could starve the family dog.
So I’m really asking. What is the most humane
form of euthanasia for a bubbling jar of yeast?

Our daughter would have gone to college this fall,
if not for covid. Instead, she’ll be sitting in her room at home,
penning essays for professors she may never meet.

We held a little graduation fête, just the three of us.
I had hoped to make a mortar-board hat, but the day
got away from me, and I only managed to bake a
lemon cake that melted in the heat.

I’m reading about new ways of training potted plants.
By dropping them from a height, you can get them
used to chaos. At first, they droop and threaten to die.
By the third or fourth fall, most have girded themselves
against gravity and are acting like amusement park pros,
unafraid of G-force plummets.

The way that nurse looked at me in the recovery room
all those years ago, as she set down my tea and toast.
Her thin, pursed lips. The prediction that escaped them.
“You’ll be fine. Everyone figures it out.”

Poem 10 / Day 10

Nasib / by Daisy Bassen
a nostalgic opening in which the poet
reflects on what has passed;
a common theme is the pursuit
by the poet of the caravan of his beloved

 

It would have been so much easier for me
If you had had a caravan to follow, beloved,
Camels’ asses, camels’ peaked, rounded humps,
Baskets of dates, pomegranates, fat wineskins sealed
Until the sudden blue dusk, the memory of your cry
As you came, or how I imagined you to sound
In ecstasy, your lips parted; your very soul
Hovering between us in a pleasure
Too rich, too potent to be a transitory delight;
Your collapse against my shoulder, tears,
Your bashful acknowledgement of our coupling—
When you ask your first lover to read Lolita,
There is bound to be a dry look aside, the fourth wall
Broken and with reason. I would have preferred
Sand pelting me like hail, like salt, scouring
Me of any pretense.
                                     I should have been Jewish enough
But I wasn’t, without haftarah, without one of the four names.
If I had been Leah, you would have waited for me.

Unlikely / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Caleb

a small, yellow leaf
trumpets the onset of fall —
will we be ready?

“The Word Gladiator is a Noun and a Verb: Patricia Frieson[1] and Wanda Bailey[2]” / by Taiyon Coleman

When we could both wear the same seventies outfits
for babies, people always asked my parents if we were

twins. My father carried my sister, and my mother carried
me on their trip to the used car lot in Skokie, Illinois,

and the white salesman told my dark father that he knew
who my sister belonged to but not me because I was

darker than my mother. At age six, my sister was pushed
off her brand-new bike at the corner in the alley, and we

both got in trouble when we got home. My father said
we should have fought for her bike. “If it happens

again, don’t come back if you can’t come home with a bike.”
By then I was much bigger than my sister, so we didn’t wear

matching clothes, and nobody mistook us for twins. For the
most part, it was eleven months a year with us being the same

age during the twelfth month of the year. She didn’t like
me, I didn’t like her, and we didn’t even look like each

other until the fight broke out in the McDonald’s parking lot
after the football game at Gately stadium. A circle gathered,

and my little big sister was in the middle with Big Betty
talking smack, and just like that at age fifteen, I forgot her

words “that you’re too fat, too tall, your chest too flat, and
your hair is too nappy,” and I jumped in the arena directly

in front of Big Betty. “I can talk about my sister, but you
can’t! You got to go through me in order to get to her!”

“Woah! I heard that!” said the crowd, and I was scared
to death, but I was bigger than Betty, so my bluff was

hyped. Betty looked at me. Betty peered behind me
to glance at my sister where my body hid her frame,

and Betty walked off. And just like that the crowd
dispersed, my sister looked me in the eye, and I

looked her in the eye, huffing and puffing and breathing

real hard, we high-fived, and it was back to business
as usual. She still didn’t know me. I didn’t want to know

her, but she was my keeper, and I am hers.  

[1] Ihejirika, Maudlyne. “Patricia Frieson Was More than the 1st COVID-19 Death in Illinois. She Was Their Sister.” Times, Chicago Sun-Times, 19 Mar. 2020, chicago.suntimes.com/coronavirus/2020/3/18/21186000/patricia-frieson-1st-coronavirus-covid-19-death-illinois-quarantine-family-sister.

[2] Gutowski, Christy, and Madeline Buckley. “Sister of Illinois’ First Coronavirus Victim Also Dies from Virus. Quarantine Prevents Family from Mourning Together.” Chicagotribune.com, Chicago Tribune, 28 Mar. 2020, www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-frieson-sister-dies-coronavirus-20200327-xz727ypimzgabkzq5u63yyz7im-story.html.

Shoveling Whitman’s America – Part 1 / by Mary Crockett Hill

If you scratched a circle around the America of your mind and plopped me in the centre

of that circle and slugged me in the gut because we’re American and dammit that’s what we do; if the rankle of

ten thousand acres and not a blade yours got you red-eyed white-fisted code blue; if you find yourself unequal

to the task of digging down in the rock-ribbed ground and planting an onion, onion’s cousin, onion’s daughter,

onion’s daydream of the earth erupting with glorious new bulbs, squat, rangy, gnarly or pearled; if your sixteen equal

steps around a maypole’s wooden rod end where all steps end, in a tangle, and a cheer from the lusty sons

of our quintessential father who snorts tv with his hands down his pants and shoots squirrels for fun; if all

freedom everlasting depends at last on the last breath of a stranger and all

the space between your lips and the sky cannot buoy those emptying lungs; if we are more alike

than we we want to believe because how do people even live with themselves; if only we’d endear’d

the tree of our beliefs to the creatures who must live in that tree; if only we’d grown

verdant vines from our ears, a first gift of listening; if only we’d ungrown

the tendrils of bigotry from the first clutch of becoming; if only the young

didn’t owe a thing to the world except the fulfillment of a contract to exist.

The sky is a thousand ton mirror / by William Erickson

The sky above my house
is a thousand ton mirror.
Using a telescope, I can see
all the neighbors in their
backyards doing things
in reverse, unmowing
their grass, digging up
shrubs and potting them,
teaching their children
to crawl. I try to look
at myself but find only
the Baltic Sea, a black
spot I assume is a fishing
boat repopulating the glassy
water. There is nothing
to take from the Baltic Sea
except that it appears to be
yesterday. From now on
I will be yesterday, that
little black speck floating
like a dead pixel across a
family portrait. There are
sadder things to be.
My telescope is really just
two hands making fists.
Yesterday is just a place
on the horizon where the
water and the sky are
moving too slowly to tell.
I have been a hundred
different people since they
installed the thousand ton
mirror. All of them have
been the same and none of
them have been me.

Cloak / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

The silence slithered in,
trailing its raspberry flood,
and he wrapped the spattered cloak
about his head and trembled into the air
to be dismissed by fire.

It is column of cloud and pillar
and falling flame consuming
soaked slices of bull. It is
no fingered hand plucking Pharaoh’s bloom.

It is that descending on the frenzied
priests clenching the blood beat between teeth,
that look the last one turns
when the four hundred forty-ninth has fallen
and the prophet and the wadi are one.

It is the heavy rain anxious
to erase its own vermillion spoils
and the terror bowed upon Tabor and it
is that echo at last: “Eli…”

Differential / by Lee Parpart

Qué te he dado, lo sé. Qué has recibido,
no lo sé.
I know what I have given you. I do not
know what you have received.
                          — Antonio Porchia

I pause in the foyer, thumb the smooth surface of his latest offering:
one of eight mailings this month. Two hundred this year.

His notes fly to me in formation — V for variation, vagaries, vellum.

“Think of these postcards as ‘something once possessed but now mislaid.’”

Treat this one “like honey poured in sunlight.”

A flash of white, disappearing into reeds.
An origami swan, hoping to be seen.

Poem 9 / Day 9

Lazarus, woke / by Daisy Bassen
            a golden shovel after The New Colossus

If after four hundred years and also yesterday, you never trust me, I
Will nod and smile and understand. Steel elevators lift
Us up but we expect them to fail despite inspections, my
Own confidence in parabolic equations dimming like an oil-lamp
As we ascend with our calamity. You may well prefer a banister beside
You, planed from honest American cherry, worth your grasp, the
Wood more reliable than Washington’s apocrypha. Spindles, golden
In failing light, cut in justified shadows. Will I, have I opened the door?

Wild Bill / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

“He was the sort to find grievances everywhere.”
        – David Reamer, for Anchorage Daily News

It occurs to me
every town must have one,
and as we travel this old, familiar road,
I think about the RV with the toilet on top,
surrounded by offensive, hand-painted signs
and rusted heavy machinery
in the marsh we used to pass
on the way to school. But I never knew
why, exactly, people thought he was crazy —
the papers said it might’ve been the lawyers
he blamed for the death of his first wife,
the departure of his second with their sons,
and a bad land deal with a gravel company.

What I remember
is sitting beside him on a bench
at LD’s barbershop in Wasilla
beside the stacks of magazines
with the smells of aftershave & tobacco,
and the stranger danger my dad said I could ignore
when the man offered me a piece of candy.

Before I completed middle school, I heard he died.
The mobile home & the signs & the junk stayed for years,
the grass growing up around it, but eventually,
someone must’ve hauled it all away.

I never heard about a funeral, but his obituary
asked for stories and pictures
to compile in a scrapbook. Everybody liked him
except the politicians, my dad says,
and I wonder if this would’ve made him proud.

A pastor said he was bipolar, and that,
in a moment of what passes
for clarity, he told an Alaskan truth:

I would not ever hurt anyone. It is for my advantage
that I want some people to think I would.

You are Great in Your Own Right[1]: Principal, Dez-Ann Romain[2] / by Taiyon Coleman

“You’re not college material,”
my high school counselor said
and lucky for me at seventeen,
self-defense was my default stance.
Set on survival, I really wasn’t present
enough to fully understand what
her verdict meant.

Y’all know what I’m talking about.

How many times did someone
tell you or treat you like you
were never gonna be somebody,
like you were out of your mind,
like you already messed your shit up,
like it was not gonna happen for someone like you, 
like you weren’t gonna make it out,
like you couldn’t come back from that!
and like you was never gonna amount
to nothing?

I guess this is what happens
when we are forced to live
in a world where there are
only fake choices between two
false things, and thank the Lord
that God protects babies and fools.

Which one are you?

The Wizard of Oz is my favorite
movie, so I foolishly believed
that I could always make it
because there was no other
choice.

As an oppressed
black south side
Chicago girl,
my story inherently
came with tornados,
dying mothers,  
broken homes,
lying ringmasters,
camouflaged witches,
broken loyal friends,
winding trails,
flying monkeys,
and privileged white people
living in gated cities of gold.

Rosemary Olds[3] drove
a red Pontiac Fiero. She
was the good witch that
walked into my composition
class with a cane from
her then recent diagnosis
of MS. She was the first
teacher to tell me I could
write.

I thought she was smoking crack too, y’all.

“Me a good writer!?” I looked
at the A she scribbled on
my handwritten paper.

“Yes. I can see you. You are a
good writer,” she said.

“You must first tell your
own story before you
can understand or tell others
because your story
is equally important.”

Olds’ magic was that simple,
truth,
love,
respect,
and humanity.  

Looking and seeing.

After that day,
I believed and was released
from the binding words
of my high school counselor.

Whose words held or are binding you?

They say
hurt people,
hurt people,
and I say
that hurt people
healed and healing
make good teachers.

Long after Olds,
I thought to send
my high school
counselor a copy
of each degree I
earned, but I
never did. I guess
I didn’t want
to give her or myself
the satisfaction
of admitting
how powerful
her limiting words
had been
in my life. 
I didn’t want
to give her any
of my magic. 

I say, “good teachers heal people.”

There’s no place like home.

There’s no one like you.

You are so special.

You are your home.  

[1] “Remembering Dez-Ann Romain, A High School Principal Who Died Of COVID-19 At 36.” NPR, NPR, 1 Apr. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/04/01/825499529/remembering-dez-ann-romain-a-high-school-principal-who-died-of-covid-19-at-36.

[2] Knowles, Hannah. “First NYC Schools Staffer to Die with Covid-19 Was so Much More than a Principal to Her Students.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 Apr. 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/04/12/first-nyc-schools-staffer-die-with-covid-19-was so-much-more-than-principal-her-students/.

[3] “Rosemary Olds Obituary, Des Moines, Iowa.” , Des Moines, Iowa :: Iles Funeral Homes, www.ilesfuneralhomes.com/obituary/Rosemary-Burns-Olds/Des-Moines-Iowa/1796510.

Post-It Notes to Janus / by Mary Crockett Hill

To-Do List / by Cole Depuy

she sits on my lap
we chat about bongs
firework accidents 
& sore calf muscles

she flips through
the spanish binder
on my desk
laughs at my doodles
of umbrellas & Jupiter

finds a to-do list:

  • gym
  • math homework
  • break up with babe
  • laundry

she stands
quivers
her hand a mask
over the mouth

private

my bedroom door
wider
than any tree I’ve seen

the forest elsewhere
cut/pressed/sanded
too rectangle

I hold her
say it’s true

ghost screams
finger
the spine’s interior

pull threads
until you’re staring
at the ceiling
at the brushstrokes

I nailed myself to the wall

I couldn’t look you in the eye
otherwise

Two people with thoughts about an ocean / by William Erickson

Leave a cabin near the coast
that smells small and like music
of the fifties, the cabin that is.
Walking a new trail that is really
an old trail they’ve recently found,
they notice the ocean is not water
but sparrows, so many that the
earth begins to fall into space
before their eyes see the edge
of the sparrow ocean. A large wave
breaks on the sand and a burst of
sparrows flies off. Somewhere
they’ll become the ocean again.
One of the people imagines a
different self whose heart is a
sparrow. She feels the vibration
against her ribs like a worry but
better. Her breath is a sparrow’s
egg. The other person dips her
hand into the sparrows and makes
a little whirlpool that stretches
as a wave retreats, a tiny copy
of the sparrow ocean. She knows
that her copy will be the real
ocean soon. Her smile is a
deciduous tree in spring.
Clouds do not look the same
as they used to, tumbling quickly
on a jet stream that is the beating
of the ocean’s wings.

Forger / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

Knowing none could be as precious as himself,
Hitler filled a mountain with the masters
and awaited the bullet’s black hole.

In a Charlottesville bar the crowd erupted not
because he was playing Led Zeppelin but
because he was playing Led Zeppelin.

We wander down the cold white walls
wishing the voice in our ear was Peter O’Toole,
wishing his blue desert discernment was ours.

In the shadow of Hegel stands Andy
and under the skirts of a million Marilyns
Arthur Danto scurries still away from 1984.

Do not forget the dog you drew on the wall
with the crayon and the flashlight stashed
under your blanket or even the green
scribbles on the cover of the Little Red Hen.

Poem 8 / Day 8

By 1912, Erik Satie had mostly stopped using barlines / by Daisy Bassen
to be read while listening to Gnossiennes No.1-3

Two grand pianos, one stacked
On the other, one used as a letter-box,
Not the one on the bottom,
Because that would be easier to reach
And make something remotely like sense,
A commodity evidently in short supply,
And yet not more precious for its scarcity.
He’d only loved one woman and she left
After painting his portrait; that was enough
For her.

               He published imaginary listings in the paper
For moated castles made of lead, for silver villas,
And a dentist office built from the gold fillings
The fearful rejected. They wanted the tooth pulled.

RAGE IS A QUIET THING / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

after Hayley Williams

Forget what you think timid angels sing —
from words and years of poets long revered,
this I have learned: Rage is a quiet thing.

It boils up in silence, and with its sting
deadens every pale, “wizened” face that sneered,
Forget what you think. Timid angels sing

a song of wrath none can hear while watching
their own life. Despite what you may have feared,
this I have learned: Rage is a quiet thing.

When you’re content, unafraid of dying,
it’s easy to lose empathy, be cheered —
forget. What you think timid angels sing

is irrelevant. It has no bearing
on reality. To this lie I’ve neared,
this I have learned: Rage is a quiet thing.

Let us each recognize our wrongdoing.
Blame us if we tried to, as it appeared,
forget what you think — timid angels sing
this. I have learned rage is a quiet thing.

Takin’ It to the Streets: Pastor Ronnie Hampton[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

I never gave much
thought to having
hotdogs for dinner
growing up until
my oldest pointed
out that “there were
eight hotdogs in a
package, with six
of you in one house,
so somebody didn’t
eat.”

For most of my life,
I just thought that it
was normal to eat
and still be hungry.

“Mom, you grew up
food insecure,” my
daughter told me.

“Food ensure what?”

“Food insecure Mom.”

A can of tuna with
extra eggs, onions
and mayo for tuna
salad, no lettuce.
Twelve halved
strawberries steeped
in bleached sugar
over shortcakes
prepackaged by fours.
Fried bologna sandwiches
with mustard and cut
government block cheese.
Papaya juice with zero
percent papaya. Meat
loaf made with one
pound of ground beef
and a box of Saltine
crackers. Cinnamon,
butter and sugar white
bread sandwiches licked
and eaten.

“Are you full?” my mother
would ask, and “yes” was
always the right answer
because you can’t get
blood from a beet
no matter how red.

“What’s a faith like that?”[2]

[1] Blackmon, Charitee. “Well Known Pastor Dies Following Coronavirus Complications.” Https://Www.ksla.com, 26 Mar. 2020, www.ksla.com/2020/03/26/well-known-pastor-dies-following-coronavirus-complications/.

[2] July 7, 2018 at 8:02 PM CDT – Updated August 26 at 8:50 PM, et al. “Takin’ It To The Streets Holds 10th Annual Event in Shreveport.” Https://Www.ksla.com, 8 July 2018, www.ksla.com/story/38593343/takin-it-to-the-streets-holds-10th-annual-event-in-shreveport/.

The Platonic Idea / by Mary Crockett Hill

All mouths open in the perfect

O, all mouths being

that One True Mouth

eternally fleshy – the way no flesh

should be expected to be.

 

What is Real and what is real. What is feral.

What is over the slab of my thigh or under the plate of my knee.

And if a war were to arise from my yeasty nethers

it might be the perfect War indeed.

 

I would put down this pen, cup my hands in a basin,

bringing water to my lips,

 

but these are not my hands.

Thanks for nothing, Plato.

 

I am too old to be a beginner;

my knees which have never gotten to truly exist

are already buckling, turning decrepit, under me.

 

O, burnt shadow. O tangled marionette

that is me.

 

And maybe when the show is almost over, I don’t give

the money shot, after all, closing my curtains

in a clean sweep.

Spit in a Tube / by Cole Depuy

I do the math: all my grandparents
lived in New Hampshire, we had
a few Dala horses, ate shepherd’s pie
& my last name is hard to pronounce.
I buy the DNA test kit anyway.

Rain flows into rivulets into rivers
into oceans into spit mailed to Utah.

The results come back as expected:
English & Irish on my mom’s side,
Swedish & French on my dad’s.

These heritages now white
-washed. Congealed
into sanitizing gel,
I pretend to swim, disinfecting
the past. Think:
I was born in this lab.

It begins with the glass of water / by William Erickson

kept on a table at my bedside,
distorting the witty red bars of time
that shape my sleep into something
inedible. That’s where it starts.
A peck of thirst at the opportune
moment, coincidentally the moment
a field mouse first encounters
the asphalt and breaks for the
warmth sitting opposite its
fallow expanse. It has been summer
today but is fall at the moment,
and the baseboards protest.
To say field mouse is to acquaint
oneself or one’s likeness with
the loosening fact that it will
soon be a door mouse but is now
in truth neither. This is not
tangential. The water has found
homeostasis, although the image
it contains from my vantage
is as settled as a breath I take,
blooming in my lungs a storm
system, rain soaked cilia, ejected
phrases meaning nothing more
than once again the clock will
change. A field mouse shedding
itself, two hundred and thirty-one
bones in the newly cut grass that
is decidedly not a field but a
statement, as to say field mouse.
My tongue becomes a riverbed
whose river floats an hour’s
reflection to the end of itself
and the beginning of my self.
It is not simply unintentional
that the field mouse is an idea,
that on the carpet a band of
moonlight shifts between the
limber maple branches
making figures of my bones
that lull me into sleeping
for a moment while a mouse
reflects upon the way it will
become a memory I’ll never have.

Basil the Bulgar Slayer / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

When they came, as he’d known they would,
into the canyon of yew,
he climbed a ridge to watch
the mathematics of his vengeance
applied. Where galaxies had been
a few fish flickered out of depth.
To twenty thousand legs a hundred eyes.
An eye to every hundredth man, precisely,
the columns ranged in sweet soft
teeming symmetries of pregnant spiders.
Lear-like their nightmare motion
clotted and oozed from the Aegean,
lids fluttering like shutters as the cranes’
familiar convoys sailed for Egypt.
A few were dreaming by the time they saw the tsar,
and like clockwork the blood clumped
in the narrows of his brain to leave him
two day’s paralytic musing
while the blind like swallows
wove their indescribable way home.

Eighty percent chance of more rain / by Lee Parpart

The weather rolls right through us — These lightning bolt stilettos
slip off easily and right away we’re fucking
happier than we’ve been in years. Thunderstorms settling in.

We roll out our favourite fantasies — what to do
if we win the big one, where to live, whether we can
run our whole empire from under a beach umbrella.

Two grade-school girls spill out of their house,
gripping jumbo sticks of pastel chalk.
Time to fix the hopscotch squares
ruined by last night’s storm.

We dodge them, smiling, consider
a scoop of ice cream to go,
but they’re only taking plastic.
We never bring wallets on covid walks.

Did we talk much about the day’s big news? Yes:
between the lottery fantasy and the ice cream fail.
Stories filled with damning new charts,
confirming what we already guessed: Covid
is singling out people of colour and the poor.

“Lockdown worked for the rich, but not for the rest.”
The graphs look like kids’ drawings of skipping rope games —
Snake in the Grass, Double Dutch, Helicopter, Helicopter.

Always the same sine wave extremes,
always the same popsicles on the porch after dinner,
allowances for good behaviour, present parents,
books after bath, plates full of nutritious food.

What are you going to do? What are you going to do?

Poem 7 / Day 7

Beresh’t / by Daisy Bassen

Here
I am again
At the beginning,
Unable to know what
Will come after, how you
Will get up and walk around,
Angry that you never understood
Before, how you will nod yes yes yes
Because somehow, someone has gotten
It right, tapping straight into your amygdala,
A dowsing rod, a caduceus. Perhaps it will all
Work out, the sides of the proof balanced; jarred,
The dough proving the loaf sure to be good as manna.
You’ll see soon enough while I will have to wait and return.

Stranger / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

For the dude in the café trying to get us to talk shit about masks
and the mayor of Anchorage on Wednesday.

It’s not that

I didn’t want

to talk — I

just wanted you

to know we

don’t seek “dialogue”

the way you

do. So I

hope you won’t

lie and tell

anybody else your

aggressively “open mind”

was worth more

than 20 seconds

of our time.

Open Cities, Open Heart: Dr Albasha Hume[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

When Momma took us
to the doctor’s office
in Roseland,
all six of us,
including my mother,
crammed into one
examination room.

There,
we would sit
and wait, and sit
and wait, and sit
and wait for the
doctor to come in. 

Long white
jacket,
black silver
stethoscope,
gold rimmed
eyeglasses,
bobbed hair,
the doctor entered,
her physical style
cut and angled,
but her hands
were soft and
her voice soothing
as she felt for
and rubbed our
swollen lymph
nodes over our
brown fevered skin.

Tongues pressed
and blood drawn,
visits ended with
long needle shots
of penicillin in
our asses because
that’s what they did
to sick kids in the 80s. 

Tonsillitis or strep
throat was always
the culprit, and
I only think
now with three
kids of my own,
what must it
have been like
to have five
sick kids and
no money
and no one
to help at home.

Once dressed
and our tears
dried, the doctor
always reentered
the room. Her
respectful hands
and arms stuffed
full of samples
of Tylenol and cough
medicine that
she packed
into Momma’s
weathered
blue purse.

There,
over a brass
zipper and worn
straps of laced leather,
the doctor’s hands
clasped my mother’s,
and their eyes
met among
whispered words
of “take them,”
“no, too many,”
“for the babies,”
“no, too much”
“you work so hard,”
“no bother,”
“please,”
“no problem,”
and “thank you.”

Days later,
pain gone and
coughs subsided,
the doctor was
long forgotten,
until the next
sore throat,
vomiting,
or high fever.
I know now as
a parent of black
kids, what my
Momma knew then,
that you would
follow a good doctor
all the way
to the ends
of the earth.

[1] Jokich, Alex. “St. Paul Doctor Dies from COVID-19.” KSTP, KSTP, 23 June 2020, kstp.com/coronavirus/st-paul-health-care-worker-dies-from-covid-19-doctor-albasha-hume/5768355/.

Reasons for Admission into the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia
from 1864 to 1889 / by Mary Crocket Hill

(a found poem triolet)

 

Greediness, Dropsy, The War, Carbuncles, Domestic Affliction,

Imaginary Female Trouble, Disappointment, Time of Life,

Bad Company, Bad Whisky, Bad Habits, Over Study of Religion,

Greediness, Dropsy, The War, Carbuncles, Domestic Affliction,

Masturbation, Suppressed Masturbation, Tobacco and Masturbation,

Snakebite, Opium Habit, Novel Reading, Lawsuit, Grief,

Greediness, Dropsy, The War, Carbuncles, Domestic Affliction,

Imaginary Female Trouble, Disappointment, Time of Life.

How Many Kids Do You Want to Have? / by Cole Depuy

My girlfriend and I hike a trail in Binghamton, NY
–middling another mild winter.
Burnt orange leaves wince below our steps,
the understory: silent as a parking lot, scentless as a fawn,
quivers below the interlocked fingers of bare branches.

I pause to notice fungus–a deer’s favorite snack–
growing eye level from a maple. The white flesh
splays into two tongues. Out of 550 gigatons
of carbon on Earth, fungus makes up 12.
Humans tally 0.06. My girlfriend keeps walking.

“Hey, babe,” I say. She stops, looking
at the moss-covered ledge. I am wasting
her time. “Why didn’t the mushroom have a party?”

A rustle and a grunt hurdle the ledge.

I want to be eaten by an animal,
to offer one meal for the countless I’ve enjoyed.

From over the ridge, a doe leaps
& rushes past my girlfriend–an arm’s length away.
On the doe’s hind legs: two wounds.
The blood still bright and glossy on loose flaps
of furred skin.

Some fungi reproduce asexually. A sac
bursts and the sporangia float away.

After one stride, two eight-point bucks,
antlers hooked to one another, barrel behind.
Their grunts deep and ravening as they chase
the whitetail together. Bounding down
the hill, they vanish in the valley.

I have a question about the nonagenarian apple tree fenced and epitheted in a downtown traffic turnabout. / by William Erickson

You answer arboreal-interest
story, cross-country travel
truth exhibit fruiting
high-yield self-respect
for persons tall enough
to pick — the kind of
feel-good trope whose
flesh is always worth a core.

It’s bio-record keeping,
right? Concentric cycled
cell division evidence of
right-doing that father’s
fathers’ axe blades cut
the civic teeth on.
Is it not crystalline?
Is it not white as watch
faces and chaffless wheat?

We keep the roots alive
and well to make sure
all the dirt is clean,
a free supply of nitrogen
to feed the sense of faith
that papa’s chemistry
explains the evolution.

You say providence.
You echo sure as upward increase,
as pies and county fairs
and fair coincidence.

But all I asked
is how long
did it bloom.

Skink / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

Almost out of myth the broadhead surfaces
between blue sprays of hydrangea.
Its spade head hangs like a magician’s hand
above its sun stone foreshortened at the corner
of the lawn laced up with roses like poodles
beside the path hung with ripening figs.
It eyes us into shade, too big for flickering
across the screen like its five-lined flame-tailed
cousins.
                 Half-afraid we’d hoped to find them
on the boardwalk through swamp just South
of Honey Island. You’ll see them, they said,
the other kids who’d come to camp before.
All you could do when it lifted its head
and leapt into the mulch and poison oak was
spread out under the banana spiders
and hope it spooked to someone’s side, not yours.
One throbbed a mile once, legs twisting between
Ricky’s fingers as the bite trickled
over its shoulders till it limped off wet,
molded like play dough to his touch.
But usually they’d dig in the dark till
we hunched staring at each other’s floating faces
and climbed up onto the hollow way again
to sweat back to the shadeless parking lot
bordered by tannic sloughs touched with bubbles.

Lithium / by Lee Parpart

I.

from inside an old star, a silvery-white metal —
light, lustrous

these gifts go on for eons —
an alkali cocktail party for the cosmos

lithium, carbon, stirred and returned
a basket of old specialty soaps in new cellophane

the trick is to notice —
the other trick is to laugh

for all we know, that carpenter bee that just landed in
the purple petunias could be one of our fathers

II.

he came to the beach full of lithium
and sat down next to me in the sand

he will stay here until the end of time,
retrieving rocks, placing them in my palm

his intentions parabolic, methodical

when all of the good skipping stones are gone
he’ll wrap his fingers around stone-shaped
pockets of air and hand those to me, too.

Poem 6 / Day 6

Hourglass / by Daisy Bassen

I know
The most evil clocks of all
Keep perfect time in your grief,
Better than Greenwich Mean,
Atomic wonders calibrated
To the indivisible
Swarm
Of
Quarks,
Some charmed.
The second hand a metronome
For a piece you cannot learn; mine
Was a toccatina, too brief for a fugue.
You always practice saying goodbye;
We teach babies to wave, to transform urge
Into gesture. Meaning something
So it cannot mean everything.

Craving / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Lisa S.

If you can’t eat all that you bake
for fear of a great stomach ache,
remember the time
you heard this foul rhyme
and bring me that chocolate cheesecake!

Her Name Means Smiling and Winning: Nyla Moore[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

Old folks say that God takes the good ones early
and the purest souls have the greatest suffering,
and at twenty-two, she knew that raising her son
in Chicago alone would be difficult, but like her momma,
grandmamma, Big Momma, and all black mommas before
her, she was smart, strong and long. No doubt her Simeon
high school dreams of being a special needs teacher would come true.

“Mary was a single mother with Jesus before Joseph married
her and look how it turned out for her,” Pastor preached on Sundays.

“Shut-up” was always the answer in her head. She didn’t need nobody
telling her that raising a two-year old boy was a handful. Watching
the neighborhood kids during the day while going to school at night
made it work out, but what would Jesus do if his mom spent twenty-two
days on a ventilator and didn’t wake up?

Oh, what a crown to wear because what love is worth this?

[1] Williams, Jim. “Young Mother Dies Of COVID-19; ‘She Loved Everybody And Everybody Loved Her’.” CBS Chicago, CBS Chicago, 4 May 2020, chicago.cbslocal.com/2020/05/04/young-mother-dies-of-covid-19-she-loved-everybody-and-everybody-loved-her/.

A history of self indulgence / by William Erickson

I wrote a history of self-indulgence.
It is the same as a history of self
except there are fewer assumptions.

In it a boy climbs this tree
in his yard that in spring
is a picture he draws.

He draws a number of trees
but this is the best one to climb,
its limbs like the fingers that

sculpt faces on moons,
its branches a delta that bears
names to a place he’s not been.

In the tree he is so large that
the boy is invisible, as when you
cannot see the ocean from its inside.

There are six chapters in the history.
The boy is six years old and forgets
about trees that he draws.

He is alway as old as his earliest
memory, or as old as the name
he was given. He cannot decide.

Four of the chapters are not
chapters, but rather the eyes
and the ears of a face

the boy talks to. He is a reflection,
which is to say that the boy is a
word on the ocean called phosphorus.

Gibeah II / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

And then a king
sitting
in Gibeah,
day deep,
with that
hideous grip
beneath the scabbard
on his shoulder
and the leather
wings
censing
the kindled gland.

And before him rose that beauty
shouting from the cave’s mouth,
vanishing in the path of the spear,
most of all plunging the moistening
hand into the sack to flick foreskins
one by one to two hundred wrinkling the floor.

The sword
lay swaddled
in ephod,
and the king
lingered
in Philistine spilled,
tumid
now, garments torn,
leprous minister.

The witch sits embarrassed,
writhes as the prophetic head crowns
to drone its history again, again.

Daisy Chains / by Lee Parpart

We’ve been walking for twenty minutes when I see it:
a small garden with one idea: Gerberas.

Every inch of this wartime bungalow’s front plot is
exploding with them — Dusky fuscias, soft pinks and
salmon tones flash their earnest smiles from hip-high stems.

Chance of Gerberas on upper Carlaw Ave.: 100%.

Gerberas: The go-to bloom for baby showers and
wedding rehearsals the world over.

We may have even had them, although it’s hard to remember now.

I drop your speckled hand and stare.

What kind of doe-eyed, monocultural obsessive seeds their whole front yard
with the same cut flower? When all of the blooms finish at once, there it is —
a ten-by-twelve boneyard of brown death.

“What?” you say, slipping your hand back in mine. “I think it’s sweet.”

Then you pause and stick the knife in, gently. “They committed to something.”

Sweet. Fine. I withdraw my objections and leave them to their floral monogamy.

I’m already writing the eulogy for these flimsy fireworks
when you hustle me home with talk of supper.

In a few minutes I’ll be picking romas off the vines
and trying to rescue a few arugula leaves for a salad.

I never pick the bitter leaves in time. I’m too in love
with their pale yellow nothing blossoms — the way they
snake skyward in long laurels when their seed pods appear,
escaping to the clouds before summer ends.

Poem 5 / Day 5

There are two ways out of a frog / by Daisy Bassen

It’s true, a frog doesn’t make a very complicated labyrinth
When you consider the options for exits. Means of egress
Is the fancy way of saying This way out! and once you’re inside
A frog, pretensions to grandeur have gone by the wayside.
There are beetles who have choices, mouth or a tickled cloaca;
We’re not usually so blessed, which is why we have a dozen
Ways of saying Keep your chin up because you’ve got to get through
To the end and like most ends, there’s almost always shit.
However, I have an appreciation for shit and its steady procession,
With embroidered silk banners, silver cornets, and very beautiful
Young men walking together or not, the ignoble escape
Made by whatever wasn’t needed or what would have killed you;
If a beetle is along for the ride, who would care?
                                                                                      Most are destroyed
By the acid required to dissolve exoskeletons but there are some
That can walk out, blasé or, more accurately, as unaware
As any white person in a mall (if you remember when we went inside
Buildings and didn’t think each one was the model home version
Of a coffin, the trees always made of silk polyester.) Wax will hobble
The most fleet beetle (George, let’s call him George), but usually
He makes it out alive and he goes home. I hope someone left
The lights on for him.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/03/science/beetle-frog-poop.html?surface=home-discovery-vi-prg&fellback=false&req_id=861138317&algo=identity&imp_id=264690679&action=click&module=Science%20%20Technology&pgtype=Homepage

Woman, Beirut / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

In the wake of a recent explosion,
she says, “We’re on the brink of extinction.”

It’s the rise of food prices, too, that has
people fearing the threat of extinction.

Thousands of citizens have been displaced
and faced — for months — the stench of extinction

with unemployment, irony and lies.
This nation, maybe pending extinction,

was promised abundance in ancient times.
Are we here, at the edge of extinction

because one also prophesied, back then,
that Lebanon would suffer extinction?

Still, we must mourn the dead, remember Lina,
who said, “We’re on the brink of extinction.”

“The Back Jam Show: Commander Donafay Collins”[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

The year I was
born Eisenhower
signed the 1957
Civil Rights Act.
I’m sure my parents
never imagined
that I would
become a Wayne
County police officer,  
as there are worse
things for a black
son to be.

I really wanted
to be a spaceman
but from seven
to midnight,
I’m mixing
old school,
taking it back
and getting it
started tonight.

I’m happy because
I have the best
of both worlds.
My shift at the
downtown Division
two jail ended
one hour ago,
and who would
think I’d rather
spend my Friday
nights spinning music
on the ones and twos.

High-risk inmates
low-risk inmates,
pregnant inmates,
and low-crime inmates,
those fools don’t
put no fear in my heart.
They just regular people
who live,
who love,
who cry,
who die,
who lie,
marry, and raise kids
just like you and me. 

What’s more criminal
than letting locked-up
people in a breeding
ground die from
a preventable virus?
Surely not the people in jail.
“You can’t shoot
someone else who
doesn’t have a gun
and call it self-defense.”[2]

What’s up y’all?
This is Donafay
and after thirty
years, I finally
have the shift
I wanted, but I’m
one of eighteen
who tested positive
for the virus,
so tune in,
turn us up,
and pass the word,
I’m on the wheels
of steel, and it’s on
and popping
Mix 92.3FM.[3]

[1] Dickson, James David. “Wayne County Sheriff Commander Dies of Coronavirus; 18 Staff Test Positive.” Detroit News, The Detroit News, 26 Mar. 2020, www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/wayne-county/2020/03/25/wayne-county-sheriff-commander-dies-coronavirus-18-positive/5084711002/.

[2] Rahal, Sarah. “Detroit Teens, Police Build Bridges during Forum.” Detroit News, DetroitNews, 17 Mar. 2018, www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2018/03/17/detroit-teens-police-build-bridges-forum/33036183/.

[3] Mix 92.3. “Mix 92.3 on Facebook Watch.” Facebook Watch, Mix 92.3, 27 July 2018, www.facebook.com/mix923fm/videos/back-jam-tonight-7pm-on-mix-923/10155688207724562/.

SHE-CREATURE BORN / by Mary Crockett Hill

oh want, oh want oh scurrilous

ground down in the dogbone of beginning

this is my arm though i do not know the word for it this is

my foot and knee oh bells i cannot hear because they are inside of me

the light of bugs is my own light i catch with the hole i carry on my head

we are bucket that fills and empties empties and fills

we are born wanting what is out of reach

we are born and we

reach

hominoid / by Cole Depuy

carnivores don’t eat meat, they eat
movement: the rest of us eat color.

I revert to an english accent
& want desperately to meet the tar

in my lungs. everything makes a noise
when broken, it’s the aftermath that’s

difficult to discern. lilacs grow
from the birch trees. bark cracks at fifty

years age. there are weeds budding
in my neighbor’s gutters. my sponsor

points to the similarities between tree
branches & veins: proof of god.

we sit in the parking lot & pray. I tell
him eye masturbated in a bush next

to a sidewalk once. he tells me I’m selfish.
I walk around boston commons, leaning

against concrete walls, snorting & gagging.
I exit the bar, strip naked & jump

off the pier. hiccups are byproducts
of our amphibian days. my feet clip

the handrail: I don’t know the depth.
you can prove the earth’s curve when

looking at the ocean. does anyone know
the seven minutes between the sun burning

out & the last light reaching us has started?
a new ice cream shop in town says

they spent one million dollars on a dairy cow.
dairy cows don’t live five years. is it silly

to care? a man reaches into a cow’s stomach
through a hole in its side: explains how

e. coli grows when they’re fed grains. also
says it doesn’t hurt. I’m evaporating again.

the hairs on my mustache cover my lips.
teeth settle more crooked in their gums.

we know people used to live in trees because
we twitch awake when slipping off the couch.

my dentist tells me my tongue web is long.
was I tongue-tied as a child? I think

she’s kidding, then, about the officer who
offered me one call. I lied & said

there is no one: this is the most peaceful
part of my life. there are things I repeat so

I needn’t remember them. on the trampoline
a boy blindsides me. my tongue snags

my braces like a coat on a hook. I drool
to the hospital, speak only vowels, press

ice to my veins, under tongue: dark blue fangs.

Miniature Corn Maze / by William Erickson

Under the coffee table
there is a miniature cornfield.

Every year in October
it grows about 8 inches high
and in the spirit of fall I
scissor a maze from one
of its ends to the other,
nothing especially rigorous.

I kind of figure the
miniature ghosts in my house
might enjoy it,
having been a miniature ghost
myself and finding the season
a bore on account of the
unsurprised looks of the haunted.

All of us have been miniature ghosts.
It is a bit like falling,
a bit like the dream someone
has when they miss you.
The texture of ashes.

The maze has a single dead end
in which I place a small note
with a map that I draw.
On another small note I write
questions, like what is the color
of speaking or how many breaths
make a mile.
I’d guess they seem
huge to a miniature ghost,
though it’s the best I can do.

Come December the cornfield
wilts to the soil and turns in on itself,
becoming the nature of sleeping,
becoming the texture of eulogies.

At night I can hear all the
miniature ghosts.
They sound like myself.
I wonder if I’ve helped
them be lost.

Key West Recalled in Garvan Woodland Gardens / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

For Grace

Memory lies justified
to the Petra Croton’s primitive veins
tuned to that exact degree of summer
crumbling on the cultivated hills
as met us as morning turned south
toward the Keys
in winter and I was
in the bounding instant of blue
fingers caressing the walk between
beloved apartment doors
awaiting day’s determination.
Then the moon shucked
the two seated on the sea wall
faceless as we were learning
St. John’s night at times
is taken on in turning to
the tropics of habit,
tendrils bending till blood
lets out its light in the other’s infinity.

Dear Found Poem #3 / by Lee Parpart

— after Ama Codjoe

Thank you for your letter [one of thousands we receive every week].
We hope you had an exciting safari [have recovered from exposure to any scenes of slaughter, which are more properly the preserve of men].
We applaud your desire to help the women of Kenya achieve better results with their baking [food being a universal language that transcends boundaries of race, nationality, and culture].
Sadly, the recipes for our silkiest cake flour brands are protected by U.S. government patents [and could not be replicated with the tools available to your new contacts in Kenya, even if we were legally able to share them].
We recommend longer grinding times [this seemed self-evident] and mulberry-leaf sieves [less so] for filtering out husks and other impurities.
As a gesture of American kindness [is there any other type of kindness], we have enclosed a recipe book [one whose results, we’re sorry to say, cannot be guaranteed with Kenyan flour] and a signed photograph of our chairman [whose wife is dictating this letter] astride a Blue wildebeest taken from the Serengeti in 1953 [I have heard that the animal died well].
We hope that your new friends [exciting friends, certainly, whose faces and customs must surely linger in your memory for many years to come] will find cheer in knowing that their stunning country is held in high regard by one of our best and brightest [fondly and with respect, Clarice].

Poem 4 / Day 4

On becoming someone who walked three miles in the snow, uphill, barefoot / by Daisy Bassen

I expect to be one of the people
Who never gets to read the poetry
Written after we meet aliens.
Once we meet them, we won’t call them
That, they’ll have a name, unanticipated;
Maybe only people who speak sign language
Will be fluent enough to say it.
That’s probably wrong too. Radical
Novelty isn’t what we’re made for.
My husband keeps telling me, an explanation
For current events, even though corruption
And tyrants are nothing new, fermented
Like the pickle every culture has and loves
And hates and loves to warn you against.
They’re what keeps through a long winter,
Heat and acid. A world is coming
That will make me fretful or it’s a time
And the world doesn’t matter;
Would I have liked it? It’s irrelevant.
No one will get to choose what they prefer,
We’ll be the people who deserve it,
Whatever happens. The Goths bearing down
Upon Rome but better. Worse. Extraordinary
As a fly, a fern. Cobalt, the salt of doomsday.

Deer in Texas / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Roger

The deer have found their way
in among the ash trees
as if they belong there.

Perhaps the presence of your home
doesn’t bother them as it might
us, with our lawn-ornament lines

I wonder if they’re here
for the grass, or the company,
the leaves, or the journey.

When they see you at the table,
through the window, drinking coffee,
do their eyes ask where your heart is?

If they could understand
“Texas,” would they know loss —
or love — like writers do?

I watch deer wander through your yard
and think of purpose, glad
our fences don’t hide everything.

It is What it Is: Mychaela and Byron Francis[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

             exhale

a pick-up game on the half court
first one with twenty points wins
a three pointer is worth two points
and a two pointer is worth one

             check

I go first because I’m the oldest
two years over twenty years
I may be big, but I’m fast
I’m smart, and I’m oh so
crazy, sexy cool in Orlando

             jump

who cares if I have asthma
with my rescue inhaler I’m
always ready to go and brother
don’t know that big girls
with glasses be winning

             release

two points and that’s game
you sure talk a lot of shit
for being the oldest but
you forget that I live eat
and sleep basketball

             swoosh

a pick-up game on the half court
the one with twenty years wins
but only for eleven days because
a black man’s life is worth two points
a black woman’s life is worth one

             score

don’t feel sorry for me momma
what poor black person inhales
so say less, it is what it is
what’s understood don’t
need to be explained[2]

[1] Cramer, Maria, and Azi Paybarah. “Within Days, Florida Family Loses Two Siblings, 20 and 22, to the Virus.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 July 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/us/florida-mother-2-children-covid-19.html?auth=login-google.

[2] Cramer, Maria, and Azi Paybarah. “Within Days, Florida Family Loses Two Siblings, 20 and 22, to the Virus.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 July 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/us/florida-mother-2-children-covid-19.html?auth=login-google.

Pantoum for My Future Infirm Self and for the Future Excluding My Future Infirm Self / by Mary Crockett Hill

It’s so easy to love the young. For one,
their faces don’t collapse like umbrellas
soaked and spent with what it takes to stay alive.
Meanwhile, you’re to be congratulated

if your face doesn’t collapse like an umbrella
in the breeze of your own poor digestion.
Meanwhile, you’re to be congratulated
for that sour exhalation of a sigh,

the waft of your own poor digestion.
Now wasn’t that a nice BM, Ms. Hill?
It comes out the sour exhalation of a sigh
but it comes out: my own mortality.

Now wasn’t that a nice BM, Ms. Hill?
Is there any possible way to answer that question?
It turns out my own mortality
was glutting my intestines all along.

Is there any possible way to answer the question
of where we end up after our innards give out?
The glut of my own intestines
could portend the fall of empires. Even so,

where will I go after my innards give out,
soaked and spent with what it takes to stay alive?
Empires fall. I fall. Why argue, even so?
For one, the young are so damn easy to love.

New York, Hong Kong or Israel / by Cole Depuy

To walk between fire & an elder
is disrespect. Ghosts
are more generous with heat.

I soak my brain in caffeine,
rub my hands together & hold
them over my eyes,
too ashamed to message your mother
& ask where you’re buried.

Family in three continents, I heard you
were over seas when you overdosed.

Remember you said
cleaning anything for more
than ten minutes was ego?

Remember sliding our sunglasses
to the tips of our noses
& drooping our tongues out as we drove?

Last I saw you,
you came to my apartment & took off
your shirt. A wet tattoo of a crow’s skull
& two moons.

I needn’t know anything
the way sound knows water.
I just need to know where
I can touch your name.

The Question of Property Value / by William Erickson

Somewhere in my backyard
a fox contemplates his pursuit
of the rabbit.

The question of eye teeth.
The vibration.

Given a fox, the rabbit will consider only
the grass and the soil beneath it, which is
catalyst and burden, without which
it cannot run and against which the
weight of its running is freedom.

The question of muscles.
The distance of a blade of grass.
The echo of a fence board speaking
rumors of a wind that marries scents.

There is a word to speak that the
backyard will understand as the
theory of blood and of roots,
as a question of morals and hunger.

You must know we are in the city
where a fox is above us.
You must know we are the rabbit
and keep secret our escape until
a moment when the grass
is no longer a question.

We are not the metaphors
we used to be.
My backyard is shrunk too much
to admit of these machinations.

Gabriel’s Birthday / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

For Priss

Doors down from where you passed
While we blinked out on mountains,
He stooped into hysteric void
And lodged a moment on the universe’s verge, Caped in a verb too great for us to be.

Not his the sudden sepal bloom
Of Love shucked up along the beach
To burst complete upon the page.

The same white veined the purple feet
Rooted from his mother’s ribs,
And the same strata broke along his brow,
As if he is to show me what has been,
Like the star we know,
Millennia beyond the one we’ve seen.

How Cronenberg came to pester me in my moment of glory / by Lee Parpart

Don’t forget to visit the foyer mirror for
good luck.
Get a close look at your graph-paper
eyeballs
and those serrated antennae that look
like antlers.

Since you’re dive-bombing me like this, I assume you don’t know or care that I
finally wrote something decent.
You’re acting like you haven’t heard my good news,
or might have some of your own.
Young and fast, you’re a flying Maserati begging to be
murdered by the news.
But I’m in a good mood, overflowing with noblesse oblige,
having finally written a poem that left me pleased.

Go forth, little Goldblum. Do your worst.
There’s crumb cake on the counter, and
a speck or two of fresh
e-coli in the hall, courtesy of the dog.

Do stay, cling a while against the glass.
Take yourself in.
One long gaze will remake the world
through your fractal lens,
spinning my brief moment of
self-love
into scenes of compound glee.

Poem 3 / Day 3

In absentia / by Daisy Bassen

The woman with the most beautiful voice in the world
Has stopped singing. She’s tired of the sound she hears
Before anyone else, the bloom of each note in her mind
And her throat; she cannot be astonished, singular
In that regard. She may find whatever solace she wants
In abdication, not least the knowledge there is greatness
Occurring that has nothing to do with her. Being little
Again, fine, the next-door neighbor to non-existence;
Death will be as simple as asking for the cup of sugar
We’re always short. The brown bread cools on the rack.

Even the Olympians Put One Foot in Front of the Other / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Christy Marvin

I
hope it
won’t offend
too much to say
you remind me of
Artemis, the goddess
lover of woods and the wild
chase over the mountain, records
in your pocket and the Bible at
your breast — you are not one to be vengeful
though ‘fierce’ might well describe your lithe stride
as you close in on each title.
You require no sacrifice
but of your own body
to the elements
driven by love
of nature
and its
God.

Delayed Begging: Gary Fowler[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

“That thang sure is ugly,” Cheryl said,
so you know it was only the love that made
them compromise to put the blue swivel
recliner in their bedroom.

Twenty-four years of marriage, and Gary never
slept away from their bed, but that’s where their
son found him. Upright and uptight and cold dead
in the chair because his heartbeat wasn’t regular.

Gary’s oxygen level was too low.

“Daddy won’t wake up!” is what their son screamed
over and over again, but not loud enough because
Gov. Dan Patrick said “There are more important things
than living and that’s saving this country for my children and grandchildren
and saving this country for all of us.”[2]

Gary’s son tried to save his black father three times. Isn’t that important too?

First
Beaumont Hospital
I would like to get a test
Fever 101
Cough
Shortness of breath
They told him sorry. We don’t have no tests.
Just “Go home and act like you have the virus.”

Second
Detroit Receiving Hospital
I would like to get a test
High fever
Shortness of breath
They told him sorry. We don’t have no tests.
Just “Go home and act like you have the virus.”

Third
Henry Ford Hospital
My chest hurts
I can’t breathe
I have a fever that has not broke
There is nothing wrong, they said.
Just “Go home and act like you have the virus.”

Go home and act like what happened to your ancestors isn’t related to what’s happening to you.
Go home and act like you don’t  live in a segregated neighborhood.
Go home and act like you are able to get a job.
Go home and act like you have health care.
Go home and act like you have sick leave.
Go home and act like you had an equitable education.
Go home and act like you don’t live in a food desert.
Go home and act like you got money for meds.
Go home and act like you have clean drinking water.
Go home and act like you have childcare.
Go home and act like you can pay your rent.
Go home and act like you are not hungry.
Go home and act like you can get a home loan.
Go home and act like you get equal pay for your work.
Go home and act like your black child won’t get shot.
Go home and act like you have access to affordable housing.
Go home and act like the police won’t choke you out.
Go home and act like you don’t fear being put in jail .
Go home and act like a system don’t make money from your exploitation, pain and suffering.
Go home and act like you served your country, and they didn’t say fuck you.
Go home and act like the president has a plan.
Go home and act like you are not more likely to die because of the color of your skin.
Go home and act like you are a citizen of this country.
Go home and act like people would do something if they only knew.
Go home and act like you can vote.
Go home and act like you are free,
but come back
if you can make it here
before you die like
you have the virus.


[1] Shamus, Kristen Jordan. “Family Ravaged by Coronavirus Begged for Tests, Hospital Care but Was Repeatedly Denied.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 20 Apr. 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/04/20/coronavirus-racial-disparity-denied-tests-hospitalization/5163056002/.

[2] Coleman, Justine. “Texas Lt. Governor on Reopening State: ‘There Are More Important Things than Living’.” TheHill, The Hill, 21 Apr. 2020, thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/493879-texas-lt-governor-on-reopening-state-there-are-more-important-things.

Dialogue between Body & Soul / by Mary Crockett Hill

 

Soul wants a dog.                                                 Body wants a hot dog.

Soul asks to be forgiven.                                     Body askes to be scratched.

Soul howls at sun.                                                Body curls into the lowering, ever lowering
                                                                                clouds.

Soul scratches its back.                                       Body says thank you.

Soul keeps reaching, even though there’s nothing more to scratch.

Body sings hello darkness my old friend.
Body thinks she’s funny.                                     Soul is not amused.

Soul says you have to suck some lemons if you want to suck lemons.

Body says you never did make sense,

               the roundness of a lemon
               like a pair of glowing lips between her lips.

Tremors / by Cole Depuy

my left knee shakes,
when my throat becomes porous
a cardboard paper towel tube
i pull out, fold three times and scissor
little people holding hands
they wipe the sweat from my arm pits
where the shaved skin feels vaginal

my left leg twitches
under the table, my mouth full of blood
from chewing gum. canines, they show through
my bottom lip. i brush my teeth
with a closed mouth, the charcoal foam drips down
my chin, splatters the sink. i laugh, spit
on the mirror. i can unscrew, there’s only more wall

the ball of my left foot bounces
on the carpet, i scalpelled a mole
from my forearm, hairs grow
3x faster through scar. i use nail clippers
to trim them, or i pluck, pull
threaded in-grown veins from the spool
of my gut, wrap them around my arm, cut off circulation

the fat on my left thigh jiggles,
i’m allergic to things invisible,
can’t sneeze when asleep. spiders nest
beneath my eyelids, in the morning
i tease them into tupperware and release
them on the porch. my heart isn’t the sun’s
little cousin: a discharged embryo

under the dish soap bubbles
curling rainbows off the water’s surface,
a bleached conch shell, peach white and crowned,
the fingers of my tongue crawl into the crease,
muscle folding spiral, thinning for the end.

Still life of Genesis 12 in modern American vernacular: / by William Erickson

Welcome prodigal dollar
to the prayer season,
to mortgage wagered
cross-country shipping
rates of national contagion
sold sight unseen, fulfillment
centered afterthought
hypotheses to rank
the packaging before
the product breaks,
which is design specific,
which is chemtrail trusted
acronym approved panacea,
don’t ya’ know.
Suppose the acid rain is cyclical.
Fancy exhausted ice field
rehydration campaign funded
prehistoric worldview.
Picture widescreen body-cam
grade-school education.
These are virtues.
These are 1990s fertilizer bomb
televised mind-fuck platform planks,
for all the apoliticals.
Six days in and 737 cloud-punch
compositions play.
Rattled window laugh tracks.
Bleach white teeth.
Dental coverage for the canines.
Funny how the negative exposure
paints apostles white,
dogwood poem center justifies,
and service model publishes
for late subscription fees.
Seven days to Sunday.
How many trappings
does it take before
the feast is up,
before a given media
is socialized enough for one
to ride-hail independence?

Jacques and Raissa / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

Who could begin but by mentioning the chestnuts
fluttering on the margin of the dripping leaden
sketch of the Belle Époque beyond the awning?

There they vowed their suicide, there where
within minutes swung the confident rods
questioning the Seine, should reason not appear.

Behind her in the arid gloom
sprawled Russia on diaspora’s edge.
Light drank the liquid chill.

Spinoza whispered. The ox saw all straw.
Death descended quickly as the idols
flailed Verlaine, Saint-Saens, Lautrec.

Seeming rushed upon them in space
above the brazen gypsum of Montmartre
where gods awaited their salvation and,

blind to the rut beneath their flicking tails,
gazed gleefully on the prospect of Verdun
and the miles of signs to Disneyland.

In lieu of a birthday wish on your Facebook page, which is set to private / by Lee Parpart

Maybe you’ve muted me, as I must have
muted you in my mind without making it formal.

A month ago, when I saw you across from the park
where our dogs first introduced us, the gap
between us might as well have been the Atlantic.

Neither of us had our terriers.
Did that seem odd to you, too? A couple
of middle-aged strays, leashless?

We waved like well-wishers sending off invisible ships,
our masks bright flags in a strange new semaphore.

I almost wrote, to say, Let’s call it covid.
That you’re free to forget me.

I remember you crying at my table
over cups of tea, telling me everything. I know
I should say yes to one of your invitations to drink together,
even though I don’t drink much and fear the disinhibition.

We’re both survivors of the battles
of our pasts. I know you get it. You had it worse than me.
Each wound leaves one limping.
Mine, I’m learning, involves fleeing from affection.

As rescues who have confessed our respective origin stories,
our friendship is at a crossroads. We could back away.
We could formalize it: block, de-friend, abandon.

Or — we could fall to our knees right here,
roll around in the piss-soaked wood chips,
mark each other as past litter-mates, reclaimed.

A little advice: Skirt the flautist
at the north end of the park. My husband
and I passed him earlier. He’s strangling a Mahler sonata,
and I’ve heard that flutes are viral super-spreaders.
It only makes sense, as flautists blow across
the embouchure, not into their instrument. A
single flautist can infect a mid-sized concert hall.

I’d still be down for some rassling in the park,
if we can find a way to make it safe.

I want to stay your friend, but in the end,
we may be two old soldiers
who’ve come to stand for each other’s wars.

I’m leaning on my railing tonight, listening
to the coyotes again, hearing them
wilding east from the Don Valley ravine into the lower Beaches.
Their cries mix with the screams of the adolescent raccoons
being driven from their nests by parents
readying for a next brood. We’re so close,
just north and south of the Danforth. Four blocks, tops.
I’m sure you hear them, too.

Poem 2 / Day 2

The word for hand hasn’t changed / by Daisy Bassen

I have a certain sympathy
For Ethelred the Unready,
Though in his case, unready
Is a pun regarding his lack
Of advisement; you have to know
Old English to get the joke
And it’s been a long time
Since I read Beowulf, hacking
My way through consonants
And fish-guts. I’m ill-prepared
For this time of demagogues,
For my son growing so quickly,
For a virus that loves the lining
Of every vessel within us;
The easy seduction of deceit
And yeast and sleep. I’m lucky.
I can take off my glasses
And let it all blur like waterlilies.
Also, I’m white. Ethelred gets credit
For the grand jury, for thanes
Who swear with their palms
Laid on relics. I can’t know
What I’ll get credit for,
An unremarkable woman, hesitant
Too often, caught unawares by malice,
By the enthusiasm of mold,
Of cravenness.
                            Hrunting,
                            Hrunting,
If only you would come when I call.

The Pictures I Didn’t Take / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

ducks swimming
the length of a pond

water beaded up
on a dark pink peony

a fence
low enough for jumping

a skate park
with its patrons

a campsite too nice for the homeless
but close enough to the road,
far enough from the house
to make me wonder

and that which can’t be seen:

the smell of cigarette smoke
barreling through the rain

the poison of black berries
on eye-level branches

the varied sounds of nearby roads
of children

the changing rhythm of the wind
against my umbrella

the feeling of wanting to see someone
but not wanting to

love

the emptiness of a stage

the perseverance of a seedy, white dandelion—

shutterless, I write,
possessed by a desperate need
to hold onto what passes

to believe in a future when
someone would care,
would be there
to read what’s been written

to preserve the smallest history

and take some comfort in knowing
what I wanted to capture most
was beauty

In Her Sleep: Kimora Lynum / by Taiyon Coleman

“It’s the living you should fear and not the dead,”
is what my Grandma Jacque tells me when I see
that old lady walking the worn hallways at night.

I’d convinced myself that it was just someone
walking to the bathroom until I made the mistake
of looking up when I felt rushing pass lifting
my head over my sallow pillow last night.

An involuntary action, how could I not look?

I’m nine years old sleeping in a pallet layered
for the front room floor in a space between
the green couch and the Zenith TV cause
I haven’t learned to stop wetting the bed.

“Bedwetting is just an involuntary action”
all the doctors said that I’m “fine. That there’s
nothing wrong.” I’m a big black girl for my age
and my bladder just hasn’t caught up yet with
the rest of my body.

My Paw-Paw says that maybe I dream
that I going to the bathroom, but I’m
actually just in the bed peeing in my sleep
and can’t wake up.

My grandma’s house is a new two bedroom
house and an old two bedroom house too cause
her and Paw-Pau bought it new and fixed it up.

Front porch
Living room
Hallway
Kitchen
Back porch

“It’s a shot gun house” teases Momma,
And I don’t understand.

“Why do they call it a shotgun house?”
I ask before Momma sets off north in her
car for Chicago. She’s only here to drop
me and sister for our safe summer
in the sunshine state.

“It’s a shotgun house because anybody
can stand in front of the home and shoot
one bullet into the house, and that bullet
will kill everyone inside.”

Performing Selfhood as a Mode of Revolution / by Mary Crockett Hill

“I get so hungry.” – John Keats

1 / When you put a boot on your foot, your foot resists the substance of the boot, which eventually overtakes it. You may think the foot agreeable, eager even. It may point its toes to enter, wriggling down vole-like into the hole. But ultimately, the foot’s resistance is what makes the entire boot-wearing enterprise possible, giving purpose to all parties. Boot pulls; foot pushes back. Thus, you are shod.

2 / In some stories, bears do not care for our porridge. They have gone for a walk in the forest because the forest is where they live. The woods feed them, give them nooks in which they mate, birth, sleep. They sometimes cross roads, scaring motorists or hikers, but such crossings do not signify. The bears go on, pick berries, eat ground squirrels, sit in streams to cool their bottoms.

3 / In some stories, ground squirrels do not enter the mouth of a bear.

4 / My mother made candles from new wicks and leftover wax. She never left us hungry, though I often did not wish to eat what she had to offer. The chewing at our table was punctuated by my selfish sighs.

5 / In some stories, we become who we always wished to be. In others, somebody else gets to be that.

6 / Hunger is its own revolution. Our food more than anything is what we become, some molecules fusing into the lining of our throats, some dispersing into the fibrous walls of our stomachs, so if you cut my bog-slick body open 1000 years from now, would you know exactly where my dinner ended and I began?

7 / Samson made spaghetti. Gabe made spaghetti tacos. Dad made apple crisp.

Let’s call it Breakfast Soliloquy / by William Erickson

After breakfast I discovered
an accretion disk around
the empty container of
raspberries, an iridescent
plate of ablated drupelets
circling recyclable clamshell
like discarded astral projects
on the kitchen counter.

God is summer fruits
and mouldy gauze.
God is absorption.

Our new light fixture
is the Hubble beaming images
of war and elections over
history while the dishwasher
counts another minute
from its dry cycle. An arid star
blinking the name of cleanliness.
We do not understand,
but nonetheless we orbit
one another’s names like
the last ring of cereal,
saturated and without integrity,
evading the spoon in an expanse
of milk as thick as emptiness
contained in the daily need to eat.

God is an expiration date.
The streaky window pane
is an event horizon.

Gibeah, / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

A cold coming then again,
borne back from Bethlehem a second time.

Her lips that dried that first journey out
after feasts and the many days’ dance
of bulls slipping in siblings’ blood,

and now came cold on her father’s hailing him
again, bearing wine skins toward the horizon,
rejoicing in her concubinage.

It settled with his eyes’ reptilian urgings
morning on morning to stay, feast, sleep,
as though assembling some revenge.

Late despite those same devices,
too late they left for the depth of Ephraim.

Jerusalem arose at dusk. The mules
against the servant’s word and the cold
eyes recessed pressed for Benjamin.

In Gibeah’s lights the Levite
waited in the square as its eyes amassed
muttering, running wrists along their robes.

They caught her up cold still in their euphoria
before the door, dismissing the virgin mistress.

The night outraged her desert in the street
and cast her on the dawn
grasping at the threshold.

Full morning he found her, eyes spread dried
like a carp’s he’d once tossed in the rushes.
He touched one and it stuck.

Cold out of Judah into Ephraim’s depth again.
The same blade as set the bulls staggering
carved as it could a bloodless lip,

a belly, a calf, till each tribe held her
aghast at all since Egypt’s excellence,
assembling against the one once known
as Ben Oni and beloved.

Before / by Lee Parpart

no one had to invent us
not the military, not Al Gore

our architectures were ready-made
our skins intact

our bodies knew all about
biometrics

even then, one could get locked
out after too many tries

Poem 1 / Day 1

Getting ahead of myself / by Daisy Bassen

Being the confidant of silence:
Is it a personage august, diademed,
More solemn than a wormless oak,
Lifted, without one trailing thread,
From allegory crowded with pilgrims,
Hermits, starving, sympathetic thieves,
Morals springing rash as mushrooms
In the damp?
                          Or a riddle, it could be
That, the trick you are supposed to relish
Solved, insoluble, as impervious to decay
As honey; a meditation; a refrain
You once knew and cannot recall;
A masquerade we wear our faces to,
Impossible as zero, the something
Of nothing, the time before counting.

The last strangling breath of the caught fish.
It is not the same when we drown.
We were conceived in water.

Geese / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Teri

Perhaps we can see it in the geese who feel threatened, or aim to threaten, and show their displeasure — the way they stick their necks out for what they believe in. Notice the flock of them, how it is easier to be bold in the presence of friends, or family. Even trouble unseen can unite us, pull forth our voices toward a common goal. What, then, are we waiting for?

breasts break cold water
as easily as sunlight —
who will bring the heat?

Geese at Fish Creek, by Teri White Carns, July 2020

I Ain’t Blaming Nobody: Jason Hargrove[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

 

In a motor town city
I drive a big bus.

It’s essential.

I push that bus
for my lady
and our six kids.

With a subtle salt
and pepper goatee
lined and trimmed
close to my clean
light blue collar
under my tight
dark blue sweater
with my fresh blue
sport transit visor,

I was a redbone looking just right,

and a grown woman
in her late fifties stood
on the bus and coughed,
and she didn’t even
cover-up her mouth.

Damn.

A grown-ass fucking
person stood on the bus
in her late fifties
or her late sixties
and coughed
on the goddamn bus
and didn’t cover-up
her motherfucking mouth.

I ain’t blaming nobody.

They not taking
this shit seriously baby.         
Yep. This is a fucking pandemic,
and I sprayed my shit with Lysol,
but I wanted to burn up that bus.
I am pissed the fuck off.

Don’t worry.

I ain’t gonna bring
no cooties home
to you baby,
but I feel nasty
right now,
and I’m gonna take
my clothes off
at the front door
and shower just
to get in the bed
next to you without
my blue collar
my blue uniform
my blue sweat
my blue love
my blue anger
a flag with a thin blue line
and my blue lips.


[1] Hargrove, Jason Djinfiniti. “Jason Djinfiniti Hargrove was live.” Facebook, 21 March 2020 https://www.facebook.com/Dj.Infiniti/videos/10222496193013898/

Good Morning and Welcome to the Show / by Mary Crockett Hill

I wake and I’m not awake ten minutes before my husband

tells me I’ve been saying “shitshow” a lot lately. He’s right, but so am I.

Five months into quarantine and “shitshow” works for pretty much everything.

We’ve been rubbing up against each other in this heat, using deodorant

that is not our own, bare feet tracking the sloughed skin of five other people

through our too-small house. I shouldn’t complain. I have a house.

I have a house that smells of fry grease and what might be urine and cats.

This isn’t the record of a family falling apart, but one staying together.

For what it’s worth, we hung a feeder in the tree outside the kitchen and have seen

a lot of birds this month or, more likely, the same few birds over and over,

getting fat and crapping dark explosions on the hammock.

I could write one small bird poem, a haiku exhaling

the white breath of dawn,

stained glass of a blue jay’s wing.

No one would judge me.

Instead, I take “shitshow” and smear it on my chest, pray it will drop

–ripe or ripening, from my husk like sweet ground fruit for gleaning.

It’s only natural I can’t see past this morning.

It’s only natural I think of those who lost their mothers, uncles, loves

in the first days of this shitshow and had to grope their way

from dusk to sunrise, larkspur to glug of night,

with no one in the hallway beside them

and the hallway expanding endless in the house of their minds

or worse, hallway-less, house-less, out with nowhere to be,

my cousin’s cousin who was eaten by her own cells

and her son, obsessed with pocket watches, in prison for something

the family won’t talk about, my second cousin who left one wife

maniacal on the sidewalk, one daughter already dead.

How do you end a poem that promises nothing but excrement

and then delivers? Easy, you stop writing. You stop writing

and go look at birds.

Slow Motion Hummingbird / by William Erickson

One time I was the opposite
side of the street, a knot-hole
in the neighbor’s fence.
Imagine the surprise when
I saw myself through the
window behind the water
spots, vacuuming, rusting
in place. A slow-motion
hummingbird between me
and the distance I’ve grown.

I made an opposite time capsule
filled with all the things I try to
forget the day before a weekend
succumbs to its suffix. It was
buried in the opposite of my yard
for while before I made it, learning
to fly and survive on its own, which
is important in this severe weather.
Camel butts and travel advice,
sixteen cents.

Dew wicked into my socks and
I became the low tide, a soapy
moon borrowing my lungs to
make another hour or two.
What is the opposite
of a hummingbird
if I am across the street
listening to myself
clean house?
Perhaps I missed it.

Catharsis / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

Ulysses’ ship is drawn up in the mind’s loom
out of the whirl of wanting to know.
The red and yellow wrecker jerks its chrome snout
out of the midst as we appear above a rise

and eyes absolved among revenant reeds
circle first the purple nameless blossom
there in the distracted passage past and
pulling me too toward center.

E poi the corn beyond the mouldered band
of blackberry dogwood and morel
rustles as ragged beards bent over oars
below the constellations at the bottom of the world.

The slow curve crosses saddled streams.
Cattle bow to sun shoots underfoot
at the swelling of their shedding sides.
The eye plods too beneath self spread

grazing the flank of the mile long mountain.
A red-tailed hawk processes with the retrogressive
curl of turkey vultures turning in the light,
waiting to fan the faces of the dead.

Things we did before YouTube / by Lee Parpart

Most days, looking for pandas.

Imagining pandas appearing in Toronto, outside zoos,
any place a panda might be.

Squinting at maples, almost glimpsing eucalyptus.

Imagining fistfuls of thickest fur.

Promising foot rubs, back rubs.

Granting guesses in bed. Yes, cursive. Starts
with an L. Ends with an E.

Dreaming of Australia.

Marveling at friends who went there to swim with dolphins
and came back changed.

Wondering if we’ve missed all of the opportunities we’ll ever get
to be resurrected/punished/reborn/transformed.

Making our own movies. Thinking about making
our own movies. Writing scripts. Writing a lot of
partial scripts.

Failing to predict the pivotal role that would soon be
played by animal videos.

Imagining ourselves whole, without buttons or levers.

Imagining ourselves not really that addicted to anything.

Thumbing vellum at night, with phones in cradles.
And the glowing world safe outside.

Peering over pillows. Running finger tips
along visible ribs and sloping hips.

Naming vertebrae.

Scrawling messages on skin.

Sending each other skinmail.