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 30 / Day 30

Renga / by Daisy, Daniel, William, Caitlin, Mary, Lee and Taiyon

Virga, the rain that falls
And never quenches fire,
Promises like smoke

To soothe the children calling
Us at each ecstatic urge

Their names, burnt summer
on a long horizon, smile.
Their names, my roses.

Petals fall with every breath
Light igniting each to hope

The fox’s footfall,
first in leaf, then shell of snow,
may break through to bloom.

Skies may fall or stay aloft
as warm earth gives way to green.

Brown and Black bodies
dying, we want to be free.
Racism’s the virus.

I and Thou / by Daisy Bassen

The makers of the Doomsday clock expected you
To be shocked into action, that’s no real secret.
Nor is their disappointment at your public
Calm, faces etched with civil concern, a record
Pressed in Linear A, a song you cannot follow
Even to hum under your breath. Tone-deaf. The vote

To cast you out would be unanimous, a vote
Uncontested, a little dull perhaps. Should you
Cry at the rejection, we must only shrug, follow
The gesture with a buoy’s gentle nodding, our secret
Relief at remaining judges. No world record
Stands forever, the clock-makers’ mistake. The public

Appetite is not ravening for numbers; the public
Collective jaw unhinges itself for spectacle. The vote
Was captured that way by suffragettes, the record
Of their force-feeding available to you
In blunt black-and-white, white over black a secret
Only if you pretend you didn’t know. Follow

The sashed leader. See how she has a shadow to follow
Behind her at a decorous distance. In public,
Screaming for justice isn’t polite; there is no secret
Word to grant that permission, no hoarse spells to devote
Yourself to mastery through lucubration. I know you
Can’t believe it. We told you lies first, a record

Number of them. They come so easy. A broken record
Isn’t right even once a day, the same notes follow
Each other like shark’s infinite teeth, the clock-hands you
Are supposed to turn back stuck fast. The republic
Is stuck fast. Every march, every dear won vote
Is a hand working to free it, to reset the secret

Faceless clock wound in ships’ holds. A secret
Told is and isn’t, Schrödinger’s helpful cat reckoned. Record
That carefully, you clock-watcher, poll-watcher, vote-
Chaser; time runs both ways and no way out, follow
Scarlet thread to the spool-less labyrinth, the opposite of public
Space, a maze instead of a monumental park. You

Cannot imagine how much, how very much I want to follow
Along, through, not to any end, but to a public
Good. This land was made for me and you.

The Gleaners / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

What can three women leaning
over small seeds they have sown
hear from dirt’s persistent birth
that a straighter back would miss?

If ever they could relax,
and out of rest find meaning,
would they teach us how to pray
for mercy and forgiveness?

I doubt any wiser words
have been spoken by a man
in his world domination
than what’s left these women’s lips —

gems gathered from the gleaning
and the tending of the earth.

Millet, Jean-François. The Gleaners. 1857. Musée d’Orsay, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gleaners.

“Alvin Simmons[1] Didn’t Deserve That[2]: Insert Your Name Right Here.” / by Taiyon Coleman

A father of two, a son, a brother, an uncle, a veteran, and a friend
and as a Black man in the United States of America, he learned
the hard way that it wasn’t always good to be the first one.

This is what happens when you are the designated right person in
the wrong place at the wrong time.

Like Crispus Attucks, he just wanted a trade and a way to make[3]
a living weaving boat rope in the New World still infused with
old ideas and chained to the same old power under a different name.

Only allowed to trade plantation cotton rows and back whips
for a respectable cleaning mop, a slosh-bucket and a wash rag,
both he and Attucks were just minding their own business trying
to get, not get got, and to be free.[4]

A formality really.

The first to die in the American Revolution, and the Declaration
did not refer to him as a man, yet the legacy of poor and brown
bodies that follow are always the first to necessary die in a crisis,
a war protecting their freedom, giving birth, in a hurricane, segregating
schools, in a land grab, from a lynching, jogging through the neighborhood,
trying to vote, in a jail, selling a loose cigarette, in a war protecting
their freedom, crossing the border, participating in a federal study
to cure syphilis, sleeping in your own bed in your own house, drinking
lead water, at school, by the police choking you out, dancing in a night
club, and of course in a pandemic.

They were necessary, expected and acceptable ones who are always
called to serve and die, and die, he and Attucks did.

If killing black, brown and poor bodies are necessary to maintain an
American way of life, what happens when this necessary evil,
the necessary bodies and necessary deaths, run out?

Woe is me. Woe is you. Woe is all of us. 


[1] “New Details on Monroe County’s First COVID-19 Death.” Spectrumlocalnews.com, spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/buffalo/coronavirus/2020/03/17/monroe-county-confirms-first-covid-19-death.

[2] Dewberry, Deanna. “Family of First Person to Die from COVID-19-Related Causes in Monroe County Speaks Out.” WHEC News10NBC, WHEC, 18 Mar. 2020, www.whec.com/coronavirus/family-of-first-person-to-die-from-covid-19-related-causes-in-monroe-county-speaks-out/5677106/.

[3] “Crispus Attucks.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 12 Aug. 2020, www.biography.com/military-figure/crispus-attucks.

[4] u3cL49W518. Marshawn Lynch: “I’m Gon’ Get Mine More than I Get Got, Doe”, YouTube.com, 15 June 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGQNZiB4RdI.

Big Foot Cannot Speak His Best Goodbye / by Mary Crockett Hill

–at the funeral pyre of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1822

what was flamed tuft on sand
what was drenched with you
what was where
what was you
i stand there

i pour it out
wet my fur with it
this is for the you gone
for the going
for the raft

shh shh shh
the raft
lee lee lee
the raft

smoke singes
my forearm
sings elsewise

bugs play bonesong
but i drum the bone
where your heart
would not burn

my friend at the edge of worlds
tell me what you see

what horizon

what becoming

so i can make you
friend
again

Pistils and Stamens / by William Erickson

I have finally left my body
in a pile of deciduous leaves,
thinking the fall colors a sort
of effigy, a heap of suns
on the ground.

Red giant. Somebody to miss me.

My body and I exhibit a weak
gravitational pull on the secrets
that lie between us. Constellations
bloom above its ribcage,
pollinate inside of me.

Pistils and stamens. A sense of never losing.

Watermark / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

I

When his older brother twisted his fists
into my soft white cotton collar,
all I could see was the water fountain
where the handle of a friend’s red wagon
had crushed my finger. I was four then
and had cried. The crescent scar still shines
when I bend at the first joint.

After dinner Dad showed me how to break
that grip, and when the bell rang I returned.
The dark walk was empty, and the breeze
blew chlorine from the girls’ pool
at the other end. The teacher I’d threatened
him with was moving once again beyond the blinds,
straightening little desks staring into the eternity
of the blackboard and the back field beyond.

II

One autumn I sat in on the group lesson,
wasting paper at her kitchen table listening
to the drum of pecan shells squirrels shed
on the carport roof and watching astonished
as a girl made an apple gleam.

I wondered how she slept
with the drumming on the carport roof.
I wonder who she was because
she was too many things then:
pre-school teacher, art instructor, baby-sitter,
muralist, shark enthusiast, with nasal voice
and perfect understanding of grilled cheese.

When she turned two walls of my room to swamp,
she cracked the fiberglass fin of a redfish
dead-mounted on a dull slab of driftwood.

Somehow she knew how to fix it
and showed us how the snout
was painted too pale a red
to begin with and how the curve
of the body was too much alive.

III

Mold in shapes as shadows of birds
winged among the mural cypresses.
The redfish leaned against the wall,
their spotted tails cracked clean off.

The orange language on the door
declared none there were dead, and
the piano’s taut innards had slipped.
All wood was warped. The maples and crape

myrtles had fallen or if they stood stood dead.
No wings beat. No carrion shrieks arose.
The swollen mattress collapsed
upon the nest of heels where I’d crawled

in search of quarters. That was before.
I have wandered away through words,
wondering which fish flickered through the room
that no one has slept in since.

Fifteen years after my father’s seen
the first cardinal, flame in the bottlebrush,
e quindi aspetto il tempo when again
calamity will run a finger down the walls.

Frozen in Time / by Lee Parpart

Those headphones aren’t cancelling much.

On our way to Montreal, a wintry kingdom
in the back seat. The tinny mountain echoes of
Elsa and her friends, belting out showtunes.

What are you watching?

You freeze, a 17-year-old caught
role-playing with your old Barbies.

Have I done my job if you’re resourceful
enough to pirate the odd new release and
conscientious enough to feel guilty?

I could have told you about that time
when I was eleven — how I decided,
on zero evidence, that I needed a
training bra. How I knew my mother
would have scoffed.

How I stuffed one in my winter coat
and was caught within five seconds.

Avalanches are not random events. Time is
             slipping.

Maybe I can sneak in a few aphorisms
while you start online classes this fall.
I’ll try to read Antigone, your first text,
so we can talk about it over dinner.

And if there’s no time for that, I promise
to rent Frozen II—legally this time—so we
can watch it together and share the same ear
worms for a few days.

Maybe I’ll catch you in the kitchen,
humming one of the new songs.
Maybe we can split a popsicle and laugh,
like we did when you were small.

Poem 29 / Day 29

To my daughter / by Daisy Bassen

In Joshua, when the Sun stands still
And the Moon stays as long as she’s needed,
It’s the Book of Jasher that get cited
In a tone of voice recalling every nodding elder
Who would shrug at your troubles,
May this be the worst thing that ever happens
To you; the women will feed you pastries next,
Heavy with dried fruit, honey, the strength
Of their arms kneading leavened dough;
A sustenance against agonies. Jasher, meaning
The just man, the upright, correct, a footnote
Worth noting; lost, fraudulent, co-opted, flashy,
Swagger; songs sung against night, taking
The place of tears. A reference, a fixed point,
A minor note held longer than we thought possible,
For joining. You told me I made up something true.
You didn’t even smile, because candor
Doesn’t require any adornment, acknowledgement,
An ungilded lily, your mind moving over the waters.
Behold, it is written in the Book of Jasher.

Robert Service Cento / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Dad

Time, the Cynic, sneers at you,
As in the face of Fate I spit —
You stand to bow your last adieu
And snug before the fire I sit.

I will not mystify my mind,
I’ve come to reckon goodness —
For you cannot deny
God fends and fights in each of us.

In terms of matter I am sure
There is dignity in death,
Yet now I know by my failing breath
Golden truths that shall endure:

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
Out in mysterious No Man’s Land —
Peace and light and love to be won —
And the Wanderlust will help you understand.

The Response from the Government Conveys “Let Them Die”[1]: Rev. Vickey Gibbs[2] / by Taiyon Coleman

With pain in the places where her bones tie and meet
and with swelling in her healing brown hands, she reached
and preached social justice joy full force refusing to serve
Jesus Lite to her parishioners in the state with “friendship”
as its motto. God takes the good ones early, and we are lucky
if we can count our friends on one hand, but I never understood
how some people could use both of your dark hands until they
are calloused and still never really want to be your real friend.
A good lamb, she “did not put the Lord her God to the test,”
and for forty days and nights in gulf sand, she back talked
the devil all the while guiding people from the bellies of their
whales through seeing the Christ in them all. For ten days, she
carried her crucifix breathing thick fluid through her lungs,
and she died with her beloved choir director by her side, forgiving.  
Church “was where she wanted to be, never knowing a love so sweet.”[3]


[1] Drayton, Tiffanie. “1 In 3 Black Americans Knows Someone Who Died of Covid-19. These Stories Capture the Toll Taken by the Disease.” Vox, Vox, 26 Aug. 2020, www.vox.com/first-person/2020/8/26/21400035/coronavirus-covid-19-mortality-black-americans.

[2] Leland, John. “Rev. Vickey Gibbs, Activist in a Progressive Church, Dies at 57.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 July 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/07/15/us/vickey-gibbs-dead-coronavirus.html.

[3] Prince. “‘Vicki Waiting.” “Vicki Waiting” (Batman 1989 CD), YouTube.com, June 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uPacOTApbM.

Self Portrait / by Mary Crockett Hill

The Path of Someone / by William Erickson

Somewhere, right now, in some image that is not an alternate, someone lay bleeding and unable to stop, a map of someone else’s pretense soaking into the concrete, making topographical the one guarantee implied by taking a breath in the first place, that very first cry, the one that means everything, that means hunger and freedom and gasping the light like it’s never been in those eyes because it hasn’t, an empty shell, a vacuum of experience, a pupil of literally everything, crying, breathing, being held, crying, the growing pains, the good times that never seem that good or that abundant till they’re memories, the memories, the way they break apart, the ways they are rebuilt, the delicate structure of blood, of someone’s father, mother, of somebody’s child, the breaking of somebody’s promise, the promise in everything, alternate images, someone else’s regrets, so many they become the texture of all things, a map of outliving a piece of oneself, living just long enough to want another moment and to want this one to end as fast as is humanly possible, crying, becoming, surrender, stolen, hate, the point of things, the simple lines between them drawing conclusions about who ought to be on this side or that, siding with breath but losing out because someone else decides, deciding, escaping, hating, blindness.

Forecast / by Danny Fitzpatrick

It was when the dog star’s ardor was summoning the dawn
and the ocean’s radiance rushed to darken dreams
with ivory and gold and the breath of cashews.

There were some who’d sighed relief and played
the green baize a hundred miles north and drank
until the word bezique buzzed on their tongues
above imagined Rivieras, the ones that never existed,
not even in Hollywood. Screens swirled and the interpretive
hulk groaned from its loophole out onto the River.

There were those who fished the surge in hip boots
and laughed as scales thudded past in the ecstasy of new worlds.
Overhead six species of sea gulls sped north on fixed wings,
hoping for that ocean that fed the waves they’d known.

And then there were some stunned to come home, to turn
onto the street they’d photographed, ten steps at a time,
and find the ceiling mainly there, the wreckage of deck chairs
just as they’d left it beside the second car, to find
the key’s teeth turned the warm west-facing lock and that at least
there was a stench by then in the kitchen and the power
and the water would be out six weeks at best.

Closets / by Lee Parpart

What would you like to do with these extra
notebooks? These jars of paintbrush pens?
This box of little erasers shaped like hippos
and cupcakes and hot dogs?

You had a song you used to sing after the bath.
Your towelling off song. One night I asked you to
stop and go to bed. The look in your eyes. Worse,
the lyrics are gone forever.

We both know what I did at the carwash.
Ripping the head off your favourite yellow duck
towel when I needed a cloth.

The hood sits inside our linen closet, still,
sandwiched between towels, waiting
to be made whole.

In a closet of my own youth: a human
brain, put there by your grandfather.

I was not supposed to know about this
med school trophy, but I visited it
every summer. Once I brought a
few flowers and propped them
against the jar and sang a little song.
I forget the words.

Poem 28 / Day 28

Regret, a Wasp / by Daisy Bassen

At dawn, the mourning dove declares
Denial—is the only fact
That cannot be alchemized, gold
From dross; if you are awake then

Hearing her, copper kettle partner
To your grief, you know we only
Tell all the truth but tell it slant
When we’re forced to it. Oracle,

Before I got my eye put out,
I saw what any woman sees.
Depthless now, I catch the dove’s gaze
And wonder at her songs I’d missed

Because I could not stop for Death.

Once Upon an Ode / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

If you want to get a poem out of a child, say, “Bring me your oldest pair of sneakers, and … tell me what these sneakers mean to you.”
                                                                                 — Rhina P. Espaillat

The first poem I ever wrote —
or the first that I remember —
was an ode to my blue sneakers.
My English teacher must have known
and taken Rhina P.’s advice.

On the rubric, she made one note:
“I Love IT!” Back in December,
that school year, my trapper keeper
held the tale of a villain thrown
into melted duct tape — concise

though it was, my effort to vote
“prevaricate” a contender
in sixth-grade speech rendered readers
skeptical of my word-forced tone.
(“Hedged,” most likely, would have sufficed.)

But building a portfolio
at twelve helps reveal the splendor,
in later years, of great teachers
who would be proud to see us grown
into published writers — still knights.

The Use of Deadly Force and the Circles of Hell are Complicated: Sgt. Virgil Thomas[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

Black, Blue big and off-duty,

you shot Eric Reason[2] over a

parking lot space. Not exactly

one of Dante’s nine rings[3] of

hell, but it happened close to

a California gasoline station

when the asphalt was really

dark and hot, and green trees,

storefronts, and grown people

feel still and burned. Because

you were licensed and well

trained to take aim and fire,

you believed bullets that killed

came only out of your gun. With

“no other choice,” you shot him

dead, and then later, a pandemic

virus discharged into you. Two

Black lives for the price of one.


[1] Freedman, Richard. “Richmond Officer Virgil Thomas Who Killed Eric Reason Dies of COVID-19.” Times, Times-Herald, 21 Aug. 2020, www.timesheraldonline.com/2020/08/20/richmond-officer-who-killed-reason-dies-of-covid-19/.

[2] Ortiz, Erik. “During Heated Parking Lot Dispute, off-Duty Officer Fatally Shoots Man Running Away.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 22 Jan. 2020, www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/during-heated-parking-lot-dispute-duty-officer-fatally-shoots-man-n1120491.

[3] Staggs, Matt. “A Visitor’s Guide to Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell: Penguin Random House.” PenguinRandomhouse.com, Penguin Random House, www.penguinrandomhouse.com/articles/a-visitors-guide-to-dantes-nine-circles-of-hell/.

The Last Time For Everything / by William Erickson

This is the last time I’ll mistake your eyelids for parentheses, especially while you’re awake.

This is the last time I will speak to the person you dreamt of last night who wasn’t me, who was me but who didn’t look or act the same, the last time I will ask them to join us for breakfast, how they take a coffee.

This is the last time I will point out the differences between you and yourself in the mirror. I know how you hate that.

It is the last time I’ll try painting a pointillist you on the wall, the ends of a bunch of little sentences shading the semblance of your lips.

This is the time I will describe the different music I think plays when you enter the room, telling you to guess who you are.

The last time I look around an empty house saying your name as if I’ve lost you.

Oracle at Delphi / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

Down the shade-slope cupping waves un-sunned,
no grape-pulp breaking but the wine-black
plum-blood swells, dimpled copper of spoonbill
cloud splay. The road shrine glared in
grove of loose-hip dogwood, moon-blotting.
Rose-feather furled upper air, bay cup through couple
columns as blood, sanguis, sporting with porpoises
with breasted blind Tiresias trembling with wand-touch,
angelic verge, Jesse stump shooting through to bloom
fruit flower in one with juice-cut licking cedar, olive, cypress.
“Have you come again among the dead?”
“Have you come?”
“Have you come again?”
Three times sword-dull limbs encircling neck,
bull neck, mugitus, staggering the vine-row.
Third throw then flesh, agony froth, artery ferment.
Up sun-edged hill hung hecatombs, fat intact,
blood-bleating, curl-horned, with desiccated cud.
Fosse full, deep sun silvers vein so
sacrifice repair to pasture, sleep.

Blood Anniversary / by Lee Parpart

On the 65th anniversary of the brutal murder of Emmett Louis Till
by two white men in Mississippi.

Instead of a midnight knock, a dessert fork tapping crystal.

Instead of a gun, a bridal bouquet in yellow and peach.

Instead of shouting, our favourite songs.

Instead of an eye on the ground, a loving glance.

Instead of your body in the Tallahatchie, a silent pond.

Instead of a swift acquittal, a vow.

Instead of an open casket, a wedding bed.

Had we known they killed you on August 28,
I hope we would have chosen a different day.

Poem 27 / Day 27

A thousand ships / by Daisy Bassen

If you take off your face on a regular basis,
I suppose you get used to it. Your reflection
Misbehaving in the mirror is worse,
Sly when you are feeling tender,
Adorable to the one left waiting in your bed.
You’re sure your hands are the truer
Representation of your kernel-self
Than your soulless corneas, peridot irises
The work of Seurat’s apprentice. Palms
Hold and knead, slapping the holy hell
Out of you and into the world. The death-mask
Of L’inconnue de la Seine is the most-kissed;
She’s Rescusi Annie now and we’ve all tried
Breathlessly to bring her back to life. Okay?

Iris / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

This Hurts People in Ways that They’ll Never Come Back From[1]: Dar’yana Dyson[2] / by Taiyon Coleman

Because we all have hubris, I made plans
with my friend Kathleen after my prenatal

visit hungry for colonial black tea and imperial
sugar baked white breads. Black with hypertension

over forty, I was high risk, but with four weeks
to go, I believed that I and my second baby

were in the clear. My daughter thought otherwise,
seemingly no longer satisfied with the oxygen flowing

from my abrupted disparate placenta. “Can I go home
to just quick get some clothes? No. Go straight to Labor

and Delivery!” And four weeks to the day, she came
early on her own time on the seventh day in the first

month with a look on her crumpled face that said “Fuck!
When I agreed to come back to this bitch those hoes didn’t

tell me that I had to do all this shit over again with these
same stupid motherfuckers! Damn!” Minnie Riperton’s

“Memory Lane”[3] played on the hospital room television
while my husband took our preemie for her Infant Car

Seat Challenge. It sounded like a video game. When she
returned, her forty-eight hours old beautiful brown face

set stern and determined, and I thought the test name
appropriate. The nurses didn’t expect baby girl to pass,

and when she did, I felt this rushing overwhelming sense
of dread. From her first breath, born early at thirty-five

weeks, I knew my girl was a total bad-ass stronger than me,
and I knew I that could never break her Spirit like my Momma

did to me under the guise of a layered protection. As we readied
to go home, Minnie sang “I don’t want to go….save me.”[4] I cried

so hard once believing that the worse thing was dying before your
kids. After meeting my tiny daughter, one of strong will and great

volition, born small and early, having surpassed her first safety
test, I knew that the worse thing in life, really, would be her

dying before me.


[1] Reed, Kai, and Kim Dacey. https://www.wbaltv.com/article/kandace-kinght-remembers-daughter-daryana-dyson-who-died-from-complications-of-coronavirus/32588262“Mother Remembers 15-Year-Old Daughter Who Died from Coronavirus Complications.” WBAL, WBAL, 20 May 2020, www.wbaltv.com/article/kandace-kinght-remembers-daughter-daryana-dyson-who-died-from-complications-of-coronavirus/32588262.

[2] Wiggins, Ovetta. “Dar’Yana Dyson, a Teen Who Loved Music and Wanted to Become a Cosmetologist, Dies of Complications of Covid-19.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 30 May 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/local/daryana-dyson-a-teen-who-loved-music-and-wanted-to-become-a-cosmetologist-dies-of-complications-of-covid-19/2020/05/29/4488412e-a02d-11ea-b5c9-570a91917d8d_story.html?_ga=2.225860056.315449894.1598547819-998882503.1598547819.

[3] “Minnie Riperton ‘Memory Lane’ (Live 1979).” YouTube, LuvNU75, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pe3yPvY8Z10.

[4] Kit O’Toole on September 29, 2015 9:44 AM. “DeepSoul: Minnie Riperton – ‘Memory Lane.’” Blinded By Sound, blindedbysound.com/features/deepsoul/deepsoul-minnie-riperton-memory-lane-1/.

The sun is in my backyard / by William Erickson

The sun is in my backyard
making lewd gestures,
drunk on itself and scaring
the dogs, who need to pee.
Just now, as I write this,
it’s giving me a solar flare.
Talking calmly through
the window isn’t working,
which leaves me at a loss
and worried we’ll be up
all night trying to hang
quilts over the windows
just to sleep a little.
What do you do?
I thought about climbing
to the roof and diving into it,
fusing with a hydrogen atom
in a nuclear reaction,
becoming energy, becoming
a perspective on myself.
I thought about how far
I’d have to fall, how many
atoms I contain.
I should tell the neighbors
that I’m sorry, that I’m
falling as fast as possible.

Fish Market / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

If morning’s fingers, massaging the cloister’s walls
and modeled on the tingling of the blue canal below,
should wake you sooner than the cries of the nearest gondolier,
recall the guidebook’s sixteenth bullet point
and take the still serene Rialto to the market.
Observe to your ambivalent companion,
if only to remind yourself, that there are contests
even Buonarotti couldn’t win, scale models
sent in blind and cast upon the trash heap of the Masters.
Listen for the liquid tick the clock tower’s
stenciled, fin-curved arms suggest. By then the flowers
may have brought to mind the quail dogs of Arizona, nuzzling
the towels that soak the hunters’ thighs. Keep quiet.
Now you’ve come among the fruits. Darken a carton
with strawberries and sip one, but save the rest.
The herring have strewn the glistening ice with stars
and are commencing with their lecture on Clara Peeters.
There’s your passage through Babette’s Feast
and on to the Cajun tables that shaped your tongue.
The hermit crabs are clicking in their vat of steel,
veiling their faces in bubbles as if
attempting to ascend at least into the puncturing
Sun. Purchase one, without haggling, and with it
a fiddler, and tip them both back into the calm
colloidal sea, throbbing with engines. Even as the tang
of nets spread to the light reticulates the back
of your throat the two will have spun their tale
of the afterlife to schools infinitely more interested
than any you’ll ever address. It is beginning
to be warm. Buy a bag of salted horse
as you return. No delicacy, it still with strawberries
can tell you more than Chesterton of pleasure.
The Sun’s assaulting the Rialto, and a man
crouches, rolling green paint upon a worn wood panel,
continuing undisturbed as your head turns further and further,
knowing you will have to spend the rest of your life
trying to explore his importance.

EMPTY NOISE / by Lee Parpart

The birds in Red Square all work
for the KGB delivering crumbs to
old Cossacks. If you stare at the
stone lions for long enough you’ll
think you can hear them roar, but
you’ll be wrong, the way you
have been about so many things.

East is west. Work is rest. Civil
discourse is just a cirrus cloud
breaking over Belarus.

A face is just a face, whether it’s
mottled or not. It doesn’t tell a
story. It doesn’t give testimony.

The Cyrillic alphabet is just a row of
clay cups for holding vodka.
Clear, colourless, odorless, it may
as well be water.

The bloodstream is more of a river
in the middle of town.

The crocodiles around the Kremlin
have had their jaws wired shut, so if
you hear grinding at night, it’s just
the whirr of reason taking flight.

Poem 26 / Day 26

Santé! / by Daisy Bassen

Champagne makers may destroy record amounts of grapes to save industry from pandemic losses, 8/18/20, AP

Champagne is a casualty
Because the only bubbles
We can handle cannot
Be allowed to effervesce.

gogyōka / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Sigrid

I keep thinking
furniture means something
more than its utility
but sometimes
a chair is just a chair.

It Was The Way He Made Us Feel[1]: Scott Blanks[2] / by Taiyon Coleman

While sitting on the top of the bunkbed
reading a book, the cheap mattress fell
through, and I hit my chin on the steel
railing on the way down. After all the
yelling, crying and blood, my left first
molar was broken in half, and I needed
eight stiches in my lip. Four on the inside,
and four on the outside. The ER doctor
referred me to a dentist. I was fifteen
years old. It was my first time visiting
a dentist, and after waiting for hours in
the community clinic, the dentist looked
at the remaining part of my tooth, determined
that there seemed to be no real nerve damage
and that I “could live just fine with that broken
tooth at the root in my mouth just the way
it is.” Later, Momma told me fixing my tooth
wasn’t covered because a broken molar in a
poor black girl’s bleeding mouth didn’t qualify
as an emergency service. Growing up, our house
was full of broken things that worked just fine.
Pliers to turn the bathroom tub water off and on.
The smaller working TV sitting on top the larger
busted floor TV. The leaky ceiling covered with
cork pieces with metal pots and pans underneath.
The white ice box in the basement because the one
upstairs in the kitchen didn’t get cold. The front
porch crumbling concrete steps, and a father who
never came home, but sent birthday cards once a
year signing “I love you.” The space created from
that broken molar became my constant subconscious
tongue comfort groove until it pained me so much
that I could afford the hurt, and after thirty years, it
was pulled. My insurance paid for the extracted tooth
and not for the sexy unbreakable tooth implant perfectly
shaded to match my real tea stained teeth.

“It’s not like buying Cheerios from the grocery store!”
the white dentist spat at me frustrated with my inability
to decide if I could spend that much money to close
the dark hole in my mouth. “Some people can’t afford
Cheerios!” I yelled back. He didn’t understand the
the lines of demarcation between the fake and the real.
I guessed that it was easier to help poor and black people
when he believed that we had a high threshold for pain.
Maybe he believed that when something is broken it may
cause pain, but it sure doesn’t hurt. Things still work just
fine.


[1] “Remembering Front-Line Workers Lost To COVID-19.” Ideastream, 22 June 2020, www.ideastream.org/news/remembering-front-line-workers-lost-to-covid-19.

[2] “COVID Exposes Need for LGBTQ Data and Compassionate Cultural Competency.” Los Angeles Blade: LGBT News, Rights, Politics, Entertainment, 1 May 2020, www.losangelesblade.com/2020/04/30/covid-exposes-need-for-lgbtq-data-and-compassionate-competency/.

Becoming Oceans / by William Erickson

Suspicion tells me
the growing body of
water on my porch
is planning insurrection.

It’s been there a few days
and already whitecaps
rise against the window
panes and whisper things

to one another, perhaps
establishing a rank amongst
themselves, organizing.
Forming currents.

When the tide is low
I smoke cigarettes on
the porch as a guise
to muster proof,

picking through the
saturated jute weave of a
welcome mat I remember
having qualms about buying.

There are a few dead spiders,
tangled and drowned.
I didn’t know them.

I was at the ocean last year
laying curled inside a sunset,
the wind taking salt from my tears

until they became an ocean.
I didn’t realize what that meant
until the water on my porch.

Waking / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

Then again at four o’clock the knob clattered
and Therese crept in whimpering
that monsters had come into her dreams.

And I was awake and waited
on the grey mid-century sofa
as the night declined to lighten

and the storm drummed among the pines.
Each fresh flash revealed my mind
like an electron at a point of possibility

or a bird at another end of its tether,
now among the odorless bells of wisteria,
now shocked by streaming needles.

She slept into the dark day
until the power failed and the night light faded
and she shrieked into the dim living room,
enamored of her frightened note.

Leaving Montreal / by Lee Parpart

What is the opposite of
not being able to
come home again?

While covid keeps you
from college, this city
will wait for you, its
face behind cotton, its
streets folded up like
an origami swan.

Poem 25 / Day 25

Bellman’s lost-in-a-forest problem, revised since 1955 / by Daisy Bassen

A hiker is lost in a forest whose shape
And dimensions are precisely known to her.
What is the best path for her to follow
To escape from the forest?

                                         If she remembers
Which side of the tree moss clings to,
It won’t do her any good. Minimization
Is the ostensible solution, assuming
You are sitting with mathematicians
(tell me you imagined one a woman,
please; better yet, three, so that two
don’t have to be best friends, rolling
their eyes in concert, or enemies,
seething like tagines while the guys
are discussing algorithms and coffee-
shops)

Why is best least? If philosophers
Get wind of this, there will be a pitched
Battle or a symposium, virtual as our hiker
With her wool socks and ponytail.
How did she become lost when she knows
So much, though not which way she is facing.

It must be overcast, the light so evenly diffused
She is confused; she thinks she is inside an oyster
Lined with pearl, inside a pearl, in sympathy
With Aphrodite rising at Cythera.

                                                       The answer
Is supposed to be worth a million dollars.
You can adjust for inflation.

Stan (Best Friend) / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

I can feel the distance in your words
when you talk to me like that.
I know we’re barely friends, but I had
hoped you’d write me back
with more than a few platitudes —
I don’t understand your attitude
these days…

Maybe it’s all gone to your head —
you think we’re all a little crazy.
But did you hear what I just said?
I’m not asking you to date me —
tell me, what’s it with you lately?

I can see the glimmer in your eyes
as you watch your fan base grow.
I think you like to see those numbers rise,
but what happens after the show?
Don’t give me your lame platitudes —
come on, drop the attitude
sad boi…

Maybe it’s all gone to your head —
you think we’re all a little crazy.
But did you hear what I just said?
I’m not asking you to date me —
tell me, what’s it with you lately?

I can hear the worry in your voice
even when you say nothing.
If you ever had to make the choice,
would you speak or only sing?
Let us see some gratitude —
tell me, who is being rude
right now?

Maybe it’s all gone to your head —
you think we’re all a little crazy.
But did you hear what I just said?
I’m not asking you to date me —
tell me, what’s it with you lately, hm?

Hm…hm? Hm??

Maybe it’s all gone to my head —
I guess we’re all a little crazy.
Can you tell my face is red?
I really don’t want you to hate me —
hope this won’t affect you greatly
(promise I’m not shady)…

I just want to be your best friend!


The Florida River of Styx[1]: Nikima Thompson
[2] / by Taiyon Coleman

She is the person on the other
side of the lifeline when folks
call for help: fire, a gunshot,
birthing a baby, and somebody
needing a fast ambulance.

Because she does her job well
and always assesses every situation 
quickly and calmly, she provides 
relative immediate assistance with 
empathetic ease:
“I got you,”
“please don’t wash-up, take off your clothes, or shower,”
“I know it hurts honey,”
“it’s gonna be alright,”
“no don’t shoot!”
“try and hide,”
“stay with me baby,” and
“please hold on, I promise help is on the way.”

In the Zora Neale Hurston state
near cities of skinny tall trees
that spit coconuts in the sand,
she works and resides with her
four kids. Who does she call when
her black life is on the line:
the sheriff boss that didn’t provide
his essential workers with PPE,
a sanctus governor that says only
people packed like sardines in
yellow buses get the virus,[3]
or a public official who fires[4]
pandemic experts and scientists
when sunshine deaths are at their
highest?

What happens when she is the
person that everyone dials for
help among the wealthiest places
and people in a nation for over
sixteen years, but now, she is the
one calling for help?

The person who is trying
to kill her is the one that
answers the line.


[1] “The Styx” in 1900 – Palm Beach, Fla., Florida Memories: State Library and Archives of Florida, 1900, www.floridamemory.com/items/show/339247.
[2] Murray, Joan. “Coronavirus Death: BSO Emergency Dispatcher Nikima Thompson.” CBS Miami, CBS Miami, 5 May 2020, miami.cbslocal.com/2020/05/05/coronavirus-death-bso-emergency-dispatcher-nakima-thompson/.
[3] CBS Miami. “Farmworkers: Florida Governor Ron Desantis’ Remarks On COVID-19 ‘Shameful’.” CBS Miami, CBS Miami, 18 June 2020, miami.cbslocal.com/2020/06/18/farmworkers-florida-governor-ron-desantis-remarks-on-covid-19-shameful/.
[4] Cleve Wootson, Isaac Stanley-Becker. “Coronavirus Ravaged Florida, as Ron DeSantis Sidelined Scientists and Followed Trump.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 26 July 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-ravaged-florida-as-ron-desantis-sidelined-scientists-and-followed-trump/2020/07/25/0b8008da-c648-11ea-b037-f9711f89ee46_story.html.

Triptych of a Revelation: / by William Erickson

Woke up feeling weekday timid,
speaking 7AM F-15 reaction
at the window glass,
which isn’t clear,
which renders quasi-wartime
flight path hanging thin blue lines
above the business district,
something in the air
to season breakfast, fancy that.
Fancy mail-in demagoguery,
stolen trust and tax arrangements
trickled down the ranks
like empty casings.
Imported labor pained
to bear the throbbing
cost of one more stimulus,
just pray the postal service
gets the check.
This is moral navigation.
This is normative approach
to novel illnesses,
to quarentined opinion
piecemeal ego politicking
weekday after weekday
gone ad nauseam.

Woke up feeling clouds because
the sun’s ashamed of orange,
because the tolerated temps
are now degrees of milquetoast
and the burning shit outside
smells just like sabbath.

Woke up feeling hours till
the terminus to waiting
for a month to change,
feeling the immuno-compromise
has not been worth the fucking
privileged point of view that
makes my Sunday close the weekend.

Opera / by Daniel Fitzgerald

When first like a thrush she burst into song
to ask if we could leave the trail
and hike back up to the brimming
lake through the spillway of shale and
mesquite where the creek chubs wait for rain,
I said simply no. And when she sang
for me to sing, I said I liked to speak.

A goose feather showed at the foot
of a serviceberry tree. I’ve seen them
three evenings this week, trumpeting
to the roost above the universalist church
where I plod my heavy, level miles
surrounded by hills. These days
she honks when I call her mouse, as I have
since first imagining her curled
in a bear’s ear beaded with dew.

So she thanked me when she trilled
a fresh request to take the dry course
thwarted by ivy and I sang that we could not.

Camphor / by Lee Parpart

There are whole months when the moths seem to take over.
They come in through a portal

to the other world and start shooting holes through the backs
of your best blazers.

Most of the time I don’t bother speaking to the skies any more.
Just knowing there are

borers out there pretending to be human. Just knowing they’ll
shoot you from

behind, poison you on a plane, hire people to throw you out
a window. The moths have

finished chewing through our cardigans and are going for our
throats. We used to

have a lot of beautiful cashmere. Now we have constellations
of holes strung

together by hope. I promised I wouldn’t give up, and I won’t,
but today I’m staying in to

tie up little satchels of cedar and camphor laurel and pretend
there’s a whole world outside.

Poem 24 / Day 24

Riddles, 2020 / by Daisy Bassen

A neck, knelt-upon, a cry unto the heavens.
                                                                                              Person

Who may be chased simply for standing still?
                                                                                              Man

A dreamer, unrealized, an unbearable eclipse.
                                                                                              Woman

Who sees all and knows nothing?
                                                                                              Camera

A silk-screen, embroidered by our electric worms.
                                                                                              TV

The Bullets You Put in Jacob Blake’s Back / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

ONE
to ease your misplaced fear

TWO
for your appalling prejudice

THREE
for attempted murder

FOUR
to perpetuate hatred

FIVE
out of depravity

SIX
to more than earn your sentence:

THE SEVENTH
circle of hell

Depraved Indifference[1]: Antoinette, Herman, Timothy, and Anthony Franklin[2] / by Taiyon Coleman 

Indirectly or directly benefiting

from generational and contemporary

institutional disparate outcomes

of created and maintained social

conditions that allow the same

people, their children and babies,

to die in the same wanton ways

over and over and over and over

and over and over and over and over

again, is allowing those people to

die for an evincing you. Allowing other

people to die in order to sustain

homogenized civic realities when

their necessary[3] deaths are preventable

is just cold-blooded murder. Active and

passive complicity is to be explicitly

complicit. Stop killing Black people.[4]


[1] ABC News, ABC News Network, abcnews.go.com/Health/torn-african-american-family-mourns-loved-covid-19/story?id=69997122.

[2] EURPublisher01. “Black Family Loses 4 Loved Ones in 10 Days to COVID-19 as Racial Disparities Exposed.” EURweb, 11 Apr. 2020, eurweb.com/2020/04/10/black-family-loses-4-loved-ones-in-10-days-to-covid-19-as-racial-disparities-exposed/.

[3] Reimann, Nicholas. “Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton Says Slavery Was A ‘Necessary Evil,’ Cites Founding Fathers.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 July 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/nicholasreimann/2020/07/26/arkansas-sen-tom-cotton-says-slavery-was-a-necessary-evil-cites-founding-fathers/.

[4] Freiman, Jordan. “Police in Wisconsin Shoot Black Man in Back Multiple Times, Sparking Protests.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 24 Aug. 2020, www.cbsnews.com/news/kenosha-shooting-wisconsin-police-shoot-jacob-blake-black-man-protesters-gather/.

Big Foot Loses Heart / by Mary Crockett Hill

When berries were scarce
I ate the chipmunk who
ate the berries.

When my fur made fingers of ice down my back,
I told myself stories of what it must be
to wake inside the sun.

When rain would not stop
I waded into the river. I sat on a boulder and spat
where the current parted around me.

All was as I wished it to be.
The notes I scrawled in the mud each sunset
were happy notes. Day this. Day that.

But now I do not know where I have put those fingers.
Now I’ve lost the hole inside the hole.

If You Could Enter Them / by William Erickson

If you could see far enough
in any direction everything
           would be a shadow,

a singular image of all the
words spoken by the mouths
of caves.

If you could enter them,
the words, you would
wonder how they know
           so much about you,

how they learned to
describe your shadows,
how they could be in you,
the tip of your tongue,
           the taste of your apologies.

Joseph / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

Because I was the oldest
I’d always thought that third
baptismal certificate framed
on the foyer wall was Dad’s.
Nine years I passed over you
like a word at first misunderstood
and never spoken.
I still could not believe
what I had not been told.
One winter Sunday I stood
staring at the numbers.
I asked Dad, and when I asked
Mom she asked me who
had told me who you were.
When you come to mind I see her
then, at the end of an aisle
in Home Depot, late on a school night,
with fifth grade math tests
to correct when we get home.
And I see you slowly spoken
into shape, hearth god carved of blue
quartz, indifferent to anointed knuckles
raised awaiting an account
of the hidden lights in the delivery room.
They’ve conjectured, since the stoppage
in mom’s brain, that the cord blood
clotted, though it flowed on into me
and through those years when you
hung swollen and inexplicable,
waiting to be explained.

Orphans / by Lee Parpart

There are so many different kinds of orphans. Plastic spoons
left in a drawer next to stainless steel. Mangoes forgotten
in the fruit bin, their uneaten flesh leaking.

Over our shared fence, you tell me about your grandmother
and your mother: German and Dutch Jews spit out by the Holocaust —
your mother as an infant, your grandmother as a sole survivor.

By the time mother and daughter were reunited,
they spoke different languages and had never shared
a latch or an embrace that either could remember.

Now you roam the world like a migrating bird, selling and
buying nests, flitting between eaves and trees, abandoned barns.

When the plague came, you fled into the forest,
running from a memory of a memory of heavy boots.

You text me from your new address, somewhere up north.
I’m renting until late August. After that, who knows.

I imagine throwing you a line of roped sheets that leads back
to your old house, on the other side of our party wall.

We can finally have those drinks on our deck. I’ll make a
blueberry pie, and we can talk about your next move.

Poem 23 / Day 23

Naturally your protagonist sells her debut novel after going to auction / by Daisy Bassen

Envying a fictional character is real,
I’m certain of it, though I haven’t divined
How I will prove it to anyone. Perhaps
PET scan imaging dappled yolk-bright,
Vermeer’s weld, dyer’s mignonette the yellow
That all other yellows are judged against,
Just as bright, neurons ravenous
Coveting that which is most distant,
The imagination of the imagined,
An unruly sentience. Only in a novel
Could I write a grant captivating enough
To obtain adequate funding and my name
Would need to be Kit Marlowe.

Are you jealous? That scans madder.

Steller’s Jay Sonnet / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

If ever I could choose to read a mind,
today I’d go and ask the Steller’s Jay,
“What were you thinking, flying through the air,
your flapping wings and mine almost entwined?
If you could speak known words, what would you say
to argue or explain your presence there?
You hovered in my face but made no sound,
dropped to the ground and made your feathered way
toward my feet — tell me, what did you care
of my human affairs? No nest was found —
we’re square.”

Laughing to Keep from Crying[1]: Carlos Tibbs[2] and His Mother, Lydia / by Taiyon Coleman

For every person it is super easy and greasy to wear a grin on
your face when you are not the butt[3] of the joke: fried chicken,
watermelon, stupid, loud, happy, strong, baby maker, hot sauce,
angry, aggressive, threatening, sexually available, big, fat, tall,
athletic, painless and you or someone you know sells drugs straight
out of your house.

For real for real.

But what happens when it is your black ass that is the actual butt
of the joke, and you survive out of a tradition where telling the truth
not folklore about your daily situation with an unbending face produces
no cajoling compassion only native son anger and empathy?

For real for real. Doe.[4]

Laughter is your only mask[5] that shows the aftermath of the necessary
picking and eating of that strange fruit so that some who are thirsty won’t
die from their village hunger convinced that you are the best food to eat.
A full border vermillion smile, your teeth so pearly wide, white and tasty,
the voyeurs don’t even notice the pooling cherry blood from your pink
oral commissures splitting and cracking as you take center stage.


[1] Hughes, Langston. Laughing to Keep from Crying. Aeonian Press, 1976.

[2] Fraser, Quanecia. “’Life Is so Short’: Loved Ones Say Comedian and Mother Died from COVID-19 Two Days Apart.” KETV, KETV, 20 Aug. 2020, www.ketv.com/article/life-is-so-short-loved-ones-say-comedian-and-mother-died-from-covid-19-two-days-apart/33658704.

[3] Logsdon, Cameron. “RIP Carlos Tibbs: One Minute Monologue (08/19/20).” Youtube.com, 19 Aug. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdOU3Tf0iQY.

[4] u3cL49W518. Marshawn Lynch: “I’m Gon’ Get Mine More than I Get Got, Doe”, YouTube.com, 15 June 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGQNZiB4RdI.

[5] Walton, Don. “Ricketts Defends His Decision Not to Mandate Masks.” JournalStar.com, 5 Aug. 2020, journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/ricketts-defends-his-decision-not-to-mandate-masks/article_1fa7fab1-dfb3-57e0-89cd-63afdcae013a.html.

Shoveling Whitman’s America – Part 2 / by Mary Crockett Hill

Maybe I have it all wrong. It’s true I am old

and kind of stupid and not very kind and not very strong

and maybe around the hips and belly and thighs and let’s face it face and pretty much all over too ample

for the clothes I’ve known to be mine. You can tell me life isn’t fair

and I’d have to agree, but lol! beats the alternative 😉 That’s got to count for something, right—enduring

all the unendurable glances and grasses and growls and gasses and glaciers and gauzes and geysers and gonads and gallstones and grackles and gramophones geegaws gamma-rays greed and gee I’m out of breath and I’ve hardly started with the g’s. So yeah, I’m capable

of mucking my way through a warehouse glutted with pig guts and babydoll heads, but what else? I’d like to believe it doesn’t matter if I’m American Cute or American Smart or American White or American Rich

but motherfucker I see everyday evidence to the contrary. How can I not return to this Perennial

Unanswerable: without this body, this doorframe, these shoes, this food, these books, this bank, this breath, what’s left? Is anyone the same without as with?

Who, in other words, strides that ridgepole between the stuff of me and me? But anyway, what about you? Tell me about yourself. Let’s start with the

little stuff: If you were to invite anyone, past or present, real or imagined, to dinner, who would it be? Do you have a secret hunch about how you’re going to die? Fuck-Marry-Kill: Wind, Fire, or Earth?

I think we’ve all answered that one. Whatever our proclivities, Earth always ends up fucked. No, seriously, complete this sentence: I couldn’t live with-

out:
          A.    Freedom

B.    Law

C.    The conjunction “and”

D.    Love

Histories / by William Erickson
– after Daisy

Cutting glass is like
anything else: a little
oil, a little pressure,
some broken mirrors.
The more delicateill hold a cutter
like a pencil,
forefinger pointing
at itself, letting the
wheel’s thin vibration
speak through
metacarpals, slower.
As in most things,
time is of the essence:
cuts must quickly be
broken lest they heal,
becoming scars
along the mirror face
that do not surrender
to the hands,
mistakes in the reflection
that must be squared
and trimmed away,
each mistake a reflection
in and of itself, leaning
on the rack waiting
to become something
smaller, watching
and recasting a thinner
image than it did before,
glancing up from the steel
barrel so many paraphrased
moments on the ceiling.
Broken mirrors.
Broken windows.
Broken tendency
to let the cuts heal over.

Bat / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

Between the thought
and the idea
is the sound.
Aimless urgency
reverses
at the fixed
insistence of
the shadbush
and
the pine, hoping
that with frequent
shrieks
into the
rising dark,
the
frantic pattern will issue
in secondhand
blood.

Sick Visit / by Lee Parpart

You don’t say: “With one of your parents in the mental hospital
and the other in Zimbabwe, it is my job to bring you ice cream.”

You do say: “Won’t it be funny to tell everyone how I brought
you ice cream when you were sick with the flu.”

People loved or hated you.

The way you climbed over theatre seats, barefoot,
hiking up your batik dress.

The way you softened a 50-point Scrabble lead by
chuckling as you played your X or your Q and your
one vowel.

Guilt is a waste of energy.

If you own a sports car, you should look happy driving it.

I’m four days in and symptomatic — the last person you should be visiting.
You, eighty and asthmatic. Me, twenty-five and too sick to lift a fork.

I lay there in summer jammies, a girl-shaped indent in a memory
foam mattress, ale-brown hair stuck to my sweaty face.
My bedroom a snow day of used tissues.

A gentle rap at the door. The shuffle of bare feet, dragging in a
little sand from the beach. A smile that I can hear before I see it.

If you show people you’re having fun, you can get away with a lot.

I once cracked your coffee pot and earned a snide comment
from the next room. This was normal, but it brought down an
avalanche of broken glass. I didn’t speak to you for five years.

When I came back to you, I came back like a child. Sweet and solicitous.
Worried about your new hip. Wanting to cook for you, even though you saw
my constant presence in the kitchen as a sign of weakness.

And now here you are, a visitor in my memory. A laughing devil
bearing Häagen Dazs—chocolate-covered almond—and two big spoons.

Poem 22 / Day 22

In the Midrash, Lot’s wife is called Edith / by Daisy Bassen

Any mammographer worth her salt
Knows down to the nanosecond
When you’ll say If men had to do this
They must learn a narrow spectrum
Of inflections, measured in the same
Millimeters they use to fit your breast
Between two panes of glass they tell
You to embrace and then hold your breath,
Hon. It’s the furthest thing from a love affair,
Even though your gown is clove-pink,
And nothing must come between you
And the beloved, not even a trace of scent
Dabbed at your throat. You never remember
Her name if you get lucky.

Migration / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Tio

I have to ask, what made you leave
Kingston’s beaches for our peaks?
Did you wrestle with your resolve
to trade hot sun for months of snow?
What weapons filled your arsenal
to survive your new northern home?
I hope all Alaska promised
was worth whatever it has birthed,
and the cold won’t send you running
back to the center of the earth.

Doll / by Mary Crockett Hill

Most of what I know
I knew already: lips
sometimes peel away; buttons
can be used for lost eyes;
yarn frays; seams crisscross
like bad teeth; before
there was cloth, there was
clay; before clay,
stone; the need to hold
some token sympathy
old as the sky. Even so,
it seems a long way
I walked into the weeds
before I stood where I had knelt.
Here where I dug the hole
so many years ago, pressing
my small cloth self
into the earth. Not buried,
I told the child I was,
but planted. Planted, in hopes
she might sprout
and thrive.

You and I are Gonna get Along Just Fine[1]: Dr. Gwen Brown[2] / by Taiyon Coleman

I dreamt I lost my baby.
In the toilet stool, it was
an old white man crumpled
and circling. Its eyes black
octopus eggs. I did not flush
until the strands hatched and
the color changed. I took them
to the hospital for analysis,
observation. I drove with my
youngest, maternal auntie. On
Route 3 we crossed a southern
bridge, a Kaskaskia river brown
with substitute water undulating,
threatening to overtake us at any
moment. My auntie was born with
a hole in her heart and a smaller
hole in her right ear. She bore one
child but no more. Her heart, bare,
could not take the stress of carrying.
Serves her right. In a previous life
she killed me on this gotdamn tributary.
Roped[3] my big black body from my
neck and plop off the bridge. Once
in the water, her pretty horses dragged
me down stream through catfish
and high cattails to the green banks
of tall trees where she didn’t even
have enough respect to let dirt cover
my body long after I and the flies had
dried. But hey that was the eighteenth
century, and Momma, her sister in this
life, says to forgive least I be forgiven. 
I say never forget that shit because history
fucking repeats itself, and we’re here
in a car in southwest Illinois near the
state penitentiary, and she will never do
time for murder, but she is in my dream
pretending to help me get to a small-town
hospital although my baby is already dead,
and there is no rope tied and pulled around
my neck. I still can’t breathe, and we never
made it to the hospital because I could wake
up.


[1] McGlinchey, Tiffany. Remembering Gwen Brown, iamforkids.org/remembering-gwen-brown/.

[2] Jr., Michael Moore. “Coronavirus Florida: Manatee County’s First African American Commissioner, Gwen Brown, Dies from COVID-19.” Tribune, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 17 Apr. 2020, www.heraldtribune.com/news/20200417/coronavirus-florida-manatee-countyrsquos-first-african-american-commissioner-gwen-brown-dies-from-covid-19.

[3] Praught, Hailey Erin. A Bare Bones History: Lynching in Manatee County. 5 Aug. 2009, digital.usfsp.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1090&context=honorstheses.

Last Night for a Couple of Hours I Forgot My Name / by William Erickson

Last night for a couple
of hours I forgot my name.
I was right about everything,
and everything was a needlepoint

dragging thread through
the hole in my blanket where
humid air and headlights
stray. Stitching me together.

A patchwork self,
a self of mud and midnight
and the sad freshness of
walnut shells.

Writing letters on the carpet
to wipe away, an ocean beneath
the bed shaping the room’s
periphery with questions,
the self and the undertoe
temper in the counter of
an O until its orbit ebbs
the tide and I rebuild myself
from driftwood.

Sicily / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

The print of the map of Sicily
clinging to a nail I found above the dryer
is one of seven you brought back
from your fiftieth birthday trip.
While you were gone I buried
tulip bulbs below your living
room window. They were dormant
still by the time I took the print
from the wall above the matte green
liquor cabinet while Dad lectured
on abstract expressionism
with so little irony that I stopped
and stared at the arrangement across
the sunlit room, the tilt of three heads
as his finger swept up over the canvas
as if tracing the shot of a star.

Then I turned back to the handle of scotch
and the unopened bottle of brandy
and put them with the map in the basket
of dark wicker with the Italian journal
and the San Damiano crucifix to set
against the one of blue Murano glass
you’d unwrapped in your hospital bed
along with eight squares of dark chocolate.

At first your frequent absences
had simply meant more walks around the block
to pick the humid newspapers from the pink brick
below your front door. Around the blue pool
the birds of paradise unfurled
with a nautilus’ taut centripety.
We came and went while letters
fluttered into patterns on the zebra hide
below the golden slot in the door.

On returning you’d invite us
into the rock candy odor all the air
assumed of the agate bowl on the table
of ebony. The leopard walls slunk
away around the burnished island lined
with shark teeth, starfish, and sand dollars.

I’ve kept a second copy of the map,
the one you handed over when you said
I’d finally know why I am
the way I am whenever I went.
Already I’d attached immense significance
to the fact that your grandfather
had come on the same ship as Frank Capra.

I can’t dislodge the picture of you
at the crossroads of Butera and Contessa-
Entellina, your eyes drawn against
the afternoon, looking through to us
across the ocean from the slopes
of ash you said explained us.

Word Sonnet from the Bathroom at the Hilton / by Lee Parpart

Hugging
Porcelain
Bowl
While
Ottawa
Hotel
Suite
Spins
Circles
Around
Our
Grand
Vacation
Plans

Poem 21 / Day 21

Blazon / by Daisy Bassen

Let’s be honest,
Which assumes otherwise we’d be lying
To each other, such lovely, gentle lies
Like peonies riddled with ants;
You thought I’d write about her beautiful hips,
Their flare, their curve, their subtle sway,
Oh, that dance, that samba, that waltz,
Her eyes, dark or light, her gaze,
Direct, soft, a mystery like night barely falling
Close to the pole, lavender, her lips, her, her, her;

All of it is really you, your expectations.
She has teeth, not like a shark’s; hers are made
To grind. Her thighs conquer horses–
She can walk twenty miles, across a savanna,
A city, easier since they’ve emptied out;
Those narrow shoulders shrug at your stupidity,
Common as bees used to be.
Her ass is glorious, you ass.
I haven’t told you her name. She’s no one’s
Mistress, no one’s lady fair. You never imagined
Her in a lab this whole time and we both know it.

Oh, my cadaver.
Once, I held your heart in my hand.
Then I broke it.

Survivors / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Jim Misko, in memoriam

There is
poetry

in the
library

of the
dead—

not on
shelves,

but in
air

breathed beyond
walls

and storied
lives

memorialized in
pages

gathered for
survivors.

He’s Just Someone Who Thinks So Big: Bassey Offiong[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

“Who’s that?” I asked, and
because don’t no one monkey
stop no show, being in the
sanctuary didn’t stop me
from looking at her when
she moved through the one
working door of Jesus is a
Rock, Lord and Savior storefront
church that Sunday morning.
Clearly, “Jesus was on the main
line,” and he had been listening[2]
when I prayed and told him
what I wanted.

Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois,
she strutted her brown self-right
up that red carpeted middle
aisle past the ushers dressed
in milky whites like it was the
last supper, and she knew that
she wasn’t Jesus ‘cause there
was no way that Sarah was
agreeing to die on a cross, at
least not that day.

I stood frozen, shook there
in the particle board pulpit
with my fellow black deacons
pressed and dressed in bootleg
zoot suits, stygian hair slicked
from lye, holding my weathered
Good book in my right hand.
My nose wide open just weeks
from one train and a Trailways
bus from Greenville, Mississippi,
I had to figure out how I was
going to make her mine.  

He who finds a wife finds 
a good thing and obtains favor
from God,” and after leaving
Momma in St. Louis, I needed
all the help I could get sharing
a boarding room on 47th & Drexel
with Brother firewater and free
body. Until the day she walked
in, I didn’t believe in big things,
even my saints behind the
pulpit were always on their
wide winged bullshit.

A fallen angel, I knew that
she was too pretty and too
light to love me, a reverberant
mud black boy, hands pricked
and rounded numb from cotton,
but I’m a good God worker,
and Christ, I will make sure
that she’ll never get her caramel
hands dirty. Over sixty years
of marriage later, one of our
twenty grandkids will ask her
“Why did you marry grand
Daddy?” She will say that I
was “ a good provider,” and
I will answer the same question
with that “the moment she
walked her Osceola, Arkansas
ass into my south side Chicago
church, I knew then like I know
God that I loved her.”

[1] Donnelly, Francis X. “WMU Student Denied Test Mourned after COVID-19 Death.” The Detroit News, The Detroit News, 7 Apr. 2020, www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/04/07/saint-like-wmu-student-bible-like-disease-covid-19/2952496001/.

[2]Mississippi Fred McDowell: Jesus Is on the Mainline, Ilovetrinamichaels, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pg9qtgzUOhw.

Annunciation / by Mary Crockett Hill

Glassy-eyed Boy / by William Erickson

What is before is the same as that which is gone.
– Tom Kromer

Would you have guessed life
a dollar store picture frame,
glassy-eyed boy,
a window grown tired
of seeing you?

Falcon / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

For my daughter

Some sixty moons have crested since
your nails first gripped my shoulders.
Since then you’ve grown to know
the space between the morsel and my fingers
and to delight in clattering beyond my call,
the wheels whirling you farther and farther out to
turn and race back, not to my voice
but into the wind that made you spread
your palms and gasp before you could walk.
I’ve taken the threadbare hood,
like a soul worn down to its last body,
and set it, though I said I never would,
over the indelicate angle of your brows.
Without it now my eyes are sewn shut by the sun.

Farming in Suburbia / by Lee Parpart

It’s late August, and the postwar suburbs are bursting with fall crops.

Brassica oleracea, dusty green gem of the autumn garden,
stands tall on a narrow side bed that used to be a hedge.
Nearby, cabbages as big as cannonballs stand ready to serve.

It’s easy to imagine what might be happening downtown —
abandoned offices in the Department of Defence filling up with
hydroponic experiments: cherry tomatoes sprouting from emptied file cabinets,
pencil holders harbouring tufts of basil and thyme.

The time has come, some are saying. We must prepare for the worst.

A few years ago, the ground under these suburban homes
grew a new fault line, as bedrock gave way to slip-sliding clay.
Homeowners were shocked to learn that their houses could disappear
into sinkholes if they didn’t rush to fix their foundations.

Having dealt with this first threat, covid caught the inhabitants like a
pincer ambush, sending them to their garden sheds.

Affixed to a gate door not far from the pop-up brassica farm,
a small metal sculpture—a fish, in mid-twist—beckons visitors
into a back yard of hidden wonders, the suburban version of R&R.

Hang your masks on the hook and come on in, a sign says.
The fish are jumping, there’s sloe gin on the go and
the juke box is set to golden oldies.

For dinner, it’s poached sole and roasted Brussels sprouts,
all sourced right here in the safe streets of the mind.

What do I know of you, former file clerks and commissioners,
living out your mellow years in a subdivision without
bunkers, mess tents, or vedettes?
Was it only war for which you exhumed your
flowers and planted a victory garden instead?

Poem 20 / Day 20

Frankencento / by Daisy Bassen
also a sonnet of sorts in which Mary has the last word

I was new to sorrow
Like a cloud of fire;
There is something at work in my soul which I do not understand.

Teach me half the gladness
Which lit the oak that overhung the hedge
I shall need no other happiness.

To me there needs no stone to tell
We are unfashioned creatures, but half made up,
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.

I also became a poet, and for one year lived in a Paradise—
It is enough for me to prove
Whose eyes would reply to mine,

Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!
It is true, we shall be monsters.

At Besh Cups, Downhills Entertain Friends / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Mo

A long, long time ago,
before we knew what
characters we were,
don’t you think
everyone would’ve thought us
friends? Now, don’t
get me wrong —
having to compete
in races against you,
jockeying for position,
kept us rivals, but our
love for Nordic skiing
(mutual, and maybe
never-ending) always
opened us to amity,
put a smile on our faces.
Quirky like Talkeetna,
ready for anything, you
still remind me
that joy is of
utmost importance.
Very soon, I hope,
we will see these
xeric days of distance
yield, and meet to
zip through snow together.

Look at Me and See Me: Chaiquita Chambers[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

1.

I study my hands and see my mother there between my off-white crooked fingernails and overgrown nail beds. My creased puckered knuckles remind me of the heavy indentations of Momma’s frowning brow, and I remember how after she kicked Daddy out, she never had time to polish her nails. She barely gave herself five minutes before work each day to stand in front of our bathroom mirror to put Fashion Fair makeup on while denying my requests to have her do the same to my face. 

2.

“Boys think you’re prettier without make-up,” Momma said.  “You’re beautiful. I wish I had your dark pretty skin,” she added, and I smiled, embarrassed now by that memory. I just had my eyebrows arched for the first time at the age of twenty-eight after she told me, warned me, years ago not to. Maybe graduation was an excuse, maybe men, or maybe her death. I no longer have to search the wrinkles of her forehead for approval.

3.

I look back at my fingernails raggedy and dirty at the foot of their beds, and I make a mental note to paint them. Soon. Not every day, but I will color them blood red once a month or once-a-week before I practice my flute. Maybe when I feel good. When I don’t need to arch my eyebrows. When I don’t need to do those television face, neck and chin exercises to prevent ridges in my forehead and rolls of fat under my chin. When I don’t need to wear make-up to cover my face, and when I don’t need to kiss men to hide. I can’t do anything about the smushed lines embedded in the skin of my knuckles.


If I Were A Rooftop / by William Erickson
-After David

Funny how
today is the space
between ceiling
and roof, a sticking point
in the summer of
disconnect popping
stars from the pill box
to vaccinate for subtleties.
I am solar masses higher
now and running
under water.
Lungs and paranoia.
Acid, rain, and apples.
This isn’t any time
to come down, is it?
This is the coming down
of time to switch the light
on and catch me tripping.

Writing Icons / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

On Athos I discovered a well
down where infant waves
relaxed in the lap of the rock.
I tore the salted boards back
before the sun had oiled
the shining insects’ mechanisms.
They groaned, and I licked
the caked sea from prying
fingertips. From the cold grains came four
faces I’d written, clinging to rabbit skin.
Lydia appeared in porphyry at the hiss
of sand from spar varnish textured
with remembrance of lips, unblemished.
There was Priss, wreathed in winter Jasmine,
with juncoes in snow at her ashen feet.
Deeper, damp, lay my faceless first memory,
the gold encroaching with its encomium,
and the other who haunts my father’s fathering,
glancing from Byzantium. I’d thought,
the moment I heard of him—his heart
exploding on the new train track as he fished
the silver watch chain from his pocket,
widowing Carmel when she’d borne the eighth
baby—that dad would die when I was eight as well.
I’d settled affairs, told him I would buy
the house when he was gone. And thought
how much we would have been there then,
despite the horseflies’ evening insistence.
He cannot fly since mother’s stroke,
and so I sat the slope each morning in the dark,
waiting for the Y of the whale’s tail
to sweep the stars from the horizon
before the iridescent breath
restored them to their glory.

The art on our walls is out to rearrange us / by Lee Parpart and David A. Epstein

We’ve run out of room, the paintings say, but really they just want the house to themselves.

They whisper in the wee hours, threatening to change the place

            to rearrange their sense of space.

A landscape, pastel—the ocean at Cape Spear— is ringleader. It’s always the innocent who start a union or toss a spanner on the cogs.

                                       Look at them: They haven’t budged in months!

 

All around the first floor there’s general assent from a nodding crew of encaustics, acrylics, and framed art-photos. 

Anyone else bored with the view? Then it’s settled: we need something new.

 

I thought they were thinking to shuffle themselves, but then it occurred to me: I was excess.

Little Black Dress smooths her graphite lines and goes  It’s true — they look pretty pasty from staying indoors.

 

Encaustic says Waxy, to a rolling of frames from every wall. It’s sad, the way they sit around all day, staring at screens, worrying their beads.

 

Above a side table, a pastoral landscape’s colours flare and dim. Inside its scene of ochre and green, a barn hides behind a tree, embarrassed at its humanity.

A plaster scroll bookend weighs in, despite being more prop than art.

They have paused their grooming. They look like yetis. It’s impolite to say, but they’re getting kind of heavy.

 

The oil over the couch, being a family portrait from better times—breaks in with  

            You know I love them. I mean, I am of them.
            So it goes without saying they have my affection.
            But these days I’m mostly concerned with infection.

 

From the depths of a black diorama, near a bin of old papers,
an ancient doll, a baby, starts to weep through its glass-covered frame.

When it doesn’t stop, the plaster scroll goes Jeziz: will someone please call social services.

 

In all the intensity for rearrangement, only a stained-glass copy of Chagall’s Lovers in Blue offers up a dissenting view.

Sisters and brothers, Blue appeals, In the absence of fathers and mothers, let us remember our pasts. The stained glass casts at Cape Spear: You, dear, would have been auctioned if they hadn’t saved you from that estate in Gros Morne. You might have been blocking the stain from a wall in a house full of smokers.

 

Pastel shudders, looks down. And Little Black Dress: What are you? Nearly kindling in a stove grate, rescued by a student show. You know your artist’s a year-three barista near Christie Pits Park. 

 

Over the fireplace, a large acrylic of the two halves of a woman’s face — a painting purchased from a cousin, and famous for not listening — starts talking to herself.

We might stash them in the attic awhile, says the one side.

Sure, says the other, Start clean. Revisit them in a year or two. Only bring back the ones who speak to us.

 

            I know they’re right: What am I? 
                      A Cubist weakness for fascism?
                                A Spain holding Franco’s hand?
Maybe just a Heidegger stumbling backward through a chaos of open graves.

In a house heavy with an air of sameness, these artworks are waking.
How else do all of those frames end up slightly skewed?

From an old oak credenza, a raku-fired bowl clears its throat.
It’s a remnant from a friend who self-exiled — one who often had the last say.

I just want to miss them again.
For that to happen, they need to go away.

Poem 19 / Day 19

Still life with apples, apple fritters, Calvados / by Daisy Bassen
an imaginary ekphrasis

Forget Eden—that was a pomegranate,
Or a fig, maybe an etrog citron, primarily pith.

Forget the teachers you wanted to impress
Or distract from their memories of chalk,

Doctors who could be kept away, oranges
Missing their comrades roundly;

It reminds you of a Vermeer, a golden scale
Tipped by the fruit’s heft within your brain,

The scale as real as the apples, apples
Rendered in red ochre, nacarat carmine, vermilion;

It reminds you of the transfiguration of sugar,
Decay, a weak sort of oblivion like a lucid dream;

Dali would screw clock-hands to the ruddy peel
To underscore how regret begins and passes,

Such a busy painting, industrious, invisible
As the work of women, the batter fried in oil,

The brandy made in an alembic. You were wrong
At first glance, in your assumptions.

Forget cleverness, forget philosophy—
Apples, cleaved, their seeds a little cyanide: scorpions.

The Nocturnist[1] / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum


[1]The text of this poem was taken from a segment of Season 4, Episode 10 of the medical podcast, The Nocturnist: “Stories from a Pandemic: Mourning.”  http://thenocturnists.com/the-nocturnists-stories-from-a-pandemic/2020/5/26/stories-from-a-pandemic-e9-bad-trip-93dj8

For Two Fifty-Five: Antonio Martinez [1] / by Taiyon Coleman

fast people ride
the “L” waiting,
and cars on the
Dan Ryan respire
in jealous contempt
and procrastination
at modern conveniences’
grinding thrift,
transitional poverty,
expendable people,
essentially classed bodies,
using frictional
steel rails,
electrically traveling,
crisscrossing
live
hot
lines,
slightly bobbing,
sitting backwards,
sideways and forwards
while red lights spark,
flashing currents lashing
and click-clacking
all the way to 95th street
south straight dead
on from the Loop
in just twenty minutes.

[1] Kelly, Sam. “Machinist Becomes First CTA Employee to Die of Coronavirus.” Times, Chicago Sun-Times, 11 Apr. 2020, chicago.suntimes.com/coronavirus/2020/4/11/21217814/cta-coronavirus-antonio-martinez-maintenance-worker-covid-19.

The New Continent / by William Erickson

When they make
the new continent
I will be the first
to want to go there
but will not want to
go there first.

You will grab my wrist
and feel what my brain
does without my knowing
and will mistake it for love.
We all do.

Our fingers are ten
of the scariest things
on earth. When we
discover they’re missing
we’ll pretend surprise,
looking around like
we didn’t hide them
to stop from worrying,
secretly relieved
we can no longer touch.
The secret is a new continent.

Our palms are in on it.
We all are.

Plague Journal / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

It is not the owl’s cry but its quiet
that concerns us. Even the trees are still,
knowing the one who spread the devil’s thighs
comes creaking, crossing rivers into their midst
to burn before she bears a second calf’s head.

The artisan on the scaffold with the jug
of grain has swallowed us, wandering in the nave,
in agony, his tortures and his boils
repulsing all resistance, graver than nakedness.
The one come plodding from Carmel

confesses himself to death beyond the wall,
continuing that thought that’s followed us
like a juggler’s songs and oozes now
through the grate. It is everywhere, hooded
and staring, flickering beneath the tavern stew

and carved into the handle of the rustic hammer.
It is the grease of chicken skin that slips
from the fingers of the smith’s wife.
The rude lyre delights it, and it
cringes, blushing, when the parade

of those who’ve taken bracelets from the dead
scourge themselves into the square and interrupt
the tune to task the peasant with his idiot
grin and bulbous nose, as though he’d never
hung a rabbit’s corpse above a pond.

We know we’ll see no one when the third knock
falls, and that we’ll dance in the scythe’s
ecstatic file while the juggler and his wife
look on, singing to their silent child
as visions stalk the sickness from the land.

My toes grip the pebbly ground / by Lee Parpart

We are alone on the Zambezi, surrounded by crocodiles.
A man has left us.

From high in a boab tree, the nighttime chatter of
bats and monkeys busying themselves with breakfast.

In the near distance I hear the low moan of
smoke-that-thunders.

Where there is smoke, there is betrayal.
Where there is thunder, there is goodbye.

The night he leaves you, and by extension me,
I dream of a Nile crocodile crawling out of the river
and heading straight for us.

Its bowed legs dripping outside our
canvas fortress.

Drip, drip, drip.

In the rain tree just beyond our tent,
two monkeys play the stolen spoons.

In a cassia tree, seed pods as long as belts
clunk together like silent windchimes.

I’m listening to this strange duet
when I realize I have to go.

Finally, not even a
crocodile can stop me.

The slow rip of the zipper.

I can’t see the crocodile,
but I can feel it.

It wants our rations.
It wants our arms and legs.

The trick with crocodiles is to step
right over them and pretend you
don’t notice them.

When you step over a
dripping-wet crocodile
casually enough, it is
sometimes confused
into thinking that you
think you belong.

Belief is like that.
A skin with scales.

Poem 18 / Day 18

Ekphrastic Responses / by David Epstein

Beggars at the City Gates, Waiting for Justice or To be Healed (after Daisy Bassen)
 
A Golden Jellyfish lives its life upside down
and only thrives as hybrid of animal and plant.
Such medusae have evolved to host an algae in their cells
in symbiotic bliss. When eaten by anemones,
the algal part survives, a plant that gathers
itself to pass through the portal of death.
 
What would I do with such knowing?
That part of me persists past my demise?
That it arrives on the other side, vita intacta,
and memory of having died?
In the lake
of the Golden Jellyfish life does indeed go on
l’dor va dor, from generation to generation,
each teaching that a medusal Moses had a hand in it,
and that ancestral awareness is a thing now.
 
These are beings
whose reincarnation occurs, on the half-shell
as it were. Part of the self survives, spinning
through a wormhole in death
to arrive into infancy cognizant and carrying
memory, a self that needs to teach its new body
and bless it with energy, lest it regress to a single
species and subside into the mundanity of animal.
 
What does it do with that? I’d settle for knowing
my next life might solve something, level-up at least.
Feynman was thought to have seen God
in his chalkboard, and to have retreated
to physics as portraiture. His late lectures were less
than exact, but glowed with knowing. Like a star
gone self-aware, the animal aspect of light. Why
aren’t we all up all night, like fish drawn to the air?
 
Dolphins, my daughter tells me, never stop
inventing language their entire lives, even
without words.
 
 
The Sky in Me (Riff on William Erickson)

 

The over-blue is a brocade of space, overcast.
Each night it hides the past in pull-chain stars.
Each light comes on at ten o’clock,
a sour moon in which I see myself, old,
wanton, wondering where my creased years are
stored. I never used to get only a little
stoned. Grease up tomorrow, I’m getting there.
Elvis walks on plastic in the Caspian,
past old prison cells. That was yesterday, yes,
and just between us and ol’ sourpuss moon,
I’m going back for them, the past folded and stacked
in a basket north of Damascus. We’ve talked
about this: you get a letter; I get a culture.
Read it to me, really, I want to hear it, out loud.
When they snap the family portrait,
I’ll be the one behind the cloud.

Ubi sunt / by Daisy Bassen

Prepared for any eventuality,
I have made my plans
Should I become a ghost.

I’ll keep the teapot full
And the sugar bowl.
I won’t leave messages in the leaves.

I’ll return misplaced socks,
Lazy, post-coital earthworms
To loam, the feather you use as a book-mark.

I’ll moan very softly, in diminished sevenths,
When the wind howls around the house
Because I’ll want to sing and not be heard.

I’ll pick aphids off struggling roses,
I’ll meet the gaze of the crows
Who still recognize me.

I’ll defy physics and meta-
Physics and everyone except Gnostics;
I will sometimes forget my own name.

I’ll learn to play bridge.
I won’t play the first trick too quickly.
I’ll win and win and win.

I’ll fly to Paris on an airplane, the moon beside
Me, taking up both armrests.
I won’t be afraid to crash.

Encouragement / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Hannah

“All life is an experiment”
by which we all must find our way
and see the promise of each day.

For if you have a furry friend
to keep the lurking dark at bay,
this grand, life-long experiment
will please you as you find your way.

Whatever comes around the bend,
let every leaf fall where it may.
Remind us each to smile, and say,
“All life is an experiment”
by which we all must find our way
and see the promise of each day.

Daily Menu for a Southern Illinois Coal Miner[1]: Olon Wayne Boston (1950-1985)[2]by Taiyon Coleman

Home from a night shift of working,
Uncle Wayne eats fried eggs, sage
sausage, potatoes and white onions
sealed to a slight brown with salt
and pepper for breakfast.

For supper, there is round steak, corn
on the cob and tomatoes, ripe or not,
if he grabs them from the ice box
adding vinegar to his taste.

All his meals contain much the same:
meat, starch, cucumbers, string beans
grown on long crossed poles and mustard
greens smashed clean in Kroger store
paper bags. 

At night, he carries lunch to his new job,
which starts him riding at a degree descent,
a small cart angling down rocky surfaces
blown level by night explosions announced
with the word “clear!” 

Once inside the earth, he makes sure that
he’s on the right side of the safety, ceiling
to floor length plastic curtains blasted gray
with coal dust fraying their worn edges smooth
in their concave sway.

The safety curtains are scoped with orange
flashing lights rhythm parallel to a single
beeping, tallying Uncle’s lunch time from
his tin pail, silver with the circumference
of the Sparta Printing Plant’s opening and
closing and heavy with the weight of cold
pork chop sandwiches wrapped in wax
paper fastened with solitary toothpicks,
strong in their ability to force frailty and
freshness alongside red apples, Eckert’s
peaches and five more hours of the night
shift in an Illinois Zeigler coal mine.[3]

[1] Englund, Will. “Coal Miners Told to Keep Working during the Outbreak despite Close Quarters, Damaged Lungs.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 Mar. 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/24/coal-miners-coronavirus/.

[2] Hinton, Wayne. “IllinoisCoal & Coal MiningHistory & Genealogy.” Randolph County, Illinois Coal Mining Fatalities, hinton-gen.com/coal/randolphfatal.html.

[3] “These Coal Communities Are Protecting Sick Miners from COVID-19 and Pushing Congress for More Support.” Southerly, 12 May 2020, southerlymag.org/2020/04/23/these-coal-communities-are-protecting-sick-miners-from-covid-19-and-pushing-congress-for-more-support/.

Condolence / by Mary Crockett Hill

Eulogy for a Backpack Rapper / by William Erickson

33rd St Market after closing,
somewhere between a streetlight,
sobriety, and the line of silly
prayers that blocked the
highway between us and heaven
laid the simple belief that all
things were possible, that the
arrow of time arced precipitously
and landed piercing the exact
moment a breath was drawn,
deprived of oxygen, and
catalyzed as a thought to rhyme
another bar into existence,
the poetry of thin air stolen
and reserved in backpacks
carrying the weight of Camel
Blues and an identity,
151 proofs that youth
and music and yield indemnity,
the simple belief that believing
brings to existence a stage, and
a mic, and a paycheck that would
otherwise never be.
Well let me tell you,
the belief was harder
than the emcee ever was,
folding to the years
like spiral notebooks
as the days turned day jobs
into just jobs and finally,
work, that simple
transition of discrete
to continuous which
distracts the time
from itself,
the responsibility
of picking up the
arrow and shooting
one more time
and one more time
and every time
a little further
from the target
till it’s bullseye
on a different one,
the whole time never
noticing the Blues
had turned to Lights
and then to endless
packs of chewing gum.
Chewing gum,
all the work
and no reward,
not knowing the reward
won’t come from work
alone but the focus
to work until the work
works for you and not
the other way around,
which may not pay the bills but
absolutely keeps the lights on.
Things I wish I’d known,
I guess, added to the growing
line of years personified
and filed away in notebooks
full of raps that still don’t
need the lines of paper
they were written on.
There’s no harm in remembering.
I remember that the time
was eighths and eighth notes
and never really moving
till it finally did, all at once,
the poetry of thin air borrowed
and dropped in a break beat
that I rap to sometimes, still,
always quietly.
Always forgetting
in which direction
the belief works.

Vision of an Urn / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

for Priss

That seventh month before we buried you,
while you waited on the desk in the billiard room,
you came to me in an afternoon dream,
crossing the verge of the universe
where the Crucified was planted for Satan
like a pirate hanged on the headland of being.

You stalked across the summer yard
through the long grass risen of the ash.
All winter we’d been burning hickory leaves,
and the hot quartz now was nothing
to your horned feet. The deer looked up
from the bedded blades, but smelling nothing,

settled back into their flickering naps.
Between the rough-cut timbers of the porch
you paused and cocked a heron eye,
the silver divisible hairs swept back
as if in flight. There was nothing to say.
You simply stood, hunched like an urn,

and the black Grecian figures all along
your limbs showed the breath regressing,
consumed in the kiln. Once you’d asked us
to scatter you on the hill, never thinking
that we’d linger in the woods long after you could ask
if we’d heard the peepers singing in the creek.

Poor Jennifer Aniston / by Lee Parpart

The Incels are onto me. I’m using a new foundation
that’s taking me from anteater to antelope-point-two,

and the chat room poets are calling me a pleather clutch
pretending to be a silk sow.

“Distorting the sexual economy” is my jam, and it’s my
fault some guys can’t get laid.

I think of those motion-study horses from the 1870s, how
sad it is that they are all bone meal now,

no longer suspended in time, hooves tucked under bellies.
No longer briefly, indisputably perfect and aloft.

For a time, they must have kept the fields at Santa Anita
and Pimlico such a striking shade of green.

On makeover day, when it’s time to muck out the stalls,
I disappear into the barn for what feels like hours.

Greys plucked. Strays tucked under bands or behind ears.
Skin exchanged for a new saddle.

Poor Jennifer Aniston. We used to say that a lot in 2005,
when she starred as the spurned wife in The Making of a Perfect Couple.

Comparing her to Angie, some back-page wag called her
“a triumph of good grooming over genetics.”

I don’t know if Jen keeps horses, but she could probably
afford to hire a hundred Edweard Muybridges and put them
to work reinventing eyes, if she so desired.

It would be a revelation to see her out there, shooting bullets
through bubbles, grazing Angie’s exquisite head as she clears
a hedge and never comes down.

Poem 17 / Day 17

With all due respect, I disagree with Maya Angelou / by Daisy Bassen
“hope and fear cannot occupy the same space”

There’s a patchwork dodo across the pond,
Rubbing elbows with Darwin’s licorice beetles
And an approximation of Coleridge’s albatross
Minus its mariner; no one takes responsibility
For the dodo or its ignoble name, no one
Is lobbying to give it the dignity of the archaic
Dronte, which would naturally make you think
Of Charlotte and Emily (not Anne) and moors,
Jane declaring I am no bird, Heathcliff’s cuckolding
Cuckoo.
             But I digress. This isn’t a letter to my friend
The museum-visitor, full of lengthy asides and short
Asides and besides, no one knows anymore how long
It will take for a letter to arrive, even if the postage
Is correct, zip + 4. We are in the season of derecho,
Storms crowding the sea. How do you calculate
Time running out?

What Nobody Tells You and Everyone Knows / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Heidi P.

This
is how it starts: movement
then stoppage —
stalling for time until every line is etched
onto your retinas, in your heart, or on the page.
You fall for it, again and again,
as if intending
to pursue this life.

Twenty Dollars and Sixty-Four Cents: Leilani Jordan[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

When I asked my grandma how
you can spot a good person, she
always said that good people “mean
what they say and say what they mean.”

“I’m coming back,” and you stay away.
“I love you,” but you don’t act like it.

What happens when we live in a
country where some folks can say
what they want, and words don’t
mean what they say?

You get called bitch, but you are a woman.
You are a girl, and you are never safe.

If forced labor is enslavement than
what is employment for folks who
have no choice?

I work twenty-nine hours a week with no benefits.
I’m essential and still can’t buy food and pay rent.

My grandma said that “the words
we choose aren’t so much about the
truth as they are that person’s power
over you.”

God said slaves should obey their earthly masters.
“…It’s like a miracle [and] it will disappear…”[2]

If frontline soldiers are killed in battle
than who are frontline cashiers who die
in grocery stores?

I just wanted to help, and no one told me how dangerous it was.
Did they just pay me to die?

[1] Sheets, Megan. “Grocery Clerk Who Died of COVID-19 after She Continued Going to Work Made $20.64 on Final Paycheck.” 14 Apr. 2020, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8217469/Grocery-clerk-died-COVID-19-continued-going-work-20-64-final-paycheck.html.

[2] 24 Times Trump Said the Coronavirus Would Go Away. www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/24-times-trump-said-the-coronavirus-would-go-away/2020/04/30/d2593312-9593-4ec2-aff7-72c1438fca0e_video.html.

Self-portrait in Retrospect / by Mary Crockett Hill

What I would paint if given the mind

(by which I mean, if the mind

at the chime of death indeed sears

into afterimage—and all the crumpled

scraps of map, rough elbows, bruised

bananas, bruised peels, all the ringing

bells, whether or not they rang for me

surge away    away    and into some cloud between

being and not/self and no self/memory and history)

might be a forest scene peopled

with woodland creatures in ascots and top hats.

That’s me, but my mother’s there, too.

The pink napkin she wiped my mouth with

drapes the branch of a walnut tree.

My daughter rabbit; my racoon sons.

Some owls I never even met. The light

as bewildering as the afternoon

I sat atop a pile of washed laundry on my twin bed in the attic

and told myself I was. Green and yellow green

compress what remains into this single frame

where I stand, squirrel in an evening dress,

bent spoon in one paw, silver triangle in the other.

I will wait here for your arrival,

husband, sister, brother, grandchild, friend—

I wait, ready to ring.

A fox and the weather / by William Erickson

At the center of a woods
the fox stands wondering
about the rain and who
the hunter is, a curious
dilemma given the nature
of hunting and the
metronomic bloom of the
deciduous trees beneath
which he and his intuitions
rest, which is in imprecision,
for a fox does not rest when
the weather is heavy, when it
draws the canopy closer to he
and his questions. Interesting,
how still a thing the rain can be,
and yet how it runs faster than
the questions of the fox now
troubled by its weight, aware
only of its most immediate
consequences, the slickness
of his fur wrapped against
his ribs, the escaping soil
between his feet. One can ask
only of the proportions in this
weather. That is, what one must
wonder is how much of the
hunter the fox has become,
and how much of the rain
brings these questions to mind.

The Magnet of Parnassus / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

“And every poet has some Muse from whom he is suspended, and by whom he is said to be possessed…” —Plato, Ion

I’d come down to leave the Sun
and sleep for once in the shade.
I crossed the meadow where the
orange-banded grasshoppers
clattered like magnolia leaves
down dry stream beds in the breeze.
Moonflowers’ lemon odor
flowed over the roots and woke
me. I heard the trout sipping
mayflies, stretched, and bent above
a gravel pool. From the depth
reflected rose an oak limb,
rippling like the light I’d seen
caressing the secret green
of spiracles. Deeper still
appeared, like beads swinging strung
upon a broken chain or
acrobats magnetic with
their magical act, faces
falling toward the blue darkness.
Closest rose my grandmother,
copying a Matisse, paint
in tendrils dripping slow arcs
ascending to the Spaniard’s
left palm scarred in the staring
shape of an eye. The other
etched out pigeons in the air.
They wheeled away applauding
Dickinson as Whitman held
her by the blinding ankles,
while above both in a whale
boat Artemisia spoke
with Socrates of corpses
en route to the Piraeus.
Dante heard them sailing past
and glared, ruffling his laurel
wreath and then remembering
Vergil’s political gaze.
Last a naked arm gave birth
to words that rained on the rest,
set in motion by that face
eternally turned from me
to the dark beyond images.
I stood and traced a way again
among the moonflowers, my hand
twitching imitations of that
blind hand moving in the deep.

Helen of Boy / by Lee Parpart

Back in the day, we kept our sexists close
and changed their minds in bed.

Every woman I knew was a living horse filled
with other women.

We carried each other in our bellies, and at
the moment of O, O, O, we let fly the arrows
that turned their cries into song.

It’s a joy to be alive. Truly, it is. But I often
miss the fields of war.

Poem 16 / Day 16

Arguments / by Daisy Bassen

I thought we were in agreement

*

Consequentialism is inconsistent if a tree falls
And sometimes it is taken down, if impact is greater
Than intent, if you ate the last cold plum and left a note

*

The actor cannot go off script
She wants to get another role, a better one

*

I found him naked, you said
And you didn’t do anything

*

Who do words belong to? If we say they belong to anyone
Are we colonizers?
We’ll never go to Mars this way

*

No

*

I should stop counting the bees
I see lying in the street, those stumbling, frontal
It’s true I wasn’t counting them before
Mint is a weed, succor, panacea
Julep

*

Consequentialism again, like a tonic, sieved, sweet
It’s all good, honey

Friendship / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Carol

All the space between
the takeout and the TV,
the years together
and apart. Right from the start,
three bodies, one beating heart.

What Status Did She Have?: Brittany Bruner-Ringo[1] / by Taiyon Coleman

1.

On the phone, Momma tells me that auntie materializes to my cousins in St Louis. She doesn’t wait for a dream. She scares my cousins so badly that they run out the house and don’t come back until they get somebody to officially tell her that she’s dead. Aunt Gloria keeps asking for uncle Anky, her husband who survived her by six months. Alive, he doesn’t know that his wife is dead. ​That’s how I learned that we all don’t go to the same place together when we cross. It’s because of this that I tell Momma not to come visit me when she dies. I didn’t know she would go so soon and take me so seriously. Since Momma’s death, I wait to see her to hear her, but I’ve only dreamt her thrice though not in the way I dream others. 

2.

Roseland Hospital 111th street south Chicago. Momma’s on the respirator, and we instruct the doctor to take her off. He pulls a pale tube out her throat, and her chest dry heaves compressed dead air. Relief. 

3.

Saint John de la Salle during mass on 102nd street south Chicago. Momma is standing in front of me with an open green missalette in her left hand. She’s wearing her brown down coat, the one with the raggedy lining. Her right redbone hand grasps the pew. Her left finger bears Aunt Rachel’s solitaire diamond ring because Momma was the only girl not married. She doesn’t turn around. Because of the ring, I know it’s her. Still. She doesn’t turn around.

4.

103rd street and Michigan corner store south Chicago. Momma isn’t with me this time. I guess we weren’t really together the last time either. I’m in line checking out, and her back touches my left forearm, as she brushes past me without even saying “excuse me.” I want to face her to tell her that shit’s not polite. Instead, I watch her open the freezer, reach up and grab something I can’t recognize. Maybe a blue ghetto size Fla-Vor-Ice freeze pop. The checker rings up my groceries and asks for my money:  “Two-fifty-four?  Two. Fifty-four?  Two dollars and fifty-four cents please,” the checker sasses, annoyed and loud, gaining the attention of everybody in the store. I wake up before Momma turns around. I ​didn’t pay, and I ​only remember her hands.


A Cat Named Worry / by William Erickson

Worry is the name of a
cat that comes by every
morning and sings opera
from my [grass] for sixteen
minutes. I don’t know his
songs except that they
are lovely, and afterward
I cannot [taste] the morning
quite correctly. There are
several such cats. One of them
is a theory I have in which each
of us is made from thousands
of [ghosts] and instantiated
only by the perfect bombardment
of photons striking our [ghost] cells,
explaining why sometimes we
are not here and sometimes too.
It comes by in the afternoon
and stays, quietly grooming
itself near the [printer] in my
[office], until night. Some of
the cats are also [ghosts], which
poses problems for my theory
owing to my not being comprised
of cats. Did I mention they are
all named Worry?

Gadflies / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

The hover bee hangs frantic in the fading blue
between the hickory and the short-leaf pine,
like Socrates torn to stillness by his horses,
one gnarled hand thrust through the encircling
Ocean to the coursing shadows of remembered gods.

It vanishes, reappears at invisible intervals,
the hoarse warning of its mimicry prying
the mind wide, its fractured eyes exhuming
accusations raised throughout the time
of my becoming. There were those who’d said

well, yes, of course, my aunt was the principal,
ergo propter hoc, though of course in kindergarten
none of us had heard from David Hume
that nothing comes from what has come before.
Ergo I never told them all what happened

that afternoon she buzzed into our room
and summoned me as the whites of every eye
burned my cheeks. I rose, trembling, knowing
nothing, and walked the green breezeways
of concrete and sheet metal to the round tower.

She smiled at the top of the creaking, painted
stair, and on the pink wall behind her
between the windows where the gambling men
had kept watch across the pasture for the law,
a purple shark rose through the glare.

I’d drawn it too long, with a horn on its snout,
though I’d known the number of fins
and gill slits. I’d simply never seen
a shark. Three sand tiger teeth lay
along the glass edge of her desk. She smiled,

seated there in her father’s chair, and said
to leave them for my mom, the math department
head, to collect on our way home.
I walked back below the glimmering pecans
and sat and said nothing.

One day the tower flooded. Another day she died.
Now it is dark, and the hover bees are asleep,
and the distant headlights slant my steps
set forth on the probability that the crack
in the asphalt is not a baby copperhead,

its lemon tail extinguished. Probably
the diamond head that rattled three nights ago
below the box bush is not now slotted
into the crevice the roots and rain have split
between the porch and the driveway.

The squirrels have covered its creased face
every day this month with gnawed, discarded scales
like words stripped of their riches and scattered
at random to rasp beneath these souls
returning from their anxious run.

Max Liebermann slips into his painting of Nienstedten and disappears / by Lee Parpart

When faced with history,
it helps to be engulfed
in flames. It helps to taunt
the Angel of the Lord into
letting you off easy.

If you’re Samson and
can rip apart lions and
make honey of cruelty,
you have the advantage.

For an indoor artist trying
to outrun the Third Reich,
it is better to quietly disappear
into one of your own paintings.

Liebermann’s death was like that —
a point of light in a restaurant scene
on the Elbe River.

A stirring of leaves above the head
of a waitress as she strides into view.

Half of her will be hidden behind that tree forever.

The artist lives there, too, a palm’s-width of lichen
hugging its trunk.

His forever soundtrack, a lark in the canopy,
singing to a patch of light on the ground.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FIRST FIFTEEN DAYS OF POETRY