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 5 / Day 5

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

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

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

Woman, Beirut / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHE-CREATURE BORN / by Mary Crockett Hill

oh want, oh want oh scurrilous

ground down in the dogbone of beginning

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

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

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

we are bucket that fills and empties empties and fills

we are born wanting what is out of reach

we are born and we

reach

hominoid / by Cole Depuy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miniature Corn Maze / by William Erickson

Under the coffee table
there is a miniature cornfield.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key West Recalled in Garvan Woodland Gardens / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

For Grace

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

Dear Found Poem #3 / by Lee Parpart

— after Ama Codjoe

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

Poem 4 / Day 4

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

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

Deer in Texas / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Roger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

             exhale

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

             check

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

             jump

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

             release

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

             swoosh

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

             score

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York, Hong Kong or Israel / by Cole Depuy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Question of Property Value / by William Erickson

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

The question of eye teeth.
The vibration.

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

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

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

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

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

Gabriel’s Birthday / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

For Priss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poem 3 / Day 3

In absentia / by Daisy Bassen

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

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

for Christy Marvin

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

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

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

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

Gary’s oxygen level was too low.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Dialogue between Body & Soul / by Mary Crockett Hill

 

Soul wants a dog.                                                 Body wants a hot dog.

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

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

Soul scratches its back.                                       Body says thank you.

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

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

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

Body says you never did make sense,

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

Tremors / by Cole Depuy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacques and Raissa / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poem 2 / Day 2

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

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

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

ducks swimming
the length of a pond

water beaded up
on a dark pink peony

a fence
low enough for jumping

a skate park
with its patrons

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

and that which can’t be seen:

the smell of cigarette smoke
barreling through the rain

the poison of black berries
on eye-level branches

the varied sounds of nearby roads
of children

the changing rhythm of the wind
against my umbrella

the feeling of wanting to see someone
but not wanting to

love

the emptiness of a stage

the perseverance of a seedy, white dandelion—

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

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

to preserve the smallest history

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

In Her Sleep: Kimora Lynum / by Taiyon Coleman

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

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

An involuntary action, how could I not look?

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

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

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

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

Front porch
Living room
Hallway
Kitchen
Back porch

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

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

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

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

“I get so hungry.” – John Keats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s call it Breakfast Soliloquy / by William Erickson

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

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

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

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

Gibeah, / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before / by Lee Parpart

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

our architectures were ready-made
our skins intact

our bodies knew all about
biometrics

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

Poem 1 / Day 1

Getting ahead of myself / by Daisy Bassen

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

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

Geese / by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

for Teri

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

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

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

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

 

In a motor town city
I drive a big bus.

It’s essential.

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

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

I was a redbone looking just right,

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

Damn.

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

I ain’t blaming nobody.

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

Don’t worry.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

getting fat and crapping dark explosions on the hammock.

I could write one small bird poem, a haiku exhaling

the white breath of dawn,

stained glass of a blue jay’s wing.

No one would judge me.

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

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

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

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

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

from dusk to sunrise, larkspur to glug of night,

with no one in the hallway beside them

and the hallway expanding endless in the house of their minds

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

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

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

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

maniacal on the sidewalk, one daughter already dead.

How do you end a poem that promises nothing but excrement

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

and go look at birds.

Slow Motion Hummingbird / by William Erickson

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

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

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

Catharsis / by Daniel Fitzpatrick

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

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

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

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

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

Things we did before YouTube / by Lee Parpart

Most days, looking for pandas.

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

Squinting at maples, almost glimpsing eucalyptus.

Imagining fistfuls of thickest fur.

Promising foot rubs, back rubs.

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

Dreaming of Australia.

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

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

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

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

Imagining ourselves whole, without buttons or levers.

Imagining ourselves not really that addicted to anything.

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

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

Naming vertebrae.

Scrawling messages on skin.

Sending each other skinmail.