The 30/30 Project: December 2019

TP3030-logo-360Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.

The volunteers for December 2019 are Sarah A. Chavez, Jeanice Eagan Davis, Marion Deal, Brian Dickson, Danielle Hanson, Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios, T. T. Kooken, Shane Morin, Joseph Pravda, Abigail Siegel, and Aline Soules. Read their full bios here.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and and warm up your pen! Below, please find poems by our current 30/30 Project volunteers.

Poem 30 / Day 30

December Renga / by the December 2019 Poets

sitting on the red bench,
not thinking about winter,
while the cold leaves move on their branch

The cold leaves still in the night
While I sit indoors and think

the darkness surrounds me
I hear the rustle of the leaves as
outside my window snow begins to fall

Kirkglass cold-coated by the quiet tumble
Stained window shuffles color over the pews

Flash of forgiveness down the aisles
Embeds in the blues of the rose east—
My knees are not mine

Kneeling, standing, my knees
Are in service to another, another time

Another time is now
Rose of Sharon harbors love
New light springs from our dark corner

Shadows grasp at sparks
Fail and wither

Alight in ashes, darkness
Interrupted. Warmth
Too meticulous to hold

Warmth escapes into cold’s
Engulfing, chilly embrace

You remember
an embrace when the camp’s
fire when out

You remember another winter day, a warm hand
cradling yours as icy leaves shiver on branches

Cradle this icy
Another of yours leaving
for one lingering moment a leaf yellow

Hold on to the leaf yellow
Like the coming summer sun

The sun just now cresting the top
Of the hill behind the branches
The light hitting the top of the steeple first

The warmth of another season
Blossoming on branches

this branch that settles
quietly against my looking at it
held by the sun

contributors:

T.T. Kooken, Aline Soules, Marion Deal, Sarah A. Chavez, Jeanice Davis, Brian Dickson, Danielle Hanson, Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios, Shane Morin

Halfbreed Helene Does Not Believe in New Year’s Resolutions, But Wants To / by Sarah A. Chavez

The women at work talk about the various ways to lose weight:
no more soda, no more cookies, no more ducking into the walk-in
and stealing ice cream between tables, no more eating after 7 p.m.,
no eating before 10 a.m., no more seconds, more fruit, less fruit,
more protein, less meat, no more dairy, only full-fat yogurts . . .

Helene’s head reels with the plans she knows they will not hold to
for more than a month, tops. She’s seen it year after year. Last year,
at the beginning of her shift for the New Year’s Day brunch, Crystal
said no more carbs. Three and a half hours later she was eating
sent-back pancakes in the toast room. H had walked in, Crystal’s fork

inches from her mouth. The syrup dripped slow-mo, a long trail like
sick sinus mucous or kid’s monster slime. Crystal’s eyes shone
shame, but H held up her hand, said, I didn’t see anything. And she
really wasn’t judging. She’d never experienced any negative resolution
stick. Telling oneself no no no no no no no, when the world already

did that most of the time, seemed folly. She’d read an article assigned
for her psychology class that said positive reinforcement was primary.
Instead of no sugar, say yes to salad. Instead of no more smoking,
yes to breathing clearly and living longer. She wasn’t sure that shit
actually worked, it seemed a little mumbo-jumbo, but what the hell.

At this point, H would try almost anything to want to get up each
morning. Yes to sleeping 8 hours. Yes to fruits and fiber. Yes to two
hours of television a day (instead of 6). Yes to the library and reading
for fun. Yes to studying. Yes to saying no. That one seemed a little
contradictory, but a bit of a necessity for any of the other yeses to work.

Almost January / by Jeanice Eagan Davis
“Watch Birds, Share What You See”
       Cornell Lab of Ornithology

feed the birds, heavy
anticipation, dreaming
feathers gathering
red blue grey black
white sky hiding
turquoise waters
falling now into this
darkness— the glass
glimmering, a shimmer
held tight within hands
reaching across a page
turning, the wind blowing
resolutions—resolutions
already wearing thin
stretched taut between
hope and action
even as dusk slumps
against leaden skies
grey day darkening to night
and stars struggle to light
feed the birds, watch them
bright lights in dark spaces
feathers gathering for flight

How a Girl-Child Joined the Inklings / by Marion Deal
To Barfield, Lewis, Tolkien, and Others

Amazing grace has been
hiding out in foxholes and
pipe smoke margins,
lurking in the woodwork of refined discussion
to prize dead men from the wars
they conducted furtively
pen in pocket
as fetish against grenades gnashing
the back of an absolute

“Immoral girl and closet atheist
knitting neuroscience from the sinews
of the laminate countertops we gave you to govern”
you call over your shoulder
thrown long with the salt
as you stride towards libraries
“We respect your absence
your cavity by degrees strewn
in golden hair within our mazing
translations whose song of man is not
half as labyrinthine as the warring forests
in which we scrabbled for triumph”
Yet even you sight the stubbornness
of a poem which bears and bares with purple ink

Though you have pained to shed the lot
of farmers, fought for your honor
in armories of tweed and ivy,
you never have been able to refuse
the cultivation of a seed so sacrosanct as myth
feminine sin lounging in the courtly count of scholars
ramrod against God in the cathedral
to take your wars and shake their
pockets for the whys

You are allies knit unawares
but your consent is writ in the
intricacies of Anglo-Saxon
and your unwillingness to resist
the craft of weavers
looming futures of knighted waves
for mice in the cradle

It is not a betrayal of God to see a warrior
in Eve’s daughter dancing to eddas in the light of the east
I am not your child
I am a language all my own
the crooked dawn of napalm is
rigid,
nothing to the slim legend you see
in the supple lines on your palms
and the eyes of maker
Myth

Dec. 30, 6a.m. / by Brian Dickson

Simon & Garfunkel
appear in their 70’s garb.

They sit and play. I dip my toes
in the darkness—it pools, sonorous,

harmonizes with the guitars.
The bright green of a raccoon’s eyes

drifts by and the instruments steal
away. I try and do the hustle.

S & G shrug, slink
back into the black.

Aphorisms for a Mother / by Danielle Hanson

– for Jean Hanson

The nature of mother is nurture.

Motherhood necessitates invention.

Mamma knows breast.

The toddlers hunted the mother, an untidy expedition.

A mother might hover.

Yo mamma is so nice, she took care of you as a baby. Yo mamma looks very pretty today.

A mother is a country.

The angry mother was sourdough rising, clouding the room.

His mother tied him up in apron strings.

The mothers dug down into the earth, to return later.

The mothers poured down the mountain at dawn.

A mother sat in his head, asking for tea.

My Dog’s Comment on the Departure of a Decade / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios
(A Golden shovel)

My dog waits and waits. Its
nose capturing each passing mote of wish and night
hoping for my return before
the air loses my scent, and before its
memory fades like the sun each afternoon.

Dog doesn’t know June from December
but I sense the speed, for the month is
gone long before the next decade is here,
and the decade gone before
I realize the day has passed and it’s
no longer June,

but now December. My
dog knows happiness. Molly senses goodness
in the bone, the scratch, and how
delicious the present moment is. The
waiting is another matter. Time
seems endless although each moment has
feathers like a bird that has flewn.

Molly watches over the day, the year, the decade. How
hard it is to wait for happiness? Did
Molly understand days have to move beyond each year, that it
is the silence between joys that matters? Does Dog get
the fact that my absence is filling her days with such love so
that in her eager, waiting, devoted wagging I hear : my mommy is late
its almost six, almost six, almost six, so
can’t six be here soon.

&, & / by T.T. Kooken

all the crows have told me
I’ll stay if you’re staying
their banking and webbing
flight attends to mine

siren of the trees
where among their
many long-shrugs
are all of my
lost images

beneath the echo-yellow
tufts briefly surrendering
crowded crows murmur
their question

The Gift of a Failing Body in Old Age / by Aline Soules

No longer the tragedy of a life cut short.
We wait for the Damocles sword to strike—
heart attack, cancer, some failure
of the organism each of us
calls I, me, mine.

We’ve always known of this second
coming, but now, our awareness
is palpable. If we could choose,
would we trade the rest of our years
for a swift end?

A brain aneurysm at fifty-four?
Too young, we think when we’re
in our fifties. But, in our seventies
or eighties? It’s not death that worries us,
it’s the manner of our going,
what the well-intentioned will do
while we’re getting to the finish line.

And yet, there’s still a gift, not just
in the heightened value of another sunrise,
a chance to kiss a grandchild one more time,
the joy in a book we’ve been waiting to savor,
but in what we can offer each other.

Not to fold back on ourselves, as we did
when young, but to reach out and gather
together, like pleats, fed by the common
failings of our bodies and the randomness
of our coming end.

Poem 29 / Day 29

Halfbreed Helene Considers The New Year / by Sarah A. Chavez

Which will also be a new decade. 2020.
The symmetry of the mirrored numbers
makes her think of the repetition in
mudras.

2020202020202020

She says it quietly under her breath
with OM voice in the ER waiting room.

2020202020202020

She closes her eyes and touches her
forefingers to thumbs. Takes a deep
breath

2020202020202020

Through the gentle hum of the elongated
ee (or y) sound she can hear the TV airing
commercials & cable news, the quiet
conversations of other visitors and patients
discussing symptoms, updating family.

2020202020202020

Through the vibrations in her throat, she can
feel the worry in her waiting kin. She
intuits the sadness under the edges of their
voices. It’s been years since she’s spent
the night in the ER waiting room, maybe four,
five? At that point, it was almost every year
just before xmas, as expected as baking cookies
and dinner being ready two hours late.
She could never afford the cafeteria food,
but could smell it when restless H would
wander the empty hallways, assessing
the varied sitting options in each ward.

2020202020202020

This time is like visiting an out-of-touch
friend’s house. H looks at the updated holiday
decorations, smiles politely at people who make
eye contact and look vaguely familiar.

2020202020202020

What can it mean to be back here? It must
mean something, H thinks. Things get worse
before they get better, right? Isn’t that what
cards, bumper stickers, and Instagram inspirational
posts advertise?

2020202020202020

Or maybe this is just a reminder that regardless
of year number, life is life. Filled with death.
This house of illness and saving, of loss & gain.
Maybe this re-visit means nothing other than
the next year will be filled with what all the years
have been filled with. H closes her eyes again
and tries to let go.

Owls Speaking Moonlight / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

Last night the owls convened
speaking moonlight and

          casting spells into the gloom
a morse code of memories, their voices
ever-questioning—

          they invited me to
walk with them and
gather starlight from the sky

Ancestors / by Marion Deal

A synapse a-tremble
leering at dawn:
scholars have translated this peace
without the catch in glottal folds
too shingled with theories
of how the West was won to the side of decline
never considering
still birth
changeling
the lot of mothers and forests
as a valid alternative

I am neither your virgin pollution
nor doting emulation consecrated with
whispers between crossed legs
rather I am before the Eve of man as you
call him
classified in the words whose roots you spin
from empty tongues
to make up for lack of weaving:
“phylum” “Chordata” “cephalopod” “enochian Cambrian”
You had it right when you looked to lineage
for enlightenment
just turned badly at eugenics, heraldry
in place of casting beyond the dawn

I am crouched in the craftsmen that draw
confection from your identity’s sugars
conscious in the dusk of animalism
from the valleys
cradling the bones
that could have been wings
sutured back below the gills in
muscles you call your own

Elegance in the hominid
is more ludicrous than evolution
But you are not the sum
you are spooling product schooled
to teach the centuries patina’s meaning
Meet me before you could oppose
the Church
the thumb
and worship in seams no more

Migration / by Brian Dickson

Out here not a single pigeon.
The mourning doves miss

the collective sigh
their brethren heaved

when school children flaked
their Twinkie crumbs

from their finger tips at the bell
to run inside after recess.

Aphorisms for Lips / by Danielle Hanson

One lip is the reflection of the other.

Two lips are a rose.

Lips attack in pairs. He should never have approached them.

Lips are tongue-tamers.

Lips try to learn from the teeth how to bite.

Lips spread like honey across her face.

He studied her lips but forgot how to read.

Two lips eloped.

Lips ran to the ears with the news.

Two feral lips peeked out from the beard.

A lip is a trap for prey.

He went to the very lip of her lip and fell in.

Lips cushioned his fall.

Ties / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

We sit at the table
eight bottles of wine open
and in process
we’ve un-bottled our words
and laughter sitting here
at the red table
we travelled to share
our bottled lives
by camel
horseback
rocket
swinging from tree tops

we arrived here
under our own power
winged and beautiful
laughing around and around
the round table
trying to bottle the years
and save them
for what is to come

beyond competence to presence / by T.T. Kooken

the knowing of ponds
bristles to my
energetic fingertips

while I am in
a memory of
brown-white animals,
rubbing their palms
to tell a story

twice today,
bright-red leaves
taking soft spirals
to float in a pool of murky water,
while I dream of
molecules drifting

reaching up towards
light yellow as a tree
now descending light,
now ascending light

I am in the valley of
the seasons,
falling, the circumspection
of not-looking where I
live

Beyond (For Valerie) / by Shane Morin

Look beyond the curvatures of the flesh,
The suppleness of skin shimmering in the sun,
Peer past the prominence of physical attraction,
That reproductive drive, Darwin’s fantasy at best,
Further than the superficiality that beauty’s become,
And embrace all of her, which is but a mere fraction
Of the fullness of womanhood, the breadth of divinity,
The unfathomable depths of infinity

Gaze gently into her eyes, eternal,
Grasp, if one could begin to comprehend,
The very nature of what it means to be maternal,
Of how life beyond herself she hesitates not to defend

Observe all that she is, all that she will be, all that she was,
How her heart professes, “As above, so below,”
The spiritual ascension that unites us as one,
Her essence, pure, envelopes us as snow

How magnificent, how intrinsically marvelous is she,
The overcomer of injustice, the warrior of oppression,
The seeker of truth, the student of eternity,
The bearer of life, the Forgiver of transgressions
Her multi-dimensionality beyond description,
Her soul, defying yet defining femininity,
Demolishing our blind convictions
The aftermath of her presence:
     freedom and crystallinity

On Seeing Black Mesa Landscapes by O’Keeffe / by Aline Soules

Hills feel eons and erosions in their bones,
understand the importance of being still
as light comes and goes, trees rise and fall,
and creatures scamper over them
or trudge up and down their slopes.
Only wind and rain matter.

Can you find them in O’Keeffe’s landscapes?
In the hills curved and rounded, shadowed
crevasses snaking down to the insignificant
line of trees at their base, which may tend
a hidden creek?

How many times did she paint this scene,
catching slivers of changes unnoticed
by the scamperers? A millimeter taken off
a 3,000 meter peak by a gust of wind.
A few centimeters gouged from a crevasse
in a storm in late June. So unimportant
to the light that angles its way across
the surface of the hills, the trees rooted deep,
the creatures looking for their next meal
or out for a daily hike.

O’Keeffe enfolds this in her landscapes
as she captures the blue of the black mesa,
the white on the top side of one hill,
the burnt sienna of the foothills, and the green
of the line of trees. All we have to do
is open our eyes and be still.

Poem 28 / Day 28

Because the World Might End in 10 Days / by Sarah A. Chavez

I throw my phone into a bag, into a box,
into the Pacific Ocean and watch
the shadowy shape as it bobs out
with the tide. I imagine the rainbow
light notifications going off inside,
the vibrating announcement of children’s
births, uncles’ cancers, family pets lost,
new jobs, requests for work, political
rants, holiday photo shoots.

It’s time to leave, but I slide slack
onto the sand anyway, throw my watch
into the saltwater too (I never have been
that good at checking it), apologize
to the ocean for adding to her burdens,
but express gratitude for carrying
these things I no longer can.

I burrow my hands through the loose
top sand to the layer of cool pack below.
In this moment there is nothing else:
just sky above, a wavering horizon
in surrounding panoramic, and a stillness
in my chest I fear won’t last.

Trust Me / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

The river is there.
Just beyond view. Trust me. It
flows, like rivers do.

The current is there.
Just beyond view. Trust me. It
moves, like currents do.

The mountain is there.
Just beyond view. Trust me. It
stands, like mountains do.

The woodland is there.
Just beyond view. Trust me. It
breathes, like forests do.

The grassland is there.
Just beyond view. Trust me. It
grows, like grasses do.

The flower is there.
Just beyond view. Trust me. It
blooms, like blossoms do.

Portrait of a Neuron I / by Marion Deal

Gangle dark with wicked tongues
across a()lack of air to hold me
the space of the coup
and then down to the round
wet arms of the ground
Again
I am
the third act of memory

Apparition Site of the Virgin Mary, South of Hallettsville, TX / by Brian Dickson

Who am I
to quibble with a man’s
visions at a nuclear power plant
first, then a pasture at home?

His truck parked before
a humming cylinder—a glow.

His truck stuck
before his crop rows.
She appeared in white garb,
halo, no baby in tow.
How many mounds
for him?
What seeds, Madonna?

His land now this pecan grove,
a small, wooden shrine.
I am as thirsty as the sky
is for a gray cloud—
both of us apparitions
furloughed until
further notice.

Aphorisms for the Ear / by Danielle Hanson

The ear is the snail of the head.

An ear is a wax museum.

No one wants to drink in an ear garden.

He was up to his ears in ears.

An ear is the seashell of the head, echoing the ocean.

An ear is a cave that should not be explored.

If you were all ears, no one would talk to you.

The ears were ringing in the new year.

The sound circled the drain of the ear.

She smiled from ear to ear, a journey of many days.

A lobe is a path to love.

He gave a ring to her ear in promise.

The sow’s ears were made of silk purses.

A heard of ears.

The ear curled into a ball and slept.

He followed the spiral of her ear and was lost.

Curfew / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

I have borrowed my father’s car,
Be home before Midnight .
He taught me how to drive,

to choose streets
with the fewest red lights.
I have kept it clean,

washed the hub caps
scrubbed the bumpers,
and drove as far as I could

always obeying
the road signs.
It stalled up hills a bit.

Wheels spun
in muddy arcs
when I was confused

about which road to take.
I have seen Cinderella sights
beyond the small world I knew.

It carried my family: a husband,
two children, and a dog
in the back seat.

Yes, I know that midnight is almost
here, but I have miles to go.
May I stay out a bit longer?

I have my eye on the clock, Father,
can you collect me at Midnight?

Right now / by T.T. Kooken

this was thirteen years
ago
today the bouy
left alone
today the water still

attracting the flies
roving in
undisturbed circles

Further / by Shane Morin

Across the shore, faint lanterns
Reveal the sea forevermore
Breakers shatter shells
Starfish bathe, lax on the rocks

The lantern flickers
             On and off       on and off
I switch my flashlight
             On and off       on and off

I jog
             The sand resists
Stone walls
             Groan, sulk

Do you await our union?
Have you too left imprints
             In molten sand, souvenirs
             For the Amesbury tourists?

Would they see a winding trek,
             Two lights streak across the backdrop?

Across the shore, faint lanterns
Reveal the sea forevermore
The ocean between,
              We aren’t as isolated as it seems.

Verbal Eyes / by Joseph Pravda

His, a mightily arm-ed compact frame, domed geodesic
Full of Euclid-envied forms;
Fuller fulfilling Universe-Mother’s exclamatory sentence–
More verb than pronoun–
Plucking lyric sinews dynamic,
Shaming static Fates’ threadbare feat.

Lament for Jack / by Aline Soules

Clouded and sunless for twenty-five days in a row,
winter in Michigan, the gray in Great Lakes, the pall
that drags on and on. My cousin sing-songs
into the phone: Nigel died last Tuesday,
The surprise wasn’t his death, as her brother
had diabetes then cancer and died by inches,
but her voice so lilting, almost happy.

And Jack died this morning, she added. Her husband,
suddenly, of a heart attack. She’s numb. I wonder
if a doctor’s prescribed something to help her
through the days. She’s matter-of-fact about missing
Nigel’s funeral a continent away, but proud
of the elaborate affair the Mayor of New York
will hold for her husband in summer. Months later,
I get an engraved invitation.

I am met at La Guardia by a uniformed driver
holding a placard with my name. I always wondered
about those names held up like gravestones
for disembarking passengers. We get into a stretch limo
that occupies half a city block, a car on growth hormones.
I have an intercom to talk to the driver, to whom
I have nothing to say. I am whisked to town, inched along
Manhattan Streets. I remember reading about the city’s
improved traffic flow from 5.1 to 5.4 miles per hour.

The Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York
is fronted with steps laden with bank ropes, red runner carpet,
and black suited men and women waiting for the Mayor.
I am the only one not dressed in black. My cousin
gives me “the look.” Black sheep would be a misnomer,
but I fit the bill. Inside, it is cool, but the casket’s warm
to the touch, as I brush against it on the way to the front pew
to sit with my cousin and her daughters.

The Mayor, the Governor of New York, and various
company CEOs speak, one after the other, seemingly directly
to us. More speeches intoned graveside. At Gracie Mansion,
hordes of handshakes and praise for Jack, a man of ambition,
hard-working, good family man. I think of him—born
on a Yorkshire farm, ruddy-faced, generous, grown
with muck on his boots.

On the way back to the airport, I am alone in the back
of another limo. Tinted windows prevent anyone from
seeing in. Plexiglass and air separate me from the driver.
On the red-eye home, I squeeze into a coach seat
next to a large man. Crammed like sardines, each alone
with a plastic cup, we wait to be set free at the other end.
No one exchanges a word.

Poem 27 / Day 27

Ode to The Escaping of Time / by Sarah A. Chavez
                                 For Daddio

Roses are red,
violets glow
we slept late, breakfast
service was slow.
Home Depot didn’t have what
we needed, Target
had a coffee sale so we heeded
the call of saved money. I almost
missed my poetry deadline.
This poem’s rhyming sucks
and the flower beginning
was a misnomer.

Diving Into Adrienne’s Wreck / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

She suggested we begin by
reading the book of myths
but it seems the myths have
multiplied; and still,
we dive into the
wreck; we document the
damage; a thousand
looking faces—he
& she (drowned face, eyes
open, opening, bearing the
stress of a thousand
generations)—what does she
mean, we are the half-
destroyed instruments? I am
(we are) more than halfway
ruined.

I Love You at the Last Chance Bar / by Brian Dickson

I heard it,
operator. That
phrase people
repeat on their
cells, texts—
you get it.

I’m jealous of
throats, mouths
lips, shift
singularly, the
silence or mimic
at the other end.
I know a couple
who say it after
every phone call.
Do they claim
You don’t say it
enough and it’s
only Tuesday?

Operator, all
the magnetic poetry
here has me
romantic.
But the bartender
ran out of those letters,
shrugged and passed
out markers.
I’m stuck with
emoji stickers I paste
on my mug and cheeks.

Let me give you
feedback on your
synthesized voice,
bleeding heart,
you five-star listener—
I plucked tulips
for the first time today
from a neighbor’s yard
to feel fever, pitch
this bar some class
beyond the neon Schlitz.
Lovers ravenous
tonight drinking
from the flowers’ cups.
I’m left with sad stems.

I imagine those bodies
later in Bacchanal repose,
me enamored
with the next letter
to push on the dial.
I’ve hoarded those words
in my pit of regret, operator,
your voice a gut bucket to send
down my well.

Ode to Green / by Danielle Hanson

Green says go
to the forest, climb
over rocks, be a bed
for bones and hikers,
camouflage both poison
and venom, slither
and nurture and grow.
Swim with turtles
through thick-choking plants,
uncurl in the undergrowth,
hide buildings for future
exploration, soak up the sun
and run, dig your claws into
forest and don’t let go.

Escape Artist / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

I name myself crow and tiger
enough body for two

what runs along our spines
names the world rare        rising

paw and claw
fire and  jaw

contain fierceness
contain muscle         shine        stars

bursting
from our collective spines

moons in our collective crowns
dust in our DNA

what is in our feathers           fur
names us freedom

what flares from our backs
from our bones

what moves from crown to crown
arches from muzzle to beak

names me newly sprung

with bright eye         flight
with power and appetite

spools from what holds muscle to bone
naming it green      smooth tail

naming it salt           coarse stripe
naming new air

naming it gold

not understanding the what of mockingbird speech / by T.T. Kooken

wasn’t it not (sun-high) low
afternoon thirst of this young-as-can-
be-bird liking to sing as another
bird listens

not longingly the
birds seek,
moving to new wires
in lieu of branches

this or that twig-length
unearths new heights
beyond disappearing lines
sky-high (low-sun now lowering)

two or twenty birds on
the grasses far from flattened
yet of the winds’ pushing through

Dress Rehearsal / by Shane Morin

She asks, are you all right?

I say
Depression’s like dressing for one’s funeral,
Strapping my suspenders with decompression,
scoring the last dirge before a final coda.
I think I’ll sit upright
and swim in the silkiness of the coffin.

Cluttered clothes creep
along the floor, shadows cloak
denim jeans, a t-shirt accretes
into a gravity well, black socks
follow

Coffee-stained spoons curve
along dishes, crusted in two-day old
oats, the forks figure skate

The sun sets in my iris prior
to its descent along the horizon
The ceiling eclipses the windows
sunlight scatters along the popcorned
clouds as wallpaper wrinkles:
a young lady ages, dressed in yellow.

So she wraps herself in Hope,
slips into a off-white shawl
the moonrise chases us
a coyote petitions the vacant sky:
We dance to the chirping of crickets.

In this I feel most alive.

To a Good Year / by Abigail Siegel

we worked and worked
to any avail?
of course, we’re alive
with so much to tell

lessons learned and friends
made true
the intimacies of knowing
the old and the new

where will we go when
the year turns again
will we lag behind in the
comfort of pain?

no, for love and friendship
give us strength
to face the turning year
with open arms

Grandmother / by Aline Soules

I never knew my grandmother in her wedding portrait
that’s hung on a wall in all the houses I’ve ever occupied,
although she lived until I was ten and spent the last
of her life in my childhood home. The woman
in the portrait is twenty-two, slender, blue-eyed
with a Roman nose and a hint of a smile. Warmth
radiates from her painted face—a woman you want
to know.

I have a black and while photograph of her, taken
in the garden of our house. She must have been
only a few months from death. As wide as she was tall,
anger fills her eyes, her Roman nose is sharper, defiance
exudes from her tightened lips.

She raged at my mother often, treated her as if she were
still a child. She hated my dog, my friends, noise, anything
that didn’t meet her standards. She played sly games,
feigned heart attacks on days when Mother planned
to take me on an outing.

She suffered a series of strokes, the last one
when Mother was too ill to go with her to the hospital.
Even though I was only ten, there was no one else
to go. Back then, our ambulances were black
with no windows, leftovers from World War II.
Grandmother was loaded in the back. I climbed
in beside her, sat on a rickety seat on the other side
of the van.

On the way to the Infirmary, I saw nothing, heard only
her gurgle in the dark. I didn’t know how to hold her hand,
even if I’d been able to fumble my way to finding it.
I froze, my heart beating as if it would leave my chest.
Halfway to the hospital, the gurgling stopped. Now,
I heard the engine, the wheels on the road, the siren
scream. Inside our black box, only silence.

Poem 26 / Day 26

Morning Listening (Before Everyone Is Up) / by Sarah A. Chavez

The clock on the west
wall ticks with the second
hand and tocks with
the minute hand.

The wide clay chimes
hanging from the covered
patio beams just outside
the glass door sway
and bong at varying
low pitches.

The coffee maker buzzes
and hums, the icemaker clinks,
clunking when ice drops
into the plastic reservoir.

Canaries from the south
room sing high tinging
morning melodies
to one another,
to the house,
to me.

Safe as Houses / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

There’s a storm building along the horizon;
   Grey clouds pushing blue skies aside.
            Winter pushing, finally, in.

We’re heading home. A loaded word.
We’re heading back to the place we began;
those endless fields, those endless skylines.

The farm.
Where memory begins. Ends.

And, the house, tilts, turns, slips off its foundation.

The lopsided barns burn, the trees are uprooted, the ice
forms patterns inside the windows,
the windows cracking, breaking.
The doors are unhinged. Everything is falling.

My father is smiling, beckoning us in. Home.

Remember: Home. Where dreams follow us into the daylight,
even as we peer uncertainly into the darkness again.

We’re returning home
                  where we know we’re safe as houses.

Hat of the Last Holiday / by Marion Deal

Little Bear
sheath thine wings
and walk with bead and boar

This hat has certain patches
that are colored as the solos of feet, soled
after having treaded the festival street
the shades of days up in the air
clattered as powder
high on the ground under the lids

Fructose maroon the routes and duck egg the window
wash the shoulders warm in resting,
reaches of valleys, plough the sun

Bulb and celebrate
This time you throw me up
and I refuse to fly
Instead rut the street
and lumber

Backroad, Schulenberg, TX / by Brian Dickson

Mid-morning, you rumble
with a stroller on the pebbled road
feeling like a Ford F1-50
given away at the church raffle.

Cattle ranches on either side.
Michelob Ultras in both ditches.
Herefords turn and stare.
Brahmins cock with their hay.

I failed the bovine again. No
grain-cubed cargo. Foreground,
barbed wire across their faces,
kill-deer scuttling

around a stock pond. You think
the drinkers of Ultra are onto something.
You are not empty today.
The land, houses you don’t know.

Meditations on an Empty Shoe / by Danielle Hanson

Dry-docked boat, you
never venture out on
your own, content
to stay still despite
expectations. Bowl of
future walking, always
full of dark but ready for
more, repository of sweat,
you are a jungle, holding
moisture like an infant.
Refuge of spiders, home
to old women with children,
you are friend to sock and foot.
You come in pairs and piles,
pack animals. You know
when to hold your tongue.
In the wild, you echo
loss, concern.

Coffee with my Finnish Grandmother / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

Mummo taps the edge of the egg
against the coffee pot
drops it in the coffee, shell and all,
waits for the grounds to settle,
pulls out the braided loaves
from the oven
gleaming with butter and sugar pieces.
A sense of festival is in
the smell of cardamom and coffee
that permeates the air.

The family gathers around the table,
starched white tablecloth,
ironed napkins folded in flowers,
butter in the shape of calla lilies, crosshatched.
She pours her coffee into a saucer
painted with gold and pink roses
places a sugar cube between her teeth
and sucks the coffee in.
I tear apart a small braid of warm pulla
apart in my hands.

When I have finished my milk
I am vanquished to the living room
to play old Caruso records on the wind-up Victrola.
I leaf through the pile of National Geographic magazines
hoping to find a nude native female.
The ones with male gentalia were
long hidden away from my young eyes.

light snaking up / by T.T. Kooken

white as I wake
blues looking around
tall window opens lightly
though always opening

curves into the morning
above where I was
seeing attaching itself
branches being-seated
on my back

the (of mine and anothers) lung
sounds as softly
speaking through my
face

when light prying presses
even the wall from which
it comes it pressed blue-white
even the spider-ribbon has light
glowing against its globular sweat

Passing Seasons Over a Pond / by Shane Morin

Green leaves      paddle along       the pond
The current        caresses the edge
A frog     sits        admires lilies
Bees bumble      skim       the surface
Claw the water                   tastes    the dew
Slides down        lily tips                    the frog
Delves                   into the depths                   the pads
Whirl above      maple seeds        spiral
Sienna leaves                       swim      to the floor
Ignite                     hibernation                          frost
Glasses over                          the lilies
Ceramic petals                    glisten

Diary of Lenin As Imagined & Read by Marilyn Monroe As She Held His Sepia-Tone Image / by Joseph Pravda

I know what it’s like, entrained, and inside the gelatin-grasping eyes of men,
You know you remind me of an uncle—least he said he was….he was a conductor, or something else, aboard trains.

I trained to be a riveter, but got…entrained, in a glass eye, like I said………

Ha, boots, ‘keep your heart a soldier’, she said…..her’s was broken,
Broken soldier—ha, ha, sounds like ‘solder’, what I did at the plant.

Arthur said to read you.

“Human child birth is an act which transforms the woman into an almost lifeless, bloodstained heap of flesh, tortured, tormented and driven frantic by pain.”

Your mother, she damaged you, didn’t she? Mine, her heart, it couldn’t be soldered, not even by me.

He’s balding, also, but it makes him,you, more honest,
I think so; but not that man, the train man, ‘avuncular’, Arthur called him, saying it was meant to be sort of sarcastic, ‘Platonic’, the sort of man who has nothing to do with childbirth, out of age or being unappealing.

He said you didn’t understand that humans aren’t easy to change, including the smartest, like him—that it’s not like just adding an ‘e’, at the end of that word.
You must have heard about what happened when your Russian writer, Tolstoy showed an old Brady picture of Abe Lincoln to the poor people—they cried,tears for a stranger, an American.

I feel a tear in my eyes, looking at yours, but not like theirs—I see anger, and what causes it, fear mostly.

—————-

Papers rustled as the students wondered about what they’d just been read by their professor, most themselves in a state of relative entrainment as the black and white images of a familiar film star bookended by those of the less attention-getting Lenin and Miller were projected upon the pull-down screen, itself a drab black and white artifact.

“What are your eyes telling you—subtle, even unconscious story, please—that means you, guys…”
Their film studies instructor warned.

A young woman observed, both her eyes telling and the irony of what they’d told.

“She’s projecting her fears, isn’t she, about feeling trapped, by rails, metal bars….”

“I see; anyone else?”

“I’ve heard that when women, say at this college, become roommates, their, um, menstrual thing, it happens, you know….at the same time…kind of entrained” a male student negotiates between sexism and science.

The instructor, shaking his head sligthly, sees a one-track mind, in danger of derailing.

Lessons in Indecision / by Aline Soules

I remember when you were eight,
standing in the store and trying
to decide between transformers and legos,
clutching your pocket money tighter
and tighter. You leaned one way
then the other, almost in tears.
In the end, you walked away
with nothing.

How much easier it would have been
to give you enough money to buy both, but
no. I chose to let you struggle, thinking it
a good lesson in life, wanting to be
a good parent. How I wish I’d given in,
not made things so hard.

You’ll make the same mistakes
with your child, maybe invent new ones.
Make your children choose between
their versions of Myst or Doom. Take a lifetime
to learn that the world can teach its lessons
without us. For if we have Clotho, we also
have Popeye. We are what we are.

Poem 25 / Day 25

Halfbreed Helene Is Singing Little Drummer Boy In Her Sleep / by Sarah A. Chavez

Between the back-ordered quilt pick-up at the mall, Walgreens
collecting family prescriptions, the grocery store running back
for another bag of chips, another 12-pack, ice, extra limes,

the gas station, the taqueria, the social security office,
Helene has heard them all: Good King Wenceslas, O
Tannenbaum, Jingle Bells, Santa Baby, We Three Kings,

Rudolph, Blue Christmas, Angels We Have Heard On High,
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, We Wish You
A Merry Christmas . . . I wish you nothing, H thinks standing

again in line at another place glaring at the people bundled
in scarves, hats, and gloves though its 64 degrees, the sun
shining spears through the window blinds. But despite herself,

she can’t stop humming Little Drummer Boy over and over.
I am a poor boy too, no gift to bring, fit for a king pa rum
pum pum pum pa rum pum pum pum. H wonders why

this is the one that stains her brain like ribs dropped
on Grandma T’s new tablecloth when she was six.
Maybe it’s his gift of art? I played my drum for him

almost brings tears to H’s eyes every time she rehears
that line, arms filled with things she can’t really afford, almost
nothing in her pockets. And that “He” (whoever that actually is)

smiles at the Little Drummer Boy, contended with his effort.
Her efforts feel momentous and yet there is more and there
is more to be done and gotten and done better.

Something Purple / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

There is something purple in this day,
in its gaze, in its haze. Some undefinable thing
etched heavily upon the page with ink indelible.

Put your finger to grey of sky,
         touch tongue to a cold north wind,
                  breathe in the last bits of green,
spit them out brown again.

Even as we gather, the scent of pine in the air, the
smell of lilacs linger, even though it’s well into December,
   and always I remember, I remember purple blooms outside
   your window.

Home for Christmas / by Marion Deal

This holiday season, my ghosts have, broadly speaking, brought me gifts

T.E. Lawrence came with a stained-glass box that clicks and strains
when it opens. It is fragile like he and I both are —
drop it and everything that is inside
will then be on the outs
But put it in a sacred space and none will dare touch it
with anything but the covet and the covenant

Goethe brought a German root and its entourage
They say they don’t pull out the hard stuff until at least 17:00,
but they’ve already taken advantage of the
late-morning light to snag some documentary footage
of themselves by the Christmas tree
          — „It’s for the Factory,” one says
          — „It’s for a project,” another interrupts
          — „It’s for The Project,” one more declaims
Ehe — marriage; noun, feminine
Ehebrocher — adulterer; noun, masculine
Ehebrocherin — adulteress; noun, feminine
Ehefrau — wife; noun, feminine
Ehepaar — married couple; noun, neuter
Eheberatung — marriage counseling; noun, feminine

Jim came in on fire
After he’d drunked himself out in a pitcher of fresh milk,
he gave me the biggest hug, singed beard tickling the furrows on my forehead
          “How the hell are you, Little Bird?”
“Morrison,” everyone shook their head and muttered, “get a fucking life and get here on time without burning down the goddamn house”
But he’d found some tooth in the desert
and burned shit in Ancient Greek on it
that he and I could read, you dig?
he slipped it in my pocket so no one else could see
and whispered rough
          “This here’s special, ‘specially cause it’s Christmas
          The longer you keep it in your pocket today
          The closer we’ll get
          to the way we were once
          once more”

Drought / by Brian Dickson

The pond is down twelve feet.
We find the dog’s lost balls,
possum and raccoon bones.

Our skipping stones caught
in the mud-caked cracks,
each year’s lost teeth.

Procession to the Morning / by Danielle Hanson

The shadows lie down, melting
into ground and air, settle in
to watch the show as the last
hares gather the scraps of day.
Star after star begins its trek
across sky echoed by
dream chasing nightmare
chasing dream. A coyote
climbs across the earth.
Frog songs meander
across the landscape, unsure
what direction to take. A single
bird flies across, unzipping
the eye as light spills.

Silent Night / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

When saying a final farewell to friends
how can I write about the beauties of mistletoe?

When bullet-ridden bodies lie bloody at the side of the road,
how can I write about unicorns and rainbows?

When children are caged, dying of disease, alone
how can I write about the delights of a Candy-Cane Cappuccino?

When thousands of homes are destroyed by fire, floods
how can I write about the joys of apple pie?

When a man is beaten to death with a baseball bat
how can I write about the universal I?

When homeless fight with a rat over garbage pizza
how can I write about the scarlet evening sky?

When families live in tents at the side of the road,
How can I write about a cozy firelight?

When father and daughter lie face down
on the muddy banks of the Rio Grande
how can I write about the Christ Child?

indigo / by T.T. Kooken

a mysterious little
organism made its
way up the pipes
to my dream

bell-tops purple
emanates through the
widely-known difficulty
of my dreaming

what-grows-in-
the-dark is
not specific,
standing, offering
colorless views

my almost (on frequencies
of love for fungi, for cambium, moss
and bark) translucent stems
of dream clearing space:

under a
widely-known
gentleness, an
anxious spill of petals

the
invitingly
dense-(before diverging,
the splitting canoes of flower,
crooked and furry leaves,
pairs & triads & hidden talk)crown is
dreaming of me

Joey’s Sky / by Shane Morin

He dashes towards the dusk, chasing rays that dive
Into the horizon, a pebbled shore
Slows his pace.

Dark cloaks the sky, emerald eyes
Gaze into the black, black vastness
His young hands plunge into Osh-Kosh pockets
Pin pricks tingle his palm

The sea greets him in raucous applause
Reflecting the nothingness above,
            The air slumbers on the ocean.

He extends a clenched fist,
            Fingers tingle with electricity, his
            Palms quake with climbing quantum, he
            Petitions the empty sky
                        Sighs hopefully

An ionized hum emanates,
            His fist releases a million luminous specks
            Sparks flit into
            An endless firmament

Explosions in a lifeless sky render
            Stellar genesis- quantum fireworks
            Saturate the night-
                        Higgs bosons blaze past, photons
                        Scale an ultraviolet sky
                        Charm quarks charge the dark-
A Constellation of arms embraces the darkness

Joey giggles in the brilliance
            Runs down the dusty dunes
            chasing incandescent insects.

Parts of the Diaries of Vladimir Illyich Lenin as Read by Marilyn Monroe: A Play Sometimes in Verse in Three Acts / by Joseph Baron-Pravda
=====================================

Act One: Mother Gladys Reading Lenin @ An L.A. Sanitarium

She often stands and reads excerpts from the famous Communist capitalist–she sometimes has conversations with him, in broken English; in the first scene she introduces her daughter, Norman Jean to Vladimir, enacting all three voices

Act Two: Norma Jean Dougherty at Work at Radio Plane Factory in Van Nuys Being Photographed by Her Boss

He is the son of a White Russian Jewish family that emigrated to America to escape the Revolution and is related to Trotsky, now in Mexican exile

Act Three: Marilyn In Russia

She has returned from an exhausting European trip, arranged by her intellectual playwright ex-husband, Arthur Miller, who had arranged for her private ‘visit’ to Lenin’s tomb; in the last scene, she is alone, lying abed, reciting parts of Lenin’s diary when……..

The Road Less Traveled / by Aline Soules

The hills unfurl to the horizon and beyond.
I see only their tops, mounded like moguls,
and I want to tread across each one,
take giant steps to places I’ve never seen,

then plunge down their slopes into the dark
spaces that lie like hidden icebergs, delving
deep into valleys, crevasses, clefts, cracks,
fractures, even diving beneath the crust of the earth.

What is it about vast landscapes that spurs
our human desire to conquer places not yet seen,
to explore what lies over the next hill, round
the bend in the road, past the very horizon?
That craving that takes us farther
than the yellow mists that glow in late sun,
to starlit galaxies, the edges of the universe?

Even as the blood stirs, a tiny road
in the low foothills catches the eye.
Just a curve, trying to anchor us on land,
but, after a quick glimpse, the hills once again
draw the eye and mesmerize our hearts.

These hills demand silence. No chatter.
No bird song. No wind. Yet, the air crackles,
waiting for the final blaze of the setting sun.
Even as the hills recede to silhouettes
in midnight blue, then merge into black sky,
our stirred blood races on.

Poem 24 / Day 24

Halfbreed Helene Fantasizes About The Same 5 Things Every December 24, 2019 / by Sarah A. Chavez

1) Winning the lottery and buying everyone presents
                                                                                they actually want
2) Eating 25 cookies in a row without feeling sick
3) Catching a person dressed as Santa jumping
                                        down a chimney and someone calling the cops
4) Sneaking onto a plane, renting a fancy hotel room
             like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone 2, eating eggnog sundaes & tater tots,
                         while watching a marathon of animated xmas movies
5) Building a treehouse in a seventy-five-foot xmas tree in the middle
                                                     of a forest inhabited by jolly sprites where H can look
                                        absent-mindedly out over the expanse of nature
                                                                                 & feel a quite she isn’t quite sure exists

Something Lost, Something Found / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

The burned-brown woods of
winter slip past us as we ride
backroads and byways
        searching for something
lost, something found

the glint of birds lifting from branches

spotted horses in fields of grass
fading gold, seed heads
glowing red in winter light

an eagle tree-bound, watching, waiting

cattle gathering by the edge of a pond
reflecting the clear blue of this day
        reflecting us, riding

the memory of flowers, seed heads
drooping with the hope of spring

a hand raised in greeting, a wave, a nod
the recognition of being

your hand in mine, together we’re
racing toward something, nothing
everything lost, everything found

Andy Warhol Makes Me SICK / by Marion Deal

A rouged white room,
large in its lack of windows
watchers clattering around like minor pustules
waiting for the moment to spit something up and out
— of Africa, right? —

Gimme that Advil
just have to get in the car with
these nice young men and their delicate feet
Everything besides the needle
could be fixed of glass and pus
and so I embroider a swath,
acting must fast before anyone notices
how easy it is to retake an already-conquered land

Needle too can lacerate, and drain purulent
It coulda been a burn once, this blister, before all the politics
But now I’m convinced it’s bubonic
You see the eyeshadow under the elbow
Coaxed pustule
to a motley crust
          Mix it in your Coca-Cola & you’ll “really get democracy”
          I promise
        You Catholic?
        You met the Pope?
        Give ‘im a shot of this and it’ll inoculate his morals, I promise
Without the white blood cells rushing to the response,
perishing for defeat,
there’d be no pus, and thus
No will to pop underneath the arms

Flame and song until the spoon’s all gone
Leaving all the sugared medicine behind

Zero / by Brian Dickson

The meteorologist
placed me on a blue screen

pointing with a cursor
to move more west

young man—where snowflakes
are so big they glide

with disregard for manners,
slaps on cheeks. You

don’t budge. Don’t protest.
Temperature hovering

just above the nostalgia line
in for a long slumber.

Meditations on Grass / by Danielle Hanson

You gather in
multitudes, wearers
of frost, swords
held up in a charge
frozen in time.
In warmer air, you
cushion picnickers
while holding armies
of biting insects.
Soft hair of soil,
precursor to weave
and nest, almsgiver
to the small, whether
furry or shelled or
feathered. You hide
young from all but the reaper.
Green whistle calling to wind,
you wave to the clouds,
who never give you
a ride. You gather to hear
the speech of the trees, gather
the speech of the trees to bury.

The Night before Christmas when I was Three / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

Twas the Night before Christmas in front of the tree
we were waiting for something I think planned for me.
My father was there and so was my mother
but strangely enough there was only one brother.

I was allowed to stay up to see a strange guest
no matter, I was too excited to rest,
when through the window I heard a loud noise
and in crawled a Santa with a striped sack of toys.

His beard was askew and I thought made of cotton,
his hair not quite white and his boots were forgotten.
I wondered, no reindeer? no elves and no sleigh?
not through the chimney? a window? no way!

His ho ho ho was familiar, could this be my brother?
as he passed out presents from some cousin or other.
There wasn’t one gift that I had asked for
no doll, sled or clown, no trike to adore.

I knew that this Santa was not the real Claus
He looked too familiar which had made me pause
and think Wait I think that Santa’s a fake
He doesn’t exist. But for their sake

I continued to smile and let them believe
I thought this was Santa. As he started to leave.
he turned from the window, a laugh on his face
as his brother yelled out Hey, that’s my pillowcase.

it is only history / by T.T. Kooken

this light is
an arrow.

not speaking
about it,
tubular spade-like-fingers
(left abundantly unshadowed
down to the nails)
trace the horizon.

an emblem, & rust,
a vertical dust
three (or six)
leaves on the branch

Two Houses / by Shane Morin

Our homes are Alpha Centauri and
Terra Firma-luxurious, impoverished

Rich in AI, WiFi, streaming between galaxies
NexGen Centaurians merge with NanoTech
While

Terrans toddle along, eyes
alight with wonder, sharing stories
of fabulous beasts, chimerical feats
Careless in their dreaming, unaware
of the cold Cylon eyes dreaming
their own dreams, inconcievable
nightmares for others

Going With You / by Abigail Siegel

I don’t know where I’m going
the ends of the days et darker and darker
the world is hazy and I see little
the path ahead is uncertain

but my heart is warm and full
my mind is working and learning anew
each day I spend with you

Rolling the Cheese in Brockworth / by Aline Soules

The emcee sets a round of Double Gloucester
down the steep hill and, one second later,
the Cheese Rollers pursue it, tumbling, rolling,
running, falling, sometimes breaking bones and
bruising bodies. The cheese, speeding to 70 mph
has a definite edge, but a few men and women
have claimed the prize, despite injuries
to participants and spectators alike. Have you
ever been hit by a speeding cheese roll?

Theories abound as to the origin of this event.
A way to preserve grazing rights on the common.
A pagan custom where bundles of burning brushwood
were rolled down the hill for the new year.
A fertility rite to encourage the harvest, an idea
supported by the emcee scattering buns, biscuits,
and sweets at the top of the hill.

Cancelled in 2009 by UK “Health and Safety,”
the race returned in 2010, no longer “official”
(who wants to be sued?), although the police
warned the cheese provider of liability.
Now boasting an international following, in 2013,
a foam cheese was substituted, but
any real winner gets the real thing.

The Cross Hands and The Victoria pubs
are on hand to offer Dutch courage in advance
and celebrate or convalesce after.

Poem 23 / Day 23

Halfbreed Helene Meditates on Cookies / by Sarah A. Chavez

Helene uses the back of the large serving spoon
to press sugar into the room temperature butter.

The muscles in her forearms flex and she feels
capable. Her body knows how to do this.

Her shoulder rotates forward, her wrist holds
steady. She has been the family “stand-up mixer”

for two decades. Walnuts are methodically
chopped, flour is sifted, sugars lined up

in 1970s earth-toned Pyrex bowls that have
existed long before H came into the world.

Then ingredient by ingredient, they go into
the large green Tupperware bowl that probably

isn’t safe to use anymore—all the nicks
and cuts, the plastic most likely leeching

into dough—but H keeps pressing. The veins
in her hands bulge, the small of her lower

back aches just a touch, but these songs
of the body let her know that she is alive,

that she is still trying to make something.
After the dough chills, she uses her fingers

to scoop out small chunks and cradles them
in cupped hands to roll smooth. When nothing

else in the world, in her family’s house, is orderly,
this is neat—the straight lines of uniform balls,

like nutcracker soldiers ready to march across
the 13×9 pan. The oven has been preheated

and in the background are the sounds of the holiday:
dogs barking, three distinct voices yelling over

Rosemary Clooney’s love lament near the end
of A White Christmas. In ten minutes, H will hear

the oven buzzer cut through every other sound,
she will peer through the glass window in the door

and look for the golden brown that matches the color
of her skin. This will let her know they are ready.

A Map of the Known World / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

Just beyond the house and smokehouse
next to the workshop where saddles
hang from ropes
a cellar rises like a tomb
humped together stones mounding, and
on its back a young girl, windblown,
singing

        beyond this, the wash flaps on a wire
strung between metal poles; it is summer,
the sky is blue, clouds wisp by branches
of the old juniper tree, its blue berries
gleaming; later, the girl will climb its
limbs, shushing chickens from their
perches, pushing them to roost in the
chicken house sitting next to a set of
abandoned rail cars filled with hay

in the pasture below, horses watch
with curious eyes, hoping for gifts
from the girl, red or yellow apples
snatched from a blue-flowered bowl

in the pasture, a windmill wails
its voice wavering in the wind, and
cattle dot the meadow enclosed by
woods, where

a dry creek bed meanders
silently through the shadow and
light of leaf and branch, leaf and
branch; mulberries build a border
between canopy and farmland,
where wheat shimmers golden,

and there, almost out of sight, her
image fading in the brightness of
that day long past, a
little girl sings.

I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times / by Marion Deal

Achilles —
swift-footed, like to the gods
saved from the fire,
inimitable,
Ligyron,
Nereius,
Pelides,
               has been listening to the Beach Boys lately

He doesn’t quite know why
save that there is something lost and vast
in their petty harmonies,
like the way his mother used to sing
when she dreamed of the sea
in her gut

like the crafty walls of Troy
lapsed by years of water, suddenly
Achilles does not know why he likes the idea of a shallow love
but he is tired
and the night is long enough
he doesn’t desire someone to stay all through it
all he wants now is the whitecaps

Lightning Storm to the East / by Brian Dickson

the captain coolly notes.
Palpitating light in the sky

fracturing like a cowboy
poet’s voice I knew:

Thunder, lightning
and rainbows, how far
to the edge of your heart.

To go through
turbulence, enter here.

Songs from a campfire hurl
into the clouds.

Meditations on a Stone / by Danielle Hanson

Bones of air, you
hold nothing.
Weapon of first
and last resort.
Drowner of kittens.
Prison guard of
gems. If broken, you
multiply. First tool.
Beauty and boredom,
the cheekbones of the
earth. You make your
home in the pockets
of children. You live
in the throats
of birds, grinding
seed. You do not float,
but will dance on
water if asked right.
You are the home
of moss, the little
brother of mountains.
Sand to giants.

The Wake / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

When I first saw her lying cold
            face serene and untroubled.
I saw my own death,
            looking through a door left ajar
half in love with the scent left behind
            half longing for the light.
The one who I alternately loved
            and hated was me lying in wake,
thin wrists, mottled arms
            fine Finnish hair like a child’s.

We needed to leave,
            needed to go to dinner
and perhaps a movie.
            We all felt guilty for leaving
her lying in her bed,
            still, stern, taciturn.
The only relief was
            Robyn Williams.
Mrs. Doubtfire
            and a rare hamburger
was exactly what we needed
            the day mother died.

a very flat sunspread / by T.T. Kooken

there is no
normal for the
water running down
from the skies

a mountain (which is not
here) watches the clouds’
drying spaces

above the yellow
oval leaves a
stream waits for
its moment of movement

& the ground
groans, its
grasses are
small teeth biting
against the air

The Phoenix Song / by Shane Morin
In Memory of Andy Morgan

I wish you could’ve seen it:
            The day the stars dispersed-
            the moment we were swallowed
                        in supernovae

I wish you would’ve heard
            the echoes screaming
            at the night’s silence-
            the stillness of the clock

Remember when we witnessed
            the Technicolor death of the day?
How the yellows gave way to orange?

We listened to the Phoenix song
            When the world slumbered
We laid across the rocks-
            the sea enshrouded us-
with infinite wonder

I’d like to rise with the dawn
Hear the sea speak your name

I’d like to be the rib, once removed,
            And feel your heart flutter once again

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF PHOTO NOT AVAILABLE / by Joseph Pravda
(owing to that body-sculpting now the basis for that class action against that classless plastic surgeon you don’t want to talk about)

‘Got up,got out of bed,
dragged a coma across my head……….’.

There’s that flat screen you’re hoping to replace ,
if you have the space,
with the newer–
for bucks that’re in number fewer–
bigger HD features, you just saw it on that screen, the sale…..you pause, not to smile at the irony of an appliance’s consignment to the yard of bones,
but, rather, to wonder if you have enough skymiles to flip over to your bank’s cross-marketing
deal with the big box outlet it owns.

Besides, it’s always on, talk about maximum return on investment,
only you use the abbreviated’ ROI you heard on the financial channels–
that phrase now acronymed you picked up at those focus group panels.
The ‘Daddy’s Little Princess’ neurons belly flop into your streaming consciousness, instructing your lips to purse, then pucker as some plucky dendrite axon makes you aware of how that sounds like a royal entitlement.

You’re distracted by that commercial, the one it seems is played a lot,
on every channel, it seems urging you to put your doctor on the spot.

You decide to ask your doctor about it, and those other drugs your friend told you about,
the ones with the animated story boards where everyone smiles,
emerging from holes in the lawn or localized rainy clouds that hover just above some unlucky thus unhappy lout.

You wonder if your vet can help your pet, too;
you audibly say ‘huh ‘from smirking chapped lips, remembering that many of those animated drug ads have happy dogs, and sometimes by the slew.
You’re glad you smirked, it made you remember to grab some of that beeswax stuff for your
lips, it’s all natural, which reminds you, aren’t bees dying, and all,
you saw something between those drug commercials, what was that about the bees, maybe it was about Africanized bees, can’t recall.

Your smartphone rings with that retro ringtone you downloaded for only ten times a dime,
because it reminded you of along-ago summer and a youngers simpler time.

It’s your friend telling you she’s just seen something on TV about an app that you can get to keep you up to date on getting the latest apps to make your life more focused and organized so as to insure you won’t be late,
Especially when it comes to remembering those doctors appointments, time and date.
You’re grateful because you need to get organized, life is just so busy–
why it’s more, for sure, than enough to get you in a tizzy.

That word,’busy’,makes you daydream about bees,
how you’ve always thought of them when you heard about being busy, and sometimes beavers–theirs, a busy one, surely no life of ease.

You recall a show about beavers ,how they degrade the environment to serve

Their needs and ,maybe,
since you saw beavers in that drug commercial, though you’re not certain, they
remind you of your neighbor’s selfish baby.
Your friend asks if you’re alright;you reply in the affirmative, now distracted by the screen to your right,
the one you can see through the mirror; they’re talking about business profits, and about their
anticipated long-term might.

‘Business’, you think, ‘isn’t that from the root word ‘busy’?
‘Your smartphone reminds you you’ve got a doctor’s app-ointment soon to discuss whether your only child is or isn’t schizzy.

You excuse yourself ,and jump in the shower, thinking about how dangerous it would
be to actually jump in the shower;
your mind does that a lot lately, maybe it’s a side effect, better ask your doctor,
the new one in that sleek new tower,
that investment trust your broker put you in and where her office is,
Dr. Alice Wunderliss.

You engage the in-shower music player, it’s John Lennon, singing
“ADayintheLife”,
you love that song, a clever sendup of daily strife.

He said persuasively that he’d love to turn you on, funny how your stockbroker, she said she’d love to turn you on, too, oh not like in that little ditty,
but to an investment opportunity, if missed t’would be a pity.

You promised to call her back,
persistent Jack;
As you step out of the shower, remembering to call your broker—you can’t help thinking that she reminds you of that Jack who played The Joker–
simply can’t resist what you allow as an attention deficit’s version of literate alliteration: on that inner screen of yours you project a catty image of her makeup, reminiscent of Jack’s Joker face that’s great for poker….
you’re permitted that first name privilege, as he’s practically your neighbor–what’s a couple of hills,
especially after a couple of those pills.
Where were you, not recalling if they were red
or blue?
Ah, outside the shower disgusted at how you look naked, the way you fall short of how your personal trainer says you simply must,
Rationalizing just enough to lay the blame on that botched reduction of your bust.
You still blame Yoko, your other almost neighbor in a certain New York building that overpriced sublet pied-a-terre your broker said you wanted…
Should have punted.

You ask your joker/broker about that opportunity, and he says it’s in Russian
real estate, right next to Lenin’s tomb, and the Kremlin,
an investment very ‘wise’.

You smile when he patronizes you as an eager beaver,
as you hum ‘Imagine…’, that Lennon song, as you stand there, wet and tremblin…
recalling his demise.’
You’ve got another call—‘Ciao, got another call’ you blurb to your broker; you click on your avatar for ‘Kid’s High School’: ‘Lockdown?!’ you scream using your gut’s reaction
Jump behind the wheel of your flex-fueled souped-up traction
that broker-recommended SUV…that always reminds you of that show, ‘Law & Order, SVU’, that episode about the gun in a school, you remember watching it, multi-tasking, what else, during it, cancelling that LiveStrong bike helmet for your kid
‘why do I use that word, that’s a baby goat, gotta use ‘child’……Focus!’
you yell out loud and, bingo, like some hocus pocus,
Blue lights flash; you think of that blue blazer you can’t wear, ‘too tight, no more Frappucinos….’
or takeout gourmet pizza from Gino’s…….
“Sorry, road’s blocked, please turn around” someone with S.W.A.T. in yellow calmly commands,
reminds you of those cute black guys in those marching bands…
swatting aside your automatic question starting with ‘What the Hell?!’You think of that well-dressed fellow at the door when you were on the phone with your broker,
white shirt……’Jesus, why can’t my whites turn out like that’, the Stones song ‘Satisfaction’ pops into your head, maybe beaming back from that Voyager thingy, out there, in deep space, nooo, too far…’.
probably just another joker,
That guy, in the shirt and tie, he asked: ‘Have you met Him?’ How many times have you used His name, times like this, yes…….George Carlin reminds you that ‘He’s all-powerful, loves you, and your children, just can’t handle money!’
‘What am I doing, thinking about this instead of my little honey?!’ but you’re still not focused on him as much as money.
That’s why you swatted the acne-infested young-seeming boy’s question away, ‘..money, ha, like I’m some kinda sucker–why does his ‘He’ allow acne? Marx, must’ve been the fifth Marx Brother, what with that gag about ‘opiate of the masses.’ Like opium could cure even one boy’s acne……he didn’t seem much older than your kid…..is he on those drugs, too?! Ask your doctor, right, Jesus…
Why must you tease us–
No, not him, his father,
Why do I bother?!
Your Sirius XM equipped flex SUV announces the lockdown, ‘no further details available at this time ‘It tries to comfort you, ‘….police say it’s just the usual wise precautions’. ‘Yeah, right.’
That why I’m nauseous?
Your peripheral vision, so useful at home and work while multi-tasking, spies a billboard:
“Choose Life”. A paid ad on your commercial-free Sirius radio seriously…ha, ha, you always liked that pun….grabs your ear. “Remember, your 2nd Amendment Rights are the best home security system……a public service announcement by the New America Foundation.” An officer approaches: “It’s a false alarm, lockdown’s over, just some parent with a concealed weapon set off the metal detector, had a permit” he drones, but you sense frustration.Your forehead hits the plush steering wheel you customized your SUV with.
Sirius……’seriously’….channels into your relieved head: “….the purple pill…..” yes, there must be a pill for it..
You pick up your….child; ‘classes are cancelled, rest of the day’ you child smirks.
‘You ok, hun?’ He pulls the earbuds and you can still hear the song it’s so loud…….’White Rabbit’, Jefferson Airplane.
‘That works…’
You muse: ‘Thomas J., founder of……less government interference, nice irony’; you are pleased with your recall of history, and the paradoxes called irony, man.
Gotta get my child into a good college’ you reassure that part of your brainpan.

You get back, get back, Jo Jo……….you loved The Beatles in college, but wonder why that Stones song ‘Satisfaction’ just popped into your cabeza again….two years of Spanish paid off, huh…….”‘I can’t get no…..'”, wow, maybe it’s beaming in from that Voyager thingy, who knows, maybe Sirius can pick it up, yeah, by satellite, very cool, tech-know-ledge-e.’ Still smiling, self-amused. You swat away a lingering teardrop.
You think, ‘time for some music called pop.
‘Wanna synch up your playlist?’ he nods, you push a shiny chrome button.

“One pill makes you taller, one pill makes you small……” Your child smiles, mumbling ‘ask Alice…’
You bluetooth your broker, the one who suggested that Kremlin palace,
hands free happier.
‘Hey, what’s the best stock play in home security? Oh, yeah, got that doctor appointment, so, just call me later with that data, and, um, find out who makes that……purple pill……ciao, have a great day..’
‘As you pull away you peripheral sight is instructed by a bumper sticker on the S.W.A.T. car: “Report Suspicious Behavior”
You snarkily mummble something about savior.

—————————–

Your day’s daze finally over, your head greets the cool pillow with the guaranteed ‘never hot’ thingy built in
Like Lennon promised, after that extra sleep tight pill,
you went upstairs, had a smoke, and fell into a dream, the kind that the Bard you try so hard to understand says rounds our little lives, or something…it’s even got a title:

A Mad-at-Summers Night’s Dream or Rub(b)in the Lamp for a Green Span to the 21st Century

You’re the proverbial fly on the wall…………of the inside of that famous skull,
whose owner used to use your pied-a-terre, never dull.
It’s around midnight, and he’s growing drowsy but not yet ready for sleep;
former President Bill Clinton’s in your upscale pied-a-terre, so convenient, allowing him to stay busy, so much to do, rebuilding that bridge well into the, then, near future to that century which was looking so very promising, turned out to be a creep.
Besides, the commute to sedate Westchester county’s such drudgery, and Hilly’s in town, ‘ain’t no way fer a fella ta get down.’
‘Pillow’s real cool’ his racing mind reports, ‘…got a nice scent, new maid’s touch, ah guess, kinda like……..perfume,
Sure does fill the room.’
It’s too late for any more phony phoning, business or friendship his huge mental rolodex pulls up two recent calls. ‘Mah two treasured……..boys—-come ta think of it, Summers and Rubin never did call me back’ his newfound focus lasers, decompressing that famed compartmentalized brain pan,
works fine until he’s no longer your fan.
‘Yep, both of ’em turned out ta be a couple a cold bastards, like their predecessor, old Alexander Hamilton—all damn bankers at heart, skewin their advice in that direction’ his candid regret-driven neurons fire away, fully in play:
‘Ta think that misogynistic Larry teamed up with Bob and Greenspan to beat up that gal Brooksley for darin ta call attention ta those damned mortgage de-rivatives….and usin my mantra—- “the American financial system takes a major step forward towards the 21st century”—-huh!’ Bill now sits up, punching his now warmer plump scented pillows, one for Larry, the other for Bob. The extra pillow to his right he leaves untouched, owing to Alan’s wearing glasses. ‘Right, the 21st century, if ya call it a derailed train, like that old one, The 20th Century, the one my momma took me on headin up ta New Haven and Yale’ Bill’s mouth now in reflexive pout, his upper lip eclipsing his lower in that trademark limbic display.
12:07a is the readout on the LED clock he now stares at, while his well-traveled mind time treks beyond your place,
the former President, cum philanthropist now seeing ‘6:00a’ on a decidedly low-tech clock face.
He’s that other Bill, Mr. Murray, without the happy ending
and backward in time he is tending.
He sinks back down to a supine posture, and flips the pillows—-‘that’s better’ he consoles himself. But that Mitch Ryder tune from 1979 replaces the dull reportage about some furry creature’s peeking out from its dark sleeping place, becoming a soundtrack to the indie horror nearing post-production by the former President’s production company, ‘Country Rhodes Prods.’ as to the backbeat his noggin nods.
It grows louder: “….wearin her perfume, Chanel No. 5, got to be the finest girl alive, not too skinny, not too fat, she’s a real humdinger, and I like it like that.”
A pillow now sits atop his face, his large over-manicured chubby hands slightly depressing it, as if to muffle that soundtrack, maybe for good? His overly bright mind keeps seeing ‘blue’ as ‘blew’.
‘No! Gotta world ta save’ the take-charge neural net in charge of muting, if necessary and opportune, the blubbery limbic system it has learned to use for effect,
responsible for that signature ‘feel your pain’ construct his lips dutifully portray like some to be pitied hare lip defect.
‘ It’s about sax, not sex’ his Elvis-ometer country boy compartment chimes in, counseling his frontal lobes and, suddenly, Bill is back, like your other pals, Jack.
His eyes now close, peripherally spying 12:10a on the, now, high tech clock face Bill muses: ‘Gotta lay a new foundation for that 21st century bridge, yeah, call it ‘infrastructure’s bridge to somewhere, a somewhere where there ain’t no crazy Summers, where Rubes ain’t “in”, somewhere over that Green Span’. His red-faced ardor, now, begins to subside,
his limbic system counseling him to relax, that he shall abide.
Bill flips the pillow once more—-‘cool, very cool, nice scent, too, kinda like………Chanel No. 5’.

You’re awake, you think; your clock’s red eyes matching yours, it’s 12:10am; you click on the flat screen, Channel 5, no jive. You forgot, it’s Groundhog Day, and you hope it’s not like Murray’s long stay.

A genuine smile, nothing to do with botox, as you drift off,
thanking two Bills and one John, determined to reset your programmed whirled to….’imagine’; You might even forgive Yoko…the bloody toff.

Siren Song / by Aline Soules

Don’t blame Sirens for luring men
to their deaths with singing.
Blame the lure of singing,

the deep inhalation in the lungs,
the release of clear notes
singers can sing forever.

Blame the passion of composers
who convey the notes and chords
that swirl in their heads.

Blame the notes as they rise
and fall, swell and fill our senses
with sound and rhythm.

And if we die on the rocks,
ask the sirens to sing a requiem, that mass
for the repose of the souls of the dead.

Poem 22 / Day 22

An Image-Driven Exercise / by Sarah A. Chavez

Chain-linked fence, blinkless red lettering
peddling Anne’s Donuts, where we
used to get bear claws and watered-down coffee.

By the red-doored house, a green oblong
street sign has your name. I text you
a picture and you never respond.

During winter visits, I drive the wide North-end streets
to remind myself the boulevards can teem with life:
fiery calendulas, yellow five-fingered pansies,

the grass literally always greener up here—I do not
miss our side of town, but stay adjacent, knowing
I can never truly leave it in the past.

Morning Tanka / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

Morning fog drifts, ghosts
   gathering in the forest
just past the garden
gate where silent trees waver
shivering, reaching for light

Nadsat / by Marion Deal

Droog day
cheap wordplay pilfered from
the same vein as gave me
Soviet red milk

Christ I make myself into
the letters that write a beating
and then I can’t be hurt no more ‘cept
by the ones that read me

Carnal the light,
to be reminded that there’s a family
on the Other Shore and that
I chose to have them wait
Fate always comes with big hands
the man we all know is on the roads too late to be neat

I survive the day by leaving
and beating what’s left until my writs shamble their bloody
way back
This is not the home they taught me to spin
but it’ll do the day in

Stockings / by Brian Dickson

Forgive me
for embracing you
so late in life.

As a J.W. growing up,
you only existed as a sad
thing with holes.

Lump of coal gleaming
from the bottom, a piece
to chalk doom

on sidewalks
in the form of Care Bears
not “hugging it out.”

Now, from the mantel
I want Neruda in your
knit-pits, scribbling

odes to calves, heels
the magic of socks, love
between toes.

Meditations on Flame / by Danielle Hanson

Light as object, shapeless
shape, necessary
danger, you eat
your home, you are
pure dance tethered
by a tail, dancer who cannot
be held, snapping
with no fingers,
raising your hands
to sun, desperate to
leave earth, throwing
auguries into air,
stealing color, leaving ash.

under a desk at sandy hook / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios
               (With apologies to e e cummings)

jackie’s got a gun

                                gun
                                        gun
                                                      jackie’s
got a gun
can we out      run
                                  run
                                           run
can we outrun jackie
who   is wack
                                         wack
                                                       wacky
i hope i will be luck
                                          luck
                                                       lucky
when i duck the shots of jackie
duck and shun
                           the gun of jackie
outrun the gun
the stun
                           the gun of jackie

jackie thinks he’s bigger
when you see him press the trig
                                                           trig
                                                                       trigger
when you see him press the trigger
                           of the gun
                                                       gun
                                                                     gun

wish sumwun cud  come
wish sumwun wud come and take
                                        take
                                        take      away
wud break away
                                        the gun of jackie

four, six ducks / by T.T. Kooken

one brown duck reappears,
now I look for the rest,
watery vibrations,
layered feathers,
upward-hanging moss

against the flat white
clouded sky I heard a
goose, I didn’t see but
a short black head &
threaded-pintail &
arrow-brushstrokes

& I spoke to someone, I
said that’s
not all I see:
rock-forms on the water’s
edge, two crows flying overhead,
flying westward,
another small black bird
with yellow beak,
not a duck, it
is beside the two ducks
swimming away,

I look for the ducks,
against the flaying, spreading
clouds

Below is West Side / by Shane Morin

Brick-embedded memories line childhood walls,
Mortar molds tireless nights with scripted days.
Blood and crimson ink blend, leaking form eyes that weep for us.

I pick away at the chipping paint that lines the side of
Our concrete stoop. The steel-framed stairwell stews
With aromas of roast goat and freedom. The neighbors garden wilts,
Absinthe and herbicide ingested slowly. Another blow to hope.

Along Kimball’s thoroughfare, second-hand Celicas blare salsa,
Subwoofers bring bumpers to a vibrating crescendo.

We bike to Upton, trespass across lawns and unseen tracks
That divide us and the upper-class subdivisions. We
Run these streets, wiggers of the West Side.
Smashed glass lines the gutters, broken Bud Lites
Perforate the tuber for the twelfth time.

Echoing among the pines, Mary’s grammy
Calls her home for dinner. Our stoop steps away
From each other, she turns to leave voluptuously, her curves
Followed by my juvenile eyes.

We vowed to take vows should we ever find ourselves
Single years from now. A week later, Grammy passed.
I sat in my room, gazing out the pane glass as she left,
Our dreams vacant, moved to the ‘burbs,
Now empty as her bedroom.

Another Section 8 family embraced the vacancy,
The Batistas soon followed suit. I too
Abandoned the boroughs, deserting my
Addicted mother to the demons
That she couldn’t numb. Her green thumb
Daintily holding a Newport, the steel door
Slams in my efforts of sobriety.

E (c)lect (r)ic / by Joseph Pravda

Eno’s out-of-phase algorithmic phrasing jangled through Albert’s hair-on-fire head
During his violin breakthroughs
The frequency of which was somewhat random
As related by his near neighbor, Mr. Ostinato
And massively riffed new-sounding equations were yielded
Which never did exist…
Mr. Eno didn’t, either, yet.

Christmas Day / by Aline Soules

You might want to come now. The nurse’s
voice travels down the phone line
with the message I’ve expected for weeks.
It’s six on Christmas morning as I drive
to the hospital to find my Mother immobile,
struggling. Breath in, breath out, thirty second
pause, a rest so long I wonder if she’s already gone,
but she gasps and the cycle repeats.

I sit beside the gurney, lean over the metal bars,
grasp her cold hand, feel her icy feet.
When I was growing up, she always wore a cardigan
even in Scottish summer. Now, I can’t get her warm,
her face white, her limbs splayed beneath two blankets.

Lips close to her ear, I sing her favorite song
at this time of the year: ‘I saw three ships
come sailing in on Christmas day in the morning.’
Can she hear? I smile into her open eyes, blue
as the sea where she took me to swim,
her strong arms arced in a crawl, legs kicking
as she powered her body through the water.
I’d follow as fast as I could but, even when grown,
I could never beat her in a race.

Her head jerks back on the pillow, her legs
judder to full length. Breath in, breath out.
I can hardly finish: ‘Pray, whither sailed
those ships all three on Christmas day
in the morning.’

Poem 21 / Day 21

Halfbreed Helene Makes Bullshit Tamales / by Sarah A. Chavez

At least that’s what her primo calls them.
What self-respecting Mexican eats vegetarian tamales?
he scoffed. This was not a dialogue tag,
over-writing use of the term—he literally scoffed.
H rolled her eyes.

The kind who doesn’t have heart disease
and diabetes, she said, which she knew was low
since his dad had a heart attack the previous
year and was a Type-2 diabetic. But so was her dad,
and her dad’s dad, and his dad, her dad’s uncle,

and her nino, and well, most of their family.
It’s been a long line of frijoles y arroz, chorizo,
carne asada, flour and corn tortillas, custard-filled cakes,
and lots and lots of cerveza. These (save for the dead
flesh) were all things Helene loved.

But more than that, she loved her family
and wanted to do as they did, she wanted to claim
this birthright, this legado. Dr. Rodriguez,
her militant Xicana Women’s Studies professor,
stood at the front of the room the second week

of class, shouted and stamped her comfortable,
unfashionably-clad feet, and swore that she would
never cook for a man and neither should any
of the women in class. H had looked around
to see the faces of the other women. Some nodded

vehemently, raised their soft, manicured fists
in solidarity. Some looked bored, like this was an old
conversation, a topic already covered by their liberal
feminist book club during wine o’clock. And some, like H,
looked conflicted. It wasn’t that she wanted to cook

for her dad or tíos or primos or any dude—family
or otherwise—but she wanted to spend time
with her abuela. H made a lot of compromises
in life to have something to talk about with those she loved:
she watched football and listened to a rattling

of stats; she watched romantic comedies
and pretended to give a shit about actors’ hotness;
she played board games like Risk and Stratego,
and let them tell her for the fifth time how to play.
It wasn’t that she was dumb, that damn game

is just boring AF . . . but if her bestie Robert’s
new boyfriend was into this shit and they wanted her
to hang with them and they cared enough to explain, again,
she cared enough to try to make her game piece
build a bridge or whatever the hell.

And other than working, the Mexican women
in her family cooked. They skinned chickens,
and soaked pintos. They marinated pork,
and fried tortillas. Like clockwork, every
December, they made tamales.

Before she went to college, no one invited her
to work the assembly line. But turning 18,
moving out, and continuing school like no one
else on that side had—it had been decided. If
ever there was a time to save her

from the depths of agringada, it was now.
There weren’t many of them anymore, so
many deaths and even some moving away
(in which case they might as well have been
dead), but the kitchen table was still crowded

with musica and chisme. Her abuela
showed her how far down the husk
to spread the masa, how much filling was
too much filling. They stuffed some with pickled
carrots, chiles, and cheese, some with

soyrizo and beans. Even if no one else
would eat them, H didn’t care. Bullshit
tamales or not, they were her contribution
to xmas dinner, a new staple for the long table.
It was now her responsibility

and there would forever be a vegetarian
tamale-sized space between the pork tamals, rice,
and her tía’s bacon-wrapped green beans.

Solstice 2019 / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

I watch birds gather
     filling branches
black against a grey sky

This winter, unremarkable,
takes me by surprise

in the kitchen you are
cooking, at the table
I am dreaming

Watching birds fly together
dip down, lift, rise, fly

Later, we will gather
     lighting candles
golden against a dark night

Together we’re pushing
out the darkness, and
pulling in the light.

Bard / by Marion Deal

i.
There is something ever unspent.
Sometimes I see it in the self-contained
grammar of falling snow.
          It is not falling snow.
          It does not move with the gainful sloth
          of the hand
          of your favorite kidnapper.

At times it is in my belly.
At others it is in my throat.
          It is invested in no part of my body’s portfolio
          Though I cough and chew until
          I have evacuated less essential illnesses.

I have seen it more than once
laced in spines the compass has found to be
evolutionarily advantageous.
          I travel to the fading-grounds of
          oceans small and large bearing
          a beaked suitcase. In it I am prepared
          to speak of purposes, but on arriving
          there are great bones: only, invariably.

ii.
I am becoming fluent in many languages.
None of them are quite correct
but I will know which parts
are right when the time comes.

iii.
I have met:
a buffalo alone bones after the bleeding in a bright clearing
lizards who will watch with me the lighted windows as we orchestrate our own coronations
the marrow of chicken sages circling poverty residing in a third Party
a soulless child promised certain stillnesses by a lantern a dagger
a city spawned when cast the teeth of story in ground conquered unconquerable
busted desert princes who sleep with me whether I am in the sand or out of it
I am not trying to collect ghosts but my fingers are weighed down with rings all the same

Even I cannot see all of them.

iv.
One of my names is the Wise Young Storyteller.
One of my names is Skirling-Kin.
One of my names is not my own – it is T.E. Lawrence’s.
One of my names is a gift – Jim Morrison’s.
One of my names is a keeper of ghosts.
None of my names are first mine.
None of my names will die with me.
All of my names will one day die –
we practice this sort of thing every day.

For Insomnia / by Brian Dickson

Not that I have it.
If I had it, I would wake

my inner Atlas, ask
him to bowl

the world
under the table.

Let him feed on
beyond meat burger

scraps because, hey
he needs more protein.

I would wake
my inner Jesus,

task him to locate
the world, let him crash

last suppers with all
that red-velvet cake.

I would
wake my inner

Ganesh, task
him to blow

his clarinet,
announce

a party for the next
world.

Meditations on a Seashell / by Danielle Hanson

Lichen of the sand,
bowl of ocean,
with your sisters
the spirals, sword
and swirl, protective
luggage of soft, you
journey without ticket
or destination. Siamese
twin closed in a fist,
you open to feed.
Castanets in slow motion,
playing for no one, dance
forbidden. Outside the water,
you fade in sun, chip of
water’s bone. When you are
broken into smallest pieces,
renamed sand,
you can no longer
hold the ocean.

Know where You Stand / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

Be sure you’re not down wind
of the pig farm
or the factory smokestack
don’t be down wind
of fallout
dust storm
or gossip fuzz

I would love to be down wind
of canary-yellow music
temple bells
whispering aspen
lavender
children’s greenie giggles

but upstream
of skunks
beer cans
cigarette butts
pee
and lies
that muddy the water

winter solstice / by T.T. Kooken

making a fire,
I was in pain,
the house-white-coals,
the house on fire.

filling smoke behind
me, I, one year or another,
I, (vegetables roasting on the white-hot
coals) falling into a hole,
I cannot get out.

bushes brushing
close to the house,
bushy in the dark where
the light may be, against
the thought that I am not.

we were looking and
not smiling, I cannot
fill in the ground, the mud-leaves,
the green-growth bushes I do not
know their name,
they thought this, I thought

This is the End / by Shane Morin

Skyscrapers blaze on, residents
                 Launch into crystallized night
I look on from trenches
                 In my hyper-folded brain

Fire hoses freeze in the Arctic chill
Wolves stalk stragglers,
Pick off scorched children

Christmas firs catch fire
                 Evergreen needles spin
                 Embers sprinkle down
                 Welding crimson snow

I peer past the parapet
The city smolders like
                 Steam from brewed Sumatra

There’s a conflict Congress shan’t vote on
Rage blazes across distant lands
Sand fuses to stained glass
                 A kaleidoscope worldview

I’ve lept lightyears ahead
To find I travelled back
                 To my past- nothing changes,
                                  Still the same.

I’ll sit and relish pain
                 Mug in hand, cannibalize
                 The tenements, urban tenants
Flee into the greedy blizzard.

Desert Pastoral / by Abigail Siegel

driving through the Arizona desert
with my sister at the helm
I am in familiar territory
down from the cold North
to the mild winter of a dry, cactus-filled pasture
it is home, in a way

the cows graze this desert pasture
uncaring for those who watch them
those wishing they were a simple farmer
up at dawn to till the earth — whatever’s left of it —
or even a cow, uncaring for humanity
even in the sweet release of slaughter

I like watching them graze
it means the cactus desert has more to it
than just scrub and dry riverbeds
memory is created here
I will not forget this desert pasture
even as my sister sped by
unestablished memory

we pass all the ways they try to save the earth
the farmers who still love that stretch of scrub
I am awed by the vastness that are their measures
who could not want this?
I ask knowing the answer
They don’t want the cactus-pasture
their thumbs rub a different shade of green

home doesn’t change on the surface
each time is a comforting return
knowing I’ll see desert-green pastures
yet as unchanging as myself
both are happy lies trapped in idle memory

Paper Cups / by Aline Soules

I don’t know why I took them home
after Mother died. They were hidden
in a kitchen cupboard and I didn’t want
to waste them. She would have approved.
I put them away in the back
of a kitchen cupboard and forgot them.

Today, it is my turn to serve the boys
at soccer. I cut up oranges, grab water jugs
and find the cups.

I sit through the game with its noise
and dirt and knobby knees, but I think
about the cups as I wait for half-time.
A butterfly weaves in and out
of the boys’ legs.

The whistle blows. The boys grab
the orange quarters with their fists,
squeezing sweet juice into their mouths.
They gulp cool water from the cups
and pour it over their heads.

The game ends. The butterfly is gone.
I pick up sticky rinds and scrumpled cups
tossed by boys Mother never met,
in a place she never saw, in a time
she never knew.

Poem 20 / Day 20

Halfbreed Helene Contemplates the Duality of Christmas / by Sarah A. Chavez

Which she now writes as Xmas, with X, just like Xicana,
and Xiomara, her favorite character on Jane the Virgin.

Using the “X” as a rejection of colonialism and an embrace
of indigenous roots (which is what the article her teacher

assigned argues) isn’t quite what draws H in—though that sounds
pretty good— but rather the idea that there is an oppositional letter,

a classic two index fingers held up to ward off evil, the symbol
on a map which means start digging, when created in bones: poison,

a crossing: train, animals, existential, and otherwise, a letter
which makes a sound close enough to indicate recognizability,

yet instills discomfort in traditionalists, something which renders
a wholesale buy-in to whatever the issue or ideology, questioned.

Much like H’s face, Xmas is an empty bag into which folks place personal
definition and desire. It’s openness and mestiza history leaves room

for all manner of contradictory understandings and celebrations:
Christian charity & Christian commercialism; birth of mythological

manger baby king & the literal death—corpse husks of tree seeds,
barren appendages of the elm reaching out to waning sunlight, all manner

of annual hibernation—that precedes and succeeds winter solstice; light
from the baby-finding North Star vs. the pitch of evening cloud-cover:

at all times the classic push and pull of nature vs. interpretation. Xmas
is half love and half stress. Half joy of getting, half anxiety of giving.

Half people friendlier and half cutting in line for a peppermint mocha
or some goddamn toy. H has no investment or judgement in either Xmas

identity. She recognizes her complacency and participation in much
of the above. What she does adore is her abuela’s xmas tree: pine-scented

natural-looking PVC needles spouting from an aluminum base; lights
that run top to bottom all the way around and these lights! They flash

white then color, color than white, and vice versa and back again. At first,
the colors have a gentle tempo, an almost rocking rhythm between illuminations,

but after 5 mins, it speeds up until the tree lights do 2 mins of disco fanaticism,
an ecstasy of choice, a running both away and to. Late at night, after the dishes

are put away and the counters wiped, after they’ve all said goodnight and Abuela
has gone back to her room to watch novellas and read her Bible, H turns out

the living room overhead and sits in the dark for hours watching the xmas lights
in their ritualistic dichotomy. White then color. Color then white. Color and white,

fluctuating light: color white color white color whitecolorwhitecolorwhitecolor.
If it wouldn’t mess up Abuela’s ornaments, H would hug the aluminum trunk,

bury her face in the soft, realistic bristles. Such a display of vibrant indecision!
And if, like her family has always told her, it is true you can’t be both at once,

let her life emulate this speed of dual movement, let it be so swift, so seamlessly,
it’s as if what was born out of unplanned cross-pollination as always been.

Lately / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

I am scattered these days
—a snowflake hovering
in an opaque sky—

or, scraps of poetry
written on lined paper, torn
floating,
         fluttering,
                   falling

Sometimes I dream of the place
where the light falls gold;
where we disappear down
fog faded highways;

and we, the characters
in some writer’s story,
its pages slipped into desk
drawers by unsure artists,
drift on uncertainty; floating,
fluttering,
                 falling,

and we, like ghosts, fog faded,
too early slip into silence,
into obscurity

Quest for Zuko Funko POP Figure / by Marion Deal
An epic to be sung

After 3 days & 67 nights
we’re headed down to Schamburg,
scoured every comic joint in town
from here to my driver’s Delaware
No rest until we find it,
though the quest’s the goddamn thing
Don’t know where I’m pointing
but
it’s alright
this
             time
against the cloudy Illinois sky, every South is a
string of flaming pearls
and the
             hot
                          fresh
                                        sun
is shimmying somewhere behind these banks
                          Always worth noting
                          I don’t know
                          where I’m going
Already checked Graham Cracker, Unicorn
and the shop with the guy who like me for noticing his Lost shirt and also that
bitching LOTR pinball machine
Already gone farther than I thought I’d be this morning
when I kept my head laid down on
the concrete of my grandfather’s basement
wasn’t even waiting this time but
Godot, you know that’s the way it is
sometimes in the
stained glass of the mind
And the Lost guy said that he knew a place
if we drove ourselves down 128, late though it was,
we’d see Baseline
might not have what we’re looking for
but at least we’re moving
at least we’re not here
As we go I’m explaining
how Zuko, the Fire Prince, was exhiled
and in his long search to reclaim
how runs the honor of the mind (legs and legs and legs of it)
He rode his hope into the ground
until all that was: how cold
the concrete on his back and
the bitter will to relinquish
and still bitterer the fact
you must,
arise again
Past the point of ambition
lies something with many joints
that skitters in back the head
when all the other thoughts are
out of the house
No faith, only knees on the seat to
pry up again

And the guy at the comic store’s
fat, balding white shirt
and we’ve scoured the shelves
and I’m beginning to feel that this time
there’s nothing bitterer
than cold concrete
and he says “whatcha lookin for”
and then
“gimme a second”
and then
from behind
a box

Birthday Morning Prayer / by Brian Dickson

(For Sky St. Jean—with a line from Alice Notley)

Six years now, uncle, since
you floated in Mamala Bay,

unafraid then, or maybe
afraid of what

your Hawaiian shirts masked
over the years, or

your sermons mixing Jesus,
shaman spirits. That one

with five rooms, five doors,
five keys—what we

desired in those rooms,
our relationship with the holy.

May I never be afraid.

May I never be afraid of
alcohol that took you

a little even when you
sobered for 35 years.

May I never be afraid
of alcohol that took me to black.

The yoke of the sun today
isn’t easy on the eyes.

Light dashed to fragments
by wrought-iron breath.

May I
never

be afraid of yoke from
a cracked egg of a life.

Meditations on Lichens / by Danielle Hanson

– for Wendy Truran

Half moons,
fingernails of a tree,
parentheses inside parentheses
inside parentheses, you are
the hidden meaning
unspoken in the woods,
what isn’t heard
when a tree falls.
Alternating dark and light,
like a cloud-filled sky, you always
point north, to the star you love,
you are stairsteps to a
monument of fractals,
the small inside the large,
the stars of the forest, brittle
porcelain of nature,
plates serving air to air,
the erection of a tree
laying down, half buried
shield from a forgotten culture.

My obituary / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

Remembering me will be like carrying water
in your hands        or trying to drink
the echo
of a bell                 that is rung

remembering me is not a useful thing
You cannot             carry air
in a sieve

I have departed

my perfume will not last
the sun will still color       the trunks
outside my window               will still rise
stars will not fall
                          from the sky
blue will still                               be blue
it is useless to mark my span
to read my footprints        I have departed

you may miss me for an hour
no longer than a day
the clock will rust
the river will muddy
the world will still lust and hunger
the linen yellow
the spiders spin      still
I have departed

I am dancing elsewhere
too fierce
             too hungry
                           but you can
leave the water
mute the bell
cover the mirror

but who knows my breathing? / by T.T. Kooken

overcoming fear,
the shrub appears
its small yellow seeds on
its stalk

darkness (interplaying
shadows are a sign of life)
& lifelessness

over time spoiling
its redgreen leaves
(in a rock screaming across
skidding along the ground)

and its (what is closest to
it is going to
tell) beautiful
shivering

Bloom and Bough / by Shane Morin

Based on Caspian’s
“Gone on Bloom and Bough”

He waves in the wind, like green fleece
Shimmering in the evening sea
His oak stalk anchored
             To a brittled bough
The rust-colored trunk rooted to an
             Ocean-molded landscape
As sandpipers skitter in the distance, he peers
             Beyond the trees, to the truncated human
                          Structures sprinkled amidst
                          The fiery foliage.

He strains to disengage
             From his stiffened caretaker, calloused with age.
Chlorophyll rages in his veins
             The bough yields
Surrenders to the breeze.

He sights brilliant city lights-
             Vibrant incandescence
             Shatters the night-
Towering facades speckled
             With artificial starlight.

Perhaps he can settle in
             This human forestry, find like kind.

He descends like the steel birds
             That streak across the sky

The paths below tucked snugly
             With industrial dust and ashen pillows
Here, trees weep black sap
Metallic branches stand
             As galvanized sentries
Overshadowing steely beetles
             That scuttle along the greyed pavement.

The dark enshrouds as
             City stars blind the night
My midrib empty
             The alleys deserted
The steely beetles
             Percuss the pavement below

Here, among the metallic branches
             I am alone

A whirlwind whisks me in urban debris
The petulant stench fades
Toxicity falls as days of fire

Glints of moonlight illuminate
             The slipstream swirls
I climb chromatically
The stratosphere scales down
             The starlight as I
Descend to the canopies.

We Learn Nothing / by Aline Soules

Pigeons are hopping on trains
and riding into London.
They’ve been spotted
going from Aldgate to Charing Cross,
Blackheath to London Bridge.
Do they study timetables
or just wait for a train to pass?

Are they lured by the promise
of the wind in their feathers?
Do they know how to duck
for low bridges? Are they
a new breed of passenger pigeon
or just scofflaws that ride
without a care?

That’s what bureaucrats think.
If humans don’t buy a ticket,
they’re fined £22, but officials
say that pigeons are vermin
and, if caught, will be destroyed.
No wonder the passenger
pigeon is extinct.

Poem 19 / Day 19

Halfbreed Helene Lets Songs Do the Talking for Her / by Sarah A. Chavez

All sentences and phrases are pulled from songs on my Thumbs Up playlist on Google Music (with the addition of two rogue contributions from my partner) which was being listened to in the car driving south on I-5 to Fresno, CA.*

There is a map on the wall of my room,
never broken oceans of sand and rust.
I found the darkness in my neighbor
but you’ve known it the whole time.

Let me be a blue raft on a blue sea.
I smile big with a toothless grin
already knowing I know nothin’ ’bout
nothin’ or so I have been told.

I found the fire in the frost.
My friend said he’d take you home
and you don’t want to be alone.

Deep in the dust forgotten gathered,
I grow a diamond in my chest.
You know she’s going
to burn down everything.

My sweet Liza Jane,
in all of your street light eyes
I tried to do what you wanted from me;
now I’m a fat house cat.

*Songs used: “Supersonic,” Pearl Jam; “Sultan’s Curse,” Mastadon; “Boy With a Coin,” Iron and Wine; Tallest Man on Earth; “She’s Kerosene,” The Interrupters; “Hands,” Jewel; “The Wire,” Haim; “Liza Jane,” Nina Simone; “Maps,” The Front Bottoms; “Shallow Grave,” The Tallest Man on Earth

In Class Today / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

We sit—
centered
around Heaney

We are digging,
digging down,
past the potatoes
into the heart of it
into the heart
of us—
into the me & you,
you & me
of us—
where we forget all
those divides between us.

Were they only imagined after all?

Here, in this moment, I can forget
all the ache, all the disappointment
felt only yesterday, and bound to be
felt again tomorrow, because

we all know change is slow, abstract,
perhaps apocryphal even—

like the melting of glaciers, all that
blue light fading, disappearing

into someplace beyond memory
where dream is dreamed, forgotten,
then dreamed again

into someplace where we sit,
centered, together,
digging.

On the Practice of the Jian / by Marion Deal

Large men
pull the swords out of the scabbards
instead of the scabbard off the sword
This is impolite, and dangerous

Please advise a more elegant tradition

The Last Two Days of Christmas Haikus / by Brian Dickson

(For Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios)

Eleven pipers
piping with the pied piper.
Where are we going?

Twelve drummers drumming
down Mt. Olympus. St. Nick,
Zeus, parade in back.

A Moral History of Rivers / by Danielle Hanson

– for Trudy Nan Boyce

A river is a waterfall pretending to lie down in submission. A river tramples rocks in their beds, erases their faces. The river rushes past faceless rocks, pretending never to have met them. A river has no history. You cannot fall into a river twice. Egrets rush to the river in greeting, but when the river whispers flood, they dissolve. Rivers gather their children in their skirts to watch them devour each other. A river steals from the mountain. A river drains its basin. A river hides its gold in sunlight. All rivers are nihilists rushing to their own oblivion. You cannot kill a river, but you can increase its deadliness.

Play it Twice, a Triolet / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

If you make a mistake, play it twice
a golden stich for a gaping hole.
If it doesn’t offend, it may entice
if you make a mistake, play it twice.
It adds sparkle, it adds spice,
buttonhole that jellyroll
If you make a mistake, play it twice.
A golden stich for a gaping hole.

The foundation is resting on the soil / by T.T. Kooken

two white letters on
a green space are
here replacing what I say yes to

on and on I meet the same people
repeating that sound like an ox carrying carrots on its back
like an oak heaving and sensing that this scene does not need me
I see something like darkness throttled in a cave upon my chin, smelling like broad winter sunlight smells on the highest roofs

withering long spout-leaves graze
the personal performance of
wind in its stopping

fingers vibrating stillness
is a stalk of grass floating in the ocean hands touch the rough blue cotton of my pants, my
hands, moist and
most mobile, resting on underground rivers,
the sun and moon, the cyclicality of the stars and planets

resting on the planets
I stop, I don’t
remembering where words end, & what appears before that

Other Lives / by Shane Morin

She sits, transcendental, sipping hazelnut coffee,
Gazing intently, evidently at me, yet I know not why
It’s in this moment, all of my known universe melts into oblivion,
Leaving me here, with crystalline clarity we’re reliving other lives

And I ask the question that is always on her mind:
“Do you feel we’ve been here before, once upon a time?”
For all the firsts, there is an exponentially explosive
Depth to her soul that screams silently of rebirth,
Of that quaint notion that we’ve danced this life across
The decades, the centuries, the millennia, always dreading the
Departure death brings, to be instantly reunited once more
On the next return here, disregarding the pendulums swing.

In the fraction of a nanosecond where enlightenment
Envelops her, eternity blossoms within her eyes,
Soaring amidst hues that put shame to the deepest skies,
And she, sipping her coffee, knowingly sits back and smiles,
As we relive our dance, timeless, as we take in the morning,
The same morning we’ve had in our other lives.

America’s Family Business / by Aline Soules

Every funeral parlor in the country
carries someone’s name on the marquee.
For generations, sons have gone
to mortuary school to learn
the family business.

Body and mind are etched
in every man’s soul from embalming
to psychotherapy and every mother’s son
buys his somber suit to cover
the warts of the flesh.

Footfalls are hidden in the hushed tones
of dense carpet, and all who enter here
do not die, just pass on. The masks
of flowers and prayer cards
guide mourners to the made-up body
half-hidden in the satin-lined coffin.

Poem 18 / Day 18

Halfbreed Helene Tries to Look Nice for A Work Christmas Party / by Sarah A. Chavez

Even though everyone at the restaurant tells her
how pretty she looks on the days she washes
her hair and gets a full-night’s rest,
Helene can barely bring herself to complete
these basic life functions more than once
a week. Hair washing maybe twice
during semester breaks, every other day
if she’s applying for jobs.

When she was younger, H would wear
dresses and curl her hair. That’s what
her mother did, what her grandmothers
and girlfriends did. Once in middle school,
she dressed up for a play downtown
and standing on the corner waiting to cross
the street, a man stopped his car to ask
how much. H was confused and asked how
much what? thinking it was some kind of game.
He just stared for a moment before the light
turned and H walked away.

That singular incident is not why she moved
exclusively to bottoms that close between
the legs at the crotch and shaving half
her head—she just feels more comfortable —
but in the few occasions in adulthood she’s had reason
to dress up she struggles. “Dress” is in the phrase
her roommate had said the last time H was
trying to pick an outfit for a date. Yeah, but all
clothing are being dressed, she had asserted.
Her roommate had no answer to this, because
there is no answer. None of it makes sense.
More clothes, less clothes, longer hair, shorter
hair, shaved legs, shaved underarms, makeup or
the natural look. Who decides these bullshit standards?
H thinks looking into her closet for something
that would be appropriate for a restaurant
that serves wine and hors d’oeuvres.

H slides on a pair of black pants, wonders
if she should go fitted or straight-legged? Pulls out
a white button down, but realizes she’d look
like a maître d’. Her abuela had made her take
a sleeveless shell top with black and white sequin
chevrons last visit. She hadn’t dropped it off
at Goodwill yet, so maybe that? Better to gussy-up
like an 87-year-old woman than look like the help, she
assumes pulling the shell over her head and watching
it drape unimpressively over her small chest.
Most of the time H’s fashion ambiguity
is not a problem. It’s only in moments like this
when social expectation threatens admittance.
Which just confirms for H that doing fancy things
is a pointless waste of energy, so why bother working hard
to strive for this outcome when staying poor is the more likely
scenario anyway. At least tonight she’ll eat some kind
of seafood on someone else’s dime. Everything tastes
good when someone else pays for it.

Thinking of Adrienne / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

“this is the oppressor’s language / yet I need it to talk to you”

Each day I awake and take up the language of the oppressor
I am more aware of this today than yesterday, because
yesterday the oppressor felt further away
Now, today, he sits in power
& I know this is not new, but it feels new, newer, more
relevant and real than in the near past, the past present
where worlds collide and spin backward
pushing those who finally made it to the front of the bus
back, pushing those who finally made it out of the house
in, turning this bright world of color & light back to the
fuzzed screen of a black & white television.

The Visit / by Marion Deal

The train to Chernobyl is always on the left,
ever through sand & Berber to the gates of horn
Atomic: Dative
Agent the rains, makes worldly the setting sun
Orange on the kisses,
easy on the cripples,
toxic the accent
You better know I’m a-waiting
Bring your old grandmama a gift,
properly glow-getting
Now honey — oh how you grow when you
set foot in my land
and now you’ve doubled

All my love,
all the greater for this winter, bitter, bought

Searching for Santa’s Wonderland at Cabela’s / by Brian Dickson

It’s killing time, an hour or two, review:
Gun staff is A++++++++++++.
When we visit Denver my son stews
if we don’t see the animals.

My daughter points to a mountain lion
near the ceiling, the black bear too,
enough to forget the fireplace,
Christmas tree in rear view.

What she finally sees: a gnu?
mule deer, antelope, aquarium,
bobcat, Bighorn sheep,
a pika lapping mossy dew.

A line for Santa. The elves haul
a slew
of arts and crafts. One taxidermy elf
in the back, fashioning Rudolph anew.

A Brief History of a Song / by Danielle Hanson

– for Karen Hood Hopkins

It started with a rumble under
rocks, ice melting with crackles,
burbles and then a ptarmigan
drank it, drummed
its throat until a fox ate
the ptarmigan and the song
stuck fast, became garbled,
weird and the fox coughed it
up, so it returned to the ground
on the feet of a beetle, who died,
migrated into melted earth until
the song built up energy, pressure,
was thrown from the lungs of earth,
rained down, hardened in ocean,
which had rhythm and talent and went far,
taught the dolphins who taught the gulls,
who never got it right but sang loudly and eventually
a songbird picked up the scraps and, being
crafty, made something better of it.

Ten days of Christmas Haiku / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

One lonely partridge
Seeking pears in an orchard
Finds a bride instead

Two small turtle doves
Little girls about to fly
Waiting for springtime

Three French Hens growing
Squeal, laugh, full of mischief
Celebrating life

Four shoots of Ly
Sprightly branches of bamboo
Grow stronger each year

Five fingers alive
Waggling at rain and snowflakes
Discover wonder

Six petals on a daisy
They love me, they love me not
You are loved always

Seven swans swimming
When will Santa visit us?
Wait a bit longer

Eight maids a milking
Do you see cows at Christmas?
I prefer camels

Nine ladies dancing
Can’t be better than daughters
Love changes our view

Ten Lords a Leaping
Are they as good as Papa?
Never on Sunday.

there are wrinkles & tensions in clouds / by T.T. Kooken

your life is
the mother of
lines and circles

this, engulfing
your curls in
tern’s turns,
heron’s spirals

father is nowhere
you have no word for
it, the lengths
of your unadorned
family are not tree-
roots,

did you rise in
gas-pocket, looking at
sun-light & saying there
I am,
I live in the white bulbs
in the fields

Reverse Move / by Aline Soules

Our brother left this shuttered house
he once shared with his wife
until he could buy her half
and move back in.

We act as if he’s moving into
a new house, carry in furniture
with old nicks and scratches.
They fit in the dents in the carpet
that have been there for years, but
we have only one chair to place
in front of the TV.

He no longer owns the dresser
that belonged in the bedroom,
but we see its shadow on the wall.
We haul the bed upstairs, one piece
at a time. When we put it together,
it no longer belongs.

The spruce trees in the back yard
are grown, taller than the maple
our brother and his wife planted
when its trunk still bent in the wind
The sandbox is empty.
The toys are gone.

What is it like to look at trees
you planted with someone you loved,
to know the branches are so far apart,
they can never grow together again?

Poem 17 / Day 17

Poets in Winter / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

We forget sometimes
who we are
ghost
voice
empty space

Perhaps we are
ghost voices
whispering wistful
tales, or the
wisps of fog lifting
after a storm, or
dew-soaked fields
after dawn
reflecting the light
of all other dawns, or
seed heads heavy in
a forgotten garden,
weed-strewn lawns
stretching across
suburbia, or
a city awakening,
hazy and bright, or
a thunder crack
echoing stone-to-stone
on canyon walls, or
the sound of funeral
voices, murmuring
mourning doves
crying in the
amethyst of evening, or
the bitterness of winter
snow, unfallen

Autobiography of T.E. Lawrence, written by his successor / by Marion Deal

Fruit Flies / by Brian Dickson

Those buggers pitching tents
on my chin, swapping stories,
crisping peach slivers
over a fire.

Where did we throw
that dream when we
were peachy?

The Sounds I Have Not Recorded for You / by Danielle Hanson

The sound of a leaf unfolding at light. I’m sorry,
I like to sleep late and there was so much
to discuss last night. The sound of worms
decomposing, having buried themselves without
gravestone. My shovel was in the shed and I had to
leave before finding keys. The sound of bird
wings asleep in a nest, rustle of feather on branch.
I couldn’t reach up enough with full hands. The sound
of water evaporating. The dock chair was lonely
and hard. But I have recorded migrating cranes,
a river running from rocks. I recorded the door closing.

My father hated the cowboy movies, / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

you know the ones
where the hero always rode a white horse
and the villain the black one?
He ridiculed the neckerchiefs.
Little hankies he called them,
no good for what they do,
a decoration,
a necklace,
a Hollywood frou frou.
Harnesses full of silver
shine and glitter in the moonlight
too heavy for the horse
Pop would say,
cuts into the flesh.

I imagine my father riding the range,
before the moving pictures
inured us to that hardship,
shading his eyes with his hat,
sweat stained and curled from the sun,
staring into the horizon,
a speck of dust in his eye,
a moment of regret
squinting toward a door in the horizon
where my mother waited,
knives in her eyes.

the tree is looming in the other world / by T.T. Kooken

of when there is
no sun to
see I notice the
flat greens &
how white the
sky between patterns of
bright business appears,
a tapered cavern of
leaves so under-the-immeasurable.

the plush blossom
parts from its
petals playing with
passingly-small, &
gives the
tree more
life somewhere
else.

LeeWard, of Levantine, Levitating / by Joseph Pravda

Oar’s swirling wetness stings a warrior face invisible in the revolutionary shadow called night.

Death lurks, taunting as at play, escape through unwanting embrace,

from some thirsty ‘whirled’—“rejoice, and with Joyce”, whispered.

Fitful dreaming, floating on some Arab prow in murky, black waters;

lapping at seeming reflections quivering to dances invented new by oars cutting deep, then gone, time reversed, swallowing, drops gulped, and by trillions.

Unquestioning, new greeting, formlessly spreading wide the way of quiet un-being,

it summons, suited in mystery’s wings furled against possible flight, soon.

On a silkened garment of stealth shadowy oars dapple, thrusting toward arrivals

by unknowable catapults o’er bastions of brutal harbours.

‘Become water’, an oriental man’s blur of lightning strikes a ruderless vessel,

human- shaped,

oriented now ashore, twin caves gape toward florescence as four drifting wood-like limbs come to rest there;

indoor Sun glints; a gilded rectangle etched with ‘Dr. B. Lee/V.A. Memorial Hospital’.

Visiting the Grave / by Aline Soules

At my father’s grave, my mother’s hand
shook on her four-footed cane
as the minister intoned words
that neither of us heard.

We stared at the gravestone and saw
his name and hers, his birth year and hers,
carved into place by an unknown hand.

My father had wanted this smooth
double stone to link him forever
to my mother, even after death.
How could he have known
that my mother would find herself
standing before the beginning
of her own end?

Which came soon enough. By then,
his death date was in place, but winter
kept the mason away from his final task.
The stone stood unfinished for months,
making my mother seem alive.
Only the raw earth gave a clue
that her body lay below.

That spring, as the sun grew
warm enough to be real,
the mason returned
and the next time I visited
was my last.

Poem 16 / Day 16

Halfbreed Helene Can’t Focus in Class So She Writes Three Haikus Instead / by Sarah A. Chavez

Biology sucks.
Shoulda done astrology—
stupid advisor.

That dude in front of
me is wearing too much Axe
Body Spray. Headache.

Dr. Guerra is
kinda hot. Is that object-
ifying? H wonders.

Dark December / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

Morning sky dark
headlights slip their
way down hidden
roadway. No moon,
no stars to light the
lost traveler’s way.
Where are you this
early December morn?
How long has it been
since I lost you, lost
me, lost? What of dark
clouds in a dark sky?
How can we ever
hope to find our way,
Our tired, lonely way,
when morning is still
night? Who will light
the way? The car lights
blink and tremble, as
they wind and meander
down fence lined roads,
bouncing out a foreign
code in this foreign land
—in this place
called home.

The Tower / by Marion Deal

Fried Baloney / by Brian Dickson

Those crispy circles awoke
from the frying pan at least
once a week, black crumbs
salting the edges
of the white bread,
macaroni and cheese on the side.

Five kids, one mayo jar. If
there were complaints, those
were fried too, just as dark,
curling in
on themselves
like a dying bloom.

Ghosts and Mirrors / by Danielle Hanson

– For Katie Farris

Ghosts appear in candlelit mirrors. You can
create a spirit road by facing mirrors. Ghosts
might get lost, or trapped on the wrong side like
turtles helped out of traffic. Bloody Mary
is a ghost you have to summon. You are
Mary’s Uber. Narcissus was trapped by
a mirror until he became a ghost. A
mirror reflecting sleep can make you sick. Mirrors
lowered into a well predict if you
recover or become like Narcissus.
Breaking a mirror is seven years bad luck;
you can’t become a ghost for seven years.
To keep ghosts out, cover mirrors. But they’re still
there, napping parakeets, waiting for you.

I’m trying to calculate / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

the weight
of grief
of happiness
one surely weighs more
than the other

grief caves in the shingles
cracks walls
it is a piece of lead
through which no hole
can be pierced

happiness is wood
ecstatically chewed
by termites,
or a tree
blessed by
birds
digging holes
to look for grubs

my greenly life
is full of holes

hands playing with the light / by T.T. Kooken

found, extended, touched
one hand to the other,
talking like a stick,
moving to the bright side of the ground.

I am realizing I can, &
that the light is lifting,
as if it were tethered to nothing
but space.

in this way,
when the sun rises, the
light is not carrying the
weight of
anything.

I understand the roundness of
what I had been making,
placing my hand-shape around my hands,
sun-shape around the sun,
pushing into the shaping of space.

Preludes / by Shane Morin

Stars collide      strewn across the sky
Ashes fall.     upon the barren earth
And so have I

Helios has absconded     The golden throne burns alone
Off to overthrow the halls of Olympus, render death to immortals
As do I

My brain folds itself in trench warfare
Scattered neural debris far as I can see
A vortex lies within the neocortex
Anvils strike as hammers on thin drum heads
I’m left
To fend     for equilibrium

As I Lay Supine ‘Pon Kindling’s Porch / by Joseph Pravda

It was there that my soul lept at some intended blending of the breeze with hum and chatter of the insect and the bird

and, the faint laughter of human voice enthroned on, near that jutting liminal space,

refuge from the storms of living;

in harmonious competition of now ancient marriage with concave coverings, urban paths progress

lined with tunneling canopy of corresponding branched towers, leaves as dappled light’s bathing prism,

its rainless rainbow a complement of hues;

’twas there—‘Jay-nuss’—after the sound often heard to issue from her uppermost reaches

when the wind made its hearty embrace felt upon her hair-like branches;

time’s tallied Her trunk’s demise, mirror to mine, now shrunken, singularly abiding,

sans but few poorly bark-ed limbs betraying Her morphic furl from life’s joining song;

I lay a once-familiar hand upon the place was carv-ed by my tremulous digital limb

Her name,

joyful tropism of days past falls upon my earless hearing, my mind mouthing: “Janice….”

I awaken to this symbol of vertical youth, new full and strong,

in company of Her fellows, at play in winsome waves of turbulent air’s whispered tongue:

‘Welcome to your name for Heaven.’

Ends / by Abigail Siegel

how do you, friend
who are no friend
just an end to a means
of love that was not even
half-felt

causing me to bend
too much to lend
so I’m fending for myself
where you said you might be

I followed the trend
of having such a friend
not really mending what needs
to be finished
it’s a life half-lived
I’ll fill myself before the end

Medals / by Aline Soules

I

A clear plastic box sat on my father’s dresser,
contents glinting in the morning sun. I’d toddled
after my mother into their bedroom. The moment
she left the room, I reached up and pulled down the box.
It slipped from my hand and fell. The lid flew open,
shiny objects skittering and rattling
across the hardwood floor.

I picked up a ribbon with a cross dangling from it.
The ribbon was thick and stiff, ridged, but red
and green stripes ran down towards a cross unlike
anything I’d seen in church. The arms were pointy,
wide on the outer edges, narrow near the center,
where a lady’s head looked like the head of the queen
on our pennies. But our pennies didn’t have
two little swords crossed behind the lady’s head.

Before I could pick up another, my father came
into the room. He snatched the ribbon from my hand,
calling for my mother, who rushed in at the tone
of his voice. She picked up the box and spilled pieces,
took them away.

My father never looked at me the whole time,
never said a word. I felt the tight air as I tried
to breathe. I never saw the box on the dresser
again. Forgot about it.

II

I find the plastic box with its medals in English,
French, languages I don’t know. I lay them out
on the dresser in my late father’s room. I pick up
the Croix de Guerre for the first time in decades,
feel on the pads of my fingers the ridges on the ribbon.
The sensation sparks my memory—that sunlit
morning where I first learned visceral fear.

What did he do to get these? He never told me,
would never have told me. Once, when I was packing
for college, he said, Don’t be swayed by medals
or accolades. They’re given to those who are seen,
that’s the only difference between heroes and people
who do brave things and are given nothing.
Those are the ones I admire.

Why did he keep his medals, if he didn’t think
they had value? Why save them in the same box
decades after the war he tried to forget, and a lifetime
after he took this cross from my hand?

To Read the First Fifteen Days of Poetry, Click HERE