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 6 / Day 6

Halfbreed Helene Learns 17 Things About The Pony Express and U.S. Territorial History from The Young Riders T.V. Show (airing 1989 – 1992) / by Sarah A. Chavez

“I do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while an employee of Russell, Majors and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.” – Pony Express Rider Oath, required for employment

1. In the 1990s, T.V. execs realized a good way to capitalize on the boy band craze was to take Donnie, Jordan, Jonathan, Joey, & Danny tropes, put them on horses, give them guns, and show them feeling simultaneously guilty & justified in shooting people.

2. If you are a Young Rider who is a woman pretending to be a man, to be attractive you must cut your hair. If you are a Young Rider who is a man pretending to be a man, to be attractive you must grow your hair long and luxurious so that while riding it can flip and toss in the dusky wind.

3. Pony Express Riders not only carried mail for the colonies, they would also carry your groceries, mend your fence, and immediately fall in love with you.

4. In the 1990s version of the early 1860s, if you are a halfbreed and pass for white, you can be a school teacher. If you are a halfbreed who does not pass for white, you are not served sarsaparilla at the saloon.

5. Kansas, Nebraska, & Colorado were teeming with Native Americans, but no Mexicans.

6. If your wagon wheel breaks in the middle of nowhere, a Pony Express Rider—despite having a specific time frame in which to deliver sensitive military documents—will stop to fix your wheel and protect you from outlaws. If you are beautiful, this Rider will also fall in love with you.

7. The 1990s recognized three primary types of 1860s women, all of which serve the needs of men: one is sassy while cooking biscuits with her biscuits out, one gets beaten by johns, the other is tough and wears pants but wishes she could wear dresses and be looked at lustfully like the other two.

8. The 1990s regretted slavery.

9. If you know sign language, you can speak to horses, are good with children, and can make friends with Native Americans.

10. If you fall in love with a Young Rider and the Young Rider falls in love with you, one of you is likely to get shot protecting the other one. This shows your love stronger than a kiss, which is hardly proper behavior in the 1860s. If you do kiss, it will be tragically to say goodbye, and you will never be seen from again.

11. The 1990s regretted the mass murder and interning of Native Americans.

12. If a Young Rider falls in love with you, your hand will be held and/or your face will be caressed by a leather-gloved hand. You will act as if that is a pleasant touch and not think about the that glove touching muddy reins, horse flanks, the butts of guns, or the dust that floats omnipresent in the dry air.

13. The fastest gun in the west also has the biggest heart in the west. This heart gets hurt all the time. He is the only Young Rider who will cry.

14. In 1858 – 1861, all white people in the west wore multiple layers no matter season or weather.

15. The 1990s thought the Civil War was fought solely over slavery.

16. Shooting people over the disagreement of government-sanctioned slavery is much worse than shooting people over normal town trouble such as territory battles with Native Americans, generalized racism and bigotry, and horse thieving.

17. When the war comes, no matter how fast the Young Riders ride, they cannot outrun the violence splitting North from South.

From Fall to Winter / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

trees hush in the
silence of this morning
branches reaching toward
earth, not heaven
each branch a road, a path,
a map—leading—
and, I, the wanderer
following docile breezes
pushing             leaves
turning gold to brown, falling,
and I, stray into the woods,
lost, glancing—is this the
turning of another season
the past passing,
the past already past?

Doctoral Thesis / by Marion Deal

These are the things that I know about poetry:

               Formalists pour tea, and offer counsel, and do not know quite what to do with me but they are the first I will call when I realize I have run my fingers the wrong way through the pelt of the night and the stars have become so-so literal.

               Beats take off their boots, and then they take off their feet, and then they take off the whole damn leg up to the knee and use it to whack in those who’ve done me wrong (though I’ve learned that sometimes I must ask them for their action because their fury, though always ready to come to my aid, must know I need it).

               Lyricists bash bricks with the innards of their buckler, and do not build from them but leave the rubble to collect oddments for the wanderers to root through. When I was shuffling in the trash, they saw the way I stood (or rather didn’t) and said that I could wield a sword, that someone had told them from way up the mountain, just so long as I remained a vagabond.

               Modernists don’t like a lot, pretending that nothing they do is to be trusted, but whenever my hand is naught and crackling, they know enough of the old ways to recognize a plea to be filled.

There, Dissertation.

1,662 / by Brian Dickson

You
are
ready
great
culler of Canadian geese
in
Denver city parks.
Linger on that
flock’s vector—
wedged
at the apex is
a heart flaking with
the rain of
fertilizer.

St Peter in the Afterlife / by Danielle Hanson

I was a fisherman, a laborer, the first Pope,
a rock, the founder of churches, settler of squabbles,
tireless traveler, but I don’t even have a retirement.
I’m the damned doorman of Heaven.
I barely sit before another knock at the door, another
request to check the book “one more time” before
sending a soul down the street to the next gate.
The key itself weighs more than all the useless,
lazy angels. If only there was another rest after this,
if only another death.

Genethliacon for Carol / by Elizabeth Krkpatrick-Vrenios

There is nothing wrong with the sun
It is my sun today

There is nothing wrong with the fog and rain,
today I claim them as mine

There is nothing wrong with my age,
it is the number I have been
putting off since I was a child.

I have long wondered what this pinnacle would be like
to be me now.

There is nothing wrong with the stars
I will soon share their space.

Open the doorway / by T.T. Kooken

one two
sparrows
unapproached

white grey this
chair
Beside this crumble
left
from hands on
an overnight journey
(& just now
disappeared around a bend)

Willow’s Song / by Shane Morin

Based on Breaking Benjamin’s
“The Dark Of You”

I’ve grown slowly to love this place of solitude,
to wrap these roots among a myriad of stone. Please,
don’t grieve me, daddy, I see you weep as I do.
I’d like to drape you in my hair, like long ago,
draw you close to my trunk, atone for wasted years.
Would you let me sing you a lullaby this time?
Maybe my hardened bark will melt with blackened tears.
Maybe you’ll feel once more the brilliance of star shine.
Do you still dream
of red lights?
Do you scream
into the darkness?
Say my name once.
No…say it twice:
Willow…Willow…
Breathe it
into the breeze.
Rest your head
on my earthen breast.
Dream once more of me:
I lay my red ribbons all around,
The wind whispers songs of forgiveness.
So do I, daddy, so do I.

Reservoir at Evening / by Aline Soules

Even after a full day, the pad of trainers thuds on.
I avoid a dog off leash bounding from smell to smell.

The human chatter has died down in favor of a woodpecker
engaged in construction. A tree shakes in complaint.

A young rattler has stuck his head on the path to soak up
the last of the sun. A woman screams, while waving her arms
and jumping up and down, scaring him. I wish she’d stop.

The snake hisses as I pass, rattles when I lengthen my stride
to move away, hoping the woman will be safe. I’m a coward,
happy to leave, but I mention the snake to an oncoming walker.

The late sun slants in my eyes. I take my last look at the hills
and line of trees darkened in reflection in the water.

Leaving, I pass remnants of the old pear trees and turkeys
beneath them, eternally pecking at fallen fruit, dry grass,
anything edible.

Another mating season must be here. A line of toms,
like Rockettes, have fanned their tails, but the hens
peck on, oblivious.

Poem 5 / Day 5

Halfbreed Helene Knows Beyond A Shadow of a Doubt That She Is Not Adopted / by Sarah A. Chavez

Like her cousin said she was. Not part of this family at least, prima.
But Helene has looked into the faces of her white family and her
Mexican familia and peering into the mirror, she cannot deny
what stares back: her abuelo’s Spaniard eyes, her second primo’s
Mediterranean skin tones, her bisabuela’s Indigenous earlobes, her uncle’s
Irish dough-belly, her dad’s laborer’s hands, and the shortness
inherited from both the Irish and Mexican sides.

If ever a person carried the weight and wear of colonialism, it was
Helene. At least this is what Helene supposes. Her every choice
in life some accidental homage to every hereditary culture’s loss
at the hands of Europeans. Especially in diet. Her frijoles from a can,
tortillas made of processed flour, her Bumper Fry with black beans
and vegetarian sausage.

If the outcome of every person is half nature and half nurture, food
being a significant part of that nurture and you truly are what you eat,
H figures, she is both garbage American and pocha extraordinaire.
The true amalgamation, the epitome of what-the-fuckness being
the after school hotdogs she remembers eating on the regular. Flour
tortilla flat on the counter, two slices of American cheese, a healthy
squiggle (like in the commercials!) of yellow mustard, cold hotdog.
Roll it, pop in the microwave for thirty long seconds while the comal
heats up. After the beepbeep, dry seal the seam on the stovetop. Cut
in half on a plastic plate. Consume in front of the TV.
So many hotdogs, so much plastic, so little Helene . . .

Birds on a Winter Morning / by Jeanice Eagan Davis
a bird on a branch, and
beyond the fence and trees
runs the ridge
where smoke lifts
from imagined homes
nestled near the river,
grey & murky, wrestling
its way toward other waters
         and somewhere
even further
a graveyard
grows restless under
leaves long-fallen, far-faded
rustling
         and there,
beneath the silver vault
birds, sapphire
& crimson, burr
bickering over castings of spent seed

Discussing Kings Among Men with Samuel Beckett / by Marion Deal

“Sam, is that you?”

It is very hot in the room and no one will open the window

“In a manner of speaking”

Beckett is wearing sunglasses and cargo shorts, as this is the only attire he has managed to find to help the heat. It was a last-minute scramble to get here on time, and wearing something to make the staying bearable; he’s prepared to sit all night if he needs to, but he needs to not be broiling. It was not known that he cared so much until now.

“Good — if you’d answered otherwise I’d have taken you for an imposter.”

Beckett does not laugh, but then again, he never does. His elbows move around a bit more than they usually do; joints looser. It is likely not just because of the heat. It is likely because he is comfortable and wants his interlocuter to be so as well.

“What is it, small make-meet?”

Beckett does not usually talk like this. But he knew he was coming in to a perhaps-epic, and since he does not speak Old French, or Gaelic, and certainly not Old English, he thought he’d make do. Comparing the heat to a dragon’s glottis would have been accurate, precise, but tacky.

“I am so tired and I have not been anything but ill and it’s a pity that greatness is the only thing that tastes and all I am is going to the not-going going on, the keep-kenning not the makar’s song but all the steps one is obliged to take to get there, to the epic, and I cannot count the words but here they are and I know for sure that now there is not less so here’s a quandary, quantity, let’s dig through the refuse and search for stones to see hags with because I’m not better than I was but now at least I know things aren’t getting worse — I know you see now here’s a pen in blue ink, all, I have been doing is enduring and it feels sick to say that what I would more is mere survival to sell myself as sick for long terribly time now is such the way only to do so, the surviving, and the scent of a cell, monkish covered in a cat’s pelt in the night — to be able to sleep through with only the guidance of a manuscript but how can I pick to read when I am so sick with all the make-through I must do, here take the pen why don’t you”

Beckett shrugs, and this is what he is expected to do, because all of his movements are variants of one sinuous continuation, but what he was not expected — and what he expected to be expected, because he knows but not enough — is that it’s also a kind sort of movement. He palms the pen and flows the ink to the other thumb, the one across from him that is not his, lets it drown itself in the whorls like some goons are doing just now with a barkeep (because look at the clock it’s 5).

“There”
he says
“You see? You are an aristocrat.”

His hand is icy cold.

Mike the Headless Chicken / by Brian Dickson

County fair after county fair—once
with a two-headed baby. Imagine,
bobble, stare and stagger, a dance
for a sideshow nickel, dime.

What could Lloyd have thought—clumsy swing
of axe, half a rooster face eyeing him on
the chopping block? What a dream
Mike lost, shoving a red wheelbarrow at dawn

with the strength of his intact stem.
Bravado with his one ear zeroing on cluck,
cluck, cluck—how he could shield the hens
with a blind charge and peck.

Oh, Mike, one corn kernel lodged in your throat did
you in. Cheers to your run, your sickle feathers, splendid.

St Lucia in the Afterlife / by Danielle Hanson

Hoping to give
my dowry to
the poor, I
rejected my suitor.
When he brought
police to kill me,
I gave him
my eyes he admired
so much. I try
to continue my acts
of charity here. I gave
Denis my head, peeled
off skin for Barnabas.
I try to give everyone
a hand. The items are
invariably returned;
the recipients horrified.
I won’t give up my vows. I
will hide my presents
under beds, among cloaks.
May the Lord bless us all
and keep all our parts.

Life isn’t Like the Movies / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

Friends don’t return
after summer vacation

Sometimes the beautiful die

Hair always looks horrible in the morning

Good works and truth do not
always win

You get used to betrayal

Love most of the time
hurts

Happily ever after takes work

The good guys do not always ride the white horses

The bad guys are not always caught

Horror is sometimes imbedded
in the smile

& isn’t my language lost on the cluster of flowers / by T.T. Kooken

wasn’t it sun-high
yellow lines that
took me

transposed my arteries
to brushstrokes white
vastly off their workings

so should I say
each is unlike the other, & a
poem is unused by the
space it is ascribed to

see, here, how ferns balanced
themselves always forward –
yellow, yellow marbled white,
petals turning to the light

Unrequited Adieus / by Shane Morin
After Justifide’s “Goodbye Without You”
(For Sharon)
‘Geriatric’ wasn’t a term he used
to define her. Our 45-minute drive
from Rye became a trite guest
in our lives, leaving us sleep-deprived,
on autopilot.
His car purred while we scraped
Our courage from the cup holders.
Warm rays invaded Room 206, the sun
gleamed off sterile walls and framed images
of Quinns and Bakers. Maury Povich announced
the latest paternity test on Fox while
my brother bickered with Mom about smoking.
She gazed at me, hazed
Off morphine and Percs, dressed in a dotted Johnny.
The USDA Grade lunch remained untouched,
we bantered
about school and grades and
staying out late. I pled for a lifetime of
extended days, weeks, months.
Mom responded with nihilism.
         What did you say
                  To me? No
                  what
         did you just
                  say?
Nothing.
Her gaunt face swelled with confused skepticism,
Your brother’s being a little shit
         I heard him say something.
I embraced her in a fond farewell.
He enshrouded her frail frame with his.
He said Love you.
She glared out the window.
We departed
knowing we said
goodbye without you.Lear Jedi / by Joseph Pravda

Leary, ashen, space-going
Leery of bad vibes
Mantra now harangued corporeals remaining to channel his attuned forked, wavy rote–
Drop Out earbuds,
Turn Off electronics, and
Tune In…Whitman’s guitar-shaped
All-singing electric body
With a shiny shimmering re-verb tremelo arm.

Whole / by Abigail Siegel

The ancient Greeks
So drunk on life and (mixed) wine
Said that humans were split in two
By the gods from the void
To forever search for their other halves

I do not search and I feel not unwhole
But am I whole
Or am I nothing

Even the void I make is whole

Reservoir at Noon / by Aline Soules

The parking lot is full. Car doors fling open. Out tumble
drivers, dogs, walkers, runners, moms with kids and strollers.
Runners take off at full steam, ear buds plugged in,
shoes thudding. I wish they’d take them out
to listen to the trees, now swishing in the breeze.

Mothers push strollers up slopes while talking
to their walking companions. Cresting the top,
they hang on to stop them escaping down the other side,
while a child on a scooter hurtles down a long slope,
blonde hair flying, smile igniting her face. I feel her freedom
as I plod up the same slope from the other direction.

A woman, ear budded, waves her cell phone, puffs
as she walks and talks to an invisible person.
You’ll never guess… I hear snatches of conversations
in French, Spanish, Russian, maybe Vietnamese. Life moments
rise in the air to mingle with iPod songs—rap, hip hop, salsa.

Now I wish they’d insert the ear buds I wanted them
to take out. They’re just exercising. They could be anywhere
and I can’t hear the other wildlife. Nature’s receded,
waiting for a better time.

Poem 4 / Day 4

Halfbreed Helene Makes the Bed / by Sarah A. Chavez

It’s never the great pillow debate—over the comforter
or under—her grandmother answered that two decades ago.

Short and thin, standing straight-backed until gravity
and osteoporosis took hold, Grandma T was what Helene
would call a stately woman. Frugal too, a trait H felt
was the number two best lesson she gleaned.
Grandma T’s frugality and practicality dictated
that when a comfortable pair of durable polyester pants
with a pinching elastic waistband was on sale, you didn’t
just buy one. Her closet was a variable rainbow of identical
pants in blues, purple, yellow, and khaki. Helene knew intimately
the racks cluttering the Gottschalks’ petite section.

Never in H’s memory is Grandma T wearing dark colors. Perpetual
Easter, bright, imbued with white. Their house too, a mix of regulated
sunlight and the avocado green of the 1970s, which even in their 1990s
interior update stayed in the same hue.

H supposed some might have called her grandmother a hard woman,
or cold. She had a singular drive toward an unswerving right,
which often did not consider the complexity of other people’s desires.
Her grandparents’ lives were neat and scheduled. Not an unwelcomed
comparison to her own home—the weeks H stayed in the summer were
quiet, calm, orderly without austerity.
And while all meals were made with the burden of obligation, rather
than the love which seasoned food in other homes, dessert
could be depended on after both lunch and dinner.

Where H found the most loving care was in the morning chores. Together
they would go from bedroom to bathroom to bedroom to bathroom tidying,
wiping down counters and making the beds. Such attention to the placement
of the pillows, fluffed to uniform height. The old floral comforters pulled
over the tops of the pillows and tucked one inch beneath, a lumped row
like H’s chest in a sports bra, contained and protected, modest and neat.

They were readying the house and their minds for the day,
is what Grandma T would say.

I am readying myself for the day, H says out loud to the spirit of Grandma T—
most likely looking down on H’s choices from white Catholic heaven—while
pulling the corner taut on her worn burgundy bedspread. Smoothing wrinkles
from the middle with her hands, H wants to show that while she seems
to only traverse life in swerves and fits, she does so
with affection for the possibility of stability.

Central High School, Room 214 / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

I feed them words — honey on a spoon
they spit them back at me
this is how it feels to be alone.

If only I could reach you.
If only you could hear me.

Outside the window
a bush
burdened by berries, bright red.
This is a metaphor. It stands for something.

Define the thing: the blue sky as grey, water
as dry, tears as joy.

Last week we buried a student, a son.
Shot. How is that?
Don’t ask too many questions. Just remember.

He always shuffled into class, late, smiled,
ducked his head, repentant.

Students, listen,
        let me take the metal from your hands—
        replace it with paper, blank, unlined.

Today’s Objective: Fill the paper with sound, your voice, your words
Remember: Words are bullets, but we survive most of them.

Wellness Services / by Marion Deal
(and other protections)

Gauntlet
In accord with them
I must be shake-oaken sick
to need what I lack

Cuirass
In accord with them
we do not mourn fallacy
so ought not nuance

Pixane
In accord with them
Calliope is restrained
Clio must be straight

Faulds
In accord with them
Pangloss ne’er took caduceus
all that lives, retches

Sabaton
In accord with them
decline clotting: anemic
strictly syllabic

Bevor
In accord with them
we profess a rare haiku
really, amputation

Pumpkins / by Brian Dickson

Gone from porches, stoops.
Rats ran off with them to the creek,
feast for winter.

Word is come spring melt they
raft on high waters
in a few gourds waving at the mice,

squirrels, children in chase, spitting
smiles from another haunt,
onto banks of hunger.

St Sebastian in the Afterlife / by Danielle Hanson

Eternity for me is sand
through a sieve. I was shot
full of arrows for my first
martyrdom. I was rescued,
only to be clubbed to death
for my second. A misshapen
sieve is my fate. Prayers
sift through me, scattered across
Heaven. Only the heavy ones
get caught in the mesh of me.
I am slowly sinking from their weight.

Questions from the Coast of California / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

Why are there so many single old ladies here?
a) They killed their husbands
b) They know the difference between passion and rape
c) They listened to their mothers
d) They know there is more to life than cooking and cleaning. Creation is more fun than recreation.
e) Gray hair will do that to you

Why do I hear singing in these woods?
a) The faeries are loose.
b) Long hair will do that to you
c) You hear singing? I don’t
d) Redwoods will do that to you
e) Is it a bass or soprano?

Why do I not answer my phone?
a) It is a call from a robot and I don’t speak robot
b) Do I hafta?
c) Where is hell is my phone?
d) You hear a phone? I don’t
e) I can’t think of a good lie today

Where is the Muse?
a) I am here
b) no here
c) peek-a-boo here!
d )Let’s face it, I drank too much
e) zzzzzzzzzz

Why can’t I get myself moving?
a) Giddy up giddy up gidddyup giddyupgiddyup
b) I ain’t got no shoes
c) No shoes will do that to you
d) Who needs to move?
e) Beulah, peel me a grape.

Why am I still in this broom closet?
a) No one has let you out
b) Lets face it, you like brooms
c) This is a broom closet?
d) The rest of the mansion is dusty/ full of flies/ cobwebs
e) Well, dammit, get out and sweep!

notes on the Camphor tree / by T.T. Kooken

life emerging:
nest unnested, hanging hairs
sweating wind.
crooked edge of leaf
hanging on vine, bent-arm underside
of branch.
in lightness of my arms
hanging, one shadow-taking cluster
of grey moss rounds
between unoccupied sounds –
swimming and murmuring cicada,
softly brushing pads-of-feet.

inhaling oils of crushed seed,
dry-fermenting.
grass uplifted like water running,
reaching and filling root-space
against the sky.

sun is cool and
warm, bent-back needle
of a compass opening its
chest and pointing ribs
of bright brown bark,
exhaling.

where all angles are curves
where arms are river-like-
ebbing across,
where the approaching
wetness of dryness is

Con Sombras / by Shane Morin
Based on Red’s Intro (Canto III)

III

There’s a majestic crash
Steel fuses to asphalt

Pedestrian natures evaporate
Flakes of winter, Engine 5 blares down Central
Ethanol and adrenaline pour out

The triple-paned glass stays the chaos
…just sometimes.

Alabaster falls upon innocence, shadows sing cantos
Darkness chants
Errant memories invade streamed consciousness

Two fucked up marriages, job to job, daughter displaced by fate, Bullit burns my veins

It’s simply everything

I’ve become collateral damage, steel and flesh
Amalgamate and fade

I will survive in negative space
She asks, “What does depression feel like?”
I say, “It feels like this.”

Reservoir in Rain / by Aline Soules

Rain is rare here, a relief after a fire season
that closed the reservoir—too risky, the air
too thick with particulates.

Today, the trees droop after a night of mist turned
to rain in gray dawn. No one else is on the path.
I feel the weight of muffled silence and wet wool.

Birds, rabbits, snakes hunker in their nests.
Only a solitary squirrel is out. He sits by the side
of the path, an acorn in his hands.

My footfalls, muted in the damp, still make him
run down the leaf-strewn slope, stop, ears rigid,
to wait until I’m past.

Such pleasure to walk in rain, to be out in rain alone
with fresh air, the smell of damp earth, my thoughts
free to roam to the rhythm of one foot after the other.

My senses fill, my head floats. What book will I give
my grandson for his birthday? Why do we share DNA
with trees? What’s the missing word for my poem?

My brain flits on. When I finish my walk, I decide
to buy Goodnight Moon, still have no idea why I share
DNA with trees, but I have my word. Sublime.

Poem 3 / Day 3

Halfbreed Helene Cuts Herself on the Edges of What Might Be Love / by Sarah A. Chavez

B wants to start a fire in the pit behind
the abandoned house on Chestnut Ave.
to warm the skin on their bodies.

This would be a fire for the outside
of what has already been a fire
brewing in the depths of Helene’s gut.

What do we have that we can burn?
The question spoken from B’s mouth—
heavy and double-sided—lands embedding

in the cavern of H’s ear. No matter
what flames; H is coming to believe
she’ll never be cold again.

Small Bird / by Jeanice Davis

Within these pages
turn & turn, continue to
leaf through remains of what we
could have, should have
been

Outside my window the sun is
bright with the brilliance of a
summer fast fading— and then
what? Who do we turn to in the
short days of fall falling toward
winter’s bleak cradle. I recall
you—standing there on that hill
& still I do not know your name

Or how we lift up the weight
of memory, of history— dead
weight weighing us down, &
you don’t recall my name either
you simply smile, wave,
move on
another ghost lost in the haze,
the blur of today.

How many
mistakes will I make? How
many more?

There is in this
dream some brilliance, some
bright bit of blue, but I fail
again & again to capture it’s
indigo blaze;

such a small
bird—I could hold it in my
hand.

Prayer to Noam Chomsky / by Marion Deal
(Preparation for the First Holiday of December)

O Noam
it is the day of your birth
in five nights
for this I arrange origami as offering
spent the day making pieces
of legs
papery marrow

Please don’t let me die in here

You are a saint
though I do not know what power you have
for you are not yet dead,
but I have set aside the day
to fold cranes and velociraptors
into cairns to set the path
and give from hand to those I meet
along the wayside

Please don’t let me die in here

The celebration in but a few suns
will be for the best, wise uncle
I have not slept or eaten
and so am pure in a way
but know that it was not my choice
rather one made for me:
to you I offer the long and awake
and good hungry
down the belly
I work all day and then
there is nowhere to go
(I do not drink)

Please don’t let me die in here

There is no money for the right paper,
but I am tearing lines out of my notebook
and striking them so
that they can roam around the gap
where all the times you have been cited go
Maybe you cannot help me,
but no one has ever said you would not try

Please don’t let me die in here

You know how it goes, O Noam
I am giving origami to whoever I see
and I know you will make no promises
yet still I pray

Please don’t let me die in here

Round-a-Bout Way / by Brian Dickson

Step 1: Realize you’ve spent three days snowed in with a baby. Kill time.
Step 2: Drive to throw away a diaper bag with baby in tow to avoid hopping out on a freezing night after emergency diaper purchase.
Step 3: Call it genius.
Step 4: On turn around, front tires spin on ice.
Step 5: Walk home with baby. Watch partner shake head.
Step 6: Get dirt shovel.
Step 7: Walk back. Break ice underneath all tires for 15 minutes.
Step 8: Come home to no confetti.
Step 9: Watch cat track deer mouse. Release and catch. Release, catch.
Step10: Grieve over rodent’s bent body as cat brings it to you.

St Agnes in the Afterlife / by Danielle Hanson

I spend so much of my days
combing and braiding, I’m not sure
if I’m in Heaven or Purgatory.
The stream of pleas from teenage
drama queens is as endless as time.
They worry about backstabbing friends,
but when I was their age, I was dragged
through the streets naked and stabbed
through the neck. Try being popular
when your body has covered itself
in hair and any boy who liked you
(even if they were the worst)
has been blinded. My head
is on display in a case in Rome,
perpetually grounded, but please
go on about your inability to match
your eye shadow to your shirt,
or your phone privileges. At least
I have my lamb to keep me company,
although I often lose her in the clouds,
or find her with the Virgin Mary,
who teases me with “Who
has a little lamb now?” Through all this,
my hair still grows. May it one day cover us all.

Three cans / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

of Aqua Net
on my bathroom sink
shoulda bought the stock
helped to add six inches of hair
to my 5 foot 1 height.

Sun-bleached, teased
with the small end of a rat-tail
comb,
too tall
too sticky to be caressed
or messed
my hair
in the back seat of a 56 Chevy,
kept me intact
virginal
the best prophylactic of all.

regression event / by T.T. Kooken

in deciding which vantage to hold,
before turning to another,
this doing becomes its own undoing.
like the unraveling of a rope around a twig,
often precarious.

a pile of acute dry wood
baffled below. and
in the twig is a saint,
pretending to be
real
& in the real is a turn
taken to face the
first decisions,

before we knew what we were doing.
we picked up the twig
and let our teeth do the discovering
until mother tossed it into
neighbors’ yards.

an exact center: splashing
of two fingers, muddled
looking far back, on
to long ponds of
glass eyes

10,000 Candles / by Shane Morin
Inspired by Skillet’s
“Would It Matter At All?”

The city’s alight with candles
by the thousands
embraced in the unanswerable
Standing in front
A man in tattered flannel thinks of home
in hopes his wife wakes from a coma

The night breathes across the pavilion, our flames
flicker. The speaker talks of her fifth visit
at the Farnum Center, how her daughter lays awake
at Nana’s, tears trickle down
her pillow

An acoustic rhythm rides the wind, he sings of
brothers in a dream. An older man
closes his eyes, clings to memories
of a lifetime past, of a twin lost
two weeks back.

John Cooper croons:
            What if I just pulled myself together?
            Would it matter at all?
            What if I just tried not to remember?
            Would it matter at all?
My taper dissolves as I watch it
dance with the shadows. And I wonder:
Was there a missed word?
a closed ear?
an unrequited hug?

It’s been said,
            One sentence can save a life

Why not tonight?

Goddess of the Garden / by Joseph Pravda

Blooms bloomed just across the creek—a creek that used to be a river where my friends and I would swim when it was hot summer,

you could say we were the strong strings of a fresh silk web, the sweet breeze our strummer.

Now, it is Spring, soon to become Summer, but no children swim there anymore.

I remember smelling the fragrance of those flowers—it smelt so sweet, like the incense breath of the goddess at the nearby Shaolin monk’s shrine, Her giving gift, for rich or poor.

Sadly, since the Party closed down the monastery, the people around there say that she has died, the goddess;

I don’t believe it and, yet, the smell is different, it is somehow less sweet, the air filled with hurry and distress.

An older monk, from that time, when the monastery was still full of monks and their calm prayers and their blossoming cultivated gardens,

sometimes begs near our company’s cafeteria and we give him what we are able to, which is not very much, yet, always smiling he so humbly begs our pardons.

He told me that the flowers mourn the demise of the goddess and that they weep sour tears—-‘lachrymosa’, he called this weeping—

a word he learned as a boy from a Christian missionary and, although he did not then understand its meaning, he liked its sound, and repeated its melody as he did his temple steps sweeping.

When he learnt of its meaning, he himself wept for the worthy dying god of the missionary, a son of one called Mary,

imagining how cruelly heavy was the wooden cross he was forced to carry.

Strange how he carries with him a bag of seeds, his heavy burden he says, that he will plant once those followers of Mary’s son join him in prayer to this god to ask forgiveness for what has become of the sweet Earth,

given to us all by all gods, now so blindly hewn by men that its bounty suffers what in their language is called giving’s ‘dearth’.

This bag of seedlings is what keeps him alive, he says;

he is now 108 years old, bent in necessary bow, calling his life itself just a passing phase.

I have seen him some days ago, and he is smiling, face craning upward from his bent posture saying that rest is near for him; he explains that since factories like mine have come, the people no longer starve but, with their fuller bellies, they have lost the touch and smell of the Earth in their nostrils and, with it,

the need to care for it as the renewer of life, and not carelessly at its roots to carve.

Now, the people have time to think about this and this is because of the factories and this good they have brought;

he says that wisdom always comes with such ‘irony’, another word by missionaries he was taught.

They told him that when the great Roman conquerors feared the missionaries god’s gentle powers, they killed him, or so they thought.

But, these missionaries, they also said that this great one could not die, only disappear for a while until redemption time…this, they said, was the very soul of this ‘irony’—killing that which may not die–

a kind of truth hidden deep inside an outside lie,

like deep renewing roots beneath a dying tree,

its remaining two branches like human arms stretching out to form the English letter ‘T’.

And, so, the Earth, his goddess, has somehow not yet died, only she has changed, waiting for wisdom to return to men,

Something they once had and he reminds me when I am sad they will have again.

He is ready to plant his seeds, easily he says, grinning, because of my factory which makes hoes, for the gardens of people in America to buy at Walmart, founded by a man who himself admired missionaries–

it says so, on the cover of the Chinese language Bible he sometimes carries.

Is it time for the planting of the seeds of these blooms, the flowers that smell so heavenly? I pray to all gods that it is so, bowing as I clasp my hands,

So that my old friend may rest, just where he will plant these seeds, in a place he often stands.

He told me that his hands would become the roots and his heart the loving incense of their flowers fragrance,

Kneeling there, at that very spot near the lakeshore speaking of what in English is called that which prayer grants.

Here is all he left me as he sent me away,

telling me to make sure in my head and my heart it would stay:

”Remember the wisdom of Confucius: ‘When a man’s knowledge is sufficient to attain but his virtue is not sufficient to enable him to hold whatever he may have gained he will lose again.’ Goodbye, my young hoe maker; I now bury me with these seeds and welcome the returning goddess of the Earth”, such was my instruction.

The next day I awoke to the sound of recorded nightingales from my clock radio device awarded for going above my quota for hoe production,

still uncertain how a person could bury himself like a seed he’d sown.

But since my old monk has left me my dreams have been filled with people, places, things I have never known,

visited or heard of except through my flat screen television shown,

and usually on Party channels about the weakness of Americans and their imperial this or that, they always stress

but I stay confused since most ideas from America seemed useful and made life easier, but, at a price I could not pay, nor could the monk’s Goddess.

As I dressed for work I listened to John Cougar Mellenkamp, a favorite song about Martha,

a name which made me think of my strong woman friend at the factory I always thought looked like goddesses should–

(here I blushed, turning the color of redwood)–

if they were mortal yet somehow still like Siddhartha.

Putting on my shoes, I heard in my mind the words of the American Thoreau,

someone I’d heard about from a friend who worked at the pencil factory, and that the man, Henry David, also made pencils, but by hand, the old ways they are very thorough:

“Heaven is beneath our feet as well as above our heads”,

then wondered if those missionaries had thought about this, their feet up and under covers on their simple earthen beds.

A canary’s song playing on my clock radio made me think of the islands off Africa in that documentary the Party aired about exotic places around the world,

places where the Chinese government was helping make life better, about digging ‘natural resources’, a strange phrase in English, which I study in the evenings, stranger still is the way farms are now called ‘the food industry’–such language makes my head ache, and it seems that my heart too feels like some dark flag has been unfurled.

Of course, none of those places included North America, only South America, where the Party says there’re no greedy capitalists like that one in my favorite American film, with the rosebud sled…

my friend gave me a bootleg copy, he says it like it’s “Hollow wood”; my friend he is no longer himself, Martha says the Party’s got his head.

And I still like the sled, dreaming of buying one someday, especially when it’s cold,

when I move to Canada where many Chinese restaurants are I’m told,

and all that snow, on my sled to play–

of course, I will have to save and save my pay,

so as to make my way.

As I stood and went to the mirror to finish dressing I was startled to see the gleam of reflecting light I thought to be sunlight,

then I realized it could not be, with heavy smog requiring me to wear the mask of a surgeon most days, making my brown face look pale and white.

No, it was the rippling figure of the old monk whose hands were shaped as dangling thirsty rootlets, and there was incense such that I had not smelt since boyhood near the creek;

I froze, and not in the way of becoming still but, rather, cold, shivering despite the date, far from Fall or Winter, one eye barely able to peek.

And as the chill grew the mirror became frosted over, the old monk’s mouth releasing crystalized sleeted steam as he spoke these words:

“Ah, my young friend, it has been much time since our eyes did meet…another have I met without the constraints of time or space, the great one himself; and, as we spoke without seeming to speak he told me this: ‘Never give a sword to a man who cannot dance.’

My young one who dwells in actions encouraged by his heart, can you so prance?”

Then, all of a sudden, as the room began to thaw, came this time the singing of real birds,

such sweet sounds my mouth did not dare to use poor words.

As though I was awakened from second sleep, I could now move my hands and did,

toward the mirror and received what was once a hoe, now a shining sword of such lightness that my hands doubted its existence, a thought my joy at seeing him fought to forbid.

“Here is the..key you have sought, forged in the land of fire and ice, in the very bowels of the goddess’ anger, now cooled, and fashioned so as to unlock the vaulted hearts of mere men, and even that hottie, Martha….” the monk’s smile’s edge almost meeting his winking eyesocket, all the while mocking his serious stance,

“And don’t forget, with her help you must prance, prance, prance!”

My eyes, lids now defrosted, blinked, and all was gone,

save the hoe in my hands, now properly heavy yet somehow lighter than before, my mind now his wiser willing prancing pawn.

As I strode like some Shaolin swordsman into the factory that morning

I was met by an officer who told me to report to the factory foreman’s office,

my pride still steadily borning.

As I followed the fellow in his green uniform,

my peripheral vision thought it beheld my girl friend Martha, her mouth forming a kiss I was sure I hadn’t only imagined, no, I saw it form!

“Po, come in, sit down” the foreman monotoned without looking up to greet me,

“You may go” was barked to the escort, the door closed behind him meekly.

“I have here a letter from the President’s office” he almost shouted

Unable to return Martha’s kiss my ears sent their attention to my memory of having sent this to another such man, yet unafraid as he Party lines spouted:

“It seems that you are to head up a select group of those who know our superior Chinese seedgerm well…well enough, that is; ahem, you are to lead this team in assembling a representative sample for the Norwegian trust which houses them from all over the world. When they are readied by your team, you are to travel to the vault, by way of Iceland, and deliver them to their custody. There they will remain the property of the Chinese people, of course, still our sovereign stock, you see, in case of some worldwide flood or such disaster, as in the time of the old, old empire, some superstitious nonsense about this emperor, Yu, who saved the world after floodwaters drowned the arable lands, you see….now that would really put our hoes out of business. That’s all, your travel documents will arrive in a week’s time.”

‘Land of fire and ice’, aha, I pondered,

the old monk, he was there, just as he had said to me, the very place his soul had wandered!

As I bowed, the foreman grunted approvingly of the traditionalism of my action,

Above and just behind his balding head I am certain that on a shelf was a plaque, hand carved with crossed hoes and swords etched along with Confucian words, to my happy satisfaction,

and in keeping with my monk friend’s wishes:

“If it weren’t for Yu, we’d all be fishes.”

Photosynthesis / by Abigail Siegel

I reach as high as I can

To the sun

Yearning to burn years off

To feel alive

Feet in clean river water

Feel the earth

Taking root in the nadir

Hands to zenith

Nourished and flourished in

A new day

Reservoir at Morning / by Aline Soules

A gold moon glows as it sinks below the hills.
Mist rises off still water like a gothic novel.

Two fishermen cast lines from a rowboat. Their lures
dab the water. Concentric circles disturb the glass.

My trainers pad a rhythm on the paved path
as a rose and blue sunrise shafts into my eyes.

Owls hoot warnings of my passing, two near me, one
all the way across the lake. Geese honk, slap the water
with their wings to take flight.

By the path, chickadees chirp as they dart and fly away.
Bunnies perk their ears and hop into the scrub.

A walker approaches from the other direction,
lifts an arm in greeting.

Even as a train rattles by in the distance
and the thrum of cars grows on the highway,

neither of us speaks, not wanting to break
the silence of the trees.

Poem 2 / Day 2

Halfbreed Helene Gets Drunk & Cleans the Kitchen / by Sarah A. Chavez

Dave Matthews whines
rhythmically
from the crackling speaker of her outdated cell phone.
               Eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow we die, she sings
along, only half in tune
or so her mother says she does when she sings
along to the radio on car trips.
In those moments her voice tamps down, muffled
by the realization of the unpleasantness
her abandon
brings others.
But now, her voice reaches fever pitch, the word “merry”
brings tears to the edges of her eyes.
She twirls toward the spice rack with the lemon pepper and tajín,
places them dramatically in the lemon pepper
and tajín-shaped spaces that exist behind the cabinet door.
                                           This is where you belong, she says and blows them a kiss
before spinning
back to the sink.
                                                                                  You all have a home!
she shouts, cradling plates and smudged cups, a ladle.
       You have a place and you belong here in this drawer, you in this cupboard.

She takes a long drink from the tallboy can,
spins point on the ball of her big toe. Its’s so easy
in her socks on the freshly swept tile.
Her hips won’t stop rotating.

I spend these hours five senses reeling . . .

The ends of her hair release from the loose bun, pull toward the four directions. Everything in the kitchen is connected:
hair fibers, the compact bamboo spatula, the coffee-stained dish towel.

H becomes overwhelmed with the fullness of her spirit
and considers that from the outside looking in, this would seem a giving
over of her body to the music,
except
for once she feels fully in control.

Her feet two-step, then cumbia cut. In this kitchen, she knows all ancestral dances.
Hands flamenco flutter,
while her heels
thud with conviction to the beat.

           In a boy’s dream, you wear nothing. Come crash into me.
She lands in the cool arms of the wall, rests her cheek
onto its blue smoothness before sliding down, ass
on the floor

back to the white grate register, heat stuttering
against her shirt.

My heart center is lifted, she says to Dave, reaching up toward the counter to take another swig.

                        I will wait for you, he says back. I will wait for no one but you.

The Truth Is / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

The truth is
i never sat alone
waiting on you to
arrive like birds
in spring

The truth is
i was never afraid of
losing anything or
anyone, especially,
especially you

The truth is
i would never grow
old—a tree planted
forested in by
family & friends

The truth is
those trees would
never fall, leaving
me a barren branch
in a barren wood

The truth is
i never wanted to
believe what i
knew was true;
the loss of you

Civilized Debate / by Marion Deal

You and I have only ever come to the marketplace
to overturn great wooden beaks of tables
and crow at those who, albeit disgruntled,
will trade gold for our stories
at inn tonight when the darkness molts into a hearth

Not so now

It is tempting to play sheathes and swords
when clear your footsteps
but wait —
these furrows to seed are better suited
and when we speak it seems we
transfigure: farmers
our ashes circumspect
littering the ground
to abet what lies within
when greedy roots reach to a sun
they’ve been told they remember

There is no joy in victory
when we both know the game we’re playing
and so we have no recourse but to till the soil,
on occasion tilt across each other’s eyes
to share the burden of the plough

If we push our insolence far enough
we secure obedience to the seasons
for what’s the point of a challenge we see we’re set to win?

Better to haul ourselves to the
field, husbandry
all day in the snow and sun
so when it comes time to coax the stories down
from the rafters of a dingy room
we need not speak of the day and
what we did there
but rather how feral look our eyes when it falls
clean dark

Cabin Fever / by Brian Dickson

Four days below ten degrees,
and the three blind mice shuffled in
with their placards complaining
about the lack of pepper jack cheese.

We peer into their hole on their day off.
The butcher’s wife on trial, chunks
of tails as evidence, her statement:
I’m innocent, your honors.

Damn furries have all the power,
their canes flailing, sunglasses askew,
their gibberish written in twine.
What can we do, love?

See how we run with gossip
to our neighbors, show
our trial sketches without
a glint of a blade.

St Denis in the Afterlife / by Danielle Hanson
                  -for Magnus

Had I known this head
would never shut up,
I would have left it
where it fell in the dirt.
Eternity is a long time
to hear “Repent” on repeat.
To think, I lugged this judgmental
stone up the highest
mountain to that refrain.
And as time (what
does that even mean now)
trods on, the sermon
unravels, seeps and trickles:
“Repent” “Represent” “Resent” . . .
That last one is the truth.
Night after night, I dream of burying
this unwound brain into the ground.
Every night, I dream vines grow
from the grave, leaves scrawled
with judgment, red flowers centered
with heavy-lidded eyes.

Resistance / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

O Sister – do you still bake? Oh sis, oh sis, oh sis! Stop measuring your spoonfuls in tens and twos, stir in cupfuls, cupfuls, do you hear me? Cupfuls of screams, of tears, of no, of not ever agains! Stir in stares, screens and resistance. Where’s your crass? The tone makes no sense until you stir the rest into the pots. This tense is present, is near. Stir the moment up while you can. Let the now pay each cent of the rent. Don’t resist – make sense of your sins. Stare at the stars that rein in rain.
Oh sis, oh sis O Sister, don’t resist in a snit, don’t get your knickers in a bad ass stance. Make sense of your zest, your cooking, your red hot snit. Toot the train, tense the lips . Keep the tin whistle blowing.

brightly brightly / by T.T. Kooken

people I’ve never met
put their lips like a
red belt wrapped around
the word

vinous, green-speaking
stalks write out the of
of a caterpillar on a branch

they say this is
this
the right-shadow is the
sun
the sky is the
sea

Con Sombras / by Shane Morin
Based on Red’s Intro (Canto III)

II

The yellow walls decay before me
Sulfur suffocates the spider plants

My child-like height overshadowed by long halls caked with asphalt

If only…

If only the walls were white like baker’s icing
I’d relish my childhood spiral- the ghetto gingerbread homes, my friends confectionery-
Mom’s alcoholic breath cornellis

…if only.

Snowflakes fall lazy upon the Atlantic, I spot myself
Treading along, I toss a life jacket
I fight to grab it…

An Italianate Busker’s Notes / by Joseph Pravda

Piezo’s electrifying personal sonification of almost languid ease
Wistfully wed to carillons and carousels
Against some long ago arboreal kiosk,
Squeezed perfectly fourth from his hexagonal accordion,
As the lachrymose audience’s viscera staged involuntary limbic experiments
In the evolution of the automation of tears.

Moving Forward / by Abigail Siegel

I move forward with happy trepidation

The quickening step of progression

I come into the light of my own eyes

Moment upon moment to realize

The days are as long as I make them be

The horizon as far as I choose to see

There is fear in happiness, happiness in fear

Good things in remembering what I hold dear

Hogs / by Aline Soules

My neighbor, Richard, fills his one-car garage
with motorcycles—Harley Davidson,
Indian, Goldwing—along with
all the tools he needs to keep them
roaring along. There’s no room for his car.

He takes them out in turn, like children,
and dresses the part—black leathers
from head to toe, and a different helmet
that goes with each. His face shines
at the rumble of the starting engine,
the snarl as he takes off, and the thunder
of acceleration.

When young, my husband and I rode
Honda Trail 90s, top speed 45 mph.
Bikes on a trailer, we drove west
from Michigan, topo maps in hand.
Parking our trailer in Boulder, we took off
to ride the trails and the logging roads,
camping along the way.

Long gone days, but when the rest
of my neighbors complain about
the noise of Richard’s cycles, I see
his face, listen to the growl,
and ignore the others’ grumble.

Poem 1 / Day 1

Halfbreed Helene Considers the Question, “What Are You?” / by Sarah A. Chavez

A beige blip on the stained
spectrum of identity, she assumes.
Her face a wavy mirror in which
others see distorted
visions of themselves
or monstrosity.
Both capable of eliciting contempt.

She recognizes now the glint
of wearied trust. Can see
in their eyes (blue & brown)
the wavering of categorization
as she says her name, as they
listen for an accent—all other
available physical details
through which to create order
from the ambiguity of
her face unavailable.

Home Going / by Jeanice Eagan Davis

Halfway between then and
now; just past the bevy of
birds flying low; where it’s
always the same; we turn
skimming red grasses
fading to gold, grasses
glow with the light of a
day nearly done, undone

The road gets rough here
just the other side of there
somewhere between
home then — home now
it’s hard, these transitions
the old folks complain, cry
beg us to stay—the young
wait at home for us to fix
problems piling like snow

But here, neither then nor now
birds circle
dip, dive
call us home

Burns and Achilles Share a Bed / by Marion Deal

I have no patience for the plough
save on mornings such as these
when we are awake within the night
and look out ahead of us
at the (work) ahead in a wheeling sky
Each task to be burn-coaled in the pasture

When you go out into the fields
do not pluck the things which root in your mane,
the many feathers and legs that lie there,
let them tunnel deep
and sing all the songs they know
burrow-biting into the eddies of your scalp:
for this they were born

For what were you born,
prickly mawkish soul
all gangly in your affections —
to tend the fields with the sun
rendering your back
red like rays on a cooling world
red like the real twitch of something gone
wrong in your breast
TEND!
O Red
and churn yourself into the soil
with each stroke of a metal?
but do not stop your self
from marching to rest under the willow unheeded
For we do not turn our minds
to cultivation
if we lack the will to rest beneath the willow
and let the small things we beckon
when laying in the dirt
creep to the roots of keratin
take up residence to whisper
the epic of heads on chests
when we rest from the field at noon’s arch sun
and sit in the morning,
arm against another;
shall we
trace the hardened muscles of a
crouching dawn.

And the Turkey Leg Beats Ad Infinitum / by Brian Dickson

My old self stuffed in
a boot stuffed in a turkey,
bought from a local farm
with natural open space,
where I visited
natural open space,
where I fed it grain,
slept on a cot,
shot it the next morning.

What a joke of a jake,
my new self would say
to my old self.

Come on pilgrim, my new-
ness says. Let’s make
progress with your soul,
half-baked boot
ready to roll.

Aphorisms for the Hand / by Danielle Hanson
         -after Ramón Gómez de la Serna, and for Alberto Rios

A hand is a better stone than a cup.

A hand is the dead-end of the arm.

The palm is the soil to the fingers.

To literally give someone a hand is a horrible thing.

A hand is the armadillo of the body.

What has four fingers and a thumb? This hand!

A hand is a wave removed from time.

She said to the bird, “what is a hand in the bush worth?”

The palm tells the future but the back of the hand keeps a poker face.

Fingers are so close to being free.

A hand will only count to five in warning.

A hand can be a ball or a paddle.

A hand always wears its helmets.

A hand curls around nothingness, holds it close.

Birds You Gave Me / by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

I had some birds

I had some birds who crushed boulders
who brought me flowers shaped like arrows
who were fire and stone
who were splintered sunlight
who imagined themselves wolves
who knew their wing span

I had some birds

who played guitars on starlit corners
who locked broken doors
who opened broken hearts
who fell from trains
who fell from lights drawn in blood
who fell from a trillion trees
with bodies and heads of sand.
who plumaged to the earth.

I had some birds

who lost everything they touched as it turned to ash
who knew about resurrection
who carried light in a bucket
who said they weren’t afraid
who lied
who believed too much
who doubted everything
who told the truth and were locked in a cage
who were locked in a cage and sang.

I had some birds.

who gave me London with secrets still in doorways
who gave me the fleeting leap of a red squirrel
whose voice was scratched with scotch and plow dirt
whose voice smooth as a river rock glistens my ear
whose voice is pungent as fresh raspberries
whose voice surprises me like a homemade kite
loose from its tether in the clouds.

I had some birds

who rode from Schenectady to Syracuse in a glass coach
who spoke all languages
who spoke none at all
who thought they were kings and everything they touched was gold
who were afraid of four and twenty
who hint at early morning sun ribboning through the trees
who taught me about unlimited flight of words

I had some birds

who gave me dreams I wake from crying
you gave me the book entitled Grief.

standing water on sunday’s birdlegs / by T.T. Kooken

on white-legged water,
rippling brown then blue shadows
unfazed by motion

may I greet this unemptied
wind which feeds geese in
their otherwise stillness,
under long-grey locks of moss

my untrained hands in-looking,
touch-keen of language
wondering
whether or not the chin-like leaves
with their early heads-up
reach what they are reaching

this heron, checking its reflection.
I, unprepared to see.
& rain-collected sparkles against of-water’s
brim

Con Sombras / by Shane Morin
Based on Red’s Intro (Canto III)

I

In my periphery
Spectral faces sizzle
Daylight infiltrates shadowed factories, atonal hammers strike untuned heart strings, sustenudo
pedals press the ribcage, con sombras the ghastly staff cuts the dust

It’s nothing…I feel temporary
Faces pass, erode as wax statues

Glossed eyes melt, jaded smiles blur to
A numbed sneer, arms deteriorate

They’re all temporary              (we’re all so obsolete)

Chords slice the silence, a mad symphony echoes
Across the vacant halls
I stand impermanent, wavering

I swear it’s nothing, a twilight trick of the seasons…isn’t it?

Loud Whispers / by Joseph Pravda

From the cocoon
Loud whispering
As butterflies somehow
Know what to do.

Arboretum / by Abigail Siegel

Is there a flower in there for me
A fine and flourishing bloom to mirror
What spirit I grow inside myself
I a bloom grown between
The salty spray and the arid desert
Rosy-cheeked from the heat

Is there shade under the tree
Perhaps above my very bloom
Shading from a desert sun
Sharing a life to help me blossom
Nurturing and nourishing my own soil

Don’t put me in the hothouse where
Seeds all grow the same
Give me to the shade behind the arbor
Give me a bloom to water

Four pm in Winter / by Aline Soules

Afternoon will not stay. Bare trees
fade into dusk as the cold sun waters away.
I pull my cardigan close and stare out the window.

The whistle of the kettle blankets the clanking
of trains in the freight yard, but neither disturbs
the solitude of flat fields abandoned by crops
harvested and gone.

The kettle drifts into silence when I lift it to pour
hot water over dry tea leaves that swirl in a darkening
infusion. I cut a slice of lemon with a sharp knife
and drop its tartness into the black.

The hot mug comforts, but does not dispel shivers
that creep through the wooden door.

I light a fire and draw the curtains. The tea cools
and my book falls unread as I stare at blue flickers
in red flames, and wait for a different hour.