Welcome 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 February 2019 are Lindsay Adkins, Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Anna Harris-Parker, Ava M. Hu, Manfred Luedge, Jayne Marek, Matthew Mumber, Sol Smith, and Valerie Spain. 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! To read more about the Tupelo Press 30/30 project, including a complete list of our wonderful volunteer poets and to read their poems, please click here.
Poem 28 / Day 28
February Renga / by the February 2019 30/30 Poets
The rain spoke volumes,
until the Russian River
spoke its secrets to the sea.
Pacific’s answer might
come by way of tsunami.
Always the water
gathering itself below,
hoarding its power,
speaking a language unheard
for millennia, until
some unknown Noah
scours the scorched Sierra foothills
for wood to build arcs.
Acknowledge me, understand
this is not the first time, start
swimming. Go against
the current Use your legs. Push
the wake with your arms.
Dip your head below the waves,
listen to your bubbled breath.
Stay down there as long
as it takes to grow your gills
– start the cycle again,
or find Atlantis once more
deep down in Monterey Bay.
Water was made for
searching, for bringing into
the body and out—
No. The river cannot be
rushed. The rain never undone, yet
when spring comes, waters will slow,
and petals will punctuate
the surface with change.
Poem of Firsts / by Ava M. Hu
A poem created from all the first lines of poems created for the month of February 2019
The world begins here:
Your mind is a river.
Salt water, seawater, river water, rainwater, lake water, fresh water.
Murky, inexplicable, black river,
Moon crossing water. Wind, witchcraft, the rising of waves.
The moon is round.
The sun is like your sun. Water tangled inside water, the magnum opus defined.
If we sink beneath water, will we remember our names?
Floating axis, your face, what God reveals to humans, ink into a seed,
Gather them in a boat.
We are pulled by things we cannot explain.
Prophecy, dark line of fate, even the water could not resist.
This sinking boat possessed by air.
The music of a branchas it hits the earth.
This soft breath, people folding into one another.
The earth is marked by the tongues of yellow rivers.
Hip bone to hip bone.
Let these birds go.
We move through space.
Salt waves click in the mouths of oysters.
Falling in and out of afterlife, the unleashing of birds.
Pull her by anti-gravity, lamplight, thrust of a buraq’s rising wing-
Emptiness, sky-blue, mirror.
Two atoms fasten together.
Apparition so bright your hands take hold.
No fret, no dark string across this white landscape can resist him.
It was made without hands: the deeper part of a river or harbor.
Light doesn’t hold for long.
This white flower. Describe it using no words.
Small folded birds swish through air like breath through a flute.
Language of tea leaves as they settle into a cup.
Gateless gate. The body half out of the ground.
No east, no west, north or south.
Disembodied spirit. Phantom.
To close, conceal, intitiate.
The stem discovers the flower.
Suspend. Levitate. Intermediate between two lives on earth.
Transference. Light emitting code.
We move through space. Dust, hydrogen, helium.
On the shoulders of morning.
What’s mine is yours.
Eros, the impulse from which the universe erupts.
Everyone prefers the nature of light. The universe and everything in it.
Binary, repeat, resonate. Two together in the space
With or without you. With or without meaning, breath arrives.
We reach into the secret universe. Sun in mouth.
The joints of one person become the next.
One arrow of flowers previously thought to be two.
Pants on Fire / by Manfred Luedge
What’s a little white lie
between friends, anyway?
I’ll tell you what.
It’s a breach of trust.
And if you cry wolf
oft enough no one
will ever again believe
any truth you might
want to tell.
Sitting in a muddy puddle
of falsehoods and fakeries
doesn’t extinguish the flames
on your pants. Not all who lie
with conviction are convicted
liars, they’ve just
not been caught yet.
doesn’t prove you’re without sin.
At best it signals
your confidence in not
getting caught. Good luck
with that, if you don’t allow
the possibility of a pardon,
of regret and redemption.
And if you can honestly
claim that you have never
needed somebody else’s
forgiveness and you never will –
well, you be the judge…
Great Horned Owl / by Jayne Marek
From the rafters she looks down on us,
our foreshortened faces over our boot-tips.
A few draggled mouse corpses lie on beams,
stacked in the middle of the barn floor
out of reach of sun.
It’s disused but not yet falling down,
this barn, this wide-open palace
dust-dimmed. Even with the owl quiet,
and we standing still below
the full dish of her visage,
we know she is not looking
at us, so much, as listening to the cosmos
of spaces between each shard of straw,
each blown tussock of weeds
edging the door and splits in the walls,
for any minute slippage
of dry stems, of rodent feet.
Right now, she hears our heartbeats
and shallow breaths, clumsy vibrations
of our bodies.
She knows we’ll soon be gone. There’s
little here for humans. Her head swivels
as we back away step by step,
not fearing for ourselves but knowing
there’s more power here than we know.
last words / by Matthew Mumber
These could be the last words
I ever write.
That kind of an edge
A cousin took me on his boat
fishing off the Jersey shore.
Leaving before light,
we crept through the harbor.
Slow, past the leaden-blue buoy
marking the channel, guiding us,
ever present, no matter what weather,
through the shallows, into
the deep water of the sea.
I am the buoy and the boat,
silent witness and active seeker,
tethered and free,
guide and explorer,
in between shallow and deep.
I write what I most yearn to learn.
give thanks for one thing
when feet first feel the floor.
Then, what will life
Pay attention on purpose,
something comes up:
What does it mean?
How can I share it?
Ask to bring this new depth
into my life. Then, release clinging
and resisting; present, open and
awake, just being
in the clouded unknown.
Cast a wide net,
fragility is not weakness.
Love is limitless participation.
We Are Lucky / by Sol Smith
We’re lucky we like the stars,
since they are doomed to pierce
the darkness for billions of years.
Though some of those stars are gone,
while their candlelight flickers
through time and space, we can enjoy
what they once were without heartbreak.
We’re lucky we like traveling.
We never rush to arrive
because we aren’t looking for somewhere,
but simply search everywhere.
We’re lucky we have each other,
because the collective efforts of all Time
have led to this moment and gravity
put us together, bound by
things greater than ourselves,
even though it felt like a choice.
And someday one of us will be left
Whichever it is will feel the loss like
pain that will be the inverse of all
the contentment and bliss
that we have built.
But this is now.
I hold your hand.
Life need not be perfect
to be perfect.
surprises / by Valerie Spain
now what did I miss
that those biddy aunts saw
those three sisters
sitting shy and complacent
like hens in a barnyard
at that family gathering
who divine futures
they bake philters
into the cookies
and slip potions
into the wine
they never speak
but when they saw us together
Poem 27 / Day 27
Ode to Dory and Lesno / by Lindsay Adkins
for Anne, and all the W’s
I didn’t know you.
My husband says I would have loved you,
and you would have loved me.
I trust him on matters like this,
and I think probably you did, too.
But I didn’t know you. Still, I went
to a funeral. I saw how your family wept
for you, carried their grief around
like a somber child, heavy and thinking of home
but happy to have a heart to carry at all.
I didn’t know you, but I know these people:
the son who married me and my husband,
the grandson who named his daughter for you,
the daughter-in-law who asked me to write this.
Every day they create places in which to find you.
I didn’t know you, but I have seen photos: You
on your wedding day, mouths cracked with laughing,
confetti bursting into focus—If I stare long enough,
I can hear the cheers, the applause from a moment
long before some woman you never knew wrote a poem—
Dory, in sunglasses, leaning out of a boat cabin,
sunlight in her hair and teeth. Lesno, under a tree
with grandchildren, all dappled with summer.
In each, one of you is absent but also not far off,
maybe steering the ship, maybe behind the camera.
I didn’t know you. But I’ve tried to create
a six-stanza place in which those who did
can find you. I stand just out of frame
in your lives, you just out of frame in mine,
but still, somehow there.
Sinkhole Part 2 / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
Second time the rain washed our driveway out
the blood-red teeth of the road were revealed.
Is this my inheritance? Owls don’t come
out in rain, so our sentinel is gone.
We are at sea in a three-mast ship with
rotting stores, without sextant or clear stars.
Red bricks cemented together under
three feet of river rock we’ve shoveled on.
Once the previous inhabitants came
back to sit with the stone-jawed creek
They never revealed their source. Or, why they’d
hidden statues of Greek goddesses in the walls.
My grandmother could be a low morning
fog that clings to the trembling redwoods.
Or, she could be the minerals beneath
soil that stubbornly hold this whole thing down.
Did I tell you that my mother appears
as an owl that sits on the root of our barn?
I keep looking for my mother as if
her ghost might be pressing in the window
Now that the owls have gone mute, but all that
we built is washing away. Gravel, mud,
the cartography we’ve been collecting
My tongue has gone heavy. Too many stones
washing down. Now that the skeleton (blood
red bricks) has shown its form. Our underneath.
The rain will keep coming whether we live
or die. How do we hold our story here?
Workshop Poem / by Anna Harris-Parker
Good sound! I like the imagery, too,
in the first and third tercets. But who
is the you in this poem? What is
governing your line breaks? I can so
relate to the abstractions here; they
remind me of that time I did that
thing with that person—it changed my life.
Then again, does the world really need
another effin’ bird poem? What
if you recast this sonnet as a
sestina? And I am here for the
Philip Larkin thing you’ve got going.
For me, the poem doesn’t begin
until the second stanza. Also,
I think the last two lines could be cut.
Fragments: Force Field / by Ava M. Hu
Eros, the impulse from which the universe erupts.
Types of force-fields: like attract like, vortex, centripetal, to be or not to be, center
Energy and matter, seen and unseen, what you are I become.
Plato said everything on earth is just a shadow of another in a higher sphere.
God burns himself in the form of the sun to give light to the universe.
Some thought lighting a sacred fire would be appropriate.
Sound of salt and water, the space in between.
Soon, the myth of distance became obsolete.
Sound and witness. The sea heard from inside a shell.
The air which holds you is the very air that will never let you go.
A. I know sometimes the forest has too much light and too much darkness to bear.
A. You are my reaction to light.
you tube / by Manfred Luedge
there’s a you-tube clip
that shows a lion approaching
a female kind of casually
from behind. she’s just lying there,
leisurely, ignoring his advances.
like saying to him, look, I’m not
interested. please, take “no”
for an answer! But he, being male,
doesn’t let up. she turns and,
with a growl, swipes at him
with her mighty paw. which
translates into human as: hey!
I told you before, buster: fuck off!
he shakes his mane, perfectly
coiffed until just a moment ago,
he seems a bit baffled at this response,
(after all what’s not to like?)
and he slinks off into the steppe…
end of encounter.
if only it were this easy among
between sixty and eighty percent
of male Praying Mantises lose
their head after mating, literally!
(appropriate usage of the word –
I assure you)
would this level of risk
lead a few more human males
to think twice? what good’s the claim
that she didn’t really mean it
when she said ‘no’
if her saying ‘yes’
would already cost your life?
it tells you something about
the urgency of the urge, though
I do concede that humans are
distinct in many ways from animals,
not all of them for the better.
sex and violence are inextricably
entangled in many species
on the planet. Elephant seal bulls
have bloody battles for the privilege
of space and access to a harem.
sometimes stags fight to the death
driven by desire for a doe.
should we too fall victim to instinct?
or can we make other choices?
a dress code, maybe? trade bikini
tops for burqas? secure tight leggings
with chastity belts? might medication
help us gain more self- control?
and what if it’s not about
sex at all? what if it’s just as much
about privilege and power?
can we at least admit
males of some spider species
bring a bit of food artfully
wrapped in their sticky silken thread
and as long as the distraction lasts
they have their way, the female
tolerating this minor nuisance
for the time…
the Bower bird builds a fanciful
nest and lines it with all sorts
of baubles and if his architecture
is impressive enough some female
might move in with him.
I’m just saying:
there seem to be options…
Tap / by Jayne Marek
Gray end of a day that seemed like
a month of rain. A pub nests where
two lanes meet in an English village.
Sheep smells hang from the straw
that stuffs the roof. We push into
the peaty fug. O yes, the child,
come in boy, it’s warm. Hearth
gives the room a scent of armpits,
humid with honest work, spilled
beer on farm boots. O yes. There’s
some roast left even this late in the
day, there’s rarebit. Fragments
of cheddar on our plates. The woman
lets the boy run among trestle tables,
with only the other two gentlemen
at the bar, who smile over their
whiskers. We’ve a bit of custom
at the odd hour. Hasn’t it poured,
it’s always like this in January.
You’ll have another.
So we do.
hailing grace / by Matthew Mumber
There are moments
that cannot be taken away,
nor earned. Times
when everything converges into
a single leaf suspended
by an invisible spider thread,
dancing with an imperceptible wind,
part of the universal orchestra.
I cannot create the words.
I can only put myself squarely
in their way.
Fresno, California / by Sol Smith
Fresno, in the summer, is
shot on overexposed film,
the world washed in light,
squinting behind sunglasses.
Let’s dig beneath the heat,
past the soil and hardpan
and plant a garden in the
cool air underneath.
Let’s carve the walls of clay
and let the ceiling hang with
grapes and oranges and lemons
and the light down here will
filter and soften through round openings.
We can light a candle
and turn on a record, which will
reverberate in the hallways,
and let the people above walk
past in various hurries
breathing carbon through open
mouths, while we discover
the secrets that the earth underfoot
holds dear in each other’s eyes.
uncharted blue / by Valerie Spain
a strip of morning light
falls across his mother’s face
and in an instant
he sees the blue in her eyes
in all the years of looking at her face
he’s never seen that blue
hazel she says
the color of my eyes
it’s called hazel
her thin lips smile
a smile he can see with his eyes closed
but ah––that blue!
Poem 26 / Day 26
Melody / by Lindsay Adkins
My father doesn’t read music,
just listens and plucks the guitar strings,
each note a stone on the path he lays himself.
He is deaf in one ear, but still he hears
the chords and melodies, maybe with something else—
the soul, if you believe in that sort of thing.
Or, his other ear.
Beethoven went deaf and still composed symphonies
because you don’t always need ears to listen
to the pulse of the world, especially when it can be
translated to vibrations, muscle-memorized—
the closest thing to love.
I used to get the croup once a year, when I was a kid.
My father would wrap me in blankets
and take me out into the cold. We’d sit
on the porch, me in his lap, and say nothing,
just look at the stars.
Metamorphosis on Bodega Highway in Heavy Rain / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
That rain would come was certain – sight blurs and
scissors – cars spill like mercury down streets.
Enough to be thirsty? Enough to stand
in the bus shelter wearing bright red boots
dancing as if wind-spent body speaking
field just last night the pavement was her bed
sometimes prophets catch headlights alarmed to
feel joy in this hour of grey pour and go
We look as we pass shielded in glass fields
neon-yellow mustard not yet flood she
steps into my mind-car. bee machining
wings, becoming hive of neon-yellow
thirst not honey, joy Just a thimble,
never saw her face but she carries me
The Answer is Often Water / by Anna Harris-Parker
When pasta sauce splatters
on your favorite white
When your fiddle-leaf
fig drops all but one
of its leaves: water.
When the birdsong
in your yard dwindles
to a duet: water.
When you have nothing
for dinner save for a stick
and string: water.
When the inability to inhale
threatens to split your chest
open wide: water.
When you feel caught
in the pull of the evening
When you lose your faith
in god, nature, man
Show me the Way / Sun in Mouth / by Ava M. Hu
Sun in my mouth – E.E. Cummings
We reach into the secret universe. Sun in mouth.
We have four hands and four legs.
What others find in art, we find in nature.
Really there is no meaning except the one you place on it.
Seeds grew flowers.
Green leaves like ribbons loose from my hair.
I draw a line from this life to the next.
We give darkness a language.
We fill small gold statues with medicine and perfume.
Our hands are sailboats in the grasses.
We never wanted to go home.
We have four hands and four legs.
One arrow of flowers previously thought to be two.
Memories of yesterday / by Manfred Luedge
I remember things
I’d rather forget
memories that make me cringe
can’t shake them
they seem to be gone
for a long time sometimes
and re-emerge unbidden
maybe evoked by some smell
and then there are
all those vanished memories
years of my life
that are retold in minutes
a detail here and there
a funny moment
and lots of blanks
and foggy voids
I can’t for the life of me
remember what I did
on May 5th of any year
not last, not the one before
I’m barely here
it seems or ever
I’m not what you call
a man with a past
rather a string
of random fragments
by a made-up narrative
did I put
Arc of the Future, A Sonnet (For Taylor) / by Jayne Marek
With luck, our lives bring what we love the most.
The golfer, in a foursome of old friends,
waits his turn in perfect satisfaction
and breathes the hearty sweetness of cut grass
while morning mist, white as a wedding dress,
shimmers as it puffs in a touch of sun.
He smiles to see it, thinks of his wife then,
their lives together sealed with promises.
The golfer turns, looks in the direction
he wants to go, steps into the tee box.
He’s focused on the future—the green and cup,
the confidence nurtured by this game,
his years of practice, habits of patience.
He swings: the golf ball soars, bright as his hopes.
winter vigil / by Matthew Mumber
I can see it clearly:
pine tree pollen,
foliage filled forest,
life on overdrive.
I hold vigil
for this spring, seen
only in my mind.
It is here even now, cloaked by
silver gray bark,
browned leaf blanket,
thinly iced birdbath.
Just as present,
as it ever will be.
fills my life
with faith fueled fullness.
Failing Light / by Sol Smith
Art that takes place in time
is called music.
Improving on silence
is a monumental accomplishment.
In the noise of our lives,
most settle for an organization
of sound that cuts through
the chaotic miasma.
The tape player on my dad’s desk
turned its wheels and played
a music that grew out of surrounding
It was the same with his words.
An improvement of silence.
once when we went walking / by Valerie Spain
once when we went walking in the wetlands behind the trailer
on that island in the Chesapeake Bay where we lived one brief summer
the summer before I left you
you took me walking–
the mud sucked so hard at my boots
I thought it wouldn’t let go
I was sure it would drag me down like the quicksand in Tarzan movies
a grisly death I feared beyond reason
since there was no quicksand in Philadelphia
where I grew up
but on that day when we went walking
I stared at the hem of your coat
at your boots
trying to judge how far I might have to reach
if this sucking got serious
you’d walked there before when you hunted with the local boy
the mute with the twisted hand
who knew more about loading a gun with a broken hand
than you ever would with two whole ones
you loved the feel of that gun
you loved the heft of it
you thought your desire was secret
but I saw it everyday
that day we went walking
you didn’t have a gun but you knew the trail
you were just far enough ahead
I couldn’t touch you
just far enough
you might not hear me if I called
just far enough that if you did
you could still pretend you didn’t
Poem 25 / Day 25
Empty Beach / by Lindsay Adkins
We walk out to the sea with our current troubles,
search the high tide line for what we can find
poking out of the sand or wrapped in the seaweed.
It is bright and warm, warmer than we’d expected
for the peak of winter. We put our hands
in the receding waves and shiver.
It is all still here for us, though August
was a soft and slow dream ago.
I root among the shells like a seagull,
looking for jingle shells, my grandfather’s favorite.
At summer’s first breath he would go out
and pick the shore clean as salt-rubbed driftwood.
The shimmer-dashes of orange and pink
blinking in the pebble mounds, watermarked
halfway to the dune grass.
He called them
which horrified and delighted kid me.
What sort of creatures had nails that big?
Did they fall off naturally?
Or did the mermaids sit at the bottom of the ocean
and tear their nails off, one by one,
to be found? Did they know he looked
for bits of them on the beach?
He’d come up the back stairs, his pockets stuffed
and clinking, pour the shells by the handful
into his glass jars, say got some real beauts, real beauts.
There are none in the sand today, like he’s
already been here. But it’s alright—we have
his, still—piles. We can rub them
between our fingers, remember how
he knew exactly what he was looking for,
exactly where to look, and wish
we had this precision, this expertise
when we search for him
Forest Duet: The night is cold, It is silver, it is a coin. / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
You once dreamed your face was remembered by
the creek’s surface, like a coin. Others would
look at the creek and see the ghost of your
child body scissoring from bank to bank.
Above you, the reach of oaks stretch. The crows
warn. Time has moved like this seasonal creek –
sometimes full-bellied, sometimes nothing more
than a few puddles, glimmering eyes in
the creek’s shale jaw. Do you wonder who found
it? What voices that imprint might contain
(the secrets you told yourself and the woods)
The creek’s flat surface like a crystal ball.
Crow 1: leave but know night buzzes with stars.
Crow 2: we’ll close your passage with wind’s breath.
A Father’s Blessing / by Anna Harris-Parker
Two things my father is sure of:
black coffee and cold beer.
He insists I know how
to make one, pour the other.
Café negro y cerveza barata.
I wonder who taught him
to make one, pour the other:
one tablespoon per two cups; tilt the glass..
I wonder who taught him
these survival skills:
Una cucharada por cada dos tazas; incline la copa.
The man I love lives by instinct, the weather.
These survival skills,
Dad insists I know. How
the man I love lives: by instincts, the weather–
three things my father is sure of.
Woods Totem/Amor fati vs. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. / by Ava M. Hu
Alea iacta est “The die is cast”
Everyone prefers the nature of light.
The universe and everything in it.
Repeats. Whirls in bark and wood.
Amulets of snow heavy
with light and shadow.
Circular cycle of the moon.
No matter where you stand
each destination point is the same.
Amor fati vs. the unbearable lightness of being.
Has the die been cast?
The serpent continues to tumble
with her tail in her mouth.
Nothing is for the first time.
The hero refrains from despair.
In winter, clusters of monarch
butterflies huddle together.
In breeding areas, migration routes,
Quivering air. Branches
bent down by the weight.
We are bound by the benefits
of light. The question is the consequence.
The earth is a desolate wilderness.
The earth is a desolate wilderness,
erase the adjective.
If you were to miss me, remember
nothing is for the first time.
In the year 2031 / by Manfred Luedge
when I’m 80 years old
I might spend my last summer
with my grandson who’s just turned
thirteen. Maybe we’re sitting by a fire
at the river bank where he tried
to teach me how to fish.
You used to tell me stories, he says.
When I was little. Ghost stories.
He says, can you tell me one now?
I glance at him and clear my throat:
But this one will be really scary,
I warn him. And he shrugs.
I take another sip from my fortified tea
and I begin.
Since you were born
the last coral reef has died,
choked by warming seas.
The last pair of polar bears
is now kept in a cooler unit
somewhere north of Stockholm.
Honey bees became extinct,
their hives deserted.
The crowns of palm trees,
indicating vanished islands,
are ringed by endless fields
To mention in public any of this
is considered treason
and punishable by law.
And your grandpa clearly
has not done enough
to slow this train wreck down.
That is my nightmare;
yours I have no way of telling.
Breach the Dams: A Ghazal (for Lys) / by Jayne Marek
In fall, mountain creeks should cradle the bones of salmon
and the roots of cedars reach for the bones of salmon.
Cadaverous fish bodies should tatter in the current
as salal plants shed blue tears over the bones of salmon.
Salmon-chiefs can choose the fishers who receive blessing—
it is an honor to catch the first coming-home salmon.
But many fewer fish return, in the decline of the season,
where blunt skirts of deodars shelter the bones of salmon.
The fish struggle to return and breed far upstream;
ladders and spills are not enough to replenish runs of salmon.
What keeps so many fish from returning inland?
Shallow, dammed water fills with the bones of salmon.
What happens to the orcas that feed on the Chinook?
They are starving, bodies wasting away like the bones of salmon.
Can’t the wind plead with those who could bring change?
Talkers and sitters do not understand the bones of salmon.
Politics become the weakness and shame of humans;
their excuses frail and flimsy, like the old bones of salmon.
Leaders, push away the dams in your hearts and minds:
see how the whole ecosystem needs the bones of salmon.
Let the river glide and plummet, let the Snake flow free again,
its silver path a guide for the bodies and bones of salmon.
the work of healing / by Matthew Mumber
There is an 8 year old inside of me,
still stuck in second grade,
learning to write in cursive,
raising my hand to go to the bathroom,
trying to please the homeroom teacher,
competing with the smartest
and most popular kids in class,
at the urgings of my
craving for her love and approval.
This part of me hurts,
with a pain that says:
“you alone are not enough,
it is what you do and say,
and how others think of you
that really matters.”
In brave silent time, I gently
approach this neglected part of myself:
this is the part that drove me through
never-ending study and athletics,
beckoned me to set goals beyond my reach.
This part of me had a history already:
the leg braces worn to stop being pigeon toed,
“don’t make fun of the crippled kid”;
beyond body, my parents, back into their own
mysterious and buried childhood hurts,
beyond that, to the hidden wounds of their parents,
and theirs, theirs and theirs,
with no end, steeped in culture and the oft unforgiving
natural world. Is it all
natural selection at work?
In quiet time, if I am lucky,
I can sit with this child,
build Lego cars in the basement,
play smash up derby,
shape them up again,
piece by piece,
into new and impossible creations.
Crystalline Destiny / by Sol Smith
The molecular shape of
a bead of water
gives snowflakes their six-fold
symmetry. What signature
between us has shaped
our space in the world?
In which strand of information
did you lie locked within me,
waiting for us to meet?
When you spoke in a dark, empty
room, did you hear my voice
in the echo?
What happens when we melt?
as common as crows / by Valerie Spain
let’s live somewhere
are as common as crows
and I said to myself
but not to you
let’s have cardinals
I never heard
a nightingale sing
but the sound
must astonish as much
as the sight
of a scarlet bird
on a bare branch
in a landscape of snow
the shock of spring
when all you can imagine
Poem 24 / Day 24
I Write You from the Bathtub / by Lindsay Adkins
Yes, you heard me.
My notepad is getting wet.
At any moment, the whole thing could fall
into the water, the ink could bleed
off the soggy pages and you will never know
what I had to say. High stakes, this.
And I have a green mud mask on my face,
because the act of writing everyday
has made me break out.
Dorothy and that fucking dog
would be real scared of me.
Soon my husband will walk in and scream.
He’s gone out to buy me tights
for the thing tonight—isn’t that just the best
of him?—because I don’t have time.
I have to sit here and write.
It isn’t that I’m complaining—to speak
to you from the past is some sort of magic.
And the bathtub isn’t so bad. Actually,
aside from my husband, it is the best.
I’m naked, but probably you figured that out.
The water is scalding, itching my back.
It’s just… Reader, do you ever think of us,
or only the words? Don’t worry—
I won’t be mad. In fact, I hope it’s the latter.
I think that’s why we put words on the page
when we want to talk to you,
instead of knocking on your door.
But it makes me a little sad, Reader—
I know that isn’t your name, by the way,
but I can’t be sure what your name is—
because when you read this, I won’t be
in the bathtub. I like the bathtub.
I like to sit in the bathtub and wonder
what your face looks like now,
which is in the future. How you hold
your cup of coffee. Whether you squint
while you read these words or lift
your eyelids wide against the daylight.
Do you lean your chin on your hand?
Are you wondering what to make for lunch?
Are you chewing the inside of your mouth?
Arching an eyebrow?
Are you in the bathtub?
Is someone calling to you from another room?
Is it me?
Ghost Slut / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
(After Hearing Christine Blasey Ford at the Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing)
I’m tired of hearing about the girl who
society thinks has a body that
is a weapon. Whose short skirt and red lips
are read as flags of seduction. Whose voiced
words: no or stop are erased from the air
like smoke. When Christine Blasey Ford took the
stand, spoke her story every woman
I know understood her, could see themselves
trapped in the same small room, terrified of
what the two drunk guys would do. We’d been there—
Thing was, we never spoke about it. Not
to you, America. Not to any
figure of authority. We thought our
words had no power, were still made of smoke.
Sunday Drive / by Anna Harris-Parker
Between home and Birmingham,
I count the mile markers
along I-20: thirty,
thirty-one, -two, -three
-four. The sun’s glare catches
the strands of silver in my hair.
Today, I feel my age.
My husband pats my knee,
points out the pop of white
blossoms we pass. Callery
pears, he says—an invasive
species, their fate can change:
cut the top out of the tree,
then take a fruitful pear,
graft its scion to the stump.
Wait for new growth.
Notes on Stars (Of Indelible) / by Ava M. Hu
We move through space.
Dust, hydrogen, helium.
Intertwining nebula barely
visible to the human eye.
Priests and chiefs guided
by an explosion of dust and heat.
Potentiality of all things come forward:
dawn, stream, current,
surges with many tails.
The world floats in space
between spiritual forms.
The paper mulberry
we climb towards light.
We are held together
by our own gravity.
The unborn force
of the universe.
Shy at the start.
Evolution and fate
knotted up in eventual
We were hauled up by deities.
Born of miraculous manner.
We move through space.
Trigger warning / by Manfred Luedge
Some of the content of this poem
might be unsuitable for young
children. Some of the language
might be offensive to some
members of the audience. Some
will be bleeped out and it will
be up to your imagination
to fill in the blanks. There could be
images or metaphors,
sounds or silences, smells
or fragrances, and some, all,
or none of them could
quite possibly remind you
of something you’d rather forget.
The author, editor, and publisher
of this poem, individually
and as a group, sincerely
apologize for any harm done,
whether real or perceived
(if there’s a difference).
To avoid any problems
in the future they all,
individually and as a group,
humbly request to be
furnished with a list
of any and all words,
terms, and phrases that
could trigger anything
Unfortunately, we ran out of
time and space.
the poem will have to follow
at some other occasion.
The Dog We Grew Up With (for Mark) / by Jayne Marek
If I glance into the yard at dusk, I might think
I see a small black poodle mix nosing the fence
as she did for many years, her brown eyes shining,
searching the violets for scents of bugs or mice.
She might have finished watching Dad
clean the grill, with her gentle supervision,
and she might already have walked with you
to the far end of the block and back
as you slowly rolled the green fat-tire bike.
The tan rubber ball, lost from a careless throw,
might peek from under the edge of a lilac bush
in that green world, where the dog, spry and young
in the grace of memories, tail-wags her whole body
as you pick the ball up. On into evening,
I see from the window in my mind, she plays,
racing across grass after the shadow,
bringing the gift again and again to your hands.
potential / by Matthew Mumber
What greater gift is there
than questions for which
l have no answer?
What if there was a cosmic
compost pile, where the addiction
of imposing my will upon
uncertainty could be thrown away,
and slowly turn into flowers?
What else could I let go?
Can I open up to the unknown
like an old friend,
guiding me along,
on a new path?
For the First Time / by Sol Smith
I’m going to throw this out there
and I want you to know that I don’t
especially expect you
and that’s not because you’re
dumb or unsympathetic or anything
but because I am going to veer away
from not just common poetic sentiment,
but common culture, as well.
It takes me a moment to remember
the color of your eyes.
I know the name, but I mean
how they look.
Even worse, I have to think very hard
to conjure up the color of your hair.
Or the length.
You have that one tooth
that’s out of place,
so if I start there I can get your smile
in focus, and then your face.
There are your eyes, now,
but just the shape, not the color.
I’ve always thought it’s strange
that we think it’s so important
how the light jumps off of our forms,
how it makes us feel.
How people will die
or spend their lives on
how someone else looks
But I have to admit that I’m addicted
to the endorphins I feel when
I see your shirt strain against you.
I have trouble picturing you,
but every time I see your face,
I see it new,
I see it for the first time
heretic / by Valerie Spain
you lived beneath burning constellations
in a country of pointed firs
at the edge of blue fields
I arrived uninvited and
dove into that sea of trees
pulling you down and down
into a virescent heart of darkness
in the end
you banished me–
I fled to the desert
but did not repent–
Poem 23 / Day 23
Flight Risk / by Lindsay Adkins
You will never convince me this is a good idea:
A hundred people strapped inside a cage of metal and plastic,
combustible fluids below their feet, someone they don’t know
and can’t see and can’t understand over the intercom at the wheel,
the whole scene hurtling through the air above the clouds,
higher than any living thing can go on its own.
The flight attendant shows us how to fasten our seatbelts,
how to locate the exits, how to put on the oxygen masks
that will drop from the ceiling in case of emergency,
how to put on the life vests. And now she’s all decked out.
The yellow vest isn’t inflated, lays flat across her chest
like a Red Lobster bib, and with the mask she resembles
a duck. A duck at Red Lobster. But she is beautiful,
she smiles, though we can’t see her mouth.
Her cheeks lift to her eyes. I feel myself
getting drowsy against the thrum of the engines.
But before I slip into sleep, I wonder
how many times a day she shows people
what they’d look like as they fell from the sky.
What We Left Behind was Corporeal / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
Sometimes history is built from thousands
of teeth left in the walls by previous
inhabitants. Sometimes it is written
over in bone. Palaephatus argued
that the ancient women warriors known as
Amazons were likely just men in drag.
Because how could an army of women
found cities, and defeat even greater
armies entirely comprised of men.
Luckily, his theory didn’t take. Young
girls can still dream of muscled, sword-wielding
sisters. But he’s not alone. Rewriting
what past we see from here. Often times truth
is tucked into walls (like those teeth), hidden
in plain sight. Take Sulphia, Roman
woman whose poems were neatly written
into Tibullus’s book because she
couldn’t publish under Roman law. All
but forgotten until some scholar found
her hidden poems. And even then she
was dismissed. Reader, it’s our job to look:
find secret passages between then and
now. Insist that there were more voices than
the ones who got to write the story down.
History is a body we breathe life into.
Grandmother at 91 / by Anna Harris-Parker
I had a home like this.
Not as big.
And I had Mama
when she was like this.
‘Cept I had a lady
who took care of her.
Guess what her name was:
She would wheel Mama
to the screen door.
Mama’d say, Who is that
in that open field?
Anna’d say, Miss Aggie,
no one’s in that field.
Yes, there is.
They’re wearing white.
Wasn’t long after that.
Puja, Bardo State, and the Ascension of a Flower / by Ava M. Hu
Suspend. Levitate. Intermediate
between two lives on earth.
Extinction or liberation.
What’s in the mind of a honey bee?
Initiates. Language of the mind
inside a seed. Sunlight.
Visualization of deities. Litugy. Mantra.
Ornate sand paintings blown away by wind.
Initiates. Masterpiece. Phenomenom
of mind meeting mind.
Speaker. Soprano, baritone, mixed choir
and orchestra. Distinct. Ether.
Stamen. Pistol. Sweet slow nectar
of the sound of a lily in bloom.
Some part animal, bird or horse.
Those who guard soma. Distill.
Extract. Sprinkle. Messengers
between us and the sky.
Does it matter if it was created
by human or a god?
Full and inexhaustible.
The arc of gold spilling into air.
Francois / by Manfred Luedge
The pressure of working a poem
a day for a whole month is nothing
compared to what Francois Villon
must have felt, scribbling away
in a damp, cold Paris prison cell.
To write a poem good enough
to slide his head out of the noose,
considering that it was in no small part
the same nimble, irreverent,
foul mouthed way with words
that put him in such peril
in the first place
To write a poem so eloquent,
so exquisite that it would win him
a pardon from the king –
that is a monumental order,
even for such a witty
wizard of words.
But in the end Villon left prison
on his own two feet
and not feet first.
And while waiting for his king’s
decree he wrote an ode
to the mouse that gave birth
in the poet’s cell
and gratefully allowed
the newborn family to stay
warm and dry
in his straw bed.
Hats off to the poet
and thanks to the king
for their grace and mercy.
We’re lacking both these days.
The Yoga of Orchids (For Hannah) / by Jayne Marek
Orchid buds, nearly transparent,
are like the eyelids of an infant,
a girl, sleeping in a crib.
Morning sun finds her room
and marvels at her, then spreads
its arms across the outdoors,
touching twig tips,
inviting orchids to bloom.
A birthday means the opening
of a new being. No longer
waiting, nor simply part
of a mother, but another,
the young one comes to awareness,
her body folded, quiet,
breathing in, breathing out,
in a resting pose.
In gardens around the world,
orchid plants blossom
in dappled light.
The baby’s tiny hands
are like florets on a stem,
poised along a green path
into her parents’ hearts.
Now, she stretches
as if in sun salutation,
relaxes and reaches for her feet,
When she is older,
she will move into the world
with all its colors,
and its strong sibling, truth.
A white orchid holds up
the shape of two hands,
poised at heart center.
fine tuning / by Matthew Mumber
freedom rings out
in the tiniest of things.
I usually feel free
this or that,
over that or this.
right here, though,
there is light, specks
of dust mid-air,
I hardly ever notice
what is always already
Easy Bake Humility / by Sol Smith
You have to admit, you had
something a little different in mind.
his thing that sits in its own pile,
among the clothes and hangers,
Buried in the dark
did not make you the hero of your sisters.
You’re too embarrassed now to admit
you even imagined impressing you parents
with a bedroom cooked treat.
The smell made you think that
hair was burning a few rooms over.
You’ve hurt your hand,
you’ve used all the mix,
and it looks nothing like it did on the box.
You imagined a perfect treat, but
the half-done lump brought
your heart and your hopes
You saw the ad.
You were so wrong.
Now it is time to admit it.
You face your parents,
a little apologetic,
a little embarrassed,
a little more their peer.
bending the knee / by Valerie Spain
tansy, chickory, milkweed,
chamomile, feverfew, clover–
what if we didn’t defile
everything we touched
vetch, burdock, thistle,
butterfly, beetle, bee–
what if every touch was an embrace
every breath a blessing
yarrow, chestnut, hollyhock,
borage, mallow, horsetail,
cricket, mantis, mayfly–
what if our eyes were always watching god
and our tread on this bright earth
was ever light and cautious
poppy, geranium, catnip,
spider, fly, wasp–
what if we always bent the knee
every time we met an other
other than ourselves
Poem 22 / Day 22
Ode to Myself / by Lindsay Adkins
(or “Things I’d Like to Say to a Certain Ex-Boyfriend”)
When I was born, jaundiced as wet sand, no hair or eyebrows or eyelashes,
my legs black and blue and bent to my chest, I could fit in my grandfather’s palm.
No, this does not mean I was small (I was), it means another person knew the ratio
of their height and weight to mine equaled only love and wonder.
I never crawled—
did I tell you that?
I know you’d like to think I crawled,
but I only ever walked, on those once-folded legs, even toward you.
You’d say this was probably because my chest was too weak
to hold up my body
and I’d say no,
this was because my body didn’t need any holding up.
My body needed to hold its own voice, stand closer to mouths that would give it words
to someday talk about what you did to it.
I can see how you’d logic the math: the ratio of your height and weight to mine
meant more than. Meant greater. Meant no need to wait for answers.
But you forget—to divide is to make smaller, and smaller, and smaller
and so I have rationalized you away, into as close to nothing as calculus allows.
You, with your red hair, a human rarity—and for that I am grateful.
But I spoke in full sentences at ten months old,
so don’t for a second think that you are smarter than me.
Red is just another color I can use to paint my nails and lips.
I can turn anything into a metaphor—
And this body, this body can bleed for seven days straight
and not die, so tell me—
what can you do to me now, except remember, remember,
remember when we went to the church playground?
Past dark and I dangled from the monkey bars. You put your arms around
my fresh hips, drew me to the other side, wet mulch under your Converse,
the metal slippery in my palms. Just under eighteen and I could still fit on the slide,
blue jean rush against dimpled plastic, then my baby fat soft in the lamplight.
I knew how to be there, on the swings, pumping higher and higher
until I could jump off and land on my feet. But I knew how to be there, too,
on the couch at your mother’s house, wedged between the cushions.
I knew how to be in lots of places.
And after, I held my thumb to the living room window,
squinted, covered the moon—
You see, I’m not as small
as you might think.
After Great Fires / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
The question is how eucalyptus trees
could ever stop shimmering their blue leaves,
knowing what a warm wind carry through
this valley. Knowing what devastation
their oily trunks on fire could create
when they explode like bombs. Will the heavy
rains wash away this fear? What will we find
beneath this burden. Thing is, it’s not what
we thought. New species of flowers open
their clenched fists on the scorched hillsides that were
left behind. How do we greet their shadow
beauty? With caution or full regard? Better
to let them shine out, like sunlight on
green leaves whispering a prayer of thanks.
Troubled Tanka / by Anna Harris-Parker
The rain chain swings back
and forth from the gable end
of our Craftsman two-
story: safe harbor from hail
storms, synonym for this world.
Fragments: Meadow/The Interpreter / by Ava M. Hu
The stem discovers the flower.
Earth above, delicate. Soft breath.
People folding into one another.
Such lonely waves.
We who pass through the lamenting
meadow have always been wanting.
What can be seen cannot be painted true to life.
Melody finds value in the way you listen.
The only thing of value is pigment found on the painter’s hands.
These images meaningless in ideology take form.
Everywhere little flurries, small cataclysms,
what makes the earth breathless names us.
We find that we are perfectly round.
Fresh Air / by Manfred Luedge
What secret dreams do you have?
What forbidden desires?
None of your business, I’d say.
But I tell you one, anyway.
I’d like to be interviewed
by Terry Gross.
I’d like to be once
on Fresh Air.
Our guest in the studio today
is nobody special, she’d say.
Just an ordinary guy
without any remarkable
achievement at all.
In fact, there’s a few things
he screwed up thoroughly.
And then she’d apologize
for mispronouncing my name.
And I’d smile at the microphone:
don’t worry about it, Terry,
I’m used to that…
And from then on, I’d bore
all my friends and family
with the story of the interview
and they’ll roll their eyes
as I tell them for the umptieth
time what outfit Terry wore.
Then I’d turn to total strangers
standing in line, sitting in a
waiting room, or in an airport
terminal. My achievement
of a life time: the interview
with Joe Blow.
The proverbial low point
in Terry’s carrier. And I’ll
let you in on a secret:
She’s taller than she looks
on the radio!
The Colors of Light (Sestina for Sarah) / by Jayne Marek
In spring, the morning finds you working
in the yard, under a pergola that cradles silvery
wisteria vines, which have grown long in the peace
of attentive care you’ve given this garden.
You clear out what’s left of winter, know that shade
in full summer will give shelter as you kneel
inches deep in humus. Hellebores kneel
beside you, nodding their bonnets at ants working
their ways up stems. Sometimes you feel the shades
of age touching your shoulders, highlighting a silvery
burnish in your hair. How well this garden
knows you, grows through your life. Peace
here comes from persistence. Even when pieces
of ancient tree limbs, bent by wind, kneel
and fail, then fall, harming the garden’s
best blossoms, there’s a deeper calm, working
against the mind’s ghosts, the body’s pains, the silvery
X-rays that showed your inner frame but also the shade
of what grew unwanted, hidden in body’s shade.
No one can avoid the storms that tatter peace
of mind for a season. Yet here are crocuses, silvery-
lined green slips of leaves that humbly kneel
and then display their pink and purple workings.
Some of the plants you brought into this garden
took time to thrive, resisted you, but the garden
you made with love also nurtured them, with shade
and rain as with brilliant day. From all the work
and weather of life, you can find peace
through patience and the willingness to kneel,
hour after hour, under the banks of silvery
clouds that eventually open to silvery
sun that rests its warm heart in your garden.
Now the robins gather as you kneel.
They trust this human, comfortable in shade,
turning the ground for them, exuding peace.
The birds drop down, begin to forage, working
the earth, as you kneel in front of the silvery
foliage, hands working, day patterning the garden
in familiar light and shade, draped in peace.
incarnation / by Matthew Mumber
say they know.
the Natives said humans
enter the world through
portals in four directions:
have electron microscope photographs
of a sperm implanted
in the middle of an egg,
male and female,
Y and X.
say we are pre-destined
from time eternal,
to become embodied
here and now, that God
became a man,
who called us all
the chance for any soul
to be born human
is like the odds of a seagull,
in flight across the ocean,
to somehow land
on the head of a turtle
coming up for breath.
human life is priceless,
a holy seed to be nurtured
from the mud,
into a blooming lotus,
through right practice.
I don’t know.
The mystic is someone who does not know,
they do not know.
In this folly filled world of flesh,
from where does grace arise,
that allows one to hold
Gallup, New Mexico / by Sol Smith
Behind a wall of sculpted rock,
an unimpressive town is huddled
along I-40 and a train track.
They used to film westerns near here
and their vintage hotel has
pictures to prove it.
A long stretch of road,
that must be old 66,
houses a collection of turquoise
that require discretion to
Let me stop right there.
I need to shift gears
and to be honest, I’m sitting
here writing about Gallup,
and as hard as I try,
I’m not thinking about
the town at all. Listen:
Outside of town,
over 20 years ago,
I watched four people die.
It took hours
and there was nothing
any of us
And while it was gruesome
and I was succumb to a logjam
I was mostly relieved
that it wasn’t me
as I had, just moments before,
driven between their two cars
as they bounced off each other.
A tremendous flash of energy
was followed by a plume of smoke
and the steel tore at their bodies
and the forces momentum
suddenly changing trajectory
pummeled them beyond reason.
We stood and talked and watched
One by one.
Each dying of a totally different
disruption to their bodies.
Bones, blood, and
I wonder who they were.
I see their faces all the time,
and I have no idea what
they were like before they
in their cars
one hot morning
outside of Gallup, New Mexico.
Poem 21 / Day 21
Forget the Moon / by Lindsay Adkins
This is not a poem about the moon, I promise.
Nor is the moon a metaphor for something,
at least I don’t think so.
I only mention the moon because
it showed up: the only parts of the story
I can be certain about since no one remembers,
not my grandmother or her brother
who, at six, caught impetigo,
his lip and jawline crusting with blisters.
A physician came to the crowded apartment,
spilling over with children, down in the flats
by the mills and factories, and said
the child needed surgery.
My great-grandmother told him no,
not because she thought she had a choice
in what was best for her son but because
with eight other little bellies and a husband
who liked to get soused and crush
raw eggs into her corset,
there was no money for a hospital visit.
A fact as simple as the moon.
My great-uncle remembers nothing of it,
nor do his siblings, and his mother is long dead.
But he was told he climbed
onto the kitchen table, splayed himself out
like a starfish, and the physician
drained his sores, took out the pus right there.
I don’t know if the linen tablecloth
is kept on or removed for such a thing.
I don’t know if the physician
had his own scalpel or had to borrow
maybe a carving or steak knife.
But I do know they ate dinner at that table
afterwards—they had to.
A fact as simple as the moon,
the same moon rolled into the sky
outside the window, as they cut
into their meat, forks and knives
glinting in the lamplight, my great-uncle
watching his sister eat where his
hand lay palm up,
watching his brother eat where his
foot drooped to the side,
only hours before.
But sometimes we can’t see our own breaking,
can’t remember each waxing and waning.
Don’t think about the moon—
this is not a poem about the moon, I promise,
because the moon does not need
to be written down
for us to remember it.
The Hop Kiln of Sonoma County / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
The rich soil that was revealed under
drained lakes of the Laguna were planted
first with hops. In fact, in 1858,
hops fields covered all the clear cut hills and
valleys from Sebastopol to the banks
of the Russian River. Migrant families
camped summers picking crops. Then the hops were
dried in cement hop kilns. Skeletons of
these buildings jut out at the edge of fields
that were once farmed for hops, then apples, then
grapes. Reminders that the only constant
here is change. Now, the Laguna swells with
rain. Egrets punctuate trees like questions.
What change could await under the surface?
On This Day in History / by Anna Harris-Parker
Malcolm X is murdered in NYC.
Clark Rockefeller is born in Germany.
Dolly Parton tops the pop charts singing “9 to 5.”
In the Mississippi Delta, tornadoes take 100 lives.
Edwin H. Land demonstrates the first instant camera.
Consumer Reports abandons its support for Tesla.
Joan of Arc finds herself on trial.
Nixon visits China in an attempt to reconcile.
Karl Marx publishes The Communist Manifesto.
Dick Button skates a triple jump to win Olympic gold.
The Washington Monument is dedicated in DC.
Their first printing press is designed and delivered to the Cherokee.
John Quincy Adams suffers a stroke.
New Haven, Connecticut, debuts the world’s first telephone book.
NASCAR and the sewing machine get their start.
Auden, Simone, and Foster Wallace are born to create art.
Greta Garbo makes her U.S. screen debut.
Scientists discover the first DNA molecule.
The New Yorker begins publication under Harold W. Ross.
Evangelist Billy Graham dies—what a loss.
Danny Elfman wins a Grammy for “The Batman Theme.”
Texas welcomes Barbara C. Jordan, declares its own celebratory week.
Poem Twenty One: Another Word for Soul / by Ava M. Hu
Disembodied spirit. Phantom.
Ghost. Shade. Shadow.
Umbra. Spirit. Wraith.
Cause, force. Ego. Psyche.
Mind. Intellect. Thought.
Essential nature. Substance.
The more lofty human qualities.
Core. Essence. Heart. Marrow.
No oil. No water. A braille map
made of feeling things.
*Found words from the Your Dictionary Thesaurus
In the nature of things / by Manfred Luedge
At the end of the lecture
he got up from his seat.
He turned and grabbed
the now empty chair. He
understood then this wooden
object had been empty all along.
Empty of true existence,
impermanent, without inherent
qualities like hardness, heft,
or sovereign solidity.
He walked toward the lecturer
up onto the stage and
hoisted this fleeting
appearance called “chair”
overhead in one singular motion
and brought it down smoothly.
The blow to his head,
being merely a mental construct,
felled the lecturer
like an unheard-of tree.
Slumped onto his knees
he gave a painful yelp
marveling at the blood
trickling down his forehead.
The broken chair, however,
revealed its true nature.
Wastage / by Jayne Marek
Rainbow colors on the sidewalk, like gossip, mark a gasoline spill. Ruined buildings of our small town, long ago. A demolished basement. Childhood subsides into dust, abandonment, a hundred ghostly webs, filaments lead to separate corners. Forgive me. You invited me in your hiding voice to help you escape your house. I don’t remember it, may never have gone inside. I remember movements of your body as we ran into pathless woodland. Place of more brambles than houses. You were a shadow running, not a face. I was shadow too. In brush we made our fort. Raspberry vines no one else would push into. The thorns and sharp sticks were our markers. Trusting them. But we had no words for your words. Could not say, could not stay. I ran north, you east. Later, the world found you. I was not there. It’s not enough to look for poetry when the inner body turns to flames. You might have taken your life, before the world did. Or because.
as I depart, I come closer / by Matthew Mumber
live each day,
closer to breath.
The Moon is Full Behind the Clouds / by Sol Smith
The cold rain is coming down
and maybe that’s why the kids
are crawling the walls.
The dog, of course, would be
climbing them anyway.
Birds are nesting somewhere,
and deep under the sea, squid
are hiding, and whales are sleeping,
hanging in the water like celestial bodies.
But not here.
Here, the volume is up
and girls (both teen and preteen)
are claiming opposing positions
regardless of what they think or feel,
because conflict has its own reward
to their boiling blood.
And the dog must get something
out of closing
his teeth around the skin
of the humans he loves.
Somewhere, a mother alligator
soothes her eggs with deep, guttural
vibrations. Somewhere a night
guard hears her footsteps
echo through an empty cathedral.
In the Kepler Belt, there are grooves
of rock filled with loneliness
and they’ve never heard a sound.
But here the gates of growth
have opened wide and they fount
energy through the fiery
pores of my daughters, manifesting
in bloodthirsty sparring matches
and the dog has found new objects
all because the cold rain runs down the window and, presumably,
the moon is full behind the clouds.
fire and ice / by Valerie Spain
fire and ice were your companions
when I knew you
fire in the stove
ice on the windowpane
and me somewhere in between
on bitter nights
you were always the one to leave our bed
and throw another log in the stove
you always stood a while
staring at the fire
smooth and naked
your shadow dancing a jig with the flames
that alter ego you couldn’t see
I lay patient and still
awaiting your return
we spent that winter tending separate fires
Poem 20 / Day 20
Jesus is a Paper Mill Worker / by Lindsay Adkins
for Jonathan Wells
Because first will come last,
and last will come first. This is no prophecy,
shined and rubbed clean—this is a memory
of a memory, a knowing born from his father’s
breath, acrid as the wind blown down from the mill.
Both woodchips and his old man are converted
into something useful
after a drink, after their fibers come loose
in a flood of heat and liquor and pressure.
But two drinks, three, four, five—
most night’s it’s all a worn-down sludge.
Maybe this is why he started turning
wine into water, stealing bottles
from the cabinet to practice with in his bedroom,
after his siblings went to bed. He can’t recall.
But now he dumps the water in the river
to keep it from drying out in the summer
because the mill needs the current,
and he needs the mill,
needs to drop some silver
in his mother’s palm each pay-day,
when she stops her crying only long enough
to put on her blue dressing gown and count
each coin at the kitchen table,
slide them across the unvarnished wood
with a single finger, one by one,
then toss him some change in case he wants
to take his sweetheart out, that Magdelene girl.
Forty hours a week in front of the Foudrinier machine,
its wire screens and heated rollers
pressing watery pulp into sheets of paper,
for only a couple dollars in his jeans pocket.
So who can blame him when he decides
to churn unleavened dough
through the rotating cylinders,
thinning and cooking it into bread?
He has already given up his body—
without one, what’s a mind to do
but make limbs and eyes elsewhere?
His coworkers are angry, spit in the flour.
He tells them of his suffering and they reply,
Yeah, we’re all suffering boyo.
They don’t understand this is a man
who looks at wood—the logs and beams
and the chips once they are chopped—
and sees only his father.
Coleman Valley Road / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
[The rocky landscape dropped its jaw] Sea-smooth
as glass [drive up swerves and closes, swerves and
closes] At this height thoughts scissor the air
[you wrap your arm around my waist] we have
driven continents without a map [you
pull me close enough that I feel your breath]
Sea breaths like a wild animal below
[love, we decide is a city made of
sea air and fog] a lone oak bent from wind
whispers its leaves [we have kissed a hundred
times before. Never like this] how fragile
the sea looks from far off [perhaps we’ll join
it] road drops until we are sea-level
[still, the kiss lingers like a far off fog]
Go, Be a Wild Horse / by Anna Harris-Parker
Hang up your saddle. Go be a wild horse.
For years, you trotted the same course.
Now, you deserve an occasion to flee,
to find some new territory.
Be it beach or grassland, run with force
to the far field of the untamed steppe.
Pick out your new herd; three or four
stallions, mares to keep you company.
Go be a wild horse.
Show your band to the water source
with the language of your body.
Untangle your red mane and whinny.
You have no reason to feel remorse.
Go, be a wild horse.
Found Poem: Notes on Koans, Telepathy, and Buddha/ The Questioning / by Ava M. Hu
What is the sound of one hand clapping? – Buddhist Koan
Gateless gate. The body half out of the ground.
Leaves unbroken from the trees.
Shining lantern, mirror. Coincidence
or a lucky guess.
Here, in the hour of the wolf between darkness and dawn
proclaim, “Earth is my witness.”
Thought insertion or removal.
The case of one magician meeting another.
Perception, feeling, passion, affliction and experience. *
Initially someone was afraid.
Earth as my witness. The object of thought
and the inexorable seeking itself.
Initial insight. Awakening. Two hands become one.
*ancient greek meaning for patheia/telepathy
What then? / by Manfred Luedge
In a morbid minute now and then,
I wonder which one of us
will be left behind.
I find, I don’t like
Should it be me
I’d have to learn how to turn
loneliness into solitude.
I’d have to pretend
to everyone that, really,
I’ll be fine.
I’d have to sort through
all your things, trade our
tandem kayak for a single,
consult with our daughter
which photographs to keep
and maybe get a dog to talk to
on my walks.
On the other hand, if you’re
the one remaining
I’d be dead.
If I may, I suggest
we both stay for a little
longer and together
if that’s okay with you.
Discus Too / by Jayne Marek
out of yourself
–Paul Celan, “Discus”
from a tight center
to reach with fifty fingers
to catch light. Be a waterfall
that bursts between rimrocks channeling
it, and splits, over and over, descending in fans of spray.
a milkweed pod
plump with readiness
until it blasts open in a blizzard
of silk-puff seeds. Be a Monarch
chrysalis splitting, base to top, to loose its butterfly.
that you are
a rubber band held taut
as an arrow and let yourself
release in an curve that drives at
the far wall of a room, relaxed now, riding the air.
against a wall: the poet
exhorted it to find its particular
arc, yet here it sits, still a lesson
in aspiration and the power of form
that fails if the individual spirit can’t leap and spin.
preference / by Matthew Mumber
When it’s cold outside,
above 32 or below,
makes all the difference
between rain and snow.
Rain keeps me inside
hopin’ for more,
snow bundles me up
New world, white blanket,
sleds, snowmen and fun,
or skulkin’ inside,
soggy work gettin’ done.
If winter gives me the choice:
bring down the snow,
New soil will absorb any ole’
Quantum Love Song / by Sol Smith
If what we see and what we live
is the average of all realities,
the cozy midpoint if possible variation,
I’m glad for the way it all
I realize, by the definition, that
most of our realities were much like
our average; our various lives
are peppered by nearly indistinguishable
versions of our story.
We kiss just like this, but in some lives
a fiber or two of someone’s scarf
rests slightly out of place;
or a worm is missing, deep below ground;
or the dust went that way through the air;
or I stubbed my toe once when I was 12.
But there are also outliers,
lives of ours deep on the edges of the
multiverse where I am glad to average out:
We were never born; we are toads;
we are effervescent;
we only ride unicycles;
we burst into flames when
we use the letter “d” at the end of a sentence.
Every possibility is exhausted
out there somewhere:
We kiss with our hands; we kiss with
our eyebrows; we do not kiss at all;
or, we never met; or our magnified
love ends the world in a burst
of deadly passion.
When all the realities are weighed,
we’ve met and we’re here
and I’ve written this tiny verse on my
electric hand-screen and things can’t be
in this maze of probabilities
if our average is so good.
visiting a friend in the hospital / by Valerie Spain
no part of me is broken
feverish or confused-
I am not suffering
the ravages of life on the street
or uncontrolled diabetes
(my diabetes is well-controlled
for the moment
I am spectator
to a system that prioritizes endless waiting-
at non-contiguous and inconvenient locations-
a system where information given
is conflicting at best
at worst wrong
this moment of health
in the Land of Illness
is a blessing
until the next moment
when it isn’t
the moment when I am old– broken–
suffering the ravages of–
Poem 19 / Day 19
Still Life / by Lindsay Adkins
for painter Mary Endico
At dawn I wait, brush erect,
for light to seep through
the slatted shutter.
This is how it feels to begin:
Birch trees bristle, toss
marbled sun to the ache
of frozen pond out back,
kettle steam sighs,
crests into a corner
a breeze arcs over the roof,
the colors run after the canvas
There is a blue my mind
can only find in midnight sleep,
the body gravid in the mattress—
I see it now, I bring it
into the morning on a wave
of mixed oils and cotton
and for a blurry moment,
what I have waited for
isn’t yet a thing of the past.
To Deliver into the Hand / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
Had I been titan enough—entered sea
deep in the drag of centuries. Had I
followed tide pull, roll of broken shells and
bones, shadows of light breathing on moving
sand. Had I journeyed that deep until I
found what luminescence lurked under there, I
may have found my body of light. May have
floated, no bloomed, to the surface of air
and screamed in a voice that could split the sky.
Instead, I sit on my island and count
tides. Watch waves wash away all that I build
waiting for a sign to wash up. Handsel.
My hand aches for its weight and action.
Even as the island breaths its days and nights.
Plight of the Aging Millenial / by Anna Harris-Parker
Enough with the avocado toast jokes,
rolling your eyes as I scroll through my phone
to check for a text from my grandmother
who does not wake me up every morning.
My birthday predates streams and fruit machines.
I spent childhood in cursive scrawls, licking
stamps, opening Blockbuster drop boxes.
A latchkey kid, after school, I raced home
to let the dogs out and set the table.
I never earned a trophy for meeting
expectations. My allowance was paid
in boob tube time: Saved by the Bell—also
TRL, where Carson Daly lives on
in memory. Don’t misread my silence
for disinterest. I know more trivia
than a tap room full of frat boys. Oh, boy.
Did I offend you? Too bad I’m too old
to fret about finesse. The same can’t be
said for my YouTube-aspiring peers.
Notes on Osmosis / by Ava M. Hu
Language of tea leaves
as they settle into a cup.
Breath. Condensation. Vital force.
We float between god and gravity.
Pliant, steady. The mind concentrated
purified light. Here, now. This.
Fluid atmosphere registers
all desires on earth.
Soul. Body. Body. Soul.
Exits through a silver cord in the spine.
The atmosphere registers
all desires on earth.
Water into root. Root
Drops of water in the ocean
can be counted by the wisdom
trance of the six syllable mantra.
We reach for one another.
Night birds sing all night long.
“Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha[…]” -14th Dalai Lama
Confession / by Manfred Luedge
I see myself
as a wannabe Buddhist.
I do some sitting practice
and I feel compassion
for the next guy quite soon
after he pissed me off
and I think there shouldn’t
be an “I” in mindful.
But whatever I do, it’s a far cry
from having my ego dismantled
to the point where it stays
completely out of the way
and allows me to dwell
at the midpoint between denying
what is real and clinging to it
as if it were.
Worm / by Jayne Marek
a wet orange segment signals
a gray earthworm half in, half out of leaf cover
amid loops of mud and gravel
at our feet under bare alder and beech trees
that channel up, spread
into the winter sky just above
that wears a shaggy scarf of fog
and, between its strands, penumbral clouds
elliptical as our planet’s orbit
around the wet orange sun
just visible, at this point in its own path
amid space dust and stars at great distances
moving invisibly yet continually
centrifugal as thought
my pride before the fall / by Matthew Mumber
am a self-made satellite,
so high in orbit,
I rival the stars,
always a winner,
vengeance an option.
will take less than I need,
while everyone is watching,
my noble sacrifice,
can fix anything,
by myself alone,
never cease to amaze me:
there is a cord between us
that can never be cut,
that signifies your
for all I have done.
at the very least,
you could say
you are welcome
to my kingdom,
bow, and I will blush.
This is 40 / by Sol Smith
“We have no business
being 40,” my wife says,
standing at the cusp of the age.
“We were just ten.”
This piercing reality, so clearly stated,
wakes up my blood
and opens a hundred calculations.
I’m 40, and it hardly feels possible.
It’s not just me, who has gotten older,
the entire planet was 40 years younger
When I was born.
Every plant, every mountain, every
ancient drop of water
has grown older, too,
and held my hand on their
40 years is a blink between
inches of circle
for the trees.
When the they saw me take my first steps,
they smiled at the passing clouds,
proud to see the progress.
When I learned to swim, the water
sent warm feelings to the stones.
My wedding was attended by
a herd of grasses, aloof birds, and stoic
carbons, all holding back tears to see
me get so grown-up.
The gap between my birth
and my daughters’
was a breath for the redwoods,
and I can feel their grandmother
gazes when we gather below their canopy.
We camp and the dry logs release
the sunlight that their mother trees
gathered over their years,
surrendering their partnership in our
“40 will be great,” they whisper through flames. “We’ve been there, we know.”
a series of observations / by Valerie Spain
–a woman begs at the subway exit
holding a cardboard sign
–I say I don’t have cash
–I have four dollars in my pocket
–a woman begs at the corner
hunched over her sign
her belongings in a pile
–at Staples there is a line for 2 copiers
–a young woman makes copies of her passport
and pay stubs
–an older man stares at his phone in front of the machine
making everyone wait
–the woman at the corner is gone
but her sign and belongings and a discarded banana remain
–the woman at the subway exit is still there
–I give her two dollars
–I still have two dollars
–an old man is playing music in the subway
–I get on the train
Poem 18 / Day 18
Ode to the Paper City / by Lindsay Adkins
A place of beginnings before our own,
of triassic rock cut by water from the north,
of paper birch toddling the edge of the ridge,
their catkins bowing out to oaks and pines
higher up-peak, the river mist in their branches,
of deer by the banks, of beavers gnawing through bark,
of the red-land hawk and the bass unhooked.
And endings, endings, we’ve got those, too:
the Pocomtuc, the lynx, and cougar—
No this isn’t how I want to start.
Praise it: the streetlights, the orange glow
over the lower wards, curled into the canal,
over the empty mills like split lips, their busted brick,
their gap-cracked windows and boarded-up holes.
Praise the workers now gone, spinning silk
that would never thread their own blue collars,
pounding paper for letters they’d never write.
Praise first the Irish, before they moved uphill
with their lace, then the French-Canadians,
keeping their language in their mouths,
then the Polish, the Germans, the Puerto Ricans.
Write out a graffiti lullaby…
I want to write poems for this city.
I want to give it a voice. But it has one.
The voice of this city sounds like the historian
I met at Dunkin’ Donuts. He said the middle school
is going to be razed for a strip mall.
And that a car drove into the barber shop
across the street after the drugged-up driver nodded off.
The voice of this city sounds like my cousin
telling her high school class, seats filled
with Spanish-speaking ESL students, that the state
requires they read Beowulf.
The voice of this city sounds like that kid from high school
spinning his own artist space in an old paper mill.
The voice of this city sounds like a retired cop
who says no, no the crime rate is actually down
because less people live here now.
The voice of this city sounds like a five-college
Puerto Rican freshman asking her roommate,
where can you get empanadillas and mofongo around here?
The voice of this city sounds like the whole neighborhood
out in their pajamas and bathrobes watching
this month’s condemned building turn to fire and smoke,
shaking their heads because they know how quick
paper takes the flame but
the voice of this city sounds like
put it out put it out.
The voice of this city is sugared as
a mother calling her boys in from the pick-up
game in the alley. It is scratchy at the edges,
asks you for a cigarette in a tone that
reminds you of train wheels shrieking
on the tracks. It is persistent as church bells,
as rosaries said daily, as a store-front window
saying Jesus loves you. It is careful as
the thick-thighed woman in a mini-skirt
crossing the street to the park, and it is loud
as the car horns that blast at her.
Watch where you’re going, watch it, watch it
You look so good baby, so fine to me—
Heliacal Rising / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
The darkness was everywhere even in
the powder of stars. I was under soil
as if underwater without a course.
The seasons drifted in like a fog. See
it hanging on the far off trees like wreaths?
I am good at holding my breath, even
for this length of time. But, without air, one
loses sense – time softens like a bank of
a creek that’s slowly been washed out. I
forgot my story of origin — what
I’ve whispered to myself since I bloomed on
the sun-facing mountain in full purple.
Planted, my bones become weapons: Jag
of jawbone, saber of hip. I’ll fight out.
Then, one dark night, the swift cluster of stars
appears—seven glowing jewels hovering
on the eaves of the forest that hedges
our house as if they are still doves roosting,
awaiting dawn’s pink syrupy call. Once
their heliacal rising signaled the
beginning of a journey. So, too, I rise
from my grief into catasterism.
Shall we play a game of erasure? How
many times have their stories been re-told.
I’d like to believe they were the daughters
of Amazons. Women, too strong, to stay
rooted to the ground when the Gods pursued.
So they became, muscles, feathers and air.
There is power in the re-telling. To
write the story on top of the story.
Up here, boomeranged in my orbit, time
refocuses, becomes the old friend it
once was. Seven strong bodied sisters are
pulling me up. We flex at the moon. Rain
is our power. Creeks, river, streams gather
our strength. Together we can disappear
whole cities in the wake of our mud. Once
I was a wild iris blooming on a
stony slope. Risked boots and their trample. Now,
celestial, my star weaves through the thick
arms of six others. Night falls and we will
rise into the true story of our lives.
Breaking Up with Bezos: An American Sonnet / by Anna Harris-Parker
I’d like to say it isn’t you, it’s me,
but as the title of this hardcover by baseball great
Jimmy Piersall (available with free shipping from your website,
of course) reads, The Truth Hurts. Our fifteen-year affair began
when we bonded over a used copy of En Un Acto:
Diez Piezas Hispanoamericanas. From there,
our shared interests grew to include these tokens:
a black leather KU iPhone case, a Japanese stainless steel
Hori-Hori knife, one copy of The Parrot Heads Documentary.
Your penchant to provide instant gratification wooed me,
as did your friends Midge Maisel and Billy McBride,
but as our anniversary approaches, I find myself pulled in
a different direction—toward Main Street signs.
Two-day shipping, twitching, and streaming, buh-bye.
Poem Eighteen: Snow (Sermon) / by Ava M. Hu
This white flower.
Describe it using no words.
The outline of my hands
definite as this snow,
definite as the language
of birds come morning.
The angel forbidden
to speak his true name.
We appear and disappear
Yosemite, yesterday / by Manfred Luedge
Uncle Jack has made a spectacle
of himself once again.
Abundance and total lack
of restraint is what leads to such
displays. Maybe he had a wager
that he could clean a bowl
of whipped cream without a spoon
without a finger, just licking it
down to the bottom.
And now his beard is layered
with a thick lush white.
This is what the trees look like.
and it is a spectacle, a miracle
of sorts. The mountain side,
the rock formations, El Capitan
and all the others, the Firs
and Sugar Pines and Sycamore,
the fields and roads and hiking
trails, all blanketed in snow.
And now and then thick dollops
of whiteness break loose and slide
to the ground and with a puff
release a dusty plume of snow.
The landscape almost lost
all color. There’s only light and
dark, all shades of white and black
and all the greys between.
The snow topped mountains blend
seamless with the clouds and fog.
Sometimes, when it’s still enough,
you stand and listen
half expecting the howls
of a distant wolf pack or
the rustle of a winter coated
rabbit hustling for cover.
Then you resume your walk
and each step reminds you
of the sound you made as kids
grinding your teeth over
rubber bands or of the sound
of row boats strapped to the dock
gently rocking with the waves
and water slapping against
the wooden piers.
There’s nothing happening.
A Lover’s Quarrel / by Jayne Marek
But I am not a visionary
and water could not teach me to write
despite the patient way it braided and unbraided
its own hair to show me
and storm did not teach me to write
despite blue boulders it dashed to earth
and its way of stopping to listen to the aftermath
of a particular word
before starting again with its yammer
and no, not morning glories
that crept in the maidengrass, wearing pale bells
that wanted to ring
no, I chopped those tendrils with a hoe
they returned the next day
for more chopping
when I walked in desert, the sand did not teach me
when I pared the stinking rind of cheese
to try something that had grown old in its way
and touched it to my tongue,
that did not
I am waiting
for something to teach me to write
a pickling vat
the disassembling layers of a hunk of plywood
leaning against a porch
not my own
a pair of sheep clippers abandoned
frowzy with filaments
no bag of wool in sight
nutriments / by Matthew Mumber
when things fall apart,
which they often do,
first sprouts of spring.
When I am
slow to judge
after the fall,
the fertile soil of failure
nurtures new resolve,
sustenance not provided by
A Perfect Night / by Sol Smith
It’s cold and clear and covered
with stars. It’s a perfect night
to go to the beach and wish
we brought heavier sweaters.
But that’s not all we could do,
because it’s a perfect night
for staying in and dimming the lights
and our senses. A perfect night
for washing our hair and folding
clothes and running hot water
over our skin and
perform other little acts of
It’s a perfect night to tap
out patterns in the air in low voices
and share time and touches
and retell stories that need
repetition to become more real.
It’s a perfect night to breathe
and roll over in sync
we can afford our rent
and that our future will be brighter
than our past beyond statistical
and to forget the bruises we’ve
been dealt anyway
and smash open the reasons
we’ve conformed the ways we
have conformed and
to build and build
our little life before we race each
other to old age and death and
After all, it’s cold
salt lake / by Valerie Spain
the swans fly into the salt lake
behind the dunes
and we follow them
their feathers wash up on shore
scattered along the lake shore
are white feathers
rotting grasses and algae
the discarded shells of periwinkle and clam
and the delicate carapaces of crabs
all swaying in the tide
we walk ankle deep in warm water
you walk ahead
our son on your back
and I make a game of walking
in your footsteps
the soles of your feet
are covered with swan feathers
but you are oblivious
to the possibility of flight
Poem 17 / Day 17
Sifting / by Lindsay Adkins
You pull my arm
around and over
your belted hip
the next morning
while we are standing
at the café counter
watching the baker
flurry confectioner’s sugar
over the day’s scones
and while he sifts the powder
I remember the way
you covered me last night
like a dusting,
the first light snow
that melts into
the November mud,
to stay the winter.
Strong / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
When you look through the glass wall toward the hills
that spell golden to the sea, do you feel
the power that is coming to you? It’s
the same power you sent to me the day
the world echoed with my mother’s death. I’m
here to remind you that sometimes when we
enter the gym we carry everything:
our torn up hearts, a rage that comes from not
having control of our lives. You know you
can’t lift a heavy barbell with all that
ballast. But, trust that when you grip the bar
your mind will clear, your muscles will pull taut.
And, suddenly, you will become weightless.
A machine that roars with your own power.
Golden / by Anna Harris-Parker
Sometimes, I miss living
in that first floor apartment
at 409 North Rock Road
in Wichita, surviving
on Special K and wine.
On weekends, we read poems,
ours and others, around
a green dining table.
Vassar Miller’s “If I Had Wheels
or Love” stayed taped to my fridge
for months. One winter weekend,
we flew to NYC, took in
Hairspray and Avenue Q,
ate late at some hole-in-the-wall,
laughed with delight when the Times
Square bellhops asked if we were
from LA. We were golden,
my huckleberry friend.
Poem Seventeen: Murmuration / by Ava M. Hu
Light doesn’t hold for long.
Water runs from one body to the next.
I believe everything you say.
There are a thousand words for snow.
Audible outlines of holy language.
Bright faces of flowers turn towards the dark.
Language can be misunderstood.
Add thought to place. Add place to thing.
Dark substance we find ourselves floating in.
Those who live collectively.
Those who move through space.
Shoulder bent forward from bearing rain.
Hand who takes you in.
Shed skin like a snake.
Earth spilling on earth.
Transfer thought to thought.
The bright mouth of the sun.
The enrollment interview / by Manfred Luedge
He’s a skinny kid,
grew up on the rough side of town.
Got himself tattooed.
All over his arms. Up his neck
and who knows where else on his body.
Even on the carefully shaved
right halve of his head.
To look tough.
To keep the bullies away.
He’s got skulls and cross bones
and a heart with wings,
one each for “Mom” and Beyoncé.
His dark hair where he lets it grow
is woven into tiny braids
each with a brightly colored bead
tied to its end.
His boss sent him over
to get enrolled in that
Obamacare ‘cause he don’t want him
on his workman’s comp
after some stupid late night fight.
Your boss is a smart man, I say.
I know, says he, he’s givin’ me one
more chance but only if
my parole guy agrees.
I’m sitting there in my buttoned-down shirt
and tie, looking at him across my desk.
I’ll need your Social and your driver’s license
and I need to know how much you make
each month to see if you qualify.
But the ethnic background questions
He looks at me. A sly grin
pulls at the corners of his mouth
making the silver ring
around his lower lip slide
to the right a bit further.
Yeah, sure, he says.
But his grin says,
you bet your white ass
I tuck at my collar.
It’s too tight and I’m too hot.
And I blush.
Robins / by Jayne Marek
Today they’re clamorous in the brow
of the bare maple trees, now that snow
has relented and the birds can see
yard dirt with all its promises, some green
nubs edging through the yellowy
bulb leaves I never cleared away
and that now probably hide
a few beetles. And I’d scattered
small raisins during the worst
part of last week’s hard freeze.
Now the robins fluff their orange
breasts in mutual challenge,
having made it through, and begin
to run through the variety of songs
they reserve for spring.
In the trees,
among the round robin tummies.
a few svelte, crested silhouettes,
shorter bodies, tell-tale masks.
Silent, waiting to dart out
in quick bug-catching flights,
five cedar waxwings keep an eye
on the other birds, on us, behind
the window. I’m grateful, because
the robins’ chatter that alerted us
to their belief in spring’s arrival
reminded us of other unfurling
signals of life returning, whether or not
we sing, or simply admire and wait.
The Big Day / by Matthew Mumber
and no matter what,
I am never really
every detail not stone
momentum takes over,
my body lets me know
something is up.
warm hollow gut feel
first, followed by
then thoughts scatter,
too many to filter,
into robotic actions,
I’ve been here before:
first day of school,
Holmes and Rahe
had it pegged:
life change units,
I have learned
the hard way:
the path to control
on the fragile ground
Warming Light / by Sol Smith
Outside the tent,
there’s a bird who seems to be
in some kind of panic,
but only when I start to drift off.
The coals are still hot
enough to kindle flame
to a morning log
and the fire is hot enough
to make coffee.
The coffee doesn’t ward
off the panicking bird,
but her voice doesn’t bother
those left in the tent.
It’s easier to breathe in
the warming mountain light.
It’s easier to be awake,
my hands full with a book
and a mug.
The bird was panicked
that I would sleep through
Poem 16 / Day 16
But Her Emails: A Ghazal / by Lindsay Adkins
for Abbie Spies
My mother needed to sleep—but her emails,
those nighttime prayers for anything but her emails.
Marie Curie, with her husband’s electrometer, his radioactivity,
the x-ray machines that showed what? Her emails.
The pastor, he shot Keanna in Detroit just
because she wanted to strut her emails.
And I know why the sky swallowed Amelia’s plane—
before boarding, she forgot to jut her emails.
When applause came for Lorraine’s Raisin, the FBI started
to watch her, investigate, aimed to smut her emails.
Monica, those bangs and red matte pout, collared
shirts pouring over with baby fat. Slut! HER emails!
In Puerto Rico, Luisa was first to go out in pants,
was jailed because a lady should shut her emails.
She had to go to the stake, you see. I mean Joan. Nuts.
Raided her computer and they were nuts, her emails.
Sojourner is a woman without my saying it, but after
the speech a white lady still wanted to gut her emails.
A new Genesis: after she was slashed from his rib and the
snake ruined it all, Eve took God’s scissors to cut her emails.
That Lindsay, why can’t she write some happy shit?
After reading this, you’ll want to tut-tut her emails.
Sink Hole / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
History is built on a fault, she said
as the river caught its underground current.
Driveway has washed out. We are done drifting
our cartography from place to blown place.
A silver boat lies like a question on
the side of the road. River keeps rising.
It is our heritage to continue
through dust storm, drought, fire, flood, mudslide, earthquake.
The woods around our house lean in listening
for what the seasons have to offer up.
When you re-route a river; re-stitch a
seam. Something breaks. Hope is our escape route.
My grandmother sat close as her radio
spit hate. Even a small spark can ignite.
When you live this close to a river, this
close to the woods, this close to a faultline—
better know your way out, fast. How will I
pack all her hate? Once saw a river stitched
into the ceiling. Blue, silver sequins
snaking across; as if change could be caught.
This time we will dig out. We will sandbag.
This time our mouths are dry, stuffed with feathers.
On Faith / by Anna Harris-Parker
Truth be told, I envy
those who walk with Jesus,
talk with God, say things
like You’re in my prayers.
The Lord will provide.
without batting an eye.
I do believe
in a higher power,
the small morning hours
when nature first wakes:
a yellow-breasted finch
lands on the bare branch
outside my office window,
a double daffodil
catches the climbing sun.
As for me and my heart,
we shall serve the lore
of a different kindness:
out there all the same.
Afterlife / by Ava M. Hu
To close, conceal, intitiate.
Under ice, alternate states of consciousness, cold water.
Two characters stand in a field. The origins of reincarnation obscure.
The river frozen over, the afterlife.
Under ice, alternate states of consciousness, cold water.
Between faith and doubt, adjectives for precipitation.
The river frozen over, the afterlife.
Fruit of the dead. One hand clapping.
Between faith and doubt, adjectives for precipitation.
Cross the muddy river. Silk slips from your hand.
Fruit of the dead. One hand clapping.
Suspension of disbelief, the hidden will of God.
Cross the muddy river. Silk slips from your hand.
Two characters stand in a field. The origins of reincarnation obscure.
Suspension of disbelief, the hidden will of God.
To close, conceal, initiate.
Life is an endless list of losses. / by Manfred Luedge
Some trivial. You lost your glasses,
your wallet, your homework.
Some more severe: the loss of
a job, a home, a friend, a parent.
Sometimes, what’s lost can be found
again, regained, replaced.
Some things are gone for good,
irretrievable. And sometimes
the loss is for the better even
if that realization is long in coming.
How close our clinging heart
has been to the lost object
relates directly to how bad
we feel about the loss, how hurt,
how deserted, robbed, cheated
out of what is rightfully ours…
We’re losing skin cells at such a rate,
our living space needs dusting once
a week. But we don’t care.
Nor do we care about nail clippings,
naval lint, and beads of sweat. Some men
can even handle their loss of hair.
But more essential parts and functions?
A digit, a limb, an ear, your eyesight.
How do you deal with that?
How do you not feel un-whole, disfigured,
when you lost your face to a piece
of shrapnel, or your breast
Some losses I can only imagine
and some I can’t imagine at all.
There are the teachings and there’s
the life in which we’re so caught up.
There is no blame.
Change / by Jayne Marek
Wind leaps around house corners
to rattle the trees,
tossing tops, side branches,
the lower sweeps of pines,
the flexible young alders.
They reach, are pushed apart,
leaves and needles
spin to the ground.
Your shoes on the porch
one then the other,
hop across the street.
The wind’s accusation
squeals along rooflines,
window sills, doorframes,
till they loosen.
One shoe has vanished.
The other hesitates,
into a ditch.
liminal / by Matthew Mumber
there is a
I wait there unformed
for life to shape me
So. / by Sol Smith
Sponges drew carbon
from the oceans
on a planet that was mostly empty space.
The land was void,
even of rivers,
without the regulating forces
of roots and grass.
What was it even doing here,
for half a billion years,
establishing life and
a sense of identity?
Imagine the overwhelming
effort applied when a
repetitive drop of water
Makes a stalactite.
But each drop build a step
in the story of a billion creatures,
living, dying, and evolving.
The face of the planet,
far from static,
even the stars in the night
projected changing forms
over the coming forevers.
The slate is wiped clean
a few times
with dramatic flourish,
or seem to.
But each step, each life,
each quake and each storm
was the quickest path
through an impossible maze of probability
that has climaxed
reaching your fingers
out to mine.
Poem 15 / Day 15
Precious Blood Fire / by Lindsay Adkins
On the Feast of Corpus Christi, May 27th, 1875 the French-Canadian Precious Blood church in Holyoke, Massachusetts, burned down after a candle ignited the veil on top of the Blessed Virgin statue. Seventy-eight people died, 55 of them women and girls.
We know this now: if we breathe,
the flame will swell its chest, too, inhale
deeper than our lungs can reach, strapped
in corsets laced, tight skirts, petticoats.
The logs and wood, shaped into worship,
into Amen, into Seigneur Dieu, prends pitié
de nous—filled with sun and heat they birthed
their bark backwards, into fire and smoke.
It ended with our burnt bodies in the ground,
stacked as those logs. But if you drift like ash
over your own shoulder, past the schoolhouse
morgue, where the rough R’s in our names clogged
the palates of the English officials, past the spray
of the hose, the screams, the smell of scorched skin,
even past the pile of humans at the door that opened
only inward, our footsteps on the narrow staircase,
you will hear us singing of wheat and holy water,
how it melts into divine flesh on our tongues.
You will see us turn our heads as a breeze
lifts through a sanctuary window,
kicks up the lace around the head
of the Blessed Virgin statue, so it curls
into the lighted candle. You wouldn’t believe
how fast a woman’s prayer can ignite.
Letting the Drought Go / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
What’s under field’s vinculum: apple-seed,
soil, quiet whispers of roots, cricket’s
liquid silver voices waiting to sing
the stars back to life. Above, we’re all weight
and pressure, stuffed with our to-dos. Mind gone
callous as our hands. Rain pummels the tin
roof until there’s no way out, driveway’s washed
away – What will we do when we can no
longer feel our way? Still, sun will cut through,
a bevy of quail scurry down the blown
driveway in search of seeds freed by rain— we
forget the days were once fragile, made of
dust and drought. Can’t see we aren’t center
of this pulsing, untamable world.
Forgiveness, Not Permission / by Anna Harris-Parker
“Mothers of daughters are daughters of mothers and have remained so, in circles joined to circles, since time began.”—Signe Hammer
I have something to tell you—
no joke or anecdote
but a confession.
I am writing our women.
I am sorting through
twenty years of questions:
Did you ever? Did you know?
For how long? When did you?
What did you? Wasn’t there?
Why didn’t you? Who else?
What else? I believe
prolonged grief transitions
into trauma and trauma
like arched eyebrows, clapping
a hand over a gaping
mouth to hide crooked teeth.
I am writing you and me—
what it means to be descendant
of you, your daughter:
such mystery, such liberty.
After Sonnets to Orpheus Rainer Maria Rilke / by Ava M. Hu
No fret, no dark string across
this white landscape can resist him.
Palpitating air. Intimations.
Even the rocks have ears.
Leave no bread on the table.
It invites the dead.
Spells and incantations.
Even the rocks have ears.
Her hands still mark you.
Invite the dead.
+Found words from Sonnets 1-5
Rain / by Manfred Luedge
I used to wake up
in a panic from the sound of it.
Good god, we don’t have tarps
at the job site.
Jeans, shoes, jacket.
Call the guys on my way
to the lumber yard.
Tell the client not to worry.
I do enough of that
to last for all of us.
Now, I listen enrapt
to the rhythmic patter:
on a tin can.
The plop, plop of the first
fat drops announcing
boldly what’s to come
from those thick, black
clouds billowing across
the sky like smoke
from the sun chariot’s
The gurgle of water
and debris rushing
down gutters and spouts.
All of it a symphony of life,
an Ode to Joy,
a Gregorian choir
What Did You Love About Sisley? / by Jayne Marek
Was it the broken light of day amid
winter oaks, with their empty branches,
that spoke for you, whom you thought no one heard?
You liked the snowy paintings best,
in which a single trail of footprints wandered
through the drifted streets of old French villages.
Sometimes a garden wall prickly with vines
framed human figures, tiny in the landscape.
Fog and mist, the dust of summer fields,
haze of sun over a river, all were strategies
Sisley used to soften worlds of work.
As the artist did, a viewer falls in love,
forgets, for a few minutes, to worry, forgets
the loneliness, the hard stones underfoot.
need me / by Matthew Mumber
Hello, my name is Matt.
I am a help-aholic.
My tan baseball cap
inscribed “need me”,
is a re-minder.
Addiction to being needed
can be a good and fine thing,
as long as I stay
When I catch myself
serving for some expected return,
I must stop,
true gifts come from
the already owned,
there is no use
in counting costs.
Alarm / by Sol Smith
Four a.m. rolls along mercilessly.
Close your eyes and you’re
already there, a scratched record
skipping over a favorite chorus
of some song.
Time necessitates effort.
he said / by Valerie Spain
it will be holy
what we do
it will be a sacrament
I would not lie
that’s what he said
what he did
To Read Our February 2019 Poets’ First 14 Days of Poetry, Click Here!