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 January 2020 are Deborah Bennett, Elly Bookman, Lynn Finger, Jacqueline Kolosov, Hannah Mitchell, Harriet Arzu Scarborough, Katherine Smith, Janel Spencer, Gabriel Vass, and Alise Versella. 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!
Poem 15 / Day 15
Pitfall / by Deborah Bennett
Knitted together, sloppy sweater
of ferns. Kindling inverse girders
line the dirt box. Small beasts sheathed
in scale and fur they step with too much
assurance into the pit. Mice do not
always seek shelter in winter. They come
and go as vagabonds do—fetid days, dry ice
days. Drawn by waste, circling
drain and vent. They called your people
rats. One springs the trap. Armed with plastic
gloves, you can’t bear to touch them
with your bare hands. They could carry
disease. In northern countries, elk and deer
dropped dead in trapping pits. So much
more sophisticated. Masons were called.
Carpenters planed wood, fashioned spears,
making a bed of murder. You swear
you would have fought. Yesterday, you found
just the paw, claws smeared with peanut
butter. It did not wait to die. It sheared
itself free of the trap. We can trace the trail
of blood and urine only so far. You joke
about the warning issued to all the pests
infesting the cellar and sewer beneath
our home. You reset the trap. Would you
have fallen prey or would you have loosed
your limbs from the snare trap, only
to serve as a cautionary tale?
The Golden Envelope / by Elly Bookman
after Emily Dickinson
As to the question of all
or some men,
the one some men reach for
in order to honor
their own hardest
efforts toward the work
of goodness—I get it, but
even islands burn, and are
mountains, not beds, not
what all women have known
since childhood: how to
fold inward, earn
blue compliments, get paid
in sand, and after
the paycheck, after they
have sent her home and have
let her find peace in ceased
calculus, she still has to
do the long work
of wondering what’s in
it for her. If infamy
or pyre, if ocean or
shore. And is home an urn.
The horse auction / by Lynn Finger
I stand near the fence at the horse auction fair grounds
a few wooden fences knocked together
out in the desert with the wind so fierce it tears the hair
off the sage.
Looking for a good little mustang colt for a friend’s kid,
I lean with one foot up, while they wrangle in the black and grey,
white faced, sorrel and roan, criollo and palomino, the churning backs
like dirty waves in a lost ocean, and it was hard not to notice
those who could barely walk, bony, and would be bought
by kill vendors.
I did find a little unspoiled colt, coat matted
but a good look in his eye and most
importantly, sound legs.
The others, they don’t have a chance here. My heart wasn’t in it to just leave.
We’re practically horses, or they’re practically us,
we share nearly half of our chromosomes with them,
we run, shake our manes, nestle in herds, but do we have to be alike to care?
I talked to the guy. Can’t we do something else, I said, something else
for these horses.
You got a horse rescue? He said. Either that or burger, those are the two.
I do now, I said. And that’s how 40 horses were delivered to the
empty lot next to my son’s elementary school playground.
We got the OK. They were going to
bulldoze it anyhow.
40 is a start. Or one person. Or two people, a family, a country. Or a continent.
Sometimes the actions sew themselves to your sleeves like a shadow
and lead as they fall before you, details unspool
as you go.
Baby Doe / by Jacqueline Kolosov
Bella Amoroso Bond, the Deer Island “Baby Doe,” August 2012-Spring 2015
Just spring, and a woman out walking her dog
finds a plastic garbage bag.
Not the white of lilies, but black as the cross
before Easter’s candles ignite in flame.
Inside: a very little girl. Did you know me?
Tell the police my name.
Weeks earlier, a few miles
upriver: midwinter’s ice-bitten trees,
and within an apartment’s closed room,
a feverish little girl. A few feet away:
a window’s gaping mouth.
and a man opens the door, dresses the girl
in snowsuit, boots, pom-pom hat.
When does he decide to leave her, hidden now
within a garbage bag, at the stone feet
of the Virgin Mary?
before the man and woman, her mother,
are arrested. The woman hides behind her
long hair, but there’s no denying her
belly once again swelling with life.
Can it make a difference that she, too,
was a child once? The authorities found her
tied to a high chair; nearly three,
and she could not speak.
At seventeen, once
she aged out of foster care, she’d had eleven
placements in fifteen years. Today
her sentence is life (the man, her
lover’s too). But what of the being
growing inside her?
The very little girl, her daughter,
lies buried in the cemetery on Deer Isle.
Locals have placed a bronze fawn on the grave.
Snow now softens the disrupted earth.
So far the winter has been mild.
Harsher conditions are predicted.
Glass and Steel / by Hannah Mitchell
I am blown glass
On a steel frame.
Each time I shatter
Into awkward piercing shards,
I’m left a dull gray structure
But reminded of how strong
I really am.
I blow myself a new life
Into strange shapes
That will surely shudder and shatter
And creak and crack
In their time.
But the steelworks within me are solid
Even in a field
Of my own painful pieces.
Reinvention / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
We thought we had a plan
But life’s vagaries provided another;
Makes me wonder: How many of us
Are living the life we planned?
At some point we try to become
The navigator of the boat we are on.
We try to steer, but really we find ourselves
Buffeted by the winds,
Sometimes cresting the waves,
Other times maneuvering around
And landing somewhere
That may not have been our destination,
That were already made for us.
She had determined that at sixty
She would not be an ordinary woman.
So at sixty, she opted for reinvention,
Or was this what had been planned for her third chapter,
And she just acquiesced?
She did not avoid scrutiny and chatter;
No, she welcomed the grand speculation
As the building went up.
Was it a school? Was it a church?
When the hallelujahs and amens rang out
With gaping mouths, the villagers had their answers:
She had proved it to all and sundry,
This was no ordinary woman.
All we really want is to know that we matter.
We can plan for our third chapter
But life can take a left turn
When we were expecting to turn right
And so the best we might do
Is assume as much control as we can
To turn the boat in the direction we would like to head.
Still, life plays its own game with us
And what a wonder it can be
When we land somewhere we hadn’t planned.
Or, we reinvent our destination
Claiming it was our intention all along.
PROMISE / by Katherine Smith
perched in the boxwood,
you beat the storm,
and now you sing as if it were April.
as if you had won
more than a reprieve
from the cold snap,
a week of sub-zero weather,
spitting snow, ice, gusting wind.
It’s only the middle of January,
and there are three more months of cold.
Now the thaw has come, you fly over this house,
your red wings a defiance.
Your yellow beak sings to your brown mate
who may or may not be alive.
I hear no answer. But what do I know,
I who thought you were dead,
your red wings nowhere in sight
this past week? I do not see her.
Now I know where the confidence
of your bright black eye, your red crest
come from. The suet and seed that lie buried
and forgotten under debris in the garage
did you no good. The garden’s picked clean.
And I –who promised nothing—
today buy millet and sunflower
at the hardware store as if what I do matters to you,
a wild thing that survived to promise spring.
BASTA! / by Janel Spencer
The italian mamma
chases her Giovanni with a spoon.
Swiftly it aims at the morning egg,
and when it cracks, it unravels
into two. Selves,
like the womb, opening,
receiving and empties.
When the body says enough is enough
it becomes two. We call it a miracle.
the original not preserved
as it once was.
so you make room for more,
so that you can slowly let go of a life,
a mask you wore
that no longer resembles you.
the boatman / by Gabriel Vass
All roads paved, unpaved lead back to love,
All shimmering treasures lead back to love,
All weathered wisdom comes from love,
She can’t be buried, no matter, 10, 12, feet,
She guides if you will only consult her map,
She’s a mother’s arms, a knowing
Always finds you, above, behind,
Always sees you, aye on fog drenched days,
Always protects you with her sturdy arms,
From which all the marvelous stems
The moments where I look at my mother and wonder if she wanted more / by Alise Versella
It has always been these moments:
Street silent, hung with warmth like fairy lights strung in a Japanese garden
The little family Velcro-ed to their separate corners
Or writing as the moon looks down from space
Runs the back of her hand against the cheek of the earth:
“How young you are still, how much you’ve grown thus far
And oh how I fear this orbit
Might be a space
Like a teenager off to war with the world
Holds onto its rain
Because like a mother
She’s tired of crying
It’s hard to raise us
We dream so
And sometimes the dreaming does not assuage the reality
The tornado will arrive on time
Just as predicted
And Toto, we haven’t been in Kansas for ages
I think I miss it
These emeralds are dulling, aren’t they?
The tin heart rusting again
The moon, silver like antique spoons
Wants to run away sometimes, too
Like how all young mothers first instinct is
Before the pink and plump open lidded eyes
It’s almost always the moments where I can’t stand you
When I realize how much the moon must wish
To be so much more than
What keeps the earth in orbit.
Poem 14 / Day 14
Birth Day / by Deborah Bennett
There is nothing to celebrate. You have driven
three thousand miles to outrun your shame. You cannot
walk two steps now down linoleum floors past doors
framing passive women lined up like orphans
in a dormitory. You are of an age marked
with the suffix -teen. Your hair in messy
braids, threaded with satin ribbon. Your eyes
perfect, in need of no correction. Nuns in habit
patrol the dim tunnels. You face walls of cinder
block. I face the dark wall of your body. You pant
like a dog, but refuse cool cloth, gas, medicine
of any kind. You deserve your suffering. You will not
not feel every shocking wave. It is past midnight.
You had hoped the minutes would tick from unlucky
to lucky day. You do not believe in being born
under any kind of star, but here it is now, odd hour, even
day. No one tells you if the time is near or far. Your own
body cannot tell you a thing. You have tried not to listen
all these months. I must have turned, lightly spun top
in a watery cave. How willfully you turned away
from the turning. Now I crest the waters, insist on air. Sacred
heart, I am received in hushed communion, body and blood.
Cleansed of waxy vernix, I have entered the man-made world
at the hands of men and women who are not my people or yours.
You do not visit the enclosure plated in glass. House of my body, no
longer your body. You do not fog or touch that glass. They change the cloth
beneath you, bind the chest, target receptors with agonists. It has gone from acute
to chronic. Dark-eyed child, traced in ghost cells, I will not not feel your pain.
Sympathetic Response / by Elly Bookman
Even the antique grain
of my desk is an enemy. And as
the crow flies, even the shortest
way out of this mess is longer
than the way we arrived.
So the days grate on, statesmen
argue, and a tremor grows in
the part of my hand they took apart
last year, low joint of my left thumb
which they then pressed
back together, those experts
in bone-setting. In streets, we rock
over the crests and breaks we swear
we cannot stand and then
we stand them. In secret, we climb
into warm beds, are held by
safe lovers, plan vacations away.
Did you know, when
fractures happen, black hairs
grow around the wound
where there were none before,
though I found them unsightly.
When the bandages came off,
I scraped them away and
didn’t miss their assistance at all.
Shame / by Lynn Finger
In middle school
where freedom breathes
with my best
we were 13 and
heads together telling girl secrets
holding hands because
we were holding hands
The senior behind us
said, “Why don’t
you bang her,” and
not knowing why,
we dropped hands,
like we needed to ask
forgiveness for this but
what shame is that?
And maybe the question is,
not what, but why?
like human is
a mistaken costume
rented off season.
Stars / by Jacqueline Kolosov
At the close of “Now, Voyager,”
the camera pans in for the fogged
close-up that many women and men, too,
love to sob through. A terrace balcony,
night, the overheated fragrance
of magnolias lingering, smoldering
embers of ‘star-crossed’ lovers’ cigarettes:
Why reach for the moon, Davis tells her co-star,
tears like Svarowski crystal beneath
her huge, film noir eyes. The moon, darling—
more smoke, more tears—why reach for it
when we have the stars.
But is that statement,
despite four million at the 1942 Box Office,
The stars which I, too, see tonight,
the stars children, lovers, and sometimes I also
wish upon, are at least 70,000 years away.
As for these wishes, does anyone over the age of seven,
no matter how potent the screen’s illusion,
desire, or goodness knows what else—
really expect the stars to listen?
Don’t get me wrong: I, too, love the nursery
rhyme, soothing lullaby to send a fretful or
perhaps deliciously sleepy one off dreaming,
but stars do not twinkle. What we see,
we see through the turbulence of earth’s
When a child draws a star in the night
sky, usually a star with five carefully
joined points, and occasionally
the two triangles that create the Star of David,
the star is almost always white or silver;
the sky, what Crayola calls midnight
blue, or perhaps black.
If only children
and we, too, knew that stars are,
in fact black, gaseous bodies
that absorb all the light, the reason
for their radiance.
Can we say there’s any truth
in Davis’s words, then, about the possession
of what can only be a devouring absence?
Van Gogh didn’t have any answers
despite his swirling rhapsody in blue
“Starry Night”? When I have a terrible need of…
religion… I go out and paint the stars, he said.
Go see for yourself. Right now.
Outside, there they are. Look up
at the night sky. It’s full of them.
I Don’t Know / by Hannah Mitchell
What do you do when nothing feels right?
When you’re bored and you’re sad and you’ve
been up all night?
When you’re longing for just one meaningful
(I don’t know.)
What do you do when your head is a mess
When you’re tired and thinking of
What do you do when you’re drowning in
(I don’t know!)
What do you do when you pine for some spark
Of creative engagement – try to embark
On a harebrained adventure just for a lark?
(I don’t know!!)
What do you do when the world drags along
When groaning is traded for your heart’s song
What do you do when you just don’t feel
(I DON’T KNOW!!!)
(But if you do know…please help me.)
Curiosity / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
He set his load down
And before heading out to the distant cultivated plot
He made his usual once around the farmstead
Looking to see what was ready for harvest,
Where clearing needed to be done,
And, finally, the pièce de rèsistance,
Checking to see if the prize tangerines
Were finally ready.
For months we had watched to see
If the seven fruits would hang in there
Until we could enjoy them.
An experiment of Pa and the farm demonstrator,
A tangerine grafted onto a sour orange tree,
The family’s excitement was boundless.
The children followed by the grownups
Raced to the little tree,
Gamely standing in the shadow of the cohune palm
And a surprise greeted us:
There on the ground were the seven–
Seven round now yellowing fruits
Each with a nail-sized peel at one end.
The week before
Not wanting to harvest the fruit prematurely
I had carefully removed a piece of the peel
Off one fruit—just to check to see if it was ripe;
When the first wasn’t ripe, one by one
I checked the other six.
Pa’s look at me was both smoldering and saddened;
Of his four children there
How could he have known that I was the culprit?
The curiosity and the caution of a six year-old
Yielded much disappointment that morning;
We would have to wait another year
For a taste of that experiment.
REDEMPTION / by Katherine Smith
When I think I’m never going to save the world from orange,
the only thing that saves me are my cats,
my puffy-tailed grey Anastasia,
who bounds after a toy:
woolly red spider with blue silk legs
sliding on the linoleum under the kitchen table
she carries proudly to her water bowl
and dunks repeatedly. Jeoffry,
who arches his back at my left elbow,
while I listen to the news with my cheek
in my right palm, who cries
for me to look up
like the demanding
Siamese who was his mother.
Each time I put my head in my palm,
he cries for me to brush harder.
I toss clumps of orange fur
into the garbage while he purrs
like the beautiful orange tabby he is.
in response to ‘where is my poem’ / by Gabriel Vass
Blood doesn’t define
You came when I was
Six or so, sometime around there
Your smile lit up
My uncle’s dim living room,
Your soul shone
Brighter than the north star,
And I loved you
And I love you
They call us cousins now
Supposedly the state gave us that title
Before all of
The Judges with tired eyes,
and rulings echoing with a gavel
We were family,
We were supposed to be family,
And really, all blood bleeds red anyway
Before a car crash / by Alise Versella
A choreography of turning signals
Eight count blink
The somersault of red and blue
On the side of the road
The head trauma
The soft smile winking out of consciousness
We will all be late to work
Stuck behind the school bus
Pom- pom yellow cheering against the morning gray
The newspaper ink stains my thumb
The car looks bent in the article photo like a tree trunk bubbling up through the sidewalk
Oak tree belongs here over you
I thought we were going for ice cream
To the corner store, Miggy’s
Stretched out like he’s sleeping
The ambulance has a distinguished scent I won’t soon forget
High school health class and they will give a tour
But I have already been in the well of your belly
I am not hungry
Do not drink and drive
Do not drink and drive
You don’t need to remind me
I remember the hospital I remember who it was that put them there
Coloring with crayons in a waiting room my two year old sister
Sleepover at grandma and grandpas
Could have turned into raised by
Cross bears flowers by the side of the road
And I cross myself every time
Does the aching of a head wound feel like dying before your time
When the storm comes premonition
Do you still see the crash in your head?
I am stopped at the red light watching all the commuters make left turns
And I glance at the angel on my visor
Until my light switches to green
Deep breath as I step on the pedal and drive passed the memory.
Poem 13 / Day 13
Still Life / by Deborah Bennett
All the empleadas have left their posts. False
cognate, women in gray maid vests,
let the monedas jangle in shallow
pockets today. Will not board micros,
face the cordillera drowning in
smog, ignore the beggars relating
their suffering between stops. They will not
open iron gates, feed and water children
or outdoor pets. Sweep rugs with brooms
wrapped in damp towels. Will not agitate
clothing in machines housed in covered patios.
The security guards abandon
their corners. Sling their semi-automatic
weapons over their backs like soldiers
of the junta. The knobby tires of their
motorbikes leave blocky tracks leading
south and north. La Moneda and tributary
banks are unattended.
The obreros and pescadores walk off field
and boat. Leathery aguacates seek
shade in canoe-shaped leaves. In La Dehesa
beds of succulents spend their dry day
in peace. Lemon trees wait patiently
to cure sea bass another day.
All the políticos, damas and business
people make noise against the silence
of field, home, la bolsa. They protest
the protest. Tomorrow, berries will be
picked and packaged. Children tended
and educated. Vaults guarded, shares
traded. Today the high sun blights
valley and mountain, comuna and farm.
The classes are sorted and siloed.
Atlanta, Mid-Winter / by Elly Bookman
after Brigit Pegeen Kelly
Sunday is silence in the pit, Monday an archway
curved in remembrance over the high school entrance
we entered as teenagers, age-driven and
hidden in sundown stereo light. Today is when
the city ends, when the alleys of Terminus
fill with darkness and wash her toward me—one-eyed
hometown, capitol dot in the middle of a sentence
that reads up one side of the arch and down the other.
Why does she cross herself in Boulevard’s
gold gravel black mornings, where ambulances
ignite silent to run red lights? Why does she pave
over her railway veins? O city, my city,
am I bound to your siren, wet wail in the tepid air,
too spherical and lucent to ignore, calling me
South, calling me South? Or tied to your tunnel heart
telling me trace, trace maps and maps won’t move.
Opossum gallows overhead. Are you my fear?
Taut as the cable that lets the red light rock?
EMBLEMS / by Lynn Finger
My grandma had a nervous way of picking up her delicate horses
and glazed bird collection, to be sure they were dusted underneath.
In her neat tucked apron and tucked hair moving through her home, she picks
up, looks, dusts.
She had done this growing up out in the fields following her favorite horse
roan-maned Nelly (who she named herself after). Nelly pulled the plow
to turn the dirt on their small farm. My grandmother with “the boys” her brothers,
her skirt billowing, strode the wide
verge of land
which spreads towards the skyline. When told it was only for boys work,
she ignored them, loving the sky, the dirt, and the way she felt expanded
between the two, solid and grounded. She dug potatoes, brushed them off
and put them into the sack bag, and did
this all day.
Later, married and in her own home, she could afford to collect what
her brothers called useless knickknacks. She brought a large golden bear
cookie jar with removable head, a gorgeous melting couple in pink and blue,
softly glazed in 1880s finery, a pair of tall does, bluebirds, a sparrow and
a blue horse lifting his prancing gold hooves. These were things she couldn’t have
as a girl.
I think of her strength and the strength of our women, all women, who bend to
pick potatoes or squash or strawberries wherever they are, who in their billowing
dresses manage the affairs of men, who name themselves after their favorite horses
or hawk or river, and who at the end of the day, earn the right to admire these emblems
of their dreams.
Cry Me an Ocean / by Jacqueline Kolosov
Not a river,
because tears are made of salt, .3mg
per drop, and rivers source fresh water.
The north-flowing Nile may arrive at the Mediterranean,
but the waters of this, the longest river, do not ferry salt.
For more than 5,000 years, the Nile, gift of the gods,
has watered Egypt’s crops, sourced her journeys long
and short, inspired her mythic thought. Yes, the Nile,
ever-flowing witness-provider to pharaoh
and slave, the pyramids, even Sphinx’s ebony eye
still reflected in its depths.
Perhaps the Sphinx alone
knows why the Nile is home to the Banded Cobra,
eight long feet of brown bands encircling a golden body,
this creature-creation designed by Isis
from dust and the sun-god’s spit, this venomous ally
a shrewd goddess (no Eve) used
to conquer the throne for Osiris, her husband.
(Why did she not rule?) For all eternity,
Egyptians believed not one but two cobras, breath
of fire-guarded the gates to the afterlife.
Tell me, Sphinx, why it is water quenches fire,
poison being a kind of burning, no?
Yes, cry me an ocean,
one to rehome the great right whale, huge and docile,
surface-skimming beings hunted to near extinction
for their ample blubber. From Nantucket to Long Island,
one hundred right whales were killed each year,
leaving only one hundred individuals by 1935.
Today they number perhaps four hundred,
too many trapped still in fishing gear or maimed
by our ships—.
And what of all the others, black or gray
hummocks, the otherworldly-nearby-surfacing
among the waves?
An ocean, I said,
cry me nothing less, for those endless voyagers,
the sea turtles, Hawksbill, Olive ridley, and majestic
green with its teardrop shell.
Listen, please, earth’s saline is seeping into the Nile,
and Burmese pythons,
descendants of our discarded exotic pets,
are traveling north, depleting every living creature
as they breed and press on
to climates only growing
warmer. An ocean
to surround the lands on fire where Diana can
entice the tides to put the fire out.
But, you say, too many boats will be required. Dear
one, this isn’t the story of Noah. No two by two by
two to begin the whole mess over again.
Try to believe in miracles.
And really, what’s one more ocean
beside our kind suspended in space stations, and all
the complex genetic research? I mean, we’ve come up with
far too many ways to destroy our planet.
There isn’t enough earth to go around.
Why I ask for one ocean. Look, now,
the mourners are coming. Many have not forgotten
keening; crying abides in our marrow, soft tissue,
most secret inner eye, where the tear ducts lie.
See, I, too, am crying;
now that I’ve started, there will be no holding back my tears.
Screw It / by Hannah Mitchell
Let’s do it
Let’s jump off the cliff
Unburden our souls
And embrace all our differences
No, I’m gonna stay
And hype up my life up –
A smile, a sway of my hips.
Take a big leap of faith
Look over the edge and brace
Myself for the fall
And the rush
Of the unexpected pushback
From a world that’ll fight me
But’ll only ignite me
To climb higher, jump farther
In joy and in laughter
As I cackle out loud in the wind
“This jump ain’t my end
But where I begin!”
Babsie / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
She was my partner in defiance,
And together we spoke out against
The inane rules that those in power
Enjoyed imposing on their subordinates,
Their embrace, a legacy from the colonial days.
A well-proportioned, petite dynamo
Built in the dimensions of the original woman,
She approached everything with gusto.
She wore miniskirts like no other
Adding to the lines of disapproval
On the faces of the female administrators.
The male administrators chose not to enforce.
So Babsie rode her bike
Down Barrack Road to Freetown Road,
Made a wheelie just for the administrators
Spying through a window,
Parked her bike, and
With her hair sleeked back into a bun
Not a strand out of place,
Face perfectly made up,
Wearing high heels to match her dress,
Did the Belizean stroll into the classroom.
An unlikely pair (she was many years my senior),
From her I learned
How to walk on just this side of propriety,
Not to take myself too seriously,
And that I was the better table tennis player.
OMELETTE / by Katherine Smith
I’m slicing an onion in half,
then in quarters, then eighths, slicing
until the whole globe spins
to the sizzling music of olive oil
that turns the stinging flesh
sweet. While I beat the eggs into foam,
pour yolks and whites into the frying pan,
I think about the phrase “get a life,”
which I heard one student say to another
while I was packing up textbooks,
zipping my coat. I always
wondered if getting a life meant
another party in feathers and sequins,
another baby, another husband, a new car
with a bumper sticker that says, my kid’s on the honor roll,
more sex, running for public office.
I tried the phrase out on Trudy the other day,
saying I’m going back to my real life
as I tore off a piece of the sourdough bread
she had just placed in front of me,
slathered it with butter, filled my mouth
while she looked up startled,
“what are you talking about?
This is your real life,” she said
waving around the kitchen,
under the table to the dog
farting in his sleep,
then motioning up the stairs
to the room I loved so much
with the branches tapping the window,
and the stars in the skylight,
and the blue and white striped chair
where I’d spent hundreds
of hours writing poems,
turning up the heat, listening
to the sizzle of bitter
turning sweet beneath the flame.
the old man in the old cabin somewhere in the southwest / by Gabriel Vass
And I heard him cry out,
in the house his father built,
Beside the lake
full of largemouth bass and catfish
‘neath the trees scowling,
pessimistic with old age,
and he’s afraid that God has
died like Nietzsche whispered
in a gruff voice, hollow from cigarettes
but he doesn’t buy that,
none of it,
his father told him it was all lies
besides he’s heard God’s
baritone voice too many times
To believe that he’s died,
The Soloist / by Alise Versella
Threaded nylon through a fishing reel
Will sound like the violin strings in the orchestra
When cast out into sea
The choking of the mackerel
Will be a rhythm similar to bass line percussion
When lifted, open mouthed, to swallow the sun
The slicing of iridescent scales will sound like cymbals
Brushed and the xylophone the echoing
Of the knife against the railing
This flesh will taste like the opera soprano reaching
The highest octave
And holding the note without faltering
But the pulling
Oh the struggle between rod and beast
Will feel like the empty room after all the applause has swum away from you
Orange plastic bobbing in the ocean
Mocking you each time it breaks the surface-
Stage lights blinking out.
Poem 12 / Day 12
The Rapture Index / by Deborah Bennett
All heaven breaks loose today hellfires burn
bright on a southern continent the world
is born again in the ash the resurrected rejoice
in the middle kingdom animals scale the burning
bush no baptismal piscina all is dry hypersonic
arms flood the markets sunk in tar
pits we shelter in caves lined with bottled
water tabernacle hosts the consecrated body
spotlit in red He is in residence sanctus
sanctus sanctus the mystery of faith is mysterious
in any old language corpus and sanguis
sacrament hidden from pagans which I am
now early church shrouded itself in this fever
those who have ascended will not suffer
the tribulation light traffic does not wake
me I sleep on through sun and wind
while in this state of limbo I have been left
behind as have my children all fallen
away we are not in communion with any spirit
East or West of ancient rivers a maelstrom gathers
the faithful tucked in a heavenly safe like bread or pie.
Breakthrough / by Elly Bookman
I like science that says
new cleverness can spring,
limb-like from the absences.
Of sight, of pain
failing to send its signal of
warning and trauma to the brain.
we are four women
who have known one another
since childhood, each
of us next to a man she’s chosen
after years of making do, our
twenties flattened by that
We have superfood
soup, charcuterie spread out
on a slab of wood
our host got as a wedding gift.
A blind man learns
to measure distances by ear.
A woman without a stress response
is a foothold that
keeps her hovering above
the grave injury of indifference.
At the table
someone says there should
be more poems about cheese.
I ask. And a new heart
blooms in each of us, begins
to beat and grow and
Every Cell / by Lynn Finger
Walk on the beach
with golden shells and a sky so wide
it wasn’t there and
to know we would find it whatever it is
to sing with everything
the belch of toads and frogs
the peacocks’ full-throated screech
and the small big sounds spinning rattle of cicada
all nature does rapture
for rapture is just two parts forgetfulness and
one part remembering
All we are built on burns or blooms into this
Fire globe of knowing
every cell has its own morning.
Lunar Eclipse, January 2020 / by Jacqueline Kolosov
Just beneath the entwined
trunks of the mulberry
tree, foraging, a lone
Junco, charcoal silted gray
as the moon’s penumbral
shadow. Glacial, this four a.m.
light reflected off falling
snow, and silent.
If only this could last—.
In the paddock beyond,
two chestnut horses, ears
prick-straight and tipped
with snow, step forth to
greet me with synchronized
nickers, and one long baritone
neigh, as I break the scrim
of ice, place hay on red ground.
Irrational, yes, and yet it feels
as if time has no purchase
in this moon-white-and-intensely-
bright pre-dawn, the lone Junco
now joined by his dapper
fellows, mourning doves,
and a dozen skittish sparrows.
Occasionally their voices
lift in cheerful, chipping chatter.
Foraging alongside a dreamy
dove, the Juncoes appear
distracted, a club of charcoal-
vested philosophers sifting and
mulling over their concerns;
then, all at once, skittering off
before coming back,
as if hardly prepared to
surrender this stage and
Puzzle / by Hannah Mitchell
Your fingers and mine are a puzzle
Put together a hundred ways.
Our laughs chime together
And sunlight fills the room
Even at night.
I could crawl into your skin and be at home.
Our eyelashes tangle together
Our fingerprints zip into each other
Settling like feathers on a wing.
And still in the maps of our souls
There are always new treasures
For each of us to discover.
The Hummingbird / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
Traveling down the Hummingbird Highway
On a cloudy, drizzly morning
The kind that comes with a little chill in the air
The windshield wipers rock steady
Along with the music on the radio
We speed down the barely discernible grey ribbon
Which interrupts a verdant forest,
A luxuriant forest of tall cohune trees, regal ceibas
And the occasional red-skinned gumbo limbos
In the distance, clouds shroud the Cockscomb Range
Giving the Sleeping Giant more time for slumber.
Construction on the gap through the mountains
Show the rich, red soil
That explains the acres of flowers, corn, and oranges
Along the way.
We descend from the mountains
Into a valley peppered with villages
And a plethora of sleeping policemen.
Weathered buildings, migrant shacks, and crumbling board houses–
Remnants of the old Belize
Give way to the occasional brightly painted concrete houses.
Fruit stands of limes, oranges, pineapples, and coconuts
Line the way.
The valley is an eye feast of colors:
Red, purple, pink, white, and orange bouganvilleas,
Langy hibiscus, and stately yellow ixoras compete for the spotlight
Making what side to look a decision.
ECHOLOCATION / by Katherine Smith
I’m the first thing you reach for
when you enter the barn,
cross the dirt floor,
dodge hay bales
and water buckets before dawn:
I’m the balance of your right foot
shifting to left, the song
of your feet bouncing
off the fine down
of a cheek,
crystal that tells you
where you are. I give you
the crunch of straw, the hollow
in pine walls, the whisper
of hen’s feathers.
Listen to me.
I give you power
over your first enemy,
falling with two brown eggs
in the nest of your palms. I keep you
from stepping on the cat,
lead you to light,
nursing black foal,
muzzle covered in foam
milk-white to the ears.
Months / by Gabriel Vass
I finally get up from my dreamless sleep,
I put on my coffee
a medium roast the roast of the worker
and as the coffee pot weeps,
I feel you,
All around me in the letters you wrote on
soft lined paper,
in the shirt I’m wearing the one you bought me
In the songs we played on my turntable
The records we
Listened to as we sat and spoke,
words that crescendoed in love
I see you in everything now,
I hear your voice in every whisper,
your touch in every gust of wind,
and I am for just a moment
stilled, at peace
Do not pray for me / by Alise Versella
Catholic guilt I do not possess
Someone else already beared the cross for my sins
So watch me continue sinning
Watch me sin courageously
Oh how I condemn myself
Oh Mary how I am full of grace
As I stuff the bread and wash it down with the wine
Frolicking dangerously close to edges
Of the devout
Like a little satyr with horns lusting after the virginal
I’ve stained all my clothes
Hung them up for ransom
I have orchestrated a kidnapping
Persephone in Hades
Oh but the girl wanted to go
You see there are cities who bleed pomegranate red and though dangerous
The only time I feel warm is under the rush of a hot shower
the steam turning the walls mildew
Something is rotting here
Here has a plastic taste
Storefront mannequins whose smiles are fake
I love how new york city never lies to you
She is all sin and treachery and love
It’s all encompassing
Salt shake the cut but be still the bandaid
I like the sting of hydrogen peroxide bubbling over the blood
If this is what it means to heal
I’d like to feel it doing something
Poem 11 / Day 11
Garden / by Deborah Bennett
You were buried in roots. Apple,
berry, mint, lettuce. You changed
the Ph of the soil.
In music, accents are defined
in triplet. At first your loss
was tonic. Every note sharp.
Fire and ash are both bad
and good for soil. Some nutrients
lace the soil. Others leach it.
It was not a series of steps,
lock and channel
of grief. Dynamic
They turned the soil
years later. Displaced
you with concrete
and rebar. Every branch,
and fruiting vine sucked
into the flywheel.
You are the sustained
note. Agogic, you are
outside the time
There is a theory
of conservation. Energy
is not created
or destroyed. You are
held in theory, the stuck
Weekend Time / by Elly Bookman
To wake and rise
in daylight. To walk to
breakfast in the warm wind
of rain soon. To drive
to the gym and climb
those endless stairs for
a small assembly of minutes
that, Thank God, does
end. To have done so little
by two o’clock, to be
thinking only of things
to buy, and this.
I am no mother. No
nurse on call all afternoon,
all but the body of me
in the place where
I am only at the desk
awaiting words. All
I’ve ever wanted—time
to suffer and say so.
“You Are Calm” translation of “Du Bist Du Ruh” by Friedrich Ruckert / by Lynn Finger
You are calm
and gentle peace.
You are longing
and longing’s end.
I make holy my desire and ache,
wholly, my glance and
your place, your home.
Come near me
and seal the way
closed and silent.
Wedge the pain
From my breast,
fill my heart
with your desire.
My glance is your
canopy, illumined by
oh fill it deeply.
The Mushroom’s Tale / by Hannah Mitchell
Once upon a time in the woods
A mushroom grew
Nourished by some small dead thing
The mushroom didn’t know.
It only knew the cool depths of its mycelium
And the cool blue sky above
And the cool breeze that blew.
A deer came and ate that mushroom, but
The mushroom didn’t know.
Because the cool dark earth still held it
The cool breeze still blew its spores.
Death and decay are their own form of life
And that, you can’t kill,
Not in any way that matters.
TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY / by Katherine Smith
I was crushing acorns
against two granite headstones,
one more than a century old, name
worn and pitted with black mold,
the other still glossy, a man’s name
crisp beneath a small wreath
of pine and red berries.
We were talking about a movie,
the one with the three blond women
at Fox news. My friend was saying
how difficult it is to see people
swindled when a donkey
in the field next to the river bank
brayed three times, an ear-splitting cry.
My friend laughed, asked when
would I return to the present? Then
a rooster crowed, and we lost our connection.
Rain fell in the cemetery,
and a whole flock of twenty-first century
robins dripped in the oak trees.
Saturday, January 11th, 2020 / by Gabriel Vass
On the day
torch will be
her funeral pyre
and justice will
open her eyes,
to see what’s
in her name
Hello / by Alise Versella
That four-letter text
as in:would you like to make plans for coffee
Masking the underlying: do you still think about me
as in: I still miss you
The distance between two doesn’t seem so far when you think about things like telephones
But the distance between ex lovers is like the English Channel
A great feat for an avid swimmer
But why put yourself through the risk of drowning
to become a bridge
I exist in the gaps
I am the echo in the well
I am the missed chance
A memory or perhaps a body
Submerged in the peatmoss
Will the earth hold me here
Preserve my greeting
Will a century reply back:
How are you?
Poem 10 / Day 10
Continuously / Translated by Deborah Bennett from Continuamente by Magdalena Ponssa
sounds that boom
from field to sky
among obese clouds
floating in the vacuum
while the blue-dark
hum of asphalt
replies in a crazy round
the absolute, humanity
weave a debt
souls maneuvered like pawns
on a board without players
in hopes of upending
and resetting the board
movement and death
Synonym for Giving Up / by Elly Bookman
Too many poems begin
with weather reports, but a storm
system assembles all the same—
some warmth rises while
some cold comes back down—
a squall line. But
words have been rain water
for a dozen seasons
now. How can I worry
about wind and lightning
without a sound spelled out
to mean Take shelter?
Tornadoes at night are twice
as deadly. And sure,
a front is on the other side.
But nothing will have changed.
VEINS / by Lynn Finger
Sugar pines, foothill pines, pinyons,
I say your names and remember the beautiful forest you were
Just a short bike ride from my house when I was 13.
I used to walk through you, deep sentinels,
branches protective and obscuring of the sky
I went to see you after school
your large hush, the shush of the winds
like waters washing through, like waveless waves.
As a young woman I learned to be silent
in the largest way, to wait, to listen,
to be a part of who you were.
I came to see you regularly
my green cathedral, my restless church
the scent of your body, needles and bark, pungent
as if dissolved of all skins
blood vessels revealed
a map of roadways in a translucent pool
vibrant with life, lifting towards sky.
But the hardest lesson was the last one,
one day after school I rode my bike to see you,
my green cathedral, my restless church
up the bumpy road I stopped,
putting one foot to the ground.
You had all been buried under tons of
fill soil from a construction site
clearing runoff from a nearby bridge.
Your branches, your crowns silent in the avalanche
of excavated dirt. No one would even know that
you had been here, you were all gone.
The whole stand of trees buried.
I swayed, beyond tears.
Who could I even complain to.
Who would bury a tree? Who would bury all the trees?
Who could bury the green spines
of your gorgeous exposed veins, tracing upwards
After the Fracture / by Jacqueline Kolosov
Among doctors, especially specialists, “break” is not used in reference to bones;
yet the Latin fracturs means “breach, break, cleft”; I reference this in the aftermath of having being thrown by the ex-racehorse mare I’ve been rehabbing (for my daughter), so that I landed on hardest, drought-winter-unforgiving-West Texas-dried-devil’s claw-and-tumbleweed-ground (though the arena I’d cleared. After being thrown and the squealing, spooked mare ran off, I slammed the left side of my ass, left ankle, and torqued my left knee. The aftermath of this accident Grace Clinic’s Urgent Care communicated, by phone, a bone fracture, though no further details seemed to be known for this, my ‘high priority physical trauma’—hell yes, not to mention painfully incapacitating, and thus requiring a referral to the only reputable orthopedic clinic. (“Don’t go outside UMC,” my doctor-friend, out skiing, texted.) Despite the ‘high priority physical trauma,’ the bureaucratic nature of our healthcare led to referrals requiring a miscommunicated range of necessary authorizations and more phone calls than someone (me) on high doses of ibuprofen, my left hip-to-ankle sprawled out on ice like the day’s fresh fish—likely overfished tuna or farm-raised salmon—at any number of supermarket counters.
Like ‘fracture’, ‘break’ contains a range of meanings, its history bolting us back to Old English’s brecan “to divide solid matter violently into parts or fragments; to injure, violate
(promise, etc.), destroy…” A few apt illustrations certainly worth positioning for debate, discussion, or more volatile action on the global stage aka weapons-bombarded-chessboard: “President Trump…has achieved many great things in life through habitual lying and law breaking.” (Footnote 1: Steven Magee, ‘great’ is highly suspect unless Henry VIII’s achievements are also great. No offense, Church of England.) “Breaking inner boundaries,” proclaims Talismanist Giebra, “is an existential art.” (Footnote 2: What about the beasts (aka President Trump) feeding on McDonald’s, faces splotched red even when they aren’t screaming?) As for Ms. Morgenroth aka Jude’s “You can break a man with hope,” need we debate this? Remember the broken body of his daughter, and only then comes Lear’s “Break heart, I prithee break”—. The former racehorse returned. I hobble-dragged myself inside, and yes, the knee will mend.
Is it too late to repair what we have broken? I ask us to bow (3. yes, even you, Trump, we see the pork-pink sheen atop your head) and enlarge ‘man’ with ‘species’ though I’m not sure ‘hope’ applies to the inner lives of koalas, kangeroos, trees, our planet earth…
Little Daughter / by Hannah Mitchell
She little and lithe and lovely and loud
As she twirls her way through her day
She’s always making her mama proud
With the sweet things she can say.
She’s snarky and sweet, but sassy and sad
When things don’t go her way.
She performs like a thespian bound for the stage
There’s drama every day.
She’s smallish and softish and stands on her feet
Her hands clenched tight into fists
If something’s unfair or something’s not neat
She’s ready to make a list.
As her mama I know that the world is a place
That can roughen a little girl up.
It can rip at the satin and tug out the lace
Of my little unfortunate pup.
Lucky for me she’s got fire in her veins
And will take this world by storm.
All I can do is give her the reins,
And make sure to keep her warm.
Christmas in Two Acts / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
The village fills up
Excitement stirs in the air
The notice board announces the Christmas program
The village buzzes
Sunday night the community gathers
The audience applauds the budding actors
As they entertain the village.
Days leading up to Christmas Day
Are evident by the “rush” at home
Ma cajoles us into cleaning, varnishing, decorating,
Are perfumed by the smell of cake being mixed
Of bread being kneaded and baked;
Are harmonized by the voices of the women
Debating ingredients, proportions, and the right heat.
Christmas Eve I find the biggest sock to hang,
Fighting inevitable sleep
I am determined to attend misagayu—this time.
I wake up to murmurs in the house
Finding an empty space next to me
I reach for my sock and a squeak delights
Inside the sock is my pink plastic doll
I rush into the living room to find
I missed misagayu
But Ma is serving cake and lemonade
And Santa Claus brought me a doll that can cry.
The boat slices through the glass sea
The cool north wind hurrying us and others home
The village fills up
We missed the Christmas play
But we’re home and the village is abuzz
Walking from the wharf to home
Evokes a feeling like no other
Friends remind, “There’s a dance tonight;
Will you be there?”
There’s Ma spoon in hand
With a welcoming smile
Her children are home and the “rush” is on.
It’s cleaning, varnishing, decorating
It’s whipping the sugar and the butter
And trying out the prueba.
It’s the teenage Barangunas
Slow dancing to “Everyday will be like a holiday”
And the young men bringing no presents
But whispering promises to unbelieving ears
The church bell summons
And everyone is at the church
Which is filled with the harmony of four voices,
And long ago carols heard only in Barranco.
At home, Ma serves cake and vino tinto
The children play with their new toys
And the teenagers try to sneak back
When Pa is not looking
To the party they left for church.
BEAU / by Katherine Smith
I push your door open with my nose.
My tail wags the roses off the desk. Quick hands,
the thing of yours I envy most,
catch the vase before it crashes to the floor,
set the glass away from the edge,
rearrange the stems in water.
Who cares! I have a better idea than petals
I can’t rip apart and roll in.
Let’s leave the rattle of freight trains
that shakes the carpets and floorboards
and root for moles along the river bank.
Let’s go for a walk up the mountain.
You who taught me to sit and to stay.
who know which species of oak
drop bitter, which sweet,
who fill your palms with fruit,
put acorns into your pockets
grind them into flour, for you
I’ve learned to see, though poorly.
Here on Priest Mountain, I lift
a quivering muzzle into the wind,
at the top of the ridge, piss
on scat of deer, of bobcat.
I believe what my nose tells me.
Follow me across those pine trees.
We’ll find a bear. Let me teach you how.
waking up for the dawn / by Gabriel Vass
I woke up
just to see
Your shining face
your smiling eyes
I guess you decided against it.
I bet you groaned and
This baby blue
comforter over your head,
The yawning fog outside your
and hit snooze
on your chirping alarm
A brief history on exploding / by Alise Versella
The closed cells of bamboo explode when roasted
That is to say fireworks transpired first in Ancient China
To ward of ghosts
Bamboo when mixed with potassium nitrate
Aka Chinese Snow aka saltpeter
Charcoal and sulfur
War makes ghosts of the living.
Germany took the lead on arms
China still remains the leading exporter of fireworks
They blossom red like envelopes
Like dragons through the streets
Bronze bells sounding
Echoes of who we used to be
What makes a spirit evil?
What makes one lucky?
Even numbers only.
I fear I will never get married
That the moon will release its hold on earth
And burst apart in space
Before my father ever sees my veiled face
That one day we will just burn up
Like the bamboo
If I combust spontaneously
Will the colors be as brilliant?
Will I rocket off like a firework?
I don’t like the way they sound so similar to gunshots
Oh how we’ve taken a kaleidoscope
Turned the glass and sharpened each shard
Not so we can see a brighter rainbow
But to see a way to win
In a race where the only trophy is better ways of destroying
The sound of Lunar New Year in New York City
Sounds like so much hope
Sounds like lightning shining through the thunderstorm
And it only rains confetti.
Poem 9 / Day 9
Mother of Pearl / by Deborah Bennett
You are still a child. The dorsal
aspect of your hand is fat
with milk and mashed
bananas. Sea foam outlines
your toes in sand. You do not
fear the waves.
Nested in my spine is
the worm. I have mined
it before. Used my weak
hand, snapping off the diving
bell head at the neck.
You pick up a shell. Pearlescent in
sun, maculated, like your own
ear. Your hands are not deft
enough to extract sea
snails, predatory or not.
Each year an inch. It cannot
survive without the knobby
head. But it does. Clasped
to each vertebra it ladders
You are not a host. No memory
lives in your cells.
Watery globes, cysts survive
decapitation. They circle,
circulate in tissue. Looping
chain of parasite, coherence
of bone and muscle.
I lose you from my sight
line. You are swallowed
by the horizon.
Nacre shatters, splintered
rainbow. I make nothing
beautiful out of my pain.
Yawn / by Elly Bookman
Somewhere in our
synapses, deep, where
a certain sulcus valley
spills from a gyrus
hill, a signal sparks
you yawn when I yawn.
In the Great Compromise
of 1787, we agreed
it matters just as much
for each of us to have
the same amount
as it does for
each of us to have
as much as we need.
Rain / by Lynn Finger
Rain makes flat mirrors
Rock garden pools and shimmers
Birds lift pearl-dipped wings
Come out wild / by Jacqueline Kolosov
wings of childhood circling
gold and white
drum beat, chime
bring forth spirits, sisters
gathering, each one
carrying her own
not from the search
for ambergris, no
from waves, tides,
to ocean depths, immense,
known, if then, only
by those who find continents
within the gray
If I Were / by Hannah Mitchell
If I were what I want to be
Fearless, lean, enduring
Perhaps I’d have the strength, then,
To embrace my simple softness.
If I were what you want of me
Clever, shrewd, beguiling
Perhaps I’d have the knowledge, then,
Of silly, brainless kindness.
MOONLIGHT ON STEPS / by Katherine Smith
I come from the cemetery,
not the one near the brick church
a quarter mile away, but the one
just up the hill half-hidden by birches,
that creak like old floor boards,
the one hard to see from the road
with its few gravestones, parents
and siblings no one remembers this dusk.
I talk to the sweet gum tree, come down
across the bottom-land by the river,
trunk under peeling bark glowing like ashes.
Most winter nights I unlatch the gate, step out,
alone. But twenty years ago, I stood
by the church, remembering what it was like
to catch my breath when a man stopped his car,
rolled down the window and asked me
did I know the way to the other cemetery,
said he’d lived in a house by the river
as a child in nineteen forty-three, that over there—
by yet more steps leading to nowhere,
or only to the foundation of a house so long gone
granite seemed more tree stump than carving—
he’d talked to the owner of the general store
who used to give him free pickles and candy.
He didn’t need to tell me. I remember
the hungry child and I remember the store,
and I remember the owner of the store
when he was a child newborn into slavery.
Now the one is buried, and the other, near eighty,
says the store burned down in fifty-three.
Tell me something I don’t know
I wanted to say, and didn’t. If the man
had the key to the old locked shed,
I’d have shown him a moth-eaten carriage,
a moldy rope, and other rusted things
that he might not remember. He says
everything I know about history I learned
on these steps. Can you tell me where the cemetery is?
I could. He thanked me.
I still talk in the cemetery
like ghosts gathering in thick layers,
rich as mulch crumbling into the earth,
or like the moon that the living
believe—know they call it—is dust,
as if dust had nothing to do with what happens
beneath the indigo sky over the river.
Where Love Stays / by Janel Spencer
When you left
I was left with
many useful and useless things
all which I wanted to get rid of right away.
I gave our red couch to a college friend
and his roommates.
Moss had grown on my boots
that I threw away.
Piles and piles of paperwork
are still in my parents’ garage,
in trash bags—
we used to argue over
in the last days of our last year.
I can still hear your bubbling anger
overflow to departure.
You left me with an art poster
and the dart board, neither of which
The wind chime I left for the next renter
disappeared within a half year, a bad omen,
and all our wedding frames broken.
Some kinds of love
are visitors-only. Some you are always inviting to come and stay,
but the words never materialize.
Now I’m moving into a new home
I’m putting together slowly,
pulling myself into this new scene.
With care I select its parts.
A big back yard
and room enough for laughter to bounce from the walls and stick.
Lots of windows to let the light filter
onto the cool tile, slipper-slick.
Love is already here.
All that’s left to get, really,
is a lightly used reading chair.
Then, I’ll be able to settle in
for a while, with my lamp
and never-ending bookcase.
It’s here where I realize a thing
is not measured by its use,
but is merely a branch in the home of a life
made up in the mind, built up slowly in it—
Love is what we remember in time,
selecting each nostalgia
with concerted effort
like a rock collection,
or our sturdiest nest,
after a few false tries,
blown down by strong wind, scattered.
We build up what will keep us safe
from the tougher days
that will come but not last,
so that we can last
until the end of our days filled
with memories of home—
because a home is
the love we pour into it.
My Backyard / by Gabriel Vass
Love on loan
to a dying
won’t be returned
until I meet this
again, on the bullet train
then we’ll shake hands, me and this
my ill fated
I Wonder If History’s Men Knew They Would Be Great / by Alise Versella
In case you were wondering
If at all you do wonder
I mean stare off into the space collecting dust particles in the sun
I hope you wander forward
Do not get stuck in the loop of reliving
All the conversations you wish you held
Isn’t it funny how we always think of the right remark after the arrow has left the quiver?
Sailed on like great fleets on uncharted seas
Circling around unknown America thinking it was the West Indies
We all just want to discover something
Like a cure for the aching
I hope your daydreams lead you to rejoicing
In the architecture of your body
A city skyline rising
How it glimmers like those dust particles in the sun
I hope you wonder about the things you could become
Not what you have done
I hope you never reminisce on anything you think you missed
That it isn’t here anymore only means there is room on the gallery walls for new art
Do you understand what I am telling you?
Your mouth is a paintbrush, I want the acrylic to speak to me a new language
Teach me a new word for matrimony
That colors and my empty sighs could wed
And the canvas and I
Would bleed a glorious red
The beautiful ruin of the withering day
How you empty it out for its worth because no gold can stay
In case you were wondering
I dream about the galaxy, turn my mind to stargazing
Believe in little green men terrorizing craters like two year old boys ransack the waiting room
We are all waiting for something to begin
Daydream about what that is
I know it to be breathing underwater, I am waiting for my gills to appear
I want to swim, Pinocchio in the mouth of the whale
Don’t you see?
Movement is the way the lake ripples, breathing
The sky is a wave cresting
And you could be as great
As history’s greatest men
If only you believed the way they did.
Poem 8 / Day 8
Synecdoche: Hired Hand / by Deborah Bennett
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather
Piece worker, manual
laborer. I am not exactly
a beast of burden.
Early, day and season. Watery fruit drooped,
humped rows of soil lined in packed mud.
Thumb to stem, the give of ripe
berries in the palm.
Tong or glove mediate heat, blow-
molded plastic pressed to package
electronics. River-bound, suburban
factory, graveyard of hours.
Follow the flats. Hallecks heaped
with fruit. Conveyor belt a
ribbon of dirt clods. Aphids scuttle,
incline of predatory hands.
I swab body fluids, filled cups
with other fluids. Corollas of skin
daubed in balm or astringent, apply
Seed and sow ornamental
wildflowers. Weed out
Quarter sandwiches, dispense
frozen treats. Spiral cones from iron
to mandrel. Count change
and toppings in equal measure.
Housekeeping, not my house. Chemical,
physical, osmological checklist. Drench
and dry solid surface. Taut line of
Wrangling words in lines of four is not to work
harder than all of these. No martyr, banker,
pauper. I know myself to be
Prix Fixe / by Elly Bookman
Sunchoke and fluke
for the first course, and
the impractical wine pairing—
we went for it. What
I mean is we were down
in the dumps, you
and I, sick from seeing
wars start and Star Wars ads
in the same breath,
missile Christmas gifts
and mistletoe gone brown
and brittle. We figured we
may as well blow half the rent
on European wines
while we can. Your favorite
was the honey-gold one
from Hungary which came
with the chicken liver
tart, which I hated, but if only
one out of ten courses
tasted like vomit that’s not
bad, right? What I mean is
it’d be nice to have
dinner with you in a less
ruthless season, but
as long as I can wash
this one down with a nectar
nursed from a riverside
vine, I’ll be fine.
I’ll stomach it, then
drive home smug as a man
in our valeted Toyota.
I’ll pay what it costs
to not mind what’s lost.
WHY DO BLOSSOMS STAY CLOSED / by Lynn Finger
When I used to talk to my aunt she’d say
someone’s on the roof and her face would close up.
No one was on the roof but sometimes I wondered.
Seeing, thinking, like a virus, grows, changes
the almond tree closes up at night
why do blossoms close, why do the blossoms stay closed
in the lashing rain and
they said my aunt had dementia. Where do thoughts go
when they distort.
someone on the roof.
We have seen things too, we have seen things and
they say don’t think of bombs in the café.
Don’t think of them.
I smell the coffee in the café, and listen to the spritzy
thick foam of the espresso machine I
don’t think of bombs, and when I hold
the warm cup in my hand, I don’t,
think of the bombs
but why do the blossoms close
why do their blossoms stay closed
in the lashing rain.
here’s a riddle for you, father / by Jacqueline Kolosov
daughter who thrived upon my sciatic
nerve, pain’s flowering, bearing
I hobbled, not walked,
can it be two-years-seven-months,
you sucked from my breast, Siberian
blue eyes, black-
lashed, all I saw—
women far more cunning than any
wolves. How, then,
the gentle third—I cannot heave my heart to my lips
for beasts to feast upon.
their mother, house and hearth torn down,
surreal threshold opening onto
a ledge silting sky,
and, beneath, the heath is burning.
An old tale, the embers still coaling,
parched trees, thicket of thorn and branch; some-
nowhere-there, the bonest of a girl
remembered only, if at all,
in the fiery leavings of a fool man.
How husband (once) how father (once)?
Like us, wolves are communal. Sweat
and the heat of bodies, feces, flesh denned as one.
When wolves hunt, only one
(but never alone) goes in
for the kill. In meanest winters
only the alpha female can mate so the pack
can raise their young. Except
here’s a riddle for you, father-
Nature (we call ‘Mother’) doesn’t always work that way.
A lesser bitch, too, might carry.
Hunger is a fierce teacher. Let it be decreed
her pups must not survive. What choice then?
None. Nothing comes of nothing.
This bitch, slick with birth, must
destroy each and every one.
The Kids Are All Right / by Hannah Mitchell
I teach the problem kids
I kid the unteachable
My students who were never really mine
Are people, not problems
I fling myself against the bars of their apathy
I stuff verses into the cracks in their armor
I wail at their walls
And I’m still so surprised
When one of them
Finishing a book / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
Finishing a book
Is like losing a very close friend.
As I near the end of our relationship
I look for ways to stretch the time:
Read only one more page,
Perhaps one more paragraph.
Because I know that the separation
Will be a loss, not unlike burying a loved one,
I begin looking for ways to assuage the pain:
Take a break from reading
Watch a little television,
Run some errands,
But what really works
Is having the next book on deck.
And as in nascent friendships
In the first few pages
The new friend feels like an impostor;
She guards her secrets closely,
And she’s reluctant to share.
But a few more pages in
And the revelation unfolds.
I am starting to feel her pain and joy.
At first I’m surprised by the secrets and schemes
But the good friend I’m becoming
Begins to understand, then to accept;
This is delicious!
And I’m now a cheering team of one.
I’m all in; my guard is down.
I have forgotten to protect myself,
And here we are again
Getting ready to say goodbye
And me feeling abandoned once more.
LAST NIGHT IN THE TOWER / by Katherine Smith
I still love the loose rope of my hair
against the nape of my neck
dragging on the ground below,
the smell of dirt, the earthworms
and leaf mulch that catch in the tangled ends
when I pull it back up tonight.
I’ve done it so many times I don’t need a mirror
to coil and pin the grey to my head
while I stand at the window
where the mountain has almost gone,
a pitch-black silhouette I know
by the strip of salmon light against the ridge,
the turquoise grading to indigo,
the moon in the branches of ash trees
outside the east-facing window.
Tonight, I was a princess for the last time,
sick of dreaming—not of the witch
who locked me in here—but of the prince,
off to war again. The door is wide open
and I haven’t seen him in years
though I dream of him and wake up
screaming at what he’ll do
to children spooning cereal
into their soft mouths
on the other side of the world.
I switch off my light, put my head on the pillow,
wriggle my toes under the quilts
and lie with my eyes open. Some say
this isn’t a life, leave me
the usual gifts of silk and perfume
to find at the doorstep. I’d prefer flannel and wool
the sheepskin coat I’ll buy at the market.
I’d prefer for him to do anything—
go for long walks in the woods, paint watercolors, play chess—
than what he does now—
so I don’t have to go out and find him.
Lonesome / by Gabriel Vass
All the songs of my state,
are filled with sorrow
Whisky and women and
gnashing of teeth
One day, you will visit my
cobweb covered grave,
and the chiseled inscription
will be long faded,
the memory of me, of my smile
will be long forgotten, wisps
But all the songs
Of my state,
Toppling the Patriarchy / by Alise Versella
What happens to the leftover meat
The flank of the antelope
If the lion
Went for the jugular?
Then grew tired of the masticating
A jaw worn from the gristle, tendinous
What happens when the beast grows ashamed of his teeth?
What of the hyena who no longer finds this
Unwilling to feed off the scraps
And get her paws bloodied
By a kill she can’t claim
Do the birds even give a shit if the meat turns rancid
When the table runs rampant with their worms?
Like buffalo at the watering hole
The widows will side-eye the men
Those bengals stalking out the weak ones
The widows protect the youngest cub
“This holy water will save you
If you trust its eminence.”
But if the lion abandons his pride
And the hyena becomes more confident in her ability
To strip the flesh from the rib
Because she is satiated
Does the watering hole become less neutral zone
The land become more sacred
Like a temple
A mosque made of flesh
But why twaddle over a mirage
In the desert?
I’ll tell you
Because the jaw of a women learned to snap first
Learned not to let go of the throat
Until she felt the pulse
The lion takes for granted that the antelope would ever outrun him.
Poem 7 / Day 7
Marriage Song: Caprock/ Deborah Bennet
Limestone needle supports this heavy
table, heart balanced, filament
of rock. We must take up the tools
of marriage—patience, endurance
in the face of weather. Dur, there
is a hardness in partnership. We
sediment our love. Accumulate
day and year, measure
by measure. Erode what was
once a monument in stone. In summer
wind and rain ease. Water continues
to lap. You are my home. Yet
I shelter in the worn rock of your love.
I Go to The Movies/ Elly Bookman
But to be alone in the dark
and light of a life
not my own, I forget
isn’t always a peace.
Sometimes the same seams
come apart in real life
and I’m reminded
is like the warmth
of a kitchen or the slant
sun of winter—
here to offer its dose
and then vanish.
as with the dog
whose waste I carry daily
to the garbage
I have to pretend.
That I won’t help her
die one day, either
by failure or
mercy, and soon.
That the well in me
won’t run dry and require
the flicker of a theater
to fill it back up.
As Always / by Lynn Finger
It’s night. My uncle sings Lili Marlene “Wie einst Lili”
as always, Lili, as always.
To be the girl in the song,
or caught in blankets at night
uneasy about the long shadows cross the window
ivy scratches, cricket scratches in the night.
The black and red masks on the study wall
hollow eyed, terror there nothing breathes
eyes sunken down, walls melt
on a lost shore withered cedars
hide turtles, the nets skim for them but miss.
Were any caught? Were you hiding in a good spot?
Turtles shells black and red hang in the water,
turtles in stained glass waters watch, dark
rains shake dancing mists.
Always speak, if hollow.
Always know the war is in you.
As always, Lili. As always.
Ambrosia, $2.99 lb/ Jacqueline Kolosov
As if the imperishable-
immortal beloved could be bought
or patented, this October-hued
apple’s honest flush reminiscent
of the tips of first love’s ears, cheeks
just come in from the cold (let’s
never-mind Keats’s fever and all those
‘names writ on water’…)..
Ambrosia, the New Year’s Eve
gift of a friend, sweet meat I shared
with two horses, the mare’s forelock
shielding her bright star, both nut-brown
bodies flinted black as the chestnuts
shared on the street corners of happiest
story-books. Or the fruit of the chestnuts
pulled from the oven at Christmas,
protection cracked by heat
to reveal creamy insides, as rare a treat
as champagne that first time you celebrate—
And yes, that Baked Alaska I created
for my father. The dog skimmed the meringue
from the birthday splendor waiting on the counter–
I’d forgotten the candles. His Airedale grin
smeared with a ten-year-old’s idea of heaven.
How I adored that first dog,
and how I trifled with him, forgetting
his patient waiting at the door, or
the summer he ferried me everywhere,
my new roller skate wheels fleet
on pavement, loosed braids wild as
any good horse’s mane. Yes, eventually
the wheel snagged, I fell, and slashed
both knees before he stopped and
came back to lick my tears—. As if
I deserved or was even worthy of
a fraction of his devotion, this dog
I often forgot to walk, or lied and said I had.
He arrived in his twelfth week, all legs
and curly-cue fur, and I named him
Cinnamon. We shared cinnamon toast
and milk bones in corners and
sat beneath August’s trees watching
the fluorescent green inch worms climb.
I was five. He lived to be thirteen.
What did I know then? Or even much later on?
Believing as I did that perishable was a word
that applied only to fruit.
Invisible / by Hannah Mitchell
I am invisible to the wind.
She blows fierce and free
and wild through my heart
As if I’m not here at all.
The only proof of my existence
Is my black shadow on the red dirt behind me.
I can get the attention of the sun
But not the wind.
Am I inconsequential to her?
Or is she merely recognizing
Her own soul walking
On human feet?
Expectations/ Harriet Arzu Scarborough
So there we were in our caps and gowns
On the courtyard of Holy Redeemer
Convent girls no more
So young, so full of promise
So much expected of us
And in turn, as is the nature of youth
We were sure we would conquer the world.
The reunion was joyous
Not about accomplishments
But more about survival
Surviving illnesses and marriages
Separation from family, from country
And embracing a gratitude
That we had made it thus far
Still holding on to the vestiges
Of the convent girls that we were.
In the end
We just want to know
That we matter.
It’s not about competition, not just accomplishments;
It’s all about ensuring
That we are a positive force
In the area we inhabit first, and
And then as far as we are able.
We want to make sure that we are giving
Much more than we have taken.
THE SNOW PRINCESS / by Katherine Smith
Once the sister of twelve swans,
I spent a year knitting sweaters
in a snow palace,
to break the spell,
turn my brothers back into princes.
Now I sit by the fire
in the stone hearth,
all I want is to knit.
They say they have enough
too many warm cable-knit socks.
Instead of sweaters
they want one of the fables
I used to tell,
from the gilded book
of lies I loved as a flighty girl
before they were bewitched.
Now they tease
with a snicker,
that I’ve grown cold,
always crouched over the vellum
of another history book
with a frown on my face,
holding with shaking fingers
another book of magic, intoning
aloud in a serious voice
scribbling my to-do lists
in permanent ink on pads of cheap paper,
laying in supplies—
needles, patterns, skeins of yarn,
walnut wardrobes full of sweaters—
knitting for their next catastrophe.
Forgotten Memory / by Gabriel Vass
I gaze into my eyes
And they tell me a tale
I have never heard
A Bard’s song unsung
I listen intent, frozen
As my eyes pluck a tired lute’s
Waiting for the Thaw / by Alise Versella
This damp stone gray sinks into bone halfway
Seizures the lips, the nose runneth over
Perhaps frostbit garden vegetable stays
Rooted in soil, not dead tomorrow
We bloom contingent on nature’s weather
Suffer frost in order to tunnel through
The rabbit in the burrow, foot severed
Luck for the keychain, a season brand new
These bones at the knuckle, arthritic break
And the corners of my lips crack open
Like the land and the grave tilled by the rake
Small seeds-ocean waves, wait for their moment
We scorn the rain, blessed mist a travesty
Sacrifice the kit for the bride’s wedding
Poem 6 / Day 6
Milk Teeth / by Deborah Bennett
In your head since
inception, they erupt
as you begin your diurnal
days. Swaying in the milk
of my body, deciduous teeth
polyps in a reef. They file in
sweet succession, drop like fruit
Golden Globes / by Elly Bookman
The stars say
the world is a buffet of suffering
and frailty tonight.
Australia is burning, says Ellen.
No more private jets, says Joaquin and
I barely sleep. For hours
I sift through a waking dream
of myself in a velvet gown, silhouette
made sleek by Spanx and clever
tailoring. You look
incredible, says Seacrest
but I barely hear him
because Leo and I have locked eyes
and he’s lifting an arctic-loving
hand to wave.
Briefly, your breathing
brings me back to the bedroom’s
dark stillness, actual as gold,
and I whisper a question in your ear:
If I win, if at last
a million soft hearts must listen,
what fire in this flashbulb life
do I say scares me most?
SPIDER BELL / by Lynn Finger
Black zafu cushion sewed by zen nuns
in darkened offices,
black thread, cattail filled.
A bell rings–slices of oranges falling
from a tree that answers koans.
Bow to the teacher, eyes down.
A white spider creeps across the swept
bare floor, heads right for me.
Bells ring like leaves of sound, and now he runs.
He is white, and nimble, and has a tan
marking on his back, like God’s tear,
a spider as big my palm
and as swift as the bells that ring.
What is mindfulness but knowing that a fast-moving spider
will reach you before meditation is done?
The nuns made the cushion for calm sitting,
But I’m no longer there.
Sometimes a spider wakes you up,
Sometimes a spider stares you down,
Sometimes you have to know when to change.
Migratory / by Jacqueline Kolosov
Long after Fuchs Dystrophy fogged his eyes,
my grandfather would sit at the table
beside the kitchen window, one at whichOma,
my grandmother, used to preside,
many years before, when they started again
in Chicago. The three acres in the country
Oma never lived to see.
Beyond my grandfather’s
kitchen window, he kept a feeder filled with sun-
flowers, millet, and corn. He can’t see, Mom,
I wanted to say. So why is he always sitting there?
Now, maybe not even then, could she have answered.
Perhaps he still heard the fee-bee of chickadee,
chatter of black-capped junco and noisy sparrow.
Perhaps winter brought back pictures of the cardinal’s red
set off by sculptural branch and clean snow. Always
he’d said very little, preferring birds, the expansive garden
and tangle of raspberry and currant, trellised grapes
he turned to wine, and the burn of Marlboros
he smoked outside, especially during winter.
How astonishing, the accordion
recovered among the belongings. Only then
did my mother say he’d played folksongs through all
the long evenings on the farm in Slovenia where all three
daughters were born. Among Slovenia’s native birds:
thrush nightingales, pipits, wagtails, tits and finches, more water
birds than I knew existed, even two kinds of cuckoo.
Were the birds of his first adopted homeland
inspiration for the pretty wooden clock that traveled
to America, its mechanical bird popping out
to announce the hour, a much-needed cheer
those final years spent by the window in his kitchen.
Or was the cuckoo clock just an Old World tradition?
Decades later, Fuchs dystrophy fogged my mother’s
eyes, too; this time the gift of two clear corneas
restored it. Several thousand miles now from her Chicago
home, my mother walks the path around an LA reservoir.
Sometimes she sends me pictures of ducks and geese
streamlining water, and once an egret’s nest
spilling out of someone’s chimney. She, too,
is drawn to birds, but never set up a feeder.
And the cuckoo clock
now looks down from a high-ceilinged corner
of my sister’s dining room. Each time
the bird announces the hour, the black rescue dog
cowers beneath the table, vulnerable prey to
a particularly ruthless cat. Poor dog,
since that cuckoo never misses an hour.
Or could the dog’s fear be habit, routine as the birds’
return to the feeder that remained long after my grandfather died.
Others live in that house now, one designed by two sons-in-law.
Surely these others cannot know that the rows of
fruit trees sprang from the Slovenian seeds Oma sewed
into the pockets of her clothes, as if to ensure
the land she came from would survive, even if she didn’t,
the fruit of her leaving a gift, this sustenance for generations
of migratory as well as abiding birds.
Hand Me Down / by Hannah Mitchell
My great-grandmother’s flour-soft hands
Are still on my heart.
My great-grandmother’s hair
Still frizzes around my face.
My grandmother’s laughter
Still echoes in my throat.
When I hold my mother’s hands
It’s difficult to tell
Which hand belongs to which woman.
My eyes twinkle darkly at me
From the faces of my daughters.
We are all patchwork quilts
Cut from so many beautiful pieces.
A Way of Life / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
Ma cups her hands around the first egg
And holds it close to the kerosene lamp
Searching for the crown
That will show that the egg is fertile
She’s collected the dozen eggs we haven’t eaten
Because the big mother hen is needing to sit.
In a few weeks we’ll have some chicks
And each of us will select a pet to raise.
I name my pet chicken with its soft yellow down, Fluffy.
I watch him grow into a black and golden brown
He’s the chicken Ma stews for my birthday meal
Pa spends evenings after school on the verandah
knitting his seines
He uses nylon filament that will be strong but not too heavy
He and my brothers outfit Alpha and motor out
Close to the Temash River, not too far from the coast.
There they set two seines close to the mouth of the river.
They check the seines twice a day, morning and evening
They bring home catches of mostly snook
Sometimes a tarpon, once a gasiera
Which Ma and her helpers clean and salt
And get ready for the Guatemalan market.
To prepare for the holidays Ma and Pa raise a hog.
At the edge of our yard close to the road is the pen
Where the school children stop by to pet and feed him.
We name him Master Willy after a pig in our reading lesson
Who loves to roll in the mud.
Early Christmas Eve when we are still in bed
We cover our ears so we don’t hear Master Willy’s squeals.
Tío Paul makes chicharrones and Ma makes morcía
Which we enjoy with hot flour tortillas.
On a cold fall day my father-in-law invites me
To join him in the jeep as he scouts out a herd of deer
Near the Hualapai Mountains
He’s brought along some Fritos and some venison sausage
In the clear cold outdoors, the sausage and salami are delicious
I hope he’s able to get a deer,
But after he takes me back to the camper.
CROSS CREEK ROAD / by Katherine Smith
This world born from a windblown branch bends
at the knuckle-bones—fingers reaching
for water they will never touch—
rooted in a small mountain, skirted in pine,
rising above the pocked mud of pasture,
vines loose on spindly persimmon trees.
Scots pine still loaded with last year’s cones
rises over the creek
where black-crested titmouse
peeps in emerald-green stalks of witch hazel,
and with my eyes shut, I hear winter
rustling through birch leaves, smell winter
in moss on the fence posts, see winter’s broken
light zigzag across the river’s green grey current, gather
improbably at the fork of the Tye and the James,
shine on the horizon where the world ends.
Evidence / by Janel Spencer
Like a good cry, the land rains down
her fury. Water greedy for mouths.
Look at her lying sweet for the taking,
the world a maiden before our feet
we track into our homes with muddy boots.
Look into the hurricane’s eye. She is your mother
mad before breakfast and after—
you brace for what’s to come.
Look at the earth, like an old crone,
dying after so many years
crippled and mumbling to herself alone.
While we wait blind as mice
hiding in a dark garage, the cover of it
a kind of merciful misery.
We wait and we wait for peace, for calm
that will never create itself.
For a miracle that will not save us.
the old man staring at the sky / by Gabriel Vass
I grasp the knob and turn it
But his door won’t budge
It’s white painted wood
Catches on the doorframe
To paint the portrait
I see myself out and now
I feel detached, maybe the
Dancing stars will be
So kind as to let me watch them
Even though a dozen people
Glide by whispering one tired cliché
Or another my mind is still entranced
By the baby blue and black swirling sky
It’s hard to describe the dance
The stars do, it’s somewhere
In-between the foxtrot and
Classical ballet, something orphic
I think every star must have to
Take dance lessons, not at one of those
gaunt junked sudios in a strip mall, but
Somewhere nice, by someone learned,
Like the royal ballet school,
Or maybe the vaganova academy
Which was designed by
Architetto Carlo Rossi
And I am practically asleep while
Standing, ten ton bags reside under
My hazel eyes, but I know that this moment is
The only time this night sky will breathe
The sky doesn’t cost, isn’t worth anything
But yet I still savor it the most of everything
More than any portraits, lamdscapes or Picasso’s, more than any Monet or Dali
The night sky is mine, the night sky is ours
The stars are mine, as they are yours
And they are free as the starling, as they are so am i, in this single, individual, moment of
Heart Murmur / by Alise Versella
One ticking hand
On a wristwatch
Cracked leather where she wanted gold clasped
The time will still pass
We want the love
But the lover is interchangeable
Love not once the mirror
Where is treasure buried?
If not within the chest?
We crack open the egg
Empty the nest
Of its organisms
Sometimes I am frightened of the spaces
Where I feel my heart beat
Caught in my throat like a swallow
Tail and beak
Finds the remains of what used to exist
Look more meaningful
Magnified by his glass
I can’t find the meaning drawn into my palms
So I draw geometry like honesty onto the walls
But I was never virtuous mathematically
Admit I lie my way through every
Hope you won’t notice how I
At the answer
Disappeared with the time
Maybe one day the skeleton of love will remain
The bird in my throat will leave
And when I open my beak
I will not fear the fluttering
In the convex space
Of my elbow
Poem 5 / Day 5
Mood Cinter / by Deborah Bennett
And so he drives all night, pocket
square states, desert corners. Quarter
glass ticks cigarette ash into more
ash. Fresh macadam, tar devil
lit in red and white.
Molten refuse spill-way, slag
pile terminus. Tabernacle, ward
of butte and spire. Heavy
water thick with salt. Break
blisters, skin a riot. Wind hollows
caves. High desert flowers glow
in headlamp spray. Life, family
lie head to tail, coiled rope of sand
and river. Marry the Mary, defile
the sister. Home is where
you are not wanted.
The Gaps / by Elly Bookman
Maybe men write war
like a love song.
Taylor Swift says
a song comes to her
like a glittering cloud
and she grabs hold,
gets to a piano
and fills in the gaps.
WINTER / by Lynn Finger
The bears in the forest can’t get enough sleep, everything
is a lie, the sap has dried up and the snow curdles. It’s too hot
for winter, they wander annoyed, sweaty and steeped.
The bears can’t hibernate and sleep. The geese stick
around, there’s no snow to leave. It’s all hot and blistery,
and they’re just blind enough to get horribly lost. The heat
cleaves the bees and fur and frost, a wicked hatchet. There is
no more snow, no reason to hibernate, no tangy winter
berries to eat. We watch the bears burrow into the dirt
and twigs that are degrees too warm. “My father was a bear,” begins
a Nordic tale, and perhaps far enough back we all might have
some bear in us. We wander like bears with our own lives,
missing, something’s off, it doesn’t add up.
We’re just lost enough to seek a winter without winter.
As if Another Earth / by Jacqueline Kolosov
each breath blossoms
and sweet-bitter as
the single voice calling out
to the inner ear
protected by the promise
of renewal, the-always-possible-
return-to-ancestors no longer distant
as the salt-bitten seas or long-
Remembered, if at all,
by the last ice sheets and
by the very few who hold
the vast Eurasian Steppe in
the mind’s eye, a kind of saffron
secret, also an opening, an
revealing stigma, wound,
but also wonder. (I do, yes,
Who would you and I, who
would we, who would any one of us
be on another earth
the golden stamen bearing
three crimson threads,
or the purple crocus unfurling
on a new-born’s palm?
the horse chestnut trees and the wild,
sun-ripened riot of apple,
juicy flesh forbidden no
longer, and the wasp’s sting, all trace
of snake or rabid dog
that recedes with the waves.
How the waters cleanse us, yes,
both you and I, on this
the first afternoon of our
immaculately new lives
Lonesome / by Hannah Mitchell
I’m so lonesome I could scream
And she smiles at me with coyote’s teeth
And asks me how I’ve been
I could tell her
I’ve been better
But I don’t want to throw her a bone from my life
Just to be devoured.
HOW BAD CAN IT GET? / by Katherine Smith
I remember how a pear could comfort
with sugar on the tongue at night,
how the branches of white pine
soft thumps falling
into the tracks of skis
sparkling like the word
amen. Joy came easily,
smelling of ozone, tasting
of ripe fruit. But, tonight,
at three, there’s no track,
no fresh-fallen snow
in the scars
left by the pipeline. Still
is cracked open
and through it
are shining. In the cold,
an owl hoots
its innocent hymn.
Sundays / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
When I leave home at eleven
Sundays become a time of melancholy.
In the village Sundays are community days;
After morning mass, I take the long way home
With my best girlfriend
Even though our houses are just behind the church.
Ma asks if we’re doing the stations of the cross
Because we keep stopping to extend our time together
After breakfast it’s a swim in the sea
Followed by a rinse off
At Salume, a pond close by.
After lunch and the sun’s abated some
It’s time to gather with friends
For some adventure
For organized games
Or for wandering through the village
Looking for guava, malay apples, or plums
Or just sitting at the end of the pier
With some sour oranges enhanced by salt and pepper.
The dark draws everyone home
Where the radio transmits the Sunday requests
And Ma sings along.
In the city
The excitement of preparing for morning mass
What to wear
Who I’ll see
Wears away when church is over
And I await a Sunday dinner
Of rice and beef liver.
As soon as I can, I escape
The confining quiet of the unfamiliar
And try to find relatives
Who will be a reminder of home.
The city streets are quiet
Except for the occasional sounds
Wafting from neighborhood radios
Jim Reeves’s soulful “I’m Only a Stand-In”
Or his “Stand by Your Window Sometime”
And his other macobi tunes
Are the music convincing me
That a day I once anticipated
Now brings a melancholy
That makes me long for Monday.
Body of a Woman / translated by Janel Spencer (from “Cuerpo de Mujer” by Pablo Neruda)
Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,
in your pose of surrender, you look like the world.
My laborer’s body mines you,
springing a son from the depths of the earth.
Alone, I was like a tunnel. From me the birds fled
and the night entered me with her sweeping invasion.
To survive myself, I forged you like arms—
an arrow in my bow, a stone in my sling.
But now the hour of vengeance falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of milk, eager and steady.
Ah, the cups of the breasts! Ah, the eyes of emptiness!
Ah, the roses of the mound! Ah, your voice, gentle and sad!
Body of my woman, I will live on by your grace.
My thirst, my limitless lust, my path undecided!
These are dark channels where thirst forever flows,
and fatigue flows, and the pain is infinite.
Her Table / by Gabriel Vass
bright blinding days
not just Are
by blood They?
’round this table
I observe my
My incomplete story
by a table
little tufted bird / by Alise Versella
Little tufted bird on the pussy willow branch
When you learned to fly where did you first land?
(When I first learned to drive I flew to Barnes and Noble)
When it rains where do you hide?
(Most days I hide inside)
When the dawn comes little bird
Do you ever wish to stay in the nest,
Are you ever tired of singing for us?
(Sometimes I become tired of chewing)
Little bird is your only stress where you buried the seed?
(Sometimes I feel as if I’ve been buried alive, but proverbs tell me
I’ve just been planted; this is growing)
Are you ever envious
Of the blue jay and the cardinal
Ever wish you were mightier than the vulture
Or the swooping hawk?
(I have never scorned being short. Think Napoleon or Attila the Hun)
With your silhouette against the sun, little bird
Your shadow is a comfort in the winter cold
The ground unforgiving
But you forgive
You teach me to forgive
The ways in which nature’s taught us our place
Forgive mankind his hellish face
You sing in spite of him
(I live in spite of myself sometimes)
How often do they yearn for the wind?
(How often I have prayed for a gust of it
To take my hair the way a lover would
Oh the ways touch can feel like flight)
Where do you perch at night
When you sleep
Who do you dream of?
Poem 4 / Day 4
How You Spent Your Summer / by Deborah Bennett
The Olympics are on. Each night you drag the 13-inch black and white TV to the patio. Poured concrete rough plane of heat underfoot. A short girl runs the offense through a tall player who will die soon of a syndrome you’ve never heard of. You peel paper back on the frozen cup of ice, rub your blue ankle absently, imagine yourself on that court, big city, foreign voices shouting outside! split block! angle!
Your skin is not burned. Every August day inside. Salt like contour lines, maps your arms. Planks give purchase to rubber soled feet. Sealant off-gasses. No whistles, pre-season. Orange cooler, waxy cup towers tumble. Girls gulp for air and water. Cold, punch to the chest. This is scene setting.
Other girls go home. Low sun in fir trees chases you up bleaching boards. American cars cruise the four-lane road. Your ankle spills over the tape holding it together. In your head, a song from a boxing movie plays. You are the scrapper, training in an old barn or a dingy ring. You have no business imagining yourself this way. You are a girl, for one. But you do not realize that yet.
By Now / by Elly Bookman
I’ve lived a few places, carry
with me papers that say
I’ve learned a lot
about a few things.
I’ve seen a few wars begin,
none end, and
I’ve gone to the doctor
a few times sure I was dying.
I’ve walked through snow
in Georgia, but not
lately. And the flu shot?
It’s saved me from
a few fevers by now, though
I can’t say how or when.
Each time was just another
day in the world
spent brushing up
Ablaze / by Lynn Finger
Van Gogh, knee deep in grassy reeds,
all wind and sun, easel burns
orange in the light, brush stabs
amber stalks bend,
black birds circle low in the wind
the fire still smolders in him
Grey depths shade where stars scatter,
stalks bend behind. Unless fire,
art can’t happen.
Four paws grow gargoyle edges
body cracking from the grasses,
where black snakes ripple like ribbons
crows circle, wind lashes.
something snarls, leaps from the canvas.
The fire smolders, is ablaze.
As if there was another earth / by Jacqueline Kolosov
Where each breath, tear, and beat of heart had not been measured, labeled, claimed—
the eight-horned star fruit blossoming through centuries of
Asian evergreens; the gangly grace of the gray
cranes capped with crimson, their tracheal reach
the reason for the trolling lowness of their pitch,
not like the muffled bellow of the bullfrogs on humid nights; or
the tiger’s roar, the lion’s,
frequencies that paralyze prey,
the hunter protected by subtle folds that close off
their own inner ears.
not a Janus mirror or sci-fi replica
as if God, Fortune, Chance
call it Mystery could return us to—the beginning…
Not until after the last sheets of ice retreated
did those of us, our earliest ancestors
beginning in Africa
to travel north to central and even further north to upper
Europe’s Baltic Sea, others venturing far as
Scandivania’s peninsula. Thousands
of years of migration known now as centuries rather than
stretches, reaches, waves in the ocean
we know as time.
From the vast expanse of Eurasian Steppe came those who settled
what became Persia, now Iran. Birthplace
of saffron secreted within a crocus opening
to a golden stamen bearing
three crimson threads or stigma.
Not marks of disgrace
or the wounds annointing Jesus’s body
but the wonder borne by a flower small
as a newborn’s palm.
Warm, soothe, hold the closed fist
clenched from the journey,
contracted hand often the size of a chestnut,
delicious nut of the beech tree….
So many afternoons leaning towards evening
I walked among the Luxembourg’s horse chestnut trees
that first autumn of my daughter’s life.
Row upon row of immaculately-trained trees in that mathematic garden,
designed paradise of privilege, yes,
but of preservation, also.
She was just learning to walk, and how I tried to hold her back from the gleam
of lawn, irresistible even in November,
and as forbidden as July’s emerald sheen.
The rare apples, trellised and still leafy, were no longer in fruit,
though each framed placard bore the genus and year,
words written out in French, English, German, Japanese,
characters with no more significance to her then
than the crayon and lipstick scribbles
I, like other mothers, scrubbed from walls and tables,
and sometimes preserved, as if from time.
Hillbilly Fairy Tales / by Hannah Mitchell
Jack followed the Scotch-Irish
From one set of hills
to another across the sea,
Both old, both fey, both home.
Both lands could grow a beanstalk
As well as the other.
The tales and creatures
Of mirth and myth
Felt just as comfortable
Anywhere there was milk to sour,
Shoes to mend,
Or gardens in which to dance.
So the hillfolk
Knowing the fairy ways of old
Continued to tuck bread in their pockets
Or their baby’s bib
When walking after dark.
They threw salt over their left shoulder
And picked lucky clovers
And kept right on telling the tales.
The children must learn
To be wary and respectful
Of the Old Folk in the Hills.
Betrayal / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
I don’t understand betrayal
I understand loyalty
I don’t understand objectivity
When it is clear that one side is right
And the other is not.
Accused of something I had not done
I looked to you once for support.
You, afraid of not being liked
Chose that time to be impartial
Knowing, you told me later,
That I’d get over it.
Over the years I’ve come to realize
That in the working white world
My white boss will not hesitate
To throw me under the bus
To save his white job and his white ass
No matter how close our relationship
No matter the shopping for shoes we’ve done
No matter that we enjoy the same wines
Read the same books
And laugh at the same jokes.
When I point out a slight from a white waiter
You’re quick to dismiss
Telling me I must be imagining things
Why do you seem afraid to see my point
Or take my side?
WOMAN WITH A CUP OF TEA / by Katherine Smith
She stirs her matcha with a bamboo spoon,
then tips the steaming milk into her cup
and whisks the powder to a green-maroon.
She measures honey like a gold doubloon.
Between her fingers and her thumbs, she turns
the mug against a trembling palm that burns.
This ceremony is one way to cope
with suffering outside of the picture frame.
She takes a thousand sips of tea in hope
of calming chaos far beyond the brain.
Ubique / by Gabriel Vass
rose colored lining
an eternity past
I loved you then
I can’t now
I felt you then
I can’t now
I felt your heartbeat
doing legato strokes
your past is mine
and my future is yours
and any other synonym for the
End of what we transients call
I am drifting
tossed around, waves hit rough on a small raft
I see the
or is that the
It’s hard to tell these days
with all the dying stars
I saw you in the
floating a shade of yellow
Time and Again / by Alise Versella
One day the armies of little boys who saw no other future than to sacrifice their bodies for money
Will come home from the foreign countries whose languages and cultures they were ordered to burn
One day old men will realize borders are pretend
Gates we erected with spikes because white picket fences could not exist for them
One day maybe in another decade little boys will stop fighting wars with little boys
Reminiscent of days on playgrounds where toy airplanes were built from paper
Could not propel bombs the bombs were crayons
Today I can’t read the paper
Most days I can’t face the news
This does not make me naïve, a poet hippie who believes love will save us
She hasn’t been loved back for a while she knows
It takes more than love to save the world
But these days I am afraid and my nerves jangle like plastic skeletons on Halloween
They don’t look like decoration anymore they look like warning
My dead walk the streets each morning
Slowly dying at jobs we hate
But they pay for our portion of the world
We stand ready to defend our corner
I feel like I am suffocating to protect a corner patch of weeds
Nothing has grown here for awhile
I do not have my father’s green thumb
I do not know which seeds I have inherited but I do not want them
The seeds are on fire
The kids are not alright
I must admit I grow more terrified of walking to my car at night
I do not know what more to write
We’ve been typing out the same old ink
I argue in my own mind each night
Try to reconcile poetry as medicine
When it’s medicine we cannot afford
I do not know anymore the point.
Tomorrow I will get out of bed I will commit to do the work the only way I can
So tomorrow while the new decade burns I will write a poem again.
Poem 3 / Day 3
You Do Not Fear Me / by Deborah Bennett
You and your mate lope
across the yard, then hit
your mark in unison. Your size
fools me. I do not know
if you are a threat. You know I am
simply an existential threat. My dog
knows you. He freezes in frozen
grass. You eye me, then him. How do you
calculate without language, symbolic
Later I will learn you are
abundant and versatile. You are heavy
with fur, but weigh less
than my dog. Your butterscotch
coat could be called fulvous. Vision
more important than scent.
Your breath synched, pools
in steam clouds around
your heads. Your fur does not
stand on end. We are a triptych
hinged in snow and darkness.
You are a hybrid. Coywolf. More playful
and social. But you eat so many
kinds of meat. Animals that burrow
and nest and swim. You hunt
ungulates, which do not include
me or my dog. You are riddled
with disease for your diet.
I scream. You look from me
to the dog and back. You leap
a fence the size of a tall man,
synchronized like birds in formation.
Your tensile strength unleashed
on wood slats and no animal.
A Provocation / by Elly Bookman
At last the dream
of gifts of love has ended.
You tore at tin-man silver paper
and found a tightly-rolled
t-shirt. I pulled at the end of a
blue ribbon, lifted a box lid, released
a little breath and saw
earrings, golden and green
against snow. So
we begin again now
to count the days of a year
while anticipation’s parade balloon
deflates and folds itself
climbs off the shelf to
make room, and we return
to plunder—the giver, as ever
shops in secret; the taker
is taken aback:
You shouldn’t have.
How will I ever repay you?
COYOTE LEAN / by Lynn Finger
I watch a coyote run lean across the street this morning
coat streaked in sunrise cream and gold
explodes from black shadows.
He looks back with a quick head toss as he runs and
I’ve seen many animals do that quick look backwards before:
lizards, bobcats, deer and birds give that little frantic toss,
that backward glance as they move
for fear of attack unseen, but more than that
maybe keeping ahead of the seen, that sun that wind
that moment that threatens to overtake,
I see a coyote this morning, running
from the wave, the tsunami of sun
and his panting is quick — quick — quick.
Holes / by Jacqueline Kolosov
There are reasons to fear them.
Say you’re a horse being ridden over endless prairie
dog burrows, or a child who entrusts her lunch
money to a pocket with one and so goes hungry
one icicle-sharp, snow-crusted day. Perhaps
another, hopefully a friend, shares her soup and grilled
cheese, or just a bruised pear, maybe the overcooked
peas. But what if she does not? And what if—. Down
comes the curtain on this snippet—. Or we’ll soon get to
Please, sir, I want some more—.
Is there a hole in your head? Now that you’ve asked,
it’s in my shoe on a forced march through Siberia in winter.
Let’s avoid that rabbit hole, shall we? Still
does a soldier mend a bullet hole in his coat?
You mean there are still people who know how
to sew, says a tween, glancing up from her phone.
I’m not a gaping hole of need.
Uma, please, make like the White Rabbit, would you?
No mouse entrusts his life to only one hole.
But what happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?
Yes, please hand the mic to the man on the lef—oh, hell-o,
Mr. Hawking. A question for the poet:
is this what you do when you hole up in your room?
Thank you, plenty of time for that question later.
Perhaps we’ll start with a sing-a-long to
“There’s a Hole in My Bucket.” Seriously,
holes are wondrous things. Brace a ‘w’ up against one,
and voila—out, of the satin-lined-hollow of the magician’s hat
ascends (accompanied by applause)
what so many of us believe we long to be.
I mean, without holes why dig?
But Mama, that man says when you find yourself in a—.
Not now, sweetheart. Any golf fan knows, every player’s heart
palpitates before one. Our esteemed guest-from-the-cosmic beyond
earned his place among the immortals by dreaming-daring-
through-one. Physics aside, the lives of moles, mice, voles,
and countless other beings depend upon them.
What is a hollow in a tree if not a home for owls, parrots,
chickadees, and wood peckers (don’t forgot, nuthatches!)
to build nests to reside or brood within? Madame, such hollows,
if I may point out, are called cavities, the reason for five-
hundred-dollar-fillings, dentists’ golf club memberships, and jack-
Thank you, Audubon Miniver Cheevy.
Well, at least I’m not Beckett. Will this falling never end?
(That’s what happens when one tries to keep up
with rabbits. No, we’re not talking about breeding, Mr. T—).
Parting words: without holes, there’d be no echoes.
Pipe down, Oliver.
Poems, Like Liquor, Are Best Shared / by Hannah Mitchell
A poem is a celebration
A dedication, a toast
Champagne drunk, giddybright bubbles
A poem is an empty shot glass
At the end of the worst day of your life
Standing in line with six or seven brothers
(Also empty, now)
(Also, who’s counting)
Swimming in your head
Filling up the spaces
Clearing and clouding,
All at once.
Adulthood / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
In that little hut in that big city
I watch you take loving care of your mother:
You wash her hands,
You dish out her food that you’ve cooked
You braid her hair.
Your devotion to her
Reflects the maturity you’ve achieved
over the last few months.
I sit here considering our childhood;
I am just now easing out of it.
Bracing your shoulders, you’ve packed up, left,
And you have not looked back.
I’m still here negotiating youth,
Not yet willing to accept adulthood;
You’ve moved on;
You’re making life decisions, consequential ones.
I waver and dither,
Adrift and not in too much of a hurry.
“I’ve decided to accept his proposal,” you say.
You do not need to explain to me;
This next step has been long in coming.
We look at each other
And in that moment you and I know
That your blind and now powerless mother
Is accepting a future for her youngest daughter
A healthy mother would not have approved.
WHITE PINE / by Katherine Smith
Some truth begins in wind
although it seems foretold.
The sticky origin
of white pine is wind,
the needles spun and woven
of carbon, green as cold.
Some truth begins in wind
although it seems foretold.
Meditation on Acceptance / by Janel Spencer
It takes time to love the self.
Time to make the mistakes. Things you don’t
like to repeat about yourself. Don’t repeat.
And time to forgive yourself for them.
Maybe you learn to
walk a different way. Or maybe we never change.
Sometimes we change. You learn to open up
rather than shut down, or you listen to the Buddhists
and you learn to watch your thoughts
without making a scene. You watch the scene
playing out in your mind
But this takes time, and we continually mess up along the way.
The way is living.
It takes time to love others fully, too.
Time for them to mess up for you
and time for them to mess up for themselves. And time for you to mess up for them.
Maybe it’s small things
like you bought the wrong brand of soda.
Maybe it’s huge, practically unspeakable,
unrepeatable things. And the love breaks
in your hands like the last remaining
blue ceramic wedding bowl.
Maybe you dropped it. Maybe you needed to,
maybe it was time.
It takes time to forgive them, to forgive
yourself. It takes time
to love again, to trust yourself
with precious things.
Sisyphus / by Gabriel Vass
As he rolled his
Up and up and up
His stoney cracked hill
Only to watch it
Plummet to the very
bottom. And then walk
To the abysmal hill base
I’m sorry my friend
I don’t see Sisyphus grinning
Showing us his pearly whites
Cause he’s so happy to roll his boulder
The way I see Sisyphus,
Wise and dashing Mr. Camus.
Is begrudgingly persistent
Because I see the same faces
Everyday on those that pass by
The construction worker tanned
Strong, moving dirt so it can blow
Back over onto the same spot again
The corporate man, finances
Doing money management for
All the big companies, “great job!”
Those companies that don’t care
To even know his name
These are all people
who live in my hometown
Constantly shuffling around
Their heads down
Unable to see there’s more
and Albert I have news for
you, They aren’t smiling, as they roll whatever is their specific boulder
Up a hill, to watch it fall back down
Take care of the people whose leaves bring you shade / by Alise Versella
You hang like the boughs of evergreen, heavy with the pale white snow
Bear gallantly the blueberries on your bush for our spring
Bend like a willow hungering
At our smooth reflections in the lake
And with all this weight
Your branches do not break
With all that greedy fists reach up to take
You do not cease producing a sweet and pungent fruit
The core of you, the apricot pit
A poison that cannot touch you
All the bitter they try to push into you
Will not supplant the seeds
Meant to commence their flowering
No choking ivy, no crawling aphid
No root bound invasion invading space
To make a grave of the soil
A funeral for your leaves
To parch the bark, desert the ocean you breathe
You synthesize the noxious with prayer and we are fed
How starved we are
For your attention.
Poem 2 / Day 2
Souvenir / by Deborah Bennett
There is a velvet lined box. The kind you buy
at a souvenir shop at the beach. The kind of shop
pitched on rocks that sells other rocks. There are things
that go inside that box—bits of paper, feathers,
agates, more souvenirs. Sea lions below. Coiled
iron stairs lead to those oily animals. You bore
into the cliff like an auger ripping rock
from rock. In a cave unlike the one you
will read about in British literature, water booms
against the hollows. All is pocked like your mother’s
face. She has warned you what might become
of your own unblemished skin. You lay your face
against walls rimed with salt, trap water in your
pores. Bull whip kelp tangles underfoot. Molted
skins relinquished to the sea. Brine of decay. Close
the lid. You are the box. Rookery
of rest and breeding. Mothers trumpet
pups. Males bark as they do. Echo, the curse
Balcony / by Elly Bookman
The wind. The highway. The sea.
Three streams rushing in their directions
displacing oil and spit, the droppings
of all that swims and sucks life
from the ocean, given back.
I go back inside. I go
being made by
and processed meat—mmm.
If I’m hungry it’s mostly for quiet
vantages—their promise. I thought if
I stood there long enough I’d see you
walking—Lucky you, among muck.
The Kitchen Sink is Plugged / by Lynn Finger
Everything – everything! –
N e e d s f i x i n g e v e n t u a l l y
Will you come over?
[although it needs fixing]
But to see your eyes…..
You SMILE as if
You invented the snow cone
On the Hottest DAY
I love you
I don’t care if
Upon Being Asked the One Word I Would Tattoo upon the Body’s New Year / by Jacqueline Kolosov
“Therefore, receiving, as we now do, a kingdom…
let us cherish…”—Hebrews 12.28
As if the delicate skin beneath the ear or a single wrist
could bear so much, the heart weighed
alongside what one holds most dear.
Word poor our language is.
Or is it that we’ve forgotten
to welcome the other within? To usher in man,
woman, child-children in threadbare clothes; those
who must house their own dear lives in canvas,
even plastic bags. Doesn’t sanctuary abide
in the Welcome mat? Others who belong to us
come forth, not as if reborn,
but bearing another kind of mark
(never-mind they may have been beloved once).
What must it cost each and every one of us to forget
Cherish, close kin of Charity and Claritas,
invites another to sit by the fire, provides bread
with a bowl of warm soup, a mug of honeyed tea
and milk laid on a clean cloth.
So simple, and why impossible
this alchemy that familiarizes, even endears
stranger(s). Oh, that marrow-bone question:
who among us dares entertain angels unawares?
Didn’t you and I too
arrive naked and bloodied, feathered light now bound
by gravity’s burden.
Given this: who would not cry out
the umbilical cord’s severance is
just the beginning—
Sadness Lies / by Hannah Mitchell
Sadness is the monster under my bed
It oozes out from under mattress springs
And comes like a creep in the night
To steal my hard-earned sleep
With feathersoft claws
Slithering into the meat of my mind.
It tells me,
The world is so heavy
and full of cruelty
I am not sure I can handle its horrors.
Mending Dogs / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
With much appreciation to Robert Frost
Something there is that loves so many dogs
That would let them loose in my neighborhood.
On a cool January morning I set out
To enjoy the solace of a brisk walk
And to observe nature at play.
Ahead the early morning sun
Kisses the distant mountains pink.
Rabbits, suddenly summoned, dart across the road
Sending the jittery covey of quail aflutter.
Around the corner a lone coyote watches
The phainopepla tease as it flits from branch to branch
“Catch me if you can,” it seems to say.
And suddenly the morning stillness is no more.
Yelps and barks break the reverie announcing the invasion.
They come, bounding, mewling, snuffling,
Maypoling the owners behind them:
Black poodles, pink poodles, terriers, and hounds
White poodles, daschunds, shepherds, and mutts.
I long to tell my neighbors,
“You and your dogs stay on your side,
And I’ll stay on mine.”
Do I need to remind them once again
That using the mutt mitts makes good neighbors?
Down the hill
I’m chilled by the damp air of the wash;
The shaking nest in the nearby cholla signals
That once again it has a resident.
A dozen doves diving on cue from the overhead power lines
Signal another group of dogs and owners
Visiting on the other side of the hill.
With the sheepish smiles of resigned parents
Herding a misbehaving brood,
They strain to appear in control.
Like walking cell phone users
They long for communion with others
And the dogs are opening accessories.
Something there is that loves so many dogs
That would let them loose in my neighborhood.
TO A WATCH / by Katherine Smith
Your grandfather a sundial,
your grandmother the sunrise and sunset,
your father the bronze bell
on the church tower that brought men to their feet
and out to yolk oxen,
you were the moon in your mother’s belly.
You began grandly
on the clock-towers of train stations
your roman numerals speaking
the tongue of ancient authority
You became an obsession
to lovers of everything miniature
jewelers with nimble fingers, perfect eyesight.
who spent centuries on your complications,
your tick-tock, your diamond face.
Once after I got my first job in Paris,
my great love led me into a shop
on the rue Cardinal Lemoine.
We bent over the glass case. He chose a silver watch
like a ring I wore around my neck for years
until finally the face cracked.
Once there was only your ticking to bind
like leather wrapped around the forearms
like blue shawls and skull caps,
each second a forehead pressed to the mat.
You vanish like stopped breath
before wildfire and blizzard.
Your absence notable
as perfectly flat landscape
that resumes with fence posts.
Small enough to fit on the wrist.
Second cousin to the blind-folded woman
with her scales, full sister to deliberation,
you sit on the court
of judges with caseloads
of seven hundred a year.
Told it’s possible to be both swift and fair
you know the sorrow of the pure ornament.
I look up and behind my wrist to the blue sky
where you are planted like a white flower
behind the iron border of the garden.
Through the Door / by Gabriel Vass
I tread through the bird-song
My jaunt takes me through a patch
of January leaves
With their dull hollow crunch
for months now
Through congregations of clover I find
And they are friendly on my bare
As I journey I see the dozens of trees
They share with me their moth-eaten wisdom,
inviting me to sit
So I sit
I feel the tingle of the winter wind
dancing crosswise on my skin
And I hear the songs of the barren
I listen intently and I am steadied
Set on the path to wander
Meditations / by Alise Versella
I pulled the divination cards for a new year/Spread the scent of roses over my skin/I was the star/signifying inspiration/Renewed hope/Faith that I am blessed/I made of the cards a cross/And they fell to tell/Me/What to focus on: myself; queen of swords/How I have spent the last/Few years brooding over all that never worked/My strengths: 10 of swords/The shame I’ve felt in cutting and hedging the landscaping/Of my world so easily/What an ability to cut ties cleanly/That I have forgotten that all I need is within me/That to face the world enthusiastically/Means getting what you want/Or never knew you’d need/“Never lose your childish innocence and things will come your way”/A decade ago /My senior quote/How could I forget/All the glorious life that lays before me?/I am my own worst enemy/I stick myself/Only I can unstick myself from the mud/Or perhaps I might recall that a lotus blooms rooted so/Within it/I’ve been so afraid to unfurl the full fragility of my petal/Afraid the sun will set it wrinkling/That the hand will pluck the pink veined/And bleed me out/I should bleed /Like a rushing flood/Ransack the riverbeds, overflow/Some of us/Need to drown to be washed clean/Sometimes I close my eyes in order to see/I make no apology for frequent naivety/For the bitterness feels like a grave I am shoveling/Prefer to trust in the good of man/Before I ready my weapons to defend/There are no resolutions for the daily/Molding of a life/Like a woman birthed from marble/We take the chisel and the knife/And isn’t it magic how the eyes come alive?/How she stands draped in translucent fabric/And holds her breath/Like Gaia holding the wind/Today/Exhale/The year has passed/The echoes in a sculpture hall/Sound like singing bowls ringing.
Poem 1 / Day 1
Gulch / by Deborah Bennett
East of mountain and plain, gulches are anonymous with geography—ice,
craggy. Here, urban and wild. Root of fir and sword
ferns drink greedily. Clutch the shores
of the flume. This land clear cut of people,
dirt-banked homes, cedar planks
shorn from winter villages, laid
on puddles for the white women
who settled west of West.
They followed men we named
these gulches for: Marquam, Sullivan,
Balch. They settled this land that does not
settle. They had opinions, those men
from the East. This one hated
the rain. That one loved a woman
he could never marry. They came for decades
before they decided to preserve
land they emptied: Multnomah, Tualatin,
were wanted by degrees. Paolas
and Sampietros hunted and cured
wild hogs in forests climbing out
of the river. Grandmothers sliced
the heads off chanterelles, morels. Meier
and Frank peddled goods in gold
country. Sawtelle and Duniway faced
the legislature, intercessory prayers.
Enfranchisement a theory, exclusion
an act traced in ragged state lines.
This group got county names. That group
landforms. The ladies got pocket
parks. Other groups got a boulevard
late in the game. Someone is replacing
someone else right now. You were not
born here. Your name does not mark
basin, courthouse, valley or road. You are
a number, one of thirteen, unlucky. Flushed
from the fever of your brain, you sank in, gulsh, dry bed of needles.
The End / by Elly Bookman
It’s felt like the end
for a while now.
So we stocked up on
peas, bread & butter
pickles, halibut, &
hoped that if we
swallowed & set
adrift in our bodies
some morsels of
the best of this world
the end might come
gently—even the eyes
of the fish for luck
after dinner while
we watched the last
moon of the year
dip its bloodied grin
into the sea.
Bright Blankets / by Lynn Finger
When you wake up this morning and it is so cold
even the raccoons outside have long johns on
the sky an upside jade bowl
and the world muffled under snow, don’t think — it’s cold –
think — beauty brought bright blankets
today and we are lying with her
under the fragile lengths of woven
light, ice, pine needles
and the milky blue sky
Apollo / by Jacqueline Kolosov
On this first day [God] may I abide
like the Afghan pines some wise other planted
here. Rooted deep in red earth, and sky high,
theirs is a pride not like the hawk’s
yellow eye, but more like the jack rabbit’s
streamlined ear, a lean keenness, this way
of being urgently alive. Don’t get me wrong.
I do not long for flight, only to be ferried
on my good horse’s back, his strong body
nourished by grain, hay, and juiciest apple.
Before clearest morning gave way to wind-
blurred, wind-stirred sky, I held the fruit
to Apollo’s whiskered mouth. How greedily
he gobbled sweetness down. The new day,
the new year, seemed to spool from his lips
onto my fingers and hand. What did Bishop
say about rainbows—? Oh well, too much sun here…
Flecks of yellow flint the gelding’s amber eyes,
this twelve-hundred-pound teacher of laughter,
patience, but also of will, and sometimes fear—.
He is my apple-sweet god of manure-and-more-
trot-than-canter who grunts through and sometimes
against hard work. Impossible to measure
such sweetness, except in the green height of
living pine when he and I are united, not as one
flesh but as one force, energy catapulting
out of the star-shard dark and into the light.
Old Hills / by Hannah Mitchell
I grew up with the mountains in the corners of my eyes
Old hills, softened with age
Pillowed with hickory and hemlock
And the pines all around.
Little rivers laugh my name
As I sit in the sun on the wet and rocky bank
And feel my roots drinking in the good earth.
Directions / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
Pass the gas station,
that is the first crossroad,
Quality Chicken on the right;
that is the second cross road.
Continue straight to the third cross road.
There is a bump just ahead.
Do not reach the bump but turn left.
You are now on what we call Scholar Road.
Go all the way up,
no turning until you get to Fansico’s, a Taiwanese supermarket
Turn left at Fansico’s,
pass the first street to the right then turn right into the next street.
Go down this street until you get to this house on your right.
Wait for the house.
SCAVENGERS / by Katherine Smith
The wind that bears the dead branches
of once decorative plum trees
and empty feasts of poplar cones
carries amber feathers the color
of rusted bicycle fenders. The vultures
have spread their wings. They have no choice
but play, their hunger for ground is junk
to sky that cradles them in claws of wind.
Above the parking lot the crows
slip between the metals, beneath
rubber tires and surface from the ocean
of cars with crusts in ochre beaks.
There is no bread in clouds above.
We are eating Japanese noodles.
My friend can’t write he says and nods
towards the crows. “Once I could have made
a poem of crows. Now, junk.”
He has stopped eating. Each crow
with the ticking watch of its hunger
scavenges among the iron grey stone.
At night the stars behind the stars
shine. By day the crows in pines
caw. Each an intelligence I might destroy
but not fathom.
Rejection Is Beautiful / by Janel Spencer
Let me explain:
it’s exactly how it should be.
Everyone should be able to say
this isn’t for me or
you aren’t for me.
And it’s not about you or your work—
it’s the combination.
You really don’t want to be with something
or somebody that doesn’t work
with you, for you, want you
badly. Doesn’t see your brilliance.
Say you’re gorgeous
with that look in their eye—shy.
If I say, no thank you
I don’t mean
you aren’t great—
I mean you aren’t great
and what is it we’re trying to do
when we choose a mate, anyway?
Find someone, anyone
who will take us, be taken? That’s not
it. Love’s undeniable.
It’s us at our best.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continually improve.
Love is to move someone
we want, who wants to be moved
by us. Fate can’t take its course
if you force it.
like a candle
flickering near the body,
betraying its art—
its light, its darkness
Backdoor / by Gabriel Vass
As the dawn
The only thing
Than the new-year’s
Is my grandfather’s,
& They both whisper the clouded secrets
Of what will be
through the mouth
Of what has
So I lean in closer, grasping at their words
As if I’m a toddler
Getting used to my hands
Every swipe an attempt
Only catching the syllables hanging on the air
Mimicking drops of dew,
spoken in some
I’ll never understand
until I’m just like them a
A Fierce Sense of Resolve / by Alise Versella
Resolutions require revolution
And I have been at battle with the nation of my body since puberty
I have gone to war with my heart as it broke
Reinforced the battalions to hold the pieces up
And the bullets ricocheted off the trenches of my lungs
And I swore the fires pillaging the village of my stomach would wipe out the living
I am living like a militia razing the fields of foreign countries
I am burning the boundaries
Rewriting the policies
I am done policing this body
I am done living like I am a war torn country
A refugee seeking refuge from my own self pity
I am finished doubting the ability to achieve my dreams
Just because they haven’t happened yet
Civilization was not built easily
There was death in battle and conquerors invading
Trespassers trying to take away
All that I made
How dare I
Monarch and sovereign body
Forget that I am royalty
A Rajah in the Bhagavad
How dare I lose faith in the ruby red of my blood
Propelling the turbines of this heart
I have resolved to tap this vein
And inundate the land
The great flood once again
Ready your ark and corral your lambs
The fox is on the hunt
I am cunning enough
To see through the lies I tell myself
A kitsune never deceives herself
Never traps herself in the hunters snare
She will own the year
And the forest
And the air
Breathe the freedom she pulled from his rib.