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 30 / Day 30
The Moment Before You Became Orphans / by Deborah Bennett
There is no cake in the kitchen. No
ribboned box. Your years whorl
in the silvered photo.
You are second in line. Negative image
to the far right, your sister disappearing
in a helix of smoke.
Batch of girls, one foot in the Depression,
one foot in the new decade. Each girl grasping
You advanced the sibling ladder
just the year before. No longer third
you do not know how
to say how many siblings you have,
had. Pull back the curtain
Clean, you are all clean. At least she can
say that. Coil of birthing, rearing
that never unspools.
She pulled the thread. Ran toward
pear and walnut groves in the bow
of the chilling hour.
In the deep valley of your family the river
cut the embankment, root and soil
swept into the rapid.
Three Poems / by Elly Bookman
Queued with acquaintainced
others, each with empty plate
in hand, I take a step
toward a white table of raised
trays, each with a little
Split seconds some
mornings, the dark cloth and
plastic of my car’s interior
becomes the carriage that bore
Marie Antoinette toward
the Forest of Compiègne
In instants, always en route
I find soft earth above
a buried thing, and a little black
dog bred of instinct to dig
looks up at me, each eye
a well of What
THE VISION / by Lynn Finger
I wonder if visions are real?
The vision is real as it has to be
to lean and list like a ship
and be deviled by the sun
to fold and expand like undone origami
How real does a vision have to be to take
you places where you pour hours, ears
hear the heart of rain, the length of water
and other things
speak to you and I want to know
how to write about a vision.
How do you know when a vision is right,
when its length is true, is it organic like an
owl in its tree or not?
I wonder about that and
who knows who writes poetry you don’t need
a vision for that just a few leaves from the tree,
just a few slivers from the bark, just a few days to clear your voice
and hear the owl hoot loud
from the branch above.
An Old-Fashioned Sonnet / by Hannah Mitchell
My love for you is like the setting sun:
It looks and feels so different every day.
The light and colors all together run
All in the daylight’s lovely last hurray.
The glowing orb rolls down behind the trees,
The sky begins to glow with fiery light;
Or else the sun sinks, gentle as you please,
And softly melts into another night.
Each day is nothing like the day before,
Although the sun does rise, and it does set.
But every day I love you more and more
With any version of you I can get.
And while our love is different, I must say,
I still delight in meeting it each day.
A Neighborhood Sunrise / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
The desert is quiet, waiting in suspense
Moments before sunrise
Mr. Hawk is in his rightful place
Atop the highest bare branch of the eucalyptus tree
The pheno stands guard with its red, beady eyes
There’s no dew dripping silver on the silent houses
No rabbits dressed in black and white tuxedos scurrying across the road
No McLarens swerving around the bend rushing its owners to work
No Miss Dior Parfume-wearing javelinas washing and scrubbing
neglected trash bins
No sun riding its chariot across the sky to blaze the early morning
Only here and there
A play of lights
Mountains softly purple turning pink
And first the tree tips then all the trees
Becoming conspirators in a golden explosion
I LOVE THIS WORLD AND I DON’T KNOW WHY / by Katherine Smith
I love the scars
running through the Shenandoah,
I love the Chesapeake Bay full of run-off
from the Susquehanna River.
I love sewage filled water.
I love air
with its exhaust fumes,
from diesel engines.
I love the Sierra Nevada,
thirsty with drought,
singed by flames.
I love the Pacific Ocean
garbage patch and all,
I love the night sky,
by the power grid.
I love this earth,
this promised land,
and I’m helpless to stop loving it..
The Last Poem / by Janel Spencer
The last poem written in this world
will not be much different from this one.
Maybe it will be forged from different letters,
different characters or words
drawing similar smoke signals
from the air onto the page.
No one will read and reread the last poem.
There will be no relishing word-to-tongue-to-ear.
It will be an ode, or
certainly, it must be an elegy—
or it will be a love poem
celebrating the last marriage in this world.
The death of our world will not be recorded.
Will not be praised or lamented.
We must do so now; we must leave
our recordings now.
We must build and rebuild
in every line the life we intend.
eternal / by Gabriel Vass
The door with the chipping paint
Living in a certain shade of cream
Creaks out a shriek everytime
It opens, and welcomes in a new
Epitaph for a century / by Alise Versella
My entire adult life
Has been looking at empty spaces
What have we done?
One elementary school
At least three places I am afraid to go to alone
For all the politicians and businessmen
Five women will come forward
Perhaps maybe even their mothers
The six train never runs on schedule
But seven sins you will most assuredly find there
Like Pandora’s Box opened
The cats in the alley have nine lives
And that is how many shots rang out up the street
In the projects opposite the swamp I left
Punks swaying in the wind
Ten years and a new decade
11:11 make a wish
12 maids a milking but their breasts have made the men recoil
Not like unwanted dick pics don’t make us do the same
13 is no longer unlucky to me
Especially on Halloween
Perhaps some god will hold the gate cracked just a sliver
And all my ghosts will come to me and explain their role
Take responsibility for the world
They left me
I will not have children
The day will pass through me
And when I die
Don’t you dare cry
When I die
My epitaph will read that we had done nothing
Remember me how you’d liked to have had me
Everything but what I really was
Full-blooded and brutal
Like every rage we found no justice for
A centuries worth.
Poem 29 / Day 29
The Art of Being a Graceful Loser / by Deborah Bennet
with apologies to Elizabeth Bishop
They try to teach you this ridiculous sentiment.
I own the loser, but am nothing if not graceless.
Being a graceful loser is surely an impediment
to teaching my daughter to own her temperament.
Why play if not to win? I must profess
I see no value in teaching this ridiculous sentiment.
Civility and tact serve as no integument
to the pain of losing at hockey or tennis.
Why shackle your feet, accept impediment?
Break down in tears, unleash the lament.
Spit, throw chairs, kick in the fences.
Why teach us this ridiculous sentiment
if not to soothe the beast, get us to relent?
I have lost in sport and family, I confess.
Attempts at grace were surely an impediment
to living with loss. Let the bitter extract ferment
in your heart, there is no need to repress
the hungry dog. Let it lap up this sentiment.
Being a graceful loser is surely an impediment.
A Month Ago / by Elly Bookman
A war started.
A thousand more were already
in bloom but it felt like
I was going for groceries.
It felt like
the bouquets arranged
in their synthetic brightness
on my way to the open floor plan
of fresh breads, sliced-to-order
sandwich meats, produce
piled high in raised
beds for the reaching.
It felt like aisles
and aisles of freedom, freedom
from gluten, dairy, fat, all
the things an animal can give,
or the freedom to have
them all at once
on a frozen pizza.
It felt like avoiding
a co-worker in
the rows of sodas, and
then again at the check-out
where the plastic bar
keeps my items from hers on
the belt, where the bag
I bring from home is never
enough to carry back
all I suddenly want.
Dreams / by Lynn Finger
The happy grey doe
up to her knees in black puddle
rain drops graze her back.
Black barked Lilac trees
early spring hosts to bashful
dove pairs nesting hidden.
Searching for the key
cloud pink glow, horizon net
catches hope, catches dreams.
The North Atlantic Right Whale / by Jacqueline Kolosov
In death they float, and so became known
as the “right” whale. Escalating now, their vanishing. By day
the remaining few brave ships, nets. The eyes,
Ahab said, define the face of man. What of a whale’s eyes?
Their eyes capture the light, too; these great beings known,
if at all, as infinity’s depths are known. Today
Right Whales number three hundred. When their eyes
close, two portals remain open. How we see, we know.
But how little, how very little, do we really know.
Sacrament / by Hannah Mitchell
I come from families
Who have ever and always
Poured out their love
Who would receive it.
I come from tables
That groan under the weight
Of food made and grown by hand,
Given and eaten in love.
We worship in the kitchen
Where even a simple biscuit
Is a sacrament.
The Haunted House / Harriet Arzu Scarborough
The school has broken new ground
Forest is cleared
Moving us to the back of the village
Away from the church
Close to the cemetery
The new school has opened
Of ferro-concrete with cement asbestos roofing
A couple of playground areas for the boys and girls–
Designed to last a long time
The new school provides more room
Three separate ones, enough for the growing village
Plus a two-bedroom teacher’s quarters
Equipped with a kitchen and an outhouse
All teachers are from the village
So the teacher’s quarters remain empty
The schoolboys clean around it
Surrounding it with flowers and fruit trees,
To separate it from the cemetery
A much-loved apprentice teacher moves in
He cannot sleep; he loses weight
His illness, a mystery, baffles the doctor
Local remedies fail
There are whisperings in the village
He moves out of the teacher’s quarters
Leaves the village and recovers
He never returns
The school now has six teachers
A hundred students fill all three rooms
Their voices ringing out from lessons and play
The teacher’s quarters remain empty
No one lives there
Only the dracaenas nearby reach up to the sky
CLOUDS / by Katherine Smith
The oblivious robin singing in the tree is like waking up
from the dream in which a preacher
is shouting believe. To which the steel grey clouds answer
they never claimed to be authorities
oriflammes emblazoned on my brain,
of the miniature blue picnic table,
where I sit down and consider
the time I marched into the schoolboard building
and told the director how much I hated my school
and would he please, please, please
let me ride a city bus in the rain
across town for three years.
I remember my immense gratitude
at being allowed to escape.
I don’t love the evangelist,
who harasses me, nightly,
to come up to the altar to be saved.
I love the oblivious bird
on the tree, singing on the playground where
I stand looking up at the clouds.
The End of Beginning / by Gabriel Vass
I can’t decide where it began
With Adams breath
Or the original sin
My friend don’t worry, about when you’ll die,
But the paths you’ll tread,
While you’re alive,
the rivers you’ll follow, as they violently thrash,
The oaks you’ll observe, as the wind
Death will come quick, she always does,
And her cool hands, will reach
Into your blood,
Do not run, and do not hide,
For your legs will fail you,
In due time.
But Please, keep this in mind,
You have to live,
In order to die.
The t.v dinner in the freezer keeps haunting me now that I’m single / by Alise Versella
This phantom limb belongs to me but I’ve never called it mine
It just haunts the hollow grove where oaks no longer grow
I think the roots propagate around it, the way trees eat the rusting
Cars and bicycles and fences
The gnarled bark a little lumpy like a comforter with sheets crumpled underneath it
That’s how the skin feels, leftover
Meat with the fat congealing in the fridge
Nothing you want to touch so the serrated edge
Will cut it off
-It doesn’t taste the same microwaved
It doesn’t tan the same way under the sun
A little splotchy
Like a chest in embarrassment
Was I supposed to feel ashamed?
“Oh no, don’t say that, don’t show us the wound, no one else wants to deal with that.”
But don’t you see
You are the one who made it.
Poem 28 / Day 28
Canyon / by Deborah Bennett
We rise above the fault line of creek below,
pine needles grist underfoot. We are old
enough to hike alone. We are young enough
to talk of meaning in our lives. Spoke in the alluvial
fan, we try not to close up, pivot unto ourselves.
This folded mountain gushes with spring.
Somewhere below us, salmon eye up
Chinook, coho, kokanee pool in cisterns.
We speak of Christ. We wonder if He dwells
in us and we in Him. Where the church can
be found. All around us evidence
of suffering—decay, fire, erosion. And too
the prehistoric persistence of ferns, fronds
steeped in moss. Guilds of milkweed,
Nootka rose, waxy caps dripping in resin.
Born again to ashy soil, of imperishable
seed. Flesh gives birth to flesh, spirit
Failed-Line Dream About High School / by Elly Bookman
With clever nose lifted to wind
I waited on the curb
An opus of question and answer
A deciduous example
Gathered in the cloud of me and let go like so many needles
Before the Red Sox won the World Series and stopped having heart
The circus uninvolved
Its animals quiet in their beds of hay and meal
STAIRS IN ASSISI / by Lynn Finger
The stairs from the piazza to the marketplace
are words that take you places
they shed butterflies flowers in the mustard wide
and are rough and painful and saddled and sorrel
and they fly up like Alice in Wonderland
hacked treacherous magic smooth tall endless
the stairs each solid worn warm in the sun
ascend rabbits in a hat or hole
ascend a secret a personality glitch
a repetitive marker like someone with nightmares
who wakes with a piece of luggage an earth metal box
a well of butterflies
walking in Assisi
there is no perpetual parking
E. Eremocine / by Jacqueline Kolosov
Already too many
of Us. Leap ahead
3 x 10 years, and earth is
Us alone with dogs, cats,
As for the sublime?
Picture cropland and template
housing. In the oceans no more
whale or dolphin, just jellyfish.
As for the lost forests? No more
foxglove or maidenhair fern,
Is this to be our planet
earth’s future? The vision
of creation diminished,
wonder become hieroglyph
than any Sphinx’s riddle—
Possibilities / by Hannah Mitchell
“Hello,” I said
To the possibilities inside of me
Tentative, hesitating, wary.
Which one of them,
Will come out today?
Will it come bursting
Into the sunlight?
“Look at me!
Watch what I can do!”
Or will I have to drag it
Kicking and screaming
Digging in its heels
Into the complaining day?
The Desert Is Opportunistic / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
The desert is opportunistic
Every drop of rain renders immediate results
Allowing the ground cover under the saguaros,
To go from brown to green
The desert is adaptable
Stoic as it may seem
There is a bloom to the mountains
Unusual at this time of year
An acacia is yellow with flowers
A dove builds its nest
The dry washes are rivers running with abandon
While the bursage is drunk with delight
Yet, the desert is not easily fooled
The saguaros, chollas, and brittle bush
Welcome the rain without fanfare
Aware that spring is still a ways away
WINTER LAKE / by Katherine Smith
We walked around the fingered lake
where branches, bare, let pass the light
that fell on wake of duck and drake.
We walked around the fingered lake.
Inside my rib cage throbbed an ache.
We talked of politics. You were bright.
We walked around the fingered lake
whose branches, wintry, let pass the light.
My Living Room / by Gabriel Vass
The clouds have
Pooled over my town,
Drenching us in
Celestial rain drops,
Gaze, of deaths milky
I see souls escaping
In ecstasy dancing
With delphinus, unchained,
Free from deaths grasp,
Just for a breath,
All the souls in Tartarus
Sing and dance a
Waltz, while their tormenter
Is away just for a
Moment, they sing the songs
Of Shelly, and Byron, and brash
Whitman, content without
Plea, just for a second free as
A river stream.
Membranes / by Alise Versella
What caused the affliction
the splinter needle prick in the splitting side
Where lies the infection
Was it injected by poorer eyes
And were the ailment a paling God becoming a ghost in halls of history
Who would we pray to now for a cure for this disease?
Maybe you don’t believe in dying
Maybe it’s just transition
The verb changing tenses
Is. was. becomes
We have all learned new words for
We have all learned new words to define where we
distortions like abstracts of a still life
Skittish when it comes time to open the exhibition
Look at all we say without words
Look at how Daler Rowney’s brilliant red looks like the pomegranate bursting of my skin
It is a blood pact now on the recess field
This mingling of all unsaid
Was it poison that killed the lovers or the forbidden love itself?
Was it two homes so ensconced in hate to see they held the scythe?
Was it the ink that drilled the numbers into the skin of the arm
Or the hand that held the gun
That keeps time with the beat of minutes ticking
That strikes each hour of the heart
What bears repeating
To keep the dead alive
To keep the infection from spreading?
Poem 27 / Day 27
Why My Students Take Anxiety Medication / by Deborah Bennett
Emergency Notification System: Heavy
police activity! Intersection
of X and Y. Stand by for more
Alert! 9:10 am, suspect piggybacks, stream
of students. Assaults one, slips back
into flow, exits.
Male party shows another party
handgun. Black hoodie. If you have any
information…contact campus police.
What you need to know: your immunization
status. Your history of coming and going
for three days. Exposure may have occurred
here or there at this time or that. No direct
contact needed. If you are uncertain,
call your provider. Text public safety.
Blue bike, blue hoodie, blue jean
Warning! Stay hydrated. Lightweight, light-
colored clothing. Be aware! Pale, ashen,
moist skin. Flushed, dry skin. Irrational
or belligerent behavior.
Brandishing a knife. Threatening with a needle.
Assault with a knife.
Not associated with the college. Dark color
pants. Suspect HAS been apprehended. Convenience
store has been re-opened.
Assault at 2:33 A.M. Alert at 6:33 A.M. Description at 11:45 A.M.
Text police in real-time. Virtual safety
escort. Mobile panic button.
Do not walk with headphones on, do not
wear all dark clothing. It is important
to remember: primary
responsibility for personal safety
rests with the individual.
Federal law requires the creation
and dissemination of these reports.
There was no threat. There was
no knife. It happened
six miles away.
Binge Watch / by Elly Bookman
I didn’t think a flight, un-crashed
could do any harm.
I didn’t think a straw afloat sideways
in my cocktail could, either.
I didn’t think one more would hurt.
I didn’t think anyone would keep
reading this poem,
and now I’m paying for it.
In desperation, I watch True Crime
for hours, try to learn the signs:
What fog is building, this instant?
What bitterness is born
where it crosses my path?
Release / by Lynn Finger
Tiger howl dwindles green
the sun screams at its shadows to move,
tiger scrambles back.
Tiger loses origin of finding.
What is the cage, what is the tiger?
Is Tiger released from the cage?
What if the cage is released into the tiger?
Microscopic cages in its blood circulating like
saturn dust rings of flotsam.
Cages never seen or heard but here like
What if Tiger yells forest green smells
surround leave me leave me
I would know you at school when you
charged us under the pergola
Teachers clap their hands and scream,
Outside of Pluto the non planet
no need to use words as cereal bowls
at breakfast everything has its stopping point
and you might know yourself if you
scream and the cages inside us
bars melt like Isaac Newton singing.
ascension / by Jacqueline Kolosov
Moral gravity makes us fall toward the heights—Simone Weil
about your wings
white as the tundra
untethered we plunge
visions chaotic primeval
fledge into sparrows
become a flock
what can one do to ascend
lower? panic unfurls
light as sorrow
why then this
blood why this
gravity these talons
why this blood
why then this
light as sorrow
panic unfurls lower?
what can one do to
become a flock
fledge into sparrows
visions chaotic primeval
untethered we plunge
white as the tundra
about your wings—
One Good Song / by Hannah Mitchell
How a song
Can reach down
Into your soul
And sew you back up together
In places you didn’t even know were ripped.
And suddenly you can
b r e a t h e
And the day is brighter
And the air is lighter
In your lungs
And everything’s gonna be all right
All because of
The After Party / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
No, I didn’t attend the after party.
I don’t know if there was one;
I wasn’t invited.
What I do know is
I followed the nuns’ instructions:
Wear a long dress with matching gloves, shoes,
And don’t forget the purse.
First stop, the photo studio–
That’s Lizarraga’s on Queen Street.
Second stop, the convent–
We want to see you in your fineries.
Third stop, the Fort George Hotel.
After the prom,
Your escort sees you home—safely.
Ms. Olive said my dress did not need a slit
Because I had the grace to walk in a long dress,
Not like those other girls.
The walk up the entrance to the convent verandah
Lined with the lower classmen on both sides
With thirty nuns waiting to receive us
Was interminable—the longest walk I’ve ever taken
And the introductions—I knew only ten of them.
What a relief to get back in the taxi.
At the end, my escort suggested extending the night
With a walk home via the fort–
A tempting proposition,
But I had learned
That my dress was not made for a carefree stroll
Under the stars
Along the Caribbean
Listening to sweet nothings
Accompanied by the lapping waves.
The cab ride took us past the fort
Past convent girls hand in hand with their escorts
Doing the carefree stroll.
But he saw me safely home,
Gave me a kiss goodnight,
And I spent the next few weeks
Reliving that moment
And reading more into that kiss
Than probably was intended.
SLINGSHOT / by Katherine Smith
Though a swallow was perhaps the reason
for the slingshot, the distance between a boy
and a bird that led to target practice
which led to murder, it wasn’t the bird’s fault
or the forked tree branch’s or the rope’s.
Everything leading to something else
will make you crazy if you let it,
which is why I love the flock of geese
honking over the house this morning, headed somewhere
for purposes having nothing to do with me
which in my book is the very definition of sanity.
contradiction / by Gabriel Vass
When the house was finally completed,
When the frame of 2x4s and sturdy wood
Was finally hidden behind a visage of chalky plaster, I remained;
and only I stayed;
and they’ll forget me,
Once I’ve died and my only company
Are earth worms and maggots,
I still will remain;
In the jacket I wore haphazardly on New year’s
Day, the hat I wore on the 14th anniversary of my birth, which will most likely be holey but not in the way you’re thinking,
I still will remain;
And the world may be baptized by a alchemical mixture of napalm and fire,
And yet I still will remain;
When all the paths in the forest I once loved,
I do love, are another layer of sediment, and a foundation to some little cottage,
Smoke pouring from the chimney,
I still will remain.
theories of relativity / by Alise Versella
We are caught in a dereliction of the matrix
We have swallowed the wrong pill
I have lost the meaning in the plot
It is all the same remaking of the original thought
A redux for the new age
They are leaving us behind
The ones who were made golden
On a planet surely depleting its wealth
The stars do not shine bright at all
They are quicksand shells absorbing whatever blinks quick enough
We eat it up
Whatever they give us
Do not question the cook as to why we are still starved
Is everyone around me dying or am I just fading out
Like faulty bulbs
In a fixture
Until the filament bursts
Poem 26 / Day 26
Things Anatomical / by Deborah Bennett
He grasps a tomato
on the vine. Stem a coil
of parts, male and female.
Stamen, ovules funnel,
bulbous cavern. Fleshy his mouth,
the fruit. Riot of red. He reveals
muscly walls, pours salt on the open
wound, bleeding water. Consumes
what is his. Mouth packed
full of briny flesh. At the center
the placenta, the rest a parasite,
drains the pale organ
at its core. Funiculi, slender
ropes tether seeds. Seeds swim
in amniotic fluid spilled
on the soil below.
She watches at the edge
of the garden
Crosstalk / by Elly Bookman
after Mike Pompeo
So we’ve been engaged You know, we never talk
Absolutely working No, of course not
You’re picking the wrong moment This is a regime
Yeah. He’s blustering This is a regime
We’ll stop them The Iranian leadership
You know, I agreed I just don’t have anything else
I don’t know who these unnamed I’m not going to comment
I’ve defended every single I’ve said all I’m going to say
I’m not going to—I appreciate that The Ukraine policy
I’ve been clear about that
Dark Blue Car / by Lynn Finger
“At the time of the missile crisis, the Soviets had 36 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), 138 long-range bombers with 392 nuclear warheads, and 72 submarine-launched ballistic-missile warheads (SLBMs). These forces were arrayed against a vastly more powerful U.S. nuclear arsenal of 203 ICBMs, 1,306 long-range bombers with 3,104 nuclear warheads, and 144 SLBMs—all told, about nine times as many nuclear weapons as the U.S.S.R. America [had a] huge advantage not just in the number of weapons but in their quality and deployment as well.”—The Atlantic, 2013
I am three and we have a dark blue Ford station wagon
the St. Michael’s dragon of cars
long as a catamaran and
burns hot in the sun.
My mom is in our GI bill driveway alongside
where the peach tree falters
I rummage in the dirt and water and throw mud on the car
I don’t know why now, just child logic
some sort of car tea party.
Mom swats me on the rump. It didn’t even sting but didn’t make sense to me.
The mud didn’t hurt the her the car or me and
only a little smudge was there.
Was it a symbolic swat to quell a focal act of rebellion?
Or, was it to convey how maddening it was that a mother‘s work is never
done and I just made it more not done?
Was she worried about conserving water?
Or was it the Cuban Missile Crisis, and she wished she was swatting
all those leaders, those distant images
who played chicken with children’s lives?
The missiles arrayed were not as they seemed,
and in the smoky October afternoon not as it seemed,
and adults arrayed, missiles ready to go off,
tense, tight, silent around the gray box TV that day
while kids want to play.
I don’t know for sure, but we sold that car later when peace
seemed OK for the usual now, except for a place
called Viet Nam but that was far away, again, but not,
my dad bought a smoother and sleeker car,
I got older, more interested in Barbies
than playing in mud
and mom got a good secretarial job at a tech company.
And when I look back on that day, of all the possibilities that there were,
I’m going with Cuban Missile Crisis.
A mother who wanted to swat the world
leaders to their senses, to save a simple moment of lazy car
washes, kids playing outside,
and a life she thought she had signed up for,
predictable calm content with
meat and potato dinners, without having to translate the hieroglyph of
what afternoon the missiles might land.
Who doesn’t want that?
Beyond mouth— / by Jacqueline Kolosov
linger within this
& how & why
To linger, you must not
being of air, unless
nightingale, bird of flight
way & rite of passage,
Wafer must dissolve
on the tongue. You must not
swallow the body
of Christ. How
much can you
Swallow? The flesh
of a song-
bird, laying aside
the creature’s deeply forked
lapis lazuli tail—
Swallow, you must
& inevitably, yes, drown,
in deepest ocean water.
can a body stay afloat,
a fleshly body, yes,
but also a body
containing water & salt
dissolution, yes, alas, this last
in the case of Keats’s
unfulfilled Argosy of Pearles—
So he called
his love for Fanny Brawne
To drown is no longer to
exist is no longer to breathe—
This, the alizarin crimson
poet’s feverish plight.
How can a man breathe within
the blood of his tubercular
lungs become whirlpool – no air—
yes, in the whirl beyond, yawns
Writers block / by Hannah Mitchell
The words have fled, my tongue is dead
My skull is now a casket
A fateful question floods my mind
But I don’t dare to ask it.
It asks about regret and pain
Rage and wonder and disdain
And something else I will not name.
I bleed into my notebook
Don’t worry – but don’t look.
It’s my brain and soul in one, and it’s a mess.
More Rain, More Rest / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
The clouds gather
White and fluffy ones gradually
turning grey, then an ominous blue-black
Moments to bring in the washing
And the heavens open up,
A winter downpour, no thunder.
In the wee hours of the morning
The pitter-patter of the rain
On the tin roof gently awakens,
Soothes and lulls
Making it possible to burrow a little deeper
From the north creek comes the chorus,
Resident frogs belting out in four voices:
Soprano, alto, tenor, and bass;
The melody is steady and rhythmic
Becoming the music of a renewed sleep.
In the morning the rain persists;
The drains are flowing
And rivulets have formed around the house.
Grandpa sheltering under a black plastic tarp
Wearing long black rubber boots and a tattered hat
Passes between the main house and the kitchen
On his way to check the sea condition;
“More rain, more rest!” he hollers.
Pa responds,” That’s if you have something to eat.”
And the ritual continues.
AFTERNOON OPERA / by Katherine Smith
I wait impatiently for La Traviata
to come on at one o’clock,
or Othello, or Richard the Third,
any tragedy that would give some grandeur to the indoors
this Saturday afternoon:
a struggle for power set to music,
arias, and grand words, thousands of men on horseback
killing each other with swords,
the hero’s folly leading to
the death of a heroine, while he weeps and sings.
There is a quieter tragedy over that hill,
where a blue heron flies over a brown field,
flapping its wings twice to their full span.
Drawn to green water, on its way to the pond
now drained, filled with houses,
the heron silently searches
for a real world no longer there.
Digger / by Janel Spencer
my dog digs in the yard
she doesn’t understand the purpose of fences
she sees another dog on the other side
she wants to play
she wants to greet her
she knows not of the purpose of fences
her holes run along the bottom of the wire
like she’s unraveling a thread
roots sprout up out of soil
she nibbles on branches and roots
her nails file with the scratching of dirt
like an itch, a fever
to dig into the earth
to reach the center, any center,
plus the dog next door
she makes underground discoveries—
plant life, coins—treasures
she knows not of restriction
when it comes to the earth,
her paws, and desire
my dog digs in the yard
hunting for treasures
she’s my archeologist in the field
what does she excavate?
she helps me identify them all
she knows not of restrictions
when it comes to the earth
what secrets does she find?
she does not know
about letting the dead lie.
fate / by Gabriel Vass
I have outrun the hounds of hell
Thanatos’ rusted sickle
Anubis’ chilly courtroom
And the Valkyries soothing touch
We’ll see how my legs move
Sunday morning / by Alise Versella
Look at the way the sun hits the bedspread in clean parallel lines
Illuminates my limbs and I have never been more thankful for these legs
Look at the way it concisely shatters through the evergreens
Just yesterday they were holding snow
Those boughs hold glistening dew now
A tiny snow globe world glittering
I can feel the warmth through the window and I remember tan skin on the beach
This is the only God I pray to
Watch it move with the shadow of pine branches in the wind
how it plays a theater production across the carpet
Shoots life through the celestine and quartz until the colors are breathing
This is breathing deeply on a Sunday
In a little town that knows nothing of dark nights of the heart
This is gratitude for the waking
Blessed in the knowledge that storms cease they’re shaking
And the ribcage stops shuddering
This is sunlit glory
praise for the tears on my cheeks
How the sunlight soaks them up
They become gold dust
Poem 25 / Day 25
The Forest is Not Responsible / by Deborah Bennett
You leapt into bowls
of water, rocks naked
with runoff gave under
foot. The forest is not responsible
for our shelter, our safety,
our happiness. If it should
provide you with a ledge, wild
berries, shade in summer, then
you take what is given. If
it should provide you
with a canyon
of tomorrow, do you accept?
Beneath the canopy, beneath
the understory was that you
would harvest your own
Cinemaland / by Elly Bookman
At my most hopeful,
when gray rock streets
still shine some
from long rains lately
finished, I think of
their mirage as
the world’s Scorsese way
of dressing the set
for night. So
the laundromat light
will look like it’s listening
as drivers turn
to speak, take long gazes
away from the road
into the plate glass shop
window. open sign
still alit, never soaring
SEALS / by Lynn Finger
Buds of seals on the scudding rocks.
How do they know when found
a thistle head of so many
Find yourself in ice or prehistoric rock
cracking when ginormous
roamed sun explodes stars whine
sea mites encased ivory waves
how does anyone know
a spark a kite tail
in the disappearing sky
reversed or in retreat
How do you appear to yourself in a mirror
Clouded when so many blank tones
forms tons formed
years and year and years
thistle heads in so many
Forest / by Jacqueline Kolosov
…through forests of symbols, which observe [us]…with familiar glance—Baudelaire
Far from here, faraway.
Fulfillment of shadow, embodied
secret, you are deciduous, the forever
home to deer and opossum, porcupine,
fox, broad-winged hawk. In you
wisdom watches, waits, barely visible,
feathers silent as the twitch of dormouse
whisker. Within you live all manner of
spider and beetle, butterfly—yes indigo,
and moth, phosphorescence fleeting
as the one who called out ‘whimbrel’
and longed to sing as the nightingale,
that dear one’s eyes keen as the broad-
tailed hawk, but his heart not fit for the
law binding predator and prey.
Far from here, faraway.
Fulfilment much needed, always
longed for, in you moss and mushroom
flourish and feel the touch of hoof, foot,
talon. In you lichen brightens, enlivens
infinity’s infinite gradations of gray.
forestem silvam, vast expanse
rather than intimate wood, being a trysting
place of lovers, thieves and others
fleeing the tribal laws of villages and towns.
In you, neither Tess nor Bathsheba abided.
Far from you the aging poet falters forward
unraveled, laid bare as the fallow land,
no trees, not even a seedling to shore the old
man and his memories up.
Far from here, oh faraway,
forestem silvam, fulfillment I, not long for,
but crave, bring me fiddlehead fern and that
singular pearl, foxglove.
Keep me on milkcap
most delicate; and for strength, Penny Bun;
and for refinement like Golden Alexander,
the chanterelle—all this the bountiful
harvest of fecund earth truffled by countless
beings, among them, white-tailed deer
and in spring time, her spotted fawn.
Far, faraway. Most far, and for now, please
not forever disappearing,
where will we be without you?
Not the ‘we’ of human but all the ‘we’s’
encompassed or at least enraptured here.
Founder, we, we, and we, all manner of we’s will
without you. What matter that the ‘we’
of milkcap and foxglove feel,
not as love, but as milkcap and foxglove being?
What matter the ‘we’ of trundling
porcupine, owl and farthest-seeing,
yes far-sighted hawk, when the lesser we
called human, can cut, burn or
far, faraway fulfillment
henceforth gone, as in away, as in v(b)anished—
Thank You / by Hannah Mitchell
For being the fire in my hearth.
You are the porchlights at night
Welcoming me home.
You are the softness of my bed
After a long, stressful day.
Self-care is a popular buzzword
But you have cared more for my self
Than I ever could.
For the soft hands and bright eyes
For the sharp grins and sweet smiles
For the ineffable gift
Pretended Fairness / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
At the school where I’ve been teaching
The principal is friendly with a small faction
It is no secret that they socialize
In and out of school.
A few of these members waltz in late in the morning
And beat the students out the door
At the end of the day.
He does not confront the perpetrators,
But clearly this practice concerns the principal.
On Friday, we sit in the science lab
For our weekly faculty meeting.
He proceeds to berate the whole group
About punctuality and professionalism,
Yet everyone knows who the guilty ones are.
Car rams into
People peacefully protesting white supremacy.
One of the peaceful protestors is killed;
Nineteen are injured.
He blames the violence on both sides.
Not every issue is black and white,
But some clearly are
And pretending to be impartial is cowardice.
You want your friends to support you when you’re right
And to apprise you when you’re wrong.
Especially when the issue is consequential
You want them to hold you accountable.
But when Ma took your side
Knowing I was in the right
Was it cowardice or was it peacekeeping?
Or was she communicating her wisdom
That every fight is not worth the bloodshed?
KNICK KNACK / by Katherine Smith
As I set out from my yard
thinking about my grandfather
in a neighborhood quiet as a temple—
though just an hour earlier the schoolchildren
chattered happily at the bus stop—
my very own personal squirrel
scampers up my very own cherry tree,
bark deeply ridged and grooved and bare.
I remember my grandfather
whom I never once saw smile or laugh
and whom certainly no squirrel ever amused.
To memory, I’m sad to say,
I prefer the neighborhood children,
who ran out of their house to the bus
this morning crying mommy, mommy.
I am not their mother
anymore than I own the squirrels.
What I own is a cold anxiety in my belly
which I inherited from my grandfather
who arrived in America from
a city near Krakow now in Poland
where the entire Jewish population
was put in a ghetto in September 1939
and then made to dig its own grave.
What I own is the best decision ever made
for me. Two generations later
I finally forgive his face
its joylessness, its grim pallor.
Here I am in this beautiful quiet place
filled with squirrels and children
walking through this neighborhood
holding the luck my grandfather passed on to me
like some fragile knickknack I carry everywhere I go,
wrapped in the soft tissue paper of my laughter.
Living Art / by Janel Spencer
This poem has a death date—
an undetermined expiration—
a point when no one will see its face.
It will not bring any contrived comfort
is no foil for
your continued decay—
is not headless like a goddess, her body
preserved in ancient stone.
This poem is alive.
for as long as she whispers to you.
until her memory withers
from your consciousness
though you yourself are changed.
wiseman / by Gabriel Vass
The ghosts of the hills
Creep twords the edge,
Out of the shadows
Into the dull streetlight;
I see then from time to
Time, faces shy and reserved,
Always on the edge, between my
Or the horizon,
Or the bridge between
Breath and stillness,
Always on the edge;
They try to whisper to me
Sometimes, I see their
Lips move but I can’t decipher
What syllables they form;
So I star blankly back at their
Foggy eyes, and watch
Just sit, and record,
How the rain fled from the clouds.
Want / by Alise Versella
If we are all left wanting
What does the richest man need?
What does the poor man
Having the mansion
Or a love he can call home?
If all my possessions were to burn
And the beam left standing
Was the arch above the marble floor
Would the ruin still be holy
If I believed god were there?
I am left in want
Of a thing I cannot name
So my tarot cards tell me to pray
And each night my dreams kidnap me
This time I see my tormentors face
No apparition haunts me more than heartache
No beast is more despairing
Than the one that growls from hunger
So each night I leave a sacrament
Of milk in a saucer
I stare at the moon
When I feel alone
And think that maybe someone who loved me stares at it too
What is living fully feel like
What is it to be in want of nothing
Is that death?
There must be a moment still
When the dying want one more breath
Does the stalk of the flower ever wish to smell as sweetly as the petal
Is it ever tired of being snipped down to size by the shears
To fit at the proper height within a vase
Does the vase know how close it comes to shattering
Does it ever wish to be less fragile?
What are we to do with all our wanting
Shall we water the stems
And simply wait
For the bouquet to disintegrate?
Poem 24 / Day 24
Ray of Moonlight / Translated by Deborah Bennett from a Poem by Lola Rodríguez de Tío
White ray of moonlight
fall down on me, light up
the sad hours
that shadow my life.
Descend in the pale wave
of your still heat
and burst open in my chest
where the pain shelters.
My eyes, wet with tears,
fixed on you,
a dark longing
consumes my soul.
In the glow of your heat,
from the unquiet mind
roving visions surface
in dreams and touch me,
they speak to me
White ray of moonlight
fall down on me, light up
the night for the sorrowful,
who want for love.
Town Hero / by Elly Bookman
Among aching lungs
Stirred me, sidelined
A resolve of music,
And the lyric of you,
Turned every crowded
To space between us,
Holding Hands with John Keats
Inspired by Billy Collins’
“Undressing Emily Dickinson” / by Lynn Finger
I meet John Keats outside the apothecary
and hold hands with him
by the wrought iron gate
His hands rough like sweet elm bark
hedgehog skin comfortable
a warm knowing in his smile.
Those hands of his write odes.
I am in love with those hands.
He takes both of mine tenderly
in his and says,
“I don’t know who you are or
where you’re from, but you’ve
captured me. Let me write
something—” then he coughed.
Already the TB was threatening.
“John, we don’t have a lot of time,”
I say, as we look into each other’s’ eyes.
“But you’ve already written your best,
let’s leave it at that.”
“I can write an ode to your eyes.
I’ll call it, ‘Ode to a beached mermaid’,”
He laughed and tousled my hair.
It was so charming of him, and such a bad Idea,
snuggled with him
all night, there by the stream,
and didn’t tell him those of us
from the future
knew he would die soon.
But what if we from the future could rewind
our own lives back to that time
where we can hold hands
with a sweet stranger,
and dream of odes to mermaids,
cross the seam to the balance point
but no descent to illness.
Wouldn’t we just stay there, a limpid moon,
a button caught in its hole?
Harbinger / by Jacqueline Kolosov
At the moment of my creation I
conceived myself passerine, and thus
the round sphere granted me rite of
passage to highest altitudes, aerial feats.
High above the tree of my birth, I,
along with my fellows, feasted
on butterfly, moth, and acacia tree seeds.
Such splendors we encountered,
such strange kin soared forth over
ocean, mangrove, mountain.
It came my time, and my mate and I
chose a cavity along a riverbank, both
grey-blue as twilight and rose-gold
as dawn. Once I brooded over
nestlings, carefree I could be no longer,
the foveae of each long eye newly attuned
to raptor, fox, snake, and badger.
How fortunate I am to have grown old
with this cherished father of the many
who now sweep the air, migrating
over vast expanses of our hemisphere;
our flourishing, the wise ones say, proof
of our essential part in this great design,
a creation we can only call fortuitous,
one that brings forth ceaseless wonder.
Run / by Hannah Mitchell
You could run all the way
Across the sea
On bare and bleeding feet
Before you could run away
From the rage
In your heart.
Riding the Bus / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
When we no longer have to
My sister and I like to ride the bus
to Belize City,
A quest to recapture youthful experiences.
From our mother we inherit the love of travel;
The soles of our feet are hot, the old folks would say–
Garifuna people have an explanation for everything.
These are retired yellow school buses from the U.S.,
Some refurbished and repainted,
But inside still bearing the old markings and warnings.
Best way to ride the bus, my sister says
Is to travel lightly—no huge piece of luggage,
A bag with a bottle of water is enough,
No obstructions to impede our entry into the bus
Or to complicate our journey.
We ride the bus because it affords us the freedom
We were accustomed to before cars became the norm;
It’s an opportunity to mix with the masses.
We secure our seats and watch as others board:
Young men dressed in shirt and tie heading for work
Or an interview,
A mother with a trail of children
Probably off to see the doctor,
The university students wearing a logo t-shirt and jeans,
Dreadlocked young men and women;
There’s a young woman with upswept braids
Wearing very tight jeans
And doing the Belizean stroll down the aisle,
All along flirting with the conductor.
She knows she looks good.
They’re all there: Garifuna, Creole, Maya, Mestizo, East Indian,
And, of course, the sweaty tourists with their backpacks—
The bus, a microcosm of Belize.
Today we’re not in a converted school bus
We’re in the first class air-conditioned passenger bus.
As soon as we’re on our way, the music begins:
Eric Donaldson, Bob Marley, Ken Lazarus, Judy Boucher,
Oldies that take us back to the past, to a more relaxed Belize.
A few here and there sing along to the music.
Steeped in tranquility, we speed through the villages;
The landscape flashes by
And soon our ride is over.
LANE / by Katherine Smith
The doe on the interstate was floating
weightless through oak scrub, stripping bark,
hers one of many white tails, glowing,
flanks, and hunger-haunted ribs,
foraging on top of the embankment like dreams.
She leaped down, threaded through
the rush hour traffic, stumbled,
slid, heavy, across the hood of a car,
crumpled against the concrete divider, broken
like a cracked egg on the shoulder.
With something like tact, the cars
crept around what was finally
all too real,
a river of light patiently
around the split hooves.
On generosity / by Janel Spencer
What do I say to teach you
what you should be praised for?
Admiration cannot be requested.
It is a gift—the truest gift of love.
Time wins us respect
if we are worthy of it.
Sometimes anger grabs you by the throat,
threatening the love out of you.
Love must be learned
anew, with each retractable face.
Love doesn’t require a dedication.
It frees you from obligation
because when you find it, and it’s right,
it lets you be exactly as you want to be.
The Solstice Festival / by Gabriel Vass
The men chew roses,
As the dancers
Cotten dresses with tassels
Made of silk; purple,
Yellow and then green,
And the men laugh gruff
And the children smile
Sparkling; and they laugh
The air is drenched in sweet song
All the peoples dance;
The performer with the tambourine
Skin shimmering in the sunlight,
The handsome young man
Playing the songs of his people,
On an old tired fiddle glazed
Amber, made of mahogany
he smiles content; Gaily,
Brown boots tramping in time
On the dark red brick,
The women smile and sing along;
The trees even seem to dance,
A waltz to the rhythm;
Of the fiddle and the tambourine,
Lovers hold eachother close
Robbing eachother of kisses;
Holding near their hearts on beat
1,2,3 1,2,3 1,2,3.
But now the sun has gone
The children yawn;
And cry for their colorful beds,
The women say goodbye
To friends, past lovers,
And mother’s; then rush the children home,
The men finish the last of their Tall
And say their see you laters and kisses
For the dawn.
The traveling band of dancers, singers,
Musicians and performers;
Go to their low hanging hammocks,
Some are kept company by
the warmth of others arms,
Some by the burning stars
A few by the eyes of the grey owl;
Yes, most have a friend
Somewhere in the forest, but all dream;
Dreams, of dancing and singing
The woman reappears / by Alise Versella
*after the rediscovery of Gustav Klimt’s portrait of a lady*
What it must be like to vanish of your own volition
For 23 years the world longs for your return
Where could she have gone?
Women don’t get to disappear
They are taken
Someone stole them
Get to change their whole identity
Like James Bond it becomes a movie
All the pretty supporting roles
And they fade away into the background
James has his gun
Klimt painted us in gold
All slender and noble
Never bedhead or heavy eyelid rolling
Of course she was found intact
The lucky ones are
Poem 23 / Day 23
Undertow / Translated by Deborah Bennett from a Poem by Magdalena Ponssa
A blue bottle flies
in the low hum
warns it will never
give in to desire
death is not possible
follow the dense path
until the end
fierce shudder of wing
concise brief thick
bog’s heartbeat continuous
brilliant black blow
gives notice that noon
will be solitary and mute
heat of that face
master of this place
coiled in fury
attempts to draw shade
over his eye so no one notices
life vanishes in few short years
doesn’t leave a trail he leaves
used up houses, cycles
of dawn and dusk circle
in silent witness
we have inhaled deeply
and in the low hum
a blue bottle heralds
the scent of new flowers
open air prison open
A.M. / by Elly Bookman
and here’s us at its tangent
edge—dog and owner,
canis familiaris of this address
and her human in
a borrowed coat. Here
we float from the house
again, our errand your
timed relief, learned thing
humans. This section
of the city was meager
once. Before that, it was
grand. I watch you
understand nothing and
think of the day
I brought you here from
how you set foot
on pavement and
retched. What did you
know then? Before earth
was underneath stone?
Before stone was
PIERCING / by Lynn Finger
A peacock shrieks
blue green in the
weeping lantana tree by the canyon
a wallet with a quarter in it
flounders in the mud
someone dropped it
in a hurry or forgetful
the dinosaur bird
prehistoric tail feathers like horse hair ferns,
A call pierces the thick trees with
Survive survive survive
Primeval like the sand crab and cockroach
His tail fans,
awkward, but we’ve all had
those days when big feet
trip on quartz eggs
setting the feathers just right
More peace more peace more peace
Waiting Room: Orthopedic Trauma / by Jacqueline Kolosov
I limp in fifteen minutes shy of nine, and already most of the chairs
are occupied by patients somewhere between forty and seventy, age
being hard to gauge in a landscape carved by wind and sun.
One woman, chicly short hair more white than softest gray,
could be my mother, until I see a face more narrow than round, the shaking
hands trying to steady the papers she’s trying to read.
Two hours later, outside
of X-ray, I stretch out on the surprisingly clean and pleasing moss-green
and purple carpet, and find she’s here, too, hands stilled now, head and
shoulders curved over to read, her thickly cushioned, high-impact Nikes
a queer sight on a thin woman—she’s at least eighty—all in black,
the very same hue of her high-tech wheel chair.
The day the trauma physicians are here,
it seems, the very old are here, too, excepting me and a gleeful five-year-old
hopping along on one good foot, her high pony tail swinging,
so that it’s my daughter at that age
I almost see. All those hours she pranced on all fours,
traversing the living room as she lived out Fuego XII and Juan Manuel’s
Grand Prix dream, enchanted dance between person and horse become
one phenomenal force catapulting through the arena.
And really, wasn’t it my daughter who started it all,
the love affair that brought forth the high-strung beauty of an Andalusian mare
followed by two thoroughbreds, one off-the-track, and it was she, this mare,
who landed me here.
Thank god it wasn’t Sophie, I thought, knee swelled
like a cantaloupe, ice-packed in bed for four days, not my daughter
padded around me, but my two dogs.I hate you,
you ruined my life.She’s my horse. You bought her for me.
How can this be
the same person who once trotted alongside me, the three acres and stucco house,
our dream, Mama.
Surreal, or just proof of how fast
the shutter snaps, images racing past the fleet gray stallion
and the quiet peace of brushing down a horse
who, I realize, cannot raise her head. The woman in the wheelchair’s not reading,
just stuck looking down at her once again trembling hands.
The resemblance between her and my mother fades. As for the little girl in the Velcro
boot? Unlike her, my daughter’s no longer a child but a shrewd, troubled thirteen,
the person I love far harder to find and the one who speaks to me
–Shut it, Karen, you ruined my life—far, far harder to endure
than this fractured knee—.
(When I see my nieces, the nurse tells me, I’m glad I have boys.)
Almost noon now, and the attendant calls out another name.
I glance up, hoping, but the attendant’s honing in on the fragile figure in the wheelchair.
It’s her name, the woman who cannot raise her head to speak, who’s been called.
Hindsight / by Hannah Mitchell
Looking back is brutal business.
All of the could-haves and might-haves
Come crowding around
Digging their fingers
Into the mind and the heart.
I’m pulled under the currents
Of the Should’ve Sea
Where it’s so very easy to drown.
Looking forward, too, is far from fun.
Possibilities are a hall of mirrors
Reflections inside each other
Nesting into a silversharp infinity.
The Future is always in flux –
Moving and shifting
Around each decision I make,
Here in the Present.
The Present! It’s a pain, too,
With its immediate demands,
Tugging on my arm,
A clingy, excitable child.
Could I learn to navigate
The oceans of what could have been?
Could I move into the tent of funhouse mirrors,
And watch myself shatter into a million futures?
But I think I’ll try, instead,
To take the hand of the high-strung Present,
And see if it wants to get some ice cream.
Tonight I Escape / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
Tonight I escape
The relentlessness and the monotony of the heartbreaking
Picked up some art work left to be framed,
And I’m transported to the burnt orange and brown shadows
Of an Uluru sunset.
I am drawn to the halting voice of the Aborigine
Explaining the patterns, yellow and orange, splattered between
the squiggly worms
Depicting the collaboration of the women
Gathering food while the men go out on the hunt.
She squats on the ground using her fingers to draw pictures
Mesmerizing the foreigners who are her audience,
A sister, native like me on the other side of the world.
The sparkling wine refreshes and soothes,
The sun sets, painting the city a dusky pink,
The thunderclouds that hovered earlier
Have become pillows and blankets hiding the snow on Mount Lemmon,
And for a moment there’s peace.
PINK LADY / by Katherine Smith
I address the top twigs of the birch tree at dusk,
in the second person singular. Thou art I say
to the soft peach light glowing with the luck of life.
Thou art I say to the pink white fur of a plump squirrel
eating a radiant acorn at the foot of a young oak.
I say to delicious life bounding towards me,
licking me on the nose, the same way I said you were
to the bones picked clean in the ditch,
to the one who never left a crumb
trail to follow back home. Thee and thine
I say to the woman
in her own kitchen stewing apples,
to the man harvesting corn
intent on the higher purposes,
the great equalizer, the child with her book,
fruit ripped from our flesh
and sent among strangers. Thee and thou
I say to the pink lady apple before the first bite.
You and yours what I say to the devoured core.
What Will Be Known in Time / by Janel Spencer
I haven’t observed
all the blood spilt
on this earth
but everything on earth’s observable
in time. But for photographs
I haven’t seen war up close
but all of earth’s a war.
The world’s dusted with gunpowder.
It collects in plain sight
and the hard-to-reach corners.
Some parts of the planet everyone watches. The lit up parts. The louder nations.
Some continue on with little detection.
Voices unheard. Murmurs.
Most places are more than they’d appear,
death gathering in their corners.
In my everyday, in my America, death is hidden well
but lurking, patient spell, the sweet distance
from it we all pray for under our breath.
bills collect, the poor fear sick days.
Guns march by
under concealed carry,
as if to hide the extent of the sickness—
a nation addicted to fear.
Our favorite game: playing hero
as though you could be one
without someone else’s story—unknown
je pense donc je suis / by Gabriel Vass
Ego amare tantum manes
Tenebris non remanet
I am lonely / by Alise Versella
Alone (adj.) having no one else present. On one’s own. Single-handedly, without help. Isolated.
Lol it’s almost funny how I can entertain myself and so many others seem to bore or irritate me.
One I just like me. Sometimes I feel like the only one paying attention. One is the loneliest number among a crowded room.
Money I have more money when I’m not spending it on you. When I don’t have to go anywhere. All my stuff is here. My fun doesn’t cost money.
Male the root of so many problems.
Aim I hit the bullseye on every target except love. I aim for tomorrow and sunshine and poetry and warmth. My aim is truth. I hold each truth to be self-evident. I aim to never lie to myself.
Nail punctured god and the tire and the lungs deflating like religion. I do not believe in fairytales.
Yell I am tired of yelling. My throat hurts my chest hurts my head hurts. I want to focus more on breathing.
Mall they will become obsolete. Consumerism a circle of hell. Dante forgot to include the girls. Constantly buying things to make us feel better, to show off. To prove we are worthy. I buy my clothes online now so I don’t have to leave the house.
No is a complete sentence. Needs not explanation. No. The answer to everything now. No. It keeps me from taking chances that wear me out.
Ella as in cinder as in the shoes pinch I want to run barefoot in sand. I hate the feel of grass against my toes I want the foam at the mouth of the wave. I want a warm porch baking in the sun. I want to bake shoefly pie and don’t bother me. I hardly ever stay up passed midnight.
Yam I only like them with brown sugar on thanksgiving. There is a time and a place for everything.
Lame I feel sometimes that I am boring. But then again I wasn’t born just so I could entertain you.
Main– ly I know I am not alone per se but
All I want sometimes is a really good hug.
Poem 22 / Day 22
Valentine / by Deborah Bennett
You came to me years before
you were born in the cleft
wall of my heart. It was a bright
day in a dark dream. Sun honeyed
floor boards. You were half-
grown barefoot as a child.
You told me it was time. I did not
know if you were me or you.
How to grow a raspberry from seed: crush
berries against a fine sieve. Run water
over them. Pick seeds from the crushed
flesh. Drain well on a quilted paper towel.
Prepare for the planting.
You told me nothing
could prepare me
for the ripening.
It is more efficient and timely
to grow from cuttings, root
or cane. Take a stalk, late
in summer, early morning. Prune
and score, preserve nodes swelling
with leaf. Cover the wounds honey
and water, bury in volcanic
glass. Wait until spring.
You said it is possible
to wake from sleep
You are the thing I thought
I could not. Mother love.
And then, I gutted
myself. From the cuttings,
on to yourself.
Temporary American Poetry / by Elly Bookman
So much for the summer
we floated and listened
to the radio teach us
SIX WORDS / by Lynn Finger
White flowers like gardenias
and jasmine porcelain
in the rain they’re not really
but a mix of glare, pistachio shell
runoff moon crater dust
fake wedding cake and bell
emphasis on fake.
Sanskrit has nine names for white
Sandalwood, autumn moon, silver, pearl,
bright, teeth, cow’s milk, sunlight,
one of these is lying
we cannot erase anything
cannot forget what is there.
Georgia O’Keefe painted white flowers
she had three kinds of white—
lizard white, template angle white
although her flowers are opaque blue
maybe a lie, maybe an art
Wedding cake with white flowers
use by this date expires soon flowers
we thought we had more time
like grasping water in a desert on fire
white flowers rage as they burn
a stone harsh bell rings
canopy of blade edges but
not vibrant like white foam wave on top of
a black scrim of sea
One of us is lying
there are 6 words for this:
Maybe a lie, maybe an art.
Winter Fear / by Jacqueline Kolosov
No wind serves him who addresses his voyage to no certain port—Michel de Montaigne
Is this wind alone
or does the vacuous rush
worthy but hardly solvable
by Miss Marple or Hercule
to put it bluntly,
more sinister: the blurred
text below a headline
you can’t bear to read? Or
something even more
intimate? Don’t pretend
you don’t remember
that feral cat
with the broken tail
you refused to feed,
its spirit now come back
to taunt? Or the wandering
sorrow of that boy-turned-
man with thick glasses,
skinny arms and long, lean
legs with bulging knees,
his huge feet squeezed
into thick-soled shoes;
it was his heart you pierced
with a barrage, not
of arrows, more like knives
used to whittle a creature
down to the bone…
Yes, you remember now
the way you choked
back laughter when he asked
you to the harvest dance?
And later, it was just a no-fuss
matinee the holiday you
returned from college.
Such a brilliant mind
behind those heavy glasses;
he went on to study wind
power, was on the verge of
patenting some wildly innovative
invention until some
terrible accident…the details
you never wanted to know,
though the wind tonight
seems to carry them
barren trees, the details
and all the ways you could have been
kinder… Yes, the branches
are scratching at the window
panes, the few desiccated
leaves still holding on
rattling. No matter you’ve buried
your head beneath
all the pillows, that scraping,
howling, ceaseless rush
still finds you. No wonder
Catherine, that Bronte
heroine you could not abide,
went mad, living out
on those moors, Heath-
cliff still out there somewhere
(they never knew he needed
glasses). Heathcliff and
Catherine, you remember,
though you’d never call theirs
a love story, more one
of passion gone wrong,
two lives swept up by
a force without any body,
no beating heart
or sinew, no roots deep
in the earth. A force
not even the best sailors
can master. Yes,
that’s what happens
to Cathys and their lovers,
really, nothing solid,
to tether, to hold them
down. Or is such mad
thought just loneliness
and the relentless-
ness, hardly wistless,
of the West Texas
The Best Of Ourselves / by Hannah Mitchell
Won’t you come in
And sing me a song
Of a beautiful world
Where we all belong?
Where the playing field’s level
And the stakes ain’t so high,
Where justice and fairness
Are clear as the sky,
Where lovers and families
Ain’t pulled apart,
Where we don’t use our wallet
And just use our heart.
Oh, sing me a song
Of bold, brave, and true,
Of honest and faithful –
A song about YOU.
O, Eleanor, Where Art Thou? / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
Eleanor Roosevelt advises
No one can make you feel inferior
Without your consent.
Did she ever try buying a car?
Here comes the swarm of suits
Like the house of the Pharisees all over again,
Where they own the knowledge
Will you be wanting the entertainment package?
What’s the entertainment package?
And use that knowledge to help you
Walk out with a beautiful deal
That you don’t quite understand.
Will that be the pearl white?
Just want a white car.
We recommend the extended warranty.
Was that useful the last time?
You have your new car, but
In the back of your mind
Are you the victim of a snow job?
And was there any time during the process
That you did not feel less capable,
And was that with your consent?
Did Eleanor ever buy a cellphone?
Just want a new cellphone like the one I have,
With the button.
You want an I-Phone 8. It has the button.
But the I-Phone 10s is cheaper than the I-Phone 8.
Why is that?
We’re promoting it.
What’s wrong with it? Why are you promoting it?
Where’s the button? I need the button.
Cheaper to get the facial recognition.
Raise it to my face? What if it doesn’t recognize me?
I need the button.
Swipe here; swipe here.
You’ll like the facial recognition;
Just go to YouTube to set it up.
You’re set adrift in the unfamiliar,
Your expertise lying elsewhere
Trying hard not to feel a little diminished.
Oh, Eleanor, where art thou?
THE SQUIRREL / by Katherine Smith
The first day she thought the lump
beneath notice, a twig and a leaf,
the second day she glimpsed fur,
and turned her head. The third day
she saw it was serious,
that the twisted grey rope
had traveled all the way
to the end of an intestine
and been coughed up.
The fourth day she forgot
she’d made up her mind
not to look when her right shoe
almost crushed the clean pink spine
hung on a white string of nerve
from the coiled fur
from which a claw stretched
from one end, half a skull
from another, indigestible spine
bone and fur hacked up
by the vulture on the roof
perhaps or the circling hawk
or a feral cat while she
who’d sworn to ignore
what was beneath her feet,
here she was, bending over
furtively reading the body’s
decay like the headline
of a tabloid newspaper.
Untitled / by Janel Spencer
Come back, child-self,
to simpler times
when love meant wool socks
placed with care
on cold feet.
Come back, leave the working life.
Take a drink of cool milk
from times spent reading cereal boxes
with special attention.
Stay in that morning with the smell
of fresh cut flowers dangling
from neatly places vases
in the center of perfect countertops.
Stay in an evening when love abound
in a cup of warm coco
with marshmallows and whip cream.
When a star was wished on and with such intensity,
were easy to dream and easy
to fall from.
When sleep was a runaway
because play was around the corner.
You fell into place, into being.
To a state
gazing back at you blankly
and without blame.
mes muses / by Gabriel Vass
You old Frenchmen
I see you over the
Crawling out of your graves
Missing an arm, your
Right eye, your left hand
Reeking of death
And flys but oh we should be
For you’re here to compose a
new epic, falling and rising like her
Here to compose a score
For the world to implode
And your hand is tremoring
Trying to scratch notes onto
After all dead Frenchmen
Aren’t meant to compose new
But nevertheless you carry on
Writing a new song, a new
To the ever consuming world
From death to life from life to
de la mort à la vie
If I should ever forget I am worthy / by Alise Versella
I’m tired of boys and their bad habits
The ways they don’t know how to love themselves
So they don’t know how
To love me back
I already love me whole
I already know
How to love me more
And still show
You are loved as well
But I am tired of loving
Knowing I was already good enough
And still you let me go
The moon doesn’t know
That Jupiter has bigger moons
She just knows
Earth together each time he falls apart
The boys I loved could’ve done better
Each time I knew the
Each time I sat upon my throne
To commence the waiting
Hoping they’d prove me wrong
I love more than you
I sacrifice more than you
I take the bet
That this one will last
And fall a little farther
Adorn myself with thorns
Nail to palm
And become martyr to your God
I am a goddess
And I’m tired of holding
Up the walls of my temple
With pillars made of sand
There are snakes coiled beneath them
I am more than your bad habits
I am queen
Elizabeth marrying the country of her body
Behold this monarchy
She grows more powerful
The longer she’s left alone.
Poem 21 / Day 21
Transubstantiation / by Deborah Bennett
You cut up a thousand
chickens in your life. Butchered
whole elk and deer, preserved flesh
in waxed paper. Made presents
out of cured meat.
That goose. You named it, then
ate it. Your family seated at the table
of poverty. No one can afford
to love animals.
Not farmers, but living
amongst them, you learned
to turn a gimlet eye
The rat that surfaced
in the toilet. You had indoor
plumbing. Still, your house
infested with want.
Runt of the litter. Color
all wrong, burnt fudge. Small
enough to receive in your hands
clasped in communion. Bow and say
The Mad Scene / by Elly Bookman
After James Merrill
Again last night I dreamed the dream called Dust.
In it, the mites and minute fibers of the life we share,
invisibly shed flesh, pieces of burnt meteorite, all
a snow barely began before the clouds blended shut
spread out in a tissue layer over oak bookcase and
night-nicked bedside table. We had just argued. I wasted
my mind in silent offense. I had let the end pillow
of my pointer finger float too close to the wood and
found fault. The operating theater buckled under
heavy errors unexcused, like mine obese with reason,
stirred to fear. There I heard the sleet rhythm, pin by pin,
slow, and the sun’s warm tongue melt frozen sheet to river.
A hand was pulling a needle skyward to French braid sutures.
Why did I provoke? I love you. And in the apology thaw
saw our very cells breaking off, afloat
on surfaces ice-like lacquered,
as mountainside gave way with guilt.
GULP / by Lynn Finger
I’m not saying a velociraptor would make
a good pet,
tons of dog food and some fryer chickens
later, it still looks at you
with red hungry eyes
If you want to domesticate feral
and put a name on it,
know that a name is devised to
actually not know a thing
a name doesn’t allow for
real pumping change and movement
and every moment we label good, bad, war, peace
love and hate
as if we can tame whatever with words
as if we know any wild moment
the world migrates to chaos
try to tame it makes lackeys of us all
the unnamable wild can appear
to eat us all in one gulp.
Show Up / by Hannah Mitchell
I know how hard it is
To drown in the daily difficulties.
But show up.
Show up for yourself.
Show up for those who love you.
(There are more of them than you think.)
Show up for your life.
Show up for your passion.
Show up and grow up and glow up.
Show up tired.
Show up angry.
Show up sad and beaten and bruised.
Show up alone.
But show up.
Heading South / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
Turning into the southern highway
My anticipation grows;
I’m headed home.
The last highway to be paved
We used to look for two villages
To interrupt the long ride
Through verdant forests
Rimmed to the west
By the green and blue Maya Mountains
In the distance so soft and inviting
Capped by large, wavy clouds
Set against a sparkling blue sky.
To the east the tamed vegetation
Where shrubby trees and grasses thrive
Under a pine forest that seems misplaced.
An occasional white heron among the ubiquitous crows
Lets us know the Caribbean is close by.
We pass the first village, Silk Grass
Home of the yellow restaurant
Sporting the big “Jesus Saves” sign
Where we ate one Easter Sunday
Fearing this would be the only place open.
Later we pass the second village,
Now lying on either side of the highway
And uniformed children are mindful of the traffic
As they scurry to school.
Once during the rainy season
The plentiful rivers along this high way
Brought travel to a standstill.
The Kendall Bridge, the last to be fortified
Stands majestic with the river miniscule below
Letting us forget how the powerful swollen river
Laid low and then set the old bridge adrift.
Long ago travel was halted
By the flooding of the South Stann Creek
And the branches of the Rio Grande:
Bladen and Swasey Rivers.
Many a night was spent on the road
Waiting for the Big Falls River to crest;
At times boating across the only way out.
Nowadays, we sail over these bridges
But I glance down at the gentle streams below
Marveling at nature’s power
At thwarting the human’s effort to restrain.
Once along this highway
There were no habitations
After the last turn and the road headed south.
There’s no need anymore of running out of gas or food;
Taiwanese grocery stores and gas stations
With steel beams and towers skimming the sky
Appear like scenes from a Mad Max movie.
We see yellow, red, blue bungalows and thatched houses,
Here and there Mayans in modernized traditional dresses,
And many saloons and churches.
I count 23 posters of the Ten Commandments
Decorating the way
And I wonder why the least developed district
Is splattered by these sizeable posters.
Does more sin exist this way?
Like the Pomona Valley
Red, white, and pink hibiscus
And red, purple, white and pink bouganvilleas
Are the hedges that separate one lot from another
In the villages of Big Falls, Jacintoville, and Forest Home.
At the end, the blue waters of the Caribbean beckon
And we’re close to the end of our journey.
BOOTS / by Katherine Smith
She bought these boots to sparkle,
sequined red leather, the glitter of footwear
to remind her of galloping appaloosas,
of pinon, ash tree, snow four feet deep on the roof,
of rounding up cattle and whistling to the dogs by day,
of starlight and campfire by night.
This was a love almost Shakespearean,
a fire she saw in shoe leather. In truth
she wore the boots mainly to work
where for fifteen years they were so comfortable
she forgot about them most of the time
while she was supposed to teach grammar
but mostly listened
when a boy told her about his father
who was deported, when a young mother of four
said she’d been evicted from her apartment.
She could have been barefoot. Still
the boots served a purpose,
wrapping flesh, as the agreement
of subjects and verbs also served theirs.
Now boots and words sit in sunlight
near the window, glitter long gone,
only the slightest stain of red left in the leather.
Ode to the rain / by Janel Spencer
You are the change in the desert
that brings blossoms.
Your tears like jewels.
Traditions honor your return
much like a traveling friend—
a distant writing companion, ever near
as memory, fresh as a river
bursting forth with
at the company of
You resurrect the land
in spring joy
much like the bathed body
is refreshed by gratitude,
and the necessity of retreat,
then, continuing on in
rebirthed skin. Out of the darkness
we must have entered the darkness.
The covering of clouds an exit.
the voyage, pt 2, centennial / by Gabriel Vass
The Oracle of Delphi,
Wrapped in linen and
Holds my quarter in
Her bloodless right
She whispers to me
In a colorless voice
The air felt heavier
Damp with desires of
And I was one,
One of those hungry
Starving to Understand,
men, gods, and restless
The reason for my
Love’s innocent blood, on
But oracle’s have prices,
And so do tomes, and
Am too broke and gutless,
Too weather-worn and
Breathing Exercises / by Alise Versella
I’m afraid of the weapons that I hold in self defense that could be used against me
Figuratively and literally
Like how if the day ever comes
I’d have to defend my will to live
Even in the courtroom
I never want to put myself in this position
so there are places I will not go
I am too aware of my height my slender build and my skin
I’m like a vampire this way
I know where I’m not welcomed unless I’ve been invited in
I wish this was different
But we’re both scared of what we could do to each other
So we cross over to the opposite side of the street
walk where the streetlights can illuminate us
Take the long way back to the car because there are more witnesses on the main drag of bars
This is where we’ve left the bar
And each night on the news we rise above it each time
The bar gets too high
Like a water line rising
Until we are drowning
The models being photographed underwater look so serene
But everytime I look at them I cant breathe
Sometimes i forget to hold my breath rinsing off under the shower head
And sputter and cough
Wondering if this is what it’s like
To really choke
I breathe so shallowly sometimes it’s as if I’m hardly breathing at all.
Poem 20 / Day 20
An ABC of the Corner Store / by Deborah Bennett
Not how I learned to read, but the corner store was a one room schoolhouse.
Asteroids the siren song that called us down the once country road.
Big Hunk and Bit o’ Honey, poison to my molars. Bottle Caps hinting at liquid love.
Chickletts, stream of gum like gravel poured into my unhinged jaw.
Ding Dongs forbidden by my mother, trained in domestic arts.
Evergreen tree air freshener hanging from the rear view of the
Ford, three on the tree parked over the sanded over oil puddle. Candy was
Good n Plenty even if it tasted of black licorice.
Ho-hos, the joke lost on me. Cheap onomatopoeia of
Icee, freezer brain in blue and red. Tart block of
Jolly Ranchers, Fire Stix, dime candy in a quarter time.
Kwik Mart, you were my babysitter and teacher.
Licorice ropes hanging from metal racks like lassos.
Matches, mousetraps and Milky Ways. Candy
necklaces laced my skin with sugar and dye.
Oregonian, Outlook, want ads and pennysavers.
Pop and pop rocks slosh of fireworks in our mouths.
Quarters sliding into the Pac Man slot, adrenaline shot.
Rainier beer, that commercial with the motorcycle winding it out in the Cascades.
SweeTarts compressed Pixy Stix, mundane lime, cherry, orange .
Toothpicks in rainbow colors for spearing Lit’l Smokies.
Van Halen highkicking it over speakerboxes.
Winston’s my mom smoked relentlessly.
X-rated girlie mags behind the register, behind the plastic shield.
Mello Yello vanishing twin withering in the cold case.
Zig zags for roll your owns.
The packaging, the colors, shapes and names like poetry.
Alliteration and assonance of brand and generic. I want to glory
in the Red and Yellow dyes. To remember what it felt like.
A sort of freedom, a bike and a brother to take me
there. Pocket change clinking in my buckle back
jeans. What I did not see then… men buying cold
beer on a Tuesday afternoon, brown paper bag nestled
in the cradle of elbow. The woman behind the counter, waist
apron stained with jojo oil, neck creased from smoking, bi-level
hair bleached blonde. What I know now—she was an hourly
employee, the way I would become one.
Once / by Elly Bookman
on the sidewalk
along the section of
Martin Luther King Jr.
Boulevard that runs behind
the old movie theater and
that would happen
Letter to Martin Luther King / by Lynn Finger
I was a teen the day you were shot.
I got up next morning wretched for the world.
I didn’t know you. But all of us at middle school, we agreed
with you. We didn’t think what you said needed arguing. We didn’t think
a person needed to place their life on the line to advocate
freedoms for all,
to speak truth, to declare in that rich, ringing voice, free at last.
You spoke out, you lead a movement, there were some who feared you.
And when they wanted to silence you that day
you weren’t silenced at all, your voice grew, and grew more.
And you were still speaking, although they had
tried to remove you.
I was just a teen when you were shot. But the fact your voice expanded
after death taught me the force of an idea, once unleashed, is deathless,
doesn’t need permission to be. Even after you were gone,
your idea of what the world could be
rang strong, tenacious. Like the bell of liberty, broken, and still ringing.
Revolution / by Jacqueline Kolosov
A hive of Red soldiers surround her
piano; head bowed, her chapped neck now
stripped of pearls, even her hands
red from cooking, scrubbing, cleaning up
after these ones who murdered her
husband. All her music burned
for fire, and still she remembers each
note of a melody familiar as the Neva River
she and her sisters bathed in
until she married the colonel,
and they left for this place, once a grand
manor she’d pinned her wishes upon
Allegro con spirito: as if these men,
drunk on the remains of the colonel’s
wine, understand what the dazzling rise
of arpeggios leading up to; just beyond,
concealed by shadow and night, the partisans
and their guns, waiting for her
Dream / by Hannah Mitchell
I dreamt of you the other night
In colors vividbright
I made a world for you to love
With all your favorite sights
You couldn’t understand at all
How, so wide and tall,
This world could go on for so far
When you yourself felt small.
I try to build a place for you
To play in all day through
In waking life, the world corrupts
But the home I make is true.
The Diversity Issue / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
Dear Stephen King and Other Deniers,
Why bandy me around
I’m perfectly fine, being just an issue
I’ve never desired more
So your just thinking about me on occasions
That bring me to the forefront: the Oscars, the Golden Globes,
Kneeling for the national anthem
Is perfectly fine with me
I know you don’t want to own me
How could you possibly own me
When I remind you
Of another commodity you may own—inequity?
Never mind your hand in creating me
You now want to give me up for adoption.
America is a rainbow of colors
A cacophony of languages,
A collective of cultures.
You gave birth to me
The moment you showed a preference of one over the other
The moment you nurtured one group and not the other
All the moments you failed to notice a lack of representation
Of our rainbow of colors
The moment you enjoyed a comfort
Seeing only those who look like you.
Now you want to blame me for being an issue.
Talk about blaming the victim.
Shouldn’t those who gave birth to me
Take responsibility to make me not an issue but an asset?
Until you accept your role in this matter
And use your power to right this wrong
I’ll forever haunt you.
WEATHER THEATRICS / by Katherine Smith
All week we were promised snow,
a one hundred percent chance
of sparkling white. At 6:30 a.m.,
when I stand before the glass door of the gym
a toddler is sobbing in the parking lot
they promised they promised
and his mother is saying yeah buddy no snow.
Do you want to go to the playroom?
Nothing happens the way we want.
In my spinning class it feels good to breathe
though I hate every minute
and roll my eyes when the instructor
puts on something by Lil Wayne
and asks us to guess the year of the track.
I shout it out wrong though in the way of small miracles
the song comes at exactly the right moment
to push me up the crest of a hill, fly me down
past the house I lived in at ten, on a red sled,
slamming my sister and me into the trunk
of an oak tree at the bottom of Norgate Road
from which we emerged thrilled
before we ran home screaming, bloody, and wet.
On the way home, soft snowdrifts don’t pile up outside.
In the driveway, I peek from the car windshield like a child
looking for presents in the morning
of a holiday that doesn’t exist
knowing the snow didn’t arrive in the night,
replaced by sleet hitting the window
of a house with a mortgage I pay
month after month to keep out the weather,
with the miracle of another work day.
These things I know and these things I don’t / by Janel Spencer
Sometimes good people do bad things. Mostly, they do good things.
This is how we measure good and bad.
My friend told me
measuring is a way of knowing ourselves.
I’m not so sure. She wasn’t either.
Knowing someone is when we
observe the ways they will never be able to observe
their own relaxed behavior.
We often know each other better than we know ourselves.
A mirror a small replacement
for a watchful friend.
Friends have the privilege of learning mannerisms. Mannerisms like the sound of our breath, the pitch of our sneeze.
Our natural pose, and laugh—surprised—before we can pay its exit and pattern attention.
How we react to strangers of all colors, means, age, and beliefs.
But how well do we know the good and the bad
in those we love?
Lady Justice weighs each action carefully, passing unbiased judgment.
Heaven’s gates then read the scroll, or so the story goes.
Here on earth, fate measures nothing, and each day begins again.
That we can know, and be,
can measure and be measured,
observe, be observed, judge and be judged for each action’s usefulness, its mercifulness, its care—this I know.
And what, you ask, does it mean?
Who am I to say?
All I know is
I watch for the good, I observe the bad,
and my judgments mean nothing—
only action towards a more merciful world.
the still war / by Gabriel Vass
the sun ran away that day,
the newsman spoke
hair combed over,
glossy with sweat,
the old man sat upon
the festering red
they all fell forward into
a botomless black
the house sat perched upon
an uneasy concrete
we all felt like a tired house that day,
siding moulding, windows
shattered, fixed with
water leaking through the roof,
gathering in a damp puddle
in the attic, which, by now
is uncomfortably moist,
humid, then freezing,
Let’s Talk About Girls / by Alise Versella
And the unhealthy coping mechanisms we create for ourselves
The way we swallow our tongues
Spit our screams into the mattress springs
Watch the cells of us divide in the petri dish
We keep a magnified gaze on our faces
Hoping like leeches we could blood-let the defect
And become something more pure
We become skilled in the mastery of liquid foundation
Like Botticelli painting Venus
Contour a new nose and up-line a new pout
And masquerade as better versions of ourselves
Emulate the actresses like Greek goddesses
Until who we are is unrecognizable
Our mannerisms the mirror to adoration
How high the pedestal
That shadow lurking in the alleyway, our former selves
Before we learned how to feel shame
I don’t remember the day I stopped playing skip-it in the street
But I remember the day on the bleachers when I first wanted to shave
Remember thinking that girl is prettier than me
Remember not having the guts to cut my flesh so I bruised it instead
Snapped the metal of the hair-tie and it kept me from crying
Because waterproof mascara was more expensive
I could not afford to let the world see me falter
So I became the bitch
I remember the girls who had sex too young
And we slut shamed them
My god but they only wanted love
How we all just want love
To love ourselves
And the world keeps making it so damn hard
It grinds the life out of us so early on
And how old we are now circling high school drains
Wishing we smoked cigarettes then
Because they cause cancer now
And shudder to think of wrinkling prematurely
The yellowing of our teeth…
I remember the day childhood came to its end
Knew the fear that was my body could get me dead
And now how in revenge
I refuse to shave my pubes
Stand defiant in the shower and watch them curl
Wish I could snarl at everything the world forced upon me
A cat never really cares if it hurts when it scratches
That the gnarled clump of fur it choked up
Glares back at you like the devil in the sun
My hair falls out in clumps
I swirl it along the shower wall and predict my future in its images
Wonder sometimes if I have it in me to scratch and claw and pull to save me
But isn’t that what girls have always been doing?
Creating horrible new ways to keep us safe.
Poem 19 / Day 19
Pink / by Deborah Bennett
We don’t get to choose what or whom we love, I want to say. We just don’t get to choose.
You were supposed to be a girl. Your name a
bandaid. It was my favorite color. You loved
children. Is love the word? You craved
plump skin, the confusion of care. The dead stare
fixed on tile, sand, motor oil. Every liquid and solid
they stared at, still life more real to you.
To think I can write in this way. That I can use
a color to get at some truth. That there is some meaning
refracted through this prism.
Scientists debate if it exists. Bending the arc
of Iris, close the circle red to indigo. It does not exist
in nature. Salted lakes on four major continents
refute that claim. I have been gaslit by you and scientists.
Shell-colored carnation at the wrist, The Snoball, misspelled
formal. Dress a confusion of decades—drained of color,
pulled from the mothballs. Draped neckline, a valance. I imagined
I was a Greek maiden. I was told that men fought wars
over women like that.
When I wore the costume, I made it clear
I was a girl. I’m a girl, a girl, a girl.
I was certified, then shelved. No longer
a problem, I could be put away.
Flesh colored. My flesh at least. The flesh
that shows at the wrist and neck, the flesh you
wolfed like mussels.
Gum with burst of liquid inside. Hard-shelled
chips rattling in their packets. Scratch n sniffs. Blush
perfume. Fruits I never tasted and those
you fed me in summer time.
Rose, flower of my city. Hot and cool, tea and peach.
Green leaves freckled with slow-growing canker.
Did you ever try lychee when you sailed East? Peel
the rough conch to reveal the pearl fruit? Disturb
the hard, dark seed buried inside?
Process / by Elly Bookman
This one poet I know
swims, her long limbs and
heavy hands pushing
through a blue pool while
she builds in her watery
mind verses of the kind
I’ve always felt on the wind
and never known how to
reach. I swim, and stifle
internet noise as best I can,
and walk long walks through
an antebellum cemetery—
all the old poet tricks,
but none of it works.
Words drift in like frayed
alt-rock chords and I
throw the boom box into
the deep end. A poem
is electricity spilled in every
direction, every spark
stamped out except for this
one that floats up, aglow
atom, into the trees.
Night / by Lynn Finger
Night. Up comes a moon,
bone white, silky and full,
Night. The moonlight dapples the sage
gold and black,
stacked shadows in a
second hand desert.
Follow. Prints of lizards and javelina.
Follow. Path of dust and wind,
Follow. Drink in your wild eyes.
Sharp. Wild, high, strange, coyote
cries, cut through
night, a narrow bone.
It is enough to follow, enough to know, enough to wait for
Morning’s light on horizon thread.
In Praise of Freyja, the Great Pyrenees / by Jacqueline Kolosov
As you look in those eyes, the immense moral value
of the breed pierces your soul—C.Quibbetown B. Raavel
A plane flies overhead, most likely a crop duster
making all those loop d’loops and endlessly multiplying
passes; or a cat lingers on the fence line, the lowest branch
of the mulberry tree; or perhaps, stand-sits-statute-still
except for the hint of tail twitch. Said cat—a new one, too,
making her that much more provoking—has fixated on the juncos
flitting through January’s wan grass, doves and jays
suddenly appearing clumsy beside these dapper,
black-capped chaps. Or maybe Freyja’s kibble with lentils,
rice, meat (yes), and the occasional scoop of pumpkin is five,
six, seven or god forbid it’s eight now nine-how could you—
ten minutes late. The guard hairs rise, transforming all eighty
pounds of white, weatherproof hair and strong body into
porcupine crossed with Connemara pony. Twelve whole minutes—
how could you! The locomotive sounds a sequence of low
bellows worthy of the remotest Tibetan monks, and
she runs from room to room, elegant white plume tail
like a huge feathered quill used to write all 600 pages of
Montaigne’s essays poised at one o’clock; or else, that tail
is the flag of eternal surrender. Momentary ceasefire.
What’s that? Surrender?
A Great Pyrenees never, never, never gives up—
not until the very last lamb or kid has been returned to the flock,
or in this case, until dinner is served (on two by three foot
vinyl mat to catch the slobber). Once again, the locomotive,
but no it’s become a Celtic goddess’s warrior cry as that damn cat
regains her perch. Hell yes, plus it’s 6:45, and sundown (aka
showdown), and a procession of tractors and other twenty-feet-high
wheelers followed by one good ol’ boy’s pickup with two red heeler mixes
riding shotgun—god help them, this is Texas, and we’re nowhere
near Austin, Dallas, and thank the lord, a good ten hours (even
going 80 mph) from Houston where it’s crowded, flooded,
and far too humid for a mountain dog with hair no Eddie Bauer
will never duplicate. Dinner, the warrior locomotive reminds,
is now a full seventeen minutes late—forget the fact no dog,
not even a Pyr, can tell time. Yes, she announces, someone left
the back gate closed—it should be open! And why is only one
of your pants legs unrolled? We may as well join Eurail, and
it’s no wonder the parrot sounds like a conductor’s whistle.
Those guard hairs have never risen so high, nor the tail,
forget the fact that this Pyr fights the de-tangler as if
it were a wolf, no a bear out to eat every vulnerable member
of her flock. Just be thankful the coyotes won’t be out hunting
tonight. Hold it!
–As if the shutter stopped
just as eighty-pound-Freyja is about to leap at
my fractured knee—
Can that possibly be a gun shot?
(The road beyond is empty, so no chance of backfiring tractors.)
I have her enormous bowl in hand, but she’s off, off again—
peppering the air the way that lunatic an acre away
peppered me and my friend with warning shots
from his golf cart, the rusty-one brandishing the Texas flag,
as he hollered, Come get me—you know you want to…
As if that incident somehow warrants her apology,
or penance, she’s back at it, the Morse code of her symphony of sounds
becoming, Don’t worry, Jackie, I will never ever let that happen
again… until I can picture “Gone with the Wind,” Vivien Leigh
replaced by Freyja—Pyrs do have the most soulful eyes.
And remember—those black eyes are Chaplinesque or Panda-esque,
but they can be fierce–I’ll never go hungry again. The porcupine
guard hairs are on the rise until, yes, at last, Madame,
Dinner is served.
Some days / by Hannah Mitchell
I feel like
There’s no way I could actually be loved.
That everyone around me
Is just keeping me around
I am nothing if not useful.
El Senor de Esquipulas / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
My lapsed Catholic friends
Ask me why I’m still a Catholic.
Tried attending church in Tucson,
Learned the church’s actions during the holocaust
Got my car dented in the parking lot
And found us the only black folks
At Sacred Heart church every Sunday.
So how can I defend the misdeeds of the priests,
The church’s treatment of women?
In Barranco, a village quite isolated
Accessible only by sea
Where the mail comes on Wednesdays and Saturdays
Where everyone is Catholic except for Tía Nicki
Where we see the priest once a month,
Where the church provides major release
From the daily humdrum.
Influenced by the Spanish,
Village life revolves around the church calendar.
Lent is more acute there than anywhere else;
Ma says on Good Friday, “You have to be quiet; Jesus’s head is hurting.”
And we are.
We get a day off from school in March
To celebrate St. Joseph the Worker
And Grampa Cundu comes to school to teach us Higabu San José.
Throughout May, we sing nine tunes of the Litany,
Love all the hymns dedicated to Mary, Macula non est en te,
Culminates with every young girl’s dream:
Crowning the Virgin Mary.
In June we have Corpus Christi
And the big storms that signal the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul.
In August Mary is assumed into Heaven
And we await our turn.
October brings the rains and school shortened by half an hour
To attend evening devotions to Mary.
Can’t decide what’s more fun:
Trekking from school to the church every afternoon,’
Or the parade around the village for Credit Union Day.
My brother Austin believes the parade is for him
For his birthday.
The Garifuna people’s advent to Belize
Begins with an immediate visit to the church
Re-enacted every November,
And we can’t wait for December.
The month begins an anticipation for Christmas,
But first, there is Indio
The young girls’ recognition of the importance
Of Our Lady of Guadelupe.
We are Mayans with long skirts and huipils
Wearing our outfits to school
And doing the caracol through the streets of Barranco—
December also brings the posadas
Tracing Mary and Joseph’s hunt
For a place to have their child,
And another all-female celebration—pastores.
Ma trains the girl chosen to be the angel,
And how I long to do that Gloria solo in Spanish.
After the January circumcision of the baby Jesus
We need the feast of the Señor de Las Esquipulas
To ease us out of the Christmas hangover.
The all-night celebration, upstairs at old Jerome’s
Lulls children to sleep while the adults pray and sang,
Esquipula, Rentor . . .
We do not need a priest;
These are community celebrations.
The harmonious singing of the villagers
So heartfelt, so sincere,
I’ve never felt more spiritual—
Besides, most services only last an hour.
CRASH COURSE / by Katherine Smith
There are three conditions which often look alike
Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:
Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment
From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference, … .”
The minutes since Mom
slipped from her wheelchair to floor
tick by one by one.
It’s been two months now.
Call me when you’re up to talk.
When it’s not all about you.
There are days I’m proud
of microwaving oatmeal,
eating before ten.
is so twentieth century.
Look for joy.
Everyday the crows
fly to the dead trees
Here’s a ticket to
the empathy conference,
the crash course everyone’s taking.
When I got my driver’s license
my mom screamed with joy
in the parking lot.
You’ll feel different
or the day after that.
My sorrow the only
red in the beauty-berry hedge,
cardinal gobbling seed.
microaggressions / by Janel Spencer
The white lady next door
has a certain tone with the New Mexican family
and you listen
you wait for your turn to jump in
for it to go wrong or TOO FAR
then are told to
MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS
it’s too late to speak
the words have metastasized.
The hurt in words that slice, slip into reality file beside
and words unsaid that dance frozen in time under lips
their manifestations unclear
until you meditate on them all your life
and see you learn to look
in the direction of things
and wonder if you’re reading them right
if intention matters
and how prejudice grows until ripened
picked by a whole nation
all the while
looking for the roots of the beast.
absent fire side / by Gabriel Vass
The sun’s greyed
I can feel the chill
In the marrow of
Old man Winter’s
Reach into my
For Joshua Tree / by Alise Versella
I have been yearning for a safe space in the desert
The Joshua trees
And the Milky Way (no light pollution)
No noise polluting the tramways of my brain
It all runs through me
Sets my nerves to cackling like crows atop birch trees
(I loved the birch trees in Maine
And the top of Cadillac mountain
And the wind
All the Atlantic around me
Cold and brutal and sparkling in the sun speckled between the clouds- a toad hiccupping for a sky)
My heel struggling over cobblestone in Dublin, musicians on Grafton Street
St. Steven’s Green holds me still
Holds me like you never did
I yearn for the ways in which a place loves me
Understanding what I mean in my silence
I am craving the retreating of the desert
Everything strands of time suspended
You have to look harder for the blooming
-really listen for the gurgle and the ripple
Like how lately I really have to listen hard to hear my heartbeat
My shoulders two boulders red in the sun
I need the truth of a desert being the last place you’d look for life
And yet here we are existing
(I am a desert now)
But you didn’t know the flowers bloom in the spring here too
-pollination happens amongst dust
I am learning how to shed the husk
Of the world and let nature do its
Living-I will live better to see the stars in all their light absorbing glory
Perhaps the belt of Orion will cinch tight the waist of my worry
I will become one with a memory
Between the laundered sheets of time
Spaces free of concrete suffocating
Plastic bag over the mouth of breathing
Sometimes I feel like I am suffocating within my own body
Oh for the empty
The archeological sand ready to petrify my bones
A fossil of my vertebrae
Oh for the desert to empty my lungs- fill the night of me with a moon for its stars
Poem 18 / Day 18
On This Day in History / by Deborah Bennett
Carbureted lungs. Disconnected from device, tissue a swamp
of toxins. Valiant as a muddled mountaineer, you clawed
at cannula and picc line, ice chips slipped through your blue tipped
fingers. You drowned in your own waste. Blood a sludge, slow-moving
like the molasses that broke the levees in Boston. Bulged with carbon
dioxide, spitting rivets, it burst the thin skin of steel, crested building
and tree canopy, outran streetcar and horse. Lapping at elevated
train platforms. Inverse of trench warfare, how they siphoned industrial
alcohol from blackstrap molasses. Denatured, volatile. Propellants
bathed in chemical wash. Low shatter, slow-burning deflagration.
Packed in channels glazed with disease, men in dishpan hats turned
their heads to the sky. Gas heavier than air descended. How they dropped
you in an ocean of morphine, incoming tide. Viscous surge
of oblivion. You struggled like a sixteen hand horse, furiously
pumping fore and hindleg. Wave of mucus swept your body. Canal
to river to harbor.
Purple Shampoo / by Elly Bookman
keeps my blond bright.
Some of it’s in this morning’s
sky, drained city night and slow cloud
stirred to lavender. In times
of sadness, look to
your favorite color
in all its shades, earthen and
for comfort. And this ache
you fear will last for years because
it already has
will turn out to be
only a dulling. It was vain
to think otherwise,
I realize, as violet pools
swirl and sink out of sight
to wander the aqueducts below.
PLANKTON / by Lynn Finger
Words in italics are from the book “The Weather of the Future” by Heidi Cullen.
With all these tools and programs
getting through the day should be easy,
right? Drive to work, park, shrug
on the dark satchel dropping nothing
not even the thoughts that stray
I hate to give a doomsday lecture
but what’s more interesting after
you power up your desktop
and check repetitive emails
that cascade like globally warmed
waves of reckless hot plankton,
who are passionate about the coral reefs?
You said we should eat that last day, so we
shredded the plankton like whales
singing discordant and end to end,
and when the water began to melt
cell upon cell, sick jelly fish
you said retreat, accommodate, protect,
and disappeared like the sky in a
hurricane’s twister that becomes
eaten and scorched and grey.
I said, the species that are most
resilient can be used to reseed reefs
but the house we built
the wood we planed
the eyes we threaded
the breath we sought
the hands we captured
and captured each other,
the heat was excessive then.
We’ve already entered into this
window of high CO2.
Is that why you left?
I wish we could all leave.
not everyone can sing,
The gulf stream has thermally expanded
and left no room, no room for you,
no room for any.
Don’t Eat That / by Jacqueline Kolosov
You Are What You Eat, So Don’t Be Fast, Cheap, Easy or Fake—Anon.
The luscious slice, minus one at most two bites, of cake—
chocolate with buttercream, or was it red velvet—
on a distant relation’s plate at Cousin Hildi’s
Sweet Sixteen; the bubble gum ice cream
sweating on the concrete, and you’re holding a hollow
cone at the 4th of July parade, age ten; anything
prepared or served by the woman in the school cafeteria,
every bit of her exposed skin rashed red.
Your grandmother’s pork chops
with warm apples, once you snuggled the piglets
for seven straight afternoons and most evenings
at overnight camp; not just ham, but bacon
in the toasted, melt-in-your-mouth-lettuce-tomato-
and-mayo-club sandwiches your family ate
on the patio on firefly nights after tennis.
God forbid anyone in her right mind would eat
pig knuckles or feet. Any factory-farmed meat,
stink of the feed lot’s crush of bodies,
every creature there dumbed by fear; and once,
imagine, each and every one licked clean after birth.
Grasshoppers, ants, and the cockroach Angela Jolie
popped through her ramped-up lips on holiday,
and the media actually covered it. The Wonder
Bread and Hostess Twinkies you and your sister
begged your Fighting-the-Food-Giants-mom to buy;
except the 2nd ingredient’s lard; why bread and cake
stayed on the high shelf for sixteen months,
Not just noodles but every egg roll, won ton,
and dumpling loaded with MSG; there go the tête-
à-têtes at Lucky Fortune and Over-the-Moon
unless you can dine on tea and plain white rice…
As if you’d ever feed your growing daughter
milk crammed with hormones. (Never mind
all the others who don’t have that chance.
Must we bring up Nestle?) Organic’s fine, but
what about those 10 million acres now grazed
by cattle? The trout streams and rivers suffer.
Yes, you know. The destruction of habitat, entire
ecosystems. Plant trees there and, if we’re still here,
we’ll turn back the clock on global warming
by 10 years!
Red bumps erupt after soy milk—
recalling visions of the hair-netted woman
(what a brat you were). Almond milk’s delicious,
but all that wasted water, and now
some Facebook friend’s posted about the cruelty
to bees. Try coconut, hemp and cashew.
Sorry, dear, there’s no substitute for clotted cream.
Just tell the UK to give up their dairy, and
culture plus tourism go down the kitchen drain.
As if Brexit wasn’t disaster enough…
Don’t tell me you still eat gluten!
Well yes, I do.
Now, don’t go and eat your heart out.
Bonus pts. towards more poems: Just because I couldn’t resist:
In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet—Winston Churchill
In general my children refuse to eat anything that hasn’t danced in television—Erma Bombeck
Teacher / by Hannah Mitchell
I tried to write about being a teacher
But the idea was too vast
Simple black ink
And the words too small
To account for
I want to have.
HALLWAY / by Katherine Smith
O ordinary life
without love or imagination
like the fat boy who lay awake last night in his clothes
who eats Doritos in the hall-way
blinking beneath the florescent lights.
He has never been to Paris,
never seen the Luxembourg gardens,
the fountain covered in dark moss,
the bookstore on Saint Michael,
with its smell of paper, cream covers,
spellbound young lovers. He leans
against the yellow concrete wall
beneath a photograph of a rock. Beside it,
a cherry tree about to blossom.
A four-headed dragon of insomnia
keeps him from dreaming. Earthquakes,
flood, wind, fire rattle his head
as he eats his breakfast
of corn chips and chemicals
wondering if he will ever sleep.
Digger / by Janel Spencer
my dog digs in the yard
she doesn’t understand the purpose of fences
she sees another dog on the other side
she wants to play
she wants to greet her
she knows not of the purpose of fences
her holes run along the bottom of the wire
like she’s unraveling a thread
roots sprout up out of the soil
she nibbles on branches and roots
her nails file with the scratching of dirt
like an itch a fever
to dig into the earth
to reach the center, a center,
the dog next door
she makes underground discoveries—
plant life, coins
she knows not of restriction
when it comes to the earth
her paws and desire—
how to / by Gabriel Vass
every morning I wake up,
I put my coffee beans in
my stainless steel
or if I’m feeling, a little
less drowned by sleep
I’ll make myself a soothing
pot of ceylon black tea
and every morning while
I’m doing this, the sun’s coming
up turning a corner from his
black and blue bedsheets,
and hurriedly changing out
of his pajamas, ’cause
he realizes, every morning
it seems, he’s late to work
the sun rushes around, doing
his best to rise on time, so
he can give the speckled
cock the signal to crow,
because he knows how
many rely on him,
I don’t mind though I’ve
got a million things to do,
but… they can wait, ’cause
i’m too busy trying to make
the perfect cup of coffee,
(I think I did this morning)
I always wet my grounds
with 195 degree water,
and boy does it sting when
a droplet of kettle dew
rains onto my foot, but
I don’t mind it helps remind
me I’m alive, but, anyway,
I grind my light guatemalan
roast to about a medium fine,
and yes my beans cost nearly
20$ is it worth it? that depends
on who you ask
but they smell like heaven, or,
at least what heaven should smell
like in my opinion, with notes of chocolate
and light cranberry,
the process of brewing is the easiest
part of this whole shendig, I put my
cloth filter into my pour over device,
this let’s people know I care for
all the tall oaks I climbed up on in the
spring, when I was child, and still do,
and they smell like heaven as well
and look like angels, reaching towards the sky,
anyway, I add my grounds it took
me 6 minutes to grind, to the filter
and… they smell even more like
heaven, blueberry, chocolate, raspberry,
if you ask me they’re worth it just, for
the smell, my dad would disagree
though, with both, buying twenty dollar
beans, and grinding coffee for minutes,
I don’t mind though, making the perfect
cup of coffee demands this, I pour my
water in concentric circles, those
are the exact words the barista used, to
explain to me how to make “great pour over”,
did I understand them? absolutely
not, did I tell her? no, I smiled and nodded,
as I often do in any number of situations,
she was a beautiful person, twenty or so
starlight blonde, was it blond or blonde?
definitely blonde, she seemed jovial
loving, which is more beautiful than
anything physical to me, she’s made me
coffee a dozen or so times, I still
don’t know her name, I should ask her
someday, maybe. I’ll have to buy new beans
sometime soon anyway. the whole process
of extracting the liqueur of the god’s
takes about 4-5 minutes, and then, voila,
you have beautiful coffee,
and then for as long as I can, I look
up to the new sky, the sun heaving
catching his breath after rushing around,
and I hear the birds sing the hymns of
his return, and I’m contented, after all, I have my perfect cup of coffee.
Witchery / by Alise Versella
I have always wanted to be a witch
Adorn myself in black
Skin flushed nausea green at the sight of me
And I’ll never be popular
Crafting more than spells
Weighing down more than shoulders
Vibrate like a violin, a cell in the walls of the uterus
How can I not be a witch?
All our mothers bled us
And I bled for this
Finished is the sense
Of not being a witch
Look what I have created with my mouth
How the kiss holds you locked like medusa stone
My hips a thing of marvel
And you want it
The spell I’ve concocted
Until you don’t.
The sight of me more terrifying than spellbinding
More storm cloud than love
A witch can’t be loved
It is trickery
We let you believe in what we could be.
Poem 17 / Day 17
West of the Prime Meridian / by Deborah Bennett
Your hand blonde with sun snaps
beans plumped by water channeled
through mountains east of here. Tug
and release, beans drop into the palm
heart of your hand. Like a stroke in
water, cross body cupping to harvest.
You look down at the pail on your hip,
comb the pile of beans with slivered
nails trimmed as the nuns taught you.
You strip the row, rake-width, in less
than an hour. Easier than squatting
for strawberries. Beach berries shaken
free of austral soil bred on a third
continent, valley awash in hybrids.
Did you ever dream of glacial water
milky with mineral? Fruit snug
in bogs, fires burning in every tidal
flat? Fold and thrust belt, nappe
of mountain going slack
at the pole. Did you ever shake
free of your sex, your station? Of skin
a constellation of broken vessels?
Top and tail the beans, I bury the ends
in dirt. Wash and put up preserves
for the long, mild winter. Light
filters through filbert orchards,
southern beech. You reside in the furrow
between continents. A decade or more
of tectonic shifts. Reside with me
here. This is the end of my earth.
Theater Attire / by Elly Bookman
But does it matter
to the men and women and
sometimes children (a delight!)
while they’re up there
to be other people, ones
with fashionable problems and
with the light bent
to suit the mood
whether I’m draped in
finery, bejeweled, well-heeled?
I think only at the curtain call
when the house lights come up
and the audience, once
in darkness is
revealed to be impressive
or not. So let’s
everyone just wriggle
into our gowns and tuxes
when we can feel the tension
GANGLY / by Lynn Finger
Our gangly tea parties in the dirt
we roll gravel in sugar to suck on, shade split
sit in cool dirt under the north eaves
teddy bears join
rival eyes unbuttoned.
Wake up in the fled night
dark has no freedom
doors crossed out like x’d eyes
cartoon of a nightmare
no passport gets you out.
Morning stirs, blanket tacked to mud,
again, hummingbirds are down
when bribed with sugar water
we drape beaded skeins
sycamore pods around our necks
pretend is as good as good
at the tea parties
background night wails
as if I would listen.
Following a Good Meal, One Can Forgive Anybody (Almost) / by Jacqueline Kolosov
How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?—Julia Child
Okay, let’s say food be thy medicine, and
medicine be thy food (and drink too); well then,
what about sugar-haired Warhol’s diet
of cake, cookies, candy, and sweet heaping
spoons of jam? Britain’s Prime Minister seems
fond of jam. The mouldy bits she spoons out
and digs right in. Gross. I know. Out-
law foods for Stephen King? Oysters and
anything that slithers down the throat. Seems
the master of horror has his own demons. Well,
give him a break. Steven Jobs ate heaps
of carrots or apples; always, a one man one food diet.
Louis Armstrong included laxatives in his diet,
the legacy of a childhood of rotten food. Outrageous,
Nick Cage eats animals onto whose sex lives he heaps
praise. No pig, lamb or cow, only fish and
fowl. The Queen eats bananas with a fork and knife. Well,
Nabokov should have been shunned for his unseemly
penchant for butterflies. Foreigners, it seems,
especially Russians, tend towards perversity in diet.
Elvis breakfasted on hot fudge sundaes while
poor Byron, distressed about his weight, out-
lawed fats, limiting himself to biscuits, potatoes and
cider vinegar. He’s a decent chap who heaps
his plate with potatoes. Such logic feels like a heap
or malarkey, Mr. Milne. You mean honey. Oh, it seems
Pooh is here. Piglet too. We must have honey with pie and
honey with cream. Pale, sorrows do, before a honey diet,
a honey tree. You’ll never squeeze into those jeans. Out
with them then. Follow Mr. Churchill’s lead. Well then,
bring on the poached eggs, toast, jam, and well, yes—
heaps of orange squash, and whiskey. Sobriety is going out
of style anyway. So are postage stamps. So it seems.
Don’t forget canned beans. Our heroes ate heaps
of the stuff. How does one govern a country, not of dieters,
but one with two hundred-forty-six varieties of cheese? And
don’t get me started on the wines. A word of advice then:
if you’re afraid to include cheese or butter in your diet, it seems
prudent to add yogurt. Full fat, no skim. Heaps and heaps of it.
One Day / by Hannah Mitchell
Just for once
I want to wake up
To a morning
Over ten thousand horrors
That happened in the night
On my one precious world.
Innocence / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
You say I can wreak havoc with a smile
And my amnesia calculated,
Even though it comes with a sincere effort to remember,
And still you’re not convinced of my innocence.
Can I help it if others see me as pure, and you don’t?
You can’t label me an opportunist.
So what if I tend to agree with those
Whose affection I crave—
Even though I know they’re wrong?
I’m just being a nice person.
You’re saying I don’t have any principles?
I do, but I believe principles should not be hard and fast.
I don’t want to be considered inflexible.
So what if I bend according to the wind?
I call that being open to change.
No, I don’t think I’m calculating;
How could I be? I’m a child of God
My interactions are an open secret
Nothing to hide;
I wouldn’t know why you insist I’m dissembling.
You’re wrong; I am the victim here.
And because my friends know that to be so
I garner sympathy at every turn.
And yet you claim that
I profit from acting the victim
And playing the role of the master puppeteer?
I am saddened that you doubt my innocence.
RED LIGHT / by Katherine Smith
Destiny doesn’t make sense on the shore
of a lake, the bank of the James river.
But on the median strip,
he’s at least fifty, no more
than five feet tall, orange windbreaker,
leaning hard on his walker near the yield sign
a cardboard poster on which he’s scrawled in sharpie
“I’ve had a stroke. Help.” Fate is perfectly clear:
I slip him ten dollars, he waves.
The light turns green. In my car
I get fate and free will all wrong.
Where there’s a crease of light
on every pleated ripple
that swirls round the skirt of green water,
and the birches intersect over the earth
a limpid Esperanto of branches,
I know better that what we live in
and that what we share is earth,
a fact I sometimes forget
while waiting at the red light.
Happiness is / by Janel Spencer
is a frantic,
days awaiting finer days.
Some people call it a choice.
Or fate. It’s a gift
that lands in haphazard ways.
Not exactly like you’d expect
if you expected it. It’s a dish
of fish, your favorite. It’s your
favorite days, your favorite things,
coming together in unexpected ways.
It’s the unfolding of your life
when you are in the sunnier days of it,
the memorable ones, but for now,
you’re living it.
No one knows what happiness is.
It’s a memory game—by the time
you recognize it, it’s traveled to another place,
preserved in your mind like an ice pick,
excavating your patience
to explain what it is
to the youth before it’s too late.
As though you are talking to yourself,
telling you back then to see it,
to welcome its stay.
the sage of the mad west / by Gabriel Vass
With much love to Walt Whitman
You longbearded lover.
I can hear the roaring hum of the universe,
I can hear young, old,
I can hear black, white,
I can hear female, male,
All singing, singing,
The song primordial,
Oh brother rise with me,
Rise with the sun,
Bright burning in the sky.
Oh sister rise with me,
rise with the glassy moon,
Watching from above.
Oh you friend of Apollo,
Oh you friend of Artemis,
You are my soul
And I am yours.
Walk with me you children
Walk with me you children of
Dont follow in envious Cain’s
All men, all women, all children
Of the earth,
They are my friends,
They are my fathers,
They are my mothers,
They are my lovers,
They are my protecters,
And I love them,
And I hold them,
And I see them,
And I protect them,
And I stand with them.
All this world is my blood,
All may rest in my home,
By my fading hearth,
And share with me,
Bread and wine,
Share with me,
Childhood Innocence / by Alise Versella
Today I feel like a child abandoned on a see-saw
The playground mulch smells damp with last night’s rain
I sit stationary in a child’s game
Watching the empty space hang like kaleidoscope bubbles in the air
They don’t hold their form too long before they pop
Soap bubbles last longer- something about the detergent
You needed a mixing agent
At Bethesda fountain in central park
A man encapsulates a girl in a quinceanera dress in a giant bubble
She looks like Billie Burke as the good witch of the north
“Are you a good witch or a bad witch?”
I don’t know anymore except my toes seem to curl back in retreat
And my shoulders often feel like they are carrying the weight of a house
Sometimes I just think the wicked witch was lonely
Her monkeys couldn’t talk back
And some girl, prettier than her happened to inherit her sisters shoes
I have a hankering for swings: tire swings, wooden swings, swing-set swings with the plastic cracking around the chains. How the harder you pump your legs the whole set might fly off
I used to like jumping off the swing tied between two trees in my backyard
The trees were sturdy
If I wanted to fly it would be of my own accord
I always hated the landing though. I would do it wrong, land on my instep and the static electric would shoot up my calf
Every time I’m in Clove Lakes Park I sit on the hot black rubber swing, can’t ever remember being small enough to fit in the baby buckets next to me
It isn’t loneliness on a swing by yourself it’s some kind of solitude
Some kind of remembering
Some kind of reacquainting with a younger self
We abandoned ourselves
They day we stopped swinging and blowing bubbles and believing in things like hope
I mourn today the day I ever stopped playing. Realize now I am only trying to find that sense of childhood in a partner because I don’t want kids.
Loving can be like playing
Simply abandoning the adult who grew bitter and cynical and lost
Poem 16 / Day 16
Notions / by Deborah Bennett
Stuffed tomato stuck with pearlized pins
bobbins, needles, thread of many colors
McCall’s, Butterick, Simplicity itself
tracing paper, measuring tape, cutting mat
you, bent over the machine, hand wheeling needle
fresh cigarette, pursed lips, smoke clouding vision
cold coffee in Corelle mug sprayed with meadow flowers
orange-handled scissors, pinking shears
attack the nap
that she should have a dress
jagged-toothed feed dog, presser foot
synthetic tulle lace lapping the shore
of pink taffeta spread wide over throat space
horseshoe-stamped amber ashtray
red kissed tipping paper, butts bent over in submission,
gray and black powdered sugar ashes
seam ripper frogging stitches
warp and weft at cross purposes
bias tape sucks the pucker right out
coiled teeth line invisible zipper
princess seams, sweetheart plunge
plastic boning snug in channels
ease, the distance between
pattern and fit, blind hem
hides layers beneath.
Remember When / by Elly Bookman
That zebra got free,
escaped with the traffic
on the Downtown Connector
as we commuted through
late afternoon? Yes,
that day when belonging
THE SUN WAVES / by Lynn Finger
not yet on the horizon
gold sand dollar
You can’t count the raw fields
rocks raise shadows and corn flocks
the sun swims down
Medusa was in the circus
with her favorite dog
The sun striations neon her snake hair
a rusty monk
turns it into orange waves not
yet on the horizon
wave like tissue snakes
burning scatter across the startled sky
not yet on the horizon,
golden, waving, waggled
on the horizon,
Blueberries, Always / by Jacqueline Kolosov
They were blueberries the child set off to find.
Her grandmother sent her, and the dog.
I imagined a collie like the dog we used to visit
weeks I stayed with my grandmother in the city.
Each and every time, the child lost her way
among the skyward pine. She didn’t carry bread crumbs.
She knew the birds would eat them; besides
her grandmother had kasha on the stove waiting,
and sometimes plum kuchen, or potato pancakes,
the samovar always at the ready to poured tea.
Blueberries ripen in bountiful August sun.
The child wore a cotton jumper, a kerchief in her hair.
One can bask in a summer day, even in Russia,
but evergreens entice cold come moonrise.
How long did this child remain lost? As long as
my hunger for suspense endured. Always, this same
story I wanted on long drives, my father at the wheel,
my grandmother in the back beside me. I knew
the dog would always stay close. I knew, together,
they’d find their way back.
As a small girl, my grandmother’s dog
was a Saint Bernard. Alongside her father, that dog
served the czar’s army. At home, the dog played nursemaid
to kittens the mother cat tucked into his ample warmth.
That dog never moved. Not once, my grandmother said.
More than a dozen Michigan
summers we stooped among the jeweled fruit, filling baskets,
stuffing blueberries into our mouths. After a while,
my grandmother no longer made the trip. I don’t remember
when my father told me the Saint Bernard died from poison
gas on a battle field, his symptoms a warning
to the men in my great-grandfather’s command.
How far my grandmother journeyed
from her St. Petersburg later Vilnius home to the cream-
colored house in Chicago, one my teenage father trimmed
with evergreen paint.
How far I am now
from the child and her dog on their journey, from the little
girl snug against her grandmother. Perhaps a hundred tellings,
and I never realized not only children get lost…
There are moments, though, when that little girl’s footsteps
seem very near. When it feels, if I leave right now, I can still
catch up to her and that dog. As if, just beyond that stretch of trees,
smoke is feathering from a familiar chimney. And if I hurry,
the water in the Samovar will still be hot—
Exsanguinate / by Hannah Mitchell
When I bleed
I call it poetry
And then nobody worries about me too much.
The Ring Road / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough
It’s a showery morning in Belmopan
Another rainy beginning to the day;
I’m craving the communal solitude
That our early morning walk yields.
The rain holds up and we’re on our way;
Around the corner, Whiskey barks her usual hello
Letting us know all is well with the world.
Turning east, the light grey clouds
Hold no promise for immediate rain;
The squawky parrots overhead confirm.
I’m glad they’re back;
They were gone for a while
After their homes were cleared for the Embassy
But they’ve adjusted and found new abodes.
There’s one that hangs out on the top branch
Of the tall mahogany tree by the church
And he makes sure to greet us as we pass.
The clouds now a fluffy white are tinged with pink
Signaling a Belmopan sunrise;
A little pink here, a little pink there
And soon a sliver of the sun squeezes through
Lighting up the day and scaring the clouds away,
Exposing enough blue to convince us that
It’s going to be a beautiful Belmopan Day.
Even the drunk Santa Claus by the orange and pink house
Still hanging to the railing, raises an arm in agreement.
STINK / by Katherine Smith
This is how she imagines destiny,
flight curved like a smile,
a child’s sketch of a bird wing, fate
graceful as the minute adjustments of the flock
aiming for her house, landing as one
in the oak trees, then breaking apart, the bellies up close gone
bright orange, clumsy,
individual. These robins have clung all winter,
seeking the windbreak of walls,
the cover of oak trees, and the thin branches
of rose of Sharon. The house was a blessing
for the smaller birds.
she found a sparrow on the sidewalk, wing shorn,
maggots in the bones she nudged gingerly into the grass.
Above the hawk circled,
angling towards the river,
away from the house. Not bird
that’s beautiful but distance.
The wing bone covered in shit and love
like the newly hatched. She thinks that’s why
God doesn’t approach,
so she won’t recoil
from life in the feathers.
A tithe / by Gabriel Vass
Your eyes burn brown
Of crisp fall leaves
Your tears hit the ground
And act as drops of dew
Bringing life from what was once pain
The days have been eclipsed
The days have been frostbitten
But your heart has stayed warm
I know sometimes your soul
Wants to curl up and lie in a tomb
I know somedays you want your heart
To cease it’s primal rhythm
But my stalwart friend youve stayed
This long, why not wait for the
On the arrival of your ex’s birthday / by Alise Versella
Belated birthdays are like deflated balloons
How could you get so busy filling yourself up as to forget about my lungs?
A deflated balloon is like a fish out of water
drowning on the sand
Just to breathe again
The breath never comes
Expires on the lips
Like words loosed from teeth
To sputter out
Only we aren’t playing anymore
I always liked the tigers eye, the glass shimmering in the sun
Like mylar balloons all shiny
Like a red tricycle
A birthday gift
A scabbed knee childhood memory
I still remember your birthday
Birthdays are important to me
Like how come we stop celebrating the joyous gift it is to be alive another year?
No I haven’t forgotten and no I’ll never mourn it
The day will just pass without me this year.