The 30/30 Project: January 2020

Backup / Restore

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

The volunteers for 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 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
winter roots.

You are the thing I thought
I could not. Mother love.
And then, I gutted
myself. From the cuttings,
you grafted
on to yourself.

Temporary American Poetry / by Elly Bookman

So much for the summer
we floated and listened
to the radio teach us
indigenous words

SIX WORDS / by Lynn Finger

White flowers like gardenias
and jasmine porcelain
in the rain they’re not really
            white
                         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,
            stars
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
            and shadow
                        skull 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
like dust-swept-up-with-
branches-the-bones-
of-tiny-creatures-their-
disembodied-voices-crying-out
suggest something
worthy but hardly solvable
by Miss Marple or Hercule
Poirot; something,
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
through January’s
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,
nothing there
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
wind?

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,
when wishes
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.
Go back.
To a state
gazing back at you blankly
and without blame.

mes muses / by Gabriel Vass

You old Frenchmen
I see you over the
Horizon

Crawling out of your graves
You decomposing
Corpses

Missing an arm, your
Right eye, your left hand
Fraying

Reeking of death
And flys but oh we should be
Rejoicing

For you’re here to compose a
new epic, falling and rising like her
Breathing

Here to compose a score
For the world to implode
To

And your hand is tremoring
Trying to scratch notes onto
Parchment

After all dead Frenchmen
Aren’t meant to compose new
Scores

But nevertheless you carry on
Writing a new song, a new
Hymn

To the ever consuming world
From death to life from life to
Ashes

de la mort à la vie
comme des
cendres

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
And losing
Myself

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
She holds
Earth together each time he falls apart

The boys I loved could’ve done better

Each time I knew the
Ending
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
Into debt

I commit
A sacrilege
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
on sentiment.

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
Amen.

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

any moment
the unnamable wild can appear
to eat us all in one gulp.

Show Up / by Hannah Mitchell

Show up.
Just.
Show up.
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.
Sweet deliciousness!

Your tears like jewels.
Original thirst-buster—
generous offer.

Traditions honor your return
much like a traveling friend—
a distant writing companion, ever near

as memory, fresh as a river
bursting forth with
glee

at the company of
shadows—
disappearing trout.

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
                                                            Silks,

Holds my quarter in
                       Her bloodless right
                                                            Hand.

She whispers to me
                       In a colorless voice
                                                        “Closer”.

The air felt heavier
                        Damp with desires of
                                                            Men,

And I was one,
                     One of those hungry
                                                         Fools,

Starving to Understand,
                     men, gods, and restless
                                                           War,

The reason for my
                     Love’s innocent blood, on
                                                          volcanic Soil.

But oracle’s have prices,
                      And so do tomes, and
                                                                  I,

Am too broke and gutless,
                       Too weather-worn and
                                                             destitute,

To pay.

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

I stood
on the sidewalk
along the section of
Martin Luther King Jr.
Boulevard that runs behind
the old movie theater and
understood everything
that would happen
to me

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
signal—

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,
clean shaven,
glossy with sweat,

the old man sat upon
the festering red
park bench,
quietly, alone,
distant,

they all fell forward into
a botomless black
hole, swirling,
spinning,
slow,

the house sat perched upon
an uneasy concrete
foundation,
leaning,
unstable,

we all felt like a tired house that day,
siding moulding, windows
shattered, fixed with
cellophane and
duct tape,

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.
—Maggie Nelson

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,
                          opaque, alone.

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

Some days
I feel like
There’s no way I could actually be loved.
That everyone around me
Is just keeping me around
Because
I am nothing if not useful.

El Senor de Esquipulas / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough

Esquipula, Redentor!
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.
Stopped attending.
So how can I defend the misdeeds of the priests,
The church’s treatment of women?
I don’t.
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—
What fun!
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, … .”

“Little Gidding”

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.

Negativity
is so twentieth century.
Look for joy.

Everyday the crows
fly to the dead trees
and caw.
.
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
tomorrow
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
to criticize
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
            Frosted over

I can feel the chill
     In the marrow of
                  my bones

Old man Winter’s
     Skeletal fingers
                 Creaking

Reach into my
          Skeleton

For Joshua Tree / by Alise Versella

I have been yearning for a safe space in the desert

Just me

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

Just me

The rock

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
man-made gradations
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
again.

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,
eat plankton.
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,
unchanged.

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
to put
into
Simple black ink
And the words too small
To account for
The impact
I want to have.

HALLWAY / by Katherine Smith

O ordinary life
without love or imagination
you slump

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
manual grinder,

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

Pointed hat

Skin flushed nausea green at the sight of me

Preteen girl

Wicked

And I’ll never be popular

 

Crafting more than spells

Weighing down more than shoulders

Crystals

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
busy pretending
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
descending—you know,
an ending
coming on.

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
grimace, simple,
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

One day
Just for once
One day
I want to wake up
To a morning
Without mourning
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
is confusion

and that what we share is earth,
a fact I sometimes forget
while waiting at the red light.

Happiness is / by Janel Spencer

Sometimes happiness
is a frantic,
frenzied state.
Sometimes it’s
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
Of Abraham,
Walk with me you children of
Ishmael,

Dont follow in envious Cain’s
footsteps.

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,
The Stories,
Of we.

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
became strange
and unbearable.

THE SUN WAVES / by Lynn Finger

The sun
               not yet on the horizon
                              melts
                                         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
              alarming
                             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

Light kites
            sun melts
                          on the horizon,
                                            setting finally.

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

Sometimes
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.
Until yesterday,

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
                 Reminding me
                         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
                           Authentic end

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

like marbles
Only we aren’t playing anymore
I always liked the tigers eye, the glass shimmering in the sun
Like mylar balloons all shiny
Brand new

Like a red tricycle
A birthday gift
A scabbed knee childhood memory

Yeah
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.

Poem 15 / Day 15

Pitfall / by Deborah Bennett

Knitted together, sloppy sweater
of ferns. Kindling inverse girders
line the dirt box. Small beasts sheathed
in scale and fur they step with too much

assurance into the pit. Mice do not
always seek shelter in winter. They come
and go as vagabonds do—fetid days, dry ice
days. Drawn by waste, circling

drain and vent. They called your people
rats. One springs the trap. Armed with plastic
gloves, you can’t bear to touch them
with your bare hands. They could carry

disease. In northern countries, elk and deer
dropped dead in trapping pits. So much
more sophisticated. Masons were called.
Carpenters planed wood, fashioned spears,

making a bed of murder. You swear
you would have fought. Yesterday, you found
just the paw, claws smeared with peanut
butter. It did not wait to die. It sheared

itself free of the trap. We can trace the trail
of blood and urine only so far. You joke
about the warning issued to all the pests
infesting the cellar and sewer beneath

our home. You reset the trap. Would you
have fallen prey or would you have loosed
your limbs from the snare trap, only
to serve as a cautionary tale?

The Golden Envelope / by Elly Bookman

after Emily Dickinson

As to the question of all
or some men,
the one some men reach for
in order to honor
their own hardest
efforts toward the work
of goodness—I get it, but
even islands burn, and are
mountains, not beds, not
what all women have known
since childhood: how to
fold inward, earn
blue compliments, get paid
in sand, and after
the paycheck, after they
have sent her home and have
let her find peace in ceased
calculus, she still has to
do the long work
of wondering what’s in
it for her. If infamy
or pyre, if ocean or
shore. And is home an urn.

The horse auction / by Lynn Finger

I stand near the fence at the horse auction fair grounds
a few wooden fences knocked together
out in the desert with the wind so fierce it tears the hair
off the sage.

Looking for a good little mustang colt for a friend’s kid,
I lean with one foot up, while they wrangle in the black and grey,
white faced, sorrel and roan, criollo and palomino, the churning backs
like dirty waves in a lost ocean, and it was hard not to notice
those who could barely walk, bony, and would be bought
by kill vendors.

I did find a little unspoiled colt, coat matted
but a good look in his eye and most
importantly, sound legs.

The others, they don’t have a chance here. My heart wasn’t in it to just leave.
We’re practically horses, or they’re practically us,
we share nearly half of our chromosomes with them,
we run, shake our manes, nestle in herds, but do we have to be alike to care?
I talked to the guy. Can’t we do something else, I said, something else
for these horses.

You got a horse rescue? He said. Either that or burger, those are the two.
I do now, I said. And that’s how 40 horses were delivered to the
empty lot next to my son’s elementary school playground.
We got the OK. They were going to
bulldoze it anyhow.

40 is a start. Or one person. Or two people, a family, a country. Or a continent.
Sometimes the actions sew themselves to your sleeves like a shadow
and lead as they fall before you, details unspool
as you go.

Baby Doe / by Jacqueline Kolosov

Bella Amoroso Bond, the Deer Island “Baby Doe,” August 2012-Spring 2015

Just spring, and a woman out walking her dog
finds a plastic garbage bag.
Not the white of lilies, but black as the cross
before Easter’s candles ignite in flame.
Inside: a very little girl. Did you know me?
Tell the police my name.

                        Weeks earlier, a few miles
upriver: midwinter’s ice-bitten trees,
and within an apartment’s closed room,
a feverish little girl. A few feet away:
a window’s gaping mouth.

                                                         Good Friday,
and a man opens the door, dresses the girl
in snowsuit, boots, pom-pom hat.
When does he decide to leave her, hidden now
within a garbage bag, at the stone feet
of the Virgin Mary?

                            Several months
before the man and woman, her mother,
are arrested. The woman hides behind her
long hair, but there’s no denying her
belly once again swelling with life.

Can it make a difference that she, too,
was a child once? The authorities found her
tied to a high chair; nearly three,
and she could not speak.

                                          At seventeen, once
she aged out of foster care, she’d had eleven
placements in fifteen years. Today
her sentence is life (the man, her
lover’s too). But what of the being
growing inside her?

                          The very little girl, her daughter,
lies buried in the cemetery on Deer Isle.
Locals have placed a bronze fawn on the grave.
Snow now softens the disrupted earth.
So far the winter has been mild.
Harsher conditions are predicted.

Glass and Steel / by Hannah Mitchell

I am blown glass
On a steel frame.
Each time I shatter
Into awkward piercing shards,
I’m left a dull gray structure
But reminded of how strong
I really am.
I blow myself a new life
Into strange shapes
That will surely shudder and shatter
And creak and crack
In their time.
But the steelworks within me are solid
Even in a field
Of my own painful pieces.

Reinvention / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough

We thought we had a plan
But life’s vagaries provided another;
Makes me wonder: How many of us
Are living the life we planned?
At some point we try to become
The navigator of the boat we are on.
We try to steer, but really we find ourselves
Buffeted by the winds,
Sometimes cresting the waves,
Other times maneuvering around
And landing somewhere
That may not have been our destination,
Making decisions
That were already made for us.

She had determined that at sixty
She would not be an ordinary woman.
So at sixty, she opted for reinvention,
Or was this what had been planned for her third chapter,
And she just acquiesced?
She did not avoid scrutiny and chatter;
No, she welcomed the grand speculation
As the building went up.
Was it a school? Was it a church?
When the hallelujahs and amens rang out
With gaping mouths, the villagers had their answers:
She had proved it to all and sundry,
This was no ordinary woman.

All we really want is to know that we matter.
We can plan for our third chapter
But life can take a left turn
When we were expecting to turn right
And so the best we might do
Is assume as much control as we can
To turn the boat in the direction we would like to head.
Still, life plays its own game with us
And what a wonder it can be
When we land somewhere we hadn’t planned.
Or, we reinvent our destination
Claiming it was our intention all along.

PROMISE / by Katherine Smith

Little cardinal,
perched in the boxwood,
you beat the storm,

and now you sing as if it were April.
as if you had won
more than a reprieve

from the cold snap,
a week of sub-zero weather,
spitting snow, ice, gusting wind.

It’s only the middle of January,
and there are three more months of cold.
Now the thaw has come, you fly over this house,

your red wings a defiance.
Your yellow beak sings to your brown mate
who may or may not be alive.

I hear no answer. But what do I know,
I who thought you were dead,
your red wings nowhere in sight

this past week? I do not see her.
Now I know where the confidence
of your bright black eye, your red crest

come from. The suet and seed that lie buried
and forgotten under debris in the garage
did you no good. The garden’s picked clean.

And I –who promised nothing—
today buy millet and sunflower
at the hardware store as if what I do matters to you,

a wild thing that survived to promise spring.

BASTA! / by Janel Spencer

BASTA!
The italian mamma
chases her Giovanni with a spoon.
Swiftly it aims at the morning egg,
and when it cracks, it unravels
into two. Selves,
like the womb, opening,
receiving and empties.
When the body says enough is enough
it becomes two. We call it a miracle.
Two identities,
the original not preserved
as it once was.
ENOUGH,
so you make room for more,
so that you can slowly let go of a life,
a mask you wore
that no longer resembles you.

the boatman / by Gabriel Vass

Love,
   All roads paved, unpaved lead back to love,
Love,
   All shimmering treasures lead back to love,
Love,
   All weathered wisdom comes from love,
Love,
   She can’t be buried, no matter, 10, 12, feet,
Love,
   She guides if you will only consult her map,
Love,
   She’s a mother’s arms, a knowing
gaze,
Love,
   Always finds you, above, behind,
below,
Love,
   Always sees you, aye on fog drenched days,
Love,
   Always protects you with her sturdy arms,
Love,
   Love,
      Love,
         From which all the marvelous stems

The moments where I look at my mother and wonder if she wanted more / by Alise Versella

It has always been these moments:

Street silent, hung with warmth like fairy lights strung in a Japanese garden

House quiet

Whole

The little family Velcro-ed to their separate corners

Watching movies

Reading stories

Stitching futures

Or writing as the moon looks down from space

Runs the back of her hand against the cheek of the earth:

“How young you are still, how much you’ve grown thus far

And oh how I fear this orbit

Might be a space

You’re outgrowing.”

 

Like a teenager off to war with the world

The sky

Holds onto its rain

Because like a mother

She’s tired of crying

 

It’s hard to raise us

We dream so

Frightfully much

And sometimes the dreaming does not assuage the reality

The tornado will arrive on time

Just as predicted

And Toto, we haven’t been in Kansas for ages

I think I miss it

These emeralds are dulling, aren’t they?

The tin heart rusting again

 

The moon, silver like antique spoons

Wants to run away sometimes, too

 

Like how all young mothers first instinct is

Run

Before the pink and plump open lidded eyes

First cry

Your name

 

Mother.

 

It’s almost always the moments where I can’t stand you

When I realize how much the moon must wish

To be so much more than

What keeps the earth in orbit.

Poem 14 / Day 14

Birth Day / by Deborah Bennett

There is nothing to celebrate. You have driven
three thousand miles to outrun your shame. You cannot
walk two steps now down linoleum floors past doors
framing passive women lined up like orphans

in a dormitory. You are of an age marked
with the suffix -teen. Your hair in messy
braids, threaded with satin ribbon. Your eyes
perfect, in need of no correction. Nuns in habit

patrol the dim tunnels. You face walls of cinder
block. I face the dark wall of your body. You pant
like a dog, but refuse cool cloth, gas, medicine
of any kind. You deserve your suffering. You will not

not feel every shocking wave. It is past midnight.
You had hoped the minutes would tick from unlucky
to lucky day. You do not believe in being born
under any kind of star, but here it is now, odd hour, even

day. No one tells you if the time is near or far. Your own
body cannot tell you a thing. You have tried not to listen
all these months. I must have turned, lightly spun top
in a watery cave. How willfully you turned away

from the turning. Now I crest the waters, insist on air. Sacred
heart, I am received in hushed communion, body and blood.
Cleansed of waxy vernix, I have entered the man-made world
at the hands of men and women who are not my people or yours.

You do not visit the enclosure plated in glass. House of my body, no
longer your body. You do not fog or touch that glass. They change the cloth
beneath you, bind the chest, target receptors with agonists. It has gone from acute
to chronic. Dark-eyed child, traced in ghost cells, I will not not feel your pain.

Sympathetic Response / by Elly Bookman

Even the antique grain
of my desk is an enemy. And as
the crow flies, even the shortest
way out of this mess is longer
than the way we arrived.
So the days grate on, statesmen
argue, and a tremor grows in
the part of my hand they took apart
last year, low joint of my left thumb
which they then pressed
back together, those experts
in bone-setting. In streets, we rock
over the crests and breaks we swear
we cannot stand and then
we stand them. In secret, we climb
into warm beds, are held by
safe lovers, plan vacations away.
Did you know, when
fractures happen, black hairs
grow around the wound
where there were none before,
though I found them unsightly.
When the bandages came off,
I scraped them away and
didn’t miss their assistance at all.

Shame / by Lynn Finger

In middle school
             between classes
                          where freedom breathes
                                       with my best
                                                    girl friend,
we were 13 and
heads together telling girl secrets

holding hands because
             we were holding hands
                          because.

The senior behind us
             said, “Why don’t
                          you bang her,” and

the judgement,
not knowing why,
             we dropped hands,
                          moved apart,
like we needed to ask
                          forgiveness for this but
                                       what shame is that?

And maybe the question is,
             not what, but why?

like human is
             a mistaken costume
                          rented off season.

Stars / by Jacqueline Kolosov

At the close of “Now, Voyager,”
the camera pans in for the fogged
close-up that many women and men, too,
love to sob through. A terrace balcony,
night, the overheated fragrance
of magnolias lingering, smoldering
embers of ‘star-crossed’ lovers’ cigarettes:
Why reach for the moon, Davis tells her co-star,
tears like Svarowski crystal beneath
her huge, film noir eyes. The moon, darling
more smoke, more tears—why reach for it
when we have the stars.

                                     But is that statement,
despite four million at the 1942 Box Office,
true?
             The stars which I, too, see tonight,
the stars children, lovers, and sometimes I also
wish upon, are at least 70,000 years away.
As for these wishes, does anyone over the age of seven,
no matter how potent the screen’s illusion,
desire, or goodness knows what else—
really expect the stars to listen?

*

Don’t get me wrong: I, too, love the nursery
rhyme, soothing lullaby to send a fretful or
perhaps deliciously sleepy one off dreaming,
but stars do not twinkle. What we see,
we see through the turbulence of earth’s
atmosphere.

*

When a child draws a star in the night
sky, usually a star with five carefully
joined points, and occasionally
the two triangles that create the Star of David,
the star is almost always white or silver;
the sky, what Crayola calls midnight
blue, or perhaps black.
                                         If only children
and we, too, knew that stars are,
in fact black, gaseous bodies
that absorb all the light, the reason
for their radiance.

*

Can we say there’s any truth
in Davis’s words, then, about the possession
of what can only be a devouring absence?

Van Gogh didn’t have any answers
despite his swirling rhapsody in blue
“Starry Night”? When I have a terrible need of…
religion… I go out and paint the stars, he said.

Go see for yourself. Right now.
Outside, there they are. Look up
at the night sky. It’s full of them.

I Don’t Know / by Hannah Mitchell

What do you do when nothing feels right?
When you’re bored and you’re sad and you’ve
           been up all night?
When you’re longing for just one meaningful
           sight?
(I don’t know.)

What do you do when your head is a mess
When you’re tired and thinking of
            meaninglessness?
What do you do when you’re drowning in
            stress?
(I don’t know!)

What do you do when you pine for some spark
Of creative engagement – try to embark
On a harebrained adventure just for a lark?
(I don’t know!!)

What do you do when the world drags along
When groaning is traded for your heart’s song
What do you do when you just don’t feel
              strong?
(I DON’T KNOW!!!)

(But if you do know…please help me.)

Curiosity / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough

He set his load down
And before heading out to the distant cultivated plot
He made his usual once around the farmstead
Looking to see what was ready for harvest,
Where clearing needed to be done,
And, finally, the pièce de rèsistance,
Checking to see if the prize tangerines
Were finally ready.

For months we had watched to see
If the seven fruits would hang in there
Until we could enjoy them.
An experiment of Pa and the farm demonstrator,
A tangerine grafted onto a sour orange tree,
The family’s excitement was boundless.

The children followed by the grownups
Raced to the little tree,
Gamely standing in the shadow of the cohune palm
And a surprise greeted us:
There on the ground were the seven–
Seven round now yellowing fruits
Each with a nail-sized peel at one end.

The week before
Not wanting to harvest the fruit prematurely
I had carefully removed a piece of the peel
Off one fruit—just to check to see if it was ripe;
When the first wasn’t ripe, one by one
I checked the other six.

Pa’s look at me was both smoldering and saddened;
Of his four children there
How could he have known that I was the culprit?
The curiosity and the caution of a six year-old
Yielded much disappointment that morning;
We would have to wait another year
For a taste of that experiment.

REDEMPTION / by Katherine Smith

When I think I’m never going to save the world from orange,
the only thing that saves me are my cats,
my puffy-tailed grey Anastasia,
who bounds after a toy:
woolly red spider with blue silk legs
sliding on the linoleum under the kitchen table
she carries proudly to her water bowl
and dunks repeatedly. Jeoffry,

who arches his back at my left elbow,
while I listen to the news with my cheek
in my right palm, who cries
for me to look up
like the demanding
Siamese who was his mother.

Each time I put my head in my palm,
he cries for me to brush harder.
I toss clumps of orange fur
into the garbage while he purrs
like the beautiful orange tabby he is.

in response to ‘where is my poem’ / by Gabriel Vass

Blood doesn’t define

Me,

Us
You came when I was
Six or so, sometime around there
Your smile lit up
My uncle’s dim living room,
Your soul shone
Brighter than the north star,
And I loved you
And I love you
Still
They call us cousins now
Supposedly the state gave us that title
But, before,
Before all of
The courts,
The Judges with tired eyes,
and rulings echoing with a gavel
We were family,
We were supposed to be family,
And really, all blood bleeds red anyway

Before a car crash / by Alise Versella

A choreography of turning signals

Eight count blink

The somersault of red and blue

On the side of the road

The ambulance

The head trauma

The soft smile winking out of consciousness

We will all be late to work

Stuck behind the school bus

Pom- pom yellow cheering against the morning gray

The newspaper ink stains my thumb

The car looks bent in the article photo like a tree trunk bubbling up through the sidewalk

Oak tree belongs here over you

 

   I thought we were going for ice cream

   To the corner store, Miggy’s

Stretched out like he’s sleeping

The ambulance has a distinguished scent I won’t soon forget

 

   High school health class and they will give a tour

   But I have already been in the well of your belly

   I am not hungry

 

   Do not drink and drive

   Do not drink and drive

You don’t need to remind me

I remember the hospital I remember who it was that put them there

Coloring with crayons in a waiting room my two year old sister

   Sleepover at grandma and grandpas

   Could have turned into raised by

 

Cross bears flowers by the side of the road

And I cross myself every time

Somebody died

Nobody died

 

Does the aching of a head wound feel like dying before your time

When the storm comes premonition

Do you still see the crash in your head?

 

I am stopped at the red light watching all the commuters make left turns

And I glance at the angel on my visor

Until my light switches to green

Deep breath as I step on the pedal and drive passed the memory.

Poem 13 / Day 13

Still Life / by Deborah Bennett

All the empleadas have left their posts. False
cognate, women in gray maid vests,
let the monedas jangle in shallow
pockets today. Will not board micros,
face the cordillera drowning in
smog, ignore the beggars relating
their suffering between stops. They will not
open iron gates, feed and water children
or outdoor pets. Sweep rugs with brooms
wrapped in damp towels. Will not agitate
clothing in machines housed in covered patios.

The security guards abandon
their corners. Sling their semi-automatic
weapons over their backs like soldiers
of the junta. The knobby tires of their
motorbikes leave blocky tracks leading
south and north. La Moneda and tributary
banks are unattended.

The obreros and pescadores walk off field
and boat. Leathery aguacates seek
shade in canoe-shaped leaves. In La Dehesa
beds of succulents spend their dry day
in peace. Lemon trees wait patiently
to cure sea bass another day.

All the políticos, damas and business
people make noise against the silence
of field, home, la bolsa. They protest
the protest. Tomorrow, berries will be
picked and packaged. Children tended
and educated. Vaults guarded, shares
traded. Today the high sun blights
valley and mountain, comuna and farm.
The classes are sorted and siloed.

Atlanta, Mid-Winter / by Elly Bookman

after Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Sunday is silence in the pit, Monday an archway
curved in remembrance over the high school entrance

we entered as teenagers, age-driven and
hidden in sundown stereo light. Today is when

the city ends, when the alleys of Terminus
fill with darkness and wash her toward me—one-eyed

hometown, capitol dot in the middle of a sentence
that reads up one side of the arch and down the other.

Why does she cross herself in Boulevard’s
gold gravel black mornings, where ambulances

ignite silent to run red lights? Why does she pave
over her railway veins? O city, my city,

am I bound to your siren, wet wail in the tepid air,
too spherical and lucent to ignore, calling me

South, calling me South? Or tied to your tunnel heart
telling me trace, trace maps and maps won’t move.

Opossum gallows overhead. Are you my fear?
Taut as the cable that lets the red light rock?

EMBLEMS / by Lynn Finger

My grandma had a nervous way of picking up her delicate horses
and glazed bird collection, to be sure they were dusted underneath.
In her neat tucked apron and tucked hair moving through her home, she picks
up, looks, dusts.

She had done this growing up out in the fields following her favorite horse
roan-maned Nelly (who she named herself after). Nelly pulled the plow
to turn the dirt on their small farm. My grandmother with “the boys” her brothers,
her skirt billowing, strode the wide
verge of land

which spreads towards the skyline. When told it was only for boys work,
she ignored them, loving the sky, the dirt, and the way she felt expanded
between the two, solid and grounded. She dug potatoes, brushed them off
and put them into the sack bag, and did
this all day.

Later, married and in her own home, she could afford to collect what
her brothers called useless knickknacks. She brought a large golden bear
cookie jar with removable head, a gorgeous melting couple in pink and blue,
softly glazed in 1880s finery, a pair of tall does, bluebirds, a sparrow and
a blue horse lifting his prancing gold hooves. These were things she couldn’t have
as a girl.

I think of her strength and the strength of our women, all women, who bend to
pick potatoes or squash or strawberries wherever they are, who in their billowing
dresses manage the affairs of men, who name themselves after their favorite horses
or hawk or river, and who at the end of the day, earn the right to admire these emblems
of their dreams.

Cry Me an Ocean / by Jacqueline Kolosov

i.

                                                                    Not a river,
because tears are made of salt, .3mg
per drop, and rivers source fresh water.
The north-flowing Nile may arrive at the Mediterranean,
but the waters of this, the longest river, do not ferry salt.
For more than 5,000 years, the Nile, gift of the gods,
has watered Egypt’s crops, sourced her journeys long
and short, inspired her mythic thought. Yes, the Nile,
ever-flowing witness-provider to pharaoh
and slave, the pyramids, even Sphinx’s ebony eye
still reflected in its depths.
                                         Perhaps the Sphinx alone
knows why the Nile is home to the Banded Cobra,
eight long feet of brown bands encircling a golden body,
this creature-creation designed by Isis
from dust and the sun-god’s spit, this venomous ally
a shrewd goddess (no Eve) used
to conquer the throne for Osiris, her husband.
(Why did she not rule?) For all eternity,
Egyptians believed not one but two cobras, breath
of fire-guarded the gates to the afterlife.
Tell me, Sphinx, why it is water quenches fire,
poison being a kind of burning, no?

ii.
                                                        Yes, cry me an ocean,
one to rehome the great right whale, huge and docile,
surface-skimming beings hunted to near extinction
for their ample blubber. From Nantucket to Long Island,
one hundred right whales were killed each year,
leaving only one hundred individuals by 1935.
Today they number perhaps four hundred,
too many trapped still in fishing gear or maimed
by our ships—.
             And what of all the others, black or gray
hummocks, the otherworldly-nearby-surfacing
among the waves?
                                                      An ocean, I said,
cry me nothing less, for those endless voyagers,
the sea turtles, Hawksbill, Olive ridley, and majestic
green with its teardrop shell.

iii.

Listen, please, earth’s saline is seeping into the Nile,
and Burmese pythons,
descendants of our discarded exotic pets,
are traveling north, depleting every living creature
as they breed and press on
to climates only growing
warmer. An ocean
to surround the lands on fire where Diana can
entice the tides to put the fire out.
But, you say, too many boats will be required. Dear
one, this isn’t the story of Noah. No two by two by
two to begin the whole mess over again.
Try to believe in miracles.
                                         And really, what’s one more ocean
beside our kind suspended in space stations, and all
the complex genetic research? I mean, we’ve come up with
far too many ways to destroy our planet.
                                         There isn’t enough earth to go around.
Why I ask for one ocean. Look, now,
the mourners are coming. Many have not forgotten
keening; crying abides in our marrow, soft tissue,
most secret inner eye, where the tear ducts lie.
                                                                    See, I, too, am crying;
now that I’ve started, there will be no holding back my tears.

Screw It / by Hannah Mitchell

Screw it
Let’s do it
Let’s jump off the cliff
Unburden our souls
And embrace all our differences
Running away?
No, I’m gonna stay
And hype up my life up –
A smile, a sway of my hips.
Gonna jump
Take a big leap of faith
Look over the edge and brace
Myself for the fall
And the rush
Of the unexpected pushback
From a world that’ll fight me
But’ll only ignite me
To climb higher, jump farther
In joy and in laughter
As I cackle out loud in the wind
“This jump ain’t my end
But where I begin!”

Babsie / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough

She was my partner in defiance,
And together we spoke out against
The inane rules that those in power
Enjoyed imposing on their subordinates,
Their embrace, a legacy from the colonial days.

A well-proportioned, petite dynamo
Built in the dimensions of the original woman,
She approached everything with gusto.
She wore miniskirts like no other
Adding to the lines of disapproval
On the faces of the female administrators.
The male administrators chose not to enforce.

So Babsie rode her bike
Down Barrack Road to Freetown Road,
Made a wheelie just for the administrators
Spying through a window,
Parked her bike, and
With her hair sleeked back into a bun
Not a strand out of place,
Face perfectly made up,
Wearing high heels to match her dress,
Hips swaying,
Did the Belizean stroll into the classroom.

An unlikely pair (she was many years my senior),
From her I learned
How to walk on just this side of propriety,
Not to take myself too seriously,
And that I was the better table tennis player.

OMELETTE / by Katherine Smith

I’m slicing an onion in half,
then in quarters, then eighths, slicing
until the whole globe spins
to the sizzling music of olive oil
that turns the stinging flesh
sweet. While I beat the eggs into foam,
pour yolks and whites into the frying pan,
I think about the phrase “get a life,”

which I heard one student say to another
while I was packing up textbooks,
zipping my coat. I always
wondered if getting a life meant
another party in feathers and sequins,
another baby, another husband, a new car
with a bumper sticker that says, my kid’s on the honor roll,
more sex, running for public office.

I tried the phrase out on Trudy the other day,
saying I’m going back to my real life
as I tore off a piece of the sourdough bread
she had just placed in front of me,
slathered it with butter, filled my mouth
while she looked up startled,
“what are you talking about?

This is your real life,” she said
waving around the kitchen,
under the table to the dog
farting in his sleep,
then motioning up the stairs
to the room I loved so much

with the branches tapping the window,
and the stars in the skylight,
and the blue and white striped chair
where I’d spent hundreds
of hours writing poems,
turning up the heat, listening
to the sizzle of bitter
turning sweet beneath the flame.

the old man in the old cabin somewhere in the southwest / by Gabriel Vass

And I heard him cry out,
cry out,
   to man,
      for help
in the house his father built,
          Beside the lake
full of largemouth bass and catfish
          ‘neath the trees scowling,
pessimistic with old age,
          and he’s afraid that God has
died like Nietzsche whispered
          in a gruff voice, hollow from cigarettes
but he doesn’t buy that,
          none of it,
his father told him it was all lies
          besides he’s heard God’s
baritone voice too many times
          To believe that he’s died,

The Soloist / by Alise Versella

Threaded nylon through a fishing reel

Will sound like the violin strings in the orchestra

When cast out into sea

 

The choking of the mackerel

Will be a rhythm similar to bass line percussion

When lifted, open mouthed, to swallow the sun

 

The slicing of iridescent scales will sound like cymbals

Brushed and the xylophone the echoing

Of the knife against the railing

 

This flesh will taste like the opera soprano reaching

The highest octave

And holding the note without faltering

 

But the pulling

Oh the struggle between rod and beast

Will feel like the empty room after all the applause has swum away from you

 

Orange plastic bobbing in the ocean

Mocking you each time it breaks the surface-

Stage lights blinking out.

Poem 12 / Day 12

The Rapture Index / by Deborah Bennett

All heaven breaks loose today hellfires burn
bright on a southern continent the world
is born again in the ash the resurrected rejoice
in the middle kingdom animals scale the burning
bush no baptismal piscina all is dry hypersonic
arms flood the markets sunk in tar
pits we shelter in caves lined with bottled
water tabernacle hosts the consecrated body
spotlit in red He is in residence sanctus
sanctus sanctus the mystery of faith is mysterious
in any old language corpus and sanguis
sacrament hidden from pagans which I am
now early church shrouded itself in this fever
those who have ascended will not suffer
the tribulation light traffic does not wake
me I sleep on through sun and wind
while in this state of limbo I have been left
behind as have my children all fallen
away we are not in communion with any spirit
East or West of ancient rivers a maelstrom gathers
the faithful tucked in a heavenly safe like bread or pie.

Breakthrough / by Elly Bookman

I like science that says
new cleverness can spring,
limb-like from the absences.
Of sight, of pain
failing to send its signal of
warning and trauma to the brain.
At dinner
we are four women
who have known one another
since childhood, each
of us next to a man she’s chosen
after years of making do, our
twenties flattened by that
endless bargain.
We have superfood
soup, charcuterie spread out
on a slab of wood
our host got as a wedding gift.
A blind man learns
to measure distances by ear.
A woman without a stress response
learns longing
is a foothold that
keeps her hovering above
the grave injury of indifference.
At the table
someone says there should
be more poems about cheese.
About wanting?
I ask. And a new heart
blooms in each of us, begins
to beat and grow and
know things.

Every Cell / by Lynn Finger

Walk on the beach
with golden shells and a sky so wide
it wasn’t there and

to know we would find it whatever it is
to sing with everything
the belch of toads and frogs
clicking crickets
the peacocks’ full-throated screech
and the small big sounds spinning rattle of cicada

all nature does rapture
for rapture is just two parts forgetfulness and
one part remembering

All we are built on burns or blooms into this
Fire globe of knowing
fragile endings

every cell has its own morning.

Lunar Eclipse, January 2020 / by Jacqueline Kolosov

Just beneath the entwined
trunks of the mulberry
tree, foraging, a lone

Junco, charcoal silted gray
as the moon’s penumbral
shadow. Glacial, this four a.m.

light reflected off falling
snow, and silent.
If only this could last—.

In the paddock beyond,
two chestnut horses, ears
prick-straight and tipped

with snow, step forth to
greet me with synchronized
nickers, and one long baritone

neigh, as I break the scrim
of ice, place hay on red ground.
Irrational, yes, and yet it feels

as if time has no purchase
in this moon-white-and-intensely-
bright pre-dawn, the lone Junco

now joined by his dapper
fellows, mourning doves,
and a dozen skittish sparrows.

Occasionally their voices
lift in cheerful, chipping chatter.
Foraging alongside a dreamy

dove, the Juncoes appear
distracted, a club of charcoal-
vested philosophers sifting and

mulling over their concerns;
then, all at once, skittering off
before coming back,

as if hardly prepared to
surrender this stage and
go on…

Puzzle / by Hannah Mitchell

Your fingers and mine are a puzzle
Put together a hundred ways.

Our laughs chime together
And sunlight fills the room
Even at night.

I could crawl into your skin and be at home.

Our eyelashes tangle together
Our fingerprints zip into each other
Settling like feathers on a wing.

And still in the maps of our souls
There are always new treasures
For each of us to discover.

The Hummingbird / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough

Traveling down the Hummingbird Highway
On a cloudy, drizzly morning
The kind that comes with a little chill in the air
The windshield wipers rock steady
Along with the music on the radio
We speed down the barely discernible grey ribbon
Which interrupts a verdant forest,
A luxuriant forest of tall cohune trees, regal ceibas
And the occasional red-skinned gumbo limbos
In the distance, clouds shroud the Cockscomb Range
Giving the Sleeping Giant more time for slumber.
Construction on the gap through the mountains
Show the rich, red soil
That explains the acres of flowers, corn, and oranges
Along the way.
We descend from the mountains
Into a valley peppered with villages
And a plethora of sleeping policemen.
Weathered buildings, migrant shacks, and crumbling board houses–
Remnants of the old Belize
Give way to the occasional brightly painted concrete houses.
Fruit stands of limes, oranges, pineapples, and coconuts
Line the way.
The valley is an eye feast of colors:
Red, purple, pink, white, and orange bouganvilleas,
Langy hibiscus, and stately yellow ixoras compete for the spotlight
Making what side to look a decision.

ECHOLOCATION / by Katherine Smith

I’m the first thing you reach for
when you enter the barn,
cross the dirt floor,
dodge hay bales
and water buckets before dawn:

I’m the balance of your right foot
shifting to left, the song
of your feet bouncing
off the fine down
of a cheek,
crystal that tells you
where you are. I give you

the crunch of straw, the hollow
in pine walls, the whisper
of hen’s feathers.
Listen to me.
I give you power
over your first enemy,
falling with two brown eggs

in the nest of your palms. I keep you
from stepping on the cat,
lead you to light,
nursing black foal,
muzzle covered in foam
milk-white to the ears.

Months / by Gabriel Vass

I finally get up from my dreamless sleep,
I put on my coffee
a medium roast the roast of the worker
and as the coffee pot weeps,
I feel you,

All around me in the letters you wrote on
soft lined paper,
in the shirt I’m wearing the one you bought me
for Christmas,

In the songs we played on my turntable
The records we
Listened to as we sat and spoke,
words that crescendoed in love

I see you in everything now,
I hear your voice in every whisper,
your touch in every gust of wind,
and I am for just a moment
stilled, at peace

Do not pray for me / by Alise Versella

Catholic guilt I do not possess
Someone else already beared the cross for my sins
So watch me continue sinning
Valiantly
Watch me sin courageously
Oh how I condemn myself

Oh Mary how I am full of grace
As I stuff the bread and wash it down with the wine
Holy heathen
Frolicking dangerously close to edges
Of the devout

Like a little satyr with horns lusting after the virginal

I’ve stained all my clothes
Hung them up for ransom

I have orchestrated a kidnapping
Persephone in Hades
Oh but the girl wanted to go

You see there are cities who bleed pomegranate red and though dangerous
Breathe warmth

The only time I feel warm is under the rush of a hot shower
the steam turning the walls mildew

Something is rotting here
Here has a plastic taste
Storefront mannequins whose smiles are fake

I love how new york city never lies to you
She is all sin and treachery and love
It’s all encompassing

Salt shake the cut but be still the bandaid

I like the sting of hydrogen peroxide bubbling over the blood
If this is what it means to heal
I’d like to feel it doing something

Poem 11 / Day 11

Garden / by Deborah Bennett

You were buried in roots. Apple,
berry, mint, lettuce. You changed
the Ph of the soil.

In music, accents are defined
in triplet. At first your loss
was tonic. Every note sharp.

Fire and ash are both bad
and good for soil. Some nutrients
lace the soil. Others leach it.

It was not a series of steps,
lock and channel
of grief. Dynamic
articulation, struck
string. Martellato.

They turned the soil
years later. Displaced
you with concrete
and rebar. Every branch,
and fruiting vine sucked
into the flywheel.

You are the sustained
note. Agogic, you are
outside the time
signature.

There is a theory
of conservation. Energy
is not created
or destroyed. You are
held in theory, the stuck
key.

Weekend Time / by Elly Bookman

To wake and rise
in daylight. To walk to
breakfast in the warm wind
of rain soon. To drive
to the gym and climb
those endless stairs for
a small assembly of minutes
that, Thank God, does
end. To have done so little
by two o’clock, to be
thinking only of things
to buy, and this.
I am no mother. No
nurse on call all afternoon,
all but the body of me
in the place where
I’m necessary.
I am only at the desk
awaiting words. All
I’ve ever wanted—time
to suffer and say so.

“You Are Calm” translation of “Du Bist Du Ruh” by Friedrich Ruckert / by Lynn Finger

You are calm
and gentle peace.
You are longing
and longing’s end.

I make holy my desire and ache,
wholly, my glance and
heart are
your place, your home.

Come near me
and seal the way
behind you,
closed and silent.

Wedge the pain
From my breast,
fill my heart
with your desire.

My glance is your
canopy, illumined by
you alone,
oh fill it deeply.

The Mushroom’s Tale / by Hannah Mitchell

Once upon a time in the woods
A mushroom grew
Nourished by some small dead thing
The mushroom didn’t know.
It only knew the cool depths of its mycelium
And the cool blue sky above
And the cool breeze that blew.

A deer came and ate that mushroom, but
The mushroom didn’t know.
Because the cool dark earth still held it
The cool breeze still blew its spores.

Death and decay are their own form of life
And that, you can’t kill,
Not in any way that matters.

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY / by Katherine Smith

I was crushing acorns
against two granite headstones,
one more than a century old, name
worn and pitted with black mold,
the other still glossy, a man’s name
crisp beneath a small wreath
of pine and red berries.

We were talking about a movie,
the one with the three blond women
at Fox news. My friend was saying
how difficult it is to see people
swindled when a donkey
in the field next to the river bank
brayed three times, an ear-splitting cry.

My friend laughed, asked when
would I return to the present? Then
a rooster crowed, and we lost our connection.
Rain fell in the cemetery,
and a whole flock of twenty-first century
robins dripped in the oak trees.

Saturday, January 11th, 2020 / by Gabriel Vass

         On the day
    Aries becomes
      America’s god,

Lady Liberty’s
    torch will be
        thrown on
            her funeral pyre

and justice will
    open her eyes,
        to see what’s
            been done
                in her name

Hello / by Alise Versella

That four-letter text
as in:would you like to make plans for coffee

Masking the underlying: do you still think about me
as in: I still miss you

The distance between two doesn’t seem so far when you think about things like telephones
But the distance between ex lovers is like the English Channel

A great feat for an avid swimmer

But why put yourself through the risk of drowning
to become a bridge

I exist in the gaps

I am the echo in the well
Resounding

I am the missed chance

A memory or perhaps a body
Submerged in the peatmoss

Will the earth hold me here
Preserve my greeting

Will a century reply back:
How are you?

Poem 10 / Day 10

Continuously / Translated by Deborah Bennett from Continuamente by Magdalena Ponssa

Hissing wheat’s
gold modulates
sounds that boom

from field to sky
among obese clouds
floating in the vacuum

while the blue-dark
hum of asphalt
replies in a crazy round

the absolute, humanity
weave a debt
never settled

strutting about
souls maneuvered like pawns
on a board without players

in hopes of upending
and resetting the board
unnatural cycle

movement and death

Synonym for Giving Up / by Elly Bookman

Too many poems begin
with weather reports, but a storm
system assembles all the same—
some warmth rises while
some cold comes back down—
a squall line. But
words have been rain water
for a dozen seasons
now. How can I worry
about wind and lightning
without a sound spelled out
to mean Take shelter?
Tornadoes at night are twice
as deadly. And sure,
a front is on the other side.
But nothing will have changed.

VEINS / by Lynn Finger

Sugar pines, foothill pines, pinyons,
             I say your names and remember the beautiful forest you were
                          Just a short bike ride from my house when I was 13.

I used to walk through you, deep sentinels,
             branches protective and obscuring of the sky
                          I went to see you after school

your large hush, the shush of the winds
             like waters washing through, like waveless waves.

As a young woman I learned to be silent
             in the largest way, to wait, to listen,
                          to be a part of who you were.

I came to see you regularly
             my green cathedral, my restless church
                          the scent of your body, needles and bark, pungent

as if dissolved of all skins
             blood vessels revealed
                          a map of roadways in a translucent pool
vibrant with life, lifting towards sky.

But the hardest lesson was the last one,
             one day after school I rode my bike to see you,
                         my green cathedral, my restless church
                                       up the bumpy road I stopped,
putting one foot to the ground.

You had all been buried under tons of
             fill soil from a construction site
                         clearing runoff from a nearby bridge.

Your branches, your crowns silent in the avalanche
             of excavated dirt. No one would even know that
                          you had been here, you were all gone.

The whole stand of trees buried.
             I swayed, beyond tears.
                          Who could I even complain to.

Who would bury a tree? Who would bury all the trees?
             Who could bury the green spines
of your gorgeous exposed veins, tracing upwards
             towards sky?

After the Fracture / by Jacqueline Kolosov

                        Among doctors, especially specialists, “break” is not used in reference to bones;
yet the Latin fracturs means “breach, break, cleft”; I reference this in the aftermath of having being thrown by the ex-racehorse mare I’ve been rehabbing (for my daughter), so that I landed on hardest, drought-winter-unforgiving-West Texas-dried-devil’s claw-and-tumbleweed-ground (though the arena I’d cleared. After being thrown and the squealing, spooked mare ran off, I slammed the left side of my ass, left ankle, and torqued my left knee. The aftermath of this accident Grace Clinic’s Urgent Care communicated, by phone, a bone fracture, though no further details seemed to be known for this, my ‘high priority physical trauma’—hell yes, not to mention painfully incapacitating, and thus requiring a referral to the only reputable orthopedic clinic. (“Don’t go outside UMC,” my doctor-friend, out skiing, texted.) Despite the ‘high priority physical trauma,’ the bureaucratic nature of our healthcare led to referrals requiring a miscommunicated range of necessary authorizations and more phone calls than someone (me) on high doses of ibuprofen, my left hip-to-ankle sprawled out on ice like the day’s fresh fish—likely overfished tuna or farm-raised salmon—at any number of supermarket counters.
                        Like ‘fracture’, ‘break’ contains a range of meanings, its history bolting us back to Old English’s brecan “to divide solid matter violently into parts or fragments; to injure, violate
(promise, etc.), destroy…” A few apt illustrations certainly worth positioning for debate, discussion, or more volatile action on the global stage aka weapons-bombarded-chessboard: “President Trump…has achieved many great things in life through habitual lying and law breaking.” (Footnote 1: Steven Magee, ‘great’ is highly suspect unless Henry VIII’s achievements are also great. No offense, Church of England.) “Breaking inner boundaries,” proclaims Talismanist Giebra, “is an existential art.” (Footnote 2: What about the beasts (aka President Trump) feeding on McDonald’s, faces splotched red even when they aren’t screaming?) As for Ms. Morgenroth aka Jude’s “You can break a man with hope,” need we debate this? Remember the broken body of his daughter, and only then comes Lear’s “Break heart, I prithee break”—. The former racehorse returned. I hobble-dragged myself inside, and yes, the knee will mend.
            Is it too late to repair what we have broken? I ask us to bow (3. yes, even you, Trump, we see the pork-pink sheen atop your head) and enlarge ‘man’ with ‘species’ though I’m not sure ‘hope’ applies to the inner lives of koalas, kangeroos, trees, our planet earth…

Little Daughter / by Hannah Mitchell

She little and lithe and lovely and loud
As she twirls her way through her day
She’s always making her mama proud
With the sweet things she can say.

She’s snarky and sweet, but sassy and sad
When things don’t go her way.
She performs like a thespian bound for the stage
There’s drama every day.

She’s smallish and softish and stands on her feet
Her hands clenched tight into fists
If something’s unfair or something’s not neat
She’s ready to make a list.

As her mama I know that the world is a place
That can roughen a little girl up.
It can rip at the satin and tug out the lace
Of my little unfortunate pup.

Lucky for me she’s got fire in her veins
And will take this world by storm.
All I can do is give her the reins,
And make sure to keep her warm.

Christmas in Two Acts / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough

The village fills up
Excitement stirs in the air
The notice board announces the Christmas program
The village buzzes
Sunday night the community gathers
The audience applauds the budding actors
As they entertain the village.
Days leading up to Christmas Day
Are evident by the “rush” at home
             Ma cajoles us into cleaning, varnishing, decorating,
Are perfumed by the smell of cake being mixed
             Of bread being kneaded and baked;
Are harmonized by the voices of the women
             Debating ingredients, proportions, and the right heat.
Christmas Eve I find the biggest sock to hang,
Fighting inevitable sleep
I am determined to attend misagayu—this time.
I wake up to murmurs in the house
Finding an empty space next to me
I reach for my sock and a squeak delights
Inside the sock is my pink plastic doll
I rush into the living room to find
I missed misagayu
But Ma is serving cake and lemonade
And Santa Claus brought me a doll that can cry.

Act 2

The boat slices through the glass sea
The cool north wind hurrying us and others home
The village fills up
We missed the Christmas play
But we’re home and the village is abuzz
Walking from the wharf to home
Evokes a feeling like no other
Friends remind, “There’s a dance tonight;
Will you be there?”
There’s Ma spoon in hand
With a welcoming smile
Her children are home and the “rush” is on.
It’s cleaning, varnishing, decorating
It’s whipping the sugar and the butter
And trying out the prueba.
It’s the teenage Barangunas
Slow dancing to “Everyday will be like a holiday”
And the young men bringing no presents
But whispering promises to unbelieving ears
The church bell summons
And everyone is at the church
Which is filled with the harmony of four voices,
And long ago carols heard only in Barranco.
At home, Ma serves cake and vino tinto
The children play with their new toys
And the teenagers try to sneak back
When Pa is not looking
To the party they left for church.

BEAU / by Katherine Smith

I push your door open with my nose.
My tail wags the roses off the desk. Quick hands,
the thing of yours I envy most,
catch the vase before it crashes to the floor,
set the glass away from the edge,
rearrange the stems in water.

Who cares! I have a better idea than petals
I can’t rip apart and roll in.
Let’s leave the rattle of freight trains
that shakes the carpets and floorboards
and root for moles along the river bank.
Let’s go for a walk up the mountain.

You who taught me to sit and to stay.
who know which species of oak
drop bitter, which sweet,
who fill your palms with fruit,
put acorns into your pockets
grind them into flour, for you
I’ve learned to see, though poorly.

Here on Priest Mountain, I lift
a quivering muzzle into the wind,
at the top of the ridge, piss
on scat of deer, of bobcat.
I believe what my nose tells me.
Follow me across those pine trees.
We’ll find a bear. Let me teach you how.

waking up for the dawn / by Gabriel Vass

I woke up
              early
just to see
              you.
Your shining face
your smiling eyes
but…
I guess you decided against it.

I bet you groaned and
Pulled

           This baby blue
comforter over your head,
             After noticing
The yawning fog outside your
                 Window
           and hit snooze
   on your chirping alarm
                   clocks

A brief history on exploding / by Alise Versella

The closed cells of bamboo explode when roasted

That is to say fireworks transpired first in Ancient China

To ward of ghosts

 

Bamboo when mixed with potassium nitrate

Aka Chinese Snow aka saltpeter

Charcoal and sulfur

Create gunpowder

 

War makes ghosts of the living.

 

Germany took the lead on arms

China still remains the leading exporter of fireworks

 

They blossom red like envelopes

Like dragons through the streets

Bronze bells sounding

Echoes of who we used to be

 

What makes a spirit evil?

What makes one lucky?

Even numbers only.

 

I fear I will never get married

 

That the moon will release its hold on earth

And burst apart in space

Before my father ever sees my veiled face

 

That one day we will just burn up

Like the bamboo

 

If I combust spontaneously

Will the colors be as brilliant?

Will I rocket off like a firework?

I don’t like the way they sound so similar to gunshots

 

Oh how we’ve taken a kaleidoscope

Turned the glass and sharpened each shard

Not so we can see a brighter rainbow

But to see a way to win

In a race where the only trophy is better ways of destroying

 

The sound of Lunar New Year in New York City

Sounds like so much hope

Sounds like lightning shining through the thunderstorm

And it only rains confetti.

Poem 9 / Day 9

Mother of Pearl / by Deborah Bennett

You are still a child. The dorsal
aspect of your hand is fat
with milk and mashed
bananas. Sea foam outlines
your toes in sand. You do not
fear the waves.

Nested in my spine is
the worm. I have mined
it before. Used my weak
hand, snapping off the diving
bell head at the neck.

You pick up a shell. Pearlescent in
sun, maculated, like your own
ear. Your hands are not deft
enough to extract sea
snails, predatory or not.

Each year an inch. It cannot
survive without the knobby
head. But it does. Clasped
to each vertebra it ladders
the column.

You are not a host. No memory
lives in your cells.

Watery globes, cysts survive
decapitation. They circle,
circulate in tissue. Looping
chain of parasite, coherence
of bone and muscle.

I lose you from my sight
line. You are swallowed
by the horizon.

Nacre shatters, splintered
rainbow. I make nothing
beautiful out of my pain.

Yawn / by Elly Bookman

Somewhere in our
synapses, deep, where
a certain sulcus valley
spills from a gyrus
hill, a signal sparks
echophenomenon—
you yawn when I yawn.
In the Great Compromise
of 1787, we agreed
it matters just as much
for each of us to have
the same amount
as it does for
each of us to have
as much as we need.

Rain / by Lynn Finger

Rain makes flat mirrors
Rock garden pools and shimmers
Birds lift pearl-dipped wings

Come out wild / by Jacqueline Kolosov

wings of childhood circling
gold and white
                              night’s
              windows onto
                                             sky

drum beat, chime
                                 shiver
         bring forth spirits, sisters
gathering, each one
                    carrying her own
                                              small moon

              blued, yes,
                           not from the search
for ambergris, no

               from waves, tides,
                            seismic memories
      journeying back
                      to ocean depths, immense,
                            yes, unfathomable

                            known, if then, only
                       by those who find continents
                               within the gray

                                    whale’s eye

If I Were / by Hannah Mitchell

If I were what I want to be
Fearless, lean, enduring
Perhaps I’d have the strength, then,
To embrace my simple softness.

If I were what you want of me
Clever, shrewd, beguiling
Perhaps I’d have the knowledge, then,
Of silly, brainless kindness.

MOONLIGHT ON STEPS / by Katherine Smith

I come from the cemetery,
not the one near the brick church
a quarter mile away, but the one
just up the hill half-hidden by birches,
that creak like old floor boards,
the one hard to see from the road

with its few gravestones, parents
and siblings no one remembers this dusk.
I talk to the sweet gum tree, come down
across the bottom-land by the river,
trunk under peeling bark glowing like ashes.

Most winter nights I unlatch the gate, step out,
alone. But twenty years ago, I stood
by the church, remembering what it was like
to catch my breath when a man stopped his car,
rolled down the window and asked me
did I know the way to the other cemetery,

said he’d lived in a house by the river
as a child in nineteen forty-three, that over there—
by yet more steps leading to nowhere,
or only to the foundation of a house so long gone
granite seemed more tree stump than carving—
he’d talked to the owner of the general store
who used to give him free pickles and candy.

He didn’t need to tell me. I remember
the hungry child and I remember the store,
and I remember the owner of the store
when he was a child newborn into slavery.
Now the one is buried, and the other, near eighty,
says the store burned down in fifty-three.

Tell me something I don’t know
I wanted to say, and didn’t. If the man
had the key to the old locked shed,
I’d have shown him a moth-eaten carriage,
a moldy rope, and other rusted things
that he might not remember. He says
everything I know about history I learned
on these steps. Can you tell me where the cemetery is?
I could. He thanked me.

I still talk in the cemetery
like ghosts gathering in thick layers,
rich as mulch crumbling into the earth,
or like the moon that the living
believe—know they call it—is dust,
as if dust had nothing to do with what happens
beneath the indigo sky over the river.

Where Love Stays / by Janel Spencer

When you left
I was left with
many useful and useless things
all which I wanted to get rid of right away.
I gave our red couch to a college friend
and his roommates.
Moss had grown on my boots
that I threw away.
Piles and piles of paperwork
are still in my parents’ garage,
in trash bags—
we used to argue over
in the last days of our last year.
I can still hear your bubbling anger
overflow to departure.
You left me with an art poster
and the dart board, neither of which
I’ve used.
The wind chime I left for the next renter
disappeared within a half year, a bad omen,
and all our wedding frames broken.
Some kinds of love
are visitors-only. Some you are always inviting to come and stay,
but the words never materialize.

Now I’m moving into a new home
I’m putting together slowly,
pulling myself into this new scene.
With care I select its parts.
A big back yard
and room enough for laughter to bounce from the walls and stick.
Lots of windows to let the light filter
onto the cool tile, slipper-slick.
Love is already here.
All that’s left to get, really,
is a lightly used reading chair.
Then, I’ll be able to settle in
for a while, with my lamp
and never-ending bookcase.

It’s here where I realize a thing
is not measured by its use,
but is merely a branch in the home of a life
made up in the mind, built up slowly in it—
this memory-maze.
Love is what we remember in time,
selecting each nostalgia
with concerted effort
like a rock collection,
or our sturdiest nest,
after a few false tries,
blown down by strong wind, scattered.

We build up what will keep us safe
from the tougher days
that will come but not last,
so that we can last
until the end of our days filled
with memories of home—
because a home is
the love we pour into it.

My Backyard / by Gabriel Vass

Love on loan
      to a dying
sparrow

an angelic
       red breasted
sparrow

won’t be returned
         until I meet this
sparrow

again, on the bullet train
           then we’ll shake hands, me and this
sparrow

my ill fated
            faithful friend

I Wonder If History’s Men Knew They Would Be Great / by Alise Versella

In case you were wondering

If at all you do wonder

I mean stare off into the space collecting dust particles in the sun

Wonder

I hope you wander forward

 

Do not get stuck in the loop of reliving

All the conversations you wish you held

Isn’t it funny how we always think of the right remark after the arrow has left the quiver?

Sailed on like great fleets on uncharted seas

Circling around unknown America thinking it was the West Indies

We all just want to discover something

 

Like a cure for the aching

 

I hope your daydreams lead you to rejoicing

In the architecture of your body

A city skyline rising

How it glimmers like those dust particles in the sun

 

I hope you wonder about the things you could become

Not what you have done

I hope you never reminisce on anything you think you missed

 

That it isn’t here anymore only means there is room on the gallery walls for new art

 

Do you understand what I am telling you?

 

Your mouth is a paintbrush, I want the acrylic to speak to me a new language

Teach me a new word for matrimony

That colors and my empty sighs could wed

And the canvas and I

 

Would bleed a glorious red

The beautiful ruin of the withering day

How you empty it out for its worth because no gold can stay

 

In case you were wondering

I dream about the galaxy, turn my mind to stargazing

Believe in little green men terrorizing craters like two year old boys ransack the waiting room

We are all waiting for something to begin

 

Daydream about what that is

 

I know it to be breathing underwater, I am waiting for my gills to appear

I want to swim, Pinocchio in the mouth of the whale

 

Don’t you see?

Movement is the way the lake ripples, breathing

The sky is a wave cresting

And you could be as great

As history’s greatest men

If only you believed the way they did.

Poem 8 / Day 8

Synecdoche: Hired Hand / by Deborah Bennett

Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather
—Yeats

Piece worker, manual
laborer. I am not exactly
a beast of burden.

Early, day and season. Watery fruit drooped,
humped rows of soil lined in packed mud.
Thumb to stem, the give of ripe
berries in the palm.

Tong or glove mediate heat, blow-
molded plastic pressed to package
electronics. River-bound, suburban
factory, graveyard of hours.

Follow the flats. Hallecks heaped
with fruit. Conveyor belt a
ribbon of dirt clods. Aphids scuttle,
incline of predatory hands.

I swab body fluids, filled cups
with other fluids. Corollas of skin
daubed in balm or astringent, apply
as needed.

Seed and sow ornamental
grasses, cultivated
wildflowers. Weed out
weeds.

Quarter sandwiches, dispense
frozen treats. Spiral cones from iron
to mandrel. Count change
and toppings in equal measure.

Housekeeping, not my house. Chemical,
physical, osmological checklist. Drench
and dry solid surface. Taut line of
linen.

Wrangling words in lines of four is not to work
harder than all of these. No martyr, banker,
pauper. I know myself to be
an idler.

Prix Fixe / by Elly Bookman

Sunchoke and fluke
for the first course, and
the impractical wine pairing—
we went for it. What
I mean is we were down
in the dumps, you
and I, sick from seeing
wars start and Star Wars ads
in the same breath,
missile Christmas gifts
and mistletoe gone brown
and brittle. We figured we
may as well blow half the rent
on European wines
while we can. Your favorite
was the honey-gold one
from Hungary which came
with the chicken liver
tart, which I hated, but if only
one out of ten courses
tasted like vomit that’s not
bad, right? What I mean is
it’d be nice to have
dinner with you in a less
ruthless season, but
as long as I can wash
this one down with a nectar
nursed from a riverside
vine, I’ll be fine.
I’ll stomach it, then
drive home smug as a man
in our valeted Toyota.
I’ll pay what it costs
to not mind what’s lost.

WHY DO BLOSSOMS STAY CLOSED / by Lynn Finger

When I used to talk to my aunt she’d say
            someone’s on the roof and her face would close up.
                        No one was on the roof but sometimes I wondered.

Seeing, thinking, like a virus, grows, changes
            the almond tree closes up at night
                        why do blossoms close, why do the blossoms stay closed
                        in the lashing rain and

they said my aunt had dementia. Where do thoughts go
            when they distort.
                        She saw
                                    someone on the roof.

We have seen things too, we have seen things and
            they say don’t think of bombs in the café.
                        Don’t think of them.

I smell the coffee in the café, and listen to the spritzy
            thick foam of the espresso machine I
                        don’t think of bombs, and when I hold
                                    the warm cup in my hand, I don’t,

            Many don’t
                        think of the bombs
                                    but why do the blossoms close
                                                why do their blossoms stay closed
                                                in the lashing rain.

here’s a riddle for you, father / by Jacqueline Kolosov

                           feral
daughter who thrived upon my sciatic
nerve, pain’s flowering, bearing
                                              down until
I hobbled, not walked,
can it be two-years-seven-months,
you sucked from my breast, Siberian
                                             blue eyes, black-
                        lashed, all I saw—

*
Lear’s daughters—first-
born-and-middle-girls-turned-
women far more cunning than any
                                                wolves. How, then,
the gentle third—I cannot heave my heart to my lips
for beasts to feast upon.
                                        An absence,
their mother, house and hearth torn down,
surreal threshold opening onto
                                                      a ledge silting sky,
and, beneath, the heath is burning.

                            An old tale, the embers still coaling,
parched trees, thicket of thorn and branch; some-
nowhere-there, the bonest of a girl
                                         remembered only, if at all,
in the fiery leavings of a fool man.
                                                     How husband (once) how father (once)?
                  (think again)

*
Like us, wolves are communal. Sweat
and the heat of bodies, feces, flesh denned as one.
                                                   When wolves hunt, only one
(but never alone) goes in
                                 for the kill. In meanest winters
only the alpha female can mate so the pack
can raise their young. Except
                                                                    here’s a riddle for you, father-

Nature (we call ‘Mother’) doesn’t always work that way.

A lesser bitch, too, might carry.
Hunger is a fierce teacher. Let it be decreed
her pups must not survive. What choice then?
                                      None.      Nothing comes of nothing.
                                                                            Try again.
This bitch, slick with birth, must
                                  destroy each and every one.

The Kids Are All Right / by Hannah Mitchell

I teach the problem kids
I kid the unteachable

My students who were never really mine
Are people, not problems

I fling myself against the bars of their apathy
I stuff verses into the cracks in their armor
I wail at their walls

And I’m still so surprised
When one of them
Listens

Finishing a book / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough

Finishing a book
Is like losing a very close friend.
As I near the end of our relationship
I look for ways to stretch the time:
Read only one more page,
Perhaps one more paragraph.
Because I know that the separation
Will be a loss, not unlike burying a loved one,
I begin looking for ways to assuage the pain:
Take a break from reading
Watch a little television,
Run some errands,
But what really works
Is having the next book on deck.
And as in nascent friendships
In the first few pages
The new friend feels like an impostor;
She guards her secrets closely,
And she’s reluctant to share.
But a few more pages in
And the revelation unfolds.
I am starting to feel her pain and joy.
At first I’m surprised by the secrets and schemes
But the good friend I’m becoming
Begins to understand, then to accept;
This is delicious!
And I’m now a cheering team of one.
I’m all in; my guard is down.
I have forgotten to protect myself,
And here we are again
Getting ready to say goodbye
And me feeling abandoned once more.

LAST NIGHT IN THE TOWER / by Katherine Smith

I still love the loose rope of my hair
against the nape of my neck
dragging on the ground below,
the smell of dirt, the earthworms
and leaf mulch that catch in the tangled ends
when I pull it back up tonight.
I’ve done it so many times I don’t need a mirror
to coil and pin the grey to my head

while I stand at the window
where the mountain has almost gone,
a pitch-black silhouette I know
by the strip of salmon light against the ridge,
the turquoise grading to indigo,
the moon in the branches of ash trees
outside the east-facing window.

Tonight, I was a princess for the last time,
sick of dreaming—not of the witch
who locked me in here—but of the prince,
off to war again. The door is wide open
and I haven’t seen him in years
though I dream of him and wake up
screaming at what he’ll do
to children spooning cereal
into their soft mouths
on the other side of the world.

I switch off my light, put my head on the pillow,
wriggle my toes under the quilts
and lie with my eyes open. Some say
this isn’t a life, leave me
the usual gifts of silk and perfume
to find at the doorstep. I’d prefer flannel and wool
the sheepskin coat I’ll buy at the market.

I’d prefer for him to do anything—
go for long walks in the woods, paint watercolors, play chess—
than what he does now—
so I don’t have to go out and find him.

Lonesome / by Gabriel Vass

All the songs of my state,
are filled with sorrow
Whisky and women and
gnashing of teeth
One day, you will visit my
cobweb covered grave,
and the chiseled inscription
will be long faded,
the memory of me, of my smile
will be long forgotten, wisps
But all the songs
Of my state,
will remain

Toppling the Patriarchy / by Alise Versella

What happens to the leftover meat

The flank of the antelope

If the lion

Only

Went for the jugular?

Then grew tired of the masticating

A jaw worn from the gristle, tendinous

What happens when the beast grows ashamed of his teeth?

 

What of the hyena who no longer finds this

Funny

Unwilling to feed off the scraps

And get her paws bloodied

By a kill she can’t claim

Her own

 

Do the birds even give a shit if the meat turns rancid

When the table runs rampant with their worms?

 

Like buffalo at the watering hole

The widows will side-eye the men

Those bengals stalking out the weak ones

 

The widows protect the youngest cub

“This holy water will save you

If you trust its eminence.”

 

But if the lion abandons his pride

And the hyena becomes more confident in her ability

To strip the flesh from the rib

Laugh heartily

Because she is satiated

Finally

 

Does the watering hole become less neutral zone

The land become more sacred

Like a temple

A mosque made of flesh

 

But why twaddle over a mirage

In the desert?

 

I’ll tell you

Because the jaw of a women learned to snap first

Learned not to let go of the throat

Until she felt the pulse

Dissolve

 

The lion takes for granted that the antelope would ever outrun him.

Poem 7 / Day 7

 

Marriage Song: Caprock/ Deborah Bennet
after Sappho

Limestone needle supports this heavy
table, heart balanced, filament
of rock. We must take up the tools
of marriage—patience, endurance
in the face of weather. Dur, there
is a hardness in partnership.  We
sediment our love.  Accumulate
day and year, measure
by measure.  Erode what was
once a monument in stone. In summer
wind and rain ease. Water continues
to lap.  You are my home. Yet
I shelter in the worn rock of your love.

 

I Go to The Movies/ Elly Bookman

But to be alone in the dark
and light of a life
not my own, I forget
isn’t always a peace.
Sometimes the same seams
come apart in real life
and I’m reminded
happiness
is like the warmth
of a kitchen or the slant
sun of winter—
a nourishment
here to offer its dose
and then vanish.
Still
as with the dog
whose waste I carry daily
to the garbage
I have to pretend.
That I won’t help her
die one day, either
by failure or
mercy, and soon.
That the well in me
won’t run dry and require
the flicker of a theater
to fill it back up. 

As Always / by Lynn Finger

It’s night. My uncle sings Lili Marlene “Wie einst Lili”
as always, Lili, as always.

To be the girl in the song,
or caught in blankets at night
uneasy about the long shadows cross the window
ivy scratches, cricket scratches in the night.

The black and red masks on the study wall
hollow eyed, terror there nothing breathes
eyes sunken down, walls melt

on a lost shore withered cedars
hide turtles, the nets skim for them but miss.
Were any caught? Were you hiding in a good spot?

Turtles shells black and red hang in the water,
turtles in stained glass waters watch, dark
rains shake dancing mists.

Always speak, if hollow.
Always know the war is in you.
As always, Lili. As always.

 

Ambrosia, $2.99 lb/ Jacqueline Kolosov
                                  In memory of Stanley Plumly

 As if the imperishable- 
immortal beloved could be bought
or patented, this October-hued
apple’s honest flush reminiscent
of the tips of first love’s ears, cheeks
just come in from the cold (let’s
never-mind Keats’s fever and all those
‘names writ on water’…)..
              Ambrosia, the New Year’s Eve
gift of a friend, sweet meat I shared
with two horses, the mare’s forelock 
shielding her bright star, both nut-brown 
bodies flinted black as the chestnuts 
shared on the street corners of happiest
story-books. Or the fruit of the chestnuts
pulled from the oven at Christmas, 
protection cracked by heat 
to reveal creamy insides, as rare a treat
as champagne that first time you celebrate—

And yes, that Baked Alaska I created 
for my father. The dog skimmed the meringue 
from the birthday splendor waiting on the counter–
I’d forgotten the candles. His Airedale grin 
smeared with a ten-year-old’s idea of heaven. 
How I adored that first dog, 
and how I trifled with him, forgetting
his patient waiting at the door, or
the summer he ferried me everywhere,
my new roller skate wheels fleet 
on pavement, loosed braids wild as
any good horse’s mane. Yes, eventually 
the wheel snagged, I fell, and slashed 
both knees before he stopped and
came back to lick my tears—. As if 

I deserved or was even worthy of
a fraction of his devotion, this dog 
I often forgot to walk, or lied and said I had. 
He arrived in his twelfth week, all legs 
and curly-cue fur, and I named him
Cinnamon. We shared cinnamon toast 
and milk bones in corners and 
sat beneath August’s trees watching 
the fluorescent green inch worms climb.
I was five. He lived to be thirteen. 
What did I know then? Or even much later on?
Believing as I did that perishable was a word
that applied only to fruit.  

Invisible / by Hannah Mitchell

I am invisible to the wind.
She blows fierce and free
and wild through my heart
As if I’m not here at all.
The only proof of my existence
Is my black shadow on the red dirt behind me.
I can get the attention of the sun
But not the wind.
Am I inconsequential to her?
Or is she merely recognizing
Her own soul walking
On human feet?

Expectations/ Harriet Arzu Scarborough

So there we were in our caps and gowns
On the courtyard of Holy Redeemer
Convent girls no more
So young, so full of promise
So much expected of us
And in turn, as is the nature of youth
We were sure we would conquer the world.

The reunion was joyous
Not about accomplishments
But more about survival
Surviving illnesses and marriages
Separation from family, from country
And embracing a gratitude
That we had made it thus far
Still holding on to the vestiges
Of the convent girls that we were.

In the end
We just want to know
That we matter.
It’s not about competition, not just accomplishments;
It’s all about ensuring
That we are a positive force
In the area we inhabit first, and
And then as far as we are able.
We want to make sure that we are giving
Much more than we have taken.

THE SNOW PRINCESS / by Katherine Smith

Once the sister of twelve swans,
I spent a year knitting sweaters
in a snow palace,
to break the spell,
turn my brothers back into princes.
Now I sit by the fire
in the stone hearth,
all I want is to knit.

They say they have enough
cream-colored scarves,
too many warm cable-knit socks.
Instead of sweaters
they want one of the fables
I used to tell,
from the gilded book
of lies I loved as a flighty girl
before they were bewitched.

Now they tease
with a snicker,
that I’ve grown cold,
always crouched over the vellum
of another history book
with a frown on my face,
holding with shaking fingers
another book of magic, intoning
aloud in a serious voice
another disenchantment,

scribbling my to-do lists
in permanent ink on pads of cheap paper,
laying in supplies—
needles, patterns, skeins of yarn,
walnut wardrobes full of sweaters—
knitting for their next catastrophe.

Forgotten Memory / by Gabriel Vass

I gaze into my eyes
       And they tell me a tale
I have never heard
       A Bard’s song unsung
I listen intent, frozen
       As my eyes pluck a tired lute’s

Strings

Waiting for the Thaw / by Alise Versella

This damp stone gray sinks into bone halfway

Seizures the lips, the nose runneth over

Perhaps frostbit garden vegetable stays

Rooted in soil, not dead tomorrow

 

We bloom contingent on nature’s weather

Suffer frost in order to tunnel through

The rabbit in the burrow, foot severed

Luck for the keychain, a season brand new

 

These bones at the knuckle, arthritic break

And the corners of my lips crack open

Like the land and the grave tilled by the rake

Small seeds-ocean waves, wait for their moment

 

We scorn the rain, blessed mist a travesty

Sacrifice the kit for the bride’s wedding

Poem 6 / Day 6

Milk Teeth / by Deborah Bennett

In your head since
inception, they erupt
as you begin your diurnal
days. Swaying in the milk
of my body, deciduous teeth
polyps in a reef. They file in
sweet succession, drop like fruit
in fall.

Golden Globes / by Elly Bookman

The stars say
the world is a buffet of suffering
and frailty tonight.
Australia is burning, says Ellen.
No more private jets, says Joaquin and
I barely sleep. For hours
I sift through a waking dream
of myself in a velvet gown, silhouette
made sleek by Spanx and clever
tailoring. You look
incredible, says Seacrest
but I barely hear him
because Leo and I have locked eyes
and he’s lifting an arctic-loving
hand to wave.
Briefly, your breathing
brings me back to the bedroom’s
dark stillness, actual as gold,
and I whisper a question in your ear:
If I win, if at last
a million soft hearts must listen,
what fire in this flashbulb life
do I say scares me most?

SPIDER BELL / by Lynn Finger

Black zafu cushion sewed by zen nuns
          in darkened offices,
                    black thread, cattail filled.

A bell rings–slices of oranges falling
          from a tree that answers koans.
                    Bow to the teacher, eyes down.

A white spider creeps across the swept
          bare floor, heads right for me.

Bells ring like leaves of sound, and now he runs.
          He is white, and nimble, and has a tan
                     marking on his back, like God’s tear,
                     a spider as big my palm
and as swift as the bells that ring.

What is mindfulness but knowing that a fast-moving spider
          will reach you before meditation is done?

The nuns made the cushion for calm sitting,
          But I’m no longer there.
Sometimes a spider wakes you up,
Sometimes a spider stares you down,
Sometimes you have to know when to change.

Migratory / by Jacqueline Kolosov

Long after Fuchs Dystrophy fogged his eyes,
my grandfather would sit at the table
beside the kitchen window, one at whichOma,
my grandmother, used to preside,
many years before, when they started again
in Chicago. The three acres in the country
Oma never lived to see.
                                        Beyond my grandfather’s
kitchen window, he kept a feeder filled with sun-
flowers, millet, and corn. He can’t see, Mom,
I wanted to say. So why is he always sitting there?
Now, maybe not even then, could she have answered.
Perhaps he still heard the fee-bee of chickadee,
chatter of black-capped junco and noisy sparrow.
Perhaps winter brought back pictures of the cardinal’s red
set off by sculptural branch and clean snow. Always
he’d said very little, preferring birds, the expansive garden
and tangle of raspberry and currant, trellised grapes
he turned to wine, and the burn of Marlboros
he smoked outside, especially during winter.

                                         How astonishing, the accordion
recovered among the belongings. Only then
did my mother say he’d played folksongs through all
the long evenings on the farm in Slovenia where all three
daughters were born. Among Slovenia’s native birds:
thrush nightingales, pipits, wagtails, tits and finches, more water
birds than I knew existed, even two kinds of cuckoo.
Were the birds of his first adopted homeland
inspiration for the pretty wooden clock that traveled
to America, its mechanical bird popping out
to announce the hour, a much-needed cheer
those final years spent by the window in his kitchen.
Or was the cuckoo clock just an Old World tradition?

Decades later, Fuchs dystrophy fogged my mother’s
eyes, too; this time the gift of two clear corneas
restored it. Several thousand miles now from her Chicago
home, my mother walks the path around an LA reservoir.
Sometimes she sends me pictures of ducks and geese
streamlining water, and once an egret’s nest
spilling out of someone’s chimney. She, too,
is drawn to birds, but never set up a feeder.
                                                      And the cuckoo clock
now looks down from a high-ceilinged corner
of my sister’s dining room. Each time
the bird announces the hour, the black rescue dog
cowers beneath the table, vulnerable prey to
a particularly ruthless cat. Poor dog,
since that cuckoo never misses an hour.
Or could the dog’s fear be habit, routine as the birds’
return to the feeder that remained long after my grandfather died.

Others live in that house now, one designed by two sons-in-law.
Surely these others cannot know that the rows of
fruit trees sprang from the Slovenian seeds Oma sewed
into the pockets of her clothes, as if to ensure
the land she came from would survive, even if she didn’t,
the fruit of her leaving a gift, this sustenance for generations
of migratory as well as abiding birds.

FIN

Hand Me Down / by Hannah Mitchell

My great-grandmother’s flour-soft hands
Are still on my heart.
My great-grandmother’s hair
Still frizzes around my face.
My grandmother’s laughter
Still echoes in my throat.
When I hold my mother’s hands
It’s difficult to tell
Which hand belongs to which woman.
My eyes twinkle darkly at me
From the faces of my daughters.
We are all patchwork quilts
Cut from so many beautiful pieces.

A Way of Life / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough

Ma cups her hands around the first egg
And holds it close to the kerosene lamp
Searching for the crown
That will show that the egg is fertile
She’s collected the dozen eggs we haven’t eaten
Because the big mother hen is needing to sit.
In a few weeks we’ll have some chicks
And each of us will select a pet to raise.
I name my pet chicken with its soft yellow down, Fluffy.
I watch him grow into a black and golden brown
             high-stepping rooster
He’s the chicken Ma stews for my birthday meal
He’s delicious.

Pa spends evenings after school on the verandah
             knitting his seines
He uses nylon filament that will be strong but not too heavy
He and my brothers outfit Alpha and motor out
Close to the Temash River, not too far from the coast.
There they set two seines close to the mouth of the river.
They check the seines twice a day, morning and evening
They bring home catches of mostly snook
Sometimes a tarpon, once a gasiera
Which Ma and her helpers clean and salt
And get ready for the Guatemalan market.

To prepare for the holidays Ma and Pa raise a hog.
At the edge of our yard close to the road is the pen
Where the school children stop by to pet and feed him.
We name him Master Willy after a pig in our reading lesson
Who loves to roll in the mud.
Early Christmas Eve when we are still in bed
We cover our ears so we don’t hear Master Willy’s squeals.
Tío Paul makes chicharrones and Ma makes morcía
Which we enjoy with hot flour tortillas.

On a cold fall day my father-in-law invites me
To join him in the jeep as he scouts out a herd of deer
Near the Hualapai Mountains
He’s brought along some Fritos and some venison sausage
             and salami
In the clear cold outdoors, the sausage and salami are delicious
I hope he’s able to get a deer,
But after he takes me back to the camper.

CROSS CREEK ROAD / by Katherine Smith

This world born from a windblown branch bends
at the knuckle-bones—fingers reaching
for water they will never touch—
rooted in a small mountain, skirted in pine,

rising above the pocked mud of pasture,
vines loose on spindly persimmon trees.
Scots pine still loaded with last year’s cones
rises over the creek

where black-crested titmouse
peeps in emerald-green stalks of witch hazel,
and with my eyes shut, I hear winter
rustling through birch leaves, smell winter

in moss on the fence posts, see winter’s broken
light zigzag across the river’s green grey current, gather
improbably at the fork of the Tye and the James,
shine on the horizon where the world ends.

Evidence / by Janel Spencer

Like a good cry, the land rains down
her fury. Water greedy for mouths.
Respite’s glory.

Look at her lying sweet for the taking,
the world a maiden before our feet
we track into our homes with muddy boots.

Look into the hurricane’s eye. She is your mother
mad before breakfast and after—
you brace for what’s to come.

Look at the earth, like an old crone,
dying after so many years
crippled and mumbling to herself alone.

While we wait blind as mice
hiding in a dark garage, the cover of it
a kind of merciful misery.

We wait and we wait for peace, for calm
that will never create itself.
For a miracle that will not save us.

the old man staring at the sky / by Gabriel Vass

1.

I grasp the knob and turn it
But his door won’t budge
It’s white painted wood
Catches on the doorframe

2.

My brushstrokes
Werent right
To paint the portrait
Too wide

3.

I see myself out and now
I feel detached, maybe the
Dancing stars will be
So kind as to let me watch them

4.

Even though a dozen people
Glide by whispering one tired cliché
Or another my mind is still entranced
By the baby blue and black swirling sky

5.

It’s hard to describe the dance
The stars do, it’s somewhere
In-between the foxtrot and
Classical ballet, something orphic

6.

I think every star must have to
Take dance lessons, not at one of those
gaunt junked sudios in a strip mall, but
Somewhere nice, by someone learned,

7.

Like the royal ballet school,
Or maybe the vaganova academy
Which was designed by
Architetto Carlo Rossi

8.

And I am practically asleep while
Standing, ten ton bags reside under
My hazel eyes, but I know that this moment is
The only time this night sky will breathe

9.

The sky doesn’t cost, isn’t worth anything
But yet I still savor it the most of everything
More than any portraits, lamdscapes or Picasso’s, more than any Monet or Dali

10.

The night sky is mine, the night sky is ours
The stars are mine, as they are yours
And they are free as the starling, as they are so am i, in this single, individual, moment of

meteoric time

Heart Murmur / by Alise Versella

One ticking hand

On a wristwatch

The band

Cracked leather where she wanted gold clasped

 

Inconsequential

 

The time will still pass

 

We want the love

But the lover is interchangeable

 

Love not once the mirror

 

Where is treasure buried?

If not within the chest?

 

We crack open the egg

Empty the nest

Of its organisms

Sometimes I am frightened of the spaces

Where I feel my heart beat

Caught in my throat like a swallow

Tail and beak

 

The paleontologist

Finds the remains of what used to exist

The skeletons

Look more meaningful

Magnified by his glass

 

I can’t find the meaning drawn into my palms

So I draw geometry like honesty onto the walls

But I was never virtuous mathematically

Admit I lie my way through every

 

Formulaic equation

 

Hope you won’t notice how I

Arrived

At the answer

 

One hand

Clasped

Into mine

Disappeared with the time

 

Maybe one day the skeleton of love will remain

 

The bird in my throat will leave

And when I open my beak

I will not fear the fluttering

In the convex space

Of my elbow

Poem 5 / Day 5

Mood Cinter / by Deborah Bennett

And so he drives all night, pocket
square states, desert corners. Quarter
glass ticks cigarette ash into more
ash. Fresh macadam, tar devil
lit in red and white.

Molten refuse spill-way, slag
pile terminus. Tabernacle, ward
of butte and spire. Heavy
water thick with salt. Break
blisters, skin a riot. Wind hollows
caves. High desert flowers glow

in headlamp spray. Life, family
lie head to tail, coiled rope of sand
and river. Marry the Mary, defile
the sister. Home is where
you are not wanted.

The Gaps / by Elly Bookman

Maybe men write war
like a love song.
Taylor Swift says
a song comes to her
like a glittering cloud
and she grabs hold,
gets to a piano
and fills in the gaps.

WINTER / by Lynn Finger

The bears in the forest can’t get enough sleep, everything
            is a lie, the sap has dried up and the snow curdles. It’s too hot
                        for winter, they wander annoyed, sweaty and steeped.

The bears can’t hibernate and sleep. The geese stick
            around, there’s no snow to leave. It’s all hot and blistery,
                        and they’re just blind enough to get horribly lost. The heat

cleaves the bees and fur and frost, a wicked hatchet. There is
            no more snow, no reason to hibernate, no tangy winter
                        berries to eat. We watch the bears burrow into the dirt

and twigs that are degrees too warm. “My father was a bear,” begins
            a Nordic tale, and perhaps far enough back we all might have
                        some bear in us. We wander like bears with our own lives,
                                    missing, something’s off, it doesn’t add up.
We’re just lost enough to seek a winter without winter.

As if Another Earth / by Jacqueline Kolosov

                                     Here
each breath blossoms
evergreen, crimson-tipped
and sweet-bitter as
the single voice calling out
to the inner ear

                     Another earth
protected by the promise
of renewal, the-always-possible-
return-to-ancestors no longer distant
as the salt-bitten seas or long-
since-vanished peninsulas—

Remembered, if at all,
by the last ice sheets and
by the very few who hold
the vast Eurasian Steppe in
the mind’s eye, a kind of saffron
secret, also an opening, an
                              unfolding
revealing stigma, wound,
but also wonder. (I do, yes,
                                        and you?)

Who would you and I, who
would we, who would any one of us

                              be on another earth

the golden stamen bearing
three crimson threads,
or the purple crocus unfurling
on a new-born’s palm?

                     Just imagine
the horse chestnut trees and the wild,
sun-ripened riot of apple,
juicy flesh forbidden no
longer, and the wasp’s sting, all trace
of snake or rabid dog
               a memory
that recedes with the waves.

How the waters cleanse us, yes,
both you and I, on this
the first afternoon of our
immaculately new lives

Lonesome / by Hannah Mitchell

I’m so lonesome I could scream

And she smiles at me with coyote’s teeth
And asks me how I’ve been

I could tell her
I’ve been better
But I don’t want to throw her a bone from my life
Just to be devoured.

HOW BAD CAN IT GET? / by Katherine Smith

I remember how a pear could comfort
with sugar on the tongue at night,
how the branches of white pine

loosened snow,
soft thumps falling
into the tracks of skis

sparkling like the word
amen. Joy came easily,
smelling of ozone, tasting

of ripe fruit. But, tonight,
at three, there’s no track,
no fresh-fallen snow

in the scars
left by the pipeline. Still
the window

is cracked open
and through it
the stars

—untouchable—
are shining. In the cold,
an owl hoots

its innocent hymn.

Sundays / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough

When I leave home at eleven
Sundays become a time of melancholy.
In the village Sundays are community days;
After morning mass, I take the long way home
With my best girlfriend
Even though our houses are just behind the church.
Ma asks if we’re doing the stations of the cross
Because we keep stopping to extend our time together
After breakfast it’s a swim in the sea
Followed by a rinse off
At Salume, a pond close by.
After lunch and the sun’s abated some
It’s time to gather with friends
For some adventure
For organized games
Or for wandering through the village
Looking for guava, malay apples, or plums
Or just sitting at the end of the pier
With some sour oranges enhanced by salt and pepper.
The dark draws everyone home
Where the radio transmits the Sunday requests
And Ma sings along.

In the city
The excitement of preparing for morning mass
What to wear
Who I’ll see
Wears away when church is over
And I await a Sunday dinner
Of rice and beef liver.
As soon as I can, I escape
The confining quiet of the unfamiliar
And try to find relatives
Who will be a reminder of home.
The city streets are quiet
Except for the occasional sounds
Wafting from neighborhood radios
Jim Reeves’s soulful “I’m Only a Stand-In”
Or his “Stand by Your Window Sometime”
And his other macobi tunes
Are the music convincing me
That a day I once anticipated
Now brings a melancholy
That makes me long for Monday.

Body of a Woman / translated by Janel Spencer (from “Cuerpo de Mujer” by Pablo Neruda)

Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,
in your pose of surrender, you look like the world.
My laborer’s body mines you,
springing a son from the depths of the earth.

Alone, I was like a tunnel. From me the birds fled
and the night entered me with her sweeping invasion.
To survive myself, I forged you like arms—
an arrow in my bow, a stone in my sling.

But now the hour of vengeance falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of milk, eager and steady.
Ah, the cups of the breasts! Ah, the eyes of emptiness!
Ah, the roses of the mound! Ah, your voice, gentle and sad!

Body of my woman, I will live on by your grace.
My thirst, my limitless lust, my path undecided!
These are dark channels where thirst forever flows,
and fatigue flows, and the pain is infinite. 

Her Table / by Gabriel Vass

Gathering round
  a table
    made of
      stout oak.

          Encased in
              this table.
                  are memories,
                      wispy spectres

Of the
  long past
    moonless nights
        bright blinding days

            Grandmother
                grandfather
                    cousins
                        brothers

Aunts
  uncle’s
                   Where
    not just            Are
      by blood                They?

          But by
            unfiltered love
                love’s thicker
                    than blood

’round this table
  fifteen after
    midnight
      I observe my
        past, present

          My incomplete story
            all embraced
                by a table
                  made of,
                      stout oak

little tufted bird / by Alise Versella

Little tufted bird on the pussy willow branch

When you learned to fly where did you first land?

(When I first learned to drive I flew to Barnes and Noble)

When it rains where do you hide?

(Most days I hide inside)

When the dawn comes little bird

Do you ever wish to stay in the nest,

Silent

Are you ever tired of singing for us?

(Sometimes I become tired of chewing)

Little bird is your only stress where you buried the seed?

(Sometimes I feel as if I’ve been buried alive, but proverbs tell me

I’ve just been planted; this is growing)

Little bird

Are you ever envious

Of the blue jay and the cardinal

Ever wish you were mightier than the vulture

Or the swooping hawk?

(I have never scorned being short. Think Napoleon or Attila the Hun)

With your silhouette against the sun, little bird

Your shadow is a comfort in the winter cold

The ground unforgiving

But you forgive

You teach me to forgive

The ways in which nature’s taught us our place

Forgive mankind his hellish face

You sing in spite of him

(I live in spite of myself sometimes)

Your wings

How often do they yearn for the wind?

(How often I have prayed for a gust of it

To take my hair the way a lover would

Oh the ways touch can feel like flight)

Little bird

Where do you perch at night

When you sleep

Who do you dream of?

Poem 4 / Day 4

How You Spent Your Summer / by Deborah Bennett

The Olympics are on. Each night you drag the 13-inch black and white TV to the patio. Poured concrete rough plane of heat underfoot. A short girl runs the offense through a tall player who will die soon of a syndrome you’ve never heard of. You peel paper back on the frozen cup of ice, rub your blue ankle absently, imagine yourself on that court, big city, foreign voices shouting outside! split block! angle!
Your skin is not burned. Every August day inside. Salt like contour lines, maps your arms. Planks give purchase to rubber soled feet. Sealant off-gasses. No whistles, pre-season. Orange cooler, waxy cup towers tumble. Girls gulp for air and water. Cold, punch to the chest. This is scene setting.
Other girls go home. Low sun in fir trees chases you up bleaching boards. American cars cruise the four-lane road. Your ankle spills over the tape holding it together. In your head, a song from a boxing movie plays. You are the scrapper, training in an old barn or a dingy ring. You have no business imagining yourself this way. You are a girl, for one. But you do not realize that yet.

By Now / by Elly Bookman

I’ve lived a few places, carry
with me papers that say
I’ve learned a lot
about a few things.
I’ve seen a few wars begin,
none end, and
I’ve gone to the doctor
a few times sure I was dying.
I wasn’t.
I’ve walked through snow
in Georgia, but not
lately. And the flu shot?
It’s saved me from
a few fevers by now, though
I can’t say how or when.
Each time was just another
day in the world
spent brushing up
against souls.

Ablaze / by Lynn Finger
I
Van Gogh, knee deep in grassy reeds,
all wind and sun, easel burns

orange in the light, brush stabs
the canvas,
                          amber stalks bend,
black birds circle low in the wind
the fire still smolders in him

II
Grey depths shade where stars scatter,
stalks bend behind. Unless fire,

art can’t happen.
                                         Four paws grow gargoyle edges

body cracking from the grasses,
where black snakes ripple like ribbons

crows circle, wind lashes.
something snarls, leaps from the canvas.

The fire smolders, is ablaze.

As if there was another earth / by Jacqueline Kolosov

             Where each breath, tear, and beat of heart had not been measured, labeled, claimed—

                         the eight-horned star fruit blossoming through centuries of
                                       Asian evergreens; the gangly grace of the gray
cranes capped with crimson, their tracheal reach
                                       the reason for the trolling lowness of their pitch,

             not like the muffled bellow of the bullfrogs on humid nights; or
                          the tiger’s roar, the lion’s,
                                                                  frequencies that paralyze prey,
                          the hunter protected by subtle folds that close off
             their own inner ears.

                                                     Another earth,
                                                                  not a Janus mirror or sci-fi replica
as if God, Fortune, Chance
                                                     call it Mystery could return us to—the beginning…

*
             Not until after the last sheets of ice retreated
                                                                    did those of us, our earliest ancestors
beginning in Africa
                                                     to travel north to central and even further north to upper
Europe’s Baltic Sea, others venturing far as
                                                                                                                          Scandivania’s peninsula. Thousands
of years of migration known now as centuries rather than
                                                                                              stretches, reaches, waves in the ocean
we know as time.

                                         From the vast expanse of Eurasian Steppe came those who settled
what became Persia, now Iran. Birthplace
                                                                                 of saffron secreted within a crocus opening
                                                                                              to a golden stamen bearing
three crimson threads or stigma.
                                          Not marks of disgrace
                                                                                  or the wounds annointing Jesus’s body
                           but the wonder borne by a flower small

as a newborn’s palm.

                                                                                 Warm, soothe, hold the closed fist
                                                                                              clenched from the journey,
                                                                  contracted hand often the size of a chestnut,
delicious nut of the beech tree….

*

                                        So many afternoons leaning towards evening
                                             I walked among the Luxembourg’s horse chestnut trees
                                                    that first autumn of my daughter’s life.

Row upon row of immaculately-trained trees in that mathematic garden,
            designed paradise of privilege, yes,
                                        but of preservation, also.
                                                                                   She was just learning to walk, and how I tried to hold her back from the gleam
                                                                   of lawn, irresistible even in November,
            and as forbidden as July’s emerald sheen.

The rare apples, trellised and still leafy, were no longer in fruit,
                                                      though each framed placard bore the genus and year,
                                       words written out in French, English, German, Japanese,

                           characters with no more significance to her then
                                                      than the crayon and lipstick scribbles

                                         I, like other mothers, scrubbed from walls and tables,
                                                      and sometimes preserved, as if from time.

Hillbilly Fairy Tales / by Hannah Mitchell

Jack followed the Scotch-Irish
From one set of hills
to another across the sea,
Both old, both fey, both home.
Both lands could grow a beanstalk
As well as the other.
The tales and creatures
Of mirth and myth
Felt just as comfortable
Anywhere there was milk to sour,
Shoes to mend,
Or gardens in which to dance.

So the hillfolk
Knowing the fairy ways of old
Continued to tuck bread in their pockets
Or their baby’s bib
When walking after dark.
They threw salt over their left shoulder
And picked lucky clovers
And kept right on telling the tales.
After all,
The children must learn
To be wary and respectful
Of the Old Folk in the Hills.

Betrayal / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough

I don’t understand betrayal
I understand loyalty
I don’t understand objectivity
When it is clear that one side is right
             And the other is not.
Accused of something I had not done
I looked to you once for support.
You, afraid of not being liked
Chose that time to be impartial
Knowing, you told me later,
That I’d get over it.
Over the years I’ve come to realize
That in the working white world
My white boss will not hesitate
To throw me under the bus
To save his white job and his white ass
No matter how close our relationship
No matter the shopping for shoes we’ve done
             together
No matter that we enjoy the same wines
Read the same books
And laugh at the same jokes.
When I point out a slight from a white waiter
You’re quick to dismiss
Telling me I must be imagining things
Why do you seem afraid to see my point
Or take my side?

WOMAN WITH A CUP OF TEA / by Katherine Smith

She stirs her matcha with a bamboo spoon,
then tips the steaming milk into her cup
and whisks the powder to a green-maroon.
She measures honey like a gold doubloon.

Between her fingers and her thumbs, she turns
the mug against a trembling palm that burns.
This ceremony is one way to cope
with suffering outside of the picture frame.

She takes a thousand sips of tea in hope
of calming chaos far beyond the brain.

Ubique / by Gabriel Vass

rose colored lining

an eternity past

I loved you then
                      I can’t now
I felt you then
                      I can’t now
I felt your heartbeat
   doing legato strokes
                       Why?

your past is mine
and my future is yours
always
       Neverending
Eternal
       Forever
and any other synonym for the
End of what we transients call
                        time

I am drifting
                          I will,
                                     I am,
                            I was,
tossed around, waves hit rough on a small raft
                                         why?
I see the
moon
                  or is that the
                           sun

It’s hard to tell these days
                  with all the dying stars

I did,
        I do,
               Why?

I saw you in the
lichen
floating a shade of yellow
sick
On a
diving
             Dying
careening
             Ending
Tree.
             Fall
Falling
             Plummet
      d
    o
  w
n
    nothing’s
final
except the
end
    Finale

Time and Again / by Alise Versella

One day the armies of little boys who saw no other future than to sacrifice their bodies for money

Will come home from the foreign countries whose languages and cultures they were ordered to burn

One day old men will realize borders are pretend

Gates we erected with spikes because white picket fences could not exist for them

 

One day maybe in another decade little boys will stop fighting wars with little boys

Reminiscent of days on playgrounds where toy airplanes were built from paper

Could not propel bombs the bombs were crayons

 

Today I can’t read the paper

Most days I can’t face the news

This does not make me naïve, a poet hippie who believes love will save us

It won’t

She hasn’t been loved back for a while she knows

It takes more than love to save the world

 

But these days I am afraid and my nerves jangle like plastic skeletons on Halloween

They don’t look like decoration anymore they look like warning

My dead walk the streets each morning

Slowly dying at jobs we hate

But they pay for our portion of the world

We stand ready to defend our corner

I feel like I am suffocating to protect a corner patch of weeds

Nothing has grown here for awhile

 

I do not have my father’s green thumb

I do not know which seeds I have inherited but I do not want them

The seeds are on fire

The kids are not alright

I must admit I grow more terrified of walking to my car at night

 

I do not know what more to write

We’ve been typing out the same old ink

I argue in my own mind each night

Try to reconcile poetry as medicine

When it’s medicine we cannot afford

 

I do not know anymore the point.

 

Tomorrow I will get out of bed I will commit to do the work the only way I can

So tomorrow while the new decade burns I will write a poem again.

Poem 3 / Day 3

You Do Not Fear Me / by Deborah Bennett

You and your mate lope
across the yard, then hit
your mark in unison. Your size
fools me. I do not know
if you are a threat. You know I am
simply an existential threat. My dog
knows you. He freezes in frozen
grass. You eye me, then him. How do you
calculate without language, symbolic
or otherwise?

Later I will learn you are
abundant and versatile. You are heavy
with fur, but weigh less
than my dog. Your butterscotch
coat could be called fulvous. Vision
more important than scent.

Your breath synched, pools
in steam clouds around
your heads. Your fur does not
stand on end. We are a triptych
hinged in snow and darkness.

You are a hybrid. Coywolf. More playful
and social. But you eat so many
kinds of meat. Animals that burrow
and nest and swim. You hunt
ungulates, which do not include
me or my dog. You are riddled
with disease for your diet.

I scream. You look from me
to the dog and back. You leap
a fence the size of a tall man,
synchronized like birds in formation.
Your tensile strength unleashed
on wood slats and no animal.

A Provocation / by Elly Bookman

At last the dream
of gifts of love has ended.
You tore at tin-man silver paper
and found a tightly-rolled
t-shirt. I pulled at the end of a
blue ribbon, lifted a box lid, released
a little breath and saw
earrings, golden and green
against snow. So
we begin again now
to count the days of a year
while anticipation’s parade balloon
deflates and folds itself
away, suffering
climbs off the shelf to
make room, and we return
to plunder—the giver, as ever
shops in secret; the taker
is taken aback:
You shouldn’t have.
How will I ever repay you?

COYOTE LEAN / by Lynn Finger

I watch a coyote run lean across the street this morning
            coat streaked in sunrise cream and gold
                         explodes from black shadows.

He looks back with a quick head toss as he runs and
            I’ve seen many animals do that quick look backwards before:
                        lizards, bobcats, deer and birds give that little frantic toss,

that backward glance as they move
            for fear of attack unseen, but more than that
                        maybe keeping ahead of the seen, that sun that wind

that moment that threatens to overtake,
            I see a coyote this morning, running
                        from the wave, the tsunami of sun

and his panting is quick — quick — quick.

Holes / by Jacqueline Kolosov

There are reasons to fear them.
Say you’re a horse being ridden over endless prairie

dog burrows, or a child who entrusts her lunch
money to a pocket with one and so goes hungry

one icicle-sharp, snow-crusted day. Perhaps
another, hopefully a friend, shares her soup and grilled

cheese, or just a bruised pear, maybe the overcooked
peas. But what if she does not? And what if—. Down

comes the curtain on this snippet—. Or we’ll soon get to
Please, sir, I want some more—.

Is there a hole in your head? Now that you’ve asked,
it’s in my shoe on a forced march through Siberia in winter.

Let’s avoid that rabbit hole, shall we? Still
does a soldier mend a bullet hole in his coat?

You mean there are still people who know how
to sew, says a tween, glancing up from her phone.

I’m not a gaping hole of need.
Uma, please, make like the White Rabbit, would you?

No mouse entrusts his life to only one hole.
But what happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?

Yes, please hand the mic to the man on the lef—oh, hell-o,
Mr. Hawking. A question for the poet:

is this what you do when you hole up in your room?
Thank you, plenty of time for that question later.

Perhaps we’ll start with a sing-a-long to
“There’s a Hole in My Bucket.” Seriously,

holes are wondrous things. Brace a ‘w’ up against one,
and voila—out, of the satin-lined-hollow of the magician’s hat

ascends (accompanied by applause)
what so many of us believe we long to be.

I mean, without holes why dig?
But Mama, that man says when you find yourself in a—.

Not now, sweetheart. Any golf fan knows, every player’s heart
palpitates before one. Our esteemed guest-from-the-cosmic beyond

earned his place among the immortals by dreaming-daring-
through-one. Physics aside, the lives of moles, mice, voles,

and countless other beings depend upon them.
What is a hollow in a tree if not a home for owls, parrots,

chickadees, and wood peckers (don’t forgot, nuthatches!)
to build nests to reside or brood within? Madame, such hollows,

if I may point out, are called cavities, the reason for five-
hundred-dollar-fillings, dentists’ golf club memberships, and jack-

hammer-meet-icepick-head-tooth-and-every-place-else-aches.
Thank you, Audubon Miniver Cheevy.

Well, at least I’m not Beckett. Will this falling never end?
(That’s what happens when one tries to keep up

with rabbits. No, we’re not talking about breeding, Mr. T—).
Parting words: without holes, there’d be no echoes.

Or sorrow.
Pipe down, Oliver.

Poems, Like Liquor, Are Best Shared / by Hannah Mitchell

A poem is a celebration
A dedication, a toast
Champagne drunk, giddybright bubbles

A poem is an empty shot glass
At the end of the worst day of your life
Standing in line with six or seven brothers
(Also empty, now)
(Also, who’s counting)
Swimming in your head
Filling up the spaces
Clearing and clouding,
All at once.

Adulthood / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough

In that little hut in that big city
I watch you take loving care of your mother:
You wash her hands,
You dish out her food that you’ve cooked
You braid her hair.
Your devotion to her
Reflects the maturity you’ve achieved
             over the last few months.
I sit here considering our childhood;
I am just now easing out of it.
Bracing your shoulders, you’ve packed up, left,
And you have not looked back.
I’m still here negotiating youth,
Not yet willing to accept adulthood;
You’ve moved on;
You’re making life decisions, consequential ones.
I waver and dither,
Adrift and not in too much of a hurry.
“I’ve decided to accept his proposal,” you say.
You do not need to explain to me;
This next step has been long in coming.
We look at each other
And in that moment you and I know
That your blind and now powerless mother
Is accepting a future for her youngest daughter
A healthy mother would not have approved.

WHITE PINE / by Katherine Smith

Some truth begins in wind
although it seems foretold.
The sticky origin
of white pine is wind,
the needles spun and woven
of carbon, green as cold.
Some truth begins in wind
although it seems foretold.

Meditation on Acceptance / by Janel Spencer

It takes time to love the self.
Time to make the mistakes. Things you don’t
like to repeat about yourself. Don’t repeat.
And time to forgive yourself for them.
Maybe you learn to
walk a different way. Or maybe we never change.
Sometimes we change. You learn to open up
rather than shut down, or you listen to the Buddhists
and you learn to watch your thoughts
without making a scene. You watch the scene
playing out in your mind
without committing.
But this takes time, and we continually mess up along the way.
The way is living.

It takes time to love others fully, too.
Time for them to mess up for you
and time for them to mess up for themselves. And time for you to mess up for them.
Maybe it’s small things
like you bought the wrong brand of soda.
Maybe it’s huge, practically unspeakable,
unrepeatable things. And the love breaks
in your hands like the last remaining
blue ceramic wedding bowl.
Maybe you dropped it. Maybe you needed to,
maybe it was time.

It takes time to forgive them, to forgive
yourself. It takes time
to love again, to trust yourself
with precious things.

Sisyphus / by Gabriel Vass

Albert Camus
  Told me
    to imagine
      Sisyphus Smiling

        As he rolled his
          Particular Boulder
            Up and up and up
              His stoney cracked hill

                Only to watch it
                  Plummet to the very
                    bottom. And then walk
                      To the abysmal hill base

I’m sorry my friend
  I don’t see Sisyphus grinning
    Showing us his pearly whites
      Cause he’s so happy to roll his boulder

        The way I see Sisyphus,
          Wise and dashing Mr. Camus.
            Is begrudgingly persistent
              Because I see the same faces

Everyday on those that pass by
  The construction worker tanned
    Strong, moving dirt so it can blow
      Back over onto the same spot again

        The corporate man, finances
          Doing money management for
            All the big companies, “great job!”
              Those companies that don’t care
                                 To even know his name

These are all people
  who live in my hometown
    Constantly shuffling around
      Their heads down

gazing
at
the

          Ground

Unable to see there’s more
              To living

    and Albert I have news for
      you, They aren’t smiling, as they roll          whatever is their specific boulder
        Up a hill, to watch it fall back down

Take care of the people whose leaves bring you shade / by Alise Versella

You hang like the boughs of evergreen, heavy with the pale white snow
Bear gallantly the blueberries on your bush for our spring
Bend like a willow hungering
At our smooth reflections in the lake
And with all this weight
Your branches do not break

With all that greedy fists reach up to take
You do not cease producing a sweet and pungent fruit
The core of you, the apricot pit
A poison that cannot touch you
All the bitter they try to push into you
Will not supplant the seeds
Meant to commence their flowering

No choking ivy, no crawling aphid
No root bound invasion invading space
To make a grave of the soil
A funeral for your leaves
To parch the bark, desert the ocean you breathe

You synthesize the noxious with prayer and we are fed
How starved we are
For your attention.

Poem 2 / Day 2

Souvenir / by Deborah Bennett

There is a velvet lined box. The kind you buy
at a souvenir shop at the beach. The kind of shop
pitched on rocks that sells other rocks. There are things
that go inside that box—bits of paper, feathers,
agates, more souvenirs. Sea lions below. Coiled
iron stairs lead to those oily animals. You bore
into the cliff like an auger ripping rock
from rock. In a cave unlike the one you
will read about in British literature, water booms
against the hollows. All is pocked like your mother’s
face. She has warned you what might become
of your own unblemished skin. You lay your face
against walls rimed with salt, trap water in your
pores. Bull whip kelp tangles underfoot. Molted
skins relinquished to the sea. Brine of decay. Close
the lid. You are the box. Rookery
of rest and breeding. Mothers trumpet
pups. Males bark as they do. Echo, the curse
of Narcissus.

Balcony / by Elly Bookman

The wind. The highway. The sea.
Three streams rushing in their directions
displacing oil and spit, the droppings
of all that swims and sucks life
from the ocean, given back.
I go back inside. I go
downstairs where
breakfast is
being made by
pink hands—pancakes
and processed meat—mmm.
If I’m hungry it’s mostly for quiet
vantages—their promise. I thought if
I stood there long enough I’d see you
walking—Lucky you, among muck.

The Kitchen Sink is Plugged / by Lynn Finger
Everything – everything! –
N e e d s      f i x i n g      e v e n t u a l l y

Will you come over?
                                                       sink
                                          the
                            fix
               to
Not

[although it needs fixing]

But to see your eyes…..

You SMILE as if

            You invented the snow cone

                          On the Hottest DAY

I love you

I don’t care if

            it’s
                                        b
                                           r
                                              o
                                                  k
                                                      e
                                                           n

Upon Being Asked the One Word I Would Tattoo upon the Body’s New Year / by Jacqueline Kolosov

“Therefore, receiving, as we now do, a kingdom…
let us cherish…”—Hebrews 12.28

As if the delicate skin beneath the ear or a single wrist
could bear so much, the heart weighed
alongside what one holds most dear.
Word poor our language is.

                                            Or is it that we’ve forgotten
to welcome the other within? To usher in man,
woman, child-children in threadbare clothes; those
who must house their own dear lives in canvas,
even plastic bags. Doesn’t sanctuary abide
                 in the Welcome mat? Others who belong to us
come forth, not as if reborn,
but bearing another kind of mark
(never-mind they may have been beloved once).

What must it cost each and every one of us to forget
Cherish, close kin of Charity and Claritas,
invites another to sit by the fire, provides bread
with a bowl of warm soup, a mug of honeyed tea
and milk laid on a clean cloth.
                    So simple, and why impossible

               this alchemy that familiarizes, even endears
stranger(s). Oh, that marrow-bone question:
who among us dares entertain angels unawares?

                                             Didn’t you and I too
               arrive naked and bloodied, feathered light now bound
                                                                           by gravity’s burden.
                                                             Given this: who would not cry out
                                                                           aware somehow
the umbilical cord’s severance is
                                                            just the beginning—

Sadness Lies / by Hannah Mitchell

Sadness is the monster under my bed
It oozes out from under mattress springs
And comes like a creep in the night
To steal my hard-earned sleep
With feathersoft claws
Slithering into the meat of my mind.

It tells me,

The world is so heavy
and full of cruelty

and now
I am not sure I can handle its horrors.

Mending Dogs / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough

With much appreciation to Robert Frost

Something there is that loves so many dogs
That would let them loose in my neighborhood.
On a cool January morning I set out
To enjoy the solace of a brisk walk
And to observe nature at play.
Ahead the early morning sun
Kisses the distant mountains pink.
Rabbits, suddenly summoned, dart across the road
Sending the jittery covey of quail aflutter.
Around the corner a lone coyote watches
The phainopepla tease as it flits from branch to branch
“Catch me if you can,” it seems to say.
And suddenly the morning stillness is no more.
Yelps and barks break the reverie announcing the invasion.
They come, bounding, mewling, snuffling,
Maypoling the owners behind them:
Black poodles, pink poodles, terriers, and hounds
White poodles, daschunds, shepherds, and mutts.
I long to tell my neighbors,
“You and your dogs stay on your side,
And I’ll stay on mine.”
Do I need to remind them once again
That using the mutt mitts makes good neighbors?
Down the hill
I’m chilled by the damp air of the wash;
The shaking nest in the nearby cholla signals
That once again it has a resident.
A dozen doves diving on cue from the overhead power lines
Signal another group of dogs and owners
Visiting on the other side of the hill.
With the sheepish smiles of resigned parents
Herding a misbehaving brood,
They strain to appear in control.
Like walking cell phone users
They long for communion with others
And the dogs are opening accessories.
Something there is that loves so many dogs
That would let them loose in my neighborhood.

TO A WATCH / by Katherine Smith

Your grandfather a sundial,
your grandmother the sunrise and sunset,
your father the bronze bell
on the church tower that brought men to their feet
and out to yolk oxen,
you were the moon in your mother’s belly.

You began grandly
on the clock-towers of train stations
your roman numerals speaking
the tongue of ancient authority

You became an obsession
to lovers of everything miniature
jewelers with nimble fingers, perfect eyesight.
who spent centuries on your complications,
your tick-tock, your diamond face.

Once after I got my first job in Paris,
my great love led me into a shop
on the rue Cardinal Lemoine.
We bent over the glass case. He chose a silver watch
like a ring I wore around my neck for years
until finally the face cracked.

Once there was only your ticking to bind
like leather wrapped around the forearms
like blue shawls and skull caps,
each second a forehead pressed to the mat.

You vanish like stopped breath
before wildfire and blizzard.
Your absence notable
as perfectly flat landscape
that resumes with fence posts.

Small enough to fit on the wrist.
Second cousin to the blind-folded woman
with her scales, full sister to deliberation,
you sit on the court
of judges with caseloads
of seven hundred a year.
Told it’s possible to be both swift and fair
you know the sorrow of the pure ornament.

I look up and behind my wrist to the blue sky
where you are planted like a white flower
behind the iron border of the garden.

Through the Door / by Gabriel Vass

I tread through the bird-song
soaked air

My jaunt takes me through a patch
of January leaves

With their dull hollow crunch
lifeless
for months now

Through congregations of clover I find
myself

And they are friendly on my bare
cooled feet

As I journey I see the dozens of trees
my companions

They share with me their moth-eaten wisdom,
inviting me to sit

So I sit
I feel the tingle of the winter wind
dancing crosswise on my skin

And I hear the songs of the barren
Trees

I listen intently and I am steadied
Set on the path to wander

Meditations / by Alise Versella

I pulled the divination cards for a new year/Spread the scent of roses over my skin/I was the star/signifying inspiration/Renewed hope/Faith that I am blessed/I made of the cards a cross/And they fell to tell/Me/What to focus on: myself; queen of swords/How I have spent the last/Few years brooding over all that never worked/My strengths: 10 of swords/The shame I’ve felt in cutting and hedging the landscaping/Of my world so easily/What an ability to cut ties cleanly/That I have forgotten that all I need is within me/That to face the world enthusiastically/Means getting what you want/Or never knew you’d need/“Never lose your childish innocence and things will come your way”/A decade ago /My senior quote/How could I forget/All the glorious life that lays before me?/I am my own worst enemy/I stick myself/Only I can unstick myself from the mud/Or perhaps I might recall that a lotus blooms rooted so/Within it/I’ve been so afraid to unfurl the full fragility of my petal/Afraid the sun will set it wrinkling/That the hand will pluck the pink veined/And bleed me out/I should bleed /Like a rushing flood/Ransack the riverbeds, overflow/Some of us/Need to drown to be washed clean/Sometimes I close my eyes in order to see/I make no apology for frequent naivety/For the bitterness feels like a grave I am shoveling/Prefer to trust in the good of man/Before I ready my weapons to defend/There are no resolutions for the daily/Molding of a life/Like a woman birthed from marble/We take the chisel and the knife/And isn’t it magic how the eyes come alive?/How she stands draped in translucent fabric/And holds her breath/Like Gaia holding the wind/Today/Exhale/The year has passed/The echoes in a sculpture hall/Sound like singing bowls ringing.

Poem 1 / Day 1

Gulch / by Deborah Bennett

East of mountain and plain, gulches are anonymous with geography—ice,
craggy. Here, urban and wild. Root of fir and sword
ferns drink greedily. Clutch the shores
of the flume. This land clear cut of people,
dirt-banked homes, cedar planks
shorn from winter villages, laid
on puddles for the white women
who settled west of West.

They followed men we named
these gulches for: Marquam, Sullivan,
Balch. They settled this land that does not
settle. They had opinions, those men
from the East. This one hated
the rain. That one loved a woman
he could never marry. They came for decades
before they decided to preserve
land they emptied: Multnomah, Tualatin,
Kathlamet.

Later peoples
were wanted by degrees. Paolas
and Sampietros hunted and cured
wild hogs in forests climbing out
of the river. Grandmothers sliced
the heads off chanterelles, morels. Meier
and Frank peddled goods in gold
country. Sawtelle and Duniway faced
the legislature, intercessory prayers.
Enfranchisement a theory, exclusion
an act traced in ragged state lines.

This group got county names. That group
landforms. The ladies got pocket
parks. Other groups got a boulevard
late in the game. Someone is replacing
someone else right now. You were not
born here. Your name does not mark
basin, courthouse, valley or road. You are
a number, one of thirteen, unlucky. Flushed
from the fever of your brain, you sank in, gulsh, dry bed of needles.

The End / by Elly Bookman

It’s felt like the end
for a while now.
So we stocked up on
everyone’s strangest
favorites—wasabi
peas, bread & butter
pickles, halibut, &
hoped that if we
swallowed & set
adrift in our bodies
some morsels of
the best of this world
the end might come
gently—even the eyes
of the fish for luck
after dinner while
we watched the last
moon of the year
dip its bloodied grin
into the sea.

Bright Blankets / by Lynn Finger

When you wake up this morning and it is so cold
even the raccoons outside have long johns on
the sky an upside jade bowl
and the world muffled under snow, don’t think — it’s cold –
think — beauty brought bright blankets
today and we are lying with her
under the fragile lengths of woven
light, ice, pine needles
and the milky blue sky

Apollo / by Jacqueline Kolosov

On this first day [God] may I abide
like the Afghan pines some wise other planted
here. Rooted deep in red earth, and sky high,

theirs is a pride not like the hawk’s
yellow eye, but more like the jack rabbit’s
streamlined ear, a lean keenness, this way

of being urgently alive. Don’t get me wrong.
I do not long for flight, only to be ferried
on my good horse’s back, his strong body

nourished by grain, hay, and juiciest apple.
Before clearest morning gave way to wind-
blurred, wind-stirred sky, I held the fruit

to Apollo’s whiskered mouth. How greedily
he gobbled sweetness down. The new day,
the new year, seemed to spool from his lips

onto my fingers and hand. What did Bishop
say about rainbows—? Oh well, too much sun here…
Flecks of yellow flint the gelding’s amber eyes,

this twelve-hundred-pound teacher of laughter,
patience, but also of will, and sometimes fear—.
He is my apple-sweet god of manure-and-more-

trot-than-canter who grunts through and sometimes
against hard work. Impossible to measure
such sweetness, except in the green height of

living pine when he and I are united, not as one
flesh but as one force, energy catapulting
out of the star-shard dark and into the light.

Old Hills / by Hannah Mitchell

I grew up with the mountains in the corners of my eyes
Old hills, softened with age
Pillowed with hickory and hemlock
And the pines all around.
Little rivers laugh my name
As I sit in the sun on the wet and rocky bank
And feel my roots drinking in the good earth.

Directions / by Harriet Arzu Scarborough

Pass the gas station,
that is the first crossroad,
Continue straight.
Quality Chicken on the right;
that is the second cross road.
Continue straight to the third cross road.
There is a bump just ahead.
Do not reach the bump but turn left.
You are now on what we call Scholar Road.
Go all the way up,
no turning until you get to Fansico’s, a Taiwanese supermarket
Turn left at Fansico’s,
pass the first street to the right then turn right into the next street.
Go down this street until you get to this house on your right.

Wait for the house.

SCAVENGERS / by Katherine Smith

1.

The wind that bears the dead branches
of once decorative plum trees
and empty feasts of poplar cones
carries amber feathers the color
of rusted bicycle fenders. The vultures
have spread their wings. They have no choice
but play, their hunger for ground is junk
to sky that cradles them in claws of wind.

2.

Above the parking lot the crows
slip between the metals, beneath
rubber tires and surface from the ocean
of cars with crusts in ochre beaks.
There is no bread in clouds above.
We are eating Japanese noodles.
My friend can’t write he says and nods
towards the crows. “Once I could have made
a poem of crows. Now, junk.”
He has stopped eating. Each crow
with the ticking watch of its hunger
scavenges among the iron grey stone.

3.

At night the stars behind the stars
shine. By day the crows in pines
caw. Each an intelligence I might destroy
but not fathom.

Rejection Is Beautiful / by Janel Spencer

Let me explain:
it’s exactly how it should be.

Everyone should be able to say
this isn’t for me or

you aren’t for me.
And it’s not about you or your work—

it’s the combination.
You really don’t want to be with something

or somebody that doesn’t work
with you, for you, want you

badly. Doesn’t see your brilliance.
Say you’re gorgeous

with that look in their eye—shy.
If I say, no thank you

I don’t mean
you aren’t great—

I mean you aren’t great
for me

and what is it we’re trying to do
when we choose a mate, anyway?

Find someone, anyone
who will take us, be taken? That’s not

it. Love’s undeniable.
It’s us at our best.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continually improve.
Love is to move someone

we want, who wants to be moved
by us. Fate can’t take its course

if you force it.
It’s subtle

like a candle
flickering near the body,

betraying its art—
its light, its darkness

and hope.

Backdoor / by Gabriel Vass

As the dawn
Relents,

The only thing
Colder,

Than the new-year’s
Breeze,

Is my grandfather’s,
Dried
   Dusty
      Old Skull

       & They both whisper the clouded secrets
                               Of what will be

                            through the mouth
                                  Of what has

So I lean in closer, grasping at their words
   As if I’m a toddler
      Getting used to my hands
         Every swipe an attempt
                       In vain

Only catching the syllables hanging on the air
 Mimicking drops of dew,
   spoken in some
      ancient tongue
        I’ll never understand
          until I’m just like them a
              phantom drifting,
                        the wind

A Fierce Sense of Resolve / by Alise Versella

Resolutions require revolution
And I have been at battle with the nation of my body since puberty
I have gone to war with my heart as it broke
And broke
And broke
Reinforced the battalions to hold the pieces up
And the bullets ricocheted off the trenches of my lungs
And I swore the fires pillaging the village of my stomach would wipe out the living

I am living like a militia razing the fields of foreign countries
I am burning the boundaries
Rewriting the policies
I am done policing this body

I am done living like I am a war torn country
A refugee seeking refuge from my own self pity
I am finished doubting the ability to achieve my dreams
Just because they haven’t happened yet

Civilization was not built easily
There was death in battle and conquerors invading
Trespassers trying to take away
All that I made
Of myself

How dare I
Monarch and sovereign body
Forget that I am royalty
A king
A Rajah in the Bhagavad
How dare I lose faith in the ruby red of my blood
Propelling the turbines of this heart

I have resolved to tap this vein
And inundate the land
The great flood once again
Ready your ark and corral your lambs

The fox is on the hunt
I am cunning enough
To see through the lies I tell myself

A kitsune never deceives herself

Never traps herself in the hunters snare
She will own the year
And the forest
And the air
Breathe the freedom she pulled from his rib.