Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
The volunteers for July 2020 are Michelle Acker, Laura Apol, Mary Pacifico Curtis, Sandra Faulkner, Joseph Heithaus, Jacob Hunt, Jules Lattimer, Marianne Peel, and Jerry Rumph. Read their full bios here.
If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and and warm up your pen!
Poem 15 / Day 15
Tuesday Afternoon, Texting My Ex While the Cat Tries to Fish Ice Cubes Out of My Water / by Michelle Acker
My rule used to be: if I’m writing poems
about my cat, I know I need to get out more.
Sweet orange tabby, my constant companion;
he hates to be touched, yet walks behind me all day
long as I move from bed to bathroom to couch.
Always insistently two feet apart. I think
he never quite believes in the existence
of his next meal, which I’d consider him wise for,
except for how anxiously he cries.
Crossing / by Laura Apol
I cannot capture in a photo
the doe crossing the river at sunset—
the water touching her underside;
slender legs, delicate hoofs
finding the rocks and mud below.
No, I cannot capture the doe
nor how, when she senses it is safe
she returns to the shore
to coax that other deer
into the current,
bring that other along.
I cannot capture the doe, so
I want to be
on the far side of the river
when she reaches it—
to stroke her soaked fur, the silk
of her ears, her brawny
I want to nuzzle her, my face
to her face,
to know what she knows
about the river,
about dusk, about love—
what to take over, crossing;
what to leave behind.
To Be In Your Own Time / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
To the girl who cut her childhood
braids in 8th grade donning a pink
linen shift with half jacket
to look more adult
To the high schooler who steam ironed
her straight hair straight,
struck a fine sulk in cords, tee, vest & beads,
the very same one formerly in linen now
smoking with a cigarette holder
& bumming cig money from her shrink –
To be a year younger is to not get it,
to not do all the things
your teen peers do. It’s ok.
To the young woman starting out
in her 20’s, a succession of jobs and
outfit changes before the the start,
suits and boots that marked her own firm.
A new shrink who urged now’s the time
A love who pledged support
Give it a try, see how far you can go
words of a dare to be taken day by day,
to echo in the deepest cavities of her heart.
It’s ok. And so it anxiety as a sidekick
that sickens as it fires her forward motion.
To be so young on the road is to know
she needs tools. She sees a shovel
& starts to dig, sorting out the useful bits
then tossing the rest of it over her shoulder.
Why we are not getting another hamster, despite the imploring post-it notes my daughter has plastered on my bedroom door. / by Sandra Faulkner
The hamster freed herself from the habitrail,
her tunnels were a prison, she leapt over a rail;
the dogs lay in wait by the bathtub moat
to execute their perfidious sting—
the domestic curs broke her throat.
Now, she lies like a martyred queen
with the silken fur of pet shop dreams—
her hair coiffed like sugar and cream—
entrails pulled out like a string of pearls
the incomparable luster and sheen
set off by tendrils of whisker curls.
Never mind the ruptured spleen
splayed out on the antique rug.
Focus on how the kaleidoscoped pattern hugs
the intricacies of the perfect hamster,
your memories of impossibly soft fur
how she became the perfect rodent
that no other can follow.
Elegy to a Glass of Water in the Dark / by Joseph Heithaus
They say you are still here,
but I don’t much believe
them, your clear squat
weight giving shape
to something half
becoming air, half
containing memories of a sea
with gulls above it spinning
and turning themselves
into the letters
of an invisible language.
They say you still bend
light, but I can’t
see it. Tonight, the moon lies
buried in the clouds of an upside-down
sky, full or half full
or asking its half-made
questions with a crescent’s
hook. Sometimes I wonder
if I drank enough
of what I could of you?
And now I’m afraid to reach
out into the nothing dark,
fearing you’ll topple
if you are there at all. I miss
taking part of you
and putting it inside
me. With you I could swallow
bitterness. I want to believe
them, but now you are round
and small to me
like a period at the end
of a sentence.
At the courthouse / by Jules Lattimer
the school board
talks to parents
it should work what
is the proper trade
for life for comfort
We are a town I say we
but I’m new, that
values those luxuries
items we’re learning
are luxuries, privileges
to be taken away. I fantasize
about leaving, think
Vancouver would be
a good next city for
my life, a city that might
protect me I don’t know
how Vancouver convinces
me it can rise to
the challenge. I’m sure
I’m wrong Vancouver
doesn’t mean much
to me except that
episode Jenny throws
her phone at her
assistant it’s over
and I’m back
inside this timeline
Learning to Say Yes / by Marianne Peel
“…Speak to me. Take my hand. I will tell you all.
I will conceal nothing…Fist my mind in your hand.
What are you now?…”
-from Effort at Speech Between Two People
by Muriel Rukeyser
Let us together you and I open our hands
to what we love. Meet me in your driveway. I will bring
gooseberry jam and you will offer sweet piesporter wine.
I will pack a picnic hamper of goat cheese
latticed with cranberries and orange rind. There will be
Japanese potato salad with slivers of Persian cucumbers.
There will be stew of red lentils swimming in coconut milk.
We will sit by the river listening to water move over rocks. I
will bring a red feather boa draped around my neck and shoulders.
I offer you a robin’s egg blue scarf wrapped in lemon pastel tissue paper.
And we will toast the holy ghosts of those we have loved. Tell stories
of how our mothers came to us from the other side. Tell stories of
those whispering so soft we must press ears to lips. Tell stories
of those who remain silent.
We will read poems by the river until dusk. Rumi. Whitman.
Dickinson. Laux. Shihab Nye. We have forgotten how to pray.
I used to know the incantation for the souls in purgatory.
In the name of the bird and the butterfly and the bee. Amen.
We will light sandalwood candles. Send luminaries
down the river. We will wear earrings that dangle onto our shoulders,
signally our movements ever so slight ever so bold to fish and fowl.
We will announce our presence in this world with wine on our breathing
and pussy willow blossoms in our hands. There will be orange tiger lilies
woven in our hair. And we will sound the singing bowl sitting down
by the river. Vibrations around our candle fire. Holy communion
of sourdough loaf. I will bring clover honey from the market in Tupelo.
Bricks of butter infused with sea salt and olive oil. Pralines
from that roadside stand in Buford, Georgia.
We will dress for dinner. Swishy skirts and bangles and hats
with translucent baubles flourishing the brim. I will spread
Casablanca Plum gloss on my lips. You arrive with Flashmob Fuschia
lipstick. We have painted our nails neon. We glow in the evening.
We refuse shoes reject sandals, exchanging wool socks
for a tender bed of clover.
Your daughter is the secret you keep at your center. You refuse
to allow the priest to soot her forehead. Saying no to smudging her
with ash. Shielding her from the dust to dust.
After such loss how do we perform the simple tasks? Wash dishes.
Scour pots.I want to break every plate on the edge of the sink.
I fold laundry. Towels tucked into perfect rectangles. Solace
in seams matched up end on end. Peace in color coordinated stacks.
A tower of towels. I once knew a woman who reveled in ironing.
She labored to the voice of Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man
in America. All those creases and collars hammered down
by the steam. Housedresses all in a row from light to dark. A carefully
constructed closet of clothes suspended on wire hangers.
Once I emptied my whole refrigerator. Crammed everything down the garbage
disposal with a splintered wooden spoon. Electric grind. Devouring week-old
slabs of salmon loaf. Yams sprouting vines. The sad eyes of potatoes.
Cilantro shriveled on the stem. Bratwurst gone pale grey. One afternoon
I drizzled expired cream into porcelain cups filled with lukewarm tea.
Watched the cream curdle into sour hieroglyphics. Sketched these abstracts
into a watercolor binder. I study and decipher each one when sleep is stubborn.
But today we will let honey drizzle out of the corners of our painted mouths.
We will dab almond extract behind our ears, in the soft bends of our knees.
I have stitched all these scarves together. A picnic blanket of scarves. And
when our poetry picnic is consumed, I will wrap you in this tapestry of
scarves. I place the amber pashmina from the Istanbul market around your face.
Hijab in this western hemisphere. Permission to enter any sacred space.
I have salve for your blistered palms, here in my breast pocket.
In this meadow of ferns and wildflowers, we are palm to palm.
Tell me the story of your hands.
Of each ring on your fingers.
Tell me of holding your hand out
to what you love.
Delano, the dammed damsel in distress / by Jerry Rumph
In the beginning, awakened
and refusing to live in the dark,
you sprang through a granite crevice,
grey, and traveled the woods,
calculating the path of least resistance
as you wandered the Piedmont
and welcomed the world
in your lilting rush,
calling upon a chorus
of brown grouses and woodcocks
to sing with you in the sunshine,
inviting the Creek, “red,”
to gather, and drink you in.
But your indiscriminate ways
led only one place:
downhill to your demise.
The revolutionaries came and slaughtered
your red and brown friends.
Their eldritch faces
reflected in your crystal clarity
a reservoir of manifested dreams.
You had nowhere to run from their gaze,
except away from Warm Springs,
your estranged home
before such a place was even platted.
But they captured and flattened you with a curse –
in both word and deed –
it was nearly the same
being pinched from cheeks of clay.
Today, we steam together in the sun
as I reflect in your settled tannin face
and listen to your monotoned voice
summon revenge in the wind,
telling me you’ll rip open your cheek
with the next cold front
and bury under black silt
the pale corpses of your captors’ heirs
the ones living in mobile home meth labs
in the valley south of this here hill.
Poem 14 / Day 14
Waiting / by Michelle Acker
Vines with heart-shaped leaves trellis themselves up
a thin bird’s bone of branch that stretches from
the treetop to the grounded brush pile,
unable to fully fall. Striped wasps caught
in invisible corners; tiny pink
teacups on the flowering potted
plant already waiting to close; drooping
banners of green grass—glued inside all day,
I want to sit out here and rest my eyes
with all this, all these fields shielded over
by gray cloudy batting and golden sun,
but it’s so humid outside that trying
to drink down that air into my lungs feels
like syrup pulled up through a narrow straw.
IS TOUCH / by Laura Apol
Tonight I am thinking of those things
I didn’t know I should love: crickets,
dragonflies and the birr of owls
on nights I can’t sleep; the turtle on the lane
—a red-eared slider—that set the dog
barking; a pair of milk snakes twined
in the rock garden; wildflowers that are weeds
and weeds that are wildflowers, the forever-
burrowing of moles, and the chipmunk
the mama cat brought to her young
where their instinct set upon it, tiny teeth
and claws, left only the tail. I am thinking
of a man from long ago who still knows me
in my dreams. I should never have said
goodbye. What I miss most is touch,
followed by scarves and earrings. Does anyone
dress for dinner anymore? If you visit,
I will meet you on the drive. It’s been so long,
and at last I have learned to say yes—
to hold out my hand to what I love.
Wordplay for The Stable Genius To Sharpen Him in his Decline / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
COVID 19: ’I’ve never seen such sticky blood’ reports thrombosis expert
Medical News Today May 29, 2020
You’re not talking any more.
You took your chips to another game.
Let’s play…I’ll start… blood clot,
got clot polyglot
got a thought for knot, not?
Always fraught with bad plot,
just a dot of hot shot rot.
Bought or idiot – both ring true
Cannot be forgot. Mr. Alot, Robot,
Gunshot, Buckshot, Jackpot.
nonstop afterthought Twitterbot.
Mr grabbing apricot/scattershot
wishing yourself a Camelot, Lancelot,
Cosmonaut, ocelot in Montserrat
– never to be in fact. I’m hoping
for a slingshot rock, spot on its mark
to cool my boiling blood.
July 8, 2020 Dear Alice, / by Sandra Faulkner
Today would be your 112th birthday. They tell me that
I look like you, though I could never find my face in dad’s
wedding photo-the cat-eye glasses, three strings of pearls,
Sunday white gloves clasped in one hand, and that 1962 wave
in your silver hair. You died when I was 3-months old, too young
to know you except in family stories, the currency of connection.
I wonder what you would think of COVID and the visit I had
with my dad-your oldest son-during the early days of the pandemic?
You would have been 10 and 11 through the 1918 flu epidemic,
the same age as my daughter during this year of divisive un-leadership
and the scorn for science and intellect. Though my FaceBook contacts
are unfriending and blocking the Fox News watchers like my family,
estrangement is not an option for me at the end of the world.
Uncle Ed sent me a photo of a younger you- seeing my face in your
highschool graduation photo triggers something I needed
to carry on with the caring, the feeling of belonging, even as
the atheist liberal sheep in this family. I focus on feeding and cleaning,
tasks that an over-educated daughter can do, like you did for your parents
delaying your marriage and kids. My dad said you always prepared
nutritious food, and enough of it, though you weren’t known as a good cook.
I look for more than a physical resemblance as I bake your sugar cookies
and buttercreams, too. When I lead a Girl Scout Troop and do community service
I focus on the commonalities, the family values of doing, caring, and acting
reframe nostalgia as a better path like common core math, I forgive them,
which really means forgiving myself for feeling like I’m never enough.
Ode to Noon / by Joseph Heithaus
Liminal middle stuck between
morning and afternoon
like a doorway I’ve forgotten
I passed through. Lunch
time, lunch bucket, lunch box,
noon, we open you momentarily
then close you up again. In westerns
you’re always high
and men with six shooters
shoot through you
at each other. All that ooh—shoot,
you, shooter, soot on a ten gallon
hat when it falls, blood oozing
out and down onto chaps. Noon,
you’re lit, lighting it up
and doing the math—
six shooter plus
six shooter equals twelve long bells
to mark the morning dying and the dead
and all the numbers ringing
in my head. Oh, you’re the hub,
noon, spinning the spokes
of a day’s future and past—
the night’s drowsiness,
dreams, the G.D. dog barking
at 2. Noon, do you remember the fevered
child awake, the moths looking
for the moon in the street light, the light
rain at 4:17, the cooing dawn, the pinking
clouds, the coffee, the lovers,
the scrambling of eggs? You
spin right past that, don’t you?
to the doldrums of 1, the mail
at 2:22, the chainsaws of 4:17,
drinks, dinner, and maybe
some TV before turning in,
you are smack in the middle
of it all. You are the pan
in pandemic, lifted like a threat,
like a sun in the middle
of the sky, noon. Oh, I could
just squeeze you to death,
like a living breathing orange,
but you allude us, noon, slip through
me like all time does, adding
a little age, a little wear
and tear, a little tear my eye
for your passing and all that gets lost
in the small room of you,
box of you, grain of you,
you’re big and small, noon,
here, there, then gone, noon.
Three snakes / by Jules Lattimer
At night we take
the snake road
out into the desert
at peaks in different
colors, sun staining
them orange pink
something new every time
purple this is the only
time of day I’m not looking
at curves on a screen red
and rising I remember
the snake you killed
at the cattle ranch You split her
into yellow parts with
a desk chair she snapped
her jaw at its wooden legs
Her head was triangular
which you tell me means
she’s poisonous Could you
imagine being poisonous
The snake in the Petit Prince
ate a living elephant whole
made a mountain out of his
body a line graph
I now consider something
more insidious except that one
flattens out at the tail
Are We There Yet? / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Shirley Phillips
Every night, kneeling on the hardwood of the hallway,
we would pray for my brother to stop pinching, biting, and scratching.
We added a please God, for good measure.
Trained to be polite, we knew when to shine our manners.
Aunt Bernice would have none of this waiting for divine intervention.
One night, while babysitting, she bit my brother back.
Hard. On the fleshy part of his arm. Right there in the living room.
Just sank her teeth into my brother’s flesh.
And that’s the end of that, she told him.
Aunt Bernice became my father’s secret weapon
on trips across the Pennsylvania turnpike.
My father’s arms spanned the width of our Pontiac Firebird.
A don’t make me stop this car kind of patriarch,
he threatened to pull over, punctuating his upbraiding
with a full throttle arm whack that knocked us clear to the floor.
Aunt Bernice straddled the hump. Tiny parcel of a Polish woman,
her feet never reached the floor. Always a case of Vernors
wedged between her knees. We smuggled this carbonation
across state lines. Concocted only in Detroit, relatives in Pennsylvania
counted on this yearly contraband of gingered ale.
Between Detroit and the coal mines of western Pennsylvania,
seven tunnels bored through the Allegheny Mountains,
and if you strung them together end to lighted end,
you’d be cocooned inside the mountain for seven miles.
Radio frequencies shredded to fuzzy static.
Only the purr of the tires on concrete.
Headlights glaring, we excavated these mountains
in the safety of our Firebird, barreling through granite.
Laurel Hill Tunnel appeared after a tortuous climb.
Car wheezing and coughing, we squeezed down to one lane.
Bottleneck with a three hour wait.
And this is where Aunt Bernice took control of the narrative.
She shamelessly stooped to bribery.
Our pay-attention spans short – worse than a gnat, Bernice would say.
If we behaved for twenty whole minutes, Aunt Bernice promised
a reward. We squirmed, shuffled, wiggled our eyebrows at each other,
but there was no pinching, biting, or scratching. No one made a sound.
Aunt Bernice reached into her mouth.
Pried her dentures from her gums. Handed them to my brother.
He forced the teeth to open and close, making smacking sounds
with his own lips. Made these skeleton teeth clatter and chatter.
But I watched Aunt Bernice’s mouth. Without teeth,
a granny smith apple woman. Face shriveled.
Soaked in lemon juice and salt. Shrunken head of a woman.
Dried fruit of a woman. Compote drained of all juice.
She smacked her lips. Tried to sing without her teeth.
Kissed my cheek with her toothlessness. Winked at me.
And if we behaved for another twenty minutes,
she would roll up the sleeves of her black pilled cardigan,
expose her arms to us in the backseat of that Firebird.
Offer the soft fleshy part to us.
Flicking our fingers onto her jiggling parts, we pounded out
rhythms to Old MacDonald, My Darlin’ Clementine,
and In Heaven There is No Beer polka. Her bye-bye arms,
her bat wings, her flopping fish, all became our percussion
as we sang our way through the mountain.
At journey’s end, pulling into the house on Spruce Street,
angel wings — Polish Chrusciki — would be waiting for us.
Nana had rolled out the dough, fried these twisted bits
in crackling oil. Lathered with powder sugar,
these earthbound angels never took flight.
Aunt Bernice and Nana would make bilinis — Slovak potato pancakes—
while gulping the moonshine boilo kept under the kitchen sink.
Two bowls and two graters, they would grind each potato
down to a nub, raw fingers scraping against the grate,
blood from their hands dripping into the pulverized mash.
We devoured these fried pancakes slathered with sour cream.
And after dinner, the Vernors case would be pried open.
Frothy golden liquid poured over two scoops of vanilla ice cream,
fresh from Martusi’s corner grocery.
We’d wander up the mountain to the garages,
where my granddaddy raised pigeons.
Late into the night,
to the tune of these crooning birds,
Aunt Bernice and I shared a Vernors float.
Sitting in her lap,
with dentures back in her mouth,
with her sweater keeping her bat wings warm,
we sipped out of one straw.
And summer was never so sweet,
so creamy carbonated,
so lip-smacking good.
Teenage conception / by Jerry Rumph
While out for a run in the bicycle lane
I saw the Gambler’s discarded pack of Pinnacles
strewn in the gutter covered in road grime.
These cards must have been
the gambler’s last losing hand
tossed from the window when he folded
and sauntered from life’s felt table.
Our cards survive
in the dresser drawer
creased but clean.
We first unwrapped them on a full motion
waterbed positioned on second-floor
floorboards wholly unsuitable
to holding the weight of our world.
Unlike the Gambler,
we bet on life without protection
and so far, keep winning.
Poem 13 / Day 13
Self-Portrait with Sickness / by Michelle Acker
It’s not like I haven’t been exhausted before.
It’s not like I haven’t let my body quietly
chug away while I sleep before.
Semi-automatic in the business of living.
Today, I changed the water in the fish tank
because I was afraid the fish would die
of ammonia buildup if I waited. A few days ago
I was clumsy and tipped in too much food.
Decay can overwhelm small ecosystems.
I wish the fish were self-sufficient, but they aren’t.
It made me tired, but I did it.
And wrote this poem.
WHY I CAN’T DELETE MY DAUGHTER’S
VOICEMAIL MESSAGES, EVEN AFTER THREE YEARS / by Laura Apol
Those last words, curled like a fist, like
a baby’s ear, like
the head of a fern—
such a long-ago fern,
Her voice, fossilized, too—
insect in amber,
window onto the past. Trapped
in the resin:
some kind of beauty. Some kind of death.
If ever. for Rosemary C. Reilly / by Sandra Faulkner
you take the easy way out
shake-up your reigning flood &
the dead bird of rejection.
The Sun the Earth / by Joseph Heithaus
The heat has broken after a long spell of sweaty days and the porch is cool at 8 am and the sun the earth has spun toward makes long shadows of the plastic Adirondack chairs, the empty clay pots my wife picked up at Goodwill, the sign in the front yard that states our beliefs in what matters and what is real and I can hear, just now, the train that passes down on the tracks north of our town, which is a sound I like as it grows and fades. A dog barks. Mourning doves make their unmistakable coos. The quiet underneath these sounds is really cicadas and a breeze inside the redbuds and the maples. The engine is sounding its horn to cut time into parts leaving the past few minutes behind it like its clattering cars. Maybe I’m thinking of progress and regress and pandemic, but that’s a bit like the train’s horn that has crossed a scatter of gravel, wild flowers, weeds, creeks, trees, lawns, the roofs of houses to get to me alone on my porch on the sweetest of mornings. I know there’s much that isn’t good or right, but it seems distant for now and I feel and see the light pass through leaves and realize they are more beautiful than a cathedral’s stained glass windows. I almost laugh when I think of paintings, poetry, novels I love and how their aspirations can’t live up to the perfect gleam of light, the spray of lit leaves reflected in the back window of our ancient beat up minivan. James Wright speaks in one poem of lit up sewage flowing into the Ohio, remarking on its beauty despite its everything else. Anyway, here’s to cool mornings and distant trains and the barking dogs a few streets away that just won’t stop. Here’s to justice and cure and the gift of every second like this.
untitled.13 / by Jacob Hunt
in a house of robbers and thugs he wrote songs of love and
careful whispers in hushed tones (of our dreams no one should know, these forbidden secrets)
told tales of times when sparrows sang simple songs
the trees whistled while we walked
in the clearing
the people believed
magic coursed through clear veins
weapons, n’er raised
silent nights and holy hands
kings were born and
and listen close
the stories they wrote
in books, still bound but
fable and myth
wives tales and lore
drapes drawn shut
locks on doors
what you have heard, these cautionary tales
to this day,
one may feel magic in her veins
fires start in hearts
yearning for more
we chase the setting sun
enemies armed with erasers and a gun
under the moon, a crowd gathered
lifted their voices, a promise to stand forevermore (listen and the trees and beast will remind you
of the days to come)
Stalling / by Jules Lattimer
I dreamt we
asked you to
wake me up
at 7 and when
coffee to me
still in bed at
10 I was just
in my face
face in a pillow
in a dab of
my own spit
in our new
of me I move
a dish from here
wipe this off
stain and make
mess, pick up
and shut a
door It is
the private silent
the soft nudging
of a hot water
fear I am
a mute machine
stir the rice
press the button
move the pillows
turn the lock and
in the drying rack
Still Life / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Ellen Hoard
“… For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoon
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons…”
-from “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot
My beloved has mastered the artistry
of corralling his hair into a ponytail.
Blindfolded hairdresser, he crosses fingers
over and under, manipulating the elastic tie,
unable to view the proceedings
as he exposes his neck.
Tonight he reads Yeats out loud to me.
Cursed Adam knows this verse cultivating
is yeoman’s work:
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these.
Dirt gathers underneath my fingernails
as I dig in the muck of memory. My beloved offers
shovels and trowels, tools to assist this unearthing of soil,
this aerating of clods of clay. I plant splintered popsicle sticks
in the dirt, hard scrapple words scribbled on them,
fodder for days that are just fog upon fog.
Tonight I read Pablo Neruda to my lover.
Let’s not speak in any language
let’s stop for a second
and not move our arms so much.
He tells me , “Quiet is a good place to be.”
His reading glasses came apart in his hands,
earpiece detaching. Tonight
he wears my readers, purple frames
balanced on the edge of his nose.
I offer him brie and fig jam.
There will be slices of nectarines,
crackers composed of cauliflower and chia seeds.
There was a time we read poems to each other every night.
He- enamored with sound and sense,
the smooth collusion of vowels paired with meaning,
of consonants blended with the severity of sound.
I- enchanted with sensory images,
the collision of sensuality and seduction,
of the tactile and the olfactory
fusing at the base of the spine.
I have dressed all in white,
baked a bushel barrel of black cake,
slipped beneath Emily Dickinson’s skin.
I am his sullied bride, molasses stains on my apron,
flour on the tips of my wide heeled, sensible shoes.
He steams open my Letter to the World.
I want him to withhold judgement,
to open me with majestic tenderness.
I wait for a reply. The post is fickle these days.
A letter could linger in a pile for days on days.
My hair is as long as it has ever been.
He smooths out the snarls with his fingers,
pulling at the roots.
I miss the splash of the pelican’s deep dive,
the blue heron still life on the edge of the dock.
I miss the wine and the whisky
while we predicted the colors of the sunset.
I miss keeping watch for Portuguese man o war,
our feet naked and vulnerable.
Tonight, I will fall asleep on his chest.
I rehearse surreal stories as I doze off.
A cloud passes over the moon, cuts the moon in two.
A razor blade passes over an eyeball, cuts the eyeball in two.
I never knew the moon could bleed.
I never knew an eyeball could disintegrate.
My beloved tastes of fig jam and cracker crumbs.
I devour him all night long.
For now, it is enough.
I have more than I can hold.
For now, it is more than enough.
Poem 12 / Day 12
Scenes from Tallahassee Memorial / by Michelle Acker
A corner of light
from the high unseen
the thin film of blood
in the IV.
the name on the bracelet
doesn’t look like mine.
QUARANTINE FATIGUE / by Laura Apol
I can’t see what the puppy is carrying as she returns to the house but I
do note how proudly she is prancing along the walk, how gently she
pads along on her enormous puppy feet—think she is growing into a
such a good dog. She is a creature of sticks and stones deposited on the
deck where she learns the world with her tongue and teeth and jaws. So
as she turns to face me I am not surprised when something falls from
her open mouth. From this distance I can see it is small and soft and
round; no clatter of black walnut or green apple, but a dull dropping.
By the time I reach her, she is only about the treasure, hidden once
more; even a treat in trade is of little interest. Until I find something she
finds worth swapping, and she leaves it: a mole—pink feet, pink
nose—tiny and wet and dead. The mama cat is teaching her kittens to
hunt, so this is surely someone else’s prize—kitten or cat. There was a
time when I would have stopped, did stop the cat from
killing—intervened. I am tired of loss. I am more tired of preventing
loss, imagining I can keep from happening what is bound to be. Geese
fly overhead, honking, and the puppy is distracted by wings. I put her
in the house, put the dead mole back in the grass, where whatever will
be, will be.
A Child Of The Fifties Looks Out On A Lake / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
The sand is imported here to make a beach
on the shores of this mountain lake, where families
pile in for fifties-style fun. Grills sizzle and send up
aromatic invitations to gather as scrawny boys tumble
into a dad’s pickup bed, a squirming mass of bony scapulas,
lake tousled hair, ribs articulated against white skin.
Under a generous sun, against the shimmering water,
kayaks, canoes and large beach umbrellas shine
like baubles against the lodge poles towering here,
serene background in a whispering breeze.
How like it has always been, I muse.
In the grip of this scene, I jolt. What happened?
Don’t these people know?
That night another scene spools yet again.
I’m going to a store to get baby shoes, maybe
look at dresses. Like it used to be,
like it cannot be now because
of the danger, the panic I feel
if someone unmasked
gets too close. Urgent
steps back, impulse
to flee, stay away, stay away.
Under the blaze of the same sun
over a different lake in an earlier time
it was also true. What you cannot see lurks,
still like the thing that maimed long ago
in wait to sicken and kill – new, ghastly, now.
Don’t they know?
The Other Side of COVID / by Sandra Faulkner
for Melanie Mills
What if there is no other side?
The choices we make
all bad options on a rigged menu
like rotting fruit in fields,
gallons of milk spilt
down the drain
because of not seeing
the other sides.
I wear a mask on a bike ride
along my local rail to trail
and revert back to my first-grade self,
the shy child who doesn’t want to talk-
and you can’t make me-
being covered from nose to toe
a shield from social niceties;
when people nod and say hello
as we pass the corn growing tall
I won’t meet their gaze,
furious at their aerosols
spraying in my direction
their naked faces glowing
like a vector of White-hot July sun.
Is this the psychophysical numbing
the labeling of Cul-De-Sac Americans,
Angry Democrat Socialists;
when some of us have gotten through
will everyone look better on the other side?
Self Portrait in a River / by Joseph Heithaus
The sky’s inside the river and its stones,
minnows flit in shallows and the bones
of words once spoken sink into the mud
like all the dross the water finds: the blood
you wash away, bald tires, out of fashion
cars, the dreams you had become slow motion
reels reeling out like fish on lines that snap
so nothing’s left but tangle as waves lap
against the bank. From above the vultures
glide and kettle while floods cut the river
wide or change its course and still the spilling
sky comes down while some kid’s skipping
stones that leap across the flow and sink
into colors, snow-melt, rains, and days you drink
in with a look, this shifting border, place
to eye the eyes inside your murky face.
untitled.12 / by Jacob Hunt
today i woke up without my beating heart
we walked in the rain walked in the rain
walked four days
out in the cold, what have i done
sky pours out
letting its wrath be felt
shaking the earth to the core
where have you gone
spinning in circles
aimless, without cause
or a clue
where am i
took a knife and
cut a hole in my chest
then jumped out
and ran for the hills
is this blood mine
oh my old heart
tell me a story
a tale of your thrill
the killing of oneself is a process
the dam broke a year ago
the knife ran through
when i look in the
i see my worst self
the evil inside
these demons of mine
who are you
oh my old heart
i wish you would return
until then i will send postcards
do you have the answers
set free from
Sunflower poem / by Jules Lattimer
My doctor wrote to me about screens
said to rest my eyes for 20 seconds
every 20 minutes to look past the bright
And when I do I see the flowers the
ones I got you Friday The bouquet of wild
sunflowers In terracotta on the table
crowded by coffee cups candles and
vitamin bottles The lower sunflower’s
newly drooping covering the Theanine cap
with petals pressing yellow deeper
into the white plastic every time I rest my
eyes I never catch a flower in motion I see
the still life consequence of movement It
must turn downward discolor wrinkle
and die—a whole life I only catch quietly
in images I got you flowers I’m sorry
the first one died in two days I meant to
relieve you from the screen saying death
saying numbers rising But even here we
see another one falling, in a circle of
junk, right in front of us How do we save
a flower that won’t show us how it moves
In the other room I have a blue hydrangea
in a book the one from your backyard you
sent with me to Maine How does that one
get to live forever. Baby, I’ll plant a garden
I’m going to show you about life— the kind
I make—life that blooms and grows and
watch this like our time together, Baby the
best part of a kiss is waiting for it. How do
we see each other through this grieving I
didn’t do the dishes I could barely stand I want
you to know that love, like everything organic
has to reproduce and respond and
you know what, we made a life out of
our mourning and every day that I get up
and brush my teeth I’m telling you I will be
here, growing taller making life out of myself
for you Baby the best part of this year
will be watching us work it out
The Life and Times of Andrew Kohan / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Patricia Frank
“…I have no idea, to this day, what those two Italian ladies
were singing about… I tell you those voices soared higher and
farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like
some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made
those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every
last man at Shawshank felt free…”
-Red, from Shawshank Redemption
Uncle Andy came back from the war shell-shocked.
He’d been one of Patton’s secretaries in the war,
typing furious fast behind enemy lines.
Before the war, he wanted to be a doctor, enrolled in medical school,
but the professors kept failing him,
certain he was Jewish with a last name like Kohan.
Coming home, he ran messages on Wall Street,
carrying trade orders to the broker’s floor for execution.
Carried these errands on legs that still moved military fast.
When his limbs grew weary, he became a Newsie, a street vendor,
claiming ownership of a bustling intersection in Newark.
Extra! Extra ! Read all about it! hawking sensational news.
But a trio of hungry kids pinned him in a nearby alley,
demanded he empty his pockets from the newspaper sales,
beat him bloody for four dollars and fifty cents.
Jaw wired shut, he spent months in hospital.
No change in his pockets, no identification for this John Doe
with no license, no car. No one came for him.
Summer arrived, and he took the bus out to Michigan.
My Mama, his sister, fed him at 8, noon, and 4 every day.
Black boiling kettles of lima beans floating in vinegar broth,
of wax beans in buttermilk. Slovak recipes passed down.
He would devour them in front of the television,
watching Warner Brothers cartoons only,
humming along with the pieces borrowed from opera.
In Newark, he would purchase standing room only tickets
for the Met. His goal: to see one hundred
different operas in his lifetime. Saturday matinees, his favorite.
They found him, years later,
his tenement stacked with newspapers floor to ceiling,
a maze of ink and newsprint, leading to a twin mattress.
His pillow was safekeeping for one hundred librettos:
Puccini’s La Boheme and Purcell’s Dide and Aeneas
Verdi’s La Traviata and Smetana’s Bartered Bride
Bizet’s Carmen and Beethoven’s Fidelio
Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and Rossini’s Barber of Seville
Every night he rested his head on these librettos,
hearing arias in his dreams,
hearing cadenzas in his turnings,
hearing grace notes as he caught his breath.
They found him, transistor radio next to his bed
still tuned to WQXR out of New York City,
home to the Metropolitan Opera. Dame Joan Sutherland
and Marilyn Horne singing Little Flower Duet,
a cascade of soprano and mezzo soprano:
Under dome of white jasmine
With roses entwined together
On a river bank covered with flowers
Laughing in the morning
Let us descend together.
One hand reaches
Reaches for the bank
Where the spring sleeps and
The birds, the birds sing.
And in the pocket of his jacket
they found a single garnet in a burlap drawstring sack.
A poor man’s ruby, tucked into his pocket, for safekeeping.
And in the sack, a note, bequeathing his only valuable
to his sister. Her birthday gemstone.
He remembered how she danced to Big Band tunes,
a shindig of a celebration for her January first birthday.
Make a ring or a necklace,
have this garnet set in a bracelet.
Wear it to remember.
stone of primordial fire,
creating the world out of chaos and confusion.
This garnet, a flash of lightning within.
This gemstone wedged in wounds to urge the clotting of blood.
Stone of commitment and truth.
Gem of removing stubborn inhibition, relentless taboos.
Stone of prosperity and abundance.
Talisman for good luck, for shielding from negativity.
Warrior stone to protect from inflicted wounds.
His sister, my mother, knew of the garnet’s magical powers,
knew of its ability to alleviate nightmares,
knew farmers in Czecheslovakia believed it to be living fire,
knew of its promise to dispel all melancholy, all sadness.
My mother kept the garnet
close, under her pillow, until she died in her sleep:
hoping for its magic to take root ,
hoping for its shimmering living fire
to protect all she held dear,
hoping for this warrior stone
to heal all her wounds.
Toward a more perfect union / by Jerry Rumph
I noticed John Jay the other day
on a table at Beans and Scones, sitting
across from Alex Ham like he owned the place.
I mentioned you and us,
our ups and downs.
He left his seat
took me by the hand
and opened up to me.
He couldn’t help leading me
to the corner sofa to offer his advice,
like some relationship expert.
With parched opinions, he advised
we should stay together
because we had gathered a few friends,
learned how to pool our resources,
and two’s better than one in a fight.
I studied his face, his musty breath mixed
with the steam forming over my Earl Grey.
I could tell he judged me for my beverage.
When he finished opining, I demurred,
not on the idea of togetherness,
but Jay’s reasons.
I said, “Jay we shouldn’t stay
together solely for security” –
which is all his words boiled down to –
“but because of our ability together
to accept ideas coming through a prism,
to patch our love into quilts,
to hear each other on god and not god.
Plus, I love your different kinds of pizza.”
Jay just scoffed and returned to Alex
while I finished my tea in peace.
Poem 11 / Day 11
Landscape with Pink Orchid / by Michelle Acker
blue checked tablecloth
three fingernails of flame
calamity of apples
wet window screen
NEVER THE RIVER / by Laura Apol
Solstice 2020, and over Asia there’s an annular
eclipse, a bright ring of fire, corona haloing
the empty circle of sun. Here, the first day of summer
is a corona of sameness, more social distance,
unseasonably warm. A bad day for sapling pines;
a good day for crows. In a murder
they circle an imperial hawk, chase it from their trees,
black caws darkening the sky. The longest day,
and a boat motors my river after sunset; I see lights,
hear voices across the water. Someone coughs, coughs,
coughs again. What can they catch after dark?
And what, after all, is mine? Not the steelhead or walleye
or smallmouth bass. Not the tree frog or the fleet bats
over the reeds. Not the crows fanning the last embers
of day. And never the river. The fishing men don’t know
I am listening—last fire drained from the sky now;
muddy smell of water and air. From this day, our lives
will be shorter. From here on, less light. Move on,
I want to tell them. Move on. The sun has gone out
and the river is pushing—always pushing—
Still Life with Dad’s Chocolate Bowl / by Sandra Faulkner
The salad bowl/a wedding present/the bowl with a pewter band/the stash of chocolate/always Hershey and always King Size/the bowl tucked in the cupboard by the refrigerator/the bowl with odds and ends rests on a shelf/ beside the cocktail shaker and boxes of broth/too high to see inside/small hands stretch up in search/smear the grease of childhood on the rim/the bowl holds domestic detritus/never the acid of dressing/but flashlights, batteries, and books of restaurant matches/49 years in the same place/scenes of domestic reckoning by the bowl/the time Mom threw a pack of hotdogs at Dad/her anger thudded against his chest/and fell to the floor by his feet/his arms and hands glued to his sides/kids stunned into quiet/the uncharacteristic turn of passive aggressiveness/by the cupboard/checking for chocolate/the bowl with the sweets and the secrets/menthol cigarettes before he quit/if you pilfered one or two to smoke with a friend behind a car in the cul-de-sac/no one noticed the theft/the bowl was always full of jumble/like the noise of a full house/sometimes foil packs of airline peanuts out of the briefcase/locked with a brass key/black government issue ball-point pens that skip on paper/kids still creak open the door/their grown hands search for treats/in the bowl with bolts and odd screws to machines no one remembers
Clouds or Anyone / by Joseph Heithaus
For the Monteverde Friends
It was inside the rough oval
of benches, inside the meeting house—
timber-framed, a wall of glass,
doors open to wind
and clouds or anyone
who wafted in—
I learned that wounds are stitched
to wounds, joys’ concentric
echoes intersect, and words are flimsy
bags that carry less
untitled.11 / by Jacob Hunt
the glass broke
leaving shards on the ground
walking on glass and coals
wondering why our feet hurt
it has been nine years since the flood but you still dream of drowning
have you listened to the newest song
the one we used to sing
when we would roll the windows down
wind blowing through your hair
you used to look at me and smile
we placed glass around our hearts to keep ourselves safe
but didnt think
the glass could break
when the glass broke
we walked on glass and coals
wondered why our feet hurt
a symptom from our hearts
nine years ago water broke through the wall
coughing up water for days
remembering how we would gasp
searching for air
only finding water
our lungs filled with liquid
while our hearts poured out
nine years ago the glass broke/we were never the same/still dreaming of drowning
running in place
not knowing where to go
but that we cannot stay
Escape Artist in Training / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Rosalie
When she was eight, she won the “Best Hobo” contest at school.
But that night, she took her knapsack, tied it on an old broomstick,
filled that red bandana with vanilla wafers
with her Let the Hurricane Roar book
with her Jamie doll
with her glow-in-the-dark necklace
and she left home.
Grievances tucked into the folds of her knapsack,
wafer crumbs on her fingers.
When she was ten, she climbed through her bedroom window,
navigating her way through a bramble of forsythia limbs.
Pollen on her palms, she skips to the Kinyon Trails woods
barefoot, sure-footed, she bounds over puddles of mud.
At the base of the birch tree, she presses her feet into steel toed shoes,
criss-crosses the laces up her ballerina ankles.
She dances with roots of the live oak,
arabesques with flowering dogwood,
pirouettes between branches of pussy willow blossoms.
When she was twelve, she woke in the hollow of the night.
Without the clarity of her glasses, she found her way
to the window leading out into the meadow.
She wanted to gather a bouquet of honeysuckle,
wrap the cloying petals in a triangle package of lavender tulle.
Wanted to put one dandelion behind her left ear.
Wanted to blow the seeds off a naked dandelion.
Wanted to give birth to a whole field of dandelions.
When she was fourteen, she awoke in a soggy sweat
bangs plastered to her forehead,
blemishes and blackheads taking root in her adolescent skin.
She found the door leading to the garden.
She wanted to pull it open,
rub her face with cucumber juice right off the vine,
wanted to iron the wrinkles out of the butterhead lettuce,
wanted to kiss squash blossoms between her lips,
wanted to dance to the coo of the mourning doves at dawn.
When she was sixteen, she awoke far before the alarm,
far before the katydids stopped singing.
And she found the glass doorwall, tight sealed,
no draughts through this aperture.
The lock stubborn, her fingers determined,
she claws at the glass until her nails are raw.
Until her fingers bleed onto the glass.
no longer pressed into kindergarten plaster
for a Mother’s Day gift
but carved into Picasso patterns
severed from wrists
severed from elbows
severed from whole limbs.
A Rorschach splotch left behind as evidence,
to be read and deciphered in the morning.
On a summer morning after stepdad dies / by Jerry Rumph
Nothing’s more comforting
than cinereous nimbostratus
sagging a stitch above
swinging loblolly’s head.
It signals Earth’s real
and Heaven is close
even if all Hell’s
gonna break loose.
Poem 10 / Day 10
Non-Attachment / Hopper / by Michelle Acker
Meditation’s about letting go,
the way I understand it. Non-attachment.
Like how slats of light flow
down the walls, across the floor, and fade:
or not, if it’s cloudy, etc.
That’s you: the disappearing light, the shade;
all of it. Alive with sorrow
one moment and gone the next, or human-shaped
today and something else tomorrow.
Capable of language, but only right now, if words
are what we think they are and not
the howling of the wind or the frantic tunneling of worms
as if to say, this place is frightening
and maybe some other place isn’t. In a coffee table book
on Hopper, his shadows and lightening
gas pumps and women, the text explains the motion
of his life, and his art, intertwined
as landscapes of rivers gave way to stucco doors full of ocean.
His alchemization of impressionism, duller
than Americana. His bending into the thick corners of oils
from the mutable world of watercolor.
Stigmata / by Laura Apol
I can’t stop finding things
the orange kitten I feed with a dropper,
a painted turtle on the lane, the brown-needled
saplings in a row along the drive
—each morning I carry buckets, certain
I can bring back green. There were winters
I knocked early snow from the lower limbs
of a 50-foot fir, thinking I mattered.
Last summer it was monarchs, dozens of them—
caterpillars to chrysalids to wings.
There is no end to the ways
I am needed
after a bad health report, a cheating colleague,
a lying girlfriend, breast cancer in a true love
—didn’t see the headlights or the brakelights
or the train bearing down; didn’t read the currents
in the river. Didn’t know the headache was
the heart racing was the late nights or the slurred
speech. And how.
My sad father calls and I am the good
girl I have been since childhood, all audience
since my mother died. I could have fixed him
if he’d let me. Now I am happy just to make him
happy, to be the rapt mirror for
his need because
I know I can save the listless kitten,
the pencil-thin pines, the lonely
men—tell me your story—can hold out
my stigmata palms
to the one who misses me
even though we have never met; the one
who has never felt so fully understood; the one
who says I remind him of his dead mother dead
wife favorite aunt first love. So when he phones
again, I say yes and I listen, sure this time
I can mend
the unbearable hole in my father’s heart.
Faces in the Mirror / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
does death become
after the exuberant
defy this thing
through cavities –
how do we know
did she focus
on heaven did he
– withered with pain –
and what of the rest,
what of eternity,
Already in demise,
My friend asks me to write a poem about sax and jazz / by Sandra Faulkner
for Cheri Dorn Kropp
I hear sex and jazz when I think of jazz
I think of sex
jazzandsex sexandjazz jazz/sex/jazz sexjazz
when we were roommates in our early 20’s
we listened to jazz we talked about sex
because what else do you talk about
when you are young sex and revolutions what to do with your
love and energy
we both played sax in highschool though I never could get
the swung measures too much need to control
what cannot be controlled
and isn’t jazz really about sax
and sax is really about jazz
and maybe at mid-life sex is really about love
and giving up control
I played Blue Train on repeat repeat repeatrepeatrepeat
when I needed to leave a relationship that looked like
a train steaming toward beige siding in a Cul-De-Sac
Coltrane played using both the major and minor 3rd wrecked love
with the E Flat 7(#9) chord
taking us on a ride to what sax and jazz
can do do done has done will do
a supreme love a celestial sound Love in the time of COVID
all improvisation jazz and sex and sax at mid-life sex/jazz/sax
muscle memory of touch
the marks past lovers make
you can’t erase the love played onto your body
Invocation to Zero / by Joseph Heithaus
Come bare oval, sign of nothing, empty
ring, erase the digits of hands clenching
the dirt inside them or open and grasping
for bread. Reduce the clutter of war, mess
of hate, the awkward noise of screams scratching
the implacable air for justice or kindness,
mercy or grace. Come no one to nowhere,
contain in your round mouth the dry vacant
eyes of starved children and the hollow egos
of those turning their backs, swallow the guns
and boots, the bullets and the holes they make
in flesh, become a great pit, deep void,
make an abyss of blood stain, torture, death
march, circle it all in a desperate scrawl.
untitled.10 / by Jacob Hunt
“and that,” he said, “is just how its supposed to be”
and he left
me, with so many questions
and fewer answers than i had before
to contemplate the contradictions that i see
and what i saw that day
i could hang my head
or testify until i reach my grave
life, debilitating energy beneath my feet
all he said
was that all is how it should have been
this is how it was supposed to be
(i thought i deserved a longer explanation and you. you, you, you think this isnt enough there are no true questions, no answers, you are left wondering. left waiting. left hanging.
there is a version of myself that was found hanging.
so i will leave you
and this poem
Friday poem / by Jules Lattimer
The dog stepped
on a thorn licked
my arm locked
his legs and fell over the
desert is a bucket
of sand and stickers and
broken glass every day
we pass the nopal
with the shopping bag shirt
the yellow blossoms a
sunset measurable in size
a flower bush pushed
up against a chain link grassy
compassion an overturned
june bug the boxer
off her leash
Mapping Our Universe / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Alicia Alexandra
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our
little life is rounded with a sleep…”
-Prospero, The Tempest
I wanted to be one of those women who age gracefully.
No foils tangled in my hair at the salon.
No Loreal because-you-are-worth-it boxes of hair dye.
I wanted to embrace the gravity of my body,
the necessary weight of each part, each act,
as vertebrae collapse,
shrinking half inch by half inch every year.
I hide from my own image in the mirror.
No amount of fluttering scarves
or layers of linen and gauze
will smooth out my middle.
My hip bones no longer protrude,
are almost impossible to find.
I have become soft.
But I don’t want to escape the brown spots
emerging willy-nilly on my hands.
Refuse to concoct disappearing potions
of hydrogen peroxide and bicarbonate of soda
of potato starch and sugar
of apple cider vinegar and aloe vera on a cotton ball
of citric acid and vitamin C from sour lemons.
Scars without injury.
My hands a canvas for configurations
without a back story.
Not like the tracks of hammer claws
on my right arm, remnant of a tool struggle with my brother
as we pounded shingles into a leaky roof.
Not like the half crown of stitches
embroidered on my neck.
A tumor too expanded for a needle biopsy.
Not like the shiny smooth rectangle on my left shin.
Souvenir of teaching the neighborhood to jump off a pool ladder.
Remnant of not having cleared the ladder, scrapping aluminum,
bony shins gone summer bloody.
I want my granddaughter,
the one who carries my name,
to connect these dots, these liver spots,
with a bright purple magic marker.
We are formed from the same stardust,
she and I, mapped from abundance
of oxygen and hydrogen,
a cornucopia of carbon and nitrogen,
a collision of calcium and phosphorus.
I want her to create constellations
on the tender surface of my animal body.
Primordial soup of the skies.
We are the infinite stuff of stars.
She carries my name
into startling galaxies she creates.
We are ancient souls, the two of us.
Bright flickering lighthouse,
luminary just off the shore,
we carry each other home.
Please don’t hold my Hawaiian shirt against me / by Jerry Rumph
As I’ve aged, I’ve come to realize I like
ladies’ bags for some reason. No, I know why
because the design of their zippers and their stylish
lines draw my eye to them on department store shelves.
If I wasn’t afraid, I’d walk about proudly toting my life
around in a flashy chic satchel, but nothing too gaudy.
I like wearing Hawaiian shirts, too,
strolling through a supermarket in California
or Florida like I was searching for sunscreen
instead of buying milk and cheese and a 9v battery.
I wore them before they were fashionable with incels
who wanted to look like a middle-aged dad on holiday.
I think their sweaty corpulence would be more
at home in white robes and pointy hoods.
Personally, I’d rather raise eyebrows with a handbag strapped
over my Hawaiian shirt than an AR 15 loaded with hate.
Poem 9 / Day 9
“Carry On Phenomenon” / by Michelle Acker
When I remember the story of Orpheus
I sometimes confuse him with Lot.
Eurydice pillar of salt.
The mind irrepressibly rivers connections,
like that between bed and sleep.
Or song and a memory.
Like the summer I listened to Kishi Bashi
on repeat; now, unbidden—
an unfurling summer street,
the blue sky, the barn roofs, the soapsud-churned stormclouds
pulling me from one place to
another place I wanted
to be. The memory silent, of course. Like when
the radio plays on and on—
Why Literature / by Laura Apol
In a room full of answers,
a man asks the question,
and though there is a flurry of response
that culminates with Borges and Foucault
and the ways air waves
can take down a bridge,
I am still.
In the stifle of that confident room
I could not have explained
but here, sunshine burning a metal roof,
I can say it:
I was a child in a small Dutch-Calvinist farm town,
the world tidy as the flower-bordered walks,
an all-seeing sky,
and the wild heart I was born with
was tamed, trained and restrained
into lap-dog civility.
And then I learned to read.
Mother is / by Sandra Faulkner
a verb: to Mother is not biology
not tied to body parts
and oh how I want to be Mothered now;
they said rest when you become a Mother
but there is only touch
and holding one another
so touch me like storied silk;
think of how white tail rabbits
weave a nest out of grass and their own hair
avoid the nest during daylight
to not alert the neighborhood dogs
feeding their kittens in the crepuscular light;
let’s make a poultice out of silk
and rage, stir the pot of trouble bubbling
with the spoon of the not-quite Mothered;
I need this dream of our Mother
how she writes the world with a breath
of liquid wrath suspended in a candy bubble;
she swaddles her anger and places it
in a nest of rabbits, wakes up to find
a bouquet of roses in the mailbox;
let Mother be the knot of silk
giving you something to hold
and tie your pain to the knotted places;
Mother knits your clothes in silk
as soft as rabbit fur
so you can breathe exhale
run so fast they can’t hunt you
as you thump your displeasure;
we can’t drink from a dry wild, Mother.
Murmurations / by Joseph Heithaus
The children’s section of the cemetery
has a picket fence to hem in the sadness,
to keep it from invading the maybe
less cruel losses around that ground
so soaked with a kind of emptiness
I can hardly look at the stones.
Still, there are families on the hill
hunched together and their dates tell
of lives long lived, of sacrifice, honor,
love, the principles we’re here to find
even at the funeral for the young
girl with its solemn reminder to forgive
and give and move on. Inside me
are birds and stones. The stones
I’d like to let go of and the birds
I’d like to come from me to sing
and to fly and do what birds do
which is generally to delight.
I want murmurations of starlings
to lift and weave and turn, flock
out of my mouth in clouds vibrant
as light glittering through summer
trees or the sweep of the milky way
slipping down through the dark
like the dust of light. I want birds
murmuring out of me like souls
let loose of the drudges and pains
of the earth, I want lightness
on heavy days. I want birds,
even vultures, let loose and circling.
untitled.9 / by Jacob Hunt
line one- a weight
line two- the weight of the world
line three- has me broken down
line four- on the side of the road
line five- i carry
line six- weight of those i meet
line seven- i carry your hearts with me
line eight- your heart lies within me
line nine- mine in yours
line ten- i feel your heart beating
line eleven- you see the weight
line twelve- the bags under my eyes
line thirteen- my story a horror film
line fourteen- the king will never read
line fifteen- you ask me to breathe
line one- i committed suicide in my dream
line two- is this a memory
line three- or did i miss a meal
line eighteen- where was line two
line twenty four- we were once special
line twenty seven- are we still special
Event / by Jules Lattimer
During the dishes
I listen to the news
calls to the International
Space Station The
stares stone through
the kitchen window
I am a snail behind
terrarium glass Out
there indigo color gel
In here Obscurity borne
not out of space but
time The Great Barrier
Reef over with Virgin
Galactic nearly profitable
in your heart you gotta have
fear The numbers go
half 5 single at least 5 858%
The poet astronaut explains
From Space We’re All
One Planet The cat
will be flattened
by a car I prophesize
and I can’t undo it
Our yard up against
the desert highway My
hands can’t move
from the faucet handle
Up and the water flowing
Finding Softness During This Pandemic / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Scott
Hands soft between us.
I touch your knee in between the silences,
You are the first person I touch every morning.
We settle into old episodes of Jeopardy.
I bow to your expertise on British kings and queens.
You are familiar with the hierarchy of royalty.
You know where heads were lopped off in England.
You point to a red-winged blackbird on the balcony.
She has landed in a bucket of lavender.
We watch her wing her way through the rails.
Your hair has grown longer and longer.
I wrap the curls at the base of your neck
around my fingers.
I could get lost here,
kneading your locks.
You are good yeast between my fingers.
I refuse to domesticate your wildness.
I feed you teaspoons of molasses,
remnants of the ginger cookies
heavy with cinnamon and ginger.
We replicate cells to a critical mass,
knowing the sugar evens everything out.
Last night when you were sleeping
I gathered your hair in my hands,
Played Cat’s Cradle, solitary style.
I wove a witches broom into your hair,
a cup and saucer, even cat’s whiskers.
I crafted a Jacob’s ladder, a star of David.
I fashioned a whole pagan temple, wind cavorting between columns.
I howled at the strawberry moon, breathed from deep places, dantian belly breaths.
I whisper songs without words into your shoulders,
breathe slow and long into your sleeping places.
My soft belly pressed against your back, you moan and sigh.
Rising like yeast, you are the last flesh of the day.
Other’s Problems / by Jerry Rumph
Laurel perched atop a hewn granite scarp,
surveying the vale, the wasteland, the death
below. Pine populated vast areas once dominated
by poplar. Invaders ravaged phloem, xylem, cambium
all. Acid rained from the smog-filled sky. Clouded
streams flowed through ravines, carrying
poison to rivers, carrying poison to sea.
Companies blew off profitable tops. Creatures
of land, sea, and air ceased to be. It was
a monoculture of nothing:
Laurel dismissed these distractions.
Others talk about these problems. Her problem
was this troubling spot on her left flower.
It was faded. No matter how much blush applied,
despite all best efforts, the flower faded. Still,
passers-by complimented the flower.
They all said how beautiful it was,
even snapped photos of it. They were
full of crap, total BS artists.
And her stems kept getting fuller, even plump.
People looked, even stared at her,
but they never touched her. Like
she was diseased. Hazel, that witch over there,
sways mockingly, with saturated blonde blossoms,
all supported by these gossamer-thin stems.
People are always running
their fingers through her hairs.
These were just examples of the many
problems Laurel faced daily. To hell
with the rest. Who cares about some oaks
and stone and trout anyway? No one, that’s who.
Certainly, no one cares about Appalachian
salamanders. They’re slimy and gross,
not to mention they eat bugs.
Who cares if they reduce greenhouse gases?
If someone wants to care about something, then focus
on what really matters: this faded flower
and Laurel’s troublesome expanding branches.
At least that guy with the camera is taking Hazel away.
Poem 8 / Day 8
Packing List (Preparing to Move) / by Michelle Acker
A box of tea light candles, unscented,
and three glass votive candle holders.
The old litter box. A bottle of wine
purchased two weeks ago for $2.99.
Half a closet of clothes. The worst nightstand
in the world, which threatens to tip
when the drawer is rocked open—
but charming, rustic, despite its instability.
It came from a thrift store last August.
A dead miniature rose plant. A thriving
pothos, too. Sometimes called devil’s vine.
An old deck of tarot cards, long-ago gnawed
by two pet rats, long dead. A cat tower.
Two small crystals, which did nothing at all.
A toolbox. An orchid. A cast-iron pan.
A million books on the shelf. A tiny stack
of old records. A bottle of bleach. Bamboo.
Succulents, wilted. A large bowl of apples.
The new bedspread and pillows. A DVD
of a very good movie about a monster
and the woman who loves it.
PHOTO OF MY MOTHER AT EIGHTEEN / by Laura Apol
I want to lean into the white Adirondack
as boldly as she leans back, dark lipstick
and pincurls, sleeveless white blouse, slim
arms wrapping her own waist, and her smile—
that irrepressible smile. She is Fourth of July
fireworks, sunflower turned toward the sun,
and I am somewhere at her center,
swaddled in a future so far off she can barely
dream it. She is so goddamned happy,
and so young. How long before her beautiful cells
begin undoing themselves, myelin dissevering,
nerves ravaged and raw? When is the outset,
the unseen scarring before the scars?
There will be decades from this Adirondack
to the electric-powered chair—years when she rolls
down her socks, rolls up the waist of her skirt,
makes the world hers—until she no longer
feels pain, the sole clue to too close or too much
the smell of flesh, scorched. Those glorious arms.
I want to lean into this woman in the white
Adirondack, head-thrown-back laughing
—so goddamned happy, so young—
whisper to her to burn bright now,
tell her what is going to go out, and too soon,
as if my small voice, my future-tense nudge,
might, someday, save her.
Balance of Power / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
branches angle up and out tall
sunlight gaps in the green leaves breath
life to be seen unlike the democracy
in uneven dirt below a disordered spread
of crooked veins opportunity
for harvester ants tunneling to hibernate grubs
feeding at knobby junctions earthworms
twisting between more unruly in darkness
than what meets the light sustained and fueled
by water – sometimes flooded or withered
waiting for reward from laden skies.
School Closed / by Sandra Faulkner
Why teaching my 5th grade daughter at home and my college students online while simultaneously holding it together for everyone is not my superpower
What a good daughter, teacher, professor, partner, friend, and feminist would be able to ______ by the end of the semester
How I did not achieve my course objectives, though I wrote my learning outcomes with measurable verbs according to Bloom’s Taxonomy after taking two courses through my university’s Center for Faculty Excellence
Objectives Learning Outcomes
Knowledge Level: Student recalls or recognizes information, ideas, and principles in the approximate form in which they were learned.
Be a good daughter memorize the feeling of making the impossible choice
to leave your elderly, at-risk parents after 2 weeks to return to your
spouse and child when your state starts shelter-in-place orders
Make masks for friends recall how to place the bobbin in the machine
only after you sew crooked loose stitches
that your grandmother would see as a sloppy failure
Comprehension Level: Student translates, comprehends, or interprets information based on prior learning.
Transfer your ftf class to online in 4 days’ time rewrite the narrative about how you will
never teach online even though you are
20 years away from retirement
identify your resistance as ideological difference
based on your experience of teaching as
physical embodied practice in real time
Application Level: Student selects, transfers, and uses data and principles to complete a problem or task with a minimum of direction.
Become a 5th grade school teacher dramatize your failure at helping your daughter
with fractions because you decided against teaching
in college after you biked 2 ½ miles to teach 5th graders
German 2X a week one fall semester
show up when the assignment is to write an essay
about her names and their meanings;
talk about finding your voice and always citing your sources
Take cancellations with grace make use of your stockpile of bourbon and sugar
to ice the bite of no summer camps, no conferences,
no socializing, no-no anywhere to escape household tedium
Analysis Level: Student distinguishes, classifies, and relates the assumptions, hypotheses, evidence, or structure of a statement or question
Send uplifting messages via chain email defend your delete finger as a
to other “women leaders” on campus necessary precaution against the
deluge of unprecedented email
Personalize feedback to students separate your exhaustion from your teaching
to create YouTube videos for students about
your gratitude and healthy coping strategies
discover that they are also holding too much
so stop making unrealistic videos
and use too many superlatives when grading
Synthesis Level: Student originates, integrates, and combines ideas into a product, plan or proposal that is new to him or her.
Maintain good personal hygiene compose a hypothesis about how showering every
third day saves water, money, and time;
who knows who will remain after budget cuts
Post riveting comments on student discussion boards rewrite your criteria again
we all earned A’s
Evaluation Level: Student appraises, assesses, or critiques on a basis of specific standards and criteria.
Summarize, rate, and select your Assessment of Outcomes
On a scale of 1-10
Your Score: Mediocre
Adjusted Score: each point is a rolling average
Seven Eight Nine / by Joseph Heithaus
Why was six afraid of seven?
The numbers contagion with time signs
and symptoms incubation typically
five but ranges and stages in periods
and doubles the outbreaks and cases so
quickly think about time
frames and keeping and minding
reducing and masking and distance
and washing and watching for factors
and foci address your concerns and stay
home if you’re feeling show
caution and watch for the cough
or fatigue or lose taste in the kitchen
zoom meeting wait for further
and plan for take care and care
for the weary and worry so cancel
the face to get back to normal
new normal now plexiglass windows or
order online and frequently doorknobs
sanitize sanity don’t be so solemn
the pizza is coming touchless
they say no contact pizza so
say hello to grandma unmute please
unmute yourself pizza unmute
your dream pie your dear mother
dead mother I’m dreaming the plaza
all empty the places all different
my glasses are fogging the mask on
my ears from my breathing
my voice feels so muted the fabric
the background is moving the waves
are reaching the beach though your living
room’s behind you your dog barking
you’re muting wave flattening or cresting
its moving surreal the word they keep
saying they’re muted their lips say it
surrealing and reeling out symptoms
and walking or running and biking no
swimming no soothing with touching no
touching no waking its real they keep
saying its real so savor each moment stop
talking be patient more patients more patience
more factors and fractions and numbers to end
this to end it will end it will end.
untitled.8 / by Jacob Hunt
in a room covered in yellow wallpaper,
torn at the seams
reaching down the walls like rain drops
a small black bird inside a cage
trapped, fighting for her life
yellow wallpaper screams
out violent thoughts, spinning memories
spirals of misdirected pain
in a fit of rage i storm up the stairs
and burst into the scene
demanding that bird be free
a song that must be sung
i went downstairs and took the cage in my hand while you screamed
in a moment of victory, opened the golden door
she did not fly free,
no, she flew into the bars
with a sickening snap she
fell to the bottom of the golden cage
feathers floating, free at last
yet the cost, the cost
in shock i carried him back inside numb, at a loss
and thought about life
the yellow wallpaper had words written
i wish i could read what they said
Liminal poem / by Jules Lattimer
From the start
today my body rang
apocalyptic dread I
dreamt a mass exodus
Uneasy weather signified
the awaited time was now
This morning my iPhone
told me our shared heat
today is dangerous and
news is data collected to project
contest and analyze
the images of my day The birds
again popping their heads into
orange blossoms Kibble
on the carpet Dead flies
floating in the candle wax
A vacant patrol truck
on the road to Ruidosa
Fans are the only noise
We are thinking of our
bodies and positions
in a space Awareness
of expiration dates keeps
us busy and alert planning
a future coming to
and the tomatoes that
won’t make it the milk
rising into cream
Why I Bought Magdelena’s Guitar / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Michelle Henry
“…She is a rose filled guitar sitting by the ocean.
Both a cat’s purr along with the hiss. And lastly,
A love poem carved into an old birch tree…”
Because she pushed a heavy caterpillar string of grocery carts
around the parking lot of Winn Dixie for weeks
Because she went home every night, complained to her Mama
that her legs hurt, throbbed without taking a break
Because her Mama sent her back to push carts on scorching asphalt
admonishing You’re just tired and need to buck up
Because the third night no sleep came and her legs ached
until she begged her Mama for the ER
Because the scan revealed a tight-fisted bloodclot
just beneath the surface of her fifteen year old shins
Because masked surgeons had to saw off her leg
from the knee down
Because infection set in, took up residence above the sutures,
and doctors hacked away the whole thigh
Because when I stood beside her hospital bed, she yanked up her gown,
asked if she could show me her stump of a leg
Because she wanted to demonstrate how she’d been practicing
and could lift the stump two inches off the hospital sheets
Because she told me she channeled all her power into that stump,
using the fragments of muscles the surgeons left behind
Because she was fitted for a prosthesis, this horseback riding girl,
and convinced herself, urged herself, to walk again
Because she was the girl in the chorus of the spring musical,
the first cast member navigating the stage in a wheelchair
Because her ruffled granny dress got tangled in the spokes
and she somersaulted out of the chair, head over heels
Because the director pulled the curtains closed as we watched her
face down on the stage, paralysis of all movement, still
Because she commanded the curtain to open, telling the audience
she was fine, just fine as she performed ten one-handed pushups
Because she lost one hundred pounds through stainless steel locked teeth,
slurping strawberry-scented nutrients through a plastic straw
Because her prosthetic leg no longer fit –was too damn baggy at the top,
and she needed a new leg
Because she put an ad on Facebook Marketplace, selling all her possessions,
because her insurance didn’t cover the cost of a new leg
Because she was relying on the kindness of strangers
to purchase a new limb
Because the guitar would provide
two hundred dollars toward a brand spankin’ new leg
Because my fingers fit into the worn indentations
on her fretboard
Because she handed me an embroidered guitar strap, a bonus, she said,
because the blues and greens reminded her of Lake Michigan and sea glass
Because the colors woven into the strap
reminded her of the colors of my eyes when I listened
Because she knew I would sing and play long into the night
an homage to her long lost leg,
to her new leg,
to her ability to move
through this world
pounding out her own rhythms
Make some thing of your self / by Jerry Rumph
I wish this stroking that I do,
stitching together letters and spaces
into some fabric, could cover someone
could give them something
they could wrap themselves in
to stay warm and hidden
maybe with just their smiling face framed in the folds
like an extraterrestrial
soaring home in a bicycle basket.
While I pound a series of symbols,
I wish middle “C” emitted when I hit
“h” with my right index finger.
It may seem I’d be limited
to “A” through “G”, but the keys
could shift to sharps and flats
to resound in a soothing symphony.
In the end, I know I’m better
at cloaking myself
and listening to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
But I still like to try and make it.
Poem 7 / Day 7
Gastrointestinal / by Michelle Acker
It’s rarer and rarer as I get older:
this being rooted to the couch with a nausea
that rolls through me like rain. Not like
a thunderstorm, crashing wreckingly through and then gone,
but a sheet of all-day gray endless drizzle.
But it doesn’t happen as much, anymore. Not like
my senior year of college, puking
in the bathrooms during class, puking
in the dorm I shared with my closest friend
and then curling up on her long bed to rest; not like
the office internship I took the summer after graduation,
where I, without warning, would run to the single-stall bathroom
and hope no one walked by who could hear me puking.
All of it involuntary—triggered by food or physiology
or something else, my doctors never knew,
but it’s gotten better, even if not disappeared.
Today I napped for four hours and then wandered
out onto the patio to glimpse the cool, fading light.
It did rain today, really. In a pot, little green sprigs of grass
shoot up where none were yesterday. I crouch
to examine them, brushing them with my fingers
like food from the corner of a baby’s smile. I press the fragrant
soil to test it for moisture, though I know it holds enough rain. When I crouch,
my thighs meet my calves in a thick hugging way they never used to.
I’ve gotten fatter, I think. Hours at my desk, quarantine drinking—
they must pile up, I think. Only later do I think:
maybe I’m finally holding on to everything I’m supposed to.
The First Night I Leave my Mother
at Crowne Pointe / by Laura Apol
By the time I arrive from states away, my father
has hung a finch feeder outside her window
and a new seaglass mobile over her bed, arranged
her shoes, set out family photos. Sunshine Circle.
Room 602. The daytime is not so hard—
she has her own tv with her own remote,
and every few hours a volunteer
brings around cookies and juice. No,
it’s the night—
43 years, for better or worse.
I guess this means he doesn’t want to be married
She says it surly, hurt, to hurt.
I undress her then, slide her worn nylon gown
over her head, help her into the narrow bed
by the wall, fix the covers just-so, pillow just-so,
radio just-so; kiss her forehead, leave
the bathroom door opened a crack for light,
drive with my father back to their house.
We feed her cats, stay up late saying nothing.
I wish then he was still a smoker
or that there was a bottle of Jack hidden
in a high cabinet—something to ease
the over-bright hallways, polished glass doors,
the interminable walk to the car; to erase
Sunshine Circle with its no cats and no double
bed and no bedspread-that-matches-the-curtains,
its no Mother’s Day magnolia in the yard.
My father goes to their room alone.
I light a candle, watch house moths
sputter in the melted wax—sit for hours
with the dark, growing old.
This Kind of Cold / by Mary Curtis
takes hold in the tender expose
of neck, in the tips of fingers and toes –
this grey sky looks finite and flat.
This kind of rain sends up scent
of the redwood bench, smoke tree bushes,
oil on asphalt. Early-season, this storm
hurtles across mountains and plains
with icy gusts, blizzards, whiteouts,
black ice, spinouts, and blazing
far west fires. This clarion
and its refrain, Boreas’winds
July (after Wheatfield with Crows by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890, painting) / by Sandra Faulkner
Roll in the brush strokes of summer
too bright sky
the sneeze of golden fields;
Sink your bare feet
in the red clay of your youth
the squish of past taunts;
Try and run home
before the birds pluck the wounds
you picked even after they scabbed;
These birds circle your past
ready to eat their weight
in your summer fields.
Heat at 3 AM / by Joseph Heithaus
She woke to sweat or sweat woke her,
a dream of nails or rain,
No, no, she said into the dark.
It felt like fire licking,
her dream of nails or rain,
there was no language, only smoke,
fire licking fire, it felt
like falling flames, sweet breath.
There was no language, only smoke
for the chill caught there in her throat
like flames falling, sweet, her breath
slowed, the windows seemed to move.
The chill caught there in her throat,
it was words she couldn’t say:
slow, windows, seem, move.
A child was there and gone
saying words she couldn’t say:
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry for leaving.
Her child was there and gone
It was no dream, an absence speaking
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, for having left
in fire, mother, fire, you couldn’t save
me, this is no dream, I’m absence speaking,
not ghost, but love come back
in fire. Mother fire, you couldn’t save
or wake to save or sweetly come to wake me.
Not ghost, she thought, my love come back.
No, no, she said into the dark.
untitled.6 / by Jacob Hunt
i will sigh no more
there has to be
to live a broken life, a broken man who knows nothing
where are the people who know something,
and where do they go
is there a place
where the wild things once were
living among them are the minds
who, unlike me, found the secrets
a book buried underneath a man named, “ustace”
told his grandson the way
where am i, in this journey called life and where will i go from here
as i drive
through a quiet desert night
under a purple sky mountains becoming silhouettes
Ceremony / by Jules Lattimer
The hummingbirds know
we are new to this house
and you want to put in feeders
but they feed enough They buzz
around the house to look inside
our windows I am meant to get
a job making phone calls making
money and good The birds can see
My situation is no different
from any other household’s I am
an American Which is to say I have
a stance I have sugar and flowers
which the hummingbirds want
When I was a child I would
come downstairs to the sound
of panging like a tomato hitting
a trash can lid We all use Wikipedia
It was a bird hurting itself,
hurling into the window
by the TV making something like
art on the glass panel The birds today
float outside like little ghosts which
concludes to me that they aren’t
participating in this society
in a productive way like I am
here here I am giving you
this poem about grieving
can’t you see it I want to show
you how I really feel
No Exceptions to the Rules / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Augie Gardino
“JOB: Junk on the Bunk; a formal inspection
of gear that takes place in the squad bay; also known
as Things on the Springs”
-United State Marine Corps Terms
In the house on Roosevelt Street
beds were inspected at 0600 hours every morning.
Her former Marine father examined the military corners
taut triangle folded over and under.
A quarter was tossed on the bed clothes.
If the sheets were pulled tight enough,
the quarter dutifully bounced from bed to floor.
Next came the bathroom sinks.
To pass muster, the faucets were polished
No evidence of water droplets in sight.
Bone dry, her father used to say.
Kitchen next. Plates and glasses from breakfast
scrubbed and stacked
uniformly in the drainer.
Sink, too, bone dry.
Shoes next. Spit shined with chamois cloth.
She could see her face
in her patent leather Mary Janes.
Cheeks scrubbed with Phisoderm.
Cleanliness is next to godliness, her father used to say.
Skirt up next.
With arms pressed flat against her sides,
her father would examine the length of her skirt.
Hem required to be regulation length,
lower than her fingertips.
The bus arrives.
Mr. Calhoun laying hard – just once –
on the horn.
As she walked back to her seat,
she rolled the waistband of her skirt.
Once, twice, three times,
revealing fresh scabs and scarred playground knees
that took her everywhere
she wasn’t supposed to go.
Scraps / by Jerry Rumph
before an infrequent French fry
tossed in the dirt or sky
champagne and caviar
plated and fluted
All the flutes are shattered
All the platters tarnished
Poem 6 / Day 6
Summer / by Michelle Acker
Summer’s a good time to be lonely.
Everything exactly as tired.
Everything exactly as noisy—
cicadas and crickets vying
for their place in the cloud of unknowing.
And nothing gets where it’s going.
The heat as damp and as cloying
as a hesitant touch, or a smile
holding the heart like a faded toy
while cicadas go on crying.
Black bird watcher / by Laura Apol
Amy Cooper, the white woman in Central Park
who called the police on a Black bird watcher,
will be charged with filing a false report.
—NYTimes, July 6, 2020
Black bird watcher,
would the woman
pick up her phone
if the birds were black and the watcher white?
“I’m in the Ramble there is a man African American he
has a bicycle helmet and he is recording me and threatening
me and my dog,”
In the Ramble, a false report is a shiny thing,
a white woman’s distress is a shiny thing.
White power—such a shiny thing.
Each crow is a prediction. Ask Emmet Till.
Before it begins
the raven can speak the story’s end.
61 Bottles On A Wood Wall / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
for Fang Wang
as jars of jam cool on the counter
a sealing lid the ping of summer
roll up your sleeves and stand
in front of the kitchen sink
the stainless steel nicked from years
of sustaining a family feeding so many;
think of how the taste is like July
the heat of a Georgia summer
hot as a child’s boredom
and the steam from the pressure cooker;
lick the juice from your arm
while not dropping a drip
feel the stick of your fingers
as you turn to find a bite spot;
suck the last bit of flesh from the pit
as if these small tasks will save us.
You without judgement, you who collect suns
and rains and the bitter nights, who tumble
down cliffs, sequester the dead sediments
of seas long gone, who ramble in the gush
of floods, sink into the fires inside
the earth, metamorphize into black glass,
fracture to sands so fine you cross oceans
and just now land as dust on my fingers,
you whose secrets are well kept, whose veiled doors
won’t open, who speak to no one, please take
the rock inside me, old stones of memory
and desire and all the stains of rage.
Put them in the mad river beside you
to erode, soften, age, round to nothing.
untitled.6 / by Jacob Hunt
life personified in my story
who follows you with a knife
meant to cut you, bleed
he punches you in the gut
and leaves you to die
when it rains outside
it pours all night
thunder shaking my house every night
inside my mind
inside my mind
my mind really messes me up
my mind really messes up
a grave dug on a rainy day. for you or for me
i do not know
we walk together [life and i]
showing him the way
or does he show me
who is in the lead
the game postponed
or cancelled due to rain
he smiles at me
why does he smile
camera moves away
we are left
where life has gone
Sequence / by Jules Lattimer
As a younger
person, I went
to the chiropractor
to be x-rayed.
They pointed at
the glowy picture
of my spine
the thin tissues
to show me I’m in
the third stage
of decay. How
many stages are
there is not
a question I asked.
As a younger
person I was
introduced to the
possibility that I am
also organic matter.
I grow and wither
and collapse. This
is obvious. I am, like
many other things,
could be exchanged
for a patch of
This is not a morbid
poem. I freeze banana
peels and apple cores.
I am a spine, a
vertebrate animal like
a fish a dog a lion
a snake. My time at
the chiropractor filled
with strange interpersonal
experiences. A woman
crawled on my back
and hopped. I had to stop
for insurance reasons.
Now I don’t need a doctor
to tell me that
many years later I’m
several stages further
in the process of decay.
I plant gardens
And tumble vegetables
I am on my way
Benediction / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Laura Apol
I make afghans so my beloveds can feel me
embracing them. Touch configured in each stitch.
These afghans, prayers that levitate.
Sacred prayer shawls when we cannot remember
the words to meditations we memorized in elementary school.
No Dear Father in Heaven or Hail Mary full of grace.
No Precious Lord in this blanket. Just you and the holy ghost of me
with a crochet hook.
Reliable warmth. Predictable enfolding.
I am what you can depend on in the middle of the night,
when sleep is elusive and the weight of the day
infringes on your night. I will catch you before you
hit cave bottom in your nightmare. A safety net
of wool and cotton. A marriage bed you can sink into.
Luxurious night, laden with yawning.
A hammock sturdy in the wind,
yet bowing and bendable in the breath of the breeze.
A willow on the pebbled shoreline.
I rock you, cradle you, tender voice hum you.
Queen Anne’s lace of a voice.
My fellow craftswoman, Queen Anne, an expert lace maker,
could weave long after the embers burnt out.
But one night, in 1704, she slipped a stitch,
pricked her finger with a needle,
dribbled a single splotch of her blood onto the lace.
Dark purple stain, you take up residence in the flower’s center.
And here you will find my voice, singing to you,
deep lavender tendrils rocking you gently
in a field of Queen Anne’s wildflowers.
When I am done with this earthy garden of a world,
I want the memorial service to be festooned with afghans.
Each mourner hauls in a rocking chair straddled on her back.
Find a space in the room that speaks to her.
Wrap the afghan around shoulders and whole bodies.
Become warm. Feet wedged in folds. Secure.
Sing a melody that resonates. This little light o’ mine.
A speaking in tongues that is pure and utterly translatable.
Rocking back and forth, reminiscing. This is legacy.
Yarn looped and looped in sworled patterns. No unravelling
in this space. We are bound together in latticed threads.
Infinite touch. The words still emerging from my open palms.
I am clumsy in my wanting to reach out.
Not shy. Just awkward.
I wish I had stayed over that night
I wanted to hold you.
I wanted to be held.
These are things left unsaid.
I wish you seduction of your heart.
I wish you moments of being led astray by your eyes,
I wish you connections in dark places,
deep well places, where wishes are made with coins,
where desires are made tangible.
I wish you spirits of your loved ones, voices that come to you,
distinct and alive, reaching across the divide.
I wish you voices that haunt you long after dawn.
I am learning to whisper.
Can you hear my still, soft voice?
Can you feel me keeping you safe?
More than a rock band’s desire / by Jerry Rumph
A foreigner wants to know
what love is.
What is love
in the land of the free
in the home of the brave?
Are we brave enough to show
love freely to others when we pay
dearly by the hour just to learn
how to stand
much less love
Poem 5 / Day 5
GW / by Michelle Acker
Natural Bridge in Virginia is a stone
arch 215 feet high, though it looks infinite
as you approach, like some ancient calcified
elephant straddling two sides of a finger-trickling
river. A sidewalk threads under it; once “owned”
by Jefferson—157 acres for what would now be $160—
it was sold off after his death into private ownership; in 2013
the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund bought the land at auction
for $9.1 million dollars; it shortly shifted hands again, becoming in 2016
a State Park under the authority of the Commonwealth of Virginia. So, a sidewalk
threads under its towering spine, and several rows of benches, for a moment to sit and observe
the sublime. As you pass underneath, gripped by a sudden sureness that you’re about to step
into another world windowed by limestone—though what waits on the other side is mostly
an old saltpeter mine and a small waterfall—your little paper brochure explains that,
standing inside the bridge, you can look up 23 feet and see a small square carved
into its belly, containing the letters GW. Supposedly, George Washington
left those initials there while surveying the land. It’s hard to see from
the sidewalk. One family, leaning over the river, proclaims that
they’ve found it, and now everyone bundles together, bustling
for a look at semi-dubious history, making slender shadows
over the ignorant fish below. Between the edge
of the sidewalk and the ledge down to the
river there’s a bundle of grass, and a
copperhead curled like a fist.
SPECTRAL / by Laura Apol
Hummingbirds see colors
we can only imagine
My daughter in third grade taught me
color does not exist, only rods and cones,
short waves, long waves—
color is just light reflected she said; a sensation
in your eyes. Back then,
I argued that of course color exists; our eyes
know what they know: the fire engine’s red;
the sky’s blue; sunflower yellow butter
yellow lemon mustard canary
Only too late do I see
how much I cannot see—
tetrachromancy, a fourth primary
and the hues between. Ultraviolet plus.
So when light catches
the hummingbird’s throat, belly,
wing, I know I am seeing only
what I am made for—
a bull tethered to red,
cave cricket, star-nosed mole, dog
napping in a black-and-white world.
Such absolutes of sight. Non-spectral color;
whether I see it or not, each apparition
appears in shades I cannot know. Color
as sensation: the tingle of fern, blush
of apricot, exhale of lilac. Magenta burn.
Wherever I look, the whisper of her ghost,
If the Garden of Eden Was Anything like My Vegetable Garden / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
Yes, to birds in the morning, a snake (there must be one somewhere), lizards,
honeybees and hornets, different birds in the afternoon and the all day finches,
fawns and bucks that pass outside the chickenwire fencing, plus
the possums, skunks, raccoons and rodents which are generally unseen.
But here’s a secret, it’s not all harmony and light within those planter beds
or surrounding pots and trellises. The finches ravage the potato leaves,
looking cute while committing their evil deeds. The zucchini’s are elbowing
and shouting make room for me concealed by their canopy of giant leaves.
Heirloom carrots conspire to twist themselves into a tight ruby knot as if
in competition for girth with the neighboring watermelon radishes.
At the fence line six sunflowers race to grow taller and the bush beans
huddle together, an instinct to support each other as they grow.
We arrive daily, Eve and Adam in service to all this, to pluck springy weeds
and train the crawling cucumbers, melons and beans. To admire the many
shades of green, to look under lush leaves for a edible reward, and stand
on springy ground where a gopher waits to wreck the beautiful imperfection.
Phantom Pain / by Sandra Faulkner
for Ashley Duggan
You can’t re-member the advice
you lost by staying in bed,
not getting up to write it down,
so you sit at the kitchen counter
stare at the box of Spanish wine, the wilted lilies
in a chipped vase beside your kid’s orchestra practice log,
and try drowning in this dream to remember your father,
though he is still physically present,
his silent lessons dim in the light of your childhood,
the flickers of memory make monsters
that stroke your fear, shriek at your nostalgia
and cackle when you can’t recall
the lines of poetry that summon your feelings,
so you grasp at the patches of memory:
the taste of perfection in his over-easy eggs,
not a speck of brown tainting the edges;
the smell of his bitter coffee that can keep you awake
for weeks, the flavor over-pronounced, too intense;
his signature smirk with only a slight curve of upper lip
when something is more than okay;
all of the animals and kids know
his whispers only they can hear;
how he can rig anything to work again with just-in-case parts
kept in old medicine bottles and baby food jars;
the way he used his white-collar hands on weekends
fixing transmissions and changing oil for the Church bus ministry,
and why he quit being a Deacon
when the pastor cried too many Blacks at Church,
and did not move when White flight
arrived in our Suburban Atlanta neighborhood;
the quiet paying of neighbor’s bills,
the time spent scrubbing the week’s grease off pots and pans;
always giving you $.50 cents instead of the $.25 offered
to get him a beer out of the basement fridge;
when he once told you that Life is a series of disappointments.
And then you die. And still, he showed up with rolled up sleeves;
You have already started mourning
and give in to the phantom pain,
so in meditation you can’t picture a garden
like the guru instructs,
instead you go back to the woods
where if you hike in far enough,
you can bathe in the Sweetgum’s shadow,
breathe in the medicinal pine,
to focus on the whine of work,
and hear your too-human sounds.
Rockets / by Joseph Heithaus
We live in an old chaos of the sun
Wallace Stevens “Sunday Morning”
Last night the Fierce Tiger Soaring Rockets
Clustering Bee Rockets the Whistling Wolf
Rockets, Large Moon Travelers, Four Horsemen,
Crackling Octopus, Cloud Buster, Lucky Space,
Pyro Pinnacle, Speed of Light, Phantom
Happy Rockets all over the county
were spilled into the dark like loose change
and Millers, Buds, and Lime-a-ritas were taken
in like some sip the sloppy news from Fox
or CNN’s unwavering complaints,
and everything was a slow rush toward
While we did, a sorry embalmer
readied a teenage body for the grave,
another drowning, one more explosion
of grief inside a mother and father
inside a summer of unexpected loss,
all inside the bedlam of contagion
and change, but not so neat as Russian dolls
or pretty like the flares in flares above
I just want out of wanting out.
Yesterday, beer in my belly, beside
a pool, I snoozed in a hammock as some
poor kid suffered a slap or starved or cried
for help while my own kids chattered and gave
me shit and laughed. Pyrotechnicians got
their stashes ready, music played, sun block
was applied to a hundred thousand backs,
protesters held up signs, a monotone
speech trudged across a teleprompter.
go on as moon travelers while the four
horsemen ride as clustering bees, whistling
wolves, crackling octopi. They are coming
at the speed of light, the fiercest tigers
of destruction busting clouds. There are no
lucky spaces. Pyro as in pyre,
the world around us on fire, phantoms
rise in smoke, fireworks tick inside us.
untitled.5 / by Jacob Hunt
[enter a lone man. his head lowered, he seems, somber and when he looks up, his breath is caught in his chest and he almost hesitates as if to say, “i dont want to say what i am about to say”]
his name is icarus
though he does not know
the story, the prophecy
the rise, is coming
he is almost there (head in the clouds) about to
explode forth, finally to see the light
feel warmth against his face for the first time
my promise, this
an evening you will not forget
perhaps feel regret, pains in chests
icarus, the rocketman who almost lived
listen to his songs
melodies to let you breathe
jacob wrestled with god but cannot defeat his own mind
the title fight
not a bout with his creator
a war waged deeper within his soul (sheol taking ahold of
his mind, his heart
the dark side of the moon)
to go back in time is to refuse growth, the tree cannot reverse its climb to the clouds but we can knock buildings down in an instant giants fall back to the earth while those who have been before stay
[looking behind him, offstage]
what is all of this, who is this icarus
has anyone called for help?
how long will we watch a man choke before we cry out and say oh what shame, how i loved him
false tears and memories will fall on deaf ears, the angels hearing your every word and
you will answer for
[looks down, away, past the audience, the world (he is no longer on stage in his mind)
he exits without another syllable, no words, not one dares to breathe]
Morning poem / by Jules Lattimer
I locked the door
Lauren was asleep
in bed and
through the window
I saw a prehistoric
on the concrete. It
was bony, pale
a row of roaches
or maybe beetles
against each other’s shells
the welcome mat
light and large
I must have
locked the door
this is where
ends and it looks
like a storm today
Waiting in Line at the Piggly Wiggly / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Dawn Newton
Everything moves slowly here in Kentucky.
The grocery line is a litany of …and how’s your Mama doing?
All of us wait, some more patient than others,
for this hunched over, bearded man to tell the story
of his Mama’s amputated toe.
How infection set in so damn fast.
How gangrene overwhelmed the toe, even part of the joint.
How his Mama can’t feed her horses anymore.
How her mucking boots press and pinch.
How she’s off balance in her movement from bed to toilet.
How she refuses the crutch of a cane.
How he dresses his Mama’s wound every night,
wrapping gauze around the stump
with just the proper tension,
holding her foot in his hand.
The clerk hands him his pack of Marlboro’s,
his cellophane-wrapped chicken livers,
his Tiger Balm Red Extra Strength ointment,
his bottle Heaven Hill Bourbon.
The old man tells the clerk he’s going to walk old nag Stella
up the patch to his Mama’s parlor.
He has saved an extra Honeycrisp apple
for his Mama to feed Stella.
Mostly, he wants to give his Mama
the possibility of sweet dreams.
As he tucks his grocery sack under his arm, he tells the cashier,
I find rubbing a horse on her forehead gets things in perspective.
Poem 4 / Day 4
BSF / by Michelle Acker
Black soldier flies leave larvae like fat oothecae.
So I thought they were. Until I saw them squirming free
of all my garden spade’s disruptive compost-turning.
Research, then. A name uncovered by my thoughtless yearning
for a place to give them in my little ring.
A pest? A guest? A benefit: relentless composting
machines, and harmless, too. And common: I’ve had worms
a year now, and I never knew. Adulthood lets me learn
what I don’t know, and find some pleasure in it. Some—
and disappointment, too. The more I know, the less I come
before the well of mystery, my hands splayed out
in silence. Sometimes God is worms and shit. Figure it out.
Desecration of Independence / by Laura Apol
Trump vowed that Mount Rushmore “will never be desecrated. …And this monument will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and our freedom.”
—Washington Post, July 4, 2020
This fourth of July there are fireworks
over Mount Rushmore.
A white president lights the fuse. The Lakota called
the mountain The Six Grandfathers. Never ceded;
the Black Hills—Paha Sapa—are treatied in perpetuity
until gold, the insatiable white craving,
generates a sell-or-starve campaign. Make America
Great Again. The famished Lakota give in.
Detonation begins—hot sparks over the forests, chemicals
over the water, a residue like that of a gunshot blast:
to celebrate Jefferson’s famous declaration
that all men are created equal, endowed
by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.
Jefferson declares as well
that slavery is moral depravity, sharpens
the nib of his pen, imagines
a future in which he lives on in words, in rock,
in Sally Hemings’ progeny,
upgrades her from Mulberry Row
to the slave quarters in the South Wing;
The Louisiana Purchase, made with France
(the “preemptive” right to obtain Native American lands
by treaty or by conquest,
to the exclusion of other colonial powers) including
these Black Hills. This holy ground—
the spiritual center
of the Great Sioux Reservation, an eternal tribute,
says the white president, to our forefathers
and our freedom. Jefferson stakes a claim
Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, knowing
the mills of God grind slowly
—too slowly for Sally Hemings, never
freed. When Jefferson dies in debt, the souls he owns
are sold: “130 VALUABLE NEGROES”
to pay Monticello’s debts. (Black lives matter.)
—too slowly for the Lakota and their sacred
mountain. Carvers place a quartz block
in the pupil of each president’s eye to make it look
realistic. Oh say, can you see—
Freedom / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
The hawk circles
on the ground
his arc and swerve
red tail spread
Born on the 4th of July / by Sandra Faulkner
for Vicki Atkinson
Some say it’s like prison
sharing a birthday with America
during a pandemic;
Watching the stars from the front porch
of the farm house
you think it could be paradise
to sit in the groomed yard
to work on what needs to be done
and have your wish work out.
Acrostic American Acrostic / by Joseph Heithaus
Inside our brains, electric spaghetti
noodles into thought: our revolution
dazzles into fireworks and the dead
enter as heroes or duds. We grieve
people we never met. Soda pop
erases our flaws. Still, there’s much we
need to celebrate, sugarcoat, lean
down and examine: hard truths, deviled
eggs, smoked brisket, fried chicken and that’s some
nice three bean salad, berry pie, homemade vanilla, amen!
Come shoot off your mouth, roman candles, civic
efforts to celebrate, mollify, edify, grand finale:
duh duh duh duh, pop, crack, pop, crackle, thud,
a black night lit up by fire, smoke, Alleluia, America,
you’re paradox, contradiction, but B. McFerrin sings, don’t worry, be happy!
untitled.4 / by Jacob Hunt
into hands we give
left out to dry
so we try not
or to take
is to hold a gun
that dont understand
hope leaves scars
so we refuse
we dont believe
so we let go of hope
Independence Day / by Jules Lattimer
Those in the know worry
about horses and cows
panicking out of their pens
at night during the fireworks
and remind people to plug big ears
and tampons do the trick. Or they might
have to wake up the veterinarian
on a holiday at midnight
to take fencing out of the cow’s
leg or barbed wire out of a snout.
I am making this up. I got
some of this online.
For a long time I pictured
the nihilistic fantasy desert
a small town surrounded
by great nothing. Martian
ships landing in a 1960’s
filmic portrayal of the future–
one we haven’t seen yet.
And the Martians could land
on the road we drive at sunset, but
for now black cows alone
grow out of a spiky landscape
a plateau full of blue and orange.
Once on our drive back to the gulf
we found a fire off I-10 and
we had never seen big burning
so close or flames as tall as those.
Later we remembered animals.
Can they run fast. Can they jump fence
faster than fire. Do they see that
juniper doesn’t protect them this time.
It was blowing dry across the hills.
Playing Charles Ives’ 4th of July Symphony / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Ed Middleton
“Stand up and take your dissonance like a man…”
-Charles Ives, composer/director,
in response to hecklers in the audience
On that 4th of July
I was a fifteen year old with a piccolo in the pocket of my blazer.
I knew I had the power to drown out a whole trombone section
with my third octave, overtones suspended in trees
like Spanish Moss in a Savannah Town Square,
curlicues of tendrils, windchimes echoing in the breeze.
I’d rather be playing the obligato part
to Sousa’s Stars and Stripes memorized in 6th grade band.
I would practice the piccolo part
on my pencil during algebra class,
humming the dizzying riffs in my head.
I resisted quadratic equations
in favor of melodic patterns in my fingertips,
patterns that made mathematical sense to me.
I remember singing Happy Birthday to Charles Ives
in tension-filled fourths
in music theory class.
Purposely never resolving the chord.
That same day our band director
dusted off an old LP with the sleeve of his polyester suit jacket.
plopped it onto the turntable and instructed us to
close our eyes and just listen.
The record is filled with scratches and we can’t hear the music,
someone complained from the back of the room.
Listen to the music between the scratches, he said.
But on that 4th of July, we played the Charles Ives’ symphony,
an homage to a small town New England boy
taking in a cacophony of
a band tuning up in a gazebo
a marching band approaching from the distance
one military spat in front of the other
thundering the concrete with their rank and file
firecrackers exploding in syncopation.
And there were drunks on the street
what with the bars and saloons shuttered for the holiday.
Even the pool hall beneath the Catholic school cafeteria was closed.
Cigar smoke and bourbon belched out of throats on every street corner.
And so each instrument played in a different key, in a different time signature, simultaneously.
We yearned for the Goddess Durga, fierce warrior deity of multiple arms, to conduct,
her arms flailing in ¾, 6/8, 2/4, and 5/4 time.
But we had only one director with one baton
who decided to beat his arms in a circle,
leaving us on our own to ferret out the beat.
Our goal is to end together, he told us.
And so I abandoned worry about the missed C#.
Added trills where there were only whole notes.
Embellished sixteenth note runs with flying grace notes.
Jumped octaves when my embouchure sagged.
Flutter tongued the eight bars at Section B.
Even played the baseline with the bassoon player,
spying her music out of the corner of my eye,
transposing from bass to treble clef.
I contributed full-throated to the cacophony.
I relied on my own heartbeat pulse for the rhythm.
Pounded my whole foot into the grass on the hill, keeping my own time.
Conjured worms, disrupted full houses of ant hills,
mangled the roots of dandelions with my heels.
I have mastered vibrato, even at the stratosphere register of this wooden piccolo.
Near the end, my score tells me to fade out,
to slide to the finish with a chromatic scale
fingers plunking all the sharps and flats
descending into a whisper.
The conductor’s arms fall limp at his sides,
surprised we arrived at this place together.
And so the symphony ends on this 4th of July
as quietly as it began,
descending peacefully to the ground,
light tumbling head over heels,
a satisfied spark falling.
A balding free byrd / by Jerry Rumph
Alabama, you’re not alone
as you have a little union
and the ballad’s not just your own.
While ole Neil was right in later saying
your parts are greater than your sum,
your parts still call for Sessions on whether
an educated black American
is a criminal inside the White House
and wonder whether you can do without
having Moore assault on underage girls
while sitting astride the Ten Commandments.
Leonard’s wrong to say a Southern man
doesn’t need you around, Neil,
for there are still tall white mansions
and little shacks
and the ghosts of
and Carole (with an “e”),
still haunt Southern Baptist churches
in Birmingham and all across the South.
Poem 3 / Day 3
Pest Control / by Michelle Acker
Day one on slow-release Wellbutrin.
I woke this morning to a calf cramp
so severe I felt like I’d been shot;
I thrashed in panicked, wounded despair
around the cavernous room for a
clue. Downstairs, an infestation. Flies.
Thick clouds of little bodies whose legs
quietly tick-tapped against the blinds,
the TV screen, the rim of my cup.
I dug out two old, used pillars of
silver fly paper and arranged them
in a spot I thought attractive. To
flies. I called the apartment complex,
who called pest control, and they’re coming
tomorrow. Even flies have a right to live,
I think. Last week, when maggots escaped
the long-full trash can by tumbling down
over its lip to the floor and spread
across the kitchen and all the way
to the door, I swept them, still wriggling,
into a dustpan, another trash bag,
the dumpster. They must be happy here,
I thought. Anyway, enough is enough.
BACKBEAT / by Laura Apol
And could you have stopped it?
I wanted to be wanted and he was
hungry. And could you have stopped
it? It was time. In a year I’d need
a new roof. And could you have
stopped it? My mother was buried
on Leap Day; I grieve her
every four years. And could you
have stopped it? I said not yet
when I should have said yes.
He never asked again. And could
you have stopped it? Out the car
window: black dog like the night,
like the highway. Black dog. And
could you have stopped it? All those years
she didn’t tell me she didn’t
tell me she didn’t tell me. Why didn’t
she tell me?
And could you have stopped it?
An early frost. I was tired.
Such a long, long walk.
New Life for an Aging Maple Dresser / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
She claimed the old thing after neglect
had caused the wood to age and fade
from the glow of pine-scented polish
lovingly applied so many years ago.
In those days I hoped and prayed the footing
we had tried to give would find this wildling.
I watch her pull and spread the 3 drawers
under hot sun in still air to paint
a spray of scorched pink refacing
yesterdays relic with a shimmer and then
in gold a verse inside each drawer
She had rings on her fingers and bells on her shoes
He knew without asking – she was into the blues.
She had scarlet begonias tucked into her curls
He knew right away – not like other girls.
She tucked her diaries in the farthest corners
and I helped her fill the empty drawers
with garments I folded jumbled in
with her rumpled flings.
The Color of Melancholy / by Sandra Faulkner
Common Teasel / by Joseph Heithaus
I admire the architecture of weeds
the tease of the common teasel,
the sheer geometry of its thousand rhymed spikes
bared into a spiny oval as the array
of its tiny flowers are slowly
picked by bees
and I think on sea urchins and puffer fish
and the crude medieval weapons
they called morning stars
and I wonder about violence and isolation
and beauty and how absence
shows itself as the flowers
fall and the spikes point into emptiness
and up at the invisible stars.
untitled.3 / by Jacob Hunt
he plays guitar to keep out the quiet dust settles on the floor yet his heart paces
blood stained strings he
plays violent chords tearing
through broken skin
in the quiet night hear his song pierce through the night
promises, unkept, stolen dreams disappear
the only constant, the holes in his heart a
lonely guitar strung too tight, a bow that
holds the weight of worlds in heart and soul
a band of lost boys wandering
through unholy nights each
breath, a fight to survive or
when he said to be or not to be
was the answer in front of our eyes the whole time is the answer
a paradox for the
an ocean at the end of the street where he strums,
crafting new dreams out of sound
he lost weight eyes heavy, missing sleep
tears fall like raindrops flash floods, walk
the other way in a sea of his own, canvas
he painted he floats on his guitar a
lonesome heart waiting to be saved
embers hanging on to life, under the frozen sky. a heart made bare by the chasing winds his heart holds a guitar in his hands he plays through the night, ignoring bleeding fingers he missed the train listen close, listen close before he fades
The box / by Jules Lattimer
I have nothing left to say.
The shadow is finally starting
to reach me at 8:56 tonight.
I’m in the air, I can’t turn around.
My throat is dying to get out
of my neck. I want to blend into the milk sky
and bleed into the sharp dirt. To run my hands
over my self’s self. My friend somewhere
is pulling grass needles out of the hill
and wrapping them around a finger.
I can’t imagine a richer sound. The rest
of the night doesn’t reach it. I’ll pull
feathers out of the couch cushion. Shut
my eyes anytime I want to.
Night Before Your Mastectomy / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Mary Anna
Ever since you told me
that cancer was taking your breasts
I have suspended belief in my own breasts
shelved all feeling, all sensation
to a place over there, away from this body
I call mine.
My breasts became non-existent
as I avoided mirrors,
wanting to be one with you in this loss
in this farewell to the piece of myself
that had nourished four daughters
in rocking chairs, church pews, toilet stalls.
And I thought what I might do tonight
if I knew of the surgeons coming toward me tomorrow.
I would spend time with a mirror,
a long, full-length mirror,
admiring the roundness of my breasts, touching the softness,
reminding my hands to remember.
I am a touchable painting
not in a frame or an album
but in my own fingertips.
I would notice how my breasts
are only one or two brush strokes
of a Monet impression, water flowers scattered on a pond.
I would remember my nakedness
in a field of lilies
waltzing to wind chimes
with one soft lilac
between my breasts.
Then I would bathe in lavender water
and build castles of fragrant bubbles
on my thighs, my hips, my stomach,
and my breasts.
I would sprinkle warm, lavender water
over and over again on my breasts,
watching the water cry in rivers,
cry in streams,
cry in farewell.
Friday / by Jerry Rumph
I stand at my front window
as I have every day this week
not getting paid like the old laureates.
The sun sneaks through the neighborhood
blueing the sky and turning myrtles purple.
A mockingbird lights on the utility wire,
and I know I’m supposed to be able
to make something of it
or out of it, tell some real truth
about its grey-brown to my son
to pass along to my future grandkids.
Look at how it mocks the hawk
for failing to eat its hatchlings
or how it holds the squirming beetle
between its upper and lower beaks.
I scratch my head and wonder how
this can’t be all there is, these things,
as we’ve learned from those who came
after yellow chicks and green glass shards.
Try as I might to figure some meaning
from this morning, the mockingbird swoops
away to berate Orange Gus for being
a tabby cat in the neighbor’s driveway.
Poem 2 / Day 2
Letters from Inside / by Michelle Acker
And staring out that dim window
I saw a mockingbird,
its tail cocked out ninety degrees
as if a careless word.
Sheer lightning licked the summer sky
and wind raged on behind it,
but gripping with its little legs
it didn’t seem to mind it.
Around it, myrtle blossoms fled—
a rain-driven bouquet—
yet it clung to its post until
I briefly looked away.
TOUCH IN THE TIME OF COVID / by Laura Apol
I invite a friend to dinner: roasted cauliflower,
chickpeas and kale. We eat outdoors, six feet
apart. She is too thin; tomorrow
she will start radiation. They will tattoo
markers across her breasts—a constellation
more permanent than the changing sky.
She tells me how, one Thanksgiving,
her son made a salad
of kale he massaged in the kitchen,
kneaded to tenderness like dough.
The power of touch, she says.
I say I have not been touched since March—
not a brush of skin, bumped elbow,
side-by-side thigh. All week
there has been a giant silk moth
laying eggs on the screen door in back,
so near I can stroke her wings.
I think of the hands that create
a radiologist’s map, break down the veined
leaves of the greens, worship
the unblinking eyes imprinted on wings.
God of the nineteen versions that bring us to this,
see our upturned palms—each fingerprint
so singular, each hand so holy and so strange.
Primordial Ache / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
I’ve been that turkey,
she spins and circles, stops to hiss
at the white pup, sends him tuck tail.
Drops a feather.
I envy her cluck and hiss
when the dogs turn the corner to the water bowl,
her flapping wings – no match for the old girl,
who comes to my call.
She hops the fence,
flies at my head, then
to the terraces, and down to the herb box
where three chicks threatened reveal.
Once I wished Oh to have wings
to flap and fly at danger
like the turkey mama
who now clucks her chicks
to shelter, flies to a corner, pecks a fourth chick
out to scuttle between succulents and slats.
Mom’s Hot Milk Sponge Cake / by Sandra Faulkner
Excavation / by Joe Heithaus
Think of language as air
Think of air as a dark hole
Think of the dark hole as a mine
Enter the mine with a pick
Think of the pick as your tongue
Think of your tongue as a headlamp
Think of the headlamp as a cry
Light up the cry with three words
I Can’t Breathe
Think of language as air
Think of air as a dark hold
Think of the dark hold of a ship
Stop the holds
Remember the ships
Think of your breath
Light up the cry
untitled.2 / by Jacob Hunt
a mark on the ceiling
has that spot always been there?
watching the fan spin
as if i am walking in circles
each day bleeds into the next
is this a test
one two three
do you hear me
how to breathe
when lungs are not free
get some sleep
rest your eyes
life will be alright
the debtor now pays the debt
collectors wearing all black
break down the door and storm
lightning and thunder shake to the core
a personal touch and my mind is gone
how far apart
are we (is it six feet) or an oceans width
flip the switch and turn on the light
illuminate this darkened life
i kneel at the grave of the nameless face. wondering if i should be the one alive. deciding i should not but
to end this life (my own) would be to forsake the lives lost. i carry a cross
picking up the weight
leaving no slack
running each way
to earn the right
an alien in his own land. homesick, wishing for tomorrows first sunrise
dreams of home
one day she will say
who are you
and i will pass away
Two reds / by Jules Lattimer
In this room the blanket
is the shade of my mother’s lipstick.
And I can smell it, and then her, her
liquid makeup and the curling iron
burning hairspray in the bathroom.
I can see the bar of soap
touched with bubbles
on the bathtub ledge and
the brown shadow in the white
tile creases. I know where
the bathroom scale sits and how
it comes to digital life when I tap it
with my pointed toe. I can tell you
if the trashcan is full of cardboard
and tissues, and if the leaves
are collecting on the porch’s roof
outside the tiny window. I know
which side has the lightbulb out
and where my mom is
in the house by the sound of her
sighing and flipping pages. My dog
twitches all four of his paws
while he sleeps to the clicks
of my keyboard and my mother
is a voice on the phone
he hears sometimes
That Family at 437 W Spruce Street / by Marianne Peel
Motorcycles driven into the front parlor,
not braking till we saw the empty bottle
of holy water beneath the Madonna and Child.
We’d been up and down the mountain
roaring and revving our engines
until the huckleberries cracked open
on their sturdy vines.
Grabbing whole handfuls of huckleberries
plunking them into rusted Maxwell House coffee cans,
our fingers dyed blue, our chins dripping with juice of exploded berries.
We devoured our way down the mountain.
Old man William on the street corner,
twelve pack of Yuengling and a jug of Boilo,
crooning into the moonshine, a coal miner’s lament.
Shoelaces scarred with soot,
trails of coal dust on the linoleum.
Everything scooped up into the dust pan,
everything destined for the coal bin.
Housedress and Keds sneakers,
rocking on the back porch
forward and back, balls of the feet propelling our rhythms.
Hearing voices in our heads,
refusing to take the pills that silenced the voices,
for what was left behind
was a lonely, too quiet place.
Old Man Rzemplinski setting fire
to his wife’s housedress
to her thick heeled shoes
to her leather pocketbook
after too much Boilo.
He set fire to her things when he couldn’t find her.
She wore cat-eye sunglasses, etched with rhinestones,
to hide the bruises,
even on rainy days.
All the uncles on a first name basis with the sheriff.
Arsonists with a trigger finger for a match
to the tires discarded up by the garages
to the dumpsters behind the A & P
to the bouquet of mountain laurel on the slab of Priscilla’s grave.
That one summer Aunt Helen
bled from the rectum.
The hill doctor declared too many berries
so we ingested no berries that whole summer
for fear of the blood.
We abandoned shortcake
the whipped cream spun with the handheld rotary blender
the berries crushed with the potato masher.
we preferred the safety of the potato pancake,
the Slovak bilini,
blistered with sour cream.
Strolling around town / by Jerry Rumph
Rain pools in an asphalt crater
in the middle of Fifth Avenue,
superficial sepia fantasies
But that’s not what’s inside
the petroleum-infused world lacking
sufficient reflective surfaces inside,
suffocating even amoebas
below bodies snuggled inside
designer blue jeans and oxfords.
Poem 1 / Day 1
Particulate / by Michelle Acker
The kid I watch has a water table.
I unspool the hose to fill it,
its thick plastic belly
dragging over pink chalk dust.
He says: “Make rainbows!”
So I twist the nozzle
The sky today’s
a strange sunny stew
of milk. Not as bad
as it was. I sit
on the shady stoop
and assess the sky,
compare it to the creamy haze
of the weekend.
A dust cloud blown in
from the Sahara. Not unusual,
the news says, but unusually large.
All I know is it gives me allergies.
This should be the least
of my worries these days,
and it is, but
I don’t want anyone
looking at me
when I cough.
VANISHING POINT / by Laura Apol
If I follow it back to the place where it begins: a window
near my crib; a black-and-white cat. There is a train that rattles
the room. When I stand, I can see out to where the tracks
disappear—a curve, the horizon, my toddler self. One day
the black-and-white cat is gone. Gone, they say but somehow I know
the sad bundle between the rails is what I have lost. And I bury
the image for fifty years until my own dog, black dog, goes missing.
She is the last thing among last things, and I know she has been taken
by the trains. For seven miles I walk the tracks, fingering
the leather leash. The rails are higher than I imagined, the ties
spaced wrong. I expected grass through flat fields, not these sharp
stones, not steep embankments; not oncoming trains bearing
down: hot metal, the ground shuddering, the suffocating whistle’s
weight. Pain is a bargain with the gods. As if I can resurrect.
As if that old dog could run the twenty miles, thirty miles, forty,
ninety miles to home, could follow the tracks, the smell
of trains, a whistle matching what she heard in her sleep
for so many years. As if that old dog could follow her love
to me. I call her name through pastures and woods, backyards
and empty lots, picture her running to my voice, running
toward me down the tracks. I can see to the horizon, to the place
where the rails come together, almost out of sight.
Four Chambers Redacted / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
Four chambers, an unglamorous hub of plumbing and electricity, the valves and pipes, nerve endings to the central station. Am I nothing more than a utility pole for my heart?
Imagine the child who hears when did this happen and then from an alarmist-mother the 5-year old knows you have a heart condition.
Imagine a virus that has nowhere better to go than into the myocardium of a 19 year old, otherwise
a normal college co-ed who is sent to infirmary for three months to resent, deny, write and rail against
bedrest and lingering fever until one day she is sprung to a life of you have a heart condition
which does not stop her from hours of tennis, a cigarette habit, late nights and love and along the way,
the old guy who says I’m developing a machine that can see as well as hear your heart. Fabulous
as the echocardiogram has become was the loop of his body and shy eyelashes at the foot of my bed.
Words murmer, mid-systolic click, acute viral myocarditis but the fever cleared, tuned my ears
to the whispers I heard at night, pressed against my pillow, loosh-p-phoosh, loosh-p-phoosh – friendly moments with my congenital flaw.
Chest pains and a career worthy of all of them, marriage, kids, EKG’s and cardiologist exams, a growing familiarity with shortness of breath, a brush with congestive heart failure, a new drumbeat of someday your valve will have to be replaced, and the steady friendly whispers.
The sounds assured me of wins against my flaws by living every day, being ‘normal’ while holding back from the biggest hikes, finding excuses like not leaving children to avoid the highest peaks.
Imagine that from 5 to 45, you have a heart condition becomes a given, an anthem of dubious distinction,
like buying groceries, changing diapers or managing careers. Something to attend to because
if that goes away, life might slip with it.
Imagine that suddenly your heart is shattered, the figurative million pieces that fall away from your put-together core as kids turn into rebels and your one heart constant disintegrates. Your love has perished.
The million pieces of you fall in silence everywhere for a year and the whispers inside
sound the only stable ground,
a path to the million futures you must piece back together for teenagers, expectant family
and your own decision to remain alive.
COVID / by Sandra Faulkner
for Stephanie Wade
I’m used piteous
the hookah out
the other side
out of sight.
nibbled struck frightened
pressed so closely
against it at last.
Questions on the First Morning of July / by Joe Heithaus
What happens when the eye opens
from sleep and the haze of darkness lifts
and night’s curtains sway and the clouds
behind them pink? What does the eye
swallow on its way to the sink
and the mirror above it? More eyes?
More light? What does the eye weave
into the convoluted history
of dreams as they dissolve into tap water
splashed onto a face? Who is there
to grieve what’s lost or praise
the casual miracles of the light switch
or the coffee machine as the inverse eye
of a measuring spoon wavers
in the dim air? Outside the tomato plants
yawn, the black walnut mopes
its drooping branches as the sun
conjures the ponderous shadows
of fences and houses and trees.
What does the eye whisper as light sharpens
each leaf of grass or shimmers the wing
of a robin that flutters down to meet
its blue gray shade? Who am I?
the bird must wonder. Who am I?
untitled.1 / by Jacob Hunt
i was reminded today, poems dont have to rhyme. nor do they follow any one rule or flow as a river,
mine seem to
come and go as the tide
fog rolls through the town
infecting minds with
hungry fear, we are
hunkered down near
the channel east
in a tent on third and michigan
where the wind met the west
a pair of patterned pants
reminders of my past, plastered to the walls
houses on hills we committed to climb
before the first day,
siren horn and an hour past four
an open door, nevermore
behind thin walls we heard
distant cries for help but
hands did not reach
loaded guns, displays behind glass
brought out to pasture
protected shelters from the storm
bombs fell under october moons. the sun did not rise. kingdoms fell as kings. day one
clocks frozen in place
we dont recognize
manufactured connections between screens
handshakes and stolen breaths
art was forgotten on the third day. we will not rise again. the dead stay. bodies under a haunted hill
the bridge on wells was my favorite. our river beneath, the lake on the horizon. towers scraping the sky
remember to breathe
the race ended yesterday. with no competitors, the world was as it will be and poems end abrupt-
Cooking poem / by Jules Lattimer
When it’s dinner I put holes in the sweet potato
run water over my hands dump coffee grounds out
of the catch. My new kitchen window is my favorite
place in the house and I hide there all day, looking at
Berlin Street, the nopal hanging over the backyard exit
like a waving neighbor, the neighbor house and
keep out sign the pink road and the blue sky and
the green overgrow. I’ve anticipated this ritual,
paced around other houses imagining myself placing
a pretty white plate in the rack on the counter and
refolding the tea towel that drapes over the oven handle
now I get to lean down and listen for garlic to pop
in the olive oil throw this can in an arch across the room
it tinks in the recycling eat my vegetables on the couch
in front of An Actor’s Revenge that other giant window
looking at a cactus bush grown up like a loaf of bread
it pears and blooms and sprouts more paddles and I go
back to the kitchen to wash my plate the light outside still going
through 9 at night and the kitchen sink is a term meant
to take everything with it. I clear it out, wipe the porcelain sides
with a browning paper towel the blue falling in
from the window onto everything and me
Taking Old Eleanor Out for a Spin / by Marianne Peel
This morning I pedaled into Half Day Forest Preserve on a refurbished Eleanor.
She’d been leaning and sagging against the rusted lawnmower in the garage.
This morning the open-throated invitation of the water lilies
sings me into the forest, a canopy of shade.
My legs pump past patches
of toothwart and spotted touch-me-nots,
of mayapple and squirrel corn.
These white lilies, chosen for weddings in remote villages in China,
promise one hundred years of love.
Images of purity and pleasure and peace,
these lilies beckon the Goddess of Fertility to the marriage bed.
These lilies, nymph of feminine spirit,
cast magical spells on bodies of water,
inhabit wells even,
conjure enlightenment from the darkness.
Spontaneous generation, blooms press through the muck and mud,
unblemished and unfolding into the light.
There was a time when my Eleanor carried me to a softball field,
hoping for just a glimpse of my sixth grade sweetheart.
Softball boy with no thumbs, he managed to grip the bat steady and firm.
I wanted him to dedicate a homerun to me,
that crack of the bat a harbinger of his loyalty.
I wanted him to serenade me with a bouquet of daisies
higgledy piggledy arranged
not in a crystal vase
but in his four-fingered hands,
stems smothered in a scratchy brown paper towel
he had soaked in the junior high bathroom spigot,
just to keep the daisies alive in my hands.
This morning, I lay my Eleanor down,
handlebars buried in bloodroot,
wheels spinning in a blur of yellow bellwort.
This morning, no longer wanting for the affections
of the softball boy or his bouquet of daisies,
I fashion my own garland.
I make a wreath of wild tiger lilies,
weaving them together with swamp grass,
up and down fingers latticing them into a crown.
I gather up my Eleanor, dust off the pollen gathered in her basket.
I peddle at a rhythm synchronized with bullfrog croaks.
I move through the summer trees,
breathing in the canopy of hazelnut and hawthorne,
black ash and bitternut hickory,
petals of tiger lilies vibrating in my hair.
The Art in the March / by Jerry Rumph
Where is Marc Crawford
when you need him to pay a commission
so that art can be seen
by women and men and both
women and men and both
together for freedom
Is he at dinner on Park Avenue at 8:00,
discussing the same old problems
over lobster and vanilla ice cream
topped with alpine strawberries?
We need him here to help us
see that broken glass is art
worth seeing that
the voice of the one breaking it,
and sunset, with its coming darkness,
matters as much as sunrise.
Marc can’t be engaged in the same
dinner conversation happening
when a black man uttered “fraises du bois”
for the first time in Manhattan
Surely, the ice cream has melted,
the strawberries mildewed,
the lobsters turned rancid by now.