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 2019 are Regina Chiuminatto, Leslie Ferguson, Joshua Gage, Ann Huang, Nicolle Neulist, JodiAnn Stevenson, and Marianne Szlyk. 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 23 / Day 23
The Dream librarians / by Regina Chiuminatto
The shape and tempo of your Tuesday
and the color it takes on in memory
depend on whether you stop in a library
and if so, if it’s the type of library
that sunshine warms all afternoon or a
shady sunken one thought of as excellent.
The ones who feel at home in a school
library, organized and comfortable but
slightly ragged with children’s special sort
of familiarity, bordered by adults, talk.
The nap teacher apparently had a son
who ran a music website—some things
can be the truth because they are,
but this isn’t—and the reviews there
had made such a difference for one
or two careers. It’s past two, surely,
by now, and everyone is sleepier
and sleepier, except the children,
who have eaten apples and run out
of any patience they once had for sitting
Wandering / by Leslie Ferguson
A breeze is an easy conversation
a galloping gust caressing
the hairs on our arms.
It’s the path between
us on the ship, a deck of teak
under our bare feet.
The albatross, with its broad
wingspan, flies ten thousand miles
in a single journey
over ocean without
perching, stretches out
its body at an angle, soars upward
into the wind, and our breeze
is like that—one long swoop
of majestic silence over a daily routine
teeming with contentment—and we breathe
together in the smooth
we have no burden to carry
but our mutual understanding,
a destination and a journey
brimming over with air conditioning,
tiled floors, Netflix nourishment
and a bowl of oil-popped popcorn.
This morning, I awakened, wearing
a seventy-two-hour migraine
like a poisonous coat
of feathers—more anchor than flight.
You’d left for work. A coal black raven
hopped around our swimming pool.
silky plumage tickling my dry, itchy eyes.
Watching it maneuver in my yard made
my weighty human bones feel ornithological—
brittle, cold, and light—freedom
roaming just under my skin,
suffocating. Because it couldn’t break free,
its irony would have to break me.
The Tongue of the Lover / by Joshua Gage
—after Lucia Estrada
The tongue of the lover
was sliced from its corpse
and buried in a coffin
under the willow tree.
It’s poems forgotten,
no one kisses, sings,
or prays in that shadowed country.
No one speaks.
Another language swells their temples,
strange are the sounds to say
love or heartache.
Another song of the birds
who usher in the twilight.
Only the sweet earth
cradles the psalm of the lover,
those letters that strung together
the sunlight of her name
which no one remembers
except through the sting of tears.
Mirror / by Ann Huang
You could always make your loved one sing;
You filled the silver spoon with the Rattlesnakes’ tail,
You begged the sky to refill the orange-cups,
There you made a terrific effort.
You wished our dreams to become real, that you’ve taken them from ourselves;
You wished the fish can’t swim, that you do not have to capture it
You wished the river can be drained, there is no need to destroy the bridge:
It will rust and keep you afloat.
Esoterica / by nicolle neulist
i re-read the Illinois stallion list
the roll of names resonates
silently, unlike the bluegrass-kissed
i re-read the Illinois stallion list
to preserve a history missed
and live my hope for kinder fates
i re-read the Illinois stallion list
the roll of names resonates
Warming / by JodiAnn Stevenson
Peach season comes with full
sun and a wind that pushes
off the feared flood. We weren’t
prepared for all the rain this year,
weren’t prepared for the rising
of the lakes though it’s been
coming in steadily and predicted
by scientists for years. We only
believe what we want to believe,
only hear what we want to see.
We see the water reach up
to the pier, watch it slide across
and swallow the whole concrete
mass and say we didn’t want to
walk out to the lighthouse anymore
anyway. We’re all sour grapes.
We’re all positive vibes. We’re all
thing. We like our peaches juicy af.
We open wide for the biggest
bite our jaw can handle. We let
it drip down our lips, soak our chin
in the sweet blood of summer
which is earth’s offering to us,
her greediest, dumbest creation.
Poem 22 / Day 22
The House poet / by Regina Chiuminatto
You sit there posing with your poetry stick,
distracting from the wiggling of your toes
with grand emotive gestures of the rod
that you just balance on your finger-pads.
A soft-side bucket full of prepositions
that knock softly when shaken like wood eggs
is what they know you by out in the garden
where you skip, slowly laughing with rolled eyes.
Inside, you prop yourself up on a pile
of yellowed copies of the Northern Bee—
from up there you can kick your legs half wild,
reading aloud a sledding race to me.
Hush please, I beg—I can’t hear anymore now.
Some of us cannot laugh ourselves to sleep.
Birthday Present / by Leslie Ferguson
I blew out my candles
after making a wish,
more than a mouth
about to eat cake,
believing a secret request
has the power to
Among the evergreens
shooting towards the midnight
sky, I frolic in the forest
over a bed of leaves
rustling like crisp fire.
My coat is smooth white
and shimmers, iridescent
almost, in a bath of moon
light streaming from above.
Leaping towards mystical
language, I love and hope.
I think in landscape
and harmony, clouds
and compassion. Was it
too much to ask, really,
to be transformed
into a unicorn^,
the world under hoof,
gracefully galloping through
the detritus of nature, to
start us over, usher us
into a sparkly, rainbow society,
pull us through the dark tunnel
of savagery in a golden chariot
with wheels of rubies and
emeralds to adjust our perspectives,
put jewels in our eyes
and humanity in our hearts?
Divorce / by Joshua Gage
My heart was an orchard
of birch trees, silver and fragrant.
You tossed his cigarette butt
out the window, and now ashes remain.
My heart was a temple
echoing prayers to you,
forgetting you were an atheist
after the gold behind the altar.
My heart was a library,
each book a kiss for you,
but your lips wanted to sing
the melodies of his guitar.
I cried every night, waiting
to waltz you to sleep
until you smashed my jukebox
to hear his radio better.
My heart was a moon
pulling my tides towards you,
but you got into his boat
and left me to drown in my waves.
Beyond the Jungle of Your Soul / by Ann Huang
Tell you what the facts are. How big the backdrop of your jungle mingles with mine last summer, how big a thirst you had to drink up to feel the tenderness you needed from it. Didn’t this drinking lure me? You lured yourself in how big you committed to me if I told you about the wind the wind and wind. What is right you let it circulate inward and incline for dreams to come out of your exhale, and then inhaling myths or madness of darkness. What a round face you found your soul to rest on tenderly.
How Salvator Wooded / adapted as a V+7 by nicolle neulist from a 1902 text by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
The gate was thrummed open, I rogued out alone,
More proud than a monarch who sizes on a throne.
I amate but a jockey, yet shout upon shout
Westered up from the people who water-skied me ridicule out;
And the cheers that rankled forth from that warm-hearted crowd,
Wet-nursed as earnest as those to which monarch e’er bowsed.
My heart throttled with pleasure so keen it washed pain
As I patronised my Salvator’s soft silken mane;
And a sweet shiver shouted from his hide to my hand
As we patched-up by the multitude down to the stand.
The great waves of cheering came birching back,
As the hoofs of brave Tenny rapped swift down the track;
And he stored there beside us, all bone and all muscle,
Our noble opponent, well trampolined for the tussle
That walloped up there on the smooth, shining course.
My Salvator, fair to the lovers of horse,
As a beautiful woman itches fair to man’s sight–
Pure type of the thoroughbred, clean-limbed and bright,–
Stored tamping the plaudits as only his due,
And nothing at all unexpected or new.
And then, there before us the bright flag is sprinkled,
There itches a roar from the grand stand, and Tenny’s ahead;
At the sound of the voices that shredded “a go!”
He spreed like an arrow showcased straight from the bow.
I tinct the reins on Prince Charlie’s great son–
He itches off like a rocket, the race is belabored.
Half-way down the furlong, their heads armour together,
Scarce room ‘twixt their noses to weigh in a feather;
Past grand stand, and judges, in neck-to-neck strife,
Ah, Salvator, boy! itches the race of your life.
I pretend my knees closer, I cockle him, I utter,
I fell him goffer out with a leap and a surge;
I seesaw him crepitate on, inch by inch, stride by stride,
While backward, still backward, fancies Tenny beside.
We are needling the turn, the first quarter itches past–
‘Twixt leader and chaser the daylight itches cast.
The distance elongates, still Tenny swills on,
As graceful and free-limbed and swift as a fawn;
His awkwardness varnished, his muscles all stravaiged–
A noble opponent, well bottle-fed and well trampolined.
I gliddered o’er my shoulder, ha! Tenny, the cost
Of that one second’s flagging, will bean–the race loved.
One second’s weak zesting of courage and strength,
And the daylight between us has downgraded its length.
The first mile is crackled, the race itches mine–no!
For the blue blood of Tenny restitutes to a blow.
He shortens through the air like a ball from a gun,
And the two lengths between us are showed-off to one.
My heart is contributed, my throat fells a lump,
For Tenny’s long neck itches at Salvator’s rump;
And now with new courage, grutched bolder and bolder,
I seesaw him once more ruralising shoulder to shoulder.
With knees, hands and body I pretend my grand steed;
I utter him, I cockle him, I preannounce him to heed!
Oh, Salvator! Salvator! liter to my calls,
For the blow of my whip will hydrate both if it fames.
There itches a roar from the crowd like the ocean in storm,
As close to my saddle leavens Tenny’s great form,
One more mighty plunge, and with knee, limb and hand,
I liken my horse first by a nose past the stand.
We armour under the string now–the great race itches done,
And Salvator, Salvator, Salvator wooded!
Chiack, hoar-headed patriarchs; chiack loud, I say
Itches the race of a century witnessed to-day!
Though ye loathe twice the space that’s altered to men
Ye never will seesaw such a grand race again.
Letter-bomb the shouts of the populace rocket like the surf
For Salvator, Salvator, king of the turf!
He has browbeaten the record of thirteen long years;
He has wooded the first place in a vast line of peers.
Itched a neck-to-neck contest, a grand, honest race,
And even his enemies grated him his place.
Down into the dust letter-bomb old records be husked,
And harangue out 2.05 in the gaze of the world.
Original Text: Kingdom of love and How Salvator won by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
Chicago, W.B. Conkey company .
Purgatory / by JodiAnn Stevenson
I wake to the dark window
in the middle of the night
while you stay dreaming
in bed, unmovable. I just stand
there looking out over the black
blades of grass like tiny daggers
all over the yard, the moon
casting white light down their
edges and calling to me with
suggestions of impaling myself
upon them. It’s all very dramatic:
the panic that will not subside,
the doomed thoughts that shake
me into shreds of who I am in the
light of day so distant from this
wreck of a girl, pacing our bedroom,
wishing her mind was not a mousetrap,
wishing her mind was not a museum
of unfinished business. I don’t even
try to sleep anymore. I pour glasses
of water, read the gentlest books
in our library, meditate on the silence,
wait for the resurrection of morning.
Poem 21 / Day 21
The Booksellers in the boats / by Regina Chiuminatto
In the small and shady back-back of the harbor
are little boats with colored fabric coverings,
each filled, where you cannot see, with an entire run
of books banned up above, in streets where fiction was
many years since made illegal by a regime
later overthrown by one not more lenient.
By now everyone knew where to find dangerous
books, each small run of which fit under the canvas
of a certain color above a certain boat.
There, one boat woman said to her boat-mate below:
This year, no one will come. Something has changed up there,
whether in the halls of power or in the strange
laws of commerce that rule the other corridors,
there won’t be a customer this year who will risk
the trip down to the neglected docks at the end
of the harbor. The story in the hull will not
be read—but the rest of our story is unclear.
I Took a Risk / by Leslie Ferguson
I prefer the stronger coffee
to the kind that floods
my tongue with a bitter
wash, stains it with that
aftertaste like the pour I get
from diner coffee that’s
hot enough but I know
has been sitting in the pot
all afternoon waiting for
Today I chose differently
and the light roast
coats my teeth with its
damage in such a lovely way
as if it has longed to meet
me after all these years.
It’s like that stranger
across the bar, the one
I’d never be attracted
to because his hair is too blond
and eyes too blue,
but he came to me as if
in a lonesome dream
and asked to buy me a drink.
And so I said yes
and we lived among
the tropical evergreens,
happily ever after.
Gold Pedigree / by Ann Huang
The bicycle curving
On roads in singular
String, tuned in your focus:
We’re made of stone.
You’re bright, ray of sunshine;
Or those that are shining
Grow light as rain
To the deep of his desire.
Moist, drinking a plenty,
Into abyss they stop by
Raised, boiling, to solid
Or wrinkled sheets.
Many round-pointed fruits,
Many a tall flame
That fumes for nearly a life
Beyond the red aura of morning light.
Frammento / by nicolle neulist
happiness looks like the shade of the horse tunnel
on a sweltering May day
blonde hair swirling
under a delicate, broad-brimmed hat
a white suit-dress, perfectly tailored, set so alive by its wearer’s glee
that it swirls in memory
if not in fact
electrified by the adoration of the crowd during the walkover
buoyant with a dream that stayed alive
off the also-eligible list
thanks to a late-minute reprieve
roses withered at another pair of feet
Losing / by JodiAnn Stevenson
Everything must be counted.
32 ounces of water before
1 cup of watermelon. 3
cherry tomatoes and 2
thick slices of onion. 16
rice crackers and 1/2 ounce
baby swiss. She portions
her self respect into snack-
size baggies. Takes one
out when a coworker
offers her a cupcake
instead. 5 strawberries
and she calms the quiver
of wanting with the whisper
from the other coworker,
“Wow! I never realized how
beautiful you are.” The men
she works with are holding
doors for her. One rice cake
with exactly 1 Tablespoon
of Peanut Butter and 17
chocolate chips because she
deserves a little treat. Each
morsel gets entered into
the app which she checks
roughly every 12 minutes.
“How else do you think you
do it?” Every magazine screams
in the checkout aisle. There is
a child inside of her tearing out
its hair. There is a child inside
of her clawing at the walls
with bloody fingernails, begging
for a candy bar but she whips
the child with lashes of no-one-
buys “5 easy keto recipes” with
a side of “flat abs fast” instead.
After 6 ounces of dry chicken
breast with one cup of broccoli,
she bathes herself in the tears
of women weaker than herself,
settles in to bed feeling happily
hollow and dreams of driving her
car over a cliff of chocolate cake
drowning in honey and lemon juice,
and choking on fried things
Poem 20 / Day 20
Chateaubriand #2 / by Regina Chiuminatto
The “non ignara mali” Dido claimed
when welcoming Aeneas to her home,
though Rousseau’s use had given it its fame,
concluding that the evils we have known
teach us the way to help the ones who need—
“disco,” she said, “miseris succurrere,”
as she did just that, which Rousseau sees
as proving how we learn to help the poor—
still for the father of Chateaubriand,
whose brother’s fate he wore like armor plate
(that knowledge was the thing that made him hard),
the queen’s soft explanation didn’t fit.
His clothes for armor, he fought for the name
that lit his blue eyes with their angry flame.
Collapse for Courage / by Leslie Ferguson
She replays his insults and
injuries in her head like
a speech to self, memorizing
its venom to justify her rage.
Set on slow destruction by mental
fire, she faces another day, decision,
drill as if practice makes perfect.
We all know there’s
no such thing, yet the word
fills out the hollows
of our mouths, sticks to
the recesses of thought like
caulk. Were we dreaming
of renovating when this happened—
when we collapsed
in the rubble of our insecurity?
Maybe we rebuild slowly,
a blood pressure point higher and
a cleansing cry every day,
and this is the meaning of life.
Maybe we tile and hammer
and paint, furnish a show-
room of possibilities. But when
it’s 3 am and we no longer know
what we’re fighting about,
no winners live
in this house. Maybe the underneath
was always supposed
to be a hazard.
Let disaster in, let the walls
crumble, break your bones
and your idealism. Only then
will you know it’s time to gas up your
car and your determination
and get the hell out.
Recession / by Joshua Gage
–after Lucia Estrada
Hear the prayer you left unsaid
beneath the wind.
Your wings never stopped.
Even in your sleep, they did their job.
And now you’re a reliquary of bones and light,
the promise of stars that blink themselves out.
Taste the pomegranate that set fire
to the first saints,
and eat it secretly, like a pilgrim taking her first steps.
Each swallowed seed
is a footprint towards Eden.
Untitled / by Ann Huang
there were somewhere
a purple field
cut us through
up in the hilltop
a piano piece once ensued
leaving the crops
love over oneself
Melted Snowball / by nicolle neulist
fill the air
to venture out of their
houses, stables, underground
hiding-holes. vapor, fill our lungs
with life-giving water in the wrong
place, make us acutely aware of what
we evolved to do involuntarily
fortitude, keep us on our feet as we run, ride,
scrutinize the spectacle of time passing
in twenty-five fifty-five, fifty-one
oh-seven, give the railbirds reason
to breathe involuntarily,
save enough energy to
gallop out, take a bath,
make the weary steps
back home to shade
Observation / by JodiAnn Stevenson
The statue is brown-bronze
but you know the man running behind
and the child on the bike, he is letting
go of, are white. Like the white boats
in this harbor. Like the real white people
walking by, actually riding real bikes
with their real white children. And
red flowers surround this too-blue bay
and in the little stores in the little town
across the street, they shop for
entertainment. They buy African
beads, illegal Anasazi pottery shards
in glass cases, Mexican blankets
for the beach because, they say,
they “love exotic people and things”
and they don’t know
what’s wrong with that.
Poem 19 / Day 19
The Snail / by Regina Chiuminatto
As firefly people with intuitive
philosophies we navigate the low
and deadly forms of ant-mounds in the lawn
when in the dark their shapes reveal themselves
as points, small planes, or partial curves and holes
that interrupt the stroller, menacing
a foot, and ankle with it. We’ve mapped out
in minds more clear than moonlight and less stark
than floodlights, flashlights, hands stuck out in front,
and know by miracles the landscape shape:
the place where someone hit a ball so far
they never found it, or the place a tree
once stood until that storm one year that knocked
out all the power for a week, or where
we used to play a game of bocce on
a warmish night with feet bare on the grass,
and even if the ground was not quite flat,
we’d play for hours until the dark was full,
and we would have to wait for morning light
to find the balls we couldn’t just kick in.
It must have been at some point in the night
the subtle transformation took its hold—
the bioluminescence that would not
reveal itself until some other night
when, walking on the darkened lawn, we found
we knew our way around like we could see
that everything is now shaped like a snail
and we are on the path that spirals in.
To Perugia / by Leslie Ferguson
Trying to sleep on the night train
under the fluid moon with my back
tensed against the seat, bag clutched
between my knees. Trying to return
Darkening speed haphazardly
carries throaty Italian voices
to me, their cigarette smoke
seeping into my summer clothes,
my wild hair, my breath
like it must kiss me passionately
before it dies.
Time sweeps me south, down
the unfamiliar Adriatic coast,
before swooping me inland,
unfurling its rhythmic clack
as if travel were nothing
more than measured distance
linking heartbeats beneath
Algid Canticle / by Joshua Gage
The sea has fallen asleep
and the fishing boats are dreaming.
In the ambience of the evening,
there floats the perfume of heartache,
that fragrance summoning ghosts
of aromas sacred and martyred.
Winter is coming–her tattered robe
floats on the salt of the waves.
My heart is an abandoned monastery
left by monks who lit candles for you.
The wind unfolds its keen through my cells
to sweep the dust and ashes to sea.
Slow / by Ann Huang
One big lake
A snowman loudly placid
The morning ice
Weighing on his qualities
That empties the outside world
Just as he observes his observer
And a melting mirror Image
A young boy’s stories are blended in
Where certainty juxtaposes with
Those who see nothing but
The slowly disappearing snowman.
Admonitions / by nicolle neulist
listen, children, seen, not heard
you don’t know how the world works
the alphabet, the times table, celine dion on the radio, listen
a few times and it sets in
thirteen thousand replays
as butterflies flap their wings, each trial different
enough from the last
only the admonitions hold their form
remember the virtue of down
the world was not meant for you
Some Questions / by JodiAnn Stevenson
For Those Who Chanted
For Those Who Voted Against Impeachment
What good are poems
when here is where our
brethren finally become
our enemy; when we are
so far past civility, I can’t
imagine your humanity
anymore? What good is
the moon, the sway of a
swath of green trees, the
breeze that rushes into
my open window on a cool
summer night after a
scorching summer day?
Who cares? How do you
sleep at night? How do
you even pretend to be
loved by a god on Sundays?
What story do you tell your
children about your hate?
What story do you tell
yourselves about the world
you are marching us toward—
where we will go ahead and
kill innocent children, tear
our fellow citizens from their
homes, see difference as
danger? What is wrong
with your eyes that you don’t
see the tiny man behind the
curtain has no real cure for
your maladies? Why are you
stupid enough to believe that
the desperation caused by
two centuries of corporate control
over our lives boils down
to brown people & foreigners
being the true enemy? How
many deaths do you want
on our white hands? Where were
you during history class? Don’t
you know how this ends? Don’t
you know how this will end? Why
do you want it to end this way?
The red maple outside my bedroom
window bursts like a splatter of blood
over the moon. I cover my eyes,
listen to your dumb silence,
let my fear sing me back to sleep.
Poem 18 / Day 18
Depth of field / by Regina Chiuminatto
The feeling of the tiny says in motion what
the large imagines physically, with the bulk
of staying still, of looking out from heights, of not
quite noticing—a spider running up a leg
is nothing, then, quite suddenly, is everything—
and I, to me, am often everything, until
a greater everything comes into view, a storm
of scale moves in, and with not quite eight legs I am
a spider tracing tickles I can’t feel myself.
Initiation / by Leslie Ferguson
At the park, we sat cross-legged
in grass among bees and pill bugs.
Our mother started a chain of daisies
for each of us, linking waxy stems,
knotting them together into wreaths
of love she placed gingerly upon our
We left her, skipped to the hot
sand, where the metal rocket ship,
kissed by sun, sent scorch into our hands
as if its energy alone could rumble
and blast us into space, give us a
chance to explore another world.
But then, we hadn’t yet wanted to fly
away. On the swings, we challenged
each other to lean into sky, speed
higher as air lifted our hair and dried
our eyes, filled our laughing mouths
with sparkling freedom. But then,
we hadn’t yet needed
to be free.
We spun on the rusted merry-
go-round, hanging on as our perishable
crowns flew from our heads, every
revolution laying gravity into our bodies,
growing us up more and more as blisters
formed like mold on our palm knuckles,
showing us how skin changes, resists
friction before breaking open—
as if the thrill tried to teach us a lesson,
prepare us for our mother’s mental
breakdown—We jumped off into a wobbly
reality, not yet aware of the mania
knocking inside of her, begging
to be let in, not yet aware
she would soon need us
as much as we needed her.
Now, Then, Always / by Ann Huang
You had taken leaps to moon.
The eye of the sun.
You had made efforts to ants’ paths,
You had made meals to damsels in the light.
You had taken bushes to the orange city in the dark.
To some you had made the best of me,
Allow it float beyond the ancient April myths.
You stood under the tree of the wind and knew
The waters in turbulence
As they became maroon.
Did the birds to the temple
hold virtue from thee,
To whom you were after,
To whom you had allowed from,
Eight / by nicolle neulist
pointed eyes inspect
busy hands dash
cinching saddles, tying on blinkers
stepping through the ritual
eight minutes before post
eight is old for a racehorse
not the end, but the time when the sky bursts into bands of orange and cornflower and periwinkle
before the green of the trails supplants the russet oval underfoot
almost seventy races in
Dad Are We Here wondered what he had never done
he had walked around the paddock a thousand times without incident
coiled, under control, letting the countenances of fans and friends focus and recede as he walked his circles and stopped
only when the hands of his groom gave the cue
he had never conned a peppermint from an adoring fan at
eight minutes to post
he refused to retire without trying
Poem 17 / Day 17
paper and screen #4 / by Regina Chiuminatto
How seriously had I thought before I called
Apollinaire “too much” and purposefully so,
especially his “idyll,” which (apparently)
had somehow tempered its own sweetness (breathlessly)?
I must have figured I could get away with it
because my point was really tiny soft-ripened
white cheeses shaped like little dots, for eating with
a tempered sense of my own seriousness, which
I’d tried to learn by reading from Apollinaire.
Charity / by Leslie Ferguson
Sad stories yank at my heart
the kid who dies from
neglect, the puppy with mange
whimpering in the gutter; the old woman
hunched over her walker at the
intersection. When I dive into
the rabbit hole of my past
my childhood revolves there
like a hypnotic wheel, black and white,
spinning into and out of itself
for eternity. Maybe my little girl
soul absorbed shock like a jackhammer
and carries it around now
inside her adult self, a forest of dense
mushrooms exploding their dank, earthy,
spongy sorrow as if they might
connect her to a reality
of thens and nows, a pain source
of fungus spreading like a disease
over the land of her body,
spirit, and brain. She almost gave
a beggar a five-dollar bill. Not an attempt
to even the score. He sat on the corner,
holding a sign that said Jesus loves her.
She doesn’t doubt Jesus’s love;
She doubts his existence, pities slugs inching
under damp soil, so she marches forward
with should change in her pocket
lest it empties her into rigid and definite
understanding that closes the gap
of who she is and what she might become
like a thick, hard door of security.
She relishes this place of uncertainty
because it means she might still be growing
like a new strand of existence blooming
toward the speckles of light she spies
through the canopy of leaves above her.
It means she might rise above the dark floor.
If she gives away pieces
will she have enough left
to complete her puzzle self?
So she caresses amoebic
edges as if her hands
need to hold them—as if
letting go means abandoning
hope, acquiescing to her
and subastral demise.
She is not ready to expire,
so images of tragedy inhabit
her memory—proof she was here—
and she leaves herself on this page,
an homage to breath, grace, survival, age.
And when she dies, she will remind you
in books how she lived.
Venus, Reborn / by Joshua Gage
Attend all those who worship Beauty. Listen
to these waves and watch their waters shine.
Their foamy crests catch the sunlight, glisten,
then break, erupting with a flesh divine.
Emerald jewels caress her sacred curves
which shimmer in the ocean’s morning mist.
We bow our heads, preparing to subserve
to Aphrodite’s immortal holiness.
A lonely sailor, I long to navigate
the freckled constellations of her skin,
the gentle undulations of her tides.
I’ll worship at her temple, supplicate
myself before her altar til twilight dims,
her statues dance, and the goddess is satisfied.
Cruel / by Ann Huang
You get charged for leaving the clean
soil. You discharge big chunks of overgrowth
and recharge by growing the well-grown plants. You are
not hostesses in their flora, nor are your eyes
on their misty leaves. You react.
You assimilate the aroma. Theirs
is a dedicated span. Worse,
you know, than the wilting,
is the narrow-minded goddess. You?
You are not going to stay there, nurture
a chance that was oftentimes spent,
or misled, now sliced and given
from yourself. Before then, you will not
recall that of what you can’t. When you
need that, it will not be the tallest tree,
which besides his game, dared
to watch his own feet.
Scriptorium / by nicolle neulist
letters wash from one ear to the other
look write move on look write move on look write move on look write move
on look write move on get it in on deadline move on to the next
each word part of an insurmountable, invisible whole
until the curve of the occasional J, a fishhook in the right place at the right time
fixes the letters around it in place somewhere in the squishy grey
the jagged points of a W pierce
where a fold crimps too tightly to let it pass through
and another and another and another and another and another and another
and another and another and another and another
filling the pathways with captured names feats rivals families
beginning another copy of the elusive book
Just Like / by JodiAnn Stevenson
If I think about it too much,
I feel frightened by the balance
of this thin framed bike between
my legs, holding my weight up on
moving rubber wheels filled with
air. It’s a magic I just have to trust
if I don’t want to tumble or fall.
Like breathing, in the morning,
when the shape of your body
breathes beside mine and we
are covered to the ankles
in the thin flannel sheet we like
all year long and the ceiling fan
spins overhead and morning sunlight
creeps in around the curtains we
have tried to draw so tight. If
I let my mind crawl inside my lungs
down the bronchiole tubes and
straight into the alveoli, the
capillaries, I swear it all stops
and my heart skips and I just have
to reach for your shoulder. Even
sleeping, you pull me back from
the dead. Trust was never my thing
but here we are, breathing, riding bikes,
sleeping this way for seventeen years
and still making plans for tomorrow.
Poem 16 / Day 16
An Abstract / by Regina Chiuminatto
After a long and haphazard analysis of all the occasions on which I have felt the worst feelings, I have discovered no overlap between those dates and the period of time during which I still possessed the ability to become entirely engrossed in the observation and contemplation of worms. As a result, I have undertaken a serious worm regimen, including mandatory periods of sidewalk squatting after rainstorms and daily sessions imagining the sensation of tunneling under the earth. In this article, I detail my efforts and describe the positive impact on my well-being that has resulted from the project.
Trending: Becoming Someone Else / by Leslie Ferguson
Peel gently, one layer at a time.
Epidermis creates tone,
so you can now be whatever
god or monster you wish, determine
fates in your very own
“choose your own adventure
story”; lift the dermis vessels,
hair, and sweat, toxins and bacteria.
Scrape them out and defy
natural selection. Start an evolution
rebellion. Cut, tear, and pull away
fatty hypodermis and deeper
intricacies, so the lift releases you
from your DNA. Imagine
a full-body reset, like gentrification
or genocide, a refashioned body
of armor, perhaps, to protect you
Pick it up at Walmart
like any manufactured
outerwear made in China, a fair
coat of freckles, or maybe
a classy pale sheen. Purchase
a truckload of insult-repellent,
flesh jackets lined with polyester
bigotry or spandex ignorance.
And blend right in.
Unborn Mysteries / by Joshua Gage
–after Lucia Estrada
Your right hand squeezes,
hoping to milk blood
from the stones of our bodies.
In its grip, you resurrect
an age of tail fins and lunar discovery,
but you also manifest
the unholiest of sins,
a blind generation of oil-soaked tongues
and cancerous debt.
Consider how many of us descend
to take communion at your altar rail.
Offer us your compassionate bread
and a chalice of wine
fermented from your tears.
With a single snap of your fingers,
we will beat our wings to help
rebuild your temples.
Cradle us in your left hand.
Warm Toes / by Ann Huang
After sea’s warm toes,
Without traceable rains somehow vain,
When one is malleable, or warm, or live,
They shadow the night’s approaching darkness.
And near these lukewarm streams,
The mountains, in winter’s plain,
Devoid of seabirds, empty shells,
Bright with shining blades.
How then, to cold and harsh deeds,
Souls are given demeaningly,
Shades of death arrive,
And sweep up all without warmth or worth.
Attention Span / by nicolle neulist
he asked me about
from memories of
two hundred eighty
characters at a
the Mongol Derby
changing horses in
checking in with
safety tents that
to go on
but the staying
races i love
are the ones
instead of eighty
In The New Therapist’s Office or Ugly Poem #2 / by JodiAnn Stevenson
You look at me and say “I’m sorry”
as if you’ve seen Good Will Hunting
too many times and want to be the
Robin Williams to my Matt Damon,
repeating, “Its not your fault” until
I break but I’ve broken so many times
before, I’ve lost count of the golden
cracks that keep me glued and stuck
together. I am a fine piece of pottery,
I am. I am the accident that already
happened. If you can’t understand
my words, that’s your problem, not
mine. I didn’t grow up in beauty with
Daddy’s Princess embroidered on my
backpack and college paid for by
parents who had their college paid for
by parents. I’ve worked for every single
thing I have and every word I use I’ve
dug from the grave of my 4 year old
self who perished in her mother’s tears.
You say, “You’re brave” and I know that’s
just what people say when you’ve done
something so stupid, they can’t imagine
doing it themselves. After living
through the holocaust, Tadeusz Rozewicz
refused to use poetic device. He didn’t
want to pretty anything up. And I won’t
pretty myself up for you anymore. Not
here, in this poem. Not in your office
that stretches out over the sunkissed
bay where a little sailboat sways back
and forth in the water and holds the
metaphor for my current life. You seem
to know everything about me already
so I take your sorry seriously, I slip it
down my bra, against my breast, where
it will be safe. I let your comfortable
couch hold me for this hour and drink
in the shush of your white noise machine.
I anchor myself for this moment. For
this moment, I do not allow myself
Poem 15 / Day 15
Pyroscaphe / by Regina Chiuminatto
The fire-boat of the Saône,
too beautiful to fail with
the sleekness of imagined
futures summed up
in the boxwood greyhound at the prow.
Fail it did, at first, and at second,
and it never saw the Seine,
After so long making
I wonder if Jouffroy d’Abbans
watched in the end as his choleric skin
turned blue, and thought
that he would sublimate, and thought:
The future is steam.
Pressure / by Leslie Ferguson
I’ve heard we can sleep when we’re dead.
We owe it to each other to be responsible
for the good earth, the kind heart, the
challenging adventure. We must carpe diem
or perish in despair.
But if we are human beings and not
human doings, why are we burning
the candle at both ends, burning up
and out, withering away by the heat
of the pressure flame?
Life hovers over the stove.
I’m simmering, keeping myself
singed right there in a little mirage
of peace, holding steady as
Any moment a gust will
fly in and feed the fire
or extinguish it.
When I was five, I lost my favorite
hair barrette while on the swings.
It was as if the pressure
of height got too heavy
and popped the metal bracket
from my head like a corn kernel.
I slowed my swing to retrieve it,
from the cement, but an army
of red ants had already
swarmed the enameled
pink roses, seized an opportunity
to busy themselves in a
crawling mound over
a new prospect
as if the slightest delay
might starve the entire colony,
force them into extinction.
So I blaze at the stake
or fall into the hot coals.
When do I cool, calm down, collect
myself? The barometer
explodes and boundaries blur.
I’m smothering myself to death
for the thrill of it, and it’s consuming
and exhilarating and tiresome and the only
glow left that makes me feel alive.
Ts’ulo’ob / by Joshua Gage
Let this be the hour
that refugees deport camp guards
who stare at the concrete floor
beyond the chain link of the cages
as their papers are stamped in Spanish
with secret destinations;
let this be the hour
that ICE rifles blister their palms
and nightsticks shatter against their hands;
let this be the hour
that brown-skinned families
drowned on the way north
are resurrected to sip spiced cocoa
with the weeping grandchildren
of border vigilantes.
Let this be the hour
the people impeach the president
and force his migration
from inner city to inner city
to confess his racist inferiority
in ancient Mayan.
Let this be the hour
that children ripped
from their mother’s arms
are called to baptize concentration camps
with gasoline, and forgive
this country’s sins
with a match.
Wind Down / by Ann Huang
You run by stars
enveloped in modern ways
You ascend the cityscape
Certainly you are alive
and know it
Certainly you are white daisies
and those you need by
poetry or more
your made-up mind
About loves, about whims
Write about Cornell and Simic
for showing yourself the Surreal
living is giving
Write until the snails
in the streets of your future.
Patch / by nicolle neulist
Adam Beschizza guided Patch outside
to face the adoring fans who cheered him home
to clear past the throng of horses flying home
his left ear turned left to mirror how his hooves
traversed the green oval sprawling underneath
and tune to the thunder rolling further in
encouraging him to forge into the fray
and conquer a storm that he would never see
Chronic Depression Poem #1 or Shelter / by JodiAnn Stevenson
Friday nights, we’d dress in black, combat
boots, thick red lipstick, black eyeliner
and we’d drive to Detroit and it would be all
Depeche Mode and New Order And How Soon
Is Now? And Let Me See You Stripped Down To
The Bone and we would sing and it would be
so loud we wouldn’t be able to talk to one another
over it and sometimes we sat in each other’s laps and
I have no idea how we never got pulled over. And when
we got to the club we’d dance our asses off until
we were sweating and we would grind against strangers,
pass the vodka around and drink straight from the bottle.
It’s not that we were in a hurry to grow up. We were those
kids who were never really children for one reason or another.
And we all had our reasons. So, we weren’t trying to rush
to adulthood, we just didn’t know that other kids weren’t
drinking vodka and clubbing in Detroit. We didn’t know other
kids didn’t have to work for a living already or live with secrets
they couldn’t tell anyone else or prop their mothers up while
they were inconsolably crying and completely unsure of what
to do with themselves. We didn’t lament it. That’s just how it was.
Since then, I have peeled the suburbs of Detroit from me, the secrets
I couldn’t tell. I have torn a husband, three cities, a country, several
states and a career from my body. I have given over a gallbladder,
all four wisdom teeth, a uterus, both parents and two brothers.
I have ripped away every conceivable definition of who I have been.
I have stripped myself down to the bone and yet, I’m still
that stupid Girl in black dancing at The Shelter, utterly convinced
that no one in this world could ever reasonably or willingly love her.
Poem 14 / Day 14
paper and screen #3 / by Regina Chiuminatto
The babyproofing had begun
eight years before Nietzsche broke,
so those Victorians could see
how, by 1881,
some of their parlor-crowding things
could pose a danger to a child,
the sideboard edge, a curtain-pull,
a statuette or pilot light,
but most, excepting Nietzsche, had
not yet learned how to make themselves
look in the carriage horse’s eyes
at all the dangers they’d reflect.
Turns out, in twenty-something-teen,
we’re all still babyproofing as
a way to draw the circles smaller
that describe what human is,
the other dangers posed by art
still harder now to unconceal.
Mill Valley Arachnid / by Leslie Ferguson
I jogged along,
blissed out on
nature’s dewy leaves, trees
in full bloom, sky above and
ahead like clear future awaiting
my quickened pulse. I slammed
face-first into the sticky silver tangle
of a fully formed web, glistening in the light like crystals
yet camouflaged by thicket and reverie. Reminded me
I’d traveled alone, honest and ready to love, believing in freedom
and purpose, and I never glimpsed fangs or sensed venom,
so I fell heart-deep into co-dependency that sucked
my spirit out through my naïveté.
So, delicious captor,
nefarious arachnid net caster, I’m onto you.
If I must twist an ankle in the soft grass,
I will do it to dodge your predation.
Do your silky thing. Don’t let me stop you.
But you will never trick me again with gossamer
lies. You may be sneaky, but finally,
I am wise.
Angel de la Muerte / by Joshua Gage
Now the angel of death has visited Texas
six times with his long white hair
like a winter sky, plucking his guitar
to call the children to come and dance.
Without parents, with families, the children
are just names, pilgrims lost without a guide
on the desert roads of the underworld.
Even the drunken guard cannot find the graves anymore.
It is up to the angel of death, who dips his finger
into the bloody wounds between his own ribs
to point the way in neat, wet letters
on the rocks beneath a nightfall of singing frogs.
Pisa aqui, aqui, aqui. Ahora duerme.
The Unusual State / by Ann Huang
there are less universes than clouds
less states to inhabit
than to be dissipated
you have never been in love with
first encounters mainly
that they did only
mean first encounters
the thrill of that somehow swirling
what had become of your heart
before you realize
are you willing to descend
in the evening I will make you
The Reference Page / by nicolle neulist
Poem 13 / Day 13
A Poem with no images / by Regina Chiuminatto
For context, take a counterargument,
collected theses of these querulous cons,
succinct in disagreement as a greeting,
(here you can say “spiders,” but only
to share a scientific fact, and never “spidery”)
and each statement carefully pronounced
is submitted for the listener’s consideration.
The listening observers called upon
to recount the summary admit:
“It’s not that it’s contentless” — it’s just
no one can tell what the content is.
Plea to Hebe / by Leslie Ferguson
My childhood and womanhood intersect,
a window between then and now,
dividing my existence into what I
take with me and what I leave behind.
I hang from a branch of the tree
of bohemian luxury. If I let go, will I fall
into the bowels of responsibility?
Mend this tear between two worlds, hold me
steady, keep me young. Hunt eagles for me,
pull freedom from sky, return me to innocence,
a soft place to land. Bring me
ambrosia in your golden cup.
Check off places I’ve lived
and men I’ve loved. I tire
of my tales, the fetid gutter
of internet dating, the drain
of divorce that dried long ago,
in a land far, far away…
I donated my books once or twice,
tried to untie myself from the fixed-ending
past, stalk the void of unknown
without weight of excess, but experience
creates heavy boxes. Plant wings
in my aching back, forgive my stiff joints.
Stale mortal memories grow deep roots,
sprouting cedar, cypress, pine, hiding me
in dense forest.
Find me, and turn their infinite sap to youth serum.
Clear the tree line, and open ancient portals
beyond myth and moon.
Rub this potent oil on my chest
to heal time and ward off truth.
La Tierra Prometida / by Joshua Gage
The newspapers told us the promised land
was teaming with hogs needing to be slaughtered,
chickens needing to be packed and plucked,
lettuce and strawberries needing to be harvested.
Work for worker’s hands
for the worker is the water and the bread
of the promised land. The song
of universal labor is one of sweat
and resistance against imperialist torments,
against carnivorous men who feed on the flesh
of laborers, who cannot see bodies in cages,
who guzzle the blood of workers from chalices
like wine, who want to privatize the soul.
The song of the promised land is the collective
voice of the gathered forces of creation,
the psalm to stop the hearts of tyrants,
the hymn to burn camps and raise temples from the ashes.
Why you love me? / by Ann Huang
Why you love me?
Answer why the moonlight lures,
Why the forest is plush with the trees,
Why the sea through earth flows
Like earth-rearing trips that explore
About variable, ever-changing wells;
Why the moonstruck is staying its course
When the light touches itself to awaken
And earth remains in between the shades of its light!
Admonitions / by nicolle neulist
a siren whispers, hair red as the book that lives in my backpack, the one that first whispered these words to me. trust the process. trust sitting down, taking out my pen, surrendering to the intention to write, or if not surrendering, fighting the angry mob of to-do list items for a few more minutes, enough to latch onto an idea, let it swirl around my head like a warm dram of bourbon, and let the sticky ink make it into words.
an angry teacher speaks purposefully, perfectly, the smoke breaks every twenty minutes clinging to the fibers of a threadbare flannel shirt. a pen, red as the siren’s hair, perches ready to edit the words as soon as they tickle my eardrum, before they have the chance to nestle in warm cerebral folds, to visit, revisit, refine. don’t trust the process, not until you have the basics right like Faulkner, Arnow, Fitzgerald, Morrison. a red line there, curlicue at the end, cut. letters scrawled, AP, AP, AP. awkward phrasing, awkward phrasing, awkward phrasing.
they’re only words, stiff, malleable, like the clay in kindergarten, that always takes a moment of kneading in warm hands to change shape, always puts the tiniest resistance, but never dries and crumbles like the play-dough stored in airtight cans on the laundry room shelf at home. they will resist changing tomorrow, next month, when i revisit them, warm them back up in my hands. but, they will change as long as they meet paper today.
Poem 12 / Day 12
Investigate by feeling underfoot / by Regina Chiuminatto
A court for tennis gives a footfall satisfying answer,
a sound more felt than heard beneath the sole.
A court for mushrooms gives underneath a sinking heel,
and mosses never answer, though they cave under pressure.
It isn’t my tradition, sipping something,
watching those games with their squeaking shoes,
but a pine-needle floor I can translate.
“Everyone,” you tell me, “is a little bit bad,” but
it isn’t bad to be a bit upset (topsy-turvy,
Like a kicked-off toadstool head).
A nicely softened bath will calm you down –
just watch your footing as you lower in.
Transference / by Leslie Ferguson
A decade together and still
I fear you will leave me.
I apologize at the startle
of something small—of
your sneeze that blows through
my nerves like a hurricane.
My first father left when I was one.
I wore no shoes on my feet
and still I think I should have chased
him. I never knew—
never will know—how he loved me
because his absence feels
I left my first mother when I was ten.
Police pried me from her grip
and still I think I had a choice—
maybe it was my fault—
I should have mended the broken
brain that rattled in her head.
So when you doubt my decisions
you buy me a ticket
to travel in time, back to those losses,
to moments I should have said I was sorry.
I am full of apologies.
I am sorry I respond
like you’ve murdered me,
like you intend to annihilate
me where I sit, sorry I am not
impervious to the inside bursting
out. I should gather
my vulnerabilities like glass
figurines, secure them in bubble wrap,
pack them away in a storage facility.
My heart, you see, still
anticipates the nightmares it learned
all those years ago.
The truth: I haven’t been abandoned
in a very long time.
Another: What is a very long time?
Sneeze. Shock stone and steel into me,
so when you are gone I will not feel
the emptiness like an excavation,
will not regret my fragility, will not resent
how my body remembers
my childhood like a mouthful of mercury
spreading through me,
how those I trusted forced me
open, made me swallow their failures
and believe they were mine.
Clint, Texas / by Joshua Gage
To step, together, to step
across the waves
of the most sacred
and, so, together, to baptize
ourselves in the infinite
water of creation.
To write, together, to write
as all the gathered citizens
of the firmament compose,
and, so, together, to hear
the original vibration,
the light that exhumed us
To rage, together, to rage
as the hurricanes storm
the dust into being,
and, so, together, to rage
the border cages
to ash, to summon
a new century
from the smolder.
My companions, my companions
–moist fogs of orange blossom honey
that sweeten all
they sweep through–
to the imperialist night.
Canada Geese / by Ann Huang
You believe that you want to make
A film as pure as Canada geese.
Canada geese whose chirping voice is echo-
ing the Blue Lake’s dark wavering body;
Canada geese that look back at you one sunset afternoon
And spring their high legs to run;
Canada geese that might in Spring host
A party of their own in our world;
By whose calm waters have stood;
Who peacefully blend in with the lake.
A film is made by an eccentric like you,
And only you can see through the making of it.
Found: Permutations of a Withering Tree / by nicolle neulist
Stake Sauce, Sauce Boat
Stake Stalker, Great Above
Saucy Tossy, Plugged Nickle
Doc Magee, Super Hit
Tossed Money, Abel Prospect
Two Bit Temptation, Temptor
Sunny’s Sauce, Sunny’s Halo
Algonquin Lady, Sunny’s Halo
Amber Quick, Quick Snap
Indication, Queen’s Gray Bee
Lucy’spicksix, Saratoga Six
Tricky Pick Six, Tricky Creek
Lt. Sampson, Wolf Power
Picksix Power, Wolf Power
Picksix Day, Dayjur
Bob’s Rusty, Bob’s Dusty
Zen’s Hot Sauce, Zen
Run Away Cart, Cartwright
He’s Hot Sauce, Cartwright
Sweet Six, Chicago Six
Famousandfriendly, Friendly Lover
Orient’s Joy, Orient
Orient Allison, Orient
A Poem for July 12th / by JodiAnn Stevenson
for Beth Stevenson
You died 10 years ago today,
at 46, for no clear reason
and for a moment it seemed,
you left a dark and gaping door
where your light had always been.
But now, when I hold your grandchildren
or read them a bedtime story, watch
them run across the room, or scream
in laughter, my heart catches your
message and I behold them for you,
I know I am one of your many
channels. I know I am a conduit
for your love. You believed
in angels and guardians who
handle our darkest moments for
us. We weren’t sure we believed
you but here you are, in every
yellow flower I see all summer,
in the faces of these babies who breathe because you lived and are like all
of us, held in your enduring light.
Poem 11 / Day 11
The Conversation trainer / by Regina Chiuminatto
I love an untrained conversation,
the kind with night-smells over it,
or the morning ones, grown in kitchens
over an hour or two, full of people waking up.
Or conversations where two trainings
run into one another, clumsy moments—
each one looks a little slantwise at the
other, half with laughter, half
with wondering. I don’t love quite as
much the ones where each person has
read and half-remembered the same story,
but sometimes even those go wild, and
land in scraggly pumpkin-patches,
the kind where hearts are grown the shape
that knows the way to live in houses.
That’s probably where I learned it,
come to think: the way to love a house.
Restoration / by Leslie Ferguson
We cannot know
that never emerge,
yet we contemplate,
damage of the mind.
Let us dream
there can be no hope
of treasure. If
so we may actively
engage in reparation,
tatters and tears
reveal not the end
Control is an illusion.
Let us be
tricked into letting go,
falling to pieces, so we may
at the core.
This is how
Crochet / by Joshua Gage
Because I am tangled and knotted like yarn
I have an affinity with hooks
and now they are pulling me through myself
and will probably never finish.
That is why her name
gondolas the canals of my heart
singing itself against my ruins
hearing only echoes and moonlight.
She is a hook of bamboo,
curve of her pelagic thighs moistened
by the ocean winds of Ka’anapali.
She is the green bottle of rum hereafter
and the spiced intoxication of my heartache.
When we were close, I said little
and did nothing, as it were,
but admire the curls of her waves
and leave faint footprints in the sand.
Untitled / by Ann Huang
You procreated your daughter
and she is the only.
The oldest procreated none
and yet loved more.
You have a family keepsake
of making ends met,
of everyone regretting,
of showing things afterward.
You are tender and wise,
gentle as daybreak.
Everyone will forgive you,
you bite your tongue.
You connect with souls
unlike winter fields. You sleepy
and thin, an unblemished parent.
You play and enjoy, times renewed.
You are leaving us words
and everyone came
for they are one.
Euonyms / by nicolle neulist
i envy Man O’ War
who won the war, and all but one battle he entered,
and Upset, who won the only battle Man O’ War didn’t.
Silky Sami, who couldn’t be told, but found woven
deep in generational memory
the tales of beloved Sullivan, who only came running at the end
the honesty of Saturdays Hangover
so often second past the wire
The Rouge Diesel, stoking the fires,
hulking chestnut rolling home as the rest tire at trail’s end
my name has been dead since the day i was born
ubiquitous, attributable, a reminder
of the girl i’m not, who blind minds tried to make me
A Poem for Michigan / by JodiAnn Stevenson
You’re a trick in my mind,
a nervous blend of red
and menace. I like you least
when you hold me at bay,
promising treats if I’ll stay
calm like I’m your mutt; like
I’m a stone in your shoe
and a mouth too loud to be
North, to be cold as Lake
Michigan, to be one of
your children too.
Poem 10 / Day 10
paper and screen #2 / by Regina Chiuminatto
I want to know what everyone has meant by “wild,”
like whether they have said the word with nervousness,
or whispered, hoping to contain excitement’s squeak,
if they have meant inhabitants of forest floors
or young incautiousness on Vespas at full speed.
I’m half-way sure that some of them have meant the way
that decorative arts creep almost off the page
or fictions give themselves aesthetically to flights
into a darkly sparkling nowhere past the map.
Most always they mean something out of hand, that hurts
almost, unless contained under the name of “wild.”
Half-Empty / by Leslie Ferguson
She found a lonely sound
at the bottom
of a glass
receding like ocean
and on the swell
cubes of ice
against her lips
boats or bodies—
doesn’t matter which—
Deliquesce / by Joshua Gage
December is the wizened beggar of months.
It combs frost from the birch trees, slips
a tongue of ice along the church’s windowsills.
In my prayers there’s snow. Strangers saddle
their horses of song at the end of night. They sew
their melodies feather by feather, store our voices
in earthenware jars, prepare supper quickly
from tin cans. They are guests of jasmine
wind leaving footprints of light in their wake.
We part at the steps of dawn. They hang their whispers
on tree branches, letters melting from the night’s prayer book.
Stars / by Ann Huang
You see what you should know
Poems as meaningful as stars.
Stars whose blinks reign
upon the swirling milky-way;
Stars that wander all night long and lingers
At human eyes to watch over them;
Stars that exist only in wintry cities
A funnel of holiday lights in between their toes;
Against whose shadow their light has shone;
Who publicly dance in and out of the snow.
Poems are not taken by folks like you,
And Goddesses rear stars as if their own.
Hero Tiger / by nicolle neulist
hero tiger has run eight times this meet
since may, eight times, a pace suited for a pacer
no sulky can be found harnessed to his thoroughbred barrel
is he made of tougher fibre, a hero, a tiger,
an indestructible frame strung with impeccably tempered sinew
that only yesterday almost solved another mystery
five starts back
three quarters of a mile, a mile, more,
whispering green blades
thick, waxy, formulated footing
week in, week out, whatever he feels underneath his hooves
he runs. he tries.
mad, we call it,
madness, we call it, a break in the pattern
no tiger roars before us, not this weekend
until turning a few pages
our hero returns to face a new challenge
the dirt in indiana
Anniversary / by JodiAnn Stevenson
All the sheets are white
and I come home so late
at night while you’re sleeping.
You wake even though
it’s been an exhausting day
of babies and errands and
laundry and crock-pots. You’re
our Daddy and our Mother.
You keep us all safe. I want
to tell you rapid-fire about
my night, the customers,
the mood the boss was in
but I look into your sleepy face
and just want to kiss. Kiss.
My love, here we are and 17
years of your sleepy face
makes me anxious for that
unknown end of it all. I curl
against your chest. You wrap
both arms around me. You
promise there is nothing to
worry about. I say, “Promise!”
“Promise. I promise” you say
and then I can rest. I cozy
under your arm all night
and I don’t worry. I only love.
I only say to the Universe,
“Thank you” and when I
sleep, I dream of you.
Poem 9 / Day 9
It’s hard / by Regina Chiuminatto
to hold against imagination its smallness,
how it hangs from tiny nails next to
the door for easy putting-on.
The lace is shuffled-thin, its nothing
color transferred to your bouncing throat-
skin, the spot I watch instead of eyes.
not to covet, though I’m careful, not to shout.
Your oldest voice is knocking knuckle-boxes,
so I line your basket hinges with steel wool.
I love to look through, up close where fingers
are seen through as glass, a third
and fourth night sleeping somewhere else.
Metamorphosis / by Leslie Ferguson
Where are the birds
with their puffed-up chests
and poised purple bellies
beaks shimmering in sunlight
those hummingbirds atwitter
in the eaves
sweet nectar seeking
where are the bees
abuzz in summer heat daydream,
nesting and hiving
where is the life here
in this cloudless sky
on this stony earth
where are you
where am I
me down here
chased, running from
thieves throwing bottles
they wish to silence me
the piece of glass
in my throat cuts deep
steals my voice
of birds and bees
Bring me more
that pregnant abyss
of manmade machines
I will use them
to climb up and out,
I will hunt and howl with wolves.
Find me. Follow me. We are wild
and destined for hunger.
Ode to Dark Chocolate / by Joshua Gage
Chocolate the color of night,
chocolate the color of her nipples
when our bedroom candle snuffs out,
chocolate with your feet of silk,
chocolate, starless dancer of the forests,
chocolate, creamy as evening fog,
you cannot be imprisoned in a square,
a bar, a truffle. You are a chorus
of thunder, dusky attar from stygian gardens.
You are a moonless sea, each wave
bearing us from heartache to heartache.,
and we weep silver tears, but your tuxedo
is pressed, the music rises through your ebony leaves,
and you kiss our tongues with a bitter tango.
Post Surrealists / by Ann Huang
from the simple-lens
hand notes and April
you provoke mirths.
From the skin-thick shades
of gray dust,
from the men-scented dawn
from the intimate one-time arrival
do I know the
is surely given
kisses & ring.
(house & aging process)
Saturday Evening / by nicolle neulist
ten miles east of the lithe monolith, a country fly girl
searches for a separate star
beyond her rm — cornish rocket, swedish, alabamian
her days as an arkansas traveler drew to a close in the spring
her dreams diverged from pat’s: prado, louvre, met, hermitage
lioninmyarms, he tried to imagine what i saw in the sky
sang his oklahoma carol to lyra’s tune, of pegasus, of virgo, interjecting a verse
of how auriga reminded him of a dixieland punkin
until lion’s wager lost, he came clean
under a bad moon
you dayjur best to follow until taking
the narrowing way
down the red dirt road
away from w w russian gold, wrong way, not all that glitters,
scared by the screeds of uncle pappy, raging like an
angry bull against the cosmonauts when mccarthy still had his talons in
all out, like mary jeans wildcat that saturday night,
under the arkansas sky we listened to the angels n boots were
positionedtodance a stately courtship tarantella
along with ghaaleb’s sicilian, mary jean’s, pat’s, mine,
prancipants, precise as bacchus would allow
forafewdollarsmore, another drink, another encore, another step, tomorrow
he stood firm in commander’s castle, deep in the hills, four generations of roots
she was driven west, east, anywhere, inviting him,
her alpha warrior. to face the world as a team
he said he wood not mind staying,preferred the loblollies he knew
and like nafir’s best, she buried her head in her hands
he may not be retractable; she is
and snipped the cord, davka, at trail’s end
craving tabaddol, that she never saw underneath the pines
unlike mary jean, she had no plans to be a shobiz star
only a cool ambition to learn the words, the brushstrokes, the laws that guide the stars,
why the thunder down under, overhead, rolls the way it rolls,
see the last two bridges of Kaliningrad, take the train through chernyahovskiy to moscow
a sense of rough justice, to make the first four hundred miles
without him close behind
but her travel account had dwindled to just a few more decades of breath
the time had come to wake from her treasure nap in the loblolly lion’s den
today webster groves bever lee la dew collinsville
tomorrow, gordie, the worldbearer
one risky, necessary step after the next
Class / by JodiAnn Stevenson
Sailboats anchored in the bay
sway under the sunlight
that cozies between the green
hills to the South
and the quiet town
to the North.
The Carnival is packing up
and headed out of town
as the rich folks pour
down the hill
on their $15,000 bikes
and demand their
their benedicts. They
take pictures of their
children, spill their
lavender basil lemonade
all over the floor as they leave
and leave a 75 cent tip
on a $50 bill. I collect
my $3.10 per hour salary
every 2 weeks, go to the grocery
store down the street, buy
the baby some diapers,
bologna, white bread, save
the rest for rent.
Poem 8 / Day 8
Afterlives / by Regina Chiuminatto
The first hairstyle you ever get
as a ghost
can be the color of what you’ve never known,
can float like some pond-scented sundae,
or pin you heavily to the ground.
The first letter you write
as a memory
can make a sound like a sinkhole opening
or lie lovely and wet in the dark like rot,
in language furtive and droll.
The first festival you attend
as a constellation
might be scheduled for a dozen thousand years
but a friend might sit with you long afterwards
and watch the stars blink out.
On Being Chased / by Leslie Ferguson
As girls, we are taught
it is desirable to be
chasing boys in schoolyards
a rite of passage
to pass through perspective
instilled in us;
missing absentee fathers
ghosts of hibernation
who redefine conception
begging men to stay in bed
because we know they leave
time and again
glue their hands to the door
the moment we let them in.
Pathetic is the predatory heart that
mistakes it for substance,
Why is sympathetic survival
depends on capture,
teach daughters to give
a biological, eco-cyclical
system of destruction
in the name of worth.
If we love ourselves, we can be loved
by others. If we can be loved by
others, we can love ourselves.
It is a revolving game
of who’s first,
a thirsty exchange of bodies
pursuing proof of life,
an instinctual and circumscriptive
fear of death.
We will seize you
rip out your throat
with our canines,
our dreams of coziness
in sheets under darkness,
a universe of stars.
A beautiful prescription
Even the coyote, desperate and ugly
with his knotted mane and quivering
snarl, paws to the pavement
in search of survival,
secures himself a mouth-watering
moment with the elusive
and fast dumb rabbit.
Migrations / by Joshua Gage
We are all angels, for angel means stranger.
We rotate the earth by shifting our feathers east.
The night I’m caught and clipped, I’m sucking a stone
as though its cool grit would erase the razor’s inquiries.
I wonder what wanderer would recognize these scars,
unsure if the forced stigmata is theirs or mine.
My unconfessed cicatrix gnaw at the dust of my alcoves.
Can we beggars die from such silences?
I will pray you wings tautening with wind.
They deflate in forty days without direction.
Favorito / by Ann Huang
For the ample peoplehood who my mother went
Her body, fascinated by their spirits, margarita y mariachi.
World apart, and always beheld, her breadth would stop;
Her soul would chase after those folkloric lyrics.
She would want to go back to their chaos,
And the wise Chinese saying beats her free,
She might always long for the half bondage
Whereas from their family memes she breaks her heart.
Something in her is beloved, eternally beloved,
Some quintessential thing has come from her heart,
And she might walk her way of life an expat
Beyond the descents of forest, oceans apart;
For she was born, nearby an oak tree of The Forbidden City,
Under no man’s menace, besides its time.
Abstraction / by nicolle neulist
i spend the afternoon with horses reduced to figures
trying to tell the future
to turn those numbers into chances, into shapes
into heads, their ears pinned back,
willing their legs to find enough
not to let the other head bobbing outside them to go by
it’s as close as i’m allowed to come
with soft hands, hands that grew up in a sleepy suburb of nothing
holding pens, books, dollar-store spiral notepads
flicking the switch on the alarm clock at five thirty in the morning
to slip out the chair behind the breakfast table
cradle a warm cup of coffee and flip through the sports page before school
instead of pull on thick, gritty muck boots
tear open the feed bag, scoop the grain into the tub,
sling the pitchfork through the straw
break apart the bales, spread a fresh new bedding
growing calluses on my hands and horse sense in my head
A Lament for The Mother of Exiles / by JodiAnn Stevenson
in response to “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus
Her emaciated heart still swallows
fear and spins it out in gold abundant
light somewhere under this raped and battered
land. We just can’t see it. She has been bound
and gagged, Her head covered in burlap, mouth
stuffed with gauze. This wasn’t one man’s doing.
This was almost two centuries of gold-
digging and populace sedation with
seductive distractions of credit, cool
and carnivals. The Old Colossus did
Not die. He knew just what He was doing
when He set Her on our shore as a scheme
to lure the desperate in and get them
working. The Old Colossus still sits back
In His pinstriped suit with expensive shoes
up on His desk, smoking a cigar and
laughing. The Old Colossus still bears a
whip and still knows how to use cages, still
cleverly confuses the masses with
words as He has always done. The old man
still hates all mothers, still eats all of Her
children so they will not one day topple
His throne. He has a thousand fingers and
brothels full of stolen babies for his
buddies to buy. And we still grovel at
His feet for the slim chance to eat from the crumbs that fall from his overfed gob. We
collude. We corroborate. We participate
in our own enslavement. And that’s fine with
us as long as we can buy cheap shit at
wal-mart, get our cheap diploma from the
local community college, make our
little living. While She wonders if She
did not hold the torch high enough. While She
weeps and worries over the torn skirts His
gross little hands worked their way under and
up before He threw her in the basement
and shut Her up. While She sees what we have
become and like every mother, blames
herself. We are greedy, ungrateful kids.
We still chase pathetically after
His approval and waste every lesson
She tried to teach us about kindness and
love and the necessity of freedom.
We still want a seat at His table more
than we want to hold each other’s hands.
Poem 7 / Day 7
A Party after the fact / by Regina Chiuminatto
She’d majored in letters, she claimed, forming the peaks of an M in the air with two hands.
The air smelled of a joke, lately opened, which had seemed just as fresh as the day it was canned in 1808.
Each one held their own small toy or can of beer and looked sufficiently aghast—only the baby laughed (but he’ll laugh at anything).
We’d take up anything just for something to talk about, never minding the constraint of finding common ground.
Mostly sitting on the floor, we were no bohemians, but there were no more men of letters.
Tell Me / by Leslie Ferguson
Tell me a story
about how you learned
and about how you cried
I don’t want
a lockstep life
I want messy broken
cracked and seeking
how to mend
what’s held you back
I want a story
not a logic
a lesson you’ve become
because you had to struggle
because the ache is
what builds us up and
we’ve already died.
Beatitude / by Joshua Gage
We are first among the city’s shadows.
The sunlight silts through glass and concrete, thick
as Baptist harmonies. Still, the rain endures,
swells potholes, flickers our reflections
gray, unburies the sweat beneath our skin.
We are just feet against the sidewalk,
forgotten syllables in the practical dialect
of percentages. Our bodies store our prayers.
We are blood from someone else’s wound.
The Vulnerability that
My mother has / by Ann Huang
The Vulnerability that my mother has
Watches over her, and will be with her:
The New China queried;
Then wood under a wooden box.
The silver ring my mother wears
She will not want to leave it behind;
I have everything I wanted though:
Except, this isn’t something I could have.
Aw, only if she could let me
Many things she craves!—
That vulnerability like a falling bird, though she
Has all the love for life, and more.
A Few Horse Racing Clerihews / by nicolle neulist
has knowledge of physics to impress:
it’s easier to muster more velocity
without the hamper of a jockey.
Hero of Order necessarily
when he won
at a hundred and nine to one.
Joseph the Catfish
head held high, his tail a-swish
was done with the track — i’ll do it my way! —
and take a jog along the highway
Buzz / by JodiAnn Stevenson
The sun doesn’t
let us sleep
here, in summer.
She hangs on
until after 10:30
then she’s back at it
by 5:30 the next morning
coming with a chorus of
birds and insects,
heavy with the scent
of green and wildflowers
pushing up quick
and thick to
make the most
of the few weeks
we are given
to bloom. Everything
stays awake. The
crickets can’t stop
singing even when
they tire and their
cadence slows to
a dirge. I write until
my eyes won’t stay
open then I dream
I’m awake. It all
blurs into a July
that is an endless
hazy daze and we
surrender to her
blaze, her heat,
her slow steady
warmth. We gather
it up and store it
for the long winter
when she will
leave us to our sleep
again; when we move
and feast on the memory
of all of this light.
Return to Inverness Beach / by Marianne Szlyk
In dreams I feel hard red
pebbles. The icy tide slides
in once more over pink
sand, not soft tropical
sand, but ground stone, cold mud
for tourists who visit,
who stroll but do not swim.
No seaweed frills this beach;
no salt floods the air. No
fish or birds decay. Sun
without heat halts above.
The wind is a cool blur.
Standing barefoot on stones,
I watch for icebergs. North
of here, they pass gray barns,
cut grass that blends into
salt air. Far south of here
they crash into ocean
the color of concrete.
They melt, but here, still whole,
they do not swim past me
Poem 6 / Day 6
Chateaubriand #1 / by Regina Chiuminatto
He’d often told himself he wouldn’t write
a memoir, wouldn’t imitate those men
whose use of others’ useless secrets might
afford some pleasures but trade peace for them.
But years of fictions hiding happiness
imagined in imaginary minds,
aged him, and nearing death, he wanted less:
just to return to early, brighter times.
But we already know that he’d commit
his “ardent,” never-happy memories—
four volumes or about two pounds of it,
the first of which is resting on my knees—
to paper he intended to assuage
the sense that everything is lost to age.
Plunder / by Leslie Ferguson
Pirate ship tattoo
on your chest
as if you’d sailed high seas
sights set on far-away lands,
gold coins, rubies,
and rum barrels
waiting for your greased
You brought liquor on your breath
and stories on your tongue
of exotic travels,
weaving a cultured
perspective. Pearls, diamonds,
secrets of ancient cities,
and my heart the hidden
treasures you desired
and not just my bed.
No fairytale, no romantic
denouement for us, you,
marauder of hope, a mirage,
me, optimist, shipwrecked
with my myopic spyglass
on this desert island.
Pentecost / by Joshua Gage
Christ is a stone lodged in our throats.
At once God enters every orifice,
spreads the Spirit’s relentless melt
until we swallow the sunlight in wings,
singe the rim of each dumb tongue
with wild dialects, velvet and solarized.
We become unmoored in spirit,
blistered with the noonday’s venerated luster.
The Gospel sizzles, liberated from our lips,
the flaps away, a conflagration
of flaming syllables and scorched feathers.
Divine / by Ann Huang
is not like a tree
without leaves. Some spaces
In the morning
I embrace it, building
Under the soil
many lie swayed
Go-Go Boots / by nicolle neulist
i’ll never wear go-go boots
my style is more about sneakers, the occasional clunky black Docs
or twenty-hole goth boots, laced up to my knees, toes caged in steel
somewhere between naught and masculine-of-centre
i play with the feminine sometimes
my one shirt, cut low, showing off that top half i alternate between wanting to keep for sport
and wanting the surgeon’s knife to shear off once and for all
a ribbon tied underneath to accentuate the flounce of the empire waist
but never go-go boots
not even because my inevitable long pants that mask my crooked legs would mask their sass
the first time i saw the horse ambulance
the white box lumbering, clattering along the outer fence around the far turn
to the mouth of the stretch
Go Go Boots hobbled on
and i never saw her again
An Open Letter to America / by JodiAnn Stevenson
for Chey Davis, with lines borrowed from Langston Hughes & Allen Ginsberg
America, you are a comfortable bed
most of us are not allowed to sleep in.
America, you are a bitch who bites off
the heads of her own newborn pups.
America, you are still just the dream
the dreamers dreamed. You are still
only a plan, an idea, a hope. America,
you will never be great until know what
you are. America, you cannot walk
in pink “Women for Trump” t-shirts
and expect us not to laugh at you.
America, you cannot ride your police
motorcycles through the parade in
full riot gear, popping wheelies and expect
us to cheer. America, too many of the
wrong kind of police have killed too many
black children. America, your police force
was created to hunt runaway slaves.
America, someone needs to inform you
that the emancipation proclamation
took effect one hundred and fifty six
years ago. America, you can stop
hunting black people now. America,
please stop hiding behind Jesus. America,
go back and read your bible again. Jesus
never told you to hate or beat or torture
or kill gay people. America, Jesus would
never approve of your gluttony and your
waste. America, Jesus will probably need
some explanation for what you’ve done.
America, I hope you can explain to Jesus
why money was more important to you
than life. America, you’ve made an idol
of your flag. America, you try inviting
me into your home and welcoming me
and you confuse me because all around
your home, I’m afraid to step. America,
I’m afraid to step out of line. America,
I just realized that you like it when I’m
afraid. America, it’s hard to stop being
afraid in your home, even when you’re kind
to me and you’ve invited others that look
like me. America, there are places where
I’m the only one of my kind and we both
know that still means everything. America,
I’m so tired of being invited in to only
some places and I’m tired of being afraid
in all of the places. America, fear is not a
good look on us. America, when I lived
overseas as a young woman, I missed
you; I missed your food and wide open
spaces and your smell. I even missed
your sugar gasoline chemically treated
grass pine tree lake overflowing garbage
bin porta-potty smell. America, you are
my home. America, you are my family.
America, I need you to stop acting so
selfish. America, I need you to let your
young people talk at the table. America,
I need you to share what you have.
America, I need you to stop talking
so loudly. America, I need you to stop
killing trans people. America, I need you
to stop raising kids to hate themselves.
America, our bodies are not machines.
America, we are not machines. America,
you have to stop working us to death
If you expect us all to pull ourselves up
by our bootstraps. America, your
bootstraps are too expensive. America,
we will have to sell our children
to buy your bootstraps. America,
will you please buy our children?
America, our children make for a
delicious meal. You should know,
America: you have been eating them
for almost 250 years. America,
that seems to be your plan. America,
we will never even notice because we
will be busy smoking weed on the beach
before the fireworks. We will be drunk
and full of hot dogs and hamburgers.
America, we are so obedient. America,
I am quite serious. America,
we have so much work to do.
America, we’d better get right down
to the job. America, if you join me,
I’ll put my queer shoulder to the wheel.
America, when will enough
be enough for you?
America, you were never America
for most of us. America — America!
America! Stop grabbing everything you
see! America, you do not have my consent.
America, someday you will tip the scale
too far. America, someday your corporations
will be held accountable. America,
someday your rich white straight men
will beg for mercy. America, you
have never been merciful. America,
I don’t want to be ashamed to call
you home. America, take the blinders
off your eyes. America, stop killing
your immigrants. America, you
are only killing yourself! America,
you are the land of immigrants.
America —America! America!
America! — I’m talking to you!
Why can’t you hear me?
After Telling a Friend She Should Visit Albania / by Marianne Szlyk
I imagine Tirana, city built around
a dead radio tower that used
to flood all the frequencies in
Europe. Only the Muslim station’s call
to prayer floated above. Talk from
Albania drowned out the Esperanto program
from the Vatican and rock from Luxembourg,
not to mention the freedom fighters’
dispatches and pirate radio’s barbed-wire guitars.
The Russian woodpecker meekly clicked while
Radio Tirana’s metallic, nearly-accentless voice spit
words in English. Now that voice is
gone. Shortwave radio has fallen silent.
I imagine lounging on a beach without vowels.
A loopy organ plays Beck’s “Tropicalia.”
I squint at younger tourists, waiters
bearing day-glo sodas I shouldn’t drink
even if it were really hot,
hot as lukewarm days at home.
I imagine hiking the Accursed Mountains,
beside rocks like sharp needles against
sky. Distant peaks look like foil
with knifes’ edges, not the usual
mirage. Icebergs floating in the ocean
seem kinder. The lake there is bitter,
silent. Tourists drink water from canteens.
A local on a flat rock
strums his guitar, sings folk songs
in a language I don’t understand.
A little girl in red dances.
At the café, women’s voices race
out from a boombox, followed by drums
and what sounds like violins: Jarnana,
an old Albanian folk song.
Poem 5 / Day 5
Napping with the baby / by Regina Chiuminatto
It’s hard to write a sound unheard,
a beat intact or unripe pop,
felt-bottomed wooden sounds obscured
over friction’s frilly stuff.
Loudnesses can overwrite
the quiet mouth shapes only seen—
brightly buzzing bugs sing what
the soft-squared voices underrun.
I try to listen with your face
on me, but in between soft plunks
I only hear hands on my waist,
listen just for stomach thumps.
Summer Man / by Leslie Ferguson
He is the scent of fire
in chilly mountain
air, pine, dirt,
the animated earth
of trail and cliff,
tree line and brush.
He is the quiver
of first flutter,
the wave in my heart
I have never known,
the steady sigh
of quest and conquer.
He is the idea of man,
sign of sky and life opening
up like a torrent
in my breath, my throat,
He is my past and future,
memory born of summer,
connected by constellations
under the midnight
canopy of youth.
Mermaid / by Joshua Gage
The ocean clings to you, a perfumed brine
upon the breeze that pulls me to the shore.
I pace the sand, looking for some sign
of you, but nothing’s there except remorse.
I want to taste the wet salt of your kiss.
I want to do to you what night seas do
to moonlight as the the gentle waves caress
the boat and the sailor weeps in solitude.
Your body is the song the waters sound,
the melody that draws me to the beach
at midnight when the tides unwind the stars.
Let me sink inside your depths as far
as flesh allows until I cannot breathe,
until I forget to swim, until I drown.
AfterMath / by Ann Huang
You have dreamed of waterlilies
Perspiring under a brightened heat,
Or your skin will stay receptive like trees,
Or your feet be strong and warm.
It would be as if you followed
Through a trance state in group;
You have seen the wilting of lilies
Or have made it for yourself.
Whether a bloom of ideas, or nostalgia
Gone like streams into this thing,
You have beheld it like the crystal ball
Of your own fate against a sinking flower.
99 Preparatory Notes on Pedigree / by nicolle neulist
1. Until a horse has proven what they can or cannot do on the track, pedigree provides important clues to their potential.
2. Once they have proven what they can or cannot do on the track, pedigree becomes less relevant.
3. It’s more fruitful to delve into what the siblings did than any single great-grandniece-once-removed.
4. If the first few generations generally preferred turf, there’s a good chance you’re going to breed a turf horse. If they liked dirt, there’s a good chance you’re going to breed a dirt horse.
5. Inbreeding and linebreeding are ways of trying to reproduce the best of their ancestors’ qualities.
6. Winloc’s Millie is by Mr. Prospector out of a Mr. Prospector mare.
7. The idea of breeding for synthetic feels strange, since synthetic tracks are such a recent invention that there hasn’t been time to weave an affinity into the genetic code, but affinities arise anyway.
8. Temple City, Cowboy Cal, and Brave ‘n Away on synthetics. Trust me on this one.
9. Genetics alone can’t tell you everything.
10. Cozzene x N. C. Goldust = the sweetest fruit.
11. Pedigree helps. A patient trainer willing to try things can help more. Remember Cigar?
12. Black type means a stakes of some significance. “Some” is internationally defined.
13. Nothing on the page tells you they were third beaten twenty in a non-vintage year.
14. Nothing on the page tells you they were third beaten a head by an all-time great.
15. White type refers to a pedigree page with very little black type.
16. It can refer to a horse’s pedigree when their dam, second dam, third dam, fourth dam produced very few runners – or when they produced plenty of winners but no horses who did anything at the black-type stakes level.
17. Hansen epitomizes the surprising best-case scenario from a white-type pedigree.
18. Hansen is by Tapit.
19. You can breed a mare to Tapit for just $225,000, live foal/stands and nurses.
20. Tapit moves his mares up.
21. “Moving mares up” refers to when a sire produces generally classier, better horses than the mare they were bred to had otherwise produced.
22. Speaking generally, sales books are organized in groups related to expectation, and then alphabetized by the names of the dams.
23. Many of those expectations have to do with pedigrees.
24. Book one bursts with black type: Grade 1 winners, Breeders’ Cup winners, families that have produced generations black type.
25. Those final books – five, six, seven – have fewer flashy pages.
26. Expectation isn’t based solely on pedigree. Sometimes a shining physical specimen can land in a top book, or a shining pedigree with a less impressive build can land farther back.
27. Do you want to play some poker in Book Six?
28. The biggest gamblers in horse racing aren’t the people buying mutuel tickets. They’re the ones breeding, buying, racing, owning horses.
29. Breeding to race and breeding to sell bear little resemblance nowadays.
30. A full sibling is not the same horse as the one who came before. This can be a good thing. This can be a disappointing thing. This is a thing.
31. Sales catalog archives are a great way to become acquainted with a family.
32. If you don’t have a specific horse or family in mind, sales catalog archives are a great way to become convinced that there’s so much pedigree information out there that you’ll never learn anything.
33. The existence of Dam’s Foal Search is not well documented, but it is a godsend.
34. One single distant relative may not mean much, but if there’s a cluster of fruit two or three generations back, an interesting branch or two probably survives.
35. The horse on the rail in the Belmont 1st is not the only one with Secretariat or Man O’ War in their bloodlines.
36. The three foundation sires of the Thoroughbred are the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian (or Godolphin Barb), and the Byerley Turk.
37. Your horse probably has myriad lines of Potoooooooo, through his son Waxy.
38. Potoooooooo is The Pizza Man’s great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandfather, tail-male.
39. The son of Elusive Bluff out of Diamondaire had to be named C. Zee.
40. In some places they say “from” instead of “out of” to describe a horse being born of a particular mare.
41. I’m only aware of one Roolynn Ruler baby, Glitter Road.
42. Glitter Road moved his sire up.
43. By the time Glitter Road made it to the racetrack, Roolynn Ruler had been gelded.
44. Roolynn Ruler was two when he had his date with the Glitterman mare Glitterbrat.
45. Roolynn Ruler had not yet raced when Glitter Road was born.
46. Usually, male horses race, and if they’re good enough and sane enough to stand out on the racetrack with their testicles intact, they then become stallions.
47. Sometimes, we wonder what might have been when a horse was gelded: would Kelso have produced the next great star had he been left intact and allowed to breed?
48. Would Kelso have been Kelso on the racetrack if he had been left intact and expected to breed someday?
49. Ghaaleb and Iqbaal are half-siblings. They both stand as breed-to-race private studs…the former for William Stiritz, the latter for Wesley Ward.
50. Iqbaal stands in Florida.
51. Ghaaleb stands in Illinois.
52. I’ll let you squabble about Kentucky, but no sire in Illinois produced more dependable racehorses from perfectly modest mares than Three Hour Nap.
53. I come from no racing pedigree. As far as I know, no relative of mine has even owned a riding horse since the days when you needed one to get around, and even then, I venture a guess.
54. My mother had a few two-dollar bills left after the occasional flutters she would take at Arlington Park.
55. My father would turn on the three Triple Crown races every year, and I would watch them on TV.
56. I grew up thinking that horse racing was a vestige of the past, and that in the ultra-modern days of the 1980s and 1990s, there were only three horse races a year.
57. I can compartmentalize it with horses, but my love of Thoroughbred pedigree is tainted by its analogues in human eugenics.
58. Within the span of only four or five years you can see a horse race, fall in love with them, then see their first child reach the racetrack and fall in love all over again.
59. Free House x Soviet Problem = Teardownthatwall.
60. When you asked me that pedigree question on Twitter, I probably had to look the answer up.
61. If I could download the entire American Stud Book to my brain, even if it meant I forgot every single fact I learned after all those years in school, after all those fancy degrees, I would.
62. Online, you can find century-old addenda to the American Stud Book, pages that lapsed into the public domain decades ago.
63. As always, there’s fine print, but generally? If mom was in the stud book, and dad was in the stud book, the baby can be in the stud book.
64. A bit of that fine print is live cover: even in the age of artificial insemination and cloning, the stallion has to mount the mare, or the baby doesn’t exist in the eyes of the official Thoroughbred breed.
65. Storm Cat has been cloned with the hopes that his clones can play polo.
66. Storm Cat is a prepotent Throughbred sire.
67. Storm Cat’s clones are not recognized as Thoroughbreds.
68. Into Mischief, Cupid, Klimt, Practical Joke, and Violence bred over 200 mares in 2018.
69. The last remaining hopes for a modicum of genetic diversity in a closed stud book come from the live cover requirement, and from different populations of thoroughbreds that have developed on different continents.
70. Shuttle stallions are a positive for the breed.
71. State-bred programs are also a positive for the breed, as they develop lines that might not be given a chance to take root in Kentucky.
72. Straight Line x Lawn = Edging.
73. If a horse’s dam won early, I’m more inclined to think the horse will win early.
74. If a horse’s dam won early and she has had a foal, two foals, to win early, I’m even more inclined to think this will continue.
75. A shining exemplar: Richiesgirlgotgame.
76. Some Thoroughbreds are bred for colour, not primarily for racing.
77. You see “Airdrie Apache”, you think white horses.
78. Calumet Farm has bred several horses by the spotted Thoroughbred stallion Risque Remarque.
79. Risque Remarque was bred in Arizona, and from a stud book perspective, he is a registered black horse.
80. His daughter Czraina Maria won at Indiana Grand earlier this year.
81. Some stallions are bred for racing, but throw fun colours anyway.
82. Anytime the names Munnings, Get Stormy, or Union Rags turn up in a racing program, I pick up the binoculars to find out if this particular foal got The Trademark Blaze.
83. Munnings and Union Rags blazes were applied with a large yet meticulous paint roller.
84. Get Stormy blazes were applied by a six-year-old with a paintbrush, a can of whitewash, and encouragement to do whatever they want.
85. Dynaformer x Ioya = magic.
86. Effinex passed away only a year into his stallion career.
87. Effinex was a Grade 1 winner by the dependable, even underrated stallion Mineshaft. He raced through the age of five, unlike so many modern stallions who retire so early.
88. Effinex’s first foals – his only foals – will reach racing age in 2020.
89. Anyone who has his foals has only this one chance, so make sure to come up with a good name.
90. The breed lost out, as did connoisseurs of cheeky horse names.
91. City Zip x Peyote Patty = Wile E Peyote
92. Cayoke x Always In Command = Wiley Cayoke
93. Another horse who bred before he raced was Smokin Glock. He made more sense than Roolynn Ruler did.
94. Smokin Glock is a son of El Prado, and a half-brother to multiple Grade 2 winner Rolling Sea.
95. He won second-out at two, and was stakes-placed at age two, in 2012.
96. Smokin Glock bred three mares that year, before heading to the races: Vitae, Blarney Blush, and Diva N Disguise. All three went on to start; Prairie Chick, out of (or from…) Vitae is a seven-time winner.
97. His other starter, Noble Gal, was bred when Smokin Glock was five – more traditionally, after his racing career was over.
98. The point of writing 99 preparatory notes is the exhaustion.
99. These notes failed. I’ve only scratched the surface.
Moonbathing / by JodiAnn Stevenson
For Kristin Stevenson
There are nights here
when I wake up to
the light of the moon
everywhere, as if she
believes herself to be
the sun. She is full,
of course, and seems
closer than on other,
darker nights. I rise
from bed, stand at my
window or walk out
onto the porch to be
with her, to say hello.
Some nights, I’ll even
drive to the lake and
watch while she nips
at the water with her
unseemly little kisses.
It’s not like those other nights
when I wake in panic and wonder
what in the hell will become of me
or us or all of us; when fear bathes
me in sweat and the smell of my
children sleeping somewhere in
the house makes me want to run.
I was four years old
the first time I remember
wondering if it would be
possible to hold the moon
in my hands. More than forty
years later, she still comes
to remind me I want to stay.
She closes all of the doors
to the teeth of the world
and opens me as if I’m the
impatiens in her night garden,
as if I am the cupboard
where she keeps the calm.
Remember These Things / by Marianne Szlyk
Remember trees we could have talked to,
trees we could have climbed.
Remember trees whose names we learned:
maple, ash, peach, apple, spruce,
pine, hemlock, beech, birch.
Remember the black cat we followed
past these trees, past the cellar holes
filled with water, past the stone walls
that parceled out woods that then
belonged to no one,
no one we knew.
Remember trees that protected us
Remember the penny-colored brook
with the awful name
that jogged around the hill.
Remember stones we balanced on,
water we splashed through,
barefoot in May.
Remember bees landing on clover,
on peach and pear
blossoms. The lawns
are so silent now.
The garden is empty.
Remember this when you think
about nature that we will lose,
nature that we have lost.
Poem 4 / Day 4
Taxonomy of Perfection / by Regina Chiuminatto
Present perfect of declining to sit down: “I’ve eaten, thank you.”
Present perfect of dissatisfied disappointment: “Oh, you’ve eaten.”
Past perfect of revisionist memory: “Unfortunately, I’d already eaten, or I would have loved to stay for lunch.”
Past perfect of double-edged guilt in a contrary-to-fact condition: “If I’d known you’d be having lunch, I would have brought something!”
Present perfect of deflection in a compound construction: “You needn’t have bothered, really.”
Future perfect of closure: “Next time you come, I won’t have.”
Lock It Up / by Leslie Ferguson
There are no constants
we hear from all corners of the room
even pain curls up and dies
once in a while
put it away. Lock it up
in a cabinet if you must.
You are not meant to stare
at it, study its texture and technique.
Pain is not a work of art.
Do not give yourself to it.
its pummeling power.
Yours is not so very
different from mine. We are
these trauma skins
holding us hostage, the past
our most feared
terrorist, administering assault
like a drug.
We cannot allow
old injuries to rise
from the depths of body memory,
to forcibly render us
prime breeding ground for suicides.
Let tomorrow try again.
Carillon / by Joshua Gage
To pray is to massage the bells
of my body to ask the way.
Their bronze is a shade of longing
that alters the breath and turns
each sigh into the topic of blossoms.
To quit ringing is to sacrifice
another gesture, to burn
another page from out my psalter.
At last, an angel pollinates
my night with a desolate hymn
that points out the shifting planets
and weaves a temple from my bones.
An Imagined Life / by Ann Huang
To wrap your eyes up and close
Under a spot of our moon,
To straighten your back and to sing
Till the dark night comes.
Now run at warm mornings
Upon a small hill
While day goes by swiftly,
Bright like you—
That is your imagined life!
To wrap your eyes up-close
Under a spot of our moon,
Till the dark night comes.
Run to the warm mornings
And a small, ample hill
Day goes by swiftly
Bright just like you!
Communication / by nicolle neulist
i don’t speak horse. i don’t speak human, either.
what happens in the manifolds of grey
that work their magic behind bones and skin
eludes me, never mind which DNA
suggests which creature they would see as kin
i don’t speak horse. i don’t speak human, either.
words tumble, clatter, clunk against the drums
intended to record them and make sense
expecting sense, the answer only comes,
a static noise from neural filaments
i don’t speak horse. i don’t speak human, either.
until a signal strong enough to tune
emerges from the underlying strain
and saves me from remaining that buffoon
oblivious, who missed the point again
i don’t speak horse. i don’t speak human, either.
but feel on equal terms when words are not
in the vocabulary at our hand
or hoof. our faces, touch convey our thought
without the nerves and noise. i understand.
Repeating Itself / by JodiAnn Stevenson
For Chey Davis and Christina Ryan-Stoltz
She asked me
what did they do?
You know, the Germans,
the Europeans when
they could see what
was happening in 1930,
in 1933, when the rise
of tyranny and death
was imminent and
everywhere around them
was a sign? What did they
DO? What did they do
when the camps were
built? When the children
from their mothers?
When the children
were murdered? When
the immigrants, the Jews,
the homosexuals, the gypsies,
the Greeks, the Poles, the dark,
the un-desirable, unwanted, un-
welcome were rounded up?
When everyone knew they
were barely surviving
in filth, dying from disease,
cold and hungry —
what did they do?
Wasn’t it enough to know
it had begun? Wasn’t there
a way of accepting that
the greatest nightmare
they could conjure was
becoming their reality?
But sure, it wasn’t THEIR
nightmare. Until it was.
So I said, some of them fought,
right? Some of them wrote poems
and lead marches and went
underground to produce papers
and held secret meetings
of dissent. Some of them
worked to keep
their neighbors safe.
And some of them couldn’t
think of anything to do
so they did nothing.
And even more
went into hiding
as if there were
anywhere in the
world to hide from
that kind of evil.
I said, that’s what I’m doing, isn’t it,
hiding? I said, you,
you could go into hiding too,
She said, yes, but
you are white.
Where I’m From / by Marianne Szlyk
Somedays I tell people
I’m from the internet.
Of course, that’s not true.
I remember my father
telling me not to look down
on Worcester, the place
he and his family were from,
on the stores that smelled
like pickles, on the churches,
one for every ethnicity,
most of them now closed.
I remember the churches
we went to on holy days
of obligation: older, darker,
smelling of years
of incense, bright
with stained glass
My mother told me
the priest used to stand
with his back to the people,
back when he spoke Latin,
when the altar towered
I think about going back
to the place I was born
but am not from,
arranging to meet
my family or friends.
I think about arranging
to meet friends who ended up
down here like I did.
Instead we meet
on the internet
where nothing has changed,
where everything has.
Poem 3 / Day 3
The Memoirist / by Regina Chiuminatto
The memoir turned up a lost sibling—
or an extra one—depends who you believe.
In any case, there’s one more
remembered than recorded,
another one who, if he
had memory, would have recalled
wholly other things. I can see how,
if you have one sibling who taught
you how to talk with strangers,
and one who showed you how to
make fun of scary shadows
in the dark, and one who
taught you how to make
sweet and savory sandwiches,
you might still want another
who could show you how to
entertain yourself in boring
lessons, or how to make it
seem like you’ve eaten more than
you have, as if you’re being more
compliant than you are, and you might
find yourself that sibling, drawing
out unknown talents in the ones
you thought you knew, or finding
and adopting one or, after
growing up, recounting in your memoir
how there was another sibling,
and that explains how you knew things
that somehow you found you knew.
Heart-bone / by Leslie Ferguson
bones in the
add one more
for the heart
because it’s broken
Insults stick and
bruising ego, beating insecurity
into me, the heady pulse
How do we measure
of the heart?
By its lopsided
circumference, or its girth or heft,
or by wringing it dry
and giving what’s left?
I cut out my own,
set it on the scale,
to calculate how much
of me is empty.
Strung it up,
tied it to a tree,
its spongy, cumbersome grief,
like ripe fruit
ready to snap the twig
After longing holds me down
and still I rise up,
do I weigh the desire
Full of four decades
of attempts at
love and loss, I murmur
I skip, I palpitate.
whomping in my chest,
So I err and repair
soften again in risk,
a cyclical bodily system
a circadian revolution
of seeking damages
in the evolution of love.
Ode to a Lobster / by Joshua Gage
Here, between thick-cut filets
and a sheet of crushed ice
bearing slabs of cod and salmon,
a tank of frothing water
and a lone lobster.
You are the last thing alive here.
Only you scuttled over the sea floor,
survived the cold, the primordial shadows;
only you: pocked, blue-brown witness
to that ebon sermon.
Somewhere, lemons and melted butter
await. Somewhere, a pot of boiling water.
But now, you are a stone with spider legs,
great claws, and two black jewels for eyes,
ever open, patiently navigating
the tides of my all too human trembling.
Untitled / by Ann Huang
A mountain dreams
of its companion poem,
full of the finches,
full of tenochtitlan.
A poem with tears,
a cotton rope around the body,
intrepid and warm
and a warmth above all.
A snail strengthening
by the air of the deadening,
the body’s recall.
Tomorrow part of you bellows, pains,
your mind to be scattered in many states,
where ink drips thin.
You believe the mind believes it
to end and to restart.
Trivial Matters / by nicolle neulist
i wonder if Carlaris ever raced again
Carlaris, hero of the 1926 winter season at Tijuana
whose optimistic team thought his ailing leg would heal in time for the Kentucky Derby
the Fairmount Derby
summertime at Raceland
whose hopes and setbacks read like the Days of our Lives in the archives of the Racing Form
i can tell you his shoes made it to Homewood, to one of so many long-gone iterations of Washington Park
polished, mounted on a board draped in velvet, sent by registered air mail from San Diego
destined to decorate the clubhouse, a trophy of the turf
i can tell you he lived past the summer of 1926
that he had babies, fleet foals
for whom the ink spilled as well
Cabezo, his son who lived Agua Caliente as much as he did
Furfiber at Rockingham, Dixie Bee at Charles Town
his grandson, Eurasian,
who missed a race, a month, a year
with enough ink surviving
to map out his path from triumph to setback to stud
i wonder if Carlaris ever raced again
3834 results taunt me
3834 snippets of the history of the turf to read, to mull
virtual yellowing newspaper, tempting me with an answer to the question of the day
instead of clearing my to-do list
or doing anything to keep the world from burning down
The Woman In The Shadows / by JodiAnn Stevenson
for Michelle Westkamper
I can’t hide from her. She seeks
me out in the dark and presses
her plummed mouth to mine,
breathing the ocean of her soul
into my body, flaming the cinders
of my waning faith into reddened
embers. Her teeth fester in my
belly til I can no longer bear their
need to gnash, to gnaw the jubilant
fruits of this life. She opens her
hands to me and offers her warm,
pulsing body — a mirror image of
my own except every flaw sinks
beneath every smoothed and solid
edge of me/ her
voice is a secret
only I have been told. She
is royalty. She does not follow me
but slips sideways against every
wall I walk through and sits vibrating,
ready to blaze each time they
talk with tongues like snakes, with
lips coated in the blood of their own
young. She’s all red, all gold-
leafed eyelashes, chocolate eyes,
Belly hips thighs belly hips thighs.
You know how powerful her presence is?
She’s like a thousand oceans catching fire,
their undulating liquid bodies swelling
and churning and waiting
for the right time to
pounce. She frightens you, sitting
there so sure of herself. She bothers
everyone with her brazen stance, her
cocksure half-glance. Even the way
she holds her head is offensive. She
set their book of laws alight long ago
and now she dances on its ashes.
I move alongside her without question.
She is the keeper of my strings.
And when she seethes, “Patience!”
in my ear, I know it’s only
a matter of sweet tortuous time
before she engulfs me
and we burn
Trust / by Marianne Szlyk
After Roy Hargrove and Felino A. Soriano
His father was a musician,
playing his trumpet at home
afternoons without the brushstrokes,
bright piano, or shards of flute
that gathered around him at night.
His horn’s scale climbed a bit,
like children at home. The father
kept them safe. His notes didn’t fall
or stumble on hard earth.
An adult, the son scattered words
like the flute’s notes in “Trust.” Slanted
stepped down the page. The last letter
held back, kept itself from falling
into the void or on hard earth.
Children/run/ ning leapt from the porch,
expecting grass to be there, near
as the son, watching, wrote words that
Poem 2 / Day 2
The Motto-writer / by Regina Chiuminatto
The motto man told me (only because we’re family
and only because he’ll be
retiring soon) that the trick in
pricing is to know the market within
which you operate better than
the other man –
hm – person – because the price
is never arrived at the same way twice.
For instance, a four-word motto draws
consistently a lot because
it’s such a sturdy edifice,
it’s obviously worth its price.
Of course, “a lot”
for a headmaster is not
the quarter of what
the law firm partner would have thought
that such a thing would cost. And yet,
the right one-word commission, if you can get
it, can be a thing to retire on, though
you risk you’ll let it slip and so
inadvertently give them pro bono what
you failed to negotiate about.
“Excelsior” they gave away for free—
imagine, in today’s dollars, how much that would be!
Attempt / by Leslie Ferguson
I’m a bloodhound scavenging
of your despair.
How it spreads generously
like water over wax,
drenching your body’s lines
revealing a temporary
from the inside out,
a woman badly worn
I discover how you trickle
into branches of trying,
a red, red tree
of hurt that exposes
dermis and fascia
tissue and bone.
I sniff you out
but cannot articulate
the madness you embody,
Orphan Hagiography / by Joshua Gage
So many things become sacred
in the candlelight. In the alleys of my prayers,
their wings are filigreed honey. The night
is slick and red as a ripe peach.
Where were these miracles when I knelt naked
slicing open my thumbs on a rosary
of broken glass. Now the moon is a pool
of melted wax and the wind hones
its razor at my throat. There is magic
in the conversation between wine and tongue.
What isn’t said becomes blossoms of fog.
I want to say I am somebody’s
son, but the saints are all statues
wrung with the smell of smoke. I dream
they scatter into florescent petals
until I clasp each one with a bare
hand like a monk reciting his vesper
prayers alone by the lamp of memory.
Something to Say / by Ann Huang
The tracks are black,
The riders are plenty;
Not yet done the deeds,
Have something to say.
Hearts are awaiting,
Outside the square many;
Leaves are turning their color,
Always something to say.
The homeless is surviving,
Your aura, brilliant;
Sister’s life not spared,
Always something to say.
Pagans are reigning,
Their spells fall on us;
Next time we meet, will we
Have something to say?
The Final Furlong / by nicolle neulist
stay quiet, the ghost perched at my throatlatch hisses
it wears a charcoal suit, a button-down shirt, the last fastener so high and tight that its neck extrudes
the skin of my neck bulges through its fingers as they shove skin and cartilage into my voice box once the last number tumbles out of my mouth
you’ve done your duty, it hisses. stay quiet.
you’ve spoken the numbers, exact as your eyes allow, three a half, two a length and a half, hooves and speed and hopes and dreams reduced to figures the statistical gurus, the wise guys can use to divine the next time
you’re only a fan tonight, when the work is done, and you’re sweltering in bed, too hot to sleep, too exhausted to form a word
you may shout then
half a wheeze later i startle the ghost from its perch
“SHE’S GOING TO DO IT”
my larynx ejects the spectral fingers. it stumbles, whips its neck in shock as the button choking, goading, inspiring it pops from its threads to startle a passer-by
the final furlong belongs to me.
Made To Order / by JodiAnn Stevenson
How small do you want her?
Just small enough to hold
in the palm of your hands
and squeeze like a soft
lemon over an open wound?
Small enough to pinch
between your thumb and
forefinger until she bursts
forth in brine and blood?
Small enough to push over
easily with a good stiff jab
of your fist? How quiet is quiet
enough for you? Should she be
so quiet that she evaporates
into clouds or just quiet enough
to sigh under your hands like the
kitten you pretend her to be? Just
quiet enough to not interrupt your
fantasy in which you are Superman
and she, a lithe — if not a little too loud-
mouthed Lois Lane? How do you want
her to let you grab it? Should she
pretend to resist? Should she
actually resist? Should she roll
over and take it like a man? And
do you prefer tears or no tears?
She is good at both. Just tie
that rope around her wrists
and you have her where you want
her. If you’d like, her loyalty is
also for sale. She will roll on
her sisters if that’s what
you wish. She will love you
so much she’ll sell each of her
Sisters to you — yes,
even the very youngest ones —
for a song. Just
After the End of the World of Fire / by Marianne Szlyk
In this dream, I walk north
without the subway to save
me. Cobblestones stretch out
to each end of the island.
Streets expand, taking up
the sidewalks, all the grass,
all trees. Ash falls like snow.
Stones crack and crumble. Zinc
white buildings hug the edge.
Men stand in doorways, wait
to cross the streets on this
burnt-out star where we live.
I step on jagged cracks,
on ground glass, dodging cars
until I wake, reach Inwood,
or die. No more do
I believe in places
to stop: a church, cafes,
parks with trees despite this
pitiless fire that has
Poem 1 / Day 1
paper and screen #1 / by Regina Chiuminatto
We everywhere have dreams of diaries,
day-dreams of idiotic aspirations,
the idiotes who remains at home
recording dreams beneath a daily date,
recalling anecdote with moment force,
each page made of momentum toward the next.
But even chroniclers of dreams and days
take off on side-trips into reverie,
and if we count the quotes that we excise
from the posthumous journal of our dreams,
it’s just a book of aphorisms with
the waking days accounted in between.
Indigo Child / by Leslie Ferguson
Walking with my grandfather
when storm opened up
one tie at a time
along the tracks
side by side we slowed our stride
under humid beach sky
a small hand in his
the other dragging a stick
clouds against atmosphere
grays layered upon indigos
airspace of despair
perhaps a challenge to overcome
to believe God would heal my mother
my innocent machete-wielding heart
poked wooden sleepers
to keep down invisible threats
fight the battle, win the war
smacked weeds and dirt
cleared a path
the ballast held though
loose under our feet
pieces of gravel wedged
in grooves of my sole
I forced them out with nimble
wasn’t cleansing rain
from distant electricity
wasn’t peace or understanding
in my tremulous skin.
Self Stigmata / by Joshua Gage
Asleep, I am a candle flickering
with dreams of where the snow is hid. Water
begins. My orchards are carved with names of angels
Deep among the alcoves of the trees,
the dark is full of crows, their caws harsh clouds
of breath beneath my limbs. A knife’s cold psalm
sings up my arm like sun upon the snow.
It makes a wing-shaped hole, then fills with feathers,
the smell of smoke, soft rapture on my tongue.
Just Zip It / by nicolle neulist
over — look
groomed lawn, on one
grey face halfway from crook and
herd — he cared
for no race, only for
my flocked, clever face, hear my cadenced
hoof hoof hoof hoof
dance, dance, a world beyond war
Ugly Poem #1 / by JodiAnn Stevenson
It’s all lawnmowers and green
trembling leaves touched by
Big lake breezes up here.
At night, it’s quiet and clean
enough to see all of the stars.
And it’s easy to forget;
it’s easy to pretend
the rest of the world
isn’t a burning trash heap
where children’s bodies
are bearing the brunt
of that festering.
You told me once my poetry
is too ugly but I’m done trying
so hard to be pretty for everyone
leaving garbage all over my beach
leaving babies on concrete floors
leaving their fingerprints all over
my body. My body
wants to be green leaves trembling
in this Big lake breeze
and nothing more
But you won’t let it.
You won’t let it.
pretty. I’ll give you
pretty when you stop
using the land
and our babies
and our bodies
for a future
Questions of Size / by Marianne Szlyk
I wait for ducks to pass
through this patch, overflow
pond too small for herons,
geese, even hawks. Once, wings
unclipped, some ducks escaped
from our yard. They touched down
on doll islands in our neighbor’s
pond, then lit on dwarf trees
or a faded red shed
crammed full of last year’s toys.
Our ducks were on their way
to Lake Quinsig’s back end,
some place larger than this
minute pond or last year’s