The 30/30 Project: June 2020 Pt. 1

Backup / Restore

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

Donate to 30/30

The volunteers for June 2020 are Nancy Davis, Kelsi Folsom, Kylie Gellatly, Nina Gibans, Sarah Green, Shirley Jones Luke, Oksana Maksymchuk, Marisa Sullivan, and Nicole Yurcaba. Read their full bios here.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and warm up your pen!                         

Poem 15 / Day 15

Visit / by Nancy Davis

steam heat rising in early-morning gasps
an emptiness settles on the handmade quilt
protecting me from April chill

blank windows facing a blank world
pine planks a foothold to another place

nothing but the birch Queen bed and dresser—
no braided rug to soften the mood

I wake to newborn knowledge that
someone occupied this space

all these years visiting our grandmother
in her downstairs home, this floor
rented to strangers living
wholly separate lives

we rarely ventured here
except in vacant times

now I occupy this room
a place to stay—
hospice two miles away

she’s lived a full and decorous life
strong spirit, brave heart, resourceful

lost dear sister, Hattie, Grandfather
Pugh to “Spanish flu” decades ago
both in this house, both laid out
in the parlor below

perhaps Aunt Hattie needed a favor—
please reach her sister after
so long a lapse, wanting stories
of love and loss

daily rhythms
the persistence of life
how one sister succumbed
and the other survived

the relentless march of viral history
ever restless, opportunistic

watching us, waiting

Whispers / by Kelsi Folsom

What the wind knows
it told me this morning:
It’s all fleeting—
hold on tight.

let the clock run down / by Kylie Gellatly

let the clock run down and subside in the ether
                   it is at home in steep walls not daring to be
                                     released to me           

                                                                            let us pause for a moment and strike a balance

the fog is forging each minute into a fever
                        graves beckon to burn
                                                                                                                     and shape time

                                                                                    but I am not     the seeker
                                                                                                for longitude is nothing but
                                                                        the difference between time and
                                                                  the observer

                                                            the purpose of
     clocks is out of my life each year
                                                  again
                                    I drop into the
                                                   life span well along

                                    I might have arrived in architecture

it came with a letter from
      the meteorite
                     “I will land you
                                         and
                                    doubt
                         the spring of the year”

                                                I would live over again
                                                                  merged with the tongue in need of tuning
                                                                                   choked with the monsters of parentheses

                              but even
                                    sound is an unbroken expanse
                                                                   among
                                                                   the greater taking —
                                                     of time and fever and nothing more

Thinking – Seeking – Finding / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Roaming through

Sounds and Images

Can I really see

Clearly?

Smoke crowds my vision

Musicians sound tinny

Voices are shrill or muddy?

Louder.

I’ve changed channels.

 

I AM there

Arguing, listening

Debating.

And choosing.

 

I need

The baroque orchestra

Reaching into elegant archives

Singing to my soul

While I am thinking

Seeking, finding.

Future plans are being made for this park / by Sarah Green

Lizzie pours too much vanilla extract into the tablespoon,
so we quick run it over our wrists, work it up to our forearms.

Our ages add up to 48.

Future plans are being made for these ovaries.

When I was 8, cat-sitting, I used to play my neighbor’s piano.
She had a water bed. Alone in the house, I would put her lipstick on.

Lizzie and I aren’t related, but just for now we smell the same.

We could find each other with closed eyes.

I had a bike that was also a horse. Blue Schwinn– streamers, a straw basket.

Tomorrow she’ll smell like her mother’s house.

I remember it differently.

What Our Father Left / by Shirley Jones Luke

uniform from the MBTA, a worn brown belt

from beatings that lasted long after they were over

we’d cry ourselves to sleep as our parents argued

into the night full of storm clouds, hidden stars that fell like our tears

old work shoes, a Timex watch with a broken strap,
father was a strapping man, over 6 feet tall with tightly curled hair, a bushy mustache & graying beard that tickled our faces when he gave us a rare hug, we felt closer to him in those moments

a faded picture of our parents in New York City, mom with her fine, black hair hanging down to her shoulders, father sitting back in a chair, a belly starting to form, mom was smiling, father looked serious, stern, he was mad at the world

years of drift floating by, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, a blue Chevy, became a black Lincoln Continental driving me to my high school prom then a van driving me to college & father suggested I should join the military to pay for school

absence, father didn’t walk me down the aisle, a godson had that honor, my mom in the wedding party, dancing in white high heeled pumps as the music played to a packed hall full of guests from near & far, my father played golf on my wedding day

no knowledge of our loss, mom is gone, passed away, she lived with us, I took care of her, my father left us with bitter memories, but a stronger union, mom knew love, joy from her grandson, & her children have a better life as mom wanted

Trolls in a Tree / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Clusters of profiles
translucent spawn

covering the low-hanging fruit
of divisive stories

curious eyes, feelers perked for
the next dog-whistle

That thirty-year-old who defaced
the police cars?

She should rot in jail

The seventy-year-old that fell
when pushed by the cops?

Asking for it

Fanning the flames
with a thousand digits

tireless coxae
coaxing ressentiment

busy producing currency
a steady cash flow

Hexed Vessel / by Marisa Sullivan

I need to be soothed like the winter blues
Make my escape into the drone of waves

The ominous promise pours more allure
Than the shiny box presented on shore

Explosive energy, emptiness
Can fool me over and over again

Aching for winds to spring my sails
A hexed vessel with a no-wake veil

This tolled motor has been plenty muddled
Stomp through the swamp I could get chomped

Sunflower Seedlings, Ready for Planting / by Nicole Yurcaba

circle root-to-hole
beneath an oak my father says is his alter-ego
inside river rocks rimming
clay-like soil unfit for planting
anything, yet, mercifully, sunflowers
                                                          pop
blooms spreading
like the C-130’s wings casting shadows
on viscous clouds above, needing-mowed lawn below,
             gray bird of intimidation barely meeting
West Virginia treetops as quiet
as my mother, reading on the demanding-repairs deck
I have yet to rebuild using high school-aged trade skills.

This day, long-toothed and flecking foam,
digs its own grave in the west using a trowel
it will place, along with any leftover seeds,
into a cracked, brown clay pot
bearing a single hole at its base.

Poem 14 / Day 14

Hemingway’s House in Key West / by Nancy Davis

unlike the fabled man we’ve come to know
through survival stories and critical renown
six-toed felines rule his legacy
59 and strong

languorous statuaries atop claw-footed tubs
frescoed by ferns, basking on topaz
tiles, shimmied into shelves
of the bustling bookshop

nine years of domesticity could not
tame the man for long

stucco façade, wrought iron
railings, hurricane shutters
studio self-contained—
iconic typewriter the fulcrum
of the place

nestled in the heart of the Key
surviving female-named
hurricanes too numerous
to blame just one—
feminine currents rushing
with masculine, islands
in the stream nourishing
rare domestic harmony

unsettled winds and waters
turbulent mind, adventurous soul
cut through swaths
of containment, cherished
companions

tempting the unknown,
the chaotic—burgeoning
tides and heroic beasts

the vicissitudes of catch and kill:
grace in the presence of death

the ship / by Kylie Gellatly

the ship was the rib of reason

the ship was unable to follow me

the ship was frowning with a fist in her face

the ship was a very quiet widowhood

the ship was nothing but a long-hand manuscript

the ship was negatives converted to positives

the ship was now experienced in looking

the ship was an off year stripped bare

the ship was a council of war decreed

the ship was the guttural ejaculations of fear

the ship never happened but could not be denied

the ship was limping back to swell up

the ship was beginning to be an alarm

the ship was right there on the floor
                          while this book was written

First Places of Resonance / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

The corner of a room where I write

looks at a corner of the outside

frames the sunlight

joining my world with that world

with images that last

and memories that hold.

 

This is my first place of resonance

this place of remembering

where ideas simmer

without interruption

until they are surrounded

with stories plucked for telling.

 

I am weaving memories

into a blanket of strength

I am weaving my dreams

into a quilt of warm patterns

I am weaving my thoughts

as guideposts and gates

as peaceful moons slide

into the back sides of the suns

guiding the days and nights

of this year.

Acts / by Sarah Green

I wanted to feed the fish an extra time. I needed more faith
that those mustard seeds of food

would hold him for the long weekend, fan the flames
of his souped-up fins, as he circled his planet

on the edge of the bathtub. Vroom. His orange
silicone companion keeping count with cartoon eyes.

Last night at Shakespeare in the Park, Helena launched herself
toward Demetrius. We laughed. Her white silk dress a doll’s

from far away. As she flew at him, her mic cut out
just long enough, the crowd heard— brief— a girl, unamplified.

Between acts, Peace Corps men drank wine, got louder
on the blanket next to me: “Then he asked, do you have rice

in the U.S.? Corn? Peanuts? Do you have the moon?” Months ago,
on my back porch in early summer, high enough to see the wet o’s

of the neighbors’ swimming pools and invent some future
trespassing, my friend and I sat cutting off each other’s

blood supply. My ear pressed to his shoulder. His forearm
pale, cooling. The moon changed slow

like an old bather, un-self-conscious, full bodied. Airing, for
once, her original logo.

Even when we didn’t have anything, we had something / by Shirley Jones Luke

Hardwood floor, stained, edges charred black
years of praying, of playing, of crying

Cobwebs in the windows, roaches on the walls, mice commuting
between rooms, remnants of their travels cover our feet

Wild cats commune in the backyard, meowing at the moon,
stray dogs lurk nearby, growling, hungry for dinner

The kitchen is quiet except for the steady hum of the refrigerator,
loaded with government cheese, hard as a brick, giving us belly aches

as we stand in the bathroom, staring at the cracked plaster, dirty tub and dingy toilet, mom was too tired to clean today, or any day

A spider captures a fly in its web home, an old lamp shade,
the fly’s struggles are futile, but it still struggles, so do we

My lap is a desk as I write a story, a narrative of poverty
my young mind seeking meaning, it’s elusive

Books surround my body as the TV blares in my brother’s room
our mother sings hymns from a church we no longer attend

I am the center of their universe and they are the center of mine
we revolve around each other like planets around a sun

Maria Antonia / by Oksana Maksymchuk

As a girl she loved dancing
and dolls, played the harpsichord

Couldn’t spell well
wasn’t good at languages

Parents worried
how she would do in a court

She exceeded the expectations
forged alliances, capitalized on sex

It was said that she shopped too much
tended to befriend the enemies

of the state, acted like a woman
of a questionable persuasion

But that quote she came to be known for
was from Rousseau’s Confessions

She wasn’t dumb, yet as a foreigner
on foreign soil — incautious

Eventually, she too was devoured
by greed & rage

a puffy brioche cake
layered with ivory cream panache

exposing the rum-drenched raisin of
a burning heart

MIAMI CALLER / by Marisa Sullivan

The four foxy sunbathers lounged at The Castaways hotel in Miami, the beach a splendid scene in 90 degrees

“Why is he calling me again?” she whined, secretly pleased with the attention,

taking a swig of her Tequila Sunrise while rubbing the pool of baby oil sitting on her

stomach and adjusting her low-rise briefs before rising to take the call

“Miss?” I’m coming!

“Well hello there little lady.” Hello …

This was the second time he rang, maybe the third

The hotel operator was getting to know this mischievous, ballsy bloke

And so was I

What is it about him?

He gave no flying fucks

He was cute but not that cute, and short

But he could move, and that sharp tongue

kept the room in groove

“When will you be back on Sunday? I’ll pick you up in the Lincoln convertible.”

Noon, on Delta

“I’ll be there at 11”

Dizzy from the drinks, the sun and the stun of interruption,
my heart warmed and hummed along the rest of the day

Men leered with beers and I turned my head

I felt something pulling me to this Timothy Sullivan

When the Grass is Smallest / by Nicole Yurcaba

summer’s anger arrives
carrying its groceries
in non-reusable bags
tearing at their handles

Poem 13 / Day 13

Listening to the Birds / by Nancy Davis

what happens when the birds stop
singing, will we be like Gardner’s Grendel*
and his mother, stuck hard in their limestone
cave, no light or language to guide them back–

grunting misdeeds and miscalculations,
old wounds and resentments,
their lives piled onto each other like
kindling on a stone-cold pyre?

*
to slash an acre of rainforest is to sever
the windpipes of thousands,
a thresher thrashing melody
into hissing embers.

what gumption it requires: the wholesale
slaughter of vowels, consonants,
syllables—vibrato, trills, warbles.

the silence of dead planets:
still sands as far as the heart

can bleed.

 

*the monster in Beowulf, reimagined in John Gardner’s novel, Grendel

I assume you are looking down / by Kylie Gellatly

 

                        I assume you are looking
 down on the sun directly

            just what are you thinking of?
                          whether we are
                              gaining or losing?

                                       It is the only means
                           time expresses by degrees

                                                             There is a wind
                                                       through the vertical circle
                                                                I hold vigil with the
                                                                           light moving
                                                                  over the crosshairs

                                        hoping to be thrown together again

the events are
              figments of my imagination and I
                        numb
                             myself

                                                    it is not much of a reward
                        to be the only piece of new land
                                           smoking come morning

Wings Drying in the Sun / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Drying in the sun

lifting at noon

I am a monarch

splendid color, self-possessed

aging in the moonlight

preening in the morning

ready to test my wings.

118 Holland / by Sarah Green

What can I say except I’m thinking of the kid
in our old Somerville backyard rooting through bricks
I hadn’t known were there, back where the neighbor’s fence

began. He ducked and ran with one back to the street,
then disappeared. And next a different boy ran by our house
(the spot where the bus slows and makes its chime across
from the man with the radio and folding chair), his head
bleeding. A cop car, faster than I took that in.
And then no sign—

neither of them. It was the summer of
pale balloon animals and meth and pretzels dusted in sugar
and majorettes and floats from garden stores. I planted zinnias,

and someone or an animal took teeth or scissors and cut
just the heads. So, when I’d check the mail,
the stalks would stalk me like a weird warning.
Like next my head?
They’d left the little garden gnome. And the robbers
who would soon kick in a door and take our laptops? They’d

let me keep my guitar. But before that,
our neighbor would pass his shovel to me over the fence
that guards the brick pile, and I’d dig rows

for lettuce and peppers and beans and corn, and now
it’s all a parking lot. But first I lived there—while the zoning
battle raged— and our rented lawn stretched out, green,
impossible. And the frat brothers one floor up hosted a barbecue,
dumped ice around bottles of beer, and played
horseshoes, a game I recognized by sound from my bedroom

as evening fell, hearing the murmurs and the clang.
My mother’s dad
had died, and I was sitting in the dark thinking if I could bear

the way he couldn’t correct anyone again, would have to let us
go on wrong in our remembering. Could I bear it?

What was it worth, our great effort
to stay alive? Playing horseshoes
as if the robbers and the parking lot were not coming?
But first my brother

said, about the zinnia cutter: the joke’s on them—
that pollen will just spread farther. If I could I’d bring you
after dinner to the back porch, back in time,

to lounge in movie theater seats, an out-of-place trio
someone brought home for the express purpose of
making familiar. You’d be half-lit by the kitchen. And
we would have a perfect view of something only visible
from that story: the neighbor’s pool.
And we would covet it.

Black Folks Pedagogy / by Shirley Jones Luke

Come here, baby.

Get wrapped up in these here arms

arms from generations of nurturing

grandmamas, mamas, aunties.

A culture of care passed down continues

to this day even when we harm each other

someone will be there for ya, baby.

Don’t fret.

Sit down.

Have some lemonade.

Lemme fix you a plate.

Good food & good company solves most problems.

Don’t cry.

Your sadness will pass.

Eat your food. Savor the flavor

passed down from Africa.

Let it go deep into & uplift yo’ spirit.

Duffel Bag / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Passport, cash
a swiss army knife
socks and underwear
bandages, a pill box

It sits under a bed
like a hidden gun
narrow compartments
lined with fear

Never a good time
to pack when the city
resounds with shouts or falls —
all of the sudden — silent

When a house
catches fire, fills with
smoke

When the windows break
walls fall
the lights go off

When the men at the door
say Quick Quick
The transport’s waiting

Kimsey’s Run Dam, 8 June (13 June) / by Nicole Yurcaba

 

Monday. Relentless tide of endless bills, email responsibilities,
cats needing fed, bodies needing exercised, meager checkbooks
requiring balance.

I can’t tend to departmental boxes needing checked,
my father’s need to this his eighty-one dreams
to six-pound test line every day for seven to eight
hours. I’m adding twenty-five to fifty trying to equal
one hundred in order to pay a student loan, a phone bill,
an electric bill, an added expense present thanks to
                                                                                          mishap
                                                                                      calamity
                                                                                       misfortune
                                                                                       retail therapy
                                                                                           I can’t afford
                                                                                                               to miss an opportunity
                                                                                                                to see my father arc his arm
                                                                                                                      cast the line weighted
                                                                                                                     by sinker
                                                                                                                          bait
                                                                                                                           hopes
                                                                                                                          anticipation

Poem 12 / Day 12

Divinity / by Nancy Davis

some things are holier than others:
the clicking of our heels on marble floors,
my small hand clasped in yours
the trust I feel, safe in the comfort
of contours, your camel coat swishing
like the whoosh of wings, the worn oak
pews ghostly bones of this place. It is
your sanctuary, not mine, except now,
with you, your prayers a feast to fill
my heart.

Courage / by Kelsi Folsom

It’s a cup of water,
Curved like grace
against the night-
time navy of the
coarse tablecloth.

Like a secret,
the water softly
wiggles near the
lip of glass,
daring to crawl
down the sides
and leave.

Double crossing
the shadows,
it transforms the light
muddling clarity
with wetness
and clear fabrication.

Glass.
We cut with it
and
We see with it.

Movement.
We die by it
and
We live by it.

Strength.
We forge with it
and
We break with it.

Copulating conundrum
of thirst and satiation—
It’s a cup of water,
but,
will I drink it?

a great many made many / by Kylie Gellatly

            a great many
                   made many with an ax
                   decisioned or approved
                                    the good
                               in either case
               the mind
                    obtained to stand
                                          the summer
               the night being clear
               the last desires I had said
                                I loved so well

                                                   I ran
     denied having reached the summit
       it was only a rock from the grave
that this boulder had taken for its new
                                             polished face

    Later I found the headstone
         granite bound          so that I might swing
the pendulum for the last time and ring
the heavy instrument of brass and cast iron
            that I was awakened by
                so I could hear the names

( across the boulder     recognition would shortly appear )

The Little Things / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

The little things that bother me

grow like raindrops

unless I play sun-god to my day

smile and recognize the child in me

play music to my need to do it one way only

laugh at something in the smallest part that is,

oh well, me.

Friends would fly umbrellas

protect ideas if there were puddles, they could leap

unless I needed more.

Accidentals / by Sarah Green

No one can see the envelope
once it slips through the clang
of blue metal mailbox,
its ink touching the face of
the card under it, stamp glue
stuck slight to someone else’s
Forever. Alphabets—
address, surname—join
briefly in the crossword of the pile.
A of Alissa touching M
for Maryland, and now it’s morning,
now it’s someone’s Ma, is am— until
a water bill cuts in, face down,
a gloss of plastic-lined window, only
reflecting what it’s near.

Regality / by Shirley Jones Luke

She would be king. A bawse among bosses. There is no common ground. She cares not for the origins of others who came before her. Perfection defines her. I can’t make this up. When I’m before her, I feel as if I’m on foreign soil. My soul looks back on what we were before the coronation. I remember the fear killing my black body. I remember her coldness. When she was crowned, she was the hope of the nation. Our father left & he never came back. His absence changed her. Nine years under the crown & I see her beast side. We will always be sisters, children of blood & bone. You don’t have to say you love me.

Wait It Out / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Been caged in too long
told to wait too long
Long alone

like a broken
piece, a part that does not
belong and is not wanted

Surviving — far too long

Left no choice but to wait
for another head to be served
on the order of a tyrant

egged on by a dancing girl
man in uniform, praying
mantis, prophesying oracle

Graceland / by Marisa Sullivan

Welcome to Graceland, off the 51
Classical Revival
Of a King’s time stood still
White pillars of society
From borrowed black soul
Oh the irony
White carpets reflect –
old school swank
A bar in each room
To entertain
Elegant dining
Splashes of blue
Patterned drapes –
engulf the billiards room
Peacock-stained glass
Gold records and Grammys
(The sterile new plaza quite damning)
A kidney-shaped pool
Meditation garden
Burial tombs of Elvis, Minnie
Gladys and Vernon
I wish I could be someone
fly on those walls
Jungle Room sessions
inside a highball
Upstairs roped off where he took his last breath
Was he scared to death
Hope he enjoys his guests

A Quantity is Congruent to Itself / by Nicole Yurcaba

an abandoned

     forgotten
     scheduled
                    math class I attend one day
                                                              prior to the final exam
                                      I sit in a black-walnut desks
                                             near a heavy lead-black door
equations glare
                scream
                stab
                      their symbols
                              lines
                              signs
                                      as mysterious as a pale moon on a late-spring night

give me words
              letters
              consonants
              vowels
              syllables—
                                sure
                                unwavering
                                solid—

                                            via pen
                                                  tongue
                                                  type
give me a blank page
              a pencil—
                               i’ll work magic
                                     find wonders in skies
                                                               leather-bound
                                                               paper-backed
                                                               first-editioned
                                                               tweeted
                                                               twitched
                                                               scribbled
                               i’ll scribe epics
                                                decrees
                                                codices
                                                codes
                                                entries
few—if any—will ever
                               ever
                               ever
                                     read

Poem 11 / Day 11

As I Pass through the Bardo / by Nancy Davis

             as I pass through the Bardo
let me join the pilot whale breaching
             frigid depths
             of Norwegian fjords
the fresh salt-water currents a natural bridge
             to mindfulness

             or a forest where the trees
have lived a thousand lives, symbiotic
             communities canopying above
             rooting in the underground
an alliance we barely know

             lead me to the caves of celebrated
births, deep in sacred cavities of matriarchal worth

             infinitesimal worlds lie within our reach

             I’m certain I’ve passed through the Bardo
and likely back again
             I may be there now—
             fern frond brushing my ankle
deep blush of summer balm

             the thrum of hungry swarms
tunneling through the dusk

you followed me thus far / by Kylie Gellatly

                        you followed me thus far in my first flirtation with such gravity
                             that icy goddess who had treated me so
                 with only the clothes on my back
                                     I found
                        that I had decided
            the reaction was quite the opposite.

                  far back in
                        the door
haunting melodies of the dancing
      floor, the nights without darkness — all served
                        a stronger determination to go farther

                                                                                   would you like to go along and
                                                                           welcome another year?
                                                     would I? we did

                                                                                    I had learned
                                                                        all I had imagined
                                                                          we even discovered that I lived my own love
                                                                                    which finally took shape

                        we lived time together
                           in the skin boats
                                         of accretion

            returning to the
                   curious
                        who would justly conclude that
                                my lesson had made the pledge

we were to be one
            of a couple in the corner of a
                                                    trail that walk through
                                                                            the interior of the rest of the mornings

Doors / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Doors separate us from ourselves

Bunkered into our dreams

Seeing only through the cracks

Through slivers of light to truth.

What goes around us

Takes form on every street from our past

And now, beyond imagination

Beyond goodwill,

Good deeds anytime before

Are past; we must open our own door

To the future.

 

To the future.

1998 / by Sarah Green

Ah the electricity
blindsiding the author as a teen
cautiously ducking into the line for coffee at
Diesel Café
everyone’s tank tops and spiked belts
femmes spilling cleavage over the counter
girls with their hands in each other’s pockets
hits of caffeine and cream
ice cubes and chocolate
just the adrenaline of weaving through the room
kind of hiding, kind of looking, kind of
looked at
memorizing for later the glossy cutouts
napes of necks
overalls and armpit hair
piercings and tattoo sleeves
queer joy
rioting off
sunlight reflections off glass
tables,
under the tables, knees touching.
Veiled in an alibi of tourism,
waiting to claim my place
exactly home
yearning
zipped up for years

It Began with Water / by Shirley Jones Luke

It began with water. It began with bodies in the water. It began with African bodies in the water. It began with dead African bodies in the water.

It began with a ship. It began with a ship carrying human cargo. It began with a ship carrying Africans. It began with a ship carrying a cargo of Africans who became sick.

It began with a decision. It began with a decision by the captain. It began with a decision by a Dutch captain. It began with a decision by a Dutch captain to throw dead & dying Africans into the water.

It began with moans & screams. It began with the moans & screams of Africans. It began with the moans & screams of African women & children. It began with the moans & screams of African women & children as they witnessed their family & friends brought up on deck.

It began with a splash. It began with several splashes. It began with several splashes scattering the fish in the water. It began with several splashes scattering the fish as bodies disrupted the silent sea.

It began with water. It ended with death. Death became freedom.

Toppling General / by Oksana Maksymchuk

On a plinth — tidy idol, lover of
order, reader of the Bible

Honored for valor
in a battle on the wrong side

of history
he was not above his time

Held slaves, raped a little
Drank undiluted wine

Got tangled up
with some seedy types

Caved in under the force of
circumstance

Nobody dared throw the first
stone, until one day

he fell all by himself
angry, confused

into a shimmering puddle
surprising a flock of sparrows

Re-Booking the Flight / by Nicole Yurcaba

i taste lobster
          lamb
          vegetable
                        stew brimming from a Kaffi Loki bowl
    see whales breaching in coastal waters
    buy wool sweaters & find the nearest place to post them
    send postcards to friends
                                 my parents
                                 my partners
                             after visiting The Phallological Museum
                                                   The Icelandic Sea Monster Museum

another cancellation
another unknown
             refund
             city
             cost
             exhaustion
             worry
             experience
                             added
then—
           doubt

Poem 10 / Day 10

Back Porch / by Nancy Davis

Hardly a porch—
a sliver, an afterthought
a lean-to
of memory and purpose

Metal basin beneath
mottled mirror,
ancient isinglass spreading
wings

Like birds
in the pine grove
high above

linear boughs a perfect
ladder for games
we play each morning

Blue jays, catbirds,
I remember most—
taunting calls,
insistent mews

The swaying needles
dropping cones
highest branches
affording views

My father shaving
by the mirror
white tin basin
filled with water
bailed from streams
two miles away

Channeled through
a metal pipe, ice cold
liquid in glass-
gallon jugs

The swishing sounds
of razor rinse
soft scraping
against skin

Blue summer
promises—
good swimming
day, hide and seek

Below the dock,
mossy trout pickling
the spring-fed lake

               *

Back porch a
limen between worlds

Tensions tucked away
inside the tidy cottage—
mothball-scented dresser
sachet-filled armoires

Voices spill
out the pocked screen door
slamming open and shut

Disturbing clouds
of gnats and flies
a smorgasbord
for birds and bats

An anteroom—

Second icebox
storing meats
brass coat tree
red tackle box, mint
milk-paint rocker

               *

Years later, our lives
dispersed like pinecone seeds
Needles blanketing
our fall

House and land sold—
up for grabs

The brilliance of those
sapphire skies

Pine sap a balm
for stormy lives
the porch a fragment

Of some dream we lived
to tell about

Lemon-Raspberry Cake / by Kelsi Folsom

What is it about
the taste of lemon
that pairs so well
with hot coffee?

The tension of the
wet steam mingling
with the cool tang of
tart surrendering to sweet.

I plunged my fork into
the moist silk of lemon
raspberry cake, dragging
the bottom of the silver tines

languidly across my tongue,
softly sucking the sweet
of the glaze like an eager
lover fumbling with her lips.

Having rid the fork
of its contents, I reach
for the ceramic cup latticed
with dollops of navy and red paint,

to coax the crumbs and 
slow-pour together,
savoring,
savoring each sip.

At last all is right 
with the morning
and the world,
this small moment

I inhabit with my mouth open wide.

there was a hole / by Kylie Gellatly

there was a hole leading down
my first thought                
but when I slid 
in the flickering light of a bed in salt
I could have seen 
days drift by    
will you go with me?
I would                  
the severed                                                           
red light that held us to the doom               
slowly moved away in the darkness

we subsisted on salt and rocks

I feared
for nearly a week
there still remained room in sigh                       
to circle round and round over head

out we ran on                              
bad weather and                                      
intended to drive in search of succor

we were found lying beside the water and                    
carried away

we have many an island but we hope for one hundred

The Dresser Drawer / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Drawers open and close in mourning

A lyrical point of departure

Affection stuffed in the square box

with blue beads

from a trip to match the sky

Harmony.

 

Or disarray of a friend’s death

Decaying fabrics

pieces of trips

ideas disassembled

tickets with stories

Stop here.

Plus-One / by Sarah Green

Because in my twenties
and thirties I just ended up places
as if dreaming, this time I was in a bride’s bedroom.

And she wasn’t there,
and I’d never met her. 

I looked for clues
in her childhood bookshelf. I picked up figurines.
I lay down on her chenille bed.

Flowers were arriving. I speared a block of
cheese from the fruit plate. I was not attending.
I came by train

to buzz around the side of the wine glass.
I mean I coveted and didn’t know how to get to

sweetness. I knew there was a beach, and a man
on the guest list had invited me to everything
but the party.

I remember him beckoning me,
closing the door.

After we used the bride’s towels, we dressed again
in view of maple trees
she used to dream facing.

Everyone left for the church, so I walked
until I found nothing

except an antique store. Among the scalloped-edge
postcards, I looked for someone
who missed me.

I looked for someone who would tell me
to come home.

Ride / by Shirley Jones Luke

This is an elegy to asphalt
cracked & gutted, stripped
of its smoothness from years
of neglect.

Let us pray for tar, hot & melting
against old rocks, chipped & broken
like our lives, robbed of innocence
& youthful zeal. Bodies neglected.

The wind is in my face. Cold & nonjudgmental,
slapping away my desperation. Need
is a greedy thing. I am thirsty for escape
as I check my side mirrors.

The windows are eyes
that follow me as I go by, glinting
in the sunlight. They’re suspicious
of me. My skin color is a crime.

Freedom is an exit ramp. A route
not highlighted by GPS. A blur of words.
Siri ignores the detour. My hands sweat
against the steering wheel. An urgency.

Morning gives way to evening. Stars peep
my progress on the highway. Twilight
closes the windows’ eyes. I drive on.
My destination is self-preservation.
A place where I can to live.

Flooding the Zone / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Locked in too long
now you foment riots, hearts
of unrest set on deeds that go
against the nature of our order

In the marble halls
shoulders padded, postures
upright, we’re ready to become
fire and brimstone

Helmets at our sides, law
backing us up, we unleash on you
violence, pure & sweet like
sparkling toilet wine

Go down slowly, wrath
burning throats and windpipes
expanding like sourdough
rapturously exploding

In the darkness that comes upon
all unbelieving souls
try to call us by our names
You’ll see none

STUBBORN / by Marisa Sullivan

Of course I don’t know what to do
The shapes and space of memories bloom

To give me hope you make me blue
My lips and tongue burn as I spew

I wish my pal was back in motion
He needs to pick a different potion

Transform and I emerge a mother
Rescind the right to hide and cover

Make clear your path to be my lover
Can’t help but fear I’ll be so stubborn

Crepuscular Rays / by Nicole Yurcaba

This is the farthest that I go/ Never the same person again—Solstafir

another argument
residues June’s first week
my family photos
      ikons
     
 hiking trip snapshots
no longer hang on our living room wall

you don’t return home mid-afternoon
for lunch coupled with a half-hour in bed

i’d rather read in my chair
poised beneath the lightning-split black walnut
than lie next to you

instead, i’m watching the cat
black as Reynisfjara’s sand
sleep away friday’s noon
as i box sheets
             comforters
             pillows

Poem 9 / Day 9

River Birch* / by Nancy Davis

roots dive soundlessly into soil
reed-like branches survive heavy winds.
atop, curling twigs quake in slanted sun
coaxing buds to deep fulsome green.

breezy clouds adrift
swaying boughs of lacing
bark; descending curves
weave textured hues
of stripling sap

trickling

dark waters churn the muddy banks—
turn gray, old men’s hair, for good.

*birch can symbolize the threshold between life and death

The Nightstand / by Kelsi Folsom

A muted white rectangle 
holds the light in,
pulls loneliness to gaze 
at what would have been bright.

Perfume and oils,
stacks of half-read books,
gummed up tubes of concealer and mascara
sit quietly nearby,
unused but ready.

Slippers I meant to give away,
rubber sandals splitting at the tongue,
an aching in my lower back
nudging me to lie down.

But

I want to stay up,
keep writing and dreaming,
It’s less lonely that way—
too busy to feel empty.

I’m another night dancing
in the shoes of solitude

twenty years of my life the pictures waste / by Kylie Gellatly

                          twenty years of my life
                                  the pictures
                                             waste
there is only one direction — yes
                                            over the striking moon
                                        and the striking recollection
                                                      being torn out
                                                             to swing out
                 when the audience of the clear sky
  seems suddenly to be
                    old abandoned
                               rotting ice

millennials telling
                the known announcing
                                           “you’re alive”
hundred who well know stayed only
       out of a submerged appreciation
for loss
            failures intrigued them —

   We must be
         kind there is no oil

                    I refer to
           the historian of
  the living: “we
                    might
      keep all hands”

      but the storm that holds us in sight
                    blows away the day and
we are furiously burning with
thirst

Feast of S / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

I invited myself

To the ancient feast of Nowruz

for good luck

(Don’t we all need good luck).

Sweet puddings and apples

Berries

Placed at a table

On a Persian rug

Celebrating rebirth

And greening.

It is the first day of spring

I celebrate             

all of my children

everyday.

David born on New Year’s Day.

Hallelujah

Sekkeh for prosperity.

Joy in music

Wine and health.

 

Samabak  

Sweet pudding

Sir

Apples for beauty

Sermaq                                                                

Berries for sunrise                                          

 

Hallelujah
 
Beth blossoms

Patience with herbs

Garlic for health.

The feast-maker.

 

Apples for beauty

Golden Delicious                                                                                                                                                    

Sweet, crunchy

A good bite.                            Hallelujah

Amy’s sweet puddings

Berries for sunrise

Sumac from the Persian

Ancients, now hers.

 

13 days after the feast

sabzeh
 
Collecting all the ills
 
Throwing them in the river of bad luck.
 
It’s our fertility feast            
 
                         
Hallelujah

Jon the keeper of luck

                                            High on a mountain

                                           Grounded on beauty

                                           He has seen all of the sunrises

                                           And setting suns.

Sabzeh is mine to hug.

Hallelujah!

pride haiku / by Sarah Green
 
that first stomach rush
clicking to choose in gchat
to go visible 

We Respond in Ways We are Not Use to / by Shirley Jones Luke       

Enunciated Anglo-Saxon vernacular populating rarified air is not the way my people communicate. We speak like dis, we talk that dat, we finna go to the store, we fixn’ to see our neighbors, I need to see my cuzins, my people from my other people’s side of the family. We cudda all been together but there was some drama & now this aunt don’t speak to dat aunt & this sista don’t speak to her younger sista, so our vernacular is a mix of Southern cadence, Caribbean patois & African dialect long forgotten by its descendants but our tongues remember the tribes like a continent remembers its tribes

Keeper of Secrets / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Behind a glowing screen
I run into a friend I’ve lost 

I wrote a poem about her once 
now we don’t talk

It was too good a story 
Forgive me for telling it

Gold, pure profit
an easy sell

Something that happened
You don’t own what happened 

It’s not just about you
It’s timeless & universal

So long ago! How dare you
still remember

In silence, we watch 
tires on fire, airborne
Molotov cocktails, bodies 
flooding the narrow streets 

word forms materializing
dream in dream out

6 YEARS OLD / by Marisa Sullivan

My father was sick, I didn’t know why
Everything had seemed fine 
Then you couldn’t make it through lunch
and had to go outside

Laid out in the back of the car
The fresh leather wept for you as did I
But not ’til later in life

I didn’t know why
I didn’t know why

Laying there to say goodbye
The hospital room walls cried
I love you, you mouthed –
At least tried

The ventilator apologized  

But I had already ran from him
The hallway sighed

Ammonitic Suture / by Nicole Yurcaba

we swim between fossil-lined gums
               beneath glass waters
                                               narrated by our diving

in prehistoric scrolls
                                unravelling like Esdras’
                                                    ammonite
                                                    nautiloid
                                                    chiton
                                                    bivalvia
salute from rocks rolled
                             eroded
                             blasted
                             overturned
                   blocks bearing enigmatic codes
                               one hand-length from our masked faces      

Poem 8 / Day 8

Comorbidities / by Nancy Davis
circa 2020

writing a medical note to excuse her
patient from Jury Duty, my Internist
cited my multiple morbidities in the context
of Covid:

age, autoimmune disease,
several bouts of pneumonia.

the Golden Years:
trading wisdom for liability
in the time of Covid.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki

scores of survivors suffered Hashimoto:
damaged thyroids, antibodies attacking
their own.

inflammation

my own diagnostic origin?
genetic, perhaps.
radioactive cow pastures in idyllic
Western New York State—
and my birthplace
quite possibly

breathe deeply

smoker? never
urban dweller?
half my life—or
do I mean

Half-life?*

live near factories, landfills?
a busy airport,
second-hand smoke, back in
the day

I once was told, as if it were
a badge of dubious honor,
a TB scar marked one lung

culprit? public transportation,
likely

over the years, I taught hundreds
of students, had a loyal
following.

Once, an Honors
student entered, assignment
in hand, a wide constellation
of shingles freckling his face.

virus overload, yes?

over Zoom, my loyal friend
in the medical field—upbeat,
professional, concurred.

 

*period of time it takes for the atoms of a radioactive Isotope to decay

Of The Expectant / by Kelsi Folsom

Life grows
in mysterious ways,
building and
nurturing
the foundations
of humanity.

Sinew stretches
skin pulls tight,
organs realign
as newborn iterations
expand.

In the womb,
a fresh person
is formed.

our luck was not to last long / by Kylie Gellatly

our luck was not to last long housing on
                                             mountains
it was remarkably quiet considering But it was true
            the moonlight
       forced high in the air as
                        the engine waited for the final
                                                dash each one of us
                                    returned to stand on the black water
            hoping to be in that last wail of the
                        violins midnight
                              announced beautifully
all this framed the oily floor
   and the half-wild music of
                an unforgettable commotion above

There is a
            mute room half-filled
with time now to remove anything of value nothing
                                                         was gone
                        equal to a hive of idle hours no present
                                            sunk there only dusk
            the long night left no trace

Uncertainty / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

I was certain of hope

When problems large and small

Like the clock that ticks through life

Just happen.

I am too old to change HOW

The NOW was.

Blueberries for Sal / by Sarah Green
 
Each year there seem to be fewer blueberries in the lot
at the top of the hill, purple or green, small as a bead
lost from a string when the baby reached for it
and broke the whole necklace,
laughing. You remember the way your thighs bruised
under his one-year-old sneakers, and your jaw blew up in hives,
your nipples bled. That’s a lie. You remember
raspberries at the side of the road when it was still just sand,
gravel to slip down on the steep return. Strawberries wild
along the dirt driveway, growing along the grass mohawk 
between the tires. You get confused, think you were Sal.
You think you saw the bear in the story.
You think you’re thawing cans of Minute Maid for some child,
but you’re the child, you’re the one mixing the dough,
wiping your hands on the apron that is your grandmother’s.
You wash the berries in her colander. You turn to teach 
someone what to do next, but it’s just you, putting the
key back where it goes, closing the gate, taking the right
at the gully, turning to check for a boat one more time
that won’t be there.

Call of the Block / by Shirley Jones Luke                           

 

Call & response

you & your friends

know it well

Calling all units

the blues are out tonight

Call of the wild

feral cats & angry hounds

Call of the footfalls

when the streetlights

come on

 

Respond when your mama

calls you to come home

Respond the whirring

of sirens

Respond to the stray dogs

howling at false moons

 

Call for backup

all officers, respond

Call yo’ daddy

before he responds

Call the pigeons

to snack on stale popcorn

 

Call & run through vacant lots                                                                                              

leaping over fences & railings

Call to your friends lagging behind

 

Respond lil’ Jay

with yo’ buck teeth

respond Big Boy Ray

with yo’ boppin’ stroll

Respond to the weeds in bloom

grown in trash

Respond to the grown men

blooming from weed

Respond to worried mamas

pulling back curtains

Respond before daddies

get their belts

 

Call out to the stars

the evening lights

call to the asphalt

glowing under your feet

call to the neighbors

shaking their heads

as you sprint

down the block

Instant Ally / by Oksana Maksymchuk 

Amidst images of
luminescent fish, avant-garde

food, shapely beaded purses
resembling a Rubik’s cube

cleavage marked by
a diminutive golden cross

someone, in black and white
gets shot

picture coming to life
grazed by a cursor

Take it down, come the shouts
in caps, get blocked

Censorship, wow
What’s with the cuss words?

All she wants is to
live and let live

to be a part, to inspire
what’s right, to speak truth —

fearlessly, categorically —
power no power

I’LL RISE / by Marisa Sullivan

I’ll rise above
I’ll rise like the blitzed sun and ignore a brush with dusk
The traps and tracks as night falls through cracks
I’ll rise above the seeded streets and whispers of deceit 
The jabs and jars of armored hearts
I’ll rise to lift the spirits high, wash new rains over bleak skies 
I’ll rise to my own mountain spring
Hike so high I cannot see 
The mounds of dirt to bury me

I’ll rise above you

Reflections of My Mother on the Second of June / by Nicole Yurcaba

Watching another day
                 another journal meet its end, alone.
I appreciate this front porch’s sanctity, the respite
from indoors
         screens
         phones
         rooms packaged for living
                                          maybe even dying

depending on day
                      month
                      year
                      moment.

Whatever pollen poisons this evening air
                            dehydrates my contacts,
though, perhaps, I’ve worn them one day
                                                     two days
                                                     ten
                                                          past expiration.
Supply is short. Listen—this is a pandemic.
My eye doctor isn’t seeing patients,
                        won’t renew prescriptions without an exam.
At least tonight we ate salad topped with beets
                                                                  cheese
                                                                  chopped steam shrimp—
food other than fish sticks baked on a pan handed to me from my mother
shortly after I left home two years ago.

She wanted to make sure I had everything—
                                                                       pans
                                                                       pots
                                                                       spatulas
                                                                       whisks
                                                                       chopping boards
                                                                       glasses
                                                                       even prayers.
My mother—she cried as she folded clothes
from my dresser, placed them gently into second-time-around boxes.
This isn’t how this is supposed to be! she wailed,
but my leaving—it was what it was: short notice
                                                           unannounced
                                                           spur-of-horse-gallop-moment
                                                           what she wanted but wouldn’t say
                                                           whatever description applied.

I made two round-trips that day, Chevy Trax brimming
like the pots of boiled kapusta Mama kept on the oven
for one entire summer twenty-odd years ago: 

Standing on a small stool, I weighed my options—
eat now
      later
sneak a taste.
Dip by dip, the wooden spoon delivered the pot’s hot contents
                   into my rebellious mouth
                                soon-to-be voluptuous hips
                                rounding belly
                                                      that during college I’d run
                                                                                          mile
                                                                                         mile
                                                                                          mile
                                                                                          mile to destroy.

That summer,
when my best friend’s mother gave my best friend a computer
                                                                                  an Ace of Base CD
and we sang The Sign as we raced bikes two coal-town blocks
                                                                 her house to mine,
I ate my mother’s cabbage.
She knew it, never saying a word.
Only when I complained from the bathroom
Mama, my stomach hurts
did she smile.

Poem 7 / Day 7

The Bogong / by Nancy Davis

how is it
the Bogong Moth,
brown, mottled
unassuming,
engages Earth’s
ancient secrets—magnetic
field, barometric pressure,
celestial configurations—

with its modest body

to migrate thousands
of nocturnal miles: natal grounds
to resting site and back again:
lining frozen walls of
alpine caves like ancient
hieroglyphics

the stories they could teach

I fear I might have said goodby / by Kylie Gellatly

                I fear
            I might have said
                        goodbye
                  I’m done
not the words I used but the
                     way out
                              would have been
something like a mocking

            a candid expression of their feelings
                   was somewhere
               to intercept it
found and induced
                                    to try it alone

                        The long
                                    covered
                                         siren looked up to face
                              home thick fog
                          looked awfully
                                    massive over the horizon
      remained still
                        to build
                        to assist
                        to accompany us home
                                like an iron vessel with great
     ceremony

Roots: At the Meeting of the Portage Trail and the Buffalo Trail / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

I.

This was to be home

the moon hung onto this place

and blessed it into being

and the river waters

became lake waves

after the bend.

Born in the moon

with bonfires, beach-brush, clearings for homes

raw materials for offerings

a chrysalis

for hand crafting and industries

making a city

 

portage

from canal to canal

criss-crossed distances

carrying dreams over trails

paths became streets

Euclid, Woodland to Lake Erie.

a small plaque speaks

“The meeting of the Portage Trail and the Buffalo Trail.”

“HERE, hear!”

 

The lake–grey distance

waves glower

walloping beaches

pushing the shoreline

luring sands

pounding like heartbeats

crashing into rock

falling into itself

grey heaps rise and flatten.

exhausted.

 

II.

Road signs dug into corners

Hanna, Corning, Mather, Holden,

a bridge named for each

a smokestack for each

a railroad for each

a park for Rockefeller.

yesterdays’ industry

new foundations replacing history.

Who notices the cornices

in industry’s palaces?

whose hand turned the whorled woods

weddings started on these steps

history tumbles down these staircases.

 

The sun is a chandelier

lighting grass and green spaces.

Silent pickings

in the attics of the city, letters tucked in eaves

caught in grates, tossing love out to tree lawns

connecting switchboards and memories.

Where Everything Happens / by Sarah Green

Grief ties one hand behind my back.
My husband vents, suddenly: I do everything.

While my husband does everything,
I pull garlic mustard from among the lilies and hostas. I peroxide the child’s foot.

Grief sours the sponge,
litters the carpet with dust and confetti. I vacuum,

bleach. I mail our bills. Grief runs up charges on my credit card. Everything must be a sky outside of this, wiping the counter down, singing

goodnight. What does he do out there in the garage with headphones on? Is that where

everything happens? Do we exist at home, me and the child, moving our game pieces, laughing, until he sees us and we turn to him?

The Whole Country Tried to Break his Skin* / by Shirley Jones Luke

At first with pretty words
then with fine goods
next with threats
then came the swords
taking Black bodies by force
onto ships, to the New World,
the cruel world where there were
revolutions & so many bodies felled
by muskets
by cannons
by bombs
with tanks rolling in
with soldiers following,
carrying machine guns
into Black & Brown neighborhoods,
where more bodies fell, more fear
in the eyes of mothers losing their sons
& daughters to beatings, shootings &
killings at the hands of their brothas
by different mothers & from officers who saw
them as animals to be cornered & corralled
& kicked & incarcerated

And yet, their skin was not broken, their skin
was still Black, their skin was still Brown,

their skin bled, but the hue remained, the hue
remained intact & could not be beaten, could not
be choked, could not be kicked, no matter how hard
they tried, our color would not go away, it would not
be driven away into the dark of the night, into the gray
shadows, into the evening sky where the spirits
of our people from so long ago, send us drops
of their skin on the wind

 

*Based on a line of poetry written by Tim Seibles

A Study in Imperfection / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Destiny out of control
fate of our kind determined

under a Persian rug
centuries ago

I attend to an exercise
letting the thing go before it’s ready

Fearful, I expect
no good to come of it

Things expire
unloved, unformed

Others are born
that shouldn’t be

All see the light
All are too slow

to die on time
to die at all

in accord with Silenus’
extra-human formula

Southwest / by Marisa Sullivan

Canyon views
Strawberry moon
The road soothes
As Eddie croons

Route 66
Desert sticks
A candy fix
Cactus licks

Corner in Winslow
Cruise Control
New Mexico
Curious pueblos

The foothills
Elevation thrills
Night is still
Another hotel bill

Cool breeze
Hushed streets
Nothing to eat
Swollen feet

Late night
Church chime
Bleary Eyes
A man’s sigh

Sun’s back out
Quick stroll in town
No turning around
Oklahoma-bound

Wild Dances / by Nicole Yurcaba

I.

Friday night along San Antonio’s Riverwalk:
lights gleam on channeled water
couples walk hand-in-hand
family-crowded restaurants bleed into one another.

From behind a white-tablecloth palace,
Shostakovich’s Waltz No. 2 streams
and the friend with whom I’m walking
                        grabs my hand
                        twirls me in circles.
Onlookers applaud
                  cheer
                  laugh.

We waltz like the stars we know we are not.

II.

During a sweltering Pennsylvania afternoon,
I pretend pirouette. I am six, falling into
my grandmother’s open arms, giggling
Baba Anna, do I dance like Dido did?
as I pinch her cheek, pull at a stray gray chin hair.

We are listening to Mussorgsky again.
                                                    As always,
                                                    The Great Gates at Kiev.

I pull away from my grandmother’s arms
  pat her cheek
  blow her a kiss
  then whirl.

III.

My parents paid the five-dollar charge
                           in hopes I’d spend time with friends
                                                                          maybe even a boy.

But I
              18
              too swarthy
              broad-shouldered
              wide-hipped        
              for any redneck boy’s attention
sat alone on the gym’s cold, undecorated bleachers
watching everyone dance to pop-shit country.
My curfew—11 PM. At 10, I began driving home.
                                                                                Prokofiev at the speed
                                                                                of a $500 secondhand ’91 Ford Thunderbird.

 

IV.

Waist-high sunflowers bob their moon-wide heads as the wind plays its sopilka.
I sway between them
                                        my hips brushing their wilting petal
                                              tanned arms spread
                                              face skyward
                                              feet stirring my ancestor’s dust
                                                                                             on soil we once called Home.

Poem 6 / Day 6

North Country / by Nancy Davis
for Debra & George

the window
of my study framed
the old New England barn,
wine-stained door blushing
pride, panels blistered
from storm and heat

brittle glass panes glinting
silver in the afternoon
light, dust whorls streaming
through rafters built
from northern woods

my rented cottage once a
milking barn, friends teased
out visions of bovine ghosts—
the gentle swish of tails
chasing flies, collective
catharsis of captive cows

idyllic for a graduate student—
two sprawling acres, lush Berkshires
pulling in the horizon. No matter
a lumber yard swept to one side,
the distant whir of jigsaws,
scent of sawdust mixed with grass,
freshly mown

*

what a blessing, this North
Country, mine to savor, rocky
soil to tame, true to its nature—
coaxing lettuce and beans

I did not mind. No car
to worry, old bike
served fine, up and down
Route 2, all seasons

and always, that spot
past shops and cafes,
historic homes donning
plaques

fast by a field where
the mercury dropped—
five degrees, no matter
the day

flash past the ancient Post
Master lugging sacks of mail
at tortured angles—an
Ethan Frome in gait
and heart

*

I crave the clear, blue cold
of the North, the clarity
it brought from times when
warming meant, Put your
feet by the fire,

not the global kind 

First Night / by Kelsi Folsom

In anticipation
of the union of souls,
a man and woman
stand eye to eye.

She grabs his hand
like a worn sack of feed,
and takes one bite of midnight
to satisfy her need.

He holds her heart
like a warm baby bird
and swears only to fly
with her love in his nest.

Miranda / by Kylie Gellatly

I had eighteen crossings to the side of the stricken, Miranda.

When we layon the stern and asked for time to confer,

creating the others who now know that letter.

At the time, Miranda, a slight uneasiness was coming.

Around midnight, a red light arrived. Broken, he was gone, Miranda.

Miranda, for us to stand by, seemed comparable to few words.

Such was their verdict, Miranda, to bless our relief.

I have since been told that this fall was born in physics, Miranda.

Beginning to give way, under their revelry in broad daylight—

I remained busy, Miranda, kept rather careful observations.

Miranda, I must have been dreaming. Yes I was dreaming,

because the dancing and the nights saved us enough,

and back we went, Miranda.

Agony / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Birds fly heavily

Slowed by what they see

Agonized.

Is this the earth they knew

Yesterday

Foraging for the months ahead

Supplied by fresh seeds

Succulent tree sap, wiggly worms?

Dry tan soil tops the green

Ugly mortar shells a surprise

Empty streets, smoke screens

Empty yards

No one to watch and compliment

Their colors

No one caring.

They are searching for hope

They will come back next year.

Follen / by Sarah Green

The ache of watching sledders
every winter near my mother’s house,
their parents watching at the top.
Each year their parents more my age
and soon younger.
And somehow I’m neither parent nor
child, not snow or running car.
I still remember how the music goes for the piano lesson if someone asks me. But I’m not going back, although
the same fir trees stacked in the parking lot, blue tags, red tags, almost stay
change, almost invite me
to do everything over.

About the Black Body / by Shirley Jones Luke

The black body      interpreted as a malady
an affliction of the skin   by people afflicted
with no melanin     an aberration      to be studied
in a lab    but the Black body has always been
experimented on    stripped then poked
branded then burned    infected & inflicted
yet    the black body    endures    beyond the physical
  for it cannot    let the physical    end its existence    on this Earth
black bodies faced scientists      dressed in white    white gloves
white masks    cold eyes that   peered into      defiant black faces    protesting
  as white hands approach           holding a scalpel

Solomon’s Puzzle / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Tables laid, but not much
to feast on

Dwindling fortune
Even less to come

Riches squandered, lands
laid to waste

And this world they’ve been trying to
save from us

and this world we’ve been trying to
keep from you

and this world we’ve been trying to
hold together

vanishing prize

it cannot be shared
alive

Burn, world, severed in half
skinned and served

a god
we no longer worship

Sunrise in Sedona / by Marisa Sullivan

Sun peaking through a
palette of red, brown and green
Colors change throughout the day
Like me

Rich and earthy tones
Healing rock, shades of rouge
That stain my full lips

Soaking holes where warriors roamed
Ripe vibrance surrounds grounded smiles

Turquoise and silver,
a Chico’s shop –
Sundowners dive

Land, dry and lush
Where climates collide
To make a balanced wine

Check out time
I see the innkeeper’s eyes
through the air conditioning vent

As My Father Sends Me / by Nicole Yurcaba

I find myself with time to write before coffee
with my parents and a short visit to campus.
The cat meows from the kitchen window’s sill
above a dish-scattered sink. Outside, birds
chirp vicariously, and a slow shade obscures
the front yard by the low-running creek
where small patches of daisies, burgundy irises
grow wild to the left of the abandoned footbridge.

What awaits me this week? Teaching summer classes
online; a to-be-planned fishing escapade with my father;
planting okra, cantaloupe, tomato seedlings
in the Thursday-plowed garden; writing letters to a friend.

And, then, I might pack for Iceland—small necessities
I tend to forget: sanitary napkins, eye contact solution,
hair clips, nail polish, extra sunscreen. It seems I always
pack the most unnecessary items first: leather-bound journals,
cheap black gel pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, embroidery threads,
needles, a Western Ukrainian rushnyk pattern.

I pack it like it all matters

to TSA
    customs officials
    whatever Securitas authority might ask for my papers
    at whatever gate I’m waiting, like in Frankfurt, flying
    home from Kyiv, when a guard questioned my last name
                                                                         my single status
                                                                         the Odessa and Boryspil’ stamps in my passport

                                                                         Do you have family in Ukraine? How long were
                                                                         you there? Why did you return? I see you have
                                                                        Duty Free. Is it by chance vodka?

I weighed my answers carefully,
like Anubis in the Hall of Maat,
on a tiny scale my father had told me
was all too easy to tip.

Poem 5 / Day 5

Renaissance / by Nancy Davis
for Deanna

flash of gold
     traversing green:
raw reverie

canine spear
     nosing earthen secrets
in the loamy soil—
iron, manganese

flashing sinewy
     amber, vermilion
breathing confidence
trailing its meal
        through suburban yards

the fox, marvel of adaptation,
    low to ground,
fleet on feet—
takes perfect aim
at a modified world

primordial pigment:
survival tales on cave walls

add ochre and umber—
    innovation to knowledge
a masterwork of instinct
burned into memory

sienna*

 

*In Siena, Italy, Renaissance painters perfected the naturally occurring sienna pigment paint used in ancient cave paintings.

four hundred feet I leaned / by Kylie Gellatly

             four
          hundred feet high
                              I leaned over
                   the raucous cried         none of us
                               caught the eye near high noon
                                                                down
                                                                   miles through
                                                            the fall
                                                              soon to lie in the lap of plenty

                           it was
             where it was, for it undoubtedly burrowed
the houses of the gold seekers in sand
                 it was night that
                  crushed the rocks

                                   we never revisited the spot
                                                       I have no knowledge of
                                            the extreme end of the crater
                                                                                     union of
                                                                                              man taken
                                                                      to be a trench
                                                     that might have been a cannon ball
             when fossils essayed to go on with the decision to abandon land

Wandering / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Wandering

In the world

My world

Heavily sedated

Unable to believe

Unable to hear

Not able to talk

Paralyzed – It is not fear

But lack of hope

That was once 

An insignia of living.

Minneapolis 4 / by Sarah Green

I’m tired of waiting for the closed-tight peony,
jealous of my neighbors’ pinks and fuchsias,
undersides of ball gowns, crinolines, some heaped
like fitting-room discards, the tags still on.
I study snowy fistfuls just over the fence, against
the stubborn bud’s diameter.
Ants pace the crimson line. I hear they like the sugar,
and I hear that it’s a myth. I hear my city might dismantle the police.
I hear men say what about rape? I hear the ants and flower need one another. Today I visited the fire pit
to try wood ash to feed the roots, sweeten the soil.
In Minneapolis this week a building’s either been burned down
or it’s on fire with language.

Urban Boys & The Blues / by Shirley Jones Luke

No, they are not considered to be all-American boys,
black & brown shadows, shaping
their futures, wishing for magic

No, they are not powerless, not broken
by a callous society, making them targets
because their bodies are not bodies

They are the descendants of Africa,
the un-American negro, nigger, nigga,
related to former slaves of forgotten origins

Yes, they hunger, searching
for justice in an unjust land
Their anger is fuel for their passions

Yes, they are neon signs, bodies
like electric artists, illuminating
their canvases for all to see

These boys of the soil,
know they carry more than struggle
in their DNA – they carry freedom

Lacrimosa / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Blinded, she runs
hands stretched out to feel the way

stumbles over obstacles, pushes against
other bodies rushing past

Masks flying off, coughing
and cries of alarm drive them on

Somebody’s arms grab her by the midriff
pull her in

Cup your hands, she hears a scream

Milky substance from her face streaming
she opens her eyes

Her vision fuzzy, images broken
multiplied

Silhouettes of people on their knees
doubled up, choking

windpipes contracting
joints dislodged

In a cloud of smoke, her city
tosses and turns, burns

dreams a dream

May End / by Nicole Yurcaba

a long day of planting
                                            cucumbers
                                       sunflowers
                                       pumpkins
                  ends with buzzards circling an open field
                                     deer grazing in an orchard
                                     The Temptations Ball of Confusion
                                     Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky
                                     the cat’s quiet thump as she jumps
                                                                                        bed
                                                                                        floor
                                                                                        dresser
                                                       knocking quarters
                                                                        nickels
                                                                        dimes
                                                                        ones
                                                                        a stray twenty laundry spared
                                                                        last Friday when I cooked
                                                                                                        tilapia
                                                                                                        green beans
                                                                                                        jasmine rice
                                                                                                        topped with chopped
                                                                                                                               scallions

Poem 4 / Day 4

Comfort in the Time of Social Distancing / by Nancy Davis
for Annie

I thought I heard an owl today
it could have been a
whippoorwill

exotic enough in either
case to give my day the lift
it needs

not traditional birdsong,
a bagpipe comes
to mind: the puffing up
with air in lungs, exerted
whooshing sound erupting
in small, insistent bursts

each dawn I wake
to melodious cacophony,
if that’s a thing—
my window raised
in awe

before the sounds
of human life
disrupt the morning
calls

I memorize what I can,
research what eludes:

complex syntax, repeated
refrains—fulsome and
throaty, dire or flirty

when evening comes,
I sit as well, and listen
for nightfall’s chorus

the last notes of robin
and cardinal erupting
in sonorous spasms

in this way, my day
is full, a bird’s life
being ripe with purpose,
brings comfort during
troubled times

*

if I could ask for one
more gift, it would be
to stand at dusk, and
be among a flock
rising up from myriad
branches of the century-
old linden

show me how
it knows by heart
the coded blueprint
of its life

Tug-of-War / by Kelsi Folsom

They raced around
the living room,
two-foot bandits
with a rope stretched
between them.

“Hey, hey, hey,
not around your necks,
that’s not safe,”
I call from the kitchen.

The rope comes
un-noosed,
and the playing
continues.

One simple sentence
of education,
one quick moment
of careful instruction.

They know now
their actions can
cause suffocation.

Don’t be the person
who chokes
on their own
ignorance.

I distinctly remember silver knives / by Kylie Gellatly

    I distinctly remember
                          silver knivesf1
                                      on the breath
            glimpses of the night
                were at last
            passing this imaginary line
            we were nearing the
                                       doubt
                                     dividing
                          islands into salt

            dead
     pause the hush it did
  go on
 and on making
     pressure
 to take on
skins and salts
  to
  generate a slight current of
                                             these
                             strong mouths
some desire
      too often not to crawl along
                the memory and return
                                         time to time
                                                      to let this hold fall

      I see you
          loose with me
                  and a snare
  promises have proved a delusion
   expressed
into open water
  the loom of
              our position
welcomes
              the best of
       the last
  to tell us more
we never had the luck
                                  we were told
                                                     had dispatched
                                                         in our souls

Hide and Seek / by Nina Gibans

Playing hide and seek

In the back yard

Of the old house – with friends

we are young.

We are tagged.

Playing hide and seek

In the front yards of our lives

With our friends

With ourselves

They tag us.

Who tags who?

Minneapolis 3 / by Sarah Green

I’m sorry I thought it was         construction
then a fire         I drove around
the blue and red             arrows telling me I didn’t
crane my neck out of a feeling those gathered
wanted no tourism     I think about it     turning
at Chicago Ave         right at the mailbox
in the past         where I dropped Lizzie’s envelope

inside of which a letter to the queen
would be answered             across from the awning
I know by heart
phones and accessories   bus cards   organic milk I could
have swerved and distracted police     I used to
drop off little packages inside

a man would scan     clothing returns
someone behind me with a cracked screen to repair
and I would leave
weightless     grabbing an apple from the food forest
a block away
reading the bird watcher’s report from Powderhorn

Portrait of a Black Woman Considering Her Future / by Shirley Jones Luke

She knows that she sits
on foreign soil, Americanah
when I look at her picture
she is black like me
frozen in time
in this closed city
open only to pale shadows
witness the unkindness
of these wispy ghosts
who scream how dare the sun rise
on your hopes & dreams

They want me to sign
over my soul & join
the woman in the portrait
in oblivion of color that
forever remembers
the more beautiful & terrible history
of our people who wanted
to be more for their descendants
than forgotten

Virtue Signals / by Oksana Maksymchuk

A small fire that we started
on our living room floor

has grown

We use it to convey
messages, signs

Throwing a wet blanket over it
we gather smoke

direct it upward

Our neighbors do the same

The power is out
smoke detectors turned off

We circle around the house
in search of furniture we could spare

Whatever burns, we assemble
into small piles for easy access

In a house with no roof
we labor thus, barricaded with our loot

jugs of canola oil
cartons of milk

waiting to be hosed down
with a greater fire

Palm Springs / by Marisa Sullivan

Palm Springs me into a new light
Mountain mystique, skies hued with pink
A star serenade in the night

A journey east with an end in site
The open road, endless miles to think
Reaching a new victory height

Curfews abound to win the fight
Hoping to fill the missing link
Unite black and white, left and right

But also a plane of private flight
I’ll find my sign in the canyon’s wink
Aim high to the skies like a child’s kite

New chapter of whistling words to excite
Humid nights my skin and soul will drink
Make a mother’s days more bright

What lies ahead, the world will write
But I will steal some ink
For life I have huge appetite
A future of sensuous slink

Planting Dinner Plate Dahlias on My Dog’s Grave / by Nicole Yurcaba

one year &
one month
after cancer stole…

7 PM sun settles in its stab westward
Piknik’s Purple Corset whispers from my phone
a slow breeze moves limbs
                                      leaves
                                      grasses
                                      into the hillside’s eyes
i plant the bulbs according to directions
                                                      specifying depth
                                                                         time
                                                                         watering
                                                                         season
                                                                         region
a spiderweb loosens from a blooming mulberry tree
                      lands on a withered daffodil i placed
                                                                           when i first buried her
                                                                                                              then a window-smashed cardinal
hers is not the first hand-dug grave
                                                                     this land has seen
                                                     i dug it knowing
                                                                   no    one
                                                                                 would do the same for me

Poem 3 / Day 3

State of Grace / by Nancy Davis
for Debra

The Irish are a loyal lot:
they do not forget a favor.

When famine raged,
the Choctaw Nation,
cleaving a trail
of blood and tears*

sent what they could
to stave starvation
in a distant place

The Famine Queen,**
oblivious to need,
refused to save
a soul or two—

a human right to eat

Generations pass:
the Irish pay their debt
in the Novel Age of Covid

distribution channels choked
on greed, promises sundered
like scattered bones

they raise
millions for Sister Nations—
Navajo and Hopi

unlikely
Irish cousins
conscripted into memory
sacred ancient covenants

mercy and love
mercy and love

*in the 1830s, the Choctaw Nation was forced to leave their home in Mississippi, ending in a brutal trek
to land in Oklahoma

**Queen Victoria, who ignored the Potato Famine, a story not widely taught in English schools

Afternoon Selah / by Kelsi Folsom

I want to be that squirrel
lying long on the limb,
Tail languidly swishing
amidst flickers of sunlight.

What cares roll off
his little spine with each
second that inflates
and deflates his furry body.

Yes, I want to be that squirrel,
nestled in the arms of an oak tree

land was useless / by Kylie Gellatly

                                         Land
                            was useless along
                                   distances scared and tasted

       We started to back out as though bound
                                        we yelled from ashore

    The climax
poorly charted you scrimmaged
                                        the sensation across a paragraph

            What
    you’re taking is the forgotten towering
               fever that brooked the only
                                                          wind

            What I think
       at times of great
  transpiring: is if you cornered them
                                        you would hear
                                                 the whole
                                                              was
                                                                   the vessel
                                                but you think you’re the
                                                       short cut

                                         once
                                  having a
                           taste
upon the tongue that I was never able to name
              I ran a mad dash
                   for water
                        for the first time thoroughly
                                                tasted
                                         which seemed fatal to me
                                                                                 and once
                                                                                 quite definite

These Times / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

I have had a taste of solitude

Patience, perseverance

I am not alone, nor lonely.

People ask, suspect that is not true.

My mind is with me

Responding to those old thoughts

And new ideas

That twirl around the dance floor of life.

Minneapolis 2 / by Sarah Green

In this month’s Tik Tok challenge
you pour salt water on strawberries
and watch as insects tunnel out,
yellow specks in your sink.
Spiders in the grapes, wasps in the figs. Heroes in the seaweed,
children in the morning, children in the mines for my diamond ring and my cell phone, and my stepdaughter likes it when we make up wrong lyrics to the lullaby about everything mama will buy you.

*lyrics by Leonard Cohen

By the River of Tears, A Goddess Awaits / by Shirley Jones Luke

She is golden against the gray water. Silver jewels down the center of her gown. The sleeves
flutter in a light breeze. Her crown, a yellow wrap of silk. Her eyes bore into onlookers. The
goddess is afraid; but knows not to show it. She is the epitome of defiance. She must protect the
child in her womb. Her hands form a halo around her stomach. Soon, a new god will grace the
land. By waters that drowned his ancestors.

No Snowflake / by Oksana Maksymchuk

I’d tell you
who they are but you won’t like it

I’d tell you
who you are, don’t hate me for it

You won’t listen, nah
Brainwashed, eyes & ears clogged

Whose side you on
Don’t tell me whose side

Useless on purpose, gulping down
that correctness bullshit

When the zoo in masks
comes out of the woodwork

my baby and I, we’ll be waiting
with a round

Well-behaved
home-grown one, she is —

them snowflakes call her “assault” —
my guardian angel, my rebel rose

The rioting next door
it’s gotta stop

I’m a man, me
To defend is right

Honor, I
I, respect

I stand my ground, won’t let anyone
mess with freedom

Poison / by Marisa Sullivan

Poison has seeped
from the building
A structure all mine
Scorched from within
But still spills outside
I wish I could lend you my fight

May Morning with Taproot’s Poem / by Nicole Yurcaba

on the living room window’s sill
sunlight ignites the black cat
                                    dangling legs
                                    snoozing after breakfast romps
isherwood’s a single man
lies splayed on a handmade black walnut coffee table
                                                                            pen-littered
                                                                            bookmark-decorated
                                                                            bills ignored
                                                                            utility statements blaring
evidence of adulthood-in-progress
                    eighteen distant cries from the fifteen-year old
                                                                            who slid Welcome into a wearing-out discman
                                                                                     sat cross-legged in a dank high school bathroom
                                                                                            alone
                                                                                            wearing a clash t-shirt      lip service capris
                                                                                                           corcoran jump boots
                                                                                                           slate nail polish
                                                                                                           the spiked leather choker
                                                                                                           i’m fastening this morning
                                                                                                                 33
                                                                                                                 not so separated from that
                                                                                                                 tear-stricken girl
                                                                                                                 praying for 3:15 PM
                                                                                                                                      homebound bus ride
                                                                                                                                      blank journal
                                                                                                                                      bedroom stereo
                                                                                                                                      electric guitar
                                                                                                                                      ink pens
                                                                                                                                      sketching pencils
                                                                                                                                      friends
                                                                                                                 33
                                                                                                                 professor poet essayist daughter
                                                                                                                 girlfriend singing to a black cat
                                                                                                                 who twitches her ears
                                                                                                                          yawns
                                                                                                                          returns to mouse clouds
                                                                                                                                     salmon-treat fantasies
                                                                                                                          window bird buffets
a phone’s ringtone bells
   colleague’s name appears
this poem’s crystal shatters

Poem 2 / Day 2

Tucson: An Offering / by Nancy Davis
for John and Nancy

when the sky opens           mornings
sunrise painting its generous spirit across plateaus
          valleys
       and buttes

soak
      in the pinks and golds
cleverness of hares, perseverance of kits

seek resilience of the ancients:
tortoises and saguaros

breathe in the gifts
of rare desert blooms

and seamless horizon      the possibilities
they sanction

“Law and Order” / by Kelsi Folsom

If only Jesus
had followed the rules,
he wouldn’t have been
crucified.

He got what he
deserved,
had it coming
for him.

How dare he
value human dignity
over the religion
of superiority.

His arrogant
disregard
for the laws
of his country
should have
jailed him
long ago,
so is
anyone
surprised?

(Who knew a
Kingdom
built on serving
the least of these,
would be
So hard to
see
and
so hard to
believe?)

by the time the deal lost its lure / by Kylie Gellatly

                          by the time the deal
               lost its lure and
                               settled
                         an examination showed
                                            the manuscript of
                  small rocks a mile away
                silhouetted
     and open    bound
                                       somehow

with
    the
              pyramid point of
                           speed we dashed into
                      morning
                                       to go home
                                 for a summer
                  soon pounding

the sight of our first
                               great disappointment
                                        pulled away
                                              broken
                           against the sky
                     as old and young
                                         as the
                                engine

Windmills / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Windmill

Monitor of energy

With earth bellowing

A beastly grit

Beating a wind

Hovering on the roof

Administering

Peace.

Swarm Catch / by Sarah Green

A sign up at the Athens Farmacy:
Bee swarm catcher training

Learn how to lull
the hive that barnacles this house

like a project,
a beaded purse, hot glue

Enter the hum
a bride under a veil

smoking with burlap fuel and pine,
hops and cardboard,

the swarm itself a bride
the smoke a dress it’s sleeping in

Want / by Shirley Jones Luke

A hunger, but there is only dust.

Our brown fingers make figure eights

on the pantry’s shelves.

Leadership / by Oksana Maksymchuk

So much garbage, we say
Such waste

Anger, why

So — rage

So — arrogance

Our living room now a mess
windows broken, shards of glass
underfoot, lamps
topsy-turvy

peed on the carpet
smeared the walls
with soot

Who you
Us — why

None of our business — this

Money lost
Goods damaged

Whose names on our walls

Who pays huh

We bring dogs
We point & shoot

Listen you move back you
We order

A Love Letter to Los Angeles / by Marisa Sullivan

California dreams since a twinkle-eyed teen
2001, touchdown on June 16
Surfing sofas at USC — pigtails of packaged treats

Holloway Drive led to luscious lunacy
Raucous Red Rockers, countless jaded jaunts
Bellowing tainted tunes on swaying walks
No slack of cackles in those old haunts

Leathered and feathered long-hairs at the ‘Bow
Chicken soup for the soulless nights
Transfixed at the Roxy and Troub watching Cornell croon
On Morrissey’s knee at the Sunset Marquis

Pristine pads lined up in Malibu
Hover over waves of Midnight Blue
Venice Beach full of funky-jeweled freaks
Daytime dives on Washington Street

Majestic mountains – due north, west and east
Zip down the 15 to Vegas, the 10 to Palm Springs

Pool-jumps from the roof up Sunset Plaza Drive
A white cat named Steve, seized one night
He somehow survived his harrowing plight

The boulevard of broken hearts, not dreams
And rarely mine, fortunately
Yet a few scary nights to the emergency –

Rooms off the strip for The Oscars and Globes
Red carpet gowns, champagne on flow
Frolicking late night at The Chateau

Paul Kim-infused feasts and bottles of Peen
Bono at Bottega, K-Town karaoke

Holidays at the Reillys, my west coast family

L.A. – This is how I choose to remember you
You blindingly beautiful fool, oh how I love you

Lybid in America / by Nicole Yurcaba

rain impeded morning fishing,
so i slept until 9:15 AM,
after i called my father
do you still want to go? i asked
go take a nap, he answered
thursday
thursday
thursday
thor’s day, my father once told me,
but in ukrainian, we say ‘chetver,’
the polish say ‘czwartek’
so i took a nap
       dreamed of sex in antiseptic bedrooms
                                    with partners who slept & snored
                                    with strangers
                                            acquaintances
                                            past & current lovers
                             slow sex that matched the speed of
                           summer ’95 when my father lifeguarded the local pool
                             & i dug my fingernails into my ankles
                                        dragged upward to my knee
                                        just to see red marks form on my melanin-tainted skin
                                        my grandmother screamed
                                                                      swatted
                                                                      cried
                                        why
                                       why
                                      why would you do that? it’s a sin!
                                                                                    a sin!
                                      you hear me?
                                                                                   a sin!
                                      the afternoon amanda—the girl who ground my face
                                      into mud during second grade—pushed me into the pool,
                                      yelled go back to mexico, brownie! then held me underwater
                                      until black ink ran into my eyes
                               my father suspended
                                                                    amanda’s pool pass
                                                  sent me home via bike after buying me an ice cream
                                                  said Stay away from that animal. Just stay away.
i wanted to see what was underneath,
i told my grandmother,
whose brown skin glared
as we removed towels
                            sheets
                            pillowcases
                            from our backyard clothesline
in my twenties i hear it again
                                          again
                                          again
working as a bank teller through college summers
in-lobby customers
                mostly men
                who say i’d prefer if the mexican waited on me
                              you know the black-haired girl with the funny last name
this is rural west virginia
i expect nothing less
no one bothers to learn my last name
                                            how to pronounce it
                                                         spell it
                                                         identify it
at least when we were girls amanda knew better
                                                  i               forgive her
                                                  i               forgive these men
who wait in the lobby
         flirt
         then rely on crude words
                                          gestures
my grandmother upon hearing of my near drowning
                                spat on the ground
                                the nazis came into the village
                                                 said they’d take care of us
                                               raped our women
                                               headshot our men
                                                                our cows
                                               set fire to our grain
                                                                our houses

                               Nikola, you are named after the saint
                                                                        your grandfather
                                                                       your           father
                                          we thought you’d be a boy
                                          you have the ruthenian look
                                                          a scythian’s temper
                                                          a rusalka’s lips
                                           you are as ancient as kyiv
                                           in the village they’d have called you
                                                                                                  ‘dark-eyed beautiful one’

Poem 1 / Day 1

Maggie Sings to Her Koi Each Morning / by Nancy Davis
Seattle in Spring

through the rose arbor,
past the clematis,
down into the grove
of Lodgepole Pines
and under the
Weeping Willow

Maggie walks the path
to her pond each morning
carrying a basket of food
for her Koi

she steps onto the bridge,
leans into her reflection

and fanning her arm
like an angel’s wing,
releases a handful—
dust motes falling
in the light

green dragonflies hover,
double-backed and iridescent
gnats crowd the surface

ripples break the
liquid-glass, revealing
blues and reds,
yellows and oranges
flashing, sun-streaked

Maggie sings,
her sage kimono
shifting with notes
of the Auvergne

her favorite—a rust-backed
with ebony—torpedoes
to the cusp of their worlds
in frenzied whirling

her sonorous high notes
greater sustenance
than food

she leans
hand skimming
fish shimmering

*

urban echoes ricochet
up the valley, calls of protest,
megaphoned orders, clashing forces
of glass and stone, whirring
mechanical insects: muted,
distant and safe, for now—
trapped in the conflagration
below

pressure rising
pandemic suspended
like Maggie’s high notes,
waiting to explode:

seamless medley of chansons,
her Koi her children

circling, coi-ling

this private ritual her Eden

Completely Normal / by Kelsi Folsom

The trees stand indifferent
to the noise of the news.

Mighty oaks peered
through my driver side
window, wondering where
I was making off to
on this overcast day,
and did I notice the breeze
is more wet than yesterday’s?

I layered swiss cheese
and slices of smoked ham
hot on two cuts from
a whole, white loaf,
procuring ultimate satisfaction
on a melamine breakfast plate.

My kids dispersed
in three different directions,
one with grandma,
one with great-grandma,
and one with me
for a daughter date.

Hot chocolate for two
at a coffeeshop drive-thru
then parks and working out
and a nap in the afternoon.

A completely normal Monday
unfolds beneath my feet
Like a red carpet of privilege
I never knew was so unique.

I want everyone to have
such a Monday as mine,
where safety is a given,
and dignity is too,
where fear isn’t as close
as a hoodie on black skin,
where children are healthy
and hugged everyday,
where food isn’t begged for,
and neither is breath,
where breath isn’t begged for
and neither is life.

You know the storm went out / by Kylie Gellatly

                                                     You know the
                                                 storm
                                       went out and
I believed you were down here
            for it has never
                               been
                a different story
            living as a key
forged     full
            of hell

     a severe shock
reached
     forward
three days we
feared you had gone
              I was worried
                 you
           were held
                            with it
                                      and
                            sketched
              memory
in the fog

      everybody
                  speaks of this
recollection
        in
           a meridian headed for
       Farewell
              twenty years
was about as much good as
                                               circling
                              a black eye

to have made you this trouble. It’s been nothing

Windmills / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

The Windmill

The windmill – turbine quiet

Does not even greet the sun. It has no energy today

To turn

No wind

To coax it, help manage the stillness.

 

The windmill

White oars into the blue

ocean of air

pummeling its own white summer breath

painting a skyscape.

 

Windmills dance to their own arc.

Turning mozartian at times

Or largo with a trail of quietly tuning sun-lit leaves

Buffeted by a trill

Rippling through the air.

 

Windmills front the day with resolve

Driven by the energy they give.

 

I watch for advice.

Minneapolis 1 / by Sarah Green

While we read Anne of Green Gables,
Lizzie squirms– your foot is hairy.
It’s my spiky leg, I remember my mother’s shins, my mother’s flannel shirt, the golden chain against her collarbone proof that my dad fleetingly thought of her. Anne wants
scope for imagining. A helicopter
drowns us out. I lie, they’re helping
people at the hospital. Tonight,

two protesters will lose an eye.
My neighbors will exhaust themselves
all thinking they’re the one up
keeping watch for arsonists, don’t tread on me, I saw a Jeep, no plates, the text chain goes, and called it in, that was my husband, someone says, I dream of packing a suitcase,
I dream someone protects me with a gun, I bring the kindling in my shed,
I store the lighter fluid back under my sink.

The Race / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Crowds cheer, raise their arms
flashy ribbons flap against
neon pool noodles

Dogs sniff at the gusts of wind
carrying the sound of
a tooting horn

Couples in love make out
behind tree trunks, by the glistening
neatly parked trucks

And the wine sacks are full
And the helium balloons
pop like firecrackers

rousing the children

Air, see-through, taut
resonates with the wailing siren
a recurring mechanical scream

Such power, we say
Such grace

Unfirm on his feet, Marsyas runs

His tears stream, flesh
shredded to ribbons
darkens

We Can’t Breathe / by Marisa Sullivan

A life lost on the street for a minor misdeed
8 minutes and 46 seconds of peaceful plea – under white knee

You’ve made mistakes, but did your time
A job stolen from COVID led to non-violent
crime

The “cheerful” father of a six-year-old daughter
Once a star high school footballer

On May 25th, your life taken away
From racist white scum, a cop who will pay

Crying out for your late mother, you begged him please
The barbaric end to your life on display for all to see

An enraged nation fights in your name
Partly on streets and partly on screen
Copters and sirens
Stores smashed, running thieves
Buildings ablaze across cities under siege

Tear gas, mass arrests –
Now the National Guard
A peaceful protest, gone too far

Where to draw the line
For what’s wrong and right
Would you want this unrest
Would you be proud of this fight

“I can’t breathe”
Now neither can we
Do you want him dead
I guess we shall see

Let’s all raise our voice
No more silence
Demand justice
For George Floyd
And END black violence

Booking the Flight / by Nicole Yurcaba

I.

flight F1644 to reykjavik will crash
like the flights from zurich to vienna
                                    vienna    odessa
                                    kyiv          dulles

II.

at age three, i stood beside titka iryna’s casket
death touched my upper lip
           said babe, WE are going to be great friends
that night i leaned on mama and tato’s doorframe
                                                                                          watching them sleep

III.

flight F1644 to reykjavik will not crash
the planes      to zurich
                            vienna
                            odessa
                            kyiv
                            dulles
                                     did not crash
i will land at keflavik
        receive a swab test
        download rakning c-19
        collect luggage
        taxi to my hotel
        eat lobster stew at the lobsterhouse
        sleep a sleep of sleeps

IV.

my father collapsed into his recliner
one late-90s june evening
call the ambulance he told mama
                                               who sent me to the backyard saying
why don’t you make sure the dog has water?
then sirens
       trucks
       ambulance
       neighbors
                        shouting
                        running
                        calling
                        pulling me away from the dog
                        saying your mom needs you to be brave
then the neighbor’s car
        the neighbor driving
        mama in front
        me in back
              picking a recent bike crash’s scab on my left knee
              mama, is tato dead?

VI.

if my flight to reykjavik takes a north atlantic swan-dive
well, what of it?
                          i was three
                          then ten
                          i still remember
                                                     white bones slinking through arranged flowers by iryna’s head
                                                     ash falling through tato’s eyes
                                                                                                  face
                                                                                                  lips
                                                       the deal
                                                       this circle
                                                       the promise