The 30/30 Project: June 2020

Backup / Restore

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

The volunteers for June 2020 are Nancy Davis, Kelsi Folsom, Kylie Gellatly, Nina Freedlander 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 30 / Day 30

Cento for June – 2020 / by the 30/30 Poets

I think it’s the mirage of peace 
That drives us quietly into madness 

Maggie sings to her koi each morning
and I don’t remember what stopped her
Black women tell stories that hold
up the world. We are the sky

The roses told of an anxious queen
planted with meticulous care
splashing into a reflection pool
worthy of Narcissus
Hers is not the first hand-dug grave
this land has seen

As the punch does our mood
water engulfs like a warm embrace
trailing behind the sailboat
measured against a self
There are no tears in the sea

Our stories are vines wrapped
around buildings, reaching for the sun
Breathlessly entwined, we ravage through
lawless thought
The gun was a mother busy with her summer litter
Waiting to be hosed down with a greater fire

Then, we wonder 
how can “forgotten” spell “united”?
rough hands try to strangle my dreams
who would challenge me? Step forward, kittens.
the stove of my body
                      will be patient enough
                       to dry a bed of roses
                        and I will be the spring
      that crumbles away with time

Listen to my heart sing
From a doorway
Hinting

two years following to seek / by Kylie Gellatly

            two years
            following
                to seek
   and at last
            we could see
            the range it was
                          a horse’s back
                               laid with grass       
              and
        streams for us
                to navigate
                   so loaded was the water with
      silk it rubbed against the night
        we made contact with
            its grandeur and with
    this we made our way leaving

                   to climb the thaw
to chance the wall the axe
            refused

     and we returned    
       as though
                   dependent on
                several occasions
     to
knife and sketch
              the wide field where
                            we were                  
bitten with the lure                 
            to follow the headwaters
                        to persist

we were at the drawing board            
             with the chance to begin

                      we were at the beginning
                   with the rewards of fever

Festival of Friends / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Places are jugs for the wine of memory

taste the past, drink to the future.

                                                                                                                                                      A word calls up a scene, an image.

                            Respond, hang up,

                            Talk, wonder.

 

Memories feed our soul.

A color stays, your mind goes awry

Hard to concentrate

                            Ice cream oozing from a cone

                            The day melting with it.

Remember. Then it’s gone.

The orchestra plays perfectly.

Remember… then it disappears.

Holding truth is hard. 

The truth sayers make us people.

 

                        The fountain fills with friendship.

                        Our universe.

                        Our own roads, crossroads, benches

                             recognizing

                       the importance of insignificant things.
 

Hide and seek of friendship

Silent and unlimited space between friends

Mysterious shelves of memory

Silent room with ourselves

And with you.

 
Sounds lend color to space

I listen to flowers

Wearing out their color

I listen to memory  

And you.               

 

The colors of friendship  

thoughts change

Wander through the world

Managing idleness 

With a mysterious peace

 

Everything takes shape

Swinging the past into the future

Whatever that was or is

Whetting my taste for solitude.

 
Apollo takes over!

Amy, Abby, Ashley, Ann, Audra, Alice  

Art a canvas for memory.

Appreciation, aesthetics, ambition alliances, apertures, amiability

attention

avocados, apples, apricots, azaleas

 

 

Barbara, Bill. Betty, Brian, Blair, Beth

Beethoven’s benchmarks                                                                                                                                     

beauty, books, bold bliss,

 

business

 

blossoms, blueberries, blackberries

 

Baroque interlude.

 

Chris, Carol, Cathy, Christopher,

 

Choirs hover

civility, challenges, color

 

change

 

cherries, caramels, chocolate  

 

chrysanthemums  

 

 

 

David, Daniel, Darlyn, Doug, Diana                  

 

                                                            Dance – human restoration

definition, durability

distinctions 

 

directions/distractions

 

delicious darkness

dianthus, dahlias, dogwood.

           

 

Eileen. Ellie, Estelle, Ellen

Ergonomics, etchings –

elegant energy,                                                                  ebullience, evidence

                                                                                               

effort

 

egg souffle, eggs benedict,

                                                                                                elderberries

                                                                                                endpoints    

 

 

 

Florence, Flora, Fran, Frank, Franklin

                                                                                                Friends.

Trolley to Space / by Oksana Maksymchuk

The rich are packing, their glossy shuttles
filling up with fuel & algorithms

We wait for them to leave, like children
diligently pretending to play house

Mother says, I’ll be back in a short while
I’m going to the store to get us something to eat

but we know

that the store is now a place
where people get shot

that the harvest’s been collected and taken
under convoy

that the forests, the fields around us burn
and there’s no way out

Jimmy / by Marisa Sullivan

Jimmy is protective, in his arms I am cradled

Jimmy is fiery, will set me off when able

Jimmy is hyper, tap tap sniff cough

Jimmy attempts high kicks with his “O” face on

Jimmy needs snacks, bowls of Lucky Charms

Jimmy is proud, my name tattooed on his arm

Jimmy is musical, a punk rock god

Jimmy has impulses and blows his wad

Jimmy is romantic, Jimmy is true

Jimmy spews mad facts on World War II

Jimmy loves love and wants me to too

Jimmy Jimmy, I love you

June Completely Reimagined / by Nicole Yurcaba
–erasure using an excerpt Moby Dick

latter waters that one serene               night
when all     waves       like scrolls
made                 silvery silence           silent night      silvery jet
celestial           plumed            glittering god
                                                                                   wont to mount
                                     with                precision
                                               You may think with what emotions
           companions in one sky
                                   without uttering a single sound
                                                           no terror
                                                                       so deliriously exciting

           strange, upheaving
hollows           made   buoyant
                                           antagonistic influences               struggling

                                                                                   coffin-tap
                                               forgotten
                                    announced

Poem 29 / Day 29

Reluctance / by Nancy Davis

in the aching hour
of daylight
when the sun melts
into the blue and
fluid horizon
we snap shut
the beach umbrella
toss towels over
shoulders
rub the last of summer
from our eyes

Amusements / by Kelsi Folsom

Are we all just victims of marketing,
had the designs pulled
over our eyes?

It’s all waiting for a touch,
a calloused finger
to glide upon the edge
and peek inside
an ink stamped page
of brilliant commercials—

Bright smiling photos
of unabashed consumerism—

None of it matters
without the curious reader,
eager patrons of mundane magic.

July with me / by Kylie Gellatly

July with me
my sunny jumble of peaks
my dear pack animal
my sweet box canyon
the last of the last
of the stone-flagged flings
a week is but
a year after year
with islands
of haystacks
that I can hear from here
it is the opposite of

                         November
                       that is fit
for
                             changes
            all souls pulse
now
            when a form holds
                       aloft a
glass
                    or is it a crow
                the pledge
made
                          into
paper
                         weathered
                      in our hands
                  all things
come
           say it again —
wait

Cellos / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

I heard the cello again last night

melting a memory

masking a pain

metering thoughts

as if a medical miracle had given me a perfect moment

to be one.

 

Under every breath

I heard melody

It rained and I saw the earth slide by

in the brown of the tone

as I sat in my seat as if under a tree

as it turned me outside into the dusk.

Power Lines / by Sarah Green

My husband’s probably right about the adolescent catalpas,
how they are growing toward the power lines.
We have to take them out but for now we let it go.
I have a wish to see them bloom one time.
My husband’s probably right about the baby
we are not having, how it would cry
for what we lack. I should dig it a hole in my mind
but for now I let it go. I have a wish
to change the direction of the tree,
to move the tree to a different part of the yard,
to thank my ancestor for making me.
My husband says that my ancestor has other trees.
My husband’s probably right about the other trees,
even one just down the street in the boulevard
in front of my neighbor’s. The catalpa is everywhere.
I have a friend who only thinks about its worms.
I have a friend whose child was born with a birthmark
that looks like an equal sign. We joke that he’ll save the world.
We are probably right about the world
and the child. I have a wish I can’t let go.

Camel / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Not impossible, but hard
for a man to move under the burden of
power, money

Nimble, quick are the meek
Nothing holds them, no gravity
of value tugs on their souls

Saved from troubles whether they go
or stay, they perish in numbers, songs
frothing in their throats

Moving across the landscape
in waves, groups bubbling with chants
breaking into a dance here and there

they present themselves, those
whose share of the world is smallest
their bodies a sport for another

Brow knotted, a rich man
plants his escape, a fast-growing vine
to take him off the edge of precarity

A leap through the ear of a needle
is his lot. Greedily, he makes himself
smaller and smaller

Family / by Marisa Sullivan

Empty MGD’s strewn across shag carpeting
A blinking faux Christmas tree and piles of plastic treasures with shiny bows for me and my bro
Doll houses and Tonka trucks
She-Ra and G.I. Joes
Lifeless limbs hang off copper couches and bunk beds sheathed with Star Wars sheets
‘Twas Christmas morn after an Oak Park Christmas Eve
A miracle on Harlem Avenue that Santa’s sleigh made it perhaps aided by yay this is the picture I paint but beyond this tableau are a band of strong sisters and brothers with so much love for each other
One of the first kids who witnessed some raucous fun until semi-normalcy had begun
Then came mourning and losing loved ones
Summers in Florida with Uncle Paul and Auntie Pegs
They didn’t smoke cigarettes but drove them
through the inter-coastal instead
Back in Chicago at Fox Lake, running cousins rush through trees, brawl when the bell rings on Uncle Bob’s pontoon of who would bring him his next brew
Josie’s crew –
Billy, Marian, Bobby and Pegs
Tommy, Betty and Terri were left
To pass on the baton of youth
To help the younger ones through
All so strong and so tight-knit
Full of laughs, sass and wit
Pasta Sunday
Married with Children
Smothered with hugs and kisses
I wouldn’t trade this Stocker brood
They all helped raise this looney tune

Blue Heron Flying over Baker Run / by Nicole Yurcaba
–erasure using an excerpt from Moby Dick

 

wings so wide             exiled waters
miserable warping
                        plumage          hint
                                        sailor
                                               conceivable
utterly unknown
                                   mystical impressions
                                                                       the poet
                                                                       the secret
the spell           truth
                                   the mystic thing          caught             with
treacherous hook         line
                                    lettered, leathern
dignity of a thousand monarchs
                  chosen star
flashing cascade                      curving comet
more resplendent
          archangelical apparition           unfallen
                                                                   fearless

Poem 28 / Day 28

Haiku for a Healthier Planet / by Nancy Davis

*
easy on the gas
buy commuter train pass
walk and bike to work

*
compost all food waste
use rain barrels at downspouts
eat leftovers, please

*
recycle all you can
donate clothes to charities
buy sustainably

*
avoid harsh cleaners
vinegar and water rinse
baking soda works well

*
dispense with the straws
plasticware as well
rags replace paper towels

*
pesticides are toxic
use organic substitutes
garden native plants

*
idle not your car
turn off engine instead
hybrids work well

*
switch your utilities
sign up for alternative fuels
solar, wind replenish

*
it’s migration time
turn off high-rise lights at night
place decals on windows
listen for the whoosh of wings
ancient calls of survivors

my thoughts centered / by Kylie Gellatly

    my thoughts centered
        our diaries and finally turning in
            then not until then did the
                face began to change
                    with so many rumors
                        looking jaded and worn out
                    inside the house
            I have called you in
        humor of a grim sort
    disrobed completely
        such a narrow
            archipelago to give up its secrets
                qualities of patience
                    the real cause of
                        storms open water failure
                    in the hand
                I couldn’t understand
            releasing frost
        to concentrate all souls
    darkened the doorway
under the cold light
    a handful of
        vigorously shaken
            upon us in earnest
                making dogs of ourselves

History Disappears Everyday / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

History is not what we thought

Reported to us

My father reporting over bagel

My mother lifting her coffee cup

The table overdrawn with newsprint

(no room for jam).

My grandmother with details

We could no longer remember

We drank up her stories.

 

My history is disjunctive

In paper

Notes to myself

Programs

Pamphlets

Pads

Someday I will gather them

And remember

Dot the i-s

Unless someone tells me what I should remember.

 

I decide on another course

In heavy books

Words dug up, wisdom

mapping what we never questioned

puzzles in thousands of pieces

some lost.

 

Framed

We give in

To new or no answers

History disappears everyday

Unless we speak now to find yesterday.

Found haiku / by Sarah Green

“Girl in the middle!
Can I have your phone number?
Girl in the middle!”

Embody / by Shirley Jones Luke

Society is a cocoon.

There is no light.

A burst of flame.

Overruns the illumination.

A black butterfly released into the air.

Flutters overhead. Tipsy.

I watch with awe & wonder.

A black body free.

Unlike me.

Riddled Ark / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Portable sanctuary, model
of the universe made by a human
on a human scale

To postpone the annihilation
of the animal kinds of no use
to us, we draft lists, sign

petitions, vying
for attention of men who line
their pockets with money

leaving in their wake
a wasteland, a dead zone
our only home

walls around it
so thick so tall
it may implode

To My Mother / by Marisa Sullivan

An ageless beauty, a marvel to see
That doesn’t compare to what’s underneath

You gave me life, raised me with warmth
Guided me through all of my storms

Cooking special meals after your nine-to-five
Doing more than I ever realized

Thoughtful gifts for friends, a lively host
Everyone gravitates to you the most

An intuitive soul, that continues to thrive
Introduced perverse humor into our lives

Moved me to college, a visit in France
After years held hostage watching me dance

Then a one-way ticket away from you
To California, with dreams to pursue

A cancer and virus steered my sail
Back home to your arms, a fruitful trail

The loss of a daughter, an unfathomed pain
I never want you to feel that way

I’m cancer-free and here to stay

Abandoned Homeplace on Needmore Road / by Nicole Yurcaba

–erasure poem using an excerpt from Moby Dick

the phantoms               flitting
                       noiseless
                                                           spare
protruding       steel-like          funereally
                       a certain diabolism
           the paid spies secret confidential agents       the water
of the devil
                 the thunder             his voice
  the sheaves

Poem 27 / Day 27

Flourish / by Nancy Davis

it is that time
again

my winter thoughts
have carried me
to a seasonal thaw
and anxiously I open
the curtains knowing
where to look

I see the vine-less
wire fence reaching
a barren height
with only restless
thorn branches
arching in spring frost
to guard their
Ruby Queen

she stays
enfolded within her
chamber
of velvet warmth

while across the field
peasant petals
having crocused through
a crude crusty earth
brave late snowcold
upbraiding themselves

she stirs now
her breasted softness
swelling into roseate
fleshy florid and
deeply curled under

I sit bemused           wondering why
the rose blooms beautiful
in solitude
while a single crocus
stirs pale
unnoticed
when alone

then I recall
winter’s deep loneliness
and how the rose
must ache that same
cold beauty
reigning on a snow throne
her knights of briar
attending

the return of sunlight / by Kylie Gellatly

the return of sunlight
that we molded
with lamped hands
carries along
a warm wind
the craved fruit of effort
        gorged by relief
like bread
on the table
before my son
        these pleasant suns
of monotony —
do you see
how magnetically
they rise?
how the ascent
follows as steady
as a line of flags?
our faces
day and night
overflowing with
the long lines of
the new year?

Death / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Daily I learn about death

Slow soldiering in later years

Lingering,

Sometimes

Unbearable

Sometimes

Instantaneous

Punctuating our hearts

And remembering

The spring times

Of our lives.

It is always real.

Somerville / by Sarah Green

I remember the homeless woman carrying bags labeled THE CONTAINER STORE
one bag bumping her shoulder blade
one bag jostling her knee
with each step
that’s where we go to store
the too much we have
“the world is too much with us”
we cannot contain her
who will carry her like she carries our silence our looking just long enough to look away

Beautiful Monsters / by Shirley Jones Luke

I’m dealing with bad bacon, laying

near a bed of eggs. I smell the roses

in your bonnet. A bird grabs a bee

in the bush. I have two pasts. And

one has lost its soul. I forgot how.

My DNA is an ornate landscape.

There is trauma written in my blood.

I see my reflection in a blue plate.

A ghost stares back.

A bull is a dead ringer for danger.

I break everything in the china shop.

Quid Pro Quo / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Dispatches from the president
arrive in my mailbox day and night

Come to meet me, they advise
Don’t miss your chance, they caution

It’s a lottery, I know, but I’ve been chosen
to donate my money and check a box

across from his name
in the name of the glorious nation

he made with his own bare hands
from scratch, digging around

for dirt to reinforce its tall walls
giving it strength and immunity

Out of pockets lined with my blessed
Scythian gold, I bring support

without daring dream I could ever pay back
what I owe for the hospitality

First, Dibs / by Marisa Sullivan

To my dear friend Dibs
A mentor and writer
New York Times Best Seller
A trans advocate, fighter

Hot dog stand champ
A hot girlfriend named Sam
Cherished memories
Of the White Sox with fam

From Chicago to NYC
Hermosa to Palm Springs
Let’s not forget the Bro Haus
And the laughs that Ever brings

A sharp intellect
A warm ear to lend
Always makes time
For a good friend

The Price is Right
Now the time is wrong
Ellen tickets robbed
Until the virus is gone

One of the best peeps I know
Someone to have on your team
I can’t wait for the day
To see Lady Tigers on screen

Your Foil in the Pages of the Book You Mailed Me / by Nicole Yurcaba

a large book

quite alone
benediction
before fire
feet on hearth
one hand whittling
                humming
                counting pages
deliberate regularity
                stopping a moment
                looking vacantly
                giving utterance—
                                              a long drawn utterance

begin again
commence—
                      count more

you cannot hide the soul
                                 unearthly tattooings
                                 honest heart— fiery, black
                                                                   bold
                                                                         tokens of a thousand devils
a certain lofty bearing
                                   cringed
                                   head shaved
                                   forehead drawn out
                                                              freer               brighter
                                                  expansive
scanning
half-pretending
strange
strange
overawing
               Socratic wisdom

Poem 26 / Day 26

Fracking / by Nancy Davis

            the frenzied fractured hacking
                        fracking
            steamrolled through time

            the pressure of millennia:
            carbon copied fern fossils tousling
            torrents of plant life, the
                        banking boom
            the frazzled mass of greed
                        gassing through

            untapped, tapped—

            out the door of time
            stacked like plate tectonics
                        shifting sands, porous stone
            slippery sloping
                        teetering
                        hoping
            for clean, for renewal

            anything but—

            toxic water, stillbirths

            shoot the water
            shoot the bull
            shoot the breeze
            shoot the moon

            better move far            far

            away

            frick frack
            false facts
            fracking

Dishes / by Kelsi Folsom

What do you know,
Mr. Spud Brush?
Can you tell me why
the world is on fire?
What do you know,
blue liquid of Dawn,
Can you whisper
through sudsy bubbles,
Why many women
have no home
for their babies?

What about you,
yellow latex gloves,
Can you protect me
from the fear that’s
harder to cut than grease?

Mortality lingers long after
the lathering of a good life,
swirling down the sink
draining dirt by the seconds
into the sewage tank.

Responsible for little,
I step away,
having finished my
task of cleaning what
I have made dirty.

In America,
it’s easy to wash
our sins away.
What’s harder
is ceasing to eat
What’s killing us.

Ignorance never spared
a soul, save from the one
mercy that would give it meaning—
Intercession.

the arc light went out / by Kylie Gellatly

the arc light went out
and several vague forms emerged
in the dark living room
they spoke to me in women’s notes

“we are not hunters
our knives are but mirrors and shovels
they shine so we can dig ourselves
out of darkness”

but I myself have no food without killing
and when my erratic days are through
I will lie on the green floor
with the midnight sun — not under

one woman slid her knife under a thin layer
of my flesh — “gold gold gold!”
but at times the gold is only a mirror
faintly iridescent — a window full of moonlight

the strange contrast between death and dawn
is an intimation of night’s secret council
here to let me choose a knife or a tomb
for the skin of the magnetic morning

The Sabbath / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

It is somebody’s Sabbath

When reflection should pursue peace

clear

a week’s worries, images, in-actions, indolence

give way to new beginnings.

 

Crumbs of hope

From the day’s breakfast

Feed peace

become

Dust.

 

Tithing us over

one generation to another.

Possible Worlds / by Sarah Green

I remember when Ali almost pierced my ear
Needle and ice cube style
And I don’t remember what stopped her.
My earlobe still feels numb.
The guard rail’s still twisted on Rt 7
where my car slid in snow
but stayed on the bridge
and not in the ravine.
I remember the hoof prints of a deer in sand,
Lamps switching on automatic at night on the beach at 9 pm,
Moss and sticks under my feet.
It isn’t over. I never finished
what I started to say.

To My Present and Future Predator / by Shirley Jones Luke

Part III

Women walk under a shower of catcalls.

We hurry our steps. Eyes follow our backsides.

A careless touch. Or maybe intentional.

Across our bottoms. A squeeze of the shoulder.

Whispering in our ears. Urgency in their eyes.

Men are gods of desire, sons of Zeus.

Sent from Olympus. Seeking satisfaction.

For their carnal needs. Our bodies stiffen.

We are their concubines. Their mistresses.

Love is lust in their minds. Endless harassment.

The days are full of innuendo.

Suggestive remarks stalk our spaces.

We women need a sanctuary.

Stress is a weight strapped to our bodies.

Oyster / by Oksana Maksymchuk

We’re not meant to live here
they say, just a transit stop

on our way to bigger
more impressive things

We’re playing to win
they say, we’re our best

when we colonize, moved by
a desire to possess

Tethered to a place
few could see the theater

of the universe
hungrily expanding

With a sword we shall open it
a taut shimmering oyster!

As for the rest of you —
accept what you’ve earned

Keep the fire burning, bearing
witness to our ascent

STRANGER / by Marisa Sullivan

Who is he and why does he pursue me?
This creature of the night emerging from the trees, sealing me with his lips
These curious lips comfort my feeble mind
He gently grasps my half-extended hand, I am taken
Words seem fruitless as we run – barefoot and mad
Tearing the beaches until we are torn from horrid reality
Is he real?
Breathlessly entwined, we ravage through lawless thought
I find a soothing darkness within him, he stirs my sizzled mind
I sense the source of my needs through him
He leads as we lurk through the depths of the desert floor
Amidst the snakes’ wake
He speaks of death with ease
How it warms him as do rays from the glancing sun
Where did he go?
Inner voices send him yonder, searching the vast unknown to which only he eerily belongs
Through the heart of the Indian’s eye, he sees his own pain bathing from within
A need for release
Dare I peer closer?
Is he in a trance?
What is he?
Out jump pupils black as night and wide as the wingspan of a preying vulture
Why do I feel at ease?
He begins to croon, I am forgotten
His perverse escape of the mouth stings me and lingers
I feel his climactic release
Finally, we become one
Why am I quivering if I am not in fear?
What is this other side where tangible existence is faltered?
Why did he bring me here?
Am I drowning?
He has eradicated my young mind – permanently
I escape sweetly from torment and again become taken
Bare, we become lost to the chants
Violent, shrieking laugh of the mad
Who am I now?
He brought me here to this fall from a splattered whole
A fall perhaps too much awaited
Finally, we drown together
Our souls, completely submerged

Prayer on the Morning of My Grandmother’s Birthday / by Nicole Yurcaba

Do ravens scavenge my eyes, Lord?
Or do they scatter my bones
among cliffs
            boneyards
            clear-cuts?

If so, I wish them well.

I pray these omen-bearers place me
                                                       humerus
                                                       radius
                                                       sternum
                                                       skull
                                                       femur
                                                             on mountains
                                                              where a shepherd kneels
                                                              to a field’s waving
                                                              in rivers
                                                              where white cranes
                                                              dip spears into my ancestors’ tears.

Poem 25 / Day 25

Salvage Yard: Children of the 21 st Century, A Portrait / by Nancy Davis

1

Banking the canal,
a wall of orange life
preservers, patchwork
quilt of lives lost at sea

an artist’s statement in Copenhagen

2

shiny silver blankets,
institutional, metallic—
no substitute for handsewn quilts
of love and memory

(he)artless at the Southern Border

3

the children are frozen
fields strewn with stubble,
muted arc of innocence

the art of civil war

4

face down in the Rio Grande
mighty river of life and death
swift currents of injustice

art of the (s)wall

5

late December, a red
Santa doll flanks the wing
tip of a downed jet scattered
across miles of debris

the art of metal sculpture

The Scent of June / by Kelsi Folsom

Roses bloomed in a moment
far behind the touch of memory.

Delicate and sensuous,
emanating from sweat and expectation,

the roses told of an anxious queen
coming to meet her lover at midday.

Armored with nothing but
lace and desire,

she steps timidly across
a history of limestone.

Eyes at once brilliant and broken
meet her own.

Hands that don’t yet know their strength
or their capacity to harbor what is precious,

Reach out and out
and over and over,

Not once on this day,
but minutes ever after

the dust of “I do”
settles on the altar.

I could stay here / by Kylie Gellatly

                            I could stay here
                     shedding
                            grass
                         from my feet until
         all landmarks disappear
                       but there will be no
                                           land

    the scarred
              pinnacles will be the skin
         of my lips as stiff as taut silk
                    the stove of my body
                   will be patient enough
                      to dry a bed of roses
                 and I will be the spring
       that crumbles away with time

         the gods will heave     down
                                         flatirons
                            ground to pieces
      and the fossilized jaws of vice
        will thrash
                       through a once cliff
                     handfuls of sand will
                  make up my backbone
 and my fingers will hold the earth
              like worms craving death

                           but no — instead
                    I will replace the legs
          that give way to high winds
    and I will wait for the meteorite

MOONS AND ECLIPSES / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Two days ago

The moon was full

I was crossing fingers

For good things

For a clean chance at fate.

The recorded day was hardly memorable

Miseries rained everywhere

Whetting our bets.

To My Present and Future Predator / by Shirley Jones Luke

Part II

Women birth gods, men plot their destruction.

They burned witches in Salem, didn’t they?

A pyre of fire, seared flesh & wood.

They stoned women who weren’t covered

from head to toe. Clerics didn’t want to see.

A blue jay chirps from a low hanging branch.

A sad song for a sad situation.

A young woman weeps as petals fall on her head.

She doesn’t want to marry a man she doesn’t love.

Women scream for equal rights, to work & to vote.

Girls are separated because of their gender.

Given “women’s work” & no say in their future.

Someone grabbed the hem of my skirt & tore it.

The line of my thigh exposed by the shredded edges.

I will not fall to my knees. My teeth are knives.

Rough hands try to strangle my dreams.

They burst through my back & become wings.

Quid Pro Quo / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Dispatches from the president
arrive in my mailbox day and night

Come to meet me, they say
Don’t miss your chance, they say

It’s a lottery, I know, but I’ve been chosen
to donate my money and check a box

across from his name
in the name of the glorious nation

he made with his own bare hands
from scratch, digging around the corners

for dirt to reinforce its tall walls
giving it strength and immunity

Out of pockets lined with my blessed
Scythian rose gold, I bring support

without daring dream I could ever pay back
what I owe for the hospitality

Emerald Isle / by Marisa Sullivan

Dreaming of green, so lush and clean
Cobblestone streets, rainbow of thieves
Majestic treats we could have seen
Castles weep through trails of leaves

Morning before Father’s Day / by Nicole Yurcaba

Overnight, the sunflowers, thanks to rain,
grew five, six inches, their leaves
opening like palms spreading to collect payment,
borders no longer maintaining permeability
as they stretch beyond a high-tensile electric fence
gray with restriction
                purpose
                structure.

Another few rains, and these sunflowers
will out-tower human
                        deer
                        bear.

For now, their stems are handles
to an umbrella shielding groundhogs
                                               from the sun.

Poem 24 / Day 24

Latecomer / by Nancy Davis

he walks into the wedding reception
tall, trim, taller still in
cowboy heels spiking the tile
as the punch does our mood
looking bemused, yet
confident in his tweed coat
and fitted jeans

accented with heavy brow and lashes
familiar enough
though three years have passed
calm grey eyes voicing his arrival
slight strain staining
his face

pleasant
like I’d remembered
and self-assured in the manner
in which he raises the crystal glass
to toast my presence
handsome in hands and face
a smoothness there
like the champagne bubbles
emptying his glass

we speak of old times
the present rarely
allowed in
and drift with others
to the departure hall
where rice rains on
newlyweds

just the two of us now
in the car
refusing to honk tradition
nervous chatter dwindling
as I fidget with baby’s breath
pinching pale florets
in the silence of red lights

lost in Darien—
smug in its quaintness
lost and trying to find
the Inn where our group
waits

we speak of marriage
he in dismissive tones
I search the coolness
of his lone lean look

Joni Mitchell sings Blue
as Siri guides us in nasal,
breathy tones

I wonder will we find our friends
for whom I’m counting
on renewal
he sighs
in slow impatience
wondering, I imagine,
will he find the Inn
be alone again soon
and will he always be late
for weddings

Alibis / by Kelsi Folsom

I fear pleasure,
the unplugged “yes!”
of hunger,
the well-dressed
cousin of pain.

I won’t be fooled.

They are the same name.

look there and there / by Kylie Gellatly

                 look there and there and there
    those floating specks are hundreds of baled papers
                    bent up like two bears dancing

dear woman your retina must abandon the sun and you must
            remove the matches from my hand
                 we will then hear the mirror grieve its light

                        Now that we have held morning like a dead dog
             your words resound as vivid
                                            as a deep sea wooing in low tones

                                   for me to drop my net into
                 and walk across with shaking hands

Memories see Friends as Gifts / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Memories see friends as gifts

Old conversations packaged,

Redesigned stories

Sitting on the hillside blowing into blades of grass

Between sentences

And laughter.

In Bed / by Sarah Green

Four-year-old between us:

“I’m in the middle

 

and our house is in the middle.

I’m our house!”

 

Which makes us all neighbors

in bed, building our winter nest,

 

straw in the crook of

a punch line.

 

One day she said I was “the window.”

Once, “the grass.”

 

Her brother didn’t want to be the dirt,

or worms. I felt guilty

 

as if I reincarnated

badly, acquiring this

 

shiny bruised apple

of joy. Our yellow house.

 

Its wish for dogs.

Today she draws us all

 

as seahorses: herself,

her mother, brother,

 

her father and I, bobbing

blameless, androgynous,

 

little S shapes,

tending each other’s eggs.

 

The raspberries next door

are not to be eaten,

 

although all year they fall—

first clasped lockets

 

of ciliated fruit, then stray

bramble— into our yard.

To My Present and Future Predator / by Shirley Jones Luke

 

Part I

 

When I go outside, a female bullseye,

cringing from lustful stares of wanton men,

seeking my favors, a hint of a smile.

I give them nothing. I owe them nothing.

On earth, my purpose isn’t to please.

Their desires are not my concern.

I walk through this world a lioness,

crushing dead roses beneath my feet.

Who would challenge me? Step forward, kittens.

Age is a privilege, not a burden.

Kittens hiss in response to my presence.

Their hatred makes me purr. Men watch & drool.

I leave a trail of blood in my wake.

Just another day in my kingdom.

Mission to Mars / by Oksana Maksymchuk

All used up, like a campsite
where teens came on a short

vacation from a family home
and stayed too long

We fight over who gets
what little remains

A few rolls of toilet paper
A couple barrels of oil

We install solar batteries
as we wait, ride glossy

Tesla cars to feel what it’s like:
Living in the future

Planning an escape, we
look around, saying

There’s not much here
to keep us

So little that remains
to love

Mid-Devonian Thrust / by Nicole Yurcaba

At 8:30 AM, I wake alone in bed.
     8:30 AM. I close my eyes,
                        will myself back to sleep
                                           back to the dream
                                                        the grassy hillside where I sat
                                                        my knees pressed into his back
                                                        his tan profile chiseled & mine
                                                        as he spoke in whispered Arabic
                                                        to a small boy wanting to know
                                                        information we didn’t know but
                                                        what we did                 know
in that pink-purple haze
making charcoal of distant mountains
pillared in sevens Lawrence would
never see or journal
                               mountains whose faces Kaskaskia
                                                 laced with trilobites
                                                                  brachiopods
                                                                   ancient corals
                                                                                     thrust
                                                                                          p
                                                                                         w
                                                                                          a
                                                                                          r
                                                                                           during Appalachian Oregony’s     

                                massacre

Poem 23 / Day 23

Vertigo / by Nancy Davis

edging uneasily three
altitudes high
sandpaper surface scraping
my heels

the blind reaching
into cerulean perfection

Icarus knows
the falling rush
and melting fear
in the arc of an angel’s
entry: ripple-free water
give and take of terror
periphery knowing
no bounds:

an overachiever’s
wings of despair

there is wind being slowly cut / by Kylie Gellatly

                   there is wind being slowly cut
            like glass when I open my eyes
to the errors of
                                                     delicate sense

                                    I use my
                                    third name
                                         when breaking
                        the long knife

               but I grow fainter and fainter
   measuring frozen tides and writing with my jaw

         the angel
                   lavish with choice
                          dares to strike through my heart

           she is shrouded
  like an invasive surgeon
                   with her worrying axe

                             the fool’s divine spark
                  forever coming loose
from my cup as it falls from my crossing fingers

Questions / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

People living under bridges

Where are they now?

Are they are protected by protesters?

Are their lives better?

Are they eating?

Are they counted in illness?

Did they ever have a chance

To know?

Can they sleep in city grasses?

Does the sun ever shine?

No work, no school, no bus.

Are they still dreaming?

 

Are we all under bridges?

Does our roof leak?

Is our garden full of weeds

Or feeding us and others?

Are we well? Are our friends well?

How do we connect if there is no connection?

 

Have we thought about needs

Beyond our own?

Can we sleep comfortably in our own beds?

Do we have work or transportation?

Do we have a chance?

Are we still dreaming?

The Cliché is Your Assumption / by Shirley Jones Luke

Girl became woman trying to stay girl.

The world doesn’t work that way, honey.

Diamonds are not my friend. Their light

is deceiving. It blinds my eyes. I shiver

in the heat. I sweat in the cold. Life demands

more. I fight a war with fear. As a girl, I jumped

& sat on the edge of the moon. The cow watched

with relief from the pasture. My attitude

is a threat & a weapon. Society likes to punish

me with their expectations. I’m not afraid anymore.

My flag is in the shape of Africa. I wear it like armor.

Dawn illuminates my power. Night is as black

as my fist, clenched & shaking. My hips shake

loose my lips. My eyes see through lies. Some

think I’m dumb not street wise. They are so wrong.

I grab the stars & throw them across the sun. Sliced it

in two & that’s why the horizon is red. Blood is not

just about a bond or bonding. Blood tells the truth

of who you are. Mom said I’d be alright before she

passed. I seek her soul in every corner of my home.

But she only comes to me in dreams, saying no, no, no.

I need to listen but fear & grief distract me. I hear gun shots

on the street & hold my children closer. Gangs know nothing

about ownership. My first son clutches his grandmother’s

picture. A shield of love. I don’t know why death causes

so much pain. But mom was right. Cuz life ain’t worth

living if you’re too afraid to live.

City of Our Dreams / by Oksana Maksymchuk

We share with you the good
news that the world is coming
to an end and we’ll see to it
that you’re comfortable and content

That your children are free
to undertake their own missions
of saving it as they juggle bills
and degrees and pursuit of bliss

That our guns have been oiled
and our prisons are filled with men
we keep off the streets lest they
think of crimes to commit

Your property and your body
fall under the protection of
our beautiful institutions insured
by our banks our working hands

By the power vested in us, we bless
you with our card in green, our passport
blue, to invest in our shared
future, our vision, our dream

Underwater / by Marisa Sullivan

Underwater, submerged in bliss
Wish we could live in the ocean like fish
Floating our worries away
Water engulfs like a warm embrace
Skin soaks up salt, sounds from the ground
drown out and slow down like whispers from the womb, our own private tomb
There are no tears in the sea
No arms flailing
No drunk driving
No gunshots —
No racist twats
The caress of the sea might as well be the one place where we will always be free

The Rain / by Nicole Yurcaba

comes like knuckles
                  fingertips
                 palms
feeling silk
post-winter
        dryness
        chafing
        cracking

pounds like a child
seated beneath an oak
dining room table beating
rhythmic fist
                fist
                fist
                   on the table’s belly
until a day-worn mother
           bill-torn    father
                                     demand
                                                Stop it.
                                               Stop it.
                                                         Stop.

Poem 22 / Day 22

Spring / by Nancy Davis

mornings, glories open
wrens sing impossible blues:
a benediction

Pretense / by Kelsi Folsom

We always fight in parks.
I think it’s the mirage of peace
that drives us quietly into madness

I shall fill in the deafness / by Kylie Gellatly

I shall fill in the deafness
    of the women who told you
        to be good
with a seasoned conviction that hell
   is damp wood in a virgin’s heart
      and that gold will always
          be a chased animal with skin
  torn to pieces

I was sore at heart
                a lavender tint my head
                    like tinder
hair-raised and stranded
I tried to shout in the wilds
    of the dining room when dynamite
         was handled without word

but it did not end
    the resoundering hammering
        at the fire that your obsession
             brought you

Scratching Surfaces / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Hope

Like birds after worms

Pecking after rain.

Like dogs after bones

Scratching the earth

Sniffing under papers

Invading our memories

Forcing smiles

Re-telling old stories.

Is there a new way to look

For peace?

Seals / by Sarah Green

My father would talk to the seals
trailing behind the sailboat.

I thought he was joking,
barking to make us laugh–
his mimicry hoarse
and accurate.

The seals must have thought we had bait for them, or else they were curious. I remember their whiskers.

I remember when we stopped seeing them. I remember my father
driving silently
as I stared out the window.

Vibrations in the Heat of Day / by Shirley Jones Luke

Shock waves like the ripple effect of a bullet

after it exits the body

As in exiting a Black body

As in the Black body is a threat

Therefore, the Black body was contained

So, the gun was fired

And the Black body was stopped

Whereas death was the chosen method

As in death was the preferred method

So, the shock waves spread throughout

the neighborhood

Whereas the mother’s screams were heard

for several blocks

So, the cameras zoomed in on her anguish

So, the cameras captured her agony

Therefore, her neighbors gathered in earnest

Therefore, their angry grew with the setting sun

As in Black rage rises when the climate changes

Therefore, emotions will continue to fluctuate

Ring of Fire / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Sun eclipsed by a shadow
makes itself manifest as
a fiery orb

In the place of power, man
sucks marrow out of the spine of
his other

Forget of the day it had not
yet begun, or the day
it’ll be over

Each clings to a seat, a lover
to be displaced
out of order

All breathe easier knowing not
what they’d be told
to tolerate

6 AM / by Nicole Yurcaba

morning light seeps through bedroom windows
as slowly as a sand shark thaws in grandmother’s
icebox standing sentinel beside the back basement
door painted green facing a long-forgotten dirt alley
where two girls smear clay mud in hair
                                                              on clothes
                                                               legs
                                                              arms
                                                               faces
                                                                       destined for
                                                                                    crepey knees
                                                                                    creased elbows
                                                                                    fine-lined foreheads
                                                                                     crow’s feet
                                                                                    a single barely folded laugh
                                                                                                 at the mouth’s right corner

Poem 21 / Day 21

Pressing in America / by Nancy Davis

the Puritans were a clever people,
not just managing a seaward voyage
with riches in their cargo

but claiming purity above all others

so that if an accused refused to confess
he was pressed to tell their truth

first with words, next with threats
finally tethered to the ground

an anti-Christ, a heathen

Day One, a stone
Day Two, two stones
Day Three, and on and on

until the accused might
gasp, Can’t breathe

or in defiance screech
more weight

an ungodly reminder
of our nation’s past

ricocheting fast
forward

Presence / by Kelsi Folsom

Stubble like a paintbrush
sweeps across his jaw.

Hair like downy feathers
nestles sweetly near his neck.

He holds them close,
each one a pearl

He dare not leave
to industrialism’s waste

Of indifference and business,
no, his gift is presence,

A gentle leaning in
of his awed and curious face—

The wonder of a father meeting
what a seed can cultivate.

the beckoning stops / by Kylie Gellatly

            the beckoning stops in the quarry

— all disappear                gold so grave that
                                                    sorrow follows
                                                its treacherous surface

        the return of the sun has aroused a feeling
                 akin to birdskin badly bitten

    water vulnerable        held up to the light

              that elusive siren —
hadn’t she left us any balance?

                        what was mica before    is now
                                                            the only star

    I think of it as nothing
            but the desired effect     of life’s admitted value

                        but don’t ever forget
               that gravel is thrown                        at night

The Power of Music / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

A call from the fiddle

By the door of a barn

For a break in a hum drum day

Music forgets no one

In a heart-beat rhythm

From a folk violin

Like the hum from the fields

Or a song from the soup-pot

Or a baritone solo for the soul.

Listen to my heart sing

From a doorway

Hinting.

Bringing Coffee / by Sarah Green

It still feels like we’re playing house when I bring you coffee in bed,
as if you are the kids’ mother I let sleep in some Saturdays,
and I’m their hands-off dad. Some stiff who knows, vaguely,

you need your rest. How we repair ourselves—
I saw an ad the other day that said sleep’s not a luxury— what is
a luxury? A strand of pearls? The luck of not being a found oyster?

Steelhead we saw turn with the movement of the creek water and
continue to be free, carried… From here, it is not possible to see
its scars. If every time a crush caught me, before, that was a hook,

release, am I disfigured from the catch? Though I am not silver
at hip and breast with marks from growing a child, love stretched me until
I could love your two, made me the creek under the osprey, gone

instinctually the color camouflaging all of you. That’s how I know
I’m the mother. And you’re the bringer of coffee, to whom I pledge:
my bitterness, sweetness, and heat.

My Essence is Not a Social Construct / by Shirley Jones Luke

Rebellion loves me

like the moon loves the night sky

I do not know the meaning of belonging

I have self-selected my persona

on this solo journey

to get away from hate

I’m a portrait of the familiar

across a diamond acre

seeking warmth

from an indifferent sun

there are no other options

but to declare my privilege

to be who I choose despite

a society that has already

rejected me

Cerberus / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Tenebrous, even in daylight
souls screech like bats
Better a slave to a poor man
than an overseer

In this punishing home
each pared down
bone gnawed by a cynic
guarding the gates

No process to bring
release, no way out
except by the path of
a death in reverse

Peel your skin off
balancing on a scale
measured against a self
in an ideal world

Humans to their own — a hell
Man to another man — a lord

Journal Entry / by Nicole Yurcaba

Sunday’s laziness creeps like a ghost
into Tuesday. Noon, fleece blankets,
books, laptop in place, untouched
on an unvacuumed floor. Outside,
the weedeater hangs its head
off the carpeted porch while a wren
flits at its hanging-gourd nest
contemplating entry. I have seen
that pensive hesitation before
on my own face
reflected in the front door’s gass
one after noon after I loaded
nine boxes of books into the car,
the cat peering at me, perplexed
at what things I first carried.
Yet here I am,
weeks past that initial packing,
watching a sand hornet trace
the front porch gutter after the wren
takes shelter in its gourd. The cat
sits on a kitchen chair, meowing
in an effort to open the front door,
like meowing makes any difference.
Little does she ever pay attention
to the hand that offers
to turn the handle. Of myself,
I could probably say the same.

Poem 20 / Day 20

Summer Day / by Nancy Davis
for Lily Briscoe

today I saw the world through
painters’ eyes:

red dash streaking across a yellow
trapezoid floating in blue

grey shadow imprinting beige below

clump of greens in oblong shapes
hugging the periphery

woman in a straw hat
girl in a red jacket

her sister with long legs
pushing up through the
canvas and into
womanhood

Sanctuary / by Kelsi Folsom

To be hopeful
is to be
Revolutionary.

To be whole
is to be
Rooted.

To be wise
is to be
Open.

To be sure
is to be
Curious.

To be one
is to be
Leaning in.

To be growing
is to be
Humble.

To be loved
is to be
Still.

To be still
is to be
Listening…

let me tell of the hearts lying / by Kylie Gellatly

let me tell of the hearts lying
in a seam a hundred feet long
like mica in a gold mine
beating under the simple plane
of persistence I had added fever to fever
I dared time with a knife blade
I did not believe it was my own
I was asleep and floating on a letter
I lay a captive in chains
I stormed the ramparts
I dashed to the very spur
I bided my time and the coup de grace
I had nothing to do with the shipwreck
I would bring back the news
             and my respects
           as usual a crate of oranges
and an indentation in my knife-holding hand
my sole regret a passion for the bitter pill
mining indicated the demon of mine
was referring to the heart
the little-known interior
already forming in my mind
going along full speed being drawn down
and introduced to tear down
almost every trick
there would be something for the heartbreak
the miles of ice and the years of dense fog
anything to stimulate the heart
with this profound deduction
the penned line
is blank as to just what happened
but the diary indicates I knew
that this man turned doors there
and unlocked its secret

White Silent Light / by Nina Freedlander Gibans
(on a cover photo by Steve Sorin)

Choreography of tree trunks

Caught in the day’s pause

Sun sculpture forest

Shadows crossing paths

Of white silence

Lighting a new vision.

 

That’s what photography does

Holds you in afterlight with a start

Looking at white sunrises straight on

As if they will last all day

And persist into the night.

Solstice / by Sarah Green

Light sound of floorboards creaking
under sun.

Light touch of toddler fingers on a sleeping face.

Light of 108 sun salutations in a sweaty studio with philodendrons dripping down.

Light of the bee stinging my finger in the zinnias.

Light of the ice pack and the iced coffee.

Light of the invention of biodegrade solar trash cans.

Light of the sunburn on the shoulders where the suit straps cross.

Light of the waves crashing.

Light of emerging, climbing back to family.

Orphan of Pride and Selfishness / by Shirley Jones Luke

Ma did not want to be in a hospice. She voiced this several times before she passed. I was not there when she died.

When she died, I was at home, on the couch, sleeping. My body
laid at an angle, under the bright light of the living room lamp.

Under the bright light of the living room lamp, my cell rang, jolting me from my slumber, the hospital’s name flashed across the screen.

The hospital’s name flashed across the screen, a woman’s voice, the doctor I had met earlier in the day, was on the phone.

She told me that ma had passed in her sleep. The nurses were cleaning her up.

The nurses were cleaning her up. Sound had left the living room. Air sucked out like a vacuum, I had stopped breathing, my eyes couldn’t blink.

Ma was gone. My father left my life nearly 20 years earlier, he was dead to me when he chose golfing over walking me down the aisle.

My parents are everywhere and nowhere, Ma in a casket, surrounded by dirt, my father, out in the world, but just as easily could be dead, I don’t know.

I don’t know.

Ladder / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Out in the wild
of no church or state
you’re one who looks like
they could break and loot

An uncertain life form in
an uncertain time
Whatcha doin’ out here
in the dark?

Twinkle, my star, I say, perched
on a ladder, the rungs up
missing, the rungs down
crumbling underfoot

I don’t move
I wait to be shaken off
like fruit
in a tree out of season

Shouts, screams all around
Sweat beads across my brow
Men in face masks approach
hose me down

My Violet / by Marisa Sullivan

My Violet
Sapphire eyes
Her smile shines wide
Golden hair so lovely —
Whether pink, blue or green

My Violet
Cheap Trick fiend
Everyone stops when
she sings
She melts my heart
With her sweet “Daddy”

My Violet
Will soon be a teen
How can this be
Swings from trapeze
When her eyes aren’t
glued to HGTV

My Violet
So smart in school
Friends think she’s cool
Beautiful heart
A work of art

My Violet
Can’t wait to see
The woman you’ll be
It makes me cry
For you I would die

West Virginia Case Counts Don’t / by Nicole Yurcaba

No one calling.
No one asking.
No trucks filled with bags
                                 boxes for volunteers to distribute.
We take care of our own
                                     neighbors
                                      churches
                                      children
                                     grandchildren
witnessing aisles change into one way streets
                  shelves’ empty eyes stare back
                  tempers flaring like gone-wild candles at Sunday dinner.

Friends whispered across phone lines
They—the news
               government
              everyone— don’t think about us.
             They’ll let us die first.
            We rural folk don’t matter.
            Where are the food banks here?
           Why aren’t there vegetables in the stores?
          Who’s delivering our groceries?

 

National Guard units
entered Morgantown
             Charleston
             Parkersburg
             Clarksburg
            Elkins
delivered food
conducted swabs
left in the armor-plated convoys in which they arrived.
CNN, MSNBC, Fox News
tallied counts in DC
                           Seattle
                           NYC
                           London
                           Berlin.

It’s as though we don’t exist,
here in these pin-sized dot-on-the-map towns.
From our rained-out gardens where roly-poly groundhogs prowl
and crows scout yesterday’s planted bean seeds,
with dirt smudging our sweaty foreheads and garden hoe in hand,
we stare.
Then, we pray.
Then, we wonder
                         how can “forgotten” spell “united”?

Poem 19 / Day 19

Mabel Gardens / by Nancy Davis

it was rumored he’d build
her a castle if he could

gazebo on a hillside sufficing,
waterfall trickling over
rocky terrain, lush gardens

planted with meticulous care
splashing into a reflection pond
worthy of Narcissus

apparently, she hated the fuss
though to see him sketching,
researching blue hostas and
Japanese ferns, white trillium

water lilies, deeply pleased her

and the chorus of peepers come spring—
frogs, dragonflies and lightning
bugs, woodland birds too
numerous to name

joggers, dog walkers paused
midstride, paying respects
to a neighborhood shrine

calming echoes of falling
water, cooler temperatures
avian songs, insect vibratos:
a jewel of the neighborhood

someone brought supplies
each week, sequestered behind
a wrought-iron gate,
sprite statuettes and nymphs
guiding the way

*
one day the water stopped
no sign of human life
passersby glance, hurry
off in a rush

the magic of Mabel Gardens
relegated to myth

Miranda was to die of heart failure / by Kylie Gellatly

  Miranda was to die of heart failure
           while ascending from a depth known
             but seeing that the faults didn’t take she said
     “I would not recognize you void
  but wait for me until I do”

       when night overtook she wrote
    a memory of former love
   on a sheet in salt — an inscription
     long past and in pieces bent split
she then saw what fleeted and tried to reach
behind the viscous dark of her watercolor blood

  the name of fever sounded and sank below
     within a few feet of truth wading in the ice water
  the seeds of unrest had at last ceased calling
 never again knocking at her through the air

    Miranda was a tear in the side of absence
 with her deviled spaces almost halfway to the moon
   no horses barred with her nothing restless or firing

The last we saw of her she was undisturbed
    deriving knowledge from all other evenings
       she who waited abreast the temperature
     of such a strange and cold steam
 for the rest of her memory

Finding Things Lost / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

If I could cover potholes with blue gossamer

streets would lead to my favorite places

into the secrets of my homes

opening drawers

filled now with the stuff of other lives

 

Doors would magically unlock to my review

I would find the things I lost

in moving, dropped on the curb

swept into a pile of my antiquity.

 

Chairs unrocked and later left

on a porch would invite me to sit

and watch the people of my past.

I would hope they’d stop to talk

 

My woods would still stand tall

Trees marked where I last grew

I’d watch my friends

Drop to check their lines.

 

I would roll across the landscape

Of my early years ready to stand up

And introduce you to my old green garden

Sell my flowers to the sun for just a bit more rain.

To look again at blossoms.

There are particulars–bangles

earrings and bracelets, the missing ones

dangling with the secret of where they lay

stepped over or kicked aside

like the stories I’d long forgotten.

Cry it out / by Sarah Green

I cried; the baby
never came to pick me up.
Now I sleep through it.

We are Coming for Our Language  / by Shirley Jones Luke

 

In the history of words     our tongues    have suffered      fighting for rights

no honor     in silencing         our voices    an insult         to our humanity

to others     a fortune      to keep us     divided     & mingle fact with fiction

as they copyright our lingo      we must reclaim        our names

this appropriation is unnecessary      for the power of language

has been distorted       & used       against us

 

This is unacceptable        our diaspora    Black culture tainted   our words

maligned     we must veto this wrong        reparations demanded

our language     sacred    we must be  forceful     a form

unrestricted      the law singles us out    for being less than   untrue

we have an oral history    present in our daily lives   we cannot relinquish

our heritage     for our language is at stake

Karmic Cycles / by Oksana Maksymchuk

Contracts come loose
Ties of friendship — undone

News float up, each
uglier than the next

To calm myself down I fall
down the rathole of

internet shopping, wallow
in dollar signs

trying on this and that
for a life I will never have

Cashmere sweaters, dresses
with low necklines

glittering accordions of
skirts, impeccable woolen

trousers, all of them
the days and works of

nameless women & girls
peppering the globe

destinies unraveled, talents
nourishing price tags

Anna Maria Island / by Marisa Sullivan

Sand, milky-white as the marshmallow clouds, form an enclave shielding this storybook town
of cottages and bungalows splashed with tasteful pastel pinks and baby blues,
mint-hued shutters salivate mouths for seven miles around, the swirls of comfort-color
like the rainbow cone dripping down to my feet in ninety-five degrees,
unicorn rafts and floating foam line the beach and bob in the sea like tips of crayons
yearning to add to this serene scene while blissful teens roam the streets,
wind whips their salty hair and rosy cheeks smile with glee as seagulls soar
over oak trees shading readers lost at sea, oblivious to the things on TV,
once a jungle, now pristine from a man named Bean who settled in 1893

Sunday’s Summon / by Nicole Yurcaba

Mid-June. A fire bears witness
in the semi-forgotten fireplace.

A kitchen stove weeps heat,
its mouth gaping in loss
at the ceramic dish delivering
a finished cobbler’s slow wrenching
of peaches, blackberries, brown sugar—
                                                           heat
                                                           thermodynamics
                                                           volatized chemical compounds
wafting into living room spaces
                                        where one rushnyk hangs
                                                   the beginnings of another lies awaiting sewing
                                                                                                                 prayers
                                                                                                                  an ikon or photograph
                                                                                                                  to drape.

Poem 18 / Day 18

Code Blue / by Nancy Davis

an azure day in January
crystallized air
a northerner’s dream

framed by the kitchen
window above the sink
atop a gable on the neighbor’s
house, a heron, blue,
no mistake

calm as ice
balanced in form
eyeing the frigid
terrain

a second cup of coffee
and its grandeur reigns

*
startling
as an apparition
transient as a dream

its muted absence
a harbinger of death

nothing stuns like
winter loss

night after night I communed / by Kylie Gellatly

                        night after night I communed with
                                             time as I
began to realize the significance of just what
this very face built

                  and at last the secret came out — light
   for you taught me how to labor in love

                whatever
            brought out
               the spirits played across the rocky
                                    interior and into our hands

                            so our backs became a valley
                        from wall to wall        almost continuous
                               and our footing an archipelago
                                                with its smoking volcanoes
                                         feeling for wood
                                            to build a fever

                                    for we know
                             a big fire will let us forget
                                        the dim in the distance
            and remember that love
                 was not light
     before it reached your eye

Chasing Anger / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Don’t think I am not protesting

I am in my backyard

Chasing squirrels robbing birds

Of their sustenance.

I am playing peacemaker

I am thirsty for justice

I have waited a lifetime for

Civility.

I grew old

So I could see it all

And dream of a mysterious peace

Even though I am surrounded by death.

I Wasn’t Trying / by Sarah Green

That spring I wanted to die,
the world kept leaving marks on me;
scratches from rose bushes,
a hematoma on my shin,
slice of glass on my index finger,
blood drawn by the cat
trying to get my attention.
I’d never been so visible.
I’d never cried so hard in my car
politely turning my blinker on,
steering through cones and bikers,
despite not being able to see.
The more I wanted to kill myself,
the more obstacles to drive around
so I had to concentrate
in the dark and rain, and the cat
needed feeding. And the lilac
seemed to brush my arm,
and I put little pots over the strawberries in the wind storm,
a sheet over the tomato cage
weighed down with bricks,
and when the rain stopped I went back out and collected it.
The garden seemed to breathe
for me. I wasn’t trying to be alive.

Black on Black on Black / by Shirley Jones Luke

A crystal sun rises in a black sky
over a Black Sea, waves lapping like black tea
onto a shore of black sand, black glass
are carbon jewels, imprints of black feet
marching towards black cities
with skyscrapers like black spears,
stabbing the black sky, fears of a black nation, rioting
on black streets, the hood is dark, blackout
economics, black trees with burnt leaves,
smoke rising from black dirt, so much trauma,
blackness is supposed to be a blessing
bless the blackness, let it spread like oil across
a white canvas, creating a black carcass, crushed
like the black velvet of night, starlight glows
against a black screen like diamonds,
illuminating our black brilliance

SUMMER OF LOVE / by Marisa Sullivan

On Bay Shore you appeared, a raspy, grinning fool
“Would you like some whiskey?” Think I’ll just have a beer like you …
Too swiftly without much thought, I took your lead
Semi-behaved bandits raid Retro Row,
Future jail-mates and a more distant jailbreak

Left-of-center, leathered souls surfing the Supermoon-lit streets
Smooches smack dab in the middle, like the gas gauge on my worn heart
“Will you be my girl?” Hesitant yes, a cautious, hopeful smile
I’ve heard this one thousand times before
I jump in blind and go for another ride

Crimson couch, a leopard, IPA-stained rug
Table for two, a rock n’ roll chef-cooked home meal
Blankets of sand and sours, a midnight douse in the brisk bay
Lovers wanting so badly to be in love, addicts
4 a.m. alarms after two hours of heavy lids

You move into my head and my home
Rooftop tours lead to hot-tubbed nights
Your gaze of pride pierces my eyes
A union briefly blooms between two thirsty flowers
Warming up ever too quickly for a war on sore soil

Two brave battles worth a fiery fight
Quenchless hunger for the deserved resurge and rebirth
Running out of tireless time
You tell me you’ll die for me
The poison I drink from you is what kills

Growing up fast to undo the past
Will we settle, call a truce and learn to live as one?
Broken spirits looking for hotter glue to soothe
Stuck together in the wrong lane
Yet we undyingly believe in love

Flaps and Seals / by Nicole Yurcaba

this day half-eaten by time’s
conspiratorial robins pecking at lazy worms
                              waiting for northbound clouds
                                            to break
                                                spill secrets into soil
                                                          where they tape-record their round bodies’ codes

below the muddied catfish pond
reclusive baby groundhogs muddle
                                           high grasses with bang-and-burn waddles
                                            widened by brush passes with sunflower
                                                                                            cantaloupe
                                                                                            green bean
                                                                                             cucumber
                                                                 plants compromised & burned
                                                                 behind high-tensile dead drops
                                                                 standing double-agent without bearing arms

Poem 17 / Day 17

Homesick / by Nancy Davis

I have tried to fit
into your shoes
for too long now—
stilettos and sling backs,
clogs and gators.
When soft leather sandals
do me just fine:
flat footed, heel to toe,
the feel of earth unfolding
beneath my feet.

I have tried too long
to sing your songs,
climb your trees,
follow your maps to
the same destination
every time.

You have never asked—
not once in a quarter century—
What is it like in your native
home? Does the swallow
dive and dart, do the willows
dip and dance?
Are your homes brick and mortar,
slab and stone?

What spring blooms
brightened your day?
Where did the bees comb
their honey?
What did the stars
have to say?

The Writing Desk / by Kelsi Folsom

The edges climb up to
a plateau and stop.

Books and memorabilia
are housed on each shelf,

remembered and forgotten,
perusing through fractured glass,

interlacing olive-green wood;
patterned geometric and structured.

The bones are weak,
but the visage is too
compelling to discard

organs reach out from knives / by Kylie Gellatly

organs reach out from knives
                               and valuable days go missing
                                    what was carved out
                                                would have been hope

      precious time was discovered at the fingers
            and uncanny knowledge
                        at the head

                                                the
                             crowd is a miracle
                                    twenty miles it
                         spoons
                     out of wood

not knowing just what would show up in the year
                 we soon pick
                    some hundred on the qui vive
                                    heavy
                                      with
                        the rise and fall
                                       of consequence
                dragged considerable distances over
                                    affairs to move
                   down runways of staves

                                                now at higher edges
                                                    we make
                                                            rocks into
     handles
                                    while the murderous
                                                            serve
                                                rather than go back
                                           to the running
                                                   side of sound

            it will not be long before a word is overheard

Compass / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Is your compass complete?

Does it SEE around corners?

History and present

Did the gory Huns have field glasses?

Looking into future warfare?

Or, did they hand down only greed?

And when the many plagues appeared,

each time a little different

Were they saved by stamina, starvation for community?

What did we learn?

The Holocaust, wars, plagues

They are all full of insolvent salves

Of prejudice and Injustice.

Is there a new vision of civility?

Snipers / by Sarah Green

No one is spotting my husband
while he lifts weights.
I only know he’s lifting by the sound
his breath makes exiting,
the thud and clank setting them down. I read a story about a black kid
waving to snipers to calm his nerves
on the way to a protest. They waved back. But they stayed
on the roof. No one is holding
my husband but me.

A Portrait of Michael Brown that Wasn’t Michael Brown / by Shirley Jones Luke

after Ferguson & The White Card

Black outline on a white space           dots indicate entry path
of bullets.
The body is naked.    The Black body is naked    
except for the dark marks.
A caricature of a young man, of Michael Brown.

But it’s not him.     No outline can represent        a black body.
White space cannot hold             who Michael Brown was.
It looks like a target       at a gun range         a black body bullseye.
Not a boy. Not a man.  A step above a stick figure.
Some might call it art.
Some might.

Neither Pea Nor Peanut / by Lyuba Yakimchuk

neither pea, nor peanut
language never keeps up with life
adapts way too slowly
learns to curl its fingers
but does not grow interdigital webbing

as humanity gradually turns to veganism
language remains carnivorous

my friend, a vegan, is indignant
that there’s nothing for her to eat at restaurants
every dish contains if not meat, then fish
if not eggs, then milk
and I ask, what about language, is there enough for you
to speak, to think?

ha, this language is neither fish nor fowl, she admits
can’t kill the worm without eating the dog
but if you never tried fish or fowl
even eating a dog feels like cannibalism
all of us mammals are alike
don’t you get it?
from a family home language turns into a hostel

I will invent a different language for you, I promise
science-based and vegan!
a language without aggression
and immediately I take the bull by the horns, grasping
language by its idioms

and the restaurants start serving vegan dishes
every gas stop sells falafel
coffee without caffeine with coconut milk
and even McDonald’s comes out with a vegan menu

so my friend comes to demand a new language
and I say
you know, our language is
neither
pea nor peanut
(that’s what you get in the place of fish and foul)

I know what I’m talking about
I cut my teeth on this avocado

see, I grasped a two-wheeler by the handles
and upturned the virgin soil
and grew a new language for you
without violence against animals

one could say: this language is perfect
if not for one small problem

what to do about those who are full of ginger?
will they become “full of bacon”?
and whenever you try to pull out a bean stalk
somehow you end up cutting it to the bone
so I’ll be straight with you and say
that I have no new language

only this one – carnivorous
gritty, with fresh memory
of idiom
yet not idiotic
it stays close to the body
regardless of what this body feeds on
so please don’t skin it alive
just put your mouth where your heart is

Translated from the Ukrainian by Oksana Maksymchuk

The Lonely City / by Marisa Sullivan

Dust veils glass
Bleak, confused skies
Breath of crow

Locks and boards
Neon signs
“Gone Fishing”

Buildings mock
They’ve seen a lot
Lonely art

Workers going mad
The mad, insane
Pause.

Cheers at 8
Our city bell
Clocks stand still

Sky-high prisons
Barren meters
Naked lots

Rats feed
On less
Roaches cash in inside

Stacked bodies
Death creeps
No goodbye

Frowns under masked —

Clowns

Hands Written / by Nicole Yurcaba

years of sun
              farm work
              sewing
              washing
                           form faint fissures
                           despite moisturizers
                                       poured daily from plastic
                                                                     fountains promising youth
                                                                                                      glow
                                                                                                      reversal.
how much longer will i actually care about
                                                    treat
                                                    pamper
                                                    hide
                                                    the deeply lined knuckles
                                                                               palms
                                                                               experiences
                                                                               etched in two stones eventually pummeled
                                                                                                                                  to dust?
a soldier once told me
we are nothing but energy
and when we die, that energy
                                   transforms.
                                                It’s basic physics, girl.

i think of his hands:

                               strength
                               wrath
                               lust
                               coated with a desert
                                                              not so separate from my skin.

Poem 16 / Day 16

Monarchy / by Nancy Davis

(read to the melody of Cole Porter’s song, “Just One of Those Things”)

Swaying in bunched clusters on trees,
thick orange clumps, softer than bees.
Crepe amber wings surf on a breeze.
Bunched clusters on trees.

Swaying like muslin conical hives,
tea lanterns, larger in size.
Dizzying trip, as if being teased.
Swaying in bunched clusters on trees.

If you calculate thousands of miles it takes
when they lift off from very afar.
You’d be stunned to know
that their weight’s so low
it’s all from the voyage they make.

So appreciate, as one flutters by,
the trek it makes just to survive.
Oh, they’re a wondrous sight,
swaying in bunched clusters on trees.

there are a few names / by Kylie Gellatly

        there are a few names
               for which no verification can be obtained
                                    the goddess the house the guard the trigger
                                       the doctor the earth the infant the year
                                          the stomach the anxiety

            a normal agony
   blowing up
the brittle a gale in all hands
the baby peeking out from her red ribbon

                                                                                    I remember dropping
                                                             to yell and dance with no protection
                                                                                                     never to leave
                                                                     the hammer moved in
                                                                                         the oil written then
                                                                          to no avail knowing the gun
                                                                  was my belly round and wheeled

                                                the bullet
                                         she bit at the wound
                                                    is what ailed
                        if it was red you could take it for granted
                                                                   and if it was alabaster
                                                though coal-laden
                                                     the wreckage
                                                                was picked up

            the gun was a mother busy with her summer litter
     nevertheless bringing us home with her heavy salvage

                                                young vessels should be at the grindstone
                                                                trying to reason with
                                                                                    the stronger
                                      to swing their own pendulums

Peace and Conflict Transformation / by Nina Freedlander Gibans

Tuck[i] let us think we might live forever

At least until we saved ourselves

Long enough to consider

More than dream

And cover our lives with leaves and flowers.

The world is so fragile.

Our minds are so dense.

 

Mary Oliver shared peace with

her animal friends on beaches or grass,

Or birds… those wild geese…

Every living thing…the sustainers

watching their magical movements

Relating to our immobility-

Who are we if we do not try

 

To fly?

“Fall has springtime inside it”

The voices in the spring wind

muffled

Holding hands with whipped clouds

And noiselessness.

Looking towards the first snowfall

Will we have made peace over summer?

 

Should I depend instead on

Color-soaked canvases

Tightening my grasp of hope

Speaking in every nuanced way

to my spiritual health?

Or,

Perhaps the music of Bach…or Scarlatti

Making peace out of turbulence.

 

A new day’s tasks

look ahead and behind to continue

where we leave off

are we closer to resolution?

one idea leaps to success

one trial wins access to the next and the next

sustainable possibility.

 

Should we write journals of strong words?

what would we say about deeds

words are so pathetic; unless bolstered by love

Ripped not from notebooks but unlocked from our hearts

Transforming sights and sounds

Shake hands and speak with other worlds within our worlds.

Plant friendship along with trees; greet every day hopefully

melt hatred together.

 


[i] Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt and Mary Oliver were Northeast Ohio natives.

The Way Life Should Be / by Sarah Green

Maine begins as a placemat:
a laminated harbor.

Next thing you know,
someone has named their boat Diane.

It’s illegal not to light sparklers.
There is no key to the diary.

You can tell the age of the deer
by the tree rings.

Black Women tell Stories that Hold Up the World  / by Shirley Jones Luke 

 

Black Women tell stories

that hold up the world. We are

the sky.

 

We are the rain that nurturers the earth.

The clouds are our breasts. We feed

everyone & everything.

 

We are mountains, protecting valleys.

Our forebearers were forests, guarding

the soil.

 

The winds carry our stories. Wisdom

In every breath. Breathe deeply as

the stories spread far & wide.

 

From the soil, we are the flowers.

Different buds blooming from

ancient seeds.

 

Our stories are the color tar & coal,

cedar & maple branches,

growing from mahogany trees.

 

Our stories are vines wrapped

around buildings, reaching for

the sun.

 

Our stories keep the culture alive. Our stories                                                                      

live in black & brown eyes. Our stories are

in the weathered faces of our elders.

 

Black women’s tongues carry the stories. Our blood

flows with the stories like midnight oceans,

breaking across every shore.

 

Our stories leave a mark on everything they touch.

Black women know those marks well.

Our bodies are marked by the stories that have touched us.

Signature / by Lyuba Yakimchuk

                                                February 25, 2014
                                                Kyiv, Ukraine

you drum
against the door of my back
with your dry cough
you were delivered to me
like a letter
along with a request
for a signature
which I am to place on the blank page
the robes of saints are also white
I think
and sign

my mark runs down the street
hides behind the barricades
that slide into inferno
with the burnt-out pupils
of the trade unions building
angels descend out of these pupils
wearing dark
angels no longer wear uniforms
they are free to choose
but we
we aren’t

and everything turns white
like inside a sack filled with snow
so white
like the white scrubs of these saints
that pull me out from under the flying bullets
only bliss ever feels so blinding

on this white
a tiny
black
dot
of a signature
punctures
a sheet of paper
a robe
a temple

Translated from the Ukrainian by Oksana Maksymchuk

Back to Life / by Marisa Sullivan

Colors of rouge and peach swirl back into my fuller cheeks,
eyebrows filling like tiny weeds
My twinkled eyes now far from blind
Arms stretch overhead closer to the heavens
but feet planted more firmly to the ground
The gravity striving to steal me away has been shut down
My heart is strong, the beats more in tune
My beaming smile, it’s been awhile
My head as clear and clean as the Caribbean Sea
Legs and feet like the roots of trees holding my weight more gracefully
The distant fight a hazy dream from an endless night
Only my scar remains
Praise the angels, I’m back to life

Sereda’s Serrations / by Nicole Yurcaba

Clouds lego-stack
                                 east
                                west
                                 north
                                 south
like porous mushrooms Valentyna picks in Chornobyl’s forest
                                                        hangs for roe deer
                                                                        moose
                                                                        hedgehog on tree limbs.

She does what she thinks is right,

as does God, I guess, this afternoon
when The Sisters of Mercy sing
valentines
temples
floorshows
                 into place
                 via vinyl. Above the sky,
                                                         my grandfather gathers angels into his hands,

                                                                                  shapes them    into tight balls,
                                                                                 rolls them        across maple & pine.
                                                         The angels crash Heaven’s pearled gates,
                                                                           drunk-laugh with my grandfather—Hahaha!—
                                                                          spread their sweet-crisp wings,
                                                                           tipping off-balance
                                                                           eternity’s stirred & shaken stars.                             

Click HERE to Read the First Fifteen Days of Poetry