The 30/30 Project: March 2019

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 March 2019 are Manny Blacksher, Jill Bergantz Carley, Cortney Collins, Bethanie Humphreys, Larry Jaffe, Barb Jennes, William David Ross, and Dianna Zimmerman. Read their full bios here.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and and warm up your pen! To read more about the Tupelo Press 30/30 project, including a complete list of our wonderful volunteer poets and to read their poems, please click here.

Poem 30 / Day 30

Hills Like Galloping Horses: A Renga / by Barb Jennes, Cortney Collins, Larry Jaffe, Dianna Zimmerman, and Bethanie Humphreys

Bare trees, a rare chance
to witness the Northern Lights.
All we saw were stars.

Fire crackling, stories sent up
like invitations to dance.

We dance among those
stars eager to find lost souls
then slowly descend

Touching earth, our legs are flames;
we race across the wide plains.

On sparse plains, ancients
pulse in the ancestral light,
an echo in time.

Incantations traversing
hills like galloping horses.

Limbs stripped to lunar
ornament, full faith in spring’s
quickening marrow

Camellia State / by Manny Blacksher

I.
[. . .] while the imagination strains
after deer
going by fields of goldenrod in

the stifling heat of September
Somehow
it seems to destroy us
–William Carlos Williams, “To Elsie,” Patterson

Mary Bankhead Owen, Director of the Department
of Archives and History, let schoolchildren pick goldenrod
for the state flower. With the yellowhammer woodpecker, it was ratified
in 1927. Remarked Bankhead-Owen,
goldenrod “blooms everywhere and brightens the fall months
with its liberal plume-like flowers.” We cherished goldenrod.

In 1957, legislators reported the grievances
of Butler County ladies who thought the goldenrod “little
more than a weed.” In deference to their delicacy and horticultural
successes—triumphs which had prompted Butler County’s
Greenville to adopt the honorific “Camellia City” —
the flowering tree indigenous to Asia displaced
the goldenrod. Governor John Patterson’s second wife, Mary-Jo,
nee Reynolds, was Butler-County bred. Patterson’s infidelities
upset her, but she eventually reconciled them with
the duties of the governor’s office—much as, in his
1959 defeat by the still more virulently racist John
Paterson, George Wallace was upset he’d not proven
his populist bona fides. But long-term ambitions
for the governor’s office were reconciled with the need
to actively court the state’s local chapters of the White
Citizen’s Council. In Butler and Montgomery counties, not a few white
supremacists were gardening enthusiasts. They displayed
camellias proudly at Greenville’s annual public show.

Camellias have been cross-bred in exquisite ways by
Central-Alabama’s gardeners. The most impressive
hybrids are internationally renowned. However,
the genus Camellia encompasses a diffuse
range of plants—many inferior bloomers. In 1999,
while legislators warred skilfully to sustain their
competing patrons—first-year Democratic governor
Don Siegelman and Republican lieutenant
governor Steve Windom, bipartisan alliance formally specified
the state flower was Camellia japonica. Further,
the goldenrod was entirely banished in lieu
of a new official wildflower, the oak-leafed hydrangea.

II.
Alabama’s Heritage Camellias: A respectful model for flourishing diversity

Pride of Greenville, Alba Plena
Freedom Bell, Tricolor
Madame de Strekaloff, Nobilissima
Henderson, Ralf Peagler

Mattie Thagard, Queen Elizabeth the First
Prince Eugene Napoleon
Professor C.S. Sargent, Monarch
Inspiration, Elegans

Cornish Spring, Cornish Snow
Sarah Frost, Spring Festival
Tristrem Carlyon, Pink Perfection
Beauty of Greenville. Francie L.

Stroke, Stroke / by Jill Bergantz Carley

Russ is pacing in the back room
Russ is pacing in the back room
I cannot tell you how many treasures hundreds thousands sit in this full space
white flats taped, reused through all these years
when we bought iron pyrite,
a local delicacy,
to place at each setting at our wedding an evening glimmer straight down such a very long table Russ had urged us to bring them back–
card stock boxes we could borrow for the day but please, don’t lose

Russ is pacing in the back room
I thought I had a few good years left yet

I expected lateral weakness; I expected the loss of the use of a hand;
in the cool rhyolite I find him pacing
he tells me My hope is,
what I’m looking for can be found and he’s eighty eight, all at once; full passport, full storeroom, thousands of geode plates to hold to the light to see their color and their years and his hands can find only one to worry

The man who taught me we are all made of stone–
explaining every molecule, every crystalline part of each of us; of the minerals in a carrot, of the way metals build and build over time in all the animals we may eat

Can I translate the hardness of a blood clot to the Moh’s scale?
More or less than quartz?
More or less than a scrape across the iron with my fingernail?

I’d arrived three days too late to tape the answer to my question: how did my enhydritic agate
come to be–
tiny volume, clean water held safe in stone; he’d mined it in Brazil, inside the mountain they pull amethyst geodes from daily,
some big as me

This spring each morning Loren has spent a minute or two dredging a small lake with our red rake
continental divide outside our bedroom door

Mangroves / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Annie Finch

Water fresh with rain
to high saline

I live between
harsh extremes

Storm-lauded
neritic zone

Root-straws claw
through airless loam

Leaves secrete
salt bloom

Waves tamed
by tangled roots

When Dreams Meet Reality / by Larry Jaffe

There are some that say you dream too much
I say I don’t dream enough

               Dreams allow me to fly unburdened
They caress my consciousness with angels

They allow me to escape from this thing called reality
               Although I never really escape

It is more like a circumnavigation
of the protests that roar
outside my dreams

               Demanding I face reality
when in reality I create my own

My dreams do not intersect with reality
Instead they embrace it
And coax it into my dreams
Reshaping it to my desires

               This is reality
it proclaims

               This is my reality
I emphatically state

This is my reality

Like Wings on Birds / by Barb Jennes
for Helene and Ann Marie

She wants to know why the hawk is in a cage,
this august assemblage of talons and feathers,
hooked beak, black eyes, preternatural stare.
She wants to know why it isn’t flying
with the crows circling noisily overhead.

“It had an accident with a car,”
I say, reading from a sign.
“Look,” I say, pointing:
“she only has one wing.”

Like lightning,
I see the instant connection,
the affinity forged between
one-winged captive and this
Lilliputian empath I brought into being –
into a world where bad things happen
to beautiful birds.

A little girl who loves, loves deeply,
is a thing to fear: her heart is a
breeder reactor of compassion,
churning out hope and desire
for the miraculous, the unattainable,
a happy ending to a holocaust,
a commutation of carnage.

She wants the bird to fly.
She wants to be its second wing.

For the rest of the day, it plays across her face:
the longing, the what-ifs, the how-abouts,
the constant conjuring of Rube Goldbergian
solutions to an insoluble sorrow.

That night, asleep, the flight begins:
lids flutter like beating wings, muscles twitch,
heart pounds with the first leap off a cliff.
And I know that she is lifting the bird up,
carrying it to the clouds, soaring so high
above me she should never hear my cry.

And in that moment, I wish for her
the kind of friend that she will be:
who will fly with her through
foul play and wretchedness,
through horror and the harrowing,
the unkind and the cruel,
who will glide with her
in grace and goodness,
lifting each other ever upward,
rising to redemption
like wings on birds.

Long Night Moon / by Dianna Zimmerman

We contemplate it with a sense of
wonder, a comforting glow nestled
in dark sky. Not simply a sphere
of brittle, barren crust, but
a faithful time-keeper that lights
a path down the cobbled road,

this lustrous focus of our romance
and song rarely seen for what it is:
a four billion year-old rock.
Some say a collision took it
from its mother, Earth,
and spun it into space without
so much as a kiss goodnight.

We know our moon
has taken its licks – deep
impact craters form pools of
basaltic lava, powdery results
of clashes with meteors and comets.

Yet what we see in this
celestial body’s
gentle reflecting light
isn’t a wounded warrior;
instead, a monthly companion.

We share our lives,
know it as a friend,
an amiga we have been through
the long night with, gazing up
to the orb that pulls our tides
and rocks us in lullabies,

trying to determine which of us
circles around something
and which reflects it back.

Poem 29 / Day 29

Old Cloverdale / by Manny Blacksher

The house is full of surprises—but as usual I did everything at once and there’s nothing left for the end, except finish my story which is too good to do uninspirationally and out of sorts. (1)

I knew a couple who married at The Fitzgerald House.
—The Fitzgerald Museum, rather. With bed-and-breakfast
for enthusiasts on the Southern Literary Trail,
which, to me, sounds like how Antietam’s venerated by
Civil War buffs. Rolling green Virginian hills: tasteful manse
erected the year of Anthony Dickinson Sayre’s
appointment to the state supreme court. The couple were young
and happy to be espoused by a Unitarian
with a taste for American belles lettres, under paper
lanterns hung from magnolias and live oaks. But they left town.
He did surpassingly well; I heard him report on Gulf
Generals for Wall Street Journal on All Things Considered.
Surely, she’s had a commensurately subordinate
—but well earned—career and children and, ingeniously,
is adored multiple ways by different people. They’re
happier than First-World troubles typically permit.
They’re not careless. I’ve been careless—“carelessness” typical
of “creatives,” though no guarantor of talent, success,
or even “creativity.”

                                        The Cloverdale Land and
Development Company was chartered to engineer
a lovely, better conceived suburban home for the state
capitol’s affluent bureaucrats. It built a single
house in Eighteen-ninety-two. The next year’s investment
bubble bankrupted Cloverdale Company. Others fashioned
a golf course and tennis courts—a handful of prescient homes
like Sayre’s. In Nineteen-ten, Cloverdale voted to split
from Montgomery, become the city’s first self-governed
municipality, officed to collect and dispense tax,
unyoked from funding urban schools. Nineteen-fifteen, there were
one-hundred-and-twenty-five homes in Cloverdale. (2) Linguists
dispute “in clover”’s obscure origins. Oxford UP’s
experts note the—not astounding—opposite meanings
conjoin in “cleave”: “to violently sever” and “to adhere.”
Freud’s Nineteen-nineteen essay, “Das Unheimliche,” relates
how the Brothers Grimm, whose Household Tales, had enchanted
the world, discovered odd duplicity in the German
word for what is ‘homely’, ‘familiar’. “[H]eimlich develops
towards ambivalence, until it coincides with its
opposite, unheimlich.” By the same intimate logic,
“cleave” and “cleave” prove “uncanny.” Cloverdale cut taxable
property from the city’s income base. Yet Cloverdale
was a respectable “bedroom” community. Fathers
labored in government’s offices by day, returned
to their sanctified beds at night, where a veil’s drawn over
spousal prerogative. “A man shall leave father, mother
and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh.”
Sovereign, paternal, Cloverdale’s cleaved and cleaved again.

I saw it first in a Yorkshire churchyard, the goldgiver
honoring wifetroth. “Sylvia Plath Hughes” interred in ground
of her husband’s childhood, though he’d ordered his corpse be burned
and buried elsewhere—some other’s wild patrimony.
I cast a cold eye on what’s shared by “Francis Scott Key”
and “Zelda Sayre,” Fitzgerald realty’s family romance.
He of the bad heart. She because the asylum caught fire
before her ECT. Now in their proper place—which proved
his—they are “rich” in each other. They are in clover.
I recollect a story: the criminal is found in his
nemesis-mate’s skeletal coitus, twelve feet down a well.
Why would my friends with their minuscule sins risk their marriage
in this unhomeliest lien in forfeit Montgomery?
—Such clutch and tear, each irreconcilable cleft splinted.
They knew those lamps, the trees, that house wasn’t home. And they left.

(1) Letter, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald (Montgomery) to F Scott Fizgerald (Hollywood), Dec 1931, Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, New York: St Martin’s, 2002.
(2) “Cloverdale, Montgomery,” Wikipedia, accessed 3 March 2019.
(3) Siegmund Freud, “The Uncanny,” trans. Alix Strachey, 1919
(4) Rachel Pickering, “A Dark Water – remembering Sylvia Plath in Hebden Bridge,” The Guardian, 31 January 2013 .

Iron Lungs in America, Present Day / by Jill Bergantz Carley

I.
Sublime they
are the color of good lemon curd
neon softened by fog whipped to stiff peaks.

II.
Respironics gave them their lives
hung on ingenuity and their bellows inherited the same way
a small motor and a series of mergers led to this:
a woman and her polio on a goose down comforter inside a precious vacuum;
the year is 2019.

III.
Driving to the service on a parade morning I passed all the horses lined up
parallel to the highway, riders standing in the red dirt where the sanatorium once stood
almost my entire lifetime ago.
Plaits and saddles, hooves and hurry, hide and belt
their beautiful half-speed musclebound motors
waiting a beat
before the accordion herd opens to pulse down the street of a five block town.

The Gifts of Light / by Cortney Collins

If God had created anything but light first,
where would I have learned to hide?

Dark places, sacred
nurseries for the rebirth of light,
light born in limitless incarnations.

Every shadow a primordial template awaiting illumination,
every cave an invitation for luminescence,
every womb a stage before the curtain lifts.

Spaces to burrow, to tuck away unseen—
the gifts of light.

Man Up / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Carolyn Kizer

Two women together, one must
be the man…

She drinks IPAs, likes red meat
her steaks, rare

I open jars, drill holes
hope for power tool gifts

She needed a punching bag
throws knives in the backyard

I relocate insects, pull weeds,
mow lawns, weed whack

She wears boots with her dresses
I wear dresses with boots

She wears make-up when she feels like it
I’ve probably forgotten how

I check out night noises
answer the unexpected door

She tells the guy at the bar
fuck off

She cooks
I bake

We take turns
not doing dishes

I do laundry
She takes out the trash

She paints, wields a blow torch
I paint, wield a blow torch

Her head on my shoulder
my hand under hers

She, philosophy
Me, science

Our hair, long
We, poetry

The Friend / by Larry Jaffe

My childhood was nothing to talk about
filled with clouds of introspection
and faulty wishes without backbone
I felt small and insignificant.

I wanted to be tall
standing up for myself
not stand out in the crowd
find me through the noise.

There were dreams I forgot to dream
and relevances I found irrelevant
I needed to detach my roots
from the soil of my birth.

-O Joy – O Joy – Life consumes time
and the friend I alway sought
stared back at me from the mirror.

Unbidden / by Barb Jennes

Unbidden, she drew an angel:
sat down at the table
with a battered box of colored pencils,
set to work on her vision,
impressed me with her disregard
for seraphic stereotypes.

First: brown hair –
not a Jean Harlow tumble
of platinum tresses, Marcel-waved
to perfection, the common convention.
No: brown. Straight. Ungilded.

Next, the wings of her seraph
were lemony, leaf-like things,
veined from tip to blade,
attached to her back
like twin scuba tanks.
I silently questioned their
aerodynamics.

I asked why she gave her angel
leaves for wings.
She blew a sharp puff of breath
through disbelief-pinched lips,
momentarily blasting her bangs
from her forehead.
“Not leaves – feathers.
Feathers make you fly.”

Of course.

I wanted to ask why this angel
wore a rainbow-striped gown,
with bright bands of colors
lacing her inverted-V body,
red at the wrists and neck,
chakras turned on their heads.
I was sure that the other
celestial beings she’d encountered –
descending upon frightened shepherds,
standing beside rolled-back boulders
at Easter tombs, even hovering
behind tiny children
crossing a rickety bridge –
all wore white.

But I did not ask,
did not need to know.
All that mattered was this:
she could still imagine angels
in her world,
beings with broad J-shaped smiles,
blue eyes dancing with joy,
arms raised in jubilation,
a purple heart in the center
of their chests,
like a button holding in
a whole universe of love,
aching to be set free.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#29

Epiphany

Knock, knock…

& It is all a joke

Behind a question

& A door.

Amor / by Dianna Zimmerman

It wasn’t moss growing
on the north sides
of trees that led
me to him. Tell me
of our future, I whispered,
tell me of our past.
We would lie in bed
that way for hours,
the anonymous activity
of living surrounds us:
spore-bearing gametophytes
that flourish in the shade,

and in the sun, seeds
of future generations germinate –
glide forward on a breeze,
the steady renewal
of life. We met as
dinner party guests.
There was calabacitas,
sopapillas. We savored
the food, furtive hungering
matched with
the moment’s clarity.

Tell me of our future
I say, tell me of our past.
We carry on, he says,
every winter to spring,
when buds from
blooming trees burst,
form a ringlet of petals
that nourish the fertile ground.
Our desire for one another
can only grow, an echo
in stillness, as far reaching
as the wake of a
single skipping stone.

Poem 28 / Day 28

The Hostage Game / by Manny Blacksher

Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates. Plutarch reports, “When these men
first demanded twenty talents, he laughed [that they undervalued] their
prisoner, and engaged to give them fifty.” [. . .] [Plutarch] also tells us
Caesar insulted his captors as being too uncivilized to appreciate his poetry.
[. . .] Oh, and Plutarch [notes] that after [Caesar] was ransomed he got some
ships, raided the pirates, and had them all crucified. (1)

Alabama’s Senate has approved a bill
abolishing judge-officiated marriage
licenses. (2) Senators practiced this persiflage-
as-statute to salve the griping political will
of state sovereigntists still kicking-back at SCOTUS’
ruling gay people’s right to marry. We have free-
marketers who justify benign slavery.
We’ve also judges convinced gay love is bogus.
It’s the Chosen People’s math—older than Hume
and Plutarch. “People feel standing value has moral
weight—deviations are immoral.” (1) To presume
right reason texts decalogues with which we’ll comply
is fatal, familiar. Know we’re bound to kill you all.
Take comfort: we all could tell you were born to die.

(1) Gabriel Rossman & Megan McArdle, “Kidnapped by Pirates at Sea? Here’s
How Economics Can Save You,” The Atlantic, 8 May 2012
<https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/05/kidnapped-by-
pirates-at-sea-heres-how-economics-can-save-you/256828/ >.
(2) “Alabama Senate passes bill to end marriage licenses” Associated Press, 21
Mar 2019.

True Value / by Jill Bergantz Carley

I was 30 when I first knew the absence of no
is not the same thing as the presence of yes.
Anxiety brain overflowing I suddenly wanted a thing
I’ve always driven back: life insurance
& finding myself here it’s still hard to close the sale–
I traffic in objections; what was my own–
& not even through the ether it was clear:
What could my life possibly be worth?
& further who would take that risk
what would it be to be denied for threat
of claim much sooner than later,
set wholly aside from the dark certainty of that culmination.

I sat across the desk from someone who thought he knew my life;
he kept on offer he was sure I’d make the cut–
Jill, just answer affirmative or negative:
Do you have a blood disorder? Yes
anemic, I’m but only if treated with something other than an iron pill–
It is possible to give your blood every 56 days on the dot,
& I recommend it
but please factor in the time you’ll spend
not drinking orange juice in a small cafeteria only
but also the gurney on which you’ll lay
while a ferric infusion titrates back into you
every six months for a couple years.
Have you received treatment for your anxiety? Oh,
have I ever
& in a separate query: have you undergone a surgery–
due to your anxiety? No–
well, do you count the night I drove myself 100 miles west
searing in my side kept my mind laser fixed on the road through,
stomach a Dalmatian organ
pencil eraser-sized ulcers
a pox of worry visible
from the omentum all the way through.

Counting Sheep / by Cortney Collins

It’s not far after the landfill, eastbound.
The farm spans both sides of the highway,
the road parting dirty masses of sheep the
way the head of an axe splits birch bark.

They line up against fence lines by the hundreds,
maybe the thousands. Their heads droop toward the earth,
matted bodies motionless—not with the quivering poise
of deer pausing in a clearing,
but with sluggish resignation,
a despondent kind of stillness,
a bid for invisibility.

Some climb mounds of dirt and lift their heads
toward one of the four directions; others
crouch in the mud, eyes half closed.

Every time I drive by, I force myself to
see one. Just one. I imagine myself
looking out of soft, marble eyes,
living inside one of those woolen
bodies, feeling a muted heartbeat
underneath layers of coarse fur
dampened by late winter rain.

I wonder if I would scale a pile of sod,
collapse on the frigid ground, or
just hang my confused head through
the fence toward the trough with all
the rest.

Every time I drive by, I absorb the
suffering of just one. I let it ripple like
a shockwave through my chest
cavity; I let it stretch my capacity for
grief like a birth canal making way
for a stillborn child.

County Road 29 is the boundary
of this shapeshifting, and as I cross,
I snap back into separation,
into blindness, into podcasts and NPR.
But always, this chasm re-opens like a
trap door when I pass these rows upon
rows of souls, counting sheep.

Made Of / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Mary Zeppa

Her hands in her lemon zest,
poodles’ fur, girls’ hair. In
cinnamon apple cake, not

too early book and pen.
Made of broken jars,
ill-fitting lids, mislabeled

boxes. Made of sassy pants,
don’t watch me walk, I was
about to do that until you

told me to. Made of can’t
keep me away from water,
beach stone-filled pockets,

look at this cool stick.
Made of flash-in-the-eye
crow, hummingbird

that never lands, why can’t
I just read in bed all day.
Made of yellow bird, tree

hush, time measured by
with and without you.

What I have Learned from the Future / by Larry Jaffe
            That there is one

I have learned that by living in the future
I can better deal with the present

Because I know what has happened
before it happens

I am not predicting the future
I am living it

For is not the present
just the past tense of the future

And is not the present
always catching up with the future

As tomorrow becomes today
and today becomes yesterday

The future the guarantee of today
and tomorrow the prognostication of yesterday

And the future exists because we create it

And the future exists because we create

We Waited / by Barb Jennes
   for Maura

Waiting is a woman’s art;
we do it well. Time does not
melt in our mouths.

Mothers are the best waiters,
masters of the cryonic state,
the last holders-out of hope.

Through winters and falls,
full moons, snow, ground frozen
too hard to dig, we waited.

When we waited in summer,
we thought how soft the ground
would be for them, how warm.

In spring, we planted flowers,
hid a black dress in the back
of the closet, waited.

Lightning never strikes twice
the well-wishers said, but we’d seen
its blinding blue light. So we waited.

Waited for the knock, the ring,
the siren, the silence,
for the sympathetic voice,

for the man with his hat in his hand,
for the white-coated woman
shaking her head.

Our stomachs were alarm clocks,
waiting to awaken to an awful noise
coming from our own throats.

Our hearts were water balloons,
in a roomful of needles, pins, knives.
What could be in store for us but agony?

We were slow turtles crossing
a tarry road, waiting for a speeder
with only one hand on the wheel.

We read books, cooked dinners,
smiled for the camera, knitted,
paced like caged wolves, waiting.

Do you still wait, I wonder,
now that they have reclaimed us,
marionettes long locked in the closet,

now that they again make us dance
at the ends of strings, twirl us in sunlight,
fill us with hope?

The tiny tardigrade can survive
desiccated dormancy for a full decade,
can be sealed in a vacuum, assaulted

with radiation and crushing pressure,
then be revived with a single drop of water.
This is the work of woman who waits.

This is what a mother does.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#28

Thunder

A swallowing gust
Sounds, beyond
An unnamable
Clump of birds,
Dropped. At the molting,
Feathers
Worked & unfurled
Engraving
Cloud-hollow pressure
Over strained
Winter maple branches—
Weakening
Capos against dark sky,
Fretting
Plucked trunks, tindering,
Cautioning
A keyless, whistling,
Implying
Speed, swelling upsurge,
Deluging
Coyotes’ perked ears
With a clap,
Bearing motion, thinner
Than dusty
Soil, intangible
Gravity
Longer than vision,
Shaping space
Beyond horizons
& Seeing—
The necessary
& Graven
Air tailing,
Wingingly
Happiness
& Sanity
In that sounding.

Lust / by Dianna Zimmerman

I rode the debris of a comet,
true love crushed in my fist.
July and August’s Perseids intersecting,

eruptions that look so fiery as to be
beautiful but are really all illusion,
a short lived trail of burning light.

Poem 27 / Day 27

Songs of Transitional Objects / by Manny Blacksher

“It is true that the piece of blanket (or whatever it is) is symbolical of some part-object, such as the breast.
Nevertheless, the point of it is not its symbolic value so much as its actuality.”

–D. W. Winnicott

I am the famine at home no one feels.
I am the teeth at the tongue of the thumb.
I am the groom you betrothed to a shroud.
I am the orphan that swallows your realm.
I am the only shirt you’ll ever own.

You are the fraud I can only defend.
‘Of those bastards, you were the only decent one’, commends the friend of a friend.
You’re the long-con that ends at an empty bus locker.
The twin who’s unlike me in all ways that matter.
You are the knife in the night that completes me.

This is the this of the this of the that.
It will never stand any comparison.
Must be what can’t never before should have been.
It’s the wag of a dog who will bite.
A feather that lights on the smile of a cat.

I was the concert you played in the yard.
You clever boots who worked all my neck’s frets.
United, we now are the over for you.
We the stout dumbness bound up with one cord.
I am the lictor that shows where to hit.

Western Diamondback / by Jill Bergantz Carley

Another thing I want to tell you:
Steve wrangles rattlesnakes for a living
well, he milks rattlesnakes for antivenin but the wrangling can’t be glossed over;
it’s an important part of the job: both in acquiring the snakes, and,
when, weekly, weakly, could this be both careful and always–
coercing them to shoot their venom,
gently; would you call this gently?
into a sterile mason jar through a piece of cheesecloth.

I’d rather place the snake into the hot recess of an empty garbage can,
tarp it up in the pickup with today’s cleared brush
drive it to an open field and
tip the rim
to let it greet a new home.

Sometimes the snake is mean, sometimes the snake is long, as long as you.
One time the snake was stretched out against the weather-stripping along our front door.
I walked right over it before it began its drummed warning.
Steve was busy. He had a bathroom fulla rattlesnakes already that summer, and what was left of a marriage to sort through so I moved it away from the house but it was too mad to be contained.

I don’t know what it takes to make a hero where you live but
I live in a land where the grass is dry and tall
where we drag the grill dead center in the driveway before we light it up; our world for one spark–
this snake, we ate, barbecued,
skinned the same way you peel a banana,
only, stop me if you’ve heard this before the scales make a noise when you pull them back from the meat of it;

it’s the sound of you unzipping your tight jeans,
shedding them in the summer heat to go for a swim,
languorous in the pool, burned and buoyant,
a friend raking the coals and putting back another beer
snake steaks writhing
in their marinade.

Ars Poetica: Poem as Paradox / by Cortney Collins

A square dance in the zen-do,
        a promenade to satori.

An experiment without a hypothesis,
        a spontaneous explosion in the chemistry lab.

A nocturnal creature with a blazing third eye,
        wearing a monocle.

A bridge over a bridge,
        sometimes called a parable.

A tunnel through a tunnel,
        sometimes called a koan.

A blueprint as a destination,
        engineered for sudden revelation.

A grasshopper on a trampoline,
        a cloud on a feather.

A mountain highway with a treble clef for a guardrail,
        lost notes spilling into the canyon below.

A set of encyclopedias,
        used as kindling for a universal language.

A controlled burn in a ditch,
        the water that rushes through that same canal.

An abrasion and an emollient,
        a fracture and a mending.

A confusion.
A disorientation.
A homing.

It is viscera and epidermis.
It is a nightclub in Venice,
        a café in Samoa.
It is a cherub with silver hair,
        a sage with rosy cheeks.

Peppermint balm or packing peanuts in a cardboard box,
        it expands or contracts,
        breathes or asphyxiates,
        embraces or batters,

        and sometimes both.

 

Not the Same / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Denise Levertov

searching for the hive
door, does honey glint
unlit
holding not the same
as being
still
flooded with busy
understudied
pale-sketch
where words go
otter stone, slick-paw
improvise bee gum
from what hollow
trunk
wax-to-brim
hexagonal prism
travel-stained
cells
worth guarding
holding, not being
hold, be
trade paper for wax
wasp for bee

Father to Son / by Barb Jennes
after Jamaica Kincaid; for Andrew L.

This is how you pack a snowball so it’ll go the distance; this is how you put a worm on a hook; this is how you pray at night; this is how you lift up your voice in church; this is how you skate backwards, shifting your weight from side to side; this is how you cut your meat so your mother doesn’t know that it’s tough; this is how you rake leaves into a pile and jump in; this is how you mourn a fish, a dog, a cat, a friend; this is how you stand up to a bully, even if it’s your father; this is how you earn your allowance; this is how you earn respect; this is how you do the laundry, make your bed, tie a tie; this is how you play a sonata, no, even slower and with more feeling; this is how you shake hands so they’ll know you are stalwart and true; this is how you talk to a girl so she’ll like you; this is you talk to a policeman so he won’t give you a ticket; this is how you mow the lawn before you can go to the prom; this is how you parallel park without sideswiping the other car; this is how you contact your insurance company if you do; this is how you change a tire on a hill; this is how you change your mind before you do something stupid; this is how you pay your bills; this is how you pick up the tab; this is how you keep a poker face; this is how you relieve the hang-over you’re not supposed to have; this is how you spoon with the woman you love; this is how you kiss the back of her neck over the sink so that she’ll relent; this is how you hold a baby so it can feel your heartbeat through your naked skin; this is how you warm a bottle at night and test it on your inner-wrist, the tender spot where she tickles you with her fingernail when you’re coiled together on the couch; this is how you forgive your mother for her sadness, your father for his weakness; this is how you admit that you were wrong; this is how you lie and say it doesn’t matter; this is how you bear the unbearable; this is how you recite a poem that pounds like a second heartbeat in your chest; this is how you sleep with your eyes open; this is how you fall to your knees from the beauty; this is how you love like the blue, unrelenting flame of a Bunsen burner; this is how you thank stars that died a million years ago for their weak, improbable light; this is how you weep; this is how you curse that you will die; this is how you pack a prayer so it’ll go the distance; this is how you wait for it to come back.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#27

Through Root & Sky

The iris opened,
my words stayed tight. Her trust,
a butterfly’s life.

I bare my failures.
Ask her to believe in hope—
pitch works through a tree.

Japanese beetles
whirring on my window screen
also hear something.

I retract, honestly
I never did . . . this never—
a stone split water.

Earth is the only
tradition without a lore—
leaves against the ground.

I don’t invest time
to catalog place with dates—
deer nightly made bed.

Commit to the page
the words for her stayed review—
ripe apples’ bruises brown.

I’ve told her something
taken that story away—
that short, a fly’s death.

This morning wakes loud
birds, traffic, & my grief—
turtles scrape their chests.

Strength in any news
after a false report—mock
orange mulely blooms.

Branches’ apex out
reaching the crotch at the stem—
words disappoint me.

Lantern—bear paws at the trees.
I hold her no more.
Midnight starved for moon.

Roots always packed
by dirt, a darker air. Rain
on both tree & root.

Sparrows’ wings beat beams
in an abandoned barn. Dirt
wedged under my nails.

Wooden shack pelted
with fallen cherries—her face
holds no adjectives.

Barren apple orchard
limbs squeeze the horizon—hairs
of autumn evening.

Only twelve days passed.
Not a season; yet the ash
sent of winter fires.

Alone on Mill Pond,
the cold, the strength of the ice
gauged by me, alone.

Lines, lines, lines; again
lines. Even the great redwoods
long for the earth’s bed.

Tributary stream
leaving the lake—open eye
of the resting dog.

Slat block on the fence
where the crow won’t l&; I sigh
from setting new posts.

Late to pick her up,
I’m told she already left—
a heron lifts its legs.

Hair dangles—pulled roots:
not the willow, not sumac,
not geranium.

Gravel bank, the pond
laps in spring, is still all winter—
the gravel stays rough.

 

Offland / by Dianna Zimmerman

We cautiously witness a struggle of wills between red-winged blackbirds and gale wind.
Boat-bound, perched on seat wells, we’re buffeted from each other with life jackets, intimate strangers afloat in disjointed sea.

Our eyes reflect the water’s glides and gentle rises. A sudden gust slices the air, disconcerts. You search for a landmark, a coastal-bound tree. I stand too quickly, rock the boat as I scan for shore.

Horizontal pressure generates waves that climb the sides. I wrestle Beaufort’s force scale, determine the speed-current propelling our brow-bottomed craft. You unknot the sail, steady the sway.

The westerly        persists                    hovers         between us,           furiously
        intangible.           It dips,           laps the gunwhale trim
and roars               indifferent                            to our palatable fear.

There are broken whitecaps in front. A self-immolating wake revolves behind us as we struggle against the elements: water, wind. Propinquity. A flag unfurls on the shoreline, looming in the misty distance. We are relieved for separate reasons, pulled as close as the tides. Offland, adversity brings unity.

Poem 26 / Day 26

Reveries of a Champion Shelby County Swim Coach / by Manny Blacksher
—After Alabama Poet Laureate Samuel Minturn Peck’s
                   “I Love the Shadows Best” (1886)

School employees in Alabama were accused or convicted of sex crimes with students
more frequently than in any other state on a per capita basis in 2014, according to records
compiled by a former chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Education. (1)

 

Too many lights and faces has
the auditorium.
I dread the grins and gladhands ceded
to the paps and moms.

Inside the pump room’s booming might,
the diver stroking out of sight.
Yet I love the showers best,
a burning face against my chest,
damp shoulders where my hands may rest.

 

(1) Stephen Dethrage, “Alabama has the highest rate of teacher-student sex, former top education official says,” AL.com, 14 Jan. 2015

 

Recipe for Enhydritic Agate / by Jill Bergantz Carley

Pour a season worth of water through an ash sieve the color of skim milk being poured, stream nearly translucent, tinged with blue.

Cover and let it come to rest on a bed of chalcedony, a rock like quartz and also like opal but neither transparent nor translucent; wait until the boil dies down and it will crystallize; a bite through warm tortellini, salt & savor, fine grain, al dente until it cools.

Listen, it sounds lovely but this next part can be deadly: add rhyolite. Smooth dry and thirsty for moisture it’s Pompeii without a city; it’s Vesuvius south of the equator: add rhyolite, a fine silt, what erupts from a volcano when a volcano does not belch forward the fire we expect, it’s like saffron a little goes a long way but if you can afford it well you might as well go all in. Wait a few million years, until you can hold a palm to it without being singed, then carve it slowly, snow globe of a disaster, quiet even through its own birth, cleave to it, weight in your hand, beauty and bubbling it is a miracle we waited for long enough– serve carefully this yield of stone.

Translucence/Where to Look for a Poem / by Cortney Collins

The opacity of water morphs, depending on the force with which the prevailing winds blow.
A rush of air clouds the surface, chop obscuring signs of life even a few inches below.
          Relentless force, the cult of Busy. Trade winds gathering strength,
          greying the sea, equator blurred like charcoal smeared in a hasty sketch.

 

underneath                         live           creatures,      as if        everything

        is a timeless                       pause, everything                 is negative space;

        truth                                    wends through the reefs                 and settles

 

    in the gap                                                                     in the chasm between stars.

 

The surface is always diaphanous but the elements conspire to make it seem otherwise.

Sky Pilot / by Bethanie Humphreys

you colonize stone

stark, soil-less ledge

prefer heights

most will never climb

deep-blue moonburst

lure your pollinators

for one wild-day

urine-scented bliss

The Secrets of Trees / by Larry Jaffe

I am told that trees
do not keep secrets well
I beg to differ as trees
have always been my best friends
they have kept my confidences
close to their limbs

Trees have a righteous outlook on life
as they stand so majestic
mighty and strong
and they tend to exude calm
you can trust trees
and look up to them

Trees appear to be filled with solitude
but that is simply an illusion
to those that cannot hear them
Trees happen to be rather gregarious
if one were to simply listen
to their almost silent murmurings
with their fellow trees.

Trees listen with a hearing so acute
that it is no wonder that some folks
take exception to their role in life
many run by them scared
that their own secrets
will be revealed
falling to prying eyes errr ears

But as I said
trees keep secrets perfectly well
they retain what we tell them
and never question your authority
or sit on judgement of your beliefs

Personally
I prefer trees to most people

Please Speak of the Flame / by Barb Jennes
after Nick Flynn; for Noah

promise me, I said, you won’t let go / promise me
you are not a day that ends too soon

what I meant was stay / find a cloud
and watch it move. Choose a tree, I said

and see it to the end, until leaves
burst from each branch tip / then fall

and burst again / until you count them all /
they are worth the wait to count

please speak of the flame / please say the word alive
please tell me you are the wick

the passage is dark without a candle / empty and long
I hear ghosts in your room at the end of the hall

I hear your first squawk at birth / say yes
and keep counting keep counting keep counting

please can we start again – I say

sorry about the glass between us / not windows /
sorry I couldn’t see you through it

I see you now / my heart is a bowl / drink drink
there are more leaves than we can ever count

but let’s start / start again /
then we’ll count all the letters in all the books

I’ll read you a holy word that makes us whole /
call me your windsock your mirror your match

blazing now, call me your kedge anchor /
a cable long enough, the freedom full enough

but always a way out of strangled channels /
always a way to haul yourself home

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#26

À La Folie

He leans back,
She reaches for
What he imagines
Are bath salts

In quilted light
As Shadows tip
Kimono behind
Which her body

Sculpts shoulders,
Breasts arching
Tiny bridges
Heavy & buoyant

Outline against
Her window curtains;
But when he turns
Back to writing,

Another ephemeral
Screen separates
Her nudity
From his.

Heart Murmur / by Dianna Zimmerman

The doctor informed me.
It whispers its rumors, like
tiny echoes that tickle my chest,
fused alongside the precise
knocks of regularity.

I began to question its origin story –
was it caused by my love of finer
things – beer, wine, pizza & fast food,
or possibly caffeine’s buzzy start
to my every-morning bliss.

Perhaps the key is genetic inheritance,
a distant unknown warrior
tag-popping DNA down the family line,
calling out its lineage
like a lion’s roar across the plain.

The answers to these questions remain
a mystery. For now, it beats steady,
its complaint merely innuendo, the occasional
grumbling shwa a reminder to me
that the heart can protest.

Poem 25 / Day 25

Alabama Jubilee, Mobile Bay, 1867 / by Manny Blacksher

“Go home to your wives and your children, your friends and your neighbors, and say, rejoice and sing, for your liberty and equality is now founded upon a rock, it is a part of the Constitution of the State.”
—Elisha Wolsey Peck, chairman of the Alabama Constitutional Convention of 1867

Best of days. While flounders flip-flop
the dunes, blue crabs scale tree stumps, I’ll esteem
fool’s eloquence. Elisha, you’re the mock
upon which we build our world upside-down,
I’ll don your Phrygian cap for Freedmen’s
holiday. We’ll goad the Grand Old Party,
forgive debts of blood and soil, copulate—
Liberty’s darlings—new nations out of one.
And as demersal people find, we climb
a few golden hours, crowding inland,
blown, the tide behind. Here’s One-legged Joe
gigging cats on his pole. Grim Deacon Jones’
fishing men by the pail. Old Bay don’t smell
of victors’ wreaths. Boiled whole, your joke is told.

Heavy Duty Reliquary / by Jill Bergantz Carley

I’ll tell you about a batholith.
Bulk of mountains a single structure made of granite,
cooled in the earth’s mantle for millions and millions of years
and then pushed to the surface.

The backbone of my state was born premature,
heart of heat crystallizing in the belly of the world.

Near here there is a magma cast of an entire river.
I’ll tell you how it happened;
there was the lava crowding out the water running headlong fifty miles,
teapot tipped, cup overflowing,
then erosion carving through the soil soft surrounding it
the once-river’s new flow firm like the pit of a cling peach.

Tell me, please, the story of what happened
to each fish held in those waters, evaporating
spherical lenses untrained to this novel aberration.
I picture a coelacanth cast in homemade plaster.
I picture the predecessors of crawdads settling,
amniotic aufferous gravels,
perfectly born, but still.

No Accident / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Mary Oliver

 

Furred hills green

delight pops orange

yellow, purple bowls

interruption sings

my reverie

 

How many blades

on one grassy hill

how many worlds

in one withered stalk

 

Ladybug crawls

to grass tip

just to feel

it bend

 

No accident

there are two

arcing near

Sun cloud-ringed

we, blades

melody

Times 0ut / by Larry Jaffe

These are the times
that I wish were not now
              we have come across
the holy crucifixion
only to be denied salvation
              we have sought god
when god was us
              we tremble at the footsteps to Eden
              only to worry ourselves sick with fear

 

What is to come of the infatuated
              who wonder at their very footsteps
              and seek help at every corner
                            despite help deceiving them at every turn

 

We procrastinate our existence
              and prolong ecstasy without taking pills
              instead we turn to demagogues
                            to turn our pages

 

Now
              it is up to the unruly mob
              to pursue a leader
              even if it is only pretense

Change / by Barb Jennes
for Mary N., who’s not quite sure how she feels about it.

The dog is changing her coat.
I’ve decided to look at it this way:
that she has changed her mind
about the exact heft of fur
she prefers at the moment,
rather than seeing it as
a seasonal alteration
foisted upon her.

Likewise, Pekin ducklings
at around eight weeks of age
note that their dandelion down
is perhaps a bit garish, gauche
(at least for one
of Long Island breeding)
and prickle up with white pinfeathers
to eradicate Easter’s ambiance.

When a Lipizzaner, born black,
finally grasps the import of its
heritage – Spanish Riding School,
dressage dating back to
ancient Greece, a bloodline traceable
to one of just eight stallions –
they take it upon themselves to change
their coat to a most distingué shade
of nearly white pearl-grey.

I change lanes, change dentists,
change my underwear, change sheets,
change lightbulbs, vitamins, channels,
change my mind, my opinions, my age,
all with delirious ease and frequency,
opting always for something cleaner,
kinder, speedier, more suitable.

Change is to be embraced as
movement, an evolution
from mediocre to modish,
hackneyed to haute,
just as those Middle English
wordsmiths clearly understood.

Everyone needs change:
just look at planet Earth.
All that stable-climate stasis
was so, so dull, so she
decided to mix things up,
add some gusto with flooding,
fires, drought, rising seas.
And this being only her Sixth Extinction –
in, what, four billion years? –
you can’t exactly call her fickle.

She just needs a change –
like a pup who decides
her coat is too damned warm,
a woman grown world-weary
of all that callow youth,
a horse that changes color
in mid-stream.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#25

Papier Collé

The yellowed mattress dumped on Avenue C
By the genuine draft that moved in & out only now
Resembles flowers never brought home from the deli.
One missing eye tooth, without a hint of regret

Like the genuine draft that moved in & out, only now
Braids her Pyrenees drawl with a constant whistle.
One missing eye tooth, without a hint of regret
As a fat lip welled a smudge across her mouth,

Braids with her Pyrenees drawl. Constant whistles
Turned her head in a bewitched mirroring of Jeanne Duval
As a fat lip welled a smudge across her mouth.
An ambivalent flat-foot stumbled into view on 12th street

Turned her head in a bewitched mirroring of Jeanne Duval;
As her pupils did the rumba shifting as patrons just leaving a movie.
An ambivalent flat-foot stumbled into view on 12th street
& Saint Mark’s Place was astir with incensed, tawny hair

As her pupils did the rumba shifting as patrons just leaving a movie.
Like a skirt snagged in a cab door sidewalks glimmered with thighs,
& Saint Mark’s Place was astir with incensed, tawny hair
& Spring resolves of love sunk with September thistledown.

A skirt snagged in a cab door; sidewalks glimmered with thighs.
Walking alone I begged the question, Looking for a date?
A Spring resolves of love sunk with September thistledown.
Early morning clouds hung to dry in black & white negatives.

Walking alone I begged the question, Looking for a date?
The muddle of sixty dollars & all my pardons,
Early morning clouds hung to dry in black & white negatives.
Lifting almost as air before an electric storm during

The muddle of sixty dollars, all my pardons
Stilled in a fly-paper sweat. A single light on a post
Lifts almost as air before an electric storm during
A fable twisting her honor with her skirt that wears

In a fly-paper sweat. A single light on a post
Resembles flowers never brought home from the deli.
A fable twisting her honor with her skirt wears
Like the yellowed mattress dumped on Avenue C.

Decomposition / by Dianna Zimmerman

After communing with her,
mother earth shares a tactile wound.
Dig into the course surface,
rub the decaying loam between fingers,

realize this loss is deeper, more primal,
the way the night echoes black
with the bones of infants we bury,
lined up as a pattern of runes.

The day is for O’Keefe’s cow pelvis,
glaring white and oversized,
a hollow recollection of life.
The ravenous desert expands
as words stutter into silence.

The pond water choked, its poison
clutched in cold depths. Memories of
a child’s laughter ripple further out,
fading with the secrets of stamina.

The ground trembles with
extinction’s fiery approach.
Vitality slips into shadow,
to a rushing river
where myths of hell are formed.

The mountains, elders
on our mother’s back, endure,
stoic with certain assuredness.
Instead of white they are green, ancient,
and unmoved to pity by what they see.

Poem 24 / Day 24

Briar Rose / by Manny Blacksher

Prickly, regal, tangled, fierce, and grown
to hardihood, you pace the pavements
like a duelist itching to clear some debts
with a welsher. Austere and all alone,
resentment scuffs your boot heels in a street
outside a block of shabby-genteel flats
that housed the carriage-trade. The Sassenachs
and pencil-dicks hold title on the sweet

briar. Only mockingbirds remember
your granddaddy’s handsome face. Turtle
doves recall the blushing Baptist minister
who pined away, confounded by the lashes
and French laces great-grandmother nettled
suitors with, and sing her deathbed wishes.

Santa Cruz, June / by Jill Bergantz Carley

North on Highway 1:
two carfuls of cousins
snuggled into marriages, engagements and careers
& somehow all at once,
alone together for the very first time in all their years.

For this thanksgiving we would choose
vanilla swirled, crisp hollow cone
stiff wind up from the beach,
tattling every sneaky drip of ice cream from each other’s mouths.

Feast first; we’re trained, just as is everyone who has sprung from our well
to an arc of strangers queued for a stampede in the round;
each wooden horse, lacquer cracked,
gold plating long worn off from every pole,
we keeled with centrifugal force,
right arms reaching for a polished heavy loop:
the brass ring exactly none of us would let slip to the ground.

Access: Ars Poetica / by Cortney Collins

An award-winning photojournalist once told me

anyone can learn to take a good photo.

It’s not technique.

It’s access.

Access:

to a riot breaking out on an angry street.

to a woman who has just lost her finger
climbing over a chain-link fence
to cross the border in Texas.

to the dusty rubble,
and everything beneath,
moments after a bomb
has incinerated a home.

to a sun-washed bedroom
where a seven year old child
has just died of cancer
in his mother & father’s arms.

Poetry is not metaphor and meter,
allegory and alliteration.

Poetry is access.

Access:

to the hobbies of protozoans.

to the color of chlorophyll.

to the love you secretly yearn for
but know will destroy you.

to enough magic to bring
your cat back from a velvet
bag of ashes embroidered
with his name.

A poem can only be

what it can access.

Magicicada / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Muriel Rukeyser

I spent more than seventeen years
underground; I understand your cycle.
I, too, fed on tree roots, instars 1-5.

Were I to emerge one spring evening
when soil temp is just so, I would hide
in synchronicity.

Emerge with other nymph, tremendous
in number, designed to overwhelm,
survival by predator satiation.

Climb a nearby tree, molt one last time.
Eclose red-eyed, pale, darken within the hour,
wait for exoskeleton to harden, wings orange-
veined, translucent.

Look for you in the chorus tree
where they call pharaoh…carve our Vs
in trees, and disappear for another
seventeen.

Peter Pan Revisited / by Larry Jaffe

I don’t know how to grow old
gracefully or otherwise

It’s not something
they teach you in school

There is no course called
Growing Old Gracefully 101

Not that I would take it
were there such a course
perennial dropout that I am

So I choose to not
not get older
only wiser

I choose freedom
over indentured servitude

I choose art
over commercial exploitation

And I choose to stay young
like Peter Pan

And never grow up

Not Sons / by Barb Jennes

On certain Saturdays,
our father would load
his disappointment of daughters
into the back of the Chevy
and drive to the hardware store,
alleging a need for glazier’s putty,
a half-pint of stain, galvanized
screws, a plumbing snake.

What he needed, really,
was to be among men
who smelled of sawdust and turpentine,
who worked with cracked hands
and holstered claw hammers in
loops on their carpenter’s pants,
whose talk was as straight
as a plumb-bob line.

While we three plunged our hands
into bins of cold roofing nails,
collected rainbows of paint chips,
flung our knees over the
loading dock’s dirty edge,
he stood, arms akimbo,
rocking from heel to ball,
punctuating loud chatter
with louder guffaws,
talking with men who did not
sit behind desks all week,
sweating, spitting, swearing –
longing to belong.

Our father did not belong,
not there, not anywhere,
not really: he was an outlier who
knew things, recalled things,
that no one else could,
a vacuum tube of memory –
could retell Civil War battles
as if he had stood
at the edge of Antietam,
knew the gauges of railroads and guns,
could name the craters of the moon,
the rifts and trenches of seas,
memorized the genus and species
of every tree on his land,
the cultivars of tomatoes,
capital cities, classical music.

What he did not know
was how to love and be loved
by this trilogy of little girls,
spinning, churning,
an Ezekiel’s Wheel
of elbows and knees,
not devils, but not sons,
not a damnation but neither
a deliverance from aloneness,
from standing at the edge
of Antietam each day,
not a Yankee, not a Rebel,
not dead,
not quite alive.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#24

Promiscuous Makeup

As each word is sloppily passing to its addressee
Slighted with a Hopper knob-less stupor,
Take up your discombobulation with le mot juste
Like a bull in a china shop. The maligned boy

Slighted with a Hopper knob-less stupor
Wanted to love you enough to tie you up, but could not.
Like a bull in a china shop the maligned boy
Waiting to rise out of the jaundiced ashes burying him

Wanted to love you enough to tie you up, but could not.
Love is a rebellious bird at the corolla of morning glory
Waiting to rise. Out of the jaundiced ashes burying him
Your hard-won victories will only be provisional;

Love is a rebellious bird. At the corolla of morning glory
The sun galvanized the flowers with the warmth of clichés.
Your hard-won victories will only be provisional,
“Candid” moments fungible as money and time.

The sun galvanized the flowers. With the warmth of clichés
You replaced the kissed lipstick quietly prefabricating
“Candid” moments. Fungible as money and time
The bucket-brigade of words tell how easily things are

Replaced. The kissed lipstick quietly prefabricating
Sturdier designs in the world to see where it all leads.
The bucket-brigade of words tell how easily things are
Still tampering with our hearts. At what point should we veto

Sturdier designs in the world? To see where it all leads
Watch for normativity sleek as a good doorknob.
Still tampering with our hearts, at what point should we veto
Him or her? Troublesome calculations spangle this

Watch for normativity. Sleek as a good doorknob
He tastes himself on your tongue. For whom does he yearn:
Him or her? Troublesome calculations spangle this
Central penumbra between the goose and the gander.

He tastes himself on your tongue. For whom does he yearn?
Take up your discombobulation with le mot juste
A central penumbra between the goose and the gander.
As each word is sloppily passing to its addressee.

Bocce / by Dianna Zimmerman

Life lessons learned from bocce ball:

No matter how accurately you line it up, sometimes the ball doesn’t roll straight.

As soon as you get your ball into perfect position, someone comes along and knocks it out.

Trickster wrist flicks and ball spins can work to your advantage or doom you, depending on the earth’s gravitational rotation, the sun’s energetic particle output, and Jupiter’s Gallilean moon’s orbital spin at that precise moment in Zulu time.

Jammin’ tunes make your ball fly faster, especially the Fab Four. Singing helps you win. The louder you sing, the greater your chances. Dance at your own risk, as you may incur bocce wrath and curse your team.

You can’t shot-put the bocce ball, no matter how much tequila you drink.

When you think you’re winning is when you lose, and vice-versa. Or not.

Never kiss the bocce ball for luck. It objects. The small yellow ball craves attention, however. Little scamp.

If the men are on one side and the women on the other, enemy camps have been staked. Both are equally adept at bocce ball, and only one side utilizes the little measuring-cup-thingy.

True bocce experts do not exist. If they think they exist, beguile them with another beer.

If you feel warm, you may have contracted

Bocce Fever. I think it’s going around.

Poem 23 / Day 23

Why Southern Women Love Serving Chicken Salad / by Manny Blacksher

1. You can throw in whatever you have on hand
Chicken salad is a blank canvas for all sorts
of ingredients and flavors. (1)
                           [W]hat appeared defects
                           of society as it stood were actually
                           necessary forms of social discipline to guide
                           the human race’s upward evolution. (2)

—Chicken salad is a blank canvas for all sorts
of ingredients and flavors. (1)
                           Enlightenment theorists had rejected
                           justifications of inequality based
                           on right derived from the inheritance of caste—
                           fictionalized descent. But they held the line
                           at what one had gained via one’s own hands and one’s own
                           talents in the society in which one
                           lived: that one had a clear right to. (2)

2. It can be decadent or healthy [. . . L]ight as you please. (1)
                           “The law of competition… is here; we cannot evade it; no
                           substitutes for it have been found; and while the law
                           may be sometimes hard for the individual, it
                           is best for the race, because it insures
                           survival of the fittest in every department…” (Andrew Carnegie) (2)

Or not at all. (1)
                          For most of the rich, however,
                          they were another ideological justification that
                          those who are rich should hold what they have: what Galbraith
                          described as “the search for a superior
                          moral justification for selfishness.” (2)

3. It’s a great use for leftover chicken Southern
women do not like to waste food.
                          The problem was Malthusian—people, especially
                          “the unproductive,” had too much freedom to have children
                          and to draw on public support. (John Stuart Mill) (2)

It’s a genetic thing. (1)
                          The solution was “the increase of mankind shall be under
                          the deliberate guidance of judicious foresight…”
                          with workers’ prisons for those bankrupt: “support accompanied with restraints
                          on their freedom, restricted indulgence, enforced rigidity of discipline…” (John Stuart Mill) (2)

4. It comes together in minutes Just chop and stir (1)
                          Andrew Carnegie was willing to ride to the end
                          of the trollycar line: once one had demonstrated
                          fitness by becoming rich the only appropriate
                          use of wealth was to give it away [. . .] (Andrew Carnegie) (2)

—no stove required. (1)
                          to advance the public good rather than to consume
                          or bequeath it, for “he who dies rich dies disgraced.” (Andrew Carnegie) (2)

5. You can eat it anytime (1)
                          By and large the “middle class” in terms of wealth has
                          always been a multi-generational
                          phenomenon: several generations of secure
                          middle-class incomes are required to build up
                          middle-class wealth stock. FDR’s New Deal and post-war
                          vision facilitated an asset-based white middle class that
                          cumulatively built wealth and passed it on to heirs. (3)

       Today, hundreds of years removed from chattel
       slavery, there has virtually never been a
       substantive black middle class when defined by wealth. (4)

And there’s no better way to upgrade a cocktail
hour than a little bowl of chicken salad
with crackers and crudités. (1)

I am against the government of the United
States in the name of civil rights trying to control
the property rights of people, and I feel the so-called
Civil Rights Act is not in the interest of any
citizen of this country, regardless of race. I think
it infringes upon the property right system.
(George Corley Wallace) (5)

(1) Lisa Cericola, “Why Southern Women Love Serving Chicken Salad,” Southern Living
(2) Bradford DeLong, “The Disjunction Between Production and Distribution: An Outtake from ‘Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016′,” Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality
(3) Bradford DeLong, Plug for Darrick Hamilton, Racial Equality is Economic Equality, Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality, 19 March 2019
(4) Darrick Hamilton (quotation), Racial Equality is Economic Equality, Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality, 19 March 2019
(5) George C. Wallace, Hear Me Out (Anderson, SC: Drake House Publishers, 1968), pp.17-18 in Marianne Worthington, “The Campaign Rhetoric of George Wallace in the 1968 Presidential Election,” The Upsilonian, Vol. 4, Summer 1992.

AMA / by Jill Bergantz Carley

It’s the hottest day of the year.

She’s driving around with a trunk full of dill pickles
& what could be a superbloom of botulism.

In line at the bank, she hugs me and says
guilt and fault go together;
she’s realized it just now
telling no one in particular with her arms around me, python tight
testing the words for heat on her tongue
as we wait in line, endorsements & account numbers ready.

This is the woman who once, who more than once,
pitched an entire girls softball game drunk,
pitches lobbed toward each preteen
slowly, making contact with a leg,
with a hand– take a base, take a base,
run after run walked in.

In the stands we’re nursing Diet Cokes
on a morning already shimmering,
watching this play itself out,
static spears awaiting in their brine.

Unnumbing, Undrugging / by Cortney Collins

A waterlogged teabag hangs from my throat                and steeps in my chest cavity.

Matcha, green energy spiking
in the alveoli of my lungs,
coins clinking in a casino,
currencies exchanged.
Excess moisture drips and cools
on the surface of a rib.
Musty, dark tea,
silted leaves settling
on a diaphragm that forgets
to move. When it finally rises,
the leaves stir and shift
and breathe exhilarating
and terrifying futures.

A censer on a chain swings from my throat                and clouds my torso with incense.

Fragrance suffocates; the holiness
of every encounter chokes the airways.
Thick, soupy beauty:
children playing baseball and
pianos playing hymns.
Smoke inhalation dizzies the mind
and moistens the eyes. Piercings
of metal, wood, and music
ventilate, vapor shooting out
of a tea kettle.

A quartz pendulum dangles from my throat                and hums in the direction of yes.

It tunes to the jingle of a
Navajo dancer’s dress; it resonates
to the beat of a hammer
forging an assault rifle into
a gardening tool. It vibrates
to the rhythm of a galloping colt
under an eastern moon.
Thrumming and buzzing,
guests at a wedding gasping
when the bride bolts
out of the church
in bare feet chasing
her freedom into the street.

 

Goldfish / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after April Ossmann

I’ve swallowed my last
feeling, supple-bodied
tail-ward tendon and scales

Not the most hydrodynamic
but also not inclined
to lie on the floor, inspire
a flounder’s migrating eye

They’ve outlawed goldfish
bowls in Rome, for their cruelty

When it grays in dark
a fish must compromise
between thrust and drag
to move at all

Lateral motion can disrupt
the boundary layer

Undulatory motion
muscles contract sequentially
to generate backward-moving
wave of body bending
pushes against water
against throat, fins pierce

and I can’t breathe
past this golden lump
and I swear this is the last
time

We Hold Hands While We Dream / by Larry Jaffe

Tonight when I got into bed
You were already asleep
I slid next you
Facing you and
Put my hand on yours
Our finger tied knots
Knowing our marriage
Was forever
I fell asleep
Holding your hand
I did not want to lose you
To someone else’s dream
I fell asleep holding your hand
So we would share our dreams

Death Cleaning / by Barb Jennes
for Mary W.

The name alone horrifies, invokes
images of the Grim Reaper, berobed
from faceless head to unseen toe,
taking a broom to basement, attic,
closet and cupboard, sweeping
everything into a black dumpster,
while we stand by, aghast, gutted,
groundless to argue
for this Art Deco ashtray or that
fox stole with working jaws.

Yes, we’ve called the Salvation Army,
have ordered a truck and two strong men
to cart away emptied china cabinets
and concave-cushioned chairs,
have hauled trunksful of trappings
to Good Will, have worn out
our welcome at the thrift shop
with bottomless bags of
78-rpm records, musty coats,
half-empty address books,
mismatched china.

But there is still so much more,
so much we cannot surrender –

For you and I know the power
of things resonant
with the inexplicable:
the energy left behind
by a loved one’s hand,
an atomic-level aura
of an existence that once was
but is no more.
It is all that we have left
in the end,
this electric echo –
all besides gauzy flickers
of failing memory
and the inanimate things
themselves.

My neighbor, a widower,
vows proudly that his house
will be so death-cleansed
by the time he kicks the bucket
that his daughter’s only worry
will be to return the library book
laid to rest on the little table
near his head the night he died.

No, my dear sir, no:
you will call to her from
the charged chattel that remains.
Your grieving daughter
will climb the threadbare stair,
touching a finger to
each frayed fiber,
searching for the weight
and friction of your foot there;
will lay in your bed,
urgent to absorb the last calorie
of your evanescing warmth;
will sniff deeply of the book’s cover
her nose a forensic tool
to sweep your marooned cells
into her being;
will open to the bookmarked page
to read and reread the lines where
your eyes last lingered,
imagining she is the ink
of the words last seen by you,
imagining you are reading
the rest of the book
to her
aloud.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#23

Questioning Archetypes
for & of the Students of BBHS BTE

Every lost & found student, I consider
Consummate, inscrutable strays & my kin

In the journey through constant hunger & clinging
To a random place & hoping someone comes

Looking & that singular intent is all we need
To breathe a devout communion & many times

Sanctuary’s grace gathers & comes from being sought.
We hound each other for buried things & aspire,

Covetously, for our every bone & perception
To be treasured & precious doors someone has tried

To unlock &; therefore, we will be openly
Appreciated & will be saved from an interning

Fear of meaninglessness & we will be cured
Of our deep & abundant want for usefulness

In this “god forsaken” & miraculous world.
& The human condition too often uses us,

Child & adult, as a thing, a possession;
& When we buy into that status, as a product,

You & I become greedy, solely desiring,
Which means we sell our lives as cheap & shoddy wares.

& We have no pathway to bridge our own goals.
Sadly, humans labor much more to crush coal & form

Nature into plastic & to seize silver, gold
Than we do to fan the wind & hear the chanting

Of your temporal, fragile, & urgent aspirations
& Intonations. We hardly notice where you are

& what you truly are buried under. Unawares then,
Are we handing you a cruel & cold archetype… for success?

Lessons / by Dianna Zimmerman

She was a holocaust survivor
although I don’t remember
how I knew this and at the time
had no idea what that meant.
I was six and taking swimming lessons
at the high school pool, vast and falsely blue.

I was in tadpoles, never made it
to guppies level. Instructor Clara
wore a matronly one-piece swimsuit
and maybe she liked working with us,
a generation concerned with Kool-Aid
and Scooby Doo, although we knew
nothing about endurance, only
that there was no-nose-pinching
under her watch.

She taught us to exhale underwater,
perhaps the force of pushing it out
the same way she learned to survive
the concentration camp,
deliberate,           measured –
only to spend her later years with children
who saw a somber woman
but took no real note of it,
who recognized the sparkle
of kindness in her eye,
coupled with a certain weariness

but when surrounded by water,
its hug enveloped her,
coaxed the body’s release –
a long, slow sigh.

Poem 22 / Day 22

In the Delectable Mountains / by Manny Blacksher

“[Nor would the King] dwell in the Mountain of Zion alone. [. . . He] had made many Pilgrims Princes, though by nature they were Beggars born, and their original had been the dunghill.

—John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), para. 272.

 

When Christian and Hopeful escaped those two men
who sang like angels, but one brother drank spirits
and had tried to run them over with a golf cart,
the poor pilgrims went US-72 West
and found themselves in the Delectable Mountains.
Upon the high ways, they met with shepherds in suits
and helmets. Christian: We seek Immanuel’s land.
Tell us if you know the way and whom you serve.
And they said, We are shepherds. Hopeful: I see no flocks.
Where are your lambs? Shepherd: We tend Redstone Rockets,
manage sub-contractors’ projects and fast and pray
and so strictly consume our annual defense
budget. But some of us have travelled into space
and come so close to the Primum Mobile,
we might have touched down in the Celestial City.
Christian: We poor pilgrims seek entrance to the Lord’s
City. Shepherds: We fear you are yet far away,
as our Nazi scientists calculate. Yet science
is the study of the King’s wild kingdom.
We have instruments by which travellers can see
something of their final destination. They bid
Christian and Hopeful look with their radio
telescope. The pilgrims were amazed and somewhat
bemused by the dark vacuum and particulate
waves of freely given Grace. The shepherds thought
the Country of the King lay south with the Great Wain—
they should try I-65. The pilgrims thanked them
for their telescope and freeze-dried ice cream,
went down into the interstate’s steep pass.

Later in Winston County, a place renowned
for once seeking to escape the Burning City,
they met a professionally attired woman
named Best Practices who said she also sought
to give TED Talks in the Celestial City.
Hopeful: All praise the Lord of this Kingdom.
Sister, you must stand in His favor—those are nice shoes.
Best Practices: Oh, they’re just old Ferragamos
I found in in my rollaway. But you two look like
people of slow-thought who might work more efficiently
if you sought the Prince of Peace mindfully, perused
Emotional Intelligence, and enrolled in my
Shelby-County seminar on redeeming tax codes.
Christian: Ma’am, I’m surprised you could get your case
through the narrow wicket gate. And she: Oh, I showed
expedited boarding credentials to agents
at first-class clearance. Christian: Was that wise?
All the Prince’s subjects on the road have agreed
that He loves the poor and recommends people walk
or, in a pinch, take the Old Gray Dog or fly coach.
Best Pract: A common error. How can we hope
to merit divine prosperity if, keeping
old ways, we fail to profit from limited time?
I have been confirmed in these findings by Harvard
Business Review and by this worthy dame coming.

Whereupon Christian and Hopeful saw the mature
but by no means elderly vicegerent of the state
called Progressive Montgomery, closely followed
by numerous statues of soldiers and marble
obelisks that paid tearful tribute to fallen patriots
who sacrificed their life’s blood and inherited
wealth for each province’s rights to self-government.
Hopeful shook his head: I thought that war was cavilled
by crooked Father Adam who holds all children
are his slaves. Was not Apollyon the colonel
who left the King’s company to besiege the Holy City?
Balderdash! Cried Prog Mont, Father
Adam esteems all life from conception until
birth—and offers many just opportunities
to gain employment and buy into subdivisions.
If his feckless children prove not of the Elect
by making wrong decisions and being constrained
to sell themselves into paternalistic service,
it only magnifies the manifest favor
of the King for His Chosen owners of capital.

Christian and Hopeful felt a preponderance of proof
from historical example amply justified
the far-sighted governor. Christian thought she might
join the iron soldiers, and Hopeful considered
how blessed to be a monument in perpetual care. But then
a gray and wild man assailed the noble
governess. She hollered and took some pot shots
with her Second-Amendment guaranteed Uzi,
but his assault was fierce and righteous. The elbow
patches on his frayed tweed jacket shined sanctity,
and Christian thought she could see letters denoting
some of God’s secret names in the chalk marks on his slacks.
Best Practices scouted so Progressive Montgomery
could retreat to the high ground, accompanied by
our revered, cast iron Stonewall and Nathan Bedford.
Wheezing with fury, the radiant but aged
mountain rabbi asked the sheepish pilgrims, What the hell
do you think you’re playing at? Don’t you two know by now
Best Practices is the advance agent of Giant
Despair? And Progressive Montgomery’s hardly
better than the grafting adulterous whoresons
who’ve usurped the legislature for Apollyon
since Iran-Contra? Elder Flynt brandished the jawbone
of the ass the King rode once into Atlanta
during Passover and a tax-exempt weekend.
“What does Matthew say? ‘Depart from me you cursed, for I
was hungry and you gave me no food, thirsty—you gave me no drink.
I was a stranger—you locked me and my family
up in a detention center in El Paso.’
Get your shit together and go find the way
to the Promised Land. I haven’t seen it in years,
but you could start in Downtown Birmingham. Now git!”
The Pilgrims gave thanks for their deliverance
and headed, wisely-or-not, for the town of Hartselle.

Bonneville / by Jill Bergantz Carley

After a rain, light bluer
than I’d ever seen
we toddled cautious not to break a saline crust
low stakes skate on an ancient alpine lake
a rudded mid July.

Two decades ago faced with the same expanse
my instinct was to run
away from the turnout the car the highway
toward a mountain I still find it hard to believe in,
a perhaps green screen beauty on display.

Even if you make me I can’t decide
which of myself is more true:
the forward falling heft of me,
the tender care in millimeters,
& no matter I’ll return soles frosting-thick with
every
crystal
I’ve crushed underfoot.

satellite dish / by Cortney Collins

the muse comes through endless channels—
a price to be paid for premium inspiration

saturday nights spent waiting
for radio signals
instead of playing hearts
at late-night cafés

inhabiting memories
shaped like a coal mines
no canary
to warn of poisonous gas,
of nightmares and flashbacks

receptivity to lived
experience, static
into vision, moments
into words—

not everyone can contain
their own life.

 

Black Tupelo / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Pattiann Rogers

Nyssa sylvatica – rain nymph
named for your watered-soil love
plunge your taproot deep
into alluvial stream bottoms
when young, not wanting
to leave

Deer fond of your leaves
simple, feather-veined
thick, dark green, shiny on top
pale, often hairy beneath
scarlet-fire come fall

Greenish-white flowers in May
June, when leaves are half-grown
nectar for bees

Your berries feed so many
robin, thrush, cardinal, flicker
mocking bird, blue jay, wood pecker
blue bird, starling, tanager, cat bird
cedar wax wing, phoebe, and crow

Though you may live 650 years
your limbs hollow early
dens for squirrel, raccoon
opossum, and bees

Thread-bound riverbank
holdfast in river-swell

Uncaged / by Barb Jennes

The poems claw at the bars at night:
they growl in terrible low voices,
conspiring, conniving,
awaiting the moment of their release
for the insurrection to begin.

The poems are impatient:
they know that when deep sleep slips
from the mouth of their jailer,
the bars will open
and they will be free.

The poems rule the lab at night:
they dance to a rhythmic meter of mirth,
draw obscenities on the sterile walls,
throw feces, fetter the poet to his bed,
and when he awakens for but a wink
to view the poems’ pandemonium,
there is wonder and there is fear;
he will spend his waking hours, trembling,
desperate to remember their faces.

The poems return to their cages
just before the world stirs,
but first they clean the scene,
remove the remnants of their misrule,
wipe away fragments
of their fantastical free-for-all
like some Cat-in-the-Hat
contraption of forgetting,
of denying the wakeful,
the word-hungry, the muse-starved,
a glimpse of the voluptuous freedom,
the rapture and the joy,
of poems uncaged at night.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#22

Elemental Chemistry

What write
Might noteworthy
This page?

Perhaps you—
Who delicately
Carriage;

Who creature;
Who rain air
In my mouth;

Who thresh
Chaff to find
Gallant amid fear;

Who damp
Unguent peat
With sheer care

Inside quantum
Existential
Disquiet;

Who wrought
Jubilant
Longing;

Who range
My love
Polymer;

Who charge
Vulnerabilities’
Divine

Vitality;
Who reveal
& Restore

Unique atoms—
Beatitudes
Found

In our nucleus—
My me graced
With your you.

Theories of Extinction / by Dianna Zimmerman

i.
We went to the Natural History Museum to look at dinosaur eggs. He thought he may have found one, a type of therapod. Unfamiliar creatures roamed this mesa when it was part of Laurasia. We don’t know skin color, personality—only eggs and fragmented bones greet us—scattered remnants of some distant ancestral genome.

It’s dry, the egg so white with mineral deposit it looks like a plaster crust of itself. Soon, any other evolutionary loose ends will be mined by clawing land machines, replaced and covered by America the Stripmall, erasing this 70 million year-old gravesite when New Mexico was an inland sea.

ii.
The theory? Dinosaurs died because they couldn’t cool the air before it reached their brains, and when the climate warmed, their bodies couldn’t compensate. Mass deaths led to a shift in DNA, many creatures evolving into birds.

iii.
Today, he showed me the barren field where he found Egg. In the scrub, a dead bird. A starling, one of many killed for something to do with local cattle. This one made it far from the poison site on a gusty Sunday afternoon, its black wings turned slightly inward, cloaking the shadow of a murder.

iv.
The starling remains as mute as Egg in the bleakness of this sun-charred landscape. The silence is startled by the bark of a wild dog, its throat constricted with thirst. We are at the edge of a shallow, sandy slope when the baby growing in me stirs. I turn toward the melon-darkening skyline that reflects us all: unborn, suffering, dead, alive. My home, a chicken-wired stucco nest, calls to me.

Poem 21 / Day 21

Our Immigrant Sons / by Manny Blacksher

“They shifted the statues for harboring ghosts”

Alabama’s become the prophesied nation-state
of Confederate statues’ tragic diaspora.
Last February, scions of our de jura
devotion to Christian Jesus, caliphate
ownership of human capital, meritless
grace magnifying our Elected natural
aristocrats—deigned to plant a marmorial
to slain butternuts in the peaceful but fearless
clay of Point Clear. (1) Our governor’s extolled its receipt,
“‘We can’t—shouldn’t even try to change history [. . .]
‘We learn from it’.” (2) The mayor of Palm Beach had griped,
It’s Lost-Cause tat. Anti-New-Deal propaganda.
Whitebait fried up first in ‘41. He’ll be pleased
once it “‘disappears’.” (3) Lo!—God grifts it to Bama.

(1) Muriel Bailey, “Baldwin County erects Confederate monument removed from
Florida,” 19 Feb. 2019 <https://mynbc15.com/news/local/baldwin-county-
erects-confederate-monument-removed-from-florida >.
(2)Paige Fry, “Confederate statue in public cemetery sparks debate in West Palm,”
The Palm Beach Post, 13 June 2017 <
https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/local/new-confederate-statue-public-
cemetery-sparks-debate-west-palm/DL2Re5Telflp9Yi981AOML/ >.
(3) Avery Anapol, “Alabama governor defends Confederate monuments: We don’t
need ‘out-of-state liberals’ telling us what to do,” The Hill, 17 April 2018 <
https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/383616-alabama-governor-
defends-confederate-monuments-we-dont-need-out-of-state >.

Aesculus californica / by Jill Bergantz Carley

I.
Endemic fortune tellers, they
scattershot the hills
a quiet portending; each season on full display a cycle ahead of everyone
February green & July defoliating
it was only after balancing in grasses
above the Stanislaus River canyon;
hopeful, I’d spent an hour pulling heavy doe-eyes from the brush,
shoelaces full of seedy accomplices hitching a ride–
what laid ahead: an artificial winter I’d prepared
the second shelf all theirs in the fridge, nestled in perlite
hovering above the apples and below the gallon of milk
I’ve read they may halt a taproot’s growth if they sense an earthquake;
and today I choose to believe them.

II.
Poison hemlock I know you too are not built of harm;
I see it in your face lining the highway, Queen Anne’s cousin,
tatted lace buds making the most of it in a Central Valley heat.

Nettled as a child in the thumb on my right hand
I can feel it still just like
the drought they’ve said is over.
In the backyard of our old house I pulled them up with lambskin gloves,
limp, piled high between the vegetable beds,
sunlit in repose,
borate birds of summer circling overhead.

What is a tree in spring? Haiku. / by Cortney Collins

Tree budding in spring—
photosynthesis, alive.
Champagne aged, uncorked.

Chemotherapy;
remission on the branches.
Fresh green where death lived.

Naked beggar clothed,
glucose threads, woven fabric.
Electricity.

Studying to be a Naturalist, Part I / by Bethanie Humphreys

I only arrived a few minutes late
just in time to stroke a king
snake’s underbelly

Next, heavy leather glove
balanced a peregrine falcon
missing half a wing, shot
probably duck hunters
aiming for the same prey

Slides on nature journaling
and outside we swept
to find a leaf and draw it
practice INIWIRMO

I notice –
I wonder –
It reminds me of –

We sat at picnic tables
seeds raining down
I blew them across the page
as I drew a valley oak leaf

I notice how dry it is, but
still moist enough to bend
not crumble

I wonder what caused its
asymmetrical formation
one lobe missing on left side

It reminds me how we all grow
imbalances, somewhere

And then we walked
saw a deer more concerned
with foraging than us

Wild turkeys taking turns
flying into an oak
to roost for the night

Pipevine past bloom
ready to host
butterfly larvae

Mugwort smelling
like sweet clothes
long-packed in attic trunk

Our concerns about
taxonomy, what we should
know to become a naturalist

And the lesson begins-
it’s not the knowing
don’t just name a thing
because that’s when
wonder stops

Importing Letters / by Larry Jaffe

I used to import the letters
for my poems from Switzerland
because of their precision
and multi-lingual characteristics
my poetry would then hone
in on topics that I felt
were of international concern

Soon after
I turned to France
I wanted to put some romance
into my poems
and I thought what better
way to do it but to import
French formed letters
to give them just the right touch
so to speak

Lately I thought my poetry
could use some spice
some accents might do
and I could import
British
Canadian
and even Australian accents
to put a nice randy touch
to my poetry

But then I thought to myself
Buy American
Use American letters
to form my revolutionary poetry
words of poignant praise
for the spirit
and not the money hungry craze

After all
it is time for a modern
American revolution
a revolution of mind
and spirit
with lots of soul

SUNDAY DINNER / by Barb Jennes

When you died,
I took your potato masher
although I can’t say why.
The zigzag of silver wire
looked for all the world
like the hospital’s display
of your vital signs,
vacillating up and down
until the very end,
a map of your mood swings:
depth of despair followed by
unmedicated mania.

The masher
had not been used for years,
but for years it had been used,
pounded purgatively
into pressure-cooked potatoes,
the paint mostly worn
from its wooden handle,
all but a few sharp shards,
red lacquer chips that invariably
broke off, embedded in your palm,
drew blood and curses.

Sunday meal-making was
always a Wagnerian
ring cycle of sound:
the jittery cacophony
of the pressure-cooker relief valve
clattering atop its hot spindle,
the hysteria of steam
released from containment,
the furious whine
of the electric carving knife,
growling and half-stalling
when driven
too near the bone,
the clink of the good silverware
on dinnerware imprisoned
for the rest of the week,

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#21

Lot’s Anonymous Wife

Under squally, rainless, unequivocal, dark & hot skies,
Her dilated heart beckoned to harden against pain

For their survival. Lot too doubtful, too stony-eyed
For any secular belief, only tried to hold her back.

He showed no prayer remorse for how the story
In this way will be told. Desperate, she turned—

For her daughters—tiny flower barges
Floating in a boiling fountain. She only

Faced blooms—a city’s hateful burning.
She’d turned to placenta-painted, rich air

To see the fire-blood they, Lot & He,
(Forward looking in every instant) forgot.

Her soul & body, once food for those girls
That he spoiled in his monomaniacal hope

For eternal life, had labored, fruit-dropped
From her whole, finite being’s swelled heat.

Beyond a swallow’s flight she saw yellow-
Red flames emerging as bloated leaves rapid

On the horizon. Fleshy melting shadows
Grounded her in her fatigue of humane loving

Without caution. She always is turning for those girls,
Is sorrowfully feeling their pulse rising in her throat.

Just anonymous wife wondering what will inspire His pity.
As her intentions eternally, utterly unheard under her skin—

Must remain gossamer-thickness that is silence enough
Of an unconscionable, innominate He-god.

Beacon / by Dianna Zimmerman

for Maya Angelou

Succinct and true, tongue a polished ruby,
your words are guides to what we

should aspire. Flightless birds, grounded,
able only to gaze up in wonderment

at a transcendent spirit, an ode to you
unworthy of its place

in history, where you forever preside.
Mixed kind, tough, wise

a face that keeps a thousand secrets
yet tells only one:

Believe.

Judicious as to why the caged bird sings
you soar, cast high,

ascend above mere mortals,
able to elevate others

on the firmament of sass, of woman,
of strong-arm sinew. A towering example

of why the ratite kiwi cleaves its vestigial wings
of why the cassowary regales its glamour,

of what happens when we believe
in the power of purpose, of hope –

our hearts, hard as diamonds,
are faceted, brilliant – bathed in your light.

Poem 20 / Day 20

After the SEC Complied with SCOTUS’ AMA-recommended Remedies for CTE Victims / by Manny Blacksher

Unstick the pennant flag’s fibreglass rod from your Bronco’s hood.
Put the Number-One Styrofoam fingers out for recycling for good.
Swash gills of Goo-Gone over victorious bumper stickers.
Hog-tie the tip-tongued numbers of last draft’s runners and kickers.
                          Soak the officially decaled merches in steam.
                          The games they play now won’t allow your team.

Collogue with former defence coaches driving airport limousines.
Comfort once-rising starters, Good soft-serving at Dairy Queen.
Condole former stars signing Japanese baseball contracts they’ll still have game.
Tell Dad, rigid in the recliner, he’s never seceded to shame.
                         Cheer those bitter brands, our barbarous usurpers.
                         What was sure as conservative values can now only be muttered in whispers.

Tomato Weather / by Jill Bergantz Carley

This summer it hasn’t exactly been tomato weather.

We pull the comforter on the bed,
and off,
and every morning check the plant we caged in late July.
In the evenings as you pull the work truck into our small driveway
trapping our cars there for the night, I watch

you from the picture window
dinner bubbling on the stove.
And through the door you come announcing

ten tomatoes,
heavy for their size,
meaty,
tiny beauties. Yes! Tomatoes
growing so large each day they
pull their branches into the anty squash leaves. Tomatoes
deeply creased where their skin aches to hold in
what’s growing as if the outside
can’t keep up with the inside,
or as if it is a lush surprise and this:

It is this way to love you
my skin stretched near bursting each morning as the sun rises
and I find you once again in our bed.

Sunday Morning Reckoning / by Cortney Collins

Celery sticks,
the missionary position.
Dill pickle spears,
the 70s soft rock station.

(Let’s not speak
of the banality
of green olives.)

Spiced asparagus,
the eccentric aunt.
Baby corn,
a collection of
Precious Moments
figurines.

Hamburgers.
Bacon.
Beef jerky.
Dill and basil sprigs,
for pacifists.

There is a Bloody Mary garnish
out there for everyone.

The most exotic
is the dragon’s eyeball.
The bloodshot, throbbing
dragon’s eyeball.

Mood ring pupil,
lightning bolt capillaries.
Optic nerve that doubles
as a straw.
Fire-oracle iris
(for the spicier mix)
that whispers:

Think you should quit?
When?
The Spring Equinox, or
Labor Day Weekend?
Tuesday? Friday?
When you start grad school?
When you finish grad school?
When he leaves you?
When he takes you back?

Tomorrow.
Tomorrow.

Octavia / by Bethanie Humphreys

Sullen? Asleep
sunk in your cave-back purple lit
crayfish shells-littered floor

I slipped
my hand into water
cold as ache
but you don’t rise

I’d read you could taste
me woman-not-man
from mere finger dip

I wondered if you
could taste my
curious

I left, thinking I’d missed
my chance, but when I came
back around, you lingered
surface-near

Fearful, what would I do
if you wrapped round my wrist
wouldn’t let go

Slow slip into ache
I reached for you
palm up, offering
your big eye blinking

You wouldn’t live long
Pacific-wild, but how
can we know this is better

You flared
closer, I held
fingertip-kissed
circle-clenched

Four hearts between us
not-so-other
flesh, wound-ready

A Field of Words / by Larry Jaffe

I plant word seeds

On haloed ground

These jubilant articulations

Are sown in fertile fields

For me to reap each day

In poetry!

The Bones of Saints / by Barb Jennes
for Rhoda (Yemo)

In the shaded corner
of the cemetery
set aside for infants,
the listing headstones
recalled the tiny teeth
of a baby’s mouth:
sparse and white.

We searched there
for Joseph and John,
your still- and unborn brothers,
under massive oak trees
whose protruding roots
ribbed the earth like
frost-heaved femurs.

At last we found
their sunken name plaques –
engraved by your father’s hand,
laid gently in the soil atop them
those long decades ago,
tended to for a generation,
now overgrown with moss
and nutrient-starved grass.

I thought how pleased your mother
would be to find us here –
she, who mourned
their loss as unrelentingly
as if she had nursed them,
sung to them,
watched their first steps,
heard their first words.

Your mother,
whose unflagging faith
carried her through
loss and sorrow,
sorrow and loss –
these two not least
among them –
who slept with a rosary
coiled around her hand,
who prayed for us
then prayed again,
who carried relics –
tiny shards of bone,
rumored to be
miraculous –
pinned inside her bra
against her left breast,
against her heart.

Once, in her final years,
she held those
anointed objects
in the palm of her hand
and urged me closer,
her face revivified,
radiant with reverence.

“Look,” she said,
remembering loss,
remembering love,
remembering two sons
buried a lifetime ago.

There, in a bed of
sallow skin and
arthritis-ruined joints,
I saw them:
the bones of saints.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#20

Sonnet

Dear Chris hello
I have no fucking idea what time it is
This certainly ain’t New York City

& I’m looking for ice

 

Waiting for the high life

Which is not the poem

Getting up to piss pisses me off

Because the fucking high life is on ice

I want to deck somebody

With vast swings of eloquence
But for now I squeeze passion principles & love
Like a big blackhead

Sit in my gingham shirt at my particleboard desk

Because I am that fat with the poem
& Henry Miller was a mamma’s boy
& Eloquence is in my icebox next to the chicken

& Who gives a fuck about the high life

I’m still looking for ice

To numb my swollen knuckles

Since I decked the poem

Watch out

Because the poem thinks you did it

I’m writing

With all the love I still have lingering congregated

 

Once Wedlocked Walloped Will

Salem’s Secrets / by Dianna Zimmerman

There was no enchantress
flying in silhouette against
a lustrous moon; merely
pubescent girls instructed
with biblical force to suppress
their budding urges,
instincts held in the reptilian
brain, too animal to act out

or ignore. Their fantastical visions
excited a system founded
on prohibitive doctrines.
Everyday neighbors’ disputes
quickly became grounds for
indictment. Greed, envy, pride:
these cravings not permitted
in Puritan Sunday pews.

Salem’s girls swiftly learned
they were a force, a whipping
backlash to the strict regiment
of sew, cook, and clean.
They pressed on, rising
with spectral voice – a pinprick,
a scream for mercy – the
stunned judges and townsmen
swept up in accusation fever.

The few even-tempered protests
were inadequate to quench
this newly-anointed lust
as the cycle of accusation and
confession blazed through
villages and legitimized
their cry, witchcraft.

The evidence was as irrefutable
as faith; elusive as a rising plume
of white magic, the hastily
convicted taken forthwith
to their earthly punisher,
the hardy noose.

Poem 19 / Day 19

Mrs. Tutwiler’s Dementia / by Manny Blacksher

I lived on Montgomery’s South Hull Street
cornered at Finley Avenue two years—
first, in a two-floor with too many stairs.
High ceilings echoed steps of foregone feet.
The landlord pushed in my front door, pistol
in hand, incensed those men she’d paid for work
had mowed then stolen her mower. She jerked
the gun. “Cops won’t search here. Damned but I will.”
That was pure Montgomery for me. Give
the landlady her daily “vitamins,”
she won’t stick-up tenants. Sane, she’ll forgive
ghosts moving her bifocals. No letters
taped to the mirror: “Move my medicine,
I’ll shoot you. Try. I’ll teach you better.”

Light, Vaulted / by Jill Carley

A 30 million page backup disc of humanity’s collected knowledge is going
to the moon,
a safe deposit box, a treasure chest
data files compressed into 21 thin layers.
it contains all of our knowledge

that is housed on Wikipedia.

Listen, I love a library, but
I love this world in analogue.
Give me pages and their faults,
pyrophoric, moldering.

Is it stored in binary or in html, a call number for the time
I plunged my arms into the depths of an indigo vat
lizard brain response to the moment a thing you care for falls away,
exposed to air & anaerobic, my fingers tinctured first
the color of a California hillside
distending into summer then
the color of Mineral Lake into which I hurdled
evenings after dinner sublimating to the deepest blue;
to which article do I append
the eulogy delivered at the funeral of a woman who lived
allergy-eyed on a riding lawnmower,
full speed;

when they arrive
what they will find
is beauty,
holographic diffracted glow,

one DVD.

Quotidian Magic / by Cortney Collins

Girl pushes furniture out of the way.

makes a clearing on the curve of the earth.
a kiva circled by ley lines, a map,
lines of latitude and longitude,
a string of yarn bent into a Cat’s Cradle.
a laboratory flask heated by the flame of a
Bunsen burner, chemical reaction
simmering and casting a neon glow.

Girl dances around the living room.

dances Da Vinci diagrams, trapezoids on grey carpet,
vectors of Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys.
the Sermon on the Mount, throngs of seekers rapt
on the shores of Galilee, illustrated Bibles.
holy communion wafers carried in the mouths of blackbirds.
Absolute Zero, the cold at the bottom of the night,
the Witching Hour, when radio stations go dead and shadows in
the shape of murder weapons drip from the window valance.

         dances the moon, orbiting joy
never rotating
         never turning away.

Girl changes the vinyl record on the turntable.

turns the kaleidoscope:
Barry Manilow to Sheena Easton
Sheena Easton to Barbara Streisand
Barbara Streisand to Donna Summer.
patterns like paper snowflakes, molecules of music
moving in perfect synchronicity,
the Scrambler at the county fair carnival,
the merry-go-round at the park.

Girl twirls in oversized pink chiffon robe until suppertime.

strawberry ice cream fairy in ballet slippers,
leaping from petal to petal,
garden of all the things there are to become.
archaeologist, astronomer.
cellist, poet.
doctor, dancer.

Our Lady of Radium (Ra) / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Linda Scheller

Crystals configure
concentric circles
one radiates blue

Marie Curie washed
radioactive samples
in shallow watch glass dishes

Cauldrons of acid
1 ton uranium ore reduced
to 1/10 gram radium chloride

First      woman to earn the Nobel prize
              person to earn it twice: physics and chemistry
              woman professor at Sorbonne

A war hero with her invention: Little Curies
x-ray machines vehicles
enabling doctors to find shrapnel mid-battlefield
saving an estimated million lives

She        raised money to build them
               trained women to operate them
               drove and operated one
               changed flat tires mid-battle

At 66, radiation sickness
not, she believed due to radium, but
x-rays

When interred in the Pantheon
though highly radioactive
no radium found in her body

Her black and white polka-dot lab coat
lab books, furniture, cookbooks
all have a half-life
her body lead-cradled

Crystals configure
concentric circles
one radiates
blue

BEFORE / by Barb Jennes
for Sue & Paul, protectors of the land, who requested “just a haiku” but deserve so much more for their advocacy and activism

Our father’s wisdom:
“They don’t make land anymore.”
Rise up; protect it.

Before the chainsaw’s
tormented whine
precedes the crack,
the slow-motion rustle
of flailing branches,
the ground-jarring whump
of falling elders –
before growling dozers
gnaw flat the gravel hilltop
deposited by glaciers
an eon before we stood erect –
before drills puncture
Earth’s impervious mantle
in search of artesian veins
flowing with life blood –
before they flay
another farmer’s field
of root-woven grass
that nourished cows
that gave milk
that gave meat
that made livelihoods –
before the land
is denuded, defiled,
forever changed
in sorrowful ways –
rise up, rise up
for the children,
for the gift that
you would give them:
the gurgle and gush
of bolting streams,
the camouflage
of dappled light
on forest floors,
the awaiting treasure
of arrowheads, fossils,
middens of bones,
the pharmacopeia
of native ginseng, sassafras,
St. John’s Wort,
the world of wild things,
a wealth greater than gold –
rise up, rise up
and speak to them
in a voice that
rents the mountains,
that breaks in pieces
the rocks,
that is an earthquake
as mighty as creation,
that is a fire
as blazing as hell,
that is at last
a still, small voice
that makes them
apprehend
they know not
what they do.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#19

Meet Me by the Fountain…

Where the corps de ballet of spray casts an iridium glow,
& Efforts to get things right flush red in a sweaty reminder

Of Mel Torme’s dreamy, wannabe refrain. Meet me by the fountain,
& We’ll look for seats, cautious of people peering out the window

Of opportunity, who might be more than knocking at your will
To persist in avoiding the singularity recalled in each determinate moment.

Meet me by the fountain to mark the incomplete nearness of everything.
And where have all the prima ballerina assoluta with lovely feet gone?

No shortage of ushers, however, will mill about for tickets,
As we must be prepared to separate the pain, the joy, & the wonder.

Meet me by the fountain to discuss what position that is
Mostly to wonder the choreography, as we make our way

Through the tiers raked with people when they’re running out.
Meet me by the fountain to adore sturdy & punchy dancers

With a lot of face on turning hard cracking arabesques
& Foundation painted jaws & all most frankly making it there.

The Things We Do To Girls / by Dianna Zimmerman

What if we taught girls
to be subjects not objects
and that knowledge would set them free

What if we taught girls
to love themselves above all others
that they’re the captains
in control of their destiny

What if we taught girls
to rise to every challenge
to dress however they please
to give each other unrelenting support
and question everything they see

What if we taught girls
to play hard and sweat
to be tough, to build things,
to say NO to unwanted touch
to excel, and be proud to disagree

What if we taught girls
they don’t have to be polite,
or swallow their words, thick as molasses –
to stoke one another’s curiosity

What if we taught girls
to be selfish
as the oblivious world spins on
and wrap a cocoon around their own needs
unapologetically

What if we taught girls
        all these principles
and a thousand more

with the remarkable consistency of waves
        lapping a shore

What kind of world would this be?

Poem 18 / Day 18

The Ditch / by Manny Blacksher

The school playground was on the adjacent lot,
its space open to the neighborhoods, except the bound
setting it off from school. A rusted chain-link
fence held the line that feral bushes infested
with dogwoods hid. Magnolias at either end
near sidewalks, streetlights, made it ‘polite’ but not
inviting. The diamond where we played softball—
hard, hollow blue ball and plastic bat—ran timed
relays and long-jumped twice yearly was marked by
remains of a steel catcher’s cage near the southeast
corner. Dirt mound, dirt infield, hard old thirsty grass
gasping through the outfield’s dust, but thatched and thrived
further back. Lush through most the rest of the block
and rarely cut. We trampled it chasing, screaming
elated. Girls hardly sat in the magnolias’
shade, however hot it got September and May,
though on the sidewalks they double-Dutched and gave
patti cakes’ arcane cheers, leavened expectantly
with Cowboys, Steelers, mothers confiding, Bay
City Rollers. Nobody went in thickets near
the fence beneath the dogwoods. We figured a ditch
in there drew runoff from the parking lot. April,
it could back up and flood the schoolyard. Then
we got to stay home till it drained. Some cold, dry
days, October, March, stopping to pant while friends
ran on, we thought we smelled something special—sweet
and putrid. Lost people. Secrets. Animals compelled
to hide when they knew they had to disappear.

Track One / by Jill Carley

There is a word for the sound a fire makes on a cold spring night
corralled in ash & watchfulness.
It is so close to deer,
in winter, tentative; in chaparral.
It is so close to the quiet beating of your will
on a side street in South San Francisco.

There is a word for the moment:
your face a finger width from mine
It is so close to the weight held, in some great hand,
to snuff a tapered candle.
It is so close to the way you keep the score,
rhythmic; sure and ready.

There is a word for the coolness coming off of you
(for)give me tell me once again a word that means stay
                                                        a word that means darling
                                                        a word that means remain, remain, remain.

Occult Cardiology / by Cortney Collins

Superior Vena Cava                                                                 Aorta

Deprived blood courses                                                         Blood, renewed and robust,
downward through generations.                                          leaves home carrying all of
Oxygen-depleted cells rush                                                   these things and nothing.
toward grandpa’s gas station on Highway 30,                   Destinies will be gathered
gasping for air, running on fumes.                                       like precious stones and
Grandma’s mother dies in childbirth,                                  carried in every direction,
a thrombosis in her leg;                                                         pulsing tributaries of a river.
her father abandons her                                                       The losses ahead cannot
at a convent in Nebraska.                                                      stop the unyielding force of
Her firstborn dies of leukemia                                              the current; nor can
in her arms, while grandpa                                                   they prevent weary cells
watches a neighboring ship                                                  from coming home.
blown to bits
in the English Channel.
Ghosts wail in the corridors.

 

Inferior Vena Cava

These deaths, wasted lives
are drawn up from the
core of the Earth,
like molded pennies
from the bottom
of a well, used
and brittle. Wishes are
abandoned like broken
dolls and dreams of
becoming a ballerina
disavowed for the comforts
of confusion and the
safety of makeup and
teen magazines.

Right Atrium                                                                             Left Atrium

Was the Great Wall meant to keep                                       A blue whale rockets out
foreigners out, or natives in?                                                 of the ocean’s depths,
The barrier is a shackle,                                                          airborne outside the
with secrets for entry points,                                                 bookends of time,
and confidences kept                                                              a trapeze artist suspended
hidden in the watchtowers.                                                   between the alpha
A magician walks straight                                                      and omega, smiling
through the wall centuries                                                    at gravity the way a
later. No one knows if                                                            child gazes out the window
he does this by                                                                        of an airplane that’s just
sleight of hand                                                                        taken flight. Her tail
or true alchemy; no one                                                        slaps the water; she
knows if the breach                                                               breaches again and again.
will liberate or destroy.                                                         Joy rides under the surface.

Right Ventricle                                                                        Left Ventricle

Jupiter rotates on an iron                                                     An ayahuasca ceremony
sword, gasses                                                                         on the banks of the Amazon;
swirling around a maypole                                                   the shaman sings
with skulls for flowers.                                                          Brahms symphonies and
The red storm never                                                             drums out a rainstorm that
stays in one place;                                                                 quenches the poisonous
nothing predictable about                                                   flames and quells the
a crimson squall that                                                            regret of tender words
can hold three Earths.                                                          withheld. Everything quiets
Plates are thrown,                                                                 and settles into a deep
obscenities are screamed.                                                   rhythm, the kind that
Children and lovers                                                               gives birth to poems and
cower in the corner.                                                              dances under a soft canopy.

Architecture of Silence / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Jorie Graham

There’s nothing wrong

with your arcade
provided your arches
are supported by pillars
not pilasters

When the lie is what’s

required
and if not the lie
then silence
and if not silence then

Braced for all-weather

overhanging eaves
protect exterior walls
drip molding, our heads

May transom light

illume
but not reveal
our floor plans

May fluting, gingerbreading

Hansel-and-Greteling
be sufficient to distract
rubble brick from crumbling

Architectural symmetry

only when two facades
present as mirror images
will a structure
remain standing

Cat Dream / by Barb Jennes
for Michelle, friend and fellow feline fan

The cat curls into a crescent
near my pillowed head
closes her eyes,
and sets to thrumming.

The vibration snags
the center of my brain
with one clawed toe,
lifts me by the scruff.

“Hurry,” she purrs:
and our departure
is a blur of fur,
a spurt of curiosity

to a land of sun-bathed perches,
soft blankets atop hot radiators,
fresh catnip mice, minced tuna,
things to roll under appliances.

A lightning leap
from table to cabinet top
brings us to our Olympus,
our deserved place on high.

We steal down cellar steps,
search out spiders, mice,
wondrous things to seize,
crunch on, eat.

We slip out the door,
burrow deep under the deck,
watch an ant amble across dirt,
consider the tracks of chipmunks.

When we’ve had enough
of our forbidden paradise,
we call them to us, surrender
with a plaintive meow.

Then it’s bath time,
our barbed tongue
smoothing our coat, tasting
our delicious misbehavior.

All night long
we prowl and sleep,
sleep and prowl,
a sleek shadow of silence.

Just before dawn
we grow lonely, crave kindness,
dart upstairs to an awaiting
head-warmed pillow.

She’s sleeping still,
so we curl into a crescent,
yawn, close our eyes,
purr, and pretend

we’ve been here all along.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#18

Likely & Unlikely Transformations

After winter credit cards & rain-checks & April,
May will soon fly in with sneezes & stock prices.

Kleenexes continue to rise with the Dow Jones
Only surely to plummet late in summer lethargy.

Parks & fields bloom aromatic dogwood Joan Miró
Paintings sing uncurbed passions’ question marks

& Exclamation points—a “Carnival of Harlequins.”
A final frost of plastic coverings just up & recede—

Edgy irises & sleepless carnations plump, swell
Capital gains; roused cirrus clouds yakety yak

Grocers’ music abundantly; streets ballad whisk
A thaw awakened finite solace contra viento y marea.

pebbles / by Dianna Zimmerman
dedicated to the victims of mass shootings

cold shot. another broken life,
fragile as eggshell. another shooter,
another raging soul seared with hate.
i see it ripen as displaced fury settles
on the sidewalk, house after house.

there is no pause in earth’s rotation,
just another rupture in everyday
trust. the victims’ families now
have a cold stone lodged
in their hearts that can never be removed.

some make do with harsh words, blame
gun worship, availability, impotent laws –
all thin needles in an acupunctured
cultural conscience, where
responsibility hangs in the closet

like an old overcoat.
why doesn’t the tulip of mercy open,
petals arched, sweet? we numb ourselves,
on to the day after today,
hate’s reasons hidden

in the forest of tree cover.
why, why. i do not know why.
we are merely pebbles,
awash in brutal by-products.
dew burns in the morning sun

and hate is still alive, not yet
cast out. pity the world
your presence, you who take,
make unbreakable ache.
you are not welcome here.

Poem 17 / Day 17

Birth day / by Jill Bergantz Carley

Her baby boy arrived seven years & one day after we lay her mother down;
the way dry ground has thirst for water, or
this exchange one to one of love,
this ache & this fragile pink newness.

Five hours it took you to move, matted deep in the couch,
I know this is hard, I don’t need to know why, but you have to go
I don’t know why either, you said.
& even now I don’t know how our house held a heavy sadness and a joy,
the weight & the wait from above & below and us
all at the very same time.

& then
that boy is two years old;
and this morning it’s me who is grief-heavy, moving through molasses
as all I could picture was the sadness of the cows
over the fence in the cemetery in the pasture off the highway,
ruminants waiting to eat the grass at our feet
stomachs grieving leaves of their meal for three days
you gave me a familiar refrain.

google earth street view of my childhood home / by Cortney Collins

the first thing i know
is that this house is safe.

the two pine trees in the front yard
that were once diminutive and
powerless to fend off
the incisors of the northern wind,
like lapdogs trembling behind
the furniture as the home is ransacked
by intruders,
have become guardians,
winged emerald gatekeepers
that cast cool, benevolent shadows
out onto the grass and
over the knotted fence.

the drone image does not need
to tell me it is april.
i feel april in the
tentative sunlight,
in the anticipation
of the basketball hoop
that still hangs above the garage,
in that peculiar shade of virgin green
on the birch trees on the alley,
the color dress persephone
must have worn
when she emerged
from the underworld.

the drone image does not need
to tell me that the fragrance of tulips
graces the air,
like a dab of perfume on
the surface of the plain,
that if i sink my hands
into the musty soil,
i might find another
abandoned arrowhead
among the nascent bulbs.

the drone image does not need
to tell me that there are children
inside the house and that
they dream of ponies
and enchanted forests
when they sleep at night,
not murderers and hellfire.

this house was once an open sore,
but i see now
that it is healed
by the salve of the
cloudless blue sky,
pale jet streams
like sutures,
the southern breeze
an anodyne.

this house was once a battlefield,
but i see now
that it is a spray
of peach roses
upon a quiet grave,
a red cedar paneled
memorial of forgiveness.

Errored Bliss / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Anne Carson

Three reasons we need metaphor in our lives:

1) Life can be senseless. Terrible things happen to people we love for no apparent reason. If we can put it into words, whether fragments or part of a larger story, sometimes it helps us feel better.

When what they sung for
is undone
Who cares
about a
Blue Bird’s
Tune —

-Emily Dickinson – Envelope Writings, A108

 

2) When one way of analogizing fails us. I heard a story once about the death of the simile. When the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, there was no horror to compare, so poets stopped using “like” or “as,” out of respect, out of protest. I don’t know if this story is true, but it makes sense to me.

A great Hope
fell
You heard no
noise
crash

-Emily Dickinson – Envelope Writings, A105

3) Resurrection – breathing new life into dead language. Who doesn’t like to turn a bad cliché over in its grave?

That tilling its’ abyss
Had madness,
Had it once or twice
The + yawning Consciousness

-Emily Dickinson – Envelope Writings, A236

4) Not only that things are other than they seem, and so we mistake them, but that such mistakenness is valuable.

-Anne Carson on metaphor, “Essay on What I Think About Most,” Men in the Off Hours

We all need to make mistakes now and again. Allow ourselves to be human. Is it better to be awash with regret, or the success of failing without ever having tried—unable to consume that which we magnify by our desire?

A not admitting
of the Wound
Until it grew so
wide
That all my
Life had Entered it

-Emily Dickinson – Envelope Writings, A105a

Starlust / by Larry Jaffe

I transmit eternity
in single breaths

Silent finger touch nodes
of impossibilities

I reach for things
I cannot touch

Must I wrack the universe
for hidden symbology

Slowly exploding
upon this façade of stars

I dance with infinity
taking delight in leaps
of erotic prowess

Nothing comes between my legs
No images
No folk heroes
Only a purity of lust
And sanity

Eros is my friend and lover
watch her glow with delight
as we cavort amongst the stars

Stars have no gender
we are all she(s)
that generate
Self-reproduction
Self-confidence
Self-determinism
Self-reliance

I speak of cloudburst
saturating the soil

I speak of candy not so sweet
with just a hint of desire

I speak of you my friend
as we dance amongst the stars.

Decoration Day / by Barb Jennes

I never liked geraniums:
how they grew spindly, flowerless,
in grade-school windows each winter,
how they left a lingering scent,
earthy and unrefined,
in our car each Decoration Day.

Toted to the cemetery
in topless cardboard boxes,
mixed with spiky dracaena plants
in weathered concrete urns,
sprinkled with water
lugged from distant spigots
in an ancient watering can,
their cardinal-red petals
recalled the blood that oozed
from tree-climbing scrapes
and filled the dark craters left
by obsolete baby teeth,
pulled from our small mouths
by our father’s steady hand.

We did not know
the ancestors whose graves
we decorated each late May,
their headstones carved
with long-ago dates and unfamiliar names.
All we knew is that they had lived once
and now were dead, buried beneath us,
a painless fact for which
we need not muster grief
but must never forget.

Somewhat sunken, the soil that covered
their unseen caskets was acidic, mossy,
supported only sparse grey grass,
but for the first few days of June,
their shaded resting places –
picked free of dead branches,
weeded, watered, manicured with
callous-causing clippers –
were quiet, pretty places,
redolent of fresh-mown grass,
echoing with the songs of birds
as unfamiliar to us as the relatives
we were brought here to remember.

We would not recall them again
until the following May
when we would return,
would replace the root-bound soil
and desiccated geranium stalks
in frost-heaved urns,
would be pushed, pulled, and arranged
in front of each headstone then
admonished to smile for the camera –
three little girls with badly cut bangs,
their cotton dresses gathered at the waist
and white socks aglow, even in the shade,
the yellow buttercup pollen they had dusted
under each other’s chins
in an innocent spring game,
not visible in the curling black-and-white photos
smelling of mold and neglect,
buried in desk drawers, buried by time,
like so many other things
we must never forget.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#17

Pantoum
(found poem, painting titles & lines from Robert Hughes, The Shock of the New)

The sound of the wind is great, but the pink roses on my rug
Remind me, Georgia, of your pelvis with shadows as the moon sashays
Through the melancholy & mystery of the street with nostalgia
Of the infinite. From the faraway, nearby jack-in-the-pulpits

Remind me, Georgia, of your pelvis with shadows as the moon sashays
Across the treason of images. Two children are threatened by a nightingale singing
Of the infinite. From the faraway, nearby jack-in-the-pulpits
Fade into gists of a black bird with snow covered red hills.

Across the treason of images two children are threatened by a nightingale singing
To the threshold of liberty, while Miles Davis’s 1959 elegy to the Spanish republic
Fades into gists of a black bird with snow covered red hills.
Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

To the threshold of liberty with Miles Davis’s 1959 elegy to the Spanish republic.
Look at machines, aren’t pistons in cylinders steel Romeos in cast-iron Juliets?
Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
The city rises & the union jack waves with the dynamism of a dog on a leash.

Look at machines, aren’t pistons in cylinders steel Romeos in cast-iron Juliets?
Words spur the disquieting muse from the cathedral of erotic misery.
The city rises & the union jack waves. The dynamism of a dog on a leash
Runs where the railroad leaves the sea. Is the fate of the animals the human condition?

Words spur the disquieting muse. In the cathedral of erotic misery
The menaced assassin reveals “copulation as a parody of crime.”
Where the railroad leaves the sea is the fate of the animals the human condition
In the enigma of time? The persistence of memory, like a rock drill,

Like the menaced assassin, reveals “copulation as a parody of crime.”
In the gray tree a bird with a calm look—his wings on fire—recalls
The enigma of time & the persistence of memory. Like a rock drill
The dancer standing behind a stage prop hammers into her toe-shoes.

In the gray tree a bird with a calm look—his wings on fire—recalls
The arrival of the carnival when the apple tree branch was in flower.
The dancer standing behind a stage prop hammered into her toe-shoes
Then spun a fugue in red. She said, “Critics call me a strange creator floating

As if the arrival of a carnival when the apple tree branch was in flower,
Breathing in clouds for nourishment. I’m in a variety theater of opinions
That spin a fugue in red.” She said, “Critics call me a strange creator floating.”
I see again in my memory, Dear Georgia, the light coming on the plains

Breathing in clouds for nourishment. I’m in a variety theater of opinions
About the melancholy & mystery of the street. With nostalgia
I see again in my memory, Dear Georgia, the light coming on the plains
& The sound of the wind is great, but the pink roses on my rug.

Making Morning / by Dianna Zimmerman

Stars crowd a nightened sky
like too much optimism

or a fusion explosion far away.
My lover doesn’t understand

my aversion to the best part
of the day, my wanting to stay lost

in the illusion of peace,
nestled in early-morning sleep.

The sun peeps over the horizon,
as if anticipating my dread.

I stretch my reply, mime the grasp
of arms, trying to ward off

the inevitable humor of morning.
I give in, pad down covered steps,

the moon’s knowing visage
fading with each fallen foot.

Poem 16 / Day 16

Your Mother Should Know / by Manny Blacksher

Grief always new. The epos deranged, we say, but sounds
familiar. Nostalgic but still catchy, something we
could dance to. We had ballroom, or our older sister/
cousin/ auntie held our hands—walked us through, over
gruesome, hilarious hours of familial
condescension. Someone had to teach us old moves, like
someone had to teach you to shit in play-pottie.

Civilizing infants’ hard, unsanitary work,
takes care-giving, initiation. Families,
villages, communities, cities, sovereign states,
nations do the dirty, so we’ll know if called on—
job-loss, luckless match-making, internecine war,
inside-voices—to be warrior-martyrs for the good-
old cause. Recent TED Talks reveal contemporary
insurgencies were caused by job markets ignoring
engineers’ new graduate degrees. Put frustrated,
humiliated engineers in politically
intractable problem sets, they’ll cut the Lockean
knot with steel and processes they trust. No politics
works like thermite and teflon jackets. —Or cut civic
participation to opining on social media,
making debt with or without a job—but raise
fifteen years’ military service slightly above
working at three different McDonald’s franchises
in the county—and you’ll architect permanent
gluts of disrespected early-retirees
with small arms proficiencies and leadership skills.

Soldiers get taught the talk of civic duty but learn
the logic of ‘last Pole at the Limerick poultry
production facility’. They’re promoted, angry-
as-hell, or laid off. Either way, they know too much
of government by governors who don’t believe in
government. Uncivil politics and uncivil citizens are
winnable hills patriots plant flags in. ‘See what’s wrong
with us—what’s wrong for them—as a bridge too far. Unless
you got the right men to construct and defend it. Blood
and soil. Strategic assets. Market hegemony.

And the ones ‘tradition’ inspires—most neither soldiers
nor citizens. Newbs learning online hustle. Children
memorize rhymed earworms that exonerate murder.

Ars longa, vita brevis. Don’t count on
other kids unless “woke” abbreviates “startled, looking
up from 8chan during history class.” Instagram
and Harvard Business Review advise fresh takes on old
issues like bad skin, debt avalanches, and kindred
spirits. Don’t be afraid to ignore what the aged
say you know. ‘Mindful in the moment’’s proven good
for your complexion. Frank Lentriccia reminds all,
“ ‘Household’[‘s . . .] a key word—one that indexes a middle-class
culture that modernists [. . .] would bury in scorn, who never thought
of writing for the whole family—who took pride [. . .] in
writing for the few.” (1) Well, shit, unless you growed up in
Eight-is-Enough, you shared the mean few attributed
to our Amer-West’s Hum[e]an family. You knew
what was “uncanny,” when you couldn’t talk about it
with those people who didn’t understand you—became
“sublime” or “enigmatic” at approximately
the time you started paying off debts. Rejoice! You can
renounce Freud and all his works, with the Brothers Grimm,
though you know home’s where the heartworm lies. Your bro’ John,
who’s *not* wokened, owns too many guns and stays
in his room talking to creepy interwebs pals, who
are like Pikachu, only they use bump-stocks and say they’re not yellow.
Which makes you muse that Dad would wear flowers to San
Francisco, and why no one could say why grandfather’s
deacon’s gown had got stashed with a bleached conical sackcloth
hat with eyeholes. Good thing that’s no longer relevant.

I mean, “Right?” Anyhoos, in 1874,
the Birmingham Alabama News plainly professed,
“‘We intend to beat the negro in the battle
of life. And defeat means one thing—extermination.’”(2)
And that Australian fuckwad spoke of “‘White Genocide’,”
“‘the idea that non-white immigration or mixed-race-
relationships resulted in existential,
genocidal threat’ to white people around the world.”(3)
Well, from late-Victorian to the Trumpian ‘teens,
the past’s not repeating—it’s more slant-rhyme. We all
know rhyming’s tedious in contemporary verse—
unlike repeating. Why would bad actors rhyme? Ask Mom.
Just because she’s never said, don’t mean she doesn’t know.

(1) Frank Lentricchia, “On the Origins of Modernist Poetry,” Michigan Quarterly
Review, Vol. 48, Iss. 2, Spring 2009 <https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-
idx?cc=mqr;c=mqr;c=mqrarchive;idno=act2080.0048.201;g=mqrg;rgn=main;view
=text;xc=1 >.
(2) Reconstruction-era Political Cartoon from Harper’s Weekly, 1875, quoting The
Birmingham News, The Encyclopedia of Alabama,
<http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/m-6630 >.
(3) Jane Coaston, “The New Zealand shooter’s manifesto shows how white-
nationalist rhetoric spreads,” Vox, 15 th March 2019
<https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/3/15/18267163/new-zealand-shooting-
christchurch-white-nationalism-racism-language>.

Body & Temple / by Jill Bergantz Carley

I know that memorial erected right there on charred earth
is not a flowered arbor,
not a chuppah;
it is no arch of joy.

& I’ve read the graphs, electrocardiogram of climb & descent, of vertical speed
I know the plane didn’t aim true for that flowered runway;
its wingspan would never have fit,
nor could its passengers all at once,
arrhythmic,
forcing the gates of an ending en masse and in fear.

Inside your heart at birth it was the same;
aortic constriction, blue baby you at six years old.
We were born in the same room
34 years apart &
30 years later with the daughter of the doctor who delivered you
I shared a neighborhood.

At 22 you earned the zipper down your chest:
the place they parted in the operating room to open you &
ream out the coarctation holding your body back.

Inside the body any room to turn & move is precious, few–
a touch of the nerve to your vocal chords,
a surgery taking longer than it should have
& you awoke without a voice.

19 years later your father would find the same
upon awaking in a hospital in Michoacán
post-stroke & aphasic; his voice was lost–
You told me of your not-forever silence
“If that’s the price to live, then I will pay.”

So steep, but Dad, I paid it, too,
at 18 with a shattered jaw
breaking your heart & breaking mine.
The days stuck together a cholesterol of quiet
I wrote my words on a yellow legal pad from the warmth of my childhood bed
bones broken & nerves much more than touched mended poorly,
my mother brushed my hair & I spoon-fed myself;
same as you.

At birth you could not eat
& in our Calaveras County home the answer–
was to bottle-feed your tiny self with lamb’s milk formula;
animals, we all are,
full of fear and will as keystones
holding the whole rib-vaulted ceiling above the ground.

Tapering, Looney-Tunes Style / by Cortney Collins

Saturday morning cartoon character standing on top of a trap door. Door opens. Cartoon
character hovers in midair for two weeks, the length of the half life. Half life expires. Cartoon
character plummets into the abyss. Even an abyss has a floor. Cartoon character hits the floor,
and is stricken with imaginary scabies and restless legs and an endless loop of the song
Lollipop running through its head. So this is what the abyss looks like. Another trap door opens.
And the abyss multiplies upon itself. This is the sacrifice to the God of the Chemical Imbalance.
Acme or Pfizer—either one may drop the anvil. Anvil flattens cartoon character so that cartoon
character no longer cries, dreams, or belly laughs. Cartoon character gains 40 pounds.
Animation decelerates into slow motion, one painstaking frame at a time. This is not to be
mistaken with living in the moment. Tardive dyskinesia causes cartoon character to twitch for
comic effect. Screen shrinks to a pinhole, cartoon character loses Medicaid. That’s all folks.

A Miracle for Betsy / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Myung Mi Kim

Black hole where science          used to be

Camellias    .     know what an earthquake feels like

Count the buds    .     measure the sound         they make opening(s)
You only need to hear it once

It took an earthquake                               to get my attention  .  Japanese maple

Sheltered citrus I only heard once,
but I listen all the time

Musicians, their entrance with sounds
Eucalyptus once we realize time isn’t linear

I never pray for myself
By the time I get through all my thanks  .  tulip trees  .
prayers for others    .    too tired         to pray               for myself

One hour, on my knees    I asked for a miracle, and Wes
Walked in valley oak            Wes my string theory

What are the odds you find
Desert palm   .     A chaplain who curses as much as you do

Your writing like music
Staff notes blur upside down

Piñata Heart / by Barb Jennes
for Mallory and Chuck – saccharine for the soul

Slice a red X in my chest
and string me from a tree,
mask your eyes with heavy cloth
and take a stick to me.
Batter me until the thuds
produce a hollow sound;
one more blow and my sweet cache
will cascade to the ground.

ABC songs in the car
to judge how far to go,
Simpsons, South Park, SNL
(our all-time favorite show).
Synchro swimming, Pokémon,
lasagna, if you please:
turkey’s stand-in – Jennes style –
with lots of stringy cheese.
Ice cream on hot summer nights
or watching an eclipse,
poker with dear Uncle Ralph
or Grandpa’s dollar tips.
Kittens, puppies, guinea pigs –
those ferrets were a trip!
Red-rock hikes and desert sights,
strong coffee – let ‘er rip!
Cleaning garbage from the road
with ROSA – a good deed,
chamomile and saxophones,
a dolphin with seaweed.
Hurling insults at a boy
then barking, “Drive, Dad, drive!”
Kibbe, laban, Yemo’s rice –
damned Furbys, kept alive.
Dorothy, Glinda, Groucho, too,
Aunt Polly, Marilyn,
Beat It, Barn Door, Hovenweep –
the places we have been.

All the things I treasure most
are harbored in my heart;
split me open, they’ll spill out
like apples from a cart.

Listen, though, there’s something left
that rattles in the shell:
deep inside, a nugget knocks
that cannot be expelled.

It’s the sorrow, it’s the grief
for loved ones who have died,
it’s the bad news, shame and guilt,
the damage to my pride.

But why would sweet gifts quarter with
a pit so dark and sour?
Without black night, how would we mark
the day a blessed hour?

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?
Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#16

Boycott

I nostalgically drew the March night like a backdrop curtain;

Deli beer & lotto signs by the hundreds raised like a nimbus skyline;

The moon, as if having been fired, wandered streets & back allies

Bent all out of shape barely holding on under neon monopolies.

A crippled trapeze artist mumbled how graced wind

Once carried her like a congregation of butterflies, but now only jostles her

Like passing subway grates’ musty blast churchly stern hot air.

I hung up & waited for her to wander in the public rain where, like a photograph,

I captured her hand. Puddles drained from streets along curbs to sewers

In which poets in love missed eulogizing their reflections. Trees firmly stood behind

The movement, branches hoisted like pickets in the air-lined sidewalks.

In the park, pigeons shivered commotion like a thousand hands waving

From an English transatlantic ship departing. The next morning clouds

Smattered across no “un écran diapré bleu” & none arabesque as if flowers.

The dirt-poor poets lacked good representation. Their circus

Of circumstantial genitives held little sway over nature’s uprising. All one had

To do was turn on the radio to the chatter about union talks

That broke down & the final independence declaration proclaiming the world,

“No Dictionary.” Rothko & de Kooning are said to have kept lengthy minutes

Amid storming riots & deaths… that eau de toilette of loss loiters & who can forget

Headlines from Memorial Day 1950—

All the Mirrors Have Gone on Strike!

Race Against Time / by Dianna Zimmerman

for Brad

It’s easy to go crazy thinking about it,
to lose yourself in the anxiety
of wrinkled skin, age spots, imagine shuffling along

when all around you
the sun rises and shines,
ignoring your despair.

Tell me of your resistance. I will whisper
our secrets to no one. We make a pact
to take care of one another, swearing

not to break down, to never fall to your knees
and repent for doing nothing wrong.

We will resist getting caught up in the game,
to cave in and make do. Resist the shine
of perfection, lost in its pretty place
among innumerable softening edges.

I ask you only this: expose your wrist to the tender
finger I run along it, tracing imperfections
so cool and sweet.

Days will go on, will rise and fall,
heady from the weight of our presence.
We will retain our dignity
as an afterthought,

choose to focus on moments,
declining to yield this race.

 

To Read Our March 2019 Poets’ First 15 Days of Poetry, Click Here!