The 30/30 Project: March 2020

Backup / Restore

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

The volunteers for March 2020 are Gordon Adams, Michael Carter, Charlotte Megan Edwards, Ellen Elder, Victoria Korth, Anne Laurence, Robin Shawver, Adela Sinclair, Lori Swartz and Sheree Renée Thomas. Read their full bios here.

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

Poem 30 / Day 30

Harpswell Neck / by Gordon Adams

Drove down to the sea today,
By stone walls and empty churchyards
And dark, white clapboard houses.

No yachts on the water this time of year.
Owners have fled to warmer weather,
Or left their summer’s pleasure
In white shrink wrap on the shore,
Tucked into stationary frames
Of metal and wood.

The lot that never has a space in summer
Is empty; the Dolphin is closed for the season;
It may be closed all summer long.
Erica’s budget-priced clam shop next door
Was shuttered months ago.

Sleet rattles softly on the windshield
I step out and the ruthless wind
Flaps my down-filled vest,
Slipping its icy fingers inside.

The air reeks of the sea,
Remembering lobsters and oysters,
Seals and dolphins now unseen.
The grey sky is trading hues
With the grey-green water.

I rattle down the metal gangplank,
Feet searching for safety bumps
That will keep me erect.
The wooden dock stretches out
At right angles, like letter blocks
On a scrabble board.
Power poles, like white sentries,
Mark each pair of unused bays.

A small flock of Common Eiders,
The females safely brown-speckled,
The preening males’ backs and wings
Slashed sharply in white and black,
Ride slowly over the ripples.

They drop below the surface,
Then reappear where I did not expect them,
Clams digested, keeping a safe distance
From the unexpected winter visitor.

The dock is littered with shards
Of black and purple mussel shells,
Artifacts left behind by clever gulls.
I can see them pluck their food
From near the shore,
Rise vertically in the air, hesitate,
Like a hovering helicopter,
Then drop the closed mollusk on the dock,
Shattering the shell, leaving the meal behind
To enjoy.

The wind unwraps me as I climb back
Into my metal cocoon and reenter
What calls itself “civilization.”
Leaving the real world behind.

HEART OF GLASS / by Michael Carter

Fantasy me, joy me
Hooking my hand to your me
Perfect cartwheels, perfect
The first time
Look at your endless
ruffled and spangled
Stretch in perfect
Harmony. I’m
Always longing. And now
This: everyone starved
For any attention, famished
Fed with the mere promise
farmers place in seeds,
Flung across the fields
Sown by the wind.

What We’ll Talk About When We Only Have Each Other / by Ellen Elder

The glorious unmade beds and chairs, plumed
in pillows, pajamas and paisley. The breakfasts
of many ceramics and sodden fruit. How we thanked
the heart of our lungs and outstretched our arms
in high-pitched song because it felt good to sing.
How we heard in ways we’d never heard. The orgasm
of rain. The rooms at first so small we could sit in one
and grope in another until we stretched those walls, too.
When this is over—for every course has a finish—
we’ll find that we’ve never met. Properly. For in war
pianos and violins are respected even when broken.
But this is the privilege of living in exile—to pretend
you don’t belong until you need assistance. Even
the earth will rebuke us—there is giant waste in not
being rooted. How long until the cascades plummet dry?
Who cries over chick peas? How many enjambments,
darling, before my scars become your scars to play
like a dandelion, to decipher when my muscles tire,
wing to wing, having climbed the same rough bark as you?
Each branch a possible break to contend with, each day
a new season in need of translation. You never told me—.
I never thought I’d say this, but—. Your paella is too
buttery. Step away from the balcony, your face is in cloud
and you are not wearing pants. Soon, you can make
a hair appointment and rejoin the world. I will never
dye again. The world has not changed, there is no pastoral
without a face to kiss. We’ll never ask, what country
were we living in? Who was president? Instead, we’ll tell
them—this proud couple who lets their wine breath
while we sit with our dump drinks, pungent like rosemary
in a garden—that that was when the elderly walked
hand-in-hand with a bottle of Crème de cassis
down the street. Asparagus? you ask. No, I said cassis.
Remember we were breathing tea and you hated me?
I never hated you. Don’t say hate, it’s a terrible thing
to say. They rode out to sea together, whereas we can
drop like a mattress off the container ship and be
each other’s cargo when the next waves comes, for
it will come, that next wave, it will come.

Dear Governor Cuomo, / by Victoria Korth

I am not feeling lyrical today, so I would like to spend it on a letter to you, dear Governor, to ask that you include the needs of mental health providers in your quest for PPE. Many therapists and psychiatrists have volunteered through the State website, wonderful, but they will be providing virtual care as we have been in my clinic for the past two weeks. We moved to phone contacts weeks ago, video is coming. But many of my patients live in or between shelters, some have smart phones, few have computers.

In mental health, the sickest, most vulnerable patients need to be examined face to face. Virtual medicine is not sufficient. I am not talking of the direct care of COVID -19 patients, but thinking about prevention of COVID while also preventing recurrent psychotic states, worsening addiction and suicide. How to practice medicine, meet the requirements of our training, our conscience and our humanity in this pandemic?

Last week I got a call from a patient’s wife. He is paranoid again and has relapsed on cocaine. He is agitated; she is afraid; he had taken off. We called his care manager: he is not going out because he has no PPE; mobile crisis: not going out, no PPE; ACT (Assertive Community Treatment): not going out, no PPE. Where is Damiano? Should his wife call the police if he returns when he is a large, agitated, paranoid black man? The system to provide care for the most severely mentally ill has broken down. Eventually, if he is fortunate, he will end up in the emergency department.

Multiply this by the chronically mentally ill across the state, those with schizophrenia, legal histories, on parole, refugees with no English, those with co-occurring disorders, dementia, diabetes, or just medication side effects, add them up. Many of these patients cannot be assessed on the phone because their disorder impacts their ability to communicate. We need to see them in the office, directly in the community through their care manager or intensive outpatient treatment. But without PPE they will end in the ED, the ultimate default. And tragically, straining that critically burdened system.

I got an email from my dermatologist today; they too are virtual, no office visits. I imagine my doctor and her nurses squinting at the i-pad trying to see someone’s dreadful rash with no magnifier, no lab on hand, having to send questionable cases where? To the ED. Multiply this by all the primary care and subspecialty practices in the state.

Medicine is one ecosystem. When one part fails the others are at risk of failing, will fail; the care for our patients, failing. In this war don’t forget the whole, the need for outpatient practices to see patients in their offices and in the community. We need PPE.

it’s OK to be a dangling modifier / by Robin Shawver

this hasn’t been easy
so be you
is all we can say
because we don’t have much time
and all the words come dusty
through cloth bound over lips
I wish I was more practiced
at reading eyes
but I’m not
and I need the twitch of the mouth
the sweep of the hand
at the brow
but that’s all behind us now
communicating through presence
on a regular basis
now when I see a friend in the real
I catch myself staring
at the intricacies of shape
and joy

Poking At Death / by Lori Swartz

I want to rub up against
you until I wear down
my skin. I can’t imagine
that I can’t get inside of you,
not just my finger in some hole,
but really inside of you.

I’ll die first and will come
back to you dressed in robes
like rolling papers. Find you
in the bathroom brushing
your teeth like
you are scrubbing the floor or
in front of glowing whiskey
in the morning.
Push against you
like a small knife, just about to pop
the skin. I’ll see the world
through you, like looking
up to the surface from the bottom
of a deep pool.

I will die of something
long and drawn out. I am not afraid
of car crashes or gunshots
or lightning. It will be a slow ruin
of lungs or liver or heart.
There will be plenty
of time
to say goodbye and
we are starting now.

A Prayer to Breksta* / by Sheree Renée Thomas

Each day we wake
     from the silvered splinter
         of night
     brush away the litany of bad news
             as we wipe the dust
         of mourning from our shoulders
     and lay our backs against
         the full wind’s black teeth
     with no other company save these hours
we forage in the forest of forgetting
         in search of terror’s end, the fire born

In dreams we slip
     through the moon’s wet caul
         our faces
     slick stars that reflect sky’s hunger
         we close our eyes to witness
     the white shadow’s passage
         her arc of light, the stuttered breath
     that reveals the sign, this unbroken rune
         our unspoken prayer

rising and falling
as we turn
through the night

that death passed over
         death passed
                                 over
         death passed
                                 over
                 us
                                 over
                 you
                                 over
                 me

*Breksta is a Lithuanian Twilight Goddess who protects you from sunset to sunrise.

Poem 29 / Day 29

Sonnet / by Gordon Adams

On shore, I look out at the setting sun
A time for passing moves before my eyes.
The life-long goals that must remain undone
Lose strength confronted by my near demise.

I’m but a victim of remorseless time
Eroding every act of bodl’y will;
Enduring strength I can no longer mime;
Youth’s endless cup I may no longer fill.

The harbor by the blue-grey sea awaits;
The yachts no longer linger by the piers
I am no more the master of my fate.
My life’s determined by my aging years

Your love, alone, can fill my heart with play
And give me solace on this winter’s day.

ANYTHING BUT THE OCEAN for Jae / by Michael Carter

“Not the Pacific or the Atlantic, leave out
the Indian, the Arctic and the Southern.
Not even Billy or Frank Ocean, smarty
pants. For that matter, leave the seas
out of this poem too. The Mediterranean
and all of its blues, the steep coast
of the Sea of Japan and its rising sun,
the Bering with its narrow passage
and seals, and especially forget
the Ionian with all its Greekness,
Romanticism and dead poets. Leave
all that behind. I want a poem
that isn’t about the ocean, not
about ideas swelling and receding,
no images lapping at the edge
of your consciousness, and please
no poem about the sun setting
over a great expanse. None
of that please, just a poem
that isn’t at all about the ocean.”

Midlife / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

I.

A lady
gets a colonoscopy.
In the waiting room, her friends
discuss the merits
of steak.

I walk around amazed
at the beauty
of most people. In the elevator,
I watch light
scintillate off dewy skin
of strangers.

Advice from a poet said: simply observe
things, write them down. I
tend to feel things, spill
them out of me.

I like
the feeling of trusting in God,
yet consistency
eludes me.

I’m soul-swimming to
and fro borders of flesh
and Spirit,
always course-correcting
toward the latter.

If God
judges us for our sins, I hope
he judges us
for all the poetry
we miss.
Surely, this is just as large a sin as any—
all this magic
in the world, and us, anchored
to our woes.

Take the word: glistening
the onomatopoeia
ness of it, how it slips
off the tongue
like something wet, like something slick
and glowing
and full
of promise like
an exquisite flicker
of sunlight, glinting off crests
of a rippled ocean.

Should we not
be held accountable for missing
such things
so delicate,
so penetrating,
like how the hushed rose
of my daughter’s palm
is a whole
garden
in my hand?

II.

I order oat milk lattes and remember
the time
we still loved each other enough to mourn
the fact we no longer loved.

Now, I’m just numb.
Luckily, we’re getting over this—
another course-correction—
called in a third party to help us
ascertain: these marriage-daggers
are stitching a blanket, an heirloom
of our love.

You don’t make a quilt without a needle going in.

In bed, I read a Southern poet
and want to move
to Kentucky. You
watch martial arts, people pummeling
each other.

I need someplace new
but familiar, some place heavy
and sweltering—
so things
will stick to me
so things
will fall away,
return
to my roots, see what grovels,
what cleaves
to the dirt from which I came, sift it
through my fingers

Am I made of this? Do I belong?

My Southern homeland both cradles
and strangles, you step outside,
you’re wearing it, thick muggy suit
of oppression
              (or maybe
              you just couldn’t take another man
              in khakis whose hair
              needs to be tousled)—

bet i could prick it, see what humid
horrors unravel
or perhaps, the opposite—
a magnolia-scented promise wafting
from it’s wounded threads

… strange,
how the past
seeds
within you, and is only
now ready to blossom
finally
after a forty year winter.

You are most anchored to that which you hate.

III.

My Uncle died,
the last
of the brothers
and the family farm,
and the freedom-buffer from agonizing
decisions

like what to do about our dementia’d Aunt
and the tobacco barn
which sits
in the field like a stuffed
potato —
stout
and lonely
and full
of Grandmother’s things.

Back on native lands,
I plant my feet
into the fallow dirt, watch the geese
fly overhead, note the pine
figurines on the back property line:
crisp silhouettes
against a blue-russet sky, the last
of the light.

I want my soul
to be clean, to sow
my regrets into the Father’s
soil— for the same reason
as the cotton, the tobacco, the soybeans:

to yield a harvest.

The Bodies Being Flown Back (Good Parenting) / by Ellen Elder

The night before the tunnel crash we watched videos of you & your brothers learning to ski in Graubünden, grainy streaks of red & blue snowsuits flitting among pines, followed by your mother (without poles) & father (with cigarette). The video quality was poor, the audio overlapped languages, but the parenting is sleek & graceful. Today they just line the kids up, each on a single ski, & teach them “Pizza and Fries” on a fake hill.

It is mesmerizing to watch your mother divide her time between each of you, her hair loosening from her bun, her movements swift against the setting sun. This is shortly before another video of another mother in a nearby cantonteaching her sons to ski. But she doesn’t want to be filmed. She approaches the media & cups a camera lens, asking for privacy.

Why do these moments come to me now? Good parenting? Borders closing? Your mother once dumped a hundred potatoes before me on a wax mat, following by even more instructions, though we spoke different languages. It was her kitchen. I knew what to do.

Today you are a flight attendant. You nervously forward me memes: The pilot is working from home, & so on. Because of the virus, passengers eye each other with suspicion. They argue over keeping an entire row. Once on an excruciating landing, the stranger next to me grabbed my hand, & the man next to him grabbed his. Speeding through the tunnel, did she do the same? Were they already holding hands? Perhaps we should always be holding hands.

On the return train, I lost a pen between the seats. What was it, we wrote about on trains? Someone turned to us & explained that she was dead in Paris. An American—who before was bragging about Venice (boardwalk) not Venice (St. Marks)—translated. But they were just riding in a car, you said, staring out the window at our sleepless faces that reflected back to us our papers ready on our laps, our tired legs intertwined, our socks not yet dry.

Thieves of Timelessness / by Victoria Korth

Someone said thieves of time, but I think
she meant thieves of timelessness,
duration, which suggests an awareness of time.
Endless errands, being forced to work
so hard you perfect the art of napping
while standing, and constant self-interruptions,
also death, are thieves of duration,
the self in time. Come here, moment
before turning the corner around this building,
split second with my hand on the knob before
entering the house, fleet shadow
upon waking, before the mind remembers
its desires, show me
the protective soul of the forest,
say to my tired senses: you are worthy,
let me make a subtle peace with you
even when there is no forest.
I am old enough to wake looking older,
lines on my face from the pillow
and from other parts of my face pressing on itself.
Little trusses between brain cells fracturing.
But the forest, the forest.

this time we choose / by Robin Shawver

right? can’t it be more than
hearsay
can’t we actually choose
instead of selling ourselves
to the highest bidder in the dim hope
that it will match what we wanted
in the first place
I don’t know about you
but I’d like a chance
a real chance that didn’t involve
but evolved
there’s talk of dreams
and syncopation
5th world reckoning
and moon shadow
so far we’re on the 7th book
and they’ve collected
a moon rock
a mammoth bone
a mouse and a mango
these last few days
it might be coincidence but wherever
we look we see mammoths
yet we missed our chance
to walk the mountains
everything is too dry now
too much possibility for fire
we missed our chance to say goodbye
everything is too far gone now
and you’re locked out and we’re
locked in
your apartment sits silent
once I left my things behind
while I lay in a hospital bed for weeks
and I never went back
for my shoes for my little bits and pieces
I never said goodbye
I was too far gone by then
we can see each other but we can
not
and so we talk of summers in Wales
tree forts and our children
who loved each other and told
secrets in the night
I’d like them to have a chance
to swing from mammoth tusks
break through the borders
and touch

Listen… / by Adela Sinclair

I took today to be absolved of battling demons. Quietly, I used to, swell at the effects of their pronouncements. “Your brain child is on fire.” The battleground. Say I did it on my own, but I didn’t. Corrected, I eat an apple and cool my body under rain. I look through a droplet hanging on the cherry blossom and see NYC upside down. Minuscule, my city is upside down. My eyes water, the mask is tight on my cheeks, the lines on my face run deep. I am not ashamed. Love is larger and monstrous. I want to save my city. I need to save my mind they say. O bright porous hearts of ours, withstanding the break. Our circle marred, then too soon we fall asleep. Forever. Gone from the hugs of our children and grandchildren. We buzz with images of empty streets, the bust of FDR glistens under rain, trees lined like soldiers with no one to see but me. Learn everything. Now. Your garden is open.

The Angel / by Lori Swartz

You roll away from me in bed,
winged back in a ribbed white wife beater
(even though we are not supposed to call it that anymore).
I want to mine you and come out
with diamonds. I may be missing
a leg or a few fingers when it is all
over, but who ever
comes out whole?

I think of the night I met God,
five year old hands in my father’s
while he talked Jesus,
stabbing and nailing and thorns cutting
through the forehead. I knew even then
that the meek would never inherit the earth.
I knew the power of elbows out, head up,
mouth open. I nodded,
eyes on my fluffy socks, wanting
to make him happy.

I knew this wouldn’t work with you.
Not the praying, but maybe
the meekness, so I am quiet, holding
my ankles, knees to my
chest, waiting for you to roll over. I lie
on my side, mouth half open, waiting
for your words that never come. I am sure
your version of the story would be
different. It would hold
bribes and insincerities.
Always spoken by me.
But I think that this is ok.

Poem 28 / Day 28

Social Distancing / by Gordon Adams

Reclining in my Adirondack chair,
Out front, porch scanning the street
Folks pass by with dogs,
Keeping away, as instructed.

Is this social or physical distancing
Or New England custom?
Keep your space;
They might be from away.

Where is away, anyway?
Down the street? In the next county?
From some other part of the country?
Or just not one of us?

Even the neighbors are from away now.
Sunday’s paper folds more easily
With fewer to report the news
And only one news story.

Like delicate, sheer muslin, the social fabric
Tears, the threads slipping from each other
Opening gaping holes in the cloth;
Black boxes in social space; nothing is joined.

Electronic ties struggle to replace the tissue.
Band-width inadequate to keep up.
Garbles interrupt the flow of nervous talk,
Warps in space flinging our signals randomly apart.

The virtual world will never replace
Touch, hug, kiss or intimacy.
Only antiseptic relief,
Simulacra of human contact.

From my porch tower,
Longing at the ready,
I watch the few passers-by
Wondering if this is forever.

BUFFY: THE GIRL WHO LIVED / by Michael Carter

Episode 1: Welcome to the Hellmouth

California school.
New girl. Blond. Hangs with nerds. Accepts
Fate: fights vampires.

Episode 2: The Harvest

Mystically trapped an
Ancient demon wants escape.
Buffy intervenes.

Episode 3: Witch

Mom casts a spell to
Relive her high school glory:
Ends up atrophied.

Episode 4: Teacher’s Pet

The sub becomes a
Huge praying mantis. Preys on
Virgins. Some are safe.

Episode 5: Never Kill a Boy on the First Date

Buffy has a date
It doesn’t go well. Vampires
Interrupt the fun.

Episode 6: The Pack

Cool kids are possessed
Laugh like a hyena pack
And eat the principal.

Episode 7: Angel

A mysterious
Guy turns out to be a vampire.
Buffy still likes him.

Episode 8: I Robot, You Jane

Willow is cyber
Seduced by a very bad
Demon. Still, a broken heart.

Episode 9: The Puppet Show

A possessed puppet
Is demon hunting, tries to
Kill Buffy. Near miss.

Episode 10: Nightmares

Lucky nineteen makes
Nightmares manifest. No one
Is saved until they are.

Episode 11: Out of mind, Out of Sight

Girl, manifestly
Invisible, gets revenge
By ruining prom.

Episode 12: Prophecy Girl

The Master kills her
But killing her makes her brave
Wears a gown to fight.

Untitled / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

The deadline to submit to your future
has been extended

Pivot from your pivot

Wrap me in caution tape

Danger, danger! Friend approaching!

The news drones on

Perpetual state of couching

The country is polka-dotted

Megaphone of alarms

Three walks before noon

Swim in the sea

Nostalgia amplification

Swinging on the wisteria vines

Redolent days of youth

I decide

I splay my fingers in the dirt

I pull up the past

I sow the seed

Hope

Comes in many forms

The Handover / by Ellen Elder

After the first bumpy weeks, after the jaundice
retreats and the nipples no longer chap, after
the three of you coast into half-asleep love when
day is dictated by nursing and everything smells
like cream of wheat and you become a cliché,
answering the door in a robe, you settle into a nursing
routine: you gather book, phone, spit rag, notepad,
pen and remote to settle cross-legged on the couch,
unbuttoning your top, unlatching the bra (if dressed).
He holds the baby aloft, slightly away from his chest,
like a priest offering the host, at once public and private.
You must rely on his instinct to hand her over before
her mouth clutches onto his false breast, yet he stalls,
he lulls, he adopts a pause greater than hesitation.
Your exposed breast drips, the baby fusses and gums
at his shirt, her mouth a fish at his chest, her hands
fisted walnuts, pink as strawberries. You are as attuned
to her color as you are to her cries and try to goad him
to move faster, to avoid this schism of confused pain
you are feeding between you. Yet he holds her mid-air,
oblivious of any nature except for this performance,
transfixed by something not outside himself. One second,
two seconds pass. The baby is about to unleash more
than a cry and your breasts burn as the milk responds,
as they’ll burn every time you hear a baby cry for years,
and she is still not in your arms.
What is this that interrupts the flow of love? He murmurs
sweet things to comfort her, yet it is too late. She has already
tried to feast on the gates of empty cotton and buttonhole
and found no nipple. Surely this is how knowledge is born.
She will not let go this kernel of trick and disappointment
–she who before was dripping in the headlights of love—
and is now mid-exchange on a plate of power. She will
carry this with her as the rest of the acts unfold.

Messenger / by Victoria Korth

A tall male home health aid
            with a hefty blue backpack
            leaves Mike’s house and sits a car
            entering data into a handheld device.
A wide-winged heron glides overhead toward the bay.
            The man turns his white sedan around
            and leaves the neighborhood
            without seeing me.
Elsewhere, a female loggerhead
            digs a nest beside a lifeguard chair.
            If not for the cancer, Mike would be
            there, on Miami Beach, right now.
I haven’t spoken to him since he came home
            from surgery weeks ago,
            but watch his West facing windows,
            curtains open in the morning,
drawn in the late afternoon.
            I try to be outside one hour a day.
            When they move like that
            I know he is alive.
If he were well, we would have spoken
            of many things, how his friends
            are faring, Jimmy and his partner,
            Jimmy’s dog Doodle,
the annoying walnut trees,
            crime, his sister and
            my mother who he met last year,
            but we would not have talked of death.
Now, we are being told
            to make decisions.
            Those who have a short time to live
            should speak to their loved ones, now.
Those who are well should also make plans,
            clearly, courageously,
            make end-of-life decisions, now.
            Another heron overhead.
I would like to see Mike’s face,
            hear him laugh, share
            with him
            my fear of dying.

Untitled / by Robin Shawver

stay away after all the work you do for me
I’m going to be late today as well as the other
maybe we can meet up for dinner tonight
and yes I will be there at our place on the corner of our contract with the quarantine environment and then I will be there at our place and I will be there for the first time in a long distance learning more about the quarantine environment and the kids will be there at our place and I will send you the details on irs account some kind of money’s
schedule keep the education system alive and kicking my apologies for bothering you

Let Me In / by Adela Sinclair
(inspired by Door in the Mountain by Jean Valentine)

There is a door in the floor.
Never ran this hard through
my childhood.
Laid our moments on the table
as you captured them
with aperture.
Green stars shoot out
of the box
on the table.
I was carrying a dream
tied to my shoulders
while touching the lamp.
Tied to my back is
your plumpness.
Stings me like a jellyfish.
I float somewhere
above the door,
my legs hanging below me.
Birds are not willing
to fly me in.
Door int he floor
let me in.

1918 Fever / by Lori Swartz

She wants to sneak out and not
come back, the house is
closed up, full of sweet, salty
fish smells like the opposite of desire.
She writes inky penned hands, a holy
crush folded
at her kitchen table,
carbonated fear bubbling, waiting
for her child’s forehead to heat,
a stone in the sun?
Making soup, with a freshly
killed chicken, drinking whiskey,
but not to the bottom, saving
some, in case someone needs it
more than she does right now,
in case she will need it more
than she does right now, hand
to her own forehead,
testing,
but still ok.

Remedies / by Sheree Renée Thomas

During the Black Plague
fear not God
made all things possible
and the people turned away
from both science and scripture
tasked themselves
with creating their own cures

Rub an onion, chop a snake
drink vinegar and arsenic
bathe in the waters
of a black lake
be sure the watermark
covers your head

They waited
holding their breath.
Shall I brace myself?

After the Spanish Flu
the Red Summer came
and with it the hatred
that spread as deadly
as any disease.

What does one do
when the new virus
emerges, cold as the old
ancient carnage that bares
a newborn’s name?

How does one protect
skin and bone
teeth and hair
when there is no
pre-existing immunity
when the condition is persistent
resistant as life itself
and those who need it most
refuse a cure?

In city after city
hate blazed
the new turned earth
erupted
in blueblack fires
that burned down
dreams in brick
and wood
and flesh.

Children screamed
nightjar and screech owl
cries that pierced the air
the echo of martyr’s names
rising like hot blood
in cut throats, necks
bloated, heads bent
from the weight of fear

While the great trees wept
mutilated their own branches
and hung their heads low
as the blood and piss
rolled down their trunks
like tears, sank into the circle of time
staining their growth rings.

How do we recover
from tyranny
from the scent of burnt
flesh and rot
the sight of sewage
and trash and broken
bodies?

How do we transmute rage
this futile alchemy
each broken chirrup
a dirge we are born
knowing how to sing?

How do we
improvise, adapt, overcome
the predictable cycles
of redemption
and savagery?

The inevitable sweep
is its own violence
a dark spirit that rolls
across our hearts and tongues
as smoothly as Time itself
and returns again
no matter
how many ways
we drown

Poem 27 / Day 27

Recollection / by Gordon Adams

The silence of snowfall.
A thin thread from the incense stick
Wavers nervously on the air.
He lies motionless and remembers.

Sunion’s black star-strewn night.
The young boy in flannel,
Warm on the next mattress,
Exploring new desire.

The gold and orange glimmer
Of the setting Aegean sun,
In a warm and welcoming sea
Water slowly rising on their bare legs.

The narrow top shelf
Of the Italian couchette,
Huddled, loving, skin to skin,
Under a thin Tartan wool blanket.

The deep, gritty sand dune,
On an empty Fire Island beach in May;
The surf’s relentless pounding
Pulsing the rhythm of wanting.

The tiny bunk-bed sleeping room
Of the small, off-campus bungalow
On a summer evening, drenched in sweat
Wrapped, enraptured in love.

Were these real? Were they fantasy?
Or both, he wonders into the silence;
Buried in recollection
And the scent of the sandalwood.

FRESHETTE / by Michael Carter

We alone have will
to resist. Oh green,
oh geese, oh dam
burst through,
the vixen’s call
in the dark inchoate woods.
There’s no resisting
this, spring bright
middle of the night.

Homeschool / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

On the dock, my son and I sprawl out, lounging lizards in the sun
reading about kidnapped dragons and talking
cats, crabs crawling beneath us, my daughter
shouting from the balcony, she needs a couplet, it needs to rhyme,
be set in nature, we string together vowel-chimes dock – rock, sea – glee
and anthropomorphize the clouds, which, apparently,
are not very good secret keepers but are, indeed,
excellent wind-whippers, blowing our book into the canal,
we become book-fishers with nets, meticulously
place tiny shells — auger, olive, snail, coquina — to separate
each
soggy, clumped page, leave it to air-dry
in the baking sun while my son
barks after the dog and I
toss my considerations
to the cumulus-salted sky: run on sentences parading as poems,
lounging lizards
vs lizards lounging, and the disrespect
afforded rhymes,
sometimes,
when,
in fact,
is not a rhyme
the very act,
needed to bring
life’s heavy hitters like death-loss-and-longing
to their sucker-punched knees?

present tense past participle, on the dock searching for syllables…
world on pause something something laws?… medical team applause?…
out on the dock, world on lock…

I retire the trite phrases,
make shapes out of clouds: Dragon. Mouse. Rabbit.
My kids
finish their school work, make an obstacle
course with the pool noodle
and — dare I say? —
              … with the dog, I canoodle.

Unsung Engagement / by Ellen Elder

Cicadas stick like buttons to trees, boats
             huddle along the lake. Tide-nibbled

toes turn bog cold. Every place is far from Ohio.
             The hotel where he leaves you with the bill

hosts an auction on the veranda. You walk as if
             in a dream. Well-shoed tourists sip Fendant

and strain to hear the auctioneer over the scarab
             buzz off cobblestones. You bid on antique

candelabra. You forget you wanted children. Some-
             one fans away a bug. Cicadas flit

in the chandeliers and champagne flutes. You bid on
             and win a pair of Victorian hand-held mirrors.

The description reads: Early signs of oxidization,
             slight veneer loss. In the elevator, now

responsible for an even larger bill, you flip
             the mirrors over to study their backsides:

Victorian ladies in repose at a picnic, looking
             bored, as if expecting a proposal. The mirrors

are part of a family: brush and comb, a duet of lidded
             bowls that open on miniscule hinges, their screws

timid. Inside each bowl is a delicate swatch of velvet
             on which a necklace could sleep, or a ring, or

the hollow corpse of a Cicadetta sibillae, its abdomen
             worn out from singing, its poison drums dry.

At the foot of the bed, a presence / by Victoria Korth

Our governor says, hard day, ugly day, sad day,
a touch of Harry in this tardy-gaited night.

Poets dream, doctors perform, nurses hallucinate.
Poet’s work, shape and shaped, left for yet another day.

Who I am is what I choose twined with what is there.
The unlit windows of this city and your kindness.

Stretch the arms, open the hands. Diction is all.
To speak is to strive to understand oneself aloud.

Facts have made me faithful, at times cry with pleasure.
Yet faith breathes for me as I wander those wards,

then like a fist on stone, something hurts.
We call the shaping force of water through soft shale a hand.

Offered, taken, twined across this neighborhood,
between states, over the ocean. Who consecrates, makes holy,

is one who says, this is holy. This lemonade, our desert path,
a dream dreamt in unison. Sleep now. There will be day and night.

You have touched me in the center of my chest, spoken
in an image like a secret I want to memorize.

the other side of the fence / by Robin Shawver

the whole world
is fighting the same enemy
and yet some still
make it so
our neighbor is the enemy
because there has to be an
other
doesn’t there

On How to Love Your Lover / by Adela Sinclair

You deserve your beautiful eyebrows.
Sit with your sit-bone pointed towards Mother
Earth. Feel her gravitational pull. Allow
the vibrations to emanate from your feet
through your body. Up.
It is okay, he loves you.
Allow your crown chakra to open
at once and volcanically shoot the energy
through the top of your head. Open.
Let this lemon juice burst out and spread
over the island, your city and the world.
Enjoy your contribution this morning at 9 AM.
Be with the flow. Flow.
You deserve your incarnation. Flow.
Rest assured this feeling of levity
will last and yet
you doubt,
plagued
seated your seat, then you remember
you’ve yearned for your lover
without the confines of your heart.
True like the speech of indigo children:
“Stay away from the crumbling wall, you
don’t want stones to hit you on the head!”
Dead, dead, it wants you dead, and you
last through le petit mort, erasure, and
this. Oh, how your poetic ecstasy lets you in.
You will endure. See-through as your white
blouse, let anger appeal to the surface.
Burns in under 7 minutes then flame out.
Nothing, remember nothing you do will change
their nature. And everything is available to you
in transformative ways.

Lockdown / by Lori Swartz

Stay at home orders
with a six year old
that I met 16 days ago.
He says both please and Jesus
Christ with feeling, portrait posing
in cowboy hats and masks, footie
pajamas and a metal toothed smile.
He rakes dead leaves, swings
on ropes in the yard, asks me
to scratch his back so he can fall
asleep at night, runs with me
in the desert hills, dodging cholla
and talking to himself in Spanish.
He asks if he can stay
with me always. He throws gang
signs and plays zombies with the cat,
both bright-eyed, clawed and wild,
hands chapped from signing happy
birthday and washing.
We have cupboards
full of food, a species
gone inside. He tells me
that some people don’t have houses and
sometimes get to stay in a hotel, sometimes
the hotel has a pool. He has
a mother, father, grandmothers and auntie
all disappeared. Deported or MIA.
“Can I stay with you always?”
I want to tell him
yes, but he has had a lifetime
of promises.
So we rake leaves, I scratch
his back, read
him bedtime stories and sit
alone on the porch at night.

An Apprenticeship / by Sheree Renée Thomas

there is much to tell but none that would satisfy
you seek the signs that fix a soul, hold a mind and a history
protect it from falling into the wrong hands
the words that keep a restless spirit or strangers in their place
you seek the scent of burnt sage, the wisp of ochre smoke
to usher a heart on to peace, prevent it from returning
to seek some lost prize it was never meant to win

you tell me of your journeys, that you have learned to study
the trail of smoke, the face of clouds in the sundrenched sky
that you climbed a mountain’s neck to hear her secrets
and you learned to taste the air in search of the things
she has lost or misremembered, the illuminated movements
that push a life forward, beyond the jagged rocks that push
us up and out toward our better selves, but this is not enough

you say, you traveled to the edge of the wood
down a road no one but the lost can find anymore
because you want to know more, more than what
the river whispered when you lay your body down
in her arms, more than what the stone said when
you rested your forehead on his cheek

what you don’t know is that we are all still searching
we too are weary travelers that must claw and grasp
stretch and pull ourselves up from the things we thought
we used to know, from the things that make us feel lost
and small and sightless, our faces worn smooth
with worry, heads bowed, backs scarred but healing
always healing from the hard lessons we have yet to learn
from the revelations we refuse

you say you know your own way on this side of a vision
that you have grown strong in sensing when storms come
without rain, when the wind brings danger and a body
must seek shelter from the destruction that dwells within
but there are signs that we all miss, messages and mysteries
too wide and entangled, too frightening to unravel on our own
apparitions that haunt us in the rising steam and mist

but come in, daughter
sit
drink

the bitter with the sweet
i will make you no promises
if you walk with me
there is no guarantee you will find
the things that you miss when you wake from sleep
you may lose what you didn’t know you had
you may find what you cannot bare to keep
this is what is lost when you travel
your sense of self
when you seek a path that demands
that no one else follow

but walk with me
i have wandered long in the shadows
waiting for a hand to place in my own
listening for a voice to make my name
a song, let us walk this path together
where the wind smells different
and the trees speak a language
we have neither tongue nor ear for
put your trust in mine as I put mine in yours
let us learn together, let us walk together
let us grow and throw salt together
not knowing where the path is going
just as long as we go together
just as long as we are gone

Poem 26 / Day 26

The Rope / by Gordon Adams

(for AH)

Small children, toddlers, really
Too young to know what danger is;
Hold onto a continuous rope,
Each hand grips a knot that marks the spot.
Led by guardian women at both ends.
The deadly potential of an onrushing car
The danger of wandering off the line
All secured by the rope, the grip, and the leaders.

As we grow, the rope evaporates
Into experience.
Danger and truth are individual
Each of us in her own boat,
In choppy seas and calm;
He walks the ship decks alone,
No rope; only a fragile fence.

Slowly, hands reach out
To steady our course.
A love walks alongside on the deck
Until love dies and friend arrives.

Marriages wander off course,
And fall into the sea
To drown;
The friend provides a steady hand.

We cruise through illness
Loss and separation,
Depression and recovery,
Political wars that insist on distance,
Rage that blazes and expires.

Each step of the way,
We build virtual knots,
An invisible rope that binds us back.
Each of us finds our knot.
Each of us leads.
The rope ties us together.

MOURNING MAP / by Michael Carter

You will be woken by a phone ringing
and think, Oh, it’s Susan, calling
to say Mom hasn’t died.

You’ll think that everyone’s histrionics
are vaudevillian until it happens to you.

You will not know how to comfort your father.

You will want something of hers, open her drawer
and it will start all over again.

You will get there too late.

You will remind the funeral director that death
is natural and make up does not make anyone
look more natural.

You will ask questions you didn’t know
you knew how to ask.

You will say hard things and expose yourself.

You will wear your mother’s upscale
Mickey Mouse watch, even though it will look
Lilliputian on your wrist.

You will look at her rings and think, no these
are a child’s rings, they are too small
for a grown up, and now dead, woman.

You take turns with your siblings crying,
like an orchestra everyone gets a solo.

You will wake before everyone, clog the toilet,
plunge the toilet, call work, walk to Starbucks,
walk back, knit, listen to mournful music, knit
some more, and want everyone to get up but
resent them when you lose your privacy when
they do get up.

You will keep changing socks because none of them
are comfortable anymore.

You will have an urge to go out and buy a new outfit
or every outfit.

The sound of an ironing board and the squeak
of its hinges will make you weep.

The Cenotes of Tulum / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

it comes on, an electronic device
implanted between us, a pacemaker
regulating our love,
and shakespearean thumbs
peck allegiance to this god, or that,
and blue lights emanate from all the windows up
and down the street, households swimming
in a sea of televised contagion,
and all i can think is
i wish we were whales,
wish you were lost at sea,
singing my song and waltzing
toward me in a liquid blue, unaware
that the world is on pause and you think
i’m your mother,
see this is the problem you said bait and switch
you said you’re not who you were
you said, but your voice
fades and floats
to the bottom of the sea and i am
the whale swimming freely out the window,
over the home, the neighborhood, where we raised
these children, where the jacaranda bloomed
year over year, where the hamsters
were buried, the bread was baked,
the promises we made
to each other were lived
into
so deeply
they melded, took root
in the earth, became
the manzanita trees we swam between
in the cenotes of tulum
can’t you see them? i said, look i said, swim with me, i said, you always were
a creature of the sea and magical thinking
might do you some good, and don’t you know
i always told you things
are not
as they seem

Instead of Goodbye / by Ellen Elder

Meanwhile since it is not possible to see you
again, to be with you in person to say goodbye,
to hold or touch you, whether you register my
presence or not, I will sit outside on this chaise
lounge beneath the laundry that has long dried
and that the rain has wet again and I will close
my eyes and put you here next to me. You are
welcome to bring another chaise lounge, there
is a stack of them cob-webbed in the carriage
house, or, since you are probably sleepy, a thick
blanket, as you please, and lie next to me
on the plush grass. You may have to remove
some fallen apples. The orchard is redolent
with the over-ripe and the over-bloomed, in fact,
it’s all a bit dead here, in the time I’ve spent
anticipating how much I will miss you. Especially
here, as we always appreciated the way the sea
lingered in our hair, and for weeks after our skin
was plumper, smoother, as if the salt washed all
angst away. It’s true that I appreciate the local
produce more than you. You always said the
blackcurrants were a bit heady for a berry that
didn’t take to wine like grapes, and besides, it’s a
scraggly bush that attracts too many birds who
become tangled in its labyrinthine branches only
to flap madly in our faces when disturbed. But I
dream that today you have put your distaste of them
aside and, as I have roused myself to gather the last
of the blackcurrants, I know that you have just gone
inside for a moment to retrieve another pail, or find
an old bowl since the children always hoard the pails
to take to the strand. I am sure you will come right
back, pleased with your bowl find, any moment
now.

Poets begin and end by quoting other poets. / by Victoria Korth

If the contagion of every hospital in Valdichiana,
from July to September, and in the Maremma and
Sardegna, were amassed in one malarial ditch,
just such suffering was in that place.

Inferno XXIX

We suffer by what we live, less so by what we read.

But sometimes, events brought on by greed and ignorance

and fate, what we read is very close to what we live.

Today, thirteen people died in one hospital in Queens,

some in rooms next to rooms where teams were saving

some who also died. Some whose family did not pick up

when the code blue was over as they were close to dying

elsewhere in the city. We have all read, we all have read,

we read and read, and talk, expostulate and listen—hear,

try to forestall the Poet who walks before us while we stop,

just as he wished to slow his mentor’s steps, touch his heart.

If you knew how well I knew the ones we pass today.

this season
created
a split / by Robin Shawver

between what went
before
and what we talk
now.

Angels / by Adela Sinclair

(inspired by Rilke)

Whispering angels.
I invoke you, almost deadly birds of the Soul.
I ask you about us
the caress withholds
it does not vanish.
You say keep believing.
This fullness of sound
harmonious ecstasy.
Jealous of our embrace.
The ultimate reality
          winter’s bone
          chilled cheek
cannot receive the warm breath
of our kiss.
Writing letters is what I do. To
those I love.
Too late…
You want us to experience death
without having died.
How trustworthy are you?
You would like for our hearts
to outbeat us.
Our souls to outlive us.
How cruel must you be to want
this pain in exchange of our love?
I feel your presence
in this room.
You escape in the corner
of the ceiling. The dark
hole closes and the air
is petrified. You may think
I see you. I do! With
my entire body. I do!
Everything is trying to hide you.
The houses are still.
The room is as it was
with sprinkles of chaos
in corners. You slither.
You leave a slippery film
on the wooden floors.
We lovers, slip and fall.
We see stars. Have
I any proof of your visit?
No I do not. Behind
the window looking
to the East River, I
invoke you,
terrible angels.

Time Travel / by Lori Swartz

I dreamt I was a time
traveler, but I only went back
to 1984 to sit with your child
self on your bed, tell you
who I really am, so you would
know me when we meet.

I am from milk trucks and storefront
churches, yard sale sheets and boarded
up hurricane windows.
Leather belts and banana bread.
I am from sprouts
grown in a gallon glass jar, chipped
on one side, my father’s hair sparking
with static, brushed down to his hips
as he fills and drains the spermy seeds.

I am from the Torah and the New
Testament. I am from tadpole
creeks and bare feet. I am from books and always
saying yes. I am the flashlight fisher, looking
into the dark places, finger to my lips, puffed
up with what could have been, hand-delivering
parts of myself back in time to you.

Poem 25 / Day 25

Open By Easter / by Gordon Adams

The news summary comes at dawn on the radio.

It is already being faked,
For broadcast to a dying people.
Our leader says we’ll be back in business,
Filling churches by Easter.

Come back
To idle factories and parked trucks
To Miami’s beaches for more parties;
To empty bars in NOLA’s dying Quarter
To show rooms in Automobile Drive.

Cui Bono, the detectives ask?
The Wall Street wealthy steal away in retreat
To their Aspen palaces of wood, granite, marble,
Enough sanitizer and disinfectant wipes on hand,
Servants at the ready to search for more,
To survive an restore profit for another day.

Forget
House husbands and wives
Frantically grasping for toilet paper
On empty Safeway shelves
As their children cower in fear.
Homeless, vulnerable men and women
Living under cardboard on Van Ness St.
The bodies stacked on ice rinks in Spain;

And forget
The aged, infirm, immune compromised,
Necessary sacrifice;
Takers, not givers,
Unworthy of investment.

The barker in the circus ring of sycophants
Knows the winners and the losers in this game.
The dead he leaves behind.
Will not rise on the third day.

THE GOD ACCORDIAN / by Michael Carter

All night the dog

opened and closed

like an accordion

between us in bed.

He lingers on

his song. You are snoring

snoring your song.

It’s irritating.

I’m awake

because of your

snoring, I mean, song

and wondering

about the hand

that stuffed the lion

from inside which

makes me think

I might still

be asleep

and dreaming

you back.

Untitled / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

wind-licking peaks

heavy whipping

cream

sliding off

in dollops

plump teardrops

sloughing off a collective viral load

a morning ritual

/

we peel

the caution tape

from the beach’s entrance — it’s rogue,
not official —

limbo under the deterrent board

— who said
we could not enter? who said

keep your distance?

did the sand call out in protest?

did the sea?

even

the shadows

still frolic in the sun

The Gamble / by Ellen Elder

During the C-section, I watch steadfast
as surgeon #1 stitches my bottom half,
jerking me to and fro, hin und her. Some-
one raises my daughter before me—Baby

is good!—though before I can distinguish
one bloody glove from another she is whisked
away with her father and half the OR’s occupants.
I nearly expect the lights to go out. In my groggy,

half-starved state, I am halfway between heaven
and an indoor car wash rocking in disco lights,
emerging in a muffled dirge of neon suds trapped
beneath glass. I am going under. I turn

to the anesthesiologist, half-expecting to see a nun,
or God reprimanding me for letting my daughter out
of sight so soon. I crush her hand to hold her gaze.
Don’t let me fall asleep, I beg. I squeeze hard, as if

to hurt her. I want to tell her that in splitting open
I have severed all trust in him, he who tacked solo
into the wind without course, with instrument but no
provision. I want to tell her that this was not a birth but

the launching of a long vigil, a gamble to stay awake.
In German, vigil is “Nachtwache.” But rather than
watching over the dead at night, I will be watching
over the living. I will have many days awake at sea.

Fevered / by Victoria Korth

On the flat map of the country orange circles spread like pox.
I linger at the bedside, i-pad on my knees, swipe up, down.
Our poor northeastern cities are in flames.
Watching the sick is exhausting.
Stand up in the undertow, resist.
What do we know?
Today is my day in the clinic.

the battery runs low / by Robin Shawver

the oyster shell doesn’t hold the water I hoped it would but I still imagine finding the right shell to curl up into
I’d like to offer them a cocoon or at least a warm cave as if there was somewhere dark and dry
to pretend that everything was OK and that we didn’t all need a lifeboat moored to a metaphor
I never really thought I’d be a mother let alone a daughter and yet here I am showing them all how to read
so that someone will listen to the power in their voices
not that I had the sentience to know that we would need it through screens and solitude
I never really thought I’d be on this side of the ocean
when all of you were on the other and all I would have would be this
this screen this keypad this blinking eye
I always wanted to be perfect but I was never really able to be vulnerable enough to be perfect
and now the battery runs low but we stay awake through the darkness
telling stories using our voices being together

A Little Quiet / by Adela Sinclair

The quiet made me stay.
Inside the tree trunk,
inside the cave with stalagmites in the shape of
a bear. I do not know what shape it will
take, nor how long it will be.
I wish for my body’s health and return
to its roots, its rootedness and joy.
I drink my hot water with lemon slices,
until I run out of lemons and must
buy more. They come from lemon trees
I wish so much I could pick. Squeeze them
so the grease from the skin, the zest,
remains on my fingers for hours.
I spray the house with essential oils,
the heat is drying the air and the throat
wants to remain quiet for as long
as possible. I guard my morning, savor
my 9:30 AM coffee while Rilking with Ariana Reines
and the rest of the poets. A salt bath was on the menu
yesterday, today a hot shower after our walk.
We select the ugly side to stroll on. Industrial.
Gray, not sunny. Less humans to avoid. They
do not socially distance well here on the island.
Us two are super social distancers.
Wanna social distance with us
sometime? The soup I made today will nourish us
for days. We watched Laurel and Hardy
in the evening hours. Our laughter appeased our fears.
We open our windows at 8 PM each night and
clap and make noise for the healthcare
workers on the frontlines. I listen to stories. Your stories.
Each story has its own appeal. Now quiet… not even the birds
tell of their stories, I retire my pen and paper.
I wish you sweetness in your day,
mens sana in corpore sano,
and the mind that travels the world flying.

Shutdown / by Lori Swartz

Each night we have a dance party.
Wild swimmers, arms up and down,
smash-bouncing, wind-kicking,
scrappy as horn band,
on own porches or the dirt path
between houses, music veining,
worming, crashing. Costumed dancers
shaking loose limbed bodies,
with cool foreheads,
(we are not sick yet).

We dynamite blow
our whoops and cheers
so we all know
that we are all still here.
We are lonely-stung,
remembering what it was
to be neighbor touched.
(that was a long time ago.)

Elephant shaped clouds
in the sky, day
turned velvet.
Love grows in my chest
with each song, watching
my neighbors
in their small pods of joy,
watching
my boy in his monster
footie pajamas
dance to
What a Wonderful World.
It is true, everything is
more beautiful when
you are doomed.

Day 10, Self-Quarantine / by Sheree Renée Thomas
for Clairesa Clay

Sitting at home
trying not to be
a hypochondriac

stepped outside
the air smells like
environmental racism

rushed inside, scramble
for the elevator, fucked up
and touched my face

Poem 24 / Day 24

Poetic Leaves / by Gordon Adams

Departures from the trees in autumn
Or on trains for wandering poets.

Wrinkled, curled, page by page,
Torn from branch or book,
With a faint flutter,
They fly into the open air.

And settle slowly into silence.

SPRING EQUINOX / by Michael Carter

At the foot of the bed
the dog turns clockwise
then counterclockwise
then clockwise again
like a safecracker
cracking a lock
nimble for bundles
of cash, diamonds,
velvet boxes
nestling pearls.
Meanwhile,
the tea in my cup
shimmers, on the outside
is the Shaker Tree of Life
no roots but jeweled
with fruit.

Interventricular / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

I.

Daughter’s arms like jump ropes flapping.

My son is a thick potato.

What if “live and let live” tricks us
into accepting everything wrong?

I think the neighbor is a Peeping Tom.
I towel off with the blinds open.

What if snowflakes were armies,
come to blanket the world in white peace?

My eight year old cartwheels a trail of hope
across the living room floor. Inside, I feel pathetic.

I haven’t called for fear of loving you.

All this thinking is bad for your health.

I am afraid I am most alive only
in my head.

I rehearse loving you while mowing the lawn.

It’s hard to be honest
when people have their own ideas of you.

II.

At the cemetery, it’s raining.

People are buried in cement.

A lot and nothing changes in four years. A baby
now lies close to you.

Later, I eat guacamole with a friend. Our fingers
brush against each other in the dip bowl.

Your father bled out, she says, not a blood clot
like you’d been told.

Outside, I want to throw up.

God, Dad, and Wishful Thinking talk to me
in pink skies.

Beard of chocolate on my son’s face.

My daughter wears my childhood roller skates, legs
like needles in a wheelbarrow.

Empty text bubbles in my phone-feed say everything,
but mostly: loss.

I remember in the aftermath holding pieces
of your heart in a cold room, my knees smashed to the earth.

I watch home videos of us at Carowinds. You were happy and loving
in ways I don’t remember, now, it’s too late.

The darkness takes my tears.

Our longing becomes a bird.

We light sparklers to the sky.

Someone’s Neighbor Near You / by Ellen Elder

She sees her reflection in plums at the grocery.
Unsure of whether to linger outside a bit or

return straight away, she hesitates, for there
is no way to predict what today would prevent

a violent unspooling. Sometimes, bending over
the tub washing the kids’ hair, he slaps her

behind. For a fractional moment she wonders
if it was meant as playful, then she self-corrects

to determine if it signifies the onset of a session.
From the children’s room the hanging teddy bear

has been set to “Waves.” She often carries the bear
into her bedroom so that she, too, can fall asleep

to the sea. Other choices are: a babbling brook,
gentle rain, or a family of whales communicating

via echolocation. She takes notes of her bedroom
like a still-life she is prepared to paint in a class

with other people, all of them naked. She studies
the hand-written sheet music on the vanity, a line-up

of green perfume bottles on the sill, a vase with such
a tiny neck that it could hold but a single stem.

Stairwell / by Victoria Korth

This one is also allegorical,
and the girl sitting on the third step
at 2 AM listening to her parents nightly
argument is a general sort of girl.
Her navy jumper hangs in the closet
like a classmate she admires named Robin
who has a rabbit fur hat and yellow coat.
But the girl is not thinking about that right now.
Nor is she trying to decipher her parent’s
electrical hum. She simply can’t sleep.
Sleep is allegorical too. Like a door
in a mountain she passes through
without opening, or a book bound on four sides,
given to her by a man on a train as he hurries off
and up the stairwell to the surface of the world.
For a moment the lamp across the hall is her mother.
In her need for them to see her, welcome her
on the couch, soothe her to back to sleep
the girl has neglected both past and future.
But a future continues to arrive. In it she
stays silently in bed, invisible, perched
in her attention like a night creature.
Voices have brought forth the storm they feared.
Wind whines through the night, go back to bed,
say your prayers. They did not take you with them
when they fled. A school of silver fish flashes
around her body, turns, flashes away.
The sea floor has awoken. It too is rageful.

What Is the Shape of Your Body? / by Adela Sinclair

I am terrified of other people.
Terrified. Open.
Most of the time I do not want
to feel a thing.
Eating, overeating gets me there.
I masticate,
no longer taste the food,
and I could choke on an orange
peel and feel nothing.
I am terrified of people,
not death.
Being on Earth is like doing my
homework, virtually.
Post-mortem bliss is not feeling
the ample shape of my body.
Quarantine meals made with my hands
from familial recipes make me realize
my father loved me with each meal he
cooked. I did not love him back.
I swallowed with a violence
that erased all tastes. I was not grateful.
Now, I am grateful, for my hands I wash
20 times a day, that cook the meals Tata
had prepared. I could disappear off the
grid. I may be high as a kite and my amorphous
body bleeds outward, an ever expanding ameba.
Invisible, invincible, I kiss my blue sky today.
Later, I swallow a star and when I open
my mouth, white light radiates to the surrounding
neighbors, to the world, and the universe.
I look down to cool my blood.

Countdown / by Lori Swartz

I want to call off the match. Take off my glittery warrior
wear, tough boots, pluck out my stone eyes. I can see
how much time has passed by the sides of my shaved hair,
now 3 inches long. I want the bell to ring and the round
to be over. I take off my gloves, leave the battle to those
who care about war. Lie down, small of my back flat to the ring,
close my eyes, only the sundial of our black stream words
moving slowly around us.

Ten. Nine. Eight.

I am already beat, skewered
through, wrinkles
around my eyes
from squinting at the clock
clicking down to one.

Seven. Six. Five.

On my back my body is a starfish with one leg gone, giving
you my one last dictionary word for surrender. I am no longer
fleet footed, my body worn out from the fighter steps, the dance
steps of who did what and when. The rope of our connection
tangles around my neck. Unwind the knots
and we can use it to pull ourselves to safety.

Four. Three. Two.

I am spinning in the house where we loved and fucked
and stood under the kitchen light, arms crossed
up to our throat’s and held our breath. We follow the footprints
that got us from love to now, but the wind will blow and the path lost.
Let’s take off our shoes and walk soft through grass instead.
I have no plan, only stillness.

One.

Shelter In Place / by Sheree Renée Thomas

Finally, the order comes
and the mailbox hangs open
like a child’s poked lip
our windows
great gaping mouths
unseeing eyes that do not blink
and the only burdens to be shifted
from a shoulder to a wrist
from an arm to a hip
are the same ones carried
temple to temple

And masks are falling
one by one old selves
give way to new selves
translucent layers of dead skin
reveal the smooth unlined
palms of the future
emerge from red brick dust
secrets scrubbed across
the silent doorways
expose only the bare
necessities

And here we are
dressed in our Sunday best
party frocks with nowhere to go
drinking water or wine
blessed bourbon burning
in our good glasses
while the scented candles weep

For there are blues to sing
promises to make or break
love to be made

As we shelter in
remember this

Poem 23 / Day 23

Hawks at Dusk / by Gordon Adams

On my now-daily walk alone,
In the early evening silence,
As winter Maine sun turns
Thin and pale yellow,
I look up, drawn by no sound at all.

Hawks sail above me.
First five,
Then ten,
Then twenty.
Their tails ruddering invisibly.
An occasional, casual
Wing twitch, hardly a full flap,
Just the right amount of aerodynamic lift.

Their circles widen in a slow-motion dance,
Figure eights climb over ellipses
Rhomboids intersect circles.
Some stay near, others drift out of view
Behind the tall pines,
Only to reappear from another direction.

I can almost hear a silky rustle
As they find full support
Where there is nothing but air
And a clear blue sky.

Their presence is a mystery.
This urban street holds no road-kill
For their predations.
I am not their target,
But an awe-struck audience.

I take the wood chip path
Through a corner lot
That has escaped development.
I know this space;
The pines crowd
In the somber shadows
On winter’s snow
And shade thick ferns in summer.

Hearing a swish of pine needles,
I look up the bare brown trunks
To the green crowns at the top.
The hawks are nesting there.

Each folds itself onto a branch,
Upright bundles,
Live, temporary pinecones
Against the sky.

I raise my arms
In silent gratitude.
As orchestrated response,
They rise together in the air
And now recognized,
Settle again for the night.

TARTARUS: On The Seventh Anniversary of My Mother’s Death / by Michael Carter

Winter shorn
the garden’s stubble
is just showing, pushing
aside the honeyed soil
sweetened from
last year’s take
that an incursion
of daffodils are spearing
through, knifing their way
from below, greedy
for sunlight, invading again
to refill their larder,
doubled in number,
tired of their dark repasts
banking on another
banner year, and
full of the best intentions.

JELLYFISH / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

At the sea, a small boy, ours, keeps
watch over a jellyfish
lying slipshod on the shore,
a beached moon, tentacled
and see-through
and fallen
from the sky.
The world is inverted.
Your lips are coral.
Our faces are pockmarked,
Scoured by the sea.
You hold me,
compelled by the weight of what we’ve lost.
Blanketed in the cool gray of the day,
we watch our son attempt to flip-turn
the gelatinous creature back toward the sea,
a futile cause, rolling tides
washing away the flotsam.
Everything in precarious balance,
except our palms, glued
and swinging in unison.
This is all we have.
These children, these tides rolling between us,
these soft gelatinous hearts
beating, thumping,
searching for the sea.

Portrait of the Poet as a Single Parent / by Ellen Elder

It is not that the formal “I” has crossed the line into prose, only that in the tightness of /
circumstances (time, money; form, content) when one decides to break a line, it might /
be that the anti-syntactical marginal [blank] space left to contrast and/or contextualize /
what was just broken is not enough because the reader has hastened to misjudge or impose /
meaning onto the speaker as if the speaker has broken a vow to commit to a single generic /
[institutional] genre./

Prove You are Not a Robot / by Victoria Korth

In another poem, I adopted a persona, a young woman I pretend to know. I let her walk home in the snow on Christmas Eve from the Dollar Store after leaving work or wherever she has been all day as a home health aid, cashier at Wendy’s, receptionist at the Community Place, hospital facilities or her father’s house. The shelves are stocked with dried soup and Reddi-wip and sugar, Gatorade and soda, plastic wreathes and tiny bottles of hand cream. I allow her to stand beside the new employee and not speak, look past her knowing she will work until eleven and feel relieved it is not her, let her pay cash for the pre-stuffed stocking for her son and leave, decide to walk because it’s snowing and the bus is late and she’s been splashed on, her ankles cold, her chest tight and breathing sore. This is my drama and I would like to enter now, offer her a ride, offer my boots, mittens, a hat, but she has those. I would reach in my pocket, reach down towards her but find myself uncertain, reaching up.

Here comes the ironic part: she passes street signs, bus stops, bridges, red lights and store fronts, passes without noticing—lets me draw this contrast as a frame, extract the nuanced meaning—she stays securely in the scene: By These Marks Correctly Identified She Proves She Is Human. She does not stop and think what need is there for proof, she allows me to think that for her, and for us. Instead she hears a carillon in the dusk—sweet and electric. Her church eschews bell towers and stained glass, but the bells have always made her feel less lonely, the loving daughter of a musical family; or perhaps she doesn’t notice; or perhaps is disgusted by them and by her unrest. Her face is cold, her footfalls muffled. She smells exhaust, nears a snow-draped set of stairs, key into the lock, up one anxious flight, hears hissing from behind the wall, her son running. Inside it is warm, but not enough to make her want to leave on Monday and come back this way again.

this might be the time / by Robin Shawver

the need to be grace continues for peperoni and peppercorn – chiffon and nightly superstitions – for pouring flour through sieves and masking avengers – I hold all the memes in one hand and all the patience in another – windows open wide in the morning now and if not the space in our hearts becomes humid and over wrought – let out the breath it says – stop holding it all – the moment will move – on – and a child says there is no knowing what will happen so why try to organize it with understanding just make more popcorn – and plant seeds and think about compost and snails – darling, have you seen the snails – someone will ask between bedtime and bath – because there is a time and this might be when we use all our magic

Pentru Tata (For Dad) / by Adela Sinclair

The further I go into this, the more
I hear my father speaking.
He is explaining why he had to leave Romania.
He went ghost for a couple of years in 1985.
I hoped he could improve my
solitude. Instead he changed my life,
after he brought me here.
During those two and a half
years I became my own
talkshow host, acrobat and a dreamer.
I built my audience, made fast jokes,
spoke fast to my audience made of friends.
Stories became my currency.
I saw him one day. In a dream?
A figure, far off on his own journey.
I wanted to spark my imagination
with the foods he ate in America,
all the smells he came across,
the new language he began speaking.
English was made up of only words for me,
and the phrases “How are you?” and “Thank you!”.
He tried to share this with me in the dream
but I just could not hear him.
For more than 2 years, he drove
a yellow cab with a purpose.
He cleaned with a voracious appetite
to forget. Forget the separation from us.
In those days tata, dad, Gheorghe, aka Titi,
became George. The immigrant who
loved his family more than life itself.
Unfolding in time, crossing daily over
city bridges, connecting cognates
Romanian-isms to English. He figured his
way around the city, in broken English.
As things stand now I talk with him
on FaceTime daily. We discuss Romanian
recipes, make jokes, laugh from the belly.
He invites us again into his home with open arms.
I stay put for what? To say I made it through in my own city?
Stories of survival. Ours.
His. Through the thick and thin of life’s ebbs and flows.
I am grateful for his diligent love. Dignity in fighting
for his life. He loves me so I can make it in the Big Apple
and not rot. There is no worm here. Don’t worry Tata.

I Got a Feeling / by Sheree Renée Thomas

I just want to sit back

and watch James Brown

comb his hair. Standing

in front of the floor length

mirror, smiling like the joker

in the deck. I just want to be

a pleat, the ruffle in his shirt

the bell in the bottom floating

like heaven above his foot.

Please please please let me

feel nice like sugar cuz

people are heavy like misery

and you don’t know what

you done to me. I just want

to be the mystery of the black

sheen that dazzles and dips

the luscious strands that

dangle over his wide forehead

the drop of sweat on his lips

shining like the fullest full moon

during an Indian Summer. Coiffed

to the gods, I want to rise

from the center, sparkle

like red sequins and swirl

around his shoulders, unfurl like

the favorite fold in his Godfather

of Soul cape. Double-breasted

and brocade, bright white razor

shade, let me be the heel in his boot

please, the pointy tip of his toe, let love

fall down, fall down, fall down

and make me drop

to my knees.

Poem 22 / Day 22

The Best of Times / by Gordon Adams

The Sunday paper folds over on itself
With thinner ease each day.

No games are played; no records set;
No sporting gossip, the idle chatter of ESPN
Where former players find reward and fame.

Thank God the locker rooms sit empty;
What would men talk about if they were open?

There are no stages; the theaters are bare.
Actors strut for no one; endure no paralyzing auditions;
No tedious rehearsals, waiting for their one scene.

Thank God the theaters are dark;
There are no celebrities to celebrate.

The coffee houses, once a yuppie kingdom, now home to all,
Their windows dark, blank slates,
Bare of baristas, devoid of drinkers.

Thank God the coffee houses are empty;
No more idle time spent in pretend work.

Restaurant grills and ovens are cold.
The Greek-Italian home of unique food does take-out.
Classic cuisine becomes chicken, olives, tomato sauce.

Thank God the restaurants no longer serve.
No more twenty dollar pours in a four-ounce glass.

War has an extended run, but not for us.
Soldiers, civilian men, women, children may die.
We no longer know; no longer notice.

Thank God the wars continue.
Something must go on to keep our minds off death.

OIL FOR FOOD / by Michael Carter

A large car, a gas guzzler
clearing a space in a stand of trees
in ignorance or wisdom, I can’t tell.

The wise book I was reading
before sleep said: Modern seekers
confuse the vehicle for the destination.

If everything is God, then even
the car? Why the clearing?
What to make with what’s left? A circle
of white birch trees, a clearing, a car.

Birdsong / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

How much

Sorrow

Can the heart hold

Before it breaks

Open

Spills into the sea

Becomes

The thing

You spent your whole

Life

Trying

To avoid

 

Birdsong as poem

Poem as prayer

 

Listen deeply

to the world breathing

The human heart is bold

And something eternal burns in the darkness:

The resilient heart

breaking as easily for joy

As it does for sorrow

 

Watch

Listen

The waves are breaking.

The birds are singing.

The dawn arises.

Stay-at-Home Nocturne / by Ellen Elder

Empty streets, nerves alive in your teeth.
Dead-paper petals drip water from the upstairs
balcony. The purpose of the cradle is not only
to rock, it is to hold these plant pots. Local
caregivers continue to sacrifice so that we
have a moon safe in our heart. The shops
designate special hours for them. The news
could be yesterday’s postcards. Grief can sit
heavy on your chest but you only think that
you cannot breathe, it’s probably just the cat
snoring beneath your chin. Pull the mattresses
onto the floor to sleep beyond yourself. These
days, there may not be much you can do with
others, but there is much you can do for them.

What is the Worth of One Person? / by Victoria Korth

for Michael Carter

You are worth your weight in plain-spoken poems
and in their truthfulness and in constancy to dogs,

strengths that abide in a farmhouse where we might find you,
solitary—an inward state—though not alone, good friend

to yourself, ready to lend that friend a hand.
Chrome peels off the faucet, paint off the cabinets,

bark off hickory trees on the far side of the window, hope
away from one hundred thousand souls. I don’t know you

but see your outline in the glass, inclined at the table’s
bright screen, a deer sensing rain on the wind’s rise.

heave ho / by Robin Shawver

dear grandma
pulling the strings
from way up high
what’s to say
any of it matters

it’s like watching trailer
after trailer
using up all my free
time
with what ifs

I usually do that
when I’m most tired
and time is the most
precious

Our Bodies, My Body / by Adela Sinclair

The sum of our bodies
     deeper than seeing
     deeper than hearing
the noble and ignoble parts
the adaptations, not in use
moving down the esophageal slide
into the belly
the rim of the belly
then
expanding beautifully
our lungs send oxygen outwardly
through the rafts, our red blood cells
that travel stirred and commanded
by the heart, the seat and fountain
of life.
Right and left, the sum of our body
the seat in
                  passion
                  affection
                  sorrow

If you dive into my heart
there is a chance you’ll
survive without a parachute,
a small chance you will stay
suspended on the branch
you landed on.
Handed over to me as a bather
in the Loire, Muresh, or Olt rivers.
Basking in the sun devoid of fear.
The seat of royals.
Forward the crown and sepulcher.
A small gesture.
I am your master.
Dissimilar to a dictator.
I let you know all my governing secrets.
I pull you in further
to the depth of tendrils, cilia.
I absorb you
with passion
        affection
and
        sorrow.

It Is All Temporary / by Lori Swartz

He is in bed, tucked up to his chin in dinosaur sheets,
“I don’t know who to love and who to put away.”
I am in the deep fall of my life, covered
with leaves and weak sunshine, I still do not know the answer.
I want to take his whole heart, fold it softly in moss,
put it away until he knows how to protect it himself. Take away
the eight other foster homes, the broken leg, the grown up
palm prints on his skin.

I missed the day he came into this world
(what was I doing and how could I have not known?)
and I will miss every birthday from here forward.
I want to lift into a different body,
swim there, but there is no-one else in the house,
except my dozing gray cat, lying by the fire
after killing some small wild thing.

This child is in the waiting room
of my love. His number will be called and he will go.
He will go because he is four and has no choice. I want
to make the dark streets safe for his questions. I want
to teach him to read and fight with words and ideas,
not fists and guns, but his world will be full
of fists and guns. I can only hold my arms up
in surrender, in a here I am, white flag wave.
“I don’t know who to love and who to put away.”
I tell him that his heart is big enough
for everyone. I think I believe it.

Symptoms / by Sheree Renée Thomas

some shelves remain unstocked, even when there is no pandemic
and what remains—the outdated, expired, the dry goods and dented
cans—it all comes home with you anyway

like the stress and the grief, as ubiquitous as the dust that covers
the aluminum tops and aisles with the candles shoved near the baby
wipes and lightbulbs because you are used to the double tax
used to being black and poor, or ____ and poor or at risk and
____ and invisible, underserved in an overpriced world

where your life ain’t worth shit, in a world that is a lot of things
but a meritocracy ain’t it and you learn how to open
fresh wounds with your teeth and spice ramen with the blood
in your veins, in a world where you put your last two dollars
in gas to get to the other side of town where you know
the shelves will never run out, never run empty, are gleaming
with plenty, sparkling security, self-assurance
where every life and every business is essential

we masters of the lunar verse, of giant steps
on the dark side of the moon, we masters living
on the dull edge of hunger or pain, we masters of lack
and want, fall and rise with the intimate knowledge of need

some neighborhoods shiver and sweat
from the constant low-grade fevers of fragility
with peeling walls and playgrounds
that sweat lead
built on poisoned mounds
with underground pools of radioactivity
that flow beneath shanty town housing
zombie architecture
rising from the burial grounds
of the last centuries

some families huddle in baba yaga chicken wire
tremble on the hollow bones of the dead
ends and grassless coves where even
the strongest among us
can’t breathe
some live with a constant state

of shortages, where the ends
were never meant to meet
where we learn to live
with the shortness
of breath
shortness
of health
shortness
of time
money
dignity

some of us live below the line
dwell in the parts statistics
semantics and national conversations
never want to go
we are the caste beneath the caste
the invisible, untouchable
masking our fears
as we linger
on the contaminated surface
of society

Poem 21 / Day 21

Mortality / by Gordon Adams

“Death is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic.” W.H. Auden

Death is not a theory dreamed up by social scientists.
It is an anticipated surprise. A known unknown.

Unexpected, unwished, unwanted,
yet there, in a Canal St. streetcar on the way to lunch in the Quarter.

In bed on your back one spring morning
letting the lazy weekend sun sweep over you.

At the bus stop waiting for the number 104
to carry you down a bare Broadway in the early morning rain.

On Thanksgiving as the pumpkin pie,
sweet, brown, and creamy, melts on your tongue.

As you gaze out the window in a Vermont winter,
Dazzled by the dance and shimmer of the snow.

While sunshine teases the ripples in Casco Bay
While giant’s fans push clammers out over the mud flats.

It comes with the urgency and shine of a clean house.
With the rush of a Storrow Drive taxi cruising in the rain.

Or with the slow clarity of a bailer in a brown Iowa field.
Or the silence of a desert night as moonlight trickles through the sagebrush.

It leaves you like Mississippi river bends that grow smaller as they run away;
Or a post-coital ceiling stare after the rush of love-making.

It is the one societal experiment with a 100% predictable outcome.

KITCHEN CABINET / by Michael Carter

As night pales silvered grasses
rise out of the dark
meadow. This morning
each stalk, each leaf on each
tree seems visible, alive in the light.
A breeze unburdens the air
of summer’s humidity.
I’m sitting at the kitchen table,
which is covered in mail. Songbirds
& a woodpecker provide
ambiance: the radio shut off. Is
what distracts us
also distracting to the rest
of the world? What
I mean is this: what is the use?
What is the worth of one person? Sure
there are saints, known and unknown,
and wielders of power, but what about one
person sitting in a kitchen
with unpainted trim, in rural New Hampshire
in stillness, silence, solitude.
Is this really his gift to the world?

three small poems / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

my feet— bare, plodding,
cutting a path toward the sea
through the long, dew-tipped grass,
each step a prayer.

the sea— glimmering,
flickering a spectacle of light
across the salt-crested peaks, a conversation
just for me

the afternoon light— dappled, soft,
dancing on the living room wall,
a language all our own.

who knew

such intimacies

awaited in the dawn

of each new day

Ars Poetica / by Ellen Elder

At the Fort Myer Officers Club, in the 80s,
my job was more to run cold Cokes than gobble
up balls. And because I’d plane in to see my mother
during spring break or such, I didn’t know tennis
any more than I knew her. More than any photo,
it’s my mother primed at the service line—a place
of vulnerable poise—that I remember. She’d bounce,
bounce, bounce the ball before throwing it high. What
followed was a moment of perfect freefall; I wouldn’t
breath so as not to break the spell. She’d hesitate, then
jump—white skirt riding up, white Adidas in contrast
to the orange clay court. And when my mother grunted
and missed, silently swearing to herself by name,
I found my mouth twitching into a smile. I pulled
the visor low, my neck an itching sunburn, in order
to camouflage my shame. I wanted to shout words
of encouragement, or love, but I never knew what to say.
On second serve, she usually succeeded, grunting
again, and I’d settle back on the bench, bits of rough
clay stuck to my thighs. But to witness her at fault,
or falter in any way on the court, somehow rendered
her more human, as if she were offering an apology.
I waited for it as she dutifully called the score:
Love-15. 15-30. 30-40.
Deuce. Ad-Out. Deuce. Ad-In.
Deuce. Ad-Out. Game.

Quarantine / by Victoria Korth

Now that every day is Sunday
I see that every day has been Sunday
all along, the minutes passing quietly
in the empty room, light drawing
up and over my head so I can see,
darkness seeping out and seeping
back in tiny packets, trees aware
and in that comforting, blackbirds
swooping, screaming, eating,
our red fox loping across the back
from left to right just after sunrise,
and you, learning how to love.
You ask me, how best to give love
so that you keep love, how to keep
love so that you may give it. Today
as tomorrow I answer, I don’t know.
When I knew, I was mistaken
and have since been with you and
apart from you on an unnavigable,
starless, silent and disappearing river.
The answer is why you ask, why you
were born to me, why I can hear you.

How to Write About Something That Does Not Get Better / by Adela Sinclair

Nothing is valid anymore.
Rules are the ones being broken. We are broken.
Our system is broken. Even the BQE is broken,
underneath. Our hospitals are broken.
Nothing is of as much value, as loved ones.
Rules out walking outside,
when all we need is each other, indoors,
here between our walls.
The chopped vegetables await.
My hands have not held my nieces
in so long. I hope to be able to get through this.
I hope we all get through this.
Nothing is as valuable as life.
Here and now.
The bickering does not matter.
The ones who are walking outside,
not social distancing matters.
I am called to do my significant part.
You matter. I matter. We matter.
Nothing matters.
Everything counts in small amounts.
Confusion sets in.
When do you talk to a loved one about death?
Yours or his?
About being taken away?
Going away?
We are away now, in separate rooms,
angry at those who are prancing like
they do not care in our city.
Half of the cases in the USA are in
New York City. My city. Here where I live.
With you, we will get through this.
Right?

gulp, flinch, twitchy, tiny, fast / by Lori Swartz

And then
the world began
a deep, slow shaking,
turned up by the ankles,
loose change falling
out of pockets by the hundreds.
I don’t want
to tell it, don’t want
to be the flashlight girl, looking
into all the dark places.
The numbers
climb, it is all
I can think about,
eyes shine
like bacon grease,
refresh
the page over and
over, try
to sprout duck feathers
to let it all roll
off, refresh, check
for the time,
eyes scan
to the US number.
Friday March 20,
7:31pm
17,610 testing
positive with
13 recovered.
Thirteen recovered.

Poem 20 / Day 20

Future Tense / by Gordon Adams

Careful contemplation
Compels recognition

that
          Volumes of poetry flutter to the floor;
          Verlaine, Rilke, Dante, Frost, Yevtushenko, Basho gone.

Actors no longer strut to forget their lines;
Poor players, now lost to their creators.

Antiseptic wipes evaporate from shelves;
Hoarding hands community the back of its hand.

Dinners with friends are in virtual space;
Casserole containers emptied unshared.

Traumas are explored in virtual rooms;
Shrinks share stories of ancient neuroses.

Failure loses its trajectory;
Unrecognized for lack of time.

Success morphs to ephemera
There is no world to celebrate it.

Enemies melt into empty dust;
Leaders bankrupt; people un-moved.

Hirsute hookers disappear from dark corners
Dystopian worlds have no disciples.

Politics fades to media babble;
There is no truth, only skilled prevarication.

Love reaches out with electronic arms;
It cannot survive the risks of intimacy.

Fear escapes from a Pandora’s Box
Of lost hopes.

AFTER THE HONEYMOON / by Michael Carter

Through the fog the morning light
catched the rain-slicked leaves
that sparkle ethereal as the memory
of a wedding. The dogs stitch
in and out of earshot, their tags
clinking like glasses, toasts to
the bride and groom. Layers
of tulle and netting blouson
the fabric buring off as the sun
brightens the (so far) occluded day.

Love in the time of Corona / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

Text: peanut butter,
jelly, cheese, popcorn please

Baby wipes, glue, scissors, hat

Life is a series of lists

Hooligans, hoodlums,
righteousness, class

The life of your imagination begins and ends

With your throwing back the covers,
putting your feet on the floor

So simple really until it isn’t

Text: Airport so empty

Text: There’s your answer for toilet paper

Text: I call it donut boy

On the lawn, we paint

The new homeschool

You’re angry at the purple and blue
for not cooperating

You want Bob Ross

You want a fresh start

The sun is a disco ball,
lighting up the leaves

A lifetime ago

I was an entirely different me

Now I’m a snake molting in the grass

It hits me how my children will never truly know me

At the nursing home we hold up hands,
our love split by the glass

Text: The gardener is coming

Text: The memory is the first to go

Text: I want to empower you

(This last from a stranger)

All I know is the sun is shining

And everyone’s an expert
at navigating the new world order

The pros and cons with social media
are that everyone has a platform

Text: I rang you

Text: Talk in ten?

Text: Like ships in the night

Plant your fingers in the dirt, something besides your fear

Build something. A tree a rose a tomorrow

Hold on

Chop the vegetables

Wash the dog

Feed the stars your dreams,
if you can remember them

Wrap yourself in clover

Make a blanket of your anger

Text: Check your spam

Text: Your application has been accepted

Text: Comment section healthy

What does it matter about Corona
when you’ve long ago forgotten how to soften

You look at me like an apocalypse

Text: I’ve got the children

Text: Resentment is no North Star

Text: Your hazards are blinking

Excuse Me, Your Anxiety is Too Loud / by Ellen Elder

Since you were contemplating how people might re-
conceptualize the phenomenology of space—not just
the breadth of a hug, or the distance we keep at the grocery
check-out—but also the way benches [interruption]

An expat mom exchanged alphabet worksheets with me.
I don’t know her well, but I told her that I never thought
I’d have a child. It’s a good idea, she later messaged me,
to always carry a blanket because [interruption]

In impressionist paintings, the fabrics are often draped
on plush seagrass, or over women’s shoulders, or dressing
a pine table. The fabrics connect both public and private—
they beckon and fix the gaze [interruption]

I fear I’m elitist, the sculptor says to her, the one she
shouldn’t have slept with. But there was so much space
between them in bed, and the curtains fluttered respect-
fully, the room starched and [interruption]

Lest they cough or kiss, it was a sign of respect to first
pen the desire in a private letter and send it via post.
To have reached 46 in a little black dress only to wipe
the sticky table clean of Nutella [interruption]

You are anchored at the table of delight, who said that?
They had drunk so much coffee and vodka. Her daughter
declines her every offer to the tune of I do not like green
eggs and ham. I do not like it, Sam-I- [interruption]

When I woke, a dozen novels opened in a wingspan
of languages. Alive beneath my fingers, it was once a swallow,
then a phoenix, or perhaps a hummingbird. We must be decisive
and own up to our shortcomings [interruption]

We might overhear the neighbor praying behind the door.
We might ask them to turn the television down. We might
examine every wall around us without reacting first. We
could do this if the waltz steps [interruption]

Cure / by Victoria Korth

Coming up the hill from where the road ends

at the bay I am distracted by the glint of one-ounce

bottles with no caps, this year it’s vodka, thrown

from the passenger side at least. See, it gets you thinking.

I bend down to pick the first one up as I always do,

more curious than righteous, engrossed in habit,

the bottles’ out-of-placeness co-opting that hillside.

To me, trash feels unfair. But today I stop and think

the empties look quite fresh, pristine in fact, and next,

that they might be infectious, carriers of our new disease,

so leave them, one after the other, let them cure.

 

Unfair to whom? I wonder too. Righteous anger

for the earth is never strange, but I feel sad.

 

Once, just before the leaves appeared in Spring,

I cleaned our narrow side-woods, unkempt lot

sloping toward a busy road. What was I doing

at age twelve in a place we rarely played?

What trail of bottles had I taken there?

How many afternoons did it take to pick them up—

mostly fifths of scotch with a few drops left, finished

in a hurry—and why did I perform this task in secret,

filling metal trash cans and putting the lids on tight?

Over how many years did this recur?

Astonish me.

 

Drinking on his way from work, drunk rolling in

yet able to stand up, I guess, along the garage side of the house,

feeling alone, unwatched, finishing one and/or starting another,

bottle down the hill. The clear glass arcs and falls.

Once a day? Every day? All year?

This memory comes alive only if I want it too.

Embarrassment—by then it didn’t matter. Who throws

these bottles at me now, and why, and who’s at home?

the corner seat / by Robin Shawver

I’d rather no please
just let me have
my back to the wall
I want to see
what’s coming at me
girl, listen
I don’t want none
of that
I haven’t been out
with other people
like this
in weeks
months
how long, has the virus>
I mean when did
we get here
I mean
what do you have
that I can eat
without touching
the taxi ride
is all about
Darwinism
and. yet
I still make everything
about my children

It’s Friday and I am Reporting / by Adela Sinclair

I am knitting red masks.
I place them on the white wall above my bed.
No, it is my friend who placed them there.
My stomach cannot hold in so much stress.
In pain most of the day.
You can dance naked all you want.
As a result of being invited by Dionysus.
Maybe the Devil is not interested in us.
Maybe our Gods are too few.
Maybe all we need is One.
Maybe the name of the band was GAR.
As in Garden of Eden.
You were invited.
How many spawns are living in our house?
On surfaces?
We do the math. Take out the calculator.
On plastic it lasts 24 hours, on metals longer.
I am not fact-checking, I am in panic mode.
We cried listening to the German Chancellor Merkel
address all the people in her nation today.
The way it evoked faith in us.
Being spoken to with dignity and kindness,
urgency and potency, patience and hope.
Whom amongst us feel hope now?
Share some with me.
I am running out from the most precious safe inside me,
my volt, my heart.
My mind in overdrive, my body cannot keep up.
My temple is honored through meditation at 9 AM,
each morning. May it please last me longer than this.
Our living room meetings are more emotional, more
abounding with tears. We continue to love.
I cook with my hands and my soul.
We eat and sometimes I cannot handle the gut punches
during the day. It used to be that night brought on
more horrors. Now, at 8 PM, we open our windows
and with hundreds of Roosevelt Island neighbors
we clap as loudly as we can for the doctors,
nurses, healthcare workers on the frontlines.
I wish you could hear us,
it sounds like a concert that restores hope.
Revived due to writing this, sharing it,
connecting to poetry in this direct way.
My immune system thanks my poetry.
My mind’s traffic slowed.
My body grumbles but thanks me for
taking it for a “walk” through today.

The Boy / by Lori Swartz

Crew cut brown hair, underbite,
valentine face, eight metal teeth,
thin feet. In the back seat booster
he rubs sanitizer into
his hands and sings
happy birthday.
He is six and knows why.

I make a house
soft as feathers with walls
he can push against with closed
fists and open hands. He takes a bath
with swim trunks on, shimmers
with the exhaustion of a child
with no anchor, floating at sea
in the top bunk, covered with monkey
sheets and bad dreams.

He eats only raw food and
fried food and
doesn’t like to be
touched. He lines
his shoes, one next
to the other, hugs
every dog he sees.
He passes the hat
for musician friends,
scooping up every bit of
joy along the way.

He is glistening and half-blossomed.
Moving in a world he is just learning to know.
Thinking each skin again and asking
to touch, to turn it over
in his hands, see how it
fits together,
find the seams
and borrow what he needs.

City Girls / by Sheree Renée Thomas

All the hoes I know

are sanctified

wear long loose skirts

that cover their knees

bulky hoodies and tight leggings

with throwback tennis shoes

and big ass earrings

that only match

when they want them to

 

All the hoes I know

wear satin bonnets

day or night

cover their halos

with weaves and wigs

cloak their wings

under synthetic human

force fields to protect

their natural spirits

 

These girls do their own nails

or sit, spitting knowledge

speaking tongues

in an ancient language

only infinite ears can hear

casting out demons and cussing

on their rhinestone phones

talmbout what we not gon do

and who got us fucked up now

 

They are natural mystics

cosmic chimeras

lounging with Koreans

sucking in chemicals as they sculpt

post-apocalyptic acrylics

coded messages in a double helix

that reflect the light

of a darker sun only loving eyes

can see, projecting the true nature

of the mercurial city

in all her mighty moods

Poem 19 / Day 19

Flag Day / by Gordon Adams

Red
On your angry face

Red
With demonstrators in the street

Red
Like an Arizona setting sun

Red
As the Paradise fire

Red
In a grand-child’s tantrum

Red
On a 9/11 rescue helmet

Red
As Trayvon Martin’s blood  

Red
Seen when seeing it

White
As a winter’s day in Maine

White
Of sweet surrender.

White
That is not black.

White
As a hanging sheet

White
As a washed lie 

White
Of you

Blue
In a summer sky

Blue
Of the Gulf waters 

Blue
Of winsome sadness

Blue
From Miles’ cool horn

Blue
As a child with no school lunch

Blue
Taking no breath at all

FORTY-TWO QUILLS / by Michael Carter

The vet

says there

are two

kinds of

dogs that

meet a

porcupine and

get quilled.

some avoid

porcupines forever.

Others get

mad and

revenge hunt

forever wishing

to punish

all porcupines.

Omar is

the latter

and found

one today.

Let No One Sleep (Tomorrow It is Spring) / by Ellen Elder

On what could be our last trip outside for weeks, we spot
a heron swimming beneath the canal. My daughter thought
it was a dark fish. It was on the prowl, but I hadn’t the heart
to explain the hunt since I already made her keep six feet
distance lest we infect, or be infected. In Milan, a doctor
allowed dying patients to video-call loved ones to say goodbye.
They are wholly lucid at the end, only swallowed by water.
Was it permissible to laugh, when a couple, meeting for a run,
appeared on opposite sides of the canal, with no bridge across?
They chuckled, pointing up and downstream, calculating distance,
not yet reaching for their phones. Tonight, low stars flicker from
beyond balconies where people whose names we’ll never know—
—who may have bickered by day—reach across cold sheets
to turn a body, a cheek, toward the soft riddle of their own.

parable mood / by Victoria Korth

One day I said to a dead tree, fall down,
and it crashed at my feet. So I called out
to the rest of the trees, those in groups
and those which came to take the place
of the dead tree, fall! And they fell too.
I turned to the lake, dry up, and it shrank,
draining into a hole until the lake-bottom
appeared like a derelict planet. The sun
would not stop heating the new land, so I said,
cover yourself, and it magnificently blew out.
Then the atmosphere crinkled into infinitesimal
folds and collapsed like shattered glass.
In the dark I could hear animals shifting
in panic, but only for a short while.
I rested, beyond time, beyond suffering,
until a thought arose. If I have such power,
to take life and take that which gives life,
perhaps I am powerful enough to create it.
But in the void I could not find my body
or see a place to begin, or anyone to ask.

a few things we learned this week / by Robin Shawver

just tell the guards
your dad slept with
a different woman
than her mom
and that’s why we have
different passports
and our dad isn’t a good guy
and use passable Chinese
and somehow they’ll let you
pass the gates
and into our compound

meanwhile elephants
are getting drunk
on corn wine
in Yunan
and falling asleep
in tea gardens
dolphins are swimming
through Venice
and penguins
are waddling around The Shed
in Chicago making afternoon
visits to their neighbors

this version of new normal
is endearing
and the museums
are doing virtual tours
the met is free streaming
and there are performances
of authors reading
books for children
and graphic artists
posting sketching
classes for all ages
I have Jimmy Fallon
with his kids on one
tab and a brand new interactive
Frida Kahlo exhibition
on another

my children do music class
with their father
in-between doodling
with Mo Willems
and baking chocolate banana bread
while face chatting with their grandmother
just after their great grandfather
and we play UNO every day
after lunch

Talk to Me / by Adela Sinclair

The Thinker
telling me
“Body copies poetry.”

The Angel
telling me
“Two pointing fingers are our of the green cape.”

Red folders
telling me
“Trash is within you.”

Orange drink
telling me
“Apricots like an ink cartridge bled into the water, drink me!”

The metal cans
telling me
“Cars driving sparingly on the FDR, north and south bound, no carpooling.”

The leaning tower of Pisa
telling me
“Daytime vs. nighttime, a particular annunciation. When does the heart break less?”

You
telling me
“Baby was born two days ago, a concert of cries at home.”

Written on the Body
telling me
“I will seduce you like a concert hall filled with music.”

Leonardo da Vinci
telling me
“Look at their faces, the angels in stone, they whisper softly with their eyes.”

The fingers pointing
telling me
“Two years later, poets and their poetry are the witnesses the world trusts.”

The lying bear
telling me
“Hibernate with your body and open the green cage of your mind.”

Written on the Body
telling me
“The universe is authored by you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you and you.”

Add Heartbreak, Add Child, Add Tantrum, Add Torn Meniscus, Add Nightsweats,
Add Pandemic / by Lori Swartz

I want the confidence of irises poking
their fins through the snow or salmon,
fish thick, running hip to hip in the shallows.
I forgot things can change.
I enter into a vast white where daily life should be.
I am sock-faced, moth wing thin, illusions
of individualism or borders or nations gone.

I can still run in the hills. Legs pump,
breath in and out. I run to the village cemetery,
stand between two new graves piled with plastic
flowers and small precious things. Both in their
twenties, both killed themselves, their bright
tinder glittering eyes, burned up, leaving
screams of grief rattling in chests, a superhighway of
pain poison, ten fingers to the sky asking why.

With this virus there will be more
graves, more loose shoveled dirt.
We are all in a pickling jar
of our own houses.
Death could start pulling us
one at a time, like tissues from a box.

But we can reach through our screens,
tell each other about trees, art, blue
smocked heroes in hospitals. Harmonize
our hunter hearts and look to the trees.
In times of drought their roots share
nutrients, tendrils of toughness reaching
for each other underground. We can be trees,
reaching toward each other
out into the wide open blue.

Housekeeping, Undercover Whispers / by Sheree Renée Thomas

From Toni Morrison’s JAZZ

 

Some things are hard

hard in all kinds of ways

like walking through a door

in a mountain

and coming out on the other side

with a truth you didn’t really want to know

 

like singing yourself to sleep

while the life you had together

dies and the last breaths

are just some syncopated strange music

you don’t know how to dance to

 

Some things are hard

hard in all kinds of ways

like waking up and knowing

you are still gone

and ain’t no coming back to the other side

of this bed that is wide as tomorrow

 

empty as yesterday

because all I want to do

is breathe

and murmur

under these covers

we chose together

and hold your name

in my mouth

just one more breath

one last time

Poem 18 / Day 18

Isolation / by Gordon Adams

On a late winter afternoon
I drive to the landing
To watch the gulls sail
In the setting sun.

The world has shrunk
To my silent home,
My solo transportation,
And nature’s panorama.

My blanket of humanity
Has melted away;
Unless the sink backs up
Then I need useful contact.

The curtains are drawn next door.
And the wall screen is dark.
Maybe they are having sex
On the sofa.

I kind of doubt it.
They are in their 70s;
I am sure that sofa
Hasn’t seen a bare butt in years.

But isolation is harsh.
So maybe they do.
I would.
But I don’t have a sofa.

RHYMING POEM / by Michael Carter

Something something language
Blah blah blah blah guage
and therefore age

Henceforth, brother
Mythology-Greek, I think–referenced here, another
Describe and compare her to her

Line about language being inscrutable
while the writer sits at a table
As sad as he believes he is able

Oh, this humidity
Denouement, turn here, the itty
And, tah dah, the profound ending, the ditty

The Human House / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

It hurts      my feelings      when you slam
the door

I hold your brutality    hold it
Ease your trouble   ease it

Tuck              your ferocity
into these brick-bones

Make     myself     into more than house
into home     shelter
protector

See      what else
I hold in these walls?

These cracks, my tears.

I, too, have longings.

Oh Apothecary, Whose Mother is This? / by Ellen Elder

My daughter’s cellphone works
            only on the veranda.

A metronome pulses the hours.
            Boats comb the lake.

The Alps multiply,
            the nurse calls for pizza.

Late nights in the pink attic
            I hemmed my first pants suit.

A needle here, a tuck there.
            That was years ago. Now my daughter

leans on an urn in a linen skirt.
            Pillows succumb to Shakespeare.

A nurse appears, or has been here all along:
            Sta comodo, Signora?

How comfortable can I be, minus T-cells?
            I kept my daughter’s addresses in pencil,

also her boyfriends’ names. I clipped
            butterflies in her hair before she left.

Before the bone breadth of marrow.
            She was always leaving.

Use the right lung today, Madam.
            The windows are flung open.

Down the hall, visitors sip Prosecco.
            Cin cin, they chime.

Memaw grew beefsteak tomatoes
            in the back garden, cut them

into flowers laced with salt. Pulped
            the fruit and spiked the juice

to gulp from Bohemian glass. Summers so hot
            the porch rail burned your thighs

as boys licked sweat from your chin.
            Magnolia petals dropped

like eyelids. Studying late,
            I’d sleep only after I looked up

the same word twice. Counting
            cigarettes, counting the days to graduate.

Now my body is asmoke as my daughter
            rubs baby oil on my heels

and paints my toenails. Waste of time, I tell her.
            Hold still, Mom. She waves

a tiny bottle of nail polish as if it were
            a vial of poison: It’s called Plumberry.

It’s beautiful. She holds it up to the light.
            The living find it so easy to be satisfied.

Someone offers us rose hip tea. I tell her
            that I love her.

My daughter answers by answering another call.
            She floats onto the veranda,

a sail between mountains.
            The lake confesses its silver.

As a baby, my daughter nestled
            in the lemon spoon of me.

Now she is all chill and translation
            while I am a logarithm of charts and cells.

I wonder, are we commended for the will to die
            after having so long survived?

Tulips arrive by crate at the hotel dock.
            Shadows of butter corn

tickle the nose. I ask my daughter
            whose phone is on my forehead.

It’s my hand, she replies.
            Oh, you mean your palm? I ask,

she being the poet.
            Okay then, she says. It’s my palm.

Reading Eavan Boland’s “That the Science of Cartography is Limited”
on St. Patrick’s Day / by Victoria Korth

A favorite poem
wherein a woman recollects
a woodland near Connacht
where she and her love
looked down at scrubby grass
beneath their feet and realized
they stood where starving
forebears worked and passed
and died, stub of a famine road.
My great grandparents took
an unmarked path from Clare
in that centuries second cresting wave,
across stone hills, bright gray
as smooth-backed whales,
sub-strata where black soil
blew West for decades
with nothing west but water.
Keeping South and East, past
sodden sheds, they may have
paused, looked in—the hungrier
lay there—and onto Cork’s lined
port, across a luckless deck
where they leaned together
at the stern so long
we have lost sight of them.

which door / by Robin Shawver
starts the day which door opens
the story
which button or buzzer or presence
announced in which language
and on which day
within which calendar

which door
I opened once
a door
took it down
from its hinges
and folded its wooden self
like origami
like a heavy shorn bird
with long beak
and neck
it had long held meaning
connected to wall
and wall
but once
I approached
like a thief
quick
and trained

witch door
she had her own door
kept slamming
reopening slamming
satisfying
but not enough
so she would shudder
in the room
behind the door
shudder in place

with door
there’s a place
connected to other places
each one has an entrance
an exit
where we choose
to go or retreat or cross
there is a language to this
that I keep learning
even as I fold
and train and
fold
I can make
the walls shake
as the door
follows
a connection
a cropped
twist
in place

Heartbeat / by Adela Sinclair

What if our hearts synchronized
started beating as one?
All of our hearts. Across cities,
nations, continents, and our earth.
The hearth all open.
Why don’t we sit with our heartbeats
in unison, for a minute, two hours,
days and weeks. Today, I joined a prayer circle.
I join you in prayer. Our heartbeats and breaths
to unite us.
I want to cry and my eyes sting, no tears fall.
Walking is a stressful activity.
Seeing your faces neighbors and not being able to
share in the laughter, the touch, the warmth. I see
my dear friend sitting on the Mediation steps. I am unable
to see her, due to my mask that covers half my face and
makes my glasses foggy. I am unable to see her, because
she, a teacher was just at work today. Sitting in the sun,
smiling, no gloves, no mask. Soaking up the sun. I am
unable to see her because she does not believe me.
I am unable to see her, because she will. I say my Goodbye and
wish her very well. As we enter the darkness of the pandemic,
the sick will stick to our island in hospital beds, and we will see them
when they come out of the darkness. We will ask them for their human
stories of survival. Numbers live in us, as much as the virus.
I am a number, a statistic, my story is real, my survival is your survival.
Pass on the love, from one to the other, from behind your masks, computers,
and from your hearts. Caught in a millisecond your heart beats as fast as mine.
I do not have a fever. I am not coughing. I am alive. Let my heart beat for
you who are sick, let your hearts beat inside all of ours.

Words of the Day: shelter, exponential, restrictions / by Lori Swartz

I page through the dictionary
backwards for something like now.
Pandemic. Pandemonium. Panda.
The world is tart, the virus a quiet, ambling
giant, its soft thick fingers prying
open lungs, stock markets, leaving
mothballs on Main Street.
I want to lay a peppermint
on every tongue, spoon calm
into open mouths, but each moist hand
becomes a weapon. We transplant
our fear of darkness and guns
to hugs and breath. We buy
everything we can find. We wash
our hands to a flat gloss.
We are each a dandelion,
one puff, translucent seeds fly.
Mandated loneliness a shield
against a body bomb, body smooth,
body biting at the bit of restriction.
We are Americans, not used
to being told no.
Each of us in our cellophane
houses, glued
to the next map, treasure hunt marked
with circles of virus, making
too much of itself.

Poem 17 / Day 17

Juncture / by Gordon Adams

Like artichokes
We are pointed at the tip,
Bitter and indigestible leaves;
Separate and indifferent.

Soft and meaty at the root;
Smooth on the tongue;
Covered by a circular fibrous field
Each strand leaning the same way.

Open to the wind,
I fly away
To find my tip,
My spine,
The hard, bitter piece
That makes us different.

If there is only the tip
I need to find my own;
Mine, only mine.

I am only one leaf
Without you.
Not a bundle of leaves
Over a mound
Of undifferentiated softness

The cream at the base
Brings me back
To the soft place
That makes us inseparable.

THE HOUND OF SPRING / by Michael Carter

Birdie, a scent hound,
is trying to reinvent herself
as a smell hound enthusiastically
perfuming her neck
with some dead thing
mucky under a pine tree.
Chilly spring morning,
perfect for sap, but not
for February, over
a month early. Under
a previous weather regime
this meadow would be
in deep freeze, more snow
than not, and yonder ponds
frozen for skating.
Evenings I look
for comfort, but rarely find any
and today add bathe dogs to
my list of uncertain chores.

Continuum (after Emily Kendal Frey’s The Feminist Wire) / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

Boil eggs

Brown

White

Together in the pot

Bubbling

Timer on

Twelve minutes

Creamy insides

Slightly firm

Peel the shell

Press, dig with the thumb

So vulnerable, no shell

Slippery

Rubbery

I feed you the eggs

Egg face

I have eggs

We come from an egg

Oocytes

I serve you the eggs

White globe

On your plate

Jiggly

A globular moon

Lighting the dark between us

Dive in

Your teeth are serrated

The knife is a lullaby

The world passes by

Think of it

Teeth

Flesh

The chicken

The farmer

The sun beating down

A ripe field

We eat

Together

A ritual

A whole world

On a plate

Around a plate

A life that could have been

Before I decided

To hold the hand of God

I make pan bagnats

With olives

Also like eggs

Brown

Tiny

Oblong ovum

Slippery

Meals as intercourse

Stare at the sun

Here is a day

Here is a tree

Here is a pandemic

Have an apple

An orange

Eat your vitamins

Eat your eggs

Egg plate

Egg moon

Wash your hands

Take a walk

Egg in a nest

Embryonic

We are not dying

Life is inevitable

We need each other

I am born from eggs

With eggs

A continuum

I serve you the eggs

You eat the eggs

Think of it

Ars Quarantina / by Ellen Elder

I try to think positive, but then I remember:
I hate baking.

My daughter plays with her toys from the bottom-up,
excavating items she has not played with for years.
She, too, is re-centering.

On the Sunday run, we didn’t touch.
Young crocuses, too, were there to taunt us.
And the woodpecker, who nature has gifted
with a gel-encased brain so that it can hammer away—
self-sufficient and industrious—seems too at ease with its work.
Show-off.

Since then, every time I return, I return from the grocery.
I drop a soft bag of luxury items on the carpet
and make as not to trip over our beautiful shoes.
I wash my hands twice.
I try to do this while humming “Under Pressure” but the opening
chords become “Radio Ga Ga” and I start to worry,
as if I’ve traveled far and forgotten to water the plants.

I move from one room to another.
I am walking down a hill of long grass to the strand, notebook in hand.

In a 1913 letter to her husband, Virginia Woolf writes:
“You’ve been working all day and I’ve been doing nothing. We went on the river. “
She closes with: “I keep thinking of you and want to get to you.”

We paint our nails on the balcony, my daughter and I.
No one is ever in the communal garden, but today there is a man, his back to us.
I’ve joked that it is off-limits so that each tenant can pretend propriety
when looking out from within, since that is too much of what we do.

There’s a terror in the horror when we find that we cannot
be (with) ourselves inside this small, vulnerable world.

Düsseldorf, mon amour,
after five years long-bivouacked, I’ve begun to dream again.

Recession / by Victoria Korth

In the morning, silence,
where there should be
Monday’s cataract
of distant trucks, stands
at the window looking in.
She wears an impractical robe,
unaware she may be cold
beneath stiff folds. But
before I can connect
her presence with a thought,
I hear familiar birds,
their wordless singing
like an a apriori truth.
Every bird is perfect
or it does not survive.
She is unmoved, so I
avoid the eyes, blue
mirrors of my private
uselessness. Something
I can do? Start rice,
rinse beans, give over
sunlight, self-love
with water view. Now?

it’s hard to explain the differences / by Robin Shawver

coming from different
countries
different
neighborhoods
for me
talking loudly
is an escalation
it’s yelling
it means everything has reached
a point
where we might not get back from
and everything
right now
is at a point
where we might not
get back from

I’m with my friend
who has been recently let out
of quarantine
and we are trying to get
into a building
when we are surrounded
by 6 guards
yelling
gesticulating
even without understanding
the language
we understand
we are not welcome

we as foreigners
are not welcome

and I also know we are not
welcome
in our home countries
and there is a reality
of state-less-ness
that many
many people have felt
before me
as they cover ground
and wade through waters
and transgress the mountains of
life
is what comes to us
and what we make of it

March 17, 2020 / by Adela Sinclair

Sometimes
I burn with fear
I burn with desire
           with calamity.
The unseen,
       unspoken –
             sometimes.

We are good to each other
into the mystic we go,
rise like dolphins in the sea
to show our beauty.

We want the Holy
within the empty skyscrapers,
the empty Grand Central,
the empty streets,
the empty buses,
the empty subways.

Our empty Churches,
empty place of prayer.

We want the Holy
in our homes.
Sometimes you’ve wanted
this slow burn of the
Holy.
To scorch fear, doubt,
and sometimes, we
want mystics to burn
such fires, the fires that
started fire.

What if this lasts longer
than us?

The Holy,
       the imprint,
             the orange flames
                    of generations past.

Sometimes we will the smallest
crumb for the smallest cockroach,
just so the cockroach can come out.
It can survive any calamity.

Wash your hands! Stay inside!

Will yourself shut.
Will yourself restored.
Will yourself inner peace.
When sometimes all we all
do is just the same.

Bluejays, pigeons and seagulls
are scouring for food.
The East River is Holy.
Runs upstream away from
the mouth of the ocean.

An orphan runs from
her adoptive mother,
runs inside, then breathes
loudly and smiles,
for not being caught.

October / by Lori Swartz

Sitting with you
on the front porch, leg
swung over yours, fingers
twisting your T-shirt.
This is what I will
always know
of love. We are fallen
creatures, falling
against each other,
the tips of our wings
aimed toward the sky, winter
closing in on our skin
wrapped in blankets, the sun
set in a fury of light.
My old dog
in the space
between runs and
death, blazing
joyfully with explosions
of tail to floor, claws to wood,
eyes deep brown balls of accepting
what is. We sit together
in this wide open field
of each other, stars
stepping silently
into the dark things. There is
so little time in
this crawl space of thought, with
whatever is under ground level, deep
in the rocks and velvet dirt while
the universe is flying apart,
torn apart, accelerating
atoms and stars.
Outside
the universe
is not just more of this,
but more of
every
possible
thing.

Quarantined—or Incurvatus / by Sheree Renée Thomas

            March 2020

So
it has come to this
when the world’s greed
transforms into a great fist
that pummels us all
one way or the other
when the world looks flat, safer
through the narrowed slats
of blinds, from the green tops
            of trees
         and filtered light
is all there is to see

      Not a soul wanders
down the pockmarked street
tarrying on a road that curves
inward and turns
on itself
       the potholes
                and the broken
backs
         of weeds
    judging us
each and every
    one of us
as we stare from our windows
like phantom shadows
in a city of no sun
drifting through our halls
bleach-stained weathered ships
capsized by grief
struck
    by a petrified forest
of our own making
yes, you and you
and me and me
imprisoned
in a labyrinth
built by our own
       dry, cracked hands
stinking with the scent
of insanity

No
matter how much we wash
there are no clean hands here
in the place where morning
is the same as the evening
and the night

Mornings like this
when the sound
of time passing
is a muffled hymn
or Anita Baker
floating up from
the floor below
I want to leave
the dark wood
and dance
flee the stone circle
and throw myself
on the altar of the sun
so we may all be cleansed

Poem 16 / Day 16

Swift Retort / by Gordon Adams

Have some hankie
With your pankie,
She said.
Beats eating alone.

LIST POEM / by Michael Carter

I realized I
left it at home
when I got
to the store.

Untitled / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

We are made of memories

Bow and arrow at my throat

You knew the best ways to strike a target

Saw things in your youth

Which is to say

Bad things

Nobody says

I’ve seen things

When they mean pleasant things

/

You knew how to eat

With chopsticks

Very well

You showed me things

Uni

The underground

How to remain calm

Frozen in the city

When we said goodbye

A kiss tucked under your teeth

A wave

Tucked under your coat

A navy sail, flapping in the wind

I watched you go

Buried my heart in a curtain of fog

Drifted

Into the sea

/

It was hot under the palm trees

A fire in my breast

The light outside was gold and dappled

The sound of the sea

Hissing from your stereo

An eagle on your hood

Heaven in your hair

A fire in my gut

Children of the fire

/

It took some time

To love again

but slowly, we merged into being

A half mast sail

A boat on land

It was not what you expected

Nothing is as it seems

The logic of the day

Mailbox / by Victoria Korth

His grandfather would have been adept, helped
decide exactly where to dig the hole, which kind
of post, wood or steel, concrete or gravel fill, or dirt,
metal box—regulation style—but not his father,
not that I recall. He’d hire someone
or work so fast I never saw it done, or frowned
so much I blocked it out, his talents close as cards,
buried well until well after he was gone.
Maybe I was too efficient, maybe not.
Most likely not. I’d rather read and watch
for signs of spring, make cocoa, cut the vegetables.
Where did he learn, my son, to put a mailbox in?
I focus on the negative, trash among the trees
at his new house, driveway thick with slush, broken
downspout, unraked leaves, evidence of invasive weeds,
fox den nearby and deer, as everywhere; I make a list
then try to sleep. Yet there it was today, sturdy, stern,
and useful. And here am I, trying to resist small sadness
on the other side of effort, up-creep of helpless certainty:
as long as men are men, I will be a mother
and time that let him build small structures
to keep birthday cards from getting rained on
will be the stuff of stories, boxy truck ebbing
down French Road and pulling partway on the grass.

I might have a running chance at this / by Robin Shawver

it felt different when it was us trying to catch a flight country to county to China and not get sick and not get stuck in some city too far away from anyone we know because it was us and we are we but when it is my family stuck between walls waiting for hours crammed between people from all over the globe waiting and stuck when it is my family three steps away from a confirmed case and now quarantined when we’ve been planning their 100th birthday when it is my family with immune deficiencies and age and a life time of I don’t know what to say tonight
the world looks dark out there
and vulnerable

Monday’s Lament / by Adela Sinclair

I thought of death today. My death
and human frailty. I dreamed of staying home.
A long, long time. Check!
I dreamed of making love in the afternoon at lunch,
during a cold day. Check!
I dreamed that capitalism would realize one day
that blah blah blah blah blah blah. Check!
Walk round the island and smile at people. Check!
They do not smile back.
I walked to the supermarket. My time out declining.
My need for my bed increasing. Under the covers,
head plunged under the pillow. I, myself decreasing
thinking of the colossal dimension of this. Proportions
of awful vs more awful news, getting worse. Cancelled everything.
Suffering on the inside. The first case declared on the island,
my gloves came on and I only have one mask so I am saving it.
I wipe down the groceries when I get home and place the sugar
I bought on the countertop for the first time in years. I made love
in the afternoon on his work from home lunch break.
I breathed more freely after. Now I am
writing all of it down to document. An unofficial historian, witness,
fighter in the frontlines, a sensitive and a dreamer. My dreams
have shifted and if I am unable to sleep for more than a few hours.
Kids are learning online, parents are parenting when I used to
as a teacher. Lessons are abounding and once in a blue moon
someone manages to make me smile. Mo WIllems thank you
for your creative drawing offerings online. Wendy McNaughton
thank you for your creativity offered online. Thank you to my
family and friends who are now traversing week 5 as we are traversing
week 3. They are letting me know the drill. I know the drill. It is drilling
a hole in my head and I might crack a tooth. Moving very little, from chair
to couch, couch to bed, from bed to toilette. I am toiling through my Monday.
How about you?

Falling / by Lori Swartz

I am eating Land-O-Lakes
whipped cream
right out of the can, shooting
it into my mouth
while I watch Netflix, making
myself sick, but I can’t stop.
The children are gone. I can
leave matches
on the floor, plugs dangling
loosely. My love is
gone. I can cry
openly, big round sobs,
without wondering
if she wishes me flat.
I do handstands to fill
my head with blood. I am
split-tongued, moving
coals around with my words.
I spend so much time
with birds inside
my chest that I forget
there is a door to the cage.

Changeling / by Sheree Renée Thomas

To reach into the sea
of a small brown hand
to see the moon swim
in the black mirror of river
child of mandrake
seed of yellow gourd
crystal of white snow

I hold you
in my arms
the last figment
of an embryonic dream
where the tides rush
backwards and water is pulled
by the ancient scales
of memory

I scavenge the forest floor
for bloody roots and endless knots
dance round a ring of redwoods
in search of
a widening place
from which to enter
this world or the next

A realm where we can
lay the burden down
exchange one pain
for another’s joy, for doubts
to draw themselves into
the curled shells of years
where bad memories melt
into the icy lakes of swift waters
the wintry sum of all our tears

Poem 15 / Day 15

Mysterious Guidance / by Gordon Adams

“Mystery is not about travelling to new places, but looking with new eyes.”
Marcel Proust

Maintain social distance!
Four or six feet away?
Can I do this in my mind?
As I have for years?

Avoid touching your face!
Are my ears on my face?
Or the top of my head?
Or someone else’s face?

Stay home if you are sick!
Should my family leave?
Do cardboard and a curb
Count as home?

Cover your cough!
Can I infect myself?
Even when I am alone?
Will a casserole lid serve?

Clean knobs, handles, switches!
And buttons and bows?
Hair dryers and razors?
Then use them right away?

Wash your hands for 20 seconds!
Sleep wearing mittens?
Have I got you under my skin?
Lady Macbeth take note?

Do not share towels!
Or beds, or dish towels?
Washcloths and paper towels?
Or an entire life?

Use an alcohol hand sanitizer!
Vodka or gin?
For external application only?
Or as a mental anesthetic?

TWO DOGS IN BED / by Michael Carter

My legs are the line that separate
the yin and the yang of the dogs nestled
one on either side—Omar and Birdie—

both in a hot summer sleep. They aren’t
making things cooler, pressed close
curled neatly as fresh biscuits just

from the oven. About separation, mine?
If I move they will fill the gap with themselves
then wake to chase whatever is on the day’s

menu—porcupine, chipmunk, flock
of robins. Following in my story’s fog
I’ll lure them back with treats. Despite the humidity,

the AC’s snapped off so that I can listen
to the cricket’s song because some things
are worth sweltering for, even with these

canines generating heat. Yesterday
an immobile and barely alive squirrel
sharp as dash mark splayed in the middle

of the trail. Its infant soft breaths and tea-
cozy eyelids partway closed over the onxy
shine of its eyes. The dogs leapt over it for gamier

quarry. The squirrel’s body was in repose, an early morning
respite, napping, taking a break. Broken.
The parched woods were dusty and thirsty weeds

ached for a heavy dew. When life is ebbing
out of a thing, where does it go? Isn’t it a law of physics
that it has to become something? Anything? I think

of waves of heat rising from the pavement, curls of smoke, light
reflecting on hair, layers of color, sun-bleached strands,
the nape of the neck inscrutable underneath, damp and hidden

sunday scene / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

yellow rake, green yard
go OCD on the leaves
kids doing cartwheels

Writer’s Block (Approaching Lockdown) / by Ellen Elder

Between pages in a yearbook—
the only one you’ve kept—
is a note
with a phone number
you remember, but not
the name.

There’s a photo
of a pale field with stones
lichened with age.
A splash of poppies.
You recall that you took the photo
because the field was to be sold.
The hand-painted “For Sale” sign
had been quaint. Yet it is not
in the photo, although
you remember framing it
in the bottom-right
where a flash of ceramic—
maybe an old sink—sliced
the boggy earth.

Some weeks before
when the world was not so old
a snowflake drifted
into your daughter’s eyes.
Not knowing the word in English,
she blinked at you
from beneath her hat
and said, there’s a rain snow
on my eye.

Shopping before lockdown,
you see your reflection in the plums.
You seem to have shrunken.
You will purchase paper and ink
after the flood. You will find
that someone has written your poems.
You will find that some names
will never come to you again,
but the words will.

On a Surprisingly Sunny Sunday / by Victoria Korth

When emotion builds
you shut it down
with an end stop,
             can you find another way
             to keep control,
with music, perhaps, formal
elements supporting theme
and thought,
             not Bach, too unforgiving,
             Beethoven too crash-landing,
             Glass-jazz-Debussy?
there you go
running toward the nineteenth century
             admiring authoresses
             who would never undress
             near the window,
and who are you addressing
by the way
             when you keep it slow
             rather than rework or revise
             against your tendencies
and refuse to learn
to punctuate (punch or punish?), define
to whom the poem refers,
             who is spoken to,
             called to answer for themselves,
your pronouns avoid
directness—keep you safe—
             through slip and merge, admit
they’re all you yourself and you
             while your heart stands
comfortably, authoritatively
aside.               Try this, decide
             right now
in a kitchen echoing with argument
             too near cross-hatching
             in your husband’s shadow
or is it your son, perhaps
the Governor? what would any of you
allow, dear ones, yourself included:
             breakfast in school, and after class
             a hearty snack, or
neither, so that when
school is cancelled for the season
and stores are shuttered
             you don’t conclude that you have made
             a child go hungry

let me explain something about being sick / by Robin Shawver

tomorrow I can see the sunshine
it’s like a smell that I can touch
we joke now about fevers
and distancing
and how long it will last
when do we get a shout out
for time in the rear view
it’s hard watching it all go around
the spinner again
I don’t think any of us know
when the view out the window
will truly blossom and shift
all we can do is count the sun beams
try to catch the little particles
that drift just out of reach
just out of sight
today they ran on the beach
little brown dog dragging its leash
through the wet sand
the wind was strong
their laughter stronger
it’s spring and they are young
and I don’t need to be able to touch
the sunshine
I just need their salt wet legs
sandy cheeks

Love Song / by Adela Sinclair

I spice up the pasta sauce with paprika.
I love you. You say, I will stay here on the island
with you for one week. I love
you more than a week. I love you more like move your
furniture and your books in with me. I love you as the bell tolls,
as the bicycle thief make s a run for it. Earlier, she pushed her
way into the laundry room, the pushy neighbor.
I told her: Could you wait, please? I was unloading
the scorching hot laundry from the drier into the basket.
I remember you are upstairs, waiting. I love you
enough to calm my nerves and not get angry at her.
I have my gloves on and today I do not walk as
much on the island as the days before. After all it
is Sunday and I am in love. Had we not met two years
ago, would we have been destined to meet now? I love
you and I think not. I get upstairs and scramble to make us a meal.
All you want is a simple meal, a gesture of love. I have recipes floating
through my mind. Pasta on the shelf. All I give you is this.
Together we grow tendrils. Soft and immaculate
words express the way we love.

Run With Me / by Lori Swartz

I’ve seen the sky from your front yard, the stars
eating darkness, synchronized swimming smoke,
crows, wings open and close, making noises
like beating a rug or a heart pushing blood.
Pack rats run in the walls,
whiskers like root tendrils,
nesting lopsided, the walls chewed
through, ears perked alert like dogs.

It is not very far to the train bridge
if you run straight, through
rattlesnake cholla land, through arroyos rocky
with coal. We have come a long way,
what is another mile or two? Run
with me, take my nail-bitten hand
in your square one and run.

Friction is the force that opposes
motion. Gather gravity and
entropy and the purple gray rocks
that stand in our way. Make
a space suit of our love, so we can glide
through the days when we can’t breathe,
tethered to the only thing we know
to be true, the billion
stars in our galaxy indifferently
coaxing us on.

Dreaming Awake / by Sheree Renée Thomas

Raised fingers arc against the sky

The tree in her dream was gone.

Not even a stump or withered root to mark it.

The world inverted wrecked her sense of scale.

Each jagged scar, a star she could seize

became a comfort, the bones in her face

warmed by galaxies.

In this place, the blood sun plummets

into sand, spreads light on eucalyptus trees.

The air is filled with healing.

White pores open on waves of sound.

Three sisters, gazelles, dart out like fireflies

a lightning bolt in her night

Poem 14 / Day 14

Tehachapi / by Gordon Adams

The earth suddenly in motion,
My bed shifts with no rhythm,
First right, then left.
Nobody is shaking it.

The room itself moves;
The door frame torques
From rectangle
To rhomboid and back.

Outside an invisible Godzilla
Has stepped on homes,
Stripping the walls,
Crushing the life out.

Chimneys tower naked
Over splintered studs,
Crumbled footers,
Twisted window frames.

Two floors have become
One floor,
Or a cellar holding
The remains of a house.

The driveways lead nowhere.
Cars cushion twisted tree trunks
Their flat roofs re-shaped
Into the letter “u.”

Power and telephone poles
Tilt at unexpected angles;
Lie twisted like squid ink pasta
On the street.

Iris bushes and hedgerows
Rearranged
Into unmoored moonscapes
Designed by a mad landscaper.

The church steeple
Has toppled off its perch,
Driven through the roof,
Stabbing the empty pews. 

A shoeless foot peeks out
From a rubblestone pile;
A life taken
By the tremulous earth.

The wail of a homeless cat.

Witness to instability,
Destruction, and death
I race down the outdoor stairs;
This house must fall.

Look at the blue sky,
Shaking with dread.
The safe stability of home
Is stripped away.

LETTER / by Michael Carter

Michael, you’re sitting in Activity Meadow
trying to write a letter but look, a butterfly
and the sun and you want to close your eyes
but when you do you see your father
with his eyes closed. The sun. The meadow,
Activity Meadow. You are writing a letter.
A poem letter or a letter poem. You father
with his eyes closed—turtlelike—mouth open
and remember you left just before
it happened, even though you knew
it was going to happen. And then
it happened and you are now standing
in Activity Meadow wondering
what it means. And the saturate greens
of the pines with their stiff angles
and you want to name them, these
mystery pines, with the architecture, you think,
of feathers, all spine and bone ribbed.
It was the ribs that hurt him the most
and the ghost white face of the radiologist
who read the x-ray. I want to write
him now, not the radiologist but my dad.
For days after he died I’d think, I need
to call him before he dies. Michael,
you are in Activity Meadow now, there’s
nothing to be done in the next five minutes.
The sun is too hot. The bay is quiet
but a machine (deus ex machina?) hidden
by the trees is not. When you close your eyes
are you closer or farther away? Privet
of trees, mossy and bright, something
loud and mechanical just powered down
and voices, human and bird, no words
emerge. Just sounds, unmistakable, just
beyond my understanding.

Commonality / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

Let go
said the sister to the brother

Let go
said the handle to the hand

Let go
said bat to the fist

Let go
said hair to comb

Let go
said leaf to the wind

Let go
said rain to the cloud

Let go

said stiffness
to the upper lip

Let go

said hardness
to the head

Let go

Let go
said the past to today

Let go

said worry to the mind

Let go

said regret

to the heart

Turns out, we all just want to be free

One Meter Distance / by Ellen Elder

Day two of almost-quarantine,
my daughter moves the plants
(mostly tear-heavy succulents and
wilted fuchsia) onto the balcony.

She carries even the heavy ones.
No one asked her to do this.
Because, spring. Because, the promise
of spring. Though it might freeze

again. Though some will die.
But she saw the morning’s sun—
sharp as an icicle—and knew
someone should be outside.

The virus overlaps invisibly
in circles difficult to slow, like love.
The virus, a mock spectacle, avoids
our children, at least the healthy ones,

but terrorizes nonetheless. One meter
is not so much to ask. We are not being
sepulchered underground. We are not
being starved. We are not kept from love.

Touch the leather couch, run your hands
over marble. Bite the cherry, feel the pit.
Spit out the pit. Pick up the dog. Telephone
someone much older. Draw a line in the shelf

dust. Feel the spoon of the hook of closeness
on a familiar bed with a familiar person.
Open the window, it is the moon that changes,
not you. Sitting side-by-side in a jacuzzi,

you once felt a stranger’s sharp toenails
and recoiled, only to reach out again.
I will gladly keep this (temporary) distance
from you if it means I can touch your feet again,

if it means I do not have to repeat history wearing
a crinoline hoop skirt that will set me on fire.
If it means I can spends oodles of seconds
only centimeters from your face,

inches above your torso, an ounce
at a time, kissing your breath measured
in grams, gulping our stock of wine
in milliliters, without having to ask,

Whose water is this? or, How many feet
is that? But only asking, or no, not asking,
only saying, Touch me. Touch me.
Is it spring yet?

Sanctuary / by Victoria Korth

In yoga, the invisible back-body is not a surface
but a space where the attention can dwell, and the room
full of bodies lying supine, that continues to exist
after we have turned around, is not a matter of faith.
In yoga, one is aware of the front-facing arrangement
of eyes, but also that this field of half-perception
is whole. But what if one could see both
the front and back of the body equally well
as we do a familiar building, say, like a school,
seen from above or from the side, or by running in
through a heavy steel door and out the front.
And what if the front of the building functioned as the back,
no one entering that way except on Sundays
and High Holy Days when families filter up the walk,
pass beneath the arches, across a flagstone terrace
and through one of the plate glass doors.
And what if in the very center of the building
is a scuffed gymnasium, converted for Mass
to a sanctuary, on Saturday nights to a parish hall,
on weekdays at noon to a cafeteria and, sometimes,
during eighth-grade English class, to a movie theater
for Raisin in the Sun, yet during every other period
audibly empty but for quiet footsteps backstage.
And what if there, in the heart of that place, I still hear
the Credo intoned despite lost faith, hear my parents
rise clumsily from folding chairs, throats clear
in ensemble to recite I believe in one God,
each line purring through my front and back body,
each word so uncertainly true but yet, whether
visible or invisible, in heaven or on earth,
a continuous practice of refuge in so saying.

Coronavirus Etude / by Adela Sinclair

It felt good to sneeze, alone, indoors,
for the first time in weeks. A basic need,
a simple allergy. I cried this morning.
Still in bed, listening to the Italians
sing off their balconies. I see my island neighbors
during my daily walk. The sun gets me a bit
more today. We take the dog to the park.
Eat on the bench and luxuriate in Purell.
I do not possess any. The thought possesses me.
I read labels as I used to for my health, my life
depends on it. I eat a clementine in the elevator.
I choose not to hug my favorite friend to hug. I tell
the barista THANK YOU and look into their eyes.
I tell the grocer THANK YOU and look into their eyes.
I tell the doorman THANK YOU and smile.
I am a teacher and I am not teaching. They, my friends,
are teachers, and they are teaching. Certain governments
suspend rent payments, student loans, electricity bills and
there is no more toilette paper on the shelves. I will
my soul to listen, listen to the beckoning of my heart. My body
is the vessel, my mind is the doorman, my heart is the barista,
my soul is the grocer that holds the key to a store full of Purell and
toilet paper. I am the lock and my body is the key.
I work to serve. Serve with my highest purpose for good.
My purpose is being revealed. We are all being revealed to ourselves.
Can we handle it? “TIMEOUT”, writes “TIME IN”. New Yorkers are tough on
the outside, soft on the inside. I see your vulnerability neighbors, New Yorkers,
citizens of the world. I see YOU! You are safe here. You are safe.

Mindfulness Meditation / by Lori Swartz

Make yourself comfortable. Sit in a chair or cross-legged on the floor.

A flock of birds darts across my mind, each one a ticker tape
parade of lover-loss, child-loss and what will I eat
for dinner. Is the lettuce going bad? Why is there
no toilet paper? Baby shark…
do do do do do do, baby shark, do do do do do do…..
What is the length of the 2” x 4” I need to buy
for my next building project? Baby shark…do do do do do do….

Feel your palms on your thighs. Feel the weight of your body on the chair or floor. Pay attention to your breath.

Why don’t bears have wings? I mean how does evolution
work anyway? We are not the final product and AI
will definitely be smarter / better / more ethical and we will become
obsolete, but I won’t see it because I will be dead.

Try to follow the breath from the beginning to the end.

I breathe sweet, salty fish smells, like the opposite of desire.
What did she mean yesterday when she said never? How long
is never? Tomorrow
I need to put a lock on the shed. Baby shark…
do do do do do do. Is 20 seconds really long enough
to wash your hands?
What time is it? 3am.

Notice the sounds in the room, how they come and go and you have no control over them.

I hear an ambulance. I know all of my neighbors. Another
text. I should have turned my phone off. I spent too much
money on that phone. Fuck Apple. What is the age of employment
in China and how many hours do they work in a row?
The refrigerator is so loud. I need to go
grocery shopping. Don’t forget the half and half.

Feel your chest rise with each inhalation and fall with each exhalation.

My belly rises, when did I become this old? I emailed
my sister last week. What am I going to say back
to what she might say to me? When did my knee
start hurting? Just who is that text from?
I miss the beach.
Baby shark….do do do do do do…

Poem 13 / Day 13

Love / by Gordon Adams

Winter dawn;
Black fur beneath my hand.
The light appears.

WHAT HE SAID / by Michael Carter

1) It’s good that you’ve come.
2) It’s good that you are here.
3) It’s nice that you were able to visit.
4) I’m glad we had this time together.
5) I can’t wait for a nurse.
6) Is it time form my pain pills?
7) I have to get out of here.
8) Take me home, we have to go.
9) That’s just giving up and waiting to die.
10) My father was the nicest man I ever knew.
11) I did everything I could to save your mother but I knew she was already gone.
12) It is so good we had this time.
13) We have to do the laundry.
14) We have to get out of here.
15) Help me.
16) I don’t know what you can do but you have to help me.
17) I’m resting and you do the laundry.
18) This is a pretty good place.
19) Take me home. You have to get me out of here.
20) Where’s my rosary?
21) I can never remember this part.
22) You better believe it hurts.
23) I don’t want to die here.
24) I have to walk around. The more I walk, the sooner I can go home.
25) I’m glad you came.
26) I am scared.
27) I have to pee.
28) Am I done? I can’t tell.
29) I can’t eat. Food doesn’t taste good anymore.
30) You want my truck? You should take it. It’s paid off. Ten thousand dollars. Cash.

Small Businesses as Usual / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

On the news, all the precautions announced, the kids gather around the potato chips, post-school business
as usual, and our Terrier’s nails like claws long overdue for a trim that I keep postponing the appointment for,
because the dog bites, needs sedation, it’s so expensive and besides, that Vet was so rude last time,
but still he’s digging into the couch-cracks like a storm, as he does, searching for his half-eaten rawhide,
which will soon be nibbled into oblivion and need replacing again, like the coffee, the cracked pasta bowls
that keep falling into the sink, the tissues, and so on. Like my son’s green jeans now skimming his ankle
bone that just yesterday were too long, now shellacked to his beanstalk legs bursting out of his pants like a
miniature Hulk, and I wonder, when did the lighting strike on all these small family rhythms, electrifying them
into something mythic? The coffee, cold, rests in the mug on the sill, a remnant from this morning’s show
when I watched, as I do each morning and will again tomorrow, our neighborhood hawk circle the tree line,
then settle, finally, onto his favorite branch on the oak. Business as usual. The grass has grown. The rain will
come. The flowers will bloom. I will touch your cheek again in the sunshine.

Beach Hotel, West Cork (1980s) / by Ellen Elder

I. Innocence:

We found the fisherman tending
his thermos of tea. We liked to watch
him pluck periwinkles off the black rocks,
dropping them into his metal pail like pennies
with a focus that befit the island.
Spying us, he’d shake his head
as if he didn’t approve of our garish menus,
or the way our American aunt
left the car idling on the cliff.
He’d overturn the pail in a sluuurp
onto the rough sand and wave us over,
saying he figured there was enough
for an hors d’oeuvre, pronouncing the words
like a cowboy, chuckling,…

II. Experience:

…as we crossed, scrubbed free of sand,
into the litigation of dining and drawing room.
Guests swapped ideas for day trips,
teased the appetizer out of us (Sautéed Walnuts
and Mussels over Linguine). We’d recite
the menu as if with coat hangers corseting
our backs, ready to break into jig.
Someone asked why the house hadn’t burned.
We learned that Bobby Sands was starved to death
as we licked the last Sherry Trifle from its crystal
globe, our eyes stung with cigarette smoke.
But we stayed awake to earn 50p for each dirty
plate collected, the empy shells pitching about
the buttered porcelain like frantic boats.

Distance and Empathy / by Victoria Korth

A strain to estimate, tempting to mis-measure,
unlike like this closet door, false hinges, dust moiety,
or the auburn creature that has not stolen from us
because it lives outside in winter underground.
Why do I bring up theft? How we project loss.
When we could not find the Christmas lights
we blamed the floor guy, then the plumber, and finally
the really nice electric-meter reader. Someone.
Poor D and E allows us to avoid tough situations.
Here is what I know: the more specific detail, concrete
—call it durable—living knowledge of one another,
a visual—where you live, shop, how you got here,
landlord, is he honest, does he care for the place,
what about our waiting room with other patients
anxious, unwell, bent over, bearded or asleep—
the more we see them as they see themselves,
the more we care. Emotion networks energy,
can be netted quite widely, even to Colombia.
Today he said disasperate, while we struggled
without an interpreter, told me of his parents
dying back home, his poverty, diabetes, woe.
Stress very full, and motioned with his hands,
touched his heart, forehead, twice: desperate,
disparate, diaspora, disaster. Once father hit him
in the head so hard he’d lost his mind. Parents.

What If? / by Anne Laurence

“Good boy!” I crow and offer treat.
“Good dog!” I praise in sing song.
Stalking our morning route,
each proper canine greeting,
each sit and wait,
each mailman not devoured –
rewarded.

What if I were followed thus?
Each well crafted memo
for someone else to sign – a chocolate treat.
Each time I did not scream at
the patronizing question of
whether my boss agreed with my position –
a pat on the head.
Each time I sat through mansplaining
or the credit taken for my idea or
the fifth discussion without decision and
did not growl or threaten to bit
a “good girl!” at my self control.
Each shit picked up and safely disposed of
before it hits a fan.

If I were thus conditioned with rewards –
the invitation to the senior meeting,
the chance to lead that project,
the boondoggle trip,
I might learn to behave.
But it is just as likely I would
lift a leg and pee on the corner of his desk,
and jauntily strut away.

Lion Lessons / by Robin Shawver

We who are not strong enough, apologize. We who saw the military trucks lined up like ducks, the hot air balloons rising on the horizon, and did not say anything. We who sit. We in silence. We who found leaves drying in a stranger’s new dictionary and looked up ewer while drinking glass after glass of water. We who drank water. We in water. We who sing sweetly as a silent stranger each day as a guest. We who spy on blueberries who spy on sitting walls. We apologize. We who sit.

There will come a time when the night will be ocean and we may wash. At no fault of its own mind you. There will come a day when this geological vein, this gullet, this internal channel of beet red mimicry will have a chance. We who were once opaque and hard. We who were conduit between rocks. A kind of blinding where each day still is more.

Where each
day still is more.
Wearing
Golden manes curling
Around our cheeks and sweetly growling.

We who should apologize. We who did not know. Who did not let ourselves know. We who were then complicit. We who clean our tongues, scrape off the dust, and spit. We who see the ghostly pink that lies there beneath. The ghastly glow. The truth. We apologize.

Comfort Confronted / by Adela Sinclair

I walked on the island for an hour today.
Leisurely. The sun touched my face and
my skin stings a bit from a slight
sunburn. The sting is a reminder
to unearth the guilt. Air it out. The
shame that comes along with it.
I did not have an aim while walking.
I followed the path by the East River.
I saw my student with her sons and father.
Her father wanted to take the last
flight out to Serbia. If I had a last flight out,
where would I go?
I am unable to access my passion.
My artistry. Confounded by this.
Faced with all this guilt. Every path I took
untaken. I chartered territory that humbled me.
This is different. The sting is inside me.
Brought myself inside. The caves of yesteryear.
Where the writing is on the wall. The paintings.
I want to write on the walls of my apartment
with all my passion. I cannot muster up passion.
I let the passersby, pass by at a distance. The food
is bought. The coffee is hot. I am putting the coconut
oil on my lips, knuckles and inside my nostrils.
I cannot access my passion. I cannot read about
another cancellation. While I myself cancel everything.
I Birthday called my sweet sister and she was still
in bed. Rolled in covers of white fluff. I air kissed
her, wished her well. I walked aimlessly. At least I can
walk. I can call and blow kisses. I love. I write.
I wear a soft cotton long sleeve shirt the color of passion.
I roll in it pull my sleeves over my hands and I delectably
read a favorite book.

Pantaphobia / by Lori Swartz

Emergency vehicles carve
sharp peppermint sounds of tragedy.
There is smoke night striping the air, a fire
burns a neighbor’s single-wide trailer to the ground.
I am distilled to light and angles, biting
my cheeks, canines digging the holes deeper.
There is hazard all around us, little things,
even tinier things, viruses worming, heavy cream sickness
elegantly seeping into the microbiology of bodies.

A new foster child arrived today,
six years old with metal teeth.
There are lost children everywhere.
We are a species that hunts to extinction, takes
the soft darkness and fills it with parking lot lights,
asphalt and neon wants. Schools close and the fear
is not how will our children learn,
but how will they eat. We are a country
of children starving and we can’t even touch each other.

We are out of time, scale, tempo, dancing
against the beat of the rest of nature. Scalping
the forests, burning our tongues with each sweet thing,
syrup-ing the water with whatever we can dump.
We are known criminals, wide-hipped dictators,
tart lipped liars, saying it is still all ok.

Poem 12 / Day 12

Frenchmen Street / by Gordon Adams

The side of her leg
Invites
Me.

It sits to my right
Above her black
Boot.

A white wall,
Smooth and silent as
Silk.

Her streaked hair floats as she
Bends to
Her.

Her hand on her back,
White on her
Shirt.

Inviting her,
But not me,
To the last
Dance.

HIDING IN THE SCRUB / by Michael Carter

While walking the dogs
in the wide field, everything
was awful, when
a red-tailed hawk
sailed over my head
into the scrub
and snatched some
creature then flew
to a tree and began
to pull it apart, bit
by bit, claw and beak,
looking up between
he shred, each bite.

Love Letter to Corona / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

               Corona, Corona,
when, when did you turn
your lovely face, your haloed charms
against us, and why,
and what did we ever
do to you?

               Corona, Corona,
were we not
astronomically good together,
did we not worship you, your celestial warmth,
your radiant aureola, even your limed beer lubricating our days,
did we not bask in you– those languid days of summer,
those moonlit walks, our eyes upon you, our bodies splayed
in surrender before you, a beautiful romance, so why,
why, after all we’ve been through, without warning,
all this time, for eons,
did you change?

               Corona, Corona,
oh, how your name belies you, we never knew you,
you fooled us, you’re not celestial —
you’re cellular, a viral hijacker, a mercenary attack,
invading us from the inside out, you’ve broken
our hearts, and now
you want our lungs, too?

               Corona, Corona,
can we just go back
to how it used to be between us,
when you were compassionate, and gentle,
the kind of corona made of spheroidal sunniness
brightening our days and our night walks
with your ringed radiance,
you were such good company, so luminous,
remember, Corona, remember?

               Corona, Corona,
fine, fine, you win, we’ll hunker down,
we’ll wash our hands,
hope you’re happy now, this hazmat mania,
tissue outages, social distancing,
is this what you wanted, embracing your dark side,
your spiked proteins rearing their ugly heads,
Insatiable, your infectious virality,
devouring, devouring?

                Corona, Corona,
You always were
so very difficult to please.

First Time, Dunworley Beach / by Ellen Elder

In the wet-sand morning
we could barely hold
the greyhounds
to their leashes—
it’s incredible our neighbor
trusted us to begin with.
We’d set the dogs off
and they’d bolt,
inky scarabs
arching the water’s sweep,
the sand pressed diamonds beneath.

I don’t remember us worrying
that they wouldn’t come back,
but I worry
about it now,
that they’ll
take to the sea.

I went back this summer.
The footpath is still
there, harboring
slimy pools of starfish,
skull feet.
Folks still grace towels
over the spongy grass,
kids still fling mussels
off the cliffs,
but most of the craggy beasts—
rocks enormous with gristle—
seem much less craggy now,
having been,
like you at high tide,
swallowed by sand.

Ice Cream / by Victoria Korth

If she falls we won’t be able to lift her
my sister worries as our mother
staggers around the kitchen island
gripping the counter’s edge. We urge
her to stand taller, stop tipping forward,
balance evenly on her feet. And she does,
a little, stopping to pant and look around
as if the steepness in the house
is unfamiliar, creeps back to the recliner,
exhausted. She stares into the midground
and I ask what she is thinking about.
Ice cream, she says, and falls asleep.
Tall vanilla soft serve from one
of the first machines in California,
smooth-sweet, cool, like nothing else,
nothing at all as she sways on the wide
couch-seat of her father’s Buick
while he makes his weekly vendors’ rounds.
The car rolls to a stop, windows down,
lime tree blossoms on pine-dry air.
He tucks his hands beneath her arms,
lifts gently. She has fallen asleep.

CoV has gone punk / by Robin Shawver

the bug carts
and little alligators on spits
on Khoasan road
felt like a kind of Disneyland
that we did and didn’t
want to be a part of
our daughter chowing down
on a worm on a stick
with prompting
and now all these people running
up and down the hill
outside our apartment wearing masks
like a caucus
a centrifuge for dedication
that I want to be and don’t want to be
a part of

The Essentials / by Adela Sinclair

During the slimming season I am
getting fat. “Are you getting the essentials?”
asks a neighbor carrying 6 cartons of milk with
one hand. I am thinking of melting ice-
cream and I want to drown in it. I want to
rub my fear in it, my brain to freeze and temporarily
forget. Forge ahead fellow islanders and this is how
the disaster group was formed. The group is looking for
a public place to meet and strategize. Outside. I wait for the
ice-cream to melt more. In Romania we waited in lines,
for everything. The shelves were empty. You waited just
so the store keeper could possibly come out and offer
you candy. To placate you for the lack of bread. Milk.
The essentials. We waited until the food ran out and then
my little brother Alex, with tears in his eyes, made it home
to tell mama. We must have eaten potatoes that night.
To have and to hold. On the raft we were and here we are again.
I cannot fly down to Florida,
the sun must wait to warm my body. Are the islands by definition
insular? Will we run out of food? Why do I only see the holes? The
shelves upon which there are boxes of pasta, cartons of milk,
bread, seem empty to me. The island is empty to me. The FDR is
silent. I hear the constant knocking of a hammer from the upstairs
neighbor and I cannot wait to be in my own home, in bed with my love in
my arms. I have to wait a few days. Shopping is a risk.
I do not want to hear the hammering any longer. The ice-cream is soup.
And I just ate the Shepard Pie my best friend baked for me. I am
lucky to be on the island. On the raft with my loved ones.
Thinking of teaching English online. Missing the melodious
sounds of Italian, French, Hungarian, Swedish on the streets of NY.
The essentials.

Forget About It / by Lori Swartz

I want to believe we are more than
exactly what has happened, more
than the weight of our shoes pulling us
under the water line. Will it be enough,
this arrangement of molecules and light, this bearing
of teeth, hair standing straight up and lips parted for yours?

I love you like this is my last chance, like the last two quarters
rubbing in my pocket. I look for the shy, frisking thing,
the part of us that will write our names in spray paint
under the train bridge with a plus sign in between. We are both
full of tall tales, stories that cut out the undergrowth and try
to make a path toward anywhere but here.

Love vanishes every day, the rains come, I work hard
to stay warm. I have trained my heart to come
when whistled, lie down for a treat. Where did the wild part go,
whiskered and brave, falling like apples,
stars or something spilled?

I pour my love into an ice tray, crack it open for drinks, all of it
fitting in a glass, see-through and plain. There is so little
that is wild, running in the moonlight. We build
lined parking lots, climate controlled houses, fences around
yards and wonder where the wild went.

Possession runs magician hands
over the moment and poof, gone. I brought
a cup to collect your love, but didn’t count
on the current that needs a boat or lifejacket
just to survive. I have been caught
in whirlpool roughs coughing, spitting, doing only enough
to keep my head out of water, not realizing
my feet can touch bottom.

How to Build Fire from Daylight / by Sheree Renée Thomas

First
strike a match
from the original elements.

Find two lips
or four.

Let electric flesh
spin out black embers
breath of life.

Transfer the ordinary
into radiance.

As sparks fly
entwine hands.

Close your eyes
while doubts
burst into flames.

Let the heat
catch and burn
away
the innocence of old things.

Think
wet and terrible thoughts
most dangerous.

Don’t let the flames fly out.

Breathe in the light.
Inhale
sweet fire, new truth.

Poem 11 / Day 11

Disease Vector / by Gordon Adams

Cancel the future;
Only the lucky survive.
Random acts prevail;
Other principles apply.
No one is safe;
All are targets.

Virtual medicine
Is the only cure.
Restrict your movement
Unless you must go,
Since there is little hope.

Constant attention,
Or none at all.
Ventilation,
Instantly delivered,
Desperately needed.

1 life to live or
9 like the proverbial cat.

HERON/FLOCK / by Michael Carter

Even under this morning’s opaque sky
a grey hue reflects blue off—
startled near the dock—heron wings.

My mother is a flock, my father a heron.
My mother a flock, my father a heron.

I lapped up affection like a thirsty dog
whose thirst understands it can go unslaked.

This morning calls for a different song—
a heron flying just above the surface
with the companionship of its own reflection.

A flock of geese troubling away from shore toward
the lake’s center, riding the safely and lilt of the water’s pulse.

And the dogs, front paws in the water, noses turned
like a compass needle toward the magnetic north
of the geese, then back at me, the we turn home to eat.

Luminescent Autocorrects to Limo Scent / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

conjuring memories of late night parties in the hollywood hills,
before the crush of time, deadlines, diapers, debt,
when carefreeness was easy as an inhale;
like panthers crawling the tight, hilly turns, sleek, black limousines
stuffed to the moonroof
with gaiety of Beautiful Young Things, wild dreams, and the smell of nothing-to-lose
infused with leather and hints of desperation,
hair whipping, nubile arms flailing into the ambrosial night,
nowhere to go, nowhere to be except forever young,
forever free.

The Secret of My Endurance as a Single Mom / by Ellen Elder
                                                                                             after Charles Bukowski

My daughter wakes before dawn
to play the plastic pearl game. She
uses a tweezers to place each color
in its rightful spot. She designs a house

with a tree and flowers; a pig’s tail
of smoke escapes from a chimney.
She wakes me from too little sleep,
cold iron in hand, nearly tripping over

its cord, and asks if I’ll iron her design.
A pitiful light leaks through the curtains.
But soon the apartment is warm with steam
and the arousal of coffee. She feeds the cats,

as promised, while I put the ironing board back.
She is marching the cats to their rightful
bowls with her magic wand, singing a song
about a Zauberstab (auf Deutsch). There

is a zebra in the disco, and so on. I manage
to answer one email then it’s time to go.
She asks me (in English) what she can turn
into a frog. I suggest her father. Perhaps then

he could come live with us again. We can
place him on the balcony in an aquarium
and feed him, from time to time.
This satisfies her immensely.

Seasonal / by Victoria Korth

We have agreed: make music out of words,
stress that lives within inherited sound,
yet do it far from crowds. The local phils
has canceled all performances, and I am sorry
for the soloists’ lost income, other’s loss of life,
long-planned vacations gone, but cannot fail
to feel a need for respite, something in the air,
time for our North-waking-earth to heal,
as when in church, at mosque or temple, facing
inward: standing, kneeling, bowing, singing, yes,
we acquiesce to an enforced command.
Look down, keep still, get rest and work at home
where someone may have laid the table, pared
the fruit, put it in a bowl, fed the blackbirds.

let’s keep talking about fear / by Robin Shawver

a sudden knock
in the middle of a thought
when no one is there
on the other side of the door
feels like fear
tiptoeing around
a sudden fucker
at best
yet can start low
like a cumulous
light still
and just that hint
of darkness

Truth / by Adela Sinclair

Stay with the truth.
Say what the truth wants of you.
I wonder how many poems must I write
to scale back to the truth.
To chisel it out of stone.
Rub it all over my body.
A pinprick of blood will let it
coarse through my veins.
I must work tomorrow.
With the braves.
Among the children who need me.
And it was so close, the news from
last night, and I want to yell at the top
of my lungs, long days ahead surrounded
with poems, chocolate, seltzer and Friends.
I will myself shut. The sun beckons me still.
I want to smell the daffodils and call them
Narcise, by their Romanian name.
I picked up a few last Wednesday, how
much has changed in a week.
There still is good here. There are still
lessons here. The point is to be inside still.
Still. Still. Still. A lake about to receive a beautiful
stone that skips and ripples its surface with love
and with hope, before it drops to the bottom
pulled by its gravitational truth.

The Ride / by Lori Swartz

Fly me
to the end of the earth
on the back
of your bike, your feet peddling
even downhill,
the trees making fast shadows
on my thighs.
My breath on your neck,
your breath in the air.
The light is cracking
over the dark band
of trees fit tight to the ground.
My lips are cracking
pink after licking and wind.
Seeds are bursting
yellow-tipped wings, pulled
into the air
by our speed
passing by.
I make a nest
of this moment, perched high
on the seat, feet skimming
the ground over
rocks and leaves and snake-colored sticks.
My hands hold
tight to your hips, like knuckles
in my palms.
Hair whipping,
teeth catching the wind,
Fly me
to the end of the earth
on the back
of your bike.
Your legs speed
to double time and
I know we are there.

Poem 10 / Day 10

GARDEN / by Michael Carter

Petals pressed in wax paper, smoke
     and flowers, a nearly translucent kimono–
          white, not for sale– embroidered

with blossoms, hanging just out of reach
     in the shadowed corner of the secondhand shop.
          Like something being read, shifting form

from sound to symbol, symbol to breath,
    breath to the crush of your chest
          into a permanent exhale. I wore that ache

for years. When I was a kid I wanted
     a flower garden because
          I wanted something to be beautiful

around me in the scratchy neighborhood.
     So I ordered one from a catalogue
          webbed into the nap of a decomposing fabric:

unroll it, cover it in soil and voila! violets
     and verbena, heliotrope, zinnias, pansies!
          The cloth like a filter between the living world

and the dead one, and the wish for beauty
     and the arid lack of attention to it, and
          the kimono hanging in the shop so thin

I could reach through it like a memory,
     and have it collapse to dust, my arm
          pulled back splattered with petals,

my hand dusty with work, with more to do
     with you still just out of reach.

Stone White Fist / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

After
the funeral, we returned
to the burial site– where else
were we to go?–
fresh plowed dirt sitting graveside,
green, mocking canopy over the funeral splays,
wilting in the heat, we stumbled
the grounds, dumbfounded,
our hearts an 80lb weight chained
to our grief.

I tried to make art
out of heartache, plastic flowers— garish, and people
buried in cement— held a camera
to my face— who else
could I talk to?—
tried to pour
my grief
into the lens, moonrise and sunfall
in precarious balance, an altar
of trees
burying their heads in the crepuscular skyline.

By the time
the film came back, summer had come, summer had gone,
we were lost postcards from yesteryear;
I thumbed the prints
to find the one image i sought: how it had haunted me,
how strange it’s beauty: the mausoleum, glimmering in the moonlight,
a stone-white fist, fierce,
a beacon
thrusting moon-wards, victoriously,
through the very long,
very sapphire night.

The crocus is the saddest flower.
Every tear is a prayer.

Older Than My Mother Ever Was / by Ellen Elder

I imagine her singing to “We Belong”
while stuck in traffic, this woman I should
have known—should still know—this mother
I’ve constructed an inner life for, which
is a way of saying that my inner life is
structured around hers, as if I’m a light-
house and she is the burning glass within.
She even resembled Pat Benatar in that video
with the chorus of angelic children: same
white blazer, same asymmetrical spike earrings,
same dark hair, pixie cut. Mostly, my mother
drove alone to and from work, her purse
and briefcase beside her, there being no back-
seat in her sports car, though I also imagine
her talking to a passenger: either a blown-up
HOV dummy which I helped disassemble
when I visited, or, when I visited, me.
By this time I was old enough to fly alone.
She’d take me to work and I’d play bingo
with the elderly patients, or sit at her desk,
blinking from behind new contacts,
doodling on “Memo” pads while she snuck
through the window onto the hospital roof
to smoke with the other officials. At home,
she drank (not too much) gin and vermouth.
Later, I tried to like that, too. Aren’t these
the remnants we have to work with, like prayer
cards between pages of an inherited bible?
When you barely know a parent you constantly
mix and doubt and airbrush memories, as if
when cleaning out the house of a loved one
we assign items to cardboard boxes to try
to equalize distribution, as if to convince ourselves
we equally loved them, or they were equally remembered.
Now, on the eve of what would be her 73rd birthday,
71 years after she left, I’m older than she’ll ever be.
Stuck in traffic—the only time I sing—
I realize that I never judged her for leaving.
I think of the Olds poem:
Do what you are going to do, and so on—.
My five-year-old, in the back seat,
chokes back tears, arbitrarily pleading to go or stay,
that I take her or not take her so far away from her father.
Suddenly, I envy my mother.
What fierce passion— what fiery conviction—she
must have experienced that made her leave.
They say the choices we make are right if
they are our choices. What is belonging, then,
if it doesn’t mean that you then don’t belong
to something else? My mother belonged because
she kept her shame—the choice to leave her child—
in the space between us like the pinecone
in her gearshift that leapt in anger when she shifted
from first to fourth in district traffic, talking politic
to the bumper sticker that was frighteningly close before us.
As a child, there was no way to belong
to those moments except to store them for later.
I could never leave my daughter, but I know
that in choosing to do what she did, my mother
must have known that I’d spend the rest of my life
examining it.

Closing the Therapy Practice:
Patient 178 / by Victoria Korth

He said gleaning its and bits with
vim and vinegar, complained that
he was forced to live like a pulper
among pats and pans. Mentioned
being overpowdered
during a family urgency after which
he was plummeted with questions.
A large man with a penetrating tone,
he filled my book with ways to think,
such as french air and seasonal
defective disorder. Half-hazardly,
mute points, palipitations, out-
stounding bills, mitochondriac disease,
bolivious, brownchitis and tactile errors.
Expressiveness and righteousness
blended in his thought and in his
generosity of spoken form. I miss him.

Eternity / by Anne Laurence

The time it takes
For your coffee to brew
When you’re late.
The pompous bloviating
In meetings that count only in
The time lost that I’ll never get back.
A cold train platform at night
Staring down the tracks
and feeling “time until…”go backwards
Wishing you had not had that last drink.
The one stolen moment sitting
Staring at a depthless sky.
The time as you fall asleep,
sliding into that unseen below
That has no dimensions.
The moment between the first kiss
… and the second.

Neighborhood Community Committee Office / by Robin Shawver

Are these good climbing shoes?
                       are these your passports?
When are we going camping?
                       do you have the right papers?
Where is the sleeping bag?
                       what papers?
Where are we camping?
                       the papers that you need to get in.
Your sleeping bag is a blankie.
                       we didn’t know we needed papers.
We are going to sleep in the nighttime.
                       foreign nationals.
                       need to present.
                       health documents.
Mommy, you need climbing shoes too.

We Have a Way / by Adela Sinclair

We have a way of picking up where
others leave off.
I will it to go away.
I will it compulsively away.
Amorphous and ominous,
almost omnipresent, haunting us.
My hands turn on. Heated, they are pads
of pure love.
I send the reiki through my crown chakra
down my body. Our body. I pray for resolve.
A respite. I could not help my messy mind.
They match the fear with more fear.
The impossible we are faced with will go away.
The sun will warm us, the way I warm us now.
My Vitamin D deficiency will take on its prominent role
again. Our synapses will travel on alternate routes.
Renewing our sense of ourselves, our sense of our love.
We have a way of picking up where
others leave off.

Hidden / by Lori Swartz

Someday you will miss me and not want to cut my throat.
Someday memories of love will fatten and fall
to the ground to rot. There are not enough
hands or baskets to gather what we have had
that now has nowhere to go.

We made a fort of our love out of bedsheets and towels
from the closet. We prop chairs and throw fabric
over tables to make dark corners where you are the hero and
I am the hero and we save each other from ourselves.
We are safe from daily chores, daily news and daily
stitches of everything over too soon. We have our own dark
tunnels where there are no scales to measure
who said what and how. We have filtered
chalk light and write all over each other with our fingers,
tracing bone, skin and shadows. I say yes and you say
yes. We want to hop a train
together riding anywhere.
We want to survive whole.

You climb into the shower with me, foot
by foot, ducking your head under
the hot water. The space is too small,
soap split against the cold. I wash your back,
looking at its small round moles and burnt skin.
This is the back that my fingers
have run a thousand times,
full of want, the back that has lifted
us through trouble.

There is no shadow to this moment. It is high
noon and blazing. My tongue is carved from wood,
full of splinters when I talk. Everything comes out
sharp. It is not easy to change what we have made.
Bury it or light it on fire. There is a hole carved out in me
the shape of you. The you from the days of driving
your truck on the dirt roads in Mexico, the days of watching
crows from the mesa, the days of asking each other with huge smiles,
what do we do with this love?
Enjoy it. Enjoy it,
because soon
it will be gone.

Speak and Say Its Name / by Sheree Renée Thomas

Taste the memory of you
on my tongue like the scent
of grass after heavy rain
I find remnants of you entangled
in the marshes of my mind
body swollen, eyes closed
like prayer, the reeds of us
rise from the skin of the river
skip across its sweating back
to climb up the mossy cobblestones
beneath the old bridge
no one can see us
no one but the railroad’s
rusted tracks
and two trains running
hard into a future
we cannot see
underneath the listening sky
I don’t need you to hold me
don’t need you to speak
or say its name
but place your tongue
in the hollow of my throat
just so and listen
to the parts of me
I never hear, hum me back
to a place where thirst
or sleep
is just a memory
and pleasure is a land
where I dream
myself awake

Poem 9 / Day 9

Poet Disappears / by Gordon Adams

She slid into view
On the surface of the water,
(Even the magic prophet
Didn’t really walk on the stuff.)

While the band…

Staring right at me
A glint of mystery in her eye,
Her hand resting on a bare breast
Inviting a caress,
Whistling rhymes,

Like that one.

But the band..

Becoming a carnival poet’s trick:
Come on in,
I’ll spin a rhyme for you

And the band…

If you have time
A tiny slip of iambic pentameter,
I learned from my father.

Just a moment, in and out
Until I join the rest
Trickling down the side show runway
Into memory 

And be gone…

ACROSS THE SCATTERED LAND OF TAKING AND LOSS / by Michael Carter

A creosote sky
A jackrabbit
Across a divide,
A white cross
Sends out judgements from atop
An adobe house
This is the line
Of subjugation
Over which trinkets
Make their way to market

How do you describe genocide
From this side?

An acceptance of mesquite
A letting go of magpies
A prayer of mountain peaks
A sanctity of fence posts
A gathering of adobe

No, this side.

Feather, Blood, and Bone / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

1.

your over-filtered face your dermal-filler cheeks
i miss thin lips

my feelings are retouched

peonies grow on astroturf, nature vs. plastic
where do you start
to see the end of things?

rent a u-haul, pack your life away
fold it up in cardboard
tuck secrets in the creases, paper planes
for your destination

packing tape as panacea, packing tape
as lips

on the road, we run out of mayonnaise

2.

emojis as romance memes as confession
i miss hot skin

my life is 2.0

i’m sucker punched
by a brisk yearning– present tense vs memory
how do you hold
the weight of your own decisions?

on a country road, the wooden chimes jangle
by the kids’ room,
cartoons, salami for lunch

a mangled bird of feather, blood
and bone by my car
cautionary tales of fight
over flight

my attachment style is .doc, my attachment style is linked
yours is fearful-avoidant

i make an idol out of longing

3.

plump your lips, tell me half-truths
plump your lips, tell me a joke
i miss imperfect teeth

in a post-truth world your heart is a hologram

in line, i’m bitchslapped
by a rude reflection
self vs selfie
how do you carry the facade
of illusion?

open your mouth, bones
fall out, calcified chiclets
into a digital grave

plant my feet on something analogue
put my spirit on the Rock

your coping mechanism is tivo
your coping mechanism is rewind

at the school pick up line, we run out of friends

4.

your face is a weapon
your face is a .gif
mine is VSCO A6

my feelings are virtual

the beginning of love is the end
of hyper-emotionalism
your truths vs. mine
how do you write
an instruction manual for love?

first evening below freezing bring in the ferns
the kids, candles and tea ’round the fire

your mouth is a permafrost

hold the children close
and the future closer

swipe right to love me
swipe right to save me

the house is on fire.

5.

my body is a missle
my body’s morse code
yours is a climate emergency

our love is pasteurized

sunlight glints upon the sea
time vs. longing
how to hold the ache
of tenderness?

in the fall, i watch a cardinal peck at the clothes line
beauty and life from the ashes
our souls have untethered there’s all this space–
a house with all it’s doors ajar

invite a bird in, teach us to fly

anyone could leave me
anyone could love me

in the autumnal light, we learned to be free

Snow / by Victoria Korth

At night it pads faithfully to the door
and lies against the stoop in folded heaps.
Dreaming, we didn’t hear it.
Morning it says oh yes, ah ha ha, and apple
trees appear to blossom while the green-
black conifer crowns bow, perplexed.
One is never certain if what is lost is one
or more than one of the senses. Blinded,
unless the eyes are held unnaturally wide in the cold,
then what is lost is the capacity to make distinctions.
Here is comes again, all day long, so operatic.
What is happening is outside you
and the same as what is not happening.
Wren-feather soft, holding to itself and to fence posts
with such familiar logic. Yet uncanny, how?
Did beauty begin here, with the mind falling
upward in what feels like joy?
In this silence? No silence was so poised.

Despair / by Anne Laurence

It hovers in brightness,
After all the lights are on.
It slowly closes its eyes
And rests on fertile ground.
It explodes within, a seed of doubt –
Of bitter weeds spreading out –
And sticks like a burr to the hem of
Skirts, dripping with exhaustion.

It hitches a ride inside a bird and drops from the sky.
It worms its way into guts, a parasite surviving all.
It is in motion, running
From one side of the skull to the other.
It opens its mouth to swallow
All phrases and whispers of encouragement.

It is the singular rift
We cannot heal in ourselves.
The argument that refutes spring.
The evil that threatens the future.
And all we know of God

It is the infection which makes us cry out –
To blame another.
It is in this poem, daring you to speak.

[In response to “Hope” by Lisel Mueller]

being forced to float / by Robin Shawver
             for D&T Clancy

do you have a bag
packed
full of rocks
and paint
and small brushes
do you have words
ready to go
and a shovel
you will need to bury
them
after they are painted
marked
by language
they will need to be
buried
so that later
someone can take their fingers
strong
and put them into the dirt
feel around for something hard
and meaningful
it is possible to float on dry land
on common misunderstandings
it is even possible to float
when the knowns outweigh
the unknowns
but you will need to dig
or plant or both
a few painted rocks to float
on the ocean at its deepest
and most valuable

Desperate Hour – A Love Letter to Hope / by Adela Sinclair

The consistencies are rampant.
No consideration for human beings.
Delineating mission impossible for commuters
in the busy city we live in.
Do not use the subway, they admonish us on the news.
I have only been back in Brooklyn for an hour,
and the panic takes a hold of me.
I have left behind the sunny skies of Woodstock,
the Pink House, the coffee shops and Mirabai
with the rocks, crystals and sage. I left behind the
witches and those who love them.
I have left behind my own sanity.
My volition to want to do good in the world.
I am a Master in my own right and I am unable
to control anything other than how many times
I wash my hands and the ardor with which I do it.
I was reminded for a couple of days of the necessity of human contact,
touch, love of art, love of the land we harvest and the love of one another.
Being inside now and watching the numbers go up on TV,
I refuse the unity inside me, the higher self, the all knowing
one who renders this world I live in a livable and loving life.
I have nothing to add to the wheels that turn now, I do not
control the direction they are going in. Maybe I can contribute
just some oil, so they run smoothly.
I will dream of salt on my lips that I will again and again lick
in my sleep. Maybe one day I will see the sky as it is meant to
be seen, without skyscrapers scratching its vastness,
but punctured by birds flying to nest in the warmth of the south
where I am invited to join you in the orange groves, let the smooth
silky fragrant juice run down my chin, wipe my mouth with my hand,
look over to you and touch your face. Then, we kiss softly to make
it all alright.

Front Yard Stories / by Lori Swartz

My neighbor’s garden is full of plastic flowers,
mannequin arms, rusty steel hearts and a gray
plastic skeleton. My yard is full
of astroturf, the leavings of leaves,
the leavings of leaving,
the leavings of children’s toys, crouched
green army man,
three knee-high bikes,
rocks and sticks gathered to a pile.

They are the cast-offs of my
mother life, the bedtime story and dinner
at 6pm life, the life of school lunches,
pick ups and drop offs, midnight
bad dreams, the shadow ghosts
of family life
living in corners.

But never mind how it ends, it is all a game
of luck, played as if it was something
more. We all burn the letters
we never sent and sit
on our hands
in the storm, watching
the clock, waiting
for the voice that says
I love you back.

Sapphira Wade / by Sheree Renée Thomas
             – From Gloria Naylor’s novel, Mama Day

“…she don’t live in the part of memory we use to form words.”

Pure African stock
limbs and teeth sound
half-prime, sullen and strong
prone to mischief, suspected witchcraft
midwife, catches babies in deep-lined
strong hands
big boned negress, wide hipped
and comely
satin black, biscuit cream
red Georgia clay and strick-a-lean
say her name wrong and she
takes flight in lightning storm
holds the bolt in the palm of her hand
black stars birthed back to life
dance on the crease of her brow
turns moon into salve
its crescent blade in his gut
vessel to seven born souls
spit out the strange bitter fruit
fresh seeds bloom on bloodstained land
she laughs at the hangman’s noose
the sound like black thunder in the night
Sapphira’s laughter rises
as the trees burst
into flame

Poem 8 / Day 8

Spring / by Gordon Adams

When spring arrives as simple daffodils
Cold winds of winter lighten into breeze.
The birds arrive their songs exciting trills
And buds appear on slender limbs of trees.

The winter’s ice turns into gentle rain.
The ghosts of snowmen melt into the dew
While crocus flowers now appear again.
Spring’s gentle light calls nature forth anew.

It’s hope that grows with every brightening day
Renewal brings a measure of its own.
My darkest thoughts begin to fade to gray
And soon reveal that I am not alone.

When death and darkness seem my only fate,
It’s spring that tells me it is not too late.

FIRE ESCAPE / by Michael Carter

Everyday A hummingbird visits
The safety orange nasturtiums
Cheering the fire escape. Its breast
Is smeared with what looks like
eye shadow, glitter green.
When it leaves— sweeter,
Sated— it sounds
Like a zipper opening
Or closing, leaving
In its wake, wonder. Me
Wondering if I missed
My chance. But then
I remember the fire escape
I used to escape a fire,
New puppy tucked
Under my arm
Carrying him to safety
After he woke me up
Before the smoke
Reached me. That
Could have been
My last chance.

Cacoethes / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

In the afternoon light, your delicate hairs glisten in the sun like a thousand tiny comets, arced and launching skyward from the golden spans of your arm, and i’m already future-tripping, longing for this moment even while in it immersed, and you, still here in my orbit.

By the sea, I put a fish in your throat, swim toward eternity. We bond and merge into the vermillion sky, folding into the Mystery of Things Greater Than Ourselves.

Cacoethes you tell me, it’s a word look it up and I do: an irresistible urge, a mania. It enters me wholly, an asteroid hurtling, exploding in my depths, a volcanic ash bubbling up the pharyngeal cavern, hot, staccato wind rolling over my tongue, a bilabial hiss as my mouth parts. The eternal bird set free. Finally. A name for this gnawing, this desire to touch. the face. of God.

After Edvard Munch’s Woman with Poppies (1918-19) / by Ellen Elder

In a way of seeing, she appears to be in mourning.
             Her black dress the shiny-wet of blue

feathers, as if Munch painted her in black
             to demonstrate that light always casts

a dark shade. The poppies, too, so alive
             in their bleeding, their lips open, vaginal,

gaping to be picked. He must have seen her
             this way: red and black, green and willing,

although he gives her a hat pulsing in colors
             of the rainbow and ripe berries,

which flops, flippantly, on her head.
             The green field where she bends over—

for he bends her frame—is so lush it feels commercial,
             as if the green paint, too, is for sale.

Choose me, the painting seems to say. Pick me
             as I pick these flowers.

In a self-portrait Munch, who barely survived
             the Spanish flu, included the skeleton

of an arm, since man, here as painter,
             takes the body unadorned,

renders it seen from the inside out,
             as only he wants us to see it.

Pose / by Victoria Korth

Everyone in yoga has their legs in the air
and the space between them is unique
yet similar in width and curvature,
like a row of violin or cello cases.
I watch them come down to the mat
from head-stand, waving like dancers’ arms
or the batons of crossing guards.
Look—they move independently of each other,
unlike eyes which only move conjointly
so that an injury in one is annoyed
to exacerbation when the other eye,
its pesky twin, wants to look around.
I should not be looking around in yoga
yet certain postures make me do so
as they defamiliarize my friends.
And so, each Thursday night at six,
after about thirty minutes of mindful focus,
shapes become time-travel pods
taking me to a middle-school gym
with a gothic cupola. It is Saturday
and I am aware to self-awareness of the body
as art, a source of pleasure and amazement:
make a flower with your hands,
make your back into a boulder.
On which I feel the sun’s intense warmth
through massive windows, and am homesick.

An Hour Ago / by Anne Laurence

An hour ago,
Intemperate skies
Made known their displeasure
At dusty sidewalks and exposed feet,
At fast drivers and birds trying to fly,
At daydreamers fixing gazes on the future.

Rain flung down like handfuls of
Pebbles – delighting in the muffled
Sounds of unyielding hard surfaces –
Paints post-modern layers of grey –
Theme and few variations –
Road, buildings, trees, sky.
Even people running and those
Who gave up and walked slowly
Fade into lumps hoisting
Useless wisps of fabric.

Strobe light migraine flashes
Of lightning jumped through
Windows, shouting,
While angry thunder raged
Incoherently at anyone
With a guilty conscience.

Now all the water and electricity
And heat and expanding air
Have passed, the sky is clear
And blue and fresh.
The argument, exhausting,
Isn’t so much over as spent.
The dissipation leaves an emptiness that
For now does not need to be filled,
As I walk outside and smile at the sky.

the annabelle doll / by Robin Shawver

a story told by an uncle
has become a disruption spread
and my six-year-old
says he doesn’t know
when he’ll ever be able
to face it
the fear
because it’s real
the doll
a plaything
becoming a nightmare
the air around us stifling
I don’t want the dark
any more than he does

Heal / by Adela Sinclair

I know what I build.
I only knew what I destroyed.
In the cave, the stalagtites drape.
A deep want to touch the ground.
The stalagmites reach to the sky,
push toward the light.
I lie horizontally,
at least I fill a space,
bandage a memory.
The rain,
when it seldom falls,
drowns out the bears
who visit the cave.
The air does not smell.
The forest deserving of its glorious scent,
does not descend into its brazen wounds.
Instead,
inflates its moon-kissed smile with its creatures,
lies them down in its lap.
Desires to fill.
Never
to recede.

The Thing Between Us / by Lori Swartz

Puff black ski jacket, rubber raincoat,
corduroy, wool, rain-soaked cotton.
I am in the bathroom
closet, the jackets hung too close
to the water heater. I fit in here.
The only place that slippery belongs.

There is a shape, like something
fallen, something gone, and not coming
back, something invisible that sits with me
in here, back to the scuff-marked wall, something
like a helix double of me, a ladder with no place
to go, a mirror of all the lost things.

I don’t want to come out of this room,
with its shutting door and words
that all spell darkness. I want to wind
the timer again, right before the bell
rings, one more chance
at naming the thing
between us.

Midwifery / by Sheree Renée Thomas

Wake up to the Clark Sisters
talking about sunshine
who brought it
and who they brought it for
pick up a penny
because there is no change
without small change
and it’s lying on the ground
like a great blind copper eye
judging me from the pockmarked floor

In an age where every black girl
is magic, and all the magic is good
a hoodoo haint like me ain’t got to pray
no more, ain’t got to seek her reflection
in the mirror that is the river, taking seven
hundred and seven selfies at a time
waiting on the person I want to be
to look back out at me
ain’t got
to shimmy out on the outstretched arm
of maybe, we got squad now
we out here
swallowing moons
spitting out new suns
that blossom like red flowers
on our singing tongues

Wake up in an age
where every black girl is magic
and we ain’t got to drown a river
no more, and our tongues aren’t tied
with grief no more, and we have long
forgotten the language of prayer
we sisters of sunlight, midwives to the moon
we got everything we need once more
because every open mouth is a shore, a land
where each mother births
herself

Poem 7 / Day 7

Viral Thought / by Gordon Adams

Corona a broken button
On my jumper.
Nowhere to run.

FOUR STAR LILIES IN A VASE / by Michael Carter

The lilies shine
in a dull room, subdued,
tissued bleakness:
patina, crumb and absence
rolled into one
in this land of
buy-one-get-one-free.
Smarting from all these
Injustices: a smattering
of pigeons putter
in the yard. What cuts
against the grain?
Who thrashes all the grain?
Unpicked crops rot in field.
I’m exhausted: all I want
are these four lilies.
Speak to me.

Days Upon Days / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

No job too small no tree too big
I guess what I mean is I’d like to get to a place where I can
Do it all
The roof is a pointed hat
Cotton ball trees beg questions
A ghost man on my chest
Pressing down
Dollars upon dollars days upon days expect delays
There’s a tire in your ribs

Ring around the rosie pocket full of politics
We all fall down
In the ashes a girl with crossed arms
Waiting by the bus stop
A bunch of teens hanging ‘round like grapes
Dangling in adolescent hoodies
One stabbing at the concrete with her toe
Tip green lights
Color the raindrops
The buildings are mildewed
Boys with long hair girl with the pink pajamas swaying in the wind
Arrows pointing to nowhere

Elegy with Country House and Blackcurrants / by Ellen Elder

Earlier the neighbor stood on a ladder
             to clean our fanned window,
a jug of vinegar propped on the top step.
             A tunnel of wood spills onto a velvet courtyard
where ghosts of bougainvillea bloom.

Grief marvels its bowl of blackcurrants.
             At the dinner party she excuses herself
more than twice so she can cry
             in the upper bath where a marble tub—
with three taps—harbors tiger lilies

blessed in buckets of water.
             In the lavender room, where I found
the missing brass peacock in a seashell ashtray,
             I fall asleep babysitting her kids.
An antique rocking horse wakes

when she enters, searching for a shawl.
             She closes the shutters, the evening
damp with sea salt. A child snores
             from the softness of a quilted corner.
Dessert was apple tart with fresh cream,

the kitchen is porcelain clean. Outside,
             nervous rooks taunt the early hours.
Someone’s forgotten linen
             hanging in the walled garden. The rhubarb
beds are spiked with chards of glass

after a long-ago gale
             collapsed the glasshouse of grapes.
We come back every year, the fireplaces
             a tenancy of ash. Pairs of mismatched
Wellingtons stand sentry in the hall.

Why do poems begin with the weather? / by Victoria Korth

To say here, now
in this place, at this time
as if so saying
may imbue the poem
with that concrete essence
moving within shared
measures we call life,
also to imply that this now
is worth sensing on the skin
before looking into
the notebook or fridge
or the back of the mind,
and further, that we may
be here together
by some remarkable coincidence
made of autumns, a night
of rain, hatless mornings,
snow-fog, or worse, or kinder,
wherever you, dear reader, live,
on what blue boundary,
beneath which shadowed oak,
we might greet each other
in air evolving now
from pearl to yellow,
as a hawk runs
hungrily on the ground.

Microclimates / by Anne Laurence

The row of trees – sheltered between
brutish buildings and ignored by
the hurrying of bureaucrats –
Has started to bloom. But
The ones standing in the open
Stay shuttered and bare until
They are secure that the warmth
Is not just reflection from glass facades,
Momentary infatuation with full sun,
Scorching and surprising – too much
For eyes adjusted to winter’s thud.
They wait to be sure, for the heat
To rise from the earth, to be sure
It doesn’t dissipate with the first cloud.
They guard their one chance, their only
Moment to astonish and amaze,
Not wanting to peak too soon to
Open and expose themselves only
To be coated in a late icestorm or
Blown away in gusting rain.

That little space of temporary safety,
that protection from the elemental
fear of being wrong, from the
fear that confidence misplaced
will flutter away,
walks me down a narrow hall
into rooms of men at conference tables.
I look out the phalanx of windows
at the stubborn final snow,
threatening and unsuprising,
creating small vortices in the
courtyard, unable to dissipate or escape.
I look at the row of buttoned up and
bare egos, waiting for me to
walk into the open,
and fail.

Bleeding angels / by Adela Sinclair

Our parents are constantly proving
our geometry, our emotions.
We always have something
to lose.
Our quiet world and its surreal situations.
The spider signifies “news is coming”,
and it crawls on me during the night as it
bites my eyelid, causing the inflated lid
to swell into a perfect cupola.
Our resolve is to belong
to our gypsy tribe,
beget coffee beans,
the priest,
round wire rimmed glasses,
an open window.
Our many superstitions.
Wear charcoal on our eyes.
See into souls.
Debunk the superstitions from
our youth.
No keys thrown on tables,
no hats thrown on beds,
or umbrellas opened inside the house.
As a people we pass through history,
as bleeding angels. We are never seen.
Never seen, yet perceived.
Things are constantly taken away.
We ration our young.
Pay hommage to the sleeping sheep.
Lullaby our hungry
under the canopy of stars.
Rationed milk makes them starve,
us starve, mother’s tits are not lactating.
Rationed bread, meat, oil, sugar and
butter.
The thinnest slices of tomatoes on the kitchen table.
We chat, cause our worries to scarecrow the old
worries.
We say crows hover on the fences of those who will die within a week.
We bleed irrationally when we eat vegetables and take pills.
End up in the hospital.
We lose our money, we don’t care.
We are alive and can butcher for the next day.
We survive with guns pointed at us.
Our friends and neighbors disappear.
We seek our angels our entire adult lives.
“ADELAAAAAA” come out to play.
Kids calling out my name over the fence from
the garden next door.
We eat slabs of meat. Tied meat.
Our teeth fall out of our adult mouths.
We seek and find our guides.
Guided into submission across the immense pond.
Never seek and you shall find.
Walking on the streets of New York City,
years later, the street looks to be carpeted
with diamonds. Scattered, sharp, unrelenting
in their shine.

Feedback / by Robin Shawver

can we increase the feedback

send some more messages

emails texts

is there another platform

another way to say. I need

5h3y is that a good password

it’s not something we’ve been missing

we do not need a flash deal

your smile is so familiar

but different

and I wonder how much longer

we will have you

when we will see you again

all we can do is guess

make predictions

hope

as neighbors nail up wooden boards

across doorways to keep

the other

in and

death

at bay

Fragments / by Lori Swartz

The punk kids in our little town huddle
by the rock wall and show me in technicolor
that I am old. I am get-off-my-lawn mean.
I am a fist, wrapped in lipstick and hard eyes.
I have lost the polished arrow pointed
at the bullseye of tomorrow.

Right until the end I wanted you to look at me, wanted
to drive a stake through your shadow and make
you stay, but winter is dark and you are darker.
I am tired of being the shut-mouthed artist begging
for food stamps and second hand give a damns.
Big black boots and paint in the creases around my neck,
I am looking for love at the end of a string, with my watery
dime eyes and a penny nail mouth I realize
the only thing at the end is the end.

I am hitting hard, heavy knee high boots
on the pavement, my skirt riding my thighs.
I don’t look at the ground as the tourists pass,
into their eyes and not down. A challenge to talk
about my ass or my tall tall ways.

I’d like to put gum in your hair and watch you
try to get it out. At least it would give you something to do
other than look at me like that
while I sob from my chest or laugh
with my head thrown back, teeth to the sky.

I haul around your borders, bump lightly, don’t apologize.
I tell you things that make me clear
my throat and shift positions. I tell you of long swims
in cold oceans, months where I have done nothing
but paint, pound metal and cry
because I don’t know what I am crying about.
I tell you that I forget I am not
always in control, that I beat out word after word,
that I count on way too much.

My gift is detail that I will give to you and make
mine again. Isn’t that the way of snakes and shaman,
preachers and soothsayers?

I have become someone else entirely. The one who has escaped,
in bathrobe and slippers, the broke painter, the tenant
in my own house, the one who drinks
at night, the reader of T.S. Elliot.
I think of each house I have ever lived, each body
I have ever touched, the almost-love of sex.
I am the one who has had a man walk into her house and
not leave. Police, sirens singing,
while I barricade myself in a bedroom.

I want to take out my eyes, hold them in my hands
and hear the soft muffled noises of my boots
on cement parting thick air, to hear all the things
that we don’t tell each other. The journeys
of sliced laughing and dark rooms.
We all stand in profile, lit from the side,
never answering the question.

Now I ask this question, sitting frozen
in my studio, legs crossed, spotted with paint, spotted
with guilt, listening to podcasts of unknowable,
improbable ideas.
I ask
what
next?

Forgotten Ones / by Sheree Renée Thomas

When I was small
I played with the forgotten ones
I held their hands tight, for fear
I would be forgotten too
I jumped rope with the children
born inside the city’s bones
the children named
after the rust and the river’s songs
Together we lit matches
and watched our fears burn
because the wind said fire
not words not hope nor water
was the beginning, and fire
was how our world would begin again

When I grew older
I played the forgotten ones
I held hands tight with fear
And I was forgotten too
I jumped with my children
Inside a city’s bones
my daughters named
after God, the Protector
my daughters named
after the courage I did not
think I had

When I grow cold and still
I hope to return to the forgotten ones
I will hold their hands tight with no fear
May my name be a song beneath
the city’s bones, below the rust
where the light of fires burn
and the children remember my name

Poem 6 / Day 6

Goin’ Somewhere / by Gordon Adams

Just a white, middle-aged woman in Georgia, Ph.D in hand, teaching kids poetry and
Shakespeare and Alice Walker and the great stuff they need to know to grow and shake
off the blanket of so-called “American values” and open up to feel, think, be in wide-
open, new space.

Her husband the overweight prayer group gun-totin’ gut-a-deer white Christian
manhood “we don’t feel; we think” kind of “regular guy,” sweet, though, who calls her
“darlin’” loves her ‘till death-may-one-day part them and doesn’t get in the way of her
thinking different as long as he can sit peacefully by the barbecue at night in silence, but
she has to be careful because some of this thing she is going through is waking her to
the other side of a strange looking glass into a world nothing like the one he grew up in,
sings with, prays with, but doesn’t drink with because he might “get to like it” and knows
he “did not marry a traditional woman” and God bless him for that because he loves her
and keeps her warm at night and never asks her where his dinner is even though he
listens to Rush Limbaugh.

Should she tell him about when the preacher felt her up in the rectory after church when
she was a kid and whispered in her ear she shouldn’t tell or she would go to hell or the
guy who assaulted her in the parking lot when she was 8 so even now she walks
through parking lots with her keys balled up in her fist in case she needs to hit someone
or just the other Sunday when the preacher all but told everyone to go out and vote for
that un-Christian guy in the White House and called on everyone to stand up and sing
“God Bless America” in a church service, for God’s (yes!) sake, and she stood there,
voice stilled, holding her hymnal with all those religious good value songs she had sung
ever since she was a “good little girl” and thought deep, deep and put the hymnal down
and became a “onward marching soldier” right out the tall, white church door into the
blistering Georgia sun and never went back.

Uncertainty trails her like a loyal hound as she walks through the forest with her friend
some might call the devil because this friend watched the Democratic debates and
marches with black people and gays in Atlanta and talks about it a lot as they walk
along and it sounds somehow free and real the wide-open space where she can maybe
breathe and she wonders with the same internal voice, the one she clenches her teeth
over to keep it in, that voice hammers back into her head getting louder and louder,
saying “this is not a role I can play anymore.”

WEST RIVER: Vermond, April / by Michael Carter

Day breaks over the West RIver
a bright yolk on a merengue
of snow. Pine trees rib shadows
on either side of the water’s cursive scroll
bending between Dummerston and Brattleboro.
We are headed to work. My safety-orange
gloves glow in my lap. The matching hat
I left with you, Mom, along with my scarf
and Tom’s gloves. You were so cold,
now nineteen days dead.
After last week’s brief
thaw the river refroze
the start and stop of the water
glacial plates pushed together
budding continents,
jutting crystal peaks.

Wabi-Sabi / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

Protruding tongues
everywhere I look: subways, screens, adolescents
On a country road, even the rains
have plopped one down: a hungry puddle
of dead-muscle-gray
licking at the dirt, and crawling
toward the sea
My body, too,
a tongue of sorrow
scraping ‘gainst a jagged future
My mouth is an avalanche
Perhaps God
is in the longing, a glue in the liminal spaces
of our brokenness
In a dream you were a circus elephant
the past tied to your tail
My arm is a bullet
puncturing the veil between this life
And the next

A Female President / by Ellen Elder

Happiness is also defined
as a place to experience balance,
where you can reason freely
without the burden
of being denied
or (always) counter-argued against
or second-guessed.
Happiness is also the place
where passion would
bleed out of you,
if left untapped.

When I am asked advice
on how to get out of bed in the morning / by Victoria Korth

The moment of love in which the empty essence
nakedly dawns is the same moment of rising
from bed. You have not risen, you have let it happen
as you allowed the bumptious trade winds of sleep
to scatter your thoughts in the dark. Morning,
the turning earth dips your toes in water.
Knees warm. Are you kneeling? Perplexed now
by your lower back, a dream-thought passes.
You shot a spotted mongrel but found it later
waiting in your car, alive and docile,
then you shot a man and he dies fully.
A package drops from the sky, small box
wrapped in a diaper, inside are instructions
you must read today, but not until a signal
you expect but cannot name. Instead
the blessing of a door to be knocked on,
heat muttering in the vents, tapping its cane,
and someone near enough to hear reach
for his watch, turn, trying not to wake you.

Going / by Anne Laurence

I look at you now.
In the moment of going.
The litany of my sins enumerated
drapes heavy with ritual repetition –
a liturgy that omits forgiveness,
but promises to be incanted again
this time next week.

I look at you now.
In the moment of going.
The gas lights burn brightly,
held up to my every fault and
mistake, casting garish shadows
across the room, in harsh relief
against dusty corners where
bits of your failures hid under
layers of oft-told stories
that I somehow believed.

I look at you now.
In the moment of going.
And see the remnants of broken eggshells
that you tossed before my feet,
daring me yet again to step
on the fragile pieces of your trauma,
unacknowledged, and yet
so skillfully deployed.

I look at you now.
Without the wince – anticipating accusations.
Without the furrowed concentration
it takes to again explain some
unexplained transgression.
Without the eager
upturned face searching your eyes
for how long the bitter reaction
would take to swallow before I can
distract you with a kiss.

My eyes fade to grey hardness;
the lines on my face slacken.
The practiced protective layer
deployed elsewhere is picked up
and put on with my coat.
There will be no procession back,
no recitation of wrongs unresolved,
no asks for absolution.

Only when your lips tremble
against mine, when
Your hand grasps a last touch,
And a wistful “I love you” escapes as
Something of a benediction,
Only then do you see me.
Going.

Consequences of Silence / by Adela Sinclair

An ocean expands and it is not
due to climate change.
Monday we were innocent.
Beloved by our Gods.
The gray demeanor of today is a
different stroke.
We used to be the lucky ones
in our veil-less outings on the town
on high-rise rooftops drinking tall
champagne flutes.
We showed some leg and the world
was ours.
Now what grabs us is confined in boxes:
boxes of cereal
boxes of nutrition bars
boxes of tissue
boxes of purell
boxes of soap.
We find ourselves in our shoebox
apartments surrounded by boxes.
The only new thing is that it seems we just
moved in. Silence arises.
The only thing moving is silent.
Pervasive.
Deadly.
So I sit on my orange couch
interrogating God.
The ocean.
Its estuary outside my window.
I interrogate my innocence.
The world emptied,
a gutting of its foundation.
I do not know where the story goes.
All I know is
I need some fresh air!

baby skunks
as a pet did you say? / by Robin Shawver

Warren dropped out?
is that NPR coming from the kitchen
or is my daughter giving a speech
again
about the brain being pink
and that’s why we can think
the morning unwinds quickly
and we process what we can
the different time zones
and how half the world fosters
an image of itself
while we sleep
I’m not sure anymore who I know
that I can talk to when
I need to
there are too many
time differences
so many people
where they weren’t
yesterday
my clock app can’t load anymore
new city clocks on its favorite list
and I have to decide who to leave
behind
there’s a travel shirt made from coffee grounds
but I think I should at least
get to drink the coffee first

The Final Performance / by Lori Swartz

You have walked away from the cheering,
all eyes on you moments to play
the fool, belly flat to the floor, swallow
the pain pills moment. Each crevice
of you filled with cancer and surrounded
by love and thin smiling lips
that say, I am here for you, while thinking,
I am glad it isn’t me.
I want to yell at the people who speak to you
in a baby voice, as if sickness creates an infant.

I want to tell you to turn your face
toward the warm light of the stage. Turn
your cheek over and over again
to the mathematic cells, littering
your body, making too much of themselves.
I sit with you, hands splayed, fingers almost touching,
pulsing the electric spark
of this almost cross over moment.

We sit under the train bridge, your lips
marked blue, listing the songs
you want played at your memorial, the train
running overhead tracks, the rigged fabric
blows, the boxcars one, two, three run past
marked cargo, then marked by smiling waving,
glassed-in silence of travelers. We are traveling
on a different journey with our feet
in arroyo sand, dancing dogs and bellies
full of beer. You are barreling
toward death and
I am just barreling.

Thick earthworm veins of your chosen music
burrow in my head, running tunnels
of dirt through and through.
I have never felt more alive
than when you were dying
in the living room on the couch. Eyes fixed,
throat closed, sky gray planet rings under your eyes.
I am popping, heart beating,
skin an elastic band around each mean organ,
pumping, pushing, snapping
to the electronic beat of still-alive.

I want my wrists tied shut with a soft black rope,
wrapped, sailor knotted over and under, to keep
me still so I forget that I am alive and you
are almost not. You are a smeared charcoal sketch
of ticking and crouching
in the time you have left.

I think of the times you have moved
with sea snake elegance, off-key blank, black spaces
to dance through, eyes full, arms full, veins full
of the moment caught in a glance,
thrown over your shoulder, like a handful
of gold glitter, hitting our thighs like starlight,
like sunlight, like tinkling broken glass. We dance
on stage together, falling a deep step
to each down beat,
teeth gleaming in the stage lights, eyes fixed
on the spot that is not full
of cancer dreams, dead dreams, silent striding dreams
toward a light that is not a spotlight.
Close your eyes and feel
the copper conduction of audience
electricity and the ones who love you
most, in the way they love you most,
from a distance.

I lie in your back room, on your bed, that you can no longer walk
to get into, feeling my body arc, spine bending, wanting
lips and tongue and teeth on me so that I can forget
that there will be a dangerous moment
when I will die too.
Crows feet line my mouth to remind me
that swollen time is ticking all around me,
a countdown to nothing. I want
to go back to the beginning,
turn back the timer and
do it all again.

Drowned—or the Morning After / by Sheree Renée Thomas

Madness is beautiful when it rises
in the morning like a red golden sun
and all its sisters come to paint
her toenails red
and braid her hair with even parts
oiling her scalp, careful to scratch
the roots just so

She walks with her skirts raised up high
with knobby knees and swollen ankles
the heels turned out, calves exposed
dips her toes down
where the river forms a wall of scars
where death hovers like a bad dream
until she can no longer feel
the bottoms of her feet, worn flat
from the weight of grief

Beautiful as the dark witness of night
Madness buries herself in the cave
that is her mouth, rests her head
on the soft red pillow that is her tongue
rocks herself in the calm of dawn
before her soul is swept away again
lost at sea

Poem 5 / Day 5

Clemenza / by Gordon Adams
(for Francoise)

Broadway’s sonic noise
Rises to her window
Wide open to the summer heat,
While sheet lightning
Splinters the sky.
No silent night on this street.

Storefronts clustered
Behind metal grates
Padlock-chained.
Looter-free zones
Lurk below.

The quiet princess
Sets memory adrift
Over the Hudson,
Leap-frogging America,
To the underside of the earth.

Shakes the harbor bridge
From her skirts,
Steps over the gaping
Clamshell mouths
Of the opera house.

Her long legs
Dance on the coral
While tempest waves
Curl and uncurl,
Their brown tresses
Grazing Bondi Beach
On the hottest night
Of the century.

Terima kasih,
She sighs.

TEA LEAVES AND A GENERAL THEORY OF LOVE / by Michael Carter

Knowing when to leave– in the middle of your favorite song
knowing when to leave– end of the summer
knowing when to leave–before you fall asleep

A large leaf clings like a handprint to the window screen
like a slap like a last desperate act before the inevitable
fall. September’s gravity, October’s eventuality. Tea leaves
fleck the cup’s insides predicting who knows what
while the hound is impossibly tucked
into the seat of a wingback, he’s spilling over the edges
like a loaf of bread rising beyond the pan’s confines
or like a teenager too small for their new outsized body
but they are still impossibly there, fully themself, without
knowing where.

For the Anorexic Student / by Ellen Elder

She tilts her head as if an orange peel falls,
             dust lingers in the space between pencil
                          and floor. She reads the spines

on my office bookshelf and notes that Ní Chuilleanáin
             should be in the Ns, not the Cs.
                          She turns to me as if raising bread

over the altar. A leather strap crosses her heart,
             the body of the purse no larger than a wallet
                          and as vulgar, hefty with the violence

of too many unzippings. The purse bounces off her hip,
             breaking the line. For all her slightness—
                          like a basket spun from seagrass—

she takes up the entire room, an assembly of stanzas
             poised and and pointed as if to pirouette
                          over bottlecaps. Her clavicle bones

jut forth from a dark sweater that has fallen
             off her shoulder in a line of buttons.
                          When she moves the buttons click

against something. Parts of her body amass
             as an afterthought, as if she’s composed
                          from extra ribs, or from the tails

of sea horses. In class she props on a cushion
             that she brings along with her neat, rational
                          equations hedged in apology.

I say that women apologize too much. Her voice
             is surprisingly deep and strong, when she speaks
                          it’s as if listening to an archival recording

of news about an earthquake:
             seismic waves, aftershocks, fatalities.
                          I stare at her and she stares

back without blinking, long enough to locate
             our discomfort in the shared space looking
                          out from within nature’s scaffolding,

where everything has a purpose and your hands
             are the only dirty things alive as the clay spins
                          and slips on the wheel beneath your will.

Brother, younger / by Victoria Korth

He called it plin and plout,
playing in or playing out,
to be decided after school
up to a certain age when
he was still as inventive
but engaged in other kinds
of mastery; his intelligence
brought joy to freedom. Rules
were simple but essential—
he knew to balance them
with clear objectives.
Capture the flag, in and through
the wooded lots between the houses;
garages, porches, sheds
were out of bounds.
How my heart hurt, ears tuned
to the super human, skin
alive with eyes,
especially as dusk fell,
especially in the dark
when the flag was luminous.
What games we’ve played since then
he has not won. He left the team,
left us with the flag.

Lost / by Anne Laurence

When every edge is sharp,
the slightest move cuts
deeper as you sink into
the black hole – that isn’t empty
but full of memories.
The pieces collected
like a broken mirror swept up
and tossed amid the coffee grounds.
But a piece you missed –
there’s always one –
at the unexpected moment
Inevitably finds your bare sole –
your bare soul.

And yet amid the gathering
dust of exhaustion,
The discarded husks of each
Terrible day,
the smallest ray of light
reflects from outside,
sneaking in through prisms
that construe a small
dropping of protective front
as opening.
Stubborn life surprises
and suggests that there may be
a bit of hope in seeing
another’s face,
another life,
reflecting in the broken shards.

this is thursday / by Robin Shawver

she holds her basket that’s become the travel home for her baby doll who sits wrapped in scarf and sweater and that she won’t let me help her carry but holds firm to her grasp and lags behind us as we make our way to the gate and the guards and the people in hazmat suits and the police and all of them gesturing and pointing or otherwise watching us as one hazmat suit takes my husband’s temperature and another approaches my son while my daughter and I slowly make our way and I almost think they will take the baby doll’s temperature too but they don’t and when they’re done they just wave at us like in dismissal or this is it for now or please get away from us and we walk back up the hill towards our apartment and lunch

playing freeze tag in the empty compound playground knowing that we are being watched at least by a few bored eyes needing something different to look at than the same walls and windows and screens that have washed over them for weeks and as we run around in the cold air laughing and lunging I remember that soon we will be summoned and our temperatures taken and lives maneuvered and that maybe we should stop running maybe we shouldn’t elevate our heat through movement and fun that maybe they would take our temperature and take all of us away or worse one of us and so we stop playing freeze tag and sit the four of us in a square circle

the day before my husband and daughter and son had performed like a fake rock band in the same playground with a speaker playing Aerosmith loudly and I watched from our fourth floor window and we had taken a taxi to one of the only local restaurants open to be seated with friends in a room through darkened hallways and be allowed to take off our masks to eat Korean barbecue and our daughters roamed the empty rooms and after handing over our passport numbers and paying our bill I knew that we were being loud in our foreign ways loud in our play and in our movement

Variations / by Adela Sinclair

I.

The bulbs
peaking
obnoxiously,
you don’t
spell pain-
ful
that way.
The pumpkin,
rotten.
His eyes
sunken in,
mouth drooping,
the rim of his hat
spans larger
than his head.
Peaking they
might have
seen a
human being.
Stone vines
with tiny
droplets of
grapes resembling
marbles.
I cannot tell you
what to do.
Dad had a
fountain
in the back
of his house.
The one with
the red roof.
There was no
lion spitting
water.
Not much shade.
I prefer a well.
In my childhood
dreams,
dad held
pregnant mom
above the mouth
of the well,
as if
he would drop her.
They are laughing.
Silently
fighting my
deepest
nightmare
of spending
time at the
bottom of
a dry well.

II.

As easily as anything
a sorrow speaks.
I do not want to go
to the movies.
She nods,
“Let’s change plans then.”
We plan to see art, around the
evening.
The live canvas of the city is
palpable.
The water works to
cleanse the air
so here we sit.
You know, Picasso
painted 500 plates
with corrida scenes in
10 days. Each plate
is different.
Spectators with no faces,
but you should have seen their reactions.
The bulls are dead
in some
and being killed in others.
Nothing stands empty.
The East River is a mirror.
Lights streak on the surface.
Bellow us only wonder.
I sit with pain from the side
of my head all the way
to the middle of my
forehead.
No thoughts,
Such simple light.

III.

The bulbs of daffodils
peaking,
manage to soak water,
expand,
joyously burst through.
When I cut onions,
first, I cut each end,
then I peel the dry skin
crunchy and sharp.
I slice the onion
and when the odor
grows too strong
I look away,
fighting tears.
I figure I am an actress
in a movie.
No tears are wasted.
My solitude abides
by the rules,
springs its anxious head
peaks out
from the underbelly,
remembers to curate
this scene also.

IV.

I prefer a well.
The depth within.
The concealing of light,
the power of
a dying echo
maybe death itself.
Water lifted to serve
its purpose.
Cooled by the stone and
cooling the stone.
The wooden bucket
lifted by dad
in the backyard.
Every blade of grass
reflects the sun.
No wrinkles on his face
as he pours water into
glass bottles.
We wait in the shade.
Mom is pregnant with me.

Wildlife / by Lori Swartz

A packrat hangs from my cat’s mouth,
dead and heavy as leftovers, grey fur
thick and soft, tail a naked coil,
two teeth, cue ball white, black bird feet. I cover
its body with a stainless steel kitchen bowl,
put a piece of firewood on top and go to bed.
Sleep is full of skittering, chewing dreams,
kite-light and cliff-edged.

Everything has happened.
My house smells like leaving
in a hundred different ways. There are two of me
now, one dropped to the bottom of a lake, the other
figuring out how to not be a mother.
One eye opens to the lake plankton and small
fish, the other scans for trouble.

There is a spider in the corner
of the bathroom, where the wall
meets the ceiling. Small intricate web
full of dust and shower water. Each night
I wish it bugs and safe passage. Lizards
under the house, brown as toothpicks,
cold as night. A neighbor’s cat comes in the cat door,
settles by the fire. Three crows guard my front yard tree.
A coyote gives a sharp cry
just outside the fence, a dark sound
that cannot be good.

I am surrounded by creatures, eyeing me
warily from the corners, or dead on my floor.
How many seconds are there
from breaking the water
of sleep to remembering
all the things that are gone?

Poem 4 / Day 4

Au Secours / by Gordon Adams

The prince rages and bellows
Through the high ceilinged
Rooms of his white palace,
Desperate for genuflection.

Counselors cluster in frightened corners;
Slipper-clad minions scurry frantically,
Carrying folders, folios, purses, portfolios
Paper empty of purpose
But bulging with encomiums.

Ushers urgently open and close doors.
Sycophantic souls slide through
The liminal opportunities
And disappear through the openings
In the chinois lattice wallpaper.

The palace roof levitates in the wind;
The prince raises his tiny hands to the sky
Pleading for one small moment
Of wisdom.

The counselors turn their backs
And flee.

Only the wind…

CATECHISM / by Michael Carter

The god they taught
trailed us like
a security camera
with a team
of underpaid
eager beavers
itching to bust
some perps
down at
the local mall.

Untitled / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

my brain is a tossed salad
your breath smells like metal
unhinge the safety locks make it
less beautiful
what if this is how I am my ugly
your pretty you’re an interloper
in my head
a convict rummaging the past
throw open all the drawers
papers flying
The roads are toothpicks lying
parallel lives on tightropes
i’m walking sideways
your mother is a hologram
spit words in my face
voting booths are hope boxes
throw snakes at a wall see what crawls
nothing makes sense after
the ladybug drowned
when did cats get a reputation
for copying?
i feel sorry for urban cowboys
misplaced as metaphors
this blade of grass is perfect
so full of purpose
is there any greater ache
than what-could’ve-been?
we are pathetic as soggy bread
at school i check lost and found
i lost my voice in a cheesesandwich
somewhere sometime someday
you will love me again

Hansel / by Ellen Elder

The woodcutter never became rich.
They never do.
And Hansel never came back,
why would he?

Even if our mother had not wanted us to die,
and even if our father had become rich,
Hansel would not have enjoyed the spoils.
He was the kind of person who
experienced hysteria in a cup of tea
because it was akin to empire,
and to a kettle screeching.

I like to imagine him giving back:
working for an NGO to save coral reefs,
or to reduce microplastics.
Somewhere in Australia, or Arkansas.
He was good at polishing stones,
cradling chickens, anticipating
the light of the moon. He cared
about the forest,
and so he understood
my roots in darkness.

And if even those bonded
by fate or famine grow apart,
in dreams he and I are inseparable;
rummaging in each other’s pockets,
foraging our way back, step-by-step.
The path is smooth and ersatz green,
like mini-golf. We walk barefoot,
the fake turf massaging our toes.

But probably (let’s be honest)
Hansel is a tax accountant.
He goes by Hans, and is happy.
He lives with his family
somewhere urban in a house
made of brick and cement.
A house you cannot blow down,
or eat.

Corona / by Victoria Korth

When I fell in love with the language of science I was too young to know where it might lead.
I trusted. Down North and South corridors, beneath basement surgical suites, into refrigerated rooms.

One July 4th on the way to work I passed pick-up truck with a barbecue in its bed barreling along in the opposite direction. That evening, interns and residents gathered on the hospital roof to toast fireworks with cartons of chocolate milk. I thought, never will I be the same.

Yet here, I have fallen again because corona is part of the perianth, which means the trumpet-shaped petals of a flower like the daffodil, and that gives me pleasure, my tongue lightly touching the back of my teeth when I say it. I will run home to them in a few months, to each nodding stem. Corona, I am crowned with your array:

A faintly colored luminous ring appearing to surround a celestial body visible through a haze or thick cloud.
A garland, wreath or gold circlet for the head.
The act of articulating by raising the blade of the tongue.
An officer of the public who investigates unnatural death.
A virus with lance-like proteins able to pierce the surface membrane of human epithelium, insert its genetic pearls, cause fever, cough, panic.

High over frozen desert on the way from California last week I wanted a mask. The days since have brought suggestions of medieval France. A close friend lives in the ancient city of Les Baux-de-Provence, may soon be quarantined. Yet for her I see shadows cross blindingly bright stone walls, hear the lute.

Corona: When you arrive may you anoint us with words.

Why Not? / by Anne Laurence

Why was I not born in every country?
Why am I not a woman
raped in war in Congo for simply being
where and who she was?
What made her her and me me is
Nothing more than happenstance –
if I believe that I was not me until I was
here and just as easily could have been there,
a few specks of dust and DNA and an idea
that might have landed anywhere.

The heavy, embarrassed realization,
thuds upon my consciousness
like dropping an encyclopedia off the shelf,
its startling crash opening the page to
“genocide.”
I look around to see if anyone else heard.
Do they know and carry too that dread?
Do they accept that sickening sense
of the unacknowledged randomness
that rolled a dice with your life –
making moot all the good works,
clean living, discipline and talent
you were told decided
who you would be?

Why was I not born in every country?
Why am I not a Syrian fleeing under fire or a child
trapped in a place we no longer talk about.

Do they know that I am anyone and
only a Quantum Leap into myself
allowed me to be free?
Do they also feel they have made a narrow escape –
Looking around corners wondering if we
may yet be found and mistaken allocations
redressed so that we may be made to know
what it is to be someone else –
someone who got what we probably deserved?

[inspired by “I Would Like” by Yuri Yevtoshenko]

parallel lines / by Robin Shawver

the kids learn about parallel lines
cut strips from imported Cheerios boxes
to make rulers

or were they like everything else
made here
in China shipped out and then shipped back
at greater expense
tariffs – customs
and expectations

our kids and our cheerios

Morning Walk on Roosevelt Island / by Adela Sinclair

My hunger leads me to scour on Main Street
and find my way among the order of things
while chaos abounds with its whips and chains.

I do not need much, just some seeds to chew on
to keep me warm. I find I am not interested
in the hunt anymore, what I find suffices.

On my path, the wind disrupts the spotting of squirrels,
they are swift and camouflage with their mousy brown fur.
At the end of the wind tunnel, a car almost runs me over.

What happens before caffeination stays in its own world,
and we shall hold this little secret together in our laps
while I chew on my seeds and pet the squirrels.

Almost Fifty / by Lori Swartz

Whose body is this that moves
with a stutter, that gets up with hands pushing
off knees, that curls over the table like a lock
of hair on a bad girl’s forehead?

I want to write about the way that grief
makes you insane and what it means to stay up
all night with a propane heater and books
because bed is only a minefield of hot sheets and dragging
shadows in a circle, of having children that
were never really mine taken away like a fable,
like the opposite of a homecoming, like I am living
my life backwards.

But not my body, that marches
forward with wrinkles and hanging bits, a bomb
that explodes, dust raining down over my skin,
last bits of youth diving
out the window, across the dirt yard and into the coal hills,
time dropping over me,
a heavy clicked lock on my wrists.

Natural Birth / by Sheree Renée Thomas

In this holy place
a child’s cry pours
into the silver horn of night
dancers twist and turn
cradle the crown of darkness
stroke the lightning scars
illuminating the curve of flesh
name lost in the forest of singing limbs
her mother’s spirit floats away
on the back of the wind

Betrayed by her own two feet
blinded by her eyes
broken by her rib
choked by her windpipe
attacked by her own heart
haunted by her spirit
drowned under the weight of her breath
wrenched by guts and blood and tears
skull smashed to bits, pelvis crushed
she heard them whisper, “Daughter,” before
she drifted off to sleep

Now she rides the night
circles the stand of woods
where they lay her body low
where her blood rested
on the leaves of grass and sank
into the earth below
she is wind and water now
inching upward to devour the sky
she is firefly of light, the humming of birds
she is the thirst that drips in the rain
outside your window
she is the wet fingers that lust for life
and reach to brush your cheek

Poem 3 / Day 3

What Day is It? / by Gordon Adams

(An Ode to Retirement and Age)

(for Mike)

Grey crumpled sweatpants
On the bed at sunrise.
Or is it ten?
In January;
Or maybe February?

Are you 78?
That was your last birthday.
Or 79?
The next one?

Who is that old man
In the mirror?
Still unshaven,
Uncombed.

Does he need that rack
Of sport coats
And dress trousers,
Colorful ties
He never wears?

Where are his glasses;
His keys;
His hearing aids,
With their errant batteries?

If he’s home all day
Will anyone notice?
Is there a schedule?
(Janet used to do that
For you.)

Yes, meditate
Exercise.
And remember your pills
Separated in
Little plastic rectangles.
The morning ones;

The evening ones.
Taken with food.

Chocolate – you mustn’t;
Croissant = carbs.
That tiramisu last night
Was a mistake.

One egg in the fridge,
Mottled cheese,
A limp, grey carrot,
Half a tin of skipjack tuna.

Is tea food?

Make a list
(or you will forget)
On a half sheet
Of the ruled pad
By your computer.

Random things –
Fruit, hand sanitizer,
Laundry,
Light bulbs,
Thanks to Frank
For the Lumineers tickets –
(Were you the oldest
Of twenty thousand?)

Remember to put it
In your jacket pocket.

Hours spread out
Like an empty highway
In the desert.
How will you fill the space?

Sit by the brook
In Soapstone Valley
Listen to the silence
Around the froth and bubble.

You can tell anyone
What you think now
And walk away

Work as hard as you ever did
Be paid only in joy.

RACE / by Michael Carter

In my dream whites could only
talk to whites, blacks only to blacks.
This is not about race, I found myself
saying to a yoga class, but about the way
we think about right & wrong. Then
I dreamed that no, this is about race.
It is about right and wrong. Black
and white, Which is right, which is wrong?
Every word must change.

Remember / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

The fog rolls in, obscuring
The dock
The trees
You, standing in the distance.

My heart is a wild horse, a purple, throbbing beast
Galloping toward yesterday
When things felt wild
And free:
The wind
The long, blowing grass
Us.

Remember?

There Once Was a Mother Earth / by Ellen Elder

I. So you ask for directions to the house:

There is no one here but you.
The front door, painted across
generations, is carved in shades.
The porch is part of the foundation.
The foundation is the family
that scrapes the paint, the lacquer,
and shares the tools that cast the shades.
Rooks shroud the sky in gray.

And they are not here anymore.
There is no one in the library.
First there was a chimney,
kettled with soot, then a door
framed with shelves.
There was a barn with horses
whose manes were brushed.
Hairs caught the branches nearby.

II. So you find your name in the guest book:

Be wary of rhubarb leaves.
Did someone polish the scone baskets?
It’s coffee, coffee, tea, coffee,
             tea.
Tell the children that scaffolding
             is not a jungle gym.

The ballroom couple asked for their bill.
There’s a cow in the front hall.
Mrs. Lavender wants her lemon.
It’s wheat, white, no carbs, wheat,
             only scones.

III. So you long for a bed to sleep in:

You must first swing to the island
             with a tray of wine glasses—

and sit on a muddy-legged chair
             among the wild ferns.

Along the drive, palm trees
             slope to the sun.

Mother, float. We left a window
             open to the sea.

Bracelet of silence / by Victoria Korth

There is always something human
in the news, a clever man
who loves his girlfriend so much
he has devised a bracelet
that will block any signal going to
or from Alexa, the other woman,
voice of omniscience, high-
flung computer-galaxy.
Now, I understand because
my husband’s name is Alex
and I have noticed Alexa’s
blue glow begin to pulse
when I speak about him
in Kathryn’s kitchen.
The man’s girlfriend dislikes being heard,
or is it overheard? Eaves-dropped on?
She especially dislikes being recorded.
In the picture she wears the bracelet
on her right arm like a watch
or diamond-studded cuff, raises it slowly
to her chest before speaking: a shield.
Today, in a museum, I saw
an ancient wooden shield, small
as a child’s umbrella, much-used,
mahogany I think: reddish paint
rubbed off, handle and arm-strap
tucked in the scraped concavity.
It touched me, like a flower.

Spring Training / by Anne Laurence

Too soon to drop the guard of winter.
Too early to embrace the spring
that you imagined
when all your failings were explained by
too-short days.
First forsythia petals shiver out to check
whether the coast is clear.
an impatient daffodil is dusted with snow.
The wind emerges to undermine
the valiant efforts of the sun to coax
a bit of hope but whose light only
exposes the bare trees huddled against
an improbable blue sky.

I think of Russian babushkas
sitting like lumps of swaddled wool, taking in
the momentary sun from their benches –
who lectured at the passersby:
“Young lady! Devotchka! Bundle up! It is still too cold!”
I wrap a scarf tightly
around my head and neck,
trapping escaping tendrils and
clutching it about my neck
as I try to escape the stubborn shadows of a
still-low sun, colder somehow for
having anticipated warmth too soon.

And yet on distant diamonds,
dirt glitters and grass shouts.
New prospects may yet dash our hopes.
But for now, in March,
Everyone is in first place.
And it is now safe to dream of spring.

package delivery in translation / by Robin Shawver

today my body
today
temperature is normal
I will wear a mask
to deliver
contact
wind and rain
only for your satisfaction
help light five stars
wind
rain
sweat
little brother
do not seek to astonish the world
but praise
old and young
please help
to light five stars

Written in the Rain / by Adela Sinclair

I could make out nothing clearly.
Nail me to you.
I will ride you like a nightmare.
I draw the splinters into the holes.
Splinters of hope.
It is not hope that
will save me.
If you fail me now,
I will write you on my body.
Then I will touch my body
to remember you.
The frontal bone.
The mandible.
The lacrimal bone.
The cheekbone.
This is how I memorize
your skeletal composition.
These words remind me
of your face.
The raindrops soak
your body from head to toe.
If I asked you for the memory back,
would it disappear up in smoke?
Would I disappear with the smoke?
Not to smell the burning.
Forgotten taste buds.
A life less ordinary – worth living.
This morning, I cried listening to
Encore et Encore.
Before the rainfall.
My bones, trumpets of truth
sustaining gravity.
Nail me to the raindrops
and I will name them
one by one.

USA / by Loris Swartz

Tonight the candidates are (again) risking absurdity with their mouths
wide open and their fists worked out of balls, fighting
to be the best little boy or girl in the world. Harvey Weinstein clutching
his heart, Trump in a blue and gold cheer uniform,
cheering the cheer of love me, business men counting
their petals of wealth, subtracting a petal here or there, fingers crossed,
while they wonder (again) which woman will come
forward against them.

I sit (again) by my wood stove fire blazing with four in the morning
ideas in my flyover town of 250 people, in my town of art and meth,
my town of food stamps and all the ways
we have each other’s backs. I put on music and begin
to dance. I dance to the rhythm of the water waving
as refugees pound to get to this land of division,
family against family, the land of skyscrapers and too much
corn. I dance to the rhythm of dollars (again)
taken from dark places and laid out crisply for war.

We hold each other through the music at the bar
and the car crashes and the heart crashes and the money crashes.
We hold our hands out (again) for a different kind of life,
one in which we are not armless,
one in which we are armed
with flowers, clean water and plants that will grow
in coal dust. We are living
in the wreckage of company men, buying
from the company store, the wreckage of houses
brought out on an East Coast train, the building
of hippies and queers, artists and outcasts.
We are all ugly and beautiful and like cats,
we have nine times to die (again and again).

Poem 2 / Day 2

Renewal / by Gordon Adams

A spring meadow
Sun-sprayed green.
Daisies and dandelions.
In the distance;
A forest, perhaps.

At the edge of the meadow
Light splinters the dark.
Cantilevered trees,
Trusses leaning,
Slide, sometimes,
To the earth.

Acerbic pines plunge
Their sharp-wit needles
To the ground.
Aspens close their eyes and dive.
The broad oak’s thick arms
Rest on cement pylons
Weary from centuries of effort;
Acorns scattered randomly,
Failed efforts at renewal.

Bark loses its hold
On decaying wood;
Mottled surfaces appear
Where lichen parasites grow.

Solid silver maples
Become hollow cores,
Lose their grip on the soil
And topple.

Volunteer maples form a line
At the feet of the pines,
Searching for the light

The fallen trunks crumble,
Soft to the touch,
Sink into the forest floor,
Compost for seedlings.

REMNANTS OF A LOST PLANET / by Michael Carter

Maribu sky light
as Ginger Rogers’ dress
in Top Hat,
with every high kick
and swing feathers
sift the camera’s klieg.
It’s the end
of the world and
I’m trying to decide
whether it’s more
or less important
to return my library
books, to make everything
right, put it back
in its proper place
before it is too late.

Camellias in Bloom / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

                   I’ve come
to expect it now, to know the dissonant sing-song of the heating oil delivery truck
that comes
like clockwork
every month,
low rumble of the engine, the beep-beep-beep of its chime
the clank-clang-squeak as the hose
slithers
from its metal chambers, a red snake
weaving through my backyard by the gloved man with the kind eyes
who calls me ma’am and answers everything in the double: yes ma’am, yes ma’am
as he opens the gate, nice day, nice day
as he climbs the ladder, wearing my short sleeves today, fo sho, fo sho
at the top of the tank.

               I note
how the camellias have bloomed, how they’ve fallen, and dusted the lawn
in a magnificent confetti of white petals.
50 gallons, ma’am, 50 gallons? but i’m stuck
on how the kind man maneuvers the hose into the tank’s metal flap,
like a lying tongue being forced back into its own mouth,
how he jams it in, finally, and the breeze
shifts,
and something in me
stirs— the tongue-hose is in me now— I
am the empty tank—
connected— finally— to all things warm
and life giving.

               My snake-tongue whips
and claws at the gate of my clenched teeth, turns,
finds an escape hatch
at the back of my throat, snakes down my esophagus,
belly, shin, toes, and slithers, finally, out
onto the sun-drenched lawn, spreads itself wide, a reptile
in respite, basking in the glorious
sun.

               Ma’am? Ma’am? Fifty gallons? Fifty gallons?
I cannot speak. My tongue is a snake
unfurled in the grass,
yet my mouth is full of life— camellias—
I open, and dropping from my parted lips, white petals scatter
on the breeze as if to say

Fill er up
Fill er up
Again and again
Fill er up

After the Swan / by Ellen Elder

For starters, his wings were magnificent. He wag-
strutted charm, his plumes a leathered instrument
fixing to be blown. Mind you, he was no heron—
out of the water he couldn’t tiptoe through a bog
unheeded—and his neck would turn and turn.
But she was charmed, overtaken. She knew they’d say
it was her fault. And what marriage is not a still-life
of ornament and marble, breakfasts scented with pomelo,
the script co-opted? They slept on a compass of floating
hands. You know the outcome: soon he stank of ancient fish
while bearded lotus clogged the moat. They couldn’t float
side by side without swallowing weeds. When she finally
wrenched free, she cleaned between her thighs, got dressed
in the clothes she arrived in (pants suit, shoulder pads) and left.

Catatonia / by Victoria Korth

the master therapist has a higher tolerance for
ambiguity and uncertainty…
                                                     Karasu

but you are still mute
though today there are no
hand gestures, no standing
staring at the wall, yet you
cannot press your worries
into words—I am the one
who calls them worries, which
makes you smile—so I wonder
aloud if you are trying to figure out
life, and you say existential
and my heart opens, breath
enters, wildly relieved
to see you stand up fluidly,
your hair in long complex braids
under a neat cap, your eyes
exploring the room naturally, and lit,
blessing me as you turn to leave
with a slight wave, walking
ahead of your mother and nieces,
one bouncy, tripping over herself
in her long down coat, the other wary,
glasses askew, giving me a wide berth,
and your mother, she speaks to me,
touches my arm, helps me improvise,
respond to music I can’t hear.

Seeing Him / by Anne Laurence

What to wear to send that perfect
Image of insouciance and
“I don’t think of you at all” while
Being somehow all at once intriguing,
Elegant, professional, sexy, and yet
Unavailable and uninterested?

What to wear to be sure
the Oh You Wish-es and Never Were-s
And the Was Once Something (Maybe?)
Notice a flash of leg, a curve of hip,
Hair shifting on shoulders, bared
After jacket slips nonchalantly onto the chair?

What to wear to remind you?
Remind you that we met this way,
In a moment of Maybe Tonight and Before You Leave.
When your hand would have
Reached out, your lips grazed my cheek,
a practiced friendly greeting betrayed by
Your eyes meeting mine across the room,
a hand on my back, a slipping out the door together.

Putting on that shade of lipstick
and, oh, those heels…
I must imagine you will recall
When Oh Why Not became Everyday and
I Need You until…
Until Something More than Something Fun
was still less than Something to Make Compromises For.

I accept the contradictions
and my foolish feigned indifference,
accept them all as I
Accepted your explanations:
The Never Will Be More Than This
or worse, Perhaps Never Was At All.

And so as I arrive and greet
Oh You Wish and Not a Chance,
I turn away and do not notice you as
I extend a hand to meet If Only and
Maybe One Day
and exchange those familiar silent looks
and requisite business cards.
I do not notice you, Noticing,
which is really all I wanted from tonight.

you can play UNO / by Robin Shawver

you can wear my socks
you can pull them up to your knees
and play UNO

you can play UNO
on the ground sweating
with water monitors peeping nearby
and Bangkok traffic waiting

you can play UNO
on the ground in the cold
with little dead fish floating
a few quarantined faces at windows

you can play UNO
in airport lounges and taxicabs
loudly and silently and wearing pollution masks
medical masks and cheap pink felt masks from the night market

you can play UNO
while we talk about expulsion and borders
home as a question as a decision as an email
so, we say, let’s pull up our socks –
walk a little more

I Feel / by Adela Sinclair

A desire
for a simple answer.
A failure of nerve.
Sur-
render what you put inside
the lens of the camera.
The picture is already there.
You are
here.
In all capacity.
The skip-
ping synapses,
something else you
can’t control.
In essence,
they pull you
out of yourself.
You are
here, you
tell your-
self.
Nobody is vigilant
enough
not to fall
when their time
comes.
I am speaking
from in-
side the
epidemic.
Someone else’s suf-
fering
feeding into me.
I do not like wearing my-
self thin.
I draw attention
in public,
lately
I have been in-
visible.
It feels like a failure of
nerve.
I trusted to be fully
this,
when I could no longer
hide
my dis-
ability.
How will I begin?
Classify me,
box me,
dis-able me.
Losing over to pain.
Quite happy
to take
my place
among the vulgar
storytellers.
That is where I
like to put my
camera.
Hive mind,
help me out!

Going, Going, Gone / by Lori Swartz

Your words jolt me and I spill a little pee
from the kid’s potty. It trickles down my soft striped pants. I try to move
like everything is a ta-da, like dancing feet and aluminum heat,
aluminum heart, polished to shining, but tonight I trip and spill.

You look at my eyes, your eyes like a crow, and I wish
for a hundred summers and winters
we could spend together. Making you
breakfast with butter spread on both sides of your toast and extra
syrup on your pancakes because I want your stomach
to keep its softness. Touching each other’s
hands and sitting in parked cars talking about
oh how funny was that thing that the kids said.
Laughs about tantrums and bedtimes.
Whispering about this thing called family.

But you just keep looking at me and your look
opens me up like a seagull who swoops for a mussel and cracks it
on the flat rocks. You pull out my soft insides and I am holding
a bucket of piss and I want to kiss
your face and your soft holy parts.
I line up all the words
you have ever said to me and pull
out the ones that mean something. I put
them on the bathroom scale and wonder if it is enough
to build a life on.

I think of the day the kids arrived, hair full of static,
dropped off by the foster care van, flying
around the house like trapped birds, banging
into furniture and our wide open arms.
Two cardboard boxes, the color of cardboard boxes,
full of tiny shirts and shoes, their names
in black marker written in a stranger’s handwriting.

You are still looking at me holding this piss and my eyes
burn from the backs and I want to hide
under the covers and take you with me. You turn
to walk out and say something about dinner and diapers.
It was that moment that I knew
you were already gone.

Infinity Is His Name / by Sheree Renée Thomas

When he sings this body, the music skips down
the street, a moonlit stone, a silvery wishbone
caught in my throat, the sound vibrates and snaps
Afro Euro Indo Asian psalms pressed
beneath my tongue, indigenous rhythms
pressed between my teeth

When he sings this body, every cell in my blood
becomes a song. When he sings this body,
I am a darkling whole note
my voice shim-shimmering up from an Atlantic hold
no dirge songs, no weary blues, no Negro spirituals
promising new life after. In his arms I am reborn.

When he sings this body, my soul rings out until
I’m a sunlit sail whipped in salted wind
until my chorus swells like a lynched tongue
until the nocturnes boiling beneath
the roof of my mouth extinguish each burning red cross.
I sing this life in testimony
to time stolen body by body by body by body
from one passage to another; I sing
to the opus of loss. I sing this story staccato
a fugue of blackface and blued-up arias.
I sing with one hand smoldering in the steely canon
the other slow, languorous: I linger in his infinite fields,
taste his sweet name, the bitterness of “Strange Fruit”

Poem 1 / Day 1

Carton of Words / by Gordon Adams

She dropped in late,
Thursday at 3:00 am
Or maybe it was Friday.
Was the sky dark or grey?

She carried a rush package,
A brain jumble of language.

I sorted it out
In neat little piles
Here a fledgling sonnet,
There a prose poem,
An unsteady stack of free verse
That kept changing shape.

Over in a tiny corner
A haiku or two
Huddled in small syllabled silence;
A ghazal lined up in formation,
Crying Allahu Akbar!

I sorted and stacked
Metaphor and crunchy onomatopoeia
Into short-lived word castles
Ready to be washed away
By waves of rhetorical decision.

The more carefully arranged,
The more they were on the loose,
Racing about
Like the sorcerer’s brooms
Cleaning up the dust and grit of logic,
Creating cacophonic disorder.

Clattering clusters of disorderly word children
Discoursing in blank verse,
Dropping hints of rhyme and resolution,
Or racing away from a couplet to play alone
In this day care center of creativity.

I collapsed in memory and mystery
And tried to sleep.

GHOST BUS: Iiyama, Nabekura Plateau, Nagano Prefecture / by Michael Carter

A bus still runs its full route,
the driver still generates a pension,
turned out in his serious uniform
with white driving gloves. We all wave
when he drives away, Japanese style
two-handed, broad palmed. This
is the only language I’ve acquired.
Our host tells us that no one ever boards
the bus, it remains empty all day,
every day, but keeps running
as a monument to the hope
of revitalization like that part
of me that remembers to call
my dad before I remember
that he’s dead. Sometimes,
I even say, Oh shit, its Sunday
I have to call my dad when
I get home. My dad’s favorite story
about his own father is how once a month
his dad would put on his suit and
to the bank to pay off the loan
on the farm that failed
during the Depression. Ghost money
paying for a ghost farm, tilling
a future, seed pods empty as this bus,
prompt and hopeful.

Winter in the New Small Town / by Charlotte Megan Edwards

when the rains begin, and the sky turns neon-dead-gray for days
upon days,
and the frost
drapes white lace on the rolling lawn each new morning,
and all the new neighbors
retreat
inside their sealed homes like hibernating ants,
we see no one for weeks.
the wind whips.
the heat runs out
without so much as a clang or a hiss from the furnace, a symphony
of silence.
the rain, incessant as the gloom.
the cold climbs in, scraping
at our bones.
outside
by the drooping clothesline, hidden by the overgrowth, we discover
a stack
of cut wood,
drag it
inside, a trail of fallen bark scales marking
the path over to the hearthstone.
we light a fire— pop— crackle—
and wait
to see
our fate: if the fire will warm, or consume.

 

AFTER CARNIVAL, TAKING STOCK / by Ellen Elder

1.
Woodland violets in a ceramic pot.
On the street, someone coughs,
a suitcase stumbles over cobblestones.
The workman apologizes that I was stuck
for so long in the elevator. Alles ist OK,
I chirp in German, I’m a poet! As if this
should explain everything. Schools are closing,
locals are hamster-buying, and I
was doing yoga in a tiny mirrored cavity
to pass the time. He didn’t understand
my faulty German so I rapid-fired
another way of saying it—I’m a lyricist!
(many ways to say something being useful)—
this seemed to satisfy him, as if

2.
a woman composing hymns at piano
is somehow more acceptable than what
he imagined I was doing in his elevator.
Did you stock up for the virus? he asks,
using the hamster metaphor.
Yes! I give him a thumbs up.
But I don’t think we should worry, I added,
though he was already down the stairs,
avoiding his Thyssenkrupp. And aren’t we lucky?
With our milk in all its sad vocations,
cereal, ink, juice, ready-to-bake pretzels,
whiskey, hope, coffee, cat food,
variants of paper, cat litter, pillow talk,
soft beds. Each other. Aren’t we lucky?

3.
Walking to Kindergarten yesterday
my daughter turned upside-down
her umbrella to catch “rain snow.”
I nearly pointed out that the word
is either “rain” or “snow,” not both,
but in her reality, it was exactly “rain snow,”
the plush flakes of yesterday more
and more a rarity, her world re-zoning,
re-coding fast. Later, defrosting
the freezer, I chip at bulwarks of ice
when the knife snaps and the blade ricochets
off wet tiles, spinning like a roulette wheel.
My daughter, riding in as a princess
on a broom, careful not to slip, chastises

4.
my carelessness. I tell her a hammer
would work better but it is at her father’s.
At five, she recognizes this half-hearted
response as pitiful. I tell her about Lent.
We collect ice chunks with the dustpan
while many in the world burn with fever.
I wrap the blade in a thousand folds of thought
to dispose of properly while she polishes
the tile floor with a tea towel. So much ice
has melted that intermittent puddles form.
That our socks get wet, feels somehow right.
We lean over in the shimmering light
and catch our reflection, the curve of our cheeks
waxing heart-shape, and healthy.

Violet / by Victoria Korth

I stole it from the sill above my mother’s sink
when she was in the hospital last year, a gift
from one of my sisters or step-sisters or step-
sisters-in-law, loose in its dixie cup of soil, hairy
leaves blackening at the edges and dusty, barely
hanging on that lonely precipice. Yes, among
our women, doing good may not be secret virtue
but watered down with shame. Today, after solid
weeks of sky a cathedral ceiling tarped with gray,
typical for our town so near the lake, sun shines
on it, and on my back as I turn from the window
and let my ribs warm. Solid purple blossoms
with egg-yolk yellow centers. I will take a picture
and send it to my sister, ask forgiveness. Mother
has been home a while, has she never said a word?
So not into plants, all greenery, lots of green
and green things, she would say. Tell her
it blossoms and I am warm, as water, as stone.

Waking Up Tired / by Anne Laurence

Yesterday is still with me.
The week rests in my bones.
The bed beneath me seems
more trebuchet than cradle.
Early light and distant sounds
creep into the room –
awareness never far away.

A sleep interrupted by the
habit of anticipating the alarm
and waking a moment before,
steeling myself for the daily,
startling reminder that
I must get up and try again.

I read the “to do” list unfinished
etched inside my eyelids.
I turn over and start
to add chores and obligations
and long-unmet wishes to
the list that won’t be done
Today or next time.

My hair smells of the smoke outside
the door of the club
I wanted to want to go to.
But I hurried past, more
Concerned that I appear
to have been at work late
On something ever so important.

Between sleep and coffee
I cannot move, unable to
will a butler with tray into view
Or someone turning over to
drape an arm around me
to sigh deeply the sound of
dreams and pin down
my thoughts to the sheets.

March 1 / by Robin Shawver

three weeks in simple if you stick to the meals
getting dressed
but then you’re waking up to a bully in the house

so a smudge stick a friend had left behind
took turns
lighting it and taking it around to all the corners

the house smelled like sage all day
moved
around a little lighter with softer tread

quarantine like extended travel as it limits and opens
changes sleep
and we realize that we just have too many things

A collections poem / by Adela Sinclair

I face North, while the island is slipping
from under me,
South bound.
I fear the slippery slope of numbers.
If I give you my number,
will you call me?
The number on my school uniform.
442-586-893
I lived on Strada Clujului No 94.
I attended Generala No 4.
At eight, I was fibbing behind the gym
about my injury.
I slipped through the cracks of the school
floorboards and ended up in a well.
With no water.
My bones shattered.
All 206 of them.
Now, my numbers consist of radicals,
negative numbers and linear inequalities.
I absolutely cannot rise above
the mess.
I pick up the pieces, millions of pieces,
and they slip out of my hands.
I only have these small hands.
I want to jump in a car and drive
as fast as possible, but then I remember
I do not drive.
So I stay on my island, a skateboarder
jumping over hurdles.
I often fall, free fall and
like in a dream, the alarm that wakes me
is the vibration I need to stunt my death.
Agents call the numbers of my loved ones,
asking for my numbers.
Thousands upon thousands.
I have a way of avoiding, blocking their demands.
I ask: What is right about my numbers?
No answer.
Except for an echoing beckon from
the abyss.

The First Day, The Last Day / by Lori Swartz

Go to sleep you little baby,
(go to sleep you little baby).
Your mama’s gone away….

She lies on her back in the bottom bunk, sucking on the brushed edge of her
blue fuzzy zippy pajamas, making mouth sounds
like a cricket. Dropped off by two strangers
who only knew her first name, holding her in my lap, greedy
for her baby skin, while she twirls my hair
in her thumb and third finger, eyes still like a brick,
like a bog, like a blue 5am morning.

I am not her mother and one thing cannot
stand for another. Sometimes
it is only the thing that will do. I call the rain,
right into this room and sing her a made up country song
about long trains leaving and lucky days and loose change.
The only songs I know by heart are hymns,
but God never concerns himself
with real life. We are all just given the
stars and a faded map. It is ours to decipher
the key.

Go to sleep you little baby
(Go to sleep you little baby)
You and me and the devil makes three
Don’t need no other lovin’ baby

I am the almost 50 year old who sees babies
everywhere, the ones that were never mine, like cartoon
versions of mid-air lamb chops or pies on the window sill, things
that are meant to be followed and stolen.

The worst thing that can happen rarely does.
I want heavy touch, tongue, tweezers to pull
out her tough spots, to plant her an apple tree, to write her a real song.
But I keep coming back to this clutch in my lap
of her jaunty girl self that walked away from me after five months
into sweet family fevers.

She already knew too much. I think of Truman Capote’s words,
“Could it be that the transition from innocence to wisdom happens
that moment when we discover that not all the world loves us.”

Go to sleep you little baby,
(go to sleep you little baby).
Your mama’s gone away….

I hold back the exploding of fireworks of missing, which last
only a brilliant second, but the garden hose is turned
on and will slowly flood every small space
not taken up by something else.

Those days after she left, me wandering through arroyos, writing
scraps of sweet on scraps of paper. Most of them
lost or burned in the fire that I make
in my wood stove every night, writing furiously,
trying to use up every bit of midnight.
Life will become a pattern of forgetting, until forgetting
becomes a life. I will stop looking back and move on
without my heart.

Don’t you weep pretty baby
(Don’t you weep pretty baby)
She’s long gone with her red shoes on
Gonna need another lovin’ baby

I want to run from my dissected life. My belly, frog open, pinned,
waiting for pieces of me to lay on a glass slide, inspecting
the long muscles and loose nameless body parts. I feel
the animal in me rise up and kick for air. It is the year of pauses.
The year of how long can I hold my breath. God came
to Cave Road today, nestled into my beer and I drank
it, so I can breathe again.

But everything is worn out and wrinkled. Nothing is original,
even obsession. We were all born at the wrong time.
We lose each other to love every day.

Go to sleep you little baby
(Go to sleep you little baby)
You and me and the devil makes three
Don’t need no other lovin’ baby