The 30/30 Project: March 2019

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

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

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

Poem 18 / Day 18

The Ditch / by Manny Blacksher

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

Track One / by Jill Carley

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

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

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

Backyard Picnic / by Marc Frazier

No particular reason—just a rare surprise in our daily routine. Trips from the back porch with the required elements—silverware, napkins, ketchup and mustard—thrown on an antique silver tray more appropriate for formal events. Hot water waits to roll for corn on the cob. Fans useless in cooling down the kitchen. A symphony of united effort, each grabbing something to contribute. An oilcloth over the picnic table secured by plastic gadgets. A hand-embroidered cloth thrown over buns in a sturdy wicker basket. Silver penguin filled with ice for sun tea, matching tongs nearby. Butter to be slathered on corn. The grill hisses and smokes. Baked potatoes in aluminum foil. Sour cream. A feast for no occasion. We hear the car pull in: father arrives: gathering clouds over this rare port in the storm of our rancor-filled indoor lives.

Architecture of Silence / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Jorie Graham

There’s nothing wrong

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

When the lie is what’s

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

Braced for all-weather

overhanging eaves
protect exterior walls
drip molding, our heads

May transom light

illume
but not reveal
our floor plans

May fluting, gingerbreading

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

Architectural symmetry

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

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#18

Likely & Unlikely Transformations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poem 17 / Day 17

Birth day / by Jill Bergantz Carley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erosion / by Marc Frazier

Mornings they once lingered, hours forming.
Now she wakes him where he lies hung over.

He singles out a coffee filter.
She butters toast.

What is not heard, what is not said, decides everything.
He stares at a glass from last night, or the night before, smudged with bits of lime.

She leaves.
He throws a pale, green wedge across the terrible room.

Errored Bliss / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Anne Carson

Three reasons we need metaphor in our lives:

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

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

-Emily Dickinson – Envelope Writings, A108

 

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

A great Hope
fell
You heard no
noise
crash

-Emily Dickinson – Envelope Writings, A105

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

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

-Emily Dickinson – Envelope Writings, A236

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

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

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

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

-Emily Dickinson – Envelope Writings, A105a

Starlust / by Larry Jaffe

I transmit eternity
in single breaths

Silent finger touch nodes
of impossibilities

I reach for things
I cannot touch

Must I wrack the universe
for hidden symbology

Slowly exploding
upon this façade of stars

I dance with infinity
taking delight in leaps
of erotic prowess

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

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

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

I speak of cloudburst
saturating the soil

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

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

Decoration Day / by Barb Jennes

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

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

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

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

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

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Morning / by Dianna Zimmerman

Stars crowd a nightened sky
like too much optimism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poem 16 / Day 16

Your Mother Should Know / by Manny Blacksher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Body & Temple / by Jill Bergantz Carley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tapering, Looney-Tunes Style / by Cortney Collins

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

Recurring Dream of a Retired Teacher / by Marc Frazier

Giant brick and mortar buildings
steps and hallways a house of mirrors I try to navigate
one minute I’m lost in my own school building the next I’m in a new building
wandering and no one can tell me how to get back into my building which hallway leads there
I end up outside where I try to locate the right building hurrying
panicking about my students left in a room somewhere unsupervised
thoughts of all the horrible things that can happen happen in my mind
Reciting the name of my school for people I run into all with blank stares
I trace the same steps over and over into a library and out
stuck behind a crowd barely moving
the roar of a cafeteria that’s not my cafeteria
I walk up and down stairs
each minute that passes panics me more as I imagine missing the entire class period
as I am nowhere nearer to finding the room
confusion over the room’s number seeps in
doubt and confusion make me stumble up and down ramps
the school’s name meaningless to those I ask for direction
outside wandering a block of buildings sidewalks and trees
trying to spot the right entrance to the right building
feeling further and further from where I need to be
where someone has a pencil stabbed in their eye
as I wonder if any adult notices my teacherless class
if the best students step up and take charge
hurrying faster feeling further lost the longer I search not giving up not getting anywhere
short of breath I slow for a second
and everyone seems to move faster know exactly where they’re heading

A Miracle for Betsy / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Myung Mi Kim

Black hole where science          used to be

Camellias    .     know what an earthquake feels like

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

It took an earthquake                               to get my attention  .  Japanese maple

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

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

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

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

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

Your writing like music
Staff notes blur upside down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#16

Boycott

I nostalgically drew the March night like a backdrop curtain;

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

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

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

A crippled trapeze artist mumbled how graced wind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From an English transatlantic ship departing. The next morning clouds

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

The dirt-poor poets lacked good representation. Their circus

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines from Memorial Day 1950—

All the Mirrors Have Gone on Strike!

Race Against Time / by Dianna Zimmerman

for Brad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poem 15 / Day 15

Twain’s American Patriarchy / by Manny Blacksher

“Huck and Jim are afraid of ghosts,” my old teacher
remarked, “Maybe they should be. They meet the Dauphin
and the Duke, his confederate. What sort of plan
for the new nation’s manifested when monsters
and evil spirits haunt Locke’s Edenic forests,
thick as trolls and cannibals around Heorot?”
The same prof pointed out how Abraham begot
Pap Finn—of all bastards, daddies, the “evilest
father in American literature.” Bent
on paschal sacrifice fit for a Lincoln-log
cabin, Pap raves on all fours at unseen serpents
and dead hands’ card stock touch—frothing white parvenu
with schizoid fantods of a Yahweh analogue
endowed with the occult freedman’s undead hoodoo.

Incineration / by Jill Bergantz Carley

By the time I was old enough to notice my grandmother had only one leg.
The leg-shaped space we treated with reverence,
moving past her, patrons in a movie theater
shuffling around the little room inside
the little house in Danville where she lived.

I was not there but I was told after the surgery
that Grana had one question upon waking:
Where did they take my leg?

When I shot a gun for the first time in my life out Camp Nine Road,
it was a separation:
my life before holding the shell, pressing rifle into the flesh between my breast
and underarm, tender uncharted territory;
my life after the precision of the thing, so much louder than I’d expected–
Waking, I want to understand:
where did they take my fear, where
did they take that low growl over everything?

Last night on the eleven o’clock news I watched B-roll
intercut with a speech given by Jerry Brown.
In it I watched San Quentin’s own electric chair,
unmoored from the chamber in which it lived.
The upholstery matched the walls, perfectly:
an odd pastel green, I swear it
was color of paint the Park Service uses on their whole fleet.
My reaction was revulsion: who would want to die in a place of that hue?
Tell me: what is the ideal color of the room in which you will die?
Me, I’d turn down peach or beige or spring sky blue:
Give me the brightest white you can bear
illuminate me from within and without
in the last seconds, let me be the light.

Ode to Crying in Church / by Cortney Collins

The last pew of a church—
a place to rest,
the bottom of a sunlit pool.
Dozens of suns burn
at the front of the sanctuary
above the surface of the water,
prayers of light blurred
at the edges.
Flames of hope, of despair;
I swim up from the depths
and light a candle for both.
I ask for the one thing
God cannot possibly
want for me; this is
hope and despair
fused together
in a daemon’s kiln,
inseparable,
each wearing the cloak
of the other.
God has deliberately
withheld the word for
this coalescence but it
spills out of my eyes
and onto my orange
crocheted scarf.
If tears became words
wicking away
the sweat of grief,
I’d never know
I can breathe
underwater.

The Hierophant / by Marc Frazier

He sits between two massive pillars
Holding the papal cross
Two fingers point heavenward, two down,
Replete with three’s: three crossbars on his scepter,
Three robes, three-tiered crown,
The most holy, symbolic number
Representing three worlds over which he rules:
What we know, what lurks under, and the one mind
Expressed through all.
Crossed keys at his feet unlock mysteries
Only he can teach to the bald-pated initiates
He hovers before.

Upright he is the Catholic Church
Passed down by my obsessive-compulsive father
Checking soup labels for meat by-products
During lent and on Fridays, examining his conscience
For sins, the Church’s rules and dogma crippling him
From loving us with compassion, from loving himself.
Reversed it is my spiritual journey
From nightly and daily fears of Hell and damnation
To yoga, Gu Maharaj Ji, and finally meditation
Before a Buddhist altar with artifacts
And reminders of those I’ve loved who have
Gone on after passing, a buddha
Calmly encouraging me along my path.

Poetizing / by Larry Jaffe

my fondest wish is
to poetize spontaneously
without combusting

Blue Morpho / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Louise Bogan

You prefer a darkened understory
Cerrado forest’s dim heat

Emerge pale green dewdrop
hungry enough to eat your own nest

Strangely social, you taste
with your feet

Savage leaves, pause
if food is scarce

Find excuses to step out
of your skins

Wall yourself in
jade and disintegrate

Eclose and drink from fallen
fruit, swollen, sugaring

Despite slow, gauche flight
your wings bend light

Einarmiger / by Barb Jennes

(Written after hearing the story of Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, a blazing piece commissioned by the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm during WWI. He commissioned Ravel and others to compose for one-handed musicians such as himself. If you watch videos of various pianists performing the piece on the internet, you’ll see how even two-handed musicians struggle to rise to the challenge.)

Was it fate that drew the Russian bullet
to your right elbow, scrambled
piano-playing bone and tendon
into a bloody muddle of war,
an arm only salvaged by the hacksaw.
You became “Einarmiger” –
the curiosity of the concert hall.

Sent to Siberia, an Omsk prisoner of war,
you salvaged scraps of burnt charcoal,
drew piano keyboards on stinking crates,
practiced peacetime sonatas and etudes
seven hours a day, determined to
not miss a single note,
devoted, indomitable,
so resolute to perform again
that you survived starvation and typhus
as if inoculated by your art.

At first the critics wrote
that you played well
for someone with only one arm,
but Ravel understood your urgency
to play like someone with three hands,
to stupefy the blind and sighted alike
with the power of a passion
that transcends blood and skin,
that eludes explanation –
an exaltation of that which
makes us holy.

I’ve seen two-handed pianists play
Concerto for the Left Hand,
have seen them stand to attack
torturous parts of the piece
or use their right hand to
brace themselves
through far-ranging arpeggios
by clinging to the side of the piano.
You had only a phantom stand-in
of a long-limb limb
as your ally in adversity.

Surprised, some say
their understudied right hand
returns stronger and more skillful
after a concerto season of disuse:
a dog eager to obey its master
after a long chastisement
for barking without cause or respite.

Moreover, each longingly recalls
how the part of their brain
normally enslaved
to the swaggering self-promotion
of the boisterous right hand
had been offered temporary reprieve –
a quiet interval marked only
by genteel invitations
from the unassuming left hand
to soar to new heights,
to execute einarmiger exploits
in a golden, gravity-free realm,
a place where the brain
could finally hear the genius
of its own imagination speak –
as if someone finally mustered the nerve
to push the bullying baby bird
out of the nest.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#15

Voyage

The past wears in my mouth like poorly fitted bridgework & I already pawned my lips

To the woman with perfect roots. Although there have been rats in my cellar

For months, I had invited her over & only mentioned the summer I ate mango

& Painted “The City with Apples.” A dollop of my eye

Fell in her tea water, so she stirred away the ring with her finger to quicken the solution

To memory’s cold shoulders rolling in murky plumes

Throughout her Black Currant. I reached in my pocket hoping for a script

To remedy the general malaise, but only turned up a library card & erased fortune

Washed clean after Tuesday’s laundry. The wind blew the snow like gypsy moths

In the porch light. The fire began to smoke. I read her tealeaves.

Cracks in the permanently stained eggshell china distracted my attention like poorly fitted bridgework

In my mouth; she lost interest in the story & stole the cup behind her back

With all the other clumsy articles of faith adulterated with the handiwork of thieves’ journals.

When friends arrived unexpectedly, we drank, swapped stories

About the miles we’d walked & cliffs we’d scaled—a perilous & moral tenor fused

As we stumbled outside, past the corner of Court & State.

“Let’s go,” she said as the evening sky spread out like a corpse on a metal gurney.

I was dirt poor & hawked sentiment for a drink. The cold shoulders of memory

Pushed through the crowd & knocked us over; we picked a fight & got kicked

Out of the place for good. She couldn’t remember ever feeling like that before.

I did. The doggish recollection of painting flowers on stones as a child filled my mouth with saliva;

The cold air veiled my eyes like a perfumed babushka.

Night Relics / by Dianna Zimmerman

She mumbles in a dream,
then cries out loud. My daughter
holds up matchstick arms,
tiny pink hands disrupting dark.

She tells me she has dreamt of a bird,
a Pterodactyl seen on a sea
of giant TVs, undulating in unison
at the department store.

I hold my daughter close
the way I cradled her as an infant.
The Pterodactyl is gone I whisper,
only fossils remain.

I watch her sleep, her eyes flutter
like tiny wings. I fear I will
fail to protect her one day,
and the world will

fold in on itself,
quickly as the snap
of brittle bones
left sinking in sand.

Poem 14 / Day 14

jamesbennettastoldbypatronsoftannehillironworks / by Manny Blacksher

5ghosts exist only as figments of our imagination

anglosaxons would not put iron rune wands in
cemeteries for fear iron scare departed spirits

yellow orbs have appeared on the secondfloor balcony
seeming to invite onlookers inside

in the eighteenth century franz anton mesmer
used iron in his healing treatment see mesmerism he believed
iron conducted vital animals everyone has

iron has played a curious role in witchcraft
and sorcery in india iron is believed
to repel the djinn and other evil scotland ireland
and europe iron keeps away mischievous malicious
parts of the world iron keep away ghosts as well

my name is annie i had no answer then she asked
have you seen my dollie my heart pounded so loudly
i could not hear her speak anymore i locked the door
behind me as i left and could only say ill look
that seven years ago and i have not been back
up there when i saw a littlegirl get her dollie
out of the car and run to play on the staircase i
stepped closer i could hear her saying here you go
annie you can play with my dollie

THE HOUSE was sold to william dinken in U1946U after
members of the edwards family moved away

a childs mind is open when there are locks on the doors

sources jim daniel trussville alabama: willy
collier mccalla alabama: bill dinken jr: ISAM HARDY

the EDWARDS HOUSE stood as a landmark on US11 three miles
south of trussville according to available history IT was built
by john meredith edwards U1822-1829U replacing an earlier log cabin
he was son of trussvilles first first physician dr john spearman edwards
U1791-1841U dr spearman and his wife

tramped inside one day and tried gnawing its way out she
said i heard something behind me sighing but when i
turned there was noone

source mae cowley Uaugust 6 2005U: james leondias cowley U1870-1853U
is buried is buried on eastern valley road across
from bellview baptist church: jacob polley

cold iron is a poetic and archaic term
for iron referring to the fact that it feels cold
iron barrier to evil spirts of all belief

that allowed Alabama iron manufacturers
to dominate labor relations was the convictlease
system through which companies leased state and county
prison inmates for work in their industrial
operations lasting from shortly after the war
until U1928U

the women rubbed themselves with iron powder
to attract the men

source ted burnet: james leonidas cowley: melanie
davidson: mary lou lucas tannehill state
park employees: jeff gamble retired: johnnie stewart:
ALBIBBL: rootsweb: ira l harris iii evansville indiana:
rhoda coleman ellison bibb county the first hundred
years U1818-1918U: centreville Udecember 5th 1901 january 16 1902U

egyptians and aztecs believed it comes from heaven
perhaps the composition of meteorites is of iron

ruins of the bibb naval furnace at brierfield
U1910U these were among the confederacys most active
no2 furnace operated from U1863-1864U source anna
pfaff: john spearman edwards: eugene jones jr

convicts are a superstitious and a cowardly
lot laughterweepinginconsoleable

nailing an iron horseshoe to a door was said to
repel evil spirits or later surrounding
cemeteries with an iron fence

paintedemblemsofaraceallaccursedindaysofyoreeachfromhisaccustomedplacestepsintotheworldoncemoreruddigorechorusofancestorsgilbertandsullivan U1887U

interior core of furnace no1 down which
ISAM HARDY reportedly jumped to his death U1864U
cold and silent during the war it smelted iron from iron ore

dont wake him

source benjamin radford are ghosts real discovery
news Uoctober 21 2011U: annie: sigourney weaver revisits
paranormal with red lights the associated
press Ujanuary 23 2012U: ALBIBBL: pat blais the nature of ghosts
mystical blaze com

 

 

[Appreciation—James R Bennett, Tannehill Ghost Stories and Other Selected Shorts: As Told by Patrons of Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park (Birmingham, AL: Seacoast annie Publishing, 2012).]

Herd & Heard / by Jill Bergantz Carley

Taking in each scent that you can reach, wet nose pointed toward heaven;
Your glamour coat a fault, (but not yours)
Shallow hips, joints like mine with a condyle slip
the puzzle piece that almost fits:
Heritability or nurture, Violet, I don’t wish this for you.

You have the voice I’ve only now learned how to harness:
a bark knife-sharp and true.

Last month a doctor removed a molar,
chipped & cracked we don’t know how or when
you’ve never mauled a single toy.
We pour warm milk over your kibble
as gravy
as we sit down to dinner.

Your root was exposed but you never cried once
in the months before we noticed–
if I’ll never have a daughter, please don’t despair:
in the joy of your face I’ve seen myself new,
loved and loving,
eyes closed in peace
on this cold morning
sunlight coming down through the redwood boughs in our big backyard.

panhandler at I-76 and sheridan / by Cortney Collins

flying west down the freeway towards the rockies,
buzzing past dirty SUVs and tractor trailers caked with mud,
tires kicking up yesterday’s sludge from a march snowstorm—

lavender shadows chisel the snow-faces of mountaintops,
like beveled pieces of glass,
edges that would slice the skin of a god
casually rolling our planet between his fingertips,
a worry stone of solar proportions
for a deity that can’t face the consequences of creation.

the denver skyline migrates to the rearview mirror,
and i am passing through the gap
between skyscrapers and alpine peaks,
a nadir hovering thousands of feet above sea level.

he stands at the bottom of the sheridan exit.
his cardboard sign quivers in the wind:

sober native american
it’s my birthday
3/9/72

i pull out a $5 and roll down the window;
i quickly make eye contact with his toothless smile.
a wiser person than I would know what this all means,
why I can’t choke out anything more than a muffled yep
when he thanks me,
why I’m relieved he doesn’t say god bless you.

a poet more deft than I would know how to snatch truth
out of high altitude air, where oxygen thins
and the point of an allegory dulls to a rounded slope,
the way the rockies will someday age and soften
like the gentle appalachians.

i’m out my lunch money but I don’t mind;
the creator caresses the worry stone
while glaciers melt and mountains erode
and panhandlers stay sober.

maybe if I were closer to sea level,
i would understand.

Murder? / by Marc Frazier

 

the body rolled up by the Tiki Hut the morning after the Transit of Venus

 

the body… the morning after…

 

swollen             the partner a person of interest (sounds nice)

 

case # HD14438CA the ritual:               transfer of body to cold steel table

 

water sprayed on it—a giant vegetable

 

the meticulous examiner’s probing tweezer    bloody saw      distinguishing body marks

 

routine questions          the consistent detective persistent

 

delivery of evidence to the labs:          forensics of suspicious death

 

large display board with relevant facts and persons:   pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey

 

narrative of their final hours: story with alternate versions told again and again

 

a sketchy suspect          the search for secrets:

 

light on every orifice on every detail of their once-life

 

body on ice:      king crab         common lobster.

 

Pater Familias / by Bethanie Humphreys

-In memory of Gary Ellis Humphreys, 08/26/36 – 03/13/19

Bowling trophies, VHS tapes, and kids-grandkids-great-grandkids
frame their nightly Jeopardy! and local news.

Head of the table, always quiet, gruff, except on rare occasion
he’d share jokes he’d heard at bowling. Oh Gary, Rita admonished,
piquing our interest, only to be mildly amused at his PG-at-best puns.

Married 66 years in October, she can tell you who won their last
card game. They played every week, for pennies. She probably still
owes him 47 cents.

If x = the number of shirtless barbecues, y = number of cigarettes
clenched while manning said barbecues shirtless, and z = number
of photos capturing said incidents, then x + y + z = ∞

Another math problem for you: a father, married at age 20, has 5
children under the age of 6 at age 26, has 2 more children 10 years
later, at what age did he conceive a new definition of patience?

Six boys, one girl: Mark, Phil, Tom, Richard, Ann, Matthew, John,
and we can only thank the rhythm method for not producing Luke.

Loyal to a fault that puts the San Andreas to shame, and
he expected nothing less in return. Once you become part
of his family, you are always family.

Mass every Sunday and holiday, esteemed Knight of Columbus,
he served countless dinners, benefits, and made sure we bought
fireworks at their stand every 4th of July.

The maddest I’ve ever seen him: when Steve launched the last
Jumping Jack ground spinner into a brush pile at the curb
of an empty house, flames shot roof-high, Steve’s accomplices
fled, and the hose was too short, but the fire was still doused quicker
than a 9-1-1, the worst insult he could hurl was, Steve, you’ve worn
out your welcome! And still had coffee with him the next morning.

When his youngest son became a Giants fan just to spite his Dodger
blue face, he never tired of reciting their World Series wins.

A Navy Air Corps veteran, as a boy he dreamed of being a pilot,
but SC Johnson Wax and Rita stretched the hamburger into meatloaf.

I’m not sure which Grumpy Grandpa Gary loved more,
his twelve grandkids and two great-grandkids, or watching
Crazy Grandma Rita sing them silly.

This stoic Welsh man turned Italian at weddings, teared up,
struggled to finish his speech at his youngest son’s,

but my favorite image of him is one I never saw, only heard.
The same man who never missed dove season’s opening day,
who would shoot the bird of peace and grill them for dinner,
would don plastic gloves, read the box, and help his wife
dye her hair.

Offered but Never Tasted / by Barb Jennes

“Sometimes I love you so much,
it feels like my heart
will burst through my chest.”
The last words she ever wrote to me,
scrawled on a piece of lined paper
torn unevenly from a dime-store notepad,
the top of the paper as ragged
as a tooth-ripped fingernail,
her trademark script tremulous now
with the vibrato of age
and end-stage infirmity.

I tried to imagine that:
her Lane Bryant-sized heart,
exploding like a chrysalis
through the cocoon
of her chest wall,
a sight as uncanny
as the sacred heart of Jesus,
beating visibly at his fingertips,
so love-laden it could not
be contained.

But I could not see it.
She was a woman
prone to loving in small doses,
pennies portioned with care
from a frayed change purse,
clinked pointedly
onto the glass countertop
to buy the smallest piece of candy
from which she would draw out
penurious pleasure
until the very last
untasteable atom.

Congestive heart failure
was her final diagnosis –
look, and you’ll see it, too:
a sea of blood-red love,
dammed in the place it
should have flowed freely from,
not just as ink from a pen
or pennies from a purse,
but as a constant tsunami,
a river raging to engulf
daughters and husband
and the whole loving world,
congealed now,
heart-stoppingly so,
like a handful of gumdrops,
offered but never tasted.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#14

Chopiniana

Begin the dance with air-glanced gestures lost:

Arm grace tempos defusing memories;

Fingertips hard bitten plucking off kindness;

Feet finely beat-stomp embalming intent.

Then repeat a dominant ad libitum:

Cocked elbows waltzing three-quarter time

Of fractional, irrational bars to smash a nose bloody;

Hands (a single coupled separated that never should have joined)

Triangulating each against each

Against bald heads stunned by Mazurka

Tuned fermata—expressing & leaving

Impressionistic disappearances

That end definite endings to—finally—

Accent—impressionistic—

Discords.

Domestic Surveillance / by Dianna Zimmerman

For protection, the street survivors
adopt a dog. The dog will not tire.
It keeps itself company
with insistent barking. A hard bark:
like the crack of clay pot on cement.

At dawn, another prisoner breaks.
Forced nudity trembling under
cinched black hood splits
the conscience’s last line of defense.

The merchants spend days
bartering ways to defend themselves
from airborne neurotoxins slipping
into the market, a secret
invasion they would not know
until too late.

Citizens straddle caution,
weary from spontaneous
paramilitary conversion. Elaborate
anti-bombing parties are planned
like yesterday’s wedding,
the lacy dress torn to pieces
for functioning medical.

A distant rumbling tremor rises
as the government forms its
mental inversion committee.

The dead are in their homes, ashen.
Those alive are under domestic surveillance,
charging radars with rubies
for the long journey forward.

Poem 13 / Day 13

We Iron Workers of the Jones Valley Honor Far-Seeing Forebears of the Song Dynasty (I) / by Manny Blacksher

Birmingham owes its 1871 founding to the geological uniqueness of the Jones Valley, the only place on Earth where large deposits of the three raw materials needed to make iron—coal (for conversion into coke), iron ore, and limestone—existed close together. —“Birmingham Iron and Steel Companies,” Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Green blades parting at black cart-wheel ruts to the pit,
Abyss proves virtue by releasing ore to light,
Red iron spills from hillsides’ innermost entrails,
Dead weight our life’s blood channels to transforming fire.

Once a bondsman, I was safe when friends told of danger,
Free, I stepped out of line, and pale winds threw me,
Twisting north towards states of manumission,
Abandon me to work sinew for bars, shackles.

Calling far West, streams with gold beads, holes silver-tongued.
I search this dirty chasm for our Tennessee lords,
Always mouthing metal chords that sing East to West.
Darkness speaks the three noble words: lime, iron, coke.

Earth is cold, faecal, hiding unredeemed, unsaid,
Fire, bright, hot, changing always, animated,
What’s lifeless enlivened by cool wind braving flame,
These sciences, we caught in your draft must revere.

Prairie/Fire / by Jill Bergantz Carley

I.

Authorities have narrowed the scope of their investigation and now to summarize the deadliest fire in California’s history: we are to blame
a single steel hook
on a century-old high voltage tower
The blackbird straddling the wires, tripping his feet coming to rest in the place where the blackberries grew hoary.

II.

A tornado the day I landed life packed in twelve banana boxes shipped sight unseen to an apartment on the hard side of town
At least I could esc—

III.

Eucalyptus-tinged, the view of the Pacific over the rise dropping into Monterey
This evening, the sweet air of December; my mind filled the reservoir to bursting water lapping westward higher than the foothills.

IV.

For miles along the Mississippi the corn’d been pinned down flat to the ground, east, winds, all east.

V.

On first day of my life I am not ashamed of my rape I don’t know how to name this after and so I wander aisles in a shop in Peoria, lifting leather bags over my shoulder to feel the weight, to gauge the length of the handles testing for strength, for room
and none are right enough, though,

VI.

I held my palm out the open window air still, wet, sweet.

Meditation, Otherwise Known as Intellectual Nihilism / by Cortney Collins

If you think a star isn’t rupturing every second,
splaying particles of combustible helium
out into the void in a fit of cosmic epilepsy,

that barnacles don’t fester
on the bottom of idle sailboats,
layers of fatty crustacean
tissue devouring lean fiberglass muscle
in less than a geological minute,

(so many time-lapse photos of the night sky—where is a
time-lapse photo of parasites gathering on the hull of a
boat? Is one less beautiful than the other?)

that bacteria doesn’t crackle and writhe
as hydrogen peroxide floods the wound,
howling its last wishes
in a sizzle of foam and froth,

you’ve never tried to sit still for twenty minutes.

These things, and more,
are happening
and happening.

Silence is the incubator of motion,
the source of radiation for squirming seedlings.
Silence is the taskmaster and the healer,
the sieve and the sifted.

Some say the crown of their head warms.
Others say their hands tingle.
What if nothing happens?
Nothing!
Except supernovas and shipwrecks.

These cataclysms that rattle the stillness
like a fetus kicking at the walls of a womb
hide behind unfocused eyes
and elongated breaths. The world is
cracking every moment but quiescence
stills the movement of fault lines
for a while, if not the fruitless questions—

(the way hairspray might stop a run in a pair of
pantyhose?)

When the gurus said thoughts
are clouds, I think they meant
fluffy gossamer clouds.

Mine are supercells that send
slender funnels towards the ground
to suck red dirt up into their vortices
and spit it out into the stratosphere.

I’m still baffled
by the coexistence
of creation
and silence.

Natura Morta (Still Life) / by Marc Frazier

Why do we want to see
objects displayed on tables,
flowers arranged to look random,
any combination of the inanimate?
Van Gogh’s large vase with fifteen
(count them) sunflowers, the face
of obsession. Braque’s monochromatic
violin and candlestick stuttering before us,
Cezanne’s jug, curtain, and fruit bowl’s
double perspective increases our urge
to catch an apple before it falls.
Chardin’s ray of light upon a dark tableau—
shocking in 1728 to see a live cat lurking,
as shocking as the spoiled fruits
of Caravaggio in 1599 or the Dutch painter
Claesz’s violin with glass ball where he’s reflected
painting—a self-portrait amid still life.
Wesselmann’s pop art versions of the 1960’s—
painting, sculpture, and collage:
portrait of Abraham Lincoln, television,
a pair of beer bottles, pears, red chairs.
Artists convince us, with symbols deep in meaning
or beauty, we can stop life, knowing it’s not true.

Sessile Creatures / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Angela Hume

your head                           turned
away from

to minimize                             (the self
                                                  (the damage
                                                  (pain in a post script

smooth(ing)                        over

the anxiety(of)                                     never

 

                                                         leaving the mess
                                                                      your cocoon

 

 

sessile creatures, we

forest black

chlorophyll,       green                   gap

love, what we see                     waste product

of light

 

plants not green depend                on others

for food

can grow                                          (in) darkness

as gesture                                 between them

 

deciduous limbs reach                            (up

evergreens reach                                  down)

placeholder text                                 conversation

without relying                                      (on) meaningful content

 

there is no shortage                        of women

trunks painted white

 

to protect against                                          rodents, borers

 

no shortage          of women laboring

      freezing and                splitting

 

no shortage          of women poets laboring (in obscurity

 

black river                                       of starlings

 

 

seethes

 

Insouciance / by Larry Jaffe

If I had a tree
I would name it insouciance
because trees are carefree
and grow their own way

If I had a tree
I would name it radiant
because trees have their own style
and they grow from within

if I had a tree
I would name it sublime
because trees are beautiful
but do not stand on ceremony

if I had a tree
I would name it vigor
because trees are alive
and kowtow to no one

if I had a tree
I would name it comrade
because trees are loyal
and all providing

if I had a tree
I would name it trustworthy
because trees are responsible
and can keep secrets

If I had a tree
But I don’t

The Poison / by Barb Jennes

“Guilt is cancer. Guilt will confine you, torture you, destroy you as an artist. It’s a black wall. It’s a thief.” ― Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters founder and frontman

All night, I play the scenes over and over
on the black wall of my non-sleep.
The projector bulb is aging,
so the images flicker,
the grey ghosts cringing or clamoring
to be seen, remembered.

The time I pulled you away from
the tire-gutted squirrel,
it’s brilliant redness brought to light,
you curious to see all that unseen-ness,
me saying, “Yuck. Don’t look.
That’s gross.”

The time I laid you on a bed
of dew-damp autumn leaves,
you in a jack-o’-lantern onesie,
barely six weeks old:
a photo sure to delight.
You squirmed and whimpered.
Later, I discovered
dirt inside your diaper –
dirt and a dead ant, too.

The time I told you Santa
will definitely not come this year,
the time I cranked up the car radio
when you screamed inconsolably
over an empty Cheerio box,
the time I scolded you for clinging
at a party peopled with strangers,
the time you spilled your orange juice
at a Disney breakfast,
your princess dress dripping
with sickishly sweet stickiness,
and I shamed you with my silence.

The time, the time, the time…

I am searching for reasons,
for underlying proof,
for the part I played or didn’t
with my spasms of impatience,
my clouds of inattention,
my quick-to-anger DNA,
my ineptitude at everything
wise and kind and forbearing:
all the things a mother should be.

I am looking for a sentence,
for a pronouncement,
for the doctor to say the word “cancer,”
for the thief to steal
the last of my pride,
for someone to wash the words
from my mouth with soap:
“I did the best I could.”

But there is no antidote
for this poison –
not even your forgiveness,
not even the radiant proof
you provide
that what I did not teach you,
you still learned –
an opus of even-thoughs.

Yes, yes, I would, I could
do it differently now,
but

the past is a mud maquette
we can’t remodel;
we can only stand back
and observe our craftsmanship,
eager to touch it, caress it,
whisper to it, change it,
before the clay dries,
before they lay us to rest
in some dark, irrevocable place
and pronounce us
guilty.
Or not.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#13

Tongue Tied

To tell you truthfully,
I wasn’t sure you’d come back.
I couldn’t hold you to it,
Because apologies
Are colorized versions
Of “Gone with the Wind”—
Too rosy with pastels
Washing out the earnest face;
& Regret, an alternate
Take in the age of MP3’s
Dredging up all you wanted
To hear & more… like every
Tennessee Ernie Ford
Gospel song under the sun.
The erratic, grinding heart
Of the matter yammers
Relentlessly in my ear.
I try to follow to the letter
What I said wrong in the first place.
Not being inclined to give up
Without a proverbial fight,
I threw caution & other stuff
To the wind & ran with it (something)—
This little hope I’ve dashed
That boils down to how
I can get this off my chest,
To tell you truthfully.

Horror Movie / by Dianna Zimmerman

Poem 12 / Day 12

Ashland: “A hymn of joy rising from cre[m]ation” / by Manny Blacksher
— after Speranza

II. Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde

I suppose the poet will sing, the artist will paint, regardless
whether the world praises or blames. He has his own world and is (1)

Oscar Wilde came to Mobile in June 1882 as part (2)
of his speaking tour of the United States. Planned to last four

The first lecture, in New York, was a resounding flop. Those he gave (5)
at Harvard and Yale were done so in the face of much mockery

independent of his fellow-men. But the handicraftsman is dependent on (1)
your pleasure and opinion. He needs your encouragement and

months, the tour was such a success that it continued over (2)
a year. In Leadville, Colorado, Wilde famously drank whiskey

by students. The story about the miners he met in Leadville— (5)
one he loved to tell—was almost entirely made up to

he must have beautiful surroundings. Your people love art but (1)
do not sufficiently honour the handicraftsman. Of course,

with a coterie of miners. In Mobile Wilde expressed interest (2)
in meeting Augusta Evans Wilson, who still reigned as one

make himself seem more masculine. By early March, the box office (5)
having brought in just $18.75, he was desperately

those millionaires who pillage Europe for their pleasure need have (1)
no care to encourage; but I speak for those whose desire

of the best-selling authors in America. Visitors (2)
to Mobile were eager to meet her at Ashland, leading her

self-medicating. Michèle Mendelssohn describes a colour (5)
poster, designed by Currier and Ives. Here was Wilde, brown-skinned,

for beautiful things is larger than their means. I did not imagine, (1)
until I went into your simpler cities, there was so much

to complain she felt like a “two headed calf at a circus (2)
sideshow.” She was a gracious host but she would not invite Wilde

thick-lipped and with an afro hairstyle. The Washington Post dubbed (5)
the Irish visitor “the Wild Man of Borneo”; Harper’s Weekly

bad work done. —The small iron stove which they persist in (1)
decorating with machine-made ornaments, which are as great

to her estate, nor did she attend the reception held in (2)
his honor downtown. Fidler quotes Augusta as basing her

published an image of a monkey dressed as Wilde. Who was supposed (5)
to be the butt of these racist jokes, and why? For Wilde, this came

a bore as a wet day or any particularly dreadful institution. (1)
When unusual extravagance indulged in, it was garnished

decision on the fact that ‘his life defamed his art’. But it seems (2)
clear there was also an enormous gulf between Wilde’s view of

as a shock. His mother, Jane, AKA the poet “Speranza,” (5)
was something of a white supremacist. Now, he was forced to

with two funeral urns. In all my journeys through the country, (1)
the only well-dressed men I saw were Western miners. Their wide-

art and Augusta’s. Wilde elevated art to a higher (2)
plane than religion and morality, while she saw her novels

reconsider his place in the world. Mendelssohn reveals these (5)
attacks’ impact. Wilde, who had lost his accent, now rediscovered

brimmed hats, which shaded their faces from the sun and protected (1)
from the rain, and the cloak, the most beautiful piece of drapery

as extremely moral, based on Christian principles (2)
—educational rather than aesthetic. Wilde’s gesture of

his Irishness—a means of reasserting his whiteness. He (5)
began to compare the situation of white southern planters

invented, may be admired. Their high boots too—sensible, (1)
practical. They wore what was comfortable, and therefore

support for the Lost Cause was easily trumped by fundamental (2)
differences between his view of art and Augusta’s. —“Oscar (3)

to that of the Irish. He made a bizarre pilgrimage to meet (5)
Jefferson Davis. What impact did American adventures

beautiful. In such work, children learn sincerity in art. (1)
They learn to abhor the liar in art—the man who paints wood

Wilde will arrive in New Orleans on Saturday, and will proceed (3)
directly to Spanish Fort. There among the sunflowers and

have on his comedy? Lord Illingworth in A Woman of No (5)
Importance is, Mendelssohn believes, a near relative of

to look like iron, iron to look like stone. A practical (1)
school of morals. No better way to learn to love Nature than

lillies his quarters will be during his stay here. He will give (3)
a new lecture called ‘The House Beautiful’.” —“It is feared that Oscar (4)

the blackface dandies who parodied Wilde while he was on tour (5)
(he must have known about them; they were attracting audiences

to understand Art. It dignifies every flower of (1)
the field. What we want is something spiritual added

Wilde cannot be heard very well in the hall at Spanish Fort, (4)
but he can be seen, and that is worth the money.”

far greater than his own). Wilde’s characters often wear masks; he (5)
created, Mendelssohn writes, “his own kind of white-face theatre.”

to life. Nothing is so ignoble that Art cannot sanctify it. (1)

(1) Oscar Wilde, Lecture on “The Practical Application of the Principles of          Æsthetic Theory to Exterior and Interior House Decoration, With Observations upon Dress and Personal Ornaments,” American Lecture Tour, June 1882.
(2) “Augusta and Oscar Wilde,” Augusta Evans Wilson Online Museum.
(3) The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA) 23rd June 1882, “New Orleans, LA,” Oscar Wilde in America.
(4) The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA) 26th June 1882, 2. “New Orleans, LA,” Oscar Wilde in America.
(5) Rachel Cook, Review, “Making Oscar Wilde by Michèle Mendelssohn: A sinister response to Oscar Wilde’s image is revealed in a new account of his early tour of the US,” The Guardian, 5th June 2018.

Labor / by Jill Bergantz Carley

for Bridget Carley, 1955-2010

September in the delta, her hollow body cold in the shade of live oaks and the levee,
you sent me to the store to buy clothes that would fit her.
I found a velour sweater in the children’s section, six dollars.
It was pink. You helped her into it;
Sweetly, as if your whole life led you to this moment;
I’d never seen love like that before,
Loren, selfless and capable,
Loren, earnest and true.
She wouldn’t let you cut the tags off; she said she’d want us to return it soon.

I was cracking pepper onto an egg salad sandwich, thick with olives, open faced, sourdough toast.

I’d never run so fast as I did on that day I ran to you.

You were holding her still small hand, and then;

Late summer, under an oak tree, we are married.
Late summer, I cut pale roses in the garden, loop them with soft ribbon; we deliver them to her.
Late summer, you grill bratwurst in the backyard. Our friends are there; your eyes light up when I walk through the sliding glass door balancing the bone-white platter of your favorite thing
the selfsame delight I was preparing in a bright October kitchen when–

Second Law of Thermodynamics / by Cortney Collins

in honor of my mom’s kitchen-cleaning methodology

The kitchen is an electronics store
an hour before opening on Black Friday,
a sleepy suburban street in California
before an earthquake,
an infinitesimally small pinpoint of energy
about to detonate into the Big Bang.

She decides to clean.

Processes in an isolated system
progress in the direction
of increasing disorder of the system.

“Alexa! Play MAUR-EEN MC-GOV-ERN.”

Everything—

garbage cans
pots and pans
plastic milk jugs
expired eggs
old magazines

—is dragged out, the way a
mountain lion might tear into
the belly of its prey and
yank out the entrails.

Rolls of paper towels,
windex,
dirty dishrags
like limp oversized raisins
strewn about the
countertops, tepid
dishwater, clusters of
crumbs and dog
hair gathered into
neat little mounds on
the wood floor and
swept into the
dustpan, like
1st graders herded
into the bus on a
field trip.

“Alexa! Stop! Play SOFT IN-STRU-MENT-AL.”

Galaxies fly away
from one another;
energy converts from
usable to unusable;
she digs through
the rubble to find
her breakfast,
half-eaten waffles
with peanut butter.

“What is this jazz crap?! Alexa, stop!”

The Universe is finite;
eventually the
devolution must find
its logical end in a
bag of microwave
popcorn, a recliner,
and British television shows.

Sometime a Bunny is only… / by Marc Frazier

—The writer Sabra Embury has spent a decade collecting 10-second drawings of rabbits from some of the most esteemed names in literature (from an article in The New York Times).

It begins as a parlor game: asking writers to draw bunnies,
pass them around to see if guests can guess who drew which one

like hiring a psychic or palm reader only letting
those present think they have psychological insight to the writers/

Later she asks writers at book signings to take ten seconds
to draw a bunny alongside their autograph/

Of course, Atwood takes the prize with her
female rabbit holding up a carrot like a feminist torch/

But there are other runners-up like Joy Williams’s dog
(perhaps the amount of time a writer has to capture le bon mot before it escapes)

chasing a barely perceptible creature (the work of art?)/
How psychoanalytical should we get with something so silly?

If anything is really silly (ask the psychotherapist)/
Note Shteyngart’s hare with ears like Einstein’s hair on

a man’s body electrified after a psychotic break (has he seen a rabbit?)/
Inside House of Leaves nearly a full page of ears

The rest scribbles of swirls: a body, a tail, a totally separate nose/
Lethem’s chubby bunny balanced, pleased and sated

(like the reader after experiencing Motherless Brooklyn?)/
David Lynch at first plays it safe: tall, thin ears, but then

some other creature’s long nose, a thick un-rabbit like tail,
the whole thing standing at attention: (alert as his imagination?)

Domesticated Camel / by Bethanie Humphreys

Teach my kidneys
a camel’s efficiency
urine thick as syrup

Intestinal economy
feces dry enough
for kindling

If I lean hard
can I flatten red
blood cells oval
like camels’ to ease
water lack

If I study camels
long enough
will I learn how
not to need

Release me desert
wild, make horses bolt
smell far water
take me to drink

Startled / by Larry Jaffe

There is something about being startled
that is quite invigorating

It takes you from the mundane
to excited in under 60 seconds

It is like being in a race car
or skydiving only a little more secure

Being startled takes you into enthusiasm
with just a touch of fear thrown into the mix

I like to live my life startled
lest I become too complacent and self-satisfied

Startled is more than just an emotion
it stirs the blood with heightened heartbeat

And your blood pressure takes a dangerous curve
as your universe is suddenly jarred into the present

Startled is not the humbling past
Startled is the future on steroids
Startled is the present finally coming into focus

Startled is living dangerously
with your middle finger held derisively
as a weapon of mass construction

Startled is taking your survival
on a thrill ride
and holding on for dear life

The Tao of Flight / by Barb Jennes
(for Susie B., who loves birds and poems that rhyme)

A quick flight of fancy, a long flight of stairs
that leads to a dark room where nobody cares.

The bumblebee’s flight: an amazement of strings,
the flight of nostalgia that holidays bring.

The flight of young victims from bullies in halls,
the flight of your heart when the hospital calls.

The flight of deep rivers toward vast, surging seas,
migrations of fall geese, in long flying vees.

A flight of Valkyries, a flight of free thought,
the flight of free minds from the dribble they’re taught.

The flight of spry sprinters around a racetrack,
the flight from Gomorrah without looking back.

The flight of my soul when a poem warbles there,
the flight of her fingers on glass beads, in prayer.

The refugees’ flight from a war-stricken place,
the flight of tornadoes across the earth’s face.

The flight of a baseball through bright lights at night
or fingers on keyboards – a black-and-white flight.

The flight of mosquitoes through hot summer air,
the flight of a bullet, the ache of despair.

The tao of existence, the two sides to flight:
one hurries from darkness, the other toward light.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#12

Yet Again…

Another heart just flew gruelingly

Off the deep end

But I’d wait & see for yourself

What to make

Of these newfangled power sanders

Coming in & out

Of the rain to avoid spooky phantasms

& The gibberish

Of what holds everyone hostage

& Goes bump

Right where it counts amid damning

Threats domesticated

In this urbane day & age in order

To polish off

Maudlin tears with the sheen of armor-all

Gadgets however

Thankfully covered our asses

This god-awful time

In our poking around for the real

McCoy

& Our double-bit wedge axes continue

To grind

Like picked bones of the heart of

Things

We’ve yet to understand but we yet work

To convey

While in our kitchens yet reading news

& Hunches

Hand to mouth & eating yet more fruit

Yet again…

Unspeakable / by Dianna Zimmerman

The teenage boy down the block
was first to do it. The nuns living
next door didn’t have a clue
until the afternoon
he pushed a shotgun into his mouth
and scattered the tree birds.

It’s hard to see where it begins or ends,
like the drizzle of morning fog.
Understanding that we all want
the basics: comfort, love, happiness –

doesn’t ease the journey following her
into the darkened forest,
searching for breadcrumbs
among the straining trees.

Then the second-guessing, the wondering –
why some seek out the sharper edges,
the razor blades and nicked-up wrists,
and it isn’t that it becomes a sickness per se,
but the edge dulls over time
and then sharper edges are sought,
and one day,

perhaps some clear-eyed day like any other
as the world chugs along, shrouded in its misery
and spunky laughter, something sets her off:
a refusal, a bitter tang of disappointment,
or just another sleepless night

and my dear friend leaps from the top
of a parking garage as I casually cooked spaghetti.

Now death surrounds me, close-knit,
like the hook and loop of grandmother’s afghan,
knitted each morning to ease arthritis pain.

No words can bring understanding
and there is no refilling the void,
just a lonely whistle through the thicket of pines,
and there is no one to blame
or even talk down from the ledge
because it’s over

and the unanswered questions
become an aftertaste you can’t spit out.

Poem 11 / Day 11

Reliable Hand Tools / by Manny Blacksher

Been in a hit-and-run or in a run-and-hit?
Caught driving-while-under, when Daddy’s out of town?
Unjustly terminated from your governorship?
Gone done the right thing with the wrong people around?

You call The Hammer, man.
No, I didn’t stammer.
The Alabama Hammer.

Have you used talcum and acquired a catarrh?
Flashed your pistol and done got throwed out the Bar?
Your prayer-time with a majorette misunderstood?
‘A Confederate statue whose intentions are good?

You don’t need no sword of Shunnarah
Or Serious Lawyers.
You callin’ The Hammer, dood.

I suffered a Diversity Training head-on.
HR dissed me, till The Hammer got a bead on
Those snooty corporate libtards and made them thrash.
He won me sixty-thousand for chronic backlash.
Enjoying my bunker, I await the folk-storm:
Shoot scalawags on sight, legislate tort reform.*

*This is a work of poetry, explicitly identified and published in a genre-appropriate public forum. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, objects, actions, descriptors, punctuation, intentions, and all putative indications of authorial agency are spurious consequences of [absence/presence’s] typographic epiphenomena, and must be deemed indeterminately polysemous, non-semantically autotelic, or both. (Awesome!). [Nothing/Everything] posited of this likely random accrual of traces would ever relate to metafictions of personal-injury law and/or the sovereign state of Alabama. The Alabama Historical Society verifies that no Confederate statues were harmed in the enigma’s ellipses.

Diamond Crystal / by Jill Bergantz Carley
for Catherine Chen

Raise the blinds on an airplane arriving at SFO
on dip of wing, a cochineal quilt:
Cargill welcoming you home, this last salt plant in the South Bay.

Ponds color matched to the bellies of salmon, to cheeks inadoration;
Pantone must be at least a thousand greens with envy;
Cargill, conceal your smile–

we know your halophiles’ evaporative artistry
cut in parts per thousand
smattered onto the faces of warm pretzels
waged onto slick roads, sacrifice to our safety.

My kingdom for your grit.
My kingdom for your grit.

I Am the Sort of Person: An Anaphora / by Cortney Collins

I am the sort of person who microwaves her cigarettes for a half hour

after dropping them in the surf, too drunk to drive to the 7-11 to buy another pack.

Tobacco becomes radioactive and a menthol fallout dusts the kitchen.

The Marlboro 100s never dry out.

I am the sort of person who spells yoghurt with an “h”

even though I am not English.

I refuse to spell color with a “u”, though.

I’m not that audacious.

However, I often wonder if a rumour is less damaging than a rumor.

I am the sort of person who gets a dog disease.

I contract Parvo.

The doctor and nurse evaluate my bloodwork outside the exam room,

and I hear the nurse say, “You’re kidding.”

I am the sort of person who pulls over for a smoke break

on a road trip through upstate New York

and sits down to relax on a hill of fire ants.

(It’s becoming clear that quitting smoking was a good idea.)

I am the sort of person who doesn’t take a single tumble on the Bunny Hill

her first time snow skiing. Instead, I fall face down

on the pavement in the parking lot afterwards,

removing my ski boots.

I am the sort of person who never should have been a waitress.

I’ll spill a tray of margaritas in your lap,

drop fajitas down your back,

give you the wrong check,

and run out of the building with your credit card

when there is a fire in the kitchen.

I really mean it when I say I’m sorry though.

I am the sort of person who is responsible.

I really stay on top of all my collection accounts.

I am the sort of person who brings strange smells to college classes.

I lose control of the hose at the pump on the way to campus

and spray gasoline all over my sweater before Art History.

Everyone politely moves away.

I unwittingly wear the skirt my cat peed on to Comparative Religions.

I wonder if someone next to me smoked a joint before

Geology. Later at Walmart,

I discover a big fat bud stuck

to my poncho.

My dad used to say Cortney, when God was handin’ out brains you thought he said trains.

I am the sort of person

who doesn’t take herself too seriously

although the fact that I write poetry

might suggest otherwise.

The Room / by Marc Frazier

Glass over geometric shapes.

Tuscan vases, blue walls.

An orgy of clouds to the east.

A phone rings.

After goodbye comes June. July.

Light fades like memory, the caller’s words.

Other voices.

The death of August.

The moon, a balloon escaped beyond the lip of summer.

Zebrafish / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Angie Estes

I used to be a fish

hold my breath and swim

pool end to end and almost back underwater

my grandfather used to skin dive for abalone

bring home so many my grandmother

despaired, ground them into hamburger

pearled half moons littering her garden

I used to wonder why rain isn’t saltier

by the sea, why it’s blue

in songs but never at Avila Beach

where waves glitter

yellow under matte gray sky

What kind of fish am I? Freshwater.

Maybe a zebrafish.

Zebrafish can regenerate heart tissue

while in the larval state, just as crickets

can regrow a leg amputated

in the third instar nymph

I’m long past larval, but

it’s a dumb metaphor anyway

it’s not the heart that needs to heal

IT HAPPENED BEFORE TIME / by Larry Jaffe

A rummage sale
of the universe conducted
before time began
before borders were outlined

The auctioneer encouraging
the tumultuous crowd
each demanding
their own piece of time
their own tract of space

Rationing time
dolling out servings
from seconds to years
an infinity of time
sold and bartered

Space viewed
in all its dimensions
parceled out
in intergalactic homesteads

Come devour
Galactic appetizers
Come consume
eternity for dinner

Step right up folks
we have an infinity
of time and space
still available

Step right up

Lena & Mallory, Oyster Festival 1994 / by Barb Jennes
for Cinda, the other mom in the story

A fine summer day, two preschoolers in tow –
will they be okay in those good dresses, though?

The festival’s booming, huge crowds at the rides –
you’d think they’d be clinging like sheep at our sides.

But no, they are fevered, white sneakers ablur.
Their feet are tornados – EF5s, we concur.

They dash on beyond us, not once peering back.
We try keeping up, but they’re too crackerjack.

We two: older moms; those two: hell-bent friends –
who know what this fury of spirit portends?

They climb a high ladder to whoosh down the slide.
We bolt to the bottom; they push us aside.

They sprint on, they scurry, they dodge and parade;
you’d think we’re those strangers they’re taught to evade.

They don two bright face masks, one red and one green:
some heroes from cartoons or movies they’ve seen.

“They surely can’t see where they’re going!” I moan.
But they’re doing fine, darting on, on their own.

They hug, kiss, and cuddle, a tangle of limbs;
we’re here to protect them, to temper wild whims.

“Come here!” “Hold my hand!” “Eat some lunch!” we cajole.
Before we can snag them, they’re ready to roll.

Two dozen years later, we yearn for that day:
two little girls running – away and away.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#11

Nostalgia

On the shrill planks, I sturdy my legs against nausea.
Rains bring night-shaded leaves dying a darker red:

Air-exposed blood. “Hello. My name is Noah, & I’m…”
In this reckless world, I was found with grace by default.

I’ve no heritage, no age to have been glorious
Or lost in. Churchless citizen minus redemptive religion.

I’ve flatlined. Song-less harmonies whistle-pulse no tune.
I’ve no place to home, yet I must vehicle, ferry everyone.

My heart hoards frantic dumbfounding pathology,
My lips parch; my words paste & clack tongue-scatters; my face

Belies the melee between phrases & actions. Barrages
Wine rage, ferment abandon, & bottle redemption.

A buoyant façade: ground-clay turning in a water glass house.
How can anyone or purpose justify this loving destructive paradox:

Persisting petrified adjectives are nouns—should we believe, sincerely,
Our suffering modifies or names or delivers a scintilla of salvation?

Extremities / by Dianna Zimmerman

You never think about forgetting,
dear mothers and fathers, caught up
as we are in the mundane everyday
of our children’s lives.
Witness how they pick up speed
as we travel down the highway,
swishing past the old pig fields.
The children stare at the nearing horizon,
strapped in carseats, as if the fabric of time
has stilled. You never think,
I must remember this moment
as it marches forward,

and you don’t think of another child
who didn’t stop crying, screaming,
her hands thrust in scalding water.
She aches to forget that day
and someday, in her dim apartment,
as the hamster runs furiously on its wheel,
her baby cries. She gazes outside,
scarred fingertips press the numbed glass,
and pushes herself into the memory
to escape its reach.

We arrive at Grandpa’s farm, where everything
is hazy with growing life. The mosquitoes hatched
in the ditch come for us, their two-month lives
an unimportant milestone.
Clouds disappear into the sun’s flinty
reflection of the day, and the John Deere tractor,
its wheels taller than a man,
grinds fertile dirt into exact replications of its tread.
Dead mosquitoes fall quietly from the sky
as the children scramble up the ladder into the tractor.

We are breathing and so we go on,
without memorizing this moment.

Poem 10 / Day 10

Pincushion / by Manny Blacksher

Before she’d hold him, she said, “Put it down.”
She came around. His lumpen sateen heart
whiffed Mercurochrome. Cathected fetish
vestige, he clutched it chest-high, bare-
arsed sleeping and fully clothed. Just to please,
she blushed at pins and needles, stuck thumb tacks,
scout medals, fish hooks, staples that had failed
to bind his dissertation. He’s bloodier
yet loves their punctured press. She’s tried to guess
this lump’s viscera. He’s dismissed her corn
husks, cotton blossoms, potpourri, steel wool,
horse hair, crumbling stools. He gloats, “You can’t
nail what sort of mannikin I am. —Wince
to acknowledge why you’d want to touch me.”

Turnaround Day, Approaching / by Jill Bergantz Carley

the river soft and clear this evening a mirror:
two chairs on my tiny balcony
& only sixteen hours gone
it’s you who I want here–

the evening we watched the sun set from a low stiff hotel on the mesa;
I don’t have enough words to describe the colors, reds & rusts
I don’t have enough ways to describe the way you move within me

your laugh & your tentative kiss
your aging body held to mine

we were slick with sweat
air conditioner out
three box fans whirring overdrive
you said breathless, this is worth it–

First Law of Thermodynamics / by Cortney Collins

For D.

Why are you here?
What makes you smile?
What if?

Questions born in Africa
carried across the sea,
swaddled in a velvet bag
along with sacred stones
always given to you,
never bought.

A dream you had of your own death;
a new incarnation on the page.

Energy cannot be created or destroyed.

Seven concussions became sacraments,
last rites for a football scholarship.
You didn’t ask for this baptism.
There are no answers.
There are only rhyming words
and humming stones,
new names and journeys
rumbling in towering thunderheads
that never rain, never resolve.
This is the liminal, the twilight—
no one knows if the
silver constellations will outshine
the shimmering city skyline.
One beauty recedes,
another emerges.
The skin of a football
becomes the binding
of a journal.

Your poems are shapeshifters, changelings
that seep into the cells
of those who would listen
and transmogrify.
The fate of these questions—

Why are you here?
What makes you smile?
What if?

belongs to us as well.

Interrogation / by Marc Frazier

When do you feel your skin stretch?
Eating mussels overlooking the ocean.

Is past, present, future seamless?
It is all one journey.

Where do you want to visit next?
More cliff dwellings with petroglyphs in the Southwest.

Why, when you can’t translate the symbols?
Who said I can’t?

Will you stop complaining about others’ faults?
When I can sit with my own.

Where do you go when you are weary?
Anywhere but where I should be.

Can a crime be without victim?
Ask the betrayed.

When is it time to give in to the body’s weaknesses?
When my spirit flies out the window.

Why invest your heart against all odds?
Because I still can.

How to Measure Regret / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Robin Ekiss

I.

Water
through the sieve
of a thimble

II.

Ribbon of negatives
soaked to swell
Convert latent image
into silver particles
I need a stop bath
Fix my image
let silver remains dissolve
Tuck it away
pray for moths

III.

Pretend your apple
isn’t bruised
It’s not like you
to pick the ugly one

IV.

Orrery you gave
to illustrate the relative
size of our celestial bodies
but accuracy is not
practical
Subdued approximation
of our sun-to-moon ratio
mechanized limbs instead

V.

Serinette housed in walnut
you meant to teach me
to sing, but I couldn’t
see past the bars

The Tall Grandmother Will Speak / by Larry Jaffe

The tall grandmother will speak
and they will listen
despite not knowing her language
she will speak with her presence
and accumulation of knowledge
that has led her all this way
all these years

The tall grandmother will speak
and they will listen
with all their hardened hearts
suddenly broken
she will speak with emotion
and compassion
she will speak with wisdom
and defiance

The tall grandmother will speak
and they will listen
she will speak of gallows
and concentration camps
she will speak about illiteracy
and following insanity

The tall grandmother will speak
and they will listen
despite their protests
she will speak of atrocity
and healing
she will speak of how mankind
has opportunity
and riches without desire

The tall grandmother will speak
and they will listen
she of regal bearing
and heart clad with gold
she speaks in whispers
and sighs
talks of things delicate
and of gentle bearing

The tall grandmother will speak
And she will cry
And laugh
And they will cry and laugh with her

The Relapse / by Barb Jennes

Listen Doc:
I need urgent care,
a heavy dose of hope,
a light way before
the end of the tunnel.

They say you work miracles
and, damn, if I don’t need one.
Look at me shake, Doc!
My poor bones are rattling,
a skeleton-in-the-making.
My urgency rhymes with emergency –
parlez-vous dé·jà vu?

I know you’ve seen my face before;
I know this is a chronic condition,
no cure, only containment.
But I razed the damn dam, Doc,
annihilated all that abstinence,
and I’m hittin’ the 100-year flood plain
right here in your face.

Camus envisioned hell
as a street lined with shop signs
impossible to change,
each soul eternally pigeonholed
as a keeper of the stock
they peddled all their lives:
no way of evolving.
No chance at explaining.
No recovery, no redemption.

I suspect Camus had it right, Doc,
only there’s no need to wait:
you and I work those streets
right here and right now.
So give me the fix, friend.
Fix me fast.
I am urgently emerging –
just read my sign.

And as payment in part,
allow me to touch up your sign
while I’m working on mine.
My letters had almost faded
along with my damnation;
perhaps someday
they’ll dissolve all the way.
But your sign is a staple
on the streets of suffering,
and you’ll keep keeping shop
until there’s no one left to fix.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#10

Spring Awakenings Revisited

If they haven’t worked the first time,

Why try again?

What will you do

To make your spouse an exotic?

As March to April showers fall we socialize again

With gawks & flaunts—

The networks

That link & face & in & book

Our temperaments tickle our onanistic

Projections—

Flashing & peeping,

We like to show our wears & sniff

About others’ business.

Electrify

Your spouse in outlandish status

Claims to make her or him

Unfamiliar. In the gossip

Find the curiosity where you thought

You knew compunctions

& Predilections.

Her feet love ice; His ears are lollipops;

She craves opera; He’ll consider

& Caress & condition

Each follicle as you bath in Platonic succor;

Her body craves light;

His bones long

For her bird-light hands gathering

His shaking & bail-torn fingers.

Combustion / by Dianna Zimmerman

The headlines are seared
across the screen,
starlets on this pill or that,
snorting what they shouldn’t,

chalking outlines just to feel –
the bleeding-scorched dismissal,
their imagined hardships, even though
they have everything, except

that one thing. Surrounded
by yes men and women,
counterfeit handlers concerned
with kindling the bottom line.

On cue, she struts out, flashes a fiery
smile so wide it cloaks the smoldering.
And it’s not just starlets, think
Hound Dog, a handsome king

reduced to ashes, left bloated on a toilet,
his supplicants holding counsel
they didn’t earn, his death
blazed as an entry in the logbook

of coat-check conversation.
I have news:
this is it, and mounting
petty problems into disasters

is the easy way out.
It’s a cauterized cry for help,
unable to face the everydayness,
even in death,

but the world doesn’t hear,
caught up as it is
in licking its own wounds
with tongues of flame.

Poem 9 / Day 9

Fire of ‘27, Mobile / by Manny Blacksher

The well-known and stolid Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach, in January, 1826, [. . .] feigned astonishment at finding a number of gambling houses, kept by Frenchmen, paying a yearly tax of $1,000 each to city authorities for a license.

— Weymouth T. Jordan, Ante-Bellum Alabama: Town and Country (1957)

I tramped the boardwalk on Broad, eyes screwed in, plug in cheek.
Warm night for October, got hotter later on.
Job LaSalle was playing boys with cards and scuppernong
I’d greenbacks in hand, the Red Queen for to seek.

Jeb Landry spiffed calf boots, bank notes from Bay Minette.
The pastor from Memphis come off the Ivanhoe.
Stampf took a rubber of hearts with spit on three throws
Glue screamed he was gutted by John Onnetette

When up showers sparks like stale piss in the stove.
Job’s yaller gal yells East Magazine’s explose.
We shove for the windows. Roof rained from above.

—I woke in ashes, considered I weren’t in hell,
sluiced soot out my shoes, mounted shank’s mare, and, moseyed.
I stowed up with the saved in Government Hotel.

American Crow / by Jill Bergantz Carley

Harmed, corvids can remember the face of their abuser
many years ago there was a study at UW–
grad students engaged in light bird bullying while wearing Dick Cheney masks in the quad.

Generations later, crows in the lineage of those sometimes victims carry a wariness on wing
they look at us and recognize.
Nature flat-packed their DNA
they arrive in this world replete with MSDS sheet & step-by-step instructions;
Nurture follows that manual converting fables and feathered programming
to pixels
to photograph in the mind’s eye.

Call to us all
if you see him;
we don’t want justice: we want safety,

cognition

recognition,

be you fierce or friendly.

In the middlest of night and snoring
honey, you estivate in darkness
and I lie prone beside you
seeing the faces I was born scanning for out over land,
nearsighted farsighted no matter if I screw my fists into my face pressing good and hard
the imprint doesn’t fade.

It was a comfort to believe the cells in our bodies are replaced in a cycle completed every seven years
but blood lives four months,
the white cells? They run us for a year before passing the baton.
Our skin renews at the same speed it takes a carrot to germinate from seed:
marvel at our efficiency.
So when I say we are different animals clumsily trying to be renewed
give me the gift of this metaphor and hold me.
We’ve found a way to rest together,
to love and bloom as tender grass and daffodils this season
springing forth into our marriage and our bed.

The Four Directions (or, Where Ideas Come from) / by Cortney Collins

I. North

A. Aurora borealis

1. Celestial rays take the shape of a violet Jesus. Or, they ripple silver and white and pink, like peppermint ribbon candy at Christmas. Sometimes they are iridescent wings. Wear plenty of mosquito repellent to watch the unfolding.

B. Lake Superior

1. Beach by Split Rock Lighthouse

a) She rolls her jeans to her knees and wades into the clear, pebble-bottomed water. She turns the color of a corpse.

b) She returns to the shore, wraps herself in a plaid wool blanket and lays on her back. Thousands of smooth irradiated stones tune to the shape of her body and warm its fibers.

2. Aerial lift bridge in Duluth

a) Freighters pass through the archway, the liminality between a tempest and a Promised Land.

II. South

A. Extramarital affairs

1. A woman—not his wife—rides the back of his Harley somewhere near the outskirts of Raleigh.

2. He runs into a friend in the supermarket parking lot while his wife is in Europe, a dozen roses in hand.

3. She scoops handfuls of North Carolina beach sand into a Mason jar and watches his silhouette dragging through the surf, away from the setting sun. A cigarette stays lit in his mouth.

B. Genealogy

1. A cemetery sits atop a hill on the first homestead near Galax, Virginia. It’s the kind of graveyard one could build a house on; no spirit here would rattle a virgin dwelling with poltergeist mischief.

2. No one really knows if they owned slaves. The question does not appear on the deed to the land in the County Courthouse. Nor does the answer.

III. East

A. New York City

1. Forget the Statue of Liberty.

2. Forget the Rockefeller Center.

3. Forget Times Square.

4. At the corner of Broadway and 4th is a sign pointing to a flea market. A pinhole entrance disguised as an alleyway opens up, a parallel universe. They are spelunkers in an urban cave, burrowing all the way to the bottom, where a man in a black beret sells bootleg VHS tapes of rock concerts. They buy Neil Young, which comes in handy a few weeks later when she’s drunk and he’s hallucinating from a hash brownie.

B. Alcoholism

1. Sea salt air sickens her on a jagged morning. Her insides are coated with broken glass. She may call in sick to work—or, she may show up at the marina, choking down microwaved mac & cheese on her lunch hour.

2. She looks up treatment centers.

3. She bikes 5 miles a day along the Saco River to divert the craving. When that doesn’t work, she sea kayaks into the mouth of that same river. When that doesn’t work, she walks the tideline down to Goosefare Brook and stands with one foot in the warm emptying current and one foot in the frigid Atlantic. On the way home, she passes out in the dune grass.

4. He leaves her.

IV. West

A. The Pacific Coast Highway

1. Lulls in conversation on the US 101

a) They play Alice in Chains on repeat. Guitar riffs soar out over the blue-green cliffs of Big Sur, like hang gliders launching off a precipice, zooming through a misted sky above savage breakers. It beats talking.

b) Every hairpin turn at the edge of the untamed waters is a prism, and she is a beam of light refracted, erupting into a rapture of color. She keeps this to herself.

c) Her heart travels alongside the VW bus, weaving through the Cypress trees, gathering moss, whispering to her in the silences. It gives her permission to leave.

2. New Years Eve in San Francisco

a) A band

b) A bar

c) A bottle of champagne

d) A blackout

B. Law school

1. Casebooks swallow watercolors and paintbrushes, knitting needles, sheet music, quills and ink, novels, romantic comedies, and vinyl albums.

2. She settles into dormancy. The colonization lasts a century. Indigenous roots pulse underneath soil, wild seeds incubating and waiting to create, create, create.

Marked / by Marc Frazier

Like Moses for greatness. Like Juden for Jewish shop owner. The gold star in a family’s window to honor the sacrifice made by their brave son. Sheep or goat’s blood smeared above the door in the Old Testament so the Angel of Death passes by. The large “X” on the diseased elms of my youth. I remember standing by our tree destined to be destroyed. I, too, wanted to disappear. I leaned against its doomed bark listening to the sound of a bird’s lonely warbling. This birdcall made me feel abandoned and alone. Every time I hear it I feel this way, even today. A psychic told me I was “one of the watched ones.” Was it by one of the guardian angels the nuns spoke of? I wanted to believe I was watched over. I wanted to believe they would not mark our house for what went on in it like a quarantine placard placed on doors where someone has a contagious disease. I hear other birds as well today and that is enough.

Self-Portrait as Female Cricket / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Susan Kelly-DeWitt

there’s nothing wrong

with my tympana

I hear your song

da capo

da capo

da capo

da capo

just because I don’t

scrape and file

drag needle across

vinyl, doesn’t mean

I don’t sing

my flight muscles

may wear thin but

don’t hinder me

flying

The Mensch / by Larry Jaffe
For the dearest of friends Dali Bahat who left his body behind

He is a man among men
He is an artist among artists
He is a mensch among mensch

Dali is like no other
There can be no other

Dali’s imagery strikes home
like hammer to anvil

He stands for all that is good
his art slaying the evil

His expression reaches
so deep inside us
as we unclench our fists

His passion represents
the sublime
with every stroke of his brush

His absolute mastery
of his art
nurtures us forever

He stands resolute
with the perfection of spirit

He sustains life
with every breath of being

The artist weeps gently
bidding farewell
to family and friends

He stands so tall
I stand on tiptoe
to kiss both cheeks

Travel with grace my friend
Travel with grace

Addiction: One Train Wreck
After Another / by Barb Jennes

There are no brakes,
no positive train control,
on this section of track.
The gates at crossings
warn motorists to stop,
but it’s possible to drive
around them.
An 8-car passenger train
traveling at 79 miles per hour
takes over a mile to stop.

All this adds up
to one train wreck
after another.

But are you
the driver of the car,
ignoring warnings,
Newton, wishing
his First Law of Motion
was a miscalculation,
the 200-ton locomotive,
straining to stop,
the innocent commuter
about to become airborne,
or the steel rail,
wishing it
had never been forged,
wishing it
could make it all
stop.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#9

There Were Certain Signs

Under the blue relief of stars’ hypertext to the past
The zeitgeist continues to wander in our midst
Avid as a would-be prophet collecting followers
We turn to the indulgent repast of convictions

The zeitgeist continues to wander in our midst
In a hailstorm blowing what could be an arpeggio
We turn to the indulgent repast of convictions
As carousels of estranged lovers turn & turn

In a hailstorm blowing what could be an arpeggio
Another clock urges along hopes for humanity
As carousels of estranged lovers turn & turn
Scattering an atonal heart-beat of gingko leaves

Another clock urges along hopes for humanity
Fleet evocations chase after the key to happiness
Scattering an atonal heart-beat of gingko leaves
Near a bridge no more romantic than allegorical

Fleet evocations chase after the key to happiness
The crying of tears never rhymes with the world
Near a bridge no more romantic than allegorical
Errata replaces the glory of words’ lost revelations

The crying of tears never rhymes with the world
To which this etcetera of trifles pleas nolo contendere
Errata replaces the glory of words’ lost revelations
While the riffraff wearies of trumpets & milestones

To which this etcetera of trifles pleas nolo contendere
Unlike a ragged blanket thrown out winter returns
While the riffraff wearies of trumpets & milestones
Stalks & plots harden in the solipsism of snow

Unlike a ragged blanket thrown out winter returns
From where we are looking for where we will be
Stalks & plots harden in the solipsism of snow
The morning traffic fades in the rush to get home

From where we are looking for where we will be
Avid as a would-be prophet collecting followers
The morning traffic fades in the rush to get home
Under the blue relief of stars’ hypertext to the past

Enlisted / by Dianna Zimmerman

They sent him off, shaved his head,
twenty mile runs drill him into a man.
They sent him off, obey snap-to orders,
make bed sheets perfectly cornered.
They sent him off for a better chance,
aspire for the jet, the ship, the lumbering tank.
He learned to calibrate an engine, make a thing fly.
They sent him off, though the cure
for flashbacks is secured, top-secret.
They made him leather-tough, blind-eyed
to blood smears on pant leg, ignore
sand grit, even when it makes the eyes water.
They sent him off, now he’s mostly quiet
and gets the rashes, checks behind
every door. They sent him off to war,
and he came home in it.

Poem 8 / Day 8

Ashland: “A hymn of joy rising from cre[m]ation” / by Manny Blacksher

I. Augusta Evans Wilson

Admirers of Mrs. Wilson’s books were prepared for her life at Ashland. Most
of her heroines, tested by poverty and adversity, (1)

“[A]s I lost my property (negroes, Confederate bonds)
during that revolution, I must attend to ‘questions (2)

My own embrace of the conventional led me to value
everything criticism had taught to despise: stereotyped (3)

are allowed to wed wealthy men accustomed to luxury.
All her stories argue ambitious, Christian girls— virtue (1)

of bread and butter’. I am trying to write a novel,
the plan of which vaguely straying through my mind for some time, (2)

character, sensational plot, the trite expression…. I saw
stereotyped characters, rather than constituting a defect (3)

attended by circumspection—justified in expecting
material success as comforting as spiritual benefits. (1)

My history. I will make the great end of my labors
in the realm of letters. While I gather requisite (2)

in these novels, allowed them to operate as instruments
of cultural self-definition. Stereotypes instantly (3)

Rise from poverty to mansion luxury, the great
American story. The reading public not likely to tire of (1)

materials, I must continue to draw a support
from my inkstand.” While presenting herself to both Curry (2)

recognizable representatives of overlapping
racial, sexual, national, ethnic, economic, social, (3)

it long as Americans continue to believe men
of integrity, industry, good luck may yet win fortunes. (1)

and Derby as fiercely loyal to the Lost Cause,
she went about the business of protecting her (2)

political, and religious categories, convey enormous
amounts of information in an extremely condensed form. (3)

The beauty of its moss-laden liveoaks, flowered shrubbery
matches glowing descriptions by Mrs. Wilson’s visitors (1)

authorial interests in the newly reunited
nation. Her visit to J. C. Derby (and decision (2)

Stereotyped characters essential to popularly
successful narrative—carriers of strong associations. (3)

—Marse Henry Watterson, J. C. Derby, Louise Manly, other
sentimental Victorians. Possibly relics are still there (1)

to send Macaria North to him in the first place) ensured
she benefited handsomely from Northern sales of Macaria. (2)

Familiarity and typicality the basis of
their effectiveness as integers in a social equation. (3)

—magnolias, cedars, perhaps a few hardy azaleas.
But the house at the end of the drive was destroyed by fire in 1926. (1)

(1) William Fidler, Augusta Evans Wilson, 1835-1909.
(2) Melissa J. Homestead, “The Publishing History of Augusta Jane Evans’ Confederate Novel Macaria: Unwriting Some Lost Cause Myths” (2005)
(3) Jane Tompkins,“Introduction: The Cultural Work of American Fiction,” Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction 1790-1860 (1985).

Almost Tender / by Jill Bergantz Carley

Every plate I’ve ever served
you have accepted in delight
even the three years in which I failed
you, my gingered Irish love,
bearing on that day in March three consecutive years
a weight of corned beef a mother couldn’t love,

& still, finding you on bended knee my own buckled in empathy
in red dirt & tender miner’s lettuce you said forever
while our dinner toughened in its brine

and as ever, late that night you showed me your dimples
while I wrestled hot flesh foolhardy and hopeful
ready to take this meal however it may come.

Do you, dear Loren, take me as your own
to feast and to fete
in chip steaks and fillets?

Dip me in a hemoglobin marinade
rub herbs de Provence into my muscles tense at jaw & temple
unctuous & sultry
short ribbed & full.

Keep me rare.

Let me rest & carve me
quiet in our bed some early Tuesday morning
press me & make me our dinner, slow cooked aroma rising with the sun.

etymology / by Cortney Collins

a root matrix finds
expression above ground—
sundry harvest born of
constituent seeds

a nuclear reactor
spawns descendants
of power—
chandelier
in the kitchen,
nightlight
in the nursery

systemic pathways
warped grids
hidden fractals
feedback loops that
defy the axioms
of ordinary geometry
and regenerate
their own limbs
again and again
but do not duplicate

one rogue bead
in a piece of artwork deliberate imperfection
guided entropy related yet distinct
outcomes

these elements
these prime numbers
these families
that cross borders
to become something new
something nuanced

and always,
a common ancestor.

Epileptic: A Crown Cinquain / by Marc Frazier

We wait
Counting fingers
Dab water on your lips
Listen to the beeping machines
We wait

Doctors
Give their reports
Coded in cautious words
We listen for any sign of hope
Today

Siblings
Watching for clues
My faith lags behind yours
I sense death approach this time love
Comas

The brain
Seizes full on
Where are you little sis
Can they bring you back once again
I doubt

Winter
Inside and out
A chill of sorrow shared
You have turned to drifting snow now
Goodbye

Remains / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Sarah Green

It began with Egyptian mummies—
hook to scramble and pull brain jelly
through nostrils, sacred jars for lungs,
liver, stomach, intestines, believed
useful in the afterlife. I imagine
my belly full of myrrh, cassia, sewn
with spices. Such care for the dead.

Yde girl found in a Netherlands peat bog,
two thousand years and her hair
still reddish-gold.

Touched too young, I abhorred
even the thought of being touched,
alive or dead, but for science…
desire, not to be dead, but found,
a cause for reverence.

I’m the Netherlands
girl, you tell me, buried
so long until you found me.

Some thousand years and
an apocalypse later,
an archeologist will brush
radioactive sediment from
my sternum, clavicle, scapula,
marvel at our hands still clasped.

Dislocation / by Larry Jaffe
For my friend Dottie Laster who rescues children

She was a firebrand
A rebel
Perhaps even an anarchist
She was a self-taught instigator
Of the sublime
Who wanted to be a do-gooder

Some bad guys took her
Under their wing
Forcibly shaved her head
Broke her eyes
Wooed her under their spell
Inflicted her with hidden infection
Made her do the unspeakable
And stopped her free speech

They dislocated her spirit
And she went asunder
without knowing
she was drowning

A kindness found her
Rescued her from the kindling
That set fire to her soul
Rescuing this being
From oblivion
From invisible enslavement
Taught her to respect herself
And love others

They called her Valentina
To fill her with love
As she climbed from the abyss
An impossibility
Breaking her chains

Eventually she smiled
Spoke words of resolution
Spoke words of freedom

They let in the fresh air
And she smiled once again

Valentina

Heiligenschein / by Barb Jennes

(German – n. literally, “saint’s shining.” A ring of light around the shadow cast by a person’s head, visible under certain conditions. The effect is also called Cellini’s halo, after the 16th century artist who first described the phenomenon.)

Benvenuto Cellini
noted his “saint’s shining”
one luminous Italian morning:
saw how the low-angle sunlight
cast a long, lean shadow
across a bed of dewy grass,
heeded how his dark umbra
wore a halo around it head.

Before that dawn discovery
that granted us all
ascendant saintly status,
Cellini had murdered four men,
sodomized women,
his poor apprentice, others,
was exiled and imprisoned
for his heinous acts and deeds.

But as he birthed
the monumental sculpture
of Perseus, miraculously,
from a single cast of bronze,
as he played the flute so sublimely
that rival court musicians wept,
as he concocted a transcendent allegory
to serve salt on a king’s table
and defended his pope
from an envious interloper,
as he penned poems,
loved God,
fathered children –
can we deny that
a glow of goodliness
circled the monster’s head?

Our souls aches in front of Guernica,
yet we see the demon standing behind it.
We shop for cheap potatoes in Paris
with the wife Hemingway is about to leave.
“Who’s bad?” we’re asked.
You, Michael, you; we abhor you.
And yet our fingers snap.

How do we separate
the dancer from the dance,
the artist from the art,
the sinner from the grace?

Is it our place to forgive
when it’s our darker side,
our shadow,
that always wears the halo?

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#8

Flesh of My Flesh

He, Jadon, was born of the casted, cast off

(As his father was)

In a gambol of reason.

I, Cain, ordained a killer first,

Scooped him from the lake,

The shadow abandoned,

& Rest him in my wife’s (Awan’s)

Naked breasts to comfort him with her warmth,

Although she had no milk to slake his cries—

Our line is freed & feed

By imagination alone.

As we hover the is in each moment

That rocks us back & forth & also chucks us to the side—

Into a convent or into a cabin.

We, salvage-children,

Became our own choicest-regret won.

Peopled in bodies that once buried us—

From their furtive groins to utero frolic—

Necessarily marks us

Byproducts of their works that failed or that they just scrapped;

& Except for a children’s game of “Ring Around the Rosie,”

While reeling, no one recalls,

When they play (ever),

The innocent, sickly fingers like miniature forsythia weeping

& Interlocked with warm life sullying.

Abandoned-plagued, tired, clasping-hands

So young & able to effortlessly trust the letting go

Of new found mothers/fathers & daughters/sons

& Bothers/sisters to “All fall down.”

Just god-dropping open palms,

Proof nature wields no unyielding trait

& The fact of the matter is really a lie

Since will & struggle alone aid the true battle—

To bundle, to love, & to value each

Grubby, sacred, little hand’s unguided,

Incommensurable offering.

Performance / by Dianna Zimmerman

On a ledge above,
a dancer curves in fluid motion,

her pinwheel arms strain
against stage instructions –

the wistful forward reach,
while wavy-ribboned wrists

twirl and flirt, a shadow-enveloped
face concealed by the pose

of polite. She is a silhouette
straddling the silence.

Staring down, she sees us.
The curled leaves rustle,

as if the trees possess a knowledge
we lack, yet they

whisper no secrets.
The crisply-striped awning,

starkly red and white
over the copse of green,

seems to reach out
as a crowd gathers below.

A gasp of distress as she jumps,
gives her last perfect performance.

The leaves bow in reverence,
while the rash connection of fate
hovers
on a doleful breeze.

Poem 7 / Day 7

Candy Ashes / by Manny Blacksher

Now, I acquiesce I live inadequately.
Where recognition’s accounted proven merit,
I’ve made no effort, was not present with others,
disdained ovations. I stood inspection
sulking. Pressed, I counterfeited sincerity,
professed I only cared to serve the highest goods.
I dare not examine those unforeseen windfalls.
Lessons generally lost on me, today, I
refused understanding. Nothing I ought’s been done
except out of habit, perversity. Unwell,
I got up petulant. All day, I’ve carried on
my nonsense—won’t give it over. Fakers. Bullshit.
I revile every thing anyone promises.
Malcontent, all night in this room, I’ll sit without.

Diptych: Altaville, California / by Jill Bergantz Carley

On the day just before the one on which they tore it down,
I traipsed across Highway 49 from the market to my first & forever driveway
arms leadened, as many cases of beer as I could carry,
hoping a barter would hold.

I came seeking a piece:
and say what you will I knew that as soon as I possessed it
whatever this Coors and a local girl smile may buy me of my once-home
I was ready to feel the chemical fire of maternal love:
these treasures born into this world perfect,
in whatever shape & heft & length they come,
& patina, burnish,
are dropped in turns
& cleaned gently with a soft cloth,
(if we are lucky).

It was a single pane of glass,
low, held in place by three shallow screws,
the window through which we’d watch the blooms without disturbing,
tucking in poinsettias on cold nights, our bets hedged on bromeliads.

The first friend I ever made taught me how to play with matches
behind a locked door in the selfsame room,
seed packets & watering schedules on each workbench,
our backs to the great boiler that heated the whole operation–

Stop me if you’ve heard this
but both the lens of a camera & the borate rain
for which we learn from birth to pray
are born from the same mother.
That family?  They are from here, too.

sanctuary of my childhood church / by Cortney Collins

a red velvet curtain hangs
in front of the chancel,
girded by a pale cross.

dad tells me this is
where the Ark of the Covenant
lives.

i imagine the bow
of a great vessel
behind this crimson threshold,
ready to be freed,
to slice that veil in half
and topple the white cross,
the way a cargo ship
cuts a delta
through floating ice
in Nordic waters.

i see that ship charge
out into the pews,
pushing aside bibles &
offering plates &
candlesticks
as it careens
toward the stained glass
window of Jesus
with a banner that says
suffer the little children
and shatters it into
a million fragments
of colored light.

all that’s left are
bits of flame and
shards of glass
as we watch the stern
of the ship
sail out of the church and
off into the Sandhills.

stupefied churchgoers
let hymnals drop
from their limp hands,
perplexity on their faces
as their children chase
the maiden voyager
out onto the plains,
laughing,
satin ribbons on Easter dresses
trailing in the Nebraska wind
like telltales on a mainsail.

 
Elements / by Marc Frazier

—cento from my poetry collection The Way Here (Aldrich Press)

  /Land/

In the wings of my hands/heavy grapes upon a vine

His face said/How alone the moon looks

Tourists look up/goldfish ready for feeding/they want to be closer

Warm bricks wrapped against the frozen light

Sex is an end to a means

A swarm of children/transformed into light/grows around her

The embrace of earth/dirt cool on a bulb’s skin, on mine

Anonymous face of an Amish doll/in this country/now and then/the same

Sough of wildflowers in wind/the fecund tomb of night

Geese fly into formation/wild grasses fade/nothing I say matters

Have I prayed to the wrong god?/What happens next is happening

/Water/

Anything/begins with water/cell, tributary, heart

In the rushes gently rocking/the insects’ hum/a lullaby

I pulled him out of the water

I am not who you think I am, not who I thought I was, not who I was meant to be

Currents free seaweed/my palms feel hollow/I send you away

Sea like the frameless landscape of Illinois/It is I who separates this world from the next

Lanterns, fires dot shoreline/I did not want to let you go

I leave behind even less than I think

The stars/strung on boats in the canals

A palette of fish filled with light

Take me as I am/There is no one left to love

I hear orchids grow in wet seclusion/Life, like anything, is a habit,

Can be found almost anywhere, can happen to anyone

This incredible thing, that a girl shall walk over the sea into the new world to join her lover

We will leave no trace upon the battered shore

Arizona /  by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Lucille Clifton

my third landscape
after my birth in two rivers
and being transplanted like cabbage
into the San Joaquin valley

following, in rare confluence, the river
my father drank in Tucson
the Santa Cruz now dry except
in monsoon

I settled for nine short months
rock-perched on “A” mountain
a minor hike from ASU to watch flocks
of planes, wondering which was mine

his mom, my Grandma Dorothy
flocked every winter to Tucson
for warmth at the foot of no less
than five mountain ranges

Grandpa Ed died before I was born
but she never remarried despite
more than one offer, she winked
content in her never-empty

An Affront / by Larry Jaffe

the temperament of nerves
frayed and not forgotten
boost a village of servants
with lightning rod tongues
paying homage to the devil
leaving debts without recourse

these cursers of science
and humanities
buck human interest
replacing kindness with affront
and liberties as tokens

we befriend the enemy
and laugh at the stockyard
provided with joy

and waving the scepter
we cry out of our brethren
and leave wakes
without prayer
and joy without succor

– who befriends the idiot
– who pretends to be idle

there is no sorrow only revenge
there is no comeuppance
like overindulges sensitivity
taking affront at every word
dropped with infinity
a token reversal of trends
and feeling

our sensitivity drawn
like fire from the knave
our sensitivity sharpened
like idiocy is our slave

time to shake off the boundaries
and proclaim freedom more important
than practicality

or universal truths that douse
flames of retardation
Woe is the member

that leaves home without his sombrero

Woe is the member

that leaves home without his yarmulke

Woe is the member

that leaves home without her headscarf

Woe is the member

that leaves home without his keffiyeh

Woe is the member

that leaves home without her hijab

Woe is the member

that leaves home without her veil

Woe is the member

that leaves home without his derby

Woe is the member

that leaves home without his hair

Woe is the member

that leaves home without his bald head

 – We should not be so confident of our wounds
and not brag about them like houseflies


Technically we are not all morons

Technically we should not be so sensitive

Technically we should all be free

Hovenweep / by Barb Jennes

Here the Ancient Ones farmed the fertile mesa
atop the rim of a time-carved canyon where

They built kivas, silos, observatories,
homes that clung to the sides of cliffs.

We inched closer to the edge of the mesa lip,
daring to see the ruins below.

Holding hands, sure we’d save each other
if the ledge gave way beneath us,

We smiled and took another step, and another;
Even your father called us back: “Enough.”

But you and I knew this cliff-walking well:
we had danced on edges of our own making,

Had explored paths of exhilaration
no one else could fathom or forgive.

Even when the dance decayed to damnation,
we would not give it up. Until.

Mother and daughter:
only the other could save us.

Just then, God-like, the voice of a park ranger
called us back from the precipice.

We did not have a chance to peer over.
We did not see how it ended.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#7

Prayer for Lily

Outside a slightly cracked

Windowsill ledge

Wings the Aeolian Harp

I placed for your soul to gust;

The wooden-box, pitch-

Sounding,

Bridges the now relic wind-air

Of your birth with

Yellowed catgut

Strings recalling the covenant

Of origins & of expulsions

Recreating

Ribs’ & neck’s lost & obscure

Only echo, which now

Remains chiseled deciduous

And too far from me

In body, which is why

                                           I must somehow pray

For all your life

For you.

The Great Moon Hoax / by Dianna Zimmerman

Only because of our hunger
to believe could it be so successful.
Aristotle’s moon marked the boundary
between mutable elements and the
permanence of stars,

so perhaps it was no surprise
when cosmos-probing scientists’
new-fangled telescope could see things
we never dared imagine
on our moon,

creatures whose likeness
we could readily accept: the reindeer,
the bison, even the biped beaver,
which carried its young in its arms
and walked on two feet.

The moon’s seasons were said
to exist in perpetual harmony,
an enviable Eden of verdant hills,
enchanting valleys, gurgling streams.

These “Great Astronomical Discoveries
Lately Made” were just fantastical
enough,

the “extraordinary powered”
bat-winged humanoids did
the familiar: engaged in emphatic
conversation, lived in cities, and
built temples of polished sapphire.

The New York Sun never issued
a retraction, permanently increasing
its circulation. Since renderings
etched in caves 5000 years ago,
we have been pulled in,

willing captives to our moon
and its inclinations,
its halo of light and magic,
held attuned by its circular spell.

“The Great Moon Hoax” refers to a series of articles published in the New York Sun beginning August 25, 1835, about the supposed discovery of life and civilization on the Moon. The discoveries were falsely attributed to Sir John Herschel, a well-known astronomer of his time. The New York Sun’s circulation increased dramatically because of the articles and remained permanently greater than before. It was not discovered to be a hoax for several weeks after its publication and, even then, the newspaper did not issue a retraction.

Poem 6 / Day 6

Home of Mardi Gras — Tuesday, 5th March 2019 / by Manny Blacksher

As it’s too hard to find parking, they’ll walk downtown.
He asks if he can bring his hiking stick. Ten-pound
oak staff, nearly tall as he is. She tells him, No.
and asks him to remember to lock the front door.
Outside, it’s beautiful but chill. Azaleas bloom
in neighbors’ yards, smelling. They go up to Conti.
She asks, Did you lock the door? He grimaces.
She waits while he goes back. He gallops up racing
to the corner. Six-foot-two, tall as his uncle,
taller than his father was. She enjoyed watching him
practice forms at Taekwondo last night. To his grace,
new height has added power to the jabs and feints.
He’s always been precise. He expects precision.
They go around the Dairy Queen up Government.
There’s still a vaulting loose-knit copse of live oak
lining Government all the way to Conception.
They’d been so dense before Frederic, you couldn’t
see the sky. In high winds, limbs took down traffic
lights. They walk past Broad Street, the public library.
There’s people out but not too many. It’s grown hot.
She bought her light quilted jacket for a meeting
in Omaha. She takes it off. He’s holding his
father’s leather jacket, but wearing the Hogwarts
knit toque. Slytherin. It used to be Gryffindor.
Ambition, he’d corrected her, not wickedness—
like Hamilton. The motorcade passes, white cop,
black cop. Then floats, then majorettes, more floats, bikers
on toy-like bikes and kit cycles. The maskers throw
down from barges. They catch strings of beads, doubloons,
moonpies. There’s bags of this at home. He is making
an ersatz shrine, lashing beads to the barricade’s
bars. Take who will. Her feet hurt. She’d like a pedi.
Her toenails are navy, inexcusably chipped.
(–Not taupe.) She asks, Are you hungry? He is a bit.
Do you want burgers later? Chinese takeaway?
Replies, Not really. He doesn’t eat well enough—
her fault. She’s working late. She picks him up, gets them
home too tired to cook. He points to the CVS.
She relents. He picks beef jerky, sour candies,
and Orange Sunkist. It’s a city holiday.
Hers too. She gets Funyuns, Kitkats, Regular Coke.
Screwit. It’s too hot in CVS. He’s taken
the toque off, bangs bright stiff slats that pang her.
Did you wash your hair? Yes, he answers taut, precise.
Have you washed your hair! Yes! He’ll litigate all day.
Truly, he’s his mother’s son. She changes tactic.
Did you wash your hair this morning? With shampoo?
He grimaces. She pronounces, Once we get home,
you shower, and you wash your hair thoroughly!
And I want to see it! (It’s hot in here. Scarlett?
Not purple or turquoise. She was never a pink-
girl. Maybe, matte beige, steel gray. It’s too hot in here.)
He’s looking closely and nodding. They will have snacks
outside. They go out to the median beyond
the car park, before the steel barrier. It’s cooler.
They eat. Drink. Celebrate. He’s through the beef jerky
within four minutes, into the sugared sour
jellies. He’s put Dad’s jacket and his hat back on.
He lies on his back behind a parked Lexus,
Sunkist within hand’s reach. She’s finished the Kitkats,
and it’s too cold. (Wait fifteen minutes.) Jacketed,
shaking, she advises, We might take a Lyft home.
Then motorcade and procession. It’s a bright day
and terribly cold. To her toes. (She sees the masks
on a line of throwers and thinks of their pubic-
transparent faces— all bank-robbing serial-
killers—Uh-uh, not that shade.) He’s standing
behind her, hands on her shoulders like a man’s,
holding her up. She sags. Baby, I think we’ll go
soon. And he nods and says, when you’re ready. Lapis
texted. She can pick me up. You don’t have to bring
me to my Tuesday club meeting. She quickly clicks
through Lyft app’s check-out. Her first thought is of a shop
in midtown where patient but strong fingers massage
toes, then lacquer them with iridescent colors,
that catch every eye till you pay the driver—
she looks up. He’s in front, though he’s only sixteen,
directing the chauffeur. Halted on Chevron Street,
she keys the Paypal fare and tip. He escorts her,
does the lock and alarm, takes her within, and brings
her to her door, where her calico Skor still rubs,
volubly whining. He sits her on her bed, says,
I’ll be home by eight. and leaves–shuts the door behind.
She slips her shoes off. Lies down. Skor crawls up to her.
Almost asleep, she imagines a shade of pink.

Love Poem To A Diagnosis / by Jill Bergantz Carley

Young, I ran through the dark house

sprinting from the light

of one room to flip the switch on in the next,

all the way up the stairs:

entering the night only once I could see you,

slack in sleep

I’d step up to your face

& wait

still & breathing, my presence–

fast-pitched you out of slumber.

For years you escorted me

shut each switch, pull the quilt of night back up and around me:

I was never afraid of the dark.

I was addicted to the reassurance

a breath of relief on a burn;

I worried for what happens when the awful thing arrives.

I worry the photo finish of my life, before

and the hoofed fury of, fury of, —

Twenty years ago I won a hundred dollar prize,

for a speech in which all I did was list all the things I dread

performance by request of a panic attack writ slow &

I had to do this in the conference room of a hotel in Reno, Nevada.

I wore a red silk rose on a jean jacket

throat faltering & weak

delirious with pneumonia, projecting, still.

Ways to Be A Lighthouse Keeper / by Cortney Collins

The first way to be a lighthouse keeper
is to never show up at all. Let the paint peel,
let ivy crawl up the sides of the stone cylinder
until it reaches the beacon, strangling it dark,
like a python constricting around its victim
as she exhales. Let mobs of schoolchildren
toss stones at blackened windows
until they break, leaving glass stalactites
suspended from cracked wooden frames, ready
to plunge like a guillotine into the heart
of anyone who tries to breach these openings
and pillage for treasures inside.
Let the lighthouse remain vacant,
but not unclaimed. Its black hole will
draw ships onto the outlying crag, a field of wreckage
where no one knows whose turn it is to apologize—
the rock, or the vessel? The lighthouse cannot
be held responsible.

A second way to be a lighthouse keeper
is to perpetually warn all seagoing craft
of the danger. Sound the foghorn continuously.
Send a ruthless beam of light out onto the water
like a search party hunting for fugitives
amongst the kelp. Know that even if
the surrounding waters lap gently at the shore
like a litter of puppies nestling into their mother’s belly,
a hurricane could slam the pier at any moment.
Never rest. Even as sailboats moor quietly in the harbor
under terra cotta skies, remind them
of the horrors of the deep—the creatures
with tentacles and machete teeth. Caution sailors
against the lure of the mermaid’s song, the wiles
of maritime panhandlers. Let them thank you later.

A third way to be a lighthouse keeper
is to watch and wait. Flood the bay
with luminescence. While you scan the horizon,
sketch trails of phosphorescent fish on canvas
with pastels, an easel propped up
in the lantern room behind the astragal bars
that buffer against raging wind and slicing rain.
Track the migration of narwhals and wonder
if they taught humans celestial navigation,
if the sextant originated around the same time
as the sundial, if dolphins knew centuries ago
that language is the opposite of communion.
Write your questions on each concrete step
leading up the spiral staircase to the tower, where
you threw the sacred text out the window
and into the waters below years ago.
They already know the way home.

These ways are by no means
exhaustive.

How it Happens / by Marc Frazier

—erasure from Carl Phillips’ poem “Radiance versus Ordinary Light”

the sea moves

a man     rises into     violation

touches     bruises     each shoulder     his chest

can’t remember     even

the surf     a rhythm     or

what we say

here     we dive in     panic at first

look back     regret     swimming

in the wake of transgression

leaving     shore     leaving

water flashing     shouldn’t it

the waves     beat harder     against your heart

break mine

March 5, 2019 / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Juliana Spahr

In banner news today, I woke up to find I couldn’t go back to sleep.

I can’t go back to sleep even though it’s so dark the birds aren’t talking yet.

The birds aren’t talking yet, but not because there’s nothing to say.

There’s always something to say, always a Mueller pointing at a Manafort.

In banner news, Steyer targets key Republicans on impeachment. The birds have a lot to say about impeachment lately.

Sacramento is awake, too. 84 protestors were arrested for failure to disperse last night after the DA announced no criminal charges will be filed against the two police officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark. The mayor has questions for the birds: Did the offenders try to leave but couldn’t due to police barricades?

You, curled next to me, warm nestled jay.

I can’t sleep because early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include: “Acting Out Dreams,” “Illegible Handwriting,” and “Fatigue.”

I can’t sleep because a woman won $17 million against Walmart for injuries sustained when she was caught shoplifting (with her granddaughter in the cart) and they tried to stop her running.

I can’t sleep because the birds won’t shut up about sex trafficking, and billboard warnings, and a Second Annual Anti-Trafficking and Violence Prevention Youth Summit in Stockton, and it’s still not enough to stop it from happening.

I can’t sleep and I don’t even read the news, just the fucking headlines, and that’s enough for me to never let our children leave the house, but they need to learn how to navigate this, and please god don’t let it be trial by house fire because I’m just a bird, and they are just birds, and we are all birds in the same dying oak, but at least the furniture is on sale.

The Kiss / by Larry Jaffe

For my loving wife, because
The kiss was for the next generation
The kiss is for today
The kiss was for yesterday
The kiss is for tomorrow
The kiss is for eternity
The kiss reaches down
The kiss reaches up
The kiss reaches beyond
This kiss is forever

Give Up / by Barb Jennes
(to WS Merwin, eschewer of punctuation)

I am a hoarder of joy
the trinkets of having had

I’ve built shelves
from ceiling to floor

every nook and cranny
a mouth awaiting teeth

I showcase my trophies
like taxidermied heads

look
here is all I have loved

Ash Wednesday comes
and I cringe

there is nothing here
I can relinquish

without these reminders
I would forget my life

where and when
who and whom

do not ask me to give up
these relics these bones

I have already fasted
I have already buried

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#6

Women’s History Month

March rain sputters & gathers in ringlets

Twirling onto the frosted soil-beds.

What ever moves or falls straightly?

…I’m told, nothing. Snow hangs swirling

Over the river air. Hyacinth & heather

Incense the light. Snapdragon, pine-gum,

Fiddlehead mint bursts as pond-split-ice belches

Warmer, sicklier air…

A bile stench that digs, melanizes,

Gritty new life of cancerous bits in her exquisite,

Muslin-gauze uterus-cradle cells

That stomp & tramp & march

An about face domestic malignancy;

But still we believe,

“April is the cruelest month, breeding,”

Because a riled T.S. Eliot peeved. Lilacs

He decried?

He branded spring’s deadly births

& Countless maternally managed corrosions

With such nonvascular woe, such utter shit—

He wilted love’s corpus callosum, the S.O.B.

Came & went groveling

Ephemeral, intellectualized,

Objective correlative palaver.

Pressure / by Dianna Zimmerman

Sometimes

the sudden, intense drop of pressure

outside

makes the wind blow so hard     it changes

the atmospheric balance,

squeezing so tightly

that inside,

the attic door

nestled in the ceiling

bursts    open.

Pops.

I understand that feeling.

Poem 5 / Day 5

Bakhtin in East Alabama, Shrove Lundi / by Manny Blacksher

“All those dismembered bodies in Rabelais’ novel are, in a sense, self-
dismemberments.”
—Sergeiy Sandler, “The pros and cons of deconstructing Bakhtin”

This world is debris, yet Lee County’s chronotope
is an epic confluence of bodies in play.
Some at rest and some so moved that nothing allays
their purpose. Bodies searching, others beyond hope.
Bodies straightened to celebrate the mysteries
of flesh’s open-endedness to egress
and entry. Others incoherent, porous,
pulled piecemeal. Photos of sheet metal wrapped on trees
play dumb, except they stand in for bodies unknown
in upside-down worlds—unless they speak with our tongues
the treason that not one of our lives is our own
entirely. When rescuers seek survivors,
we feel it’s we who hunt our missing selves—we brung
up when those parti-pieces are recovered

Pedagogy / by Jill Bergantz Carley

You taught me
(of the delivery driver who stalked you, newly returned
& heart confettied over the miles years before I would ever be born)

when he goes for you,
you go for his keys
throw them hard and
set to
run
any direction away, but commit to run: he has to choose
a car, a woman:
don’t let him have both.

When the former doesn’t work, I’ll tell you what:
Here, have my body.
I leave it to be gibbetted to the crimes against it
held high above ground & in that bespoke exoskeleton:
here, sister, listen
my fleetfoot stench will run for miles
a corpse, a tool of navigation
mother of larvae alone.

Here, have my body.
Let it be your object lesson: you knew me and you didn’t.
Let it be a lighthouse on this shore: this will happen to anyone, to you.

Fission / by Cortney Collins

I met you
in the belly
of a sleeping
dragon—

a chamber
of halcyon,
where we lived
an epoch
of benevolent
inertia.

One day
the dragon
stirred

and breathed
us out,
a tsunami
of fire.

We landed
on a metropolitan
beach,
charred debris,
miles apart,
estranged and
bewildered.

We found
our feet,
but not
each other.

I thought
I caught
a glimpse
of you
on the
subway,

but it’s
so hard
to recognize
faces

out of context.

The Idea of Ancestry / by Marc Frazier

—after Etheridge Knight

What does it mean to be who we are?
Because we are lost, we trace our roots
back thinking it will mean something
about us, thinking it will impress others
as if anyone cares about our ancestors

Foraging rural cemeteries, county courthouses,
trips to County Mayo, late night google searches,
saliva in a tube for Ancestry DNA, 23 & Me,
old family photos searched for clues,
phone interviews with relatives about to kick the bucket

Amateur sleuths after the truth of identity
as if…
I like my mother’s reaction to my brother’s
genealogical research: “We were nothing
but shanty Irish and chicken thieves. Leave it.”

Fathometer / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Marianne Boruch

The small knot floating
difficult to distinguish among
other knots, kelp, fish and the wrong
kind of fish.
yes    no    try later
I did try.

December, I know
because me in my fuzzy gray jacket
huddled against another family
season, my newly rearranged family
seeds such joy.

We need names for things. So many things
lost for the un-naming. If we knew how
to pin insects, glue the smallest
on paper points near the pin’s head
followed by locality, date, collector’s name,
host plant, identification labels for every
hurt, hold them to the glint, then tuck
them away. Name them, kiss them, let them
go.

One hospital gown. One breast in a tray.
Arms askew, windows slam on three sides.
Endurance means something.
Did you win? More ocean studies to expose
the midnight, abyss, the trenches.

Lie on your side, arms overhead. Slick
pressure, fathometer reveals
submerged fish, black mountains
between static water, more fish,
more to read than the usual
shipwreck? They leave us
in the dark to speculate
on the meaning of dark stains,
fish, fear, and at last,
he comes in to tell us that day:
good menhaden, sardines, herring abound.
He lifted the net, counted the knots, and
black mountains blurred in our eyes.

Desire Forthcoming / by Larry Jaffe

It was a body
A mind
A spirit

It was a preview of tomorrow
A lapse into yesterday
And the sanctity of now

It moved mountains
Forded rivers
Scouted prairies

It was a buttress
A fortress
A temptress

It was passion
An urgency
A desire

It was you

Period of Oscillation / by Barb Jennes
for Demetria

Did Galileo point his nose
heavenward in supplication,
or did his head fall back in utter ennui?
History holds no answer
why the fellow gazed up from his pew
to see the great chandelier swinging
on its long leash of chain:
a perfect pendulum.

What we do know is this:
just as Auden brewed poems
from a grey neuronal slurry,
just as Fermi’s synapses
preceded Fat Man in going critical,
Galileo grasped a larger truth
from the tickling of photons
on the back of his eyes.

The universe grants us
the great gift of constancy,
as well as an occasional truth-seeker
woke enough to notice.
And from the swing of the chandelier
in Cattedrale di Pisa that day,
Galileo foresaw how the pendulum
fulfills its fidelity.

We take it for granted that pendulums swing:
of course, of course, it is their raison d’etre.
But what we see as a failing, a flaw,
is actually their finest point:
as the swing of a pendulum succumbs
to the gritty grip of friction,
as the arc of its path narrows,
it seems, only seems, to slow down.

But draw nearer; look closer;
perhaps put a finger to your pulse,
just as the Pisan did;
measure the period of oscillation –
the time it takes for the pendulum
to ferry from far side to far side.
Note, understand:
even as the distance lessens,
the time it takes to tick and then tock
is as constant as the sun.

I am no scientist, but this I know:
you and I were set in motion
from the same fixed point
by some unseen hand;
we have traveled in tandem
unmindful of – unmarvelling at –
the trueness of our tracery.
Let us see it now.

And while our arcs slacken
toward inevitable stillness,
let us oscillate between periods
of pain and awe,
always feeling the other’s
steadfast presence,
predictable as the path itself,
sure as gravity, sure as God.

Ispeity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#5

L’Art pour L’Art

In art for art’s sake,

Even Baudelaire bossed

A true carrion mass; & Mallarmé

Incessantly listed, ported,

Starboarded an objectively objective object,

As he captained the page.

Shipshape-courier predecessor for Jackson Pollock,

Mallarmé storming symbols

Through titanic paper & canvas,

Plunging gigantic color-hue words

With each bend & lean over

& Under & around

The sapient syntax

From tidal angles unconsciously conscious sprayed to break all laws

Of the ink & pen,

But you’ll neither be a dalliance just

For the paper

Nor be idea sans idea

From said unintentionally intentionally

Spewed-wrought word,

Which is still synaptic twitch

Made Marshal-material

No matter

Where the selfie wants to belie

Its modus operandi.

Fat Tuesday / by Dianna Zimmerman

“laissez les bon temps rouler”

The whoomp whoomp whoomp
of celebration, high-step marching
to saints & the lively zizzle
of brass, this Big Easy
carnival sires a wicked grin
in a city known equally for joy & sin.

New Orleans, a magical, occulted paradise,
& Bacchus, god of wine and cheer,
rules over endless parades, the pageantry
of royal colors seeps into & onto streets
showered with floats, doubloons & beads,
where revelers, artists, & drunken sots
mix together in a raucous melting pot.

Voodoo tickles hidden psychic urges
& music, steeped deep in your bones,
Preservation Jazz effervescence
blends with a long, tall glass
of hurricane, absinthe – cheers to
Mardi Gras – in the wonderland where
Christians & sinners delight,
as this otherworldly city pulses all night.

Poem 4 / Day 4

A People’s Parade (March 3rd , 2019) / by Manny Blacksher

The L. C. Minstrel Band, whose programme has already been made public,
take the day time for their frolic, and we wish them much of it. (1)

Down in Mobile, they’re all crazy, because the Gulf Coast is the kingdom of monkeys, the land
of clowns, ghosts and musicians, and Mobile is sweet lunacy’s county seat. (2)

Flogel’s History of Comic Literature, speaking of Fast Eve
says: “Persons in disguise sometimes went from house to house, to make sport (1)

☞An actor ought to be a happy man. His work is all play. (3)

with their friends and acquaintances. A merry society of this kind
formed a plan to represent some scenes in their disguises, (1)

1868: Joe Cain first took to the streets on Mardi Gras in front of his Lost Cause Minstrel Band to
revive the spirit of Mobile following the War and to create a festival for the people, one that
anyone could participate in without joining a “mystic.” (4)

and hold regular conversation in these mummeries. The unknown
players received praises. Encouraged by this success, the company (1)

The story in the February 26, 1868, issue of The Mobile Register described “much curiosity and
merriment … caused by the appearance of the Minstrel band of the L.C.’s … The Minstrels, who
were gotten up as monkeys, were mounted upon a dilapidated wagon and discoursed wild and
discordant music. They halted in front of our office and regaled our ears with a monkey
serenade.” (5)

grew stronger, their fables and speeches longer, until they attained
to regular representations of human life.’ Although we are not (1)

The only Official and Authorized Southern History of the War. THE LOST CAUSE, By Edward
A. Pollard, Of Virginia, Editor of the “Richmond Examiner,” During the War. TWENTY-FOUR
SPLENDID STEEL PORTRAITS, (6)

in the confidence of the masqueraders, have not been admitted
behind the curtains, we opinion that the L. C. Minstrel Band gathers (1)

In literature this phase presents a pastoral and Arcadian world, generally a pleasant wooded
landscape, full of glades, shaded valleys, murmuring brooks, the moon, and other images closely
linked with the female or maternal aspect of sexual imagery. Its heraldic colors are green and
gold, traditionally the colors of vanishing youth. (7)

the gist of its plan from Flogel. We hope for a merry
carnival, for the benefit no less of the players than spectators. (1)

The chain-link fence in this image acts as a physical barrier, preventing the young girls from
entering the manicured playground on the opposite side, but also as a metaphorical one. As
Parks’s title indicates, the children stand on the “outside looking in” at the kind of life that
institutionalized discrimination prevents them from having. (8)

Mortuary Report.—The list of interments for the past week show
a marked falling off in the mortality of our city and very (1)

DON’T BUY CHEAPNESS DOWNTOWN WHERE BLACK WOMEN AND MEN ARE RUN
OVER AND TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF – SUPPORT BLACK CHRISTMAS – BLACK
MARDI GRAS, AND BLACK NEW YEAR (9)

good sanitary condition. 27 deaths, of which 14
were negroes. The causes show absence of any virulent disease. (10)

(1) “Mar di Gras,” Mobile Weekly Tribune, Saturday, March 5, 1870.
(2) Eugene Walter, The Untidy Pilgrim, 1953.
(3) Sidebar. Mobile Weekly Tribune, Saturday, February 13 th , 1869.
(4) “Historical Review,” The Joe Cain Marching Society, Inc.—The People’s Procession Since
1967. <joecainmarchers.com >.
(5) Changing Joe’s Story,” Steve Joynt, Editor/Publisher, Mobile Mask, 2015
<www.mobilemask.com/joe-cain.html >.
(6) Frontspiece, Edward A. Pollard, The Lost Cause, 1866.
(7) Northrop Frye, “The Mythos of Summer: Romance,” Anatomy of Criticism
(8) Description, Gordon Parks, photographer, Outside Looking In, Mobile, Alabama, 1956, Life
Magazine, (photo printed 2012), High Museum, Atlanta, 2014.386 <high.org >.
(9) Broadside distributed by anti-segregationist Neighborhood Organized Workers (N.O.W.),
1969, “The Civil Rights Movement in Mobile,” The Doy Leale Rare Book and Manuscript
Library, University of South Alabama
<www.southalabama.edu/libraries/mccallarchives/civil.html >
(10) “Mortuary Report,” Mobile Weekly Tribune, Saturday, March 5, 1870.

Ligature / by Jill Bergantz Carley

Puddin’ Papa called me his pumpkin
May baby me, springtime babe budding —
his pumpkin slanting toward late summer light
the last hot days;

he was a printer, setting type & checking spelling before the heave of lever, the last editor
and then by force by pulp by pressure by lead, & inky birth
words rendered, as brown butter
fragrant into the world.

He wore a rubber band on his right wrist, always.
On mine I wear a slip of gold
hand-tapped numbers, longitude & latitude, into a warm vein,
the oak tree under which we took our wedding vows.

Copyreader he saw me before I could see myself, pumpkin
hollow & heavy,
by fertile earth, & family history,
genetic palimpsest,
pulling me forward into this world
something between Scheherazade and seeds.

Spirit Animal / by Cortney Collins

You may know your Enneagram number

(four)

your rising and moon signs

(Sagittarius on both counts)

your Chinese Zodiac down to the element

(Wood Tiger)

and your Meyers-Briggs type

(Extraversion-Intuition-Feeling-Perceiving)

but don’t let this fool you into believing you know

your Spirit Animal.

You may spend years gathering the power of the white tiger

in keychains, black velvet paintings, and snowglobes

while the hummingbird buzzes behind the sage bush outside the kitchen window,

laughing at you the way

a mother must laugh at her child building a fort in the living room

out of cushions, rocking chairs, and afghans

You have no idea that a hummingbird’s wings beat

in the shape of an infinity symbol

Suddenly, they’re everywhere—

on bath towels, in Terrence McKenna stories on YouTube, on greeting cards

and the same two visit every morning to drink

of the snapdragon by the front porch steps and remind you

that you really know nothing at all.

These Things / by Marc Frazier

Instead of death I choose the cardinal
crossing my path: sudden reminder of God,
of the departed souls of those I loved/
Lavazza warm and sweet in the morning/
Maggie nestled beside me on the duvet
as I drift off to sleep in the middle of the day/
long walks in the neighborhood
looking for signs of early spring blooms,
the joy of revisiting them each day/
a friend’s kind words over diner coffee/
all the cafes where I weave these words/
the green mohawk of the barista/
bold colors of the artwork on my walls/
the Impressionist wing of the Art Institute, Rembrandt’s portraits/
the e-book of my latest detective novel/
sitting in meditation before my altar/
watching French films with Deneuve and Huppert/
passing by photos of my sister Margaret
who left me to decide what I choose besides death.

Novena / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Anne Sexton

I.
Every day bodies hushed, threads tucked, no matter the wreckage
Your ankles’ gentle swell – gladiolus bulbs

II.
Scar beneath your stubborn chin
Blood wine warms throats

III.
Poiesis inks your wrist’s tender underside
Come, create with me

IV.
Fairy hollows behind your knees
Kettle tea steeping

V.
Fox pose – your head on my shoulder, legs bridge hips, knees tucked against me
Folding warm laundry on a winter day

VI.
Kitten nestles his bullet-head in your hand’s cup
Smaller gods ask no less than large

VII.
Your kiss, summer asphalt
August car’s black leather seats

VIII.
Dipping fingers in a sack of slick beans
Susurrus

IX.
Dandelion twins – your drawing needled behind my hip, into top of your left foot
Listening when you say: what happened wasn’t your fault

I Dreamed a Baby / by Barb Jennes

Last night I dreamed a baby
and held it along the length of my arm,
surreally long and lissome,
its softball-sized skull
cradled in the palm of my hand,
a small dark heart
beating visibly below
a sheath of translucent skin,
naked, silent, so alive.

I pulled its full length to me,
rested its undersized head
against my breastbone,
fed it my warmth and sorrow,
the only nourishment
left in this creaky dresser
stuffed with organs and bones.

For I am old – too old, at least,
to muster milk from sagging breasts.
First there was the slow exhaustion
of eggs, of possible new life;
next, hormones shut off at the source,
an unpaid water bill of a neglectful tenant.
And now there is the matter
of flagging energy,
a ravenous need for sleep
to replenish prescient cells
seceding at a furious pace,
rats abandoning a doomed ship.

But I am not too old to love
things fragile and weak:
butterflies with battered wings,
plants heaved out of the ground
by a cruel frost,
beloved teacups bearing chips,
and others, like me, for whom
setting words down, side by side,
in an orchestration of wonder
and sense-seeking delight
is the only balm,
a tic of giving and getting,
like pulling a baby
to an empty but still-beating breast.

Ispeity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#4

Blue & White Collar Blues

“I’m not worried. You’ll be fine,”
Your dry & denture-less jaw

Lap-dummy-clacked, stiffly
Ventriloquized dad-stuff,

Spoke the bootstrap meritocracy
You’d suckered you & me into;

But you were sadly wrong
& Too soon dead to know
& Too soon dead to know

I would be polar-attentioned
& Unjustly hyphenated

From my curriculum vitae.
Sitting in Memere’s cherry-wood,

Crocheted, dinky rocking chair—
Frabriqué par elle walk-in,

Seamstress closet—, I cradled
My coveted; I smudged widely.

In her Victorian-house-upstairs-
Fifty-years-widow’s bedroom,

Nickered vinyl floored filled
With stickpins that pierced

Her fingers umpteen bloody times,
She pushed heavy drapery for curtains,

& Foot-tapped the sewing machine,
Pedaled to fashion the back & the seat

Of that chair where I pressed lightly
Before I came of rough-drudgery,

Labor demeaned of craft,
Thinly-lined work erased

By errata & head-bent
Servitude deemed too fine.

Liable / by Dianna Zimmerman

The universe knows debt
in reverse, calculates it in loss.

It’s all about positioning.
Give up what you love most,

get what you want. The idea
of honesty is elegant, a robed,

silken suggestion that drives me,
inevitably, to lie.

Deliciously. Meaty, crafty,
tongue-tingling deceit.

I eat guile for breakfast,
chew the jagged fingers of glass,

and swallow without hesitation,
my debt paid in full.

Poem 3 / Day 3

Greenville / by Manny Blacksher

“‘As far as I remember
I have not ever estranged myself from You,
nor does my conscience prick me for it’.”

When I was a kid in Catholic school, I thought
like one, and I did not think much of you, Miss Priss
your big hair and long legs. That you refused my kiss
late one night warranted contempt. Yet I forgot
the slight. In my eyes, the idea of you grew dark.
I left for foreign cities to fall for others
with your smile, a light step, that breathless palaver
crackling, sly with acumen. I crossed a car park

ages after to embrace a stranger. I heard your voice
and knew. Upstairs, you filled me with that wild honied
tongue. Threw down my spirit and raised it to rejoice.
Bed like the sun, seraphic animals carolled
and roared God’s name till I could not recall when we
were not together in this green and sheltered world.

Outer Sunset / by Jill Bergantz Carley

The way the air held sun, a marred reflection
I remember most
from days on Arballo Avenue–

early winter evenings,
the nights spent staring out the window on the 13th floor,
1940s tin galley kitchen,
framed without shutter or screen or anything beyond the glass beyond–

winged, I’d fall westward
fog thick as running salmon
salt spray bracing against skin

winged, I’d lean hard into that mirror
a sun without a horizon
boomeranging me back

winged, I’d never reach the ground.

Alternative Medicine / by Cortney Collins

I want acupuncture but only on my face/
it would seem that my inner pope is tired of
seclusion & therefore I find myself
unzipping my torso to free that mighty force of
all things passed down through oral
tradition which by the way is rarely as
distorted as academia would have you
believe/needles piercing my cheeks chin
nose forehead are all I really need to get this
dogma I know I need to disseminate rolling/
nothing ought to interfere with the birth of a
second self & I believe the cleaving of these
meridians is shockwave enough to cure
whatever backaches or nerve pain I might
suffer in my day to day life/

I only want the bottoms of my feet to touch the
negative ion biomat/let not any other part of these
nesting doll schematics be infiltrated by too much
undiluted joy or sea foam air lest I forget my duty
to the darkness/that has been so good to me and
given me so much to lean on/kind of like the law
degree I earned just in case ripping words out
of magazines and pasting them with glitter glue
onto scrapbooking paper doesn’t work out/but in
any case a girl can’t lose her head to
amethyst stone massages/

Confine your reiki to my solar plexus only
please/all other chakras have previous
engagements with welcoming committees for
the primordial ooze that surely will take up
residence where a reclusive archetype once
lived & so the gentrification of the
organism begins after the impulse to
break into interpretive dance has vacated
the premises/it’s a long story but trust me
any energy work anywhere else would
do more harm than good/

Healing can only be administered/
in small doses.

Waiting to Grow up / by Marc Frazier

—includes answers to some most asked questions on Google

We had tuna casserole almost every Friday. That or scrambled eggs. Or fish sticks which made me gag. Sunday evenings my parents would unveil a half gallon of Neapolitan ice cream and slice it in pieces to put between fresh, hot waffles. This was the kindest thing they ever did. It’s not like we dined on beef stroganoff or even knew what it was. Although a relative once brought rabbit for us to cook for Sunday dinner. I had mixed feelings about that even then. Mother could turn anything—a wrinkle in time—into a casserole. And we’d eat it. She never stopped moving. It’s not like someone would be waiting at the door at the end of the day carrying a dozen roses for all her efforts. And she never stopped warning us of things. If we laid out in the sun too long she said get inside you’ll get sunstroke. She believed this. Our grandfather’s brother spent his life in an asylum in Iowa and they’d diagnosed him with sunstroke, so she imagined us babbling in some dark ward somewhere from too much sun. Every Sunday at mass I stared at the statue of the Virgin Mary and thought of sky. I saw blue everywhere for a while. After communion let silence take you to the core of life. Rumi said this last part but I sensed the truth of it as a devout child. Still I resented being so small and unheard I could never plan what to do next. I went with the flow.

Marram / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after H.D.

beachgrass
wind-slashed
creeping roots
weave dune
rolled leaves clenched
keep water in
sand-blasted
wind-scorched
you cling to what
most can’t hold
anchor wind
quicksilver sand
taken from
Atlantic home
no longer welcome
in Pacific hands
ámmos – sand
philos – friend

Dear Dark / by Barb Jennes

The cat dream-eats mouse meat
at the foot of the bed,
my husband mutters imagined meaning
into his mute pillow,
the refrigerator bellyaches its labor
through the dismissive floorboards,
the wind begrudgingly grumbles
around the obstacle of trees,
an inexhaustible plow rumbles
over potholed roads,
a mate-seeking fox yips
to the woods, to the world,
my cell phone pings
with unwanted news,
a friend’s aloofness thunders
within my soul,
the candle bellows its welcome
through the windowpane,
my mother reminds me of errors
from long-ago lives and times.

The night prattles loudly
in voices heard and imagined.
But the dark is silent and deep.

Dear Dark:
breathe me in.
Tumble me
in your sponge of stillness.
Ferry me through
clouds of forgiving,
forgetting.
Enlace me in an ethos
beyond the need to know.
Redact the past,
shush the future,
suspend the here-and-now.

My heart is a funnel:
fill it with your
sweet lack.

Ispeity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#3

Occasionally Ars Poetica

Do we need to learn again how to stalk life
In the language we each possess weakly
& Want to deny captures a pixel or iota?

The principle of non-contradiction wages
Against our lust for a synthetic-analytic truth
To come over & raise our serotonin levels

Diluted in the proximal, virtual, distilled
& Hopped up pittance of stuff that sounds
Like communication really just biding

The gap & the time. Is this this all we can
Come up with? Can details, transitions,
Topic sentences, conclusions, & analysis

Situate the moment recognized but …?
How can we listen as much as we need to
To hear the plot with exacting & just words?

Windows to the Soul / by Dianna Zimmerman

Is what they say the eyes are

if such a thing as a soul exists.

It’s permeable, an elusive concept we fancy

because it suits our fantasies

of what inhabits us

and gives legitimations for floral declarations.

A term like prion may not be in your lexicon

but a prion is a survivor.

It can live twenty years on medical equipment

and no amount of scrubbing or frenetic sterilization

will rid a prion of its resolve

to infect the windows of your soul.

Alzheimer’s, transmitted by optical equipment

quite casually, as one would shake your hand.

A warm grasp, glad-handing the soul

until you forget who you are

and why you’re living.

Proteins, perhaps in the wrong process, misfolding and

vulnerable to the prion that confidently rests on metal,

smug in its own warrior status,

indifferent to the life stolen.

The eyes cloud over, and if the soul exists,

it’s no longer aware

it’s cloaked in loss.

Poem 2 / Day 2

Cretaceous Chilton County / by Manny Blacksher

The good black earth is salted through with dragons’ teeth.
Megalodon, plesiosaur—for all we know,
both Midgard Serpent and the alchemists’ auto-
phagic ouroboros drift abysmal beneath
the root networks of soya bean and cannabis
crops like night terrors. Chalk bone and iron blood
silken Silver Queens, glue okra, liquor collards.
They flood Heritage tomatoes’ chambered hearts, kiss
our Clanton peaches lasciviously sweet.
For this holy repast, we offer thanks and eat.
We rise rapacious. Soldiers, patriots, and thieves,
we fight and burn until this natal soil receives
us, and justified we maintain our last rights,
recumbent over coelacanths and trilobites.

Seeking Stendhal / by Jill Bergantz Carley

I misthought: seeing enough Thiebaud and Diebenkorn would fix me, sate me–

render it survivable

& I was the word for a tired peace when I was talking with Loren about turpentine,

I felt safe, & there was a quiet in this white walled cathedral but it was getting late;

I pushed open the door and through it my armor left out of step with me.

He held me,

on level four of the lot on Minna,

$4 every 20 minutes,

while I explained: being in the presence of something bigger than myself

would help bring

my own history

to soft focus.

It is a thing acknowledged that water is                              cleansing.

It is a thing acknowledged that water                                  cleans.

It is a thing acknowledged that water                                  washes.

Water

flows from a baptismal font and from it you may be reborn.

Perhaps if we drive west to the ocean—

Perhaps if we stand on the talus slope of El Capitan

feet unsteady on plagioclase & feldspar

prostrating myself to the biggest rock I’ve ever known–

O, gothic poets, how can I explain if you cannot,

when we live your sublime will never be sublime enough?

the smells i remember / by Cortney Collins

1. the smell of tucson after it rains

mercy gathers above the catalina mountains in july,
thunderheads piling on top of themselves,
blue and gray councils, solemn and stately

until they dissolve into a dionysian torrent and
roll over the city like a carnival, every raindrop a
sequined dancer in a decadent parade

saguaros awakened from their asceticism by
the extravagance of the storm, hard pale sand
softened, sky the color of orchids

i think nothing of this as i smoke cigarettes
at a coffee shop with a date i met on the internet
a half hour ago

but the scent of creosote in the cool damp air
commands a pause, a glance into the
middle distance where fingers of lightning

illuminate the cracks of 4th avenue sidewalks,
where i’d rather be hiding, than lost to
possibility under a rumbling nightfall

2. the smell of disneyworld

the air is citrus and sweat aboveground, bodies inching
forward in coiled lines, labyrinthine intestines
of an amusement park

soon boats carry us into the underworld, into
the strains of it’s a small world after all, dolls
rattling and swaying in a cacophony of mechanical tics

chlorinated waters smell like privilege,
complicated magic, idealized universes untouched
by the charring of imperialism

we think this is the world, these smiling
automatons, glued to our fiberglass seats
in 80s terrycloth jumpsuits

it is the fragrance of sorcery that draws us into
imagination and innocence, far away from
bullies at school and famine in Ethiopia

it is sour sunscreen and mosquito repellent as we
step into the dusk, off these robotic boats
that swept us away for a little while

3. the smell of my grandparents’ farmhouse in august

i rest my chin on the window a/c unit, freon filling
my nostrils, the artificial current of frigid air a kind
of manufactured pity in midwestern heat

chicken fat boils in a saucepan in the kitchen,
steam rising to the ceiling and carrying the residue
of the day’s butchering, of the confusion

about whether the blood on my feet is my own,
or that of an unfortunate hen, as i circle the lilac bush
and wonder if they feel any pain

the sound of locusts is inextricable from the perfume
of cornsilk, from the aura of nostalgia in the making,
as we peel the husks off cobs on the porch

humid air seeded with loss, peonies wilting
in the backyard and walnuts dropping off trees
into the ditch, waiting for the cue to move on

i still burn the incense of motor oil and gasoline,
tractors and pickup trucks, memory and
cautious vision.

Winter Getaway: A Haiku Sonnet / by Marc Frazier

sun every morn
blue pool beckons for a swim
coffee under palms

scroll Facebook, Twitter
can I leave anything behind?
the past a wingspan

measured by my faith
in the moment in my truth
a gecko scutters

reminds me of paths
I have discarded for good
the warm touch of air

I can leave anything behind
as I breaststroke and turn brown

The Numbers / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Kim Addonizio

I don’t know how many earrings we’ve lost
down the drain, sparkling on sidewalks
(just the one crow you cried for in a Milan hotel room)

How many trees, birds, flowers we’ve combed
books and interwebs to name:
trees with seeds like grapes and yellow powder
wildflowers pale yellow or white or pinkish
black veins whisped on petals
Pacific bird that sings at dawn

How many times we regret forgetting
granola bars and bottled water to hand
to the meridian man

How many cakes I will under-bake for fear of burning

I don’t know how many lists I’ve made
crossed off, made longer, lost
to help me remember, or make sense
of disconnect

Whether we choose the moment we die, what number
you are on that list

I wonder how many insects sound our biosphere’s
demise, how many spiders and beetles I will carry
in cups outside for you

How many shores we will write on, whether
we’ll witness our coast crumble inward

Geranium Lake / Barb Jennes
(Written on learning that “Wheatfield with Crows” was not,
despite accepted provenance, Vincent Van Gogh’s last painting.
)

Your last work was not
that luminous wheatfield,
damnable for the double entendre
of its inalterable black murder,
but rather a rabbit’s eye view

Of a rummage of roots, a sous bois,
captured in pigments since rejected
for their instability, regretted now
for the irretrievable hues
lost forever in the Impressionist oeuvre.

You slashed the soil of “Tree Roots”
with rivulets of geranium lake,
a preposterous carnal red,
oxygenated hemoglobin, all but alive –
faded now to spiritless dried blood.

You electrified your palette
with chromium yellow, used it to
doppelganger dappled sunlight –
ironic, since the sun’s rays, covetous,
soon burnished the imposter to near-brown.

Almost the instant you died,
the unfinished abstraction
of those roots, of your life,
slipped into a miry state
of oblivion and decay.

Off-kilter things often amaze
by virtue of their eccentricity:
like a top, gyrating off-center,
like a falcon that cannot hear the falconer
and deserts its predicted gyre.

You personified the wobbly tug
of sanity, of normalcy,
on an unwilling satellite,
a balance-beam ambulator
wearing lead shoes.

They said you were unstable,
a radionuclide shedding particles,
changing to something else,
something that came alive
in wheatfields and forest floors.

Ispeity Georgics / by William David Ross

What makes the self, what pains and what joys?

Where & when & why & who too makes each of us?

#2

Aprèz Tous les Matins du Monde

For Mara

For of the shadows… you

Unerring, brave hung

Slurs, bends, fermatas…

But others who played

Flogged arpeggios sadly

Were turned kingly hanged souls.

Yet you will continue

To axis & to give

Time’s value to wit…

In clefs, notes, chords, rests.

Softer in tannins,

As a rain-weathered,

Well-barreled, aged wine,

Your music will gale

Tintinnabuli’s

Holy cryptic lines’

Will to ensemble

This world’s bright-sadness

Struck in lingering,

Ringing,

Tonal,

Modal,

Rhythms

& Melodies

That scale & progress

Diatonically

Towards a triadic

Polyphonic voice.

& In silences,

& In any key,

Your tears’ divine heights

With gusto will soar

The laureled landscape—

Marring & marking

Nothing with lament—

Yet will heartily,

Majestically,

Register fullness

In range & encompass

Extreme dynamics

& Transcendently

Comb peaks & valleys

In the human choir’s

Will to meditate

Temporal rock-hard

Maple, Sitka spruce,

& Riffs of glottal

Somatic chanting.

For there your will will

Resonate every

Matins’ precious depth

& You will resound

Of Dei Spiritus…

Harmonia…

Est Dei…

Penumbra…

On the Farm / by Dianna Zimmerman

My mother rose early, scrubbed a shine
to the floor on all fours. Never idle,
she’d tilt her ear toward the radio’s
pop song, humming under her breath
as she kneaded the bread.

Toughened by hard work and a hard life,
some afternoons she would heft the sturdy-
handled ax from its stump, capture a chicken
by the throat and hold it steady. One clean whack
and the deed was done. Chickens, when
beheaded, stagger frantically in the moments
after their death, as if searching for something
they’ll never find.

My one memory of her taking a break
was a slow-motion summer day,
my hand curled around the back of
her chair on the wraparound porch.
We licked melting ice cream from our cones
as I twirled about, basking in her presence.
She may have been thinking
of the ringer washer on the fritz again,
but she sat there, face lit by a dazzling afternoon
and smiled, my brother alive and toddling about,

our moment together pickle-preserved
in the steady stream of farm life,
another day of doing what must be done.

Poem 1 / Day 1

Meteors / by Manny Blacksher

We call our paper The Meteor. Meteors always surprise. So our
little sheet. They appear at irregular intervals

Right now, we’re walking on top of graves. When I came to work
here, there were many more iron crosses to mark them

So will it. Their career though short is brilliant. Our paper
if it do not coruscate with wit, shall glow with kindly

The iron crosses were clover-shaped and marked A.I.H.
Alabama Insane Hospital. Many grave markers

sentiment. Life itself is evanescent. The Holy
Scriptures term it a vapor, a cloud. The Earth, the Sun

were damaged when a disgruntled employee ran over
the graves with a vehicle. Most of the crosses have been

its whole court of noble planets are doomed to destruction.
Nay, not our sun and system alone, but all suns, all

knocked over and stolen from the cemetery. A few have
even turned up on eBay. People that lived and are

systems doomed to dissolution and on a sudden
leave us to exclaim as does the poet of a “barty

buried here are the same as those buried elsewhere.
A lot has to do with the fact that cemeteries

which a Dutchman “guv”, “Vere ish dat now!”— The time shall come when
worlds cease to roll;/ In one vast heap, worlds pile on crushing worlds

are out of sight and not part of the main campus. If
they were in sight, they may have kept them up a little.

“The Meteor,” The Meteor. Alabama Insane Hospital. Edited By a Patient, Tuskaloosa, Ala., July 4 th ,
1872 (Vol. 1, Iss. 1).
Wayne Grayson, “Bryce honors patients buried in neglected cemeteries,” Tuscaloosa News, 16 April
2010.

Anomia / by Jill Bergantz Carley

Let me teach you something.
The human brain doesn’t seat your capacity to understand words,
to read,
to write,
to speak,
to hear
all next to each other at the dinner party .

and so, we constantly consciously, play telephone all day:
street signs and amber alerts
chyrons flittering in with the news.

And our language is our Titanic:
only the top 10% of the stroke is ever visible above water

or something like that.

You made a break for it.
Several times,
hoofing it down the hill to town in your slippers,
your coke bottle glasses,
your hands making the shape they’d made my whole life
held apart left and right
held apart top and bottom
as you said want to, want to
full-mouthed and slow.

We took it to mean Mexico.
We took it to mean let me go.

We took it to mean the women you had loved, naively.
We took it to mean the avocado groves of Michoacan where you grew fruit as big as a fist, where you married a woman a third your age.
We took it to mean you were out of toothpaste.

Your skin was always so dry–
seated or lying, head resting against the window in a late yellow light
and when we looked at the place where you’d just been
you’dve left a flurry of yourself, a quiet ghost,
the smallest percent you could spare.

Poor Me, Pour Me / by Cortney Collins

There are no victims, only volunteers. ~Robert Anthony

I funnel my rage into a beer bong
shaped like a therapist—
malt liquor congealing
in the cracks of costume jewelry
stale validation curdling into foam
and carbonating in little journeys
to a vapid surface.

If I can’t change my life
I can change my perception of it
one way or another.

Drink luxuriously of that well—

whatever happened to the comforts of injustice?

Wait—is it last call for self-pity yet?

Stitch it isn’t fair across
the front of my baseball cap
so that the world knows
I’m batting for the losing team.

I didn’t ask for that pigeon
to shit in my nachos at Wrigley Field.

I didn’t provoke that wasp
to fly up under my skirt.

I didn’t raise my hand when the angels asked,
Who here wants oozing boils on their face?

So measure these wounds in a jigger and pour

poor choices
poor reactions
poor perspective

into a snifter shaped like an aloe plant,
leaves bleeding a salve
of why me
and how could this happen

Savor the bitters—
the delicious

regret.

The Fourteen Devils / by Marc Frazier

After “Magdalene—The Seven Devils” by Marie Howe

The first is I failed to love you.
The second is I failed to love you.

The third—I still have monkey brain when I meditate.
The fourth is my superstitious nature, my inability to turn the calendar’s page even an hour early, the sneering ladder, taunting umbrella pleading to be dry, the need to say “God willing” after promising anything in the future, the future.

The fifth is a handful of fingers that get into trouble, five betrayals.
The sixth—I knew I didn’t love you.

The seventh is my capacity for devotion when myself should be enough.
The eighth is all the deaths that live in me, the long history of death going back to childhood, the smell, the details, the sameness, triteness of it.

The ninth—my jealousy of others’ good fortune, the mean pettiness of my own heart.
The tenth is this constant dread of answering the phone late at night, afraid I will hear the bad news I received years ago about someone I loved so hard, of hearing it over and over again.

The eleventh is my oddness.
The twelfth—my impatience for having my heart battered by God.

The thirteenth is self-explanatory.
The fourteenth is I fail, so often, to love myself.

Twenty-One Love Poems / by Bethanie Humphreys

-after Adrienne Rich

I. We, desert palm fronds storm-lifted into suburban sycamore crown

II. Grass beneath our feet: feathered, blades

III. I touch you knowing a native place: deer grass drought-tolerant

IV. A photocopy of something – lemon ginger green tea with honey – you in my arms

V. You find me in the upside-down, unclench my knuckles, soothe my beast-dream, translate clover and rye

VI. We, descendants of Persephone – bade paint every zinnia, impatiens, sweet alyssum; I begin with yours –

VII. Our cantata wild, secular and spiritual

VIII. Scar-kissed in sun

IX. Scars catalogued, indexed, cross-referenced, boxed on a shelf

X. Our dog, terrified of a balloon, smothers my book

XI. Our foothills still smoking

XII. Gendered language chronicles moon cycles, water cycles, igneous intrusion, daily erosion, deposition as sedimentary bedrock, buried, re-melting into your core

XIII. Every adventure spills like quicksilver, Sunday drives discover snow-heavy pine

XIV. We pilot by nameless constellations, bright points the draw

(The Floating Line, Unnumbered) Fern fingers damp, yeasted bread rising, honey-drip

fleshes up against gravity

XV. As we drive to another place

XVI. Your half-breath tracing my mouth

XVII. No hemlock, no lashings, just warm bread and salted butter

XVIII. A space opens, and we are not alone

XIX. and winter’s lips part for bloom

XX. and you are outside again looking for the moon

XXI. and I choose to be a figure drawn in your circle-light

The Webbed Feet of Ducks / by Barb Jennes
for Ellen Burns

A flotilla of cartoon ducks
bobs in the tub
around your plump thighs;
yellow and orange,
they remind me of daffodils:
uncannily colored,
like cupcake frosting
or a freakish spring aurora.

A mind filled with colorful things
should afford unqualified joy;
instead, I mull contrivance.

In the wild, daffodils are
markedly monochromatic:
yellow, just yellow,
although majestically so.
Clever cultivators added the orange,
figuring, Ozymandias-like,
that nature needed improvement.

So, too, the Pekin duck.
Long Island farmers knew
good fortune when they saw it,
chose the melanin-free mutants
in their flocks and bred them,
produced a race of pure-white ducks
equally pleasing to the eye and to the palate
with the added bonus of ducklings
unnaturally selected:
dandelion down, flaming feet and beaks.

This is what I know about ducks:
that some purr, sigh, scaup,
even whistle or honk, only few quack,
that some have sharp claws and perch in trees,
that drakes moult while their mates sit on eggs,
lose so many feathers they’re trapped, earthbound,
good fathers who can’t fly away,
that ducklings can swim
almost the instant they’re born,
that adults will abandon ill-fated offspring,
will desert flooded nests,
will leave each other if danger lurks,
that half a duck brain can sleep
while the other half watches the world
through one open eye.

I touch your small, straight back.
This is what I would give you,
if I could re-engineer you now:
the webbed feet of ducks,
free of blood vessels and nerves,
impervious to the cold,
unable to bleed,
unfeeling of pain,
far beyond anything
a mere mother could devise.

Ipseity Georgics / by William David Ross

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

#1

Today discrete combusts in quotidian dire needs:
A daughter’s hair & a shower to be cleaned,
Lunch inside the challah bread bag, a note,
A card larger than its ink & paper
With the everydayness of the smell

Of warm paint & a California Beach
That a naked girl-you ran across
As easily as the living room at 5,
Now that many years of our longings,
Fingers, & tongue between us exchange bright

Window archives of everything there & not there,
Imagistic fascinating everydayness in once
Disparate geographies that we have united
Around muscles & damp light that dawns delicately
On our knees & shoulders irrevocably

Outreached to & shot through with… our personal flesh
Exactly fitting, still as well-placed stones
In the rain garden we planed through turf & soil
Prying mounds past sudden edges china smooth
While desert roses & lilacs lyrically

Accumulate, fit bohemian love
After all the terrestrial, intimate,
Good & bad, stations we embarked upon
Devotedly together as discrete as fine
Gothic tracery & our shared, quotidian, dire needs.

Age-Old Question / by Dianna Zimmerman

It’s ridiculous to write a poem about what love is.
You may as well write about lightning bugs seeking mates
though I like to call them fireflies –
being drawn to the heat of flame.

Expounding about love – really?
Haven’t all the meaningful odes already been penned?
I like poems that tell stories.
About who we are,
what we want.

My guess is we all want love,
even those who say they don’t.
Some of us have love delivered via razor blade,
fresh cuts daily.
Others experience adoration that protects them,
allows them to venture, warm and safe,
into the world.

If you stop ten people on the street
and ask them what love is
you’d probably get ten answers.
Sometimes I think love is a myth
like when fireflies glow in the distance,
how magical they look, seeming to float over a meadow,
dotting it with soft warmth.

Something compels us to capture one,
force it into a jar, and realize that, close up,
they’re simply beetles
with legs and wings and antennae,
not some romanticized version
of light dancing on a breeze.
They don’t give off heat, they’re efficient,
using bioluminescence to share secrets,
flashing patterns that gleam in the night.

Maybe if humans had an inner luminosity
to communicate
we’d wound each other less.

A soft glow across the room
might attract the attention of someone,
a warm shimmer softens her face,
a gentle creature who has a lot in common
with fireflies,

and she might reveal her inner self,
human to human, glimmering inside,
freely fluttering about,
able to ignite the room with a radiance
that emanates from the heart.
Maybe that’s all love is.