Welcome 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 May 2020 are Patty Joslyn, Katie Kalisz, Pratibha Kelapure, Sean Patrick Mulroy, Christina-Marie Sears, Randy Smith, Cheyenne Taylor, David Weinstock, and Christine Aikens Wolfe. Read their full bios here.
If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and and warm up your pen!
Poem 30 / Day 30
Song in Search of Words / by the May 2020 Poets
tonight no words will serve, silence is severe
no solace in the sullen sky
anxiety on my leash
tugs me to the woods where
it’s simply me & the frogs
standing at the narrow gate of silence
I gather handfuls of bloodless petals
under a lei of stars that wouldn’t go away
before the little lunula of dawnlight crowns the plain
The light hums tunelessly- this net stings and stuns- oh
please make this tasing stop- after, he lays quietly
a little numb bump. A primitive tattoo marking the
day and time, and year and place. Looking forward?
fall into a trance
gazing at the amazing nothing
and the aura around it.
above the cage, a pinhole camera aimed at God.
like columns of bruised oranges in rain.
when next breath is the only concern
to see the next day’s sunlight, survival
Sometimes God and his machinations are
more than I can bear.
There must be emptiness, before there can be song.
I’m just a little less alive now.
Veils / by Patty Joslyn
The night before her wedding she slept in a bed with her best friend/cousin and her soon-to-be sister-in-law. They sandwiched her, and her nerves, in giggles and though the two are long gone to a world of unlimited veils she carries their kindness in the layers that canopy her life. This sixty-five years ago. A number holding blue sapphires/a birthstone/thin veins/sky/faith & her eyes.
No doubts/he fell in love.
The ancient Greeks and Romans believed a wedding veil protected a bride from evil spirits. At the crossroads between spirit and matter, the veil is a metaphor of the illusion of time and space. It covers the highest truth of who one is.
cloaked in cloud
blanketed in mist
curtained in haze
There was no veil when I married.
I am one of her daughters.
I did not hide behind cloth or guilt.
I was in love with the unborn child
that rounded my belly.
All these years later I don’t remember
walking down the aisle in that church
in the midst of a winter storm.
I do remember how my dress was long/held too tight against my skin
and the way the knot of the baby
quickened my heart and there was cake to serve/I’ve never liked cake.
I’ve walked a second time/the aisle/a grass circle.
We stood under a maple tree as it tossed gold to us
I did not hide then.
Again my belly was rounded/surrounded by love.
Finish Line / by Katie Kalisz
On the small sidewalk square
a blind man pokes his stick
stopping at a mulched corner
then continuing to the stoplight
a few squares ahead. In his right
hand, a gallon of bleach. Crooked
baseball cap sits atop his head.
He is dressed in white, clean
like a house painter before a job.
He stumbles out of the window
framing my watch, and I return
to my shortsighted world
in a small room, typing, the window
my racing horse blinders, focusing
me on the finish line I’m trained
to believe waits beyond the curve
in the road ahead, out of my sight.
Poetry / by Pratibha Kelapure
she is a seasoned sorceress
we are dazzled, the magic spell
she casts, fierce, fresh, firm
renders us charmed
warm in the garden of satori
the world hushed, the blossoms lush
braw blooms all around
across the bridge across the lake
the wind carries a spellbinding song
featherlight petal, butterfly
sways over the fence and flutters
romance, the intrigue of noon, perceptions
awaken in body and mind
foxglove / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
after a Van Gogh exhibit created and curated by
Gianfranco Iannuzzi, Renato Gatto, and Massimiliano Siccardi
I won’t forget it—
how I felt inside the Atelier des Lumières
as the story of Van Gogh unfolded all around me
in the dark.
I watch as bold sunflower petals twist
across the faces of schoolchildren
who learned his name first
from the way he sheared his body into envelopes,
and then the sky he daubed
across the canvas one night in a textured stroke.
When he was alive, he struggled
to approach the world and so
was brilliant at portraying it,
but not a happy life. Unstable, a pariah.
The one painting he sold
while living, held up by artistic failures
like an amulet against their own futility.
Still, everybody paid 4 euros to get in here,
and they all know someone
who’s picked up a life bent by the discipline,
warped by technique.
How curious a beast, the living artist.
Leaving gifts of cloth and colored clay,
the horsehair whispers
of a desperate language.
Foreign tongue, invaluable
once still, so priceless
is the mouth of genius
once it can no longer ask for bread.
My Birthday Poem / by Randy Smith
Today is my birthday.
I have not changed a bit.
Five-Eight seems a number,
Too big for me to hit.
At least I have more hair,
And my smile is still the same.
My forehead still is large,
And Randy’s still my name.
The Drone Ship Of Course I Still Love You / by Cheyenne Taylor
If you love something, let it
slip through your atmosphere
like a hot needle. Let it get out
and run around the stars.
If it returns, it will do so
with precision. It will find you
in the middle of the ocean,
touch its gentle fins to your back
and settle in again.
PUNCH LINE / by David Weinstock
What is a man anyhow? what am I? what are you?
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
I am finally doing what I was meant for.
And you are a wise guy, the smart aleck
I always need nearby to keep things fun,
to question my assumptions, trip me up,
to joke away the world’s high opinion
of its high-toned self. All the world’s a joke.
Not everyone can tell a joke; in fact,
that talent more rare than writing poems.
So here’s the truth, the line of punch:
A man is a boy with better things to do.
Poem 29 / Day 29
Here / by Patty Joslyn
I despise the smell of towels and carpets and bedsheets and you
when the humidity hits 99%
it’s the smell of the dying dog I loved/the breaking of my heart
overnight plants grow inches
weeds find the tiny fissures I’d hoped things wouldn’t take root
and I wonder why I am here
of course I know the reasons/the distances I came for the love
but the mosquitos and ticks
don’t leave me alone and now there is a gorgeous fox in the yard
drinking from the dogs bowl
and still I make a list of things I do not like/do not want any way
it’s getting longer than my leg
which swells in the heat and creates a limp that affects the walks
I take to remember why here
I wonder if you know how many shades of greens there can be
to me it seems like thousands
maybe more and now how can they be named and remembered
is there enough paint to show
later when it snows and I need to say oh yes it will be this again
and I might not be happy then
because happiness is not a place I can go to/find/hold/behold
It’s not a place. It’s being here.
Elegy for the 2020 Little League Season / by Katie Kalisz
Goodbye to the windswept fields, to the lines
at the concession stand – scent of hot dogs and
cherry syrup. There will be no bat cracks or chalk
dust for parents to wash out of clothes, no dirt
trekked into cars, no sunburned backs of necks.
Parents will not sit on their phones in the stands,
and grandparents will not hold up homemade signs;
after-game snacks will not propel five-year-olds through
stints in the outfield, and sidewalks will remain clean,
without husks of sunflower seeds. Dugouts will not
transform into team living rooms. Without baseball,
we bypass summer. Even if it reaches 85 and the grass
is cut in diagonal patterns, it is time to let go of the
12 year old’s dreams; this will not be his greatest sorrow.
If we do play a little, it will not be what it was.
There will be no fans, no synchronized softball cheers,
no shock at the other teams’ rude parents. No motorcycle
peeling out after with a helmetless child on the back of
some dad; no high school umpires learning how vicious
scorned parents can be; masks will hide smiles, and we’ll
stand six feet apart, acting like we don’t know each other.
We will not high five or line up to shake hands, and the rules
will prevent sliding, stealing, having fun. At the end of any
contest, we will all just tip our hats, and saunter home alone.
Childhood Stories / by Pratibha Kelapure
it happened again
another black man, trapped by the web
of white man’s psychosocial issues, dies
every time I hear about such a death,
the pouring of outrage from the people
on the street and social circles and media,
I remember reading Ramayana and pages
after pages with the pictures of rakshasas,
the dark-skinned demons, the evil creatures,
the enemies of gods and goddesses blessed
with fair skin and benevolent features.
I remember the fairy tales — the wicked witch
with a dark cape and the light-skinned princess.
I remember the scriptures with the light
of heaven and darkness of the underworld.
I remember reading Shakespeare’ s
dark Othello and pale Desdemona.
I recall the hordes of mothers in India wishing
for the fair-skinned daughter who will marry a prince.
and then I wonder what if
we all had read different stories as children.
upstream, upheaval / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
for Nadarrius Lundy
I can’t remember who it was that said it to me first,
Pennsylvania is the state that’s in your way when you are trying to leave New England.
At the time, I laughed. Watching the police HQ burn down on live TV, a teenage faggot
somewhere facedown, floating, barely named by local news, unrescued. Let me dream his
death might ever be a problem for the industries of power. Somewhere there’s a world
where riots start for boys like me, abandoned in the woods, found dead after a shakedown
by the people he considered friends. What carries us to violence must prove capabable of dragging us away. Strength lies not in any pair of arms but in a current. Somewhere,
someone gives the phone they stole back to Nadarrius’ grieving mother. Somewhere,
someone throws a brick through someone’s window, unsure as to why. I want to force the
country forward with a torchlit wall but Pennsylvania will not stand aside.
Seafarers / by Christina-Marie Sears
Slips of shells wash over
Between us. Toes in Winter’s
Atlantic, waves calm-
Gulls and pelicans
Skyfalling through currents
Of salt air.
We walk barefoot
Our heels scuffing,
Collecting tiny treasures:
Later, our kite
Bobs in a seaglass
Blue silken sky.
Dancing a flirting moon-
Coming around a mast-
Racing against fear-
I fall into her
straining ambivalent doubts-
Don’t let her go!
Her shadow warms
Dark places I have known.
The Temperature of Burning Things / by Randy Smith
All things can burn. It’s a form
of particle agitation.
The sun’s surface is 10,000 degrees
Fahrenheit. The core
fuses hydrogen to make light.
All things can burn.
It’s a form of phoenix creation.
Clay fired in a kiln
forms bonds that resist bullies,
weather, and wolves.
All things can burn. It’s a form
of psychic indignation—
cars, Targets, precinct stations,
Arby’s and Auto Zones.
All things can burn—the truth,
various gases, stones.
Census Reveals Just How Many Bugs Share the American Dream / by Cheyenne Taylor
My partner reads to insects
in the walls, his work electrified
for meeting life. They click their legs
and chew at wood, turn caulk to pulp.
Shellacked and full of crumbs, they stack,
thorax to thorax, up the stairs.
My sweetheart reads along, aloud,
as if there’s no one home, no me,
no money spiders sewing vestments
in my hair. He’s reading for himself,
not for the wasps that papier-mâché
new nests out on the balcony,
not for the roaches that come in here
to gorge on greasy spoons and shun
the light. He reads to feed himself,
to make a life of language, words
of nourishment. His voice, low,
draws the creatures of the earth.
I sit downstairs and listen to it lure.
29. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
When I reached maturity
for me – age 22 –
I lit a candle and joined
an order of one.
Guided by the One
I walked on burning sand
climbed one of Avalon’s apples
to its height and stood shaking the branches.
Later, I feasted on their juicy flesh
read verse sitting on their branches.
I never suffered fools gladly
but gladly became the fool
to walk many a fallen tree over many a gulch.
Traveled solo for years,
France, England, and the City of Angels
in the USA – where I met second cousins
angels in their own right.
I swam pools, lakes and the ocean
Atlantic on both sides, Pacific only twice…
Once only did I brave the deepest
coldest lake in the world, and came
out inferior to her Superior
but glad for the warm rock
and the warm love waiting.
I eschewed the older man
chose the younger
sported with a symbolic dozen
before I found my cream-on-milk mate.
Women, children and cats seek me out
and I them. I call one of my gifts discernment
of spirits. I encourage.
Dance is my medium, birdsong my muse
and – always – either to sink back to silence after
or greet words that fly down to paper.
Poem 28 / Day 28
Family is a Tapestry/For S xo / by Patty Joslyn
We are born into our own time
with what I understand are only so many heartbeats
make them count/feel them against the ribs
the raised cord that extens the length of our being
sometimes the ones who bring us in
aren’t the ones that raise us/as in/up
family is a tapestry
a warp and weft of fiber/color/tension
relationships mix madness with love
brocade clustered selvedge to selvedge
heavy, raised like a fist or eyebrow
or the corners of the mouth
Seen from all sides like a fine damask
creating family knows not a weight
lustring we line memories/blankets on bodies & drapes on windows
holding back the light/until we rise up/again/again/again
family is my tapestry
the rug under my feet
Tending the House / by Katie Kalisz
We replace the deck boards rotting
in the corners, pull away periwinkle
strangling the other flowers in its
eagerness for sun, clean out leaves
that crowd the gutters, sweep sand
collecting on the floor, wipe window
sills thick with dirt, and dust off cobwebs
clinging to the screens carried up from
the basement. Sprinklers sputter to life,
gasping for water. All the twigs and branches
blown down in the storm need raking off the
roof. Ripping the ivy from the brick walls
is akin to stripping wallpaper, but it reveals
birds’ nests, wasps’ nests, once, even a snake.
Sounds of Life / by Pratibha Kelapure
the music of her breath
when she sang the songs
of prayer and ancient lore
her grandmotherly chants
the mother in the rocking chair
baby swaying in the womb
eased into the birth canal
the numinous rhythms of life
dulcet notes of expressions
carrying the words that create
the language and shapes
the world into a living space
sometimes the notes sour
the rants replace the songs
the ancient lore is painful
the grandmother departed
the mother running a plow
baby pressed in the womb
forced into the clamors
of the animal squeals
the desperate sounds
her nascent world inchoate
the words that create and shape
the language incoherent
the world a hostile place
manslaughter / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
In 1995 Scott Amedure professed his sexual attraction to his friend,
Jonothan Schmitz, on an episode of The Jenny Jones Show. Humiliated,
Schmitz (a heterosexual man 10 years Amedure’s junior) shot and killed
him 3 days later.
Tell me why my sympathy is with
the small-town simpleton whose shotgun
found the softness of a man like me
so hard the aftermath condemned
his mobile home to scrap.
Tell me why I want to ask my brother
what he thought would happen,
going on a talk show,
ugly boy, so clearly thrilled to finally be seen.
Tell me why I cringe
as he lays out his fantasies,
Humiliation as it clown-cars from his mouth
in cliches of champagne and light bondage,
strawberries and cream—
His friend and future death conceals his face
inside the hands that will in days destroy him.
Tell me why it takes the weeping
of his straight father to find the human being
underneath the silly faggot.
Still, what world did he live in, one
where we might act the fool
and find love, rather than a grave.
One where what men do in private is a joke
that we’re allowed to laugh at.
One where we might win a bet against
the body, boasting of the things it wants out loud.
Lore the Second / by Christina-Marie Sears
Lore rises from below
Murky surface waters.
She is strewn in many parts
Staggered. Hiding within layers
Of wabi sabi– scattered
Moss, sweet violets
Columbine, cupped airly-
Sparse blades of grass.
Lore knits together
Sedimentary, earth rich
From last year’s leavings.
Epidermis, sandy grains-
Fieldstones separate eyes
From kidneys, femur from
Pelvis, humerus from
Elbow’s tender bending.
Lore dispels curses
Her knowledge is equalizing all.
Lore instructs all who listen
In the ancient ways.
She schools birds of the air:
Hawks, swans, crows-
Goldfinches, orioles, jays
Lore holds astral court.
Fiery coals ruby-hued warm
Her feet and allow them to
Expand again. Her skin joins
Cell unto sinew. Her eyes
Are burning amber, alive.
Her hair a wild fiber helmet
Of springing curls strewn with acorns.
The giant oaks tell her tales to the earthworms
Who twine the soil and writhe
Under her heels. Tiny snails follow
With a soft tune- pianissimo inverted
Thirds- bounce off
She is Queen Gaia and calls
All My Relations; Spiritual
Benefactors to the Crystal Cave.
Here we are in Concord.
A Cooper’s Hawk while hunting
Clutches a frail fur-ball in his talons
He asks permission,
With one eye turned upon me-
And Lore answers, with her heels drumming
Into clay-soil: yes and yes and yes.
Bird Calls and Birthdays
In the Time of Pandemics / by Randy Smith
It is the day before the day
before my birthday. I woke a full hour earlier
than usual, in time to make coffee,
light a pipe, and sit by my library window
in the last dark and listen
to the passerine cabal, also known as
the Songbird Dawn Chorus.
It has faded now. In fairness, I woke too
because I dreamed a bat
fluttered into my face
while I slept and I struck out at the black,
spectral thing. Two days ago,
my neighbor and I stood in her drive
searching for a striped Eastern Garter Snake
that had whipped across
her doorsteps. Neither of us
wanted to harm it—we just wanted to see it.
Somehow the conversation shifted
to the unusual deaths of people
who had lived in our houses before us:
a prominent man who faked
his own death by setting a car on fire
with a body in it, a young father and his son
who died in a weekend plane crash.
I have some of the son’s small
toys, dice, and marbles I keep in a jar
on my knick-knack shelf.
I found these things in attic corners,
behind walls, and under
floorboards as my soon-to-be ex-wife
and I renovated our home
over the past twenty years trying to make
Garter snakes are viviparous,
which means they give birth to live young,
sometimes fifty at a time.
Yesterday, the COVID death toll
passed 100,000 in the United States.
Three days ago, a Minneapolis police officer
strangled George Floyd to death.
In February, two white men performed
a citizen’s arrest by shooting
Ahmaud Arbery three times
with a shotgun. Celebrating birthdays
is atomically ironic
when the Dawn Chorus
meets Death, then fades, and Death
is all the rage.
Why a SpaceX rocket launch of astronauts can’t wait out bad weather / by Cheyenne Taylor
Hey, sore eyes. It’s true:
another morning’s come.
The rocket’s on a rain delay;
another man’s been killed
for needing air and being black.
You play another true crime
episode, flip back and forth
between cold case forensics
and on-scene homicide detectives.
The rocket’s on a rain delay;
its patron, practicing, drives out
the residents of a humble
Texas beach town.
I never meant for him
to die… Spaceman smokes
a cheeky spliff and smiles
for the camera. On your
cop show, a recent high
school grad lies dead
on pavement, robbed
of his eighth and $100 cash.
Cape Canaveral shivers
in the morning storm
until the sun comes.
The president’s come down
to endorse private industry.
Once told cops not to be too nice.
Still, astronauts tilted
at the sky, at t-minus
16 minutes to launch
the rocket’s put on rain delay.
Once time happens, you feel
it could easily happen in reverse.
In t-minus 16 minutes
our Jane Doe will walk
into the apartment where
her killer waits…
There’s a knot in your brow
where a knit should be
and you want the rocket
to launch. You want to see
a set of people leave
this place just temporarily,
it doesn’t matter who.
Until the next opportunity
to make attempt (80 percent
chance of rain on Saturday)
you’ll keep watching
old murder investigations on TV.
Why? Maybe it’s some way
of reassuring yourself: this time
it’s not me, not me, just look
at all the times so far it hasn’t been.
28. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
Linguists, and those who enjoy semantics
understand that punctuation, word order
and spacing can change sentence meaning
in serious ways.
But, Noam Chomsky and friends,
have you considered that gender
can also change meaning?
For example: The following sentences both contain
the same verb, but the meanings
are more than a shade different:
Often, men are threatened by women.
Often, women are threatened by men.
Women, at one point in time,
according to the ruling ethos of the day
lacked souls which men possessed;
then, by the late 19th century, most men claimed women
had souls, but no minds – or very weak ones.
Women’s own fault, they said – their trials and tribulations
made them prone to nervous exhaustion
often landing them at home under heavy medication
or in asylums.
The whole concept of intuition
seemed to be a world apart from the male scientist’s
role of speculation, projection or questioning theorem.
But – long, long before that – men respected women
even venerated them for the fact that they produce children.
And often, women are excellent caregivers of children
Today, some of us – the bolder ones – stretch our minds and souls
admit that often, men are excellent caregivers of children;
and that our differences are not hierarchical, but negotiable.
Poem 27 / Day 27
Fallen Grace / by Patty Joslyn
The plum tree is dropping
petals like snow/this quiet
no sound in letting go
no one more thing
no tearing away
or not yet.
Standing at the narrow gate of silence
I gather handfuls of bloodless petals
pieces of fallen grace/whisper amen.
Something To Depend On (May 27) / by Katie Kalisz
Some days every face is familiar,
suddenly beautiful whether
on the subway or at an outdoor café
with rock music blaring. You don’t
know what to do to contain the flowers
blooming through the lattice, the finger
of ivy growing into the glass block window
of the bathroom. These all strike you
as new buds bursting on the vine of your
very soul! When it smells good – aftershave
and other lotions, bourbon, bacon frying,
peppermints, dirt and then laundry,
– life is easy.
Other days even your own children’s faces
don’t do it for you: jam-covered only means
sticky and contagious, a tree of need.
Every car is boring white; a microscopic pest
has taken the small trees you were rooting for.
The sky is probably the same shade as the land.
You see mismatched socks, asymmetrical
hemlines, the germs of a stranger’s handshake.
Nothing heals. There is only persistence,
and coffee, tempering the birdsong
I hate, the homework I have to sort out,
the screen time requests and requests
and requests. The bad news and bad
movies and parental controls. Blueberry
stains on the dishtowel, peanut butter
smeared down the cabinet, and the baby
powder that someone spilled all over
the bathroom floor. With mug in hand,
I can tolerate snow in May, and Alexa’s
stupid jokes. When I sip, I know I have
something to depend on- that I might go
one more day without giving in to
an existence that is only wailing.
A Dog’s Life / by Pratibha Kelapure
Even the tree stands still
the short shadow covers
only one side of her fur
damp paw prints
on the pavement, panting
of a cooler spot
among mossy leaves
as if such a place exists
in this land of fallen
schools and hospitals
the concrete jumble
a rustle of clothes
her ears prick up
she gauges the scene
for a flash, leaps, runs
to the blazing rubble
the gentle tug of her mouth
the muffled cries the baby
seem to soften
the sky is still throwing
flaming rays to the ground
state of the unionized / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
someone packaged up the world
while we were sleeping
someone auctioned off our oxygen
someone named the ground after a president
when there is nothing left to buy
there’s someone ready with a plan
to sell us back our own bodies
the wealthy moved into our homes
and raised the rent
we protested before an audience
the footage went unaired
the wealthy joined our chosen families
and priced us out
to great applause
I’m tired of watching white people
explain their crimes
Haiku #2: for those who like to move / by Christina-Marie Sears
orange is action
pumpkin, spice and energy
moving towards the goal
The Uncertainty Principle / by Randy Smith
If God were a single photon
and we fired him with a shiny photon gun
at a metal plate with two slits,
He would pass through both
at the same time—a kind of omnipresence.
Before the slits, He would be
a particle. I AM WHO I AM
after all, as He says from the burning bush.
But past the slits,
He would be a probability
wave of possibilities for where He would land.
Wave or particle?
It’s tricky. If He were two
entangled particles (or even a mysterious
three?) we could nail him
down as He here, but He
would be She on the other side of the cosmos.
Love here. Justice there.
Grace here. Severity there.
If He were a simple man here, He might be
a loving Mother there.
We might write his chemical
equation as SHe. We can never truly know
the divine position
and speed at the same time.
That’s called the Uncertainty Principle.
When we observe God,
God pops into existence,
borrowing qualities from the apparata
of our own eyes,
known as the Observer Effect.
When we’re not looking, we don’t know who
or what or if He is.
Sometimes God is one
way or place or another. Sometimes God is
a tornadic wind,
other times a May breeze.
Sometimes God and his machinations are
more than I can bear.
Ache: A Landscape / by Cheyenne Taylor
Rock dust kicked up,
air sharp as a hangnail.
Under the moon, earth’s
distant fins rising,
washed in lime. The night
ahead with clenched teeth.
Down the dark corridor, a river’s
sour nerve leaching
signals that will carry on
for miles. Colorless,
sightless creatures pilling
the ground with their burrows,
movements quick, inconspicuous,
timed with thunderheads.
When the rain comes, it is
needling and white.
Blind claws dig to keep
the mind from drowning
before the little lunula of dawnlight
crowns the plain.
FRESSER / by David Weinstock
Who will soonest be through with his supper?
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself.
Until not long ago, that would have been me,
first in the family finished at every meal.
I wasn’t always like that; as a child
I did not care for food at all, what good was it?
It wasn’t like a book, or a math idea
or walking in pinewoods behind the house.
Once while my class went out for noon recess
I stayed inside with a paper cup of noodle soup
while my second grade teacher coaxed me to eat.
I do not remember having a body to feed.
Then something, somehow, taught me to eat
like a starving man, not that I ever starved;
closest I came to that was a summer in Paris,
Frenchless, not knowing how to order meals.
Or maybe that’s what changed me.
They say travel broadens one. That’s what it was.
27. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
My mother wanted a man for me
with a sense of humor. She and my father
(who would be 106 today were he alive
though he lived to a ripe 90)
shared their own brand of humor.
I enjoyed their company, offered to drive
them to Wooster, for Ohio Light Opera, when –
in their late 80’s – Dad declared driving
from Florida to Chautauqua, NY, each summer
too taxing for him. Mom no longer drove.
The college offered a full repast of theatre.
They liked all kinds – from Brigadoon
to Gianni Schicci, that libretto taken from a scene
in Dante’s Inferno. We booked a week
at a gracious BnB and went.
Each day I dropped them at theatre front, parked
then joined them in the lobby. Courtesy
on their part that they’d wait there for me.
As we entered, say on Tuesday, the usher
handed Dad a program, attempted one for Mom.
He waved her away, saying, “She can’t read.”
Mom and I followed him down the aisle
to the second row. Mom’s macular degeneration
of the retina meant she could see some shadowy action
from up close, and hearing was no problem;
they both knew every line of what they saw & heard.
After we were seated, Mom whispered to Dad,
“Dermot, don’t say She can’t read. It makes me sound
illiterate. Dad looked embarrassed, paused. I watched.
He took her hand, an unusual gesture as they didn’t
touch in public, though their love was clear.
He squeezed her hand. A signal, clearly.
“Well,” he said, and squeezed again,
“you can’t read, can you?”
She grinned. I’m still dumbfounded,
still don’t get it. But they both chuckled.
Poem 26 / Day 26
Typography of Loneliness / by Patty Joslyn
Rabbit upside down
Left foot soaking
Empty bar glass
Lost things—with a saint of their own
but who prays for me and you?
A font of loneliness writes a story stem to spine:
Where does that leave us?
Hush Now / by Katie Kalisz
In my dream, I bake a prayer
with little metal teaspoons
and chanting, eyes closed, to
raw dough until small bits
of bread appear.
I pluck a tree like a ripe carrot,
holding the base of the trunk
with my thumb into the earth,
my hand gripped, ready.
I make a sanguine soup, a balm
for sore hearts and shoulders,
and I comb your hair
with a doll’s miniature brush-
tell you everything will be ok.
Once I heard a priest say:
“We are persecuted
with cynicism; we erupt
with selfishness; resist
I used to think
a punishment, not an
indulgence. But now I see
I was wrong. We linger
too long on cable tv-
red and blue banners
flying news that is always
breaking, always broken,
shattered shells I scatter along
the front fence, warning neighbors.
Hush now – here is a lullaby: watch
the leopard frogs glimmer in the sun,
forage in the woods, swing on the tire swing,
rocking to sleep, like we live between the pages
of a hymnal, and any moment now, someone
will open it to find us here, content.
Witness / by Pratibha Kelapure
under the sequoia tree lying on an old towel
a welcome breeze cools off the melting skin
watching the westward journey of the sun
this was our favorite spot in the afternoon
all those summers when you went to work
my daughter says, you just never could see it
this mother-daughter moment sheltered
at this particular time in the familiar place
her face content reliving those adolescent days
in this overlooked patch of grass in the shade
I ponder about all those afternoons, cubicles
air-conditioned conference rooms, coffee cups
the patterns of wires inside a motherboard
designed and redesigned until the current
flowed smoothly in the shortest amount of time
what of the joy on the faces of the young ones
how did it ebb and flow, who was the witness
the life that so quickly slipped from my conscious
Father, / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
/ a strange / question /
tangled / with me /
on / the Cross
[erased text from Cowboys by H.C. Holling; the finished artwork will be posted here http://instagram.com/erasureblade]
Beatnik Poem / by Christina-Marie Sears
Adapted from a performance text, from “Beatniks,” an original dance-theatre production.
Dedicated to: Aby Cryderman, Aisha Doggette, Victoria Gilbert, Cathy Taister.
Focus your audio, this is important!
I was the llama;
It was a groove.
We went down to Ohio-
Past Kent State, down to Athens-
Me and my
It was the gitchiest. My and my chicks,
We were dressed to the nines-
My shape in a drap-.
VA VA VOOM.
What a hootenanny!
Focus your audio, here comes a gent.
Ooh Daddio, you’re not just built-
Try these shades, suggests Katy- all up in his grill.
Nope nint nipskers- I say:
I wanna see those orps,
Like moonlight on the bay.
We cruised on up to
Blast the Edisons-
No squares allowed.
Bucket List / by Randy Smith
My dad remembered when his home
(my boyhood home too)
was wired for electricity.
What did you do that day?
I asked once.
I sat outside and waited
for it to get dark,
He wanted to see the light
fill the windows
and spill into the yard.
My father was a letter carrier
in our small Georgia town.
My mother was a hairdresser
and ran her own shop
on the front of our house—
perms, sets, and teases
She was complicated.
Abused and abandoned
as a child.
She was distant, mercurial, cold.
She had Borderline Personality Disorder.
Our lives revolved around
the incalculable disruption
and gravity of such mass.
I was the first person
in my family to go to college.
I made something of myself,
but not what I wanted.
My birthday is soon,
the original Memorial Day.
When I was young
my dad said, They close the Post Office
I felt special
because something stopped
Before something stops
for me, I want to answer the question,
What did you do?
I got divorced.
Remarried for love.
Talked to my son.
Built a tiny house on wheels.
Started to run.
Toured England, Ireland,
Scotland, and Wales.
Took my daughter on a Caribbean cruise.
Read all the must-reads
on my wall of shelves:
Rohr, Rilke, Hopkins, and Jung,
Saints Teresa and John of the Cross.
Wrote books that matter to some,
but more to me.
Improved my Credit Karma score.
Learned to smoke a Boston butt.
Knew the names of local trees.
Grew enviable beds of vegetable crops.
Organized photos to prove
time is more tale and less clock.
Cared for my dogs.
Tapered drugs that kept me
calm and sound
a church whose love
of truth was less “truth”
and more grace and heart.
Constructed a deck.
Bought a Jeep.
Pitched a tent.
Sat in the yard
and waited for it to get dark.
FPOV / by David Weinstock
Who goes there?
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Look at it her way. There’s nothing sexist
in my saying that. There are differences
even if they aren’t the ones you had thought
when you believed the crap that people say.
For starters, she is smarter than you are,
and half of that is things you didn’t know
that anybody knew. Which ones are they?
Depends on who raised you up, the both of you,
and where. No two the same, and that’s the point,
a division of labor between you.
makes the impossible possible.
You wouldn’t want to marry yourself.
26. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
Odd days, when I stand on my back porch
listening to robin, cardinal and sparrow
Oh, there’s the odd truck buzzing up the street
Fed Ex or UPS come to deliver on-line orders
they tell me that the world, with its incessant noise
was making birds sing louder and louder
so there’s some solace in the pause
we’re all involved in odd days
lush the beauty of the spiraea, which cascades
off our front porch rails
also known as Anniversary Bush, a sweet note
in these uncertain times – my birthday, my husband’s
(his today) and our anniversary follow each other
in four day pattern: May 22 and 26 and 30.
We live cheek by jowl to a Middle School
just today Howard remarked that usual raucous crowd
should be roaring past, on their way to school,
but they’re not odd days the quiet sometimes sweet
sometimes too quiet Where do the children play?
I echo Donovan. I echo myself. I praise the rose but feel the thorns
of this uncertain time. Odd days.
Poem 25 / Day 25
Dancing for Rain / by Patty Joslyn
Feathers of wind
I sat at the open fire
It’s in my throat & veins
I won’t forget why I left
Locks of hair saved in paper
Ashes in an ornate blue box
Four thousand plus reasons to cry
Minus-one chance to die & dance
Feathers of wind
I sit at the open fire
My feet slap the hard earth
Longing to feel a first drop
Fernweh* / by Katie Kalisz
*German for a longing for distant places.
My shadow has become cavalier,
farsick for places she has never
visited: Aruba, Anguilla, Venus.
She leaves me earlier each day
to lie down in the shade, little
puffs of white dandelion fluff
poking through her torso and
eye sockets. An ant crawls
the line of her lips where a
smile should be. A bird pecks
at her open palms.
Your Shadow / by Pratibha Kelapure
but her will was not yours, and you buried
my name, along with things that bore my name
hundreds of them in a land away from
your conscience as often one does with the
mistakes one would erase from the vital
documents. it is impossible to
make a living part of you disappear
our two selves at the tug of war, tangled
my life a mere accident of nature
yet, I am here and you where you always
dreamed of being, the exponential heights
my world sliced by the two-sided sword
I was carved in your luminous image
both an enigma, an unsolved riddle.
I am your presence, a shadow that you
wish you didn’t cast, but looms large today
ocarina / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
I know where the cricket hoards his box of gold,
while boasting through the night as it turns frigid.
How a comet streaks across the sky without its clothes,
the war dogs sprinting through the violet fields of sparking flies.
I know where the flowers hide their jewelry in the winter.
Where the compass roses grow.
The fog filling the valley like a strong breath floods a horn.
There must be emptiness, before than can be song.
Listen—he has left room for such music.
White Linen Summer / by Christina-Marie Sears
When you stand up
To greet me in the dark-
Gloom of Del Rio illuminated by neon.
It’s well past happy hour-
minutes ticked away with beer and peanuts.
Yr white linen shirt crisp and fresh.
You must have just showered
‘cause yr hair is still damp-
My heart explodes like ruby-red roses, saturated
Yr desire coming to me like a school boy’s note-
Invisible ink on papyrus, cool water
From my fingertips decoding it.
Time to Meet / by Randy Smith
Post Parson thought God was reliable
in general, but didn’t understand why
God expunged five major extinction events
from the Bible—
Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Triassic
while including a relatively minor one
like The Great Flood.
This seemed suspicious to Post
after he learned about extinction events
while watching a documentary
called Deep History.
Post drove a fertilizer spreader
for a local agribusiness
called Nutrient Solutions.
NS Inc. tried to improve its public image
and avoid environmental pollution protesters
by renaming fertilizer
Post’s job was to dump tons
of “Soil Amendments” every year
so farmers could grow peanuts and corn.
Post also liked to read Wikipedia articles.
That was how he found out nitrogen makes up
78% of the Earth’s atmosphere
and was originally called azote—”no life”—
because it is an asphyxiant gas.
It also causes hypertrophication—
when ponds, creeks, and lakes are inundated
with nitrogen-rich runoff from fertilized fields,
which in turn depletes dissolved oxygen
and drowns all the fish.
Post thought this sounded important too
and should have been included
in the Bible.
Overall, Post had a lot of questions for God
thought it was time to meet.
Taste / by Cheyenne Taylor
for Jonathan Brook
Copper-sour anxiety built
in your living room,
where adhesive’s sharp spirit
flared in air. Your mother’s
golfball dogs would never
sell, so the room swelled
pregnant with them,
boxes full of balls
from the range
by the Cherokee
RV park (Jesus Lives,
the sign still reads).
The timed release
of gravel dust
hit the tongue
as a group of us
descended on your driveway,
scouting for your mother’s
white Civic, state plate:
We toasted Angry Lady
passing her plastic
mixing bowl around
the kitchen, full
of orange Tang
and shitty vodka.
And you so skinny,
outside that afternoon,
vomited in the leaves
next to my head,
scared and nineteen,
having just kissed
a minor in the split-
end Alabama grass.
It wasn’t that I wanted
more, and it wasn’t
that I didn’t. I’d just
begun to wonder
about taste. You ran
your hands above me,
wouldn’t touch me.
in the malted panels
of your room,
you sang badly
to us, ripping
to drum beats, bubbles
of your sawdust voice
the stipple ceiling.
The years have browned
between our barbeques,
our backyard plans,
and when you did
whatever you did
that ended you.
and the last
we were in touch,
killing tasteless time
in your driveway,
Angry Lady to flicker
the lights inside,
a sign to say
her son was too late.
Too loud. Too wrong.
Too kind, not hurting
the high school girl
whose hood he leaned on,
spitting quiet curses
at the redneck stars
for flinging him
out so far.
FLYOVER / by David Weinstock
Who wishes to walk with me?
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself.
Three weeks into your catechism class,
I have answered all your questions,
at least the ones that answers did allow.
Now you must answer to me. Let’s walk,
arm in arm through the quiet town
and help me figure out what’s next.
And here is what I wanted you to see.
Look up! The Air Force sent four jets
in tight and low formation, to roar
over the hospital’s “essential workers,”
but first they buzzed this library,
where my own congregation of poets
meets every week, just as essential.
You have been both, poet and nurse,
saving wounded lives and broken souls.
What is left for me to say, anything
neither I nor you have written?
Not asking for prompts, I’m so stocked up
I’d give them all away. What I need
is not your hints, but finally—orders.
Tell me what I must sing before I die.
25. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
I love to live in town, though many would eschew it
good enough for Shakespeare, mind, this dwelling in a city
so many opportunities, if you only knew it
theatres, parks and playgrounds; convenient and quite pretty.
Our driveway boasts two fig trees, an apple and a pear
a 40-foot wild cherry o’erlooks the small back yard
we’ve fruit trees here and potted plants. And over there –
a house was razed. We garden: tomato, leeks and chard.
We’ve eggplant and zucchini, raspberries by the tens,
a compost box that’s shared by many near our dwelling;
across the intersection, another garden H. tends
of dahlias, poppy, iris, rose. And herbs for healing.
If that’s not enough, Frick Park is near – 644 acres of wood
we biked today in shade and sun, heard the red-winged blackbird.
Poem 24 / Day 24
Forty-two / by Patty Joslyn
I was gifted a daffodil-yellow Schwinn 10-speed bicycle when I graduated high school. I loved everything about it; the garish color, streaming pinwheels, the shifter’s click when jammed into gear.
I don’t remember much of that time, except to say it was full of love;
aunts and uncles, horses and sugar cubes.
Less than two years later the Schwinn was replaced by a Volvo sedan,
which I still managed to jam into gear. It was furnished with an infant car seat.
May 24th of 1978 my first true love was born.
I didn’t know I could love like this.
Two years later—his first bike—a blue tricycle with confetti streamers hanging from the wee handlebars. He’ll pedal his gift though a house where soon a baby is to be born.
Riding through the birthing room he stops and toots his horn. Is it here yet? Waiting for a precious parcel. A brother he will help raise. His feet pump. My heart grows ever bigger.
Today my first born turns a new number. Forty-two. It’s a good number.
I think of ways it holds mystery though I know it’s all we have.
• “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything “
• The optimum angle for white light to refract through water and thus form a rainbow is between 40.89 and 42 degrees.
I love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, YOU. xo
The Woodcutter I Live With / by Katie Kalisz
Doesn’t let summer
keep him away from
his axe; the way it breaks
things into pieces
is a necessary violence
to keep us warm in
winter. He wears long
pants, heavy boots,
gloves, in the sudden
May heat- pauses
to yell something
to the children, always
aware of where they
play. The spray of
sawdust looks like
confetti, the only sign
of change. His arms
and back accelerate
into a surface that
The axe moves
in a circle down
his left, over gray
hair. He reaches tall,
springing into his toes,
and forward, all his
to each stroke again
and again, the same
futile action repeated,
moments of insanity,
like biting and biting
into a rock. He swings
into something he
almost can’t swing
through. It is not like
in the sweet spot; there
is no squishy bounce,
no long ball flying
to applause, no easy
follow through here, and
contact happens every
time. A perfect slugging
percent. What does he think
when the axe hits the
wood? Is it anger or
longing? I know he’ll keep
swinging until pieces
finally splinter off
and a final swing
splits the log, clean
like a nut. He has an
addiction to heartwood;
he finally rests his heaving
chest, stacks the pieces
in a neat pile. Allium bloom
near the large oak he has
dismantled. A hummingbird
watches him. When he comes
in he smells of sweat and
gasoline. A little smoke.
A little danger. Bringing
him a glass of water
feels like inventing fire.
tonight no words will serve / by Pratibha Kelapure
tonight no words will serve
silence on land is severe
no solace in the sullen sky
sirens wail along the sea wall
storm roils under the stars
waves heave and weave
a rhinestone fishnet
under the flood of moonlight
somewhere summer is quiesced
the sunny scion of sinned cosmos
the carnal appetite for the grotesque
the glorious asleep
the words have ceased
Anna e Paolo, Tangeri / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
dinner at the old Italian restaurant
in Tangier, this time
I’d spent my afternoon
surveying the Medina
trying to find what else had changed.
They renovated an old movie theater
since we left
and opened an expensive nightclub
on the bottom floor of the hotel
where last you were inside me.
I rented a room two floors beneath
the one we shared, and wandered
in a new direction every day.
I kept my head wrapped in a shaw
to block the sun out,
but tonight, I heard somebody making
fun of me in Arabic—
الأمريكي يرتدي البرقع
and not wanting to draw too much attention
turned a corner to avoid him,
found myself in front of this place,
and before I had a chance to change my mind
went in and sat down at the table
where we’d had our last meal
We’d eaten our fill of couscous.
Thought we’d end our trip
with an homage
to where we fell in love.
I can’t remember what I ordered as an entree;
pizza of some kind, lasagna maybe,
and a cheap bottle of red declaring
us as tourists every bit as much
as my pale skin,
my yellow hair.
The food was fine,
and we got pretty drunk,
and on the way back to our room
we realised we could walk here
arm in arm.
The truth of what we were
so horrible to those we passed
as to be unimaginable,
and it’s unimaginable
that I’m the only one
who knows enough to look for her—
the prostitute that you befriended
Today I passed the corner
where she worked.
Maybe she’s dead too.
Grandfather Oak / by Christina-Marie Sears
How can I explain-
My ears opening
Your invisible roots?
In a darkly hollowed
Phase, I listen for the smooth
Refrain: Lay your troubles here child,
Stay a piece with me.
Rest your brain til turbulence
Fades, crawl in and dream with
Me. Sink into my patient lap,
My umber manifold.
Bells of County Kerry
Ring with coral blossoms gold.
My branches swing and sway, and knit
A sonic tranquil stole.
Recurring Dreams / by Randy Smith
My first digital photos are dated 2004,
when we adopted our daughter, Flannery.
In one, her infant face is still as lake water,
and her sealed fists are two airtight chambers
of family secrets. It was a closed adoption,
as if such things can ever be closed.
I have thousands of photos—it’s too many
for a single person and memory’s sake.
I also have recurring dreams. In one,
I live in an unfinished house with upper floors
rising to sheer space. I consider the stairs,
but tenebrous, parlous treads float on air.
In one, my house has a hidden room
between floors. I don’t know how to seal
the room like the nautilus deserts septa
and cameras when entering a new phase.
My mother had a single photo of her mother,
Jewel, who stands behind a wooden fence,
wearing a floral dress, blue and white,
the lips colorized too, a life-pale, vague pink.
In another dream, my backyard leads
through a garden to a river with a cataract.
I stand on the bank and watch brave people
sport and boat in the water beyond
the fall’s foaming roil and spray. I want to
brave the water, but always choose
the relative sanctuary of bank and sand.
Many human rooms are not built by hand.
The Invention of Nature / by Cheyenne Taylor
title after Andrea Wulf
Charles Darwin, seasick,
prone in his hammock,
swings over the ink of his notes.
En route to Tenerife,
he’s retreating from the English
girls with dress sleeves
wide enough for Canis Major
in embroidery. When the waves
calm in southern latitudes,
he emerges onto deck
and meets a sea thick
with stars. Reeling jellyfish,
he dreams of stuffing pockets
with their candelabra skirts,
the way on land he carried fists
of beetles, popping spares
into his cheek when they were full.
All this so he could name
the grand lineage of leaves
scraping along the concrete
before the daily rain for me, and I’d
complain I don’t know what to say.
COLLECTION / by David Weinstock
I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from me?
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
I threw a party once, just once. Someone
came in the door and looked around and said,
David, you do collect stray cats, don’t you?
Including me. And she was right, of course.
We strays must stick together if we can.
If I had known you then, you would have been
at that party and would have fit right in.
You were smart as a skipping stone, sullen,
funnier than a kid should need to be,
and never could bear to be ignored.
Not that I’d know what to do with you,
and still don’t know. But here you are.
24. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
What if they visited, all three: Merlin, Gandalf, Dumbledore
by Hogwart’s lake, ’neath Avalon’s apples or mallorns of Lothlorien
perchance each thanks another for his generosity
or all bemoan stupidity & cruelty, as shown in hunting the fox…
Gandalf extols the country walk, stout staff in hand,
“and,” adds Dumbledore, “sturdy boots, a good wool cape.”
“Indeed,” murmurs Merlin, “there hark to finch or feel the bracing wind.”
They raise a glass and praise the recipe
for a foaming head, a tart & fruity taste, the blissful perfect cup of mead.
Poem 23 / Day 23
Plum Petals / by Patty Joslyn
I’d like to write a page turner
I said to the fallen plum petals
yet I’d rather lie down with you
12 Ash Trees with Emerald Ash Borer / by Katie Kalisz
Like the apostles, 12 ash trees fell
the week before Easter. All by the river,
the Monday after baptizing our youngest son,
in the year that a new Pope
was chosen, the year we were
twice violently sick. I had seen
the diseased trees – with lines like worms
along the bark, and then how the bark hung loose,
before falling away from the limbs,
revealing the smooth and pale wood-
old skin under a bandaid – frail and white
beneath. Only the bark didn’t grow back,
and the trees became hollowed out, from the inside.
It’s tough to tell how hollow they were.
One just fell – without notice or care.
Like an attack. That year our Lenten penance
was enduring the stomach flu.
We had been lax about meatless
Fridays, indulging in breakfast Chorizo,
Jimmy Dean Sage and Maple, an afternoon
cheeseburger as we criss-crossed town
en route to an errand. We were frantic-
three children under four, working
for them and at real jobs, thinking we were
sacrificing ourselves for our babies – giving time
like water, like milk. How we underestimated
the wrath of God. The virus
ravaged us. I was reborn
as a mother, emerging thinner, tighter,
with gaunt cheeks, empty and hollow –
a seed husk. We were all left like the trees,
bore through by a beetle, our bark
not fitting us anymore.
Erasure / by Pratibha Kelapure
It isn’t easy to keep things alive
The hardest of them is the memories
There was a time I ate the grated heart
fell asleep nursing the cuts of your words
sometimes a meal of the hardened russet
The stone-cold piece of heart daring a knife
Years later your youthful picture, your smile
those upturned lips, those rare moments of bliss
when the afternoon spent chatting with friends
swapping recipes, sisterly stories
The weight of the years borne by a mother
alone in a strange land crushed everything
in the path. love is a complex concept,
mixed with jagged edges of frustration
hard to bury, yet keeping them alive
will kill the tenderness of memories
white widow / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
after Paul Celan
pale, my fingers
break your buds
apart and tease
the leaves between
tight roll white
the lighter in
my right hand,
lit, white ashes
in a glass, a
exhale of dank
mist from my lips
my lover’s hair
was never white.
a long slide
with my mouth
dyed purple by
of dark berries
soft the wine-dark
sheets to bury
they found him
in his bed; my
was never buried
vice to carry me
of my slumber
pills chased by
a champagne flute,
into the dark
the warm high
when I wake.
lover’s olive skin,
my lover who
Concert at the Dole House / by Christina-Marie Sears
Music flows into Siobahn’s veins,
guitar notes bending- smoke curling-
spinning like an eddy. Fingers are ringed
in silver, pewter, carved shell. Stamped wide
copper slips along slim wrists as she claps, grinds;
a dancing queen in platform shoes.
Ska-band splits and flexes two heads.
Syncopated brass players dance gleaming
bells, up and down and all around.
Outside, the Thames flows sedately
under pea-soup fog.
Inside, squatters crawl up carpeted stairs,
skin up, drink Red Stripe and haul coolers
full of hard cider, lager, and incongruously-
watermelon. Beat drops and a mosh-pit erupts.
Worshippers fall prostrate at music’s altar.
We Have a Problem / by Randy Smith
I was bitten by a rabid dog in my mom’s flower bed
when I was 3.
His name was Smiley.
I was bitten by a rabid cat 2 years later
when I was 5.
The cat was never found.
I had 28 hypodermic shots in my gut.
The shots hurt. They held me down.
In 2013, my wife and I declared bankruptcy.
We went to federal court.
2 years ago, my wife left and took the kids.
We went to chancery court—
5 times so far. We still are not divorced.
1 of those times, opposing
counsel asked if my roommate was my gay lover.
His name was Fred. He was not.
I had 0 dollars in the bank and needed the rent
to pay the mortgage.
That same roommate died 6 weeks ago
on my back patio
from a heart attack. He was prepping the grill
to roast a leg of lamb.
I performed chest compressions (30, plus a few for
good measure) but nothing
worked. My mother
had Borderline Personality Disorder. My 2 dogs
have fleas. My mother
had visions and heard voices. Childhood
to say the least. Adulthood is unpredictable,
to say the least. Unless
there’s some pattern like a Fibonacci Sequence
(0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…)
I can’t find. I keep looking.
The numbers won’t match up.
I watch documentaries on quantum physics.
Scientist have confirmed
36 fundamental particles, including anti-particles.
Some carry force. Some
carry matter. No one really understands it.
They have names like Strange
and Charm Quarks, Muon and Tau Leptons, Gluons,
Bosons, Photons, Up and Down.
Gravitons are hypothetical.
God told Adam to get busy naming the animals.
God told Eve to get busy
populating the Earth. God told his only son
to get busy with a hammer
and fix the problem. Jesus told gobs of cryptic stories.
They tried to kill him,
but nothing worked. My all-time favorite movie
is Apollo 13. I love
the part where the engines fire, ice debris shears
off the Saturn 5,
and the 3-stage behemoth rises into the April sky.
I sit on pins and needles,
I hold my breath,
waiting for Jim Lovell—who famously lost
the moon—to say,
“Houston, we have a problem.” I wait for Lovell,
Haise, and Swigert
to fabricate the CO 2 scrubber.
I wait for comm reentry blackout, the 3 flowering
parachutes, the final splashdown.
How to Upcycle an Old Myth / by Cheyenne Taylor
If your family’s anything like ours, you’ve got a lot
of spare myths lying around. We just can’t throw anything away—
faithful readers already know my husband’s
a pack rat and the little ones cry, and cry.
I’d tried to convince them to let me donate
the ones they don’t play with anymore, but,
whew, you know, kids. That’s when I came up
with this great new idea to share with you, dear, dear readers.
This project is perfect for when you need an afternoon
of craft therapy, even better if you can sneak a glass of rosé.
I’d love to talk more about my inspiration,
but CLICK HERE to skip straight to the instructions.
What You’ll Need:
· A myth. The older and more threadbare the better. Thin as paper, preferably. · Certainly no bigger than the width of a wedding band.
· Kitchen shears. Stainless steel. Multipurpose.
· Fabric pen (any color).
· A moment alone.
1. Carefully cut your myth down the middle.
2. Spread it wide. Draw a circle in the middle with your pen, big enough to fit your whole head.
3. Fold in half again. Cut out the resulting semicircle.
4. Stick your head in.
5. Dance in your new garment. It’s not purposeless if you enjoy it.
6. Make it yours. You should already know how to do this. Don’t ask me.
PRINTER’S DEVILS / by David Weinstock
This printed and bound book—but the printer and the printing-office boy?
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
For writers, it’s not a bad way to start,
apprenticed to a printer, his devil.
Ben Franklin, Ambrose Bierce, you Walt Whitman,
me, David Weinstock (eighth grade graphic arts).
It demystifies how a book happens;
no muses, no visit from an angel.
You have a thought, you put it into lead,
upside-down and backwards, then lock it up,
roll on ink, impress a sheet of paper,
do all of that, several hundred time.
You fold it all, you stitch it together.
It’s not an easy job; we have all met
an old printer with a finger missing,
bitten off by reaching into a job press.
And then there is the ink, ink everywhere.
Perhaps some boys were neater than I,
but both my hands were always black from it.
One day I went into a store that way.
The shopkeeper took one glance and said,
Son, looks like you do an honest day’s work
(the only time that I’ve been so accused).
23. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit.
For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are
connected.” Chief Seattle
The face of the fox on the video:
flattened skull, triangular ears,
pointed, upturned nose long bushy tail.
that intent look. Can a human see?
Painters present us with heavenly clouds
to feel our way through
perhaps intuit connections below on earth…
Chief Seattle’s wisdom points the way.
People love their cats, dogs.
But what of geese
who no longer commute
to swamps further south?
Swamps became shopping malls.
Do I give thanks that no geese splatter grass
near me? No. Because my city park’s
frequented by deer, slender legs
limpid eyes begging me
We’re all connected.
Chipmunks scamper past
scramble under deer
scoot into mossy underbrush.
I laugh. We need a little laughter now
Dr. Madan Kataria,
founder of the worldwide laughter yoga movement
chose May to pass on his wisdom in 1998.
This year, when ecologists send us word
of sweltering heatwaves, torrential downpours,
smoky skies, toxic water –
I intend to answer the look I see
in the eyes of deer, robins, a fox should one
What is the power of spirit?
Poem 22 / Day 22
Shifting Shards / by Patty Joslyn
Can the ashes of loved ones burnt again in a house fire be any less or more precious?
it’s a tiny
like finding that damn needle in the loft of a barn
full to the rafter beams/light comes in through cracks
too small to remember they need to be repaired
in the winter months snow will come as fairy dust
rain will show itself, later, as a dark spot .
and the ashes kept safe are now but dust to dust
there will be so many things to miss
in our solid bones we’ll feel the need to swallow
how long can you (or I) push away suffering
one thing we have in common
it may be the only thing
we try and hide from
run the mind says
step away from
Dread / by Katie Kalisz
I can feel it rise like a welt
of poison ivy, a crescent shape,
on my thigh. It bubbles, becomes
3D. I uncover it like a fossil
in the children’s garden, with toy
broom and plastic shovel.
I camp out in a gray fold
of my brain, rationing
my supplies, a weak
flashlight that throws
shadows on the wet
and sloping wall. Soon,
regret crawls out like
the frond of an orchid
stays craggy, prehistoric,
or makes its way to a blazing
purple bloom. After all, dread
is inherited, but also
cultivated. Like an orchid,
it needs tending to
in order to thrive.
Just a Pumpkin / by Pratibha Kelapure
the day it went missing from the threshold
of the dim-lit apartment in that two-story
building, the whole neighborhood stirred
the uncontained wrath of the two-year-old
who was planning all afternoon to snuggle
with the green belly of the watermelon
she called pumpkin, the only round
bellied vegetable she knew. it’s gone now
the red juice of watermelon, discarded seeds
on the guest plates in the living room
and she wants her roly-poly pumpkin
oh, the consternation! the certainty gone
at the empty threshold, the heaving sobs
mom explains, dad mocks her wails
the neighbors gather in the hallway
eyes rolling, whispers behind the curtains
none, least of all the baby understands
the impetus for the breakdown, yet it exists
red-faced parents in seemingly calm voice
console, but the swarmy smiles on their faces
accuse, forever label the two-year-old stubborn
on that day of the missing pumpkin
something far bigger was lost
BAR / BOYS / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
rain / clouds / everywhere /
rain / black / terrier /
boys / dressed / blue and gray /
in solemn / leather / whisper /
[erased text from Cowboys by H.C. Holling; the finished artwork will be posted here http://instagram.com/erasureblade]
“On the banks of Greene Loch” / by Christina-Marie Sears
Just met up today:
Tawny Moon and Any-Hoo-
Where crawdads play with wrens
on the banks of Greene Loch Loon.
Tawdry bowed, and Hoo in kind
curtsied so low as to nearly swoon.
As gray waves raced nimbly by
A bonny skiff floated free,
Steered by an otter
and his sisters three,
while a passenger raven read the runes,
both waves and wind sang a Dorian tune.
The Many Worlds Hypothesis / by Randy Smith
Bunky Tyson liked to watch YouTube documentaries
about UFO’s, Area 51, Black Holes,
Ancient Aliens, America’s Greatest Secrets, Cold Cases,
and Time Travel.
He considered himself something of an amateur
scientist. He was already familiar with compression
tests, various engine gauges,
and cylinder and piston-ring wear
from his day job at McGraff Auto and Body Works,
which some people called Graft and Body Works
because of Mac McGraff’s congenital tendency
Before the virus, Bunky visited his great uncle Doycie
in the nursing home every day
after work. Bunky possessed a complex
scientific hypothesis, which he formulated
one night by falling asleep during a UFO show and waking up
in the middle of a parallel universe
being fleshed out by a confident, but balding
and dentally challenged, String Theorist.
Bunky’s hypothesis went something like this:
The human brain is comprised
of minute vibrating strings that NEVER break down, BUT
when we get old,
the permeable membrane between THOSE strings
and the OTHER entangled strings
of our parallel selves in OTHER fantastical universes DOES
break down. That was Bunky’s
hypothesis regarding Uncle Doycie’s dementia
AND the reason Bunky sat for an hour every day
talking to his great uncle
and recording Doycie’s wandering thoughts.
If Doycie remembered a dog he never had—THAT
was a parallel Doycie. If he called
a nurse the name of his long-dead wife—THAT
was a parallel Doycie. If he suddenly asked
for strawberry jelly instead of grape,
or got interested in The Young and the Restless,
or thought he was in the Pacific on a sinking,
bombed-out ship—THOSE were parallel
Doycies. One thing Bunky did not consider
was that HE was a parallel Bunky Tyson and that
another Bunky, the one this poem is about,
took his parents’ car one day after school,
many years ago, wrapped it at high speed
around a pine tree just off Harmony Road
and never rode the bus in again from his family’s farm—
or did anything else for that matter.
I Consider a Picture of My Grandfather / by Cheyenne Taylor
who I never met. Beside me
on the patio, a wasp swoons
over a stranger’s elbow.
He doesn’t know.
It lands but holds its violence,
and I marvel at restraint, the way
those scissor wings can clip
the heavy air around a body.
The insect lingers, as if it, too,
is lost in unfamiliar portraiture,
the stranger’s skin a rough map
without legend, where stalks of hair
breeze sidelong into themselves.
But there is more symbiosis
in this motion than my own,
when I hold the photo to my face
begging the man’s bashful grin
to be proof I came from something.
22. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
Day and the far-away near show up here. I don’t forget
my blooming garden of friendship for
with friends around me, I’ll give and I’ll get
on this day commemorating the birth of me
a spiritual bouquet from all of you, by corporeal means, or not!
Poem 21 / Day 21
*Borrowed Lines & Lives / by Patty Joslyn
I keep turning around this misfortune,
this troubling illusion I call myself,
will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrow
can do it and I am, well,
people said at least you didn’t
get too attached
If I were a rose in
this spring, I would change into a
hundred rose bushes.
so much was about to happen to people
I already know and nearly loved
wind broke off a few branches in the
garden. No matter. When you feel
love inside you, you hear the invitation
Move into your
own quietness. This word-search poem
has found you, ready for silence.
Death taps his black wand and something vanishes.
finally, you hear them?
*borrowed and in gratitude to dead ones who help keep me alive/Mary Oliver/Rumi/Grace Paley
A First at 40 / by Katie Kalisz
Today on an esker, just as I pulled
my hand back from the smooth skin
of a beech tree, I was stung by a bee
for the first time in my life. I didn’t know
what it was – the sting of the sting. It’s
been forty years, I’d started to wonder
if maybe I had been stung before, and hadn’t
known it. Maybe I was sting-blind, I thought.
Maybe there was something I could not feel.
My walking companion pulled the stinger out,
a kind of second sting, and a relative stranger so
close to my neck, another sting for a private person.
I waited for my tongue to swell, to feel
if my body would react at all – would rear up
or roll over. The sun speckled the meadow
like a frog’s back. A hawk circled overhead,
waiting too. The stinger long gone, I can still sense
the space on my neck where she landed,
plot of my body now a badge from my hike,
a little numb bump. A primitive tattoo marking the
day and time and year and place. Looking forward,
the wind rippled tree leaves and meadow grass.
We walked on, spotting a chipmunk, a deer,
creek water tumbling over a small rock.
The Feral Mask / by Pratibha Kelapure
The female face with an animal mask
the bewildered eyes of a child crying
the bewildered eyes of a child wailing
stifling cries buried under a mocking voice
stifling night cries, squelched day voice,
the playground cheeps of a little chick
the playground cheeps of a little chick
a jejune belief this staccato life isn’t real
a jejune belief stomps on the surge
the child persists in the adult body
the child squanders the daylight sun
the feral mask on the womanly face
self-medicated not sedated (contrapuntal doublewide triolet) / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
citalopram, buproprion, truvada, marijuana, sex
lamotrigine and cold champagne, amphetamine, modafinil
like all the other drugs I’m on, each worth their little side effects
citalopram, buproprion, truvada, marijuana, sex
like bullets fired from a gun to numb the heart that genuflects
and every bullet has a name before its hunger is fulfilled
citalopram, buproprion, truvada, marijuana, sex
lamotrigine and cold champagne, amphetamine, modafinil.
Mackinaw / by Christina-Marie Sears
Nodding into drowsy bamboozlement
on the ferry, we brave choppy waves.
Stiff winds whip across Straits. Off-season
-it’s already bustling at the Pink Pony.
Bicycles doze in rows in sleety rain.
Even so, we lease two horses-
Dan and Chance-
who think they are smarter than we riders.
They are feisty, wooly from overwintering-
fat and sassy from oaty feedings;
lack of use- stable easements pressing close.
How we long to gallop through the birches on white pine trails.
I AM WHO I AM / by Randy Smith
Sometimes I think it’s easy to be God
when you have no tricky past trailing behind you
like clouds of pernicious glory
No Chapter 7 still affecting your credit
score No borderline mother whose life and death
refuse to be erased Your son still
speaks to you even though you both
navigated a difficult divorce during the dark hours
of the cross I imagine the “e” and “i“
on your keyboard don’t mysteriously
repeat liikee that and distract you from crafting
a poem or applying for unemployment
or asking for more time to pay
your mortgage I imagine the angels do whatever
the hell you want Though not with
the anger manifest in my tone
in the Here & Now Which is not even the only
place I live The past being so present
and the future being so multifarious
Past & Future being so twined like entangled
quantum particles The Present
being a Double Slit Experiment
through which photons and electrons can pass
as both particles and waves
As all the best physicists say
If you understand it you don’t really understand
it We hardly ever get to say I AM
To the Brown Anole in the Grill of My Car / by Cheyenne Taylor
Yeah, I’d like to get out of here, too.
But there’s no getting, and there’s no there.
This little city is a pinpoint, singularity.
The edges of the map aren’t well defined,
but there’s nothing around for miles.
You can tell on those rare cloudy days
when everything echoes off the sky,
the way everything sounds, and sounds
different, a crooked doppler even in your
humid breath. Yes, yours too.
I can take you as far as the package store
on Archer, maybe the mall by the interstate.
To dream further invites disappointment.
There was never an ocean, never
a city like Havana, dressed in pinks
and blues. You’re lucky we’ve got
cabbage palms. I’ll wait to crank
the engine, let you flit into undergrowth,
where all good invasive species live.
From now on, try to be considerate.
Don’t you let these good people think
that you’re unhappy here.
21. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
All that saved me
in my teens
between ten and twenty
was that I loved words…
friends seemed to turn into fiends
pretended they didn’t even know you
at times –
Jimmy liked Jenny
but she was seen on the bleachers
or under them
kissing his best friend Ken…
I buried myself in books
waited for these embarrassing times
to pass –
time spelled backwards would emit
some sort of truth…
while Ricky and Sharon dated for 4 years
they seemed to go their separate ways for college
with never a backward glance was that usual?
Even college had its challenges
a boy who liked me (strange idea)
tried to convince me of something
by saying that he never went out with girls who were virgins
or not for long whatever that meant…
Emotions motion emote notion
so many of us swept along in the tide
each with their own bizarre rules
I told two dear young men that I’d think of them as brothers
you see, they both had red hair (my occasions with them some
five years apart) … I also have red hair, had to spread the joy around –
Finally, one reaches a calmer age, say 22 or so…
and can count on one’s friends not to filch (they don’t even want to)
one can take one’s time
meet someone, go dancing, or bike riding
demonstrate against the war together
Finally, time can emit bright sparks
and a druidical dance begin.
Poem 20 / Day 20
I am/am I / by Patty Joslyn
roses that grow in my garden aren’t red & the violets are mostly whites & wild
the lilacs are a bit sparse & yet chard and kale are now half as tall as me & you
when do I stop calling this Spring & when might I forget winters cold darkness
how long will this feeling of enough & the uncertainty of so many things linger
when will real Spring arrive & will I know where to look/to believe
who might know the truths & even the untruths of what is going on
sometimes I count time & wait for the next & next minute to become new
I might speak the numbers aloud or think of a reason to fall in love & like
yet in the morning I see the same not red rose is still tight & waiting
& don’t know what to think or where to look for hope & inspiration
as the rose holds tight so too will I to what will next blossom & bloom
slowly waiting as light breaks through & morning takes me by the heart
the wild & white violets are happy no matter what
they wake up full & ready making joyfulness a way
reason to them is nothing more than time & energy
they don’t look at the clocks & make up ways to be
they open their wise faces & hearts
spread themselves in yards & years
I am wishing I were a wild flower knowing when & where & how & what & who am I
Midwest Invasions, an Abecedarian / by Katie Kalisz
Autumn Olive, Asian Carp,
Butterbur, Barberry, Baby’s Breath, lasagna-like
Dalmation toad-flax, metallic
Emerald Ash Borer,
Fish hook waterflea, gallavanting
Garlic Mustard (rather pretty in masse), Gypsy Moth,
Honeysuckle, Himalayan Balsam,
Japanese weatherfish, coiling
Mile-a-minute weed, and
Norway Maple (the narcissist),
Parrot Feather, & privet, purple loosestrife
Sea Lamprey, Scotch Pine,
Wrinkled Dune Snail,
Yellow Floating Heart, and clusters of
Parsik Tunnel – Six Minutes to the Destination / by Pratibha Kelapure
(based on a true story circa 1971 in Parsik Tunnel in Bombay)
they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
and i keep on remembering
at last, the swarming crowds thin out,
the last flicker of the light before the tunnel,
rounding into the homestretch, finally alone
in the ladies’ coach she eases into the silence
of these rare moments before drowning
in the railway station clamor, pending chores
the whooshing tunnel air, rattle of the wheels
a mini-meditation to fill her with momentum
this is how it was supposed to happen, a jolt
from above, the flash of light from the call box
the usual things often to disrupt the trance
the routine she knows deep in her bones
but this is not one of those mundane days
the sudden flash on light comes from inside
the jolt in her ribs, the biting blade in her back
the shine in the saturnine eyes of someone
the touch she can’t discern, the odor of bidi
that’s all she can sense in those last six minutes
of life-train rapidly traveling to the eternity
the bloody flowing river into the next coach
now her sanguine spirit rides
the safety enhanced ladies’ coach
the metal grill open to view
from the rest of the train
the clamor she can’t contain
not sedated triolet / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
truvada, marijuana, sex
each worth their little side effects
truvada, marijuana, sex
to numb the heart that genuflects
before its hunger is fulfilled
truvada marijuana sex
Lore / by Christina-Marie Sears
Her name is Lore-
Her age unknown.
Her skin is supple and multi-colored:
Her streets are lined with common pansies.
Poppies rouge her lips. Bells adorn her fingertips.
Sirens warn of her words, multi-layered:
Heavy as boulders.
Her hips a farmer’s sheath of barley and oats.
Her hair a smoldering bundle of fiber and ribbon,
Pebbles and sticks.
Her age unknown-
Her name is Lore.
The Void’s Prayer / by Randy Smith
Our Virus which art like leaven,
Harrowed be thy name.
Thy random come,
Thy nil be done
In dearth, as it is in prevalence.
Give us this May
Our daily dead.
Us, our sweats, as we outlive
Our betters. And lead us
Not into placation,
But deliver us
From civil: For thine is
The symptom, and
The hour, and
Harvard researcher says dreams indicative of virus fears / by Cheyenne Taylor
The people are dreaming
of buffalos going long,
sacking lean pines
in their own endzones.
Buffalos in prairies
made of buffalo hides,
lightning chaining the herd
like a championship ring.
The people are dreaming
of humpback whales
growling reedy bass,
for ceremonies of bats.
The Pacific, shiner ocean,
purple with obstinacy,
can’t handle its drink.
The people are dreaming
of pregnant elephants,
two years of safety tucked
in mother’s bones, the smoke
of which, when burned,
would drive out snakes.
Courteously saluting man
in whatever way they can.
The people, tired of themselves,
are dreaming of anything.
JUST LOOKING / by David Weinstock
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers
— Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Why am I looking at this girl?
I’m old enough to be her father,
I’m old enough to be her mother.
And why is she looking back?
Maybe she wonders
if I am single, available,
and might want to date
her long-divorced mother
so she can call her sisters
and say Stop worrying about Mom,
she’s got a boyfriend now,
woohoo, and I fixed them up
but I don’t know what that means
about Christmas, you know,
should he be there? Maybe too soon.
We stand here making up stories,
and I am still looking, and so is she,
all of us always looking for love.
20. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
MISREPRESENTATION – 50 YEARS and COUNTING
1973 – I stood in front of the mirror
my new purple dress right in fashion
for my post-college age-group – long-skirted, to the ground
100% cotton. And I liked the vertical stripes
gave it a Victorian air, though maybe the Brontë sisters
wouldn’t have had to tie theirs at the breast-line… (a bit higher for them).
Wore it proudly to teach in, or to Quaker Meeting for Worship.
Though I’d attended a Catholic college in Pittsburgh,
I demonstrated against the Vietnam War at Pitt.
At Carlow, no demonstrations, though debate encouraged.
May 4, 1970 – I’d been horrified, as had many of us,
as the song says, “Four dead in Ohio –”
for a peaceful protest?
I lived in a Quaker commune, Romans 12:4
the passage telling how we (humans) are part of one spiritual body…
So, when a housemate who worked for Westinghouse,
with Allison Kraus’ father,
asked how many of us wanted to come to the Kent State trials
against the National Guard, the school admin, the governor
for murdering four students I said Yes indeed.
His girlfriend came as well. They put on their dress jeans,
long-sleeved plain shirts. I wore my new purple dress.
When we arrived, to our dismay, the Kent State students
berated us for wearing jeans,
we should look business-like, they insisted
though one dude’s outfit – black gaberdine pants
and a black velvet jacket was so Byronic –
We apologized. Best jeans, we said.
No comment on my dress
so I forgot about it.
We listened to the testimony
– the governor ordered –
– the school admin –
Marshalls ordered the National Guard
they were, after all, kids too
– an unfortunate incident –
Shocked, dismayed and downbeat,
we sought out a young man in a wheelchair, shot also,
wearing a suit bumped fists
He talked about the next trial: a civil one
asked us to stay vigilant, and we agreed.
The following Sunday, as we rose from silence
at Quaker Meeting, a Friend (Quaker) in her middle years
approached me, the Christian Science Monitor in her hand.
Our local Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on strike.
“You made the front page!” she exclaimed.
She looked down, read to me –
Day Two of the Kent State trials
and here they come, the students –
two in raggedy jeans,
the third, with flaming red hair
in a threadbare purple gown…
She looked up brightly. “You. Right?
That unmistakable purple dress of yours.”
The Kent State murder was devastating
I’d heard so much double-speak
and now – our good clothes panned in national news –
as if unkempt hippies, if that described us,
were anti-American conspirators. Threadbare! Indeed?
I remembered hearing that at the hospital
where Allison was sent, to be pronounced dead.
Her family heard some soldiers murmur,
“They should have shot more.”
I guess I’d be a candidate too.
With flaming face, I looked at her.
We weren’t there to be entertaining. Or misrepresented.
“Vigilant,” I said, “we went in solidarity,
promised the students
that we’d stay vigilant.”
“Of course, I admire that,” she said,
though she hustled off, paper in hand,
calling to another woman that she’d found
a great piece. Local activists in national news.
Graduated now, I’d taken no courses on Propaganda.
Perhaps it should be taught.
In conjunction with politics.
Poem 19 / Day 19
Dear Spider, / by Patty Joslyn
And I do mean you, spider, that walks the white-washed bricks beside my desk each morning as if you own the place. Dear S., how ‘bout today you do the dishes and plan the next meal. Use one of the old toothbrushes to clean around the bathroom faucets. Hang the clothes on the line. And while you are at it, since you have more arms or legs than me, today I was going to wipe down the baseboards. A task no one will thank me for. But if you get it done I will. I will thank you many times and I’ll promise to let you stay on. Every morning I look up to you and think I should get the glass, the heavy piece of paper, I should trap you. I should release you to the outer world. Yet there is something so very comforting about you. The very fact you show up and remain so thoughtfully quiet. I can work on a poem and know you will keep opinions to yourself. I doubt you will search for just the right word to spin your web. Or suggest I say it another way; a way you might better understand. Though you sometimes distract me it’s for my own good. A chance to stretch my neck, step away, look close up. When you jump to one of the boards, that I imagine holds the roof on my house in place, you almost disappear and I wonder if you have a family living behind the knotty pine. I’ve never seen you with anyone. And now I worry if you have enough to eat? If the temperature is set too low at night? I am the one that wakes you? Do you think of children? A house in the city? I think of all the ways I may have failed you, like this not so poem poem.
P.S. If there is anything I can do to make your stay more enjoyable give me a sign, in the meantime don’t worry about the baseboards, quite honestly they have been on my list for a very long time.
Apology to the pig farmers who have to kill the pigs they are unable to sell to the meatpacking plants / by Katie Kalisz
“There are farmers who cannot finish their sentences when they talk about what they have to do.” -Greg Boerboom
I hadn’t imagined you sentimental men.
Men of few words, yes, but men of easy
completion. In fact, I haven’t ever really
thought of you before this May- maybe
just in passing, while watching Charlotte’s
Web, and then, it was pastoral–
not a horror movie with you having to pump in
poisoned gas to your packed barns, feed
composted pig carcasses through wood-chippers.
I hope it is true you avoid naming them,
or is that just a made-up macho-man lie?
I read that the pigs are “too large to be
slaughtered commercially,” but I don’t know
what that means. They can’t fit into the car?
The saw lacks stamina? The butcher is afraid
of mutiny? Oh, I see. They must be lifted,
and people’s backs have limits. Surely,
people’s minds do too, though. You have
children, grandchildren who know the wet warmth
of a new piglet, the curl of his tail, the satisfied grunt.
You remember your own small bundles in pink or blue
blankets, the mystery of a beating heart. Killing
your livelihood, the newspaper describes it –
I bet killing so many innocents makes killing oneself
seem inevitable. Is that what you practice for now?
Today, I saw a dead frog sprawled belly up
on the bike path. More frogs will live through
the migration across roadways this year, because
no one is driving as much. Some animals are safer,
some are not. Some of us will survive this, some will
Atlas / by Pratibha Kelapure
sun-bleached hair flying in the wind
his spindly brown limbs golden in the sun
high up the craggy cliff of marble rocks
from the silent depth of Narmada
the river goddess beckons the free
spirit of youth, the mother’s lap
waiting to hold her little cherub
to watch his unabashed frolics
fifty Rupees for a jump he squeals
to the tourists secure in boats
a curious man with tense muscles,
gauges the boy’s verve and fidgets
with his wallet, his woman companion
shakes in disbelief, no, little boy, no,
her eyes big, heart pumping
she grabs the man’s hand; please don’t,
she pleads, her motherly hands
folded in prayer. only fifty rupees
the boy repeats, eyes bright, a little
amused at her hesitation and fear
yes, the man nods with a crisp fifty
clasped in his fingers. a wide grin
the boy flies, arms like eagle wings
the willowy legs in a perfect rectangle
in a flash, a little splash in the water,
and he is swimming limber and nimble
a porpoise in action, circling the boat
gathering fifties in his wet palm
to take home to his toiling mother,
the little brother learning to swim,
a young sister longing to be a bride,
this little man standing on strong legs
Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders
self-medicated triolet / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
lamotrigine, and cold champagne
like all the other drugs I’m on.
like bullets fired from a gun
and every bullet has a name:
lamotrigine, and cold champagne
Frankincense: A Gift for Kings / by Christina-Marie Sears
limbs of Frankincense
Akasha transposed botanical.
sing ancient songs.
Silver notes slip
around my shoulders.
Wild and rare, burning
cloaks a bride and groom
An elderly man
a sand-stone wall.
His sandal-clad feet tap near
a bevy of terra cotta pots.
Remembering his own
nuptial festivities he listens
as celebrants dance to a
vibrant reedy tune.
In the courtyard,
minstrels play a lap harp, dudek,
Lyre and slender drums.
Their bare feet kiss a woven mat.
Children joyfully race
with lanterns and kites.
Text Thread from My Ninth-Grade Daughter During World Pandemic,
Shelter-in-Place, Online School, ACE Family Giveaway, & Protracted Divorce:
Evidencing Learning Disabilities (Various) & Paternal Love, Indulgence, & Inclination
for Tardiness: Regarding Fast Food, Photos, Swimwear, Homework/Test Multiple Choice,
Package Delivery, Doubling Recipes, Jeeps, Police, My Roommate’s Sudden Death,
Short-Term Memory, Long-Term Memory, Conscience, and Consciousness / by Randy Smith
Are you picking me up at 3 / I am doing online I will text you when
I’m done / I’m done let talk tomorrow before I come to you / Hey
mom texted you / See you tomorrow / I want a large fries 10
piece chicken nugget and mc double with every thing on it
without cheese with lots of ranch and sweet and sour sauce / I’m
coming / Don’t forget the chick fi la / Are you picking me up at 4 /
Text me when your here / Hey dad can you send me pic of me and
Hollyn I need it for tik tok some with out me and her in a cheer
outfits or just try to find some without the cheer outfits / Hey dad
I have a question / Be on tiMe please / I’m just telling you / Dad
can you help me with this brainly question / I can’t find it / Never
mind / I will ask you if I need help again / Have you heard anything
from the bathing suit I order / I can’t talk I’m doing a puzzle / Text
when you hear about the baiting suit / Bathing / Are you ok / I
heard police men where their / K love you too / Hey am I still
coming to you on Friday / Make sure you tell her 4 / Do you know
this / Can you tell me / The first blank says conscience/conscious
the next one says definitely/definately and the last one says
acknowledge/ aknowledge / Make sure your on time / Text me
when your here / I will send you the questions / The options are
linear/multi linear/nonlinear / Last one / I wait for you to tell me
the answer / What’s the first one / I have a zoom at 2 / So hurry
please / I’m going to try again / Sorry I am asking so many
questions but do you know this / This one I need help on
character/self for first blank / And home and mind for other / Hey
just text me but do you think I could order some clothes for me
for summer / K / Text mom back she just texted you / Me coming
over / Do you know this the choices are short term memory/long
term memory/sensory term memory / Thx / I did this before and I
got it wrong / It’s not psychological / Are you on your way /
What’s is the l/3 cup of salt if I am doubling it / Assortment
genetics segregation and it says 50 percent 25 and 75 percent /
Do you know / Hey did my Japan package come and have you
heard what day my bikini is coming / So do you know / I need help
/ I found the answer but I am confused / Hey if we win the money
and buy a jeep we should go take my pictures with the jeep / Be
on time please / Text me when your here / Just letting you know /
K love you too
Carol Never Wore Her Safety Goggles. Now She Has Questions for Resusci Anne. / by Cheyenne Taylor
Where are all the men who made mistakes?
Could you see them even then, at the bottom
of the Seine, gazes reaching through
the muddy water, soliciting dead beauty?
They say girls were banned from the river
back then, for fear of their dirty laundry.
Can you confirm? How is your relationship
with lips these days? Me, I’ve never been kissed.
Cartoon cautionary tale, agony by association
(If only that girl had just listened!).
But you know what it’s like to do something
on purpose, Annie, don’t you, do you know
what I mean? Did you ever think there’s no “I”
in safety, that we were already doomed
to this recitation? Fate written in liquid.
You can’t breathe and I can’t see,
still there’s always someone out to summon
their success from us. Are you okay?
I play each moment over like cinema.
Now that my eyes don’t work I don’t need
to protect them, it would seem. Your legacy
is reliving what-ifs for eternity,
mapped in rubber and plastic—how many
backstories have you been given,
backbones had taken away? How many
factories made molds of you, hung your face
with clothespins to dry, full of kinetic
wonder for students of resuscitation?
What do they try to breathe into us, Annie?
What is it they want to revive?
DOWNSIZING / by David Weinstock
Shall I make my list of things in the house
and skip the house that supports them?
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Upsize all your life, acquire and collect,
gather what you need and then some,
some more, and more. Fill your space.
It is the conquest of space, it’s your job.
And after upsize will someday come capsize,
the day (the year) when it is all too much.
You wonder why you have this stuff
and the stuff has no good answer.
At that point, it may all be too late,
the sad and sudden problem of your widow,
or your children. Always the point of your up,
and now the heirs of your down; pity them.
Or maybe there is time.First get rid of books,
the ones you read, and all you didn’t read,
the two you wrote, the ten you never wrote.
Give them all to Harvard, or Casella’s.
19. THE SCENT OF BEAUTY / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
This I beheld last night, or dreamed it in a dream – Edward Rowland Sill
All the flowers lined up.
Boreas, Eurus, Notos and Zephyrus – the 4 winds
would judge them in a beauty contest
the beauty of their perfume
the time – the latter part of May.
Rosie, of course, headed the line
how could she not? Her radiance…
and besides, one never argued with a stunner so sharp –
then, a bouquet of beauties:
Iris, Jasmine, Peony and Rhea
no one uses her full name, Spiraea
though her cousin’s called Meadowsweet…
a lush bunch
not like Ms. Tulip behind them,
colorful but acrid behind her – Shasta Daisy –
smelling like the horse dung
like the fields where she loved to dance
so wicked & free…
Boreas, voracious, spoke. I want her to share my throne with me
for she knows how to revel.
Notos, known for a moist response, wept for Rose –
voted her scent most seductive ’til Euros pointed out the invisible worm,
whose dark secret love her life destroys.
North, South and East sat breathing in the other odors
challenging to choose in a May contest.
A shy candidate approached, shorter than the rest
her bells hidden in long green leaves.
Up spoke Zephyrus, she of quiet strength
of the dusk and dawn. Doesn’t this one have the savor
of the apples of Pomona? All 4 winds bent
to waft her fragrance over the world of May –
that best of perfumes floating everywhere
Lily of the valley.
Poem 18 / Day 18
A Long Time Ago/Once Upon A Time / by Patty Joslyn
A long time ago
which could mean last year about this time
was the exact grass growing, as it is now?
Am I mowing the same veins
over and over again?
If I never pushed a lawnmower again
I said, outloud, ears ringing, hands vibrating
if I never did this again I wouldn’t mind.
Are their roots stronger than mine?
What makes grass want to be treated like this?
Stepped on its entire life.
Once upon a time I flattened my body
close to the earth & cried
STEP ON ME
and that was then.
Now I press my body against things
having to do with LOVE.
Basin Song / by Katie Kalisz
“Groundwater is the sixth great lake.” –GreatLakesNow.org
Like a child, I soak off the days,
seeking comfort in a daily bath-
to wash, to hold me, hollowed
and hulled. I haul water,
rinse faces, feet. I trace
drips of rain down the window pane,
dividing the glass into patterns.
Here we divide the lakes
between us and Canada
in straight lines on the maps,
like a knife slicing through
water, and then color-coded
showing each country’s
awkward pie slice.
is our secret. Right now, the water
saturation index is high. We are
fat with water. The defintion
of bloated. Creek becomes river
becomes lake becomes sea.
Windmills still turn in the rain,
but we have nowhere
to put our excess
rainwater, like the pounds
and pounds of unused
The rivers swell –
maybe with love or maybe
infected. Trout lilies, May apples
and skunk cabbage don’t notice.
Wild ginger climbs the hillside.
Morel mushrooms soldier
through the old fall leaves;
forget-me-nots nod homage
to the missing bees. Soon, I will
plunge my hands into the dirt-
the earth wet and ready, telling
a seed to take and drink.
Curves / by Pratibha Kelapure
curves often throw her for a loop
bobbing head with the amplitude
of trig waves, admiring the harmony
the beauty risen from the intricacy
but this observation is not a salvation
one won’t be able to solve the complex
functions if you forget the right identity
a dilemma, the test clock ticks
the accidents of union and kinship
the universe tosses curveballs
a changeling, the chasm deepens
the bridge shaky, the living too rocky
the unfathomable functions hound
the blurred identities, the curves
are here again and time precious
the clock ticks just keep ticking
For W. / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
lust is a rope / we tie / to the past / a wild stalk / of tender/ green
[erased text from Cowboys by H.C. Holling; visit http://instagram.com/erasureblade to see the finished artwork]
Tall Tale by Wyoming Campfire / by Christina-Marie Sears
inspired by the Desert Biosphere
Golden barrel Cactii
protrude from stony beds
round as draft horses.
Dare to pet that gossamer fur?
Not sweet lambs who nestle
behind timber fences. Ain’t no tawny pussycat.
Nope, these fellas are claw-sharp pokers.
Dangerous as bank robbers.
Two rustlers back to back.
In DuBois Wyoming, shadows stand stock
still as a knotted throng of busybodies accumulates.
“They’re counting paces down from thirteen!”
A baker’s dozen must mean
“Fare the well” in these parts.
Like rubberneckers on highway 80,
these cactus buddies clump together.
Cheery whiskered gamblers spit chew
and count their odds.
Bellies up to the bar,
ordering rye on the rocks.
Spurs jangle as a huge russet sun sets.
In the City of God / by Randy Smith
No one social distances
Or wears a mask
The gun ranges are free
Angels deliver pizzas
The pizzas are hot
Everyone owns a dog
Your mother is not dying
Your bills are paid
The fish bite
The check came
The River of Life
Is fully stocked
Hobby Lobby is huge
Celebrities are famous
But so are you
God is CEO of social media
It is heavily curated
But not for long
Squirrels are gone
Bird feeders are in
Squash vine borers are gone
Squash are in
Unsightly hair? Gone
Bad teeth? Gone
In the City of God
Who needs hope
Or anything to hope for?
To the Frog Living in Our Peace Lily / by Cheyenne Taylor
dust & sunburn
on the lips
too, its build
a little of which
One wet stalk
gives way to
one white flag
in your small
less like surrender
than a skate
a place to set
down her purse.
I will wait
tongue with you,
for a little purpose,
I will wait
and croak into each of
the heart’s warring rooms.
STRENGTH FROM BEEF, Part 1 of 3: THE MOUTH / by David Weinstock
Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude;
How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?
-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
It starts with your mouth, didn’t everything?
Hearty you ate all day, but did not bolt
your food, Your everyday breakfast of beef,
you played it for maximum pleaasure,
the aroma of smoke and red meat and fat
enjoyed for minutes before giving tongue
its chance,and then the real work of the teeth.
Did you ever meet young Horace Fletcher,
the prophet of ultra-long chewing?
He trusted the tongue and the molars,
saliva to him was fine vintage wine,
the draught that every decent meal deserved.
But the mouth is only the vestibule
where the unexpected gues before entering
first encounters the magnitude of your love.
(to be continued)
18. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN ACROSTIC
Take the letters in the author’s name
end each line with a word made from the same.
1996 – The bookstore clerk said Here’s one you can’t ignore…
this fellow mixes evil, good and fantasy in one.
Like many readers, I plunged in. The terror
caught me by surprise – Must Ned Stark die just as I learn his quiet roar?
Yet, this man can write! Lyric descriptions, juicy plots, characters mean
ambitious or naive… I made friends with king or player minor
and – as I stood behind their minds – heard their thoughts orate.
So many plays for power! Like history, not fantasy, such ego…
Fast-paced, the youth especially never tame
full of plots & pleas, airs, grins and grit.
The violence? A bit too ‘movie dramatic,’ that I grant,
and yet: Tyrion, Jon, Brad, Arya, Sansa… all a treat,
even Jaime and Brienne – a read so rare
I couldn’t help getting swept along in it.
Poem 17 / Day 17
TIDES / by Patty Joslyn
Sailors, surfers, swimmers,
walkers, waders, wonderer
Tidal forces causes earth/and its water/to bulge out the side closest to the moon
& the side farthest from the moon.
Bulges of water are high tides.
Every day there are two high tides & two low tides
local mean lower low tide is defined as zero/0
any tide lower is a minus tide/-
which happens a couple of times a month when the sun & moon
Think every day, each month, yearly
think what you may witness:
conch, scallops, clams, slipper shells, sea worms, fish bones, wet feathers
spring tides/neap tides
ways of swells & bulge
our bodies know too
The dark/new moon held between the earth and sun
full moon when earth is held between moon and sun
and the tides know it before we look at the pages on
a calendar or at one another and say yes it’s here now
Cleaning out David’s Fridge / by Katie Kalisz
After we put him on the 6 am train going west,
three of us caravan to his house to clean out
his fridge. It is December. We know he won’t be
coming back, and that he couldn’t eat much these
last months, but it surprises us, all the food
he’s accepted from people trying to do something
for his terminal cancer. It is more than we imagined.
We take turns – reaching in, pouring out, holding
open the garbage bag. We each take what we
think we’ll use, still good ham, sticks of butter,
unopened bags of Halloween candy,
eleven eggs, sacks of potatoes and onions.
There is so much homemade soup, Tupperware
containers of casserole servings. On my way home,
the milk I’ve taken spills in the back of the car,
seeping onto the carpeted trunk. I soak it up
with paper towels, scrub it with Oxi-clean
and soda water, but the stain is still there, like
on an old recipe, a memory of the morning David left
while we chased after the train, waving to our reflections
in the black window, our footprints marring the fresh snow.
Resistance Is Futile / by Pratibha Kelapure
when the evening rolls in, it matters
whether you have gained enough grain
laid in a warm bed on a cold night
the things that give you the stamina
to confront the injustice and voice
your plights and fight the sordid system
but you are rolling in the quagmire
the obscured sight, breath breached
reaching for a safe hold, forever slipping
losing footing, gasping, shallow breath
when next breath is the only concern
to see the next day’s sunlight, survival
the movements go on
the healthy bodies
move and shape
the world optimized
to quell the pangs
the desire to better
the life of imaginary
sufferings of people
who will never witness
the light of hope
hope for the future, I think I’ll miss you most of all / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
It sounds sweet—story of a small town girl who leaves
behind the dull gray of midwestern poverty, embarking
on a journey full-spectrum and saturated.
There’s adventure, talking animals, a daring rescue
mission, true evil to overcome—and all of it a cruelty.
So I’ve said since I was small.
We promise children magic, ply them into sleep
despite the day’s injustices and so the pair of boys
swashbuckling with a tree’s discarded branches in the yard
the girl who clicks her heels in hopes of an escape—
and what becomes of them? We live and then we die.
We chase the unseen world that’s just beyond the ordinary,
hoping to discover that our fondest hopes were never lost
but only hidden somewhere, through a wardrobe
or a looking glass, a distant kingdom where
the farmer’s daughter sits upon a throne of emeralds
in a gingham dress, her silver slippers shivering in the light.\\
An Ode to Sage: written on site at Matthaei Botanical Garden / by Christina-Marie Sears
Leaves spiral up -light green
dusted over with confectioner’s sugar
Delicate against my chin.
Warm air billows,
plants salute earth.
Fragrant blossoms beguile many.
Whispering music–harp’s sonority;
adjacent to desert parables.
Oh Sage- conveying focus; clarity.
Durable precepts navigate crisp of linen.
Sisters snap a selfie; watery curls stream
across pastel jackets. Curling upwards.
Small crowns wreathed in Byzantium
flowers. Honor to First Peoples who
Grow and gather, dry and smudge.
Vibrant in growth, uplifting in smoke.
Sage brings alignment and peace.
The Gates of Eden / by Randy Smith
When Miss Savelle taught Jim’s dad
World War II was a current event When she taught Jim
World War II was consigned to history books
Miss Savelle was a spinster beldam
and meticulous grader If you put 1940 for the beginning
of a war and it was 1939 you didn’t get any
Close But Not Quite points
even though in the broad scheme of things
a random year here and there means nothing to history
Jim’s dad grew up to be a postal clerk
and talked to Miss Savelle every day when she dropped
by to check her box for bills and letters
Miss Savelle liked Jim’s dad but not Jim
who always tried to pass test answers to his best friends
Like 1940 which they all got wrong
because of Jim Jim was smart though
and became a notable and much consulted neurosurgeon
and moved to Atlanta where he removed
pernicious growths from people’s brains
He drove a BMW married a pretty wife and had two kids
on the way to Yale He’d almost forgotten
Miss Savelle completely which Jim knew
even healthy brains could do until he read her obituary
in the local paper
which he still received An folksy legend
of georgic life passing answers from Jim’s past to current
Jim Jim’s dad had died from emphysema
Jim’s brother fell off the top bleacher at a dirtbike race
and Jim’s wrought and troubled mother
drove her car into a lake
Miss Savelle whose bones
always looked brittle which Jim could now explain
with chemical equations died when her truck rolled back
and pinned her against a gate post
while she was checking her cows and calves
Jim knew about the brain and oxygen starvation and how
every inspiration and expiration cycle
probably let the truck inch backwards Until Miss Savelle
was simply pinned and limp
pinned and limp against the post
The cane bolt lifted and the gate sections swinging free
in the spring wind on their atavistic iron hinges
Jim knew but couldn’t explain
how some patients experienced their lives flash before
their eyes He wondered how far back
in time Miss Savelle got He wondered
if she saw Panzer tanks roll across Poland or the Plague
depredate Europe or Little Red Cap promise
to stay on the path He wondered
if she saw innocent Eve say to Adam This is my body
A delectable fruit Take and eat
He wondered if she saw his mother
sitting pensive and alone atop Blackshear’s Boat Ramp
when she shifted gears to neutral from park
The Eastern Coachwhip / by Cheyenne Taylor
Beats herself up for being spotted,
cicada half-sunk in her throat.
Rattles her naked tail in the scrubland,
needles of burned pines.
Wishes she were poisonous. Cicada’s
buckled tymbal flexing,
finds herself briefly singing insect song.
Is of moderate concern.
Has never whipped a thing but flatwoods,
ash, her own braided back.
Looks good in black and tan, declining
down the coastal plain.
Finishes her swallow and raises
her periscope head again.
There is no time for doubt. It fades
from her dusky head
as she hauls the great emergency
of her body through the grass.
HEAR ME OUT / by David Weinstock
You are also asking me questions and I hear you.
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
As if your poem was Scripture or Talmud,
I pick the smallest bits and study close.
Nouns, verbs, and that tricky pronoun myself.
With you now more than a century dead,
what self remains, how much is left of my?
Silly me, trying to make sense of you.
Poetry is song, song is for singing.
It’s an act, not a tract. Stop thinking,
let the music flow: all will be made clear.
Once I was young enough to have written
“This is not the archery of thought.”
I hope some day to be that young again.
17. INFATUATION / CONFUSION /MIS- DEFINITION / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
In this phase of my life – I’m rocketing around the world –
(rocket – a green leafy vegetable with dandelion succulence)
toying with the idea of something more
(toy – a small representative object for children to play with)
you danced into view
(ewe – a female sheep, especially when fully mature)
I was enchanted
we lean to one another, exchange visions
(lean-to – a shed supported on one side by trees or posts with an inclined roof)
(a piece of iron or steel that attracts iron substances)
our lips pucker up
(pucker up – wrinkle up, shrivel up)
and we kiss.
Poem 16 / Day 16
nudes / by Patty Joslyn
if hitler had been accepted into art school
as he’d wished isn’t it a wonder to consider
the splashes of red paint we may well have
tossed against walls creating murals of love
if his nudes had heads maybe just maybe
with no spiritual imagination or feeling
there is not rhythm or rhyme or reason
and so he went on to become a tyrant
a cruel and oppressive dictator devoid
of knowing the words precious or holy
if his nudes had hearts he didn’t show
history is like a sleeping bear waiting
for the right time to wake up and see
the light and know it’s the time to be
hungry, again and again, and again…
if his nudes had souls where are they?
A Wretched Spring / by Pratibha Kelapure
the poppies bloom
in the distance
wave orange flags
in the crisp air
of unsullied joy
a lone pine uphill
sways in the breeze
over pink foxglove
the garden glows
in the golden sun
carrying pine cones
puffs his shoulders
the spiked virus
bemoan the season
this wretched spring
on leaving something good / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
Tangled in it—
briny twine, a fishing net
knit tight, and I’ve been swimming in the current
of these channels,
all my life
and now a snare to meet
a barrier across the path
too fine to slip through
too thick to be cut by teeth,
the kind of challenge thus far I’ve refused
and even as a boy I knew the power
in a disappearing act
but Cory I’m a man now
and I’m ready with a name for this
the mayhem wrapped around my feet
the bog that swallows both my water logged boots
it keeps me from believing
I should be with someone like you—
kind and quiet
there beside me at the movies
there beside me in the bed reliable
perfection how you held me down each night
I should have stayed with you
I should have drowned
if you only knew
how much of the world I’ve seen
by running from it
March in New York City / by Christina-Marie Sears
Today’s poem is a partnered poem. Thanks to Friday for playing the game with me.
Under a curtain of rain, stroll north.
A ridiculously small dog snuffles in puddles
in front of a statue.
If that vivacious statue could speak:
would she relay tales of valor-
or complain of pigeons?
I remember our walks in Central Park-
South-Westerly lane held a particular charm.
I trace our path relentlessly-
laying up treasures on earth, silence
scented by promises new seasons bring.
I stopped being able to hear you, but
praise your company anyway, dividing nuts from grain
and tossing palmfuls to squirrels and birds,
who feast upon them.
Where has that little dog gone? Turning back-
melancholy drizzle wanes. Now the birds
are singing snapshots: Come, sun rays!
Bake clean the earth.
Buffering / by Randy Smith
Lode Jones had been trying to divorce his wife for two
years They had next to nothing but contested everything
and had already burned through most of the retirement
plan and several lawyers on both sides And that was
before the virus struck and the trial got put on hold and
one of the kids decided everything was Lode’s fault and
stopped speaking to him Even though Lode had video of
his wife on a drunken naked rant demanding he sign
something and then being hauled off by the cops Lode
didn’t think a college professor should have such problems
On top of that Lode’s phone wouldn’t charge anymore He
had stuck the charging cable in and out so much the
charging port wore smooth as polished gold Lode finally
turned off Screen Time notifications after a month of
Shelter in Place because he couldn’t bear to think how
much time he was wasting on Hot Mothers Near You and
Candy Crush On top of that Lode had stopped reading
Facebook posts because everyone but him seemed to be
getting things published in spite of Hell maybe because of
the virus And everyone had an opinion or charitable
cause that pissed him off Even the ones he agreed with
Mainly Lode was just tired of people thinking their
opinions mattered and that everyone on God’s blighted
earth should pay attention to whatever they were
screaming into the dim distempered pestilent void
Actually Lode did still read Facebook posts but not ones
that began I am pleased to announce My Ted Talk My
publisher My mother Look what I got in the mail! Please
share I am SOOOO happy to and Thanks for all the
birthday And he damn sure didn’t click on See More at
the end of any post Actually Lode did click one See More
but it was for a post that began Me: Why are you such a
dick? That was one worth reading Last night Lode
received an email from his small university that said The
administrative team regrets to inform you He had
stopped reading there and was now sipping coffee the
next morning Watching a pair of prim doves posit his
lawn as a place of paradox and peace Smelling the bright
sweet smoke of stoved Oriental tobacco rise from his pipe
Letting the rest of his fraught and delitescent life buffer
through its turbid stream That and wait was all he knew
Let’s Say We Mapped the Brain / by Cheyenne Taylor
But now our constellations all read wrong,
each star’s seismology pulsing different codes.
We want them rhythms, chords, harmonies,
but find it’s all just radiation, sloughed time.
Now we see our thoughts in ultraviolet,
every image an afterimage, every dream
a pipedream. Researchers have gifted us
the Mystical Experience Questionnaire
but we still measure light in lumens.
On a scale from one to five, where is your
sense of spiritual height? All is one.
I once watched a universe sprout
from a sad man’s hair, raisin-dark,
ineffable. In the glow of a TV screen,
life rose gently out of him like steam.
I knew then I could never return to him,
escaped out the back door of my self.
Rate your sense of reverence:
so slight I cannot decide. Now
I read bunk astrophysics news
and hope that there’s a ringing after all,
that my skin could turn to porcelain
and still hum something. That we are the ghost
in the solar system’s cold machine.
My student writes an innovation paper
on a brain sim, a complete map we could use
for neurological experiments, not worry
about petty things like ethics,
like my mother’s ketamine dream
scaring her down to the roots of her teeth.
Answer each question according to your feelings
at the time of the session. I once thought I’d popped
the hood on my soul and found a good engine inside.
Thought maybe I was the crux of some asterism,
minor cluster of light. Years later, pop science says
“For the First Time, Astronomers Detect Regular Pulses
Coming from Chaotic Stars.” Metaphors
of strings and chords, frequencies and tangles
abound around these strange, young bodies.
I don’t feel up to chasing oneness in relation
to an “inner world,” much anymore, but
it’s a Saturday on Earth and I am missing
space. Two dry reservoirs behind the strip mall
call long-legged birds to parse the grass,
looking for mosquitoes, sustenance,
doing what creatures do, no questions asked.
SHADOW GOVERNMENT / by David Weinstock
Have you outstript the rest? are you the President?
–Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Yes. You have found me. I am the President.
I’d been hoping nobody would notice.
I thought I could quietly do the job
out of sight and below the radar
or nothing would get done at all.
I knew my duty. I had to step up.
I am the chief executive, the buck
stops here. My office is not oval,
but my heart is true. My cabinet is loyal.
As commander in chief, I ended all war,
I brought the boys home, I brought home the girls,
and thanked them all properly and well.
I will serve out my term, all of the terms.
And I will not write a tell-all book,
because at last there’s nothing left to say.
16. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
My daughter was 5-years-old that year,
my son 3. A lovely day in May.
They were building blocks on our front porch
when Marion said, “Let’s get married.”
Without another word, the pair went inside
came back. She wore a flowered dress,
he had on shorts & a short-sleeved blue shirt.
“We’re married!” she announced
as she took Nick’s hand.
They walked to the porch steps and descended.
Nick spoke next. “Let’s go on our honeymoon.”
Solemnly, they walked to the end of our driveway,
They turned left. Our home in the city of Pittsburgh
stands 2 houses from the corner,
an intersection that leads to the local middle school.
We watched from the porch
I leaned forward. Did I look anxious to them?
Marion smiled at me.
“Don’t worry,” she said in her confident 5-year-old voice,
“We’re only going to the corner.”
Poem 15 / Day 15
First Light / by Patty Joslyn
Let there be rain, mud, birdsong. And hopes the rains end soon. Thirty-nine nights.
Most days we walk with umbrellas, raincoats eeking with noise,
boots still damp from yesterday or the day before.
But we can’t vote on when it should end.
Even if we were to vote would we
I don’t have much faith left in she
or them, or whoever wants to say lend.
So many terrible decisions in keeping a bad score.
It’s politics and a pandemic; two wrongs working as to destroy,
if we embrace the rain and what it creates we can’t go wrong: Bird song at first light.
Kiosks (a found poem) / by Katie Kalisz
Social distancing won’t stop us from having your back. Welcome. Closed for repairs. Drive thru open. Thank you. Don’t be eye candy. Be soul food. We have toilet paper. We are killing Covid-19 one clean car at a time. Thank you. Welcome. Closed until further notice. Tyrrany, 5G, and vaccines will kill millions more than Covid-19. Thank you. Flavor of the week: chocolate decadence. Get cash now. We deliver. Did you try turning 2020 off and on? Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord. Pray for America. Here to serve you. $1 chili dogs. Don’t forget beer cave! Stay healthy and safe! Thank you. Life is so much easier with a sense of humor. Wanna bring in a little doe? Be a good person but don’t waste time to prove it. Pothole season. How’s your front end? Thank you all essential workers. We sell real estate. What’s your superpower? Looking for answers to life? Hallmark cards half off for mom here. Home cookin / beer. Tulips and daffodils. To-go orders. Freedom cannot be granted it must be achieved. We are all in this together. Happy and healthy. Pray healthy. Gun sale. Find out if there really is life after death – Trespass on this property. Honk for essential manufacturing workers! Thank you for your loyalty and patience. Be safe. Be strong and courageous. Be praying – Services cancelled. God’s promises aren’t. Welcome.
Just Water / by Pratibha Kelapure
fierce rain slapped us left and right, but we didn’t care
but giggled and waded in the puddles, it was just water
sand receded slowly under our feet, dusk ocean swell
we tumbled and rolled with the waves, furious water
dust storms blew all summer, we merrily spun our bicycles
afterward dusk showers under the hand pump, glorious water
whirring stove, blue flame, boiling curry, oil in the fryer
we continued chopping onions, teary eyes, just saltwater
sipping coffee after dinner, on the evening news we now watch
An eight-year-old Malawi girl carrying a barrel of precious water
it’s only 12:30am / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
but this time I know what to do
when the captain of the varsity swim team
comes back to his bedroom still wet from the shower
with his boxers thin and clinging to his legs
I drop to my knees
and throw my arms around his slender waist.
I touch my mouth to his entire body
and we both make love for the first time
to each other
in his bedroom on the floor
beside the wall of windows looking out
across a moonlit empty field
this time we collapse in sweat
two boys lying like two buildings ravaged by an earthquake
from within the rubble we crawl, dirty
but with hands clasped
and I don’t fall for the redhead from the trailer park who leaves me
and I don’t fall for my friend who says he’ll leave his lover for me
and I don’t chase the nerd boy, never learn
to love the clark kent glasses sliding from his alabaster face
and I don’t kiss the actor backstage in his tuxedo
and I don’t leave the country
and I never meet the handsome junkie
never meet my best friends
never meet the art
or live outside my hometown
never wonder where the swimmer went
if like me, he was drowned within an ugly world
never stare at pictures of his wedding ring
never wonder what my life
if I had known
if I had known
Self-Monitor / by Christina-Marie Sears
Blue Bunny Ice cream on a humble row-boat-
when you pulled cool water with red oars, Danny-boy,
I tasted joy. What of? Why not? Did you let your piercings grow
together on purpose? Dragonflies buzz by and dispel emotion.
The 10 Per Cent monitors us: our comings and goings-
newly-limited shopping excursions. How much can Spyware hurt?
Whether in the toothpaste aisle or backed against
a precipice, my choices always seem wrong.
Within the skin? Or without? Sunlight or penumbra?
These only align in the rear-view mirror.
Invasive Species / by Randy Smith
Ted Rex sold Allstate Insurance and chaired
the Board of Education for his local school He played golf
in college and was a distant relative
of Davey Crockett He hung detailed family crests
on his den wall to prove it He always told his kids the truth
and nurtured them on the Bill of Rights
biblical inerrancy hunting regulations
and the rules of concealed carry When he shot a round
of golf at Woodland Hills he pushed
his own clubs from green to green Ted
or T Rex as his friends called him drove his wife and kids
on vacation to the Creation Museum
and Ark Encounter in Kentucky He wanted
Joshua and Jamie to know the difference between science
and fact At the Museum Ted watched
in wonder as Adam named dinosaurs
in the Garden of Eden Though some of the animatronics
reminded him of the Make Believe Band
at Chuck E Cheese’s Touring the towering
Ark replica Ted learned how imported Amish craftsmen
pegged and bolted 3.3 million feet
of spruce and pine to form the boat’s beams
stanchions stringers and strakes He couldn’t imagine
the property and casualty premiums alone
on such a mindboggling ship
made of nothing but latent tinder and fire Sometimes
Ted flew to Florida with a group of buddies
to hunt invasive species like Burmese
pythons iguanas and tegu lizards Righting the balance
and ridding the swamps of feral spines
and crests sinister stripes and scales
razored claws and milkycold glaucomatous eyes T Rex
was not one to merely think and stand by
Apollo / by Cheyenne Taylor
At 4 a.m. you drive me to the airport.
The moon shows off her fullness,
as if to toast the golden anniversary
of man’s first visit, drawing fog
up the horizon from the prairie swamp
where land flattens suddenly.
In her cornflower light, we chat
as you take the turnpike east,
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER/
ORLANDO, paying our toll
to watch the roadside marshes
turn to mercury. Long pools
of silver link the service plazas,
minutes clocking past
like they have somewhere to be.
We talk more about anything,
Orlando’s lonely neon ratchets
round and round for us.
I try to think of everything
before you turn around and watch
the sun dissolve the world
we’ve just come through.
I want you to recite a poem—
my one-time field sobriety test,
what I asked you to do when, really,
I meant don’t leave, when it was 4 a.m.
and we’d been chatting on my balcony,
watching the moon drive over the city,
and what I mean is, I won’t be long,
and what I really mean is,
howl at the moon
you are incredible.
SONG OF MY BATH / by David Weinstock
Where are you off to, lady? for I see you.
–Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
She watches the twenty-eight naked young men
bathing in the river, from the window
of her fine house. This has happened before,
she never misses them. What does she do?
The same thing that Walt Whitman would have done,
she touches herself. Then she imagines
she’s down in the water along with them,
all twenty-eight, her hand invisible but felt.
(and just one hand—the other is engaged)
until she’s done and they are soused with spray.
She thinks she is unseen, that they don’t know
but poets, all we poets, saw it all.
15. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
Has the ground changed its color?
Or am I simply out of my own time…
all seems to be brown and dry
when I thought Spring
would be winging in
with her blossoms and her bows
Am I dreaming then?
Or simply affected by my times
when I look for green and see grey
Perhaps the cure is to close my eyes
not to the current climate of cataclysmic corruption
but to my acquiesce to it.
No. That cannot be my answer.
I’ll look again.
If the ground seems to waver and burn
I’ll speak up. Raise my slender sword
and if they come for me, I’ll not change
a single word. Call me Joan if you like.
I admire the willow by the water
and plan to stand.
Poem 14 / Day 14
the last ‘word’ / by Patty Joslyn
I asked Charlie B, the good and short dog, if he’d consider writing something this morning, told him to let it rip and boy-o-boy did he, then he turned tail to stare at the place his breakfast was hoped; his beggar’s bowl, a modest empty vessel, he licked his lips and plopped down.
Not much to say, I asked him? But he was busy with his hind end and anything I said would have to wait and I knew if the bowl remained bare too long he’d move on to the leg of a chair or arm of the sofa but he’s not that kind; not usually or often.
I suggested a trade ~ food for words ~ but this time he rolled onto his back and grinned at the ceiling or maybe himself or maybe me. How smart he is to not say anything; never divulging his age or who his father might be, or just how many times he’d been in the slammer (I know at least three times!!!) For wild chases and trespassing. Fights. And all-nighters.
He’s walked away now, no doubt back to bed, but not his bed I imagine. If I went searching for him it would be easy. My side of the bed, snuggled against the place I left because he suggested it was time to get going. What a fool I am. Wondering who else loves me like this?
Here he comes, toenails tapping the old pine floorboards, tail going side to side. A walk will mean full circle and I can see it’s just about time. He wants to get me out sniffing. Anyday it will be lilacs and soon roses. To him it’s the last guy that used his spot. But Charlie B is a man dog who always likes the last ‘word’.
P.S. This is a work of fiction based on a real character. His name is Charlie B but he’s almost all good, almost all the time. xo
Apology to the 18 babies who survived an attack at a maternity ward in Kabul / by Katie Kalisz
There are almost no words.
It is silent when I read
that the oldest – five days –
and the youngest –
born after the attack, before
the survivors were moved
– have lived. Your new hearts
have chambers that relax and fill
with blood, and then contract
and squeeze the blood out
to all of your sparkling arteries.
It is still quiet when I read
that no one has taken blame
or claimed responsibility, for the
soft target, a place where babies
enter the world. I will.
We all should. We have
some part in this crime
even if we did not
pull any trigger. We name
what we create, and we have
many names for this kind of event,
although you do not know
those words yet, do not
yet even have names yourselves.
Perhaps your names are now
18 of those names: trauma, disaster
massacre, carnage, casualty,
slaughter, ambush, assault,
tragedy, catastrophe, cataclysm,
misery, calamity, injury, anguish,
torment, damage, ruin.
To claim you, your mother’s
names were called out
to a crowd of men, crying.
It is raining here today. I stare
at the names of paint chips,
nail polish and lipstick,
flavored water, chewing gum,
vegetable seeds, flower varietals.
Let me rename everything
in the world for you.
Low-flying Bird / by Pratibha Kelapure
upon being shoved aside, the shock
doesn’t distress her, only to the flock
she wants to belong, those who fly high
on the upper echelon of the privilege
being accustomed to the margins
she cozies up with the flowering hedge
to escape the constant jet engine whir
maybe a nosedive in lightning & thunder
flying solo isn’t a choice but a necessity
for the bird forsaken to the disrupted nest
who never learns the secret of soaring
yet uncertain wings in the air furiously flap
anger management / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
not like when I live alone
and holler at computer games
not like when a medication
exiting my blood leaves anger
as a parting gift
when I hit my head and my
first instinct is to punch
the ceiling beam or pipe
that dares to find itself
in my way—
the lurch of that which
strangles my entire body
from the inside out
sweat and knuckle white
At times I’ve felt it hard
enough to vomit. Once
I came down with a fever
so high I heard voices. Once
I fucked an ugly boy
to shut him up. Once
I told an enemy exactly
how I felt about her
worse, how everybody
else did. Once, I told
a friend the same thing
Once, it was my father
I don’t know what you mean
when you say, you’re too political
but you should know
you’re trying to reason
with a flamethrower, a molotov
a woman scorned said Congreve
hath a fury beyond hell, but
I’d wager that he never spent time
with a fag who simply pays attention
to the shit that people say
that watches what crawls
from the world’s mouth
famished, drooling, scurrying
with outstretched claws
to swallow whole the men I love
it is a thankless job, to slit your wrists
and slash what acid boils from the gash
into the faces of these beasts
you say too political, too angry,
too involved. I say, here is how
I prove my deep devotion
to my people, even as
they’re scared off
by the volume
of my pulse
oh my darlings
my beloved boys
all my pretty rage
North Carolina Morning / by Christina-Marie Sears
Davey wakes into that velveteen quiet of night.
His yen for gamefish: jacks,
small-mouthed bass, blackdrums and yellow perch
often pushes him to beat the sun.
Today is a day for trout.
Rainbow, browns, and brook
populate the Watauga River.
Day breaks like an egg.
He climbs into Ted’s old Jeep,
already loaded with gear and
drives into yesterday’s darkness.
Yesterday was done when four o’clocks bloomed
issuing a haze of heavy perfume.
Grandpa’s old waders stood at the ready.
Tackle box burgeoning with lures.
Bright green and canary; peacock blue ones.
But today it’s stoneflies.
Fisherman stands alone–
Casting, predicting, scrutinizing.
Palms itching to hold
a slimy soft body, iridescent.
Remove the barbed hook gently.
Admire the partnership of cunning lure and
clever hunting. Like communion,
It takes but a moment.
Mouth open, breath-held -believing.
The splash- as fish returns to cold river
water- is an unforgettable symphony.
The One Percent / by Randy Smith
When Brother Joe entered his data
in the new COVID-19 Mortality App his results
came back 100% He didn’t think 100%
should be possible in such an App
He did have five chronic underlying health issues
and he was in a nursing home
But still 100%? Good God Everyone deserves a 1%
shot at life
At least that was what Brother Joe thought
He’d preached fifty years
in small Baptist churches mostly to subsistence farmers
about the living water
the grain that must die the vine and branches
the withered fig that failed
to produce He even reached back for illustrations
to his days as a Rural Electric lineman
and compared God’s Word to a stepdown
transformer that reduced eternal truth
to a voltage humans could bear
without frying their fragile brains
Brother Joe’s son Watt lived in Hawaii
and was a financial planner
which was how Watt got his father in a nursing home
Watt had blonde hair
just like Joe’s best friend Bill who’d worked
a bucket truck with Joe
in the years before Watt was born
which was when Joe got fed up
with the REA and felt the call
to fulltime ministry Joe liked to talk
a lot anyway Joe’s wife Linda died twenty years ago
when she was hit by a train
returning from Walmart with a Thanksgiving ham
Joe often wished Linda had lived
long enough to see him forgive her
and stop drinking Joe wished
Watt lived close enough to visit once
in a while Joe wished he had beat the shit
out of Bill Joe wished the orderlies
on smoke break would fill the bird feeders
and the bright red cardinals would return
Joe wished the Mortality App
would give him 1% Overall Brother Joe surprised himself
with how he wanted to live
Prayer for May 14 / by Cheyenne Taylor
Today is for hoping
that nothing will happen,
that nothing will blow and fold
over the parking lot
like leaves, sprout
like toadstools after rain.
Today is for wind,
lizard tongues of summer
slipping around mailboxes,
a day for cracked asphalt
and neighbors with children.
Today is for continuing to wait,
for being patient. Before I lost
this spring I wasn’t kind to myself.
Each wasted moment was terminal,
and I have been determined
to be terminated. But today
is a prayer for nothing,
a whole wide world of it
sat in the shade of the galaxy
sipping its drink, listening
to lazy waves of light.
14. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
Wash your hands
but don’t wash your hands of
reach out with your heart.
Poem 13 / Day 13
Breath is a Thing / by Patty Joslyn
Breath is a thing; a noun.
Breathe an action; a verb. If you are taking in and/or letting out air add the e,
along with that powerful and tiny fifth letter, a vowel, why not add a pause.
The Latin letter ‘E’ differs little from its source, the Greek letter epsilon, ‘Ε’.
This in turn comes from the Semitic letter hê, which has been suggested to
have started as a praying or calling human figure (hillul ‘jubilation’)/Wikipedia
Sometimes vowels cost $.
E/e is the most common letter in the English language alphabet.
Common; not meant as ordinary.
Adjectives describe things.
Several years ago it was suggested I use too many.
For example, the shirt, she said.
Which red one? Small pearl buttons, or zippy snaps,
did the thread colors remind you of confetti?
Was it ¾ sleeve?
Too much she said, again, and went on about specifics.
How broad concepts of love and hope don’t excite her.
Am I a rambler I ask?
A drifter, gadabout, gypsy, knockabout, maunderer,
nomad, roamer, rover, stroller, vagabond, wanderer, wayfarer.
So many wonderful adjectives. I want to add an e to each and take
the prescribed pause. Honor the gypsy, the nomad of my blood and being.
She said cut the word self.
…the one seed, grain-tinctured beak, drenched in
its own morning song, light pressed against me…
Pressed against what/who I wanted to ask. But she’d put away her pointy red pencil; into the top left drawer of her honey-oak desk. She slowly stood and shook her flame of quince-dyed hair. I heard her whisper enough. She didn’t look back at me or the light coming slanted through the open door.
The New Year / by Katie Kalisz
May in the Midwest
means the new year
has finally arrived.
It only begins when
winter ends. We all wake
from dormancy, and parents
tote babies around,
nests appear, like new construction
and everything greens.
All the May flowers
that April delivered
tilt their faces
to the altar of the sun.
We revisit what we hoped
for back when the world
was dark. We have more time
now, more daylight, to drink outside
and read encyclopedias and count
the stars on the tattered flag.
Now is the time for
all we thought we could do
back in January,
for all we thought
we should do, but never
did, dreamed, but could not
A Sunny Afternoon Commute / by Pratibha Kelapure
standing by the roadside, in sticky sari
sweet-salty-water on the pineapple spiral
from the street vendor, drips from fingers
cools me off and revives my drowsy brain
sweltering in dampness, Mumbai sizzles
clinging to the pavement worn out soles
of my chappal, almost to the train station
just as my steps quicken, the golden spires
of towering poinciana, turning the city of toil
into the city of gold. pink cassias before my eyes
the soft scent of mogra, downy white jasmine
afternoon vaporizes; a sudden heavenly sound
a loud boom, the sweet petrichor
fills my nostril, the first monsoon drops
the taste of the fresh steaming earth
almost home, the warm dal and rice
for papa legba / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
I don’t think that it matters, but I was the healthiest I’d ever been—
my muscles rippled underneath the shirts that I had taken in. We all
labored beneath the heat that summer, but I’d worked a double shift
that night. My legs creaked and my hair smelled like steamed milk,
and I was power walking on my way down Layfayette
and that is where I found him, stretched out in the middle
of an intersection, pinned beneath a shopping cart
of dirty clothes and battered junk. To say he smelled bad
is an understatement—stale piss simmered in July and spread
like Santeria oil poured into a flame. I thought he’d been hit
by a car, and now he lay there blended with the trash.
I lifted the wheeled cage off him, pushed it to the curb.
He woke then, groggy as I asked him in a loud voice
what had happened, if he needed me to call someone.
He grunted, trying to sit up, holding out his bare hand
for assistance. I remember looking at it for a moment.
It was greasy, shiny in the light. I only hesitated
for a split second, but in that split-second he began
to pull back, muttering. I reached out quickly, grabbed him
with both hands, and brought him to his feet. I watched him
shuffle to his cart, and limp away without observing me.
It was night, but not too late; we weren’t alone then on the street.
I know it’s strange to say, but I was so relieved
to find I was the kind of man who stopped, as others
walked by not wanting to get involved. I remember thinking,
how cruel it all seemed—someone needed help, and
nobody was willing to get close.
Does a person even exist, I thought, if nobody will touch them?
Snake Eye Surprise / by Christina-Marie Sears
I tire of creeping loathsome nightmares.
Six horses nicker under thunder through my lighting dreams,
And while we may be in the final act of a Wagnerian opera, I’ll call “CUT.”
The horses are puzzled, bored, but heated from the trailride.
Steam billows around their sweaty bodies like post-game frivolities
In the locker room of the winning team.
I tell them, take five, go back to the ranch,
Hit the trailer with white pool towels
wrapped around their haunches.
Scams filled with shadows and promises of laurel-wreathed victors:
who make empty claims of “never will I,” and “we are solid”
are common as Arnold Palmer’s in August’s doldrums.
Give me the antics of magicians. Grant me the glamour
of Nerfritti’s belly-dancing hips, will you?
I rather like the clasp of sea otters’ paws
as they float over the flotsam of kelp forests.
Give me a new start, crew:
I’m begging you. When we break that
wishbone –drying yellowed as an umbilicus–
I swear to let the snake skins of my past seven lives
Blow into skies of nothingness.
Tumbleweeds! Sweep clean the bluffs.
Prairie dogs on cue yip and yap
And wolves cry out as jackals do.
–Though I’ve never seen canines with hankies–
Please, jackrabbit, rub those paws
against a geode filled with crystal; smokey quartz.
Instead of opera, Noh theatre glides over Red Rock’s rains.
Essential Work / by Randy Smith
Chaff Malone fell asleep on his couch
watching throngs of former Chinese ricefarmers
build Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze
They were just raising the first ship
in the new geardriven shiplift when he faded out
When Chaff woke around midnight Elon Musk
in a totally different engineering show
blithely monologued about a colony on Mars
Simulated humans mined iron ore
in buff spacesuits like an army
of NFL linebackers That was when Chaff rose
turned out the lights and put himself to bed
Chaff was an essential worker
although he didn’t believe COVID-19 was real
He refused to wear facemasks and drove
a gleaming Freightliner hauling swabs
PPEs and sanitizer
to viral hotspots He liked to know if he was destined
for sanctuary cities
and other bastions of liberal elites
On the road at night he imagined oncoming headlights
as the Arrow of Time which meant Chaff
was hurtling toward increasing
order in a past where men regrew hair on bald spots
adult children loved their parents again
and rubber bushings belts rings and seals
replasticized with pliable life
When Chaff drifted back to sleep at midnight
he dreamed curious dreams
He lived on Mars under a glassdomed oxygen dam
He had married a Chinese woman whose astral beauty
stunned him They had a boy
and a girl Chaff was an essential worker He drove
ore trucks onto distant red plains He had to go even
when dust storms roiled
Mar’s atmosphere a mile high He wanted to stay
in the shelter of the dome He wanted
to watch his wife undress He wanted to raise
his kids He knew this time he could stand
the slow and certain wrack and wreck of time
but not the sudden shear
and decimate sifting of such a wild and winnowing wind
Consider the Catfish / by Cheyenne Taylor
There is no pain for channel cats, you say,
and show me how to pierce a chicken liver
with a hook. I palm it, that dark slip, sachet
impossibly animal, ready to bruise the river.
The thrill is human, luring something other
than yourself to the treeline—we haul six in
before the evening sips the day’s last color.
Those swimming tongues. Dusk on their slick skin.
You gut them on the tailgate, gills sucking
nothing. If pain is a beetle, tucked in our pocket
where no one else can see it, what are grubworms?
Fresh, dressed, and tossed into a plastic bucket,
the fish blinks like its life depended on it.
As if life could depend on anything but harm.
F = Gm1m2/r2 / by David Weinstock
The elementary laws never apologize.
–Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
And why should I apologize? for what?
Thank the gram for longing for the ground,
thank any mass for knowing up from down.
I never rest. And yes, of course I know
your raging human need to rise and fall
so you can rise again. I have felt you
lighten your pack to climb a mountain,
and wish I did not pull you down so hard.
But I say, be careful what you wish for.
I’m gravity, be grateful. Without me,
your life, each ounce of you, would float away.
13. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
When I find my way to where my muse
sits I stop tune my eyes & ears
sometimes she holds a lyre
sings sweetly with or without words
and I melt lose all sense of time.
Other times she stands on her hill
arms uplifted, eyes as grey
as the storms that surround her
rain pouring down, or snow blanketing
the air never her, her bare arms golden-brown
to watch her gaze sweep the horizon
is time spent there as is prescribed
an acolyte, an ear to hear what is offered
I never know then…
When I return, sit with my pens & papers
words sometimes pour down other times only heat
that she gifts
is a gift and I’m grateful.
Poem 12 / Day 12
If Love is The Answer, What is The Question? / by Patty Joslyn
For C and D/xo
It just is/maybe we make it so
sing from rooftops/balconies/porches
belt out show tunes/opera/R&B
you decide words/volume/tempo
Perhaps the question is bigger
buried in sixty-two layers/years
it can’t be burned/forgotten
yet it hides with missing things
What if we woke with it/slept in it
like birdsong/traffic/the wind
Johannes Brahmns lullaby or
the annoying ring in the ears/head
What if love is mischief/the misfits
the missing sock you search for
a feeling it’s got to be/close
knowing our feet aren’t the same size
one shoe might squeak or pinch
How about we find a place to rest
middle of the day/not the best time
an ordinary moment touched not held
Maybe the question is the answer
write the love letter/spread the word
the blue veins under our skin
are maps leading us to/in/for love
A Temporary Pause / by Katie Kalisz
-after “Sojourn” by Andrea Kowch
It’s not the wild hair, or the white farm turkey,
or the butterfly nets filled with wind, or even
the ruffles on the pretty dresses. It’s not the black
swallowtail butterflies landing on the big heads
of Queen Anne’s lace, not the lace collars
that the sisters wear. It’s the open window
on the second story of the house behind them where
I pause. The curtain billows out of it, like the nets,
blowing the same direction. The yellow fields match
the yellow hair, aglow, already lifting off into the sky.
It’s a scene between seasons, on the cusp of change,
waiting. The last of something. Like us, it’s impermanent
– the girls will go back inside later, the wind will die down,
the day will draw to its end, the window will close.
The butterflies will alight to a different field. We will all
leave soon enough. Let us sojourn here a little while longer.
What a Girl’s Body Holds / by Pratibha Kelapure
the indignation she felt day after day
when the uncles in broad-rimmed glasses
squeezed her cheeks, they turned red
the dismay when she noticed in the bath
the tight feeling in the expanding chest
which yesterday was a smooth limestone
the shame she felt when cousin scrawny
whispered and clamped her on the stairs
where just yesterday she played Slapjack
the shock when a stranger on a bicycle
suddenly in the middle of the scorching day
on her way to school grabbed her breast
the anger she felt when the chain of faces
who hurled obscene slurs on the streets
wondering if that’s what she deserved
the confusion she felt, a toddler
the hate she feels for her self
for living in this sinful body
betty bracelets could never / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
I’m strolling through the rolled stone of old Warsaw
with my mother on the phone. She’s talking
about some book she’s just read, something
that my sister’s done. The narrow streets turn
and I almost run into this young tough, tipped
against the white wall of an 18th century cathedral.
Sweet faced, just a little dirty at the edges,
with his pretty yellow hair cut jagged
like he’d sawed it off against the sharp edge of a rock.
He wolf whistles, I wink, but keep on walking
with my mother pressed against my ear. Now she’s on
about an errand or an accident, but I lose track
of what she’s saying when I see the boy
is following me now, a goofy grin smacked on his face
that could mean almost anything—
and then it’s dinner time back home, and mom hangs up.
and he’s still there, ripped jeans and an army jacket,
motioning for me to come closer.
He speaks almost no english,
and his greyish eyes are half-glazed as he asks me
questions that I’m used to answering—where I’m from,
why I’m here in Poland. I stash my wallet in the waistband
of my briefs when he’s not looking, follow him down
paths that grow more narrow with every turn, until he stops,
and takes a knee. He rifles through his backpack, pulling out
a cigarette case. It opens like a jewelry box inside his palm,
and he withdraws a thin joint for us both to share. I’m still
not sure what this boy wants from me, though it seems likely
that he’s trying to sell me drugs, as weed is often scarce across
the east side of the Continent, and everybody knows
that travelling Americans like getting fucked up. Still,
it says something that when I won’t buy from him, he stays,
passing me the joint—and it feels innocent, like maybe
all he’d hoped for was to share a secret with a stranger
from a far-off place, or that he’s offering a gift in simple
admiration of an obvious outsider, artist travelling alone
and willing still to follow any handsome scamp
into an alley.
This has always been the way of my people.
Sometimes we mistake the bond of misfits for
a common interest in touch, and what touch brings—
excitment, pleasure, worship, harm. Its the uncertainty
of what each man is carrying that won’t be lost to time
or legislature. It will walk between us, twirling its baton
and keeping us apart.
I don’t remember what his name was,
just how we wished each other luck at roach’s end
and parted ways with an embrace that lasted long
enough to question what exactly had occured.
How his hair smelled like a boy that I once loved.
How he whistled one more time, before
he walked away
Gold Teeth / by Christina-Marie Sears
I wished I had our gold in my teeth
so I could taste the metallic strength of Odin, everyday
and replay our melody with my tongue’s caress.
Cherry trees rained pink blossoms
covering the fragile rhythm of you and me. They
drift around my cotton slippers, feather-like.
With your wide hand in mine,
our footpath seemed speckled with diamonds,
like royalty we walked through the fruiting grove.
But your crown and kilt
were covering a trap of duplicity.
What I miss most are our whispers of love;
plans we hatched in the sack.
Now I know your words were empty as
sails, which billow when filled with wind,
but sag into nothing in the amber light
of a still afternoon.
I wake and search for you,
but all I have left are spent blossoms,
and a handful of gold-filled teeth.
First Love / by Randy Smith
Bolt Barnes was half owner in Bolt and Barry’s
Auto Repair He didn’t trust the news or Hollywood
people or computerized cars or foreign nationals
His brother Barry died when he fell from a derelict deerstand
Or sometime in the days after
It wasn’t his deerstand A couple of boys with BB guns
found Barry a year later Or what was left of him
in camouflage Barry’d pulled himself a hundred yards
from the base of the stand
Bolt’s sisterinlaw often sent URGENT emails in ALLCAPS
asking WHERE THE HELL IS ALL THE MONEY
GOING? Bolt had a girlfriend in the Ukraine who sometimes
sent him naked pictures Like when he helped
her family get airconditioning Bolt was a deacon
in his church He was a teetotaler Which meant
he only drank alone or when he was deepsea
fishing far out in the Gulf with people he would never
see again Bolt was a good husband
who married his highschool sweatheart
and played softball His son was an engineering major
at MIT who didn’t like to come home and listen
to his father talk politics and hawk conspiracies
that were all true Bolt’s daughter April was studying
interior design at UGA Once late at night
in his home office Bolt stumbled across April on Chaturbate
performing live with her boyfriend
What are the chances? Bolt wondered Bolt recognized
April’s dormroom and an architectural poster
she’d brought back from Italy Bolt marveled
at April’s agility and the spot on semblance to her mother
years ago in the mattressed bed of his truck
under a lei of stars that wouldn’t go away
that ran him through with love like a forked crown of tines
Let GE Show You What Light Can Do / by Cheyenne Taylor
GE Light Bulbs, Incandescent 60 w, Multi Pack, $7.99
Subtle, Reassuring Light
A thread of metal woven under glass,
affixed to a warped white hardhat.
Above the cage, a pinhole of pale sky.
Above the cage, a pinhole camera aimed at God.
Cozy, Relaxing Light
Sodium lamps pressing holes in the dark.
The relief of a well-lit city asleep,
distant hospitals glittering
like columns of bruised oranges in rain.
Comfortable, Inviting Light
Living light, bargaining with nightjars.
Borrow strength from open fields,
make a fortress of torches,
stay awake and hold each other longer.
Fresh, Energizing Light
Capful of bleach in a soda bottle
refracting sun through a hole in the roof.
The luster of ablated corneas, their clarity.
A bare bulb in a laundry room.
Strong, Vibrant Light
Bombilla, Spanish lightbulb, little bomb.
Little girl bomb, diminutive of light,
exploding into the room, a detonation
not heard. Deep. Hollow. Shattering dark.
SAY/SAY / by David Weinstock
If you do not say any thing how can I say any thing?
–Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Forget it, every word I said in class.
Language is not math, logic is not love.
This conversation’s how we pass the time
until anything more important can come up,
as it will, as it always does, so listen sharp:
for panic in her voice, for dull pain in his body,
for shaking in their soul, and yes, there is a soul;
nothing we say about souls makes any sense,
not a milligram, not a molecule, and yet
we need to know exactly what it means
and where it hides, and how to lure it out.
Poet, you are not an entertainer.
You are the first responder of the soul.
Be ready to go. Go now, go right now.
12. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
I have been attempting to read
Thomas Mann is a long-winded author;
I am a long-winded author.
I am occasionally amusing.
Poem 11 / Day 11
For Faith / by Patty Joslyn
In the sanctuary in Chimayo/I cried for faith
on the beach in Ogunquit I cried for knowing
At the market in Vienna it was cold & beauty
the way it hurt to breathe/ways it hurt not to
Under a holly tree in California/family
sobs that turned from anger to sadness
Montpelier/in a backyard dropped to my knees
damp grass leaving stain the color of sweet relish
On a glass bottom boat in Florida/a sunburn
and a fatigue every child seems to live through
Yesterday/Loop Beach/to witness the missing
to know it well to try and call it something else
Margarita Island/dancing the taste of cigars
drinking rum and knowing it’s all too much
The deaths of loved one/some too young
others old but for the way we say goodbye
For the ways we learn to be in the world
to call them habits/know the way/release
How we wait/worry the other shoe to drop
we want this need this to take our next step
In that sanctuary in Chimayo I cried for faith
still these tears/carrying the salt water of me
Let Me Tell You About My Friend, David / by Katie Kalisz
He was the nicest guy, talked to anyone,
traveled by train, mostly, because he
liked the sound of the cars rattling
together. Most people grow petty,
but not David. No, he kept us in line –
made us see the good in the people
we gossiped about. Carved us
little wooden boxes and let us hammer open
geodes for Christmas presents, scratch off
Lotto tickets. Loved baseball and maps, shopping
thrift stores, seafood subs. He’d mix
7UP with white zinfandel, and he made
the best cobbler, any kind of fruit. To him,
every lady was pretty. In his living room
he set up a model train track instead of a sofa.
He was kind of a hippie, had a peace sign
made out of rocks in his front yard
and fruit trees, and drove a Prius,
had a skinny gray pony tail, painted.
He was born in January and
died on the last day of the year,
really getting his money’s worth.
Used up the time and left. No partial taxes.
That was David. About this pandemic
he would have said something like – well, actually,
I wonder what he would have said.
I can see his face, and hear his voice, but
I can’t make out the words.
Witness / by Pratibha Kelapure
the paralyzed world fears fever and chills,
a tickle in throat seems a summons to doom
wars rage on, missiles explode, Syria burns
black men get killed, schools riddled with bullets
other poets pour out their hearts and rage
in a flood of verses, they call for action
I too want to join in their revolution
to protest the injustices of the world
just when I pick up the pen, a little girl
shows up in tears of humiliation
questions my intentions, demands attention
what about me, her voice soft but tone urgent
what’s wrong, what do you want? I’m annoyed
that’s for you to figure out, she smiles now
her silly grin, her insistent disruptions
I want to dismiss, can’t fathom what’s buried
whatever is pulsing in her diminutive self
her unyielding memories I have to unearth
before she releases me from her clutches
a child needs a witness to things unseen
a stain / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
will you forgive me if I tell you
I insisted on attending to the wound?
a wad of cotton
soaked in antiseptic,
kissed across the rift beneath his wrist
where he made contact with the wall
on his way down.
the skillet made a sound like tearing
pages as I dumped it in the sink,
the omelette burnt,
him inches from my face,
with mouth and eyes and nostrils wide
and siren loud, his few remaining teeth
announcing their decay on fetid breath.
I sneered at him.
He slapped me.
for the first time
in a long time,
I recognized my father
as the man from all the stories
I don’t tell.
will you forgive me
if I tell you now,
that once when I was 17,
he slammed me hard enough
against a door
to leave a mark?
or that once
I was so frightened of him
that I hid inside the cabinet underneath
the bathroom sink?
He slapped me, so I knocked his cane
out of his hand and pushed him back.
cleaning my father’s blood off the wall
I use the same sponge that he uses
when he does the dishes.
the scab dark stain lifts easily,
a border annexed,
Monk’s Hour at the Pompidou Museum / by Christina-Marie Sears
Remember Paris, 2012?
Headlights sweep the cobbled streets
illuminating rose gardens of pale luscious melon. We wait,
still minutes tick by smelling of strawberries and the greenest little ivy.
Our hands marry under streetlights while rangy goats scramble up
a rocky wall that imprisons the bones of a prehistoric beast.
Oh Ichthyosaur! Why are your fossils like magnets? Shudder, sigh,
repel: we creep away from the cliffs, slither through a propped window. Gaze
as if through a glass darkly, at 3:00 am. The museum has curated
the gloomiest show on earth. Dessicated vampires mark time in floral coffins.
An ebony boulder is festooned with manacles and locked to the floor, ticking.
Fixer Upper / by Randy Smith
Park Slope had nothing to say
and no one to say it to His sorry wife took flight
with everything except the cat
She even turned the kids against him
by telling them Park was lazy and good for nothing
He was good for nothing
but she didn’t have to tell them that
If it werent for Park and a herniated lumbar disk
they never wouldve qualified
for free lunches and summer camps
That was something and Park would like to remind
his kids of that if he ever saw them again
Park threw scraps in the yard and liked to watch
robins pull worms from the ground
and mourning doves poke for stray seeds
Park thought of doves as angels
meek and mild Except when the cat caught one
and it exploded in chimerical majesty
Downy floats of underfeather seeding
the grass and wind Mostly Park watched reality
shows like Life Below Zero
and Doomsday Preppers Occasionally
he snuck in episodes of Fixer Upper where Chip
and Joanna Gaines transformed
dated houses with potential
into Magnolia Homes and beguiling big reveals
The blownaway couples
speechless and rarified in a rapture
they believed would last the rest of their long
and melliferous human lives
Deviant Burial / by Cheyenne Taylor
Your eyes tempted tidal waves,
whipped wind into a jealousy
viscous enough to crack shutters,
so they place snail shells
in your sockets, bury you facedown.
Miles away, you eat the dirt
with a tongue of flat stone.
Mothers wash your ill omens
from their children’s clothes,
refuse to eat fish from the river.
In Sozopol they drive iron rods
through your heart to catch
the lightning, your soul
a stunned fish hooked
to the planet and forgotten.
To keep you from rising
toward God in Edinburgh,
they sink you in an orchard,
weight your blaspheming
chest with a slab of lime.
But no, praise be, no one
would do this to you now.
You must do it to yourself.
Go on, they say without
their mouths. Love it or get out.
THE CLEAN-HAIRED YANKEE GIRL / by David Weinstock
You drove me to South Jersey
to see my childhood home,
now a born-again parsonage.
The minister’s wife greets us
as if we were angels from God
who might, if well-treated,
throw back our dusty cloaks,
flash our glory, and leave some
good news, or riches, or grace.
We tour their proud improvements.
how they fixed up the basement,
the attic, the porch, my old room,
sank a pool out back, and pruned,
from my father’s silver maple,
the only climbable trunk.
Then, then I should have shed my coat,
evicted them in a voice of thunder,
and carried you into the house.
11. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
This is a day a cat could love
an excuse to cozy up
cuddle on the quilt
One can hear birds through glass
even see a few winging redly by
does ichor flow in their veins
A cat may muse –
can contest themselves
with a fast-paced mystery
or the poetics of Edna St. Vincent Millay
a cat is secure
can stare at the flitter
of passing light
or fall into a trance
gazing at the amazing nothing
and the aura around it.
Poem 10 / Day 10
Mom and The Rainbow / by Patty Joslyn
Mom called to tell me about the rainbow.
“I thought it was fire;
Lite up the whole sky.
The biggest rainbow ever.
Then a second.”
Said she’d wanted to take a photograph/capture it.
Instead she called the woman who lives upstairs;
“You have to see it.”
My mother is a woman who shares the amazing.
She asked me what the colors mean? Why?
She wants me to write a new beginning.
Rainbows hold up to a million hues.
No one of us sees a rainbow the same.
Colors we are taught to see:
Red/the blood we share
Orange/sliced with tea and toast
Green/four leaf clovers
Blue/the eyes she gifted me
Indigo/held between beauty
Violet/imagination & dreams
The other colors ours alone to see
and where it ends a great mystery.
Mom says something about god
just before hanging up the phone;
a woman who can no longer kneel.
A mother who prays for us to be
What else is there?
Love in the time of COVID-19 / by Katie Kalisz
Is a new record player
on Sunday morning,
S l o w h a n d playing
while I have coffee
and a star-shaped
Rain on the porch’s
metal roof, and pelting
the river’s surface.
Pale pink tulips
that have survived
the late freeze.
Green grass and a
gray sky and the dog
whimpering for a walk.
A new BB gun to
take out the cowbirds.
Cards from the kids
calling me their safe place
with phonetic spelling and
little dots of syrup.
Seeing my mom from
a distance, through
the car window-
her strawberry hair
and soft skin.
Trading her my
for soup in jars
and a tin of cookies.
Handing her hot coffee.
Learning she still has
my baby teeth.
Haunting / by Pratibha Kelapure
morning dew disappears as the sun
thaws the grass. the murmur of mock orange
leaves mingles with the rustling of satin dress
the scent of his cologne fills the air
his insomniac eyes betray neither sadness
nor any joy. she thinks of that sunny day
last year when she saw him kneel and sob
like a lost child, unable to contain his sorrow
she wanted to hold him, run her fingers
through his thinning hair, squeeze his palm
tell him he will be fine, the sadness
will ebb, the sun will be here at dawn
night after night she visits him, gusts
of chilly air, she hopes to warm
up by caressing his pensive face.
but all she has is these cold fingers
and a waning figure. Her intense will
can only do so much to allay his sorrows
the fine line between life and death,
only once you can cross
it is, as they say, the little things that get you / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
more than any argument we had while sloshed
to haunt my memory, or any heavenly hard
downstairs tumble towards another molar-rattling
petit mort—the scribbles of his ostentation hand,
its whisper across scraps of paper fished
from wastebins in the hotel rooms we shared.
I never asked about it, but I always just assumed
he practiced and perfected eccentricities
into his penmanship—its child-like wilderness
of jagged shapes and open circles over
lowercase i, preferring pencil to a pen,
just like a schoolboy.
A few days after his memorial, I found a note
stashed in a box of keepsakes, written
in that reckless script. In French, which I
don’t speak, but which he often spoke to me.
Once translated, I found it was a line
from one of my own poems. Something
about language barriers, and the impossibility
of being understood completely as you try
to tell the story of your loneliness. A joke,
then. Just a little smirk he slid across the table
to me at a show we double-headlined.
When I say I won’t be loved like that again,
I mean I won’t allow it. I’ve chosen comfort
because I believe it to be durable. More likely
to survive than passion.
Yes, the world brings its surprises still, but nothing
like discovering another piece of him, another mess
of letters chipped across a ticket stub, the backside
of an envelope, or tucked inside a book, some time
in the distant past, when his hands still fluttered
with his pulse and art, and when I spoke, he listened.
Contentment / by Christina-Marie Sears
We prowl the streets- Friday, plaid-
Me, blue-black battered fake fur.
Counting now in dandelions pulled,
Or flitting bumblebees spotted
Masses fled campus and town,
return date unknown.
At Parker Mill Park, boardwalks rebuked
– we tread mossy paths
Stopping us, arbor-a un-real-al-is-,
the broadest oak tree I’ve ever seen.
Wrapping arms around; smelling the umber warmth.
We are simple pleasures, folded together.
Matching socks, tiny violets peeking from snow.
quaffing chilled Rose, singularly lit in candle glow,
“Corona Tunes” on Odario’s after-dark show
Max, angora-soft once-pup,
now an old dog–does the two-step.
Nibbling fresh ground peanut butter on celery sticks-
relative freedom is plenty fine.
Mothers Day / by Randy Smith
Slagg Childers put no stock in mothers The one who
got him and the ones he got Married one with a boy
in tow who sloughed carpool camping manners
meals and Scouts onto Slagg while she mewled into
a corded phone and slupped boxwine down her
little coo till she embarked each night upon
dependable oblivion ambivalent and sulfurous A
gorged magma thinly crusted and stuck in her craw
Formed and fueled by bornagain parents who
preached and thumped the Word of God on
childrens guileless heads like holywrit was a snake
cudgel or wrecking bar of steel
Slaggs grandmother threw a fried egg at him once
when he was six because he said the oozing yolk
wasnt cooked enough Orbs of hot grease stuck to
Slaggs face and burnt his skin to a poxxed pattern
which kept him out of school a week The best thing
Slaggs father ever did was park that testy woman in
a musty nursinghome that smelled always rank with
age regret and piss
Slaggs own mother never convalesced from being
orphaned by maternal hypertensive death and
fending off her fathers hands which sometimes
found her milky skin in the night and cupped her
breasts like charmed nodes of magnetic flesh She
slept with a rifle between her legs and once saw an
angel raise it up and post sentinel watch while the
longcase clock tolled hours to a bleached dawn
Slaggs mother as he remembered never cared much
for human touch
The only woman who gave Slagg dependable
dollops of mother love didnt have to but did A
spinster aunt barren as the years are long Mildred
meaning gentle strength A biscuit shaper and
cornbread baker who played hide n seek with young
Slagg in her house waiting behind a chifforobe or in
a pantry nook waiting for the sound of Slaggs feet
secret and catlike on the floor waiting for him to get
close enough for her to jump out and yell Gotcha
and then she did
Gullyworks / by Cheyenne Taylor
A friend’s word
for the hands
inside our mothers
that piece us all
by part, working
stitching up the world
of us with light
and ancient training,
cutting with a precision
only their bodies know,
all that electrical salt
like a shell,
of glass heat.
An economy of mineral
collecting on rock,
a lightning storm,
that put us
in our own way
grain by grain,
in the afternoon,
ADDRESS TO THE TWO THOUSAND / by David Weinstock
Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear it would not amaze me.
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear’d it would not astonish me.
Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons.
–Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road
When has there ever been a day like this one?
Who has ever resembled you?
Who has ever been so perfect, perfect, perfect?
Not since the first pair ate pure fact,
fuckt in the garden & found it fair,
picked leaves and laced them,
stood against the storm,
& left beneath a cloud
that us still shades,
has anyone been so well-fed,
or so contented,so well-dressed
or so happily banished from home
and easy in the dark
as you, TWO THOUSAND,
you, my brothers and sisters,
you thousands called up
by the word ‘perfection,’ you clearly superior fraction,
you nation sprung from the purest fiction,
you ten times ten times twenty gorgeous people!
You almost, almost amaze me.
Now if a thousand horrible sinful cripples
were to stagger out in front of me,
it would not spoil this day,
Now if a thousand overripe hags
dropped at my feet like apples,
I would not change my path.
for now I see the secret
of the making of the best persons.
10. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
My Very Entertaining Mother
My mother was short all her life
became tiny in her 90’s –
lived with me & my husband
after my father died at age 90.
A spunky soul
self-esteem well in place
she felt good about helping others –
Our house became a magnet
for Mom or Mima visitors,
though we’re a family scattered
from Maine to Minnesota
and granddaughters in particular
sought her out
for advice or simply
to sit beside her love.
Once, my daughter and my niece
(who was attending CMU)
were sitting with Mima as she regaled
them with remarks.
(I was roaming the kitchen, drying pots & pans.)
“Girls, you know I like to make people happy.”
(Nods.) “So I say things to make them feel good
about themselves (pause)
even if I have to lie a bit. (Smiles from the granddaughters.)
“So I try to fit a lie…”
(When she pauses, I think to myself
Yeah, she probably stretches the truth
at least once a month)
and then she finishes the sentence –
a lie into every sentence.”
She rocked the house!
Poem 9 / Day 9
LookINg / by Patty Joslyn
most our lives are spent looking out
windows/vistas/where not to step
lookout towers used to watch for fires
floods/foes/figments of imagination
‘look out below’ the tree surgeon calls
the timber the echo of a beating heart
look out for that one/color of skin
place of birth/too much/too little
all the windows at our house
look to a world big and wild
ivy twisting/growing as it pleases
looking in takes courage and kindness
to know what one is born with/into
pocketfuls of history and memories
bottomless bits of dander and fluff
it might be a boulevard of confusion
a desert of loss/sea of panic and fear
it might not be what we hoped/expected
but it’s our alone/until we open the gates
& speak/shout/share love
Baby Teeth / by Katie Kalisz
Once, I heard a story
about a woman who kept her children’s
teeth in the belly of an old clock.
Joking one day, I tell my daughter
I eat the teeth I collect
from beneath her pillow,
horrifying her for a moment.
Really, I only stash
them away in my jewelry
drawer, with my diamonds
and pearls, like they are
small gems to make
necklaces or bracelets from.
I have my finger prints
from the field trip
to the police station
when I was seven,
my dental records
in case my body
could not be identified.
But I do not have
my baby teeth.
I wonder where
my small teeth
are now, how yellow
they must be, so many
years since I abandoned
them. Small bones
I grew and harvested,
then bartered away
to fairies for dollar bills
I want them back
to wear on my wrist,
like a watch.
When I am Dead / by Pratibha Kelapure
After Christina Rossetti
When I am dead, my dearest
Think no thoughts of sorrow
Plant no seeds of remorse
Feel no desire to mourn
Don’t sing, as if in pain
Let your heart find songs
Of my ever ebullient joy
Let the dancers bring
The dancing shoes and bells
Let the sky fill with the sounds
Of feet tapping and drums
Beating, heels and soles
Stomping and leaping in the air
The way my heart jumped
Every time I heard the dance
Music that you deplored
while you’ve been away† / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
after and for D. Blair
you left quickly but it took me months to lose you—
flashes of your soft and sotto voice, a bottle passed
between us on the floor of a hotel room, lips left
traces wet like a swift kiss. On a bus ride between
Boston and New York, I can recall a conversation
that we had, something about god still loving us
that I can’t quite resurface. then you were gone.
I wonder if it’s true, the things that people say
about grace—you had that, chipped tooth and
a knapsack, black enough I had to hail your cab
when all those 3rd Ave motherfuckers should’ve
knelt to kiss your feet. I loved your mind, the times
when we were just two faggots talking shit about
the boys who haunted us by night like seedy bars,
the last stop before somebody’s motel, and always
with the lights off.
There was family before we met who taught me
how to use my anger, but you showed me one
more way to wear it: armor in a torn up jacket,
fresh kicks just ripped from the hearth, and dancing hard
enough that nobody can see how much it burns.
The architect took his last breath today. I watch
the world choose from which angle they will view
his life, but we both know a small town queen
invented rock n’ roll.
I hate the way death comes for my people—
suddenly, and bearing all the accolades
that might have saved our lives. Look
how many people claim a man now vanished
into sexless perfume.
Look what we have made you
steam and steel, still
that’s how hard
I love you
†the last stanza of this poem is a direct quote of the last stanza
from Blair’s magnificent poem, Detroit (While I Was Away).
“;” / by Christina-Marie Sears
You phone, sunny Tuesday afternoon
I answer: hello- Lemon Drop! Standing south side
garden rake in my left hand.
Bear, run off, unfailingly, to
Mr. Pederson’s grape arbor.
I’m in the psych ER “;” just wanted you to know.
Happy-sounding hiss? remarkable…
This time might take.
-uhmm, and ohmm and oh dear, Oh Dear- “;”?
Soul Sister Small Talk
Resonant syllables cheeked to lips.
clipped consonants slip Freudian meaning
My right hand
sows seeds, fly lines cast windward.
First seedlings, then rows.
Leaves grow broadly, photo-“;” -synthesis.
Your Victory declared in fiery Poker Flowers.
Indian Blanket and Nictatania roll red and yellow carpet.
Each day sober: blossoms.
the Midnight Hollyhocks-
there one summer- never returning-
waving glorious to bicycled or sneakered passers-by,
remind me always of your eyes,
your son’s mirrored too: brave, quick to laugh
slow to close.
The Baptist Preacher Witnesses to a Junkman / by Randy Smith
Late spring The powdered drive winds hapless through skewed
cars most windowless A tiltawhirl of canted stoves washers dryers
Castoff sodbusters harrows plows Cement statuary missing limbs
Blackened bird fonts and pedestals none matching The dismantled
bulbless steel arcs of a lone Ferris wheel shot through with dog
fennel bunchgrass and consumption weed Its strewn cars adrift
in human flotsam but holding yet a promise of hazarding souls
cantilevered over yawning gulfs of air The preacher parks his truck
and gets out The junkman studies the preacher from his rocker
Dont need an operational Ferris wheel do you? Not in my line of work
What line of works that? Preaching the true and unctioned Word of God
Must be hard work Not when youve got the livingwater redletter guide
Looks dry and black to me I mean the steadfast words of Jesus inside
Does Jesus need any bolts or parts? Jesus only trades parts for wholes
Don’t market holes but sure I would if I could Not that kind of whole
Still sounds like hard work to me Listen friend are you saved and sealed?
Was once Hallelujah Jehovahjireh Save once and sealed for all of time
Took but didnt stick Well then howd you come to be saved that once?
Met some Christians Christians are Gods chosen Why didnt it stick?
Met more Christians Mustve run in with the wrong kind of Christians
Didnt know theres more than one kind Oh theres lots of heresied kinds
Sounds like youve took to trading in parts Lemme try another tack
Parts again Washed in the Lamb’s blood? Dipped in the healing tide?
Which is it? Its both Never had lamb Ate a rattlesnake once Jesus
You mentioned him Does he live in your heart? Theres all accordant
kinds of kin that breathe live and bleed in mysterious places and ways
I don’t think were talking the same language of God Might be true
Well friend time to go Say a Ferris wheel might fill some empty pews
Daytime Talk / by Cheyenne Taylor
“You are the father,” my mother bets
as the talk show host sets his specs
way down his nose and reads from a blue
square of paper. It’s 4 in the afternoon,
after school, and this is our routine:
tune in to see who’s lying, cheating,
who’s gone geek-to-chic since high school,
who, in TV-14 lingerie, is really true
to their hips and curves—man
or woman? The crowd demands
to know, shouts out their answers.
The host allows this fan service
just long enough for commercials,
when we get to speculate. It’s special,
Mom and I, forecasting other fidelities,
paternities, identities. Inevitably,
some wild result will surprise us, though
we’ve gotten pretty accurate. I know
it’s not a good look, but who are we?
We’re nobodies, and when we leave
the house, Mom circles like a pup
in front of the mirror, gussied up
but feeling like a monster,
hideous in all her clothes, cursed
so rotten she ought to not be seen.
It’s hard to tell if she still believes
this when we’re watching makeovers,
frowzy housewives with dumpy lovers
swaying lazy for the camera, dust palmed
on their cheeks in torn unisex pajamas,
finally zhuzhed up va-va-voom,
fit again to be consumed.
“How do they stand it?” She thinks aloud,
and I don’t ask who. Sometimes the crowd
wonders, too. We laugh when the scumbag
boyfriend blames the scratches down his back
on the neighbor’s cat or when the violent
husband sees his battered wife somnolent
in a fake casket and changes his ways.
She doesn’t really buy it, knows it’s staged,
but we watch anyway, trying to deduce
which parts are true, the way we still do.
Now we’re both a stage and studio audience
away, it seems, from talking some sense
into each other. If only the capricious
psychic really could reach into the viscous
folds of our past lives, whip the creamy
blackness moldering in the in-between,
reveal something unseen to the viewers
at home. Instead, a timid secretary cues her
for some insight on her love life. Honey,
don’t you worry. We envy her slow relief.
GOT IT / by David Weinstock
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself.
Yes, but prouder still of getting there
without a PhD in English lit,
never writing a dissertation called
WHITMAN’S MANROOTS: Boning, Moaning
and Meaning in the Calamus Poems,
or ever asking students about “symbols
and themes” in any book I made them read.
Here is what I got: the meaning of poems
is clear as honest conversation
between old friends who meet up again
after full lives apart from, finally
ready to tell it all, all at last.
And that’s the meaning of each poem I know:
all we may ask, and everything we need.
9. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
Oh, my sweet Earth
mother to us all
One day I stroll
your fields and fen
smell lilac in your dawns
next day I watch
suffocate and stop some –
the beauty of you, Mother
the suffering of humanity
I veer between extremes
I retreat to my sunny bedroom
cry and cry
retreat to inner spaces
to nestled handkerchiefs inside my dresser drawer.
Poem 8 / Day 8
Extinct / by Patty Joslyn
Extinct: No remaining individuals of a species
Extinct in the Wild: Only survives in cultivation/captivity/or as a population well outside its established range
Critically Endangered: 80-90% population decline
Endangered Species: 50-70%
Vulnerable species: 30-50%
Near threatened: Coming down the pike
Amphibiams 41%/Alaskan Kelp Forest/Arizona Agave
Art Festivals/Bar/Bat Mitzvahs/Birds 14%/Black Rhino/Bull Trout
Carribean Coral Reefs/Conifers 34%/Conventions and Conferences
Countries/Eastern Lowland Gorilla/Ecosystems/Finback Whale
Flower Shows/Funerals/Georgia Aster/Graduations
Great Blue Lobelia/Hawksbill Turtle/Hugs/Landscapes/Laughter
Lunch with Mom and Dad/Mammals 25%/Music Festivals
Nonprofits/Northern Mountain Ash/Orangutan
Parades and Fireworks/Political Events/Reef Corals 33%
Sharks and Rays 30%/Sporting Events/Spotted Owl/Surgeries
Swamp Birch/Sweetbay Magnolia/Quiet when you Need it
Texas Wild Rice/Weddings/Western Prairie Fringed Orchid
A short list/too long to read?
A as in almost
B as in broken
C as in crying
D as in dying
E as in extinct
Bunker / by Katie Kalisz
Today, the children dug a ten foot deep hole,
a space big enough that they can all fit
inside. They shovel the dirt into their wagon,
haul it away to make a bike jump, using
everything they destroy. Are they already
better at saving their lives than I am? I have
molded my life to keep them alive, waking
in the night to nurse them through stomach flu
and pneumonia, ear aches, itching allergic
reactions, fevered dreams. Why didn’t I think
to hide them underground, where bulbs survive
the winter, where snakes and moles and worms
shelter in place? Why didn’t I think to build them
a bunker beneath this troubled world we nurture.
Grandma / by Pratibha Kelapure
because I wanted a real grandma
I never really loved this other woman
who shopped and cooked homey meals
for the family of uncles and aunts
though none related through full blood
children like us, left behind by parents
who left to fight the war against poverty
the children mishing with a family mash
this is not a sob story; life was simple
when all I wanted was a grandma
who would sit on a plump sofa
and crochet those dainty doilies
to tuck under the porcelain teacups,
who would put me in her cushiony lap
and tell me stories of woodcutters
or goldilocks and those honey bears
but there was only this other woman
who was destined to feed the family
and guests and help deliver babies
for any woman kin who needed help
this woman, a could-have-been grandma
this widow, who could only survive
by helping unruly children like me
who always wanted storybook grandma
this is not a sob story; life was simple
gay for pay / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
nine years staring at the ceiling
before finally the golden boy
slips from the earth and tumbles
into darkness. nine years wasting
in a body men would kill for, body
men would die to get inside.
nine years since the night
they broke him in with violent lust,
nine years since they broke
into his skull with kick and fist
and bone shards eased themeselves
into the soft meat of his brain.
they say he did the skinflicks
for the money—suffered thrust
and ran his tongue across calamity
for cash, and yet I find it strangely
unbelievable, to make a trick of it—
to have men, be had by men,
serve their appetites while free
of instinct’s grabby hands.
and still they say it wasn’t sex.
they say for once, a handsome
cocksucker left scrambled in a gutter
for something other than the grave-piss
of his simply drawing breath.
nine years, simply drawing breath.
paying fag debts for your paid fag sex.
spoon fed bold sweat by the camera.
spoon fed soft food by your mother.
nine years. nine years and the studio
took down your pictures, paid down
bills for housecalls from the doctor,
one last man to search your body
for some sign of life, some spark.
A Hike at Sunset: Royal, Nebraska / by Christina-Marie Sears
Devonian fossils shimmy, shake and long for paws of french bulldogs
to run amidst them. Small signs of life —orange flares—
flicker against the heaviness of evening’s fall. The taste of Jesse’s tea- ginger/cardamon/tumeric— a party in my thermos— peppers my tongue.
A toddler’s navy-booted foot kicks and a mottled hound bays in response.
JackWhite’s seven nation army can’t hold back the volcano’s ash fall.
Wren burnt sage to mark our passing.
Amputee on a Hill Husking Old Heart Pine / by Randy Smith
The rain came canted and crosswise
into Stump’s blustered face under the coned pine canopy
where he culled the pocked and riddled
husks off prostrate catfaces with his axe
Careful to void the rusty nails and oxidized tin gutters
and aprons if they remained
into the abutment of woolly bracken and berry briars
Early he drove his truck to the hill’s base
and bushaxed his limp way through tussocks of bluestem
and conflagrations of consumption weed
to reach the sistine and terebinthine logging boneyard
where eightfoot sections of longleaf
navalstores castaways moldered like beached whales
some finicky civil people renounced
Stump was not a whole man or more rightly not all
of a man He wore a black patch where
a Bantam rooster clawed out an eye And half a pale foot
and white sneaker he left on a leafy forest floor
where he used to split hardwood for suburban moodfires
Three right fingers he bequeathed
to a bloodied plywood bench under a Rikon bandsaw
whose kerf and set his razored bones
still felt The missing wanted and long bereft were why
Stump loved so much the stoned orange heart
of fat lighter pine where a resin welled
you could not decant And fibers fused in a gumweight
of glory no living soul could hardly rift apart
Someone Who Loves Me Went to the Abyss and All I Got Was This T-Shirt / by Cheyenne Taylor
Not for all the bullseye glass
cupping the countryside,
not for all the world
seen through a bottle,
diffuse and beautiful,
warped around a core of sky
Not for our neighbors
coughing in their sleep,
nestled in unsuspicious sheets
with crooked knees, not for
their exhausting dreams,
Not for raccoons grasping
at clouds with human hands,
not for unattended water
tempting our sense of cleanliness,
silk of lake silt swallowing
anybody’s tender feet
Not for anyone, or anything
would you admit that Chaos
doesn’t care for you anymore.
He doesn’t want his things back,
will gladly leave his key,
is spending time
with other people, and this didn’t
mean a thing. You’d sooner
have the whole world trapped in a jar
than think that, maybe,
there’s no reason for your pain.
But Chaos leaves us all
eventually, fool-hearted, dissecting
his thoughtless remnants—cheap pens,
corporate baseball cap, spaghetti recipe—
for a sign of our own worth.
It’s okay to be afraid.
Wear your hurt
like you used to wear his shitty shirt
to bed. Cut it into dishrags in the morning.
THREE HAIKU: Astonished by Daylight / by David Weinstock
Does the daylight astonish?
– Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
I was born at ocean’s edge,
first light by the sea.
seven hundred seventy-
one daylights, so far.
And after sunset
still shine three kinds of twilight.
Same before dawn. Wow.
8. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
Take notice, world
it’s urgent –
are your children on the street?
Why are they dying?
Why do our youth seem so intent
Who supplies the guns
who gets the profit?
It’s urgent, world
Poem 7 / Day 7
cast of characters/for C. & M. who applaud & praise / by Patty Joslyn
skein of geese/plump of ducks/asylum of loons
jubilee of eagles/kettle of hawks
the cogreatation of plovers on the other side
of the thin string keeping them out of harm
common tern/a committee I would join
perhaps too a jailing with the barred owl
rattle of kingfishers/illusion of falcons/happiness of larks
museum of waxwings
stream of warblers
choir of sparrows
pay the admission fee
to the holy earth & her creatures
don’t miss a thing
charm of foxes/romp of otters/zeal of zebras
vultures arrive soon/the wake
organ donor/thanks/the end
How the Woman in a Blue Oldsmobile Quarantines / by Katie Kalisz
She’s taken to driving out into the country,
letting the new baby sleep to the lull
of the breathy engine. She tries not to stop
fast, to avoid the squeal of the aging breaks.
Instead, rolls through stop signs, tempting
hidden hills, and double yellow lines. The fruit trees
blossom ridges into tufts of white and pale pink,
like a girl’s nursery. She passes a corner sign
in that order, sips a red bull from a straw,
sets it down on old crumbs in the cupholder.
The Potluck Pick-Up trash caddies
dot driveways, while the small dog sleeps
in the sun on the front passenger seat, atop
unopened bills and Valu-mailers for self-storage
and leaf-guard gutters. She knows what she owes,
just has to wait on the unemployment line
to get through, has to conjure up something
for dinner from the back of the cupboard, has to
keep the kids busy with a pine cone craft project or
a candy cane leftover from Christmas. And she will.
She always does.
A Teenager Speaks / by Pratibha Kelapure
courage in my frail body
that propels my strong will
at nights, the shadows are strewn
among cruel words. I crave order
two and two always make four
I never have to guess or wonder
I play in the sunflower fields,
making memories of light
study science for a cure to set
the fractured intrinsic structure
the river recognizes the flotsam
driftwood and old temple flowers
everything flowing to the sea
all destined for infinite fusion
For your consideration / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
Here’s a list of my redeeming qualities:
I am a thoughtful reader. I am educated, broadly travelled. Good at conversation, lots of fascinating stories from the road. Over time I have perfected recipes for chicken breast, ambrosia, and a fish-less Caesar salad. I am kind to strangers if not to myself or anyone I know particularly well. I am possessed of an exacting intellect and linguistic precision which I only use to say mind-warpingly cruel things to people who have hurt me very badly. I’m a snappy dresser, and a patient lover—generous and practiced in the sack. I’m loyal and I’m funny and I always take my medication as prescribed. I keep a tidy house. I am religiously unwasteful. I’m consistent, though I will admit sometimes I am consistently insufferable. I’ve been described as ebuillient and also as a narcissist, but I’ll let you decide. I’m confident in your decision, I am confident. A confidant. Trust-worthy. Not a gossip (don’t believe the rumors). I take good care of myself, hygenically if not in a more wholistic sense. I always smell good and I’m going to keep my hair. Great teeth. Regularly floss. Warm, dry hands. Capable of giving medical-strength rub-downs and not ruined yet. Bruised and bullied and betrayed, sure. Gunshy. But there’s gold still panning from my rivers and I’m quick to mitigate my pessimism with a wise-crack. I’m surviving. I roll tidy joints. Will look you in the eye after a toast. Can hold my liquor all night and still kiss you like a classic movie star when everyone’s gone home. All this could be yours. Look how hard I’m choosing not to die today. Pick me, pick me. Like a prize bull. Like a puppy in a box. I’ve been cut, but I refuse to bleed to death. Pick me like a lab partner, I’m ready to be in love again. I’m healing. I’m husband material. Pick me, pick me like a suitor. Like a scab.
Prose Poem: Saturday afternoon Marshall Michigan / by Christina-Marie Sears
Woman in a fuchsia flared skirt, polyester with buttons down the front, approaches the mailbox
haltingly. A leaf fire smolders in the gully by the side of 12 mile road. Her old man tends it with
a rake. A stand of ten birch trees proud as herons hover on the south side of country Road A.
Land for Sale—-Land sold. Country caravan up on blocks, waiting for sunnier days to come.
All of this, your hand in mine, a ride through beaten-down fields, memories of corn fields in
August makes me think of how Friday’s motorcycle boots got stolen.
I think it was the Blind Pig. That place is rough. It smells like a toilet and has terrible acoustics
and sight lines. Gary wanted to have his surprise birthday party there, next to the pinball gallery.
Jagermister was on-special.
I nod as the sun pokes out from behind a barn, and look out the rear-view mirror of the Jeep.
Mrs. Fuchsia-flared is turning back to the house now, carrying an arm-load of parcels. She
recedes, shrinks into the past every as we propel into the day’s end. Tell me again about that dark
and rainy night.
It was a Grateful Dead cover band. I took my boots off to go dance. When the set was finished,
and encores over, and the sound crew breaking down, I discovered my boots were gone. They
were really nice boots, too–ya fuckers! Not Frye’s but almost that sweet. It was fifty degrees and
rainy and I had to walk home at 2:00 am with no shoes.I picture the slog. Imagine the stones, and
debris turning in the gutter-rush of filthy puddles. Twenty-one years up and gone; just like that.
Silence ticks on as the birch trees miniaturize. We pass a hawk with a full beak.
Immaterialis / by Randy Smith
Pitt Cairn liked to watch ghosthunter TV shows
where spooked people employed electromagnetic field
detectors infrared thermometers
and digital cameras with nightvision mode
to track the whereabouts of numinous spectral haunts
disrupting the spacetime continuum
When he was sixteen Pitt returned
from pulling moisture samples at the peanut plant
to find his mother’s house burnt
to the ground Mr. Charlie the Fire Chief
said it started in the bedroom so Pitt figured his mom
fell asleep watching Judge Judy and smoking
Virginia Slims Later sifting through
the ash Pitt found the barrel to his 12-gauge shotgun
and his mom’s TV’s rabbit ears
fused into a plasticmetal glob
Pitt’s aunt finished raising him because Pitt’s father
disappeared to Arkansas when Pitt
was eight hauling a trailer full of boutique
hogs for a rich man who thought raising miniature
pigs might be a chic hobby
and conversation primer Pitt never knew
how he got so interested in ghosts nor how he lucked
into antique clock repair Filling
his trailer with astral machinations
of time he could hawk online Each tuned pendula
oscillating with cold certitude
along a brass bob’s period the steady
catchrelease of escape wheel teeth lent to him soma
and substance for all materia elusive and unseen
You Were Hard on Yourself Back Then / by Cheyenne Taylor
You’d come in off afternoons of water,
seedless honeybells, to sell belief
to yourself. Everyone was leaving
their lovers, your aloe plant
was yellowing in its bowl.
Light polluted your memory of stars.
You sat on the balcony looking
for ladles brimming milk, black-eyed
virgins burning midnight oil
but the sky echoed back empty.
Every night wet with faulty recall,
late spring leaves electric green in rain.
Though you tended your ablutions
semi-frequently, there was always
a spot you’d miss, an oily print.
You counted out linoleum tiles
like prayers to domesticity.
You embarrassed yourself
in your own city, a place too proud
to be mapped, to ever call you back.
ALIBECH / by David Weinstock
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
– Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
My mother taught the second grade, did she
teach me to read? I don’t think that she did.
Or did I teach myself? Probably not.
The thing is that our house was full of books.
And I, allowed to read them all, was free.
Nobody said, You’re much too young for that.
Boccaccio’s Decameron was on the shelf,
with woodcuts in the Renaissance manner.
It was Florence, the Black Plague had begun.
Three men and seven women fled the town;
self-quarantine is really nothing new.
To pass the time, they told each other tales,
one story each per day the whole ten days.
My favorite came tenth on the third day.
when Rustico taught Alibech his secret way
to put the devil in hell. (His devil, her hell.)
Dick, Jane and Sally never could compete.
7. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
“The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la
have nothing to do with the case –” The Mikado
It’s May, it’s May, the lusty month of May
(but I can’t go out to the bar to meet her
much less invite her home – )
May, International Workers’ month and day,
even St. Joseph the Worker noted
(but should workers be resuming
their jobs if social contact is hazardous –)
With the flowers that bloom in this spring, tra la
we’ve got to take under our wing, tra la
a most unattractive old thing, tra la
Covid 19 with its caricature of a face.
Poem 6 / Day 6
sugar / by Patty Joslyn
there’s a smell before it rains
after the grass has been cut
memories and lost moments
on the day I went into labor
the birth of my second child
it was the smell of hard work
weeds from the pond water
held me afloat for minutes
weightless and wondering
growing up I cared for three horses
creatures who took sugar from my lips
lifted their big hooves to be cleaned
they smelt like sweat and moist grain
I rode them bareback through woods
in winter months brooks froze over
I ice skated and made snow angels
the smell was of an ancient coldness
sharp and lingering
it was hard to get enough of
something exciting so close
I thought I knew who I was
Home Haircuts / by Katie Kalisz
we take the clippers
out of the cupboard,
put the teal cape
over the shoulders,
on the deck.
seem like strangers
I am unprepared
for the intimacy
of their neck
standing on end.
The back of the ear.
pink and hot. At the hum
of the machine,
I see the start
of tan lines
around their t-shirts,
a frontier of white skin
where the sun
the last time
I did this, trying
to save money,
before the children
twelve years ago. Then,
on the deck too,
but it was fall,
and the October winds
swept the hair away
before it hit the boards.
The next spring,
we found it
in the charcoal grill,
woven into a nest
that the mice had made.
When I take off
the cape, and look
at these small
men, through their masks
I’m not sure
they have become.
Witch Mother / by Pratibha Kelapure
An evil witch, a cruel stepmother,
a monster in the woods, a figure
lurking in the dark crevices
of your well-meaning conscience
We shove them into a corner
Into a category we like to forget
We hide them from the children
These fragments of our selves
The evil witch who cast the evil
Spell on my child, my mother?
Grandmother, could it be me?
Evil often comes in disguise
You did not expressly curse
The child, yet the spell is cast
Whether you meant it or not
While you sang bedtime lullaby
A mother’s love is not her destiny
The child makes her own happiness
You may recognize it or not
Blaming yourself is a choice
You make or not.
a brief vignette explaining why when asked to visualize the way that loving him affected me,
I couldn’t think of anything besides a long kiss with an actively engaged propeller blade / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
In retrospect, it’s funny to imagine how I must have
seemed, arriving late, red-faced, fresh-peeled
from my gym clothes in a light cardigan
I bought en route and wore without a shirt,
thinking to show skin with a new chain settled
in my chest hair, bared by plunging neckline,
tight jeans, strutting in to meet him in the place
I picked: my favorite cafe in the city, just
before the dinner rush would flood its antique tables
with the regulars, a group of mostly tenants
from the old days, riding out the last rind
of their lives in rent-controlled apartments
south of Greenwich.
Immediately after I sat down, he asked me why
I wasn’t wearing anything beneath my sweater.
I was hot, I lied.
It should have been the end of wanthing him
to want me, but it wasn’t.
We each ordered coffee to talk over, answered
one another’s small inquiries, updates
on the short list of shared friends we split since
undergrad, and for a while it seemed we might just
get away with it: dismissing history, escaping
what we put each other through with mutual respect
for how we suffered through it, but with him
I never could resist the impulse to list with casual precision
every intimacy I could think of from our years
of tragic orbit. His acknowledgement of it,
the only lasting proof, something I imagine
that he knew. Why else would he say it?
Our “relationship” was just you coming over to my dorm
and Catholic -guilt-tripping me into making out with you.
I’d brought up a poem he had turned in for a class
we took together senior year, one he’d once been happy
to let me assume was written about us. It seemed
he’d changed his mind since then. I envied him
his acrobatic recollection of events.
We took a walk through Washington Square park, parted ways
within an hour, didn’t talk again for a long time.
I wish I could describe the sound he made that night, years
before New York, when I woke up and tried to leave the bed.
He cried. It was like he couldn’t stand to be a moment
without touching me. He cried out like a dog outside a door.
It hurt to hear.
River Divers from Saginaw / by Christina-Marie Sears
Pretty children dive off concrete pylons into the cool, clear Shiawaisse.
My two bare feet retrace the mossy cinnabar bricks; there are blood-stains on the good sheets.
River’s dark flow is illuminated by a pale parmesan moon -that’s Wren’s favorite cheese-
Friday is more in for treats. We trekked like pilgrims to Kilwin’s so many Octobers ago.
The deep bass of my truffle tastes like the Temple Theatre’s decadence. On Jane Street,
a coyote-brown woman wearing indigo and a white ball cap is jamming.
You Can’t Get There from Here / by Randy Smith
All night long, the SWAT team drank black coffee and
peered through hightech goggles outside Flea Bane’s
house He had only strangled the girl a college girl a little
and stricken her with ducttape and twined her to a chair
But not before she filched his phone and called her mom
while Flea dropped his guard to piss Is this the best you
got? she had said when she smelled the bag That was how
Flea’s mom’s boyfriend used to strangle Flea a lot like
when Flea left a LEGO on the hardwood floor and Chuck
stepped on it with one of his tender corns and said
Goddamnit and hunted Flea down in the yard near the fig
tree and garroted Flea’s troublesome neck with his bony
hands till Flea saw stars and passed out and slobber
formed on his lips like milk
I get better weed than this from the ADPi yardman at State
she had said dismissing the bag of desiccated buds after
powdering one with her bejeweled and sculpted fingers
She’s right Flea had thought Might as well be dried parsley
or some other perturbation of innocent flora All the lime
mint orange and pine terpenes oxidized to nothing but
But she was blonde and Flea mistook the hair for brains
and hoped to unload this last lot of grotty weed on a
sorority girl And he’d just smoked a vintage skunk when
she knocked and felt calm euphoric inviolable gliding a
of compounds when he opened the door And she
wearing a loose shift covering a plum bikini and barefoot
probably headed to a summer pool party with friends and
rejected his bad weed Tried to hand it back stepped
toward Flea her glassine foot landing square on the metal
end of Flea’s NASCAR belt which was when she yelled
That was how Flea found himself holding a limp college girl
by the throat The same one who glared at him five
straight hours in the dead of night while he watched
Criminal Intent The one whose head was now cloaked
with a pillowcase though he could still feel the glare The
one who commands an army of SWAT princes riding to
flashbang Flea’s despair when the sun breaks crickets
cease and smoke clears the air
Over the River and Through the Wood / by Cheyenne Taylor
Now as then—Bristol’s blistered pavement
lurching out from underneath
Mom’s fish-mouthed Concorde
buckled in, knees bent, downy pre-teen legs
grown thick in denim shorts watching
the windshield’s blue strip
haze over her wrists, gripping the wheel,
leaving home for home Feeling flat as an interstate
waiting for June’s cricket heat
to find someone to hush it,
the dollar you insisted into my hand tucked
into my pocket like the first last secret
you’d ever be able to tell me That face couldn’t lie
and neither can I so I’ve always stayed quiet
mouthful of mountains
until we neared the foothills, radio stations
I recognized Until the sun slacked, Mom and I
narrating patterns of traffic drums
by dirty dirty c-c-c clean clean, Knoxville’s concrete,
Chattanooga’s sooty curves, glass insulators on telegraph poles,
then the long dark stretch to Birmingham
Road-sign cartoon, “Bee Alert,” watching the cat-eyes
pull over, last Rest Stop with the pastel lizards in mosaic
And I knew I’d never see you again—
I’m too soft to take anything from you
your cheekbones, your insistence on living how you would
And I’m bereft of questions
waiting for the cross-eyed stars
to teach me what to ask, wearing the National Enquirer’s
Lucky Blue Dot into a rag
in my hands What should I have asked you then
What should I ask her now while we’re still driving
down that long road away from you?
PRAYER / by David Weinstock
Why should I pray? – Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Why, why should I pray, or more to the point
why is my head full of prayers, in Hebrew
mostly, sometimes Aramaic: chants, songs,
earworming right to left across my mind
where every other song plays left to right?
Why did my family, atheists all, send
me off to Hebrew school at nine, six hours
a week, four years, and never mention God?
Perhaps they all had Hitler on their minds,
him dead and burned for only sixteen years.
My brain recites the ancient Hebrew prayers
that celebrate our life and death, all day.
Does God know what I mean by them?
If he or she exists, and if they ever listen.
6. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
Rewriting the tale of King David
started my 3rd book,
The Book of Bathsheba.
The saga mainly told
by two elegant wives
and general Joab.
As for the shining David
whom they see and serve
but beware your heart.
Poem 5 / Day 5
Beauty / by Patty Joslyn
“If anything can save the world, I’d put my money on beauty.” Douglas R. Tomkins
Beauty; a word that intrigues
To observe through the senses
Sound of laughter/unhinged
feel of the heart beating beside me/under me
Taste/blueberries dropped from a bush
Reverence of sight
Mr. Tompkins died of acute hypothermia at the age of 72 after high winds flipped his kayak:
A man to explore.
How many times do we die before we are dead?
How many times would you die for something/a cause or maybe the affect/effect
What about someone?
loved one/or not
A shooting star, four leaf clover, penny/face-up
what if you were this lucky
would you risk
to know what it is
Red Circles / by Katie Kalisz
They arrive in red lipstick, hoop earrings,
one wearing yellow pants on his head,
his father’s large shoes. He is the clown,
striped and dotted, introducing his older
brother and sister as they instruct him to do.
Somersaults. Pyramids. Amateur magic tricks.
This sounds like a metaphor but it is
not; my children are planning a circus
for this circus season, in the land of circuses
and chaos, circles like citrus fruits,
ever overlapping on the New York Times
digital map of the outbreak. The map
that is beautiful if you don’t know
what it means. It could be beautiful.
Time in the Bottle / by Pratibha Kelapure
dusk surrenders to the night
the street is lit by the darkness
other people’s Christmas joy
the corner liquor store quiet
its stoic façade exudes
faux joy over the blue, white
and amber bottles that tempt
every decanter holds a fear
erupts in the dark of night
her last visit, him in the store
a new bride, waiting, nervous
at the entrance, eyes – a doe’s
caught in the headlights
the angry eyes of the man
heart jumping out of her chest
at his every unsteady move
the street was busy, bustling
she wonders if anyone saw fear
in her eyes before the night
later exploded at home.
now in the unlit house
she pets the golden coat
of Scout, the only witness
of that time in the bottle
the man who wasn’t there / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
after William Hughes Mearns
Dont bother to deny it. You have loved
him too—the man who wasn’t there. Beside
him as a child you rebelled and snuffed
out tyranny in backyard battles, lied
when asked who you were speaking to: Myself—
and as you grew, he grew. You lay awake
and traced the places where he wasn’t. Cell
by cell you drew the shape he’d never take.
You’ve waited patiently to recognize
him in the promises of honest men
you never seem to want, or in the lies
of those you do, until, alone again
you find you feel at home. Your loneliness:
your only love, the man who knows you best.
Ballers / by Christina-Marie Sears
Bloomington Indy, home of the Hoosiers-
A burnished recollection of bronze lords with hands wrapped around hard balls.
Trim muscular bodies with fades, crew-cuts, or dreadlocks flying out
in fierce sprays. My third eye twirled inwards like a fiddle-head fern.
Scent of hops sharp in my nose. The television cameras train in to capture and track
fast footwork, deft passes, dribbles, fake-outs; tight corners turning.
Absolute Zero / by Randy Smith
Growing up Jim Cole was bitten
by a rabid dog and a rabid cat He was
three and five The dog’s name was Smiley The cat
was a cat so it didn’t have a name
His mother had visions and once saved a man
under an overturned tractor just by thinking people
to the field where he lay splayed
and compound fractured His farmer blood
spilling out to the same ground he sprayed doused
and poked for a living The mother
Sibylle also saw people burning in Hell
especially people who had wronged her and shared
their tortures over fried eggs
and bacon in the morning Sometimes Jim
wished he had a daddy and maybe another mother
but we are all stuck
with what we have and there’s not much
anyone can do about it Except Jim Cole who took
a job at the chicken plant
after high school working in cold storage
Jim was prone to fevers racing thoughts nightsweats
He sometimes felt his feet
burning on the edge of a raging fire
and woke screaming and had to strip down to nothing
and take a gelid shower This
was why his wife left and took the kids
That and always changing sheets and the malodorous
smell rank as something dead
Jim knew nothing about quantum physics
the tiny vibrations of particles that can never decide
if they are waves or things
But he did know if there was lasting peace
it was somewhere in the chicken plant in the cold
out in the frosted cosmos
elusive theoretical an exothermic ideal
the absolute zero where even shivers finally stopped.
Eros is an Experience of Melting / by Cheyenne Taylor
Today’s rain feels private,
my ear on the drywall
embarrassing its attempts
to quietly catch its breath.
I listen, guilty, trying
to understand comfort.
But the sun interrupts,
now the message, bright
and fine, dissolves
on contact. The neighbor
takes his toddler
on their daily walk
around the parking lot,
the land so flat
no puddles can erupt
for him (this state
is one long, open palm,
young and expectant).
At the threshold,
his wife bobs an infant
on pajama hips—
one awning raindrop
anoints its forehead,
The boy, squat
over a clump of moss,
I’m not fit to hear.
How relieved his parents
are to send his voice
outside, to let the sky
catch it. I cannot know.
There’s no mail, and nothing
to understand. So I drop
the cold receiver
I’ve built in my head,
close the blinds,
and set to peeling worry
like a sunburn from my brow.
ON PURPOSE / by David Weinstock
Do you guess I have some intricate purpose?
—Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
If I had to guess, I would say no to that,
but you might like me to think otherwise.
We, or better say I, don’t like to admit
we are animals; hungers huge and hard
are our only purpose. And I don’t
say this to embarrass you, human you,
dismiss you as a simple common beast.
It is an honor. That’s why we keep cats,
still more predators than pets. Pretending
intricate purpose is beneath them.
Come, watch them at my window, ravening
for birds in flight or grazing on the ground.
One purpose is enough for any man.
5. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
Cinco de Mayo
poets note this day
poets are modern-day revolutionaries
just as gardeners are peace-makers
feeding the earth.
Take note of the number 5
a magical number the pentagram
a china setting for 5 means
a sweet group of friends.
Five plants with poetic names
my husband plants:
a coleus named Wicked Witch
and epimedium –
which, itself, has 5 fun names:
horny goat weed
or yin yang huo,
Poem 4 / Day 4
Collections/For E & V/w/“gratitude” / by Patty Joslyn
Larry has five kaleidoscopes
Instruments of constant change
I have silver bangles/six umbrellas
Old watches no longer keepers of time
How many/how much is enough?
These things whimsical sometimes useful
Meredith collects sea glass/porcelain shards
Tumbled treasures being one path to luster
Ana has statues of saints/boxes of rocks
Gathered on travels holdings space/beauty
These girls collect love like magnets
Heavy ones that hold up big things
In my family as well we no limits
Small metal cars/stacking dolls/baseball cards
Coins/wooden skis/thimbles/anything elephant
I could say they are my favorite collection
They being my children
Not the things
I was born for them
I would die for them
But this isn’t about death
It’s about knowing what we have
Holding loved ones close
Even when we can’t touch
Filleting a Fried Trout / by Katie Kalisz
At the base of the tail
slip the last tine of your fork beneath
the speckled skin, crispy now and then
slit it toward the head, to peel back the skin.
See the white meat in small neat trapezoids.
Take the fork; use the tool. Look at the fish
on its plate, perpendicular to your own face.
Gently, gently, press the fork tines into
the fillet’s centerline, inviting the meat away
from the bones. Then, the other side. All this
for the reward of the spine.
Lift the delicate tail, like a petal, like lace,
carefully, carefully, just enough so that
each fine fish bone slips singularly away from
the bottom fillet. Now you have a small skeleton,
something that looks to belong in a natural
history museum, not your trash can.
Hold it up. See the beauty in the symmetry
of the bones, even in the spaces between
the bones, in the way it all holds together
after being caught and cooked and picked clean.
Language Acquisition / by Pratibha Kelapure
Once she heard
the Cinderella story
on the radio.
contours of sound
the words floating or air
stored in her scant cache
the clangor of shattering
dishes, wild words slapped
on the slammed doors
her unformed words
the sound of her voice
simply went to the wind
beyond the window,
and the scent of jasmine
the starlit night alone
listened to her
prophecies / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
In the worst of them I’m made
to tell the men I love what is to come.
You never leave your hometown.
You marry the wrong man.
For some, it’s as expected:
Two tours of Afghanistan.
For others, a surprise:
Suburban life, and married—
non-monogamously. No career.
You find Jesus and stop talking to me.
An IED leaves shrapnel in your brain.
If this is how Cassandra felt
perched on the ballustrades of Troy—
Your boyfriend shoots you in the back.
did silence light there on her mouth,
an ugly and unwelcome insect,
fluttering its filthy wings?
You spend your whole inheritance on meth.
Such unseen blades the future holds
behind its back.
Your mother’s house.
A life sentence.
A motorcycle accident and you don’t walk again.
Invasive and inoperable.
One by one, they come, and I place dread
as diadem upon their flinching brow
and watch them buckle underneath its weight,
until I am alone with him:
My sweetheart, leaning up against the wall,
his eyebrow raised. Fate knotted as a tumor
in my throat, which he insists that I untie.
You die very young.
One night, you take too much.
Within a year, your family will disintegrate.
I melt into a friend’s arms at your funeral,
and never get back up.
Before he has a chance to speak, I am awake,
and stumbling to the bathroom to begin my day.
My gray face in the mirror hangs there on the wall
above the sink.
You will outlive your passion.
No such thing as prophecy, I know.
No warning and no other life
but what unfolds, and so what
if you wanted more?
Everyone I know has unnamed bones
the world has powdered into
someone else’s bread.
Cities crumble into ruin, overrun.
Fields burn beautifully, and then they don’t.
XxxYZ: Part Two ( in the guise of a Gnarly 80’s Surfer and Valley Girl) / by Christina-Marie Sears
That burn wound makes me want to ralph. Stop picking the scab off!
We failed like dweebs.
We didn’t stand underneath the disco ball nor rock the casbah under our kicks.
You didn’t wear your parachute pants. Nor invite any homies to our hang.
You didn’t eat your totally bitchin’ cosmic pizza.
You spaced on the bar tab.
You bogarted the joint and skipped out on the Dom Perignon.
You spazzed out like a Frat Boy.
Even Betties and Balwins clink for champagne. I’m so sure.
You were like: Whatever! You bounced the check for the DJ.
Mazel Tov? No duh!
Your purple mohawk got all wilty from a lack of gel and sugar water.
You sent me to Siberia and barked “Bag Your Face.”
You dropped a bomb on me, baby.
Like, if there was totally a hurt animal, like a fox dude, you jetted a brass tack into the paw.
Oh My God, what a wastoid.
You came back all green and groody, after the Cosplay Expo last summer-
Dude! It was pungent.
Patchouli does not a shower make, brotha! Your hair like, woah, what’s your damage?
You didn’t notice my fishnet top and my day-glo bra.
Under your shades you had a black eye from a bar fight.
Your feet only can do cringey moves now, even though we kicked the swing at our private lesson.
Like Oh My God!
That engagement ring you gave me lost a stone right away
and the gray doves we hired with the caterer motored on.
I’m over it.
The Devil, Snake, and Jay / by Randy Smith
On Fridays in June the contentious Jay
fetches twigs to Hell
for Diabolus to stoke his wasting fires.
Chatty, curious, bellicose—
no one knows for sure how Jay
got his job. But that black collar
like a noose
and those ebony eyes and beak that poke
a hole straight
through your soul!
No wonder the old dragon took note
on his long walks
under Eden’s shade and found Jay
nesting in the haywire
heart-shaped green of a mulberry stand—
named for blood
and the locked-up languish
But leave it to Lucifer to play it both
ways. While crested
Jay bundles twines and flies the Trickster
sends his legless friend—
milky blotched Ratsnake—to climb
the mulberry’s twisted trunk
search for Jay’s eggs or fledglings and squeeze
each with his primal
passionate proximal ache.
Rotten Ones / by Cheyenne Taylor
after Mark Doty
When I’m pulling soft white buttons of mold from raspberries,
rinsing their emptied crowns, spraying coffee grounds
from the basket, I’m trying to be your backyard:
recessed, distantly luminous, full of ruminants
and other considerate creatures, and out of my wet chores
rise wild, weepy shoots of meadow onion.
When the deep stink of sink drains takes over,
animal cells, fat and oil, scraped off cheap ceramic,
when I’m flushing pepper scraps, where is your father’s kitchen?
Dates under the calendar, crowded, toothy appliances
glazed in cozy, cooking sheen
warm as an oil lamp, one square of green
reaching out as if to touch the bluff. Spatula clatter,
dish towel mitts, your family
a hallway reaching back into the dark.
Mine a bottle top washed smooth into jewelry.
In memory, you’ve always been
orange and green, familiar light
glinting through deep water. If grief is a weed, I know
you shimmer with the work of cultivation,
taut shoulders catching the last burnt rays
of summer in your spine. What could I ever have done
with another’s hard work? If the world goes on with dishes
in the sink, if I’ve made it this far without forgiveness,
then maybe there is reason to believe. Maybe
our leftover atoms do still meet, in all those dreams
of mountains slipping slowly into water.
Home Planet / by David Weinstock
Have you reckon’d the earth much? Walt Whitman, Song of Myself.
I never thought I’d be on earth for long.
By that, don’t think I wanted to die young.
I’d leave the planet for a life in space,
like going off to college at 18,
to Haverford or Yale, but farther still
from New Jersey, millions of dark miles
to where they seemed to need my skills the most.
I’d be an engineer, of course, in charge
of radio transmitters and the code
to carry all our reckonings to earth.
4. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
strolling Frick Park, Pittsburgh
slopes give way to a swale
awash in spring rain
peeper frogs cheep, chirp
what possesses me
to rise with the sun?
anxiety on my leash
tugs me out to the woods when
it’s simply me & the frogs
the ripple of rivulet
brings the sapor
of calm: fresh and peaceful
to my soul.
Poem 3 / Day 3
Red / by Patty Joslyn
Creamed corn and red shoes/celebrating the arrival of a new baby/a sister
Feeding the goldfish/watching them turn/standing in the play yard/waiting
Missing the big house/taste of chicken and biscuits/the place the mother went and stayed
The cemetery grand and crumbly/full of wonder and nothingness/flowers/people singing
Wants no part in the mysterious/dark/underground
Wishing she could crack open/radiance/marvelous
But the red comes back and stays
New shoes/blood/tea stain bruises
I am a tree branch/a shadow in the woods/darker than a horses nostril
I smell/taste carrots and sugar/but can not swallow/I am a dark night
I’d held her tiny hand/we walked the paths
Remembered a warm May day/blue flowers
Fog and smoke carry ghosts
Wisps of thunder hang in air
I’m surprised to see her/a new pair of shoes
Lipstick/red as lupines/bold as a gospel song
Osteobiography / by Katie Kalisz
Female, aged forty, middle
-class based on calcium and bone
density; coxal bone and eye sockets
reveal shyness, timidity, self-doubt.
Gardner’s patellas, likely well-
oiled, but still cracking
each time they squat.
Phalanges show pre-arthritis, nimble
fingers that might have peeled away
nails, candle wax, dried pancake batter
on counters or breakfast table.
Left ring metacarpal is smaller, shows
signs of long marriage.
Jaw bone has a propensity
not for grinding, but clenching –
holding onto things, which corroborates
the knuckles’ wear.
The adult teeth appear older than
they are. So serious.
Two dozen elastic ribs
and unusual grooves
in the radius and ulna – perhaps
remnants of carrying something
like firewood. Sternum still warm
Cranium: ringed like the inside
of a tree, lined by thoughts that
etched themselves into circular
patterns. A worrier. Clear
as salt water.
Smooth metatarsals of a walker, not a runner.
Hips that orbited out with children,
three, perhaps four, perhaps more.
No breaks anywhere, not even remains of
a hairline fracture, so pretty
cautious, possibly even
Planetary Transit / by Pratibha Kelapure
the aroma of chopped onions fills the room that blurs
before her misty eyes as she listens to the silence
within the white walls in this seventies’ apartment
spring, yet no jasmine and no cuckoo bird in sight
a lone red high-back armchair stares
at the black & white TV from the goodwill store
fallen from the counter flutters
the aerogramme from across the ocean
its blue-red stripes urge her to listen
to a familiar song.
next year at this time perhaps the song will fade
staying alive — the sounds of this life,
the solitude will overshadow
honeycombs and endless droning
of the beehive — her home left behind
would anyone remember her with fondness?
memories made in the microcosm
of a Mumbai chawl. some happy, some not
she gathers the mound of onions
drops it in the pan for the evening meal
tomorrow, she will go gather a few house plants
those perhaps will make a happy home
PSU BALLET BLUES / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
[a found poem taken from a journal someone threw away]
Papi had 2 take a shit prob., he had 2
use the bathroom and safeways is
closed down probable some junkie
bled/overdosed everywhere or some
shit. They tend 2 ruin shit 4
everyone. So im trying 2 find Papi a
spot, was guna break into the house
by Tommy’s old spot but I noticed
PSU was still open & in Lincoln
Hall theres a show, a concert just
getting out b/c young beauitful girls
w/their hair pinned tightly back.
After seen a few girls I thought
Ballet. A classical ballet show was
just getting out I walk in to show
papi where the bathroom is. Start
looking at the merch. only having
$10—I can’t afford anything. Shirts
are $45 plus I need to save this for
meth and go back 2 my piss/trash
infested tent Its hard to believe that
this used to be me. I miss it.
Now…im way 2 old. But I can train
girls Teach Or be the girls at the
merch. Then I can train and I
should. wrok to start w/dancing
again Here comes papi bye
Apis Americana / by Cheyenne Taylor
Warm in the attic’s wood,
honey combing their fine hairs
into being, bee larvae sleep
above a yard of wildflowers
and cinder blocks. Drones pivot
their feet in sickles and z’s,
naming trout lily, war bonnet,
common hop. In ancient grammelots
they recall rhododendrons,
dizzy Romans, corn-drunk
steel men dancing nonsense
down the driveway,
bless their hearts. There’s no
sense in wondering who lived
here first, or last. The brood grows,
deep in abandoned economy,
sign posted on the front door
a prayer to leave them
well, khalas, alone—freedom,
if not permission, to speak
with their bodies.
In their cosmos of eaves,
they must mumble something
of truth, motion, geography.
We get the sense of folk songs,
call it kvetching or crooning
depending on our mood,
but still they echo the hum
their gathering generates,
coaxing the ghosts of neighbors
the next valley over
back from their long flight.
XxxYZ Part One (in a Basic Style) / by Christina-Marie Sears
Picking the scab off is a compulsion.
We didn’t keep our promise.
We didn’t stand underneath the hoopa nor crush the crystal under our heels.
You didn’t wear your tartan quilt– or invite any guests.
You didn’t eat your celebration supper.
You forgot to pay the tab and neglected the server’s tip.
You never popped the cork, tilting upward the gilded bottle.
You didn’t let the bubbles fizz into your mouth. Nor did you swallow.
Even though you love champagne, you forgot to make a toast.
You didn’t clink glasses, and no one cried out: Mazel Tov!
The bridal hand lay down empty as a river trout
who suffocated without your oxygenated water.
You stopped sending me kind energy from your chakras.
You forgot to warn me about the grenade–that tab you extracted
like a brass tack from the bear’s paw.
When you returned to me reeking of pond scum,
after the Monster Trucks Exposition in June,
you forgot to bathe. You did something bad in the brambles. You forgot to tell me what.
You didn’t tie the crushed velvet ribbon around my waist.
Your feet forgot the rhythm of the swing dance lesson.
Your logic became circular nonsense.
When a wake of vultures plunge beaks into carrion,
Fetor rolls out like Red Tide.
Bruises bloom in colors like Amnesia roses.
The Widow’s Might / by Randy Smith
Miss Freshette God rest her soul
died the way she lived Stung to death by every creature
she took a mind to love
I remember when Arnie started to date
her That Arnie was a player in his powderblue Mustang
Saw her tits come in and motored over
You ought not to say such things But I did say
I know you did say but you ought not to say Women got three
maybe four things a man wants
Don’t name em I don’t have to name em
They’re there And what does God want? God? He wants
everything Well That at least is true
God wanted Arnie and took him drunk
and drowned Mustang turned akimbo all night coffin sunk
and sucking mud to the hubcaps
They say next morning the headlamps
still shone Tempered pale and ghostly behind a silted meniscus
of browned glass That’s a good
battery there It is God wanted Arnie Jr.
and drove him like a lead slug into the braked ladderback
of that blasted Chevron tanker How can you say
God Wanted that? God wants everything
Well They never did find nothing of that boy except what
might have been his class ring
Sunday she had been to church I heard that
Put a five dollar check in the plate Heard that too and not
a bit surprised She was a giver She was
They didn’t find a penny in that house
Same Took a lateday walk to check her blueberry bushes
Berries bout to come in
Swole up tight as a set of bouged staves
A swarm of killer bees Dear God Damndest thing I ever
heard He wanted sure enough Same
Original / by David Weinstock
Stop this day and night with me
and you shall possess the origin of all poems.
— Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Get this down— the only truth I know
Never write the poems of anyone else.
And, yes, we all start out that way,
and often get away with it awhile,
but even if you’re blazing good,
a talented reenactor of the past,
now’s the time to stop. You must be you.
And who the hell are you, am I?
Which you of you is the poet
we all had hoped to meet?
Think back, start at beginning:
What childhood version of you
have you been trying to hide,
and always trying not to ever be?
When you find him, or her, or them,
don’t apologize, never explain.
They know. They were always ready
to be your longed-for mind and muse.
Put them to work, full speed, full bore,
in charge of everything you do.
3. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
Been watching Call the Midwife,
reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising fantasies.
Walking in the sunny cemetery.
Poem 2 / Day 2
Brine / by Patty Joslyn
“ I always knew that grief was something I could smell.” writes Victoria Chang. “But I didn’t know that it’s not actually a noun but a verb. That it moves.”
grief of time
can you smell it
did she mean
opening of lilacs
brine in the bay
or the sadness
caught on flypaper
in the wind
but the dance
was not one
I’d ever known
who would ask this
of you, or me
of anyone with a heart
Ode to the Protesters in Lansing / by Katie Kalisz
What high self-esteem you must have,
or confidence, or is it a stronger faith than mine? –
to go, brave, while the rest of us stay home,
six feet apart from even our family members,
afraid to breathe in a single germ. While I doubt
whether I need any small luxury -a second glass
of wine, makeup, or earrings – you dress
and convene, flaunt your healthy children in snowflake
stocking caps and freckled noses, your groomed goatees.
While I hunt for morels in a lonely forest, order groceries
online, wipe down the mail, play Wiffle ball at a vacant lot-
you stake your claim like the youngest child, like the rules
are for the other saps. Who are your heroes, and how
do they teach you? Am I just too used to doing
what I’m told? We all show our love for the mitten state
in different ways; I admire your leather vests
and the fit of your sling for that AK-47, distressed
bandana you don with our state seal, your shiny
motorcycles and pickup trucks and the clean American
flags waving from your car windows. You, sovereign
citizen, amaze me. I have not protested publicly
for anything, only wept, in silence, for what
I think I have lost. And I hate being filmed, even
by my own mother. It is something to stand up for
something, for what you believe, your truth,
to go out the front door, to organize a crowd,
demand entrance and interviews, to be so convicted,
even when gas is cheaper than milk, than honey,
and when you are, so astonishingly, so wrong.
Monet on Her Mind / by Pratibha Kelapure
the invisible hand
sketches orange swirls
dusk canvas of sky alive
never seen Dusk in Venice
memories paint her eyes
Arabian ocean at low tide
damp weight of her skirt
warm salty evenings
the arch of that Bridge
over a Pond of Water Lilies
she never saw in a museum
walking home in the rain
among trashed Sal leaf plates
one morning she saw
an accidental budding —
a pink lotus in a swamp
another day riding bicycle
on the tar scented road
going home from school
past cows in the meadows
grimy street children
she saw a by the roadside,
Haystack at Sunset
left by a farmer.
memories of those accidental
splendors light the night sky
her mind a memory sluice
bright colors on canvas
this Starry Night
Van Gogh smiles with
Monet on her mind
Her fingers on the walker
everything I want I have / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
I’ve been living at a friend’s house
in the dead boy’s favorite city:
By night I walk along the street
beside the beach and watch
the pretty teenage French boys
spark their rollies. Smoke escapes
between their wine-stained sentences
the strands of their young girlfriends’ hair.
The air is full of tongue;
the French language, a salt breeze,
and each thing said lingers like the scent
of unwashed men.
I get it—
what he liked about this place.
There’s cheap felafel.
Sex and dope that whispers thickly
from apartment windows.
Someone broke his heart here
and it brought him back to me, a moment.
Still, he’s been a long time gone
and all the longing that belonged
in visions of his vagrant face has blurred.
It’s thinly spread itself across the surface of each day.
I’m just a little less alive now.
I drink a little more champagne.
Last night, soused, I bought some cigarettes
and almost ashed into my creme brulee.
Today’s my birthday, and I’ll spend it
banging out a swimwear model half my age,
qui ne parlait pas Anglais.
We’ll make it work.
This place feels like it’s made
for men who like to fuck in silence.
He called my mouth a storm door flapping, once.
He said he’d like to slam it shut.
Arachnid’s Hum / by Christina-Marie Sears
I definitely am not a fan of squandering love, limbs or spider legs.
This starfish is already down one. While it grows back, I wonder:
whether ‘tis nobler to give life or take no shit?
When the earth stills will there be dust clouds?
An avalanche of tiny dancing motes?
I grope for my words, my memories, my lost felt hat:
An amputee grandmother spider
spinning webs darkly jewelled– hums.
What means egregious? Where are the lies?
Is this where all the lost socks go, limping
wetly into a wheezing dirty hamper?
Are you collecting paychecks in absentia?
When we abdicate the precious wonder of our lives,
trading gems for nothingness-
Trust the web:
she-spiders’ weaving and hum–will persist
collecting water droplets
refracting molecules into sustenance.
Rise, Take Up Your Chair, and Walk / by Randy Smith
Lame Johnson back when he was Larry
ran a Texaco and meatmarket at the chalky crossroads
a mile out of Dogwood Grove
just a popped clutch and spit from Thor Mines
and all those men talced in a skein of powdered pink clay
Fuller’s earth dozered and stripped
day after day them like ashy ghosts the life
quite drained of them but glinting still in light with crystal
dolomite and flakes of feldspar
washing up for lunch under the Texaco
overhang ordering ham biscuits and sausage gravy
which Larry had plenty of.
Until that October Larry succumbed
at least his spinal cord and legs to a huge gambrelled hog
hanging on a tripod and single tree
outside his dressing shed when the bolt
snapped and 500 lbs of hog made Larry Johnson lame.
And that was that
for twenty years while Lame watched
the cars pass the seasons slow the wind die down
until one April a thunderhead
towered in the West and darkened
the land like noon to three above the Only Begotten’s
shank and crossbeam pole
rose sonic and galvanized pushing
an iron wind ahead and then a milewide peened torrent
sucking up men dogs dozers
and pines even Lame Larry and his chair
off his porch into such seductive succubus come to heal
repair mete out fate to them who already
knew fate. Some said chairless Larry
stood tall a twirl in the tinned air some heard the Master
say Rise and Walk some said there’s nothing
to see in the cauled and clastic air
some swore Texaco Larry praised God in transit to the sea
Hallelujah Goddamn Glory Be.
Lost Season in Central Florida / by Cheyenne Taylor
Bless this morning’s ceaselessness,
the chewed husk of birdsong, spat
into a chainsaw’s hem.
Distant Jake brakes riding guy wires.
The doppler song of trap music,
gushing bus hydraulics,
each metallic chirp of aided warning.
May it fill the empty porches
here where no one sings,
do what it always does, distract
from the quiet that pops its knuckles
all the way to Ocala. Swamp prairie
buffalos sprout from cattails
without us. Wasp castles torque up
from all our disused crevices.
Elephants start eating mandrakes again,
to carry in them smaller selves
made of vegetable salt
and something new, pure and unobserved.
Bless the new toad in my window,
pulsing his croak in time
with traffic lights as if to assure me
I’m an essential thing in this world,
that my voice is a nature sound.
Just My Luck / by David Weinstock
Has anyone supposed it lucky to be born? – Walt Whitman, Song of Myself.
I never said this to my mother
who lived to be ninety-two;
nor my father who died at fifty-nine;
back then I didn’t know how to say
anything about love, and maybe I still can’t.
But I will say it now. My Mom, my Dad,
I now agree that I was lucky born,
and born by you as me, and born to you.
What wasn’t luck was that you ever met.
That was nearly preordained,
since you were some kind of cousins.
You’d have met up, sooner or later,
at Passover, or an uncle’s funeral.
All Jews are at least distant cousins,
but this was closer than that,
not illegal, but never mentioned.
One summer day, nothing else to do,
I opened a gray metal box of documents,
with all of our birth certificates and saw
my father’s mother’s maiden name exactly
the same as my mother’s father’s name.
“Found out!” was all my father said.
I suppose they were in love.
I’ve seen photos. He was handsome.
She was nearly cute, in a late 1940s way.
He was brilliant, she was slightly smarter.
Were they in love? It was not discussed.
After the divorce, my mother said
her parents had opposed the match.
Why did she tell me that?
Maybe she had heard I-told-you-so
from her mother, on the phone from Yonkers,
but Grandma was never so cruel.
The point is, she married him anyway.
Lucky him. Lucky us. Lucky me. I suppose.
2. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
I mainly share writing
with women. Why?
I don’t understand men
or their reactions.
Poem 1 / Day 1
I wake this morning, the first day of May, / by Patty Joslyn
to a rain I think of as too much & again. Yet I wake.
Last night I read:
“Our Cotuit Ospreys are starting to build a nest
on a brand spanking new nesting pole.
& it didn’t take them long to find the new pad.”
The pole, posted in the photo,
looks to be a power line
minus gnarled wires, tension rods,
& whatever else spreads hot juice.
In Cotuit we pave roads with crushed shells.
We put up tall poles for osprey.
We feed a hundred-plus wild turkeys,
birds, fat squirrels & coyotes who sashay up driveways.
We call male cardinals by name
grin at their out of tune songs.
Wait for the women to appear;
plain clothed, ready to sit, & keep watch.
I wonder why us humans keep our feathers hidden
under layers of cotton & wool.
How is it our wing bones don’t break under the weight?
Who would gather my feathers to fill a kitchen jar?
I wake this morning, the first day of May,
to a rain I think of as too much & again. Yet I wake.
I offer whispers of grace
to those who have lost loved ones
while I slept; dreaming of otherness,
with wings spread & heart full. Amen.
What Rises / by Katie Kalisz
The sun, ever earlier
and earlier, a bluebird’s
orange belly to the feeder,
a robin beak with a worm,
spikes of iris,
a heron from the mist
off the river.
Flags on mailboxes
up and down the street,
steam from our pot of oatmeal
the May wood pile with ash
Welt of poison ivy
on my ankle, Muscari
in the lawn, and dandelions,
rhubarb stalks, purple heads of asparagus.
A second chicken coop
the neighbors erect and paint blue.
Theodore, the chipmunk, to the
deck railing, for orange peels
and apple cores, the dog’s rear end
in a yoga pose, my rear end
in a yoga pose, my son
into a Norway spruce
the river to meet the bank,
masks to overtake faces,
the death toll.
And at last,
the white moon,
Parallax / by Pratibha Kelapure
noun [ U ]
US /ˈper.ə.læks/ UK /ˈpær.ə.læks/
the effect by which the position of an object seems to change when it is looked at from different positions]
ethnic poetry is all the rage now
the curious words on the paper
draw golden images in the sun
the muse favors sans bias
you will know the smooth one
who wears her brown skin
British accent as crown jewels,
who recites Tagore and Kabir
in her honey-glazed tongue
blessed with an elite MFA
the other with the hapless looks,
mumbling in vernacular accent
an autodidact without pedigree
likely, you will not know
it’s all in the way of seeing
an object when viewed
from two different angles
will always have a parallax
I Know / by Sean Patrick Mulroy
after Fiona Apple
Capricious faerie from the old myths,
fragile swagger on a small stage
in a packed house, I watch
from the third row as Fiona grips us
in the fists of her exquisite catalog
I love her,
swimming in her oversized kimono
of black silk, belting, biting, saying
all the things I wish I’d said
on my way out of any given bedroom,
and she saves my favorite song for last—
an old one, written for an album
that came out when I was still
in high school, still in love with you—
so I’m amazed to see the rain
collecting in her eyes
I suddenly remember her, the woman
at the new age shop across the block
from the apartment where we lived
together, for a time.
She offered me a tarot reading, I declined,
fingering a pair of votives joined together
at the wick.
She asked me if I was a witch and I said yes,
but that I hadn’t practiced since the last
love spell I cast had left me cracked in half,
and suffering for years.
Oh sweetheart, that’s a long time to be paying dues,
she said, in a voice I now imagine myself
saying it to her, the woman on the stage
now weeping through her own finale.
I left the shop that day with empty hands.
I’d been hoping I could find something
to give you.
We would live together
for another month or so, until
the fighting got so bad you moved out
and then moved away.
Years later when we’re friends again,
you’ll marry happily—a rocket scientist
who worships you.
I won’t live with any other man.
I must have said it to you once or twice:
I’ll always love you, or, I’ll wait, that last song
bleeding from me every time I am alone
with a piano,
moody waltz with pleading lyrics,
ending in an unspoken refrain.
Mornings in Quarantine / by Christina-Marie Sears
Diving up —
frothy line of foam dispelling
heavy darkness of cold indigo waters.
Like an orca
breeching, I stretch open
fiercely struggling to wakefulness.
Pillowed in a
warm cocoon of Friday’s arms, Obligation’s
leather straps like reins already guiding my day.
Kick them off–
Abandon the struggle bus– Shake off
dreams of proliferating kittens.
I feel a stitch and mend it
with coffee and toast. Thankfully
images of Ruth and Naomi and Boaz
A rocky kind of three-legged chair of a family.
Naomi with a headscarf, gleaning
plump grains of wheat and barley
for herself, and
Her tribe, to whom she has bonded devotion.
Crafting a meager existence out of
My grandmother’s family crossed a similar
roadway. Collecting coal from railroad ties.
fried in lard from an iron skillet.
Pouring muddy coffee
into palmed mugs.
Hobos cleverly mark the path to
her porch with rocks, and painted cats.
lives here! If I had my own cow,
it would be a brown swiss.
About her tail
I would tie a pink ribbon.
We would have fresh sweet milk
Thirty-million citizens file
For unemployment. Yesterday
a homeless man
collapsed in the park. While new leaves
sprout on relieved branches of
maple and oak trees,
our beleaguered green and blue
planet spins a
web of healing.
Zoo animals mate once again,
The ozone layer repairs itself.
Fewer cars buzz
by during this shut-down time.
I live on pepitos and warmed-over coffee.
White candles emit
peace. Good thing I bought them
by the carton back in February.
Oh what challenge
faces the 6,000 now? and those haunted by
hallucinations, untreated and ill?
Light a candle,
grow some barley, and watch
for silent signposts.
Where’d You Git That?
Some Thoughts on Light / by Randy Smith
That May morning the resined light planked
angled and shadowbacked into the yardlong
swale of unkempt flora crosshatched
a midden of ripout—slobbed calcite mound
of dank drywall pocked and granuled cinderblock
moldgrunged stubbins of 2 x 4’s—
lacquered the lone banana tree viridescent
last year’s stringy parchment leaves
the floozied protrusion of privet hedge
the florid conical nandina blooms
heavenly bamboo a spate of pearls spired
into the morning air creamy white
like the last ripe promises of human desire.
My wife he said. The yard said nothing.
The light he said. The willow oak bowed as if
in prayer. He hitched his britches up
a notch to hipbones his torso shanked betwixt
memory words and deeds. The light
he said. The mute light photonic said nothing.
God he said. The light rose and leveled
spalled off another piece of life. Where’d
you git that? he said standing on the promises
and waiting for nothing a man flanked
and splayed by the volute springs of faith.
God he said to a fernless green riffled lame
and weltered. I want an answer now.
And Where is the Root of Silence? / by Cheyenne Taylor
A tree grows in the navel,
its canopy bower to the host
of insects, birds, and serpents
of the whole groaning earth.
Like the river birch, its roots
invade the heart in search
of water. Its tolerance for heat
is its own revelation.
On your back, you pick off
winged seeds, roll beads
from its saw-toothed leaves,
pop them in your mouth.
Each pluck sounds a nerve
like a kite string, but no one
hears. And when he enters
the room, catches you there
interrogating the lush nothing
you nurture in your gut,
he is kind. Pours you coffee.
Worries a different thread.
All the winged things, still,
rustle, hush, resonate.
On short nights the silence
is alive with creature signals:
White moon. Mineral air.
Salt-bright branches reaching
for nothing, full of catkins
like shimmering question marks.
1000 Acres / by David Weinstock
Your queries have been noted, old young man,
and I will respond in full, so see below.
Just between us, two poets from South Jersey,
you’ve asked, and I am going to answer.
These are not rhetorical questions.
I am taking you more seriously
than you, Walt Whitman, ever took yourself.
And if that sounds impossible, read on.
“Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much?”
You were “thirty-seven and in perfect health”
when you asked me that–me, sixty-seven
unhealthy enough to stay home all month,
although technically I am one of those
“essential workers” you’ve heard all about.
Essentially I cook for schizophrenics
who cannot cook for themselves, not safely,
but more than that I cannot say: my tongue
is tied by HIPAA, you don’t want to know.
What would I do with a thousand acres?
I’d take my daily walk on my own ground.
I wouldn’t need to wear a paper mask,
veer off my path to stay six feet away,
or think so much about the lonesome plague.
If this thing ever ends, I think I’ll grab
the first adult I see and kiss them hard
and wet on the mouth–the kind of thing you’d do.
And then we both will laugh, link hands,
and walk the land together, side by side,
not wondering who else’s breath we breathe.
1. / by Christine Aikens Wolfe
I have friends
all over the world
many are writers –
The Covid cloud
though a corona of thorns for many
is not my sorrow –
My friend’s bone cancer.