The 30/30 Project: November 2019, Part 1

Backup / Restore

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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.

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

The volunteers for November 2019 are Sarah Audsley, Angela M. Carter, Barbara Duffey, Latorial Faison, Matt LaFreniere, Farah Marklevits, Prince Kwasi Mensah, and Tucker Riggleman. 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 15 / Day 15

Confessional / by Sarah Audsley

To build an ancestral
palace to no longer live
inside the silence of
myself

to rupture like an egg
on lime linoleum

I was sent
into the chicken coop
to feed them eggshells

One body feeds another

I am not enough of
myself

It looks like, feels like rain

I am the flatness of all that
grey sky, or the odious dot

of a period on its arrival

Finality / by Angela M. Carter

I must admit that even in its presence
I find a place I can hide the hope, tuck it behind
my childhood’s ears,
part my stringy hair in a way that I can braid my yearnings in
without reality seeing it–
bring a lock of it to my nose, and inhale.
I tie a string to all I’m forced to release
and pray it comes back to me.
Because there is a story to be told, to a place that your last gaze said never was,
yet, I swear I walked a path which touched its hemline,
                 you were there, I saw you in the clouds,
                               the gray streaks of your hair painted into the sunrise,
            and when you let yourself go, you seeped into all in existence—

            you were everything, are everything,

            if, in fact, such a place exists,

            but, yes, I know—I know—I know—

            it does not?

Authority / by Barbara Duffey

“She doesn’t believe in authority, period, because authority makes people cruel.”—Miriam Toews, Women Talking

I am blank in the night in my town
the square in the center of town
the beeps in the night of construction
trucks in the night backing up
How ‘bout I give you something
to do? Starlings sing about food
persimmons are stuck in there, too
I’m saying I want something done
with the something that shadows my mind
hammocks that swing from a pole
the library’s busy, all full
I plan a trip to the chop-shop
the backhoe is blocking the lot
the plants have aligned with the sun
I want to be out in the sun
running my body like gears
or thoroughbreds fresh off the farm
like travelers sometimes admit
I wait in the park for his calm
the books are a tool for fools
a nuthatch is eating my tree
upside-down like a bat from a tree
picking the grubs from the bark
telling us all what to do
at night in Original Town
where back-up trucks beep the night through

Exegesis / by Latorial Faison

I.

For every omen sleeping in a scroll
Encrypted in a timeline, coined

By repressions of deoxyribonucleic acid
Pilfering through light years of cultic

Dissonance obsolete & discovering chaos
Resurging new world order, life

Water toxic with the ancient of ways
Mystified, purified, carbon-dated

Filaments, fragments & species abandoned
To roam uncharted jungles reimagining

Reinventing reality, every other god, every
Other grace, learning just how not to

Un-prepare a place, masculinity, femininity
A desecration of hallowed sounds

How to taste the new wine, envision the first miracle
Purchase the unleavened bread poisoned

With another namesake, kept alive to be crucified
To lie dormant & then fortune-tell it all

In the sleep walk to unknown glory, how a necessary
Tomorrow may never come.

II.

This tainted blood, these psychopaths,
We do not mix our poisons well.

We chase shame with dilemma—
Politics, media, money & silence.

We come layering subcultures with fear
Saturating post-traumatic stress with disorder

Collaging what so historically keeps coming to change us
This chaos we are burdened to carry

Like a rape baby in a dying womb
Like martyred queens alive yet entombed

We cannot live—
Except we declare this war.

BOBOLINK / by Farah Marklevits

The Bobolink is gone—
The Rowdy of the Meadow—
And no one swaggers now but me—

—Emily Dickinson

How far you wheel your little fistful
of feather swagger and song, winging
your bright black and white, your creamy
comic bristle of hood, over 12,000 miles

free of border-notion. Your eye forever
fixed on purple-flecked eggs, eggs in the pull
of magnetic fields, eggs in bright pools
and streams of the night sky mapped

in your DNA, eggs in delicate meals
of grains that somehow sustain an epic
trek across the globe. If you were a machine,
they would call you engineering marvel,

ingenious invention, but you’re a creature,
a living thing, which should mean more
except we don’t get it. What you’re for.
Why you travel carrying nothing but a garish

suit of feathers you didn’t think to brand,
resting now and then in what’s left of
whomever’s meadow remnant, somehow
perched on slimmest grasses. Bobolink

of the once expansive tallgrass poem,
your flight’s possible impossible writes
the planet as a miracle full of miracles.
That’s right, miracle. No one swaggers alone.

Cold, Cold Heart / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

‘the less sun and more frost’
Farah Marklevits, LADYBUG, MYTH

Which one is better?
A bitter, cold morning or
The bitter and cold mourning
In my heart? But what do I mourn?
A love that was never mine –
The mind says you’ll be fine but
The heart, the heart, the heart’s
The stubborn one. It turned the sun                           away
But held a welcoming party for winter –

Snowflakes now define my destitution
& the wind’s unkind, everything’s
White with no emotion, I am
A decoration of frost.

The Death of Life / by Tucker Riggleman

At some integral point in time
It was decided that we would be
Thrown to the celestial wolves
Left to fend off approaching threats
With crossed fingers & pointed stick
Walking meals with targets on our backs

Sure, someone will ring the bell of science
And promise forbidden hope
Terrified masses drunk on the lips
Of tomorrow — all her shadows
Wet with miracles

But when will the healing really start?
When will we admit that we joined up
With the villains? We were given a home
& we poisoned it.
— slowly at first

We did not fly too close,
But rather directly into the sun
Using our bodies as fuel
To expedite the death of life
When the day arrives
& the air becomes ash
We will have earned our punishment
To die as bugs do

Poem 14 / Day 14

Orographic Lift / by Sarah Audsley

Whoever said elective suffering is a joy is wrong.

Time feels like elliptical motion, or spinning
in The Rotor ride at the fairgrounds. Pick a spot
on the wall across from you, let your body know
how space is up & relates to down.

It’s hard not to compare experiences, your narrative
with someone else’s on similar topics. Content. Focused facts.
Heart-based, self-inflicted research. Blog posts. Tweets.

There’s collapse & change & pressure funneling air
through the space between tops of mountain choss
& the invisible atmosphere. We’ve got ghosts

flitting outside the door to heaven. Or a funnel cake,
its sugar melting into the fatty dough. Astonished—
what is absent can be so abrasive. Wind wears

micro-millimeters, each second, not of joy, but particles,
entire sections of impervious rock, until what stands
tall now is flattened.

14 Lines for the Parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

Jack boils to a 103 degrees
while the Children’s Motrin sits syrupy
by the sink, the provided syringe
nestled beside the bottle like
a fat animal sick from suckling.
He whimpers for hours, in and out,
his breath desperate against my cheek.
I’ve read the table on the Motrin bottle
I don’t know how many times, even though
I know–5 ml 2-3 yrs old every 4 hours,
ask a doctor, otherwise. We’re alone.
No doctors. Just the label and Jack’s
breath and me. Ants creep to the syringe
by the sink. They feed on what they come to.

ODE TO THE HUMAN KNEE / by Farah Marklevits

for J, and J’s knee surgeon

Clutch of knuckles with the knock
smoothed out, puppet-strung you jerked
and glided, hid your awkwardness behind
small bone shield and cushioned curtain,

your slim mattress accepted and released
the pressure of each prayer and obligation,
the whack repeated from the same cursed
table edge, and each twist of quick switches

to out-game every defensive maneuver,
your patient inner ear listened to every one
of the pavement’s narcissistic incantations.
How intricately you fit each gait’s individual

puzzle, how beautiful the body’s motion
writes its damage and means to keep going.

Almost / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

‘an orgasm that never peaks’
Sarah Audsley, Homing Device

It was there then it was gone:
The precipice was reached
But the feet stayed put. The wind laughed.
Actually, he guffawed at the
Sudden dysfunction –

Will Everest ever rest
Until she’s surmounted?

& forlorn, o’ forlorn
Was the one expecting
& the one expected was a deer
Caught in headlights
Of intense passion –

Will Everest ever rest
Until she’s surmounted?

It rose then it fell, scorn
Became her mascara, it
Was not worth the wait: he promised
More, something more hardcore –
Not this dissatisfaction –

Will Everest ever rest
Until she’s surmounted?

Then his sorrow was born –
He could not live up
To the billing, he called himself
An aberration –

Red Birds / by Tucker Riggleman

I witness the visual metronome
Of snow drip from the porch roof
Through the big window
Where the kids affixed a homemade ornament
— a rainbow butterfly
To divert the masochistic attacks
Of red birds

The recorded temperature this morning
Was in the singular digits
But I have grown accustomed to
Seeing my breathe indoors
I pretend the living room
Is a smokey dive bar
As I sing Hank Williams
& drink fake beer

A leg up on daily chores
I sit down for lunch
I am the King of Leftovers
Thankful I was raised to be resourceful
Between bites of noodle & sauce
I lock eyes with a cardinal
As he dives into the glass
Reminding me that he is always there
Ready to protect what is unthreatened

Poem 13 / Day 13

Parable, at the end / by Sarah Audsley

I want

—to write a poem titled “Watershed” for the metaphor of water wending its way
down sides of cliffs, tributaries gathering into one larger body, cutting south, then south-west.
How it would please me. Landscape sculpted. Is pleasure my necessity?

—to find the exact shade of color for my loneliness. Drape it around my body, slick
from shower, a shroud. How reluctant to step outside.

—to want less. How desire fits a yellow paradox parade.

—to anticipate loss. Jaw clenched. How taking up space might fight internalized racism.
I don’t know. The body’s little pain-bits. The baby elephant is waiting at the mouth of
the delta for rescue, for food.

Wreckage / by Angela M. Carter

This is how my evolution came to be–
a body, spinning underneath a hill of wave,
kept small by spiny tongues–
a figure mimicking former internal rhythms–
the survivor’s Morse code—fiercely tapping a memory
only those like herself can comprehend.

Skin, the sails—Fears, are whales;
everything perceived as a lying latitude.
Ancestor’s gales;
wailing to a half-mooned compass,
the world, empty paper space–
Cirrus clouds, smirking–
hovering above caves, that were forced into the girl–

An off-buttoned woman—body pressed on,
told to carry on if the drowning begins again.

Call it, like they do when one stops living;
A timestamp of the first time she was flooded.
She is in the making;
repackaged, hand-stitched tiny voice and all.
Leopard’s speed embroidered into weary eyes;
the girl, somewhat alive–
after they’ve poured 23 years of buzzards into her mouth;
the growing claws forming a spine in her tongue

Her taste buds, dedicated to fear.

This is how the peace begins–
an ink dot that acknowledges nature as bloody–
she draws murdered silences on the trees.
Go ahead; deny the ink stains on her hands–
deny her handprints, smeared from your backyards into your neighboring waters;
she knows; only the drowning may speak directly to a tsunami—

Sorrow is bottomless; it’s too eager
for anyone else to risk calling its full name.

Prescribed Burn / by Barbara Duffey

My liver’s a hot spot
reading quarters as scripture
receipts from regular rounders
keep my words in my pill pocket
the advent of a child’s eye
say I’m short on your trainer’s time
I’ll deviate from the bookish high
mutton shoulders provide
belief’s a standard of Scotch
that abundant blue keep
lays the way for the field’s blight
and chapel’s some devil’s notch
Olympic business agrees
set on the tar of a train’s night

For a Widow at Ninety / by Latorial Faison

I pull up to the curb & inside
is my great aunt
waiting to die.

She has been waiting
for a death angel
like a Black child waits
on a white Santa Claus.

She has been waiting
since last year
when death came
for her other half
in an ICU where
his lungs could not hold air
his stomach could not hold food
his hands could no longer
hold hers.

She has no need for anything anymore
good shoes, good church, good food.

She is ready to empty the shed
to say goodbye everyday
to give it all away
because half of her
is already gone.

What’s left is like
waiting for the mailman
to bring you a casket.

She cannot wait
to lay her down to sleep
pray, the Lord,
her soul to keep.

14 Lines for the Parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

Rosie constructs a shrine in the corner
with pillows and blankets and stuffed animals,
a shrine to externalize, perhaps, her
need to alter every moment, each too
ordinary for her melancholy
sensibilities, each to place so they
sit just right, like the bear she comes back to
again and again, when it falls, again
and again. She doesn’t get frustrated,
her hand is gentle and guided when
grabbing the bear’s throat. She wants it
a certain way, and she knows that it takes
time, the way it always does, the way it
always did, in the fear of creation.

WATER WITCH AT AQUIFER ANYWHERE / by Farah Marklevits

If I step out without my shoes
to stand in the yard, if I take off one sock
and then the other, press each toe

into the small patch of city green
I think of as mine but have really given
away to the creep of ground ivy,

if I go without a task in mind, still myself
to listen past engine whine through to
the liquid hush of water in me, if I can

catch the starhum in the center of
the one cottonwood branch that calls
a half mile away, tease its one from

its sisters’ many and cloud drift
sent high over creek, if I can grasp
the liquid ‘y’ that links self to tree

to porous rock, to hear the water
no matter how much weight it’s buried
under, sense my way further into those

void spaces, feel how they slow what
only wants to flow by just the surface
area of gaps and molecular attraction,

then might I know a fraction
of what it means to hold?

Bacchus / by Prince Kwasi Mensah
 
‘in the poison sun
Barbara Duffey, Vernacular Alcohol
 
Everything’s beautiful after the fifth drink. I think my seventh will be
The last one before I say good night or good morning. My goodness. At
This point I do not know whether the sun has risen or has set & what
Feels like dawn sounds like dusk. Perhaps, I am a mollusk. Too much time
Spent in my illusions & alcohol is my wingman as I catcall every passing
Sensation & the heat I feel is from a malicious sun, determined to poison
The chalice of desire. I want to be happy but not this way, not at the price
Of freedom. I reach for my eighth drink. 

 

Celebration / by Tucker Riggleman

I wish I could give my full attention
To anything
Dishes in the sink
Songs half-written

But look — a princess, dangling her hair
An invitation if I ever saw one

Endless paperwork — scattered
Reflecting the restlessness inside
My heart-strong mind
I dream in binary code
& oil painting
A living memoir with multiple narrators

Oh no — a street brawl boiling out of control
Someone should break that up

Isolation is good for me
Forces me to be present
With myself for a change
Instead of chasing kites
Over posted property lines

Do you see? — the spider legs of fireworks
Slinking like willows
We should join
The celebration

Poem 12 / Day 12

Unreadable #2 – Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2018 / by Sarah Audsley

This bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to grant automatic citizenship to all qualifying children adopted by a U.S. citizen parent. (Currently, an adopted child must have been under 18 years old as of February 27, 2001, in order to qualify for automatic citizenship.)

An individual born outside of the United States who was adopted by a U.S. citizen parent shall automatically become a U.S. citizen when the following conditions have been fulfilled:

•    the individual was adopted by a U.S. citizen before the individual reached age 18,
•    the individual was physically present in the United States in the citizen parent’s legal custody pursuant to a lawful admission before the individual reached age 18,
•    the individual never acquired U.S. citizenship before the enactment of this bill, and

the individual was lawfully residing in the United States on the date of enactment of this bill.
An individual who meets such criteria, except for lawfully residing in the United States on the date of enactment of this bill, shall automatically become a U.S. citizen on the date on which the individual is physically present in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission.

A visa may not be issued to such an individual unless:

•    the individual was subjected to a criminal background check, and
•    the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State coordinated with law enforcement agencies to ensure that appropriate action is taken regarding any unresolved criminal activity.

Automatic citizenship may not be granted to an individual who was deported for an offense that involved the use of physical force against another person.

To the Non-Reader of My Longest Poem / by Angela M. Carter

It was a poem for an uninterested reader; I thought if I reframed it, rewrote it, repeated it then it would finally be understood. At times, the poem I’d written for you was more my own heart, more than the blood which runs through me than words on the page. I realize now that had you had wanted to be the reader of my poem, you would have been. I’ll never know the answer to why the words didn’t hook your eyes. If want or hopes were enough it would’ve brought pure fame from your eyes to my poem’s words. The poem doesn’t need permission to exist without you seeing its beauty—I know it’s beautiful but I do not understand why it’s not beautiful enough.

Whatever the poem is that you have chosen, I hope its words ignite you in a way that you can’t think of anything else but how its intoxication of you feels, sees your beauty, has appreciation, speaks to you in a way only the soul can translate when its found one of the same—and, quite possibly, that is why you never gave my poem the time of day, and I celebrate that while I also weep over it. Make sure every word you read now is dedicated to the light in your eyes–how bright they are when you smile–that memory will not allow being extinguished, so it becomes yet another part of my unread poem.

The longest poem I’ve ever written ends tonight. I’ll fold all the words, all the universe of emotion, within myself from here on. The poem will no longer seek its reader. It’s locked away for good, miles deep within me. Maybe when the poem disappears, you will realize how often it spoke out to be discovered by you.

The Next Full Moon Is the Beaver Moon / by Barbara Duffey

Behind me, the horizon flames out orange—
above, snow geese argyle sky—I drive
into gray clouds through which the pink woodcut
disc of the moon surfaces like a fear—

Salt / by Latorial Faison

It’s hard–not to         sift
                     salt
                             in wounds     of alabaster
         where devils   carve  only
lies

When these     worlds     withholding
                     nothing
                                    have their       way
with mother &     with     seed
                         with   all the   igneous
                 indigenous      black earth
we are

When caucus         worms    come
                      feasting
                                  on whole      souls
      with whole    sins
                      with   whole   saints
sapping at the root
                                         trapping all the truth

When the universe      should       have
                     killed
           it    has craved, it has caved
                            with   a   saving
                       grace
             sparing      souls
on days      that        don’t   seem
             holy.

14 Lines for the Parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

Grandpa’s body heaves, but he’s not really
moving. He makes a sound hard to locate,
wailing in a language only he knows.
The infection in Grandma’s lower lung
has catalyzed her Dementia, the doctor
tells us, so when she wakes up, chances are,
she won’t really wake up. Grandpa knows he
holds her hand, now, unlike he did, moving
his thumb across the wrinkled waves of her
knuckle. I remember, one night, long ago,
some family function, my great aunts and great
uncles circled them as they kissed. There
was a countdown, in French, my grandparents’
lips electric with booze and slobber and time.

IN THE GREAT PLAINS* / by Farah Marklevits

of the story my daughter reads, the expansive once
may seem to have been almost monotonous. Mile after

imagined mile next to wagon cart, the good girl with
strings tied walks with the wild one whose bonnet’s flapping.

Imagination tallgrass-dominated, my daughter can almost see
them wade-walking through switchgrass, those historical sisters

like the first few of an invasive species, disturbances not woven
into the mosaicked community built by cycles of disturbances—

grazing, burning, drying—that life came to long for.
The future of these girls not accounted-for by the hidden vast

root systems of big and little bluestem, the prairie blazing star
and aromatic aster unable to anticipate how like a meteor

a living thing can trail a wake centuries-long of erasure,
but we are—aren’t we—still a piece of the mosaic, no matter

how much we mistook the mantel of plunderer for maker.

*This poem draws language from “North American Grasslands and Birds Report,” National Audubon Society, 2019

Borgia in Accra / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

‘blue-eyed Jesus in a brown skinned-country’
Latorial Faison, Mama Sings the Blues

A portrait of Cesare Borgia hangs
In a humble Christian home, they
Hum hymns every new morning –
They make the sign of the cross
Each time they cross the portrait –

Portrait of Cesare Borgia suspends
On store wall, its owners
Look at it, they mutter deep-felt prayers –
Help us, Jesus, help us! –
The portrait stares back at them.

Of Cesare Borgia and Accra;
A dissonance that lingers –
Street preachers and bus prophets hold
His portrait and, like a charm,
It commands obeisance.

Cesare Borgia: you murderer, devious
Man, you must be laughing
In your crypt; deceptions on Cush
Remain intact for Cush loves
To do nothing about change –

Borgia as a feature of brown-skinned homes –
Machiavellian at its best but first –
Jesus must be in mourning over this:
A brown-eyed, brown-skinned man,
Now cast as a blue-eyed psychopath –

Poem 11 / Day 11

I\inheritance / by Sarah Audsley

it will take all day
to build the storm that breaks

make yourself new
cells divide & regenerate
every seven years

one way to begin:

the midwife buried the veined
placenta underneath the red maple

awaking you won’t remember
rooms piled with used tools, an orange wall,
the glue left out, drying, an open
book, a fur coat

The Pause / by Angela M. Carter

I suppose nature has one for every species,
although I never imagined it to be me.

I’ve seen it in wildlife documentaries–the zebra
stops to admire the stealth of its hunter, as though to ask: me?

No, certainly nothing would ever want to hurt me.

The seconds were all that was needed for the kill.
I always thought–how dumb!–don’t you see your

end is near? Don’t you see the stare pinning you, the
predator’s teeth chattering, the insatiable hunger it has?

You are not you to it. It does not acknowledge you. Your
beating heart does not matter. It is overcome.

The animal pauses. The predator locks teeth
into the throat and without pause.

Going Mortal / by Barbara Duffey

An alarm for the worried angels:
to stroke skin, run blood under,
bump the chief bones, fuss over food,
is to egress terrestrial,
heckle the better sorrows.
You want to ace that needlepoint,
nail the game, all those ideas
pedestrious, assailable:
house, hospital, train, town, worm.
Peripatetic, you must maul the high-toned
to outbrazen the cockeyed dog
raising this whole congelation to grace

A Eulogy for Nat Turner / by Latorial Faison

(haiku for a Negro slave, prophet & leader of the 1831 Slave Revolt in Southampton County, VA)

We swear to tell it
The whole truth, the Black truth–so
Help these white folk’s god

We were all just slaves
Way down here in Southampton
All cross Virginia

All through this here South
We got tired of being owned
by Turners, by Moores

By the Travises
Bro. Nat–he had seen the light
The only way out

Stuck in a system
Of white men & their power
Damned to hell on Earth

Field work, life beneath
White folk’s feet, their god’s bible
It was never right

To own nobody
Keep them from a decent life
From building up hope

Snatching every right
From our men, women, children
Because we colored

Just because men could
Owning folk like property
Buying, selling them

Then separating
Breeding them, beating them down
Work them half to death

In the cotton fields
Behind a mule & a cart
Just cooking, cleaning

In the master’s house
Using the Black woman for
Nursing white babies

Might as well be dead
Might as well we die trying
To get some freedom

Even if we die
We’re free from the chains, we’re free
From shame, the white man

They don’t care about
Slaving, raping & lynching
No ‘nigger’ folk here

So why care about
Killing who’s enslaving us
With their religion

I believe a god
Who wants Black folk free, a god
Who believes in me

We want dignity
We deserve it by and by
So Bro. Nat took it

He won’t gone study
No war–no more; he waged it
He fought to be free

That’s what Bro. Nat did
He hung, he bled, he died to
Set us, lil’ more, free.

14 Lines for the Parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

So many moments are brought like gifts
to my swaddled awareness, offerings
I accept with the passivity of an infant,
like this one: Rosie singing, her wave
from the stage as she thinks she catches
my eye in the audience. Seconds earlier,
the Magi of the pageant entered stage left,
paper crowns wobbling from their 6-year-old
shuffle. They scurried to bend to the manger
that hid, from our low, gym floor angle,
a burlap swaddled Jesus. The Magi lifted
their hands with gifts, and then the children
turned and sang. Funny, I’m as protective
of the moment as Herod was of his throne.

AT THE END OF THE DAY / by Farah Marklevits

there is night made switch by glow
into day, brief the night and then
another day. And then extends.
Oh endless day on a planet
that spins us away from there is
and isn’t time. Now another
someone makes another
pronouncement. There is sleep for some
while others are awake asking when
will this end. There is rest for some
while others work asking how long
until the next break. There are breaks
for some while others keep working.
There will be the dishes with their
crusts of limestone. There, the heap
of clothes, the towel with its musk
of mold. The day eats all ends.
The task, to find them. At the corner
of the end of the day and let’s pretend,
someone is proclaiming. At some
windows the day is on fire. At the former sites
of others, slag. Someone with a corner window
of blue proclaims this the new normal.
Renames some portion of each week soot
and ash day. Oh sun of a day that flares
the whole gun long and keeps flaring.
Earth keeps its spinning in a box so large
we can’t see it, our wrists cleared of watches
and the batteries, dead. We think we need
someone to tell us but no need to ask.
There is the man proclaiming again,
marketing his evidence. Another trial
of a day. The judge, a planet spinning
its inscrutable sentences. Let’s huddle
in the clearing of night’s retreat, moonlight
for cover. First, a kiss, then, love,
spin toward and away from me
to dream’s meeting place.

Stroll / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

Thunder speaks
& requires no answers
Rain has become garb
For my pain –

My pain’s a consortium
Of private and public
Holdings, a business
Of disappointments –

I grab my hopes but they’re
Covered in oils of despair
& in repairing broken faith,
I find fate unwilling to negotiate –

Love initiates her intents
With a mask of vitriol,
Life has become a sequence
Of death and dearth –

Remembrance’s like opening
Gates of hell & I can tell
Bad feelings are invoked by
Incantations of memory

I stroll
While mind & heart
Scroll through litanies
Of hurt, lightning
Takes pictures, I guess there’s
A need for evidence somewhere –
The wind carries sounds, lost voices
Masquerade as noise,
Wet earth binge drinks rainwater –
Muddied & bloodied
By the feet of those who shall
Return to her.

Devil’s House / by Tucker Riggleman

The grass is always greener
To the intrepid cow
Stretched-neck grazing barbed wire
Crimson trickles down furred clavicle
Pooling in the mud & shit

I have wasted so much daylight
Keeping up appearances at
The devil’s house
Earning arbitrary social capital
Redeemable to wasps & their beds
Laced wing, subtle sting
Just enough to not be lethal

Somewhere on the other side
It is blue & warm
Everyone is healthy & singing
The hymns of grandmothers
Where the sun only sets long enough
To paint its colors against the hills
Lavender & pink
I am lost here because there are no maps
But I remember the spell
Should I ever want to dance in the past
For it is scarred across my
Reaching throat

Poem 10 / Day 10

Outside and Inside / by Angela M. Carter

The Earth’s breath
waves through the remaining branches’ leaves; humanity does not cope with the language it speaks,
we cannot handle the warnings and actions of letting go.
Trees, with their permanent open arms waiting for, and inviting–
morphing to the ever-changing seasons–
they are not sentimental.
Near the trees, inside the house,
a human body lifts knees close to the chest,
crosses arms around them,
protecting the heart.
The body, a winter flower with an inverted bloom,
with the desired season come and gone,
leaves dropping,
tears for water–
the body is learning a language only trees can accept without withering.

Medium Spicy / by Barbara Duffey

Morning came on like an acid
from the rousselet middle distance
the west devilled in chocolate and stars
the whole word an apple in the mouth
of a pig on a spit turning over
a flame orange as honey
man a full banquet—lechon,
potato jalfrezi—for some
clove-smoking, maidenhair-fern-
owning, E-dropping gourmand

How to Bury Your Mama / by Latorial Faison

You take her hands in yours & you bury them beneath the white sheet that covers her face & yours. You watch her strong Black body slide into the back of a black hearse parked in the grass of her front yard outside the picture window she cleaned for 35 years, your whole life.

You go back into the house & stare at all the empty spaces she once filled: the kitchen where soul food was cooked every single day. Dumplings, cobblers, collard greens, banana puddings, pies & homemade rolls–never to be made again.

You stand in the bedroom where the mirror’s edge is decorated all around with pictures of you & your family, where the scent in the curtains she ordered from Sears have instantly increased their worth by millions.

You sit in her old wooden chair with the pillow for cushion & read every letter you wrote to her; you see all the pictures of happy moments you shared, Christmas & birthday cards, your first book–all tucked away in a drawer like stacks of cash she was setting aside for tough times.

You peruse the obituaries of family & friends, grandparents, great aunts & uncles, piled neatly signifying Black death & Black grief, Black love & Black wealth, the best & saddest funeral songs & soloists, a circle of life documenting history, a Black library.

You look at your Daddy, 89 with Alzheimers, trying to figure out where she is, why Engram’s boy took her away in that black car of his because she is not dead, where they laid her & you wish, for a moment, that you could not remember, like him.

You remember the old folk & the Bible saying how quickly we would all be changed. “In the twinkle of an eye,” she left the house in a wind that blew, her last breath.

You look at all the people, all the pictures, all the things she wore & touched & you touch them, drape them all over you in hopes of feeling the warmth of her sun again. She is absolutely everywhere: in old sweaters, hair brushes, pillow shams & in a black leather Sunday School change purse filled with bobby pins.

You still see her. Even in all the faces that are not hers, you see her trying to survive, trying to breathe, trying to find words, spirituals & hugs, motherless children, and god in this medium between Courtland & glory; you want to go with her.

You plan a homegoing. You decide what & who is good enough to display her worth, to say the right words, to play the right music, to sing the right songs by which men, women, children & a whole community will remember her forever.

You sit in a Black church because a Black church is who she was & you watch people pass by you to view what little remains. You imagine she is somewhere with two wings flying high among angels, singing gospel, cooking & taking care of all the dead children who got their wings too soon, smiling in a heaven as you sit all bereaved & broken trying to exegete scripture, to decipher god–wishing she would just walk in, that it is all a dream, that she is the Lord’s next big miracle to be raised from the dead at Shiloh.

You are declared numb, stung by the sting of cancer, left behind with too much to bear, people she loved who, two by two, march behind clergy & casket to a grave she bought, for she believed in preparing a place for her own self.

You melt as the Black preacher speaking blessings over the living & the dead pours ashes that are not hers into a grave that is; you wish everything you ever learned about death was a lie.

In the days, months & years ahead, you hold on to every word she said like it was gospel because she was the only truth you ever knew; you know that now. You do not agree with death; you do not understand god. You take her hands in yours & you bury them beneath the white sheet that, eventually, covers all.

TICK / by Farah Marklevits

what do you know? so impatient and exposed,
skin so thin with so much blood coursing just under
deliriously perfumed with that fragrance you like
to huff about how much you are your own nemesis,
oh frivolous pincushions, we can wait perched for
the spring, we can rest through polar vortices, wade
enough of us through your thin poison mist clouds,
there’s a reason you named us for half the measure
of your one primal terror, we are made of time,
armed with slow alliances with bacteria and parasites,
ready for lift-off on feather hooks to newly warm
territory, we are tanks we are armed, go ahead,
debate yourselves silly, talk us out of the spotlight,
we can wait in the momentary cold, we’re ready.

Child of Empires / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

Songhai, the song I
Sing to my spirit
When days go wrong –

Mali, the malleable I
Facing the world on shoulders
Of great ancestors –

Ghana, I garner
The past into a shrine
Of strength –

I am the conqueror-conjurer,
The philosopher-griot, priest
& alchemist, blood of kings rushes
Into warrior heart, my tongue sings songs
For ancient gods, my words are swords,
My thoughts are darts &
Thus I exist beyond definition –
The elements are my relatives:
They speak through sand and storm,
When I die, I return to my fathers.

Veronica / by Tucker Riggleman

Punch the time card
To put the day out of its misery
Silverware neatly slipped into
Patterned white skirts
Chairs inverted on table tops
Just as they were this morning
Still dark, the bubbling of the coffee maker
Might as well be your alarm clock
& the equilibrium is achieved –
Everything back where it started
Except she is one day older
One more shift’s worth of pain
In her hip, one more disappointing
Collection of loose change and crumpled bills
Slipped from apron to purse
One more hardened piece of pie
For Benny, although he is not fond of lemon

Knotted mess of brunette released from pony tail
To greet tired shoulders
She should be dancing somewhere
Or floating on silk sheets
In ecstatic collapse
Her lover gathering his clothes
Leaving her to good books & wine
Something will change eventually
— or not

At least the truckers — their mouths, their hands
Couldn’t reach her where it mattered
Red lipstick & a stack of menus
In her head, Veronica’s lover was returning
From a long day in the fields,
Flowers in hand

Poem 9 / Day 9

On Process / by Sarah Audsley
              ~ with a first line by Lucie Brock-Broido

The woman in the field dressed only in the sun.

Soft-boiled egg broken open on the plate.

Cumin mixed in guacamole. Onion juice.

Material made witness by mundane things, tasks.

Hurting someone you want to save.

Too much golden rod chokes drainage.

Accretion of loss. Light—particle & wave.

What is a deliberate intrusion in your life?

The page, it’s whiteness, a field I roam all over.

At least the three deer bounding away, running

from danger, in the snow-crusted hacked cornfield,

don’t seem to be lonely.

How Did You Want It to Go? / by Barbara Duffey

What about holding between your legs
a man you half-trust, grasping his torso
like he does your breasts when you’re standing
in front of him in his kitchen, about
riding water gray, mercurial beneath
mackerel sky, eleven pelicans
flying a V with one pilot bird
as period, white-brush wings inked black?
What did you say about the throttle
pulled fully open under his touch
so he’s reeling in the future
fifty miles per hour, the blue
thrill of water’s long run beneath your
heels, his arm muscles working the
handle bars, banking the turns too tight
so you’ll pass over the waves you crinked
in the lake’s lacy surface until
you have to lean opposite his lean
to keep yourself on the craft, you can
feel the seat pitch, rock beneath your crotch,
last night’s argument in your mind,
eyeing the wild slide of water
curling over the bond line as you
struggle to stay on, wanting only
to regain that effortless forward
flight he balks at now, turning too fast
as you soar off and into the lake,
thin green algae question marks floating
across your vision, white guide bubbles
angling you right again to surface,
to hear, “Babe!”, what you’ve longed to be called
through the last hacked-ice day of his rage,
as the moon had crooned its promptings, Don’t
you think if it was going to work
out, it would?, some circular bullshit?
What did you want him to do? To hold his
arms out, full wingspan, fall backwards into
the waiting water? In Lake Madison,
he surfaced, said, “There, are we even?”

Castrated / by Latorial Faison

The amount of Black life gone
From the Black communities
Where love was cultivated
In brilliant, tender hands like
A George Washington Carver’s
Killed by ecosystemic
Greed breeding color lines of
Hate without local, state, or
National debate. Negroes
Killing Negroes with weapons
White klansmen keep on selling
Drugs white pharmas keep baking
Locked away each day by laws
Racism keeps creating
No cry for no help from no
White man, lest the trap he set
Come for his clan–crystallized
Like meth, like Black diamonds with
Balls from Rough Neck, USA.

14 Lines for the Parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

I’ve held the bathroom door closed for
a minute and a half now, and there is
silence. Jack had raked his claws across
Rosie’s chest after some frenzy over
a brown marker, of all colors. And here
we are, me leaning toward the hallway’s
window across from the bathroom, holding
the doorknob to keep Jack in timeout.
But he’s lost interest in the fight, seemingly
resigned to his captivity. I imagine
him hissing and clawing at the air, pacing
until he curls up by the toilet, eyes
slit in contentment, in the unconscious
knowing of his power. Then I release him.

ON THE SIXTH DAY / by Farah Marklevits

after Jane Hirshfield’s “On the Fifth Day”

Some farmers took cover in
fields of cereal rye and oats.

Others poured sweat and tears
into the pigshit that slipped

through drainage tiles into gone.
The streams, used to sweat and shit,

noted the tears, accepted them
without comment. They meant

to carry on. When the fish found
it difficult to breathe, belatedly

they tried to speak. They managed
some syllables not officially recognized

as speech. The public comment
period is now closed.

The algae objected to the term toxic.
They were just living, after all.

And the water so warm. The water
kept collecting wherever gravity

and basins told it to gather.
The citizens kept thinking they could

drink it. The citizens kept thinking
they could drink without thinking.

They just kept drinking the water
and breathing the air until the next day.

Kwaku Ananse / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

To which lesser god do I apologize
For not finding logic
In deaths of good men?

Is it the trickster god,
The huckster god,
The brigand god
Or the hustler’s god?

To whom should I pour libation
To obtain gumption
As to why the evil still live?

Is it the trickster god,
The huckster god,
The brigand god
Or the hustler’s god?

To what earth or sky
Would I be summoned
To answer whether I am good or bad?

I am the trickster god,
The huckster god,
The brigand god,
The hustler’s god –

Arachnid with acumen,
Aggressive like a dog god,
I am the gods’ dog: they hate me
But love me more –

I gathered all the wisdom in the world
Into one gourd but the gods
Made me lose it all
To four ends of the earth.

Collection Plate / by Tucker Riggleman

I practice holding my breathe
To ease the aching raw
Cut of cold air inside my chest
Like inhaling crushed glass

Somewhere it is still warm in pictures
Dates faded on the back
Tucked between Kodak
& the forgotten names of cousins
I don’t know them anymore
But we shared the same clothes

Ghosts stare back
Through muted frames
Sometimes they are holding me
A big eyed baby, passed around
Like a collection plate
A pink punch bowl of lineage
& expectations which, although low
Should have stopped when I
Left the holler, but college won’t fulfill
And neither will happiness, be it masked
Or earned – money is all to those
Who never had it, so I have
Never been enough
For anyone

Poem 8 / Day 8

Self-Mummified Buddha in Statute / by Sarah Audsley

The mechanics of
swallowing toxic
tea—the tongue
flattens, esophagus
elongates & body
becomes immune
to maggots. 1,000
years later a CT scan
reveals the body
hidden within
the statue’s casing,
evidence of
transcending
the physical
reality of flesh.
What have I
ever learned
as an “I”?
Destroyer.
Selfish.
Everything
an arm’s
length away.
Only give me
the appropriate
name for the cold
of wanting.

Surrender / by Angela M. Carter

For so long now, I’ve been
a traveller,
a warp of hope,
dropping breadcrumbs
like snowflakes on grass,
secretly intending to never
find my way back to
where I began.
Nothing could sway me
away from my destination.
I was prepared for the journey,all seasons,
famine–sure I’d arrive or be found.
If you’ve ever travelled this far
without an exact location
or time-frame,
you know that
after awhile the voyager
grows weary,
hungry for more than
abiding motion,
needs human connection
in between the absence of
the stars.
Every step I’ve made
stamped a secret hope,
the adrenaline kept the feet
swift, and the mind perilous,
but I am starved,
my body throbs.
I am alone,
there have been no lights to see
me through.
The glow of lightning bugs has disappeared,
winter has come
and is ruthless.
Where are you?
Why are you not calling my name?
If you are waiting for me somewhere, that somewhere
I am resting upon a log,
resting, to head back where I began.

First Snow / by Barbara Duffey

The new-streetlight blue
reflects off the yard
and no one can sleep
radiators ping
with steam heat I learned
on Forensic Files
sleepwalkers have an
immature brain wave
pattern have trouble
transitioning from
regular sleep to
REM sleep and out
again it made me
worried what I could
do while I’m asleep
since I live alone
I have no control
over so many
parts of my life so
I compensate by
making sure my face
is moisturized but
even that is spoilt
by impending cold
and I have to stop
by the window and
admire the whole
world lit up snow blue

14 Lines for the parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

I let Jack crack the eggs. He taps each one
softly on the bowl’s edge, makes a little
divot, looks at what he’s done, then crumples
it over the bowl, his fingers a mess
of slime and yolk and shell. My anxiety
bubbles. He shimmies his hips with pride,
gyrating on his stool, and I stand behind
him, pin him with my belly to the counter’s
edge. Daddy, no, no, what are you doing,
he pleads. I’m fishing out shell fragments,
gritting my teeth as the shards evade my thumb
and middle finger. No, Daddy, nooooo,
he continues, swiping at my movements.
Daddy, stop, you’re ruining our bweakfast.

LEAD ELEGY / by Farah Marklevits

A child’s body is a planet, 65% water,
ever spinning to breathe, dependent

on its orbit just so around the necessary
star. We are searching for signs of life

in the vast scale of emptiness. Looking for
traces of water. My elder daughter is

a water-carrier, and though her sister
is made of fire, the fire is really thirst.

What am I here to mourn? I hold
the younger’s hand as I walk with her

to a new school. The older now so tall
I barely need to lean for the crown

of her head to transmit love’s vibrations
directly to my cheek. They are built of thirst,

but children are not drains. How much
of who they are is now a symptom?

How long has dread run undetected
through our pipes? How heavy the lead

sinker sunk into bone’s tender?
Too late, Flint, you come into focus now,

from across the Great Lakes, a chain strung
so heavy with freshwater it seems too rich

with promise balanced, like every child,
too delicately on a nation’s historical edge.

Fractals / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

It was nothing serious            I loved her                             too much too late                 it killed me
A slow seduction                     like a fall in a dream            too soon too little                 to give it life
Satyr meets nymph                she loved me back               too rough too tender           when it wanted to die

she was alabaster
I was onyx, only
death threatened
our intercourse                      without pause, we laid claim
                                                  to our destinies, we
                                                  knotted our desires into
                                                  a tree of undying fire                    but there were things
                                                                                                            more dangerous than
                                                                                                            death, things make the
                                                                                                            living dead          I heard of those things 
                                                                                                                                          & paid them no mind
                                                                                                                                         ergo when ego arose
                                                                                                                                          Eros was unprepared.

The Way It Has To Be / by Tucker Riggleman

I left the old me bleeding in the alley
Lenses cracked, hands shaking
Palms full of gravel & broken glass
But that’s the way it has to be
Mercilessly absolute
There is no room for sympathy
When you are hunting a killer

I left the old me cuffed to the radiator
Building in flames, windows locked
Lungs full of tar & melting wires
But that’s the way it has to be
Uncompromisingly selfish
There is no room for softness
When you are training a champion

I left the old me somewhere in a notebook
Throwaway lines, unreachable goals
Heart full of anxiety & manic hope
But that’s the way it has to be
Responsibly ignored
There is no room for dreams
When you are defending a liar

Poem 7 / Day 7

Dear Connie Chung: / by Sarah Audsley

Marooned on an island, hemmed in by the rise & fall
of sea foam white & frothing, you were boon & burden,
a glowing moon face beamed into my living room.

The reliable visits occasioned consistent moments
of glee. In order to survive as a castaway, you must
endure lack of unicorns, whole milk, claim
sustenance in hot dogs, waking grief, mac & cheese.

While you gestured from the fixed point at your desk
with your cue cards, framed in the square black TV box,
reporting on world news in a French blue blazer & coifed well,
I learned how to decipher just a millimeter to the left,
with smoke signals & flares.

38 Special / by Angela M. Carter

The less I needed, the better I felt. -Charles Bukowski

I’ve decided to be ecstatic
about the broken things–
pity what does not have what
it takes to become so,
admire the open wound
slow to heal,
have sorrow for the salt.

The weapon
of time taught me
to appreciate the fire, its
damage, how it rejuvenates
through destruction–how
gratitude in its finest living form
is earned by holding it close and letting it go.

Happiness falls around me today,
within this me,
flowing neatly in through my veins.
It lifted a boat anchored
in my depths. I let it go,
who I was, went too–
both of us accept that tide.

Stars of Wonder / by Latorial Faison

Stripped from a canvas in the cosmos,
We survive in halfway houses, halfway

In houses, half-alive, half-gone, half-wed,
Half-white, half-pretty, half-dead, dropped

From skies to count what never adds up, just
Us tending to the live roots of every lynching

Tree, never climbing, never climaxing, never
Completely in or of our right minds, false

Like a cow jumping over the moon, like a slave
Master’s Jesus coming to save us real soon.

14 Lines for the parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

We drive, my mother and I, down
Timberlake, not silent but not talking,
the neons of store signs and brake lights stark
in the late fall evening. Harley Davidson’s,
she announces as we pass it, to the car’s
stale air. Bojangles, she heralds, after
a few more stop lights, now with a lilt thrown
toward the vacancy of my expression.
I want to lash out, I want to throttle
the vapid projection her aging reveals,
this strange woman growing darker beside me.
She’s cold, so she asks me to roll up
the four-inch crack I lean toward. Her eyes
move slowly. Lowes she says. Oooh, McDonalds.

INSECT ERASURE REMIX* / by Farah Marklevits

in Puerto Rico             estimated beetles and bees

             birds and coqui frogs trill

a 50-foot emerald      El Yunque

measure the rain
forest, the birds, the frogs, the lizards
spiders and centipedes

the butterflies once

the dry weight of all the captured
              fell 60-fold

most common the moths, the butterflies, the grasshoppers, the spiders and others
              the 60-fold loss

to document              anole lizards                the interior forest

to capture birds          the ruddy quail dove, which eats fruits and seeds
                                        the Puerto Rican tody, which eats bugs

to document the fold, what felled
the cascade to arthropod
from bird, lizard, and frog

to capture the crash to

the invertebrates that live there
              cannot regulate
where insects can survive

the study of
the world has little more than
wrangle

in unnoticed or avoided corners

the wild           six-legged        estimate

Earth
unimaginable

*Source text: “‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss,” Ben Guarino, The Washington Post, 15 Oct 2018

Convergence / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

There are dreams
Of a world brimming
With tolerance, empowered
By variety, powered by
Propriety:

There are also dreams
Of a world skimmed
Of its hopes, screaming
On top of its lungs due to
Injustice:

Every dream has lovers and haters;
One has to die, the lie
Or the truth, the lien
Or the manumission &
There will be scuffle

One way or the other
If the order allows
Freedom to be toyed with –
There will be nothing
To dream about

One man’s truffle looks like
Fungus to another,
hell is heaven, heaven’s hell
no one can tell between
love and aversion

& doubts will double
& dabble in dark arts
Of sabotage as parts fight
Themselves into a sum
Of all fears.

Country Songs / by Tucker Riggleman

Empty cupboards and broken heat
Every home needs some work
Sometimes I can be my own repairman
Sometimes I can barely crawl

My heart is an old country song
A gentle waltz earning the encore
The best singers die young
Leaving behind leaderless bands
& managers too afraid to fly
Forgotten nightly shift to the stomach
Full of gin, and the album sales will double

I used to write you love songs
& sing them against the wall in my apartment
Barely above a whisper, just for me
Then quickly drink them out of my lungs
& release them back into the night
Like a wounded bird
Whose nest was broken by a storm
Just another thing for me to fix

Poem 6 / Day 6

awkward introductions / by Sarah Audsley

              meet the swollen river mouths open
mother meet other mother
              a line of bottles emptied a bullet to the liver
mother meet splendid mother
              obsessive worrier meet bleeding-heart bush
mother meet perfect mother
              clacking knitting needles plume of cigarette smoke
mother meet father in the bedroom
              fresh laundered sheets wrapped hot & steamy
father meet other father
              meet land of corn land of rice
father meet perfect father
              plant the same vegetables pluck the same weeds
father meet other farming father
              a catch of the day flayed
father meet stoic father
              the drink the meat to swallow
father meet unexpected father’s return
              high top hay bales the barn kitten’s mewling
father and mother meet daughter returned
              meet her gaze you’re both caught zoo animals in cages

Untitled (the syllables are silent) / by Angela M. Carter

I’ve given all the words away
       everything
(the most precious pieces of me)

Longing and its syllables
did not ask my permission.
The heart breaks like this

line,
with silence being
the final poem.

In silence I am
untouchable.

Vernacular Alcohol / by Barbara Duffey

Honey, none abstain,
that’s just watering-hole talk
in the poison sun

THE PARTIES TO THIS AGREEMENT, / by Farah Marklevits

Being part geese in a yew night impatient don’t unflame bark conviction but cry May rage to the hereinafter. Fall into the miasma of conviction.

Pursuant to the suburban flatworm for entranced inspection, establish a night of deep fishing in the conifers once part of the ease of love’s conviction, its severing lesson,

In pursuit of the opposite of love’s conviction means being eye-dead, numb to pinch of pulls, including the pinch-pull of liquid gusts and come on nut riffler and striated response of bills’ tease and insect hives’ soliloquies, the light of cliff errant bat and all surf foam dances,

Recognizing the need for ant facts and frogs’ restless preponderance to the urge and thread climb and range on the faceless moth who cast a veil able to sigh in cryptic knowledge,

Also recognizing the specific reeds and pelican circle dances of velvet in empty centuries, especially crows that are particularly venerable to see at work, and artifacts sublime at fangs,

Taking full account of the specific reefs and species all whisked away to stun, let the antelope entreat bees with glee, guard new funding and lands for ostrich eulogy,

Recognizing that far-off trees may be infected not only by minds late humane, but also by the slim sacks of pleasures making thin nests of soot,

Have agreed as follows.

Letter to a crush, part two / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

I write undone; I am done with pretence –
There is an existence of desire, a fire
That refuses to be smothered –
This torment shall continue no more,
I wage war on this circumbendibus
of accepting & denying & accepting & defying –
it is a dying I have come to live with
& now I refuse to die anymore –
I will tell you how much you mean
how many modes of you my mind simulates
how you are the medium of life
how mathematical sensations
run arranged, sometimes amok
whenever I hear you talk
or watch you walk
or feel your presence a thousand miles away –
I shall have my say & come what may
be the one who loved you
despite facts that it might never come true
between us

The Camaraderie of Poison / by Tucker Riggleman

On rare nights I find myself missing my addictions
The self-actualized horror of it all
Pushing towards the ever thinning line
Will your name be in the paper tomorrow?
How long before someone notices you are
Face down in your room — lifeless and bloated
Like the nocturnal creatures in the road
Who didn’t quite make it

I miss that they were wholly mine
The camaraderie of poison is warmest
Just before the fever
And all that music
I still find songs I cannot remember penning
Scribbled on receipts or hidden in unnamed files
They play back to me for the first time
Through phone speakers — and I do not
Recognize the voice, but the feeling is familiar
The omnipotent dread that accompanies
Mortally aware animals likes us

No one has written your self help book yet
You must be both the critical author
& the willing subject
The shark & the seal
Following the trail of blood
Back to the vulnerable
Sometimes it is less about finding
Reasons to live
And more about forgetting ways to die

Poem 5 / Day 5

Homing Device / by Sarah Audsley

called back means you belong
to the place that’s calling.

inside marrow there is a thrumming—
it builds an orgasm that never peaks,
is never consummated. bad sex might
be the worst analogy for adoptee
displacement.

pigeon 1 & pigeon 2 & pigeon pigeon
home-in & carry messages to strangers so far
each might die upon arrival, but every tiny
heartbeat cessation will be worth the delivery.
              now now the useless & still feathers.

I will liquefy myself to fit inside the notion you need.

my fingertips brush the hairline at the base
of your neck. soft bare yellow.
waking in the afternoon light,
I see you as directional force, an orienting
magnetic field, a place to step into.

who said I’m not trainable? I could follow
an invisible pull, build inside myself the mechanism
required, a device of cellular renewal remembering
the way—edge closer to your ancestors,
let magnetism make a relentless cloud
in the white white sky.

Mirage / by Angela M. Carter

Eye to eye with my dreams,
a cloud passed over, the spell broken.
Too often the water
isn’t as sparkling as the daydream.

It was a heavenly reverie; it was
cupping the reflection of a star
in my hand, a mirage
of all the poetry in the universe.

I extended my palms to the water,
and instead of soothing me,
a star burned jaggedly through.
No paradise would ever be so unmerciful.

Third Avenue / by Barbara Duffey

Today my worry sounds like the street-
cleaning machine so much that for a while
I didn’t recognize the sound of the
street-cleaning machine. “What’s that flashing
yellow light?” I said. “Oh, it’s my worry.”
Then, “No,” I said, “It’s just the street-cleaning
machine,” gutter smut wet microcosm
of my heart-work—bone, oil film, finger
of cotton off some rough dress pickling
in the pressure-washed plough-line. A spouse is
just meat, kitchen, labor, baby, and you
can get the baby without the whole job.
Not me, my butt’s buttoned to this bar bench,
my house is locked against any number
of people. I’d block my ears with wool, but
I can’t trust my eyes, I always pick dicks.
And I’m so sick of kicking out dicks—

Zip Code: 75215 / by Latorial Faison

Asleep in this grave

Black, alone & silenced by

White people with guns

 

Uniformed & veiled

We sing, praise, worship & hug

These Americans

 

Wipe their shame away

Judas kiss ourselves to hell

Righteous forsaken.

14 Lines for the Parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

Esme orders her flowers a week before
each wedding. They burn the brightest
before they die, she tells me, after I ask,
wading through the buckets of Cosmos
and Anemones and Dahlias and Roses
to move closer to her as she creates
life in the arrangement before her.
I think of Jack, how his hair petals when he
runs, like the world clutches him in its bouquet,
his cheeks as blush as the roses in Esme’s
buckets. After the wedding, the bride’s mother
will surely ask for the left over flowers.
She’ll place them on her kitchen table,
keep them while they choke and droop and dim.

TO BE MOSSES / by Farah Marklevits

“There is almost no barrier between mosses and their environment, because their leaf is a single cell thick. When the world is dry, they are dry. When the world is wet, they are wet.” –Robin Wall Kimmerer

The green so stung my eyes that green
is in them, in the brain, shunted through
electrical conduits of the body. I am
walking moss, unnatural, so I slow,
break into parts small enough to sink
commune into a self so thinned that
touch is everything, survival, and what
will come to touch will come, to lose
my one to lose my her to lose whatever
center once felt central let go of guard
and guarded to breathe the one molecule
I need the one micro-droplet of mist
with my fractal everything but in the
smallest sense of my, all energy given
to flare the spore and light the photosynthesis,
an ancient all, snugged into many:
fan, feather, wing, cryptic bloom, blushing
peat, peaked bow, pale bristle, rough thelia,
a gram enough to be a living world. Unseen.

Letter to a crush, part one / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

Scruples have held me back
But of late I feel attacked
Within, my restless emotions
Trigger a thousand commotions
& I must tell you how I feel,
What my senses reveal
When it comes to you & you alone –
Thoughts of you are cyclones
Disrupting innermost calm,
Your voice is a balm,
Your pictures stir feral imaginings
Too lascivious to appear in writing
& whether you say yes or not
I have said my piece, knots
Of my confusions have been cut
& my feelings are now open facts –
soul & spirit yin-yang in one piece &
whenever I die, I’ll die in peace

Borrowed Skeletons / by Tucker Riggleman

I released myself to the arms of
Ancients — leaving my failures
Behind to rot into wounded soil
The tireless funeral rites of leaves,
Borrowed skeletons that crack
Under leathered boot & hoof

In death the forest is beautiful
Compared to numbing new green
Similar to the brilliant fire of
Dying stars — begging to be caught
Somewhere out West
Where the sky is vulnerable
No mountains to cradle
The tiny suns as they flutter
Like snowflakes on your tongue

Poem 4 / Day 4

Circular Deer / by Sarah Audsley

deer held back by fractured light

deer in the headlights

deer head bust mounted

deer fringe death

deer among the other deer

deer mangled in the road

deer as past unclaimed self

deer as anointing the night

deer sudden like whiplash

deer driven mad by coyote cries circling

deer stepping into the empty bowl of a field

deer I remember only at the edges of dream

deer untwisting metaphor

deer one syllable

deer arrow pulsing through the air

deer bitten

deer slain

deer renewal in the half-light

deer unending

deer held back

deer fractured into being

To GranDiddy / by Angela M. Carter

I remember you telling me that there’s only today.
I know you’d be disappointed in
the dishes left in the sink from yesterday
laziness, I know. It’s unlike me.

I know you’d tell me
that after all I’ve survived
the worst of the worst,
this couldn’t possibly be what has outdone me.

Remember when we stared out into the pasture of waving field grass
in complete silence, and we were as happy as we’d ever been?
All around us was memorizing
we didn’t know why, or how to express it, but it was.

This is like that.

I know you’d call me silly–hell, pathetic for our blood,
but remember when we sat together in beautiful silence all those years ago,
that didn’t last
and it’s still the most wondrous moment I think of.

This is like that.

I know you’d make me look into your pale eyes
remind me that life is for living,
but this rushes over me as fierce as
waking to life, already with a soul.

You know I’ve always been either too human or unworldly.

When we looked out into that pasture together,
we had solace in knowing we had no control over what we saw.
This is like that,
but, yes, the dishes must be done.

Today.

Refrigerator Mother / by Barbara Duffey

I crack a Pabst
in the eyewatering icebox
light—its dateless butter, modern
meats—around me heat
pudding-thick worms into my bust but
doesn’t reach my heart, that
bottle house, icehouse, scissor-house

where we splice film for animal pictures,
the waterworks pumping
for some savior
technology

I found myself
inside the food emporium
under the shower of electric sun

Once Upon a Time (When We Were Colored) / by Latorial Faison

Mama drove a yellow school bus,
cooked in school cafeterias & cleaned

white folk’s houses. Daddy cleaned
their yards, worked their farms, drove

nails in their boards, built their houses,
their schools, their churches, their office

buildings, their grocery & department
stores. They came home every day to a

four-turned-eight room house that
took thirty years to pay for, the house

for which they worked hard to make
a home—for me & every child who ever

laid their head down in it, every child they
raised, every moment they gave for somebody

else. They knew Black America like the
backs of their hands, that it was a Hallelujah

anyhow, that it was a dice game, a juke joint,
a song they danced, a come-to-Jesus moment;

it was more than what they had yesterday.
Life had been scattered with hope for what a

tomorrow could bring. They knew white America
was no Black man’s promised land. But they got

out of bed every day anyhow, pressed on for
whatever victory they had in that white Jesus

hanging high in a picture framed—in their
living room; even He looked up. They kept

the faith because in America, life could
change for the better in a New York minute,

in a marriage, a child’s birth, at a funeral,
with a graduation, in a white woman’s

kitchen, or tilling a white man’s field.
There, rested a promise that hard work

paid, not well, but good enough to raise
boys & girls America might one day

call sons & daughters, men & women,
black or white, rich or poor, American.

Their black lives mattered, to them first,
to them foremost, to them most of all.

14 Lines for the Parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

Fitting, lately, the way Esme
says thanks. She shoots her eyes away
from mine and leans hard on the “k”
as she busies herself with the smoothie
she makes, or the wrangling of Jack
to get him in his underwear.
These days, my parting words are dressed
in hope, garments that hide the nakedness
of what I mean, my love suddenly
ashamed of its form, shrouded in layers
to hide its frumpy shape. I’m half out the door,
then turn: Hope the meeting goes well today.
She looks at me while Jack steps into the pants
her thumbs hold open. Thanks, she says.

[INSERT INSECTS HERE]* / by Farah Marklevits

have been lost               have gone missing

                                                                      plummeting

the enchanted               a 50-foot tall emerald canopy               only

what the scientists did not see             vanished

              on the ground         three feet into the canopy           over the brush

              crawled through                    the dry weight of

                                                                                              everything      dropping

holy                 of the 60-fold loss

               from               the cascade to     loss

                                         this crash to         cannot regulate

a certain thermal threshold

               it’s actually death

don’t have an obvious            what else        variable X

            still saw    convincing

plant      a garden with             ears

                             worth   six-legged

               custodians of

                             the whole Earth
                             an almost

*Source text: “‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss,” Ben Guarino, The Washington Post, 15 Oct 2018

Rebecca / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

She wears her anathemas
like a chain of forbidden
jewels

woe to souls that dare to cross
her, she makes them carry
crosses of her angst

they say
she is gloom and doom
glum and dim

but her light cannot suffer
darkness in others, love’s
her stigmata

she wants a world that feels
& thinks, not one that sinks
into the abyss

they say
she is naïve and nasty
a haranguing harridan

their ignorance is their bliss,
they are entitled to that
I tell her

they are not entitled to bliss
if they do not leave others be
she replies

they say
she should mind her own business
her small heart cannot change this wide, wild world

on the day she dies, flowers will
appear in the sky, a soft rain
will fall for hours

she’ll carry a smile to her grave, perhaps
relieved from wretchedness
created by men

“The Frailty of Water” / by Tucker Riggleman

I have never seen the desert
But I have drank its sand until
My stomach became glass
An echo chamber of ribs
Fashioned as porcelain
Piano keys

I have never seen the desert
But I have tasted its flowers
Sepia & turquoise
Digested adobe blooms prosper
In the sunburnt teeth
Of coyotes

I have never seen the desert
But I have worn its totem
A deep promise to remember
The wind songs of snakes
& the frailty of water
Sleeping beneath

Poem 3 / Day 3

Planet Nine could be a primordial black hole, new research suggests / by Sarah Audsley

Our scientists can’t capture what’s teetering at the edge, so we’ll tiptoe
towards the open jaw of night, so we’ll spin, teeth blackened, beyond

unknown, gnawed bone on burnt wood…Where did he leave his bones
when he left them? Right now, I’ll admit it—I’m on the cusp
of billowing out, at the point of disrupt, falling out of infatuation.

Excise exotic or fetish-fueled thoughts of a crush instead find a trapdoor
leading to Planet Nine, a primordial black hole, shifting in and out of focus,

circumnavigating our solar system. Five dumb years parade by. I don’t
call or write or pretend to linger on what I imagine he’s doing, my unmet
half-brother. Maybe he’s working the docks, taking a cigarette break, flicking

the still burning tip into the starless sea. Top physicists in their field
still bow down to the mysterious, but I know density and mass. I know

we find family wherever and however fast we can, tiny tongues licking
at the teats of others un-blooded to us. Even now I could suppose that loss
is a kind of closeness—to burnt memory, a fading star, particles bursting,

whirring towards some vantablack center, a color designed to absorb 99.9%
of all light. On another planet, rules could be different. I’d calculate

his death better. Accurate formulas, equations. Dear half-brother,
unmet shadow, the seething black hole you leave behind drifts
out of reach constructed from imploding dead stars.

Is the most exciting research exploratory in nature? What if you
were married, fat, and rich? A father. Projections of the so-called good life.

I’m culpable. Dear mosquito buzzing (Slap!) around my head, let’s make
a deal—I’ll end it before it’s too late, and maybe even before you’re ready.
What if all revelation is incremental?

I don’t even know how to trust something I’ve lived through.

The Hit Was the Cure / by Angela M. Carter

I passed a deer on the road–
accidental death, I bet.
Somewhere a car’s a constant
reminder to its owner,

but it was not their doing, nor the deers’.
Both doing what they were drawn to do.
All is accidental.
Wide awake in life’s dark lane.

Maybe it was thirsty, or rabid with love.
The hit was the cure. Maybe it stood up, limped away, headed in the opposite direction of one of its own–

wondered if the next headlights
could be kind eyes in the distance.
Maybe it no longer thinks of the car;
it thinks of elation of jumping again.

Newly Dark below the Dam / by Barbara Duffey

Iridescent v of wake behind the
unseen coot, lighter, raised, like
a yearling scar—

A lone goose honks its silhouette across
the fourteen yellow windows
of the pump house,

which hums all night; the guns at dawn wake us
to pheasant season’s fourth week,
our cabin warm

as a flu. I boil the water, you
pose your dolls on the shore; I
have an extra

hour with you stolen from Daylight Time.
Rifle shots keep rending the
gray sky into

cold rain that drives us to the doughnut shop;
you can’t stop talking about
your father’s house

and since I’ve stopped drinking, my lone guard
against gloom is marking your
breath from all air—

14 Lines for the Parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

We drive back from Esme’s brother’s house,

and I’m a little drunk, holding onto

Esme’s phone to navigate, staring

at the GPS but not really paying

attention, thinking of all the times I’ve

asked her to navigate when she doesn’t

pay attention. We’re headed from Richmond

to Short pump, and the highway forks toward 95.

I think she’s in a far-over enough lane to stay

on 64, but she isn’t, so we have to take

a random exit and loop back around.

She grabs the phone from me, and I know she

won’t speak for the rest of the night. But for now,

the kids sleep, and we pretend to enjoy silence.

LADYBUG, MYTH / by Farah Marklevits

Some tell in the beginning we heard
something like the buzz a boulder makes

but higher and more yearning
then the blue mother sent a shudder

irresistible of aphid it drew and drew us
to a green sea alive with oh aphids

and before we feastfell some saw
the boulders stretch, leap, sway.

Some say we heard something like
the whirs and whistles birds make

but lower and smoother so we thought
the boulders poured a golden light through

everything and then they waded through us
on the green sea turned blanched and pale

by the less sun and more frost pouring their gold
around us like treasure but then the sea

was scorching with waves of pincers.
Many were transported, wingless,

to smoke. Some few escaped, flew
to the now home, bewilderment.

flux / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

yesterday i said goodbye
everything I have known
now exists in a fog –
today i learned to say hi
anything I am shown
comes in a fog

& as folks ask about my accent
i remember my ascent on my first flight
knots in my stomach like stage fright –
i have become a curiosity a novelty
a novel with unread chapters as cultural
captchas confirm and deny my assimilation
i capture my confusions with nervous smiles

& as folks define & redefine
& try to refine me to suit the system
shibboleths are slowly stripped
the stripping is painful & public
the othering almost feels like being ordered around
& i must save what remains of me
i capture my confusions with nervous smiles

Movies / by Tucker Riggleman

I always look for you in the movies
The blonde swimmer, sunglasses & wet hair
Making every neighborhood dad sweat until
The places they long to touch melt into
Memory – forbidden bones soaked in salt

Or are you the runaway bride?
Seventeen was too young to cut roses
But old enough to cradle seeds with gloveless hands
Fevered prayer hushed through lace & catered wine
Look, a Mustang – motor’s running

Personally, I could never live up to expectations
Every prince defined by rescued maiden & slain beast
My castled sense of adventure buried
Beneath the weight of royal duty

In my most effortless sleep I am a cowboy
Pistols & prairie romance
Strong campfire coffee & a horse I’ve given a human name

Poem 2 / Day 2

where no buried bones exist / by Sarah Audsley

flip a prism
in your hand
try to fold light

where I was born
I don’t know
where my mother’s
bones

were buried of course
now no buried bones
exist they’re only

calcium deposits
shredded dirt specks
so where to grieve
her body?

it’s unclear what is
the appropriate metaphor
large or complex enough

to explain loss
no parcel
of land to bring
my sorrow

burrow deep or beg
the land for traces
left only for starlings

how long does it take
for bones to disintegrate?
some molecular
oracular dance

when my white
mother dies
will I be so unfettered

like detached wings
drifting taken back
out of myself
and will I know

where hardness originates
of what can be
known or left unknown

how she combed her hair
where are those strands?
how she washed

her feet in a basin
porcelain or clay?
how she slept in a bed
next to him

pallet or springs?
how she ate daily
dust or particle or air?

how she would wake
in the night
from terrors of ghosts
or ghost-of-me?

The Departed / by Angela Carter

You ever know from the get-go you wanted to fuck with the world?

If the day wants me sober, I drink. If it commands I sit down
I stand up and straddle the day.

Being obedient is for the dead.

The departed are everywhere. Machines driving automobiles. Instruments untuning their arresting chaos
with the gluttony of monotony.

Their lifetimes a game
of hide-and-seek-of-self.

There’s more chance of breaking when you are truly living. And I’m in a million pieces. But I want

to feel
to be enthralled and bewitched so my heart escapes my skin.

If someone cuts it open, it only expands.

Motif of Yet / by Barbara Duffey

my plumetty self-image, no art—
motivic: paisley, lotus, mouchette
a point, a butt, a yoke
adaptable, unlike
vanitas and cock
I loved the water garden
pattern in the stucco
and the subject
stuccoing blue fields on the house’s husk

Mama Sings the Blues / by Latorial Faison

I.

Mama’s bottle tested illusion. Therein was holy water from a great river that healed the sick and raised the dead. She sipped small sips with her black lips, hummed hymns nice and slow, in and out of contralto, like Mahalia Jackson.

“Tell the angels,” she’d sing– “I’m on my way,” toe-tapping, head-rocking, hardworking, poor, and saved. Bittersweet like a one-room school, she came together without academic tools; she was heaven sent. The god of white evil couldn’t create a Black woman like this.

Like a day star, she appeared in indigo skies, orphaned and unknown. From a dying womb to a tenant room, she came like a blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby Jesus in a brown skinned country–it didn’t make no sense.

The poison she picked, it was a balm that chased evil, from lying tongues to the lynching of sons. Mama grew stronger than Samson on a Friday night when she slipped away to steal her humanity back.

It was a happy sadness that dealt in pain, one I never heard her name or give claim. For when the white folk got your tongue, you can’t talk to nobody but Jesus, and when Jesus got you singing like Mahalia, you can’t trust nobody but God.

II.

Mama was serious about religion, the Baptist church down the dirt road, and choir rehearsals on Tuesday nights. With song books, hand-written lyrics, and a third grade education, she impressed her own self. Standing in that choir on the promises of God, all robed and righteous, she was worth more than white women.

Her voice, like a whippoorwill, could whistle and sing all through the night, all through the struggle, all through the pain, all through the blackness of being dead and alive. When she sang from her darkness, I knew she was light.

Mama was a voice of dark brown reason– calling out to god, crying out from Earth. “What can wash away my sin, what can make me whole again . . .” I listened with everything that had come between us.

She helped turn me into me with a melody she had sewn together through all kinds of hell. “O precious is thy flow that makes me white as snow . . .” Mama was an instrument inhaling grief, exhaling peace of mind, a piece of mine. She was a professor of arts and letters and god quilting me with all the pieces she was.

Like whippoorwills, like Mama, and like every strong Black woman who came before me, I “come to this fountain . . . rich and sweet.” They come whistling. She comes singing. I come believing that we come to raise the dead.

14 Lines for the Parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

Jack wakes up against the world, his first word “no”

as sure as the seismicity that shook

him from sleep, a “no” that seeps from the mines

of his instinct, a little canary,

soot-heavy and wheezing, prompting echoes

of “no” through him, until he collapses

heaving at the mouth of his fatigue.

We try the positive parenting approach,

offer him choices, give him agency

to his emotional rumblings,

but he’ll cling to us gasping no, no, no,

still in the dark of what spooked him—

and I’m there, too, fumbling, fumbling

through the musk and strain of this heat.

LADYBUG, MACHINE / by Farah Marklevits

To trace the creases
of translucent panels
you secret under
the shell shine of curved
cabinet of beetleback,
a clever trick of
engineering: make of
your outer shell (elyton)
a window a camera
could map through.
See and slow your
switchblade flick out
into alight click back
into compact
case snapped quick
to land on leaves
heavy with aphids.
Delicate instrument
crammed ready
crammed spring-loaded
for the engine of your
intricate machine
not engineered by
any one trick
still lifting off
at any fraction
of your whir.

Accra, 2015
An Account of Flooding / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

Restless rains, this earth is stressed
By excess blessings.
Trees lose leaves, their roots exposed,
They stand lachrymose
In the continuous stripping
Under hidden moon.
The night is filled with nightmares
As the living drown –

As the living drown
In browned water, hopes
Falter, it does not matter
How we fight for our lives.
Onslaught continues
As the flood rises
& thunder drowns our voices –
We have become the perplexed

We have become the perplexed,
Crying and cursing.
Our hopes and fears are transposed,
We are now morose.
Nothing”s glad, nothing’s singing,
& soon, very soon
We’ll count our dead, and our scarce
Supplies let us down.

Supplies let us down,
We’re caught on the ropes –
Wild winds circle and batter,
The raindrops are like small knives.
Sorrow is old news,
We breathe this crisis,
Haunting dawn with our voices –
We have become the perplexed.

Circle of Protection / by Tucker Riggleman

I have grown increasingly tolerant of the cold
My sweaters a circle of protection
Every breath a smoke signal
To complete the ritual shifting of water –
Morning frost thawed into my cup
— diamond cloud expelled from my lungs

I have grown proficient with a hammer
My escape routes effectively reinforced
Every nail a goodbye kiss
To complete the necessary cleansing of fire –
Afternoon coals promised the flesh of oak
— ruby splinter extracted from my palm

I have grown surprisingly fond of the dark
My night terrors soothed into lambs
Every shadow a soft shoulder
To complete the overdue settling of dirt –
Evening soil cradled into permanence
— amber roots tangled in my throat

Poem 1 / Day 1

Continuum / by Sarah Audsley

The womb I walk around, on its leash, stretches to the size and shape
its contents require. Suction creates pressure.

Babies’ attachments to their mothers is, writes the expert, a continuum
of bonding. It’s someone else’s job to keep records, or cuddle

the abandoned ones on hospital wards. It’s happening everywhere!
Aliens mutate and grow inside their hosts.

An emptied vase is a possibility of nesting purple-bruised
irises in water. I mean to say something about quantity—

how to solve for X. At this moment, someone is memorizing thousands
of digits in the sequence for pi. Why bother surprising ourselves

with our own limits? Storage increases inside the grey folds of brain matter;
a mother’s body grows an entirely new organ. X is not possible to define

without context. I carry nothing to term but persistence. The librarian tells me
how a collection expands and contracts, about the banned book

enthusiast who hides dangerous ones, displays others. I am a modern woman.
I choose my extent. Fatty deposits. Cellulite. Internal organs held inside

by yellow-skin-layer. Ecosystems vary, so do the stresses on the systems.
More ice cream, please. Contraception! Any neurotic behavior relieves

the need for a somatic response. It is all in a book I read, so it must be true, right?
Proof theorems. Imaginary numbers. It is already happening somewhere, elsewhere,

but we can’t even remember…

[except when] / by Angela M. Carter

last night, I read about
the impact of prolonged rainfall on birds—
                they conserve their energy
hide underneath leaves,
                                       wait,
                                       and should they do so for too long—

I release you – accept that you are a body
beside another body, knocking thunder
in between a clock’s ticking
conjuring a violent storm
                                       in my dreams               there are trees
                                       with pulsing fruit –I push into myself
                                       to find your core,
                                       my breath, a call
                                       the morning bird’s song—
                                       all air you breathe, a rosary

                I am the soil
                the water
                the sun
                the moon
                the air
                flesh dripping with fruit

                                                       but it has rained too many years
                                                       the ribs are poking through

because I do not give myself away [except when
                                       ]

                                                       pushing the wet leaf of morning off us both,
                                       feeling the rain,
                                                       the thunder aching my bones,

                                       I have done otherwise for too long—

It’s All Stick & Tissue / by Barbara Duffey

When a cuticle of color yellows
the water, I am the rough nucleus
of a phosphorescent pearl. I punch out
radiantly, its bark a milky snap,
my trauma a gill in this blue, wet neck
binding our little star-button to death.
My kitchen ghost reminds us it used to
be dry as a book in that field that’s
now tonguing the trees with its whitehair waves.
I have a key in a jacket pocket,
gas, a gun, toothache, and you, honey-genes,
our flesh frosted in marble-patch light, oil
the color of a crown’s shadow spreading
its slick cloth agglutinated to night.

14 Lines for the parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

Rosie starts with a whine that crescendos.

Daddy, I miss Florida. I grab the steering

wheel a little tighter and try to laugh.

Rose, you’ve never been to Florida.

Yeah but I miss it, she continues. I look

out the window, take in how the leaves have

shifted, the slow face of fall growing

older around the joggers and dog walkers,

mocking how their steps can be light in the grey

sheen of its faltering turn. I want to

glimpse the face that mirrors ours, that bench-

sitter, that street ambler, wrinkled and pensive,

who stares into the patience of melancholy.

but Rose finds my eyes in the rearview, so we smile.

LADYBUG, COSTUME / by Farah Marklevits

She looked like a little bee, or maybe a ladybug*, Lali Lara, Chicago store clerk

One inky circle at a time, we make red Walmart
leggings your disguise. At nine, this year you want
to cry “Spots on!” and fight everyday people transformed
to villains by an arch-enemy, to wash away all evil

with your lucky charm and the light inside your
magical yo-yo. It’s Halloween. You are a flawed,
fierce wingless ladybug. Miraculous. Like you,
in Chicago a girl transformed carried a grinning

gap-toothed plastic pumpkin, walking sidewalks
and crossing streets in a swarm of superhuman
insects. But she was two years younger and walked
with a gunman’s target. Masked, the gunman fired

seven shots from an alley across the street. It was
not yet dark. Let’s be clear, it’s Halloween. Ladybug
is a costume. The bullets and the father’s scream
are real. His seven-year-old girl shot in the neck and chest.

The gunman wore a mask, but gunman is not a costume.
All the villains in my daughter’s show wield ridiculous
swords or, if they fire, shoot ice, pigeons, or blobs of
gelato. In 20 minutes, everything is made whole again,

with only the arch- enemy left to simmer into his next
victim’s anger. To make her a superhero, we took turns
holding the silver ring of a Mason jar lid and dabbing paint,
adding holes of deep space to her shirt’s chest. In Chicago,

a store clerk leans her hand against
a girl’s chest, calling her to stay
in the world with the spell of
the name her parents gave her.

*This quotation appeared in a version of Rosemary Sobol and Morgan Greene’s November 1, 2019 Chicago Tribune story that has since been revised.

Minden / by Tucker Riggleman

The neighbors had to be old or dead
Perhaps they knew to skip town on that day
After all, it was tradition
Invitations sealed with fake blood & gas station wine
Sweet like your friend’s lips hours later
When they’d meet yours in the graveyard
Glass bottles slipping from acrylic nails
Leaving sharp confetti for ghosts

And maybe you would make out again at some other party
But for certain you will not remember each other’s names
Ten years later when you are bartending in a different college town
Drinking before your shifts & always sleeping alone

Sometimes you wonder if it was all a passing dream
An annual excuse to be monsters