The 30/30 Project: November 2019

Backup / Restore

Paragraph

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 21 / Day 21

Six Persimmons / by Sarah Audsley
            after Muqi Fachang

The fruit is all bold brushstrokes
& negative space in an organized line.
There’s one askew; absent color haunts
their forms. Faded orbs. Flat, but plump.
In stalls, I’ll find dried ones, packaged;
the heft of each surprises. Winter lasts
longer than one wants. What is omitted
in those thick art history books—
place them in bowls of rice, to keep
them from bruising.

The Visit / by Angela M. Carter

Some memories are stained
on the back of my eyelids,
they are a place I visit.

Play it back to me, I ask
and the mind warns against it. Are you sure?
Yes, I’m sure, I always say, quivering.

This place is measured in time,
the slide of melting ice,
disappearing, lessoning into evaporating water.

I replay it
to keep it whole–
it harms me to be near it.

Play it back to me again, I demand
and the mind warns against it. Why do this?
Because I said so, I always retort.

In the real world
I am frozen,
I breathe cloud

to afford the touch,
seconds of luminescence 
in a universe of deprivation.

My eyelashes glisten
with starry flakes,
my whole heart crystalline.

Again, I command
and the whole self gives an ultimatum:
You are hurting us, I say to myself, ashamed.

I’m sorry. You deserve better.
Yes, again
.

A Multiplicity of Demeters / by Barbara Duffey

                        —After Barbara Goff, Citizen Bacchae

We are gracious at least
until the water witch rives
the sun into grains of light
and colors the pied house
snake in a roll of shadow: 

Then, our Eleusine
ordinances confound
prospective cereologists—
we pull our first fruits for
she who tails the worm

into the alien black
world of her son-in-law, that
hell-husband, where her daughter
wears a crown of seeds and makes
more embodiments of night. 

We get her fish, inform her
maidenhood’s a quick wood
and womanhood’s a river,
wide and blue, shearing rock
from rosy ridges as it works—

Then we fix our fast with a nip
of opium and a stick-
roasted swine with an apple
inside its mouth like the world
in the fist of a devil.

What Fools Want / by Latorial Faison
 
I.

 

They want warm bodies,
any body & ask for
No thing in return.

They want to hold worlds,
watch a living thing bow down
To praise them, crave them.

They want blood that keeps
the lamb, earth that keeps the ground,
The mind that keeps you.

OWNER OF ANTIMATTER THE CAT / by Farah Marklevits

 For every lap cat hunkering over his dish of Fancy Feast, there is another one prowling around for his dinner—like an evil twin, or a particle of antimatter, Rachel E. Gross

I am the evil twin with my secret whisker grin,
ever-ready to stalk the scent of rabbit blood,
my paws hidden quick beneath the thinnest
mask of lazy indifference to all but the smoothing

of infinite textural galaxies of my caramel and creamy
furs with that other texture of tongue, I can quick-cut
to sharp my sudden jaws into any tender part, fix
a puncture point to the wildly beating just under skin,

I can always spring and switch to pretend yawn
ease you into whichever of your feathered survival
fantasies. And by you I mean every one of your flock.
I mean annihilation block by block. This evil under

every cold morning when, brother, you warm my lap,
and I let you out. And now muster to keep you in.

Plea / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

Amid marigold and milkweed, you stand.
Nothing can prove that you’re not an angel:
Your walk’s majestic, goddess of this land –
When I feel you, flesh begins to tremble.
But truth is, you belong to another;
He struts around as if he runs your show.
Possession’s not a thing of forever.
Seeing you again, suddenly I know
There are tears behind the playful laughter.
I cannot intrude, I can only watch;
It is time for you to close that chapter.
My heart is the best place for you to perch –
So, fly, fly to me, you brown nightingale:
Hurry to me before the ship sets sail.

Roses / by Tucker Riggleman

We have carried each other through the muck
Deserving rose parades, we have settled
For a few lilies in a vase
Something to watch grow
Or at least an excuse to witness
A thing die fulfilled 
Unlike the lonely gowned 
Stalks of half-ghosts 
Wandering hospital hallways
Hope cannot breathe in fluorescent light 
But carefully monitored it can sprout
From hushed prayers for rain
To bring you back around
As something crimson & thorned

Poem 20 / Day 20

The Blue Orb: A Story by Sarah Audsley

Vines reach up & outward through the slatted trellis, a grey-green snake slithers through tall grass looking for baby frogs; the moon hangs longer, a nightly procession across the sky. All in the garden is still & moonshine hits the concrete pedestal topped with a glass orb, a gaudy lawn ornament grandma keeps along with the garden gnome, the pink flamingos. Crept out of bed at this late hour, the little girl extends her chubby small hands, stands on tippy-toes to touch the iridescent blue glass. She watches as her fingers slip through, her hand disappears, her arm follows, & then her whole body plunges through the blue orb. The snake will find the frogs, the moon will cast shadows, the blue orb will continue to glow, & the little girl will lose something she didn’t know she had. Caged inside the shimmery glass, she’s safe in the place where innocence swirls, where she’ll stay small, with small hands, small chubby fingers, swinging her smallness underneath the picnic table, while wearing her father’s favorite aviator glasses—too big for her small face—licking, up and down, a vanilla soft-serve cone, as the dog circles the ground, looking for remnants of such abandoned sweetness, the bright rainbow sprinkles scattered all over.

Once You See It, You Can’t Unsee It / by Angela M. Carter

How do they live with themselves?
Or, maybe they don’t.
Maybe they walk around their own shoreline
afraid of getting their skin wet,
pointing into the middle
yelling to onlookers
“Look, there is an abyss”
confusing their darkness with depth,
“Don’t jump in, it’s too scary in there”
“Don’t go away, it’s mysterious”
and eventually the onlooker 
wants to swim–
there’s but so much a grown woman 
can do in shallow water. 

Cultigen vs. Lusus Naturae / by Barbara Duffey

2010   R. L. Johnson et al. National Geogr. Guide Med. Herbs 154/1   Garlic is not known in the wild. Rather it is deemed a cultigen, evolved over millennia of human interaction with the plant.

1850   E. B. Browning Lost Bower xlviii   I have found a bower today A green lusus—fashioned half in Chance, and half in Nature’s play.                                            

Oxford English Dictionary

The garlic clove’s bulbous mouchette against
my tongue, I prevent men from knowing what’s
been in my mouth.  What have men ever done
to you?  Taken time I could have spent on
my son.  And who is your son, that he takes
more time than other women’s children?  He
is subject to assessments.  You have a
high opinion of yourself.  They call it
“atypicality,” utterances
with “no discernable meaning.”  Who is
doing such discerning?  Mainly
me. Sometimes it’s clear:  Frog & Toad are “down
in the dumplings.”  At night, “It’s darking up”
outside.  But then, “‘Volunteer’ is like a
single tear that’s not a good thing to say,
like a coincidence.”  Or, “I want to
be smaller when I go inside your mouth.”
It’s just Wittgenstein’s language game—he won’t
keep saying “slab” if you don’t hand him a
slab.  Why can’t language have private meanings?
Where’s the line between creative and wrong?

Holiness / by Latorial Faison
 
(haiku for my ancestors)
I.

 

Joy in collard greens,
Hope in New Years’ black-eyed peas,
Love in all that ain’t

II.

Sundays stay holy
Singing, cooking, worshipping
God in these Black hands.

14 Lines for the Parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

We pulled out of the Church playground 
parking lot, the kids high and fiery 
from running, playing, believing
with the ease kids believe on the playground.
Rosie caught a glimpse of the sacristy,
mumbled: I tink the Church must be haunted.
Jack and I played “fireman,” so it makes sense
that he would  say: You can’t get out of the fiyah,
Daddy. We drove home in silence,
Esme and I paying little attention
to the juxtaposition of their comments.
Later, as they went to bed, after we
sang songs, said prayers, they pleaded for me to
lay on the rug, so I prostrated myself.

ODE TO WILD HOPS / by Farah Marklevits

Your little dragons with too-large scales curled
and dangling their sleep so far up the rangy lilac

you outclimb both roof and branch scaffolding
to ring sky’s bell. Your sleep breath’s lit citrus lanterns,

your wild framed by three fences and one side of house,
your wild strung with solar-powered fairy lights, your wild

swaying with its view of shed shingles and service lines,
wild right up to decking stained dark and crumbling alley

pavement. Wild but not drunk with it. Wild but contained. Or—
How from nothing you appeared, full-grown towering over

everything. You and your co-conspirators, yeasts that ride
unseen on both sides of screen, with your centuries of wild

because uninvited. Because you can’t quite shake free
of that papery feeling to become a flower for me.

Wild because all we gathered of you was surprise and left you
to drain your greeny resins into wherever winter sends them.

Soneto for Akosua / by Prince Kwasi Mensah
 
A kind breeze runs through the coconut groove –
It is the breeze that carries memories.
Many nights, many days, I could not move,
My heart tortured by its own miseries.
I loved you and had you and lost you:
You were my sole weakness in flesh and blood,
The secret strength that only a few knew.
My tears, when they fall, they flow like a flood
For I was architect of this fiasco.
When you walked away, day turned into night –
In my mind and heart, you are the fresco.
Life without you is nothing but a blight:
I sit submerged in music of seashore,
Knowing that I cannot smile anymore.

Imaginary Friend / by Tucker Riggleman

His heart beat for the first time
While taming dinosaurs in a far away land
He was smart and handsome
The way I wanted to be
Every birthday candle extinguished
In hopes of being half as likable

He could be a doctor or the president
While playing superhero at night
I didn’t need to save the world
But oh, to feel so loved

I bet his parents would never get divorced
And he made all the sports teams
Girls melt in his presence
Boys weep with jealousy

He is the best of us all
And I will kill him
An accidental by product
Of growing up

Poem 19 / Day 19

Hanji / by Sarah Audsley

We harvest the bark in late fall from the mulberry trees
standing in rows in the back field. The mature ones, hardy,
weathered and taut, produce enough to carry us. Pulp-making

takes the time it takes. Often too long. Consider the cost of
each fine thin sheet. Pound the bark over and over on stone
with a wooden baton. Long fibers relent. The mash is cooked,

boiled, and continuously stirred. Laid on the heat drier, brushed
and ready to hang, bark becomes paper. What about process
makes this matter? To you, to anyone. In the dream, the white

sheets are fluttering, making the wind visible. In the lucid moment,
I arrive at knowing something about the slant of my eyes, the shape
of my nose, the cadence of unspoken longing.

Texts Women Receive After Midnight / by Angela M. Carter

You are a queen
God I love u
You are so pretty
I want to be with you
What are you thinking about
I will never take you for granted again
I never want to be without you again
I’m sorry ):
He doesn’t love you. I love you.
let me get to know you
Do you miss me
Are you thinking of me
Thinking about you
Give me another chance
I didn’t mean it
How was your day
You’re right
You’re wrong
You drive me insane
Are you ignoring me
Just hear me out
Why do you seem distant
I wish I could hold you
Please
Hey, beautiful
R U mad at me
Can you talk now
I need a ride
u were meant 4 me
I get so nervous around u
Please answer my calls
Tomorrow?
You have changed
I need to know
I will beat his ass
If you ever change your mind
She’s nobody
What do you see in him that you don’t see in me
Sweet dreams
I need a decision
I was trying to make you jealous
I’ll wait forever if I need to
Are you still up
P.S. I love you
I will never forget you
I mean it
Don’t forget to take out the trash

Eczema / by Barbara Duffey

the red, cracked skin splitting like a seam
revealing a lea of blood beneath
or raised, infected, each pustule
ruptured under thumbnail—
when I apply the cream, he banshee-screams—
the cure tails its own pain across
the threshold from the outer reach—

LIST ECONOMY / by Farah Marklevits

The last less-than lick tipped from the bottle, the sticky bits tricked out with whatever gathering edge elbowed under, the bread eroded into crumbs and built into breading, the bones eroded into stock and built into sauce, the sauce into filling, red pink baby blue white plastic tags in the filigree finger bowl saved for the clipless bag of future breading, the tin mint box of rubber bands stashed from radish bunches and heads of broccoli, transfer ticket taken for bookmark, blasted blossom for seed, the ribbon stowed with its stripe rolled round, book wrapped in yesterday’s list, the cardboard repurposed with puns meant to save, hockey stick for a handle, shoes secondhand, and the feet, borrowed, to march, to gather reminder, call, and cry street by car-cleared street for tomorrow.

when gods fell / or the ones who fathered the nephilim / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

paradise began to start afresh –
gods were gods, men had bandwidth
to dwell between love and lust –

they saw naked women
running, swimming, playing –
they looked & looked & looked
until their looking required action –

they were the sons of the morning –
cherubs, seraphs, archangels –
they saw the hidden & forbidden
desires began to rise –

older gods warned, do not mingle with flesh –
we are wind and fire, they are
blood and dust, we shall live forever
but they will die –

they saw naked women
running, swimming, playing –
something was ignited within them
when they beheld glories of flesh –

they were sons of the morning,
full of tempestuous longings –
they were torn between obedience
& temptation, they were confused –

older gods warned, do not mingle with flesh
fresh skin triggers ancient sins;
they came down to seduce & serenade
the daughters of men –

& fears of the older gods became flesh
when human lust consummated with
divine desires & paradise was lost –

Cranberry Wilderness, Part II: Water Song / by Tucker Riggleman

Every tangible collection of dirt & flora
A conduit for ancient music
Unlearned by humans
But familiar like a mother’s voice
I tasted this water
Before I was born

Mountain streams traced
Until they are swallowed by stone
Natural sleight of hand
Animals rehearse the song of water
While everyday I visualize the wind
A marbled layer of steam

Dampness sets in every inch
Of forest lore, things untouched
By homesick ghosts
And all will be deliverable by the morning
Or captured in mirrors
To bargain the freedom of creatures
They once called home

I can’t wait
To see me smiling
River to the heart
Moon in my head

Poem 18 / Day 18

Ancestors, Hello— / by Sarah Audsley

Hummingbird’s split
tongue nourishes.

Cows bend their necks
to the saltlick
in the field.

I come to the broken bowl
of my tongue unable to form
correct postures, achieve
sound in your language.

To approximate
is my duplicity.

The Burning Doorway / by Angela M. Carter

You hear about it all the time
the force in which those at odds, in desperation, brimming with adrenaline, in love, suffering, with empathy
will go to meet, reach, save or help another–

no time to think, they just do the first action they are called to do
because time doesn’t allow them to second-guess, cry over it, ponder the consequences.

These people go to great lengths,
risking their own lives for what they deem unfathomable to be without–

there could be fire all around them
the doorway’s wood falling on their heads,
and the call pulls on them to an extent
as to say that nothing else matters,
run to the danger if it means you can do this.

People lift cars off of endangered folks that they don’t even know,
people run after the one they love just to tell them “I love you” even
when they will never hear the same directed back at them,
people hours from the electric chair request a last meal of something
that makes them feel warm inside–

people become much more than human in these moments–
when they are in flight, heading at great speed to a place that doesn’t promise them shit, and they leave their pride underneath the burning doorway,
rushed to this call, like a God-voice is screaming wrath into their legs and hearts
Go! What are you waiting for? Forget your skin! Forget the danger–
Go to the place you wanted to go before the world told you to fear it.

Pledging / by Latorial Faison

We’ve pledged allegiance
        to flawed beings,
to creeds & colors,
        republics without meaning.

We’ve created temples
        devoid of gods,
birthed generations
        of malnourished hearts.

With a universe
        of life robust,
we keep choosing
        the death of us.

In shared space,
        we stand displaced
like we’re not of
        this human race.

No place on Earth
        to call our own
til six feet under
        cement & stone.

14 Lines for the Parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

Just after Rose was born, Esme and I
took her to my grandparents. Grandma
clunked about in the kitchen while Grandpa
rocked with his chair the linoleum’s anthem
they can no longer hear. But I hear it.
I thought its chorus matched Rose’s coos
when we placed her in Grandpa’s arms.
I remembered that chorus as if it
lured the morning sun, as if it helped pour
light into the kitchen. Grandpa cooed back
at Rose, grabbed her fingers with his own.
He looked at me with a look I couldn’t
recognize, straining for something
lost in the daily noise of things.

PLASTIC BOTTLE ANONYMOUS / by Farah Marklevits

Stripped of brittle shrink-wrapped girdle, released
from bright echo of the cloned choose me choose
me stocked back-to-back in fluorescent murmur,
washed of what robot arm number four

sprayed mindless into you, all the traces
of a brand’s stamped judgments wiped clean, now
only you, pearlescent vessel and canvas,
dressed in quiet blank as deep as hills snow-

swallowed, your slight curves swaying a calm
that holds upside down, tipped gently to dry
into a shock of velvet bone, like sculpted
marble worn and ageless to be kept

out of time near the same everyday sink
but filled and filled with fragrant anything.

Familiar Music / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

‘my heart is an old country song’
Tucker Riggleman, Country Song

I am a weeping guitar, anything
About love affects me & longings
For loved ones spend the most time
On my strings –

On my strings, I remember the lost,
The found, the returned & elusive –
I am a historian of sentiments, hanging on
To forgotten things –

To forgotten things and memories, I cling –
The forgotten’s the plectrum that hurts
& heals me for everyone’s a cowboy
Searching for the one –

Searching for the one is an art, a
Submission to a thousand worries
But amid laughter anchored by pain,
I am a weeping guitar.

Cranberry Wilderness, Part I: The Golden Hour / by Tucker Riggleman

I never knew it could feel so good
To feel so small
Until my first night there
Breathing campfire, looking up
The stars drawn out like sheet music
Everything in its place

I am the stranger here
Intruding upon something holy
All things alive & timeless
Weaving together in perfect dance
Every pebble aligned with the spirit
Of that great big nothing

The golden hour when I realize
That it is all trivial to the point of laughter
– and so that’s what I do
There is no one to mock my joy
Or question my methods
I would burn all my machines
For a chance to harness that feeling

After all –
Bliss is bliss
And every bear wants honey
Despite the sting

Poem 17 / Day 17

Burdock / by Sarah Audsley

The bird caught in burdock will die
a slow thrashing death.

In playground warfare, know the rules—
             the best offensive is to hurl burdock
at your enemy’s hair; it will make them sorry
make them cry
make their mothers wield scissors
make them cut away clumps of hair
mangled with these spiky seed dispersal pods.

Pollen & nectar in the waning clover season
before the golden rod blooms, edible taproot
in Japanese dishes, a soft drink in the UK,
related to the artichoke, warding off the evil eye
in Turkey, the inspiration for Velcro, food for
the ghost moth larva, a diuretic, a retaliatory
weapon – coming in from walking the winter

road, afternoon light angling hard away from
the pine trees, I pull clumps of burdock
off the dark fur coat of a borrowed dog,
rolling the spiny balls in between thumb
& forefinger & I marvel at this tiny package’s
nerve to stick so tightly to wherever it lands.

First Sunday Service in Many Years / by Angela M. Carter

Do not let silence
be the response to
my silence

though I’ve stumbled
laughingly calling your name
drunk with doubt—

who would blame
you, even if you had a voice,
for not answering?

The Thesmophoria / by Barbara Duffey
                   –after Barbara Goff’s Citizen Bacchae

1. Ascent

We pitch our tents on the Acropolis,
sit on slut mats made from agnus castus,
pick flowers as Persephone did when
she was kidnapped—repetition as a
talisman against, or empathy for,
grief overrunning our poor Demeter?

2. Fast

Three days to unlearn our savoir vivre:
as we refuse to eat, we rub fulsome
salves on the chests of matrons and maidens
alike, the half-moon garlic cloves toothsome
against our incisors, and the men stay
away, can’t smell on our breath the old wine
or the other men—

3. Beautiful Birth

The bailers descend to the cave floor to
retrieve the piglets and the dick-shaped cakes
we mix with seed as a fertility
charm—we have to do everything ourselves,
even if well-dowered, even busty.
To think “chaste wife” an oxymoron is
to misunderstand our men logical.
Forgive me—the insults are ritual.

Strong as a Freedom Song / by Latorial Faison

for Colin Kaepernick

Necessary as a healing, a memorial day flag–a tributary
kneeling. On a killing field, your knee is strong as a freedom
song. Your hands hold a rock ready, stoning those yet
un-accused. A new Jim Crow threatens, while you, a new
Negro, shall not be moved. There’s a multi-million dollar joy
in standing up for innocence persecuted, for all the martyred
men, women & children with a single month to praise them.

After four hundred years, the beat goes on, blue lights descend
on blackness with red demons terrorizing the audacity of hope,
the audacity of a white dream. You are sacrificial to stand, notable
to kneel, honorable to open up this can of ‘we are tired of the
world watching as they whip us to death.’

What tomorrow brings has been written in a scroll. If ‘God loves
a cheerful giver,’ God also loves a cheerful giver of truth & justice.
Carry this torch we carry & watch them come with fire hoses to
extinguish the flame of freedom because you, like a prophet on
a crucifix, are strong enough to raise the issue of the dead.

14 Lines for the Parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

Good lord Rose screamed. I had never
heard anything like it. She made the sounds
that I couldn’t, that I wouldn’t, and I
cradled her for it. There are coyotes
in the city limits, have been for some
time now. We can hear them, late,
around the time–right now, in memory–
she would scream, trying to unburrow
from her swaddle. And I would hold her
with such love, such impossible love,
until I wouldn’t. The wild of it shakes me,
the chorus of coyote yelp. Our backyard opens
to a gate swallowed by a wooded path.
We can hear what calls.

Swept Away / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

‘both of us accept the tide’
Angela M. Carter, Special

It took us unawares, this thing
Called love or lust or whatever
Hearts look for in Lost and Found
Sections of life –

& we fought the truth with our
Illusions, we made up excuses,
Pushing away the obvious, suspicious
Of our adamant feelings.

Then reality came in like a flood –
No, more like a tidal wave, we
Were swept away far & deep into
Seas beyond our control.

Daydrunk Blues / by Tucker Riggleman

Afternoon shift
Not enough time to get into much
And I’ve got a twenty dollar bill
Burning a pint-sized hole in my pocket
We can meet up and order an appetizer
– pretend to eat / push food around on a plate
– talk some shit / merge complaints
– make some plans / cancel ’em quick
– never love / because all of this gets in the way

You can put makeup on a pig all you want
But what’s happening is obvious
Ritual comfort in the roles reversed
In a matter of minutes
I will be you
Dizzy on the same sin I exchange for cash
That I will use tomorrow in the same fashion
The undead cycle of service industry sadness
It is always too dark
– in the bar / so you don’t know what time it is
– in my room / so I can sleep all day
– in my head / so I don’t try to escape
A decade of Stockholm Syndrome
I had to get out at any cost
And I hope one day so will you
Because we are both better
Than dying alone
In crowded rooms

Poem 16 / Day 16

Suiseki Stone / by Sarah Audsley
                           ~ for Tom Condon

I saw your sculpture as opportunity. Trick
of light. Trick of material, gathered.
Assemblage of found wood burning, paper
curls into ash. Let’s Real Talk. Snow
thrown into the fire’s bright maw.

There is a distinction between landscape
& object stones. What kind of stone
becomes the sculpted world he desires?
Consider shape-color-size-texture-story.
Worlds inside other worlds. Invented avian
flights of fancy. He understands

how to hold space. The essential cut
for his bonsai extends its limbs in
the proper direction. His leave-taking
will be a house emptied, chairs collecting dust,
trash. Cat paw prints.

The stones are of natural origin and are found in
rivers, oceans & karst areas. They are not allowed
to be reshaped. Chemical burn in the studio.
Photo paper exposed. Stop bath. His camera’s
shutter opens & closes, controls light for effect,
for emotion, for absence. Tall. Skinny. Tom.

Woman / by Angela M. Carter

The greatest aspect
of aging with confidence
is this:

the next to last place I search
for myself is in the mirror, and
the very last place is
in the reflection of
another’s eyes.

Mixed Risk / by Barbara Duffey

Honey, even mothers, their porcelain
prurience on its low adventures

of rouge and trains and new street numbers,
of washing in another’s water:

Mrs. Ora Murray at a public
dance stepped into the two-tone sedan

of gamble—a low-risk life flung open
the moment her sister declined to ride

along, her husband demurring, so “Paul”
drove off into Ora’s last alive night,

her body found at Fox Hills the next day.
Be avoidant, be block, buttoned-up, but

don’t isolate like a neuter pearl, sex
just enough to discharge secondary

(i.e., not the woman’s) tension. You know,
activate the air. Alchemize it.

But not enough so it explodes—rock-dust
it. Victimology says anytime

you leave your isolation, locate the
milk-market where you slake your body’s debts,

you enter the high-risk register, where
sex workers always pitch their numbers in

the amber of their biodynamic
hazard. I want to kindle a fire

in someone’s small leaves, throw the whole spoiled egg
in the rubber skirt of the sea’s yellow

zero. I want to enter the home of
a man I don’t know and be perfectly safe.

Job 1-21: The Black Man’s Version / by Latorial Faison

          “The Lord gave,
and the Lord hath taken away,
          blessed be the name of the Lord.”
                          (Job 1:21, KJV)

I.

You better be Emmet-Till-still
                 in that school house
while that teacher’s teaching
        til I get home from work
                 til I come outta this store
til I see this white man about a job
        til I pay on this doctor bill
                 til I get my hair pressed & curled
til the choir finish singing
        til the deacons finish prayin
                        til pastor finish preachin
        til the insurance man leave
                    til I go see the landlord
        til the Supremes go off
               til I’m done sleepin
                        til grandma finish cooking
     til your daddy come back
                              til you grown
                         til Jesus come.

II.

Don’t you shake your hips
         don’t you part your lips.
don’t you lift your head
         to look at no white man

Hold your peace, watch your tongue
         look at the ground, your days be long.
step a side, let white folk pass
         sass the white man, t’will be your last.

III.

           The black woman giveth
and the whole world taketh away
         blessed be the fruit of her loins.

           The black man buildeth
and the whole world diggeth his grave
           blessed be the power of his sword.

14 lines for the Parent Anxious / by Matt LaFreniere

I don’t know who thought of it, but before
we thought better, we positioned ourselves
cross-legged, sketch pads in our laps,
and started to draw. I captured none of
what I wanted to, Esme’s hair lamp-lit,
the way her flannel’s collar opened to
the parabola of her breasts–only heavy
shading to hide the true lines I couldn’t
find with my stroke. She found the skin sack
beneath my chin, the mole at my hair line’s
base, the swollen lips a little chapped. We
exchanged renderings a little giddy,
a little proud, then sat in silence, awed
by the sleight of each other’s deception.

I WANT TO RIDE MY BICYCLE / by Farah Marklevits

Hook me back over, through, and into
the clever metal frame that pins a body

gliding on the breeze, skin sunshined by
the dry blue and green’s blur, with only

my quads and calves to propel me into
the center of what I stared at without

seeing while I only ever dull-sat ignoring.
Make me all windswept by the one gritty

hand that tousles the river’s thick locks
and the other calloused palm that sets

the giant iron gears of bridge of rails
spinning while the river races under me.

Less resource-to-market spreadsheet
fluorescent cell, more speed-oriented

wheelwork working under the sweet
of my own muscle. Or take it deliciously

slowish. Make of my whole right arm
a signal. Release me into the downhill

of wind’s keen focusing. Give me chain
and gears, pedals and rims, the click and

whirring. Alert for tanks and gravel, mist
and pelt me here, where I choose to be,

making my way, exposed in the open, alive.

Adam & Eve / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

‘garments that hide the nakedness’
Matt LaFreniere, Lines for the Parent Anxious

We have eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now we know.
Now we know we are naked. Naked with unholy desires. Naked like
Wild brush fires & we are being chased by flaming swords, haunted by words
Of trickster-serpents & bites into forbidden fruit –

Truth is, we were lonely & loneliness is nakedness & we needed something,
A cover, a place of hiding –

We found it by breaking
The most important rule
& lost our immortality.

100s / by Tucker Riggleman

Truck stop shades & cutoff jeans
She is the tallest drink
In the dog day sun
Souvenir shirt — also shortened
Something about a cave
Or a lake
Ruby hair tethered to readied finger
Rust Belt eyes study behind plastic frame

The dunes returned no answers
Just more cloudless heat
Like breathing underwater
Danny would be back soon
She had clamored for a convertible
But now she prayed for anything with air conditioning — windows up, max cold

A new town meant a new person
Hotel hair dye & rehearsed back stories
To wake up each day a stranger
What a web she’d spun

The celebrity of it all had faded with time
Tired comparisons distracting from their work
For her it was performance art in the purest form
For him it was the fox hunt of forbidden fruit
The places his hands could find, the unspoken
Promise of curves —
Every man classically weak, a puddle in the presence
Of a woman’s raw power
And so she would get her car

Speck of dust rolling closer
And the horses were running
— it sounded fast
Danny whipped the beast around her in circles
Her temper boiled until she glimpsed the prize
— ’67 Challenger, jet black, mint
The loss of this beauty would doubtless kill
Whoever owned it, and so she considered
It yet another notch in the belt
Of her stage-less masterpiece

She wanted to stop for cigarettes
Even though Danny had just risked life & limb
They would be needed for her next character
& she would let him touch her thigh
A fair trade in an outlaw’s book of ethics
Maybe 100s she thought
— and just barely above the knee

To Read the First Fifteen Days of Poetry, Click HERE