The 30/30 Project: November 2019

Backup / Restore

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

The volunteers for 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 30 / Day 30

RENGA – UNTITLED/latorial faison, Prince Mensah, Farah Marklevits, Angela M. Carter, and Barbara Duffey


Incendiary,
Like burning blazes melting
Coin & steeple, come

Closer, encounter napalm:
My restless fury –

Let countertops’ life-lines be
etched not by winter’s
blade but autumn’s open palms.

As the wind sings psalms, soothing
Our melancholies,

Dreams hang from rain clouds
Parachuting into rich
Neverlands we hope

Let the wind be a collective song
an inviting voice
that holds us with care. 

even as it teases down
the early snow from blue air

Amid stardust on
Sun-kissed silver moons, we share
Alchemy of words –

How to Conjure / by Sarah Audsley

her face / hand / hair / breast / cheek / elbow
knee / thigh / any body part—it only happens

in dreams, I can see her walking village streets
& kicking stray chickens clucking out of her way.

Some wild spirit, my father said. Then I believe
we’re kindred, at least, in the way of wildness.

Her body is cells dividing, strands of memory,
replicating themselves over again—so I touch

in the hollow where I was tethered, let form
remember being held inside her mold, fluid flowing

like honey tipped in the jar. Loneliness isn’t
a country to live in. Chandeliers. Forests. Beehives.

Since I am the conjurer it goes any way I please.
Only tonight find the blackbird crying

discontinuous notes, trying to answer
her own unanswerable questions.

November 30 / by Barbara Duffey

The snow falling outside means I can’t escape
the knot in my jaw muscle, the pained gums
that hold my teeth in an acidic twinge.
I make bread and yogurt, anything to keep
busy and away from the store.  My son
measures each wall against his own wingspan.
I squeeze out the benzocaine from the tube.
The snow continues to fall.  Through it all,
the weather report insists it’s just raining
as the flakes obscure the view of the man
sitting in the bench outside the library.
Here’s where a poem should turn, but the truth
is I fear every winter won’t stop, ever—
summer was a dream from a cruel fever.

Divulgence / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

I.

The day I encountered you was an
Epiphany, it was clear

That you were dear to me, the sacred
Epigenesis was in our souls

Long before our tongues spoke, we were
Epiphytes in spirit, growing

Into each other, your longings formed the
Epicycle between life sun & love moon –

It is no wonder that everything’s
Epic, you are poesy, plasma

Of my feelings & every
Episode of our love story ignites

New fires for the night, there are no
Epilogues between us, only continua –

II.

Organoleptic
Investigations of love
Yield the following:

I like what I see,
Even more I love what lays
Beyond the senses –

You are the tang of
Mysterious delights, you give
Smorgasbord of bliss –

The fragrant you is
A thousand fields of roses
Edged by lavender –

When you speak, I hear
The whispers of a cherub,
Promising heaven –

Touching you is like
Touching solace, your skin feels
Like the silk of dreams –

& when milkweeds fly
In the slow of summer, know
That you are my song –

III.

Before the older gods, I admit this:
I’ll love you in this lifetime & beyond,
Through dark & day & through blunder & bliss,
Expressing joy with flower and palm frond –
The sun is my witness, the skies agree.
In the evening, the moon shall guide us –
I vow that you shall be forever free
To be the best you can ever be, thus
May all your thoughts be made out of stardust,
May your words be songs of understanding,
May your hopes be strong, may faith never rust –
We will help each other to stay standing.
You are the love-gift from the ancestors,
A song of songs, a canto of cantos –

The Plunge / by Tucker Riggleman

It’s a jungle out there, kid
I wish I had a spare machete to loan
Or even a book of matches
But I trust you to cut your own path,
Spark your own flame

I admit I’m probably not a very good teacher
But I have made a lifetime out of following
The lessons written down before me
You see, something beautiful happens
When the heart guides the hand
To move a pen, dripping ink onto paper
I hope that you can learn to appreciate
And even harness such a rare thing

This gift is something we all possess
But few hold dear — terrified of the
Sensitive nature, they lock it away
In a dark, lonesome part of themselves
Most will go their whole life
Without ever revisiting —
But some of us keep our keys close

I am not asking you to take the plunge
Merely clarifying the existence of the cliff
And should you need a gentle shove
Or a familiar voice to trade echoes,
I am just around the corner,
Pen clasped in inspired hand
— getting lost in the vines

Poem 29 / Day 29

She Wore the Blackest Black / by Sarah Audsley

                                    ~ for K.millzzzzzzzzzzz

her manifesto is blackfire crackling
on the verge to convert us all
wearing blackest black, our vantablack queen
monkeys on the keyboard, crafts her digital worlds

 my working is the work

 in her crystal pillar playground, she erases all the green
fills in the frame with cardboard constructed landscapes
of the quotidian
            laundromats, school buses, kitchens
a curated self-examination from the ubiquitous

my working is the work

what would you say to yourself sitting
            across from yourself over coffee?
black-on-black, she’ll build her artifice,
a practice of self-evisceration for public
consumption

my working is the work

she’s an enigma, so show
something of yourself
test the glitch & move the mouse
scan the self & remember

not knowing is the knowing

The Unsaids / by Angela M. Carter

I’d prepared all I would say
for a full day–
stared at my eyes in the mirror
as though they were yours.
Should I use this word, or that one?
Should I blink in between the most
important phrases?
What to do with the hands–
should I reach out,
be expressive,
or hold them in my lap?

Downed a bottle of beer
for the courage,
my mouth was a drawbridge, opening
a line to all I’d worked diligently to protect.
When I approached you
I knew my words would not matter–
your ears tight as unbroken skin.
I dripped disappointment for miles,
dripping now,
hemorrhaging syllables of the words, still.
They do not leave me.

The eyes say more than the mouth ever could
but you do not look there–
you never looked there,
you’ll never look there.

NOVEMBER CENTO / by Farah Marklevits

to Sarah, Angela, Barbara, Latorial, Matt, Prince, and Tucker with gratitude

On days that don’t seem holy, I tie a string to all
I’m forced to release and pray it comes back to me:

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.

Ghosts of horses are wandering in the sky,
in old sweaters, hair brushes, pillow shams

& in a black leather Sunday School change purse
filled with bobby pins. On days that don’t seem
holy, what’s left is like waiting for the mailman

to bring you a casket & doubts will double & dabble
in dark arts of sabotage as parts fight themselves.

On days that don’t seem holy, at least the three deer
bounding away, running from danger, in the snow-
crusted hacked cornfield, don’t seem to be lonely.

His hair petals when he runs like the world clutches
him in its bouquet, and somewhere it is still warm

in pictures, dates faded on the back tucked between
Kodak & the forgotten names of cousins, paper crowns
wobbling from their 6-year old shuffle. Somewhere

on the other side it is blue & warm, everyone is
healthy & singing the hymns of grandmothers from

the Black communities where love was cultivated in
brilliant, tender hands. Unlike the lonely gowned
stalks of half-ghosts, Joy in collard greens, Hope in

New Years’ black-eyed peas, Love in all that ain’t.
On days that don’t seem holy, I am a historian of

sentiments, hanging on to forgotten things. 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.

My feelings are now open facts. On days that don’t
seem holy, the wild of it shakes me. Similar to

the brilliant fire of dying stars begging to be caught,
the longest poem I’ve ever written ends tonight, only
give me the appropriate name for the cold of wanting.

Mossi / by Prince Kwasi Mensah
 
Warrior princess, legendary hunter –
Yennenga & Rialé:
Mother & Father
Of Ouédraogo
Our father –
 
We the Mossi sing your praises.
We sing your praises.
You have shown us the way –
We shall praise you every day!
 
Before assimilation,
Before dirty hands
Of colonialism touched
Us, we were the ones
Who raised Tenkodogo
From Earth’s womb –
Our father is Rawa, 
Our father is Diaba Lompo,
Our father is Zoungourana –
We breathe freedom –
 
Our horses have the eyes of cheetahs,
Fire resides in their nostrils,
The dust behind them is an omen;
Harbinger to those who continue
To cheat us –
 
After l’assimilation
Cut out our tongues,
After our hands were
Tied behind us, we still are
Tengabisi & Nakomsé,
Priests & rulers, we are
Nyonyosé, we are Gurmantche,
Children of Lela, Nuna
Sisala: we & the earth are one
& we speak to the undead –
 
We the Mossi sing our praises.
We sing our praises.
We follow the ancestral way –
We shall praise ourselves every day!

Growth / by Tucker Riggleman

Not all gardens produce, and so here I am
With dirty hands & an empty cellar
Contemplating the great mysterious why
Which will also yield disappointing results
But sometimes it just feels good
To to yell into the void
And find comfort in mutual absence
Like the bittersweet certainty
Of a lover parting, this time never to return
You should cherish this moment
Because it is the leaving of a thing
That finally provides perspective
The burning of a field that invites
New growth

Poem 28 / Day 28

the world needs tilting away from strict realism/ Sarah Audsley

a compendium of startled things—

            chickadees flitting, branch to branch

            moon goggles

            moon discontent

            moon desire

            moon I was tonight hidden underneath your bed, charging your skin

            a pause in a hotel room, moonwalking

            room service: tuna poke, cappuccino, movie on-demand

            nail fragments – tiny moons – in the sink

            windex on the wood paneling

Heading Home / by Angela M. Carter

I’m tired of being strong
I want nothing more than to lay my head
on my mother’s lap
and show her my journey through kaleidoscope tears.

I want to feel a warm palm on my face
an embrace so tight it borders discomfort
When I pull away, secretly I’ll want it to force me to stay.

I’m heading home, to the place I left my old self all those years ago,
I’m returning with the same affliction I left behind;
I’m tired of being strong.

LET’S JUST WALK/ Farah Marklevitz

because the bus is late/early/on time
because it’s cold but will soon be colder
because walking might give the sun some reason,
because you can walk there are sidewalks here
and they’re clear of the new snow that coats
everything else with a bit of crisp fresh new,
because you left some holidays behind and
are free of the traditional carbohydrate-induced doze,
because the digital glow nearly trapped you
in a gaze glaze so slick no words could find you,
because your cheeks are winter but your torso
works up its own summer, because the library is open
with its pinwheel windows overlooking the backhoe
excavation of some new vision of subway station,
because your sitting self loves to hoard and count
the dusts of resentment, because the body is
the original vehicle, it can still get you somewhere,
because you need to be reminded that you are
always already somewhere, because Avenue Papineau,
de Lormier, and Rue Chabot, Livraison au Tarot
and Pho Ici, because panettone in shop window
je marche and merci, because the just in let’s just walk
is simple but no small thing, glimpse of justice,
breath of mercy, because once you start walking—

Abyssinia / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

There was a land where
The Negus ruled,
Ezana’s land, there
Seeds of Makeda
& Solomon ruled –

I will be seeing you,
I will be seeing you
Soon –

Mussolini came & in shame
He fled, the Wal-Wal
Did not belong to strangers –
Haile Selassie did not
Succumb to imperialism –
The old shall not be
Subservient to the young –

I will be seeing you,
I will be seeing you
Soon –

Abyssinia, your detractors want
To turn you into an abyss –
You refuse to be defined,
You rebuff fallacies
Of superiority, you defeat
The mighty with will &
Wisdom –

Your earth shall remain sacred,
You are the stairway to heaven –

I will be seeing you,
I will be seeing you
Soon –


Upright Man /
by Tucker Riggleman

Cursed with unbridled self-awareness
They scratch doomed prophecies
Into cave walls
Ignorant to the fact
That nobody has to see them through

Poem 27 / Day 27

predator // prey / by Sarah Audsley

notice how eggshells crack
under the slightest pressure

press fingertips to lips, press
soft temples along his hairline

a baby snake is prey
before it predates

I give up, I give up having
any more interesting thoughts

the table is set
the table is set for no one
the table is broken
the table is invisible

what can I trigger in the mind?

an arrangement of words decorates,
but I cannot tell you their meaning

staircase blue slate sky wood

be precise be more

unspool the hierarchy
I have built a spiral inside
myself

landscape painting pyramid

tiny teeth marks, bites

Containment / by Barbara Duffey

Bion called a mother’s capacity
to quell her baby’s pain—I can’t help but
Respect your uncontainability

Columbus, Half-mast / by Latorial Faison

He

Looks

Like people

I know–all white

All tight-lipped, slick

Nose big as Black men’s

White eyes wide shut with pain

Stealing & discovering the unknown

The innocent blood of mothers

fathers & children

On his white hands

sailing

AT OUR LAST ANNUAL GENDERED GATHERING / by Farah Marklevits

I’ve been shrilled. I’ve shrilled myself
again. It tumbled out like wrinkled laundry
from a valise dropped, popped open,

delicate and anachronistic. Tut, tut,
look what she’s still carrying. Too late,
too tired to respond, even in the humble

gathering of my kind of bookish kind,
I seclude myself outside the conference
commons—may you be healthy, may you

be happy—I’m mindful on my hotel bed
trying to be okay with it between concurrent
sessions of earnest, open discussion. Please.

All this mannish foot in my mouth. How I
oppress myself into and out of the tent
where men bake into glorious, serious art

such edible stars. No thank you. I’m stuffed,
crammed full of the sweet bitch biscuit I made
myself. Go ahead, here’s my wreckage: tinny,

inherited sword turned on my own too brittle
crystal. And. But. I’m sorry/not sorry. Show me
yours, and let’s be friends to spite the baggage.

Fair Game / by Prince Kwasi Mensah
 
Slavery was never abolished; it was only extended to include all the colors.
Charles Bukowski (Letter to John Martin, 1969)
 
            Slavery was
A dry run for the free market –
Credit varied for the free,
The freed & the slave:
The slave paid so much more, the freed
A little less, the free had
Things nearly free –
 
Then emancipation came with his beau:
Mass Incarceration was her name.
They needed more, they needed more hands,
They needed more & more & more –
Black, brown, white & red –
Everyone’s fair game.
 
It’s a fair game –
The fairer you are,
The fairer you are treated –
Victim shaming & blaming are
Art forms where greed owns 
The platform, you are guilty by
Others’ definition of you –
 
Then emancipation came with his beau:
Mass Incarceration was her name.
They needed more, they needed more hands,
They needed more & more & more –
Black, brown, white & red –
Everyone’s fair game.
 
            Slavery was
Harbinger of these hard, harsh times –
The laborer is now slave or indentured
Servant & knaves are praised as brave
Captains of industry, the zeitgeist requires
9 to 5 to be alive, the grave’s still
A place of comfort for slaves –
 
Freedom & Liberty come with their beau:
Mass Incarceration is her name.
They need more, they need more hands,
They need more & more & more –
Black, brown, white & red –
Everyone’s fair game.

Higher Education / by Tucker Riggleman

They divided us into groups
Based on intelligence, or lack thereof,
Skill, age, and a dozen other variables
Sequestered to windowless rooms
To begin the endless work
Of self-discovery & commercial mysticism
I could not believe we were paying so much
For this — instructors tricked into staying
Once they had fulfilled their own requirements
Offered a beggar’s wage & minimal control
I cannot imagine a fate so defeating

But here I stood
Amidst a cafeteria with endless options
And nothing to eat
It’s not that I thought it was beneath me,
I knew it was this or the factory,
It’s just that I was always bored

Poem 26 / Day 26

meadow, meadow / by Sarah Audsley

                                    One thing. One thing. One thing:
                                                Tell me there is
                                                A meadow, afterwards.

                                                            ~ Lucie Brock-Broido

I come
in the lushness
the greenery of your mouth
& my mouth flush against &
on top of yours this occurs
only in the flash of yes
millimeter of tongue-blade pushed
up against tell me
what I want to know
that deep inside the dirt of yes
or in my unconvinced used-up grey
ashen heart there is not one
thing I know better
than to imagine
what meadow
we’ll fall apart in

In a Dream / by Angela M. Carter

There was frost on the grass
Low cloud in my hair
The sun a fresh pearl on the horizon

anyone else would think they were utterly alone

I knew there was another world
I walked in the direction I thought was
furthest away from it

A voice called my name, over and over
As though I’d been missing for days

I searched for my own bones

The limbs of green cracked beneath me
Though I saw nothing but gray

I knew you were there–

either world, I always sense you there.

Connections Plus Redux / by Barbara Duffey

You can bring me another Miller Lite, Don
I’ll tell you how many centimeters in an inch
I’m back from the dermatologist and maybe my hair will come back
And it’s all I can do not to eat all the Chex mix
But Thanksgiving’s in two days and I don’t want to ruin my appetite
The snow they predicted all morning is finally falling
And everyone else is more fully dressed

IN A BLEAK ONLY* / by Farah Marklevits

The world has squandered so much cascade of according to new findings. The past has brought devastating, relentless, and crippling [sic] increasing. Tuesday’s UN report gap agreed to hold warming to should that pace continue. The result could be increasingly already wrestling with constantly inundated severe already unbearable.

Emissions must begin falling. Currently nowhere, the report issued ambitious, the report issued bleak collective deep. In the statement announcing the sobering critical ambitious essential, so far the answer annually over the past decade coming profoundly and rapidly.

[Emissions must begin falling.] The world already woefully, countries need to triple the ambition of current ambitious faster increasingly unlikely impractical delays. Will quickly put roughly the world to troubling.

[Emissions must begin falling.] Slowing future monumental gas-powered coal-fired. In the opposite gradual. In the developing significantly worldwide obviously. Intergovernmental levels of record future increasingly severe announcement. The last time and at the annual representatives ramp up ambition rhetoric the largest much less more aggressive transformative.

[Emissions must begin falling.] A tool tracks painful past little far longer higher and another worst. Already more ambitious, the largest private own sharply growing even as Tuesday’s depressing slivers. The grim encouraging several voters and protesters particularly clear: [Nothing falls on its own.]

*Erasure of Brady Dennis’s “In bleak report, U.N. says drastic action is only way to avoid worst effects of climate change,” The Washington Post, 26 Nov 2019

Aksum / by Prince Kwasi Mensah
 
In lucid dreams, 
Ones that filled me to the brim
With pride, ones that made me 
Unafraid, an old man said –
 
//Aksum rose, black rose
Of Nubia, carnelian
Bead of Cush, plush
Earth for sons & daughters
Of Ham//
 
Adulis stood over the Nile,
Expressions in Ge’ez, there
Reigned the king of kings, his was
One of the four greatest lands
In the world –
 
//Tell them we were lords
Of the sea & commerce,
We had our ways; we had means,
We were powerful & we were
Black//
 
The hub of civilizations,
The blend of cultures –
Amidst Egypt & Rome & Greece
& Arabia, Aksum stood
On its own –
 
//The valleys became deeper,
The mountains became higher –
The floods made us fold like paper,
What remained was ruined by fire//
 
Granite stelae,
Stone buildings, written
Language, advanced farming,
They knew Christ centuries
Before the missionaries came –
 
//When the forests fell &
The rivers rose,
Even the suckling could tell
We had fallen to our foes//

Nature Poem / by Tucker Riggleman

It is late November — sunrise,
Hardy County, West Virginia
I am told these things must specify place

I repeatedly confuse the bellies of grey squirrels
For the white tails that I seek
Frustrating to the point that I square
One up in the crosshairs and consider
A drastic measure

In case the reader is concerned with my motive
For hunting deer, I will clarify that
I am poor, and put the meat to good use
There is also the fact that majestic mountain lions
Have been erased from the pages of our state
So the whitetail’s natural predator has become
The minivan & Mustang
Resulting in many impromptu piles of flowers
By the highway — tiny memorials to those
Innocently swept up in this mess
— but now I am straying into human relationships
And I’ve been told that is frowned upon
In a nature poem

So yes, the leaves are surely dead
And I will not dress them up with simile
Or metaphor, since the emotionally dense
Might mistake it for a literal comparison
The weather is cold —
Again — sunrise, late November

That just leaves us with the event portion
Of this poem to be fulfilled —
The squirrel mocks me with a bark,
Belly exposed
I squeeze the trigger

Poem 25 / Day 25

visual depth logic / by Sarah Audsley

the horses are out wandering
in the field

ghosts of horses are wandering
in the sky

happy horses are hobbling along
in the high grasses

I stand useless before the invention of time

want :: wanting as some twisted thing

my childhood friend is getting married
this month & we memorized the state capitals
& wrote our names in a book that belongs to her

how to meet the horse
inside myself

how am I beginning with you now
that I’ve already started over & time
recycles our renewal

the horse is a blue hole
I dug up her bones
& inserted mine

everyone is smart & talented
& brilliant & broken here

dear lie, don’t tell my father
how I went off the road to avoid
a deer & how I ended up in a ditch
driving distracted towards
some boyfriend & fumbled the cookies
& was reaching for them when I swerved

the gesture of silence
what to leave out

want :: horses :: mouth on my mouth :: you

It Goes / by Angela M. Carter

I knew I was over it
when I pulled the dead leaves from the houseplants,
apologized to them for my absence–
 
I’m sorry there’s been no water,
your soil has not been tended,
that I didn’t face you to the skies–
 
but they were alive all the same,
they bet on the sun,
and I know I’m over being hurt now
 
if when I touch their leaves
my hands extend and reach to life
without my permission.

Along I-90 / by Barbara Duffey

The field whitened by snow
geese eating the corn stover,
the water the darkest navy,
stirred by the wind into waves
whose crests sparkle in the morning
light like ice, the evergreens
the lone spots of green, remind
me we’re due to suffer
not just from the snow’s cold but
from the brutal lack of color

She Who Gives Love / by Latorial Faison

Slayed in a riverbed, captive 
by the art of revolution, beauty draped 
across jagged edged, sword severing 
other men’s souls

Sun and moon lie about it all
every thing of wonder in orbit
inner cry, a range of mountains
sometimes death

Try them on with grace
cast them off with clarity
She who gives love
must learn to organize pain

THE OVERCAST / by Farah Marklevits

The line lifting clothes to effortless blue
empty, a simple double sketch on gray
not drying anything with nothing to say
like the snow, half gone and half glue

everything caught in mid-sentence
the drain clogged, drum that pauses
and stops before spin, the leaves’ cause
stalled by cement and the insistence

of lawn, it’s all fall, falling, and fallen
says tabby tomcat, restless with home
and its own simmering inner gnome
what you need is mischief in stolen

form of some errant leaf pried and tossed
just quick and close enough to mean a chase.

November / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

World’s red and yellow –
Sometimes, purple, black and blue,
Orange, magenta,
 
Brown, spectrum of fall –
Summer lovers will murmur
At the chilled wind.
 
Pumpkins become kings
And queens of the lot, people
Get dressed like scarecrows –
 
I’ve lived where seasons
Were two, where the nights were not
Too cold, this has been
 
An adventure filled
With lessons of life and death.
I count each cold day
 
Until snow flakes fall,
Until the whitening of
All that I have seen.

Do not be afraid / by Tucker Riggleman

Do not be afraid 
Despite the terrifying evidence you’ve unearthed
If life had a soundtrack, it would be getting tense 
Right about now
But look — the camera has focused on a flashlight
You should probably grab it
Because the lights are sure to go out soon

Steeled determination, you inch forward
Your illuminating beam cutting through 
The darkness like disappearing brush strokes 
When you were young you could navigate
This house with eyes closed, but something
Has warped the halls and swapped rooms
Leaving it a vaguely familiar maze at best 

Everything sways and shakes, motivated 
By a sinister wind that howls through corridors 

Did you actually live here before?

Even the truth wears a mask 
In this lonesome place
Over there — a pistol is revealed
Surely the plot requires you use it, and soon
Let’s hope the target is not fitted
With a mask resembling your own

Poem 24 / Day 24

Palinode / by Sarah Audsley

Beauty will not save the world & the ant,
who lifts 350 times its body weight, will not inherit
the palaces it builds of sand & pebbled walls.
Sweet tidbit searcher, don’t bother crawling up stalks,
don’t tumble over leaves slick with rain, tap-tapping
pale pink peony buds, don’t coax them open. Pink of
a lamb’s ear, pink of the sunrise I always sleep through.
Each one of your tiny mandibles click-clicking
shouldn’t ever try to open what can do it’s own work,
in its own time. Don’t propagate the myth of rescuing
what you think can be saved. Because
everything dies—we will not see you
in the right way, we’ll never understand
how the traces you leave are sugar-coated succor.

Thank Goodness / by Angela M. Carter

I’m unsure what it’s called
when your spirit changes over to
new light spontaneously–
nothing appears the same as it once did–

maybe Love walked through the door last night
and I was immune to it,
never even saw it pass by;
I didn’t care enough to invite it back inside.
 
Sometimes Love’s more of the devil,
wants to feel an eye staring at its deeds,
and it never sees you for you,
your following gaze is all it wants and needs.
 
Maybe it walked through the door 
and I didn’t even care to watch it pass by,
now it’s nothing, not even a hook for my eyes,
it’s immunity; it’s an old, tired sigh. 
 
Connections Plus / by Barbara Duffey
 
Sun setting on the casino, everyone slightly drunk on beer and complementary Chex mix
It’s easy to start something you don’t plan to finish 
All the luck engineered by the programmers 
And the lack of it nothing out of the ordinary 
The Mexican restaurant in the same strip mall
Begs the question if you’re more hopeful than hungry
I could spend twenty on a margarita and some tacos
Or I could keep drinking for free and eating Reese’s in their wrappers from a dish in the corner
In a room where everyone thinks I’m smart 
And my bad luck is assumed to be temporary 
 
The Invocation at Ouidah / by Latorial Faison
 
Oh come
      magnify this white power with me;
Let us exalt its aim
      together.

 

In the antebellum South
      are many mansions;
If it were not so,
      we would not have told you.

We go
      to prepare a trade for you,
That where ever fields are,
      there you may be also.

Oh taste & see that slavery is good;
      its mercy never lasting.
Its truth endureth,
      even into future generations.

Domestic / by Prince Kwasi Mensah
 
Ophelia is bad for my sapiophilia
 
//what use is all this knowledge you amass? 
can it put food on the table?// 
 
I respond:
 
\\knowledge is my abracadabra\\

She confuses it as Adabraka. 
I am flustered. She is frustrated
Sex is out of the world but we fight 
About what keeps me alive.
I love her, I cannot live life
Without her, I know:
I broke up with her once & 
Nearly became a broken man –
 
Philomena keeps tempting me.
 
//sex will heal, sex will reveal the secrets,
come and try it with me// 
 
I respond:
 
\\have you ever made love to a mind?\\
 
She responds:
 
//you live in your head too much,
come and try it with me//
 
I am a man in love with too many 
Things & I pay by being hated 
By those I love –

Addition by Subtraction / by Tucker Riggleman

Always waking early with not enough
Time before the alarm to make 
Falling back to sleep worth the effort 
Not even the death rattle of
Coffee brewing can stir your bones

Everything always aches, and your
Entire world exists within a set of keys,
A crumbling wallet, & a phone you never
Use to make calls

All of these things, important as they are,
Live within a few inches of each other 
Making the out-the-door dummy check
A convenient ritual dance of patting pockets 
Reminiscent to someone swatting flies 
In three specific repeated places

Where did the excitement go?
It must have left with the others —
The party drugs & pretty girls
Nobody wants to hang around the boring
Sober nobody — shedding vice
Like the shedding of skin
Born anew, but just similar enough 
To make everyone in the room uncomfortable

Was he always this quiet? 

Admittedly on the nicer end of the spectrum
Of petty things they whisper to one another —
Those clinging to the drugs & the girls
Sometimes it’s hard to convince myself
I have done something positive
In denying myself pleasures
I was never really flush with them in the first place
Addition by subtraction, right?
Let’s hope so

For now, I will slip into a non-chemically induced
Sleep, and allow my biological clock
To cheat me out of five extra minutes 
Which is actually a fraction 
Of how much time I let worse things
Take from me, forever 

Poem 23 / Day 23

The Gingko Tree, or Amor Fati / by Sarah Audsley

The hibakujumoku, those gingkos that survived Hiroshima, sway

in the moonlight, where everywhere is yellow-leaf-splatter.
Trample the fan-shaped leaves fading to tawny brown fallen

from trees with a botanical history of 200 million years.
You’re not Japan. You’re not Planet Earth. You are a moon-landing.

You’re whatever survives
            a nuclear blast, or maybe, you’re the force of that blast—

            feathered boa               disco panic burn

                        subzero stutter             breakdance moonboots

            oxygen scarce               something toxic

                        slip under                     control

                        motion makes              sense                 over here

An uncompromising artist is praised for being uncompromising.
So, show something of yourself. Love of fate. Slippage of time.

Cycles of moonshadow & light. The eternal recurrence has drawn
a circle around our feet where we walk now. Endurance means

one must endure. Nothing more.

Buttercups / by Angela M. Carter

I like to think that I’ll be remembered
in a distant day
as someone’s face falls into their wrinkled hands
and silently proclaim
they made the wrong bed
the wrong life
the wrong decision
         and I’ll be in a field
         wavy gray locks in flight against the wind
         pulling the petals off of buttercups
                  one by one, a pasture never-ending–

and it will land on

    I loved myself
    every time

even though today I land on
          loves me not
          loves me not

loves me not,

infinity.

UNFINISHED GREENHOUSE GHAZAL / by Farah Marklevits

            for and with help from A, E, and N

Taking off my black and pink coat fuzzy but stiff against the cold
I walk in the sweet breath of clouds flowering in the greenhouse.

Spiky bright leaves, red and black striped leaves, purple, orange,
dark pink simmer in a sunset all together in the greenhouse.

Humid like 100-degree heat waves, all the flowers
chirp their petals like imagined birds in the greenhouse.

Fuchsia hem ruffles, yellow collars striped with crimson,
stoles of greeny hair cascades—the runway in the greenhouse.

Jeweled chunks of beet, musky cheese, pear, touched
with herbed honey, we bring our plates in the greenhouse.

Gorgon / by Prince Kwasi Mensah
 
Belittle me until I am brittle,
Dehumanize me till I am dung
In your eyes –
 
Continue your pastime of cruelty,
Fulfill your fealty to folly,
I plead –
 
Let my cries fall on deaf ears,
Let my fears rise up and mean
Nothing to you –
 
When Karma comes, she will be a Gorgon;
She will turn empires into stone, 
She shall have her fill of the cruel –
 
& no amount of thoughts and prayers
Can mitigate consequence
In the harvest of whirlwinds.

Spilling Guts / by Tucker Riggleman

The sun has already set
As I unlock the door
Revealing a darkness illuminated
Only by computer screen pollution
I greet the Pabsts with a blanket of ice
And uncap the liquor bottles
Their elegant designs belying 
The poison within 

A couple hours later some band
Will load heavy equipment 
Setting up a table to sell their things
To strangers in a dungeon
The songs they wrote in bedrooms
Sung to a scattered few

I feel lucky and not
I miss the times when I am on the stage
Half-drunk, spilling guts and playing too loud
All of that time & money
Just to achieve thirty minutes of cathartic bliss
Always worth it for that one moment of
Hey man, I really dig what you’re doing
But even that is not enough anymore 
Maybe I’ve never made it at music
Because the only person I play for is me
And I’ve never been easy to impress 

Poem 22 / Day 22

Karma / by Angela M. Carter

When I was a teen
I blew up mailboxes as a
metaphor of my feelings,
would cheer when the explosion was a near-miss
to the car window I leaned out of–
never once did I think about mailboxes’ owners,
or the importance of the written words within them.

I stood still, opened myself, was ready to receive.
Waited for you while
the sun and moon
waltzed in separate directions.
Just as headlights appeared,
my heart fluttered knowing
you’d sought me.

Your car drives off, there’s giggling–
you light a cigarette and pass it to
a cat-smirked passenger,
and I’m in so much pain I’ve yet to
realize that I’m no longer me–
pieces, all over,
my lifetime of beloved poems, in flames.

Ion and Creusa / by Barbara Duffey

Imagine thinking Hermes was your dad—
only to sweep the steps at Delphi, where
the temple to Apollo, your bio
dad, attracts the gullible for guidance,
until some guy from Boeotia picks you
to adopt. Your stepmom will want you dead,
your inheritance for herself, and you’ll
try to kill each other. Imagine the
apologies when it turns out that in
that cave you, a baby, were abandoned
in, Apollo raped your mother, and she
is your stepmom, actually, the very
same you tried to kill, who tried to kill you.
It’s hard not to read it as parable.

QUID PRO QUO / by Farah Marklevits

Wish for what? Fish
for the vat, a hiss for a hat,
a quilt for the static, list

for last. Grit for
the wait, fit for the fast
even with shit for

ballast and silt for
a castle. Whistle for a vast
lit clasp for sash,

kisses for gnats wistful
for tact. Whistle for whammy,
a miss for state.

wet dreams / by Prince Kwasi Mensah

satyr                                                                                             nymph

he was what they wanted:                                          a surge like lightning
raw, rough, riveting –                                                   runs through the veins
his voice was the music                                               in vain was my resistance
of fantasies, this chocolate                                         when she began to walk to me
adonis was an adornment                                          this is what brought
from the gods, his brown                                            solomon down, what
eyes held promises                                                      destroyed samson &
of mind-blowing ecstasy                                             stained david’s legacy, i was
his presence had the                                                   disarmed by pulchritude
impact of fever, it was                                                 her body was a sequence
a moisture-inducing                                                    of mindboggling delights
event to be held                                                           she was a queen who
in his gaze, this                                                             could not be refused
phantom was a smooth                                              she wanted me and she
operator but when i                                                     had to have me & the
opened my eyes                                                           more i tried to escape
he was long gone                                                         the quicker my loins
into dream-realm –                                                      melted

Dust / by Tucker Riggleman

In the hierarchy of cosmic order
We are but specks of dust
Confused bunches of atoms 
Crying & killing our way
Through a brief window of open eyelids

We cannot hope to compare to a mountain
Or the majesty of the great seas
They have witnessed more than a thousand
Of us combined, and they have played
Important roles in shaping our world —
Sustaining life, protecting, and cleansing when needed

But stones cannot write poetry
And water cannot sing
We all carry gifts within us
Capable of conjuring emotion 
Visualizing hope
Championing the dogged spirit
Lying beneath our physical shells 

This is how we carve our names
Into the bark of the universe —
We were here, and boy did we feel it

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