The 30/30 Project: November 2019

Backup / Restore

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

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

The volunteers for November 2019 are Sarah Audsley, Angela M. Carter, Barbara Duffey, Latorial Faison, Matt LaFreniere, Farah Marklevits, Prince Kwasi Mensah, and Tucker Riggleman. Read their full bios here.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and and warm up your pen!

Poem 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