The 30/30 Project: November 2018

 

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 2018 are Pamela Ahlen, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Lisa Fay Coutley, Liezel Moraleja Hackett, Shayna Herszage, Phyllis Jordan, Samuel Loncar, Mark A. Murphy, and Rebecca Raphael. 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! To read more about the Tupelo Press 30/30 project, including a complete list of our wonderful volunteer poets and to read their poems, please click here.

Day 30/ Poems 30

*

Shoveling Snow When the Sun’s Threatening to Shine / by Pamela Ahlen

Shoveling snow is like practicing scales,
shoveling snow is methodical—
a clear-cut to the outer world.
Like those mesmerizing scales,
shoveling snow is meditative—
depending on attitude.
But it’s not for the faint of heart.
Clearing our path to let us in or out
is one thing, clearing the roof another.
Whoever orchestrated the flat pitch
created a snow depository.
Shoveling this snow takes muscle magic.
But up on the housetop you can see forever:
pasture woods trees
owl, its silence in the red pine.
And up on the housetop we can sing our little duet,
shovel in unison, something
we manage to orchestrate.
Maybe there’s the obsessive in us both,
life just so much repetition,
but not too difficult to master.
and shoveling snow’s no great disaster.

*
*

Happy! / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

How to assemble it. Lots and lots and lots
Of unsold cars. View from bus window: woman
Driving and drinking a cup of chili. Woman with pizza
On lap, back seat: 4 kids. Cell phone cell phone cell
Phone. The United States in America are full
Of eaters. Cheer on the runners, the cheerful electric
Cars and hard-to-park joyboats. Pininfarina styling
Like a bad horror film. A morning vintaged
With friends, indecent coffee, some thigh gap.
I cry loudly that I can fix anything but I feel dramatically
Wobbly. My therapist says “you are a beautiful emerging
Butterfly!” Pupa in mucus waiting to slide into this.
Good news! On page 10 million of the rules, you can
live next to nothing. I never call this man by
his real name. This keeps us little safe.

*
*

Final Rebuttal / by Lisa Fay Coutley

Some unknown anger is humming
over oceans, they say, ringing Earth

like a bell. Old pronouns with weak
teeth & feeble libidos leaning too

far over, rooting inside dumpsters
not for need but fodder. Ars cliché

or the woman at the bottom looking
up against darkness into your strange

hitchhiker face & risking for kindness
or loneliness or maybe yes ten minutes

more on a road with no needle or pipe.
None of us need you to write her story

to know whose shows the most human
weakness. If Earth isn’t angry, I am.

Is it surrender if we just start dancing
& stop thinking there will ever be a cure

for his hunger? Tell me again how football
prevents rape. What about those watching?

May Earth never sorry to show you she is
the bell hollering a busted wedding gong.

If vengeance is proportionate to time
& time to size, how can you not fathom

a glacier’s pace? How did you ever believe
her word wasn’t always going to be the last.

*
*

TAHING BAILA / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

It begins with
a stillness in the dark-
a posture and a pose
that signals the music to begin.

The posture is a lean
and turn at the waist
with arms outstretched.
The pose –
an extension of
attitude and reverence.

It is a conversation-
Fish dancing
in the blue scarves and
silver fans of rolling waves.
waves playfully
twirling the fish,
who leap and spin and turn
with every push.

Who can compete with the ocean?

Thick echo of gongs
frantic pulse of
deep-toned drums
beneath the captivating melody of
the kulintang

and chaos
waiting.

Everyone waits in
the stillness in the dark
for the kulintang
for the storyteller
for the voice and the pulse.
Everyone waits to show their form.

They all wait
for Movement.

*
*

Torchlight / by Shayna Herszage

In the dark,
Her bright eyes
Illuminated
Only by the light
Of torches,
She spoke
To the crowd,
To rows and rows
Who listened
Not to the woman,
But to the spirit.

In the light of torches,
She spoke.
In the light of the city,
Why must I be silent?

*
*

On the Origin of a Kiss / by Samuel Loncar

He left me
. . .not as I was
Not as I wanted to be

He left me
. . .down tilted and side slanted
Spirit spun dizzy

He left me
. . .Lips desire chapped with dry wanting

Not as I was or wanted
. . .He left me

As I needed to be
. . .With the first knowing

I keep seeking
. . .In other lips

*
*

Magpie on the Gallows / by Mark A. Murphy

One for sorrow, two for mirth, three for a funeral…

*

In a woodland clearing, two onlookers
look beyond

the three peasant revellers,
dancing to the sound of the bagpipes,
the gallows
upon which a magpie is perched,
the cross and watermill
immediately below, to the meandering
river valley and sunlit meadows
on the far side of the oil painted panel.

*

Not just a palimpsest of proverbs,
but a complex allegory
of imprudent folly, intolerance,
life and death. At the very centre

of the Northern Renaissance
. . . .painting,
the first magpie alights
on the gallows, which appear
to take part in the peasants’ dance.

And we must ask first,
if this bird is a good or bad omen?
Are our sorrows well met?
Does the second magpie, alighting

on a rock at the base of the gallows,
near the bovine skull
add heat to an already dangerous
memento mori,

humanist challenge and appeal?

*

Created one year after the Dutch Revolt,
the threat of extinction

hangs
over all mortals. And we all know

that gossiping magpies have loose beaks
and loose beaks costs lives.

*

In an age of bitter conflict —
spiteful accusations of heresy
will always bring

zealots and sinners alike —
to be abjured and effaced
before the ‘Council of Blood’

*

Going back
to the semiotics of our two onlookers
observing
the view before them, but ignorant
of what goes on
behind their backs, we see an adult male,
almost entirely elided
in the shadows, pants around his knees,
literally defecating,
alluding to the Netherlandish proverb:

Shitting on the gallows!

*

Here Bruegel plays with our relationship
between seeing and knowing,

vision and certainty. The pointing finger
only points to uncertainty.

The onlookers do not stand in for us,
but create a fierce tension

between what the internal observer sees
and what the external viewer

sees and understands, as we explore the space,
navigate and negotiate

our way through the moralistic landscape.

*
*

Hypnagogic Ode / by Rebecca Raphael

My dream-body walks through shifting space,
. . . a small-town coastal road, the lake, my old
apartment, grandma’s house (always), a trace
. . . of mountains, a hated interstate, cold
57th Street; and when my eyes
. . . open, an unknown wall confronts their sleep –
. . . . . . and then is known. I’m only here, again.
I do not want to rise
. . . to hollow conscious shades, but yearn to reap
. . . . . .the hybrid forms that waking dreams entrain.

In those moments, I am unresolved but whole,
. . . all of a peaceful piece. I’d rather lose
my mind this way, than become the rotted bole
. . . that work would have me be. I can choose
this quiet recombobulation, or
. . . surrender all my inmost life to screens,
. . . . . .to cowards’ bureaucratic lies. No!
Defy the omnivore;
. . . it is not time but falsehood that demeans
. . . . . .the brimming pith of life, its boisterous flow.

Lingering in half-dream wonder, I stir.
. . . Gâteau is grooming me: he licks my face,
my hairline, a few strands of hair. His purr
. . . contents my weary arms. I can’t retrace
the vast unraveled threads of our cocoon,
. . . the dreaming body’s precious overgrowth,
. . . . . .but foggy dawn confers its drop of bliss.
It’s certain, sometime soon,
. . . that he will be dust, and I dust, and both
. . . . . .at peace; and until then, we’ll rest like this.

*
*

Day 29/ Poems 29

*

Winter’s Coming Faster Now / by Pamela Ahlen

The trees sob snow,
a great heaving of wet weight,
autumn’s demise.
We two sit by the fire,
flames a burned-down blue,
our stillness so mute
neither of us
knows what to do with it.
The snow asks for nothing,
settles on the roof.

*
*

Wound Duplex / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

I begin with hope and that’s where it ages,
I don’t want to leave a thing with feathers.

I don’t want to leave a feathered thing behind,
tricking innocence into wasting time.

Time is tricked, wasted on the innocent,
divide life by time, you get the end of love.

Divide love by life equals not enough time.
What waits for me, other side of equal sign?

All I never was, waits patiently for me.
Birds of a feather get hunted together,

Hunted together, girls of a feather.
If this is a ship, the water is salted.

Hope scrubs its salt into all of my love.
My wounds grow waxy with age. They never end.

*
*

Relocating / by Lisa Fay Coutley

Who is any rich man fooling?
Even Earth is really only for
Him/His. Ask anyone who’s felt
hunger or slept under a viaduct.
The gratitude I have for walking
only from my home to my car
in this season of can’t wracks me.
Call me maudlin. Say I want to be
sad. I’d like to feel what others feel
when they see the same sun rising
over our hoped, second home,
though honestly I thought it
was the moon rising over Utah
mountains. Searchlight wide.
Another big mouth willing
to say nothing to humans lost.
Let it inverse. Let it repeat.
Somewhere else, somewhere
better, is always too far to walk.
Say I’m foolish for not wanting
to look at our wreckage, to give
a slow head shake, & to leave her
& her poorest among His ruin.

*
*

Castanets / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Do you hear the cadence
that starts at your fingertips-
the weight in your palms
balancing gravity and grace
extended through your shoulders
and a confident stand
It moves you at your heels
To turn, to stomp, to jump

They came and they conquered
for hundreds of years-
They came with long gowns
Silk and umbrellas
Fans and machismo
Castanets, shawls,
Civilized dance, social class
to keep us down-
They only woke the
sleeping dragons in our blood

The cadence- a pulse
Our pulse
in the music
talking back to the song
Refusing silence

The pulse
that starts at our fingertips
The weight we carry that
moves us head to toe

That is the sound of resistance

Our castanets
are
unbound
and free.

*
*

A Play About The Women’s Campus / by Shayna Herszage

The scene:
We stand at a crossroads
Between the known shadows
And the unknown possibility.

She: I dream of being
Built of light
And traveling the path
Of the flight
Of reams of clouds
In the wind.
Someday,
I want to know
How it feels
To be the sky.

He: but if you
Become the sky,
Does the sky
Lose itself?
Does the sky
Lose its definition
Of being?

Exit She, wondering
Why He will never
Understand
How endless
The sky can be,
And how much light
Has yet to be made.

Lights dim,
End scene.

*
*

A Paean to Elon Musk / by Samuel Loncar

I confess I am the unwanted ambivalent
fan that blows cheers through a haze
doubts cast as I fear the fate of planets
innocent as yet of the atrocity of humanity
whose multi-planetary existence may
mean the ongoing extermination of places
as yet free from the curse of being our
environment much helped by you thanks
to the sun whose rays you save to source
salvation for vertical carbon life forms
whose own matter became means of ends
apocalyptic enough for silicon dreams
in the valley of the shadow of death
dealt to those lacking a high tech ID
using older tools sewing highs to low
states of streets scummed with sorrow
as capital saunters whistling by the dead
dying deaths made merely uncommon
strange startling through the glory
given to heavy-lidded eyes that might
see a chariot lacking humanity
swinging to the new Jerusalem

*
*

The Rokeby Venus / by Mark A. Murphy

“Come and get me,” says mistress to painter.

*

Scorned and stigmatized by the Spanish
Inquisition, the only surviving nude
of Diego Velásquez, reclines
languidly with her back to the camera.

*

(Slasher Mary)

Don’t you just hate the way men gloat
at nude paintings of women.

It pains me to ask,
but do men ever really grow up?

Take the nudes
in any gallery. You’d think most men

had never seen a naked arse before.
Far from me

to be churlish, but my protest,
my ‘holy crusade,’

is not all anti-man, anti-art,
anti-erotic, or indeed, anti-sensual.

(I love the female body
as much as any man.) In my defence,

I attacked the most beautiful woman
in mythology to save

the most beautiful woman
in living history. All the stones cast,

all the public outrage,
all the newspaper denunciations

are so much humbug, so much hypocrisy.
In order for women to prevail,

we must defy convention
as much as the convention makers.

*

So the Venus effect works its magic:
we always want what we can’t quite have,
the last word in sensual passivity —
the most famous backside of all time.

*

Perhaps we should leave the last hurrah
to the militant suffragette, poet
and arsonist, Mary Richardson who attacked
the Velásquez canvass with a an axe:
*

Down with the Iscariot politicians!
Justice for all women!

Long live Emmaline Pankurst!
Long live the WSPU! In deeds not words!

*
*

Day 28 / Poems 28

*

Pas de Deux or ADHD Marries Dysthymia / by Pamela Ahlen

He’s Lord of Motion,
left right, left right, two stick riff—-
one short pause for a cymbal crash.

Our Lady slithers serpentine,
keens liquid vowels and broken chords—
minor mode to his paradiddle flam.

*
*

Martian Money / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Mars living won’t be just for the rich, says one of the richest men on Earth. After all, it’s a harsh environment, those red planet hectares. No, Mars will also be for the rest of us who bleed liberally for the smallest glimpse at glamour and uplift. They’ll laugh at our life in monochrome but like the Eskimo languages we will have more words for red than Earth could ever conjure. Dire-red for the milky red haze covering the sun after a gas storm. Runabout: the color of dust knocked from space boots, slightly more ochre than hono-red dust, the dust mixed with the humidity of a human breath that settles on our Martian nightstands and bookshelves. But who reads anymore when the earth-books got it all so incredibly wrong? There won’t be time for the leisure of reading, the rich man says. It will be nonstop base-building, and there won’t be a way to repatriate to Earth—the journey to Mars will probably kill you. These are the choices rich men have. Between a Ferrari and a rocket, rich men don’t die in bed. They die in metal cans hurtling through space and lit with unreproachable fire.

*
*

Adult Ballet I / by Lisa Fay Coutley

A woman who’s played the killing game
to test her love for another human would

never laugh at a friend practicing proximity
to the floor, imagining the gravity of grief.

During my earliest trials, I sat cross-legged
balanced over the bathroom sink, staring down

the mirror, daring myself & my wine to remain
once removed for good. Mother, I said, I will

if you will, but a woman’s body always senses
pretend. You cannot void yourself still with.

I emptied the red vase. Broke it. Ambled
barefoot over every point. The choice

to make a mural from shards took so many
miles. So much looking back. Here, now,

all my body wants is better turnout, greater
angles between my strained & winged feet.

All those years I’d been practicing splitting
myself symmetrically & trying to decide

whose side to take. Not even I could see
I was never flailing. I was always dancing.

*
*

Magic Realism / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

More than anything
I want to believe
that magic exists
that it’s real.

Magic
like a leaf falling off a tree
A leaf who used to be a sentinel
when the world needed a guardian

Magic
like spirits who are
too attached to this world,
so they lure into cats and dogs
and take the empty space
where souls could reside,
and linger beside loved ones,
unable to ever convey who they really are.

More than anything I want to believe them
I’ve never been able to get such answers
from branches, leaves, cats or dogs
I only have rain, restraint, rage, refills-
and realism

Realism
like a leaf that appeared out of nowhere
and landed in my hands
like a cat who followed me home
chasing the tassels of my shawl

Realism
like climbing stairs on
swollen knees and tender ankles
broken hope and tired dreams
just to catch a glimpse of the Wolf Moon
and feel the gravitational force
of the tides raging inside me.

I want to believe in magic.

*
*

Ponytail / by Shayna Herszage

Her hands shook,
Grasping the handle
Of her suitcase
Like the only thing
That would ever
Feel stable
In this spinning world
Of hers.
Her hair
Was tied
In a messy ponytail,
More sticking out
In wisps
Than staying back.

I watched her
From my constant ground,
And thought only
Of the way
I used to style my hair
Just like hers.

*
*

Sonnet from the Orphic Gold Tablets / by Samuel Loncar

I am a placid surface full of lies
depths of chaos wrack the true
world beneath the mirror of the blue
calm echoed in my ever dry eyes.

I am curve cursed to be be angled,
a humble journey from a point to a line
stuck sharp in my neck I choke “fine”
to give answers sufficiently mangled

to satisfy questions that exist to resist
truth and summon unmeaning words
to lips sewn shut by the careful birds
haunting me with the black winged hiss

I hear waking and sleeping serpents’ song
the sound of pipes moan my failed fate: to belong

*
*

Street of the Trams / by Mark A. Murphy

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,”
so the Father of Psychoanalysis reminds us.

*

Sometimes a tram is just a tram,
but in Paul Delvaux’s metaphorical world,
Freud’s ultimate anti-Freudian joke
backfires, paving the way
for a new paradox, new ways of seeing.

Still, no matter how deeply we look,
we can’t ever know what will happen next.
Will the Mount Rose tram ever arrive
quite as naked as our ladies
expected? Will there ever be enough time

to free associate? Can you feel the chemistry
between us? Are we communicating
psychically yet? Mademoiselles,
what is your price? Although nothing
is given freely, we can’t help but wonder

what the artist had in mind, which word,
what phrase might best describe
the scene as it unravels
in the bordellos of Rue d’Aerschot,
behind the factory walls and chimney stacks.

*

The covert inner-world plagues and awaits
all-comers in the cold afternoon sun.
All matter of fact and expressionless eyes,
the nonchalant nudes wait
in the eerie light, under the passionless sky.

*
*

Naming Names / by Rebecca Raphael

A cat will assault
a single feather
as if it’s a whole
bird, as if
it’s food instead
of a metonym.
Augustine would call
the feather a natural
sign, in feline
semiotics. I’m
going to call the cat’s
address to feather a type
of everything. Sisyphus
by any other name
would be as futile,
but what else
are you going to do?

*
*

Day 27 / Poems 27

*

To the Whiners, Pontificators and Agitators on the Town List-Serve / by Pamela Ahlen

A slate-grey north woods day,
brown trees irritating the sky.
Give yourself plenty of time
to get to where you need to go,
the roads are icy everywhere.

Unlike the town crier who shook a handbell or beat a gong,
made announcements in the streets,
we post the news on-line.
But in these icy times
some people get as gnarly as November trees.
Without weather assurance, immediate road crew response,
or their out-of-town newspapers
they become inflamed—
it’s the general store’s fault for ending the practice, making us drive
so many miles to get out-of-town papers and
if we have an accident the store will be responsible.

Gives new meaning to the expression blame game.
I feel like a barred owl glowering at a flock of agitated turkeys.
They need to learn the meaning of Yankee ingenuity,
say Amen to the road crew who are real heroes of country life,
and just shut the f – – – up.

*
*

Middle Life Money / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Of course I’d love to discuss
. . .this body again! When the day
. . . . .has me at its lowest, I’ll ask
what was I really planned for?
. . .Will there be a sliver of passion
. . . . .in a subsequent time?
Some other, braver me, attempts
. . .to answer from that other life.
. . . . .My body can’t morph enough
to know what it wants to do:
. . .birthing, biathlon, or both?
. . . . .Man, woman, both? How many
turns around the table does it take
. . .to settle into place? Sometimes
. . . . .I sit on the floor in my tears
and practice pre-living
. . .the ultimate griefs. You can
. . . . .laugh at this but how else
do you prepare for the genre
. . .of being without in this
. . . . .world of effusive fires.

*
*

I Say Listen, You Say So Cold / by Lisa Fay Coutley

Sometimes I get home & can’t
find the cat & worry that thieves
have broken in & let her out
while they were lugging the TV.
Yes, I worry. Sometimes I even lie
to live. Mostly, though, I’ve lost
the memory you need. That thing
I said years ago? Silence. My brain
is that gift. Did you know that
doubt comes from to waver & is
related to uncertain? Of course. We
are both. Did you know wet baby
means slippery? That slippery is
hard to hold. Hard to hold, a risk.
Not once did I drop you. I bawled
& slammed doors & built walls
between us all. Did you know that
separating yourself from the world
isn’t that dramatic, really. It’s walking
to a new room in a studio apartment.
Did you know what happens without
notice is inescapably harder to erase?
I have loved you without kindness
in return so long I never realized
I am the hooks by which I hang.
Look at your breath. Let’s go inside.

*
*

Unwritten letter to my 2am flare up / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Eyes open, body
warm to the touch
You didn’t stay away
I kept you away.

I hadn’t felt you
under my shoulder blades
in so long- now
there you are
behind my knees
slowing my steps
pulling at my hips.
You didn’t stay away.
I kept you away.

But-
Not even 2am could stop
your sharp wit
carving into my wrists
You’ve paralyzed me
and I am wide awake
wondering. How.
You knew my weakened knees
would be the first to succumb
You knew
if you waited patiently for
one bad day
you could watch me stumble
slowly, steadily
smile as I crumble.

You didn’t stay away.
Don’t make me say that
you never left.

*
*

Eyes Open, Lips Open / by Shayna Herszage

For so long,
You feared our name
Spoken into existence.

If you close your eyes,
If you close your mouth,
We are not gone.

Speak out our name!
Shout into the distance
For those who hear you
And for those who do not!
We are your best kept secret,
But the time has come
To confess our name.

*
*

Confessions / by Samuel Loncar

When I am alone or with people
sleeping or awake, sometimes
on the metro or an Uber late at night
I dream slowly that I will not be
all the things I fear I am
I told this dream to a stranger
as we passed the Harlem stop
and she laughed, as if to say
it will be as bad as you fear
then I woke up in Grand Central, alone
walking past Lexington and East 51st, I sighed
hoping I was still dreaming

*
*

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump / by Mark A. Murphy

In Wright’s experimental painting,
a travelling scientist
demonstrates the formation
of a vacuum, by withdrawing air
from a glass globe
which contains a white cockatiel.

Of course, the bird will die
in this scientific spectacle, alive
with the excitement
of the Enlightenment, unless
the eccentric merchant
adventurer, reprieves the panicked bird.

*

At the centre of the composition
the scientist/lecturer
dressed in an elegant velvet robe,

tied proudly with a black sash,
challenges
the viewer for a thumbs up,

or thumbs down, regarding the fate
of the experiment.
The bourgeois family emerge

from the surrounding darkness, each
from youngest to eldest,
notably different in their emotional

responses, from the fear of a child
to the indifference
of young lovers, to the ruminative

passivity of the eldest sitter. Indeed,
one girl, comforted
by her father, is too upset to observe.

Departing from the usual conventions,
the scene is painted
with a reverence normally reserved

only for religious/history dramas.
Not widely imitated,
this candlelight painter, a conjurer

of visual tricks, brings us the light
of revelation,
positing science as the new religion

at the heart of society,
whilst the alchemist’s moon, obscured
in the clouds

beyond the generous sash window,
casts its own
exotic light into the heavens,

two hundred years
before the magical realism, elucidated
by the Super-humanists.

*

Every object assumes super-significance
from thermometer,
candle snuffer and cork, to the pair
of Magdeburg hemispheres,
to Robert Boyle’s air pump, rendered
in exquisite detail.

At last, we must give our attention
to the human skull,
dimly lit by the candle behind, sunk
into a large opaque glass
filled with liquid,
suggestive of a latter day vanitas.

*
*

November / by Rebecca Raphael

The indwelling, inexplicable image
. . . . . . . .this fall of horrors: embers
floating as a dissipating fragment
. . . . . . . .of pine from a bonfire,
escaping as wisps flung from the first
. . . . . . . .hearth of winter,
which stick in memory as the Platonic form
. . . . . . . .drawn from ordinary repetition.

The fires you set are another question,
. . . . . . . .the letters raked over coals,
the manuscript of three years’ work
. . . . . . . .lit up in a summer fireplace,
the first time you lit a sneaked match
. . . . . . . .to something that could burn,
alone, culpable and thrilled that intact
. . . . . . . .matter could so easily dismember.

Then the ember’s a metaphor of too much
. . . . . . . .misspent energy, of fifteen years
of efforts come to naught for no
. . . . . . . .good reason, and you should have seen
it long ago, but no;
. . . . . . . .and even as you watch your work
turn to its carbon base and collapse
. . . . . . . .so delicately, you know

that not too long from now, in a decade
. . . . . . . .or so, you will also go
the way the ember goes – it’s just
. . . . . . . .older kin – and you must also number
larger efforts than your one life’s,
. . . . . . . .because carbon will burn it all
back to carbon, and then to isotopes
. . . . . . . .of what might have been.

*
*

Day 26 / Poems 26

*

Blue Sky Thoughts While Flying West / by Pamela Ahlen

What a spin I’m in—
the backseat of a robin’s egg blue
Oldsmobile, my father behind the wheel—
on the road of life we fly. I wail,
“please don’t go up in the sky, don’t go over
the 59th Street Bridge, the George Washington or
even the Verranzano Bridge; they’re up in the sky,
where Grandpa is, looking down on me.
I don’t want to die.”
Later I read about the thousand and one nights,
a magic carpet that can fly,
and if Solomon can lie upon green silk
and be transported to magic kingdoms only kestrals
and kites have seen—maybe I can enjoy flying the sky—
looking out this window into silence,
my head wrapped in white clouds fusing into blue,
a sort of Rothko blue, no jagged edges,
just gradation, not knowing where blue stops
and white begins—the horizon a bit askew,
silver wings curled under at their tips,
earth moving around itself, plane around earth,
earth around sun, sun around milky way,
a phantasmagoric fantasy,
like a one way ticket to Mars,
a two year voyage with no return,
the greatest adventure of one’s life.

*
*

c://Hamlet / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

I’m speaking slag to you, screeing freely now.

Come over come over red
cave.

Cover me in your clawing.

Mark my arm, notch it down to you and yourselves.

Booming the weather
comes on. Another hour wanders

away from its post. Skin snatching positively. Charge me up, prince-
ling. To the

Holodeck and wanting.

*
*

In Midlife / by Lisa Fay Coutley

In mixed company, I say my son’s
son just to see people struggling

with various equations. I’ve shown
my work, taken the long way to

define without definition how old
I was when I first gave birth.

Of course I’d love to discuss my
body again. Why would I be tired

of words. Let’s say twenty years ago
a woman up-downed me at a YMCA

pool as I held my youngest son
against my hip. Let’s say she asked

me if I was his babysitter. Bitch
or mistaken, let’s laugh as if

shame didn’t work its tragedy.
In those early years I spent

trying & failing to mother without
anger, her question eclipsed his

backstroke, deep dive, side jump
into my arms again, son, I’m ready

now. Trust me. I’ve hung pictures
of younger us learning to tread

together in a world of questions
pretending not to be conclusions

drawn next to our bathroom mirrors.
It’s okay not to have the answers.

The middle is no crisis. It’s knowing
there’s no point, really, to laughing at her

jealousy. Every ragged body is made
to age. That is fucking hilarious. I’m sorry

I didn’t. I’m sorry I can’t. I can only go
on. I’ve bought ballet slippers. Danced

in a tutu. Dressed up for Halloween
for the simple pleasure of being

someone else. To see people smile,
recognizing me, loving me without

needing to know the me behind me.
To be someone they could be proud of.

Someone they’re openly happy to see.

*
*

A Wolf and her Moon / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Once i was a fish
playful, content,
dwelling in the deep blue,
unaware of the numbing impact
of the ocean’s cold waves.

Once i was the wind
playful, mischievous- taunting the ocean
to rush against the sand,
unaware of my own influence.

Now I am a wolf
watching fish in the ocean,
I wait to catch one
I remember grains of salt at my paws,
and salty wind tangled in my hair
I run barefoot on harsh,
rocky Northwest beaches-
I build bonfires that last for days
I ask my shadow why she’s so restless.

We watch the ocean together,
waiting for the moon and
her solemn reflection
to illuminate my night
I howl to say hello
to thank her for sitting with me
to reply to the wind’s mischief
to comfort my dark.

*
*

Good Riddance / by Shayna Herszage

My dear,
I should miss you
And the constant hum
Of your voice
Buzzing,
And the constant shadow
Of your form
Looming
Over me.

I should miss you,
For you always say
I should.

But today,
I can not help but say,
As I turn my back on you –
Good riddance.

*
*

Angels Unawares / by Samuel Loncar

No need to beg for it
grief comes unbidden
I am looking at a chair, empty
my eyes cloud and mist and rain
the weather changes and the sun rises
when I wipe the dew from my lashes
morning is gone
the chair is still empty
I believe hope sits there
when I too am gone

*
*

A Young Woman standing at a Virginal / by Mark A. Murphy

Not so much a virgin, as a damsel
. . . .in distress,
standing at the virginal, verging
on the ridiculous, since, as they all say,
I can’t play two notes together.

*

Let’s face it, Mama and Papa bought the damned
thing, insisting that I should learn to play, thinking
it would make me a better wife, but to be frank
I have always despised the sound, especially
the buzzing and snarling of the strings. I mean, what
do I care for contrapuntal complexity? What on earth
is a young middle class woman to do in this day
and age, but marry, breed and keep a clean house?

I’m not nit-picking, not being ungrateful, not calling
my parents, though there are those that think
comb and brush should be my only function. Why
are we women always seen as the ideal nurturers,
cultivators of the nation, the weaker and lesser sex,
paragons of virtue? To hell with cleanliness and order.
To hell with duty and keeping schtum. If I want
to drink and smoke, or fall asleep on the job, I will.

*

Look at me, so richly dressed,
in the latest costliest fashions,
pearl choker and short blue jacket,
casting a bulky silhouette,

all lace and thickly padded satin,
alone in this stifling room,
with its marble floor and local skirting
of blue and white Delft tiles.

*

What do you care for my interior life?

*

I don’t suppose I’ll be remembered
when I die, let alone forgotten.

*
*

The Last Time / by Rebecca Raphael

In mundane spaces, we do not sense the doom.
It rests, quiet, beneath the daily tread.
There’s a last time you walk across a room.

A lived-in house presents itself as womb,
the cooling stove, the children tucked in bed.
In mundane spaces, we do not sense the doom.

Echoes of conversation’s hours, perfume
of candles, ghosts of festive tables spread:
There’s a last time you walk across that room.

And no one knows it’s coming, except those whom
the subtle dust invokes. A remnant dwells, instead,
in mundane spaces. We do not sense the doom

that overtakes all judgment. Lachesis’ loom,
like everything, must break one day, severed
for the last time. You walk across a room

and wonder, do insight and rupture together bloom?
If we know, do we feel it as peace or dread?
In mundane spaces, we do not sense the doom:
There’s a last time you walk across a room.

*
*

Day 25 / Poems 25

*

On Seeing Man Ray’s Flatiron (Cadeau) at the Hall Art Foundation / by Pamela Ahlen

Flat as in drudging, iron as in ten pound heft,
thick-slab of hot-off-the hearth—
she pushes pulls, pushes pulls—
tethered to the iron on the altar of press his pants.
The antique dealer says it’s called a sad iron, too.
She guesses a woman’s life was sad ironing all day,
god forbid a sooty scorch or two.
But she knows a man who irons to soothe his soul,
until the unruffled shirts stand up and salute.
He’s a rarity, a defiler of wrinkles,
a token of connubial bliss.

*
*

Anthropocene Money / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

If there are other planets to live on.
If I attach not once more. If the
researchers prevent the pandemic
of more. If the hard job of ending this
era doesn’t end. The future is so
unattached to today’s faces. I try
and see into but the same escape
is there. I try to see into and flee.
Try again and flee. What’s strong
in me won’t try. Not even deal.
Not one thinking thing will
obsess me, my light a wash. Behind
the virtue behind the virtue
is a mammal dead from plastic.

*
*

What Is / by Lisa Fay Coutley

Is it not a planet if humans cannot live
on it? I have driven twelve hours in snow

to see a baby’s changing face & wished
I could feel any kindness for the woman

determined to beat me to the Walmart
exit the day before Thanksgiving. Praise

her white to buy. Is it still a planet
if we aren’t the most intelligent beings

able to thrive there? Praise the dirty
convenience of air travel & salted asphalt.

A planet must have motion of its own, but
some places one can only love in summer.

In this lonely cold I came for, a woman
nearly lost to herself & her years spent

cleaning this home hears the baby cry
in some far room & her body rises

to soothe him. Earlier tonight, my dog
lunged at a child & I don’t know why

or what I can do to prevent anyone’s hurt.
Mine or theirs. What can I do, sitting at that

woman’s dirty table, knowing it is so close
to my time to go. Praise the driver texting

& riding the rumble strip or holding the fast
lane below the speed limit. Any planet

could run me off the road. My dog could
bite a child. Maybe the baby I came to see.

Praise earth, bloated with ache. Is she a planet
because we can breathe through harm here?

At her dirty table, I’ve forgotten the rules
to solitaire. I shuffle the cards until my hands

remember their familiar game. I play. I lose.
I deal again, certain I’ve missed something.

*
*

Rainfall for Puccini / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

I knew your music
before I knew your words
Melody committed to muscle memory
I never translated-
Your strings and woodwind
told me everything

You moved me to dream, to write
about death flying on
ravens’ wings
rain and happiness
snowfall and sadness
sea and sky

Tonight
bright moon,
pale light through sheer screen
your words appeared beside the music
to reveal what your song truly sang
of Spring and happiness
love and heartache
sea and sky
snowfall
cherry blossoms
Pain.

Your vibrant spring petals
fluttered across the stage
like delicate dancing butterflies
drawing saltwater
from my attentive eyes.

*
*

In Which The Writing On The Ceiling Grows Clearer / by Shayna Herszage

The writing on the ceiling
Grows ever clearer,
Ever brighter
In shades of royal purple.

I will climb
To the impossible place
Over and over,
As the impossible place
Grows further
And more impossible,
Because
It it always our place.

Every time the ink
Dries and fades,
The writing bursts back to life.
Were we ever meant to die?

*
*

The origin of desire / by Samuel Loncar

Slips through my fingers like secrets darkly
desired to tensions slacked to the smell of summer
days where the arch of your back made rivulets
for the trickle down of sea water, sunscreen
and the history you kept telling me to forget but I never
remember that forgetting till you show me the future
written on your skin and, finally, the past comes welcoming oblivion

*
*

Fountain or Trompe-l’œl / by Mark A. Murphy

I don’t believe in art. I believe in artists.— Marcel Duchamp

What are the phrases that spring
to mind

when or if any one makes any attempt
to describe/analyse

or otherwise scrutinise Duchamp’s Fountain
signed and dated R. Mutt 1917

now lost exhibited in the Tate Modern
as Fountain 1917, replica 1964
photographed by Alfred Stieglitz

We might say to stomp and romp in our klomps
in the swamp
is not really poetic
or even artistic

We might ask how does one literally take a piss
or more properly
take the piss in a literary/artistic work
when definitions are always up for grabs

We might exclaim Ok ça vatrès bien
as Duchamp had done
when he admitted his upside down urinal to the salon
an antidote
to what he called retinal (not rectal) art

We might ask why this ‘Buddha of the bathroom’
veiled head of a Renaissance Madonna
homage to Brancusi’s polished erotic forms
piss pot (standard Bedfordshire model)
or scatological ‘golden calf’
is a major landmark

Is art really something to piss about with

*

Not so much pissed off as pissed on and attacked
with a hammer
by performance artists in a way
Monsieur Duchamp demonstrably debauched
destructive disenchanted demonic (should we go on)
doyen and daddy of Dada might have appreciated

*

Finally we might ask is this non-representational art

Does it mean anything in French or German

Are we pissing between the bars

Is the idea at hand art as concept rather than object

Did Duchamp create a new thought

Are the seven elements of art line shape space value form
. . . .texture and colour

Are we still no wiser as to what has happened

*
*

Day 24 / Poems 24

*

A Country Tale / by Pamela Ahlen

Somehow I lost my way, turned left instead of right. I’m supposed to live in a tunnel or under debris, devour roots and leaves and carrot tops. Here I am inside a human house. I’m quite handsome: a dark and furry velvet grey, quiet little feet, a mindful meandering, not so frantic as my rodent cousins. This place is big for a vole, the stairs a particular challenge. Under their bed is a cozy spot for momentary reflection. I come and go day and night; I’m no hibernator. The humans have figured out to leave the basement door ajar, but I like it upstairs, even under the feet of the woman in the computer room who made that strange piercing sound which caused me to remove myself to the baseboards in the living room. I’ve gotten hungry, no food for these past three days. The man must be a kind human because he left me some grape nuts flakes which I liked, water, too, right by the open basement door. But on Thanksgiving Day they outwitted me—set the ‘have-a heart’ with peanut butter, a scrumptious treat. Then they moved me in a big loud machine down the hill and around a bend to an old red barn with many opportunities. I spotted some vole tracks in the snow; the man did, too—even left more grape nuts flakes. I think I’ll like it here. Did you know voles are monogamous, can make 100 babies in our 3-6 month life?—a temptation, I think, even better than peanut butter.

*
*

Lunar Frag / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

smoke from the full moon
moon full of smoke
the cup was empty

of smoke from the moon
apart from nerves
the cup was empty

moon of smoke
in my cracked defense
the moon of cups was empty

my nerves were empty
apart from the dark
the empty cup was darkest

my moonfull nerves of smoke
in my defense the dark
cracked the smoky cup

I am in my defense
of cracked up smoke
the moon of cups, emptied

*
*

My Sibs / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Villains
They draw on your face
while you’re asleep
Their getaway car
A red Radio Flyer
that barely fit the four of you.
The sneaky ones who cheat
during board games
or invent other rules to
Monopoly and Crazy Eights

The ones who take
the best spot on the couch
The ones who make
you watch The Hallmark Channel
The ones who pig-pile you
when you’re trying to sleep

The ones who hold
your hand in Disneyland
They go on the rides they can’t stand, for you
They share their candy and snacks with you
They make you cookies with the
magic pink frosting that only they can make
They find the best spot on the roof
for ice cream and summer sunsets.

The ones who dance
with you when the fountains at Bellagio
start playing Singin’ In The Rain

The ones who stand
in front of you
put themselves between you
and trouble
The ones anyone else answers to
if you’re mad, hurt, or unhappy
The ones who make time for you
when time is never around.
The ones I will always look up to-
Heroes.

*
*

Play Pretend / by Shayna Herszage

Let us pretend
This bitter taste
Will never touch
Our tongues again.

Let us relish
The feeling
Of the pain
Crawling down our throats
And disappearing.
Joy, for it is gone.

And let us pretend,
Just for a moment,
It will not return.

*
*

Day 24 / by Samuel Loncar

“contemporary poetry is in a rotten state”
–Rose Tremain

In this state of moldering decay, there are pastries
coloring books of prose, prancing their Filo dough feet
across milky white space, the flowered page, soon to be
a site of dough’s creation, butter filled folds of rough puff
delight daring to beg for new forms, to be “little shapelets”
coy and carefree singing tone-deaf tunes, alliterative illiteracy
marching strange metaphors as asinine assonance wings back
to the hoary days of Anglo-Saxon, hwaet! what is this color
baking imbues, what strange new trinkets do these young fools use?
surely rhyme still has life, as much as the idea of man and wife
a tradition with problems, undoubted, but renovation is all that is wanted
so please keep the rules intact, don’t “bin” then or send them back
Much is great, but not today; that is the way of things, they say
O tempora o mores retains its ring, Cicero remains fresh as spring
but some of us bake with a too small-cupboard, singing only the songs
we learned from our mothers – whose Latin was, alas, not so sharp –
and wore a different hue than you, the pastry-colored one, pure white dough
so different from me, brown and curly, with no clear sense
of what I should say to please the powers that be, so please
accept my faux humility, making fun with words, and poking you, true
I figured, after your turn, it was the least I could do.

*
*

A Scene from ‘Poem of the Pillow’ / by Mark A. Murphy

I never thought of myself as a Samurai
or you as a Geisha
that was, until now, going backwards
to go forwards, make amends.

In this scenario, we are lovers, once again
reading each other’s lips, minds,
and hand gestures,
throwing caution to the wind

beyond the shoji screen doors. Now
we are whispering sweet nothings,
ai shiteru yo and kekkon shiyou,
as we kiss and touch on the red makura.

Afterwards we will drink powdered
. . . .green tea
and dream in the upstairs room
of our favourite tea house in Yoshiwara
where two become one and one never tires,
. . . .never falters.

*
*

Neverland / by Rebecca Raphael

A border, rich in craft
and speech, its many voices
a choral counterpoint;

A wall, throngs squeezed
against both sides, the human
form of transcurrent fault;

A line, first in the mind
then in the bodies deformed
by it, enforcers forced to warp

beyond recall of own-acts
done. Beware the embers
of agency denied, inurned.

*
*

Day 23 / Poems 23

*

After Rumi / by Pamela Ahlen

We dig holes into mountains,
bury ourselves in caves.
It’s dark in a cave,
freezing lonely.
This is about my propensity
for digging holes into caves.
There’s no end to my digging.
Life freezes [Rumi said]
if it does not get a whiff of wine musk,
a taste of almond cake.
How leaving a cave makes sense.
Who’s to say a whiff of wine and thou
will not be born of ecstasy?

*
*

The Reason is Calculus / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

The day divides on a reckless quarter,
not heavenly, not divine, no account
given for headless wind out of order,
the door even doorer, any amount

of desire goes unheard of and tossed
away. On the brink—a broken theorem
ranging the unlearned, a function fussed
by derivatives. Sad lot, this pure stem

of winter’s most wintered crops. Sad, I know
so little of country ways, how to germ
a single seed into soup, none to show
in the pot. You can’t just unremember

the old legends, tell-tale signs of the spring:
negative digits and vinegar’s sting.

*
*

Shadow / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

She’s sewn at my heels
Chases me through dark forests-
A wolf and her moon

*
*

Extinguished / by Shayna Herszage

The shadows
Crept into the room
While you slept.

They swallowed
The light
Before you even knew
You were growing dimmer.

And suddenly,
Like the light
Of a candle
Extinguished,
You were –

*
*

the mind body problem / by Samuel Loncar

leaving and arriving are becoming
indistinguishable like the colors
flown marking out the territory, I
melting boundaries together and mind

body torsioned to tomorrow telling
heart desire ravenous lust to be
still stop swallowing monuments of me
until flesh loses all animation

soul sapped song now murmuring its last bars
hoarse and jagged voice whispering the words
binding blood bone spirit spell sorcery
sewed seamless the oneness leaving raveled

arrival becoming being thresholding
night dawning star shine where I am not there

*
*

The Strollers / by Mark A. Murphy

I have always loved the vagina, more properly
the perfect polygonal shape,
the feathered pubis,
ultimate enticement, the centre of creation.

2

After midnight anything goes. Our two sisters
identical in their apparent aloofness,
cold, unattainable even
with their huge almond eyes and ironic smiles
are out promenading in the town square
under the full moon, past the Roman marble temple
(abandoned)

in their matching blue capes,
elaborate headdresses and intricately patterned
Egyptian-styled necklaces,
their tunics lowered just enough to reveal
their pubic hair, as if offering their luminous bodies,
discussing business
(far from lazy and carefree as the title suggests).

3

Behind this inconsolable dream (the unconscious
desire for beauty)
another dreamscape, one woman
half naked, draped in purple velvet, reclining

on a raised palette. And behind this modality,
two more women, now ghostly, dressed
in elegant white gowns, stumble
and cry out amongst the scattered rocks of a stoning.

*
*

The Empty Chair / by Rebecca Raphael

There’s a difference
between a chair
no one is sitting in
and an empty chair.

The emptiness
becomes clear
when others sit
in the other chairs.

Even if some brave one
sits there, the chair remains
empty because of who is
not sitting there.

*
*

Day 22 / Poems 22

*

Off Frontage Road: the Tubac Cementery / by Pamela Ahlen

Will Rogers Jr. is buried here,
Tubac his retirement home.
A plain stone marks his grave,
other graves marked with faded flowers:
red, yellow, pink, blue,
ceramic horses and cowboy boots, tinseled
Christmas wreaths, wooden crosses made by hand.
“The best grandmother in the world” is buried here.
Benches to sit, talk, reminisce.
It is not a mournful place.
The wrought iron gate swings open
with no squeak or disagreement,
metal letters on its high main arch:
Tubac Cementery—half-Spanish, half-English:
Spanglish what they mostly talk around here.
A spiny lizard sunbathes on a heart-shaped stone;
an army of fire ants march between the weeds.
It’s kind of rough and tough, a true desert cemetery,
the old Hispanic families with deep ties to this land,
memories in the depths of their Arizona earth.
What are we thinking—concertina wire,
fences to keep people out?

*
*

Iron Walls / by Shayna Herszage

Flames disguise
As benign heat
As I pretend
I never knew
These four
Iron walls.

Ice masks
As crystal
As these four
Iron walls
Welcome me home.
There is no escape
From here.

*
*

Cosmic Jealousy / by Samuel Loncar

I elbowed the world when I saw it
flirting with you as if I wasn’t
also capable of waterfalls and sunsets
a few shifting continents to nudge you
my way with teasing shoulders shifting
the stars to spell love notes left
aloft for all to see that I can outworld
earth sun seas all asking to touch
your skin and tickle your little toes
with salt and green blades of desire

*
*

The Ambassadors / by Mark A. Murphy

Please click here to read the poem.

*
*

Unthanking / by Rebecca Raphael

What do we do, to mark a time before
an objectless preposition could express
surprising rupture? – ignore prior stress,
reduce complexity to metaphor.
Don’t watch for cosmic signs, some meteor
blazing the dross from history, agentless;
the dross is us, and all we’ve done, our mess
of murderous abstractions. Confiteor:
I fear we’re out of chances. We erase
wrongdoing, clutch at fake absolution.
To navigate, you reckon from where are
and tell the truth about your north; real grace
declines the sturm und drang of revolution
for micro-arcs toward a distant star.

*
*

Day 21 / Poems 21

*

First Ski / by Pamela Ahlen

Autumn wrapped in snow—
hills, rocks flattened,
rough edges drained away.

I cannot hide from white,
surrender within its spun mantle—
kick and glide my way,
woods in immaculate agreement.

*
*

Cast / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

I was never cast as
the heroine
or the princess-
because of my hair
darker than coal
because my eyes
must be hiding something
because my unruly voice
too loud, too outspoken
No good could come from it
From me.

They said
She must be golden
Poised and gentle
Kind and hopeful
Selfless and loving-
No good can possibly come
from the sinful burnt ash
wild mischief of my eyes
or the midnight of my raven hair

So I howl at the moon
Cast spells into the night sky
Dance with shadows
Smile my dark smile.
If you look close enough
you can see light
and feel warmth-
from the fire of a dragon
with scales made
of the purest onyx-
In my eyes.

If this is what villain means, then
Hello.

*
*

I Want to Love You / by Shayna Herszage

I want to love you.
I want to learn to read
The web of your veins
As a map
Leading me home, Instead of
A labyrinth
Leading me down,
Down,
Down,
Through dark paths.
This road is deep,
And I can no longer see
Without your hand in mine
To guide me.
I want to love you.
I want the warmth of your body
To feel like the warmth of mine
As we are one body,
Complete.
As you are complete.
As I am complete.
As I am no longer cold,
For I am you –
I am your fingertips,
Your teeth,
Your eyes.
I want to love you
But I have forgotten
The way your hand fits in mine.
I want to love you
But my skin is so cold
I fear biting the heat from your body
With the ice in mine.
I want to love you
But I am afraid
Of fire.

*
*

Back to Parmenides / by Samuel Loncar

what can I say when you tell me
that epic has lost its nerve and no verses
take shape to sing a metre the master
would know, how can you hear the clip-clop
of the horses feet in the night to the gate and the goddess
when the night has fled before the monstrous stars
you set upon strange trees and raise higher than heaven
so the wandering gods and the eternal ones
I saw and sung run in rumors and legend
and all heads bow to the earth and see no faces
shining and you have made me forget
the one and the all and the spell
I cast to catch young Empedocles
Zeno Plato and more my children
are dead in high towers where no songs
are remembered and words live in mounds
but not in the belly or the brain
and the heart, of it I must remain
silent

*
*

Interior (Model Reading) / by Mark A. Murphy

The year is 1925. Our model is reading Fitzgerald
before her dresser in a white chemise,
her long bare legs exposed to the cold morning air.

We are watching her from the bed, head down,
face obscured by her long black hair,
immersed in the latest best seller, a novel

about the American Dream, as told by Nick
Carraway (the narrator) a bond salesman living
in West Egg, Long Island, a far cry away from

our model’s life in her stark white room
. . . . . . .in Queens,
taking her clothes off for the camera, living
out of a suitcase, dreaming of becoming an actor,

or dancer on Broadway. ‘I might just as well
become a writer,’ she thinks, turning the page
at the critical moment when Myrtle is killed

by the car which Daisy is driving. ‘Every girl
has a story to tell. Every girl dreams big. Every girl
wants to be loved. No girl ever expects to die.’

*
*

Revisions 112118 / by Rebecca Raphael

Over the river and through the wood,
to Riri’s house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

I used to sing this to the cats
when we drove for Thanksgiving day.
Rivers I’ve got but a horse I’ve not
‘Cause now nobody drives that way.

Over the bridges and through the swamp,
to Riri’s house we go;
GPS knows the way, Siri has her say,
Not that I wouldn’t know.

Can’t cook anything so I’m bringing the wine;
That clinking’s the Beaujolais.
The cats (I swear) ask, “Are we there?
Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

Through the inertia and over the grief,
to Riri’s house we go;
to Riri’s house. To Riri’s. House.
Riri. Mom. No.

*
*

Day 20 / Poems 20

*

First snow / by Pamela Ahlen

No thoughts
of tomorrow or yesterday,
only today’s
tacit white,
both end and beginning—
autumn’s exhale
sweetening everything in its path,
a contradictory emotion of
mourning celebration—
a white page
to which I surrender.

*
*

Crown / by Lisa Fay Coutley

Tonight swims with raw root & nerve
exposed to stars & windchill. The living

room disappears. I go to the bathroom
to see myself reflected, to know I still exist

inside pain. Dear gentle dentist, who offered
to numb me anytime, how could you let me be

so hungry. So dumb. Such stubborn blood
my father cut & drew for me again & again—

the same old story, same mean childhood
dentist, same red crayons chewed en route

from Catholic school to dreaded cleaning.
Swallow the thorn to become the thorn.

How many times did you tell me that story?
I only remember the last. So many Pabsts.

I imagine now, how carefully you married
your story to its glory, tonguing that bad

molar you’d been silencing with Tylenol
for weeks, until, midsentence, it was loose

enough to spit into your palm just as you
strutted through your past, chewing wax. So

tough. Or so you hoped the world would say
you down through time. Tonight I wish

you were here to walk me through this
strange pain, to tell me just how many hours

you stared into your hall of mirrors, rooting
out your softest spots behind their aches

before settling on the perfect moment to
excise, to cover with rage, to name it survive.

*
*

Comet / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Swirl of silver shine
Her wings carve my dark sadness
Into starry night

*
*

Home for the Holidays / by Shayna Herszage

Cold concrete
Beneath my feet,
Stretching into the horizon.
Metal skeletons
That have never known
A heartbeat
On all sides.

In the distance,
The shadows
Of outstretched branches
Wait for me,
But the shadows
Are too dark
To ignore.

*
*

Freedom / by Phyllis Jordan

Each day is new day
A new day that is bright
Brighter than yesterday’s sun
But dimmer than tomorrow at night
Low hanging clouds, disguised as fog, at dawn
A time of reflection, intercession and calm
Cotton candy skies; sometimes disguised before a storm
Sounds of chirping, calls of mating and noises of the unknown
Loud music rattling and vibrating the windows of cars driving by
Faint scents of burnt wood or incense in the air
Animals inconspicuously observing; not having one single care
A walk, a simple morning stroll.
…..simple things we all take for granted.
THIS is freedom.

*
*

Scribal Redaction of an Origin Myth / by Samuel Loncar

God sent me as a scroll
wrapped in a ball of parchment
hurled into my mother’s womb
so I was born a gnarled word
tangled illegible
life began a slow uncertain
unwrapping adding new kinks
as corners were pressed down, wrinkled
edges crimped but hoping for a view
at the long lines laid down in strange
scripts of no earthly tongue
press me flat, make me
smooth and please
tell me what you see only then
can I learn the language I am

*
*

Return from the Inn / by Mark A. Murphy

The return from ‘The Horseshoe’
is always musically, majestically the same:

*

the same folk songs, the same refrains,
the same hypnotic drone of the hurdy-gurdy,
the same weakness for beer,
the same ugly peasants at the window,

the same footprints, the same money woes,
the same forester hauling faggots,
the same late afternoon, the same church bells,
the same dog walker, the same handcart,

the same chickens picking at the same soft snow,
the same empty barrel of beer,
the same bad temperaments, testaments, tricks,
the same well, the same wreath,

the same wrong words at the wrong time,
the same pitchforks, the same hoes,
the same rowdy miscreants, spilling out
of the din, into the same deep freeze outside.

*

‘Best off out of it,’ says Jan to his wife,
Mary, only a stone’s throw away
from the hullabaloo unfolding behind them,
as they pass the same wood frame
of a religious shrine nailed to a tree,
the same tree, the same vase, the same snowdrops,

the same crooked crucifix, marking the spot,
whilst their self same son, Pieter ambles on,
carrying his dad’s pipes, under his arm, thinking,
‘to hell with it all, if it’s all the same with you.’

*
*

Compelled / by Rebecca Raphael

You have to peel
. . .it clean, as flush
as possible
. . .for what isn’t
unwounded skin.
. . .It may feel
right, and then
. . .not be. Uneven
on one edge,
. . .so you make
it better if you
. . .peel
again.

*
*

Day 19 / Poems 19

*

lines taken from the Spam folder [many have raised concerns over Spam’s nutritional attributes] / by Pamela Ahlen

sometimes you need a reality check
. . .a great second chance
. . . . .a fuck buddy request

life does not stop at 50

it’s not too late for fun and unusual games
. . .[if you wish to be removed please click here]

everyone’s been caught cheating with this new trick
. . .anti-aging discovery found in the Bible
. . . . .a dream come true

do not let your love life down
. . .don’t miss out on all the goodness—

hot woman confesses
. . .i have never been so fulfilled in my life

investigator forrester it’s imperative you contact me
. . .someone may be may be trying to perform a background check on you
. . . . .thanks for being so amazing it’s cheating but it works

[too much of that kind can make you as sick as the lies you’ve been told]

*
*

Money Can Buy a 13th Month / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Not enough water to warm a body in,
. . .piss passed for bit of comfort, twigs
. . . . .or bones circling back to what was

a house & I dream of horses alive on other
. . .planes. Are those your set of scratches
. . . . .or mine? Today I meet my $1.3 million

dollar dream structure already sold for
. . .1.3 million more than I have. Glass walls
. . . . .buy more time for watching the weather

you operate, stocks you jockey with comfort
. . .in mind. What can I help you with asks
. . . . .your phone, then your watch. What

can I help you obtain?

*
*

Declaration Set 76 / by Lisa Fay Coutley

If there aren’t horses on other planets
. . . . .I’ll refuse to go. If my cuts are yours
. . . . . . . . . . . . .your dreams will be mine. Let me

pay for this with time from my account.
. . . . .Behind glass walls I feel my audience
. . . . . . . . . . . . .& act, even for uninvited guests.

Here, on this flat stage of prairie grass, I
. . . . .can never find my way. Who knew
. . . . . . . . . . . . .how lost I could be with neither

lake nor mountain. For once, just let me
. . . . .pretend. Today I paced for hours inside
. . . . . . . . . . . . .myself frantic to recall the last

movie Dad & I watched together before
. . . . .I pried my fingers from his doorjamb
. . . . . . . . . . . . .& turned my face from his

wide what? eyes, his mouth ready for another
. . . . .bite of mashed potatoes. The Abyss. Someday
. . . . . . . . . . . . .I’ll let myself forget for good.

*
*

Day Seized / by Shayna Herszage

In the cold,
In the storm,
In the emptiness
Of the night,
He shivers
And dreams of a morning
That may or may not
Exist.

In the hopeless
Evening,
Cloudless
With a glaring moon
From above
Staring down,
He builds a fire
Kindled
From his fear,
He brings
Flames
To swallow the dark
With a new light.

*
*

The difference between prose and poetry / by Samuel Loncar

this is a question crucial to leave
. . . . . . . . . . . .unasked
alone
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .keep a safe
distance. . .distract. . . .the eye
keep the senses guessing to quiet
restless intellect sure to cause
trouble to the placid
persona of the poet
mage wizard spellbinder
hack
social consensus down like a tree
awards I said so
listen to me assert
this toilet I signed R. Mutt is art, poetry
must be as good as prepared
pieces picked to perplex
while I you we?
snicker and scoff
as I play the masterpiece
4:33 please keep quiet
as the music unfolds
aleatory amusement
serial killer in tones death
rows puns back and forth
back and forth high and low
modernist post-post oh forget it
it’s a game so serious so benign
we’d all kill to win don’t dare disagree
I have answered the question
did you see?

*
*

Sunday / by Mark A. Murphy

No ordinary Sabbath, no ordinary sunlight,
but a brooding, overwhelming glare
like an over-exposed photo
of a time long forgotten, where a solitary

middle aged man (now long dead) perches
on the edge of a sunlit curb
smoking a stale cigar in front of a row
of old wooden shop fronts, boarded up

and abandoned, as a kind of prelude
to the Great Depression, which looms
in our imaginations, just out of view
like a great sorrow, or calm before a storm.

*
*

Day 18 / Poems 18

*

Still Life with Palms / by Pamela Ahlen

My apologies, Playa Larga—I hold déjà vu in my palms.
Where I lived long ago still dampens my perception.
My personal mingles with your political.
I blue in thick wet air.
Even your Cuban sunset in all its fuchsia-fingered romance
can’t redeem what’s past still clinging to the chain-link fence.
I recall another bay, another beach not too many miles from here
beyond the straggled grass—its revolution of mosquitoes
and sand flea funk, other cement-block casitas
like your abandoned fabrication of soviet red and paint-chipped blue.
I recall southern politics and mid-century bigotry
before I threw away that stopped clock and tick-tocked on—
like flamingos or your free-range dogs—free to go.
My apologies, Playa Larga—I’m sad to hold déjà vu in my palms,
sad you must resort to grey filet of uninspired fish, Bay of Pigs residuals.

*
*

Because Money / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

that slick monster sat down with us all.
A man wants to know mouth first
what my face does looking at him
if my eyes are reflective wells
of fancy. He imagines me another way
then another. Too much fantasy makes
the angles archaic and bored. The idea
is I’ll say yes, go to the car for unbuttoning
but a wife flashed back in the way.
I don’t visit the details of convention.
When I say I like a man who knows
what he wants, it’s the only thing
about him to like. Nowhere else
to be I stand under the snow. Face-
first my mouth an altar unfolding.

*
*

November / by Lisa Fay Coutley

Smudged daymoon, unsalted walkways,
. . . . .trees frozen in stark reach. Bones
. . . . . . . . . .won’t ignore this season’s can’t.

How many baths must one woman take
. . . . .to locate her favorite faces blurred
. . . . . . . . . .by distance, memory. So many

places past run’s reach. Waves breaking
. . . . .inside me without shore. Don’t say
. . . . . . . . . .melodramatic. Don’t say sad.

Say it’s okay to be straight angry with alone
. . . . .or don’t. I am not a body wondering
. . . . . . . . . .what any man wants to know

last. This is my face first into wishing
. . . . .flat hours well any mouth worth yes.

*
*

Whirlwind- for a one-eyed Pekingese / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Perpetual swirl
Kicking up short tornados
Her smile, pure mischief.

*
*

For Nothing / by Shayna Herszage

After years of working
At the endless expanse
Of unforgiving fields
That never seemed
To give a moment
Of rest,
To give a moment
Without destroying storm,
Or depriving drought,
Or winds
That tear everything apart,
She approached the table,
Brow drenched in sweat,
Only to find
Empty plates
And hungry platters
Arranged in rows.

Was it all for nothing?
She asked him.

My dear,
He said,
It was all for something,
But that something
Is long gone now.

*
*

Untitled / by Samuel Loncar

ongoing solitude unbidden greeting
my life where I would wish it full
margins and gaps swirl through me
like the curves of dark between the stars

this is not the place I mean
not the emptiness I know
from time to time will be filled
by astral dust or sudden shouting

another dimming where the light was sure
pock and pull where there was pucker
push certain faith light alone could limn
here I must open a new door, unwilling

*
*

Automat / by Mark A. Murphy

Automatically, one’s Pavlovian response is to reach
out for human contact, but in the automat
on Valentine’s night
there is no one else to turn to,
nothing but the dumb glare of electric lights,

the metallic drone of vending machines,
plastic fruit and a lone young woman
fashionably dressed in a French green duster
with fur trim on collar and cuffs
sporting an orange cloche hat.

So the unwitting onlooker struggles to find sense
in this automated world
where fast food and hot drinks are served at the drop
of a coin, levelling the playing field, for better
or worse, in sickness and in health.

*
*

Archives, August 12 / by Rebecca Raphael

The pigeons swirl
. . . . .in early sunlight,
around the emerging signs.
. . . . .¡No pasarán!
Circuit the grid,
. . . . .from Archives
to Lafayette to Tidal Basin
. . . . .to the Mall.
Thousands call
. . . . .the better angels down.
Never again.
. . . . .The shofar sounds.
Under the riven
. . . . .afternoon sky,
the pigeons murmur
. . . . .around and back
and around.

*
*

Day 17 / Poems 17

*

U-Tube: from America’s Funniest Home Videos / by Pamela Ahlen

Kids decked out in party clothes,
one child sobbing onto her pale green pleats.
What could be so bad at age 4?
Does she hate the silver cone-shaped party hat
with its annoying rubber band or
does she hate the other kids
beating up her birthday piñata,
a rainbow-colored kitty cat?
She cries: this is the worst day of my life.
With every hit of the piñata she cries real tears,
like the piñata was real,
her special Honey Bee or Oreo.
She cries so hard she won’t pick up the candies
and tiny toys falling from its belly,
grabs the fallen tissue parts as if they were arms
or legs and cradles them in her arms.
The grown-ups stand around and laugh
and laugh
and video—
and maybe try to forget certain birthdays are indelible—
how many more worst days there’ll be of broken toys
and unrealized dreams.

*
*

Problems with Money / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

: in an era where nothing matters
: reliance on physical objects has its issues
: hail Mary full of
: pervasive surveillance
: congratulations you are the 27th winner of 2 (two)
. . . . .$500 WalMart gift cards click here to claim
: switch your loan now to lock in lower rates!
: these two college dropouts are disrupting a billion dollar
. . . . .sock industry
: photographed looking emotional upon return to Malibu
: frustration with relatively straightforward questions
: and more stars who lost their
: you don’t get anywhere in life without a solid
. . . . .investment portfolio
: no matter your vocation, said the Pig, bricks
. . . . .don’t burn but leaves and liquor do
: these fundamental constants are standards woven
. . . . .into the very fabric of our observable universe

*
*

Then / by Lisa Fay Coutley

if the woman who buys her child milk
for lunch means nothing

the woman who strikes her child outside
church means everything

& relying on a toothbrush or down
comforter is as fake as hoping for a full

needle or a planet crowded with immaculate
savings & relief schemes for the unexpected

shoes dropping to their grateful knees
for socks want no moment of departure

want no pure joy for arriving down
a narrow strait the blinding bright

death waiting inside a brick house
which can’t burn cracks for heat

traps for smoke is only air saying
home with or without great difficulty

*
*

Sentinel / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

In another life
I was a frugivore bat
Something about figs and
especially mangoes
brings out this
insatiable conquest in me
such that I honestly would
steal sugar water
from a hummingbird
while waiting for
mangoes to be in season,
but I’d be forever grateful
and pay them back ten fold-
It explains the way I dream.

In another life
I may have been
a palm tree
leaning into a breeze
watching the honu
twirl in the current
Riding in a few waves
until they felt the sand
beneath their toes
They would nap-
and I would watch them all day.
It explains the way I guard.

I used to think
I was a tough exterior
guarding my sweet
helpless dreams
But dreams are
tougher and stronger,
defiant and resilient
like the stubborn
foundation of a mango
The last nine years
have told me so.
At the core of every dream is
an unwillingness to fade-
It explains the way I fight.

*
*

Call Me as You See Me / by Shayna Herszage

Call me as you see me.
When I stutter,
When I stumble,
When I forget,
Call me dumb,
Call me lazy,
Call me useless.

Call me however you see fit.
I am your molten wax,
I am your kiln of glass,
I am your wheel of clay,
Of endless possibilities
For what you can make of me.

Call me as you see me,
And as you see me, I will become.

*
*

The pedagogy of the repressed / by Samuel Loncar

Lace taught my fingers lessons
subtle sensuous eventually screaming
in the tightly controlled whirls and figures
where the spaces outlined my afternoons
and the work of my dreams
learning softness as a way of being
human a wisdom for all senses
touch just the first and best vision
we can have of a cycle of sensation
ending on the tip of my tongue

*
*

Drawing Hands / by Mark A. Murphy

In this masterful rendering of human hands,
the right hand attempts to finish
drawing the shirt cuff of the left arm,

while the left hand attempts to finish drawing
the shirt cuff of the right arm , enacting
a strange geometric loop, offering the viewer

a sense of living hands, not dissimilar to Durer’s
Praying Hands, some 440 years before,
where one brother painstakingly draws

another brother’s hands in a loving tribute.
Inside Escher and Durer’s portraits,
the hands with their nerves of motion
. . . . .and sensation,

knuckles, veins, fingers, skin: commune,
express and shape our destiny in our long
and painful history in the ascent of man.

*
*

Conflagration / by Rebecca Raphael

Name no place Paradise. The golden sky,
on a single spark, morphs to backlit burns.

Through sun-infused smoke now passing for air,
stuttering embers fall to the ground. It burns.

Breathe in: mitochondria need oxygen
to feed you life until its circuit burns.

Dissolving ice, bears afloat on acid
seas, and parched earth starving microbes: It burns

one’s soul. Let knowledge bore a deeper hole
into every moment until it burns.

Long after we’ve fucked up the biosphere,
Sol will nova, and not-our planet burns.

*
*

Day 16 / Poems 16

*

On the interstate swale / by Pamela Ahlen

between eastbound, west,
a hard-cover book
both clean and new—
pages open, closing
like an accordion bellowed
by the wind of cars
traveling fast and faster,
going somewhere [I hope] important
because I couldn’t stop and safely
make the book my own.
How in hell did a book get onto the swale,
to lie in weeds and Queen Anne’s Lace?
A book doesn’t balloon out an open window,
float idyllically away.
Someone had to toss it out,
maybe a driver with an ax to grind,
or a passenger spitting words to road
as if the book were the issue.
I’ve known anger—
I’ve thrown things, too,
and for that I’m not proud.
The book’s a crying shame, a bitter pill,
someone’s frailty become a wayside shrine.

*
*

Millennial Money / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Acres of curbs and never did I have
floors free of men smudging perimeters

with their signals and spores.

The men came and faltered, grew fat
off bone broth; sparrows sucked
thrown birdseed for light and rearmament.

I can hardly think of the children of my friends,
their distances between fed and full, dime
to dollar.

We drugged hoax drugs to spot small worlds
of single ants parting single blades of grass,
their pixel

glades snapping to points on a plane.

Now they say the most famous star
in the sky

is a super-earth orbiting our earth
and I don’t know what to mourn first.

*
*

Algorithm I / by Lisa Fay Coutley

Facebook says hearing loss prevents
a brain from making language connections
which increases the risk for dementia.

Sometimes a plant must kill
part of itself to save the whole.
No one wants to forget the small grip
of flowers gathered during a dog walk.

Facebook says a man who was once young,
as each of us must be first, some without
love or money or like him, had parents
who locked him in an attic for five years.

No one needs to know how old he is
to be happy just to know he found
the moment when he saw his hands
& knew they didn’t need to wield a belt.

Autumn refuses to hold its breath. Soon
the moon will lodge itself between here
& there & we’ll press our faces to the sky
to try again to see what refuses to be seen.

What of the person you were, crowding
every star from someone’s night, & now
not so bright, even if you’re still exploding.

*
*

Demons / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

I
*didn’t conquer any demons
I
*gave them candy-
Belgian
*chocolates, salted caramel
Snickers,
*Skittles and Sour Watermelons
They
*saw my swollen knees
broken
*hands
the
*scars beneath my mask
the
*anger in my blood
They
*asked no questions
passed
*no judgement-
Just
*made space by the bonfire
and
*handed me a skewer

I
*didn’t conquer any demons
I
*enticed them
with
*Toblerone and Symphony
Dove,
*Divine, and delirium
delicious
*tears and brewing rage
I
*took off my mask, I listened to their tales
They
*let me hide in their darkness
Sleep
*in their shadows
They
*let me belong where I was empty
They
*let me scream and build a fire
They
*let me teach them how to dance
They
*let me turn invisible.

I
*didn’t conquer any demons
I
*became one.

*
*

Not Your Hero / by Shayna Herszage

I am not your hero.

I was never meant
To lead you all
Through the darkness,
For I am still
So blind.
I was never meant
To shout into the sky,
For my voice
Is still asleep.

I am not your hero.
How am I to save you,
If I am still learning
To save myself?

*
*

The Tree and the Book / by Samuel Loncar

it was the last flower to bloom
on it the name of the tree was truly written
a name hidden in a book I can’t find
but I wander my library hoping
someday for a rain of petals and the name

*
*

Summer Interior / by Mark A. Murphy

A young woman, head bowed, barely nineteen,
face hidden from the voyeur’s eye,
sits on the floor of her bed-sitting room

slumped nonchalantly against her double bed
wearing only a sleeveless white blouse,
her pelvic girdle exposed for all

who would look to see, her despondence
palpable in the dimly lit room.
She is in-love, and out-of-love, between love

and above love, but above all, she is loveless
and lovesick, free to choose her own path
with neither map, compass, nor guiding star.

*
*

Day 15 / Poems 15

*

oh, say can you see. . .what’s coming ‘round again / by Pamela Ahlen

alarming / the bombast chicanery / caesar-wannabes dishing out decrees /
no evidence to suggest fairness / no guarantee they’ll do what’s honorable /
old guys hawking isms / jockeying for jurisdiction over my kingdom of sweet liberty /

loss and grief reside inside / miasma of never again /
outrage provoking protest / a new generation marching for their lives /
questioning reactionaries who ferment five-alarm trepidation and upheaval /

young and old and everybody in-between must vote / vote to ban walls
war mongering xenophobia / we can’t we won’t expire
in a yawning abyss of excretion / another civil war zone

*
*

Tinnitus / by Lisa Fay Coutley

That star you pointed out, the earth
. . . . . . .orbiting earth, another woman
would have known earlier a labyrinth

is just too many turns you’ve taken
. . . . . . .until you can’t find a way back
inside yourself—not center stuck

but blocked from making more meaning
. . . . . . .ful turns. Letting men tell you you
are isn’t the same as nailing the wood

to the wood to have a place to stay
. . . . . . .warm or to be trapped for burn.
It’s anything you mostly don’t notice,

the hum of distant traffic or breathing
. . . . . . .his scent left on your sheets.
Grief is a voice you’ll never hear again

because its bright pitch is always ringing
. . . . . . .inside you. You’ve lost the thread
is not allusion to the monster circling

your perimeter. It’s the you who has always
. . . . . . .known exactly what to mourn first
yet pretends for better places to search.

*
*

Kinetic / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

It’s more than
just movement
It’s a feeling

An extension of the lean
an extension of the attitude
in your shoulders
and the hands at your hips

It’s more than
just movement-
it’s connection
and clarification-
A statement
that starts at yours elbows
and ends at your wrist.

More than movement-
It’s energy.
Energy the body possesses
with a longing to fly.
The shawl wants to fly
wants you to fly.
It whispers to the fringe
hanging from your lean
It talks about comets
and constellations
Our movement is
written in the stars
it says
You are my energy
My fringe is your virtue.
Your lean- my virtuosity.

It’s more than
just a motion
Emotion.
It’s kinetic.

*
*

Apologies / by Shayna Herszage

I am sorry for the way
I strayed to the left
When the rest
Went forward.

I am sorry for the way
I leaped to the right
When the rest
Resisted.

I am sorry for the way
I keep running
When the rest stop,
I pause
When the rest move forward,
I look back
When the rest say
To forget.

But most of all,
I am sorry for the way
I will never be sorry.

*
*

Journey to Monday / by Samuel Loncar

little sounds pitter patter on the floor
of my mind, a place where doubts gather
skittering together on holy places
smudging the statue of the Madonna
and knocking my beads to the floor
maybe here is the sound’s source
all the crack and burn of the outer
world no match for the inner chaos
my heart breeds so easy on Sundays
making Mondays a solemn site of memory
mourning some new fallen creed
stricken by doubt and passed
into the legend of sunlight

*
*

Night Windows / by Mark A. Murphy

Imagine the scene inside this New York apartment
through the three windows,
one open to the midnight air, a translucent blue
curtain billowing in the cold breeze,
two closed to the sound
of the desperate corner traffic below
where a young woman attends to her private affairs,
her toilet, her telephone conversation
with her estranged husband,
her ‘unexamined life,’ played out
in partial view of the artist/voyeur scrutinising
the night windows, three floors up.

Imagine again our heroine (for all women who live
alone in the city of dreams/the city
that never sleeps
are de facto heroines) bending over
in her pink/mauve dress, revealing her formidable
backside, to read the weekly best-seller lists
in the NY Times, where Winnie-the-Pooh, still sits
at No. 1, a sad reminder of her lost
childhood, far away from the latter day metropolis
with its all night diners, movie houses,
and automats, that eat at her soul, her solitude,
her unassuming laughter, like a cancer.

No doubt, she will do a great many strange things
again and again, like reading
The Great Gatsby, aloud to her unborn child,
dancing the Charleston, the Peabody,
the Turkey Trot, without any partner to swing
with, dine with, dream with, share in her
triumphs and tragedies, in her stifling room
in the city of strangers, strange loves, strange art,
strange affairs, but she will never sit,
stand, or otherwise pose for Edward Hopper
again, even if she lives to be
a hundred, aware or unaware of her lasting
. . . . . .impression.

*
*

Thursday Rant / by Rebecca Raphael

“Suppose you had a magic wand
with a single power:
it abolishes from existence
either the suffering of innocents
or the prosperity of the wicked. Which
would you choose
to remove from the earth
forever?” The class that hasn’t answered
anything all term finally had something to say.

I can’t teach anyone anything. I try.
And England self-implodes,
its more or less graceful decline
turning in a blink to ignominious fall;
and our union lurches in the orange
smoke of hate and greed;
I’ve nowhere to run between
threats long-implied
at work and worship; I-35
may be the safest place I go
these days; or this little Thundercloud
near the Firestone
is OK for waiting out the oil change
the car needs to get me and a cache
of Beaujolais home to widowed Dad.

Because I stayed too long at work,
managing student anxiety
by posting points,
I’ll be late to do the one good I can: feed
the colony cats, southeast.
Points are shit we make up. Europe falls,
its prodigal child not far behind.
We should all quit driving cars.
Those dozen beating hearts,
those seafoam eyes, their hungry
bellies: that’s the realest part
of my day, feeding feral cats

who still don’t banish from mind
the class, which far
preferred to wave away
nice things the wicked get or steal.
The good, as far
as they were concerned, could
go on suffering undeserved.

*
*

Day 14 / Poems 14

*

You take the Moto Guzzi for a ride, / by Pamela Ahlen

head for the store and a quart of milk,
the panel truck you attempt to pass,
you know the rest—
the rattle and roll, rocks and roots,
like Evil Knievel flying over chrome,
the five rib landing way off road.
What do you call it, Lou?—fluke or fate
or random chance? Luck of the draw?
If I were religious I’d call it God’s will.
God or not, I’ll shout blessings to be alive,
on the right side of the fine thin line,
your torso looking like that Hawaiian shirt
you bought in Kona, like bruised fruit,
every breath a small miracle of air sacs,
rib cage balking at expand and contract.
Remember the rescue dog we once stopped to pet?
The hound whose owner found him injured by the road?
She named him Lucky Lou.

*
*

Karenina Money / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

At the bottom of my well I put
a hand, hair, dried milk for fallen
babies, the unpeeled skein
of a bomb and reverse in
to what’s left of my urn.
I wanted combustion to new-
ness and instead anvils
happening. I wanted a test
skilled in origins. I want what
they have—centrifugal force
and right ways!
I wanted the slices to mean
but even my scars defected
offended by burdens of meaning.
Every day made I am mis-
registering into gap-toothed
puddles all the slip, fall.
Deep in the tunnel what I wanted
I got what I wanted was loss

*
*

Rootbound / by Lisa Fay Coutley

What I know of plants, I learned
from a woman whose name means
beautiful, so sure the world wanted
to take it from her. There will always
be a man whose hunger sharpens
a girl’s softest parts into every edge
she’ll bruise against. But this is not
what you asked. Roots do what roots
do, reaching out & down until it’s clear
they’ve hit bottom & have no choice
but to rise, searching for more soil,
I guess, though I’d like to go back.
Did I mention most of my fun firsts
& best life lessons came from men, yet
I struggle to see my sons as men (often
I type sins instead) & I struggle to accept
I can no longer talk them off the stage
of adolescent drama (see those needles?
that glass?), & if my father ever saw me
small once I wasn’t he never put his hands
to my face & made it clear, & years later
I’m still sorry he never insisted on that
father-daughter dance, & I’d like him to
know since he fell into eternity from a
toilet seat, still the dead deer on every
highway seem strained as if mid-dance
or as if they are trying so hard to see
better from where they are now & no
I don’t frighten easily or run from love
or every nice guy but was gifted sense
enough to know when to shoot myself
from the sky, throw myself to my knees,
so I have no choice but to get up & keep
going & maybe it’s as simple as knowing
the container that holds you binds you
& reaching for more is reaching for end.

*
*

Piano Lessons / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

I sat at your keys
where no one used to sit.
It was unwanted space
so you became mine.

It was a quiet corner
facing the bay window.
You basked in the summer sun
so you were always warm.

You told me a story in different tones-
in sharps and flats
with pedals and chords
But you couldn’t tell it on your own.

So you taught my hands to dance
You gave my shoulders a reason for poise.
You gave my shyness a voice
when I didn’t know how to speak.

It still feels weird sometimes
my words instead of your melody.
We’ve always helped each other but
you always spoke for me just fine.

*
*

Light / by Shayna Herszage

Make me a promise,
That when we scream
To be heard,
After so many years
Of being nothing more
Than a whistle in the breeze,
We will be heard.

We dream of a brighter sunrise
When this night is over,
When Tomorrow
Is ready to meet us.
No longer afraid of the dark,
We will be
Light.

We will blaze,
Unafraid,
Unfeared,
Unforgotten,
Waiting
For the brighter Tomorrow.

*
*

Artist’s Envy / by Samuel Loncar

What do you know of striving
you winners who took all so young
left fear of hunger, poverty, and shame
trading anxiety into acclaim and wealth

how we envy such ruination wishing
to be gloriously transformed by fame’s corruption
sure to leave our integrity at least intact

when we can forget our past self
this present festering gone to neglect
as the rich ignore the poor save in words
inedible to the starving, pleasing in their echo

to the ego’s tilted ear affirming all
is well and we have no duty to remember
the unhappiness we escaped because
we now know luck is a name for merit

after the game is won

*
*

New York Movie / by Mark A. Murphy

‘What do audiences know?’ muses the blonde usherette
in her royal blue uniform
taking her leave of the Saturday matinee,
Stanley and Livingstone,
now showing at ‘The Palace’
picture house, for the umpteenth time this week.

So she stands transfixed, in a corridor adjacent
to the main screen, caught up
in her own thoughts and misgivings
beyond the plush red velvet
seating and drapery, beyond the near empty
auditorium, where the unsuspecting punters soak up

the solitary solidity of comfort and opulence
at 23 cents a show, for a few
instances of romance on a rainy New York afternoon,
where the incessant on-screen flickering
serves up its heroes, savages and mountains,
high African adventure.

Now she is thinking of her own escape
into the big city at night, before the next movie begins
and the end of her shift. Like the pictures
. . . . .on the silver screen,
she is not here and not now with us, but far, far away
with her very own Edward, on the wild moors
and heathland of Wuthering Heights.

*
*

Day 13 / Poems 13

*

At the Botanic Garden in Claremont / by Pamela Ahlen

for CL

She tells us she has been here before.
Shows us the majestic oak. . .the totem pole cactus.

We watch a huge grey squirrel grab a white mushroom. . .nibble off the cap.
We laugh at the squirrel’s dexterity.

She remembers being named for the grandmother she did not like.
She still uses contractions:. . .“do not”. . .“will not.”

We tell her. . .her sister is dead.
She does not remember. . .her sister. . .she remembers us:

the brother whose bike she long ago ‘stole’ to buy a pack of cigarettes,
the sister-in-law with whom she liked to walk and talk.

We sit on a bench. . .try to regroup. . .lost in silent back track.
She becomes restless. . .frowns.

We move on to see the Manzanita. . .the ponderosa pine.

*
*

Ruin Money / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Is it too soon to consider how
a fire, for its food, drives the length
of town, knocking house after house

down to its basics: cement + idea
+ a hectare to prove it. The richest
rich consider the costs of concierge

rescue service, private water, pick-up
by private jet and don’t sweat as a flame
ambles the hillside, knocking ash from

its dreamy red boots. Trees to pulp to
books in the wind. Evaporated pools
consider all burning to be cruel ends.

The new abnormal is the old nuisance
condemned. Does enough town remain
to be considered a town at all?

Even Caesar said Everything is burning
here! Don’t rebuild in outer Eden,
or stake a claim where disaster holds
tight as a knife between sooty teeth.

*
*

Host Rules / by Lisa Fay Coutley

Maybe it is naïve to say or maybe I am
. . . . . speaking straight from the crack
that separates my body from yours
. . . . . but what if instead of asking me
to pitch the ball, I voided all the rules
. . . . . & reinvented the he game until
the game looked more like breathing
. . . . . easy. Men need violent games,
one he friend tells me, so they don’t rape
. . . . . you. Another he friend refuses
to teach his little she the ways of the he
. . . . . choosing instead to show her to be
oblivious to the world of he because he can
. . . . . not know some men will never know
more of the house than the bathroom,
. . . . . bedroom, TV room, while every she
must memorize number of steps to every exit,
. . . . . soft spots on stairs, leaks in ceilings,
where each false wall falls open. She must
. . . . . be more than her cleanest parts. He
could soar only being less than his lust for.

*
*

Wildfire / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

We lost our true north
We forgot what mountains were
We waited to breathe.

*
*

Real / by Shayna Herszage

A burst of color
On a crowded canvas,
Only to be seen
In the right light
At the right angle
From the right distance.

Sometimes,
I wonder if this color
Was only ever
A trick of the light
Fooling me
Into believing
I am real.

What a surprise,
After all this time,
To find that
I am as real for you
As I am for me.

*
*

Living by Love / by Phyllis Jordan

Living

The moment you realize that you no longer care about what others think about you, is the pivotal point when you begin to carry on living your life and dancing in the light.

Unafraid of your heightened Faith.
Unwavered by your previous mistakes.
Intouch with the Divine Spirit; as you receive an influx of heavenly grace.

Live on purpose
Live with poise
Live by compassion
Live in the present

Forgiveness is never given with ease
Yet we can spend so much time
Whining and begging, constantly praying;
On our knees.

An offense creates new strategy for defense,
Keeping track of the miniscule play by play
But we will all lose; playing by those rules
If no one can recreate how to live fully day to day.

Smile for love
Smile to heal
Smile with intention
Smile just because

Thou shall not kill but I aim to
kill “them” with kindness,
Never be vengeful, remain high and mighty
In honor and greatness.

Own your royalty as it is our destiny,
Always giving thanks and praise,
While refocussing on what comes naturally;

Loving

*
*

Salvator Mundi / by Mark A. Murphy

What are we to think when dealing
with the saviour
of the world/master of the cosmos?

Christ raises his right hand, extends
two of his fingers, makes the sign of the cross,
gives his benediction.

In his left hand he holds a crystalline orb.

To say, this man is serenely beautiful,
with his fine long hair
shimmering
in dark ringlets, in his finely brocaded tunic
is a sublime/sacred understatement
not only of the Renaissance, but of all ages,
. . . . . .including ours.

To say, this man is God, is not up for grabs,
except for the faithless, the artless
and the auctioneer.

To say, this Christ was painted by Leonardo da Vinci,
matters less and less,
every day.

*
*

Battle of the Media / by Rebecca Raphael
(with apologies to Dean Swift)

Once upon a time, books fought
books in the kind of library
that’s going the way
of the Sumatran rhino.

The teams: modern against
classics – a conflict only
a modern could feel,
that tensive love

the belated can feel for what
never knew itself as early.
Other game-play
varied from Plato

pitting philosopher against the poet,
or Jerome standing visionary
trial for maybe not preferring
the gospels over Cicero,

or Ramban’s meticulous and fraught
metalepsis of Aristotle’s inquiry
and HaShem’s own Moshe
writing Torah belevo.

These battles appear as a lover’s spat
en temps perdu. Now, creepy
as Hal staring down our Dave,
the screen hums anti-text glow.

*
*

Day 12 / Poems 12

*

You Take Your Vodka Neat / by Pamela Ahlen

A one time city girl,
a ‘seeking sea shells by the seashore’ girl,
you never fell for sweet talk guys,
still puzzle room, house, roof, sky,
like when you were five,
wondering for the first time
what it meant to be alive.
You select your own society,
a door that swings occasionally shut.
And like Sisyphus, you struggle with the rock,
seek deserts, stones and mountain peaks,
knowing each time you’re higher up.
They call you an elder.
Old. Vintage. Past your prime.
Who are “they” anyway?
Plastic surgeons say
no matter how strong your work-out quads,
skin’s another organ
and you’ve seared it with oil and sun.
But crepy skin hasn’t changed your mind—
“over the hill” equates with hiking new terrain—
and one day—if “they’re” fortunate, too,
“they’ll” understand Picasso’s wit—
it takes a long time to become young.

*
*

Money Rules / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Last one to Costco pours saltwater
. . . .up their nose. Last one
to the saltwater must turn on
. . . .the moon, set it to grow.
Last one to plant has to water
. . . .everyone elses’ plants. Last one
to the water loses out on prime real
. . . .estate, doesn’t get to drink. Last one
to the shot club has a stock market
. . . .crisis at least twice before noon.
Last one to tan stands out too much
. . . .and is the first to overdo it. The first
to do it all over in leather also overdoes it
. . . .but all follow suit. The first to sue
the mosquitoes gives the others “ideas.”
. . . .The last one back to New Hampshire
loses their gate pass. Last one back to
. . . .the past loses New Hampshire.
First one to lose a state drops their
. . . .pocket. Last one eating pockets the table
but the first one eating spat in the soup.

*
*

To the Student Who Walked in 45 Minutes Late the First Day of Class, Interrupted Me Mid-Sentence, & Said: How Old Are You? / by Lisa Fay Coutley

As I was saying, in this class, we will consider the he
. . . .& rules the he keeps, beginning with taking more
photographs of his had women, who aren’t expecting
. . . .sleep to be a pose, so he can fill his binders
with the dirty currency of he who orders a better, fatter
. . . .cut of meat than the silly he who is swinging
his little she at the plastic playground, insisting
. . . .the moment of lag between the chain’s slack
& the fall is the space to which she belongs, & she can
. . . .grab it all by the balls because this he is Dad
who will grow her by saving her saying she can be(at)
. . . .the he, even in a skirt, & she is not other
to the he who has no leg up but has both legs
. . . .locking down another she, & maybe Daddy
sees but sits silent as a church as any boy who likes
. . . .what his first she said he shouldn’t, so no I
don’t resent your question your need your wish
. . . .without able hands & sharp tongue the he is
generally boastful of, Tardy Boy, Dad of the Year,
. . . .I believe every she here would agree
it is flattering to be asked, to be mistaken for
. . . .a newer model, to be treated equal by her
first he who has seen the she ego adjacent & would
. . . .kill for his little she (like every she wants),
& this he hopes to learn more, to pay you to be his
. . . .personal tutor, you smart you lovely you
triple threat made to make the he the better man
. . . .so he can point toward the data & say
see(!) that’s how a bad he might build you up
. . . .to break you down to build you up again
to be he like his taught him & his before that,
. . . .but your he has declared your voice matters,
has told you what he knows, shown you this world
. . . .is yours, so go(!), fight for it(!), win win win(!)

*
*

Galing Maring / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Snap.
She laughs
when I show her
all the selfies we’ve taken

Laughter in her smile with
the stern look only she gives
I was raised by it
Now she laughs with a softened eye.

She laughs at me
and says in earnest that
she doesn’t remember things
she asks me who everyone is
whose daughter I am
My heart has taken
a thousand pictures of her.

Snap
That one time
on our way to Boracay
where we waited by the sea
She was walking on seashells
the ocean calm
the blue sky golden
She touched my cheek
and said it was beautiful.

Snap
That trip to Vegas
The day she played
the champagne slots
like a boss
skipped lunch- and almost dinner
because she was winning big

Instagram snap
her pancake donuts-
the ones no one said no to
Because hello-
a pancake, deep-fried like a donut
Buttered batter made even better
dusted with sugar-
the kind of dark magic only
Grandmothers can conjure

She holds my phone
in selfie mode
fixes the image to fit both our faces.
She asks me in Tagalog
how to take a picture
She won’t let me do it-
she wants to do it.

I make a face at her-
the one who has
held us, shaped us, guided us.
for ten decades.
She touches my cheek
and smiles back.
We laugh.
Snap.

*
*

Darkness Prayers / by Shayna Herszage

The hours grow blurry,
Fizzling with helpless prayers
Painted with artificial brightness
On a canvas
Of artificial hope.

When the morning
Rises
And shouts the unwelcome arrival,
Will the light
Keep the promises
Of the dark?
Or is the darkness
Forever doomed
To be a service
Of prayers
Shouted into
A spiritless abyss?

*
*

the exacting luminous / by Samuel Loncar

how did you leave the light
on after the love I gave and warning
that the power is so much and no more
the bill comes due and I must
pay alone in my name for the luminous

*
*

Two Monkeys / by Mark A. Murphy

I keep dreaming of Wislawa Szymborska’s two monkeys,
her history exam, the absurdity
of writing poems, the absurdity of this sideshow

proposition. Chained together in a window before
the free port of Antwerp, the two monkeys
bought for the price of a hazel nut are both angry

and devil-may-care at their imprisonment.
This is the history of mankind (Szymborska knows it
only too well) the cold-blooded disregard for our fellows.

2

Humanity’s crimes are painted for all to see –
if it is not possible to save two red colobus monkeys,
how on earth are we to save each other?

*
*

Old Ink / by Rebecca Raphael

Certain novels, certain dreams
throw such a spell of world
that memory cannot tell
them apart from itself.

Dreams, recollected time, images
summoned from old ink
– print, diary, psychic sink –
mingle in the cusp of singularity.

One might think each mode
of the imaginal inhabits
its own repose and joins,
sometimes, the common space.

That is not the case:
a sense of world is ever one,
whether spun from life
or dream, tale or page.

*
*

Day 11 / Poems 11

*

I was so tired last night I fell asleep with my clothes on / by Pamela Ahlen

Richard Blanco appeared,
stood in the farmhouse dreamway and read a few poems
for smiling people. Later a reception:
platters of Sara Lee, Cheez Wiz and Frito Lays,
the sun shining on long tables, uneven floorboards.
Switch to no people, just a For Sale sign—
cabin and acres of woods, price today only $4500.
I want to live in cheap deep woods.
Wordsworth said “the world is too much with us.”
The world that I have known is going to hell:
war after war after war,
a bottomless pit collapsing on itself.
But we go quiet in our green little state:
chicken pie suppers and cow chip bingo.
Even Richard Blanco likes it here.
These dreams are a Jungian free-for-all,
memories taken out of storage,
like the rogue wave that no longer tries to swallow me—
curious and quirky stuff,
remembering who or what shows up.
Once three mice left a cat’s head on my pillow—
food for poetic fulfillment in that cabin on my acres of solitude.

*
*

Raw Girl Money / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

All us girls we agree to be big teen
islands scouring the slips for who came
closest. I tented my sour girl with boy-textured
leans from the could-have bin. Couldn’t let out
what lived in the back with all the trouble rubbing
at my tender. A girl’s sight becomes real
in the flee, her thrum of identifying marks,
private seams, marbles of fat for the pillage.
I meet myself at every mask collapse.
Like the old wounds slack on my hiddens I was
the danger I exchanged for my hair, the song
I rubbed against my song.

*
*

Skirt Promise / by Lisa Fay Coutley

In those crop top days when you
were still hot for tragedy & catcall
was center square on your bingo
card, women knew their bodies

were commodities, small pleasure
like pockets on a skirt. Some girls
needed to be force fed an economy
of tease it, perk it, paint it baby blue.

Not you, swallowing Mom’s vanity
whole. The he asked after you as you
slit the wrist of your little-city street.
The he knew the woman you were

killing was you. Sister, to say desire
is an island, we agree to being islands.

*
*

Unhinged / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett
For Mugen

Some days I am Mugen-
His unfocused focus
spinning
like a dance
into reckless precision
His impulse
My pulse
My emotion
becomes a blade
I have always
been a blade
unsheathed

Some days I am drawn
Test me catch me cut you
let’s dance

Some days I am impulsive
aimless hopeless
fearless
Some days are good.

Most days i am just hungry
and restless
Counting sunsets
Waiting for a breeze.

*
*

Wilted / by Shayna Herszage

I remember the day
You sent me flowers.
Vibrant crimson burst
From green stems
As I pressed my nose to the scent
And ignored the thorns.

Today,
The first rose wilted,
Resting in its limp, slumped silence
Over the edge of its vase.
Today,
I knew you would not return
To replace my sorrows
With tulips.
I can only wonder
How many moments will pass
Before the
Last
Petal
Drops.

*
*

Day 11 / by Phyllis Jordan

The deer never complain about the sun
Or the rain.

The love and live through Gaia only to embrace
Unison and domain.

Walking or galloping alongside a stream
hoping to graze from the bounty provided by the Divine.

What else do they seek? I often ask as I gain
the attention and eyes as I try to penetrate their
Mind.

We meditate for tranquil peace and to be released from an unkind paradigm of the present.

Tonight I will elevate and expand my thoughts to create the same intent of the most gentle and graceful creature; serenity, unison and love.

Gratitude to all things created above 🙏

*
*

an essay on language / by Samuel Loncar

if only we had more to say,
we could remain silent

*
*

The Strollers / by Mark A. Murphy

I have always loved the vagina, more properly
the perfect polygonal shape,
the feathered pubis,
ultimate enticement, the centre of creation.

2

After midnight anything goes. Our two sisters
identical in their apparent aloofness,
cold, unattainable even
with their huge almond eyes and ironic smiles
are out promenading in the town square
under the full moon, past the Roman marble temple
(abandoned)

in their matching blue capes,
elaborate headdresses and intricately patterned
Egyptian-styled necklaces,
their tunics lowered just enough to reveal
their pubic hair, as if offering their luminous bodies,
discussing business.
Far from lazy and carefree as the title suggests.

3

Behind this inconsolable dream (the unconscious
desire for beauty)
another dreamscape, one woman
half naked, draped in purple velvet, reclining

on a raised palette. And behind this modality,
two more women, now ghostly, dressed
in elegant white gowns, stumble
and cry out amongst the scattered rocks of a stoning.

*
*

Found Words: 11, 11, 11, 18 / by Rebecca Raphael

If one abandons wonder,
– clinging instead
to a brittle image that promises
no complexity, no unease –

then one contends against
rigorous presence
which alone can bear memory,
and meet, unfixed, those we honor.

*
*

Day 10 / Poems 10

*

Letter to Anne, After Three Days on Cape Cod / by Pamela Ahlen

You wrote of red ripe tomatoes,
robe, pen and rake,
different kinds of red that ask to be noticed.
Who’s to say red’s not born of longing or sadness,
ecstasy, a long slow delicious simmer.
Along the Cape Cod upland—everywhere red:
scarlet, crimson, carmine, blush,
maroon, cinnabar, bitchin’ itchin’ ivy red—
that proliferation crawling the ground,
vining the pines, the woods a last hurrah into November.
Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead,
the red leaves remembering—
ofrenda along an altar path.
The whole family’s here.
What gifts can I offer them?—
a rosary, marzipan, a pilsner beer,
tickets to a Red Sox game,
an eternity of peace.
The red touches me and catches fire,
our voices rising through the leaves.

*
*

Pocket Money / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Down the splitting street
we run in handy directions
bearing barks and wire.
Ahead there is a jerk who
cannot be understood. Ahead
there are lies and these are

lies to bear. In the box in
the booth momentarily we
are comrades scanned into
clouds. From the geography
of the tipping point comes
a short purr. Our black joy

is all stolen back all-overism,
the fumes of handy darkness.

*
*

Regional Money / by Lisa Fay Coutley

After LYB

Brooklyn woman shocked
. . . . . . . . .to learn Midwestern
woman can hone intellect.

Midwestern woman surprised
. . . . . . . . .to learn not all Southerners
are slow as molasses & other

clichés. Southern woman happy
. . . . . . . . .to know the difference
between the lower & the middle

is not so great. Westerners, they fear
. . . . . . . . .don’t even pretend to care
about the rest of them or the MAGA

complex, but totally understand—
. . . . . . . . .we all want to live like clocks
on island time, nothing threatening

to reduce paradise to its whitest salt.

*
*

Armor / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

It wasn’t always like this.

I used to be more
Confident
standing tall with
nothing to hide
nothing to fear
Forward lunge of a fencer
I had technique
grace in a locket
charisma on a chain
fire in my lean
I didn’t burn
but illuminate

Some of those things I still see,
in shards- with their own shadows
staring back at me, waiting to reclaim them

They were talismans that protected me
covered me under fire- Ink covers me now
covers the tender points that no one used to know about

Does it take pain to remove rebellious pain to heal from cureless pain?

Your quiet constant hum into my skin-
cover me with ink, embrace me with
your sharp edge, dull blade longing
to commit ink into my blood
a lingering, burning pain
a digging pain, searching my flaws

Forge me new skin like armor
that can never be removed
Armor that will never fail me
Dig the needle deep
Cover the pain that
regenerates in my marrow
Etch fire into my skin
as a reminder

It wasn’t always like this.

*
*

Graffiti on the Ceiling / by Shayna Herszage

Words scrawled
In shaky purple ink
On a once forbidding ceiling.

‘Can you believe
I climbed this high
To write this?’
Written in an imprecise line
In an impossible place.

‘No,’
I write back,
Impossibly shaky
In an impossible place.
‘Can you believe
I climbed this high
To read it?’

Can you believe
Our parallel lines
Never meet
But for here,
In this impossible place?
Tell me your secret,
And I will tell you mine.

*
*

Inspiration / by Samuel Loncar

must be as tired as I am
to be so unkindly called by the desperate
living on deadlines and coffee
too impatient to bide the time
of anything, really, in itself
not a problem always but an obstruction
to the act of seeing that summons
the one we say we want
but miss the arriving

*
*

House by the Railroad / by Mark A. Murphy

This old house peers into us as we peer into it
like Norman Bates
except this Victorian mansion
painted by Edward Hopper in 1925

harbours its own lewd and violent secrets
beyond the railroad tracks
where the human creature never ventures
never saves the day

beyond the fashionable galleries
of New York
where Miss Lonelyhearts will never stir
never get a look in

beyond the dreams and head games of our own
aesthetics
where we see the flesh of improbability
stripped bare

one white wooden building, unhinged
in the late afternoon
no more blood feuds
no tears

where the disassociated mind remembers
and forgets
the puritanical God of childhood
So sorrow seeks sorrow

inevitable
as the emptiness
of a birdless
sky

*
*

Mourning Coffee / by Rebecca Raphael

Foraging for something sweet,
I found a single packet,
the top torn neatly, folded
down to preserve
the half a fourth a teaspoon
that remained. Less
than that.

I only want a little.
No, this is enough.
That’s too much for me.
Do you want to share?

Usually not. I used
to think Mom drew too much
attention to taking small
amounts of whatever
was at stake. Yet
here it was, in a cabinet
corner, behind an empty
sugar bowl: stored in utter
privacy for the next use
that never came.

What should I do? Save it? Ask
someone? (Absurd.) Show
Dad? Cry?

I prefer whole milk, which we
were out of, or sugar if it
must come to that;
and the weight
of my desires, no matter what for,
monstered me before
that half-full bit of pink.

Wonder, were Mom’s needs truly diminutive,
or did she scale herself that way?
The coffee would be bitter,
in either case.

*
*

Day 7 / Poems 7

*

Disappearing Act, North Country: November / by Pamela Ahlen

I love the sun,
what she can do for my cranky disposition.
But the sun has hidden for days.
Did she go on strike?—
She has enough pizzazz
to last another 5 billion years.
Is the sun selfish,
causing my blue funk on purpose?
The sun should do her work everywhere,
she’s big enough—
one million earths could fit inside the sun.
In Florida the sun shines all the time.
People go to Florida to feel young—
the sun makes them happy.
I admit, too much of a good thing
can be a bad thing, turn people red,
cause carcinoma.
That’s when sun becomes an enemy.
But after all the sun’s a ‘gas’—
she makes the cows and tulips grow,
the blue birds sing,
the rooster crow.

*
*

Colonizer Money / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Haven’t yet bought the plantation
. . . . .where we were slaves but bought
a condo from a confederate soldier

re-enactor—saged the shit out of it
. . . . .and moved in. Dignity
strikes when opposing forces

collide. Loud ballots took a swipe
. . . . .at my gut so nothing smelled decent
those harrowing years of purgation.

On the street we kill each other,
. . . . .take the inverse, and kill each
other again. Haven’t yet bought

drone warfare or votes but bought
. . . . .candor and an hour in the float tank
to deprive myself of capitalism

but the last man to float here
. . . . .broke the starry night, fouled up
the saltwater with his scabs.

*
*

No Get Out of Jail Free Card / by Lisa Fay Coutley

The kind of year you’re blacking out
about who fucked who but not why
is the kind I lived so long ago I can’t
remember & besides, the road I want
to drive is always all black ice, sliding
toward the body in the bed, trying to see
each detail leading to my mother’s death
on that night she never stops being dead
even if it was the second time she died.
It’s confusing, I know. I know the carpet
in the bathroom was brown, not if her
once lovely face hit the toilet as she fell
if she fell if she was already on her knees
choking on what tried to rise. It’s funny
what rises in time. You’re right, we do try
to love our mothers hard. So many years
have passed. Today, she finally came to
my class & cradled my face in her hand
the way she never did when she was alive
& asked again that question I always read
her inside, as if she was living a book
in a braille only she could feel yet kept
demanding I give her my hands, & this
time when she asked—What’s hurting
your little heart, Lisa Fay—
I didn’t scoff,
didn’t see her olive face in the mirror
this morning as I brushed my teeth
even though these are her cheekbones,
this is her nose, & that question she kept
asking, the one I thought was hers for her
so long after I was sure she’d forgotten me
even if she kept calling a phone I never
answered, it was the question of that year,
every dark year, that line of hands erasing
me. For so long, I was certain she was
gone, only the body on the bed, but she
still felt me, still saw me, knew I needed
to look back at that past she couldn’t
change if I was ever going to have
a chance to force this body to leave her
body in that quiet & colorless room.

*
*

Haiku / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Fire dances through
canyons where my daydreams slept
now ash in the wind.

*
*

The Night We Go To War / by Shayna Herszage

Tonight is the night we go to war.
We will march in our lines,
Dig our trenches
In our darkness.
We will release
Our ammunition
On the world
In an eruption of fire.

Tonight is the night we go to war.
We will let our hatred ride the air,
Burning lungs,
Clutching at throats,
Ripping apart all the threads
Holding the stitches together.

Tonight is the night we go to war.
We will lay the blanket of our siege,
Speckled with stars,
Across the sky.
We will build a wall
To keep the universe out
And bring forth the cold,
Our imaginary winter,
From the core.

Tonight is the night we go to war –
And when the sun rises,
Casting light over our power,
We will retrieve our gunshots,
Bullet by bullet,
Breathe in our poison,
Let the cold
Swallow our bodies,
And go
To war.

*
*

Politics: American Metaphysics / by Samuel Loncar

The simple words draw the most blood–
sudden slashes where all was safe
and a gush of life reminds us that it is we
who are the contest, we who are the prize,
we the players and we the people—
no simple thing, we, no bloodless item
of grammatical dispute but the high subject
of a great project, political religious metaphysical
binding and sundering all to a mythic one
with a real many lingering liminal lives awaiting
the force of language to shatter the shell we hold
too tightly to be reborn into the greater
life of a dream we sigh and scream
to travel that long journey from ourselves
to our life in the other seen
now as the truth we are

*
*

The Harvesters / by Mark A. Murphy

Amid the yellow fields, peasants are harvesting
sheaths of wheat in the mid-day sun, going
about their daily toil, eating lunch, collecting fruit,

fighting cocks, or resting, without a fig’s concern
. . . . .for the merchant’s ships
in the far distance, or the young sluggard out cold under
the ripening pears, with his leather cod-piece bursting

open as he dreams, in the prevailing company of women-
. . . . .folk, eating their cheese
and bread, before returning to the hard slog
of reaping and gathering with knife and sickle

as they have done, time out of mind, in feudal Belgium
to feed the hunger of nation and generations
as if their lives of suffering and suspicion, mattered not

a jot, in the great scheme of church and landlord,
whose fiefdom over the poor out manoeuvres both birth
and death in the lamentable struggle for meaning.

*
*

Day 6 / Poems 6

*

Hysterical as a Caged Hen Spewing Thoughts on Word Suppression / by Pamela Ahlen
(And his people are happy and pledge allegiance to his name)

Another shameful year,
light blazing brazen from the white house on the hill,
only one source of information considered Truth,
certain words verboten.

Why is transgender or fetus untouchable?
Why tell us what to do with our most vulnerable parts?
When I was a kid and asked my father why this why that,
he would joke Y is a crooked letter
but this is no joke.

I swear by the ‘mighty woman with a torch’
Our ‘sweet land of liberty’s’ never been everybody’s land.
Diversity’s a toxic shock. Big guns gut just legislation,
entitlement creeps deep like mold in white bread psyche.
Even my neighbor’s bumper sticker says ‘no one’s entitled to my money.’

The flocke goeth to wrecke and vtterly perisheth. 1548. Ephraim Udall.
Society’s always been going to wrack and ruin in one way or other.

Maybe it’s not half past way too late
to unearth an evidence-based program and trump current malfeasance,
birth a science-based cure to eliminate narcissistic personality disorder—
stand our ground against the wild boar and his killer bees.
Maybe I can be proud again to be called an American.

*
*

*
*

It’s Okay, We’ve All Been to the Wrong Polling Place / by Lisa Fay Coutley

It’s like when you are so full
you can’t imagine being hungry
ever again—when you’re gone
you can’t see just how far gone

you’ve gone. Does that make
sense? I don’t want to make light
of all you’ve said by saying what
you’ve said in a country afraid

to stare down into the well of you.
May all our wishes keep coming
true. Maybe the birds were mad
at you too. Shit all over your car

collection. Or heaven forbid Kim’s
because birds struggle to know who
erected a nest between your propped
jaws. Darken the bubble, I will. No,
I won’t. Circle back. Circle up. Retain

his circular office, circular auspices. Open
your eyes. The poorest men are raking yards
for wealthy men this election day & holding
those cigarettes so loose between their teeth.

*
*

Delirium on a Spinal Tap / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

103 I was in bed then i wasn’t

Dreaming about drums
or the cadence of drums-
an earthquake against my skull
Did you know that fans flutter like butterflies?

104 I was in bed then they stood me up.
I couldn’t stand without losing my balance
I tried to explain something- maybe about
how i dance, so balance is like my thing
those butterflies-
they lured her into the woods- lured me.

Faded. I swear- I was just
I woke up in the ER
wanted to finish my thought
but I remember their faces
his worry, the crinkle of his eyes
their worry… Oxygen please breathe

105 she’s burning up
they weren’t listening
she ran into the woods
chasing butterflies-
or i wasn’t listening

You need to hold still

They’ve told me several times now
If i move during a spinal tap
I could be paralyzed

But the cadence beating hard
against my skull i only see
butterflies and bamboo
through tears
stay with us you need to focus

Spinal taps hurt
Even in delirium

*
*

Convivencia / by Shayna Herszage

You are safe,
They said.
You are protected,
They said.
We put a cover,
They told us,
Over your head.
A glass dome
To keep you safe
From us.
We surround you,
We watch you
In your difference,
But you are safe
From us
In the protection
We created.

Thank us,
They said.
Thank us,
Because we
Protect you
From ourselves,
Because we
Surround you
From the outside,
Looking in
Through mortal crystal
We have not shattered,
Because we
Have placed
This glass dome
Over your soul –
And we
Can remove it.
Thank us,
Because we have not.
Yet.

*
*

The Human Program / by Phyllis Jordan

My brain is//:
Often like a computer on overload;
So many thoughts and information to process store and memorize.

There are days//:
On top of days when I don’t know if I am coming or going.

No way to download//:
Or transfer to a safe environment.

Everyone Is a virus//:
A threat to highly sensitive and classified data. Waiting to invade, duplicate, steal, dismantle, destroy and wreak chaos..

Where can I find solace and tranquility if not within my own mind? Too paranoid to trust anyone with my opinions, emotions and thoughts.

Each dream//:

Manifests into a nightmare; parallel to the sci fi sound of a crescendo at the peak of a thriller fantasyland.

Surely this life; this vessel, in this realm cannot be the last stop on the way to somewhere. Is reincarnation a destination between here and blissful eternity?

*
*

Brooklyn: 2084 / by Samuel Loncar

Not good, I said when I saw it up close.
Pretty picky for a man soul shopping.
You always judge your customers, I asked.
Not the ones who buy. Just the other kind.

Course I knew it wouldn’t be cheap. Or fun.
But souls were trending, and I had to try
god damn Madison Avenue, I thought
after two more high end soul shops said no

soul full bastards making killer profits
while I took the train home soul less and broke,
searching for a new plan to impress her
before she left like everyone else had.

Meaning could work I mused full of high hopes.
Brooklyn might have cosmic meaning on sale.

*
*

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 / by Mark A. Murphy

Rejected by Cubists as being too Futurist,
our male nude arches his back
like Adonis before wrestling a wild boar,
as if to say, I come down upon you
step by solemn step like a storm
of victory arrows straight into your hearts.

All movement here is mechanical, abstract,
staccato, captured like the stills of a film
in translucent ochre – so the pelvis thrusts
. . . . .forward,
the legs bend, the head bows, turns counter-
clockwise, as the nude descends the steep stairs
. . . . .for the second time around,
holding on to the bannister rail for dear life.

*
*

Is There an American Civilization? / by Rebecca Raphael
(asked A. Rich.)

If you manifest
them as destiny,
do lies
count? It’s just
a little white.
No?

Yes,
I know
you’re tired,
uneasy at being
called to see
we’ve never
been called to account.

So account: unlie
it all
and look, look well
and deeply
at theft, enslavement,
displacement, blood,
at human sacrifice. Name
the false gods’
names
whose names made
evil feel right.

Breathe the now-trued
air and ask
another question:
What is our better task?
What can we grow
from this history’s soil
that doesn’t grow
in lies?

*
*

Day 5 / Poems 5

*

You can’t make this s – – – up / by Pamela Ahlen

The Golden Age of television—
I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best,
Life Begins at 80—
a participant in full Scots regalia:
jacket, walking kilt, brogues, the Glengarry bonnet,
no bagpipes or tin whistle—a red accordion.
The producer wanted a lass to add sugar to the schtick,
sent me to a colossal costume place near Times Square.
I was excited to perform on national TV,
embarrassed to be dressed like the octogenarian Scot—
TV lights bounced off our accordions,
the camera crew soaped them down
[which seemed irreverent to a 10 year old].
No Loch Lomond or Mull of Kintyre duet,
rather The Yellow Rose of Texas, a song that topped The Hit Parade.
Who knew the yellow rose was Emily D. West,
a freed black woman who traveled in1833 to the Texas wilderness,
fell in love with a black musician
who immortalized her with his special song,
the lyrics later whitely sanitized.
Not many adults thought about appropriation,
that era of white bread McCarthyism.
I wonder about Emily, the anonymous musician and
his forever song, who that Scotsman was,
if he enjoyed his red accordion, enjoyed being 80.
Now I’m the one closing in on 80, know in my bones
what that golden age was not—the lies and omissions
some of us still perpetuate.
Too much of that makes a country sick.

*
*

New Worst Money / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Feat. Ye

My eyes are now wide open
to our moment’s desperate plight.
I was used to spread messages

I do not believe! I had a moment
on the radio, all ecstatic herald
—but my eyes are now wide

open to the deceptive profile boost,
my mega Maga-hatted-up-antics.
I was used to escalate messages

I don’t believe I believe in
apologizing! Just don’t put my name
on shit. See these wide-open eye-

balls? I won’t go this distance for
no politic but my own. You seen
my yeezy sneaks? I prefer the unusual—

my kind of melting rubber overflowing
the mold in ecstatic directions. I’m used
to my significance spreading widely. Don’t
sleep: play Watch Me with your open eyes.

*
*

Conflation / by Lisa Fay Coutley

Maybe what I failed to say is what
I failed to see. .hunkered inside
her. .letting heaven’s every son
erect their floorplans on her back

Mother only knows how long
she will stay survey wait to be
treated beloved. .that is faith. .right
the joke’s punchline. .that nothing

has to be true for you to believe
to accept millions of people will
pray to the omniscient him but
can’t fathom a planet who feeds

you feels & speaks a language
you can’t hear. .listen. .boundary
crossed. .she is shoring up more
each time you skip school or bust

into her kitchen demanding her
car keys or dig your hands into
her purse or ignore her entirely
until you realize you need her

to post bail & she’s never not
answered your call even after
asking if you don’t love her at all
& you scoff & say of course I do

why would you even ask that
are you fucking stupid don’t ask
stupid questions. .so sensitive
you & your extreme moods

come on sleep well see you soon

*
*

An ache / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Earth beneath my hands
Green whispers behind my ears
The grass swayed against my bare arms

They named a star after you
And I never cared about your status up there
When you haven’t fully left down here
I didn’t care because
It was more for them, not you.
I always wanted you to stay.

But tonight
After the muted sunset’s
soft smolder across the sky faded
I looked up-
Just me and the tall grass,
maybe at least a thousand stars

And you.

*
*

Swan Thoughts / by Shayna Herszage

My mind swims
Through swift waters,
Races through
An ocean
Ofwordsofphrasesofsentencesofstoriesof
Connected waves
Spread too far apart
Yet too close together
To ignore.

Where the steady flight
Of the swan
Brushes the sea
And bears outward ripples,
The ripples
Turn to waves,
The waves
To tsunamis
And,
Suddenly,
The swan
Is gone,
But the tides
Are raging
In all directions.

*
*

Everything is Ugly / by Phullis Jordan

What once was, now is nevermore.

Beauty has been sacrificed for and sold to vanity; turning the simplest attributes into complex chaos.

Gone are the days of transparent honesty; fair exchanges are no robbery; earning us all the sting of deception and haste.

Everyone is ugly!

The innocence of youth hijacked and destroyed. Catapulted to a plummeting death; how does one prepare the eulogy of integrity and good character?

Who is going to mourn rotted shit; dumped from the bowels and rectum of modernized society?

Are you not perturbed?

This thing is ugly!

Common sense is the main ingredient in this huge pot of chicken scruples; mixed in with a fresh batch of moral turpitude dumplings. This is a bland batch; ground up and too starchy.

We have been weighed down with seconds- being undigested.

Next time, could someone select a non-GMO; organic; preservative free reality over mass produced perception?

Ugly is the new beauty; is it really?

*
*

Brooklyn 2016 / by Samuel Loncar

Ages ago I left a small town life
searching for something I lost wandering
in confining predictability.
Big city answers filled my small town soul.

Glutted with certainties I staggered home
late one night to find it not there but gone.
A note on the door was all that was left,
“Could not stand the solitude: Be back soon?”

I packed my things and left not looking back.
Seeing mother I told her the story
“You think you can leave home and home not leave?”
I told her I had no choice. She nodded.

“Your home felt the same way. That’s why it left.”
I got back on the road. I’m still searching.

*
*

Girl Before a Mirror / by Mark A. Murphy

Marie-Therese confronts herself
. . . .head on
in the reflection of an oval mirror
and though pregnant, her body is no less
nubile than before, her small breasts
still perilous beneath the Breton stripes.

Still young, but much used, she sings
a sad lullaby’s to her unborn child
adjusting the mirror to see her body
in full profile. Picasso knows (only too well)
how she loves and hates him, what

she is, and will become, as beauty fades.
Life is so much repetition, she thinks,
as she leans into the mirrored image
of herself as Mistress to the great artist.
If the purpose of art is to wash away

the dust of daily life from our souls,
then we are all failing our public. She
throws his words back at him in a rage,
voicing her distress as the evening
wears on under the bright studio lights

where Stygian reds and blues contend
with spirited greens and yellows
in the happy/sad struggle to live as equals
in the drama of lover and beloved,
rendering it afresh as art, beyond
. . . .compare.

*
*

@ time t / by Rebecca Raphael

tengo mi gato.
tender tradere.
tenuto.

tenez ma main.
tenure? tenuous.
tenuto.

center, no hold.
it’s time.
tenuto. tenuto.
tenuto.

*
*

Day 4 / Poems 4

*

to be in the time of the blahs / by Pamela Ahlen

to be at loose ends. .to be blackly blue
to be ‘chicken little’ waiting for the sky to bawl
to be dolt-headed. .dead-ended. .the elephant in an empty room
to be folded fetal. .a lawn chair in december
to be goober peevish. .harping on one flat note
to be incarcerated like jack in a keyed-up lock-up box
to be maudlin
to be nowhere. .obsessive. .pharmaceutical. .querulous
to be the recluse. .the stone. .the thunder
to be an unopened valentine in a waiting room
to be x-communicated from the congregation of movers and shakers
to be yoked to a yellow tree. .banana bird on zoloft

*
*

Byzantine Money / by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

He says I miss you but do I
need his gulf of wisdom,
his legend stomping virginity

out of all geography, hauling
expensive dilemmas? But I visited
his love as close as I could get

and gave it all my mega-
millions. I planned to found
a city at the confluence of two

hip flexors but god was selling
tickets for that place and I could
not pay there very long.

*
*

The Killing Game / by Lisa Fay Coutley

I never knew if I’d miss anyone
until a truck ran them down or
a revolver went off in my mind
& I could picture myself splayed
over the kitchen’s linoleum floor
or frowning slightly & shrugging
to go. Then there was a first son
& then a second, & then I knew
what missing meant, first the girl
that never held herself but then
held them, and then the woman
they would never let hold them
ever again. Time has its teeth
in each of us, we all know, but
once I imagined my second son
dead of exposure or my first by
overdose or both by someone
else’s hand, I could see my own
locked around someone’s throat
or pressing a razor against my vein
until I saw myself old & alone then
never old, & the killing, the missing
game became boys trying to know
how to let the Lake take my bones.
When a mother dies, everything her
child does is a wish, so now that
my sons are both grown I want
to offer to go last, to let them pass
through the world without alone
like smoke soaked into the walls
of their oldest home. The Earth
will hold them then & never stop
showing us all new ways to hurt
ourselves & each other, & how
could any mother really blame her
for hoping that we will leave her
first, so we’ll never need to find
ways to survive time without her.

*
*

Fallen / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

Leaves
from bent branches
glide down to the water
twirling, aimless
covering
holding
their own reflection

Not just the green leaves
vibrant reds and yellows-
the changing leaves too
down to the faded and dulled
the colorless
the brittle bones
of Summer’s early fall

Leaves
How he stood
arms folded, guarded eyes
a smile under the pout
a heart under the pain

How she was generous
grace under fire
of the faults in our blood
her smiling eyes smiled
laughter conquering despair

How he always smiled and winked
at me, sincere eyes conveying
a brain that stayed sharp, despite
muscles that forgot how to speak

How she sang softly
while washing a dish or
pouring me hot cocoa
How she fell asleep
while watching MacGyver
or laughed hysterically
at The Shaggy Dog

How they loved us all
Love us still
after they
Leave us

Leaves
Imprinted on my heart
form a casing
To keep me from spilling
falling
spiraling, aimless
coming undone

*
*

Porcelain / by Shayna Herszage

Winter grows colder still
As this fire rages on,
Singeing the flame which kept us warm.
A bowl, not half empty,
Nor half full,
But void of all that was.
These porcelain moments –
Frozen, shattered,
Fallen in drifts,
Burying my footsteps
Until I lose my way home.
Frigid wind brushes through my hair
And kisses my cheeks –
Greet me as an old friend.
Emptiness sizzles
With the heat that chills
What was frosted over long ago.
The betrayed trees,
More grey than the promised green,
Cast interrupting shadows
With frostbitten fingers
Over these sparkling, melting pieces.
I am the damned avalanche
Who will destroy everything.
Fear me, condemned world,
As much as I fear myself.

*
*

Mr. Lennon / by Phyllis Jordan

Be it right
Being White
Because it almost seems this darkness is always guiding a stale; dimly faint light
Faithfully wicked and mundane has flickered the oppressed and brave to rise and take flight
Can I live? Can’t we all just get along? What about us? Question? Questions?
Who? What? Where? When? Why? And How? Yet your answers are irrelevant, meaningless- purposely full of spite
Bait and switch; pointing fingers and placing blame has become so comfortable like thieves in the night
No room or country for creepy old men; where the hell do I start, this is how it all began
Sexist; sex-less; selfish, self-less, coexists amongst the cowards who believe they CAN
Out of context and ill guided persuasion led up to the perversions of the prehistoric BC man
Shameful and relentless have been the lackluster apologies of the guilty; burying faces in the sand
Bullies in broad daylight; protesting love and cheering on the assassinations of pride and glory
Spreading endless tales of lies, deceit, tomfoolery, evening fake news, story after ridiculous story
A struggle
A cause
A movement
A person
A nation
A cry
A plea
Where has compassion and lovingkindness evaporated to? SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME

*
*

Seasons / by Samuel Loncar

Kisses fall like snowflakes melting
on the split of my lips hot breath warming
wonder unrepeatable to glistening beads
of springtime petals parting to savor
sun and feel wind caressing me to summer
heat and a final shiver gasping autumn air

*
*

The Starry Night / by Mark A. Murphy

Out of the sanatorium window at night, I witness
God’s creation, an astronomer of sorts,
or latter day astronaut

scrutinising the cosmic dance of moon and stars
above Saint-Rémy, in the conflicted sky,
through the iron bars

always through my prison bars, where Venus roams
lustfully, ruefully above the cypresses,
olive trees, remote rolling hills

and church spire, channelling all my prayers back
to my willing canvasses, here in my cell
where the light never fades,

where the waterfalls of midnight blue and burning
. . . . .yellow
persist as signifiers of that other passion
laid bare at Gethsemane.

*
*

Touch the Bean / by Rebecca Raphael

1
Return. Unseasonably warm.
Relaxed body, hint of smile,
the southward skyline
backdrop on Grant
Park. History
looming there.

2
Wet. A decade’s grey windswept
above mourning eyes. The shot
too close, no background
on the foreshortened
November storm.
History brooding
here.

*
*

Day 3 / Poems 3

*

Gulf Coast / by Pamela Ahlen

Usually a run on one shell
or other—duck, clam, olive,
whelk. Today the razor pen,
hundreds of tar-blackened shards
among the seaweed and plastic.
Years ago I’d comb this beach,
find a treasure trove of angel
wings intact. Some things change,
but sandpipers keep up the pretense—
skirt the waves, the tsunami of tourists
searching for lost pieces of ourselves.

*
*

*
*

Prayer for Clichés / by Lisa Fay Coutley

Shame has whiskey on its breath when
it slurs to the school principal as you sing
“Wind Beneath My Wings” in fall chorus
concert, & it hangs its No Habla Espanol
& Beer Busts are Better posters in its garage.
That’s easy. What’s harder is looking back
at the salt you poured into your own kids
at the dinner of the cracked plate & gravy
slung against a wall. You want me to stop
seeing the ribbons of cloud in a night sky
as claws, to know the plane far to one side
& stop hearing its noise back from where
it first came. The past hangs moth-eaten
sweaters in every fresh closet of every new
house I dress with relics. Each day spent
trying to find healthy ways to stay alive.
Gross brokenness, how to admit I lost
it all, but it still never felt like treasure.
Struggle to become the ocean until it only
means drowning. I’d love to see the buoy
without the sailor who tossed it over its
railing, anchor first, but if even sunflowers
scream, what of all these leaves, so lovely
in their final fall. What can they pray for?

*
*

Big Bad- for Indy / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

When lost
she could always be found
sitting under her favorite tree
the one that dropped red apples year round

They looked so much like her favorite ball
she ate them by the dozens one afternoon,
smiling through a three-hour stomach ache.

When lost,
she could always be found
just outside her little house-
the one whose insulation she tore out
because she was bored.

She always looked so menacing from afar
a ferocious dark shadow, guarding the yard
but within seconds she was close
a ferocious, clumsy shadow bear-
her otter tail batting with heavy affection.

Sometimes she’d gnaw on a fallen branch
Sometimes she’d talk to a breeze,
the breeze that always whispered of
greener grasses beyond the backyard –
the mischievous breeze that helped her
sneak out and run around the neighborhood
the carefree breeze that played tag with her
all summer long.

When lost
she could always be found,
most of the time on
anyone’s front lawn-
lounging
under the summer sun
scratching her back against the grass
sniffing out a gentle breeze-
without a single doubt
that I’d be there soon
to fetch her
and bring her home.

*
*

How to Pretend / by Shayna Herszage

When new leaves
Sprout from bare branches,
Do not remember
The broken, grey fingers,
Outstretched in the cold,
Reaching out
For a touch of life
That may –
Or may not –
Still exist.

When fruit bursts forth
Across hopeful limbs,
Do not remember
Young, green leaves
Pulled to the ground,
Turned to dust.
Buds buried in the earth,
Promises
Never given the chance
To blossom.

Pretend this
Diamond spring
Never began
On the skeleton of winter,
And will never end,
Only to fall
Beneath a bed of frost
Once again.
After all,
Trees are always
More beautiful
If you can forget
The roots.

*
*

Contraband / by Phyllis Jordan

You smuggle in affection and use it as your weapon when it comes to us.
Endless nights or pleasant fights are things to keep this illegal.

Unpleasant words leaving me kicked to the curb only backfire. Solicited emotions driven by relentless devotion in a plot to get it all in, won’t let you win!

Two hearts at the border waitin to get searched just made this a turn for the worst. More excuses than a felon goin to jail has become your tale in this undying story of love.

Pushed it to me-in my veins like a drug-half sucker half thug.. Where are those Rockerfeller laws now when I need em?

Lock you up not down for misleadin.

What formula was used in this batch? 98% lies and 98% facts?

I’m a fiend for the truth not crack!!! Well, now I got bullets for sale, how many do you need?

You already have the pistol, I’m just tryna help you succeed….

*
*

Here to Stay / by Samuel Loncar

Someone told me beauty was a thing of the past
I forgot their name—maliciously, with devout purpose
set my face against this social injustice, this robbing blind
flower-trampling sunlight-hating wrapper-littering stance
that would tell us the urban decay born of the grand ugly
project to remake the city was all along a good idea only
no one loves to live where beauty refused to stay, and
the rich still surround themselves with fine things
so I suppose that individual who said beauty
was a thing of the past pushed their theory
onto the marginalized while they enjoyed a laugh
at our expense—whoever we are, ignorant
ignoring our omnivorous desire for delight
in all things beauty is no idea
but a base appetite on which I will build the world anew

*
*

House by the Railroad / by Mark A. Murphy

This old house peers into us as we peer into it
like Norman Bates
except this Victorian mansion
painted by Edward Hopper in 1925

harbours its own lewd and violent secrets
beyond the railroad tracks
where the human creature never ventures
never saves the day

beyond the fashionable galleries
of New York
where Miss Lonelyhearts will never stir
never get a look in

beyond the dreams and head games of our own
aesthetics
where we see the flesh of improbability
stripped bare

one white wooden building, unhinged
in the late afternoon
no more blood feuds
no tears

where the disassociated mind remembers
and forgets
the puritanical God of childhood
So sorrow seeks sorrow

inevitable
as the emptiness
of a birdless
sky

*
*

Day 2 / Poems 2

*

By the Sea the Tide Warbles Erotic / by Pamela Ahlen

Here in the steamy sea
I ride a horny unicorn
and you that grinning pumped up crocodile—
here under pungent sun
how salty we still find ourselves to be.

*
*

Before Worse / by Lisa Fay Coutley

is the door to the door I always try shoving
my shoulder through, the one you said goes
nowhere I should want to, & maybe it isn’t

more than chance that you cannot bear
time the day I press my face against an
airplane window like love but still leave

for those gnawed, white bones of home
where men ready themselves, welcoming
horror in without sounding out their rage.

What woman ever expects that man
both fists clenched under a made bed
no matter how many times she has

flung back a shower curtain in dread
to find relief still hunkered inside her
fear. I cannot bear another moment

wanting what I didn’t know I needed. I
pretended to mean because no one told me
women could be this desperate we, dancing.

*
*

*
*

Nothing Grows in New York City / by Shayna Herszage

Flashing lights,
Blinding bursts
Of excitement.
Artificial brightness
Of artificial promise.
Nothing grows here.

Concrete oasis
Lined
With brick
And glass
And steel
Gleaming
From manmade
Sunshine.
Nothing grows here.

Sirens wailing,
Music drifting,
Wandering between
Roaring subway cars
As they shriek past.
Nothing grows here.

Air in my lungs,
Breath swollen
With exhaust,
With frying meat,
With people rushing
Left and right.
Nothing grows here.

So many colors
Blaze through
This restless city,
But
I never realized
How much I love
The color green.

*
*

iHATE / by Phyllis Jordan

In the midst of the turmoil

WAKE UP and open your eye

HUMANKIND is now human blind

ARTIFICIAL is insincere and very far from natural

INTELLIGENCE is now an assumption

HAS the truth always been fake?

TAKEN all of us for a loop and pulled the curtain

OVER this atrocity for it all is a fallacy

intimidation is the brand new sensation,
leaving enough room for century old manipulation, iEVERYTHING is the greatest source of our own condemnation. ✊

*
*

The Falling Sky / by Samuel Loncar

Davi Kopenawa is speaking as I write
words for those who believe a people
may find its life here in the world in trees
sacred and sky held aloft by shamans

that rubber and greed warrant a world’s end—
forgive me, but what must we worship to
justify cultural death for capital’s life,
borderless ghost haunting

my very hands writing your very eyes reading
on machine’s whose lineage links us to
empires’ past living vivid present lives
with new names and the same ways

*
*

Girls on the Bridge / by Mark A. Murphy

Sun up or sun down over the Oslo Fjord?

We stand away from the three girls on the bridge
pondering their reflections in the quiet water,
as we reflect upon them, listening for a clue
as to the nature of their conversation.

It’s spring and the linden trees are in full bloom
smelling of syrup and semen. Our girls know
only too well where these thoughts will lead them
as they boast and chat about their loves.

Aslaug is attired in her wedding white, a long
silk dress laced with a belt at her waist
whilst her two companions, Hella and Maiken
are clad in red and green velvet respectively.

All girls are fashionable, even Norwegian girls,
so we look upon them, not with greedy eyes,
but with surrender, keeping a nose out
for other boy’s names, and any scent of heaven.

The three girls could well be discussing love’s
misfortunes, or the loneliness they feel without
their indisputable friendship, but we prefer to see
the girls as ciphers for our own misgivings.

You see, the light from the sick blue sky hardly
ignites the soul to laughter, as if all sentiment
had been shorn from the sun, we see our selves
as strangers in this remote, sacred landscape.

Sun up or sun down over the Oslo Fjord?

*
*

Memory Storage / by Rebecca Raphael

We don’t leave just our hearts
in other places: We leave
our minds. Most of mine
is stored in Chicago.
Milton, Melville live
in a tiny I-House room,
Chaucer grows in Evanston
parks. Shakespeare haunts
a TIC rehearsal room, Hebrew
grabs me from the door hinges
of the Oriental Institute, and Greek
is strewn across the old red line
from 59th to Foster Street.

No; it’s more
than that, although that –
my motion through these
spaces activated the codes
of textual recall – is nothing
trivial. It’s that chunks
of my very self simply aren’t
anywhere else, and everywhere
else I wonder why
there’s less of me —
Early dementia? Midlife ennui?
— and when I arc

back, here
I am: a limpid mind striding
down 57th Street, a fluid pen
threading infinite loops, the yearning
to know, know all, falling
with Deering Meadow leaves,
an ageless reflection in the el
car window of the face
who has never forgotten a thing.
This is who I am, who
feels like “was” in every place
I didn’t (couldn’t?) store
myself, a self too meandering
multi-essential for this unilocal
body which alas must go. I leave,
and what’s left wails
from every severed thread.

*
*

Day 1 / Poems 1

*
By the Cape Cod Sea / by Pamela Ahlen

Here at the far end
the sea salt smell, the scallop shells,
one gull in squalling interjection,
reprising all the silky, coarse
and rocky sands that edged blustery,
even peaceable seas—
how lost we found ourselves to be.
Here by the sea the tide ebbs benign,
and we’re two old sharks in bloodless capitulation,
or maybe harbor seals in quiet appreciation.

*
*

*
*

*
*

My Dragon Dances / by Liezel Moraleja Hackett

She didn’t use words
only fire.
The last time we spoke
I told her a lie
and she knew it.

I told her I was fine.
I told her we stand our ground.
But she burned the ground beneath me.

I watched
the bridges and terraces
of my dreams burn-
a dream that destroyed me,
but she didn’t care.
She cannot be tamed.

I watched
the night become day
in her anger
I watched
the terrors and dreams
of my life burn-
a life that destroyed me
but
she didn’t care about them,
only me.

She didn’t use words
only flight
to give me perspective
to find truer dreams
to return me to grace and posture
She leaned into the wind
to give me movement
and the glory of a breeze.

She put fire into my words
so that i could fly.

*
*

Dove / by Shayna Herszage

My wings
Flutter
In hopeless desperation,
For they
Are plucked raw
And torn apart.
Flapping,
Crying out
To stay
Among the stars –
Or at the very least,
Among the clouds –
Or at the very least,
Among the treetops –
Or at the very least,
Alive.

Believe me when I say
I do not abandon you
With my white feathers
Stained crimson
And useless.
Believe me when I say
Every motion,
Consuming all
I thought I had left
Inside me,
Is for you –
And still I find
More heartbeats
Remain.

*
*

The Light of Love / by Phyllis Jordan

As the warmth from the Sun continues to
gaze down and shine upon my face,

This will be the one constant reminder;
how determined you are to teach us
the desperation of learning your mercy and grace.

You leave behind lessons; spread out across the boldness of the nightly sky.

Stars shining so brightly; never questioning how or why.

Life is delicate; mysterious yet powerful, IF we can take heed to and practice being methodical.

(For A.J., A.C., A.&A.PL., A.PC., and DJ)

Find peacefulness in the chaos.
❤️
Calmness when your rage is on fire
🧡
Patience amongst the ignorance.
💛
Strength behind each tear drop and heart ache.
💚
But most of all, find yourself never alone within the darkness in your mind.
💙
Let your pain be the muse that inspires your light to dance with your spirit and create the vivid imagination for the stories the soul has to tell.
💜
My heart is with you. 🙏
🖤

*
*

Poem 1 / by Samuel Loncar

The slam tilt of my fire filled mouth
Broke the muses’ back to memory
Back to the music and the lust of life
Back to mother and the livid cries

We sang when language lived in the belly
Where dreams grew to fingers grabbing
All that we desired until the hush no not now
Began the long silence songless and unserene

Stillness of all these words saying
Nothing nothing nothing
Remains but the hope of desire
Turning longing to lust to worship

The world hidden from prose but ever lit
A lamp in the night of mouths waiting
For the spark of the tongue to taste
All of this and all of me until the pulse

Of the world beats in our veins
And we resolve to say
Something anything everything
Haunted by memory music muses

Our small service to the gods who have died

*
*

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter / by Mark A. Murphy

Clearly petite-bourgeois, clearly pregnant,
. . . . .our woman
in blue knows only too well what is expected,
as she herself expects. Surprisingly
still young, only nineteen in years
to be precise, because precision is everything
in art, as it is in the execution of a life.

She reads her letter in a bare whisper
agonising over every word from her man –
a Dutch East India man, guilty as charged,
seeking his fortune in the New World,
condemned as a thief, half the world away
from his wife-to-be, interrupting her morning
toilet, to re-evaluate his marriage proposal.

Now her lips part as if in pain, locked in her
small space between the table and chairs,
limited by her religiosity, her new Calvinism,
limited by her social standing before
the unseen window where the light persuades
us of her meticulously ordered life.
This is no painterly trick, but a fact of being.

The all pervasive solitude, the quiet
impermanence of things, even the map behind
her sings of her topographic isolation,
the unattended pearls tied with a blue ribbon –
her absent love. The artist did not miss
any detail or twist – separating her as he did
. . . . .from time,
shadowless among the white-washed walls.

*
*

Vision No. 6 / by Rebecca Raphael

The meeting was well in progress
when I stumbled in. From where?

I couldn’t hear them talking over
an infernal buzzing in my ears,

which sped then through my body,
tuned me wholly to arrhythmia.

Holy shit. What am I doing here?
My tongue’s too thick to speak.

My lips won’t move. But them,
they’re saying something. A hum.

Then one flies over, clamps
his burning hand over my mouth,

and I couldn’t breathe until
my breath became seraphic fire.

“This is what your words will be
now: cosmic radiation.”

But what am I supposed to do?
“You know. You’ll speak, clear

as the Mediterranean sun,
musical as hill-country springs,

but nothing will get through.
What these mortals understand

as attention isn’t, what they feel
as strain is easy. So when you say

‘holy,’ they’ll hear ‘hell.”
And that, she said, would go on

for too damn long. Until.

*
*

*
*

*
*