Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
The volunteers for October 2019 are Rashaun J. Allen, Lupita Eyde-Tucker, Mark Grinyer, Ruth Happel, Willie James, Jennifer Kelley, Anu Mahadev, and Ronald J. Palmer. 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! Below, please find poems by our current 30/30 Project volunteers.
Poem 21 / Day 21
When Being Strong Ain’t Enough / by Rashaun J. Allen
What if my family calls me crazy for going to therapy?
Remember being called crazy and being it are different.
Like that Unk who drinks and smokes himself into a stupor
And all family says is, “That’s your Grandma’s son.”
So, it’s clear family is unable, or unequipped, no both,
to identify and label who may need help.
Ask yourself, “Do you treat your well-being like your job?”
For your J.O.B., you show up when you’re sick, go in on your day off
and in-between navigate so many you can’t stand.
For your well-being, what do you do?
If you don’t have any idea then that might be a clue,
there’s a puzzle to solve that starts with you.
So, when you respond caring what others think,
I hear: I’m scared to face my own mess.
That’s a selfie you can’t post.
Wrestling with aspects you don’t like.
But there’s more than hope. There’s help.
Taking Out the Trash / by Mark Grinyer
I begin the week these days
by taking out the trash
after years of bringing
things home, paychecks,
the bacon, a shelter dog,
some cats, our child from
the hospital or school,
myself after traffic’s done
from overtime work
at midnight far too often,
my wife or myself again
from the doctor’s office
with bandages or new
prescriptions added to
the ones we take each day
as time too quickly speeds
past every passing act,
past living through
The end of earnings
increased by effort and
ability now left behind
as words on pages scrawled,
typed, then tossed or sent,
recycled once again or lost
each Sunday night as I
again take out the trash,
removing what’s excess,
not needed now as we
declutter our lives together,
advancing toward what ends
all pain and grace–the absolute
simplicity of death, conquered,
one may hope, in memories
recalled by those we’ve left
behind, who care to keep alive
what’s left of all our best.
Mountain Mystery / by Ruth Happel
Mountain seems to move
Shifting in and out of fog
Hiding in the sky.
The Night is a Rumor of What was Before. / by Willie James
There is a kid’s section in my heart,
I had wanted to write about before.
The night is a relief, and the day
no more than a chrome fender I keep
finding my warped face. Trusty and blue
and avoiding puddles, as if avoiding
might provide some clue or assistance
to remember their clean suede these shoes
used to be before. As if the sky,
or its stars were more gold than
the sticker on my niece’s coat, the heart
stitched to the belly of Pete the Cat I keep
trying to consider something more.
Someone yelling in the alley
something about a blanket or the fog. I had wanted
to write about this one fish
I found on a science fiction world’s map.
It’s picture swimming racing down a river’s bank–
it looked like something hidden, its size
discrete, intent on beyond where its going,
struggling to somewhere it has been.
Loneliness for Beginners / by Jennifer Kelley
Do not be startled.
Loneliness‘ little gremlin claws can‘t grab you.
He is only a thought, a realization that you need someone.
Sometimes it’s someone specific.
Other times the vast void just feels endless and unspecified.
Only you can deliver yourself to him.
If you don’t leave the house,
If you don’t phone a friend,
If you don’t dodge the little tripsy strings lacing the ground
But instead wrap his hands around your calves,
let them be massaged till they are black and grimy
sink to the ground and beyond —
Until he pulls you into his cave where the ceiling seals over.
Until he embraces you and you feel your fight drift away.
Those are the times when we must be most careful.
Those are the times when the blackness is hardest to part.
But dresses you like some opera phantom
and claims you for its own.
Instead, stand with me in your lonely hour
from a distance let us join hands.
your voice over the line fills me with giggles
mine in your ear, I hope, soothes.
I am here in the darkness,
even though it is mine and not yours
Over telephone wires, I can hear you sinking in
hear that swishing cape spread its wings.
But when we are lonely, we must spread out our wings
and fly into the knowing that we are all one
one person, one thought, one child in the dark
and, in being so, we are not alone,
unless we cling urgently to the structure of our selves
refusing to look at one another
Influences / by Ronald J. Palmer
The sun wakes you with a shock
like a morning baby’s cry.
The dog at the door
waiting to go out
her whimper like a sigh.
The chirp of a bird
that you heard before.
The idea of coffee
gets you on your feet.
As you are waiting
for the perk,
the dog requests a treat.
Three birds fly in a circle—
a half cut tree for their landing.
As I put the dog into the yard
a squirrel runs up a tree.
All this can lead to poetry.
Poem 20 / Day 20
Bankruptcy of Black Folk Pt. 3 / by Rashaun J. Allen
I wish I could talk to my friends about money.
That’s basic math.
Your trials x my trials = elevating all our families out of poverty.
But if we’re stuck figuring our own funds, nor willing to sharing our money moves, how will we ever be able to break bread together?
I wish I could talk to my girl about money.
I’d say, “Spending habits matter more than your check.”
‘Cause if we date poor, how will we end up married and rich?
Maybe I should double, no, quadruple, my money.
Then when I’m a multi-millionaire,
Having money talks will finally make sense.
One of the Symptoms is Tinnitus / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
less than a mile away cars flow
on I-95, a river of constant noise
sun glints against their bodies
flashing through the trees
synthetic spinal cord connecting
towns states backbone of burden
hiss of radial on roadway
its din grows louder every year
man-made monster our collective
force of nature watch how it
obliterates silence, drowns out the birds
they sing their songs in frequencies
to awaken the trees but now morning
traffic jams all their transmissions
Morning Winds / by Mark Grinyer
in the morning light
as the Santa Anas
begin to blow
across the space
stretch and bow.
In that breath
thin streaks of light
across empty space
float and dance
in the wind’s embrace
clinging to all
tiny insects tossed
in an unruly rush
past invisible strings
between tree and bush.
They strain in the new
of light into
until strength fails
under brighter light
and they break
like breath departing
to another zone
to the end of winds
somewhere in the west
where the ocean’s
blue light rules
and spider webs
having nothing to catch
dissolve and disappear.
Stained Glass Tree / by Ruth Happel
The way evening sun
Shines through autumn leaves
Lends a golden glow,
Reveals hidden colors.
Painting with warm light
Luminous rays burn
Through a thousand veins
Of the stained glass tree.
The view from what’s broken from the selves / by Willie James
For it is, as it might be, like the fish just out of sight
in the water, this view, through the bleachers,
at the high school homecoming, with its series
of knees, I route around some sense of desire
With the smell of new earth, the night,
the washed-out moon hue of flood lamps glaring in
lost watermarks of hope—how my aspiration has ballooned
and cowered these past years. Solved its
unflattering insistence to gain shape in any outline cast
as a thrown favor from a friend. A smile. I used to think, how easily,
I could work out anything, alone. One flashlight
swinging its beam. Everything, I realized, I was learning
for the first time. The visiting team, without even
a single friend, finding their way through the sod.
Perhaps Death Rides a White Bicycle / by Jennifer Kelley
There are few things as threatening
as a man making an advance
in the half-light.
Just when I thought it was safe to
breach the night ere dawn
But the thought that morning colors should be
forbidden to me for safety’s sake
fills me with a deep sadness
harkening back to
lost late night walks in the sea-thick air
and staring at the stars from the sand.
I have a fleeting thought
staring out at the seal-pup surfers,
floating on close breaking waves that
they would hear my cries —
Should a forced kiss on the hand turn into
some other type of violation.
They could transform themselves into sea lions
barking away the attacker
as they charge him back into submission.
The fact that I’m so reliant
on the stronger of the sexes
and, again, I consider self-defense classes
when I get the money to spare
I realize that I’m missing the experience,
when I look up and the sunrise morphs
from lemonade into blood orange.
Still, I fear to part pen from paper,
to incur his attention once again.
One more time that words have saved me
from the threatening world.
Patches of Fog. / by Ronald J. Palmer
My charisma is starting to fade
patches of fog wherever
I show up.
A dim flashlight on
a rainy night.
It seems I am not longer
accused of providing
that my smile is
no longer convincing.
It appears my name
no longer resonates
and I am asked if it
My name is spoken now
only in passing as one
is about to spit on a sidewalk
or open an umbrella
“At least he does no harm”
Then cloud burst
“unless he brought this on.”
Poem 19 / Day 19
Bankruptcy of Black Folk Pt. 2 / by Rashaun J. Allen
Conversations about wealth won’t help
When you got debt up to your nose
And it bleeding too long can create a financial crisis.
Still, that small raise was matched by inflation.
Still, that first time home is another year away you frustrated.
When stretching a dollar is an extreme sport,
Who got time to figure out investing is another way to score?
Dinner Key Anchorage / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
In Miami it’s a sin to be frugal.
New mother, new wife. Our first home
thirty-seven feet of French catamaran.
Swinging on the hook, sailboat anchored
off the spoils of Miami, our baby
lulled by the rocking, our world clocking
around, always pointing into the wind.
My connection to land a dinghy, two oars.
This was living off the grid, low-rent leisure
lifestyle powered by solar panels and wind.
Curtis rowed to work teaching first graders
how to read. I stayed home, met the neighbors:
Seminole Mary, Shep, Jumper Jim, Wilbur,
Hélene, Frenchie, Sargent Mike. World cruisers
engineers, skilled craftsmen, artists, veterans.
First rule of the sea: help a boater in need. Rowing
gallons of fresh water makes you treasure each drop.
But, the Miami money hated our freedom. Believed
live-aboards are homeless, crazy. You must be crazy
to live in Miami without air. As if A/C is better
than the Biscayne Bay breeze.
Frenchie was drunk, slipped from his yacht, drowned.
Wilbur lost his battle with Agent Orange.
Shep had a heart attack at sixty, Seminole Mary
murdered by her boyfriend, but no proof.
Hélene sailed back to Quebec. World cruisers
even after years on the hook, never establish roots.
City Hall got their money, now live-aboards
have to anchor a mile out, past the barrier
islands where wind is too strong to row
living free, harder, unless you have a motor.
They busted up the remnants of a true Miami treasure;
the fat ghost of Flagler strangled the spirit of Monroe.
“Clean-Up on Aisle 1600” / by Mark Grinyer
Based on a quote from J. Acosta
So many lies, so much deceit, another
mess in the White House today, needs
cleaning up—another reason to cry
“Impeach the President. He’s done it
again,” but his toadies will dance to his
“clean it up” tune, colluding in circles
to Russia’s delight. Their mops are spinning
at a furious pace. But the truth crawls
out from under the door of the big white
house, he’s borrowed for a while.
As he pressures Ukraine to dig up dirt,
Trump asks his people to lie about Joe
in order to receive our promised support,
for their fight against Russia under Putin’s
control, corruption invading the Ukraine
again, another little dust-up seen from here,
as Giuliani spreads confusion apace,
about U. S. policy, as he makes it clear
that the cost of aid is political dirt for Trump’s
campaign, rather than reason or national interest
presented to countries through our diplomats.
A few days later, Trump chats with Erdogan
and quickly kowtows to Turkey’s threat,
abandoning our allies to a new genocide
as Erdogan’s troops attack the Kurds
in a bloodbath not even Trump’s cowed
supporters can countenance in America’s name.
But still his toadies are searching for mops.
They’ll soon be busy lying to us all
about the blood being spilled in the streets,
as the Turks advance into Syria’s space,
killing Kurds, releasing more ISIS terrorists
from prison camps, creating more long-term
Middle-Eastern threats, fodder for Trump’s old
mop-up crew, asserting again, his new “success.”
Lies upon lies overseas and at home,
spinners spin mops of lies grown obscene,
as Trump cashes in on his political clout,
collecting payments from hotels and resorts
from failing Doral near Miami Beach,
thinking up ways to make money on them
avoiding the bankruptcy courts again,
using leverage his powerful position provides
while asserting his right to break the law
collecting emoluments from all his “friends”
While sycophants continue to make wild
claims about the “privileges” of his estate
swishing their mops around in our faces.
Sky Show / by Ruth Happel
Twilight is a time between
Pause between daylight and dark
Orange burns where sun is nestled
Hidden just past edge of earth
Rainbow of colors blossoms
Caught by every wisp of clouds
Purple and pink seep above
Reaching up to vault of sky.
Every night sky has a show
And start of every morning
Free for all who take the time
To watch unfolding drama.
So many reasons not to look
A thousand other choices
But sky’s parade is everywhere
Step outside and watch for free.
Camping Near Ellensberg / by Willie James
Sticks are everywhere. Little thistle
to big trunks left out, scattered
all over the campground. If you were
to crack peanut shells
chucking their husks below your knees for days
you might have something similar. A joy
we found in throwing each
in the river. In hurling,
not staring at the odd bark’s
combed skin peeling cracks.
We forget ourselves. Talk dreams
pointing to rippled and reflection
in snow melt in water—
“It was so strange to kill him”
you admit staring toward your boyfriend
slicing back the skin of salted short ribs.
It was so hard to focus
on the black of her eyes, sharing this, and not
the chopped wood, my fear, my feet balanced
from shifting into river. I had
my own dreams running reckless
as if up a steep cliffs rocks—A bag
of garbage I couldn’t hold
and two ex-lovers sleeping next to me. In three parts
we sang The Pogues by the fire.
Amber led us past our fear
of our own voices. The forest
rustles with sounds near to dawn.
I slept in peace:
A bag of garbage lifting like a small balloon.
I wrote a poem about you / by Jennifer Kelley
I wrote a poem about you,
but it was a little girl’s poem
a reminder of big brown eyes and curls
enough to lock me up
to tempt me in
to hold me tight for two decades
as other men came and went
you were always my first my last my everything
When I finally ended up in a healthy relationship
I was proud that he was nothing like you,
but even that implies that you were still
my measuring stick.
And there will never be another you
because I will never let myself be
dominated like that
And there will never be another you
because I will never let myself be
emotionally battered again.
Just ask my ex.
One vicious word and I was out the door.
And there will never be another you
because I could never be naïve after
could never love for the first time after
could never hammer myself into the cross
just like He trained me to do.
In the end you were made in His image.
In the end that was what I was searching for.
someone to take over twisting the knife
that He’d inserted
until I learned to turn it in myself.
But boy, you know that I would have covered you in kisses,
even if it left me a corpse,
if I could have had
to make you
Car Poem / by Ronald J. Palmer
As I drive down the freeway
the wind whirls around my car
sounds like a window is open
but I check and there is not.
I am going 10 miles over
the speed limit and still
Highway patrol sitting
in the shoulder doesn’t
seem to care.
I wonder what it looks like
all these cars going by.
Could it be like fish swimming
in schools in the ocean?
Someone once said we are all under water.
Maybe that is why we race
toward our destinations–
to keep from drowning.
My thoughts are interrupted
as I see a police car
on the other side of the freeway
with its lights on
apparently stopping someone
apparently stopping no one
and I immediately slow down.
Poem 18 / Day 18
Bankruptcy of Black Folk Pt. 1 / by Rashaun J. Allen
Grandma said, “No bank can manage my money better than me.”
Her dollars play games
And Hide and Seek.
Still no-funds-to-withdraw is the fastest way bonds break
from Mac and Cheese stuffed faces to unstoppable tears unable to undo a final goodbye.
And can’t no amount of Gofunding bring the band back together.
Surviving on less than so long coming into green can curse who is supposed to be blessed.
That generational shift is enough for siblings’ kids to never know who the hell their cousins are.
All I asked was, “Why black folk so poor?”
Erasure / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
Oh L’amour, long before I beheld a black mirror
I was singing the synth pop lyrics of Erasure.
I tried to discover a little something
to make me sweeter, but that too was erasure.
Who needs love like that? I begged the question
but found no answers in the song by Erasure.
I wouldn’t conform to the ancient female rites
passed down, the feast and costume of erasure.
Why you making me work so hard— as if I was
supposed to do the heavy lifting of my own erasure.
Sometimes the truth is harder than the broken
heart that decides to perform self-inflicted erasure.
Oh L’amour, I love to hate you
dancing to the beat of Erasure.
Inhospitable Days and Quiet Nights / by Mark Grinyer
After a day spent visiting the hospital
for another complaint, another disease,
the old couple works their way home.
It was a long day walking and
wheeling through halls,
waiting for tests
or new treatments to fix
what age has left them–
more new pains and more new aches,
new disabilities and reasons to visit
where they don’t want to be
for whatever is left of their time
to enjoy what they’ve learned to enjoy—
quiet times at home for peaceful days
doing the things they still can do,
living with who they love today.
Leaf Lessons / by Ruth Happel
October knows just how to bring
Magic for the earth to sing.
Fall revealed a thousand ways
Lingers for a month of days.
Soft warm noon and sharp cool night
Steady shifting of sun’s light
Colors start as narrow streak
Stretched across the highest peak.
As time passes green erased
Each and every leaf replaced
With a palette of vibrant hues
Etched against a brilliant blue.
Overnight the colors shift
Trees display their newest gift.
Down the mountain colors follow
Finish in deep shadowed hollow.
In the autumn forests show
Endings are a way to grow,
Beauty is part of being older
And a time for acting bolder,
These are lessons beyond speech
Secrets only leaves can teach.
On my therapist’s wall / by Willie James
On my therapist’s wall there is a sleeve of crocheted wool
hanging off a cane of oak.
I think of a tree that’s fruiting, its bent boughs blooming apples
like small tears.
He tells me a story about him and his wife in the woods.
How, once, in a found shack, they slept, staying warm burning splinters
of reclaimed lumber.
Growth is struggle his business card quotes.
And I recognize something honest in the bark shaved walls,
but don’t understand why.
And I feel like wet leaves, and the morning,
and how cold it is waking up.
Blindness / by Jennifer Kelley
I blinded my sand sculpture
dragged 4 fingers through her eyes
just like the emotion that rushed my heart
at your memory
It makes me feel like making
sculptures from stone
solely blinded women
to decorate my flat
I won’t feel so alone
Lunar Prophecy / by Anu Mahadev
She has been warned not to sleep with moonlight
on her face. “The moon will steal your beauty”,
they say in hushed whispers, wisps of wind
around her neck. “It will leave you pockmarked
with its craters”. She is intrigued, tilts her head
towards the lunar eclipse when nobody is looking.
The colors play in her head like a disco ball,
a flash here, an orange hued ring there.
It’s Rose Day. She doesn’t get a single one.
Her skin is covered in thorns, they say. She repels
them, they recoil from her, the touch-me-not.
During the winter & spring, she pinches her cheeks,
a natural blush. Hoping she won’t have to sit
at a makeup counter in Sephora again, oh the false
elegance, oh the humiliation. Of being told to put toner,
cleanser, foundation, remover, wax. Instead, she plants.
That which grows by night. Casablanca lily, Dusty Miller,
Japanese anemone, silver sage, sweet autumn clematis.
Trudging alone, she learns to keep a gratitude journal.
No mirror is her friend, will never be. She looks at the sky,
its spreading twilight, everyday. But her eyes close
with each white moonrise, never to be seen again.
Reality comes to steal her dreams. She sues it for theft.
Her virginal dreams, but others have been there before.
Nothing is unique, except her acne-ridden face. Beauty,
that elusive creature, in the eye of the beholder, is only
expected externally. After all, nobody throws a fashion
show for kindness, grace and a big heart. Her moods
swing with the phases every fortnight. Until everything
goes dark. The moon, the sky, her face, that open book.
When I Get Exposed / by Ronald J. Palmer
Will it be like the two
dead squirrels on their backs
near the curb of the yard
of the church.
Or like a tree
bark slowing peeling.
Or perhaps it won’t be
so drastic when people
find I ain’t that smart.
Maybe like a flashlight
its battery low
Poem 17 / Day 17
When Time Laughs with Us / by Rashaun J. Allen
A Golden Retriever chases its own tail,
while we’re indecisive between playing O’clock or Skelly.
Winning is a brag never forgotten by the losers
‘till Mr. Softie’s tune wisps us away.
Ice cream is a scoop of heaven in this hellish heat.
It’s okay for street clothes to get stained,
unless the filth drips on Mom’s tiled floor!
Wandering Breukelen for another fun game before street lights come on.
Ageless Ode / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
after Walt Whitman
In the relative universe of infinity
Numbers get us out of bed
They line our pockets and sometimes not
They fall to the ground, noticed unnoticed
They crown street signs and highway signs, yet
weightless, they fall like leaves and
fly up like sparks in a fireplace.
The only numbers that get things done are zeroes and ones.
And counting stars is pointless, yet connects us in universal unknown.
Therefore let us count all the numberless things:
the caress of wind on our cheeks, teasing our bare backs, tempting the sea
the exhilaration of our humble bodies playing with earth’s forces
the mischief of a child contemplating a pile of snow, its wet invitation
the way a lover’s thoughts caress your thigh
the thrill of acceleration we create with our feet—
in cars, across grass, through water, down hills
the solid embrace of love from family, eyes meeting eyes with affection
from friends in mutual admiration
the upwelling of a song and being led by it into unexpected rejoice
the sky, its tireless color full of promise
the gift of days and what a day can bring
these too are an infinity
Find every excuse to be numberless! Carried
farther than what your eyes can see—
and I’ll be there too, dear friend
rolling down the grassy hills
climbing and shaking the everloving trees
Eating an Onion / by Mark Grinyer
from the ground
of its dirt
from the skin
Owl Song / by Ruth Happel
As cricket songs fade away
Owls punctuate the night.
At midnight great horned owls call
Back and forth from moonlit trees
He starts to woo with a hoo
She replies with her soft hoo
An endless series of questions
They slowly answer in the dark.
This is the start of their courtship
Just as other birds have left
Seeking warmer southern days.
They will nest in heart of winter
Impervious to bitter cold
Time for tiny babies to grow
Wings as wide as I am tall
Flying in perfect silence
To catch unsuspecting prey,
The eggs must hatch so early.
Over and over he asks who
Until she finally answers- you.
As They Try Too / by Willie James
In the boats that dot the lake
there is little doubt;
it takes little faith to dock up, to let the sky
as if conquered. But still,
that doesn’t stop my nerves. A cup
of water, a shield my two palms create to splash
what feels broken. On this shore,
outside the protection of my hand’s heel, I’m pretty sure
there are better ways
to look for love. I don’t know yet though.
I’m younger than I’d like to be
and this is a lake where old men go
to avoid the cold. There is a type of beauty composed
when alone, I listen to it
in the fishermen’s quiet rowing with their motors up
on their hull. They are the nearest
to the fish
guarding their nests. I am miles from home.
I’m hoping, as they try too, to figure everything out,
to find you
somewhere, here, among the sturgeon, in passage, briefly,
outside the ocean
to the lakes small reef.
Even The Big Dipper / by Ronald J. Palmer
It is a cool day, my love
the wind getting ready
to breathe flurries.
It is a cruel day, my love
the trees whip their leaves
against my face.
In spite of those signs
there is contentment
and I could stand in defiance
saying my world won’t change.
I know that’s not the way
the universe works.
Look across the night sky
and even the big dipper
doesn’t appear the same.
Poem 16 / Day 16
When Sparks Fly in Dull Places / by Rashaun J. Allen
She was a scientist, who couldn’t understand,
the big bang made everything but love;
could no one stargaze in her eyes?
Timed killed on Facebook was where love came alive.
Babies, engagements, and marriages galore
from the high school dropout to can’t-keep-her-legs-closed Kathy
“Ain’t that some shit,” she said.
Off her Pixel, she left the night lamp on to read a self-help book,
The 5 Love Languages—none she spoke fluently.
On ladies’ night, she wore a flashy olivine dress.
Ordering the drink special, the spot was filled with regulars.
Drunk off impure thoughts, she spoke a sober truth,
“Where do I meet a nice guy?”
He’s a dead-beat Dad, that’s what his ex said.
17% that’s what his check said.
Playdates don’t happen with his sister’s kids.
Nor does reality match his effort or intention.
Stressed out; he’s not in the same place as his boys.
Them: Crop Over. Him: Wishing he calling in sick.
He drove to the bar looking to get away.
“Let me get the special with twice the love in it.”
They locked eyes.
Pineapple Park / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
We found Pineapple Park when my oldest was four
by the sailboats on the river they’d climb and run
but my children are grown, we don’t come anymore
The oak and palm trees filter afternoon light
the children played hide and seek with the sun
when we first found this park my daughter was four
The girls would swing to the scariest heights
and I’d be mortified while they screamed in fun
my children are grown, we don’t come anymore
They’d careen down the slide and almost take flight
laugh, shake the dirt, then bolt on a run
when we first found this park, my oldest was four
Now I come here alone, to think and write
during school hours, it’s just me and the bums
my children are grown, we don’t come anymore
This air is still cool and this river still bright
but this place has an echo now that I’m done
We found Pineapple Park when my daughter was four
but my children are grown, we don’t come anymore.
Leaf Letters / by Ruth Happel
Creek reflects full forest trees
Floating in shifting mirror
A few golden leaves drift by
Message from unseen future
Warning summery woodland
Green canopy will slip away.
Will that be enough? / by Willie James
When I sit down to brew coffee at my parents house,
I still can’t figure out how to use their machine. It looks
like a small rocket whose buttons initiate a take off. I press
Capachino and it talks to me like a mother might, accepting
a birthday card. I eye it suspiciously: it’s maternal presence
in my own mothers kitchen. It beeps and begins its brew
and I can’t help but eye my own mother sitting down, stirring
a scoop of honey into a chamomile tea. In the future,
I wonder, will everything feel like a mother, looking down
on me like satellites from the sky? Will I hear her voice
everywhere? And if so, will that be enough?
That’s a band I used to listen to / by Jennifer Kelley
I found an old letter that I’d written to a friend
about the first time that we got back together
I’d written you a poem to tell you how sorry I was
and couldn’t we possibly try again?
I asked if you wanted to read it.
You asked me to read it to you
though I knew that you preferred to read silently.
In the end, you read it over my shoulder as I spoke the words
words of longing and regret, of love and safety.
And when I finished, you looked at me
Oh you, and your poetry, you managed,
before burying your face in my neck.
Is that a yes? I asked.
Who could say not to that? you laughed
and then we were kissing
and then you were mine again.
It wasn’t just like that all the years we were together.
I know that there were times when you’d rather I was gone.
When I mention the letter to you, you tell me
that you don’t remember any of it.
I’d forgotten too,
fallen into who we became in the following years
and wondering where that lucky-in-love couple had gone.
Thinking of you now, I feel simple and hopeful.
Remembering back then, how safe and complete I was.
That no one had ever held me like that,
like a breakwater or a windbreaker.
But the winds of change came, slowly charging onward,
and now that version of us is just
some band that I used to listen to every chance I got,
but now can only vaguely remember the words.
How to drink coffee shots. / by Anu Mahadev
I want to tell her it will be okay, fresh off the boat.
She never knew what an espresso shot was.
Grind fresh whole beans before brewing.
Check the grind texture, ensure it is like granulated sugar.
Until that day in a local suburban Starbucks.
She ordered it, thinking it would impress her date.
Fill the portafilter with 14-18 gm for a double dose.
Pack the grounds, level them to ensure consistent water contact.
He ordered a latte, or was it cafe au lait? It was all a blur.
Someone had said he looked like a movie star.
To tamp, hold your elbow at 90 degrees, rest portafilter
on an even surface. Apply pressure so coffee has a polished look.
She dressed in her best outfit, one that would hide her flab.
First impressions were important, she knew, especially external.
Place the portafilter into the machine’s brew head, place
your pre-heated cup beneath it. Grab a timer, time your shot!
It wasn’t perfect timing. Later his mother told her parents she looked
older than her picture. She had drained her coffee in less than a minute.
Initiate the pull. Watch carefully. If the dose, grind and tamp are ideal,
the first part of the brew should be be dark before it turns to a golden brown.
He, on the other hand was still sipping his beverage, as if it were wine.
Carefully watching her examine the dregs in her cup, with disbelief.
The foamy mixture must flow into the cup in a thin stream, without breaking.
After the shot has reached 2oz, stop it. The ideal brew time is between 20-30 seconds.
He had decided she wasn’t the one for him. Soon his braggadocio surfaced.
The BMW he gifted himself last week, the promotion he recently got.
If the shots are coming out unevenly from both spouts, adjust the grind,
dose and tamp. The result is a fine golden crema, resting above a rich, dark brew.
What a turnoff! He ran his long manicured fingers through his thick mane,
looked around in disdain. He was probably used to more superior cafes.
Mix the crema in right before drinking. All machines are different, so practice!
And experiment. Follow these general guidelines, but also personal preference.
He didn’t offer to pay, asked for separate bills. With a firm handshake, she walked
out, head held high. Her first espresso, but certainly not her first rejection.
Oh yes, and buy our coffee brand! It works best with all espresso machines!
She bought the espresso machine, and mentally parted with jerks, with blind dates.
What If Made Into A Movie / by Ronald J. Palmer
All my regrets
are like old books
sitting on a shelve
where I only look
at the titles
the mistakes and
The story won’t change
with a second read;
there will be no
Poem 15 / Day 15
The One Millionth Excuse / by Rashaun J. Allen
Nah, spitting excuses has shown huge weakness.
With who do you place blame today?
To make me take the truth to my lied-to filled vision,
and game me with dark words to raise hell.
When has your undoing stalled this resolve of better times ahead,
in the thick of nothingness
there is such deceit and wit of rawness
in my presence, your best has left.
Who skipped the lesson on procrastination?
The less I listen and watch a just cause of doubt
Nah, though I hate what you do not do,
Without others’ permission your footprints believed unblessed.
If your worthy raise the devil in me,
Less significant, but relevant, I despise this part of you.
The Future is a Fossil / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
Fifty years since the first time we visited the moon
our first footprint upon regolith, the ephemera
of one million man-hours, trials and discoveries
false starts, explosions, mission after mission and
every widget invented to catapult men 200,000 miles
we now carry in our back pockets, but the truths—
that those victories have been lost, the breadcrumbs eaten
tapes degaussed, reused, documents shredded and recycled
someone must’ve recorded it, didn’t some body
xerox or microfiche the classified schematics, warehouse
reels of telemetric data, the umpteen scenarios, parabolic equations?
We’ve drifted back to the no go zone. The only proof in grains
images burned upon collective memory. All
we have left are the postcards we sent ourselves.
Listening to Music Out by the Garden / by Mark Grinyer
Summer is over; fall has arrived. In my garden
the remaining plants have gone to seed.
The catnip’s doing well, but our cats are dead,
so we might as well dig it out
and let some other perennial herbs,
sage, oregano, or thyme, perhaps,
or some other mint–spearmint or peppermint,
take its place and flourish there instead.
Music pays under moon-lit skies
as the evening’s chill arrives.
My garden has grown dilapidated,
and making new soil seems an onerous task
so I laze back to listen awhile
leaving a mess of bedraggled plants
dying in the dirt as dew begins to fall
as the Moonlight Sonata plays. It celebrates
release, the peace of quiet nights.
I’m here tonight for the harvest moon
the rustle of living things in trees,
moonlight so bright you can almost read
or write outside by its light.
Autumn breezes have yet to freeze
into wintery chill, when dormant trees
and small animals protect themselves
from cold. I too, will hide inside
from frozen nights and frigid days,
when even sunshine is cold. They’ll
be fallow days for my garden, I think,
and also, I hope, the days of peace we need.
Water Moves / by Ruth Happel
Rain fills empty space
Traces path to creek and shows
The way water moves
Having Arrived / by Willie James
The night is configuring itself like a poorly made Ikea product.
A soft butter cutting into this evening’s fall, I’m sure
there’s a better view than out a bookstore window that half reflects
myself. I had not put any of this to words yet,
one small sheep I stared at discarded on the Fiction shelf,
my mood distant and pastoral, each emotion
foreign as a station on a radio wave I searched for
through each new city as I drove here a year ago. Jordan too,
appeared to feel the same, head bent over a cold chicken thigh
on a paper plate, he could only articulate things with a defeated
I don’t know… then stood up to straighten books
around the store. Straighter was better tonight, cleaner, neater
piles, as if we could box our thoughts into step by step instructions.
Philosophy, Self Help, Business and Travel, he trimmed each
sections shape until they had a sense of curation
to themselves. Identity. I wonder if a year ago I could imagine
this version of my life. On this day, the road through Wyoming
patterned with a light snow, found it body suddenly
and only temporary as the wind swept the powder out
of its way. Tonight, no different than before, having arrived,
the night’s untimely cold, held us both inside
on our break. Checking occasionally to see, with raised hand,
if there’d be rain on our walk home, so little had changed, yet,
a comfort, as if it didn’t matter, being here, not alone.
Untitled Almost-Sonnet of Two in Love. / by Jennifer Kelley
Watching the two of you
eat from the same plate
watching her warn against one tomato
in favor of the other.
When he says, “Don’t get me excited
or I’ll go on forever,”
she raises a gentle brow and says,
“I was going to suggest you take a bite.”
The way that these two communicate
is so gentle and persistent.
I find that I don’t worry that they’ll ever
not be able to talk something out.
But with open hearts,
they reach out to us as they reach
for each other, in such a way that
I feel, witnessing their joy —
that my own increases with their vicinity
to that point that happiness is the only option.
Elegy for a Maroon Sedan / by Anu Mahadev
I did not have to deal with a car salesman –
maybe I should have. But how could I have known
otherwise, that smart-aleck talk is cheaper
than cruelty, as I take the only too familiar highway
from university into city outskirts, years ago with no GPS,
only relying on a faded map in my reckless hands?
Skyscrapers cut through blue horizon, the wind sliced
my ear like a whippoorwill. I should have cared better –
not let the engine sputter in the middle of a bridge,
horns blaring everywhere. Safe driving can get you only
so much. Sometimes we forget that there is dark side.
A cheerful celebration for a 22 year old doesn’t
mean you bought her soul, even if the gift was a used
Subaru. But I could not see the blind spot, neglected
to see the signs. Change, the only constant, doesn’t apply
to the base persona. Humans tend to forget that fact.
Especially those that want to care for you. The ones
for whom a relationship is a negotiation. The breakup
couldn’t have been better timed. I donated the junk car –
the scrap metal and the parts to charity. My first ever
solo ride. Somewhere in an impoverished neighborhood,
a child in its newly upholstered backseat cries in delight.
Because this new steering wheel doesn’t have my blood
or the imprints of my broken nose. Violence is apparently
another name for affection. So is oppression. And somewhere
lies my freedom, chastised and ironbound in handcuffs,
a dear price to pay for the promise of love, in manual gear.
Perennial Sunflowers / by Ronald J. Palmer
They grow along the freeway
heads sticking up in defiance
of our exhaust.
Poem 14 / Day 14
The Way She Laughed / by Rashaun J. Allen
Zoom throughout the day without missing a beat.
Yet hope the weekend lasts forever.
X-Ray vision sees into the future—buying her two drinks are worth it.
We talk about stars, and how Kim Kardashian is her celebrity crush.
It’s obvious her type is based upon a Novella.
Understand when she’s says, “Don’t judge Me,” I
Stretch out the conversation so exchanging numbers isn’t awkward.
Ditch Poem / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
The volleyball team was going to 7-11 for slurpees, but
my daughters wanted Siptopia from Wawa, so we detoured
then piled back in the van to catch up with the gang
at the stoplight, Faith yelled “Mama, look!” pointing
to the deep ditch between Palm Bay Rd. and BJs Warehouse
some semblance of nature: water, tall grass and a surprise
three roseate spoonbills bathing, right there, pink and astonishing
I gestured to the car behind me to look they ignored me probably
thought I was on drugs or nuts, then a man walked past
arms full of bags, and I said look! he followed my finger
saw those three pink birds and oh my! a huge blue heron too
farther off in a meditative trance on the embankment. All this
made my daughters howl and laugh, but how could I keep
that beauty to myself? Creatures oblivious to us, finding space
in the midst of concrete, metal, and exhaust. Any second
they could be gone. I stared until the light turned green and we left.
An Old Man’s Hand / by Mark Grinyer
A portrait of my paternal grandfather
Underneath the wrinkles
of an old man’s hand
blue vessels bulge
with blood tonight
approaching his bony wrist
where they duck out of sight
opposite the end of
his heavily calloused palm
the remnant of hard years
of laborious sweat
in fields and workshops where
sweat earned the right
to hold in hand each night
a beer with dinner cooked
by his main squeeze
and chief delight
and the memories they left
of living in the light
of self-worth earned
not grace bestowed
by some divinity’s act
but earned by effort
and good will acted out
for children and community,
his place in a home
full of life and light
where knotted veins
and wrinkled hands present
a life well-lived for years
approaching its denouement.
Carolina Wrens / by Ruth Happel
Carolina wrens are busy
Searching through my flowerpots
Balancing on narrow edges
Pecking at fading houseplants.
They nested on my porch this spring
And seem drawn now to return
With their always cheery calls.
Feeding at a frantic pace
Sensing approach of winter
Admire their bold persistence
With Our Eyes Closed How Do We Know We Won’t Get Hurt? / by Willie James
When I walk into the Royal British Museum
I try not to focus on its facts, its jeweled summaries framing
a historical context,
but instead, directly on
the animatronic Wooly Mammoth, whose whale-like physique,
tautens and loosens alongside
a record repeating chirps of rock sparrows between
blasts of October wind. I want to enter
with faith, I too know,
the thin ribbon of smoke
rising from the body of sticks
laid for fire over snow,
can lift in me, the same path a sleepwalker
might have followed three
million years ago, further out into the fields
where ambition rested
on a tusk of ivory tied to spear, to those more clenched
fists of human nature. To feel
is a sort of faith, I believe, I blindly grope
toward, especially now,
in the half-turned light of this room, where another
creature, I’ve imagined, too, steadies
its slow breath, too, only stirred
by a shake of wind. I have to trust
there is no harm.
Upon Turning 38 / by Jennifer Kelley
In the stillness of the day of my birth,
the sun rises, warming the sky,
the birds fly overhead, poopless,
and the surfers attack
what few rolling waves there are.
In the stillness of my day of birth,
I sip a chai latte and call it good,
as though I were its Creator, after all,
and not the other way around.
The cup weighs heavy and then lighter
as the foam gives way to creamy tea.
The voice of my beloved in my ear
even when I’m too blissed out to hear her.
Listening to that rumble
and roll of her consonants and vowels
that calls me home, every time I pick up the phone.
As a parted whole, we are not so swell at functioning
and the thought of her in my arms once again
fills me with a frantic sort of joy.
The new year can’t come soon enough.
In the stillness of my day of birth,
I eat a pastry of jam and phyllo dough
that gets all over the place as I chortle.
As I am reminded of the silliness of life,
of tiny joys that somehow compose my existence now.
Today of all days.
Thank you, I call to the universe,
thank you for my life.
Blue Moon / by Anu Mahadev
Tonight, we ride on his motorbike.
I, the pillion rider, resist holding on to his sinewy arms.
He talks about clouds, wildfires, planets,
I try not to appear too interested.
He says that the meteor shower isn’t lit brightly enough,
I nod, looking up at the dull yellow sunset, buzzing with night bugs.
A sudden jerk, the bike stops at a pothole. The fog sets in.
Pressed firmly against his back, just for a brief second,
there is that hot current swirling in my rose-colored veins.
I catch my breath, he swerves, turns towards the beach.
My scarf tassels undulate in the night air.
Moonbeams are on full intensity, casting shadows as we pull in.
I wonder why. I don’t ask. I take what I get.
We park, walk towards the water,
slip off our sandals, squishing our feet in the cool white sand.
I take it all in, no expectation.
The internal struggle is real, a wish –
that it would be more than platonic.
But nothing is copacetic, not in my world.
The trees sway, the water glitters – someone weaves a spell on them.
Did the nebulae conspire for this perfect setting?
We sit down, listening to the waves slam the rocks.
Like on the Brittany shore, I say.
His brown eyes glow like burnt sienna.
We talk for hours, I don’t look at the watch even once.
Why waste a second? I don’t usually talk to boys,
but he has the ability to get words out of me.
My mouth gets carried away. All the elements of a fantasy.
And then it happens. The inevitable.
I may not be a looker, but I am smart, witty.
He is captivated. Leans over to kiss me.
Something triggers inside me. I don’t want this dream to end.
I don’t want to end up as another notch on his bedpost.
Maybe there is some depth to unrequited love.
Or what I think is love, but now I know is infatuation.
I pull away and don’t look at him. He is astonished.
The playboy being rejected. I don’t think he takes it too well.
Because right then, we walk back, not saying a word.
He drops me home courteously, and without looking back,
rides away into the inky dark, dashing all my hopes.
My eyes spill hot tears of shame, of folly.
I hold onto this evening like a forget-me-not,
ignoring the crater growing inside me.
Star Time / by Ronald J. Palmer
What if time flies
because of stars
like the moon controls
If black holes
Could it be?
After all, the sun
is a star and brings
us a new day.
At night, stars
just like the moon
unless covered up
getting ready to rain or snow.
I look out tonight
and time does slow
it doesn’t show.
Poem 13 / Day 13
I Hate My Job / by Rashaun J. Allen
I should be thankful to have an 8-4.
Enough to pay my bills, spill my drink, and order more.
As I walk through the office doors, I think, I deserve better.
But before my seat is warm, my boss screams, “Get this work done now!”
An epiphany comes to mind: There’s too big a gap between my emergency fund and “F U Money, I quit.”
I’m starting to feel sick.
This common cold is a classic case of employer bullshit.
Staring at the clock every 15 minutes
I wish, I hope, I pray
This day is finished.
Backyard Surprise / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
Before I see their
across the sky
four in formation
red, white striped
and glossy blue
they engage my
hearing, then flash
bank, pivot and twist
in the afternoon sun
a low dense
roar reaches my
ears like a wave
preparing to break
upon the shore
yet only gently
covering my feet
with vanishing foam.
It was unexpected
and for several
minutes I sit
hoping for more.
Homage to Williams in Old Age / by Mark Grinyer
After multiple strokes, it seems,
the thing itself became
the loss to time’s impress, where
“The descent beckons
as the ascent beckoned.
Memory is a kind
a mountain’s rise attempted
the failure to reach that peak
while scaling other heights
the depths of an ocean, perhaps,
where winter’s cold retreats
from surfaces of sunlight
to chill the darkest depths
the depths beneath all light
where mudflats writhe
with the squirm of worms
and cold-blooded fish compete
as predators eat prey
become prey again to predators,
sharks of ancient lineage
pursuing through the depths
where what was known is forgotten
and light will no longer reach
however hard we strive
for the sunlight high above us
beckoning from the beach
where lust and love defined
what once enriched our life
the touch that erased all fears
as we joined our lives together
like Bill and Flossie did
beginning to live together
despite the threat of war
as Vietnam’s destruction rose
like the crash of surf against rocks
breaking spray into salty tears
that soaked our youthful cheeks
destroyed by some dream’s retreat
The touch of gnats distracting me
from this poem’s implied conceit.
Torn Leaves / by Ruth Happel
Clinging leaves shiver
Cold wind blows through in the dark
Pulling them away.
Growing up after High School / by Willie James
As if humanity was a series of wounds, I lived those days always
with my sleeves overs my fingers, chewing
the threads of their cuffs, walking out my history class. It’s plain,
if I wanted, I could stare at all the handprints on the wall,
coated, in a simple blanket of paint, to create the mural of
“The class of 2004.” I didn’t want to, I guess, grow up,
which, I know first implies “opening up,” which, I’ve learned
involves taking off the cloths I’ve relied on
these years to provide an alternative conversation, a camouflage,
that falls in favor of what the whims of others want. But,
what if, instead, I were, with a small toolbox of acrylic, able
to paint this discolored nausea into something I felt I could offer. To
honor. Outline, in bold, between those intimate moments
I accept the quiet gift of a compliment, a cat,
who, at first, ignores all love, till when looked away, approaches.
Not Quite Answers / by Jennifer Kelley
There’s a lump in my throat that keeps me from screaming.
I don’t know if I’m grateful or not.
There’s a heft in my heart that sometimes stops dreaming
but inside my head I’m teaming for something real.
Where is that innate trust that I had in myself when I was four?
Where is that devil-may-care grin?
Why has the hesitancy come?
Why is she a stranger?
I’m tempted to put these questions as statements
because they have no real answers,
but exist as facts and longings in my mind.
In my soul, there’s a dark place that I keep stuffing
toughening up until I’m puffing,
but it never seems to make a dent.
The spiritualists tell me that God goes there
that love goes there,
and maybe that’s true.
All I ever wanted was love from you.
But there’s some other clock a-ticking
tea kettle whistling and yet whispering
as though I’m running out of time to breathe.
Do I measure the years in love, as some say to do?
Do I try and seek salvation, whether from myself or God?
Or is there something quiet inside that’s trying to awaken
and I only need nurture it, and let it grow?
That lump in my throat just a seed pouch
meant not to silence, but to blossom into song?
Only An Impression / by Ronald J. Palmer
Once we had consideration
and practiced the archaic
rules of etiquette.
Now we proclaim
“Do Not Compromise”
and so, we learn to despise—
to despise, belittle
and to burn.
As I listen to the shouting
I don’t think we will return
to a time more civil,
(unless by civil you mean war).
Not much seems below
Yes, I been reading
Facebook posts again.
I was reminded how
in my neighborhood
ganged up on a hawk
and left it dying
in a neighbor’s yard.
Poem 12 / Day 12
An American Hero / by Rashaun J. Allen
He was your average Joe.
Nah, he was your average Jose,
flocking with his right-hand man since high school
bad grades and one plan
get the baddest chick around; brag across the land.
All he knew about his padre
was he loved wearing the red, white, and blue of his birth place.
Anything else his madre offered in jest
you look like your father
ain’t shit like your father
can’t expect everything from me like your father.
The only positive words he heard
“Be all you can be,”
The army: a place that can pay for a college degree.
Shipped to Iraq to fight terrorists—he terrorized.
so much killing he thought death an award.
But when he died no one remembered his name.
Outer Space Self-Storage / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
On Tuesday I met a fellow mom at a storage unit
to search through paperwork, I’d never seen a facility
like this one before: no walls, each unit a chain-link cage
full of silent exiles of lives still carrying on outside, and
walking through the rows of cages my voyeuristic
gene clicked on: I could see everything stashed away
in each four by eight transparent closet. Old coats and
clothes hanging dejected on racks. Boxes and boxes of
what? Beer signs, full-size cut-outs of Johnny Depp
hideous art and expectant furniture. Feather boas,
sequined costumes, and old computer monitors. Staring
at a unit across the corridor for a few minutes,
my anthropologist gene clicked on, imagining
the individuals hiding behind heaps of treasures
what their stories are, the role each object played.
And under this roof, how many stories are the same?
How the human mind clings
paying monthly rental
to hold on to these things.
Departure Time / by Ruth Happel
Autumn is melancholy,
A season full of endings.
In spring there are so many firsts
Flowers, birds, unfolding leaves,
But now they all slip away.
Harder to trace departures
Any day may be the last
Warbler singing from the swamp,
Final butterfly dancing,
One last leaf to spiral down.
Then earth is drenched in silence
Along with rains bringing colder
Air from another season.
Because of Legends of Elves / by Willie James
In gym class, the coaches hand out all the hockey sticks,
then retire to their office.
bell hooks says everybody wants love but is confused
at its daily practice.
And it’s obvious that despite the fact that everybody wants
to play hockey today,
we’re all imagining a different game. In Iceland, I’ve heard
they keep some forests sacred, detouring
highways miles out of the way because
of legends of elves. What does it mean
to preserve an imagined thing? I mean, rather,
what are things you have to do?
It’s like the way I reach for prayer even though I’m not sure
I believe in god. Despite the fact,
that so many kids have thrown their backpacks down
and walked to their locker, there are a few
who’ve cross their legs and sat on the half court line.
They have an idea
they’re talking through. They want to make it work.
Dawning / by Jennifer Kelley
The sun is waking up and one coffee shop is closed —
so I find myself sitting in front of the other,
slightly more expensive shop,
sipping on a morning brew.
And I can’t recall that quote verbatim,
so I take out my phone
and look it up,
Between the lips and the voice something goes dying.
Something with the wings of a bird, something of anguish and oblivion.
The way nets cannot hold water.
I wonder if the children in cages
ever see the sunrise anymore?
Or if they only greet
a lightening patch of blue
out a window,
and call it day?
I wish that they could be like water
flowing through these unjust nets that hold them
because even little pebbles sink to the bottom
of even the quickest flowing streams.
And the government tells me that these children are stones
that they will weigh down the country,
a sagging load.
And then I see a child.
I see all that possibility
and I think to myself:
a child is an adult with wings.
One day soon
they must fly free.
Another Leaf / by Ronald J. Palmer
Another leaf falls
and I feel a chill
and a creak in my bones.
Another leaf falls
and turns in the air.
It gets more difficult
to climb the stars.
Another leaf falls
and joins the pile.
Things don’t go
Was that a howl
far down the street?
Another leaf falls
and the simple
How to work this
I have no clue.
Another leaf falls
and I take a poor turn.
Another leaf and I wonder
What will be left.
I used to know what
to do with all
these damn leaves.
Poem 11 / Day 11
Incarcerated Scholars / by Rashaun J. Allen
Society loves to forget those in prison. As if all crimes are equal. As if change is an uncrackable code. Do you know what happens to people once they’re imprisoned? Their kids, parents and loved ones do the bid too. A chair is empty every holiday and celebration. And every time one visits or sends what’s needed it is a luxury that can be snatched.
I witnessed incarcerated scholars cross the graduation stage. And failed to hold back tears. The moment that watered my eyes was the class rep’s speech about giving up on himself, how he found himself at his lowest, and how it killed him to disappoint his loved ones. No, the moment was the pride in my cousin’s eyes telling me about how his professor challenged him to think differently. Nah, it was both.
I want to write deeply. But the deeper in life’s well I dig all I see is a younger me who was two bad decision from switching places. Catching cases. Losing hope. And refusing to come to terms that it is okay to ask for help. God bless the kindness of strangers—sometimes those closest can’t perceive change. I have to tell the world I witnessed incarcerated scholars (some who may never come out) on personal missions of redemption.
Near the Santa Ana Mountains 10/10/19 / by Mark Grinyer
Sitting outside at noon today
as the wind gusts around me
I detect the smell of smoke.
I wet my finger, hold it up
to learn the direction from which
this acrid stuff is blowing.
It’s a Santa Ana day, high winds
from the north and east
and the power may be cut
as providers try to prevent
a fire sparked by power lines–
another disaster like the one
that killed so many last year.
I hope good luck is with us
today, and there is no need
for such drastic measures as
we need a break from fear,
a period without disasters
without the constant rush
of bad news every day.
Although climate change is real
with all its consequent threats
and our politics are acrimonious,
without compromise or trust, I
try to ignore the mess. I don’t
want to think about this, so
I turn my attention away.
despite these hints of smoke,
I try to admire hummingbirds
flying deftly as they feed
from flowers in the brush.
Their energy is my rest.
Robins / by Ruth Happel
Robins speak in softer voices
Gone are cheerful songs of spring
In summer they patrolled my lawn
Tilting heads to hear the earth,
Moving in quick starts and stops
Unearthing buried treasure.
Now I see them deep in woods
Reaping harvest of dogwood fruit
Bright red berries seem to seep
Right through feathers to bright breast.
In my forest robins gather
Joining together into flocks
Some will stay through bitter cold
Others migrate far away.
Iroquois legend says hunter
Too sick to tend his own fire
Saved by robin who gathered twigs
Fanned the embers with strong wings
Belly burned bright red by flames
Both survived to become friends.
In this story every spring
Robins nest near people’s homes.
I am glad to share my house
All the bounty of my yard
With these sweet and curious birds
Singing songs at dusk for me.
Get Up / by Willie James
Unfailingly the day rolls forward
like cookie dough across a counter
picking up the lost chocolate
chips. We are not political
says the Nobel committee deciding
once and for all to turn
to state their diplomacy through
gritted teeth like a child brushing whiter
their white shirt repeating: I don’t care what people think.
I mean we might have
different bodies, different lives, but
these churches, shaped like candle wax
in their crumbled stone, no matter what
seem to turn to only condos,
black glass reflecting clouds. Even before
the open freezer, I’m studying, beyond
the melting ice, each hard crown
of ice cream photo’d glossy
on the cardboard box. Grown
more accustomed to habit, the
simple pleasures of adult life, even
inside the joy of sleeping late, it’s
no match for the next world,
getting older. My niece bangs
on my door. Yells Get up! with two-year-old
voice, a small fist she’s discovering,
with every smack. I don’t question her
need. I want to do what her world demands.
Haiku / by Jennifer Kelley
Feeling a sand crab
Scurry against the sole of
My foot. Purity.
Loner / by Anu Mahadev
She loves to play pretend games.
Keeping house under the table,
or hide-n-seek in the hedges.
All by herself.
The sharp edges of a wall, the curves
of the old typewriter – she runs her hands
against these clean surfaces, imprinting her fingers,
committing them to muscle memory.
There are corners in her brain, filing
everything in the Dewey decimal system,
faces, names, neatly tucked away.
She seems to move only forward,
moving past people, collecting, gathering
But she is often lost in the past,
historical novels, movies, events, albums.
At an angle, she accentuates her gaze
into the spine of books, as if she could
see through them.
She is now the ice woman, passing mindlessly
from person to person, in a conduit of empty sex.
Men don’t exist for too long in golden mirrors,
in her ideal scenario.
She dances in the twilight on a terrace,
glowing in the sun of self – a device that can’t manifest
in any household.
She never belongs to anyone, being part of popular
cliques are not her thing. Older, wiser, she withdraws
herself from anything that has the capacity to hurt, to unhinge
her from what she thinks is real.
She often is found, bathing in the moon dust,
drifting dreamily to a space far away.
Somewhere where she feels safe,
where the magnitude of singularity has no meaning.
Another Penny / by Ronald J. Palmer
I found a penny
on the street
walking my dog
in a slight sleet.
I thought I would
save it for a rainy day,
but lately the way
moisture been around
and my luck being
touch by stormy times
I decided to save it
for a day that shines.
Poem 10 / Day 10
Insert Lyrics from Your Favorite R&B Song / by Rashaun J. Allen
This is my love letter. Unlike a hallmark card this message is genuine. Now you know, I heard you for the umpteen time say stop being hard like the streets you grew up on.
It shouldn’t matter that I can’t find the right spot to use the words: always, forever, and love. Nor should you care if I pinpoint the first time we kissed. The only memory that matters is that I’m always annoyed when you end up eating my food after declining to have your own.
I love to see you smile. Time spent with you is magical. I’m lucky to have found a woman as womanly as you. Reread these compliments if you ever forget.
Anyway were at the part where I zero in on the climax of my feelings. You know reinforce my unwavering love for you. But I don’t know how to say it in a smooth way. So just know that I know you know how I feel about you.
Your favorite jerk
After Listening to a Lecture on Form / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
It is difficult to get the news from poems
things I fear, things that comfort me
Lack of rhyme is estrangement
disguised in prose; the unconscious
is much smarter than we are.
Here’s a little circus trick: the mind wants pattern:
mystical, moist night air,
the perfect silence of the stars.
Simplicity sings and is weighted with intent
the rewards can be so great.
My relationship to these objects lacked dimension.
What does all this really mean?
Free verse isn’t free, you pay a price
and the price is structure.
Try to make some sense out of that chaos.
How do you know when a poem is complete?
That’s the vision part:
a bowl of hot soup on a cold dreary day.
Even if you don’t want to write a poem,
you write the poem.
Notes from lectures on craft by Dorianne Laux and Carl Phillips,
Notes from an interview on stage between David Baker and Charles Simic
Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Jan. 17, 2017
Waiting for the Winds / by Mark Grinyer
The weather forecast today
says there will be winds tomorrow,
Santa Ana winds, from the north
and east, fire season winds
for those of us who live
on the edge of a National forest
where, last year, the winds turned
into days of smoke and ashes,
and into a small town leveled
up north in mountain foothills
where dozens of people died.
They called this the Camp fire;
such an innocuous name
for a terrible disaster.
Our fire, last year, wasn’t so bad,
no deaths, but still it left
days of fear behind, filled
with the taste of smoke and ashes
as we pondered whether to run or not
when the authorities announced
evacuations. They called it the Holy fire
after the canyon of its origin.
It was lit by an angry resident
and it burned for days and days
destroying homes and vegetation,
the watershed in the mountains,
but it left us safe at last, unlike
the Camp fire, which started
when winds knocked down
electric lines owned by P. G. & E.
Now unlike the people of Paradise
who died, we live here still at risk
as we listen to weather forecasts
and wait for the winds to blow.
Marvelous Mushrooms / by Ruth Happel
Mushrooms sprout up overnight
Tiny miracles push through earth
Exotic fruit of fungus,
Tables for forest creatures,
Some drab as brown fallen leaves
Others bright red in warning
All are nibbled in the dark
Before I ever find them.
Then one morning they are gone
As if they were never there.
The Day Defies Me Each Time I Try to Name it / by Willie James
Like an assertion of an “I” as a branched snapped and swung
off a tree for a tiny sword, I’m trying.
I don’t have time to make a language that prunes this trail
clear enough for another, and I feel bad.
So often, when I make things, I feel like I’m collapsing
in a field and kicking until the snow forces every shape
to evoke an angel.
As a child, I was dragged behind my parent’s boat while
learning to waterski. I didn’t have a choice
but to accept the drowning feeling pulling me along.
It’s ok, Mom and Dad, I think this helped.
Everything I know about art is admitting
I don’t have control. I am working on that. For example,
one day in my class, I just continuously shouted
This isn’t normal as another
6th grader cursed out their classmate, then smacked them
on the back of their head. To everything I believed
their laughter felt wrong. Now, I don’t know
what I should have done. Both their small mouths—
accuser and accused—all smiles,
and confusion toward me, their distraught teacher,
“Mr. James, it was a joke”. Progress
is the rains pattering outside the classroom where
there is nothing I can do. Yes,
self-pity I can hold like a small globe to point to
when I need an answer, but the world
has never been solved down to one hand-held
map. Already, it’s later and what felt before like a candle
of wisdom, I walked off holding from that storm-soaked day
is lost. I have nothing to make with it.
I get up from this empty space to which, now, I invite you.
The Girl in Black / by Jennifer Kelley
Staring into my closet,
at the coats of many colors
at the stripes and polka dots,
it’s easy to pretend I never grieved you,
that my closest wasn’t dressed for years
in colorless fabrics, all solid,
that brown wasn’t once a colorful departure for me.
But I do still love a long black skirt,
dressing and undressing me softly
like your eyes once did
before before before –
Before some punk kid dressed you in blood,
in hopeful surgery, in death.
Before I stopped wrenching my heart
at every mention of your name
or penguins or pineapples
or all the other things that they couldn’t shame away.
My grief extended.
We were going to rule the world,
a Napoleon and an Alexander.
We decided that the first time that we talked.
And I was certain
that no one had ever been
so full of life as you.
When you bid me adieu with a bow,
I couldn’t stop smiling.
Almost / by Anu Mahadev
When I said coffee was a codeword
for something else, you believed me.
How atrocious that you thought it was just
a cuppa java, a caffeine dose, a waker-upper?
That was then. Now you probably laugh it off
with her when she says it’s daft.
That I am a fool, a wannabe. Were you with her
when I was in rehab? In the ER, on overnight observation?
They took away my cellphone but I managed to scribble
your number on my palm. As if I needed to.
Those digits were floating in my blood, in the right order.
You were probably asleep when I called. In post-coital bliss.
You spoke in Hindi, which was odd, like a firangi.
Was she a gori?
“Take care” must be one of the most futile phrases
I’ve heard. It means nothing. Maybe it means
“F off, don’t bother me again”.
Perhaps cowardice gets rewarded in this world.
And diplomacy. Simplicity is so overrated.
I was so straightforward and honest – a doormat
probably had more chutzpah, more spunk.
My pipe dream is when we cross paths,
in an airport, a train, a café, wherever.
Maybe I would have managed to salvage some pride,
and you would sink in remorse. Forgiveness and well wishes
won’t come to my lips, neither will rancor or disdain.
I plan to be totally zen, the epitome of tranquility.
But guarantees don’t exist in any lifetime.
The whole “Who will know/get me but you” is total BS.
Yet, why is it, that soulmates are always star-crossed?
That in reality, I will most likely run in the opposite direction?
How Appearances Are / by Ronald J. Palmer
As Valerie, (my husky) and I turn
the corner of 91st Street onto Russell,
what looks like a dead wren on the street
turns out to be a large brown leaf.
Valerie passes it without even a sniff
and we continue with our walk
fallen leaves looking like fallen leaves.
Poem 9 / Day 9
Convicted Love / by Rashaun J. Allen
They plead not guilty
Charged with placing their relationship above their children
The court of public opinion shouted
“Cold steel bars couldn’t cool their affection.”
They plead not guilty
Their affinity for each other was a right no law could deter
Two hearts handcuffed to death due part
They plead not guilty
Their love was more than a phone call, letter, or visit
24/7 lockdown love
it was worth protective custody for twin life sentences.
Teshuva / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
A few days ago the brother of a murdered man
forgave the murderer. Told her, if you are truly sorry
then go to God. My brother would want that.
Go to God. If you ask Him, He will forgive you too.
I wept at those words, knowing my own murders
thinking of my own murderers. In the amber light
of autumn I sit in the cool air and hug my knees
make mental lists of who to forgive. Supplicate
my Creator to shed my own shame. I know He has to
follow His own rules. I tear handfuls of grass until
I can finally lift my face. Bask in that light. Humans
are less forgiving, think ourselves more righteous
but if God forgives me, no jail is a prison. If I’m a
lower authority than God, then who am I not to forgive?
Hot Peppers, Cold Nights / by Mark Grinyer
grow fiery red and
hot as sin,
with repentance in
warmer days now gone
As wintering weather
brings on rain
old joints overstrained
by years of working
hard to gain
time to sit and
quiet seasons free
Time to plant
let them grow
day by day
until at last
under autumn skies
By tender mouths
seared by heat
that sends them off
to feed elsewhere
on blander stuff
cold as the night
Accidental Gardener / by Ruth Happel
Squirrels are clumsy in the woods
Slow to climb the taller trees
Weighed down by ripening fruit,
Nuts of oak and hickory.
Stomachs full of forest bounty
They hide their secret treasures
Often forgotten in winter
Welcome gift to less prepared
Who never set any aside.
Unwitting tree gardeners
Some lost seeds will sprout in spring
And generations from now
Nourish baby squirrels through fall.
Napoleon Dynamite is the Spirit Self Contained / by Willie James
That’s the spirit isn’t it? The lone dancer
still going in the garage an hour after
the rest of the party walked off. I was only
looking for a healthy relationship
at the zoo. The monkeys red face opening
to sadness shoved off the rock
from the mate, and the Rhino, far past
the thought of sex slamming his nose
to his trash bin of food. Even the Otter
at the end of the river, curled up on
its drain, can’t find the momentum to
push one fish up for dinner, for a mate. It’s clear,
nature too can’t find a healthy habit
to roll up on the rock slab half submerged
in blue water. It’s what we do when we’re alone
that swims toward the empty water bottles
bobbing on our surface. It’s like that seal,
I decided, that was what the spirit’s like
beyond sure and unsure, staged
on the understory of a zoo. My basement,
just beyond the garage, on the nights
I felt cold, I watched Napoleon Dynamite
hip cocked to try to find a beat of song, alone.
I want that too. In one leg whip, to force a spirit out.
Ellicott City / by Jennifer Kelley
When the waters rose high for the first time
in Ellicott City,
people had never heard of such a thing.
A verdant little town trapped at the bottom of a ravine,
surrounded by rivers and streams,
it’s hard to believe that no one saw it coming.
But such was the sleepy innocence of the little town.
But it came and it flooded.
It swamped and destroyed,
carrying downstream the souls
of two car-bound citizens,
who weren’t found until the next day.
And Ellicott City broke and Ellicott City grieved,
believing it to be a 1000 year flood,
slowly, carefully rebuilding.
“I was wrong,” the city administrator said
two years on, when the last
of the main street businesses had reopened,
and the rains came again.
We all thought it would be a one-time thing,
that it could be done and we’d be able to
return to our normal lives.
But the river doesn’t listen.
Never has. Never will.
We simply must make room for the river.
Sirius / by Anu Mahadev
Summer of 1995, evening of the first showers,
gathering up the rising dust like flour in a bowl,
I walked up to the terrace, idly watching the sunset.
A dim moon, Venus making her appearance.
Tiger was not at his usual spot, waiting to greet me.
Our so-called pet, this stray bright brown-furred mongrel –
who’d crept his way into our family, into our hearts, was dead.
Immobile, he lay on the hot-wet surface, no breath, no sound.
A black thread, one we had tied around his neck, a talisman
against injuries, mocked our attempts at preventing the inevitable.
Patchy rough white marks on his body, an effort to stay away
from the rough neighborhood boys, who’d try to pelt him with stones,
reminded me of his fury, his resilience against an uncaring world
– towards anyone who didn’t belong to someone.
He’d been a vegetarian all his life, he didn’t know anything else.
A Tamil-Brahmin dog – my dad used to joke – he should be named Lamb.
His burial was simple, I was told. I couldn’t will myself to go.
He would fall, rise again, break his legs, limp, then heal,
move on – a life lesson I’ve still not managed to learn.
Grief is a wretched thing. It digs deep craters, hollow, but not really.
A loved one walks away, carrying nothing, and leaves behind
a doggy bowl, chew toys, and this emptiness, like something scooped out.
I don’t know where to put all this love. I carry it with me, a sack load,
unwilling to hand it to someone else. I imagine him romping around
in the skies, my Dog Star, burnished, intangible light. Evening of meteors.
Perspective / by Ronald J. Palmer
Visiting Duluth and walking
along the rocky shore land
we meet a family
with small shovels
combing the water
looking for agates and sea glass.
They show us what they found so far.
Having lived 62 years,
I wonder why the waves of disappointment
and discontent has not polished me.
We came this far, like many, to see
the fall colors as the trees get ready
to shed their leaves.
I have lost hair and pride and
what hair remains is now
a different shade, but not
with the brilliance of these
reds and golds.
We visited the Glensheen mansion
to see elegance most lives
do not live in. I think of how
such wealth inspired murder.
I would not want to live
in a place so large nor have servants.
It is then I realize I have no right
to complain as many lives
are touched with soot and ashes
worse than mind.
I wonder why I look back
not at the hardships I overcame
not at the times I felt no pain.
Poem 8 / Day 8
A Yankee in Bim / by Rashaun Allen
Wee hour risers shuffling to work.
Public buses are nowhere in sight, so ZRs stuff each one inside.
Hold on, these turns are sharp.
The buzzer broke. My stop is next. Now its skipped!
Cabbies bunched together in Bridgetown.
Homeless Bajans find solace in public parks.
Provisions are sold by witty women and money-eyed men.
The hustler’s spirit is a ghost who loves flying fish.
Roosters, fowls, no chickens, run loose and crow.
But their voices are nothing to crickets who screech.
Plenty mosquito bites, my blood must be sweet.
Bajans call it Chefette, I say, “cha-fet-tea.”
Either way, food left loose invite monkeys.
Soca is life, what did I listen to before?
One more Banks, one more bashment, I don’t wanna go home no more.
Maybe I can live on Dover Beach.
Tracing steps, I still lose my way.
But for the right price many go out their parish to help this Yankee travel safe.
Autumn Train Ode / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
I’m sitting in a rental car in Red Bank
and I’m waiting for the train
engine that waits for nobody
I’m waiting for the train to stop
at Red Bank station, the gingerbread one
built in 1875. Cell phone in my palm
voice recorder app launched and ready
I’m waiting for the gates to come down
the tuning fork of their bells,
I’m waiting for the metallic wail
and wave of sound. The silver-horned dragon.
I am here to capture the train’s clamor
and thunder, it’s ever-turbulent racket
the noise that soothes me, fills me
its energy. Gives me back a piece
of childhood, my father. The one
he was supposed to come home on.
I’m capturing the train, uploading it
to the cloud. So wherever I am in the world
I can embody through sound
the burden and release of remember.
Petroglyphs, He Said / by Mark Grinyer
It’s a strange name for poems
since they hide in caves,
in the dark, where none
can see or erase them,
or high on a rock
in the desert, un-marred
they are unlike poems, they
are scribed on stone for ages
full, we think, of some mystic
meaning, not just mundane
words—the stuff of daily speech,
having no mystical significance.
Approached in combination,
have some importance
beyond the daily mundane,
but this requires
a rarity here today.
in a world of machines,
in a world of social media,
these words are mostly unseen
or if not unseen, ignored,
less than a starlet’s dress
or a politician’s pecadillo.
Slow Grace / by Ruth Happel
Bright yellow legs full
Weighted by pollen harvest-
Bee flies with slow grace.
The conversation with the self reaches for everyone it knows / by Willie James
You are alone with your emotions and that’s ok.
Your parents are selling your childhood house
so you look at the paintings of horses, the white couch,
and the dinning room table whose sanded wood
resembles a barn stripped of its red paint. They’re offered
like a gift. It’s like when you’re in a car, on a fast turn,
when everyone bends really far to the right. It’s confusing
figuring out how much the world is bending too.
Who’s to say,
staring up at the kitchen ceiling, painted with clouds
and a blue sky, that a phrase like It’s strange, right?
could really communicate the way the news
combines like two watery colors, a green
and a yellow, fogging inside your chest. A nurse in Seattle
once said most of the time we communicate
with our want, but for her, she added, it was only once
our want leaves that we can begin to approach a truth. A blueprint
that too can be used for home or love, like here
your parents say again, please take this, and you know,
looking around, that the last thing that will be packed
will be what you remember. So you take all their gifts
like scalloped pieces of a puzzle, or a shell that could lead
to a creature that vanished long ago.
Eggs and Milk, Bread and Cheese / by Jennifer Kelley
Two weeks into my new apartment,
I buy real groceries for the first time.
At first, there existed a sense of unreality,
as though I were house sitting or vacationing
in this new, exciting space.
I was filled with glee that no one would know
what I was eating.
No disappointed stares lurking in wait
for Ben and Jerry’s or a Kit-Kat to make the scene.
So I stuffed my kitchen counters with bags of snacks and sweets,
feeling very young and enthusiastic about
The act of consummation.
Today, instead, I bought my reusable bags,
just like a Prius-owner might do,
and selected real food like
milk and eggs, bread and cheese –
even cantaloupe and bananas.
And while there may have been
an item or two
that would have fueled a parental eyebrow,
Today, for the first time,
my fridge doesn’t look
like a teenage boy
Instead, I’m ready to get cooking,
to saddle up and ride like a grown-up.
And if I catch myself saying that in
a little-girl voice?
Living alone, there’s no one here to hear me.
Renewal / by Anu Mahadev
It was the year when his silly promises died,
her penchant for hanging an external image
broke, like a washed bedsheet on a string.
Her makeshift home’s shades were polluted.
She salvaged everything from makeup
for her bruised face, blue-black eyelids
to the journal entries she kept carefully
hidden beneath white pillows in candlelit
rooms. It nearly drove her to the edge,
like a farm goose lost on a muddy moor.
She woke up once, to sun staining torn,
patched-up sky. That day, the façade
crumbled and the brick veneer was exposed,
she knew the jig was up. How long can one
survive, pretend that violence is another
name for love? That it’s better to bungee
jump, cut the cord, fall to ground zero?
That a gentle river, even when ripped
apart over rocks, is still water?
False Memory / by Ronald J. Palmer
In our neighbor’s yard there was a willow
in which use to rest
many a swallow
The home was down the lane
where I was greeted by my first flame
with a whirlwind of false disdain.
I kissed her once under the green
of the willow before
she moved away.
I figured I wrong her
but later found she was thankful
for the willow and what I gave.
Poem 7 / Day 7
Welcome to DR / by Rashaun J. Allen
Delicate women among palm trees.
Overt locking eyes in Susho.
Movin’ motorbikes to get across Puerto Plata.
Irregular prices for tourists.
Nuisances selling anything palmed in hands.
Instant gratification from a blazing sun.
Corrupt government. Is this America too?
Ain’t nobody focused on a brown foreigner.
Never get used to cold showers.
Radiant pride, flags waves like beating hearts.
Exquisite Italian, American and Russian food. But Bacalaitos and Mangú are rare finds.
People chatting in Spanish, my Duolingo ears wish more was understood.
Urgency of work is forgotten inside a pool bar. Another round. Another round. Another.
Bachelors at the carnival woo white women.
Lovely looking ladies everywhere.
Ice cream and a beach. What more can you ask for?
Clamoring to memories now that time here is spent.
Playing By Ear / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
Outside our home a vehicle goes by
I ask my children was that the mailman
and marvel at how fine-tuned my ears
are to whispered surges of mail trucks
trick I’ve taught myself since the dawn of
the Amazon age I was a new mother then
little sounds all around me and I could hear
babies crying everywhere even in rare
moments when I was alone driving to
the Y in Publix or the shower and of the real
cries of babies not just my own I could hear
what they were feeling— pain hunger fatigue
notes picked on a scale the register of emotion
and I, a novice who could somehow play by ear
More Words, in Search of a Perfect Poem / by Mark Grinyer
In an imperfect world,
where words are pawns
sacrificed here for lies
an imperfect person seeks
clear words of rare perfection–
words for poems, little machines
made of words, Williams said,
as part of his life-long quest
to say things with precision.
“I am lonely,” he also said,
dancing naked, in his room,
“I was borne to be lonely,
it is best so.” And perhaps that
is true too, but in an imperfect
world, where truth is rare,
I wish for more from ones
too proud to compromise,
unlike myself who chose
to take a job in industry,
writing of weapons of war,
rather than living a poet’s life
in a poorer place, cut off
from an intrusive world–
in a cave, perhaps, Plato’s cave,
away from scams and wars,
where ideas and inspirations
seemingly grow strong
Where all that’s left
of an artist’s life is words
a conjuring of petroglyphs
parading around dark walls
for the future to puzzle upon.
Spider Love / by Ruth Happel
As a child my father
Would carry me on his back
For brief moments of delight
As I giggled and wiggled.
This seemed like such devotion
But little could I imagine
True love of a wolf spider.
Mother carries egg sac everywhere
And when the young spiderlings hatch
She carries hundreds of babies
Clinging to her sturdy back.
Planting flowers in my garden
I found a dedicated mom,
Babies huddled together
All balanced on top of her
Until they crawled as just one
Off into the tangled grass.
Soon they will go separate ways
She will once again be alone
Either relieved of her burden
Or lonesome in her freedom.
Home is a place where the dog forgets their fetched ball / by Willie James
So much of home is walking down the street
with faith the night will, at least, be less pitted
where the gnaw of the new winter’s cold
can’t sail past the screen in porch, or maybe only
breath softly around the cracked wood
of the window seat. I want to shut the door
because, again, in searching to find my full
resolve, I’ll spend another night just trying
to inventory all the objects I know
I’ve love. Newly: the dwarfed pumpkin
whose fur from its mold forced me to bag
and closet it inside the trash. Soon: this bouquet,
its bank of yellows ranging from its dead
leaves on its stalk, to the pistils, just
from the other day, grown out the upside-
down umbrella the flower makes exposing
its starred heart. I just want a dock
that can rise and fall beyond the suffering
of another. A place, where the steam
from my tea sleeps on the palm
of my face. The unselfconscious gestures
that drag in the long shawl of the bathrobe
across the hardwood floor—perhaps there is home
here, where the butter hued light from
the desk lamp, shines, what I can only call
a holy glow, up into ceiling corner above
my closet. Its shadows which look like
a memory you could climb into, where three
remote controls still sit over my lap and my mother
tests the spice of a soup cupped in a ladle’s
bowl. There, I admire how the dog, so focused
on its squeak toy, shaped like an orphaned
slice of bacon, would run back after it’s thrown,
empty mouthed, happy only, to be among
company again, curling to the sides of its egg
shaped bed, its face pressed neatly to its tail,
to sleep. Content in the simple form of itself.
Holy Garments / by Jennifer Kelley
Tomorrow, I will redress my bed,
slipping off its dirty sheets
to let it recognize its own filth.
I won’t have to say a word.
I will shuck the sheets that have been soiled
these two past weeks
and gather them into the hamper
with the other shamed fabrics.
Then I’ll take them to be baptized,
doused with holy water
until they know that they’re
purified, renewed, and reborn.
And I’ll wring them tight
and tumble them
in Hell’s hot breath,
just to chasten them.
Each time, I try to convince myself
of the permanence of their salvation,
but if I leave them in bed for a couple of weeks —
Trust me, we’ll find ourselves
right back at the confessional.
Dichotomy / by Anu Mahadev
You carry your wistfulness as a tortoiseshell.
It’s another kind of home, on terra firma.
Handed down, self-harvested, this dichotomy,
What would you not do, to live this split life?
I know you, the one that daydreams, I know how,
if only you could erase the line, cross the comfort zone,
how fulfilled you must feel, yet oddly dissatisfied.
You don’t want a seasonal identity, stoat to ermine.
You’re reminded of your infancy, and the potential you had,
a chrysalis to a slightly odd, average butterfly,
your wings laced with regret, and you sigh.
Long for a better life, what could have been.
The endless possibilities, a professor, a musician,
a doctor, a writer, a more beautiful person.
How could you manifest what the mind knows,
when the road map is not yet clear?
I think about change, the transformation, what you want,
but shy away from, a tug of war between the past and the present.
Like a tree, living but immovable. It perhaps wants to go
places, but cannot. When its leaves wither and fall,
or buds bloom in spring, the renewal it feels, which cannot be expressed.
This Is Our World / by Ronald J. Palmer
Dirt covering plastic
consumption out of sight
forgotten by many
as we tread over
weeds sticking out their heads
through the cracks.
Poem 6 / Day 6
A Ballade for Minors Behind Bars / by Rashaun J. Allen
Where I’m from a bad decision is as frequent as a commercial break.
Before my first high school class, I saw the law destroy a family.
Once someone went up North, you never saw them again.
Someone we loved was locked up in the pen.
“Make sure the coast is clear,” a simple gesture could leave a minor with a lot of years.
No money for a lawyer and charged as an adult
Rehabilitation ain’t nowhere in the equation.
How can minors learn to live when sentenced for life?
85+ years is the amount of time being served by those I know locked up.
Angry, bitter, frustration and hate consume the mind.
Will power can’t help when only walls hear your cries.
No baby showers, no weddings or traveling out the country
No holidays, no hugs, no sexual healing,
No movie theaters, no restaurants, no walking their son or daughter to school.
No saying goodbye to loved ones who die, no drinks, no smokes, no church.
How can minors learn to live when sentenced for life?
The refrain of not showing eternal frustration.
The anguish in finding some glimmer of motivation.
A technicality that can roll back your sentence.
You study law so much a wish is to have attended Brooklyn Law.
Swollen from exercising in the yard to stay focused.
Waiting for a loved one to answer a phone call.
Counting days down and keeping drama to a minimum.
How can minors learn to live when sentenced for life?
A minor shouldn’t be sentenced to life.
Nor charged as an adult within reason.
Instead, a youthful offender should have an alternative plan.
How can minors learn to live when sentenced for life?
Eighties Telenovelas / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
Each day after school, after almuerzo, there was nothing
to do but sit in front of the TV, watch back to back telenovelas.
Delia Fiallo, 95-year-old Cuban exile, pioneered the genre.
In 1957 she wrote the first televised Latin American telenovela.
Puerto Ricans, Argentinians, Venezuelans, and Mexicans speak Spanish
differently, nuances I learned from watching telenovelas.
Gisella, our fifteen-year-old maid, would stand in the kitchen, together
we’d watch Coralito, Leonela, Amo y Señor— my first three telenovelas.
The poor girl who goes to the big city for a better life
the staple storyline of classic Latin American telenovelas.
Babies switched at birth. The peon’s orphan son for the stillborn well-born
girl. Perfect recipe for drama when two fall in love in telenovelas.
Want to know how to seduce a man? Obligate him to marry you?
All this and more, you can learn if you watch telenovelas.
¿Que me importa lo que piensa la sociedad? The pressure to conform
to social norms is a side effect of watching too many telenovelas.
No matter how smart or hard-working, low class girls
have to marry up to be successful women in telenovelas.
Be beautiful, be sexy. Be the best Cristál you can be. A little make-up,
hairspray, nail polish and you can be the star of your own telenovela.
Entire countries riveted, in every house, beauty salon, and
tienda, on the last day of the final episode of the telenovela.
Excessive programming made me allergic to drama. I cut the cord
on manipulation the day I stopped watching telenovelas.
My Mickey Mouse Cup / by Mark Grinyer
My coffee cup, circled by cartoons,
shows Mickey Mouse growing old.
It begins with Steamboat Willie in 1928,
before the Great Depression.
In black and white with front-flap shorts
he draws the next rendition–red and black
and brown. He’s skinny still in ’31, but smiling.
Hand to hip he stands, missing half an arm.
Still in shorts and clodhopper shoes,
he’s drawing the next generation–1940’s
Apprentice Sorcerer from Fantasia. He
wears a robe and a wizard’s pointed,
star and moon-spangled hat. His slippers
were made for dancing,
So he draws
a dapper chap, dressed for a night on the town
in a jacket and sharp striped pants
under a classy pork-pie hat. It’s 1941,
and Mickey’s looking smug,
as he steps out on a date,
courting fair young Minnie, I guess.
Clueless about the war ahead,
a Robin-hood mouse in buskins
and a rustic belted smock
with a feather in his hat.
He’s missing part of an arm,
but happy for all of that. In ’47
he’s looking up. He’s a mouse
from another era,
Ready to don dark trousers,
white saddle shoes and a long-tailed
rich-man’s coat. It’s 1955 at last,
and middle-aged Mickey has it made,
despite being incomplete. Right-armless still,
he relishes amazing success.
Frost Asters / by Ruth Happel
Frost asters creep into my lawn,
Spreading a little more each year
Where I let their tiny seeds drift,
Tenacious roots spreading under
The green grass that came with my house.
The name may come from hoary leaves
Or sturdy blooms beyond first frost.
By any name it is a gift
To bees, wasps and butterflies
Gathering on warm autumn days
Softly buzzing their happiness
Feeding on this late season gift.
Chatter / by Willie James
In general, talking is hard, especially
first thing in the morning when the cold water
still stings my teeth. I let the texts
sit like blips on a radar, an alert
on my phone I’ll circle back to
once the scone settles down. I like to
see through each social situation,
as if for safety. I plan things out.
Talk is a lot like snow. Being
in the throes of conversation, my voice
the small shovel I lean into
the nook of my shoulder, forcing it
to trudge deeper into the uncertainty
chattering around. Sometimes I feel
like a magnificent Zamboni gliding
through the tender inquires of friends
and loved ones. Others, I feel stuck,
frozen, with a tool no more helpful
than an axe, like Jack Nicholson
in the final scene of The Shining, eyes crazed
in my social terror, seeking exit
from its maze. One approach is to detach.
That’ll shrink any fear as any bear
approached from a mile off seems
cute and benign. This works best for jokes,
for judgement. Easy to feel better
from the roof’s vantage, than to be
a fool bumbling below. An approach
I leaned into as a middle school teacher,
sometimes standing against the wall, my hands
braided behind my back, making sure
the clamor escalated to no more than a pencil
flipped across the room. I suppose
that’s why I never succeeded. Intimacy
requires undressing. No king more well loved
than the one who’ll crack the peanuts too.
Jesters understand that, offering
the ballooned thoughts we handed them back
in new knots we didn’t imagine before.
The world gone carnival in its blizzard state.
As a teacher, conversations were key:
how we communicate expectations, how we approach
conflict—always from an angle,
never broad shouldered, but rather
from a knee, getting down to their height. Often,
there’d be the need to apologize,
which is never a clear “sorry,” but more
akin to a surrender. More than once
I’d approach the class like a mayor
with my outstretched hands, explaining
to disinterested eyes, the decisions
which were outside my control.
It’s from that you leave different. I would depart,
feeling almost sick, distorted, my shadow, always
too tall or too short, over hanging
above, till I close my door, into sleep,
which is to be unseen again, uncommunicable.
Only the rare mumble of warped words from across
some far off plane of thinking, would surface
ship-like on the horizon. A dream, just for
a moment, to only then disappear.
Delilahs / by Jennifer Kelley
Some things are too precious for words –
only limited when expressed.
The way that when my mother says, I love you,
I held your 3-year-old body in my arms as you convulsed.
The doctors couldn’t stop it.
I held you and prayed to God to take me instead,
until the seizure broke and you laid still in my hands.
And still we exchange the words with a smile,
like friendly kisses –
as though conveying emotions were possible.
No, some sprawling Delilahs cannot be
penned or captured,
cannot be domesticated and kept like houseplants.
Ignored The Signs / by Ronald J. Palmer
We held hands as we farted.
I should have known then
this would be a noxious relationship.
And that the hold would be hard to part.
But I loved the way you drew
daggers with your eyeliner around your eyes.
When you winked it was as if they darted out at me.
I thought they darted in passion, not misery.
Poem 5 / Day 5
I Hate Break Ups Part 2 / by Rashaun J. Allen
Who told you to fall in love with what isn’t
First sight is not the same as foresight
He said, “Sorry” just to do it again
dating with a purpose, what happened?
Won’t you rather more girls’ nights than guys who ain’t worth it.
Only if break ups were that simple
You’d have a “grown-up” conversation how this ain’t working
Instead, conversations don’t go pass the surface
Should have listened to your best friend when she said
“He ain’t worth shit.”
A good guy wouldn’t make you cry
Have you question your pretty
He’d add fire to your blaze
Sparks to your black girl magic
Make up with yourself
post a selfie
Show the world how a queen rocks her crown.
Three Miles Out / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
Cruise ships circle the island
where we release our dead
empty our waste without chaste
and clamor for bait.
We kiss the Gulf Stream, sail
naked by faith, listen
for the Almighty
that He may speak.
Surrender our passports
harbor seabirds on crossings
while we still have the option
of what some call civilization.
We cut our engines, hear
the whisper of the waves, seabirds
silent, skim the surface, while we
stay humble, humans bobbing
in our shallow hour of history.
Egg in a Carton / by Mark Grinyer
A chicken egg
in a gray-pulp
by shell and pulp,
but killed by cold
can wake and break
another dark night’s fast.
Autumn Banners / by Ruth Happel
After a too hot summer
And many weeks without rain
Leaves are dry and turning brown
Falling down onto parched earth.
But some brave leaves still cling,
Show first hints of red and gold
Flash of color among the green.
Creek now well below its banks
But trees crowding steep edges
Reach hidden roots deep to water
With leaves still fresh as early spring.
Every year these nourished leaves
Hold colors as others fade away,
Waving last banners of autumn.
What my Niece Saw from my Shoulders / by Willie James
Not the apples whose bruise in the plowed orchard
matched the sharp dried hills, or the goat
which walked solemnly from one playground tower
to the next inside the petting zoo. She made it clear
she was ready for apple picking throwing down
her pink car keys onto the floor of the sedan
and pulling her plastic lipstick from her
rainbow purse, to apply it to my forehead and
a fold of off colored fabric below her knee.
She didn’t like the Spirit Halloween
sign, which featured a zombie rising from the dead,
with a face like a week-old fish a dog
had dug up in the yard. She was silent,
most of the day, idly humming a loose tune
as we bounced past the pumpkin patch
and the parking spot where the tractor shook
to idle. All I heard was “yum” whispered
to herself as we rounded the apple cider donut
stand, watching teenagers spin its orbiting cake
into a crust of rounded dough. Only,
later when passing by the face painting tent,
obviously admiring the wolf and hawk
designs drawn over the features of the older girls
and boys, did I hear her song stop,
and notice a new sense of awe as when
a baby returning to a mirror after seeing
herself mere seconds before, becomes
familiar with the reflection of a face
she has not yet associated as her own.
Some Distant Meteor of Creation / by Jennifer Kelley
For Paul Lindhard.
“It’s not a choice; it’s an opportunity.” ~ Paul Lindhard
The act of creation, He says, is not a choice, but an opportunity.
He says this half-crumpled from the floor where he explores his passion.
There are all these possibilities and some of us can see them, he says
it’s our duty to expose them, to allow people to look and see and know.
And so it is, in my corner of the work
It purrs to me of possibility, if I chase that rabbit,
if I step through that passageway.
becomes so obvious.
basic transcription –
it’s so plain.
And then the work crawls toward me, like Paul Lindhard, gesturing and contorting
to express its meaning.
When I’m adrift,
like a flip being switched.
Like stepping into the monkey house.
When it’s turned off, when I’m adrift, It’s because I can’t see, blinded.
It’s because I’ve forgotten that my eyes have two pairs of lids.
And so it is, when I say I love you –
not mechanical or rote but neither a choice that I’m making.
You exist inside me like time and breath.
You’re not a choice I’m making, but an opportunity
that I’m always elated to catch with my butterfly net.
And so it is, when I say I love you –
that I am a rocket through space and you’re that distant space stone meteor
somewhere outside Pluto,
that Paul brought to life in rock so pretty, it’s hard to call it rock.
and I can see you and I can wish on you, despite the fact that you’re not a star.
And your gravity pulls me closer and closer to that possibility
that maybe you do shine of your own volition,
and if not, maybe we’ll still end up molded together,
welded by something more basic than heat or cool,
more basic than gravity.
But just the God that holds the universe together.
For you and I have always been made of it,
attracted by it, stuck on one another from perhaps the first breath.
Because you and I have always been made of it,
I do not run from it, but fuse into your side,
pulling you closer than a sister, than a mother, than a partner,
collapsing into you as you fall into me
until our parts are blended and we wonder at the power of Love.
Blank Screen Word Doc. / by Ronald J. Palmer
My computer and I
are having a staring contest.
I sat down to attempt
to write a poem but
words don’t come,
just the sound
of this morning’s rain
drowning out all ideas
in my brain.
Inspiration should be
in reach, not far off
like the moon
block off by some clouds.
Maybe I could write
a poem with a political bent
and we all know that
politics are bent.
Maybe I could write
on the historical theme
of unrequited love,
about women who
made me feel like it
was all above me,
although pieces if it
I was allowed to touch.
Maybe I could write
about this rain that
seems so ceaseless lately,
but the dog barks
wanting to come in.
My computer and I are
having a staring contest,
the computer won.
Poem 4 / Day 4
I Hate Break Ups Part 1 / by Rashaun J. Allen
It’s like waking up from a dream to discover it’s a nightmare
arguing over the past
seeing the future ain’t present.
The potential didn’t add up to the vision.
“Sorry,” and “I apologize,” are never spoken.
Instead, I’m putting in overtime while you haven’t clocked in.
a children’s game,
a few grown up conversations from working.
Alausí 1942 / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
I want to know what she saw that day on the train
tallest man in a land of patuchos, and what coal-fired
sentence picked up enough steam for her to agree
to leave with him? Abuelito, when his name was Guillermo
was a scandalous choice, but she was in a hurry, maybe
she fell in love with his hands, two bulldozers that chewed
whole mountains to lay her a road— I can almost
hear her heart racing each step faster until she could fly
Abuelita, when her name was Deifilia, needed a man
form of heavy machinery to tear out the roots
daughter of God pretending to be an orphan, she
a golden menorah wrapped in a blanket, she
a whispered psalm recited from memory, folded
like a white handkerchief in Guillermo’s shirt pocket.
Thursday Morning, 2019 / by Mark Grinyer
Today I start my day out back on the porch
admiring the sapphire sky of a California fall,
endless blue stretched out, seemingly forever,
the balmy breeze of a cloudless quiet day,
peacefulness exemplified, a reason to stay,
almost a prayer, it seems, broken free in me.
After weeks of chaos and acrimony raised
as we try to find our way in Washington D. C.,
deciding whether to impeach or not impeach
the President of these United States. In Congress
committees question Trump’s every act,
his hush money payments to cover up years
of sin and crooked business practices, his racism,
his welcome of Putin’s siren call and interference
in our elections, his illegal and immoral immigrant
policies—his refusal to fulfill his oath of office.
Instead Trump’s tries to dig more dirt in Ukraine,
attempting to sabotage opponents with foreign dirt,
continues his greedy reach for emoluments, foreign
and domestic, at hotels and the golf resorts he owns
and operates here and overseas, his dismantling
of government agencies and departments,
where the appointments he makes are notable
for their corruption and incompetence.
He obstructs all attempts to investigate these acts,
stonewalls congressional subpoenas, litigates
at every turn, stalling all attempts to discover
the truth, just as he refuses to release his tax returns,
despite the law’s clear mandate that he must
turn them over to congressional committees
when they ask. Charges and countercharges,
bad will on every side, the chaos is unbearable
as we watch our nation slid into a deep morass,
the swamp all fear sucking reason and good sense.
As the sun rises into day, and breezes soothe
my soul, I can’t resist. I turn the news on again
and listen to reports of this decay as pundits ponder
where it goes and what it means for America–
impeachment perhaps, but animosity that rules
the day, today, and every day, as civility decays.
Mantis prayers / by Ruth Happel
Mantis stands in silent prayer
Blending with green stem he grasps
Beseeching unwary prey
To wander within his reach.
Such a patient worshipper
Waits for hours on plant pew
With pure certainty of faith
Knowing an answer will come.
Fate sends a hapless beetle
Walking on the perfect path
Drawn by hidden destiny
To swift strike of waiting arms.
Space / by Willie James
On my worst days, when I think of the world as a whirligig
at a carnival and almost see its long branches
of arms in the dozens of oak trees outside my parent’s house
waiting for the wind to pick up, and start,
at an unmarchable pace of phone calls and meals and responsibilities
shouted in passing from the hall, I decide
to give myself space, to go
on a hike beside the farmhouses and small hills
topped by toppled stone walls
and maybe there, I can shake this feeling
that someone has been drawing all over my face
throughout the night, depictions of their emotions, maps
of scarred lines of a surgery
they were trying to compose, to unearth some part of me
out. But this landscape now,
with its black arches and mirroring walls of modern homes,
that reflect each cluster of passing clouds, so often
resembling memorials planted in a park
and facing skyward as if trying to keep the earth open
to some memory its afraid might slip over
its marble ridge, doesn’t ground me. Where I wanted
to feel like the plaid of a leaf pile
I would kick through as a kid, I don’t. Instead,
only, the single candle flames
that appear in the framework of every street
facing window, making the world
suddenly cast in the grave of this coming winter, to point me
toward shadows aiming back
like the legs of giant men and women from my youth,
when I used to stand beside the long stalks of their limbs
in department stores and checkout lines, looking upward
into faces digesting an unprocessable struggle of a larger world,
in hopes, that they could possibly look down and smile,
and unbridle the world into comfort.
No Balls / by Jennifer Kelley
Walking home via Main Street, Ventura
at 9:30 in the evening
makes me reconsider the benefits of femininity,
makes me reconsider kindness,
as I stop to ask a crippled man if he needs help
crossing the street, sir.
And he says thank you for calling me sir.
You don’t know when someone last called me sir.
So I light his cig and step away,
feeling rather good about things,
until he wheels his walker closer
and says that I have a nice butt.
Then, I straighten, feeling suddenly like the crippled one,
hasten a goodbye and hurry away, leaving the street uncrossed.
Smoking my own with my head down,
I head home downhill to my apartment,
Past a prepackaged sign telling me to be original,
which I stare at distractedly
until a young man passes in front of it, waving.
I wave back because my momma raised me right.
Then, I hasten my pace and keep my eyes low,
keys laced between my fingers, in my fist,
because my papa didn’t raise a fool.
There are no other women walking alone tonight.
They come in twos and threes, or with masculine company.
More even than the thought of being my father’s son,
this passage leaves me aching to be packing
something between my legs,
some testosterone in my blood to leave me muscled and strong
and not so insecure about whether or not
I can take down a homeless cripple
should he possess a mind to possess me.
Dividing walls / by Anu Mahadev
When your lips move in slow motion,
Mine part in wonder, I come apart
in dramatic splinters. My face, aflame, glows.
The next time you see me, kiss me.
Ask me what it’s like to live two lives.
My shoes are afraid of my arrhythmic heart.
It takes them to dark, sinful corners.
When you ask me to cut the sandwich crusts
I feel like a normal person with all sorts of doubts.
Should I do the same for wheat, rye, pumpernickel?
I asked you once, if there was ever a time
you thought me dangerous, spirited, ready to soar.
You paused for a split second, and in the time it takes
for a pebble to skim across the water, you said yes.
For lack of a better cliché, I am that moth drawn
to the light. Acting normal, except with you around.
I would so much like to turn a new leaf, mend my ways.
But you don’t like me as a work in progress, hair undone.
Love isn’t complicated, I’d like to tell the ingenue.
But seeped in my own naiveté, wide-eyed and wrong-footed,
I simply cannot face the reality that my battle-scars
run deep. I won’t let others cross this wall, lest
they find out the same. Let someone be saved.
I’d like to believe that some will have it easy.
Unlike me, with curious eyes, small hands, they’re
the ones with the surprising magical tricks.
But a rescue isn’t always a blessing in disguise.
I still believe that my war wounds are what drew you in.
Day Four / by Ronald J. Palmer
I tried to think not of mortality—
the line down the hill, the hole in the ground.
I wanted to reflect on the sunrise
but the Wednesday rain poured and pounded.
It was late in the evening, prospects were dim.
where I was to go was nowhere plain.
As for redemption, chances were slim
that more than dullness would be my refrain.
But then there was a clearing in the night sky
allowing me to change my perspective.
There were no tears then, no reason to cry
as I waited for the morning to arrive.
The sunrise distracted thoughts of finality
and for a while, no thoughts of mortality.
Poem 3 / Day 3
A Workaholic Love / by Rashaun J. Allen
No contract. But you work like your job will match your effort as if it’s your girlfriend. It will never be. But you know the exact time the direct deposit goes into your bank account. You didn’t know love was so connected to a check.
Performance reviews are like dates except they happen once a year. Twice if you’re lucky. And what you thought was going well are opportunities to improve. The only certainty is questioning your commitment.
You won’t call out stick. She needs you. Even though there are plenty of people in your position. She said, “We got a mission.” And if you value her you will do any and everything for the relationship to grow.
A promotion flirts for your attention. You show up early to emphasize you’re the best. You give more time, more energy and more effort than your job description will ever reveal.
You finally build the courage to speak as if it’s a contract negotiation. You don’t mention the imbalanced relationship. Nor the sick days you never took, the promotions passed over or the performance review. All you mention is that respect and a thank you would mean a lot. And she looks at you like what you said is too high a cost. She clears her throat to be as professional as possible and says, “I’m going to have to let you go.”
I Become A Celestial Body / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
When I think about who is my sun and my moon. I am what they call a rogue planet, resisting orbit with increasing tension. In a poem when I think of suns I think of the obvious answer and the other obvious answer. Can there be two suns? It would explain part of my elliptical telemetry. In the moon I see myself. I am drawn to the sun and still resist being pulled. The moon is always me multiplied and divided. The moon is what compels me to orbit. The moons are sequential and always center me. The sun is jealous of my moons. The sun tries to impress me with its gravitas. I resist and mis-align myself. These systems are orderly, it’s no wonder I feel inevitably confined. The sun burns me and the moons get burnt too. We are always getting stuck in each other’s spotlight. I never needed a spotlight, but prisons do. So they can catch rogue planets attempting to escape. There was a time when I was content with revolving around the sun dizzily. Now I’m caught between centrifugal force and gravity. In this tug of war there are no winners.
In an Orchard at the End of Summer / by Mark Grinyer
You can hear it in the background now,
the faint hiss of water spraying,
a thin shimmer of droplets into the air,
into the shade where dapples of sunlight
reveal the brown of damp soil,
the flutter of birds bathing,
cleansing the dust of a dry summer
from their feathers. They are happy here,
enjoying the feel of a false rain,
careless of the eyes upon them,
indifferent to the stretch of shadows reaching,
the shrivel of berries drying in the underbrush
where, in a little while, the spray will stop,
the leaves drop, and winter weather will come,
driving them toward unknown climes in the south.
Farewell Symphony / by Ruth Happel
Every night insects grow dimmer
Cricket chirps measure the cold,
Slower as nights grow cooler.
Raucous concert of July
Slowly fades to deep silence,
Each night a voice disappears.
I think of long-ago summers
When the final season’s concert
Ended with the Farewell Symphony
My mom as first violin
Softly played Haydn’s last notes.
Soon the only sounds at night
Scratching rustle of fallen leaves
And I will shut my window
Against winter’s cold quiet.
The Point is Your Friends are Concerned About You in my Dreams / by Willie James
A man enters my driveway
with a message. I have never
seen this man before and he cradles
my hand, insistently
shoving his face right up close, then confessing,
thinking you were me, that he’s
got a message for you. Normally,
I’m not up for these types of things,
but today, for the hell of it, I thought
I’d played along. It felt nice to be a part
of something larger.
I invite him in, offering tea and a seat.
Then wait, patiently as if the room
might age into an answer.
He looks, at any moment, like he could pull
a deck of cards from the air
and slice it into two equal towers, but instead
he spreads his arms to either side,
the way some men joke of fish, and begins,
“Imagine you’re on a train,” he shakes his hand
on the right, “this is your waking life, this
conductor’s seat, and this,” he waves his fist
on the left, “this, is your dreams,
living somewhere deep in this caboose.
These parts have never met, though
you have been traveling together your whole life.
It’s time,” he pauses for effect, “to change.”
He looks at me, as if I was suppose
to recognize what this all meant. I had no clue
what he was talking about. It all,
at on end, seemed it could apply to me,
and on the other, seemed foreign,
like a law designed by far off country
trying to be imposed on myself. I didn’t
think it fit, but I didn’t dare question him.
He noticed. Sensing my confusing, he,
from his still posture, lunged forth and shouted:
and for awhile all I could hear
was the oily rain drizzling beyond
the rooftop as I meekly pulled
my covers to my chin.
Looking down at the weak impression
of my body beneath the blanket,
I searched my thoughts,
and couldn’t find any memory to explain
why I felt like this: ashamed and alone.
And yet I did, holding these feelings
close to me like a balloon I’d
accidentally carried off
from a birthday party, which now,
roved, deflated, through the corner
of my room. And you,
you were, for some reason,
present. Beyond all doubt and reach
someone who insisted, again and again,
not to be bothered–that you couldn’t–
no–didn’t want, help.
PTSD / by Jennifer Kelley
It used to be just his nights that haunted him.
He used to be able to wake up and climb out of the fear.
Or it would wrack him for a second or two and then disappear
– reset to reality.
But now the wolves hound him, snapping at his heels.
A lucky one drives a fang into his calf,
here and there,
until walking becomes a trial.
But if he stops, they’ll surround him
And, snarlingly, stare down at him
– teeth, fur, and his own blood their lips.
And while they consume him, they’ll keep him alive
because they’ve always loved a good struggle
because it’s always better when you have got to work for it
and sometimes the path to sanity leads to a red stain on the road.
It used to just be the nights that hunted him,
until the day learned to devour.
To be an Artist / by Anu Mahadev
There are too many shades of brown on the palette
Each glob a request, a cry to be distinct
among its forced companions. The brush strokes
through blank canvas signal a presence, she
is coming, but the idea isn’t fully formed yet.
The studio is packed with artifacts, meaningless
bric-a-brac others throw away. She pauses
before a cracked antique mirror, for effect.
How can glass scratch her flawless face?
Her hair? Her robes? She flits about at night
filling the artist’s moonlit head with visions.
The dappled morning brings them back to paper.
There is no reason to leave behind a thumbprint,
a signature, with shaky hands. It would only
mean a futile search for perfection.
It would be like building a sandcastle, hoping
for its permanence. Only to see the waves win again.
Where’s George? / by Ronald J. Palmer
Maybe he left because
the time was not right
as it is not for many.
Maybe he conversed with
a river and decided
to head towards a gorge.
We were all wondering
Where is George.
It didn’t seem right
he wasn’t here.
Some said he was
Maybe he took up
made by Torrance
and went in search
of a rhyme for orange.
Poem 2 / Day 2
Say It Ain’t So / by Rashaun J. Allen
O Black and unknown bards of
long ago (1)
I was so sick last night I didn’t
hardly know my mind (2)
Men that had seen her drank
deep and were silent (3)
What is Africa to me? (4)
I can imagine, in some
The land was ours before we
were the lands (6)
Then God smiled (7)
What shall I do with this
I too am not a bit tamed, I too
am untranslatable (9)
Kiss me, ashes, I’m falling
through a dark swirl (10)
Civilization plays with fire – (11)
To struggle up a never-ending
You have lynched my
Yet fruit grows on the trees (14)
You might as well live (15)
With a thousand pairs that
visions face was grained (16)
The bruit of the day. O friendly
waste of breath. (17)
If “Compression is the first
grace of style,” (18)
What can death send me that
you have not? (19)
He drank enough (20)
But love them? (21)
Down between the walls of
The hurt is not enough (23)
It gatherers to a greatness, like
the ooze of oil (24)
The mirror of malicious eyes (25)
Angles—twice descending (26)
I have paid my price to live with
myself on the terms that I
1. James Weldon Jones
2. Langston Hughes
3. Austin Clarke
4. Countee Cullen
5. D.H. Lawrence
6. Robert Frost
7. James Weldon Johnson
8. William Butler Yeats
9. Walt Whitman
10. Theodore Roethke
11. C. Day Lewis
12. Countee Cullen
13. Langston Hughes
14. John Sutter
15. Dorothy Parker
16. Wilfred Owen
17. John Crowe Ransom
18. Marianne Moore
19. Hilda Doolittle
20. D. H. Lawrence
21. William Carlos Williams
22. Carl Sandbury
23. Robert Frost
24. Gerard Marley Hopkins
25. William Butler Yeats
26. Emily Dickinson
27. Rudyard Kipling
Quarters / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
I’m at Aldi again and have zero quarters. Francesca hates Aldi, feels paying for a cart is insulting. But I think it’s brilliant, applied human psychology. How for twenty-five cents, humans can be motivated to put things away. If I could only implement this in my own home. I glance around the parking lot. Occasionally there’s an abandoned cart, left by a shopper who forgot or was too tired or busy to bus it back to the corral next to the store entrance. But, no luck. I’m almost to the end of the row of cars, thinking about my huge shopping list. How I’ll need to find an avocado box— those are the sturdiest. How I can count the heavy lifting as exercise today. How I can possibly sacrifice some items. From out of nowhere a woman comes toward me, offering me her cart. Another efficiency that builds momentary community at Aldi. I’m sorry, I say. I don’t have a quarter. She smiles, gives me the cart anyway. Pass it on she says, pass it on. I promise her I will, and I do.
Nitroglycerin / by Mark Grinyer
For a sudden pain in the chest
this little brown bottle of little white pills
sits in my pocket every day.
It’s the pill I want never to take
but I keep it with me just in case
the sudden onset of angina tasks
a quick reprieve from pain.
Pardon received in such circumstance
is frightful enough, I believe, since
this pill’s relief confirms an urgent need.
Fall Peeper / by Ruth Happel
As a child every year
I went in search of spring peepers,
Little frogs with piercing voices
Calling from half frozen swamps
On cold and dark April nights.
My father and aunt led me
Through icy waters until we found
The source of the mighty chorus.
We watched in wonder as tiny throats
Swelled to fill the air with raucous song.
On this warm October afternoon
I hear an echo of their chorus
A lone frog calling from the forest
Ready to winter beneath a log.
One last message sent on the breeze
Reminding me of distant nights
My aunt and father both long gone
Lone trill carries our memories.
Carry On / by Willie James
I woke up from a dream of laying in a soccer field
watching the soccer balls float over me like planets. Before my flight,
A. gladly accepted an apple cider donut, which we ate,
wearing our coats on the corner of the bed. The morning
was rainy and my Uber driver told me how he felt like a baby
because of the way his shoes squeaked on the driver’s mat.
The trains with their metal hammered down the El
and the planes, each painted with American flags, took off
cresting over the runway like a large wave. Last night,
we talk of how Rilke’s poem The Panther, felt like
it wasn’t wrote, instead whorled out like cabbage
from a winter’s crop. Isn’t it strange how things happen like that?
Unseen? I stared at the long rows of carts on the tarmac,
their purple drapes hiding every passenger’s possession.
An older woman in a light blue sweater
rocks herself back and forth before the flight. Another
carried his carry on like one might a small pig
from the prize tent at a country fair.
I heard a small boy exclaim that the airplane is
“eating our stuff!” And the plane looked so human there
swallowing everything they handed it. It’s cockpit
like a dull metal nose, almost smiling. Stranger yet,
I felt happy, staring back it, sitting there, still full
from the buttery donuts, the rain, and the small pieces
of a hurried morning, carried in just tiny flits of memory,
I carry, like a dozen crumbs, I sweep into my pocket for later.
Surfers’ Point at Sunset / by Jennifer Kelley
Buddha-bellied in the darkness,
I stare back at myself with my eyes closed.
Satiated and feeling substantial,
I watch an1a androgynous 20-something do
Tai Chi along a low wall in the fading light.
I wonder if she has somewhere to stay
or if these dunes and
the susurras of the sea will
soothe her into dreamland.
She doesn’t mind my questions
– she takes pleasure in being seen –
but neither does she answer them,
as her body sways and points and combines.
White earbuds pierce the darkness
and I can’t help thinking: did they not come in black?
Was the syncopation intentional,
to stimulate and confuse onlookers?
It’s possible, of course, that the inconsistency
slides by this wayside warrior, like so much plastic flotsam,
something unconsidered, or at least not by her,
as the dark increases, bleeding color
over the tolerant stripe of palm trees.
Love in Hyperbole / by Anu Mahadev
I kinda love you, though sometimes my connection
is weak, and the bluetooth signal is sort of bad,
and so, the speaker won’t play my notes continuously.
For the window of brooding is past, and the ash
from the incense is so fine, it sticks to the waxy surface,
filling me with envy for its effortless pirouette.
I too, wish that, for us. Like Aladdin’s carpet, if we could go
around the glass globe using my tinfoil bookmark, then even
the fake flowers on my bookshelf would not bother me.
Yes, they look beautiful, but shouldn’t the good stuff end as well?
This is my favorite season, replete with birthdays and festivals,
but when I’m on the sidewalk, the autumn leaves don’t give me
that satisfying crunch. What is missing then? You’re the polished
silver lamp, I am the castor oil that keeps our flame alive. I do not
like this analogy. How much of myself should I pour into us?
When will I be depleted of this constant energy? You’re coming
towards me, your hands in the ripped pockets of your faded
jeans, just the way I like it. I want to throw myself at you,
like the cold, oblivious coal shoved into a fire pit.
But I know the crackle won’t be the same as before.
My love is too demanding, just like that. But like a candle
waiting to light a glass-mosaic lantern, I’ll keep coming back.
I’ll fill the sequined box with vermilion, which I’ll apply on my forehead.
I’ll search for the meaning of life in a jumbled wooden puzzle, and
be dejected that it won’t make sense. I recall our early days,
you were so eager, you tugged at my favorite blue Kanjivaram
sari and its delicate threads frayed. I use it as a wall decoration now.
I can’t find its replica back home. Remember when we rode that painted
rickshaw in silence, your calloused fingers caressing my own? Where
were we even going? And where are we headed to now?
The flight plan shows a bunch of places, but none that will cause
me to look above the red meniscus of the sangria pitcher.
That’s why I’m sitting here, paying your parking ticket,
while you’re excited about the sugarcane juice you’ve filled in a glass,
perched carefully on the terra cotta teal coaster we got from Turkey.
We’re not going to find our skewed love story in a folktale,
I tell myself as I leaf through, idly wondering if that clay figurine
of yours would break if I dropped it, accidentally. I watch the impatiens
in my garden dying, perhaps they’re looking at my teak clock
with the Roman numerals façade on it.
Everything has a time limit. It’s never enough.
What I Thought I Overheard / by Ronald J. Palmer
Someone asking the Cameraman
For the impulse to make something
From the fatigue of grinding out nothing,
From a swatch of rain, a fallen trig
The path made from the first fallen leaves.
I figured someone wanted to rise above
The disparity of a life, wanted something
More than a documentary, wanted
To return to where the magical was lost.
Poem 1 / Day 1
Bloom / by Rashaun J. Allen
Her voice cracked, “Why do I have to explain my identity?”
Not even then could her psychiatrist diagnose the ludicrous plethora of problems.
So engraved in her skin, mascara couldn’t hide it on her grave shift.
Years ago, she laughed at taking her last breath at the front desk.
Now it brought tears.
Like a twisted ankle she turned in her seat.
She asked, “You think I like being spoken down to?”
She no longer knew what to do when she thought about her kids.
Pinching her arm with manicured nails snapped her lips shut.
She was ready to push her luck, the day she typed up her resignation letter:
But it was clear green was the only color that could solve her blues.
Lights on? Need a check.
Fridge with food? Need a check.
But the supervisor’s remarks were as bad as comments on the internet:
“You’re not even smarter than my newborn. Just kidding.”
“If you were a little lighter I would date you. Just kidding.”
“So who’s in jail, your brother, father or boyfriend? Just kidding.”
Just kidding. Just kidding. Just kidding.
But that part never made the news.
She was a gentle flower just trying to bloom.
What happened that day was a permutation of bullshit she could no longer take.
When the fire started,
the copy machine was still going.
Seven Years / by Lupita Eyde-Tucker
It’s finally October 2019, seven years
after our crash. Upside down, I resisted
the idea to renig on my vows. The ones
I made to Wells Fargo. The ones that had
twenty-three more years of mortgaged bliss
measured in monthly installments. Sometimes
you have to cut off your arm to get out
from under a rock. In seven years of carrying
a new limb has grown, I’m surprised by its
muscle memory. I’m still in rehab, afraid
to put full weight on. We are renters now,
the impermanence appealing. I’ve forgiven
myself like the Feds discharged us— honorably.
Sound a trumpet: this is the month we forget.
The Equinox and After / by Mark Grinyer
Raindrops tap on leaves.
Dry summer’s end arrives. I’m
staring into night.
season’s end portends
difficult days returning
Holy Days begin.
Old memories sing
of holidays, festive
times, families, gone.
The New Year looming
another day begins with loss
Purple flowers bloom
with favorite tunes replayed
Taps echoes again.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird / by Ruth Happel
A blur of wings at my window
Bright tiny eyes peering at me
Through thin glass pane separating us,
Less than an inch to divide
Two distant worlds where we live.
I take a picture of his iridescent throat,
Type words to describe his flight.
He just lives the grace I try to capture,
Hovering in a miracle of suspended time.
He will leave now any day,
A tiny traveler without maps
He will keep pace with autumn
Flying hundreds of miles south
A route he has flown every year
Fueled by flowers for the long journey.
I will be here through winter
Watching leaves and then snow
Falling through this same window,
And when spring returns
I will fill window boxes with blooms,
A banquet to welcome his return.
Space / by Willie James
This café feels a little like a spaceship’s cafeteria—
metal tables and the long empty rumbling of the refrigerator,
which in turn sounds like an air conditioner
wedged inside a window on the far side of a hall. When I think of space,
outer space that is, often I imagine an ocean
because of the obvious metaphors of explorers and ships. Though clearly,
there is no ocean. I can’t take my shoes off and cool my sun
burnt body like I did this summer, each time the waves
refilled beneath the lake’s stone steps. I can’t do that,
I can only flip my body upside-down
and stick my feet uselessly into the air
like I used to as a child on the couch, imagining
a turtle turned skyward on the dome of its back,
looking at lamps which appeared glued to the floor, and laughing
at the cats, undisturbed beside their pillowed nook. Cat’s,
which roamed my whole youth through my house
and more than anyone seeming to crave space, took off
into the neighborhood for whole days by themselves.
Such wide spaces they need to hurt
alone. A whole universe, I need too
anytime I go camping and lean
face to face with the fire and its hot breath forcing itself
into the air, into my eyes and mouth, to just lean back,
and look up to the sky, whose stars feel like a cold soda
beginning to crackle with ice. Somebody told me
heartbreak was just like that, pointing to a bottle that had been crushed
just outside the fire pit, its glass scattered into a dozen shards.
Look, he pointed as a glint of sun opened them
to every crack of light—
It’s like a dozen open doors, I murmured.
He nodded, it’s like rain passing from one awning to another,
and onward. I dreamed of the storm it came from–
it’s one magnificent cell expanding over the tiny night.
Ether / by Jennifer Kelley
Where you and I combine,
there is an overlap
of the physical and spiritual,
in that place where you are not solely yourself
and neither am I;
instead, we rest and reside in each other
to soothe, to shade, to shelter
that one of us.
An empty crucifix resides over my heart,
hanging there among the thieves and murderers,
in a place where only you can be resurrected,
if only Dallas were as close as a TV show,
even a classic,
the kind that you used to be able to catch on Nick-at-Nite.
And where will the lilies go to melt into the ether?
You know better than anyone that they all grow at your feet.
And where is that breathing space between mine and thine?
You know all too well that it shifts, ephemeral, over long lost lines
and between four lips, however parted.
Vrindavan / by Anu Mahadev
Lata, twisted creeper of body,
did you refuse to die in the pyre
did they forgive you, sinless one
& you ran away in white, head shaven,
red/green bangles broken
into telltale crescents on your wrists,
did they fight for your jewelry, your money,
anything except your dignity
& you were begging in the streets,
& you remembered the names of the 84 temples,
you sang in so passers-by would throw coins at you,
did they count you as a person in the population census
& you were sold to any hungry bidder, animal eyes,
did they use you, spit on the ground you stepped on
& you were called names, bad omens,
thrown out of your son’s home,
did they wish you were dead
& you didn’t know how to operate
your meagre bank account
did they swindle you off what little you had
& you were homeless, destitute
did they build an ashram only because
of worldwide attention to your plight
& you were stripped off every garment
did they discard your very soul
did they ill-treat you, blame you
did they come to feature you on their magazine
& you laughed and giggled,
when a monkey stole your glasses,
when disease wracked your frail body,
when your very essence was torn in tatters,
did they do anything at all, besides their duty for the day,
besides a donation, very little siphoned to you,
& you suffer and continue to suffer,
did I do anything but write about you,
did they do anything but read
did they know a widow burns day and night
in self-inflicted anguish
did they live while you languish
Turn Around / by Ronald J. Palmer
How did October
come so quickly?
It wasn’t so long ago
the last of spring
wasn’t so long
the fireworks show
Could it be that
is pushing his theory
of relativity down
Or is there some
on the earth
move so quickly.
Even these leaves
the trees toss
upon my head
will soon be covered
by another month.
Yet, in spite of this
quick fall, I found
enjoyment in the
brilliance after all.