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 June 2018 are Barbara Audet, Carla Botha, Amanda Galvan Huynh, Pratibha Kelapure, Kelsey Ann Kerr, Stephanie Maniaci, Josh Medsker, Mitchell Nobis, and Monica Prince. Read their full bios here.
If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and and warm up your pen! To read more about the Tupelo Press 30/30 project, including a complete list of our wonderful volunteer poets and to read their poems, please click here.
Day 20 / Poems 20
Wedding Lunch / by Barbara Audet
The judge in Carthage
for a life
Did he know what he was doing?
Theirs, the briefest kiss,
Mormon’s Joe Smith Jr. died
not too far
from where their vows were made.
Mobbed and killed,
did his spirit watch them marry here?
Did he watch them leave,
arm in arm,
headed to their wedding lunch?
A spur of the moment choice,
two plastic cups,
to toast the day,
budget starved romance
at the Dairy Queen
down the road,
near the rising river.
a Nauvoo afternoon,
French enough for her,
historic enough for him,
on Bastille Day.
In the peaceful wood
near the temple,
awed to find
what had to be
wizard cast omens,
a June stone rosary,
a rubber frog.
no worries there,
caught that bouquet
are side by side
in the cabinet, still.
Mutual Respect / by Carla Botha
I am scared of the majestic brown baboon
with fangs longer than my middle finger
showing as he yawns
his troop convenes in the gold of early morning —
breakfast the first thing they discuss
scouring the soil with little dark fingers
in no rush to move fast like peak hour traffic
they sit and wait for something
unknown to me, so I sit and wait to see
black cliff shadows draw shorter
cicada hums longer
as we sit and wait
red chested cuckoo echoes
no answer to his dawn calls
the whole world waiting
unexpectedly the troop departs
into mountain peaks between monkey-
thorn and paperbark
I give up the wait
as I listen to soft whispers of early morning
go through life with patience, without disturbing what does not belong to you.
Souffles on a Rainy Day / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
A man in a soaked red polo walks
across Post Oak Blvd as my flats
dry in the warmth of the cafe.
A spinach and cream souffle
to warm the tongue. Lightning
glazes the tall windows
as only three couples talk
over tea lights. My friend arrives
ruffled and wet as her black
polka dot umbrella but settles
underneath the stringed lights.
A ham and cheese souffle
about to ruin her for future
souffles. Fog begins to roll
in as our conversation mulls
over our day and lifts into
the crowd trickling in: where
to travel in the next year,
dreams still unearthed.
We give in on this rainy day
to one more souffle: a blueberry
and a chocolate. Left, in the end,
wondering if we’d get the sweet
or savory next time. If the years
will bring us together again.
Mastery of the Universe / by Pratibha Kelapure
At the Tech Museum of Innovation
At the heart of the valley
Silicon and wires
Tiny computer chips
The dawn of the revolution
Say, can you build a robot?
A social one
To laugh and dance with
Mix your face in the crowd
Widen your social circle
Travel the globe
You are everywhere
Be your own DJ or a pixel artist.
Do you have your mother’s dimples?
Or your father’s hairline
Or derived from Denisovans?
Unlock Life’s code
Unravel the whole genome
Wear the technology
Measure the metrics of your body
Explore your planet,
Moon and Mars
Say, what is that rumble?
Say, can you stop the Earth
From shaking and quaking?
I used to feel most safe when my father was cooking / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
I want the heaping mounds
of spaghetti of home,
so large I could dream
of swimming in them
like the old lady
from Patch Adams.
I want the homemade
of canister breadcrumbs,
molded by my father’s hands,
passed into mine to line
the cooking sheet.
I want to be small enough
to still walk on his feet
around the kitchen
while he cooks, unphased
as I gaze up
at the boiling water.
I want to go back before
the night when my father
made pasta and I refused
to fill my flat stomach,
and he threw his dish,
breaking it in the sink.
My mother gave me
the most forlorn look;
my ribs never felt so brittle,
as she cleaned off
the shards, coated in red
sauce, the period I was missing.
Untitled / by Stephanie Maniaci
Set with no-frizz hair control
and a Michael Kors bag, which she floored,
a woman of forty-or-so steers
her friends to a table I’d cleared wholly
only moments before. Her moisturized face
wasn’t unusual at all, but her dental
care was exquisite—nothing to scoff
at in those white calcium buns.
She sips an americano, has nothing to eat
and speaks loudly about permits
for buildings on pink sand deposits—
which is where she likes to vacation, in the main,
as she enjoys searching for conchs and crabs.
They’re waiting for a friend who buys realty
for fun in semi-tropical locales,
hoping he’ll share with them the bones:
instructions for paperwork to go unrevoked.
When he arrives, their banter erupts,
gets lost in echoes and silenced in my thoughts.
Later, draining her cup to its bowels,
the woman approaches and leaves her glass.
Behind the counter, I polish glass
pastry cases with paper towels,
tamp and pull espresso shots
until liquid drips into stainless cups.
I scoop hoards of cream-yolk-
sugar into house-made cones,
curling my wrist the way I curl
my back out-the-way of twenty-
two year-old coworkers’ paths.
Somewhere, in the dark folds of my brain,
I wish I didn’t remember the closets
where we used to hide clothes to fit
my sprouting legs-arms-feet,
that I’d forget the trips to someone’s
church where plastic bags of castoffs
like Campbell’s soup and Fruitloops were parceled
over. Wish I could replace
the black shoes I made holey
through a pilgrimage of eleven years’
steps with a heart as thin as cardboard—
as those shoes’ worn-out soles.
Psychedelic Erotic Mother Goose Poem Written Under the Influence of an Online Poem Generator, Around Mid-Day / by Josh Medsker
Mother Goose turned on James Brown
and did the popcorn dance.
Artistically enhanced, she titty-danced
While her clients glanced at her mammarily-expansed
chest, and I, de-pantsed, chanced:
“Canst thou dance as Constance danced?
If thou canst, quicken
in case it hurts. I must confess to eyeing your
fish nets (fish nets!).”
Eternity was in her legs all along—
“Flap it hard, flapperella!
Flap it hard, flapperella!
Tear the fragile curtain of my reality
Until, armed with flagella, we fly!”
A Helluva Drug / by Mitchell Nobis
The easy wealth of others’ bodies—
too tempting to colonizers
who can’t rest easy having
The easy money made on brown backs—
topped by oil perhaps,
the only thing blacker than
the blood beneath the White House.
Parents Try / by Monica Prince
After Tyler Shields’ Historical Fiction
I got my first pair of high heels at eleven
because shame didn’t enter my blood
until after it burrowed its way
out of me. At the same time, I relaxed my hair,
tried to disappear into the whiteness preferred of me.
But not by my parents—who most days love this country
and the people it alleges to protect. They never
taught me to hate the police or burn flags,
but when it came to existing while Black,
they asked me to hold still, never raise my voice.
In college, my Black supervisor warned me of a KKK
sect rooted at the edge of town. There, I added
rope to my list of bodily fears, after water, white hoods,
and trees. I do not trust a body that wears shame
like a badge of honor, masking it as pride.
I haven’t been able to relax—my hair, my spine—
since killing me became a hobby. My mother’s face
always flickers with a twinge of panic
when my brother leaves the house. No one is ready
to read their child’s name next to words like shot,
strangled, or no surprise another one is dead.
To perfect the extermination of a group, killing
the leaders is too obvious. Taking out allies and spouses—
whatever race—proves more effective. Pink is as good
for target practice as red, but the blood never quite
rinses clean. I worry if naming my child signs their death warrant
[MARILYN MONROE FOUND DEAD 2]
or if that’s just the cost of life.
I try not to dwell on all the ways the world
disrupts my peace of mind, simply by
finding its way under my skin. My father
tried to shield me with education, as if
knowledge could save anyone.
[GIRL RUNS FROM PLANE]
When it comes to innocence, we frequently
think of children, usually white, especially
girls. We act like the worst way to grow up
is to be ripped from childhood, typically
by someone who had theirs ruined, too.
[PAN AM FLIGHT 62 MOON LANDING]
But if we are all refugees of our childhoods,
drifting forever outside of that place, balanced
on the line of innocence and whatever comes next,
I’m not surprised by the moon, she who dictates
blood and ocean. I’m not even surprised by
[JFK TOE TAG]
what will surely be my undoing—a man,
a gun, my skin likely too dark or my sex
too loud. Parents try. I know that’s nearly all
we can expect from them, to do their best,
then identify our remains should we leap first.
[BUS STOP DEATH OF JAMES DEAN]
I want to be enough for whomever I bring into this
suffering, be able to promise not to smoke
or leave without saying goodbye. But I don’t believe
I can do it—bring someone here,
trust I won’t do more damage.
Day 19 / Poems 19
Cleaning Up The Past / by Barbara Audet
Skyscraped books, end inner teetering, come off the floor.
Massed learning, unread baggage, self-limbo you must go.
Box these up, cart these away, see the shore
beyond a prison of pages, let the book inside grow.
Molting past lives, rent-free, harbored, be no more,
fooling no one camouflage, let that wall fall, go low.
Scare the spider, cut the webbed sorrow,
its heartbreak made ballast, mobius crazy emotions
keep life running in place, you miss tomorrow
awaiting no-show yesterday, commotions
are allowed, give worn sentiment a final bow.
Siblings / by Carla Botha
I once was a young child too.
A barefoot, brown-legged
on Sundays — it was easy to
climb the Chinaberry tree
in the backyard.
Here I am!
Every time mom called
out my name from
the front terrace door.
a lonely cloud,
an only child
for a while.
But children like sparrows
need company. And then came
Taco Bell Food-Run / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
You moved your taekwondo gear
from the front seat and I climbed
into your car. College kids yelled
from a few doors down celebrating
another Friday night. The radio
spoke to me as you kept both
hands under the moonlight
until the Taco Bell’s purple
and pink colored our faces. Cars
wrapped around the lot as I wished
we could be. An unknown. A possibly
until: I don’t want to lead you on.
Followed by an order of a Burrito
Supreme and two Crunchy Tacos.
I can’t start something new. Given
to me with a napkin and two crunchy
tacos. I knew you were rare in this
awkward honesty. A food-run meant
to come clean. Even as I unwrapped
my taco to find the shell broken, I knew.
Juneteenth / by Pratibha Kelapure
What do I know of ships of middle passage?
About the strong Negro arms shackled and
The robust lungs gasping for air in the
Tightly packed holds of a darkened deck
How the integrity of the body was broken
The devious traders and their callous deeds
How the free will of the people was eroded
How did they turn into the docile slaves?
How the freedom was snatched from them
For centuries and even when it was granted
Delayed deliberately, what’s one more stolen winter
From the weary to reap one more harvest?
I have no capacity to comprehend the gravity
Of the slave life and death, but I know of
Oppression, of disabling a woman-person
By keeping her shackled to housework
By slowly eroding her self-worth until
She begins to question the reality of her
Perceptions, paralyzed by the nagging fear
That I can imagine, and then I understand
How an able-bodied, intelligent human being
Can be turned into a slave, how a devilish
Human can shoot you in the leg and then
Offer you his hand to lift you up, because you can’t.
That’s what Juneteenth and Emancipation Proclamation
Signifies, seems silly to celebrate what was taken away
Something that was your birthright and toyed around
Expecting gratefulness upon its return
When my mother moved, as she was dying, we had to give away our parrot / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
The light after a hard rain is so blinding white,
and the birds’ twitters so timid.
If you listen to the avians, they always know
when it’s going to storm.
Our Meyer’s parrot would flutter about his cage,
hitting walls, a madman with clipped wings,
squawking and beating
my eardrums. When I said goodbye
to him, not knowing if I’d ever see him
again, he was so quiet. He stared at me
with those burnt sienna eyes, turning to umber.
He stretched out a wing as I bowed my head,
crowning me in yellow, as I buried myself
in his tachypneic teal chest.
We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident / by Mitchell Nobis
I dream of my children sleeping through nights,
warm in blankets they’ve burrowed underneath
with certain unalienable Rights.
Like any father worried about frights,
I fret for their safety to the umpteenth.
I dream of my children sleeping through nights.
We pile books by bedsides, prepare for slights,
ready to brandish words free of their sheaths
with certain unalienable Rights.
Will the future pull guns, ready for fights
when my black sons grow large, hit their sixteenths?
I dream of my children sleeping through nights.
They grow in a time that has seen all sights
but plows ahead, the good buried beneath
with certain unalienable Rights.
I carry deep sighs & hope for great heights—
the daytime is long on every Juneteenth.
I dream of my children sleeping through nights,
with certain unalienable Rights.
Breathing Lessons / by Monica Prince
In the a National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.,
Parker Curry, who is two, refuses to look at her mother,
who wants a picture of her daughter next
to the portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Parker Curry cannot move.
Her face transfixed, mouth agape,
In the Gallery, you wait in line to see
the Obama portraits—housed in different wings—
and when you finally stand before them,
you have roughly thirty seconds to a minute
to admire, photograph, or curse.
Parker Curry just stares.
I know when I first sank my eyes
into the Obama family, I cried.
Not because they were Black, or beautiful,
or about to make history.
But because I thought someone
might murder them.
America doesn’t like slaves to revolt.
I held my breath through the primaries
and the nomination and both general elections,
Do not confuse this breathlessness with hope.
See it instead as prayer.
Parker Curry’s amazement
taught me to breathe again,
allowed me to finally say
In the National Portrait Gallery, giants
sit immortalized. They live forever
in vibrant living color.
My President is Black.
My Lambo is blue.
Michelle Obama is magic.
And Parker Curry—so are you.
Day 18 / Poems 18
Juneteenth Legacy: The Prayer of 7 Billion / by Barbara Audet
I screenshotted the world
by way online
of population’s clock,
to calculate my sisters,
to calculate my brothers.
Today, birthday greetings grew by 209 thousands,
Today, I cried for unknown obituaries of 86,000.
in every way
Me and my yet to cease family
of seven billion beings.
Peel off the cells of my skin.
Peel off the cells of your skin.
Probe into the making of my body.
I don’t ask that you damage your outsides on my account.
Can you send your eyes to travel the insides of your heart? And mine.
Delve into what you claim is not the same.
Challenge me, test me,
to show atonement and shed defiance of what may be sameness, after all.
Forgive me for my passing into the order of creation,
infant unaware of those who built the incubator.
Forever aware by evening of the first day.
Perpetually sorry. Perpetually unable to make sense of it.
Greeley angered, wrote an editor’s prayer to save us
from our own self-evil, self-leveling of genetic stature.
He held up humanity holding scales, cheated to balance
in favor of educated, well-healed, self-ordained superior paleness.
Greeley’s clock ticked off
the spectrum broken down world
of 20 million brothers and sisters,
blood drained by isolation so concentrated
to bully better
by shape and color,
tradition and place,
and satisfied greed.
Because you did that with animals, they claimed.
The architects of enslavement.
Because original roofs made by grandfathers
were not for those whose outward garb
shattered the mirrors reflecting your confidence in power.
The architects of enslavement.
Because the more you beat,
the more the rhythm of subjugation
resounded in your own ears.
Drowning out your petulant inner voice
of damnation waiting.
The architects of enslavement.
Because though you raised Christ on your shoulders,
you picked at his feet with sharp nails.
Wanting to see if he too would bleed in a color not yours.
To intermingle your progeny,
radiate your sperm in the place
that proffers hope to a people.
The architects of enslavement.
despite the evidence
of love pure,
mother to child,
father to son,
names passed in oral celebration
across a continent older than cathedrals.
I cannot make it up.
I do not stop trying.
in ten states.
All the loopholes
strangle us still.
Seek the border of Texas
and in those children’s faces
in the Walmart reconfigured
are the phantoms
of so many
who lived in chains
still live in chains
and the clock keeps ticking.
it was just like / by Carla Botha
like the wind whooshed through
. . . . . . .her strands of hair
like her fingers reached
. . . . . . .for mine
like her eyes contained new galaxies
. . . . . . .for me alone to discover
like her hungry leg brushed against
. . . . . . .mine on purpose
like her silent face
. . . . . . .in both my hands
like just another day of strangers
. . . . . . .passing each other on busy streets
. . . . . . .I can speak of
like at first sight but it was only this
Namesake / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
for my Bố-ba
The morning after the wedding
we all circled around hangovers
and dim sum. Faded mascara
on the côs’ eyes. Hairspray
and gel taut in our hair. We
filled four tables with family.
I poured you tea even though
I knew you wanted your coffee
with a spoon of condensed milk.
Anticipating like a new daughter-
in-law should? Or one you would
have wanted? Vietnamese instead
of more Mexican, more American?
The morning you heard about our
engagement; you gave us a toast
with coffee. Put a hand on your son
and told him he should’ve done it
the right way. The Vietnamese way.
A Đám Hỏi instead of an American-
esque proposal. An engagement
fit for a Vietnamese family. Time
let me settle into your mornings
when we stayed the night. In the air
coffee and a mug on the counter
for me. A spoon of condensed milk.
Acceptance in a simple gesture
I learned to wake up for. The first
morning being your new daughter
I took care in the pour, placed
the tea in your hand and asked
What’s the Vietnamese word
for father-in-law? You shook
the American title with your head.
Responded: You can call me bố
or ba. I could choose the north
or the south dialect. But knew
what choosing the north or south
meant. I asked for your preference
and you shrugged with a sip. But
how could I divide you like Vietnam?
An Abject Afternoon / by Pratibha Kelapure
A hush falls over the earth.
The yard is summer-afternoon parched.
I want something to change – I want each
Spec of soil to soak in the rain and the plants
To keep blooming the purple and red carnations
I am disheartened by how much I want this
I want to accept, like the so many others,
The vagaries of nature and greed of politicians
I hope to be the patient earthling who senses
When to acquiesce to persevere
But, I become impatient
I shuffle and watch the clouds move away
I curse the slow warming of the earth
Concerned about loss of comforting coolness of
Arctic glaciers melting away
Thinking About Trying with Turner’s / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
The geneticist keeps calling me Chelsea
as I look from your hands, back to mine,
and wish mine were in yours. She reminds
us that I have a 40% chance of miscarrying,
not much higher than the average, but my
Turner’s took the other 15, and now devours
it with a hunger I haven’t seen, along with
a hearty number of my eggs
in a bacon and cheese scramble. After
having more than its fill, and getting cozy
in her cold office, it whispers in my ear,
while stabbing my forearm with its fork
before I can get away, and tells me
half of my boys will come out blue,
no, not the blue of their waiting nurseries,
but the blue of asphyxiation, and they’ll be
tinier even than even my palm, which can’t
be bigger than five inches long. The girls,
it says, will have a fighting chance,
but may have holes in their hearts,
too—as if they already knew
the cruelty of this world from birth
so much that it burrowed through them.
I pry the fork from my arm, and jam
it in the Turner’s carotid artery, waving
the geneticist’s sheet about PGD in its face,
then walk out the door,
your warm, red hand in mine.
Ubering in Orlando / by Stephanie Maniaci
An Uber driver named Chrisroy
tells me he is from Haiti
where people are really poor, poorly employed.
An Uber driver named Chrisroy
believes America’s an oyster—that he’ll find joy.
His hope renders him Pleiade.
An Uber driver named Chrisroy
tells me he is from Haiti.
Dream of Fire Lily / by Josh Medkser
Orange-tinged reds flicker up
in four leaves
Throwing off beauty
in deadly licks
Through the smoke and ash
my walls groan and fall
And I’m paralyzed
with organic poisonous mist
Ode to the Plastic Flag / by Mitchell Nobis
the window-clip American flag
lying in the middle of a redline
road around Detroit
flew off its perch with one weak breeze
the stars ground into
an oil slick on the asphalt &
the stripes torn apart by
while those who can’t afford
to get into traffic anyway
watch from the sidewalk
Refrigerator / by Monica Prince
I cannot trace when exactly I fell out of love
with you, but no matter when, it’s true.
I hold onto things way past their expiration date,
which is not to say you are a bottle of milk
or leftover paella forgotten behind said milk. You aren’t
disposable, expendable, a coupon no longer valid.
Love isn’t a punch card at a frozen yogurt shop
or a Starbucks account absentmindedly reloaded
every visit. You are not a metaphor.
But this relationship is—a sweater much too small
for comfort, a CD played so many times
it always scratches during the chorus in track 9,
tea gone cold before the sugar can dissolve.
We are so beautiful in the mornings, held open
by cool air and need for each other. But drowsy love
is not sustainable love. Neither are lust, gifts,
a promise to just stay until it hurts less.
Day 17 / Poems 17
Father’s Day / by Barbara Audet
I have two fathers
Early, a birth father.
Lately, the father of my children.
Mine made pizza
And fixed TVs.
Theirs crafted ads
And sought me out.
Memories enable me
to rebuild who they were.
Not always accurate
For I am a writer.
Fiction and non-fiction.
A child of one.
A lover of another.
My survival depends
on thinking, knowing
that fatherly goodness
was at the heart
of every decision.
Theirs and mine.
Dad / by Carla Botha
All my life, quiet
composed in everything you do —
I have watched you plant forget-me-nots
trim bougainvillea trees
you know what it takes
to raise and nurture
I just have to look
at your calloused hands holding
an arum lily.
Ordinary Rituals / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
For My Father on Father’s Day
Our ears were in tune to the garage door rising,
the clatter of the back gate’s latch, and the dance
of the doorknob. Our yells ran down the hallway
as we pushed each other out of the way to greet
you first. Our arms twisting into a body’s hello,
into a wordless: I missed you. A ritual on workday
evenings. The kind of tumble between daughters
you let love itself into the corners of the home.
A chorus always waiting for you at the day’s end–
when did the music of feet against hardwood quiet?
Do you remember the first night we grew into an empty
room? Let the garage door close, the latch mumble. Left
the doorknob on the floor. Stopped calling out your name?
Magician / by Pratibha Kelapure
My father loved to make people laugh
Everything about him amused us
His hurried walk, walking through
Closed doors, bumping into blocks
Everyone roared when he told jokes
The same ones he told a million times
I often groaned and once blabbed
The punchline before he finished
Love was a hard word around us
No one ever spoke of love or hate, we
Just casually moved through our days
Cracking jokes at each other’s expense
Once in his whole life, he put on
A magic show for the neighborhood
Complete with a blindfolded aide
Illusions peppered with “Bol Jamude”
Mesmerized by his persona
I forgot to grab the candies he tossed
As I watched the other kids munching
I was proud to say “That’s my Dad.”
I never stopped to think of old age
Moved away from him across the oceans
Burying childhood so deep that when
I saw him next, we were strangers
My Father Always Wanted to Travel to Ireland / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
Arlington, VA, June 17th, 2018
There is nothing like the serenity
of napping with the one you love,
bellies full after a spread of brunch
at the local Irish pub, such luxury
of sausage gravy and biscuits,
potatoes and peppers, eggs benedict,
an omelet station stacked with eggs,
and an entire table of pastries to choose from.
His elbow caresses the small of your back,
your toes touch his shin beneath the quilt
his parents gave you as a housewarming gift,
made by a quilter in his hometown of Ironton
for your first place together. As lovely
as that all is, this Father’s Day you can’t help
but think of how your parents’ couldn’t give you
anything for your new home, other than
what they already had, of how your father
only crossed an ocean once, while your mother
did a hundred times, of how, when you got your prints
back from you and your mother’s only trip alone
together yesterday, after waiting seven years
to develop the film, there was only one picture of her,
walking next to the tour guide somewhere
on the Big Island, and though her back is turned,
you can tell she is smiling, among all the green,
as she did when she visited you in Ballyvaughan
(of course, your father couldn’t come),
where in your cottage, three years before it happened,
you were already thinking of her death, and asked
her to play actress and pretend you were an apparition
of her younger self. You took turns taking pictures
of each other, before you edited the photos
so you could be in the same frame. On the last
click, you asked her to lie down on your bed,
to close her eyes and fold her hands across her chest.
The Darkroom / by Stephanie Maniaci
For HW and KM
Red light and strips of film,
compound baths, plastic pans, and tongs:
in school, I gloried in the photography studio—
smells of sulfur and vinegar, the spinning door,
Developing Room no bigger than a closet
that made me feel like a bat in a cave, welcomed
home. I’d dip my wingtips in chemical mixtures,
not caring how my fingernails peeled,
listening for echoes of footsteps outside.
I’d tuck the black apron more snugly and dodge
and burn the images to stark contrast:
crisp definition between shadow and highlight.
Outside the darkroom, I lunched every day
in a cafeteria that seated five-hundred.
My apron abandoned to a nail in the classroom,
I wore jorts and picked at a pyrexed lunch
of leftovers and bruised fruits. A table over,
they laughed and nibbled on French fries
every girl chattering and tapping
polished nails on cans of silver Diet Coke
purchased for a dollar-fifty each
from the school vending machines.
Once, I overheard one complain
that red really wasn’t her color.
On Teaching / by Josh Medsker
I am not
the fount of knowledge;
I bring questions and queries,
eager to stretch them.
I don’t sublimate my personality;
I become a sounding board to practice on.
I don’t profess or lecture
just turn your questions inside-out
returning them in a volley
with an alchemist’s twist,
Pride for Father’s Day / by Monica Prince
On June 2, 2018, my parents’ home country
celebrated its first Pride parade with no incident.
I didn’t know homosexuality was illegal
under Britain’s occupation of Guyana,
that it informed the opinions of current
Guyanese residents and descendants.
My father is old school—originally not wholly
on board with the LGBT+ community, confused
by trans people, pronouns, and flamboyance.
But on Father’s Day this year, I’m grateful
for my father’s flaws, for his lesson that learning
never ends. Conservativism has been linked
with the type of Christianity that kills nonbelievers,
burns queer folk, enslaves people of color.
But my father doesn’t believe in murder.
Only believes in love and justice,
and the community taught him neither can exist
with hate. I hold onto his revisions
as he continues to make the world safer,
first with his own beloved self.
Day 16 / Poems 16
A Renaissance Father / by Barbara Audet
to hold her back,
not from hospitals,
but neighbor midwives.
her refilled stomach high,
arguing for February ripe negotiations.
Gertrude, born a Douglas,
in an uneasy
tour jete of living,
Scotch thrifty needles
worked the dimity.
Her fullness, this child, was wanted.
for her late in the church calendar indulgence,
my grandmother pledged his soul,
pushed him early in God’s way.
The mother-sired, be a priest
from the womb
Jean after Jean after Jean,
he took his place in the 1600 line,
the distended heir in a belly
far from his French-Canadian soil.
A cut-off citizen,
robbed of his history,
the true Canadian,
mahogany tool box in hand
to go where pipe organs sounded,
when his father
told him, leave.
Third birth gave Gertrude
embryonic seals of approval,
of the Pope’s annulment
of Marriage One.
Her early forays
released from one’s natural father,
tried their best to love him,
but time bests intention.
They were too old for baby brothers.
Alone, he sat on apartment stoops,
waiting for his mother,
holding her empty shoes.
He tried to please,
took priestly steps
until Greek graded him
lacking in vocation,
made him seminary suit-less.
The suit he wore
the look of regret
his mother wore until
an aneurism shut her eyes.
in the City of Big Shoulders,
his Chicago manners grew muscles
as he arm-wrestled
high school, marriage, children,
managing not to manage well,
of an ill-conceived roller coaster,
success arms-length away.
A Tower of Strength.
An unknown 1929 Da Vinci,
not painterly on canvas
but a master of the broad sweep,
his swash of knowledge,
a mind like that.
So it shocked
when he forced weak words
from dry lips those last days.
he was afraid
Tubed up and down,
head flat, muscles
finally arriving at inertia,
he looked like he meant it.
I shied away, a shake of hair,
a false daughter moment,
afraid to see
if I shared that fear.
Looking back, I did look back
and argued just like him
outside my womb,
kindly begging him,
Postcard from Singapore / by Carla Botha
They broil pigs to broth.
Stir. Noodles. Soft meat.
Always add an egg.
Street food Michelin rated.
Everybody eats on
the streets, on corners
or under trees in humid
rain showers. Hollow
hungry bellies. Revel.
Mẹ’s Superstitions / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
On Lunar New Year Mẹ
takes my dragon
and some earth
to suggest a cactus
needs to be in my room.
She takes his cat and fire
to place a bamboo plant
in the kitchen. Lists red
and orange as colors
to avoid. Says we need
to wear more purple
this year and to wary
of people who act
like friends but aren’t.
She calls to make sure
a dried gourd hangs near
the front door–to leave fruit,
prayers, incense on the altar.
The Stone / by Pratibha Kelapure
One must have a mind of a stone
That enhances sunlight on a canyon wall
Enduring never-ending tourist drone
Or the mind of a stone that sits atop
A temple dome piercing the boundless sky
Immune to the prayers sincere or sham
Or of a foundation of a cairn on
A mountain trail to scaffold the dreams
Of hikers as they stop and look upon
Or of a metamorphic marble stone
Beauty borne of prolonged stress
Ingeniously nullifying acids in streams
Nachtmahr /by Kelsey Ann Kerr
after visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, June 16th, 2018
Would my Mischling self have passed as Aryan,
as Hitler’s doctor held the case of eyes up
to my own, blue as the twilight sky behind
the railroad cars running by? Would he have ripped
them out of their sockets to exchange with another’s
as an experiment? As the doctor laid the swatches
of hair against my blonde locks, would he have recognized
my grandfather’s nose? Spat in my eyes as he stripped me down
and shaved me bald, adding my hair to the poundage
in burlap bags? Or would he have made a wig?
Would they have burned all our books, first
throwing Picasso and the poets to the flames
in the middle of our living room, while spinning
Chopin’s “Funeral March” on our record player?
Would he then have turned on our faucet and forced
me to shower in Zyklon B? And would I have let it
billow into my mouth and fill my cheeks, or would
I have held my breath for what came next:
a pile of my shoes stacked in the doorway,
floor to ceiling, with a kristall-buckled pair
on top, waiting forever to feel my feet again?
Florida Turnpike Catalogue / by Stephanie Maniaci
Orange Juice! To your health!
Seas the day. Vasectomy,
southbound. Live happier,
twenty minutes away.
Where fresh and fast meet.
Budget cuts may lead to death.
—you’ve been waiting for,
your whole life.
Shoot real machine guns!
Public welcome. Peaches,
Red Navels next door.
Where fresh and fast meet.
Valgab: heavy duty
motor oil. Gator world:
Live baby gators.
Drive through. Grapefruit.
Fresh and fast meet.
Did you know?
baby’s heart still beats.
Mission Inn Resort.
Machine Gun America.
Realty. Patio furniture.
Pecans. Spread your wings.
Let the games begin:
Medieval Times Fun.
Real Guns Real Bullets.
Fun for whole family.
Peaches. Orange juice.
Live happier—minutes away.
Where fresh and fast meet.
Untitled / by Josh Medsker
When the light has given out, and you despair
will you cling to ideas for safety?
Or the crook of a neck, to him, or her
who comforted, caressed, and laughed you free?
What’s the German Word For— / by Mitchell Nobis
Freezing with the flood of
moment that your
dog stopped. You held
him as he was then was not
The encompassing desire to be back
in college on a summer semester that
week in May after everyone left town
and graduated and you’re one of the few
left behind with a whole world to yourself
in perfect crisp weather, a beer in hand &
a banjo on the radio, the only responsibility
to even shirk was reading King Lear, and instead
you grilled dogs and tossed a ball. You just were
Staring at nothing, paralyzed by
the privilege of reminiscence
Thinking you’ve seen a murmuration in the distance
but it was just a humongous belch of emissions
from a truck. You thought smoke was starlings,
but we don’t really have birds
Flexible / by Monica Prince
My body readily adapts to new situations—
sleeping in a new bed, held all night long,
running three times a week, altitude
over 8,000 feet. It’s the only trait that’s kept me alive.
Last night, I remembered what red wine does
to the blood: heats, elevates, sends to the surface.
In bed together, you cradled me close, no matter
the temperature of the room, of my skin.
This morning, you woke me with your tongue—
in the curve of my collarbone, trailing down each
individual rib, exploring between my legs. You can name
every muscle as you squeeze, as you cuddle them.
I promise not to love you. Instead, I’ll arch
and bend and gasp against the ridges of your fingertips,
kiss you back, steal any dawn where I arrive in your arms.
I promise not to love you. Just never quit opening me
into gateway, portal, Jericho’s walls tumbling.
Day 15 / Poems 15
Strawberries Under Moonlight / by Barbara Audet
The pick your own strawberry field
appeared on the horizon,
the wooden sign
sweet for your money.
Summer’s on the spot symphony,
slamming car doors,
a Detroit crescendo,
sent children rushing off to plants
ready to shed early summer offspring.
Long in the field, gathering fruit,
who noticed hours passing,
‘til dusk changed the sky
to gold-glazed blue
with illusive lilac
gone emerald tints
to slow your breathing.
Happy stains on fingers
snuck berries into mouths,
dirt and all.
To give them extra time
to love the field,
love the berry day,
the moon shone first,
if you guessed its mood,
while the fireflies of June
rallied their forces
and rose in unison
out the way
She Tells Me She is Sorry Once Again / by Carla Botha
Of course I don’t
believe her as
the message appears between my hands.
I have the patience
of a tree in summer drought
as I wait
for her to move like the wind —
kiss my face
rustle my bones.
I have counted to
one hundred. I am tired.
I would rather wait for the stretched
out yellow arms of sunset
to wrap me up every afternoon
to lie underneath night skies with
full moons, constellations
moving the tides within me
Untitled / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
Do not tell my mother
I’m coming home late.
She won’t understand
the reasons why I rather
hold the coats of coyotes.
Do not tell my mother
today’s weather gathers
rain but still hesitates.
She won’t understand
and there’s no reason to bother
the daughter I illustrate.
Do not tell my mother
I’m not really together
but I know I’m not straight.
She won’t understand
and my father won’t either.
Even though I’m twenty-eight
do not tell my mother—
she won’t understand.
Cool Jazz / by Pratibha Kelapure
In high school we played clarinet, we
Resisted tasting liquor or held a real
Cigarette to our lips so we could look cool
We, Post-millennials found a new high, we
Practiced band and played at assemblies, left
Teachers in awe and won honors for school
All the while aware of the changing world, we
Never stopped to wonder about what can lurk
Behind the friendly front, busy working late
Into the nights practicing, laughing, we
Bonded together never managed to strike
A single stray note, hard to keep a straight-
Face when Jimmy jumped up with every high note, we
Snickered and groaned, always try to sing
In harmony, whether you sing of virtue or sin
The conductor said, remain in unison, we
Held on to the dreams never realized how thin
The line between symphony and cacophony, no margin
For error, he would say again and again, we
Played in the gymnasium some cool blues Jazz
Readying for the play through the month of June
Little did we know that was the last year we
Would play with Jimmy because in winter the gunman said, “die”
As he pointed the rifle at Jimmy and so many of us, gone too soon
My Grandfather Asks for Photos from My Parents’ Honeymoon in New Zealand / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
And I only have one to send him, of them
holding a lamb in their arms, my father
in his fishing hat, my mother’s hair
fashionably permed, her wearing her color,
red, both washed with content
in their happy daze. So I hire
a photographer for our honeymoon
to capture us among the vibrant
buildings of Buenos Aires, their lilacs
and corals and crimsons as backdrops,
and until then, I will be searching
for a way for our photos to replace what’s lost.
Pescheria / by Stephanie Maniaci
Bones, scales, debris:
Bones, scales, debris
glitter on stone, like filigree.
Fish baubles make fine trash.
Bones, scales, debris:
Noh / by Josh Medsker
If you stay still
birds will perch
on your shoulders.
The Farm in Summer / by Mitchell Nobis
The grass dries & the
fireflies report on time.
The barn moos, scuffs hooves.
The stars hide behind
moonlight. Morning will bring wheat—
a field of sun—straw & bales.
We will sit again
at dusk, sweat soaked through everything,
bloodied, spent, breathing.
Come August, school calls.
Practice, outside world—return
to doors & ceilings.
In June, I harvest
data. I file reports,
click “SAVE” on test scores.
Roll up my sleeves, run
a hand down inner forearms—
smooth smooth smooth smooth smooth.
Juneteenth / by Monica Prince
“She’s not the first Black princess.”
—Elwin Cotman, on Meghan Markle
I do not celebrate freedom from slavery,
don’t revere Lincoln (or Booth). I cannot believe in
striving for equality with the people who set up the original
injustice. Every Juneteenth, I’m enraged,
full of spit and sharp, wondering why I’m grateful
to be free when I was stolen, raped, divided
across continents simply because I am too beautiful
to be considered powerful. I’m uninterested
in white men, white power, white tears. Cannot
keep celebrating firsts of Black people
when we were the first to breathe, to break, to kill.
We will be the last, too. We discovered fire, after all.
Day 14 / Poems 14
Flag Day / by Barbara Audet
a dust decorated
Stars and Stripes
folded in a shop
in coastal Delaware.
She paid fifty dollars
to own it.
She cannot remember
how she lost track of it
but sees it when her eyes close.
Feels an imaginary stretch
of low thread-count fabric
in calloused hands.
Not Fort Henry size,
more likely living room size.
Less than 48 stars,
its threads made that clear
before a count of appliques
might confirm the sum.
Held up to the window
one saw the Georgetown street,
through the shop window,
the flag’s age rendered it
What may have been blood stains
marred or honored a corner of it.
Rusty blotches standing attention
against unburdening red dyes.
Dyes that do not hold up well over time.
Quilts are testament to that revelation.
They whimper down to pink. Or brown.
Whimpering does not do justice to flags.
First encountered, she contemplated
its renovation, reclamation.
Hem recovery and patches.
Perhaps, a gentle soaking in a tub
with a bar of Ivory, age matching age.
Old things to fix old things.
No remedies were applied after all,
for the seamstress had her life
to stitch back together.
Old flags must wait
in acid free spaces
before they fly,
or risk burning as a destiny.
without an honor guard,
in an antique store
with more space
for china and chairs,
this sentry deserved better,
down from the mast,
down from the staff.
the flag was left behind.
Objects gone astray
define their absent owners.
She stares into space,
her repairs showing,
and regrets losing its touch.
Of Dreams and Disappointment / by Carla Botha
The last time I saw you, you were covered in grey.
Today I can see your bright black cracked highways,
brown brick buildings, yellow taxis like scampering rats.
The First Calvary cemetery towering over
the left side of the midtown tunnel — a main artery
leading to your heartbeat.
where the Empire State greets
visiting faces like a pleasant
giant, with Powerball billboards
sharing dreams of $113 million
closer to retirement, while the homeless
and pennies lay scattered everywhere in the streets.
Nothing / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
In the girls’ high school
bathroom there’s blood
on the tile. Four drops
below the bowl. I hear
the unfolding of wrap,
a cough to drown
the distinct strip of a pad—
a moment of silence—
for someone to flush
to cover the creak
of the small waste bin.
I stand where the known
of our bodies become hard
secrets—secrets you have
no idea about. Their nature
foreign to your ears.
Can you hear the nothing
of a girl trying to hide
the most beautiful
part of her body?
What I seek (A Ghazal) / by Pratibha Kelapure
Rainbow arcs and honey-laced milk,
These are a few of the things I don’t seek
In a garden filled with pink and yellow roses
The fragrance of concealed Jasmine, I seek
Swarm of Sun worshippers on the sandy beach
The murmur of waves lapping at my feet, I seek
The blue moon night, starless sky stretched beyond the hill
The dignity lost under the dark cape of night, I seek
Sleepy children, Sunday sermon, bellowing pastor
Inside the chapel sanctuary, peace I seek
Many stories of love and loss, true or false,
I hear and tell, the unspoiled truth is what I seek
My mother used to say, You’re just a bundle of energy! / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
When I address our wedding invitations,
and they spill out onto the floor
like golden letters from Hogwarts,
I don’t think of how I’m orphaned,
I won’t think of how I’m orphaned,
I can’t think of how I’m orphaned.
Instead, I shake the paint pen again,
and run its blue sheen along the surface
of the last envelope. I cut my tongue
on the seal, and bandage our names
over it, before carrying the bundle
across the street to the Post Office.
Searching for a Baby Gift in Epcot / by Stephanie Maniaci
just amber ale
and turtles floating free.
Poetry Church / by Josh Medsker
Community brings us through
Fire brings us through
Wherever we are
our walls will stand
One hand holding art
the other, each other.
Disguises / by Mitchell Nobis
and tore through
the cottonwood seeds
snowing down on
June to shine a spotlight
on the wig
in the intersection
of Ten Mile & Telegraph Road
that welcomed the
dusty & bedraggled.
The Blackness Test / by Monica Prince
If I commit an act in my perceived [black] body—
dark, light, colored, mixed, freckled,
overexposed, clean, running, open,
betrayed, joyful, highly melinated,
misused, mistaken, refreshed, tired,
uplifted, praised, breathing, loving, strong,
beautiful, beautiful, beautiful—
then the action was Black enough.
Day 13 / Poems 13
An Ancient Invitation / by Barbara Audet
hold this virtual hand,
lead flesh attached
over Grecian hills,
where clement sun,
is building’s benefactor.
Scholars must understand
why ivory columns rose.
How settled minds
found unsettling truths,
a golden mean,
Gods were granted
names by publics
needing logos to worship.
Old humors aimed
at Athenian urns,
bely the beauty
of Attic form.
of paper doll cutouts,
traveled artefactual highways.
on animated amphora.
From rehearsed sea lanes,
cargo’d pots carried
left surface traces
fired in personality.
Faces passed down,
nose, brow, cheekbones,
daily take immortal turns
in the British Museum.
Back in Athens, unearthed
urns in temples,
centuries old votives
to past vaults
On the Treadmill / by Carla Botha
Feet like ships
afloat a black sea
knees passing one another
again, again as if
moving but not going anywhere
body temperature rises with touch
legs forced to behave
as involuntary muscles
step by step
rhythmic like a heartbeat
measured in minutes
Dumbo / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
My ears were folded
when the doctor cut
my umbilical. A trait
I never bothered
to hide until a boy
in sixth grade turned
to me and said You
have really big ears.
You’re like Dumbo.
When you have short
hair there’s no hiding
those two arcs of flesh
suddenly weighing ten
pounds of insecurity.
So I grew my hair
into curtains, tucked
my ears under caps,
and held them down
to see what would
happen if they
the sides. If I could
have just small ones.
Ears that didn’t wave
to people to look their
way—called to that boy
in fifth-period biology
to open his mouth.
Yes, like Dumbo
I’ll learn to fly.
A Golden Shovel / by Pratibha Kelapure
Snow gathered on the bough when the
Sunlight shone at noon and made it sparkle the way
When it radiates through facets of a diamond, it was a
Sight to see, so much white framing the crow
Dark as coal cawing at the top of her lungs as she shook
And flapped her wings, sprinkles of snow falling down
On my shoulders as I fought an urge to hop on
The ground and like Whitman sing a “song of me”
But I waited for the breeze to do its miracle and the
Wind to sing so the bough will shake off the dust
Of snow without my mortal intervention, a hand of
Heaven invisible to the human eye gently touch the snow
I stood watching the crow in the backyard until from
The kitchen my cat meowed demanding a
Fresh feeding, looking at the empty bowl as if it was hemlock
Reluctantly I turned around for a moment hoping that the tree
And the snow-laden bough remain undisturbed, it has
Given me such peaceful feeling in my
Heart, a gift I haven’t had in last few months, my heart
Crying for a
A life-giving boost of
Energy lifting my mood
Just watching the specks of white and
The dance of sunshine over the snowy field that saved
The acorns hidden away by squirrels in some
Corners of the fence, I am a part
Of this symphony of nature, of
The symbiotic relationship offering a
Miniscule breath to life, a day
In the cosmos that I
Had not deserved, as I had
Squandered away my life and had barely rued.
Things I miss from home / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
I miss the Monongahela incline
that climbs to the top of Mt. Washington
where you can see the whole city.
I miss the sound of the train whistling
by in the middle of the night
along the Alleghany in Oakmont.
I miss the rusted out monkey bars
in our backyard that would coat my hands
orange when I swung across them.
I miss the wild part of the yard,
where violets would spring
through the cracks of asphalt.
Bubble Triolet / by Stephanie Maniaci
A night shooting toward Hubble:
we sip champagne from Disney’s ear
under stars forming umbels.
This night shooting toward Hubble
makes quotidian memories crumble—
the spills, bills, and spent bulbs don’t appear
in a night shooting toward Hubble.
We sip champagne from Disney’s ear.
Sacrifices / by Mitchell Nobis
The high priests
locked the doors
and installed metal detectors
so that when The Guns
come to collect
only the proper
tribes can bear
witness to who
are the special
after all, that the
altar be pure.
The holy women & men
insist that the
be quiet, stoic,
that they fear & revere
The Guns and never
address them directly.
The holy ones teach
the offerings to look away
when they kneel in
the corner by the textbooks
or under the lab tables
with opened frogs above
or in the closet where
the CA-60 records are kept,
transcripts bloody as we weep.
At the Border / by Monica Prince
“When you go, you know
I’ll run right after you.”
We walked toward the marshals, holding hands.
She cried, her children already ripped from her
arms, her husband nowhere to be seen. We held
hands, not like sisters or lovers, like the very last act
before the centuries collapse and drown us, before
there is no more God or air or Earth worth fighting for.
I told her softly as we walked, as she cried, as the marshals
remains statuesque with their arms folded over
bullet proof vests and an acronym for systematic genocide
meant to protect them from two women holding hands against
the screams of babies destined for cages and silver blankets—
I told her: If you run, they will shoot.
But if you run, I will run behind you.
We weighed our options in three paces—this was not the freedom
promised us, not the life we dreamed up when we first
learned to sprint across desert. She squeezed my hand once,
twice, and then, we turned.
Day 12 / Poems 12
Meditation / by Barbara Audet
Saudade / by Carla Botha
Your continuous absence
about callous emotions —
nothing really mattered to you
numerous missed lunch invitations
unanswered iMessages, SnapChat, WhatsApp
your inability to commit
it mattered to me
my adoration for you disappeared like a butterfly
into sun kissed skies.
Loving Day / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
“Tell the judge I love my wife.”
– Richard Loving
Tell them I love the crease
in her neck when she turns
her head to look back at me.
The mole rising above
the corner of her mouth.
The curl near her temple
in the summer’s breath.
The way her laughter gathers
against the edges of our home.
Her smile can flip butterflies
on their back, her frown
opens floors beneath me,
her insecurities find still
rivers in my arms, arguments
slow dance into midnight
moons, and quiet on pillows
stretch minutes. Tell them
the way they reach for
their own love is the same
as how I reach out for her.
Stuffed Animals / by Pratibha Kelapure
What was your favorite childhood stuffed animal?
The blue-eyed leader asked the participants to share
In a team building workshop at the office full of
White, brown and dark people in the tech firm
A fair-faced woman in her early thirties gushes over
Her stuffed pound puppy and how it wagged the tail
Licked her nose and let out little yips when tickled
Mom tucked us both in at night, cheerfully she said
We played on the sidewalk and sometimes on
The street on those special moments on the days
When taxi drivers were on strike, a man for India said
Nobody in the neighbor needed a stuffed animal
We couldn’t play with a fake animal during the day
We carried pails of drinking water home all morning
At night we cooked on an open fire, the woman from
South Africa said, then we helped Grandpa get ready for bed
One woman sat silently listening to those stories
Praying the time runs out before it’s her turn
Turning over the image of her covering her ears to
Block out the violent fights from parents’ room and
Clifford, the Big Red Dog, staring her vacantly
All the sad stories she stuffed inside
Trying to Cook Like My Father When I Don’t Have Any of His Recipes / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
I didn’t know so much went into making
potato soup. My dad always swept it to the table
in our bowls, as if it had poured out of the big dipper
any evening my mother asked for it. I didn’t know
that after hours and years of practice, the carrots
chopped themselves at the slightest touch
of his fingers, that the celery placed itself
in the food processor, happy to be part of something
greater, or that he’d placed the pats of butter
on my tongue not for my enjoyment, but to melt
them for the mixture of milk and flour
to be whisked. I’d assumed that the bread
had sawed itself, and floated to sit on top
of our lace tablecloth. So when I made it
for the first time yesterday, I threw the list
of ingredients in the pot along with the potatoes
and stirred until the words blurred in the boiling
water, and the ink spiraled up to the surface.
All I could do was try to remember his words,
to catch them with my brush and paint them
on my forearms, hoping they’d sink in
as I switched hands, and painted and stirred.
Dinnerware Dervish / by Stephanie Maniaci
My legs don’t fit
in a baby-blue-teacup
that whirls as if adrift.
My legs dong fit;
the teacup lets them drip:
a ceramic volcano set to erupt.
My legs don’t fit
in a baby-blue-teacup.
You/Me / by Josh Medsker
I’ll slice out my tongue and be free
give you my body as the lock and key
remove the blackened me, a good faith gesture
and allow your self to flow into me
Celebrating: A Prayer / by Mitchell Nobis
We listen to James Brown
sing about being proud.
We listen to Stevie Wonder
sing his song for today & we
eat a cake Mama baked
that says “HAPPY BIRTHDAY,
MLK!” in blue frosting
that becomes blue lips.
We go to the library; we make
signs: “With Liberty & Justice
FOR ALL” and “We love you!”
And “PEACE.” We
march & when horns honk
we cheer & when we complain
about being tired
we compare a quarter-mile
to the distance
between Selma and The World.
Back home, we hoop &
wrestle in the family room
until we flop on our backs,
heads under the big window,
and catch our breath and
laugh slow as we watch
fat flakes meander down from
clouds, the snow about
to cover our heads
but never touching us.
Rules for My Polyamory / by Monica Prince
2. Negative feelings aren’t the same as jealousy.
3. Jealousy is natural and okay as long as you say something.
4. All sex must be safe (and not just on my part because you don’t know how to cum with a condom).
5. I don’t care what their names are.
6. You don’t have to care what their names are.
7. We don’t have to talk about them, or meet them, or do brunch together. Ever.
8. Don’t date anyone just like me—no Black, natural hair-wearing poet with sexual trauma and immigrant parents—because what’s the point of dating me?
9. Our opinions of our partners don’t get counted when choosing to stay or leave the relationship.
. . . . . .a. Just because you don’t like him doesn’t mean I can’t be with him. Vice versa.
. . . . . .b. No controlling behavior about who I want to see or who you want to see.
10. The assumption that you can’t get everything from one person implies that monogamy is death, and it’s not. We’re allowed to choose monogamy at any point.
11. I don’t choose it now.
12. We don’t have to choose each other if we choose to be monogamous.
13. There will always be someone else, even if there is no one else, because I will always choose me first, even if that me is part of an us.
14. Marriage doesn’t end the arrangement—only a desire or a piercing bullet can do that.
Day 11 / Poems 11
Graduated Thoughts of June / by Barbara Audet
First there was Eighth.
Dad, where are you?
I am looking,
I cannot find you.
Scan the faces.
Scan the seats.
The weight of my blue gown
pushes miss cut bangs
into my eyes.
Blame the bangs
he is not here.
Escape the car
and there you are.
Smiling at me.
You missed it, Dad.
You said your brothers
each got a watch.
Would you get a watch.
I had no watch for you.
Now I do.
catch time fantasy
For a princess.
Elegance in miniature.
I do understand.
I read my way to Twelfth night
pomps and circumstances.
Pitch black hair up, Diana
in a culotted dress
of white clouds
with a waist wrapped blue.
my spring bouquet
of grown up
wanting only arrows
Walking two by two,
the young women
who were newly
ready to right turn
their way onto
the outside world.
There they were.
I did not have to
They sought me.
Home. Papered. Proud.
set for celebration.
My mother handed
me a box.
They had no money.
How could this be?
The ring was gold.
A fairy crawled one side
and grasped a 14-karat flower
The Czar’s stone.
Mom, how did you?
You work so long?
Will we eat?
The house is sold.
You earned this
part of it.
Gained on me.
hid their eyes
hard to keep steady in.
bachelor upped my ante
in this ritual world.
Making a gown for
my dog, little King.
with a passion
only for me.
I did not want,
did not see
jewelry this day.
In the red-painted kitchen
of the old house,
long sought expectation,
of my eyes.
Held me close.
How I treasure
that hereditary fusion.
grown their age
a fine vintage
that paper doesn’t count.
Well here we are.
Doesn’t King look cute.
I sewed that last night.
Glued the silk to his mortarboard.
Only you would do that.
Oh, let her be.
Let’s go eat everyone.
Sapphires of conversation.
The better gift.
Forget Fancy Restaurants / by Carla Botha
I miss my mother’s food. Pumpkin cooked with two teaspoons of sugar, a tablespoon of butter,
mashed to softness my belly adores. Sweet curried eggs, sweeter than a lover’s kiss. Tiny
vetkoek freshly made, paired with homemade lard and grandma’s appelkoos-konfyt. I can write
a menu of longing while sitting on the couch, drooling and dreaming.
A few words of advice, if you ever visit South Africa remember, boere-tannies ken van kook.
Self Portrait with Unbitten Nails / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
Instead of the woman behind me in line
at the post office saying—Such a pretty
girl should have pretty nails—she will
comment on the lilac shine as I lower
my left hand away from my face.
I’ll tell her that now I go to the nail salon
every three weeks with my mom to catch
up on the words we used to never say. Talk
about my new self: I can peel price tags
off the face of frames. Lift a can’s tab
without using a spoon. Tap all the tables
in quarter notes. Remove the sun glued
car registration stickers from the windshield.
Unhook keys from keychains. Align screen
protectors on cellphones. Imagine. I don’t
have conversations with people telling me
—It’s a disgusting habit—like I don’t already
know. Like I don’t already know it’s a tic,
a flaw I picked up at four, a habit I’ve tried
to break, a perfectionist’s curse. That even
with unbitten nails I still find them imperfect.
That even with unbitten nails the woman
behind me in line at the post office will have
something else to add to the end of:
Such a pretty girl should have…
Interred / by Pratibha Kelapure
How do you speak of events that didn’t happen?
Time goes by and you don’t trust your memory
Perhaps, you remember, but no one else ever knew
What happened that summer and speaking about it
Now no one would believe. It doesn’t fit into the
The frame of the flawless family picture, so it’s easier
To forget it and propagate they myths and lore
It’s easy that way because you dislike confrontations
You hated to disturb other people’s dreams always
Altering your own narrative to fit theirs to bury
Your hurts and deny your suffering and succeed
In the endeavor so well that they envy your life
And again want a piece of it for you to surrender
I am tired [of feeling so much] / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
I am tired of feeling bad about mistakes, like my fingers
typing the wrong place my mother broke her hip in a poem
and having the poem printed before it’s pointed out to me.
I am tired of going outside and feeling summers so hot
that my epidermis may as well be bubbling, and tired
of worrying what barren land my grandkids will sprout from.
I am tired of wanting so badly to cook well, that I’m let down
when my beef bourginon tastes too much of burgundy wine,
and thus my French bread, sopped, tastes only of too many sorrys.
I am tired of worrying about walking onto campus
to get a call, a text, an email that someone is armed
with an AR-15, while I’m standing in front of 19 students.
I am tired of the thoughts at night about how if it were real
Would I be the shield or would I save myself? I’m so small,
I could hide anywhere. And then feeling guilt bathe my skin
like light streaming in from the window, as bright and shocking
to my eyes as the glitter coffins they now sell, the kind of coffin
of hot pink that I would’ve wanted to be buried in only as a kid.
Anniversary: the Royal Table / by Stephanie Maniaci
In a turret shaped like a flute
we bubble bites of teal cupcake,
champagne, selections of fruit.
In a turret shaped like a flute
we watch C. shoot
firecrackers that could break
a turret shaped like a flute.
We bubble in bites of teal cupcake.
Premonition / by Josh Medsker
The fish are in the salting sea
The sands blow across the desert wide
and skies now blue with darkness grow
and sing a brand new song for me.
Maps / by Mitchell Nobis
For the birds, you know
the neighborhood map is trees & rivers,
not houses, right?
They follow the river
to the bend, take a left
at the large walnut, then go
straight until they hit
the opening in the park, the
space that is surrounded
by the white oaks who
drop acorns on
little leaguers who
got there on
The birds’ map is increasingly
full of where the blue fir
used to be, where the maple
grove used to be, where that
line of white oaks used to be.
The birds sit, now, on power lines.
The branches their daddies
used to sit on,
the branches their mommies
used to sit on, turned to
mulch for show yards in
They watch, the birds.
They watch & note the new
landscape the same way
you did when you got divorced
and sat with whiskey,
learning the new routes.
The new trees sit, planted.
The old trees try to last.
The little leaguers shag flies
oblivious to all but the acorns.
Libido’s Return / by Monica Prince
I want every cell and molecule that makes up the anatomy of your perfection, this corporeal form you’ve offered me in exchange for peace, deep quiet between my temples. There is something primal about the way you pull me back into you, mandatory, territorial, fitting my pelvis into yours like puzzle pieces we cannot share with the kids. You open and I enter, a willing participant in this sorcery, this explosion, this body built of blue and bone. I cannot scrub you from my pores, now stained with the evidence of our passion, and take me from this tiny Earth
if ever I should try.
Day 10 / Poems 10
Shakespeare’s Fraud Syndrome Post-It / by Barbara Audet
Ban faking thoughts that foolish, mar brave tasks,
for working on beyond fear sends endorphins high.
When cares be planed, then substance fills casks
made of silicon, their edges stacked against the lie:
that good is not enough, that perfection lacks.
An artist in this day, this age, afraid to try,
pens unviewed parasites, is not one who asks
the salaried question, who perpetuates goodbye
rather than greetings self-assured, basks
lonely on the fringe of making it, running dry
on fumes of want a fame, want a fortune masks.
4° and 10° South of the Equator / by Carla Botha
. . . . . . . . . .Under the spell of bright yellow sunlight
snorkelers like whales, drift and blow, drift and blow
. . . . . . . . . .tiny fish appear — disappear in misty turquoise
waves constantly erase footprints without lodging complaints
. . . . . . . . . .a skinny local man sells coconuts to tourists
his eyes do not miss a movement on the heaving beach
. . . . . . . . . .he knows how to haggle — a worthy business man without a suit and tie
his scrawny shirtless chest upright-proud
. . . . . . . . . .he tells me he is older than some roads on this island
he tells me he sleeps well at night
. . . . . . . . . .he has no worries — for tomorrow when he awakes
coconuts will be scattered under palms
. . . . . . . . . .for him to sell to the thirsty.
Close / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
Hide me behind the shadow
of your right ear where one
mole the size of a peppercorn
rests. Let me feel heat flush
as you walk across the lot
to get to work in Houston’s
morning. Watch the world
riding on the glide of your step.
Let me see how our home
looks as you walk away.
Hero Worship / by Pratibha Kelapure
None of us read newspapers in second grade
There was no Television in Mumbai
We didn’t discover glossy magazines until
A few decades later, but my aunt would
Devour the grainy black and white images
The local newspapers carried of the dashing
John Kennedy and beloved Nehru with
A single rose tucked in his namesake jacket
Landing in America in bitter November cold
That’s all we knew of the prime minister
He wore a single rose and loved children
Of débonnaire Kennedy, we were awed
The images stuck in our minds, the heroes
The two icons on one page friends forever
My aunt’s eyes remained glued to the front page
While her husband waited for his breakfast
Later there was Jacqueline, we never
Knew her as Jackie, she was the lady
The stuff the dreams are made of
A princess with white gloves and hats
The dresses, though she didn’t see the colors,
Still captivated her imagination, someday
The aunt whispered in her secret voice
When the news came of assassination
The uncle went without breakfast and lunch
We simply went to school and learned the new
Word and the spelling, a learning opportunity
Then she saw the lady at the funeral with
The veil and steady stride walking with the
Procession, a practice unheard of
My aunt stood and walked with her head
Held high that day, her eyes scanning the sky
Longing / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
The stacks of books fill our apartment like longing,
longing for an extra day on a vacation to go
to that ice cream place you’ve wanted to go to for years,
the one with flavors like duck crackling and cherry preserves,
longing for a luxurious hour to lie in bed next to your love,
to smell his skin full of that soft sweat of sleep,
longing for someone to slip that extra $1,000
into your pocket so you can take that trip to Sarajevo,
longing for a wool blanket from your parents’ honeymoon
to tuck you in to sleep when neither of them can.
Entering My Room in Disney’s Art of Imagination / by Stephanie Maniaci
In this room under the sea
the headboard’s a green oyster,
and white bedsheets bubble to greet me.
In this room under the sea
cartoon fish swim in the A.C.
that filters Florida’s moist air.
In this room under the sea
the headboard’s a green oyster.
Jewel Lake, 1985 / by Josh Medsker
I cast my line back, catch a tree
Disconnect my lure with a laugh.
The ice, melting in the cooler
My can of Mountain Dew warming
on the lakeshore.
Muertos / by Mitchell Nobis
Daddy will you come to
my party when I die?
. . . . . .he said.
. . . . . .I said.
My—what do you call
Will you come to that?
. . . . . .he said.
Bub, you’re going to live
to be an old man &
I’ll be long gone by then,
. . . . . .I said through my
. . . . . .throat full of scarabs.
No, I want you to live
to be 80 million years old,
. . . . . .he said.
We paused & no one
spoke while we
let an Isbell song slide
out the radio and
waited for my wife to
come out of the restaurant.
We watched the rain
stream down the car
windows. Two miles away
we were an hour late to a
birthday party. My wife
was picking up the cake.
We stayed in the womb
of the car as the suburbs
chewed up everything
Will you come back for
the Day of the Dead at least?
. . . . . .he said.
. . . . . .I said.
. . . . . .Yo espero que sí.
When I Tell My Daughter I Was Raped / by Monica Prince
I won’t tell her their names, their locations,
whether they’re still living. I won’t introduce her
to the ones now in power, the ones who became
something other than scared children playing war
with my body. I won’t sit her down and describe
in graphic detail the ways they erased me
with language, flesh, and liquor. My daughter
will be spared from my trauma, the way it
infects my cells and rearranges my DNA, tries
to convince me I’m doing harm by even having her,
by even bringing another magical Black girl
into a world that raped her mama. But she will be a miracle
before the kinks in her hair invite strangers to touch, before
a man stops thinking after her hips sashay past,
turning her into prey before queen, conquest
before beloved, object, before human. I won’t drench
my daughter in shame before she learns her own glory
just because it took me too long to learn that male attention
is useless. She will use her fingers to paint murals
on her body’s walls, each a promise to her future self:
if it happens, you will survive
because there is work to do.
Day 9 / Poems 9
Resume Revisited / by Barbara Audet
Miss Parker admonished,
discount my capability,
forgive my wittiness,
left on a June day.
With a no to the noose,
No to drugs,
No to gas,
No to acid,
No to river,
No to gun.
She fooled everyone.
She was attacked,
by a damaged heart.
of a queen,
when she played
a willful hand
at the end,
and left all
to the King.
Her ashes languished,
interred under P
in a drawer.
for memory’s sake,
pull yourself together
plan for exit,
She checked her steps,
noted wise cracks
in the pavement,
and walked on.
Not to say
never veered her
toward a taking mode.
At first and last,
it did not take.
Success got in her way
to dull practiced,
written down instructions
for arranging separation.
took Parker poking satire
at face value,
a modern shock
Just Another Day in New York / by Carla Botha
Barely thirty is my guess as he begs
with a boisterous voice above the rattle
and screech of the subway
spare me a one dollar. I haven’ eatin’ in two days.
I watch him as he travels up and down
between peeved passengers without regard
for personal space
spare me a one dollar. I haven’ sleepin’ in two days.
Without fundraising success
upon the blue A-line
on a frenzied Friday afternoon, I say to myself
clean, chubby and enthusiastic. It does not seem like two days…
Lost Brother / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
Your mother spreads your yellow baby blanket onto the mattress
and pictures an identical one but in the shade of blue. The child
we lost had a blue one. We bury it with him. We buried it. A fact
crisp in the air before she covers a pillow with a pillowcase.
We sit in your car parked in an empty elementary’s parking lot
as two brothers bike by on training wheels. At five I thought I
was the reason he died. I peed on him in the bathtub. Silly right?
Your words pull the silence between laughter, wheels and cement.
Your father says nothing of him as he mixes condensed milk
into his coffee. In dental school he was at the top of his class.
I think he blames himself. My brother died around the time
of his exam. He never finished—never got his license to practice.
Lives Under the Sky / by Pratibha Kelapure
We knew each other well
A delicate twenty-year woman
Would come calling
Unannounced with a bottle
Of wine, her fingertips
Slight, an evening star
Her sense of extreme dread
An elaborate void
Her story basically the same
The mothballed room, musty
Scent of the house
Blue, white, orange, black
Field of limitless depth
The chill of the blank space
The blaze of the sun
Small dinner conversations in
The backyard, the porch
The dark, the wet grass
Awake night after night
A caring friend
It listened, it watched
It recorded everything
The stories remained still
Over the black ridge in the Knights Valley
Red stags bravely leapt
Under the star-studded hall
Eagles soared to
A vast cosmic dome
The guardians of hard faith
The promise of life
The spirit of freedom
Today We Went to Tiffany’s for Our Wedding Bands / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
of rose gold,
like the laces
of my pointe shoes
used to. My mother
would have to sew
on the ribbons
and elastic to support
my relevés. When
I took over the job,
I began using
an embroidery stitch
so the threads wouldn’t stretch
out, yearning to toss
the ribbons to the floor;
I burned the edges
of the bindings so that
they wouldn’t fray,
bent the arches
back and forth,
and banged the toes
against our hardwood floors
to break them in,
chopped the fabric off
the tops, then burned
the tips, too. In the next
years, I will take over
her job as Mother,
and my child will come
to me with a ripped
knee, or a torn button,
shoes, as well.
I wish I hadn’t taken
over her job so soon,
hadn’t taken for granted
that I could do it all
Ode to Milk Bar / by Stephanie Maniaci
For fellow Ohioan, Christina Tosi
I tumbled in your door
one February morn’––
or was it afternoon?
Hard to tell. My memory’s better attuned
to your yellow Crack Pie,
which made me happy as a bride
wrapped in a cereal milk veil
edged in yellow-green-pink sprinkles
like a clustered aisle of people
wearing particolored clothes.
Alas, the procession to your door
is a walk of more than an afternoon
around this great green-blue pie,
traversing lakes, woods, and vales—
pasts thousands of dinner tables.
But you’re worth the sun and sprinkles;
I’ll just need the right traveling clothes.
Wait for me. I’ll be there. Don’t close!
Tectonic / by Mitchell Nobis
At some point
It will all
Pushed to the center
Feed / by Monica Prince
Stomach cramps, aching in the absence
of food, the promise of sustenance.
She calls this a victory, her body
responding to her discipline.
A grape, a cracker, a lone cube of cheese.
Even air contains calories,
so she conserves her gasps
Nothing is ever in her favor.
Sometimes the uniform doesn’t fit
so she cannot work there anymore. Or
a man appears with a knife this time, asking
for a piece of her thigh to chew on
as he chokes her. Or someone wants
money—rent, gas, food.
The world rebels against her wishes
so she rebels with her waistline,
losing inches to offer semblance
of control. No one is surprised
when different organs shut down—
her liver, her pancreas, her
kissing kidneys—but she requires
external proof that she might die
before she stops. Meanwhile, her daughter drinks
milk from between her ribs, ladles
soup from the hollows of her hips.
In the hospital, they ask what put her
here, on a plastic bed in paper clothes.
Eyes unblinking and elsewhere:
I just wanted to feed my child.
Day 8 / Poems 8
Summer End / by Barbara Audet
The garden falls to its knees.
The ruin of its flower mantle
a cardiac arrest of rainbows.
In August’s near to saving rain,
admire determined hangers on,
assess grayed green abandon.
Swollen, unpicked squash,
a yearly damnation.
bleeding, split tomatoes,
orbs in vault mode,
How easy it is to love ripe, useful things.
How hard to accept lost saturation.
sodden attacks of vibrancy,
compelled by immediate collectability.
Sunflowers heaving over in a faint,
their feint of seed-building.
Expect the crash to the ground,
shudder at its coming.
dressed by late planting,
the last-minute cucumber.
Keats would understand this garden,
beauty and weakness at the end.
The garden moves inside
for hours on a hippy era stove,
to annihilate, to package summer.
Salsa jars and pickling lime.
Packed soldier-like in their pantry cubbies.
Away from the sun for the first time.
now unrecognizably frozen,
are the best candidates
for moonlighted nights,
beneath winter’s expertise,
surprises on the table
when it serves
tip of the tongue
talents from its grave.
En Route to the Amazon / by Carla Botha
Quito to Puyo
five hours and five dollars
in a language
I could not wrap my
hopped on the bus
mouths muttered raindrops
across tiny snaking roads
over the Yana Cocha bridge
through the camp kitchen
where an alligator washed up.
Childhood Scabs / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
A child sticks the corner
of her paper into her lima
bean sized scab. Tan
and light brown. I can feel
the one building mountains
of crust along the length
of my right shin. I slid
on the curb before the bus
stopped. For weeks I ran
my fingers along the dry
creek feeling for an edge
giving way to new skin,
for an edge’s sting
with a trail of fresh blood,
for a morning I’d reach
down and find nothing.
Guarding Thresholds / by Pratibha Kelapure
That war wasn’t supposed to happen
They were brothers
‘Hindi-Chini-Bhai-Bhai’ Nehru announced
All-India Radio echoed
On the playground children chanted before
Their innocence was shattered
By the news on the radio of the fallen soldiers in NEFA
In the fallen snow on the mountainous terrain
But Ladakh was far away and the span of attention
Small in children who have homework to finish
The mothers didn’t – couldn’t dwell on the news
As the sunshine commanded them to their chores
Every day my aunt read the newspaper
Keeping score of the machine guns and mortars
Fired or lost, the shifted meters of McMahon line
The threshold the soldiers guarded
Never shy to speak her mind never to betray an emotion
Day after day the stories of soldiers creeping through
Snow with a single rifle and a small load of ammunition
Pitted against the mountain treachery and sly enemy
She read them with flair and dispensed generously
Ladakh was so far away and she had an audience to inform
Day after day the snow melted under the weight of artillery
Aunt still kept it together with no sign of thawing
Until she read us the story of Shaitan Singh whose
Battalion fought with bare hands when they ran out of bullets
Until he breathed his last breath
His picture in the morning newspaper – her red nose sniffling
We learned that day sometimes
A rock reaches its breaking threshold
How to Plant Paper Flowers on Your Wedding Day / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
for Amanda Allen
Recite vows to the stacks
at your favorite bookstore.
Don’t be a veiled virgin,
like Giovanni Strazza’s
marble sculpture, with a layer
of bridal illusion fabric
lining your face.
Carry a bouquet of book
pages and ribbon in your hands,
handing out passages as you walk:
a letter from Keats to Fanny Brawne
for your fiancé’s mom, the exchange
between BEAUTY and THE VOICE
from Fitzgerald for your maid of honor,
who grew the flowers
from her own palms,
singeing her fingertips
and the edges of ribbon
as they bloomed,
inking each word
from friendship lines.
The Snail / by Stephanie Maniaci
The shell of a gastropod
is a sort of exoskeleton
the mollusk has grown
The central helicoid,
the smallest tip,
is the animal’s infant
shell, the shell
that hardened only
after calcium’s infusion,
after Snail consumed
its own—and other—eggs.
Snail carries this
memento into adulthood—
an obstinate behavior
I had a bedroom
as a child, with a window,
and a closet I
didn’t have to share,
with a brass flower
on the doorknob.
When we outgrew
our house and had
to move, I stole
that knob—kept it
as a token, and I keep
it still: wrapped
in white silk
in a cardboard box
in my bureau drawer.
To My Grandfather, Salty / by Josh Medsker
I was cheated out of grief. I never knew you.
He said you loved me but I couldn’t know.
I know that’s why he’s a rock. The chaos
swirling around him. It’s either that or break.
The root didn’t take. I was yanked
out of the dirt too soon.
My cleansing waters, when they do run
muddy the tops and middles, and the muck
Vocabulary Lesson / by Monica Prince
Over tea, he told me the only way
we could be together was if
we were not monogamous.
At first, this sounded like fuckboi culture,
a lot of misogyny and double standard:
he can do whatever he wants, but my vagina
belongs solely to him. He assured me
we were equals on this front—we could indulge
our spiritual and sexual appetites separately.
And I believed him. I didn’t know the word
polyamory until he wrote it on my tongue, and I didn’t believe
I needed anyone but him when he first waltzed into my atmosphere.
What’s true in all breakup poems is the body remembers
every detail of the break: how promises fracture, how disillusion
radiates from the initial trauma, what channels offer relief
of pressure and infection. My body remembers his declaration
of worship to my excellence, devotion at the altar of our love,
a life to be built. It’s hard to let go of the one who gave you
the vocabulary for your salvation—like learning
rope isn’t just for nooses, attention not just for whores.
I wanted to stay with him as a reward, a thank you
for releasing me from temptation to cheat, closed borders
on my capacity for love. But we can’t all live forever.
Even saviors die.
Day 7 / Poems 7
Hiding By Tornado / by Barbara Audet
Dorothy met me one ravaged day,
all sepia until she knew me,
could go all Technicolor on me.
It took years of repetition
for magic, for pain to sink in.
Her loss. My survival.
Lonely and awkward,
gingham baskets shared,
we tried to outrun mutual storms.
Before Uber got you to the maelstrom,
we held out our thumbs
begging to be hit by society’s tornado,
it smiled, seductive,
then growled, then consumed.
She had addicting friends
who whisked her
on to a less brightly colored road.
I watched her trying to get home.
She never did.
She should have stayed
in the revolving house in the sky.
Why leave the safety of the storm?
Inside the spiral,
inside its whipping meanness,
there’s no time to worry.
She never did shake dark matter.
Hers was a cyclone
with a grasp like aged Gorilla glue.
Powder shaped or 100 proof.
Life takers, disguised as calm.
breath marks on the window,
not store bought,
just as inescapable,
unless one danced
to Dot’s ’39 whirlwind tune.
My storm rained nostalgia,
love conquers all,
made slick by oily limbs,
attached to a hollow, tin-embraced self.
She wanted home.
I wanted a more visible heart,
offering a tamping down of ego,
that would not leach courage.
I tapped my shoes for that
until they broke upon my feet.
His tornado traveled on my back,
celluloid friendly messages,
never, not subject to decay
So I gave the nautilus a try,
with a purpose to protect,
a theory of living
to wrap tight inside of,
distant, winding in and whole.
Storm proofed at last.
often flowers / by Carla Botha
heartbeats do not tell
in the middle
of the night when
thoughts make love
to a room full of heavy blackness
I love her
face, her mouth
full of broken promises
eyes touching limbs long
before hands but it is
that makes me pick daisies
she loves me. she loves me not.
Taking the “Which Sailor Moon Character Are You?” Quiz / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
At thirteen I took my first Sailor Moon quiz
in hopes that I’d be mysterious like Sailor Saturn
or brave like Sailor Uranus. Musically inclined
on a violin like Sailor Neptune. I’d take
Sailor Jupiter’s skill in cooking or the temper
of Sailor Mars. Give me Sailor Pluto’s wisdom
or the beauty of Sailor Venus. I wanted
to be any other scout but Sailor Mercury.
The smart one. Practical. The soft-spoken.
The one always left out or forgotten. The scout
that loved swimming, the color blue, and reading.
The scout I most disliked was the one I knew
I was the most alike. Even after fifteen years
my quiz results still remain the same.
Five Directions to My Sanctuary / by Pratibha Kelapure
(Mimicking Juan Felipe Herrera)
1. Go west far enough on your spry legs until you can hear the murmur in the distance
2. Walk slowly until the salty air fills your lungs and every nascent cell in your body comes alive
3. Listen to the surging surf breaking on the rocky shore
4. Soon your feet will tangle with wet kelp and slide on the smooth sand
5. The afternoon sun will fold you in an embrace, revel in it
6. You have arrived at the solitude at the sanctuary for the world-weary traveler. You have waited long enough.
My Grandfather’s 84th Birthday: June 4th, 2018 / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
My grandfather doesn’t want
to celebrate his birthday, but we still
bring him blueberries and shortcake,
and we wheel my grandmother out
so we all can sit at the table.
I didn’t realize, until this trip to visit,
how old she truly was, her hair
so soft and fine as a baby’s,
stroking her head with its strands,
her body so cold that she needs
to be wrapped in two blankets,
shoulders to feet. She almost
refuses to get out of bed;
the first time she does,
I am so scared by her yelps
of fear from her weak
knees, until I remember
my own yelps after
heart surgery. When those yelps
escape your mouth, you don’t
remember the pain;
the brain works to preserve
us. Through the help of her dementia,
by the second time she rises
from her bed, she’s forgotten
the first, and smoothly turns
to sit in her wheelchair.
Once at the table in front of
the shortcake and my grandfather,
she smiles, not for her own success,
but because, for a moment, she knows
she gave the man who hates presents
the best present in the world,
especially because she can’t
clean her plate, so he does.
No Peace / by Josh Medsker
I can’t dream with my
The violence seeps in
until it explodes out.
Will you please just
stop thinking? Stop
sending those whispers
through the waves to me?
My beast is a pummelling
beat, sweating and pounding
until I grasp my chest
in impotent frenzy.
A Letter to School about Acting a Fool / by Mitchell Nobis
Thanks so much
for taking the time—
I know he can
be a handful.
I had a long talk
with him after school.
He wants to apologize
for the bad language.
I understand there may
be consequences for my
type curse words
with the other boys
on the computer.
I understand, and am
that in these harrowing
days for our nation, this
makes him presidential
None of us wants that
for our child,
He’s distraught that
others think he’s the only
one making the bad choice,
but aren’t we a collective
bad choice at this point?
I am worried
about how this
might impact him.
I hope he can
get a fresh start
in the fall.
Sometimes Black Couples Break Up / by Monica Prince
“Black love is black wealth.”
It’s easier to demonize you, blame your Black body
for giving into the pessimism, the hopelessness
of the news, of the basement of the African American
Museum of History and Culture in D.C. (you know, where
the slave ships are? where Jefferson stands among
600 bricks, all stamped with the names of his
enslaved children?). It’s easy to call you weak
for being depressed, panicked about leaving the house
while Black, concerned there will be death camps (there will be)
or detention centers (there are) or policies
to rip your children from my arms if we try to come home
too late at night. But I can’t say you’re wrong, point a finger
and call you paranoid. It’s not your fault we are Black,
educated, aware. It’s not your fault that you stopped
seeing me—your beloved, your chosen one—and started seeing
blood and six hundred years of rope, fire, and cotton. I wish
you loved me like we really might die any hour, like
they could kick down the door tomorrow, fill our tired cells
with lead, drag us to the corner, triumphant they’d found
another revolution built by real love,
Day 6 / Poems 6
Motor and Movies / by Barbara Audet
On the Joe Orr Road,
Mom and Dad
drove their brood
in the deep seats
of the red or was it white
Galaxy 500, top down,
for a weekend galivant.
On the cheap but loved side,
racing stalwart Asia-headed
Lightning bugs aching
for sweet chemical romance,
paced the progress,
as they headed
to a rendezvous
with a speaker on a pole.
Smart to seek
a raspy dialogue to charm
children into sleep,
tuckered, tucked in
from playing on the swings
and bouncing horses.
Our Sauk Trail Drive In,
where the air grew thicker
as the sun gave out.
the half-dozen’d sneaker set
yelled in concert
for returning alligator people,
through the cries
of Hitchcock’s birds.
Down the highway, just before,
the Dog and Suds
introduced banded childhood
to tart pickles, icy root beer.
Sweating, handled glasses,
on their metal window perch,
by Dad’s always perfection
Rothschild Men’s Store white collar
to grab one first.
Stealthy rear seat food wars
needed no compromises.
Sometimes a drive
sought no destination.
Muscling in the car provided
separation from every day.
Parent-approved, Illinois touring
taught us to see with colloquial eyes.
Before phones mustered attendance,
these travelers heard life’s punctuation.
FM on the radio,
AM Blackhawks, White Sox games,
a Beatle-Beach Boys
education in a motorcar.
Silhouetted ballad babies,
cast off argument
in favor of their vinyl berths.
And God help us, snuggled once.
No journey ending premature,
nodding last to the sweet teeth
stapled into a Cone Corner,
Prince Castle epic feature.
Pastel prettied, squared off
or sphere crammed,
frozen cream structures,
were required to forge
into permanency in the mind.
Begging for an extra scoop,
and getting to remember it.
Last Will / by Carla Botha
The birds will need fresh water every day in the silver bowl underneath the tap in the backyard. The dogs must continue their daily routine of breakfast, dinner and short strolls. Do not rush them. The gardener should be paid every few weeks, remind him to collect his fees — he is not a greedy man. Both bicycles will require enduring hearts, make sure they find grand homes.
Does everything really need to be itemized?
Devotions by Mary Oliver
A few dollars
Invite strangers over for coffee and poems. The few dollars should be sufficient for Nescafe or Jacobs, there are plenty of mugs. Please ask them to take one home.
Long Distance / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
The first few months in Virginia the closest
phở restaurant knew I sat in the corner
booth alone every Thursday. My order:
Nước and phở tái nạm in a small bowl.
They knew my last name
was Vietnamese and that I’d leave
a decent tip with a Cảm ơn.
They never knew I tipped the same
amount you always left or how long
it took me to learn Thank you
in your tongue. They never knew
I cleaned my tan plastic chopsticks
and spoon because I learned how
from you. That I added Sriracha
and Hoisin Sauce because you
always added it to your bowl.
They never knew I came every
week because my memories
of us were the clearest. They never
knew they saved me those first few
months. Especially on the rainy days.
Happiness Capsule / by Pratibha Kelapure
Flood of pink flowers on a field of yellow
Sway and swish of well-worn silk
Can almost be heard when you see
The young girl in the picture her shy smile
Happy in those days of hand-me-downs
Dishrags and floor mops
Rolling pins and flour sprinkles
Swarms of people shuffling in
Roaring rain pouring down
You can’t see her scraped knees
Splotchy and bug-bitten legs
But nothing mattered but everything
Did imprint its happy sound and smell
In memories that she carried
Five yards of color survived it all
Those forgotten moments
Captured in this digital file
He’s the Blue and I’m the Red / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
On our wedding day, I don’t want the waltz,
how it comes in threes, like the bad news
I keep remembering: that no one will walk
me down the aisle, that there will be no
father-daughter dance, or mother to fix my hair,
when, inevitably, the wisps go wild.
I want Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September,”
as vibrant as the walls of the Grand Canyon
where my parents were married that month
in 1986, my mother’s cheeks as pink
as the ribbons streaming from her crown
of matching wildflowers and baby’s breath,
as jubilant and bright as the Colorado River
that runs through its core, cool and balanced
against the burning top, the bright trumpets
and bass of funk, the um-yang of us.
Conch Shells / by Stephanie Maniaci
Some hunt mollusks
from the ocean floor,
believing those toothed spirals
are vessels holding messages—
that people spoke their secrets
to the pink mouths
and tossed them back into Sea.
Believing if they hold
the conchs to their ears,
listen to the ghost-whispers,
they’ll collect wisdom
as if from scraps of paper.
They dive in cochlear shallows,
waving fins and bubbling
through plastic masks,
to gather shells
like fortune cookies
into mesh bags.
Hauling their collections ashore,
they try to break open the conchs
with small silver hammers,
not realizing the Salt Mother,
whose blue ear accepts stories,
does not so easily loosen her mouths.
Ode to the Time Clock / by Josh Medsker
I sit on the turnpike, while you loll
Already at work, as usual.
A fender-bender, roadwork, car fire
You sit, oblivious, not a care
Waiting for me. I loathe you, clock, you
check me by the second; if I’m late
I’m docked by my superior,
who you’ve never met.
Plastic Contents of a Seabird’s Stomach / by Mitchell Nobis
Bread-bag clip, green (1)
Chunk of cap from the water bottle you fiddled with
too much at that one job interview in 2003 (1)
Bits of broken up Mountain Dew & Diet Coke bottles (12)
Beads from that microdermabrasion facewash you bought
a few years ago that washed down the drain, through
the sewer system to the water & down the fishes’
gullets who in turn went down the bird’s gullet (19)
Tine from a single-use fork (1)
Unidentified objects, blueish (3)
Unidentified objects, yellowish (8)
Pieces of broken up straw from the boffo
opening weekend of Armageddon in 1998 (7)
Cellophane wrappers from packs of gum (number unknown,
just sort of amorphously everywhere at once)
Bits of lids from Starbucks cups (4)
Parts of fragmented trays from Oreo packages (3)
Unidentified objects, brownish (7)
Unidentified objects, sort of a sickness green (3)
Broken off chunks of your Detroit Tigers Travis Fryman
commemorative souvenir cup from that one blowout
loss to Cleveland in August, 1996 (2)
Yogurt cup fragments (6)
Souls (just sort of amorphously everywhere at once)
Fitful Sleep / by Monica Prince
Do not share a bed with a creative unless
you’re prepared for their movements to follow them
into the sheets. At first, neither of you sleep,
overly cognizant of the other’s body. Cuddle
if you must, but when you drift apart, you rest there
as do they, worried you might roll into them, roll out
of the bed entirely. But soon enough, they fall asleep
and you sleep, too, and they start to thrash. Steal covers.
Throw pillows. Turn on the fan. Open the door. Close
the window. Get some water. You wake each time.
Sometimes the little light on their phone shows a book
they’re reading or, once, you find them on the floor
in another room, ink on their chest, snoring without
pillow or blanket. In the morning, they wrap their arms
around your fatigued middle, and squeeze. You both
settle into a quick slumber, eased there by sheer
exhaustion, before the alarm shouts and the day calls.
They kiss you sweetly behind the ear, apologize for the tossing
and flailing, say, there are too many colors in the dark to lie still.
Day 5 / Poems 5
June is A Warehouse / by Barbara Audet
Boxed in, boxed away, boxed up,
Cries too loud to sanction hearing.
like phantom pieces
of a box-edges worn Monopoly game,
Watch the houses collapse.
Park Place tells Baltic Avenue,
you are less than worthy to even play.
grim office holders demand payment.
The game of lives stocked on shelves
with empathy-free, post-war materials.
Flaws of its construction
are hidden from hearts view
by talk of treason.
the rush toward judgment.
Apathy alte voce cries,
These are not my children.
We see no children.
Only campaign signs,
stuck in the ground,
proud to pale to the elements.
Only pat me on my back
From in the 80s.
Dickens mocks us from his Victorian plain.
Oliver hovers, a literary rebuke.
As then, our governed gone
by their silence, forgotten,
the coming of summer,
where holidays honor ancestors
of children chained.
pay the price
of freedom seeking.
Little lives like these gave form
to once treasured social serendipity.
Lives handed Take a Chance Here
offers of salvation,
We made bank on wave on wave
of Ellis Island streams of potential,
citizens in vitro,
fed by acclimation.
A border broken,
its heart in flag-colored bubble wrap,
a confidently numbed
of the rights of all.
through absent pathos.
lest you can purchase entrance,
the wayward glanced OK,
remains this day.
Resilient mothers, fathers
roll fixed dice,
Snaked eyes will face them,
headlines blind to history
This border strains
not at its geographic core.
Vacancy signs, neon crayon bright,
scribble across the land.
We bulge with rainbow opportunity.
without this valve of new beginnings.
baby faces, check in to your detention center.
receive the gold seal of deprivation,
paperwork you cannot read.
Cunning of a bursting nation,
in the shadows
of nascent bloody footsteps.
In place of rebirth,
hate in the making.
In place of moving forward,
righteousness of immorality.
Store with these children, then, our right to live,
Stack on stack
document the faces of June.
Huddled not free,
lopsided red, white and blue,
for too much battered souls.
Behold the summer of woe begotten,
the can be walled,
the cordoned off,
our sheered house of living wares,
Bike Ride for Two / by Carla Botha
On top of Haleakala
chants and clouds,
mornings cold like
your hands, nose in winter.
Sunrise is a god
We decided it was time
to descend —
a downward spiral
as if we had wings.
The body wants
what it wants. Freedom. Let go
of the brakes. I watch
you, an eagle circling
between earth, sky.
Is this what abundance
The road carries on. The bottom
of the volcano in full
bloom, yellow, pink. Just
as lovely as you. I release
the brakes to keep up
it is never easy.
Side by side our shadows
follow. They do not talk.
Silent ghosts on tar and dirt.
You tell me
this is what abundance feels like.
Learning To Pray / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
Your hand dips incense
into the basin of candles.
The tips so sure of themselves
kissing flames until they carry
heat and smoke thin lines
into the March afternoon.
A breeze tugging the grey
ribbons upward to the sky
of lanterns. You invite my palms
to hold three ends; an extension
of a prayer, I cannot find words
in a tongue unfamiliar to me.
. . . . . .How do you—?
Like any prayer. You invite
my palms to hold the three
ends; an extension of a prayer
I cannot find words. I watch
you: your chest faces Buddha
and rises with a breath before
your arms bend like cranes.
A lowering to water in three
quick dances. I follow you
and allow stillness to settle
the way your hands hold
incenses against flesh.
Fire exists first in the light / by Pratibha Kelapure
(Inspired by the several news stories of domestic abuse among South Asian Families)
It’s not like he held a knife to her throat
It wouldn’t have mattered anyway in
The land of plenty where streets are
Covered green carpet of money
As they say in the old country
When she left her dusty town and
Entered the dreamland that is America
And transformed into the symbol of
Opulence, stories told and retold
Until they turned into myths
Aristotle and Socrates never mentioned
The subtle art of self-preservation
All that talk of id and ego didn’t shed
Light on conflicts between desire and reason
Books now collecting dust in the attic back home
Along with her college diploma
So calm and brilliant, a shining light
The best son, his mother repeated
You are the most fortunate daughter,
Her mother reiterated in quivering voice
An odd one out in the new land
Among the Western norms and
Elite brides from the Eastern shores
She remained tethered to the burdens
She picked up from the old culture
Someone should have told her
The fire first exists in light
That blinding light of his
Suave manner, his bright future
The fire remained out of sight
She saw sparks igniting every night
But they always vanished when
The morning dew drizzled on the grass
Even she forgot it until the next fright
The knife blade so sharp and so bright
My Mother’s Ghost / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
My mother’s ghost follows me around Seattle,
her whispers tucked in the leaves of peonies,
her light step in the hopping robins of her name.
She leaves her calling card at the Corydon,
where she died, hoping I’ll make the pilgrimage
over there, a mile from her sister’s house.
She drops an old camp letter
on my grandfather’s coffee table,
and gestures for him to give it to me.
There is a puppy crying in the corner,
painted blue beside a script that reads,
I’m sad when I don’t hear from you.
My mother’s writing is that perfect
cursive most twelve-year-old girls use.
I cup the folded paper in my hands,
longing for so much more
than a list of who she met at camp,
and who she likes and doesn’t,
notes on whom she’s written and why,
and a request for five, 6¢ stamps.
Mom, I’ll send you ten books
of stamps if you send me just one
word, if you’ll stroke my face once
more, as delicately as faded parchment.
The Day Kate Spade Died / by Stephanie Maniaci
I was walking, contemplating coreopsis
for what felt like the first time since childhood:
those small daisies—the moonbeam variety
striking in their pale-yellow simplicity,
like crowns atop stems delicate as silk threads.
Mother allowed one spot in our corner-garden
for my child-self to plant any flower I chose.
She warned me against those coreopsis varieties,
saying they wouldn’t return the next year,
but I couldn’t resist their corollas, coronas—
the sounds of the name pulling my mouth
into an ‘O,’ a shape that it retakes today,
like the circle of a red scarf. How I wish
they hadn’t shared that detail—hadn’t
reduced Her life to that graphic design.
It was years later I realized that coreopsis
is a perennial. Today, think instead on that flower—
let it bloom again in your imagination: a coronet
of perpetuity, so simple and timeless, so generous
in design—a flower for the everyday.
Ode to My Lady / by Josh Medsker
Can I compare you to a blue ember?
You are as affecting and more glorious.
High winds shake leafages of remembrance,
Your autumntime, warm, blue, sartorial.
Can I compare you to September?
Your autumntime is warmer and glorious
green winds shake the leafage, I remember
brown succumbing, and life victorious.
A Jackass Tells a Story about Rivers / by Mitchell Nobis
Tell your story about rivers, they said,
and I am instantly in a thousand rivers
again, all at once, amniotic & amnesiac.
Then I am in one, dragging drunken feet through
three feet of water a half mile to the
lake where there is a beach fire,
a beach party on Lake Michigan
in Michigan where a certain brand
of person can only enjoy the lake
by tearing it apart with motors,
but I don’t think these were those
people although we were all at Silver Lake,
where motors and tires tell the stories of the day.
We were the types to sit in the water instead
with nine beers too many, amniotic & amnesiac.
Deep night turned its blind eye to the beach
party. Someone with a guitar, another
with a radio, and nobody caring about
competing notes that floated & banged
across & around each other before
dissipating & reaching for the pines past the dunes
& the stars past the world. She started talking to me
and talked some more until she touched. This was one
of those times a lifetime ago when lives overlapped,
an intersection of rivers.
Say what you will about the brutalism of streets,
but at least the signs tell you where to go.
The warm waters though just say stay, stay. The currents
make suggestions but no signs command
ONE WAY or STOP, so, startled, I stumbled back,
splashing through the river, amniotic & amnesiac,
unsure until friends shouted, “There his is!”
Tell your story about rivers.
I returned to the cottage, wet & heavy with bourbon veins.
“Where’ve you been, man?” they laughed.
I did not know. I could not answer.
Knives / by Monica Prince
She dreams of fish before the announcement
of a pregnancy of anyone in her family, but
I always dream of knives. I imagine her fish
are supposed to be sperm, little swimmers looking for land.
My knives are more like fear, panic, blades
that do permanent damage. This poem is not
about vanity, elasticity, the countdown
to a lover leaving. Really—it’s about the many ways
a body can flee from your own. Knives
come in all shapes, sizes, sharpness. I’ve dreamed
of them for three nights now, and no one has announced.
Maybe they come when I’m about to go under,
to face my own slice and removal, just before
something vital or corrosive is to be extracted.
Day 4 / Poems 4
The Art of Spinning / by Barbara Audet
to our mass moment,
Billions turn one way
or other, planet motivated.
Soul and art,
not so lightly touched by gravity
shed sparks, connected by
the spin’s spectral sexual telepathy.
We can turn so quickly when it’s global.
Silks and mylar, cotton mixed with polyester,
Cut to the circular or biased,
hand-toned and shaded.
Our costumes whirl us
into a dizzy acceptance.
I hula hoped my early spins.
Not guilty of any crime of turning.
One had to learn the rules of spinning early.
Some who mastered motion
later turned my head alone.
The heart held on to fight acceleration.
My hula hoops
decorate my walls.
That uncanny circumference had its faults.
It left detours that needed heady revision
to come right to 360.
Magnetic ribbons once spun me,
televised on a lime-lighted stage
for a spin that might have
I burned soled shoes braking fast.
Then reflective people mirrors, faces
usurped my merry go round sensibility.
Long enough for spinning stars
Of short-term virtuosity to whip
me through the succeeding revolvers of relationships
that lay in wait for succulent dreamers.
Finally, ground held,
Turning myself about to gasp
round-eyed but steady,
settling, slowing, turning on a dime,
neglecting to catch the ring,
dropping to inertia
amid others’ blender dance of impulses
designed to cheat
Those VW Days / by Carla Botha
Yes, it was vintage
but not in 1992 —
light brown leather interior
a flat yellow nose
sluggish on the uphill
of Natal Midlands every
December, summer holidays
in Mtwalume and Margate —
dad packed the luggage
mom woke the kids
only two, like the long
seats in the back of the van
we each got our own
to kip, to play,
to reach over and terrorize,
mom promised me
a spanking at the Engen
I never got one. Full bladders
rarely allow for action.
Relieved and re-fueled. Wimpy
coffee held the crown since 1967 —
the only competition
inside the van —
who can spot the ocean first?
Mom had the front seat
better eyes, as mothers do
needless to say…
Beach days like cliff swallows
did not stay,
neither did the Volkswagen
it was not vintage in 1992.
Bubble Tea Float at ViVi Bubble Tea / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
Fill my mouth with pink clouds
formed from the sweetness
of dreams and suspend
me over the small seas
of milk and tea. A pillow
of ice cream to rest
against the inside
of my cheek. Let me lift
pearls to my tongue and
weigh my body down
with the comfort I can
only find in boba tea
shops. The kind I remember
losing myself next to you.
Sense of Order / by Pratibha Kelapure
She cradles a slate-pencil
Every day in her small fingers
And draws swirls on the sleek slate stone
Numbers and words flourish day by day
Her mind in the thrall of words and spellings
She loves how the numbers add up
How two and two always make four
How she never needs to wonder
The pencil dutifully yields the answer
How impressive her name on the top
How comforting the curve of the letter S
The check marks, the happy-face stickers
Kindness in the teacher’s eyes
The pencil knows how to make her happy
The simple pointy writing tool
Straight white lines of the number table
Against the black stone of the slate
Mind over matter, her answer
To the black and blue marks on her back and
Chaotic rhythm of her young heart
Popping the Balloon / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
Hans Ruppel, reflecting on boarding the Aquitania on February 11th, 1939
The moment we stepped on the ship,
my father scolded me. I wasn’t
going to be allowed to go to the party,
with all of the bright blue and red
balloons, drifting from the main cabin;
later, one was tied to Ursi’s wrist.
I don’t remember what I had done,
but my father had a low bar
for misbehavior, or a high bar
for behavior. I was left, alone,
in our bunk, while he and Mother
cavorted about the ship, with Ursi
on her hip, and his mood
slightly improved. For the party
was only for children, and to this day
I remember the feeling of not being able
to attend, my heart low as an anchor,
gathering barnacles and rust.
Fifteen Minutes / by Stephanie Maniaci
Waiting an hour for a friend,
I squeeze a macchiato: heart of espresso
supporting an egg-cup of steamed milk,
presented in bone china: a saucer and demitasse.
In a new home, the constancy of coffee is a comfort.
I pick at the cloud of milk with a small silver spoon.
Brown rivulets vein the foam.
Outside the café awning,
Florida rain rushes to meet the ground.
Weather is different here;
the clouds run dark every afternoon,
and rain, like a hand, taps Hello.
In fifteen minutes, the foam
of my macchiato will evaporate,
and steam from the pavement
. . . . . .—alone—will rise.
Despite Everything / by Josh Medsker
Despite two hundred years of suppression
Occitania has inspired poets and authors
Successive French governments
official prohibition of the language
in the administration
in the media,
to this day.
Despite two hundred years of suppression
Occitania has inspired poets and authors
Article II of the French Constitution
denies the existence
(among others). And
affected by La Vergonha —
moral repression of the tongue
in all areas of society
shaming the language
to benefit the French,
Despite two hundred years of this suppression
Òc birthed geniuses!
Joan Bodon in Guyenne
Delpastre in Limousin
Lafont in Provence
Manciet in Gascony
Roqueta in Languedoc—
Existential Cruising / by Mitchell Nobis
Yeah. One time
back in 1990,
I saw a car with
“SHIT HAPPENS” airbrushed
across its entire hood.
It sparkled in the
pinks & reds of
the lettering glittered
as the engine churned
the car slowly
west through the
intersection on M-21.
As a teenager, I mercilessly
made fun of it,
but I’ve since realized
this maverick was
just a philosopher,
around town &
holding a seminar—
impressing the chicks,
owning the dudes.
Rules for Housesitting / by Monica Prince
The Wi-Fi password is on a sticky note stuck
to the router. The key opens the deadbolt and doorknob
locks. Both doors should stay locked.
When you come in, everything will be clean and put away
as if a housekeeper drops by regularly, but really it will be stress
presented as personal hygiene and productivity.
Don’t worry. There are no pets to water or walk,
no plants either. The beds are made with clean sheets,
and there are towels in the bathroom closet.
Not many rules, it seems. Just guidelines. Mail arrives
at 10:40am every day, and there’s no air conditioning
so drink plenty of water. The pitcher is in the fridge.
In the mornings, it’s best to make tea, and sit silently on the couch
while pondering breakfast and poetry. The sun rises early but you
can sleep as late as you like. The curtains block out everything
but slivered reminders that there exists life outside this carpeted house,
one outlined with appointments and grocery lists, one unexamined,
so take the western bedroom, where the sun touches last.
You shouldn’t be able to hear the street, but
in the evenings, voices will beckon through the walls,
begging for your attention, energy, body. Deny them.
Keep both doors locked. Cook the last few eggs with salt
from the cabinet. Load the dishwasher. Read a book.
Stay inside. Replace the key in the mailbox if you leave.
Day 3 / Poems 3
Weighing the Hearts of the Dead / by Barbara Audet
Slow is the process,
of lifting organs to the sun.
Molecular stratagems unmasked,
a lethal stripping back,
takes inventory of dead passion.
Whose love opened these bloodless games?
Can they decipher loss, longing by scales?
The heart cannot beat again,
or raise from silence,
Under golden cellophane,
Lie the episodic layers of ka and ra time,
threads of sweats, once
heavy frolic water on the brain.
Black bangs swayed, separated.
Beyond earthly ignitions,
jumpstarted by urns and cloth,
Poundage or ephemera?
Still hearts command attention,
when anchored into ceramic serenity.
Swollen, dried, held out for judgment.
Before wind’s warm hands
fashion a more permanent dust.
Ode to Farmers of South Africa / by Carla Botha
. . . . . . .The genocide continues
. . . . . . .Every morning the cock crows his rehearsed verse
05:00am belongs to him and you,
the pig sty stinks along with cow stable dung and chicken coop poop
it never troubles you
while standing at the kitchen window, coffee mug in hand
staring at the world you created from dust
. . . . . . .Every afternoon you plough through red clouds
stuck on your upper lip
you inspect the soil
just before sunset
the border fence to the north and east,
to the west where darkness swallows farm life into silent darkness
. . . . . . .Every night your shoes chew gravel as you walk
a final half mile to the main gate
glancing at the dirt road for no real reason but out of habit
you close the heavy, singing iron gate with both callused hands
before whistling your favorite tune all the way back home,
at the front door you mumble a prayer to
both Rhodesian Ridgebacks protecting what you can’t
on the outside, in the dark.
Mother Ode / by Amanda Galvin Huynh
Bless the hands whirlpooling
sunshine into our backs.
The ones pulling our bodies
through the small pains
of lost toys, friends. The hands
that may have never planned
on being a mother and the ones
that feared being enough. But
bless the hands of mothers
who never had one to follow.
California Drought / by Pratibha Kelapure
Relentless sunshine of the bluest sky
I miss the dusk chill when sparrows fly
Winter sleeps in some distant lands
Spring arrives at our shore of murky sands
A Sudden pandemonium of poppies on the hill
Not a stream in the creek nor a goldfinch trill
Distressed redwoods still tower in the park
Holding scars deep under the surface bark
Valley is still green with water so pure
Dearly bought, brought to keep the lure
The hapless citizens of this golden state
Watch eroding beauty as we acclimate
My Mother’s Body on My Wedding Day / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
My mother would’ve calligraphed
all of my wedding cards in English half-
uncial, with illuminated letters stained
in navy and forest green, her fingers
carefully folding gold leaf over them.
My mother would’ve worn
a lace navy dress, without
too many frills, with a beaded
barrette in her hair, hair that
wouldn’t have fallen out in patches.
My mother would’ve delighted
in the bouquets made by my best
friend, pages of favorite books
carefully hot glued, along with flowers
of ribbon, tulle and fake pearls.
My mother’s nails wouldn’t
have needed to be lacquered
to cover the purple bruising,
or the brittle squares cracking
and about to break.
My mother wouldn’t have needed
to wear fake eyelashes or to draw
on her eyebrows; instead, her lashes
would’ve curled to the sky
as full and blue as her eyes.
The night you became a hula hoop maenad / by Stephanie Maniaci
Orange balloons coalesce into tentacles.
A tree-sized squid parades on poles to the tune
of funk legend George Clinton Pfunking Up.
Beer cans buoy—reflect the purple show.
A child rides shoulder-side, tossing lime-green sticks
and watching: soap bubbles, clouds of ganja,
sea of wriggling hands—little kraken raised in praise,
and Venus glinting in the breeze. Share this energy
with me, take this hoop, a woman says.
Stronger—crowd pulses. Hands claw at Squid,
leaving only fleshy balloon sections,
and you twirl all the faster.
First of June / by Josh Medsker
First cookout of the season
of teaching to go
Your cousin drunk
ranting about crypto-currency
and government control
We sneak a look at each other
and let the perfect night
like the sweat
and the breeze.
Monument Factors / by Mitchell Nobis
I stepped off the Metro
to a sea of teenagers
still holding their signs:
“I’ll miss my friends more
than you’ll miss your guns.”
Their faces alive with voice &
eyes like beacons of belief,
the students straggled toward home, the protest over.
They walked past monuments to
war & to warriors.
Thirty-five children & teachers
have been torn to death
by bullets at school this year.
It is not yet summer.
Seniors graduate today.
In March the children hollered
at the Capitol, brandished words—
“Protect us, not guns”—openly carried their
words high above their heads,
packing words with pride.
In 2013, the Advanced Placement English
Language & Composition exam asked
students to write an essay that would
“examine the factors a group or agency should consider in
memorializing an event or person and in creating a monument.”
I walked down the mall as
students still marched past monuments to
war to war to war, holding their signs:
“The scariest thing in a school
should be my grades.”
476,277 students wrote an essay
in 2013 explaining what’s worth
memorializing, what merits a monument—
this year thirty-five kids & teachers died, shot
at school, more Americans
dead at school than war but who’s at war, really. We
have enlisted grunts
without their permissions or sixteenth birthdays.
“Examine the factors a group or agency should consider in
memorializing an event or person and in creating a monument.”
They came back to class
the next day after that essay,
struck by the question. “I’ve
never really thought about that before” most said.
They have now.
Farther down the street, a group turned
completely around, lost, and asked
me where the Metro station was.
I pointed them in the right direction,
and they said “thank you.”
thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
They scampered to
the next train,
laughing & alive.
Passive / by Monica Prince
In the year I tried to kill myself,
any man who asked to taste me
received a three-course meal. I am delicious.
The best snacks keep others alive,
so I lived on pineapples, water, and coconut milk.
I tasted like nectar lightly salted to enhance
the sweet. I tried to kill myself using men
since toxic masculinity is the best weapon
of mass destruction. No one gets tested
and no one uses condoms and no one pulls out
because I’m supposed to trust, stay loyal,
ride and die. It was a perfect plan. Consume
the errant fluids of enough ego-driven men,
and soon enough, one will give me
a death sentence: in my blood, in my bones,
or on my own bed, choked until stars, until
bright warm light, until dark, beautiful aching dark.
Day 2 / Poems 2
An Ode For When The Mockingbird Sings / by Barbara Audet
These summer mornings, though I know he’s gone,
A ghostly mockingbird awakes harsh dawn.
I knew this sound when my father died
And the same bird reborn is the after guide
For a husband lost, bold cancer’s pawn.
His earthly struggle, of length pronounced
Was punctuated by the tumors and pain,
I washed his back as the disease announced
Its presence in his lungs and brain,
On trial for living, cell shattering pounced.
A melody so tender, at first lulls bright,
Notes in and then the memory’s struck,
His smile is kindled in the breaking light,
Not real, but holographic heaven’s luck,
To fool the caring mind, fool sight.
The song divulges his manner’s misfits,
Up down behavior angered by joy,
Perfection not sought, life worn by wits
When we met, his play the bashful boy,
Offering affection, practicing love by bits.
Love makes days years, ours did that,
Running like water in a muddy creek,
His West Virginia hominess, my quilted mat
Of places, wounds, not strong, more meek,
Somehow collided, forged seams flat.
In a breath, it ends and one cannot see
The beginning or middle that formed the bond,
Disbelief moves onto the pillow not we,
His body lighter by the soul unconned
Refreshed, reformed, as a man should be.
It’s then you know the loss has weight,
A peace as much as a man may rate,
A woman holding his hand, eyes cried,
A head tucked sideways, all energy sighed
She relies on the bird, her tears abate.
Fragments of Growing Up / by Carla Botha
I remember the giraffe
. . . . . . . .gently grazing as I looked
. . . . . . . .her in the eye. She ignored
. . . . . . . .me sitting on the roof of the truck —
. . . . . . . .just like my mother
. . . . . . . .some days
. . . . . . . .walking across the dead lawn,
. . . . . . . .dad said it was white grub
. . . . . . . .possibly mole crickets but
. . . . . . . .will investigate again tomorrow.
The giraffe lazily moved between
. . . . . . . .camel thorn, across savanna
. . . . . . . .nothing could deter her from
. . . . . . . .earthly duties —
. . . . . . . .mom has many duties as
. . . . . . . .she cooks head of lamb for dinner
. . . . . . . .scrubs baby bottoms, on Sundays
. . . . . . . .she prays and praise
. . . . . . . .my photograph of the giraffe
. . . . . . . .as dad mumbles
. . . . . . . .he will take me to see her again.
Dim Sum on a Sunday Morning / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
for Kelsey Ann Kerr & Golden Unicorn in NYC
I wake and drive the hour and a half
to the city before church bells ring.
Always arriving before the crowd
of hungry bellies overwhelms the doors
and floods the elevators. Devoted to
the two floors of circular tables christened
with plastic white tablecloths, napkins,
chopsticks, teacups all in waiting as friends
find each other among the bodies filing
into the chairs. Families pouring green tea
and tables designating a Dim Sum Expert
to order from the carts moving in stop
and start traffic. Red stamps left as lipstick
marks on order forms before presents
of bamboo and metal steamers bless
each table. Each steamer lined with warm
happiness as more prayers lift from mouths:
Shrimp Siu Mais, Beef Rice Rolls, Xiao
Long Baos, Sesame Balls, Deep Fried Stuffed
Shrimp Balls, Steamed Shrimp Dumplings,
Steamed Pork Buns, Gai Lans—but I pray
for one in anticipation. For a cart so quick
it escapes me. This one cradles Piglet Buns
filled with egg custard; how those cute piggy
faces invade my Saturday night dreams
that I hesitate each time I catch one in my hands
before I nibble into its soft bun cheek.
Mirror Effects / by Pratibha Kelapure
Mirror on the wall
Illuminates the ballerina’s slender form
Record of physical perfection yet
Reflection looking at her is the grandmother’s face with
Overt censure, “So, you think you can dance.”
Reminding her of childhood disasters
Regrets she must cast aside, she must
Obliterate the scars
Rest of her life – a long slow train on
Rails of hot iron
Let it rattle all the way, she must believe
Magic of movement – her only balsam
Ode to the Custard Cake at College / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
for Stephanie Maniaci
The layers of chocolate crumbles,
and raspberry syrup, chocolate custard dripping
down, and reaching for the plastic forks
we thought would snap, as we chatted
for what didn’t feel like hours. Those days,
when we had all the time to indulge
in that kind of gluttony, and finished
the entire cake, just the two of us.
When now, our hours are as precious
as a last bite of cake sitting on a plate
in a fridge glowing empty white,
except for a pitcher of water.
I’d still give that last bite to you.
Palimpsest / by Stephanie Maniaci
Hocking Hills, Ohio
Returning home, after a year away, to this canvas:
leaves and cicada shells, faces of old acquaintances,
mud and hills’ crests hung with early mist.
I lounge outdoors on a yellow tarp, harvest
memories like stray linen threads,
watch blank ants carry compatriots’ bodies back to their nests—
or drop them midway and scuttle back to grass.
Stretching, I try to reinsert myself between the strokes.
It’s said that every time you revisit, you divest
the reimagining of texture, shift the hue
from cobalt to Copenhagen, from leaf-sprout
to emerald. Returning home, it’s a canvas. It’s a canvas.
Rupture Event / by Josh Medsker
My brain goes and goes
and i goes
so far that my body flinches
like cryogenically frozen head
severed and body
Don’t Call it a Comeback / by Mitchell Nobis
The receipt left in this library book
says you renewed Redemption until you couldn’t
renew it anymore, that you now owe
late fees on Redemption,
$2.25 for Redemption,
and baby I don’t know you but
you don’t owe anybody money—
your redemption will be earned,
And maybe it’s an empty redemption
anyway, a redemption in the eyes of
someone who’s wrong to start with,
meaning you’re right where you should’ve
been all along, no redemption necessary.
Or maybe you do need to earn your
way back. You won’t get it in a book,
no matter how many times you renew it,
but you’re searching
and that’s a start. That’s the part
that matters. That’s
more than most will do.
You will fortify. You will rise.
You’ll be here for years
The Novelist / by Monica Prince
You do not need to believe in God
to see me. I exist between blinks,
during the early hours of dawn,
right before sleep leaves your lungs.
I speak in whispers, live on the edges
of your skin, walk through walls.
This is not a riddle or a metaphor.
If it’s easier, call me ancestor, muse,
party trick after eight shots too many.
If you’d rather be precise, call me
ethereal, haunt, challenge of depth
and universe. I am your mother,
your father, your first breath, your fear,
the prayer for safety every time you leave
your home. I am conception during Purple Rain,
legs split and sliding down a steel pole,
the crown rightfully placed on your head.
I am not a dream. You are not hallucinating.
This is not Hell or Heaven or Purgatory or Nirvana.
No, colored child, I am not an angel or demon,
not a courier between dimensions. I am the novel
of the world, endless passages of every life
before and after you. I know how this ends.
I know how dirty your hands will be, what good
they will do for us all.
Day 1 / Poems 1
Speeding Universe / by Barbara Audet
This car and I bond
at a Texas-regulated shady 95 degrees,
taillight to taillight on the highway.
No faces on the road to ponder but mine,
too morning threatened in the shallow mirror to peep at passersby.
I’m an out of body motorist, one eye on traffic
and a mind’s eye on the future,
loading all the GPS data of my existence
every sunrise roll of the alarm.
Those others, Ford this, Honda that,
gain mislead obscurity within prisons of tinted windows,
a moving gray of intimidation I ignore.
They don’t fool me; mirrors hang above their vinyl dashes.
Reckless, I once peered ahead, behind,
trying to see the color of hair, the make or model.
An aged gaze registers curiosity depleted on the trip gauge,
foot on the brake and sedentary.
Jams are candy to me, fueling a non-stop mobile thought dissection,
then a Frankenstein by numbers rebirth of intent to live by mile markers.
This traveling micro-verse of mine,
in the midst of an oh so rapid, throttle let out universe,
stalls with get in its face purpose.
to the tune of the media mended, ache-evoking FM playlist,
marking asphalt time to songs of 80s’ whipped up, beat down melancholy love.
Keep the brain fresh.
Accelerate a trifle.
Match the song.
Name the artist
Up the volume.
These stop and go diversions speed worried solo conversations.
What roadblock lies ahead?
The mind races when the old Camaro limps.
Like me, there was a moment in its manufacture that it longed to fly, did fly.
I know our histories, our archival dents.
Crying caution now,
the yellow check engine light harkened up weeks ago,
an electronic omen of other checks necessary beyond the car.
That light’s a rush hour roulette.
A modern joust with rubber tires, windshield wipers, bumper to bumper
with construction signs and red lights
and I don’t know why I play.
Cutters, those formula folk
who think edging in,
two or three beyond,
will get them somewhere sooner,
must have no fear of their destinations.
I never cut.
Saadiyat Island / by Carla Botha
I love the garden in all its colors
even in winter
especially in October when
everything glows. The shrubs
outside the yard stand tall,
underneath it two kittens
have found a home.
Palm trees proud in passing weather ¾
sand storms, the lack of
rain, in autumn heavy mists
the kittens climb up the rugged
bark and meow in tiny voices
I watch them at 04:00AM
The mosque wakes
on Street 11 at 05:00AM
the neighborhood complains. Why
was it built there? I stay inside ¾
my home has walls that keep
the stillness inside. The TV is on
silent. The kettle makes a click-sound,
then quiets down.
Upstairs the house is covered in serenity. I see
the kittens on the other side
of the fence. They will soon
no longer be kittens but
cats. I will see them in the expat
neighborhood and might even forget
they were once
List Poem on Our Fifth Anniversary / by Amanda Galvan Huynh
A calico cat spiraled on my arm, the sunlight filters
between the blinds, our car spot empty, spring pollen
looks like snow, suitcases half-packed, succulents
in candle jars, red rug, the coffee table you made,
ukulele, sink full of dishes, a grey tabby on the window
sill, sewing machine surrounded by abandoned threads,
anniversary cards, coconut black tea, the washing machine’s
hum, June’s rent bill, poetry books, handwritten letters,
emails, high ceilings, junk mail, keys in the door, white
coat, feet against stairs, packed car, New York Interstate,
a Lexus tailgates a Jeep, the ribs of a deer, a wildfire sunset,
mile markers, storm in the distance, a cigarette holds a hand,
train crossing, a deer with its ears perked, coffee, we pull over
for the downpour, strawberry wafers, mist, coffee spill,
signal light to merge, blurred lights between raindrops,
wipers a metronome, mountain silhouette, the dashboard
glow against your face, a road I cannot see ending.
A Poet’s Eternal Hope / by Pratibha Kelapure
I wish for this poem to
Slide on your tongue
Slowly dissolve like
Fine chocolate with
Slight hint of winter mint
I wish for words to flow like
A river that springs as if by a miracle
From the mountain ditches and
Grows into gullies and grows still to
Become many layers of an ocean
I wish for the lines to sprint
Revive revitalize this word and that
Resuscitate the meaning
Become an arrow that springs
Straight toward your heart
Dementia Pantoum / by Kelsey Ann Kerr
I tell my grandmother my wedding date five times in thirty minutes.
Each time, she murmurs, Oh, I wish your mother could be there,
and I squeeze her hand tighter with what I won’t say.
My sternum comes unglued and splays open.
As she murmurs, Oh, I wish your mother could be there,
I think of my dad’s observant perfusionist eyes;
my sternum comes unglued and splays open,
and I cradle my heart in my hands until they turn to rust.
I think of my dad’s observant perfusionist eyes,
how he would have seen everything, walking me down the aisle,
and I cradle my heart in my hands until they turn to rust.
But I don’t say a word to my grandmother about
how he would have seen everything, walking me down the aisle,
or how all three of them won’t be there.
I don’t say a word to my grandmother, instead,
I show her my white dress, my shoes, my veil.
No, all three of them won’t be there.
I squeeze her hand tighter with what I won’t say.
I show her my white dress, my shoes, my veil.
I tell my grandmother my wedding date five times in thirty minutes.
Snail Fragment / by Stephanie Maniaci
Trekking home one night, a snail
crosses my unlit street, searching
for blades of grass, the softness of soil.
Stepping blindly, I almost crush
the question-mark spiral of shell—
pale codex of uncertainty—
to fragments smeared with violet ink.
I kneel. Hesitate. The snail extends
two exclamatory antennae,
and all I offer is a finger, curved
in greeting, a poem to mark its journey.
. . . . . . . .Soon,
morning birds begin to wail.
The horizon stains wine-red.
The alien snail is trailing still.
Elise / by Josh Medsker
This will kill your mother
he said, tsk tsk-ing away
her sexuality and selfhood
This was before she leapt
from her open apartment window
This was after she named her oppression
and self-marked herself failed
Her young life a twisting down
with dabs of sharp smiling refraction
In verse and proud archetype.
Matters / by Mitchell Nobis
The workshop asked
“At what age is it
appropriate to teach a
lesson on Emmett Till?”
The question hung
heavy in the air
for a long moment,
pondered & surrounded.
wrestled the question,
aiming for an answer,
a form of defeat,
but this is a question
to hug tight. This is
a question to hold while
the water pours out of
it, then drips, &
when the question
Race and Repercussions / by Monica Prince
“I’d rather save a dog than one million niggers.”
-Tyler Roydson, volunteer firefighter,
Franklin Township, OH
Walking down the middle of the street late one night,
the only Black people in Selinsgrove trade stories
about white people who ask our permission to say
nigger. The answer is always no. We keep track of who asks,
their promise that someone else has already granted pardon,
their insistence on the friendly –a versus the hard –er. It’s not
your word anymore, Chad, we say, because you never ask why
it’s so easy (read: thrilling) for you to say it—only freedom
from any repercussions.
We got a pink letter in the mail soliciting donations
for our local volunteer firefighter brigade. Small town,
like every other small town, like Franklin Township, Ohio.
We each mail back a crisp check with a black signature, just in case
our own lives catch fire, and our rescuers choose the dog
before a million of us. We can’t risk trusting anyone else’s code.
We can’t choose who needs us, we just go, firefighter Ryan Grubbs said.
Oh, but how we choose when we don’t need them anymore.