Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
The volunteers for October 2018 are Jen Stewart Fueston, Karen Greenbaum-Maya, Chad W. Lutz, Rebecca Macijeski, Shea Montgomery, Francesca Moroney, Ally Schwam, and Aline Soules. 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 16 / Poems 16
mom born / by Jen Stewart Fueston
Santa Ana Times / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
sweeps the xeriscape grasses
into a presidential comb-over
I opened the car door into a dust devil
A front of dried leaves, pine needles, grit
poured into the car like cake batter
My hair stretched magically straight.
In the waiting room, an automatic door
creaks open as palm fronds flap
past the electric eye.
The door labors to close
against the moaning wind’s rising note
until the wind gets shoved outside.
And the mats are folded over nohow
And the janitor walks through the leaves,
says Oh no, oh no.
Finger Speak / by Chad W. Lutz
& without syntax
a universe screams
for the eyes and ears
theirs is a language
of the physical
callouses of the working
smoothness of the caring
steadiness of the understanding
quickness of the heroic
& absence of the careless
take my hands
& have a seat
let me feel
Mosquitos / by Rebecca Macijeski
What do they want in my blood?
Everywhere I go they find something of me
to siphon. I wonder how many gathered pinpricks
I’ve given unwillingly. If there’s enough
to make another me. Where would she live?
In Vermont one or two would find me
on the backporch at night, humming.
They’d rest on my arm like a child
waiting for a story. We’d all look out
over the dark beyond the mountains.
This was our habit. We knew it.
We tended it like the sun tends
the lilies that grow up each summer.
The mosquitos in Venice were a whole other breed.
One bite and my skin would swell up
like nothing I’d seen. The welts lasted weeks,
long past those long days in the market,
long past the plane ride home.
In Louisiana they’re something else again.
It’s like they wear armor when they hunt.
They’re determined, swarmed, moving together
like a string of lights when they find me.
When they drink, I wonder if they already know
this flavor, if their cousins sent the message
down the chain, if these mosquitos here, right now,
make something of a smile and say, oh, you again.
A Teaching Moment / by Shea Montgomery
Season 2, Episode 5
Herman watches the news in a rare day off,
flips through different stations as he opens mail,
notices the usual bad weather in places, even worse in others;
literally raining bullets in some; he’s proud of himself
when a political ad comes on, and he doesn’t tear the arm off the couch.
As he tosses junk mail aside, an envelope catches his eye,
all purple and green, with gold leaf, some glitter,
and when he brings it to his face, to look closer,
it announces they have won something on the front,
in elaborate strokes, made by hand.
He tears open the paper, reaches inside,
pulls out a free membership to the local country club,
Mockingbird Heights, and with glee, Herman practices
his Golf swing, using an umbrella as a club, and walnuts as balls
to practice with until he can get a hold of the real thing.
The next morning, Herman and Eddie load up the car,
head to the club to play a round of Golf when the air
will be cool, and its early enough so the rich people won’t see them,
or so he told Eddie, you see, he informed him,
they were on a mission that day—
The rules were clear: no Mulligans, and slicing things
is encouraged, as he hands the boy a knife to tear up seats
in the cart. Also, anything over Par 4 gets puts a cart in the
water hazard, putting is for pussies, and its drivers or nothing,
all the way home, with, or on, their shields.
The two of them uproot trees in the rough, scuttle carts
like the saltiest admiralty, refuse to yell FORE as anything other
than a war cry, break at least 27 windows, disrupt traffic for an hour,
burn down the 19th hole, put bear traps in the sand,
and never once do they replace a single divot—
They are quiet on the ride home later, after they leave,
but Herman breaks the silence finally, just blocks from home
when he turns to look at Eddie; tells him that just because
something is free doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell people
how you really feel about them.
Two Books in a Backpack / by Francesca Moroney
after remarks by Representative John Lewis, 16 October 2018, East St. Louis, Illinois
I was told, “Don’t
get into any trouble.” I was told,
“Don’t get in the way.”
I raised chickens. I read
the Bible. Sometimes I read
the Bible to my chickens. (It must be said,
the chickens were better listeners than some folks
I have known. Vote!) In 1957, I wrote
a letter to Dr. King. It is not true
that nothing has changed.
It is true
that we demand more. (Vote!)
I met the Pope and the Pope
said to me, “We are all immigrants.” (Vote!)
One day I stood
on a bridge. 600 children of God.
In a pack on my back
one tube of toothpaste.
It was a Sunday afternoon. We stopped
to pray. “Troopers advance.” We asked
for a few moments of silence.
And they donned their gas masks
And they wielded their clubs
And they sent horses, limbs broken and bodies
bruised: “Troopers advance.”
(what is shame and why does it exist) / by Ally Schwam
God is wearing a brown fur coat that hangs down to her ankles.
The coat brushes the floor and collects dirt.
It doesn’t matter to God, the coat is brown for a reason.
God pushes her Louis Vuitton sunglasses up her sharp nose.
She throws the door of the Starbucks open as she walks in.
She buys a cold brew and waits by the counter, clicking her nails together.
She likes the sound.
God someone calls from the counter, only their hand visible clasping the drink and sticking out from behind the machines and cups and straws.
God takes it and sits at a small table.
She drinks slowly and stares at everyone around her.
In particular, God watches a man scratch his butt crack
God wonders what shame is and why it exists, and why she created it.
She wonders if the man is aware that God is watching him scratch his butt crack.
God’s had enough of Starbucks.
She goes shopping at the Food Lion and buys cat treats, a super-sized bag of Lays chips,
and a frozen pepperoni pizza.
She listens to classic rock through her $5 earbuds and bops her head up and down in the aisle.
Her cat is waiting for her at home and she doesn’t have a minute left to waste in this dump.
God slides into her car and sits behind the steering wheel and stares out the windshield for a little too long.
God doesn’t want to drive anywhere. God doesn’t want to move.
Black on black spirals, 1970 / by Aline Soules
BBA ’92 etched
in steel object label
on gold frame
hung on a bare wall
Mom mute tears
on black spiral
or black spiral
on sun sky?
Day 15 / Poems 15
A Clearing / by Jen Stewart Fueston
All this way — not far — for gin in tin,
and a hiccup of stars.
The mountain’s heart is in its throat,
the clearing thunders with its strain.
Something’s rattling in slender pines. What
morse message dots the tentside,
dashes off as sudden as it came, a rush
of spirit fleeting as untended flame?
The wood bends as it’s burnt, we take its life
on appled-cheeks, on our foreheads and tips
of our ears as heat waves rise and thicken
mountain air like a dimmed mirror.
The moon halves itself like an apple, all white
flesh, bright and crisp, plucked and ripening
in the trees. The wood, now ember, glows red,
spent, light unraveled in a ring of stone.
All I think of is unraveling, how to wring
some beauty from what’s left. I think of
loving and desire. I listen
for what’s speaking when I let them go.
Proprioception / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
—The ability to sense stimuli arising within the body regarding position, motion, and equilibrium. Even if a person is blindfolded, he or she knows through proprioception if an arm is above the head or hanging by the side of the body.
I spread my hand on his chest, feel him only on the pads of my fingertips. Only the skin, the dead part of the skin. I feel him by warmth and pressure, proprioception, where I do not touch him I do not feel. I press harder but the membrane is a thin firm film, and I feel the membrane more than I feel him. Nothing passes. From this sealed place I know all at once the hole he will leave in my life, in me. Why should I get up to write this? Why do anything but nestle my cheek into his clean T-shirt, even if the rest of me lies without feeling, far away on top of the blankets.
Elie Wiesel’s Dream / by Chad W. Lutz
look at the wall
posters of my victories
look at the page
the book in my hand
no official sponsor
save for the Nazi party
past the line
Spend Less Time with Nightingales and Peacocks. One is Just a Voice, the Other Just a Color. / by Rebecca Macijeski
An ostrich is a racehorse made of feathers.
Bears are masters of slumber.
They hide themselves in caves all winter
reading the books of their dreams.
Toads have a slicker, muddier knowing.
They tell their stories in croaking,
stuck to the earth like stones.
Phoenixes can’t decide their fire.
They wake up some days already burning.
Sloths have nothing to do with sin.
Their knowledge of trees is simply to hold on.
Trees can reach beyond the earth
where they’re planted
like the earth beneath them
reaches beyond us
for the lights of other suns.
Playing With Guns / by Shea Montgomery
Season 2, Episode 2
Gomez and Fester are in the den, cleaning guns,
admiring the ones they have,
sometimes even pointing them at the wall,
or the picture of some ancient Addams’ boat
that hung there, with a little light next to it.
Fester is in the middle of his rendition
of some famous battle said Addams once fought,
when he pulls the trigger, blows a hole
through the wall, right through the Addams’ boat,
and busts a water-main.
Gomez takes the gun from Fester; tells him
the children will mix the powder from now,
that now the insurance man must be called,
but secretly he’s glad he gets to fight with a man
over the phone—and that no one got hurt.
Gomez dials up his agent, planning his attack;
greeting, claws in, go for the throat, then release,
let him be glad to breathe, hang up, really slam it;
he wonders what it would be like
if he were to be set loose on the world—
As the phone rings, his teeth gleam in the parlor
as he circles, one hand clenched behind his back,
waiting to threaten he can take corporations
from struggling to bankrupt in three months;
that he has dreams of doing it faster—
Perhaps he should start there.
Austin’s American Dream / by Francesca Moroney
after Gwendolyn Brooks
When I am small and dance on my father’s feet, we
do not talk about the ways of living, thriving in the real
city, the part beyond our suburban fences and sticky cool
popsicles from the truck that coughs through the streets as we
play ding dong ditch and red rover until there is nothing left
but sticky wrappers and tired legs. There is a school
down the block with a shiny play set and wide swings and we
kick and pump and push above those fences, ignoring the lurk
of knowledge, doubts like fireflies, forgotten in the late
hour and so another day we have remained insular and we
retreat to homes in neat rows so that tomorrow we again strike
out in search of the American Dream that sets us straight.
They told us they chose the suburbs for their good schools, we
loved all colors and nationalities, they said, but they wanted to sing
their maudlin songs alone and drink their pints in peace, to sin
in the most comfortable of circles and in order to practice that lie, we
had no choice but to believe them, did not yet know the way a thin
truth gets pulled taut until it was a lie like the water we put in the gin
bottle we stole during our grandfather’s wake and, dizzy and dumb, we
stood outside in the heat, and from down the block there was jazz
but we had no words for what we heard and we stomped mightily on June
bugs in the circle of light that fell violently on our closed faces and we
each believed the lie in our own ways and more ancestors would die
but their choices haunt those streets and the lie will be mine soon.
*Austin is the name of a Chicago neighborhood that, in the early 1900s, was a community of white immigrants, primarily from Ireland, Poland, Germany, and Italy. Starting in the 1950s and continuing for more than two decades, the descendants of those first immigrants fled the neighborhood, the sociological phenomenon known as “white flight.” The neighborhood has yet to recover.
Statement Piece / by Ally Schwam
You would like to buy a $215 bright yellow faux-fur jacket.
You’ve just gotten your first paycheck and want to treat yourself.
But is this the way to do it?
You wonder about all the other things you could buy for $215.
The tax alone could buy you lunch.
You could give all $215 to charity.
Perhaps you’ll donate some of your old clothes to feel good about yourself.
You feel weird and vapid for enjoying fashion.
At least it’s faux-fur, not real fur, no death, well
Hopefully, no young children were enslaved to make these coats.
You need to stop thinking about child labor, it’s bringing you down.
You have no problems, why do you feel so bad.
You have no right to feel bad.
You just wanted to do something nice for yourself, right?
You should buy the jacket. Buy the jacket buy the jacket buy
the jacket buy the jacket buy the jacket you shut
Alice’s 70th High School Reunion / by Aline Soules
With only three of the class still living
I drive Alice to her high school reunion
in a local Detroit diner.
The women invite me to join them
but I demur. It’s their reunion
and I prefer to eavesdrop.
Remember when we did that play,
what was the name of it, you know,
the one where your sister was the male lead
and you wouldn’t kiss her.
I poke my salad, glad they’ve forgotten
my presence, their tongues loosening
as they ramp up on memories.
What about Marie, sweet on that Jimmy feller
down the street? She skipped
out of Father Reilly’s class to meet him.
The waitress fills their coffee cups.
They settle in.
What about you and your rye-running
They collapse in giggles.
You came, too. Besides, all we did
was help unload the boat…
…and take a couple of bottles home.
I had to hide them from my Dad, though.
He’d have killed me if he’d known
what we did.
Alice talks the whole way home, a mile a minute,
waves her arms and laughs, her pink cheeks
and blue eyes sparkling with history.
Day 14 / Poems 14
Catch and Release / by Jen Stewart Fueston
Today every shoe is new
and every pencil sharpened
in its case. Even the fathers
come to wait the first-day bell’s
exhale. A waddle of backpack-laden
five-year-olds reunites with parents
bright and desperate, primary things.
We orphaned you for six long hours
and now reel you back to arms unlearned
in arts of catch and release. But how
do I tell you, son, that as I watched your
face before your eyes found mine, I wasn’t
thinking about you? I was another mother,
or she me, waiting at a different concrete border,
felt the crush of all this love and desperation
transposed into that woman’s chest, remembered
how I read of children taken from her
while she slept. I’m trespassing her
into places she is not allowed to go, opening
this scar of our history across the borders
of cleaved lives. For her, the doors
locked from the inside never open,
regardless of the bodies hurled
against them. And no bells ever ring.
Sunday / by Chad W. Lutz
we’ve got to
find a way
says Marvin Gaye
and we will
mile by mile
line by line
what’s going on?
Believing the Light I Have Inside / by Rebecca Macijeski
The metaphor begins with a candle at a window. I’ve put it there as a kind of signal projecting me out in these Morse Code flickers of flame. Morning hasn’t woken yet, so this is all you see. The flame and the reflection of the flame. Like cloned memory. Like twin understandings. The metaphor continues with the sun climbing higher for a better look. She strains her long gaze through the window like she’s rummaging through her purse for a breath mint. Or maybe it’s more like when you see a movie you’ve never seen before but somehow the story already knows you. Or a radio song on a long road home at night that builds its sugar from your own memory, like something pulled the words right out of you. Like that. Like the haze between stations, between towns. The electric pulses that search through the dark for what stays, for what glows despite everything.
Pandora Collects Her Things / by Shea Montgomery
Season 2, Episode 1
Morticia combs Wednesday’s hair
with her favorite cactus brush;
it had been a while, but she’d found her still,
sitting in her room, and she hadn’t objected
to the initial contact.
Fester bursts in screaming he hasn’t seen Thing
since last night, that Thing hasn’t owes him a massage,
he’s disappeared into his box, won’t come out;
Wednesday slides out from Morticia then,
starts to dig under her bed as Lurch announces lunch.
After eating, the family searches for their missing Thing;
Morticia even posts an ad in the paper:
“Missing Thing, Ample Reward, Bring to 0001 Cemetery Lane.”
Someone was sure to react to that if they saw Thing—
then Wednesday walked down the stairs, with a box.
She set it down on the table in front of them;
pulled the top off, like a master revealing an intricate tool
to a student, shows them the limp form of Thing
laying blue, lifeless on a bed of lace, burned at the edges,
a tourniquet still wrapped around the wrist of its neck.
She looks them all in the eye, as they stand there,
tells them she is sorry, that it was an accident
that Thing had just not held on hard enough,
that all she wanted was to feel someone
with their hand in her hair, like Perseus with Medusa.
A Preponderance of Crepuscules / by Francesca Moroney
. . . . . .I will wade out
until my toes turn the color
of these pebbled rocks
. . . . . .I will float on my back and catch
the light of the greyed sky
and dive into the cold water
. . . . . . . . . . . .alive
with open eyes
. . . . . .to reject the coming
of the barren winds. . . . . . . . . .to startle
back to life after
. . . . . .to recover
a memory lost
. . . . . .to put my lips
to a grain of sand
to a wooded
island on the horizon
to a twisting earth. . . . . .to the moon
that shows me
a million different pieces
God stays home on a Saturday night / by Ally Schwam
It would be a quiet night folding laundry.
The TV droned on softly in the corner.
Every now and then she’d stop her work
to look up and stare at the screen.
It is not important what show she watched,
merely that she watched.
Her hands rested lightly on cotton t-shirts
and silk blouses she didn’t like to wear.
Her mind wandered to the friends she hadn’t seen
since she came to Earth.
A cricket chirped loudly by the window
singing of escape.
Witching Hour / by Aline Soules
A little longer—pleeease
we beg as summer’s evening light
shines as strong as day at nine pm
and the gloaming won’t fade
We want to see the Gude Faeries
and the Wicked Wichts, the kelpies,
the selkies, maybe even a shellycoat,
though he could be dangerous.
We think they come with the night.
No pleading succeeds. We are
sent to bed, even as we plot
to stay awake until the witching hour,
but, every night, we sleep the sleep
of spent children.
One night, we set alarms muffled
under bedcovers, planning to get up,
but the alarm wakens our parents.
They scold as they tuck us back in bed.
As soon as we hear their deep breathing,
we open the curtains to see the last
of the gloaming. Hills fade
to silhouettes, moon pennies glitter
the River Tay, perfect playground
for water faeries.
But where are the asrais,
the water lovers? Where is the ceasg,
the mermaid who’ll give us three wishes?
They must know we’re here.
We sigh as the gloaming fades its last
and the moon slips behind a cloud,
plunging the world into black.
Climbing back in bed, we wonder
What is it like where they live?
Day 13 / Poems 13
Falling / by Jen Stewart Fueston
Has it been said enough
the way leaves catch
the sunlight as they fall?
Or light catches them,
both the light falling on them
and they passing through it
so they flare like breath
on flame, so even the sun
can be carried, bright,
into the waiting frost.
Blind in Translation / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
Blinded by a stroke, the art student learned
to see with her tongue.
She wore glasses with titanium screens
transmitting, with a little electronic square
receiving, sending to her brain
from her motherboard tongue.
They told her to swivel her head:
That’s a chair. A door.
That’s me. That’s you.
Nod your head. See?
Every movement brought a new pattern, tingling
like super-busy Coca Cola.
And a few hours later
her brain started speaking in tongue.
She saw a Styrofoam rod—
white. . . .long flat
here. . . .then here.. . . .What was that?
Soon she perceived people
though they looked like ink washes,
Caillebotte figures in his rain,
watery wavering sea creatures,
drifting and shifting
down the city sidewalk.
I Want that Canine Kind of Love / by Chad W. Lutz
on all fours
bump into things
I’ll get half-mad
jump up & pee
bark yip howl
spin in circles
the same as
is better than
What Sits in the Space Between Backyard Trees / by Rebecca Macijeski
The air there fumes with fog.
In my memory it’s cold, it’s fall,
and the maples brandish the red in their leaves
like trophies. They’ve come this far.
I’m wearing nostalgia without shame
like it’s a favorite sweater.
The birds frenzying around me
know the importance of warmth,
that it means survival,
but it’s also a message my body sends
to the rest of me. That closeness
is a kind of home. That the clouds
the sky dollops above us have more to do
with imagination than with water.
There’s a rock at the base of a tree
where I like to sit and listen to the whistling
of wind through branches. It’s as if
the whole patch of woods is breathing
through its teeth. As is I’m at the mouth
of something, an opening between worlds.
The Oracle at Delphi / by Shea Montgomery
Season 1, Episode 22
Herman comes home late one night, after
a night out with the guys so he said, but Lily
knows he’s just been out drinking alone,
locks him out of the house, afraid of his mood
when he gets back.
She hears him try the front door, the jiggling knob
and then the splintering of wood
when he punched through it to get inside—
she hears him singing he has come home to stay
as she gets up to lock the bedroom door.
He knocks at the door only briefly,
asks her to be a good girl and open the door,
that she should let him in, but she doesn’t hear
him from under the bed, with a pillow wrapped
around her face so he wouldn’t hear her screaming.
Herman knows he is in trouble, finally retreats
to the living room and the couch,
a sleepless night spent listening to a leaky faucet
he kept meaning to fix, until he finally got up
and pulled the faucet out of the wall.
The sounds of breakfast wake him in the morning
and he walks into a kitchen of silent faces
hung around a table sans a setting for him—
he sits and demands his breakfast, howls
it is his husbandly right to be served by his wife;
howls halted when Lily slams a plate
with three prune pits on it in front of him,
tells him to eat up, and punches him in the face
so hard he is still picking himself up
off the floor as everyone finishes eating, quickly.
Lily goes to a therapist that day, a Dr. Osborn,
says she has a problem, that she’s married,
and the doctor tells her she shouldn’t be ashamed;
that everyone who has walked through his door
has made the same mistake.
Lily tells the doctor that her husband was made, not born;
to which he replies that it is wise for women
to see their husbands as self-made men,
and then asks if she thinks
there might be another woman.
Lily says no, that the problem started
when he made a habit of coming home late,
drunk, in unpredictable moods, now destructive;
So the doctor tells her to go home and apologize,
that then the weight of the relationship rests upon him.
Herman comes to Dr. Osborn too, later that day,
stumbles into the office with a black eye
and the doctor cancels his appointments
to sit with Herman, tell him no one should sit still,
to not let another unveil wrath upon him.
Herman tells him that she has locked him out
of their bedroom, that she won’t feed him, or speak
to him; that he hasn’t held her in his arms
in a way that mattered to him in what seems like so long;
then the doctor asks him if she has done anything unusual.
Herman says no, that the problem started
when he made a habit of coming home late,
drunk, in unpredictable moods, now destructive;
so the doctor tells him to go home and apologize,
that then the weight of the relationship rests upon her.
To Papa Charlie’s, on Taylor Street / by Francesca Moroney
Dom sings Puccini in the front vestibule
White shirt spotless and his tie tomato red
While Nick stands behind the bar polishing glasses and
With a smile, exclaims,
“Pa, we need more napkins
from the basement! The delivery guy
brought them today!”
Papa Charlie’s, there you are
Like an Elysian Fields here on the west side
For those wanting pizza, a cold
Beer, or a hiding place
In 1985 in Chicago, Illinois!
Italian brothers wipe down
Chipped Formica tables –
I stand in the doorway
Whispering with my friends
A jukebox plays our favorite song.
What we need, my friends tell me, is a Strawberry Fields Day.
My voice in harmony with theirs
I laughed a lot, licking greasy sauce off of my fingers
I smiled at my friends, at Dom, at Nick. A tiny voice inside my head says
“I am happy here!” while we sing
“It’s getting hard to be someone/but it all works out!”
My heart in an uproar
We cocoon in your pleather booths
Need for music and pizza and pop
Don’t go away.
My friends and I leave each other little notes
About how we will always be friends
Each one scribbled on a scrap of lined paper
All ended with the words
“P.S. Friends Forever”
One a note about a boy who told me
“I didn’t mean to hurt you,
I promise I won’t do it again.” Or
“My mom left my dad and I don’t know
When she is coming home.”
P.S. Friends Forever.
Nick stacked our dirty dishes
On his thick arm
I went out into the cold Chicago dusk
My muffler around my face.
Loneliness & Loneliness & Loneliness / by Ally Schwam
I’m thinking of giant windmills
& my first imaginary friend
a cat-bird hybrid with hot pink fur
She’d talk to me during soccer practice
congratulate me for finally being the goalie
for getting to stand alone at the end of the field
She’d hover next to me
& stare with me
& we’d dream of a blue whale
floating in the sky, with clouds for teeth
& sun for eyes.
& of skydiving from mars
to pluto & tasting saturn’s rings
& the ball would fly right past my face
& hit the net & of course
no one would be happy
I’m thinking of cotton candy stuck to my teeth
& horses in stables & hens in cages & the kids flocking
All of them drinking lemonade through a twisty straw
There was sun & I’d escape
to the outskirts of the county fair
to the hut with the art contest
with some of my art & I’d stare
at everything & all the ribbons
& touch my ribbons
& touch my hands
My friends were in the stables feeding goats
I’m not thinking, but my hands will write
& the words will appear on my social media
& the words will be
I just want to belong somewhere
& someone will comment
(& I don’t know this someone, not even
& we’ll never speak beyond that
& we’ll never speak
beyond that & we’ll
Visiting Chimayo / by Aline Soules
Our tour gives us one hour at Chimayo
to see the sanctuary, the art, the gift shops.
I wander past a whitewashed building
with black lettering: Santos. Woodcarving.
Popsicles. Statues everywhere—in and out
of the church. Three Cultures draws my eye,
ten feet high, of stone.
The sanctuary is small, but filled with
the usual structures—altar, pews,
rack of votive candles, side chapels.
The stations of the cross appeal—
their clean lines, their bold colors—
except, of course, that someone is
going to his execution.
I would need a long time to count
the Christs and Marys, longer to count
the candles in the church and outdoor
alcoves, even longer to count the crosses
and crucifixes strewn around the property
and embedded in chain link fences.
Having toured the tiny town, I enter
an art gallery and café, order black tea.
The owner explains his wares. He carves.
His wife paints. Their religious art,
crammed on walls and tables, pop
with colors, but what draws my eye
are two pencil drawings, understated
among the gaudy. The delicate pencil lines
stand out. With a sigh because my interest
is not in his own work, the owner says
they were drawn by a friend.
The landscapes tell me what I must do.
I go outside to the edge of the sanctuary
property, find a creek with only a trickle
of water. Beyond is a field with a large bull.
Beyond that, the mountains.
Day 12 / Poems 12
Cities / by Jen Stewart Fueston
With lines from Zagajewski
Cities at daybreak are no one’s
and have no names.
Imagine the city you knew only in summer
somehow shrouded in snow. Would it still be yours?
If you walked there bundled in wool, in layers
of cotton instead of bare shoulders
and undone hair?
Then think of the town you knew only in winter
when shadows lay dark in the lee of trees.
Hope was as translucent as ice,
as honed as cut glass. Imagine that place
where once after snow you opened a window
and a bird flew into your room. You didn’t know
what kind of bird, just like you didn’t know
what to call the trees that lined the road.
It had yellow wings and you chased it
around the apartment until you titled
the heavy glass pane upright, thrust it shut.
You wonder now
if that was the only guest you ever let in.
But mostly, you knew winter. Which you understood
to be the enemy of summer. Sometimes
at night you would long for a city of cinnamon
or a yellow moon arcing out of a warm sea.
In the winter country the clouds whipped up
in the sky like white sheep over grey water.
In the summer country, you never looked at the sky.
You lived in your body, ate, wanted,
and learned ways to be happy.
Oh / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
First kiss just a peck, a sharp bounce
We were too new to open yep
but open we did, hoping, holding.
Was the first time we’d touched, not knowing
If current would flow
but oh all I could hold
all you could flow oh.
We flowed. We flew so much
the air got thin, out animals purring,
caution blown by heat and heave.
All this with clothes on, so many clothes.
We’d have laughed
at our fearful courtesy
could we have caught our breath.
Sent from my iPhone
If There’s Smoke / by Chad W. Lutz
I used to think
14 million people
was a lot
I used to think
got a dog
I used to think
weed was for
I ended up
I used to think
mental illness was
something other people had
I was rushed to
I used to think
life would look
a certain way
I woke up
Keeping Words / by Rebecca Macijeski
Since I can remember,
I’ve kept them sorted in my mind
like a coin collection.
A different cubby square
for each cluster of them,
bits of letters catching
as they stack.
I’ve always wanted a complete set.
It began, I think, in fourth grade
when I got stuck on the physicality
of words. Anytime anyone spoke to me
I had to spell their phrases in my head.
I mentally mouthed each letter
and watched them scroll left to right
across my mind like an endless tape.
This continued for over a year.
I’m not sure why. Maybe I needed
to control the chaos of a transforming body.
Maybe I was denying what I knew even then
was a kind of loss. Maybe I was doing
what animals who sense winter or danger
or scarcity do when they feel the lean times coming.
I don’t spell those long lines anymore,
but I’m still storing grain.
I’m still gathering and sorting,
readying for what comes.
Can We Still Go / by Francesca Moroney
Can we still go
to the pumpkin patch?
my daughter asks me
after school, getting into the car, buckling
her own seat belt.
She is wearing a denim
jumper, the one her sister, also,
wore. It has patches on it:
a heart, a rainbow, a piece
of pineapple. And even though
it is raining, and late,
and the sky is the color
of chipped concrete.
Even though it is too late, too early,
I’ve had a long day, a short night,
a skipped meal, a hangover.
Even though there are groceries to buy,
her brother to nurse, the dogs
to walk, a poem to write.
Even though I know I should
tell her yes. I shake my head.
I’m sorry, I say, maybe
tomorrow and we ride
in silence, waiting for tomorrow.
God’s Field Guide – Day 102 / by Ally Schwam
So I’ve been living amongst the humans for several months now. I’ve made it through one season and I’m starting to understand “cold” now. I like the way the snow looks when it’s falling, and I understand why the humans like it, too. But I also see the downsides, the mush and slush and the way it slides under your feet and makes it difficult to walk. It’s… what-do-you-call-it… “gross.” Now that I’ve experienced feet and walking, it all makes more sense. I think I’m starting to really learn what it’s like to be human. A lot of things I thought they would enjoy now seem like obvious failures from their conception. I should’ve lived amongst them sooner. I’m happy here, but they — not so much. I’m not sure how to improve things. Although living here has helped me come up with some ideas, some of which research may prove to be effective — at least that’s the hope. Only time will tell.
The Globe / by Aline Soules
It sat for years in the lobby
of the Detroit Public Library.
Twenty feet tall, angled,
you could spin it
so Detroit was within reach.
Or, at least, the enlarging hole
where Detroit used to be
as one child after another
put his finger there, said
This is where I live.
One day, a new globe appeared,
as large as its predecessor,
but cordoned off with bank ropes.
No one spun its sphere.
No one could place a finger
on its pristine perfection.
In time, ignored.
One day, gone.
Day 11 / Poems 11
Interpretation of Dreams / by Jen Stewart Fueston
Last night I dreamed of a beetle
as long as my forearm
crawling up over the spine of my book.
Startled, I batted it hard enough
to rip off some legs, one antennae,
but it kept clawing along my arm, the armor
of its thorax black, shining, like polished obsidian.
I kept swatting at all its appendages, trying
and failing to slough him off of my skin.
Until I woke up.
To dream of beetles, apparently, means
you are niggled by a thousand small anxieties —
but that’s common brown beetles, the kind
that infest garages and subway stations.
If the beetle is flying that means luck
in love or in work. If the beetle’s a scarab
that portends fortune or riches, you’ll be able
to survive, adapt, change.
The Egyptians linked scarabs
to the sun, its returning, thus
resurrection and immortality.
Another interpretation reminds me that
beetles are protected by shells
which suggest both impenetrability
and resilience, keeping what is tender
hidden from sight, to draw on in need.
But if beetles are climbing
on or against your body, it means
that things may be worse than you expect.
In short, there is no consensus.
It was larger than any beetle I’ve seen in real life,
with a shining black body like ebony. If I believed
in such things, I might say it was something I already knew
but repels me, that visits at night when my guard is down.
Something heavy and winged asking me, please,
My Hematologist’s Mother Dies in Heart Surgery / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
He regretted going along with his brother, the cardiologist.
They’d urged her to go under.
She trusted her boys; she agreed.
Just turned seventy-three.
He’d never seen her before
without her marriage jewelry,
his father’s gifts of honor.
Never without the filigreed necklace,
the beaten gold bracelets and their jewels
(how long we waited, he and I, to afford those jewels),
the chittering earrings, certainly never
without the vermillion bindi
set over the Third Eye chakra
to render the wife mindful
of her husband’s, her family’s, well-being.
Stripped of her rings, all her lovely armor,
she was no longer anyone’s wife or mother.
He went to Pre-Op to kiss her, wish her well,
reassure her about the surgeons.
Her eyes were unrimmed with kohl,
bright with fear, vague with Versed,
her rounded body covered
by those terrible thin blankets
barely enough to get you settled in the OR.
How cold do you think it is? they’d asked me,
smiled when I guessed 60, told me it was 68.
Just like flipping a light switch:
you’re out, you’re back. Nothing in-between.
And for me that had been true.
And the times it is not true?
You will never know about it.
Please Don’t Be Very Long / by Chad W. Lutz
crossing the Bay
by bus a hush falls
over the passengers
an old man laughs and slurs
two kids bother their mom for change
wishing for an earthquake
rattle us back together
to devour the middle states
say so long
& the Dakotas
we rely on
corn too much
watching the sun
a golden tangerine
dreaming of a life
where I don’t make
the fog rolls in heavy
no song does it justice
just the thought you
“it won’t be long”
but it has
This Day is a Lover, Bread, and Gentleness, More Manifest than Saying can Say / by Rebecca Macijeski
–after lines by Rumi
This day is a quiet breakfast preparing for what comes after.
This day is round with want.
This day teaches us how to build another one,
a better one, to know the difference.
This day is another chance to listen.
Your ears will grow out, like wildflowers, if you let them.
This day is as perfect as a sleeping cat’s thigh
resting its chubbiness across your leg.
This day is crickets waiting to sing,
is a pile of books craving your eyes through their pages.
It’s an uncooked egg, a tree’s first leaf,
a mama bird, a river stone holding on
under ripples, under the threat and gleam of fish.
It’s playing catch with moonbeams
in the space before tomorrow.
This day watches kung fu movies and makes extra popcorn.
This day looks on over your shoulder reading everything you see
and jotting down notes. Its handwriting is a little forest.
This day goes for long walks through the neighborhood
sipping a soda and waving at joggers.
It collects fireflies in jars and keeps them awhile in the living room,
proud of this library of glowing.
In this way it collects you
to see what you make,
to see the worlds that tumble out
from all the words you say.
Supercreep / by Shea Montgomery
Season 1, Episode 20
Some mornings Herman comes home in a hearse,
when his shift manager feels generous
enough to give him a ride home from the morgue;
drop him off in the driveway, and this morning
Lily awaits, with a shadowy note, found in the cobwebs
of Marilyn’s room, announcing Parent’s Night is coming
to her college, and that he should surprise her;
take her to the dance.
Herman laughs, says he doesn’t know how to dance,
but that night, after dinner, Lily tries to teach him
in the living room, so he can impress the families
of people they don’t even know, show that they belong—
but it’s slow going, as Herman has no feet
for dancing, and finally Grandpa asks them to stop;
hands Herman a beer,
says it will make him a better dancer.
No time to spare, Herman goes to a dance teacher,
a small, pretty lady who smells like the hills of his home,
and the tendrils of whatever it is she puts in her hair
remind him of how he would sing out to the rain
some nights, when he was young, looking down from his room;
how the storms in the scent of her shampoo
would scatter couples on their way to dances
he’d never been asked to, or had the courage to ask about.
Herman realizes he is clutching her to him, the instructor,
at the end, when she pushes herself away from him
the lesson is over she says; that his money will be refunded;
would he please never come back again;
they just aren’t the right school for him,
but despite this Herman knows,
accident or not, even though she reminds him of home,
he creeped her out.
Permanent Markings / by Francesca Moroney
We sat in my mom’s dented Ford, the air
charged with a need I did not understand.
I thought you were funny and sweet, my hair
twisted in your fingers, you stroked each strand
while telling me what I longed to believe:
that I could be loved. Later you found a
black marker, inked our names below my sleeve
like children do, dumb and lost in cliché.
When I slept the ink transferred to my face.
I awoke to what passed as a bruised, scrubbed
my cheek raw. Months on, I had to embrace
the makeup technique or risk being judged
for what I could not control. Markers and
fists, you held the power in your closed hand.
What Saves Us / by Aline Soules
the sign announces
in large black letters.
On the other side
of the street, a dome
heralds a mosque.
In between stretches a wide
boulevard, its central median
planted with maple trees.
Beds of petunias
grow among the grass.
A marquee on
the Christian side
lists service times
and the title
of the coming Sunday sermon–
God’s Chosen People.
Day 10 / Poems 10
Tekakwitha * / by Jen Stewart Fueston
I asked the poem to give me its form
and it gave me a ladder climbing
into air and disappearing.
I listened for voices
and it showed me instead
the irrational shapes of desire,
how they look like doorways
opening into darkness
but also like votives
lit at the feet of a saint
whose name in native tongue means
she wasn’t looking for,
she who wears her wounding
like a keepsake,
she who stumbles
in the formless air
and calls it holy.
* Tekakwitha is the Mohawk name of St. Kateri, a 17th century Algonquin-Mohawk convert to Christianity who became the first Native American canonized by the Catholic Church, under Pope Benedict in 2012
Bop: Got Yourself Into This / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
Slipped on a hike, Mt. Wilson’s hills,
slipped on black ice, hidden in shade.
Fell like a phone pole, slammed my head.
. . . .Time’s up ‘til the next time, babe.
Walked across a river inches deep,
walked where the water wore granite smooth.
Slid down the face ‘til my toes grabbed rock.
. . . .Time’s up ‘til the next time, babe.
Caught in a motel, gambler’s choice.
Caught in a motel, losing all night.
Ducked out slick in the seventh race.
. . . .Time’s up ‘til the next time, babe.
Someday soon, can’t take no more.
Someday soon, no more to take.
Someday when those tears run dry.
. . . .time’s up for the last time, babe.
Nothing in the Well this Morning / by Chad W. Lutz
into the abyss
The avocado toast
The cup of coffee
What is it I’m looking for again?
If I remember correctly
I’m looking for inspiration
I’m looking for something to write about
I’m looking for a Form of Power
& maybe the Power of Form
To grab me
To hold me
To lull me
Into sweet poetic submission
I stop and listen
Put an ear to the abyss
Self Portrait as Library / by Rebecca Macijeski
The shelves go on forever, past what I see,
past what I know. I imagine the room.
It has lemon cream walls
and all colors of spines nested together
having conversations, keeping regiment
in my mind. The whole thing’s held up
by listening, a delicate structure
of sound and thoughts.
You could hear a snowman melt.
Anything outside is muffled like rain,
like hoof falls, like gathering distance.
I keep volumes for everything.
The first time I learned about planets
and what they held at their cores,
what their coldest rocks must feel like,
the smell of space.
The green that waits in trees like a surprise party
about to shout.
The glassy stares of cats out windows.
The animals that fill their mouths.
Thunder and all its opening,
what it’s sent forth onto all the roofs
I’ve slept under.
And all the hours in all the places
I’ve spent reading books,
these maps that remember.
Itt’s Back / by Shea Montgomery
Season 1, Episode 14
One night Itt shows up at the door;
Itt needs a job, is coming back to town,
needs to stay there for a bit—
Gomez could have headed Itt off, with warning
could have come up with some excuse
for why they couldn’t take Itt in,
without that, there is little they can do,
other than let Itt in, put Itt up for a week,
keep Itt hidden from the neighbors as
Morticia tries to think of a good job for Itt,
while hovering outside of Wednesday’s closed door;
locked tight for the last few days,
since after the party with the Parks Commissioner,
when they had asked permission for private use
of public land, to hunt with falcons; that only fresh,
natural air shined brightest in that instant before they killed—
when they asked permission to remove the public;
a proud instant in the legacy of the family.
Marred by Itt’s complaints for lunch;
and worry for her daughter.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Woman / by Francesca Moroney
for Wallace Stevens, and his blackbirds
Among 20,000 different women,
the only thing whistling
was the wind.
I was of three faces,
like a modern-day Eris
in which she has three faces.
The women whirled in the autumn winds.
They were not a small part of the earth.
A woman and a woman are one.
A man and a man are one.
Two women are one.
I do not know which to prefer,
the quill of the poet
or the canvas of the painter,
the still air
or the chanting air.
Well-inked signs filled the street
with antidotes to barbarity.
The shadows of the women
crossed it, to and fro.
rested in their shadows,
rested in their bodies.
O thin men of yesterday,
why do you imagine yourselves as you are not?
Do you not see how your souls
walk around in circles
not knowing how to escape?
I know strong bodies
and lucid, inescapable rhythms;
but I know, too,
that your sex is involved
in what I wish I did not know.
When the women fly out of sight,
they will transform the edges
of many different shapes and forms.
At the sight of women
flying in their own light
even the pimps among you
will cry out sharply.
He rode over his hometown
in his father’s car.
Once, a fear pierced him,
in that he mistook
someone else’s pain
for his own.
Women are rebirthed.
Only some rivers flow south.
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
and it was going to snow.
The women laughed,
an upheaval above the street.
God dreams of leaving Earth and going home / by Ally Schwam
There is still dirt on my knees
after I step out of the shower.
I wrap my heavy hair in a pink towel
and wipe my knees with toilet paper,
which falls apart in my hands.
Bits of paper stick to my skin like ticks.
The room is full of fog.
I sit in the bathtub and pretend
these clouds are clouds from heaven.
I hug myself
and think of home.
Visiting Stonehenge / by Aline Soules
As a child in the 1950s, I ran around the stones
at Stonehenge, played hide-and-seek
with whoever brought me. Placed my hand
on the cold stone to peek around for my seeker.
In the 1970s, my husband and I found it roped off
with twine barely thicker than string, but enough
to keep us apart from the standing stones.
We few visitors stared in awe and silence,
shared the field with sheep grazing nearby.
Last year, with friends, I entered a brand new
visitor center. We watched dioramas, videos,
wandered through a curated exhibit of relics
In pouring rain, we walked out to follow
a prescribed path around the stones, guide map
in hand, jostling with hundreds of others,
walking the rubber mats put down to save us
People chattered in many languages,
while children ran in the mud,
bumping into visitors, knocking over
an old lady with a quad cane.
The stones still stood, dark with wet.
The sheep were long gone.
Day 9 / Poems 9
Inherit the Earth / by Jen Stewart Fueston
We believe in changing hearts first is what my mother said
to the canvasser who knocked to ask for funds for Save the Whales.
It was the eighties so humpbacks were the cause celebre. We knew this
because on Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home — which we wore out
our copy of, the one where Captain Kirk impresses Lady Scientist (didn’t he always)
by quoting DH Lawrence, “They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains
the hottest blood of all” — the whales save us, the Enterprise flies
forward in space-time, to a better world that’s just this one
technicolored free of radiation, racism, money or religion.
Science fiction’s promises were beguiling as salvation
and we recognized the impulse, singing Sundays
I’ll fly away, oh glory, I’ll fly away.
Sometimes I wish my mom had said, we can’t afford to give
— that was true enough — but hearts came first,
the part that was eternal. Why waste your money
saving what will burn? Faith’s mechanisms worked like fire insurance,
get yourself and as many as you can out first, and only if there’s time,
you might turn and point the hose back toward the house that’s going
up in flames. This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin through.
Now my son and I read books about the universe, its galaxies, and all
the moons they’d not yet named when I went to school,
their fiery atmospheres, their singeing rains. We’ve seen the signs
of planets around distant stars in habitable zones — that narrow band
of temperature where water can exist as liquid, not as vapor or as ice.
We detect these worlds by wobbles
in their stars, or by slight dimming of their light
some mind-spun light-years distances away.
While we read, I tally up the spheres of rock and gas,
no life, no life. There is no other life we’ve ever found.
We point radio transmissions toward impossibilities and hope.
It would take a dozen years for a message to reach Luyten’s star
and another dozen for a message to come back.
Once I stood inside a gutted redwood tree, its rippled bark-ridge
susceptible to drought, but not to fire. Older than all the history I knew,
I was wordless, lump-throated by immensity, the exhilarating sense
of barely hanging on to a planet
whirling while this tree stood still and anchored it to time.
In other books, we learn there are blue whales singing
low in frequencies almost undetectable to man, calling
through the oceans for each other,
at distances we never thought they’d reach.
Sometimes my son falls asleep while I keep reading
page after page, the numbers and the names of systems,
artist renderings of star-warmed worlds, with liquid water pulsed
by possibility. I don’t want him dreaming of a better world,
I wish him realize the blue-green impossibility of this one.
Biopsy / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
A chilly room, dead quiet.
Your free eye’s corner sees
blurry taupe wall, black curtains,
the mural: green tree, bluebird’s
nest, hatching three blue eggs.
And a blue butterfly.
Why the mural was so close to the ceiling?
Now, table lifted high, you and it are eye-to-eye.
Your breast, wiped blue with iodine, an uncracked egg,
dangles out of sight
through the padded hole in the table.
Under you, out of your sight, you hear
the radiologist and her nurse,
like kids having a tea party
under the dining room table.
The part of you they need is eye-level.
She asks for the scalpel, the first needle.
At least they don’t joke.
Preparing the way for the cannula.
they nick your pendant breast.
Now lidocaine’s familiar burn,
as reassuring as getting a cavity filled,
though this is the opposite
of cavity. Don’t move. Relax.
Is it better not to be able to see?
Breathe through cramping
neck, back, shoulders, clenched jaw.
Two hours’ holding still,
to pierce all the lead aprons
you wore at the dentist.
A pluck at the lump’s blurry edge.
A surgeon will call you,
go right to the heart of the problem.
Sitting in the Japanese Temple Room, Boston Museum of Fine Arts / by Rebecca Macijeski
It was calm there, amid everything.
The room held me like a lantern might hold a moth,
or a nest a bird. I’d sit cross-legged on the long wide bench
waiting for the stone buddhas to hum.
The room lit my mind like a lantern
burning out what didn’t matter,
opening instead for buddhas and humming.
I spent whole afternoons with their songs.
Burned out from study, I sought out
the closeness of the temple room,
shadows of people flickering in and out.
Steady in their paths through the museum.
The closeness of the temple room
drew me inward to my growing world of thoughts,
steady in their steps to the museum.
In the quiet, the rhythm, I grew my own tune.
My thinking drew the world in.
Equations and philosophies were only one knowledge
in the quiet, the rhythm that grew.
The other was this body, this breathing.
Books could only teach so much.
I wanted more, to learn from
my own body, my own breathing.
So I kept coming back.
I was calm there amid everything.
I wanted to learn more than ideas,
more than centuries of talking,
so I kept coming back there
to where the buddhas hummed, steady in stone.
I was calm there, amid everything.
Persephone Meets Hades / by Shea Montgomery
Season 1, Episode 12
Gomez has quite a laugh when he finds out
Fester can’t get the light bulb to light up, so to speak;
that it must have been some happy accident
they had all been in the basement, literally derailing
model trains when Fester decided to come out and tell him,
that things weren’t quite working—down there.
Fester seems to think he has an emotional block, tells
his brother he wants to drown himself rather than think
of a world without sex, some feeling of touch;
Gomez thinks Fester has blown a fuse, though he’s glad
when he looks at his wife, things happen, so he tells his brother
to get a tan; if he looked good, he’d feel good—
Fester finally breaks down, calls that doctor family,
the Reynolds, that son of theirs; his bag full of pills
Morticia’s friends liked to talk about when their husbands
weren’t in the room, that made two kinds of a living,
since coming home from a school his family delighted
in telling other people they paid so much to send him to.
The Reynolds boy shows up an hour later, pockets rattling
as he walks up the drive, right to Wednesday sitting
in a tree by the door, waiting to ask him where his mask and spear are,
scream that all heroes need them, when the boy laughs,
says he has one better, that having a family doctor
is like having your own private delicatessen.
Tethering / by Francesca Moroney
I used to believe that it was they
who needed you, and not I.
I saw myself as their protector and you
allowed me to keep them safe. I’d loop one
end around their canine necks, the other
around my human wrist – their positivity matched
against my negativity – and off we’d go
into a world that gives us teenagers in moving
vehicles packed too tightly and against
all laws and common sense, Snapchatting
while driving, drinking bottled sweet tea and passing
a joint in the backseat, plus steel mill workers
bleary-eyed and nodding
off after overnight shifts, tailgating
a yellow school bus on its morning route. You
make it possible for me to protect my dogs from those
dangers and more, from all that I find
undesirable: skunks sunning
themselves on the neighbor’s lawn, the wasps
intent on destroying what remains of a rotted
backyard deck, a visiting Pekingese. But I see
now that your purpose is actually
the reverse: it is I who needs their four-legged
protection, and you allow them to remove
me from all that they find undesirable: calendar
requests, app notifications, my hyperactive
beta waves, a dopamine addiction. With you
to connect us, they escort me away from
an angry email from an angry client, from my own
angry voice inside my own angry head. They show me
the way out, beneath the mulberries, the choke-
cherries, the bitternut hickories. You tether me
to them and together we stand in awe of a long-
necked crane perched regally on one foot at the place
where the water of the creek meets the silty dirt. We scamper
after rusty-colored chipmunks and sniff deer
tracks in the mud; we lap rain water from
the cloudy puddles at our feet. And when
we are spent and panting, we turn ourselves around
and point our noses in the direction of home.
God sees a child drowning and cannot move / by Ally Schwam
After the incident, God sits on a bench near the lake,
staring into the black water. Her hands are knitted tightly
in her lap.
Police sirens bleed blue and red into the night.
Finally, everyone leaves.
The sky is so dark that it looks as if the lake
Somewhere in the night, a homeless man sleeps on a bench
in an empty park. In the morning,
a woman will sit there and watch her children play.
Ice Cream / by Aline Soules
All you have to do is put sugar, cream, and milk in a pan,
stir it over low heat to dissolve the sugar, cool the mixture,
add flavors, and pour it into a modern ice cream maker.
Turn on the machine, wait, and voilà. Ice cream.
So where’s the snag? After all, the International Dairy
Foods Association says the average American eats
almost 22 pounds a year. With that much consumption
what could go wrong? Calories? Lactose intolerance?
Dental rot? Not good, but nothing
compared to succumbing to commercial equivalents
with calcium sulfate, polysorbate 80, magnesium hydroxide,
xanthan gum, corn syrup solids, potassium sorbate, mono-
and diglycerides, and guar gum.
I bet the Persians never had any of those back in 500 BC
when people in the Achaemenid Empire made a chilled food
from rose water and vermicelli, and mixed it with saffron,
fruits, and other flavors. Of course, only royalty got to eat it.
The Chinese ate frozen milk and rice around 200 BC,
taking advantage of saltpetre to lower the freezing point
below zero. We can thank them for the original
ice cream maker.
Then there’s the Greeks. In the 5thcentury BC, they ate snow
mixed with honey and fruit in the markets of Athens. Hippocrates
encouraged his patients to eat ice. It livens the life-juices,
increases well-being. Would he say that now?
Nero brought ice from the mountains to combine with fruit toppings.
Mughal emperors had ice brought from the Hindu Kush to Delhi
for fruit sorbets. You can buy commercial Kulfi today. Oh darn,
I forgot about the guar gum.
In the West, the first known recipe for flavored ices is in French
from 1674. Mais oui. Who else? The Italians came out
with sorbetti some twenty years later and the English
brought up the rear in the 18th century.
Americans first saw a reference to ice cream in 1744
and a recipe appeared in the 1751 edition of Hannah Glasse’s
The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy. “To make ice cream…
set it into the larger Bason. Fill it with Ice, and a Handful of Salt.”
Nothing plain and easy about keeping the salt out of the mix,
which Ms. Glasse doesn’t mention. But onward and upward.
Americans eventually rebelled, threw tea in Boston Harbor,
made their own country, and kept the ice cream.
Day 8 / Poems 8
This is just to say / by Jen Stewart Fueston
I have not written
that I wanted
which I had been
saving for lunch hour.
in tech support.
I’ll try to
so inefficient and
This Space Between Us / by Chad W. Lutz
lying in your bed
stranger in a familiar place
million miles between us
all I can see is your face
on the mattress next to me
lips puffing pursed
chest rising slow & cool
throat slight wheeze to a whisper
I could have slept on the floor
I could have slept on the couch
I could have stayed faithful to you eight months ago
but I didn’t
I cheated on you
never told you
listened to Coldplay
thought about turning gay
ate an entire bag of chips
ate another bag of chips
cut my arms
this time new
how does a person weigh happiness?
what price should we put on love?
is it fifty years with great sex
& could you please stop
drinking milk directly from
is it blissful rapturous joy
through every busted hubcap
& benign tumor?
is it accepting my stupid tattoo
& my tendency to pick you flowers?
is it being there for hours?
is it 1+1=2?
tonight was the first time
I’d thought of you in
220 days & suddenly
you’re beside me &
I’m up late watching
you sleep & thinking
& that maybe
this space between us
may be the best pain
I’ve ever felt
Anatomy of Kindness / by Rebecca Macijeski
It’s brought back at night in the sounds of crickets.
It lives underneath your pillow where dreams burrow from.
It sleeps in the refrigerator between the celery
and the lettuce you forgot to eat
that softens and browns in silence.
It comes when you call not because of obeying,
but because it grows inside you.
There’s more brain in it than you might think.
The skull that surrounds it glows in bright,
technicolor thinking. It lives to become another movie,
another shared history. All that dancing and light.
Kindness crosses the space between us
like a transaction, a transmission,
an unspoken agreement from one me to another me
that says, you are there. I see you. What books do you know?
What movies remind you where you’ve been?
When kindness enters a room
it brings refreshments. Pretzels mostly,
but also chocolate and sliced pears.
I thought you might like this, it’ll say,
and keep walking into the next room,
turning on the twinkle lights.
Technically a Chance / by Shea Montgomery
Season 1, Episode 15
Herman thinks that trouble and the world orbit Marilyn—
that in fact, if it isn’t one thing with Marilyn, it’s another
entirely when she comes home one day crying,
saying she’s been kicked out of college,
that the tuition bill hadn’t been paid.
Herman arrives at the campus office that morning
with a check, he’s pretty sure will clear, something
to get Marilyn back into school, to get her out of here
even if she isn’t technically family,
she technically has to have a chance.
Herman walks campus corridors and hallways, halls filled
with doors closed to him until he finally came to a room,
back before, when they didn’t move as much, before
he’d even met Lily when two men ,who can’t believe how tall
he is keep asking him How high? Reeling, when he says 7’3”
They called him “The Moose,” tossed him a ball, stared
agape at how Herman could hold the ball in one hand,
sign a contract with the other, then toss it all away,
through a basket, without even looking towards a future—
his career, his life, now children, hyper tension.
The men even kicked out another kid, the lucky bastard,
who showed up for the tryouts, told him the position
had been filled when they saw Herman do a lay-up
through three guys on the team;
and free throws—never missed. Godly.
Until that night, that bar, after that concert—so many
that’s from that night, so many consequences from that night;
a busted ankle, disturbing the peace, assault, the loss
of a scholarship because some asshole said his ex-girlfriend
had a nice ass over a game of pool.
Herman finally finds the right office, gives the lady
the check, tells her it would be best to wait
until Friday to cash it, but that it might go through
a little before, if they really have to have the cash;
then he leaves for home, back to 1313 Mocking Bird Lane.
That night, Herman tells Marilyn to go to school in the morning,
that everything has been taken care of,
he knows she technically doesn’t have a good chance,
but she has a chance, so he has to help her take it; hopefully
not blow it on a guy like he was, with a convertible, and no gas money.
Ghosting / by Francesca Moroney
You heard the crash, Mary, for
here you are, drying your hands
on your blue apron, the colander
clattering to the floor in the kitchen
where you had been washing grapes.
Your face contorts, mostly, I think,
in surprise, and not grief, not yet, although
I hope the grief will come, eventually, even if
it causes you pain, for my ego is not
dead yet and to think that you would not mourn
our fifty-two wedded years would leave me
even more breathless than I already
am. You are kneeling
on the floor by our bed
and although this ache in my heartspace
has subsided perhaps I have broken
a rib, and did you ever believe, Mary,
the stories we were taught
of Adam and Eve? Did Adam bequeath
his rib to Eve, or the reverse?
Were we to pity them?
Who died first?
I am glad that today it is I
who leaves before you,
for although I see pain
and fear on your soft, sweet face, Mary,
I also see a glistering relief. And
who might I be, after all,
if not the kind of departed
husband who can want
for his widowed wife all
that he could not offer her
in his earthly body:
time to eat crackers for dinner,
wear slippers in the daytime,
play her guitar, leave the unwashed dishes
in the sink, prune her rose garden?
I see now all that I took
from you; your quick swallows
have already slowing, the slope of your spine
already straightening. I see the way
your vertebrae stack neatly
beneath your thin housedress.
I want to stay with you and so
I watch you dial 911, call
for our children, aging themselves,
to hold your body with theirs. But when
this room fills with strangers, Mary,
when I am displaced by a metal stretcher
and beeping machines and flashing lights,
then I must depart. I will watch
my body turn to ashes and dust.
I pray you will forgive me,
Mary, all of my trespasses, especially
that I never asked if you believed
the story of Adam and Eve.
God goes to her 9 to 5 / by Ally Schwam
God sits on the subway.
God gets in line for Starbucks coffee,
chews on her fingernails while she waits.
God is double jointed and 6 feet tall.
God is a workaholic, the work is never done,
is never perfect, is never ready.
God is eating a Subway sandwich for her 30-minute lunch break.
God licks her fingers after eating a bag of Cheetos.
God wants to take a shower and wash the day off.
God wants to go to sleep at 10 pm and wake up at 10 am.
God wants so many things.
God wants someone to acknowledge her work,
her art, give her feedback and not sugarcoat it.
But not be too honest either.
God writes code for three hours straight and lets her fingers go numb.
God wants someone to share her mundane life with.
God takes antidepressants.
God doesn’t know if they’re working yet.
God doesn’t know anything.
At least, it doesn’t feel like it.
It’s too much pressure, building a life
out of nothing.
. . . . . .World / by Aline Soules
my son colors a blue-green dream
summer and sky
we tape his art to the window
sun shines through
we reach for the dream
see through to the world
beyond the sunlit paper
a tiny hornet
stinger not yet formed
crawls behind the dream
as real in shadow
as the dream in light
Day 7 / Poems 7
Baltic Fragments / by Jen Stewart Fueston
October is the weather of memory. In the autumn damp
I smell sea birds and the Baltic air, and darkness grips at boot heels
like I never left. Memory recedes like the light does, in increments,
until an epoch has gone dark. Streets go first, then the
words for vegetables — but never milk, never bread. There, in the
air a hum of salt begins to freeze on the bay, a thin scruff
of chopped glass, breaking into white sand.
What remains are names
of rivers cutting through the heart
of all the cities where I lived, and
the fragile bridges I crossed like borders
between sleep and waking. Between a life embraced and
another life believed in like a prayer. Each fall,
the darkness seemed to spill like ink over the birches,
heavy with the precise weight of history, thick but silent.
Always back and forth across a dim map, moving,
I remember only the signposts of the villages from windows
of the trains, reflected in the harsh dark of platform signals,
where we idled, without the paperwork to disembark.
Once, you next to me, I wanted
to reach for your hand, but it rested
there like a book unopened,
written in a language I could never learn to speak.
Why I Had No Poem the Day the Senate Confirmed Kavanaugh / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
My last aunt’s eightieth birthday.
Everyone was who they always are.
Law prof John insisted
on a game with complex instructions
requiring high-level analysis and synthesis
at which he excels, still.
Not so great for
the dyslexic cousin, or the birthday girl,
or his depressed wife. who sighed,
I’m eighty and I don’t have the energy
to be this depressed. I agreed
to walk the neighborhood
for this election, but I’m so tired.
My sweet cousin, the one
who once sat with me to watch the moon rise
groaned This is bad. Really bad.
One woman after another asked me
Has it happened yet.
My desperate cousin confided
I know how to live
by being what everyone else thinks
I should be, but I don’t know
how to know what I want.
Because what’s the point.
The son of my other cousin and his husband
crawled around under the table,
his shoelace tail trailing,
tickling over our bare feet.
The husband and I scrambled eggs slowly.
We agreed that eggs needed cream and salt,
that we were both on the verge of tears,
but everyone needed to eat.
Last night I dreamt a vague dream.
Doom was approaching, but
I’ve dreamt that dream so often lately
I don’t even keep the images any more.
Late Flag / by Chad W. Lutz
On the Government
Repeat the same mistakes
A Couple Bathing in the Portland City Fountain / by Rebecca Macijeski
Maybe they didn’t have any place to be.
Maybe they decided they’d be each other’s home.
When their feet hit the water, clouds of dust
bloomed and drifted. When they peeled loose skin
from each other’s backs, they were no longer useless.
When I was twenty-five and lost and alone
I couldn’t understand their washing.
I only looked at what I saw. The sunburns.
The blisters, the sores, the froth in the fountain
when they emptied their travel-sized bottles of soap
and scrubbed the length of their legs.
All I saw was their bodies.
In my memory, when I look again,
I see the gentleness and care,
I see a private moment, unmoored, wild in the open air.
It had nothing to do with me. Nothing about my listening
or my witness. The moment was what they made,
built from their closeness, the movement of their hands.
Now that I’m older with my own someone to love,
I see two selves meeting wherever they can.
I see the smiles. I see them tending to wounds, to where
the world opened them up.
I hear the water growing louder around them
to back away, to let them have their quiet,
to hold them up, to let this be love and washing.
Never Half Full / by Shea Montgomery
Season 1, Episode 12
Grandpa wanders out some nights;
some nights they catch him on the way out, others not.
Those are the terrifying nights—once, it was two days
until they found him, in the old neighborhood, the one they knew.
Grandpa wanders out one night when Herman is in the living room reading—
He wanders around, Herman ignores him, believes he’ll tire
but finally has to stop him when he opens a window,
tries to get out; fights back, when Herman tries to pull him in,
screams that Herman may be used to it being hot where he is from,
but he’ll be damned if he’s going to roast to death in a hot house,
in the middle of the summer—
Herman drags him in, and Grandpa takes off a shoe,
throws it through the window—There, now it HAS to be open,
he cackles maniacally, the whole way down the hall
as Herman gets him back to his room, the house settles,
and the family tries to get back to sleep.
Grandpa out another night, or morning actually;
he got up before everyone else, put on his suit, and left—
Herman threw the alarm clock through the wall that morning,
he’d been signed up for overtime, now had to spend it
searching for a man he didn’t even like,
searching for a man that apparently no one had seen
as he wandered up the streets of this new neighborhood,
asking anyone, everyone, couples working in the driveway
on projects that seem to become less important
than suddenly being back inside whenever he is around,
so Herman looks for Grandpa alone.
Grandpa wandered out that day, but they had found him by the afternoon.
Lily had met Herman with the car, they had shared
a quick lunch at the corner burger store, eyes darting
at faces and figures across the street, on the sidewalk,
anywhere, they thought they might see him—
Lily always said he could be anywhere,
and that word never seemed so heavy
as when she said it then—anywhere.
They had finished eating, gone back to the car,
spent a half hour searching the parking lot at the zoo,
as sometimes that’s where he ended up—not this time though.
They had turned around, to return home;
Eddie would be home from school soon,
he could help in the search—and then Grandpa appeared,
on a street corner near the garden,
He’d set up a magic act, for people walking by,
near an honest to goodness payphone—
He stood behind a dirty box, covered in motor oil,
with a tin can full of dry grass he’d stacked up next to his stage;
The Domino Club was open all night he would pronounce,
then catch the grass alight with a zippo
he’d picked up god knows where.
Herman had jumped out of the car in traffic
as they drove by, Lily had to turn around across
two lanes, but she’d done it, she pulled up,
just as Herman was getting an arm around him;
He was wearing his suit jacket, but no pants, and he was so cold—
but they warmed him up on the way back home,
they had brought blankets, blasted the heater,
got him home and in his bed before Herman broke his silence,
told Lily that the thing that bothers him most
when her father gets out, does these things,
is that sometimes the cup he puts out for tips
actually has money in it.
The Jane Collective, Chicago, circa 1970 / by Francesca Moroney
When the knock came, we were ready.
We had already dressed two scared women
more quickly than we would have liked. We shoved
apples and aspirins in their pockets, scribbled new addresses
on scraps of paper, Memorize this,
then destroy it, shoved them out
on the unprotected back porch,
three cold and rickety flights of stairs between them
and the back alley. We didn’t bother trying to hide
the piles of dirty linens or the soaked sanitary pads
lazing in the waste bins. We composed
our faces. Jane put on her oversized black cardigan,
pushed her glasses up higher on her nose.
Once outside, watching the flashing lights
circle in place atop the wagon, I started to wonder
if we had made a mistake. They took Jane first while I stared
at the bright silver handcuffs sliding up and down
her thin arms, arms that, not an even an hour before,
were slowly removing a warmed metal coil
from an unnamed woman’s cervix.
And now it is my turn, and the cuffs are as cold
as a speculum and the back of this truck
smells worse than our trash bags at the end
of a full day: blood, fecal matter, sweat, urine.
We have planned for this, knew that this
could happen. I see Jane nod to me, just once,
reminding me not to protest and so therefore I do not
cry out when the officer’s hand squeezes
my upper arm too tightly, when he laughs
as he pushes me into this scary metal box.
I look again at Jane, and her eyes are dry and clear.
We sit side by side on the metal bench.
Yeah, the boss’ll be pleased as punch with these two broads.
Wicked as shit, the both of them. We wait
while they check their walkie-talkies, turn their sirens on,
light their cigarettes. We ride a few more blocks and then,
still not speaking, we turn our backs on each other.
With four fumbling hands,
we remove a stack of index cards
from Jane’s underwear. As the truck bumps along,
the officers no longer interested
in our doings, she and I take turns turning
and curving our spines down towards
the other’s sacrum, prostrating ourselves
to the other’s shackled hands: two
bodies, four hands, two mouths. The paper
tastes of wooden ice cream spoons, the ones packaged
in single servings of vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate,
cold and sweet at ballparks and street fairs.
By the time we arrive at the station,
there will be nothing left
to show for our work
but these dull, lonely aches,
low in our bellies.
God doesn’t go to church / by Ally Schwam
I don’t believe in humans. There’s this giant church in my town that preaches of our creations, of all the small life forms that live in our wake. Apparently, when we breathe, new universes are made, spiraling out of our mouths and mixing with each other. Most of these universes are said to be made of dust, or simply defined space. But it is told that in one of these many universes, there exists a complex ecosystem filled with life forms, some of which the church calls humans. I don’t know where they come up with this stuff. I’ve listened to their reasons and arguments and it just doesn’t make sense to me. But many of the gods who go to church say it gives them hope. If they’ve created something just by being alive, they have meaning. They feel empowered, important. Many have told me to just have faith, but I don’t know how (nor do I know if I want to know how). It just doesn’t click with me. I prefer to leave things a mystery. But I’m happy for them, you know. It’s just not for me.
Dying 101: an Introduction / by Aline Soules
Everyone registered in this class should have taken
the pre-requisites Birth 101 and Living 101 prior to enrollment.
If not, please see the registrar.
There are no other restrictions.
You’re never too old or too young.
There are no limitations for pre-existing medical conditions
or doctor-provided prescriptions.
Please turn to the syllabus.
Readings can help you through the five stages of death
physical elements of dissection, decay, transplants, donations to science
mortuaries, morticians, funerals, and the debunking thereof
religious perspectives of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and others
artistic perspectives by Dante, Dickinson, Thomas, and others
We will discuss the following
How did he pass/pass on/pass away?
. . . . . . .On a ship, in a car, on a plane?
Resting in peace/eternal rest/asleep
. . . . . . .How do we know?
Gave up the ghost
. . . . . . .What did she keep? Where did the ghost go?
Kicked the bucket
. . . . . . .Where did the bucket go? How’s her foot?
Was called home
. . . . . . .I thought he left that behind.
Went to heaven/met her maker/went to be with the Lord
. . . . . . .Where?
Is in a better place
. . . . . . .Where?!
Life’s better than the alternative.
. . . . . . .How do we know? Can’t we go to the better place? (see above)
Regardless of your participation or performance, graduation
is beyond your control. You will be given an incomplete until your time comes.
Death 101 will be taken after graduation.
Day 6 / Poems 6
If I could make this easy / by Jen Stewart Fueston
I would tell you to do something
like I did, to fill a crust with apples
and the dust of cinnamon, to busy
your hands in the making, to tell yourself
that these are the subtle arts by which
women have always endured.
I would tell you about the photograph I saw
of the women in Siberian work camps who drew
colored stars on butcher paper and pinned them
to their skirts, about the violet threads that remained
still woven through their tablecloths
someone had saved and put there on display.
I wish I could tell you that beauty does not weary
and that making is the answer to both anger
and desire. But we do these things
because we don’t know what else to do.
History’s one long defeat, it’s always dark
just before it’s darker. I don’t know
how to end this poem. My son has climbed into
my lap and I’m tempted to write about
the innocence of his eyelashes, to make him
and all the years I’ve promised him
our easy answer. That our bodies are made for
birthing, but we’re undone in the doing.
Storisende / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
Those stories that proceed to the end of their world, Narnia and Fillory, Middle Earth and Earthsea, their end is far away, always the longest journey, longer than pleasure, than courage. The waters are uncharted at the end, concealing an island so far away that even the mythical dwellers in the fictional world think the island is a legend. The mountain is visible but so remote, so far beyond your little strength. Your wooden boat is creaky and leaky and kept seaworthy only by your periodic spells. Your boat streaks across open seas where no rain falls, it travels so far west that you leave behind the stars you knew, and no known guide left. Your food from home is long gone. Nothing but strange new stars, brighter than should be possible where the world has gone so dark.
The end is empty of everything except its ending, its sudden sunlight bleaching bones, its caustic corrosive fumes making you squint. No native plants, no Galapagos finches. One world has dragons. Another, merely fellness. The others have border agents who stamp your papers one last time. The authors seem pleased with the agents, make them whimsical, officious, ludicrous in the face of those long brave voyages. Also somehow the agents are anchoring. Here bureaucracy serves to keep the edges tight, controlling exit or escape or arrival, so no one will sail away into the air and leave that earth forever.
These worlds are flat earths, the rim to be climbed like a mountain, over the peak through the turn between the sides, between gravities, between the flip of up and down, first heavy then free. What can it be, to be slammed up against your worst self before you find your way. Everyone agrees: reaching the end of the world changes you at your core. Some stories have people who know and kneel in awe. Other stories, people are oblivious, or innocent, as the story goes. Mostly no one believes you.
These books all agree that this long way around should be the short way home. So say all the books, but my heroes know you have to climb or swim all the way back and all the way up. Perhaps the others find return short because they were not there.
Camelot’s Redemption / by Chad W. Lutz
the drummer in Astro Park
slamming beats along streets
at the corner of Grand Ave.
palm trees swaying
bike bells clanging
Tennyson once said
“the city is built to music
therefore never built at all
and therefore forever”
work skirt swishing
blonde hair blowing
body moving away
I wish for a moment
we’d never kissed
Self Portrait as Blackhole / by Rebecca Macijeski
See how all light and sound collapses
at the point just before my face.
See how my mind transforms matter
so that books and moves tumble in
but find they way back out again
as thoughts, as feelings, as reasons why
I have and love what I do.
See these neurons lighting like road maps.
Each memory a rest stop in another seedy town.
See the flowers, the whole big garden of them.
The way their stalks shout like arrows for the sky
then soften into blooms when they arrive.
See the bright stars of this thinking
eaten by my brain’s sheer uncontrollable mass.
See these swaths of color as they’re shorn from the sky,
and fall as birds to this distant, unknowable forest floor.
See the space between all things grow small.
Days and weeks and cantaloupe and sheep fade down into same.
It begins with the first squeeze into thought, focusing the mind,
narrowing the gaze the same way yeast finds bread,
music finds a flute, the same way trees sleep all winter
then wake one morning to the shudder of their own leaves.
The same way apples ripen and markets hum with spices.
The way moths meet lanterns,
fluttering to an end
in those sure orbs of light.
An Amazon Stringing Her Bow / by Shea Montgomery
Season 1, Episode 10
Wednesday had a secret, or at least she did
until Pugsley told on her, the snitch;
he knew she had a habit of playing with Fester’s things;
his dynamite, poison, and knives,
but the prize AR-15 rifle had always been off limits—
girls shouldn’t handle guns, he’d told her.
It hadn’t stopped her from coveting its smooth metal,
the collapsible stock, and fluid action, it gave way
to her instincts so invitingly; and the thought of her
and the fate of thirty odd souls separated
by the twitch of a finger, the smell of cordite;
called to her, she couldn’t resist—
How was it her fault Pugsley walked in,
right as she was squeezing the trigger?
He’d run off to their parents and squealed;
they’d taken her jump rope, and her spider,
for two weeks, the outrage! Then they sent her to her room,
where she listens to them now, through the vents,
discussing her further punishment—she hears
Fester tell her father they shouldn’t spare the rod with the child.
Dad used to beat us, mom too, when we misbehaved;
look how we turned out: successful, well bred, hungry.
Wednesday begins to pack, decides she’ll run away,
so she stuffs clothes and spell books into a bag,
her braids flapping against her shoulders as she works.
Perhaps she’ll go to a different city, work in a tuna cannery,
somewhere they would never look for her,
away from them, the family, the influence—
But she can’t do it. Her bag is only halfway full
when she pulls everything back out,
hangs her dresses back up, and puts the dustjacket back
onto her copy of the Necronomicon, remembering
how she and her mother used to laugh when they read it
before bedtime—she can’t leave her like this, alone.
So she sits in her room, waiting to leave, passing
the time practicing field stripping a rifle in her mind,
carefully laying each part out, thirsty for oil, in a ritual fashion
that only ends with the inevitable footfalls from down the hall
stopping at the door to her room; and the shadows of her parents
spilling in towards her from the void of the hallway.
Class Rings / by Francesca Moroney
My wounds are not so great,
more like nicks and cuts.
Yet I have seen my share of hate,
have heard my share of “slut.”
I have known hands large and white,
felt the pain they can inflict.
We pay for all their appetites
and bleed like wretched fish, gills slit
atop the ocean. And still my sisters sing
their praises to these men,
panicked in their navy suits, class rings
and heavy watches. Enough, then,
of my sisters, I’ll go this path alone,
and I will reconsider for what I must atone.
God & The Invention / by Ally Schwam
I created the rain.
It’s one of the first things I created.
Two years ago I started as an assistant
at the Creation Center and then a year later
got promoted to junior programmer.
The first task I got was to program
what a higher-up called “rain.”
Rain was just water that would fall
from the sky every now and then.
It was a nice first project to work on.
I thought rain was very beautiful and pleasant,
especially the sound design. The pitter patter.
Turns out that rain was received poorly–
no pun intended. The Human Emotion Rating
dropped an average of 3 points on rainy days. That hurt.
They tell you during training not to take it personally,
but I couldn’t help it. I thought about it a lot,
especially during the weekends.
Too much free time to think, too much time
for guilt. What really stung, though,
was the report we received on the human invention
of something called a “shower”.
The report stated that the shower was a sort of pipe
set up so that it would sprinkle water on a human’s head.
It was a huge success with the humans.
I was livid. During the report meeting,
I slammed my fists on the table. It’s just rain!
They just created rain! I didn’t come back to work
for a while. I stayed home and slept
and tried not to think about it. However, the more time goes by,
the more I can understand.
The shower was their creation.
And I understand how easy it is
to fall in love with your own creations.
Maybe I’m just not cut out for this kind of work.
Winter Train Ride / by Aline Soules
The train takes off down the track to hurry me back
to where I began. Noise and steam
crescendo to soprano range, houses and town
build their rhythm as we gather speed
for the long-distance run. I have been up all night,
traveling on trains, but now, I am on the last leg
of a journey back to bury my father.
Rows of stubble in the fields race by like the years
of his life. Dense clusters of conifers are so dark
they highlight the reflection of my solitary face in the fogged
train window. I rub a circle in the steam with my sleeve
to see a frozen lake slide by.
Farms and villages pass in intermittent wisps.
Gardens sleep under a film of snow and an upturned boat
waits for a warner day. How my father loved to go out
in boats, even though he couldn’t swim. I remember him
rowing through a roiling sea, his body and the boat rising
and falling with the waves.
An abandoned swing shifts in the wind. He made
my childhood swing, burying concrete blocks
deep in the ground to anchor it firmly in the back yard
of a house we lived in only a few years.
Electrical towers with Siva arms hold up looping lines,
canopy the landscape for a flock of starlings that rise
to scree silently and wheel out of sight. When I was small,
he pressed me one-handed high above his head, swore
it would be time to die when he couldn’t do it anymore.
A dilapidated tool shed gapes through its half-open door.
A lumberyard drifts past, cluttered with logs,
disarrayed like my tired mind. I could barely toddle
when I held up tools and boards, proud to help him
with his household projects.
I gulp the scenery as the train nears the finish line.
A last silo looms large by a barn before it slips away,
along with a stop sign on a deserted road.
Larger than life, people said of him, larger than life.
Day 5 / Poems 5
Confirmation Hearing / by Jen Stewart Fueston
justice is a bone picked
Kafka Takes on 30/30 / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
Kafka knows that this is not a good time. He really shouldn’t have agreed to produce a poem every day for a month. He doesn’t even write poems—too meaningful, too lyrical. And he certainly couldn’t produce a parable every day. Those might as well be written in blood, right? But he has spread the word to his café buddies, so now he can’t back out.
But why not? He hasn’t yet been able to sign up. He expected a challenge, but he never expected that the biggest challenge would be signing up for the project. A journal, a press, run for love; yet signing up has turned out to be like Austro-Hungarian bureaucracy. You gather all the proper documentation and you show up on time—you’d better—and then you wait. And wait. And the line doesn’t move, and when it finally creeps up by one person, the man behind you says, Die gute Frau God bless that kind woman in a voice trembling with tears. Kafka consulted with the proper functionaries, he made inquiries about forms and procedures. And they’ve responded, kindly or impatiently, every single time, and they assured him that if he followed their instructions all would be well. Well, he did! and he did! and they still don’t find him on the roster.
What made him agree in the first place? He is forced to admit to himself that he wanted to be one of the cool kids. He wanted the warm relief of recognition, the little bump of belonging that he gets at best from Max, the small liquid warmth of connection and safety, and none is there, not even in a form letter of welcome. And what makes him think he can set aside the time, the focus, to produce finished writing every day? Oh sure, he has the time he uses to write at night, but ending up with something ready to send out—! Dream on, editors, dream on.
A Ford or a Kavanaugh? / by Chad W. Lutz
knocking on the
is it summer?
is it summer?
whether the snows blow
a stack of papers
& another nods
in these tiny
by women perhaps
lost on deaf ears
Here You Are / by Rebecca Macijeski
Listen out, wide, the way a river moves.
Listen loud. Listen to the slumber
of your own throat as you wake,
how it waits full of songs.
Listen to the voices who think they know you,
but only enough to turn their spells back on them.
They don’t belong here.
Listen to time passing, steady as salt into oceans.
Oceans eat everything. Even land.
Listen to what trees keep whispering.
Leaves are secrets are oracles are maps for home.
Listening is to ears what eggshells are to open hands.
Hold the quiet. Don’t let it break.
To listen is to join the bigness of everything,
to know the air that warms your body
is the stuff that builds planets, the same listening
that puts the black on ravens, the speed in cheetahs.
It brings you back to what you know. The facts of things.
How they feel when you learn them,
like the earth herself leans down
and pours the knowledge in
as plain as meadow grass,
as steady as mountain rain.
How to Influence People / by Shea Montgomery
Season 1 , Episode 9
On Fridays, Morticia feeds her flowers in the garden,
careful to stroke their thorny backs when they choke on their food
while Gomez watches the neighborhood through his telescope—
today it’s the Munster family, across the street,
pinned by his gaze; his eye refracted to the size
of a god’s as he peers through the eyepiece.
He watches, announces that they should invite the Munsters
over to play bridge, as a way to cross the gap between them,
introduce themselves, show off their souls of graciousness and charm;
so they send Pugsley across the street with invitations,
while Morticia prepares her prized toad fricassee,
and Gomez polishes the silver.
Lurch is playing his finest tunes on the harpsichord
when the Munsters arrive, and they all sit in the candlelit game room,
cards in hand, as Morticia and Lily trade recipes, complement dresses,
while Herman and Gomez take shots of tequila, both savvy enough
players to realize the other is bluffing through the cigar smoke
that hangs in the air above them—
As they play, Gomez notices Herman’s eyes wander
towards his prize marlin, and he asks if he is a fisherman—
Herman says he would like to be, but hasn’t the time to be one;
so drunkenly, Gomez tells him that if it’s on the wall,
it’s on the ball, and you must already have what it takes,
so he wants him to have it as a house warming gift.
Fellow fisherman should stick together he says,
or so he had once read in a book,
then he tears the fish from the wall, stumbles to his toolbox,
grabs a hammer, nails, and marches past them all,
across the street, through the Munster’s front door,
and nails it up above their mantle like a martyr.
He bends nails, smashes his thumb, but in the end turns
to all the shocked faces that have followed him,
every one of them, his shoulders square, his hammer
firmly in hand, declares that it ties the room together.
Don’t they agree? He tells the Munsters he likes them,
as he wipes blood off his hands—they could be his kind of people.
Nicks and Cuts / by Francesca Moroney
The surgeon, when she wasn’t looking, simply slid
the slippery Breast into the waiting metal pan. She watched
the sticky red blood cling to the sides as it fell
down along the side. She felt slightly aghast but also
exhilarated as she felt for a moment what a world could be
and so she offered him her Toes
I really don’t need them all
and so he took them one by one.
But he and his white coat and expensive
leather shoes had been replaced
by a figure in a porkpie hat and she looked
at it telescoping towards the ceiling and felt
freer now. Her body spun in
glistering, undulating Circles, hovering just off
She debated momentarily her right hand or
her left hand the left she felt was closer
to the heart and the right the hand that held
take them Both she declared and exhilarated now
she watched the parts pile up in the toosmall pan
now her Elbow with the itchy scar from the weeping
willow, now a part of her
Abdomen, grown soft
and distended with each raised child hairless and smooth
veins Blue under the skin and electric
Red where they met the oxygen in this small room.
One Kneecap, then the other, resting
in the pan like two poached eggs at that fancy hotel where
her husband took her, just once, when she thought
she was happy. The doctor has returned and sprouted
an aloe plant from the top of his head and she tries
to remember what her mother taught her
about the uses of the gel, tacky as cum. She reaches
for the plant, her phantom elbows mourning
the loss of her toes and although the doctor never
moves his head she cannot reach the waxy leaves. She considers
her internal Organs: is it True the Spleen is an aberration
of evolution? Like Wisdom teeth or a sixth
perfect Toe on a lovesome newborn foot? She wishes she had paid
better attention in anatomy class, her scalpel-wielding teacher at the front
of the room while she stared down at the fetal pigs
in formaldehyde lined up thirty years ago just like
her daughter lines up her lifelike dolls today.
She wonders what he would cut in order to reach The Spleen.
What traverse of veins and highways on the superhighway of her.
She thinks, perhaps too late, that she has made
a Mistake. She peers
into the metal pan that the doctor
has apparently abandoned
on her bedside table. This pan gleams silver with her Fatigue
it looks back at her.
There was Nothing there after all, she tells herself.
She plucks a dead leaf from the Belladonna at her head, pulls
herself back into bed. She hums softly, a song she doesn’t
know, as she stops
with her own two Hands.
God leaves a box on your doorstep as a prank (and you don’t notice the snickering coming from the bushes by your window) / by Ally Schwam
The box sits on your front doorstep.
It is brown and large and completely normal looking.
You pick it up and carry it inside.
There is no return address, just your name
written in black sharpie on the top.
The handwriting is sloppy.
You take a pair of scissors and run it through
the tape holding the box closed
and pop the top open.
There is nothing in the box.
You squint and put your hand inside,
feeling every corner and crevice.
Strange, the box had been so heavy
when you’d picked it up.
Who would leave an empty box on
your doorstep? Who would have the time?
You fold the box down and throw it
in your recycling bin.
Day 4 / Poems 4
Dualism for Beginners / by Jen Stewart Fueston
We don’t choose what we believe in. Toddlers sing-song
you can’t see me, you can’t see me, even though
they’ve only closed their eyes. You know the soul
by how it wakes inside you when you’re looking
in a mirror and you see yourself see you. This strange
unrecognition felt before you learn the difference
between mind and brain, that science can’t locate
the part of us that knows its knowing. There must be days
this first makes sense, but children feel out riddles
with their hands. Right there in chapter one, this earth
we think we’re other than takes form, and we’re an urge
of breath blown through the dust. The way a child plucks
dandelions and blows the star-shaped seeds through air.
They don’t know they’re made of earth until they fall.
Read Me / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
The psychic tried to warn me
that the troubled times ahead
would make these days look easy
as the cats asleep in bed.
She said she hesitated
to disclose what she had found:
“It simply isn’t good news,
for such losses are profound.”
“Your lover-best friend-husband
has two more years to go.
His troubles now are nothing,
as the final year will show.”
She marveled how community
had scoffed and sneered and hassled
at our happy union,
mean as alligators wrassled.
“The step-kids you have fostered
and have made allowance for,
will try their best, once he is gone,
to push you out the door.
“Your sibs will be no better
when your mother passes on.
It’s hearings, courtrooms, lawyers
for the house in O-re-gón.
“But dear, you’re doing wonderfully—
that’s what the spirits said—
and you’ll be a famous writer
after everybody’s dead.”
Diversion / by Chad W. Lutz
Alive in a place
Where it rains
Hear the pitter pat
Of the little fat
Droplets bleed into
The soils that don’t
But consumer angst
Over whether or not
Fred’s lawn looks
Better than mine
Burn on TV
In the paper
Say what a shame
And then blame
Its citizens for
Into the ocean
Flush the toilet
Every time leave
The faucet running
And ya sure
Ya betcha water
That fucking lawn
Because what I do
Here has never had
An impact on what goes on
What People We Could Become / by Rebecca Macijeski
I’ve been twice to the Lincoln Memorial.
Once as a little girl with my dad
and again by myself over twenty years later.
The first time I remember climbing the stairs
to see the stone man. I remember the closeness,
the smallness in the little room, some idea of America
growing in me. It was a clean day, a bright day.
My dad bought me a book of paper dolls
of the whole Lincoln family. When we got home
I cut their shapes—a mother and father, sons.
Abe was tall and lean, stoic in his long johns.
He had his famous hat. Mary Todd had so many dresses
in so many colors, all mushrooming wide
from the waist down to the floor. My favorite
was a yellow one with tiny thread flowers.
The boys had uniforms for war. One of them had a drum.
I liked how I could take their costumes off,
change in and out the type of people they could become.
All I had to do was release the fold tabs from their fancy clothes
and they’d all be back in their underwear
—real, vulnerable, undone, waiting,
like any of us.
The second time I remember a larger history.
I was in town for a conference and snuck away
for a visit. I walked up the stairs,
but it was new this time. I could feel the energy
of all the moments and all the people who’ve sung
and spoken and rallied there. There was all of that,
but also the feeling of being a little girl again, of hope,
of learning from my father about what could stay
good in this world.
Nothing is perfect. This country will never be perfect.
Specific, grievous, power-hungry injustices
are committed every day by politicians with small hearts
and even smaller imaginations.
But on that day America was the idea I learned about
with my dad, was a monument to what we can change.
I sat in a corner on the floor with Lincoln for almost an hour,
timing out the minutes I had left
before I’d have to get back on a plane.
I watched parents raise children on their shoulders.
I watched the light shift in.
I sat, quiet, listening to pieces of stories, of new memories
being made, connections in too many languages to count.
Each voice held its own clarity in the noise,
like a bird in a forest.
I remember I didn’t want to leave.
There was something fragile, tenuous.
Like once I turned my back the whole scene
would collapse and wouldn’t even be a memory anymore,
all the people reduced to paper, to souvenirs,
to dream stuff.
But no. They are here. We are here.
Real, vulnerable, undone
like any of us.
Like all of us.
It’s Alive / by Shea Montgomery
Season 1, Episode 4
Eddie is flunking science, the news just came in last night,
and some of the teachers are already howling
they want Eddie to be expelled—
bad grades, and trouble in class, a poster child
for poor environment; a problem better fixed
by never seeing it again.
Herman punches a hole through the wall
towards the throats of those that say his son
doesn’t deserve a chance, and while icing his fist,
he tells Eddie he has to get an A on the science project,
hopefully that will turn things around,
then he asks what the project is, anyway.
Well, it better be able to get you a job at NASA.
Eddie goes to his room to work, on this thing
he actually has control of, made of buckets, funnels, and cans;
Grandpa hears the clanking from his room, wanders
down the hall to see Eddie working; remembers
working on engines during the war, being scared
while he was doing it—
At dinner time, Lily sees him in Eddie’s room,
thinks to stop him, lead him back to his bed,
that he must be bothering Eddie, that perhaps
they need to try a new medication, but she halts
when she sees them, shoulder to shoulder, soldering,
fluidly, with purpose, deep in the bowels of the machine.
Her father is smiling; she hasn’t seen him smile in years,
and never at Eddie, until now—
So she lets them work, leaves dinner,
two of them, outside the door, letting only the smell
of food remind them to come and eat
for the first time in a long time; the first time together—
A social worker from the school drops by in the morning,
while Lily is in the basement, folding laundry,
and the rest of the family has left for the day—
He rings the bell, knocks on the door, raises hell
with his banging, and Grandpa finally hears, creaks his way
down to the door, opens it, and asks what he wants.
He says his name is Jerry, he is here to see Eddie’s home,
to see if his family is loving enough to attend school
in this district, that it’s a tall bar that’s been set
in Eddie’s case due to wealth,
the number of free lunches needed,
and finally his grades.
Grandpa’s eyes light up, he tells him not to worry, leads him
up to Eddie’s room to show him their robot, tells him
Eddie will one day work for NASA, that he gets to leave
this world behind, he’ll see, but Jerry only sees a messy room,
an old Playboy, halfway under the mattress, and a mess of buckets,
the shape of a man, with pots for arms, and knives for fingers—
This is it?
Yes, it will chop vegetables for astronauts.
Its crap, it has no life, no movement.
Lily comes up the stairs then, she’s heard the talking, arrives
just as Grandpa is telling Jerry that he used to kill guys
he called “Jerry” in the war—she helps to ease him out the door,
gently holding Grandpa as he raves, Jerry the goose stepping bastard
wants to kill them; spittle runs down his chest as he screams for more ammo
the entirety of Jerry’s short jog down the driveway—
That night, Eddie and Grandpa work to bring life
to their creation; they name it “Spaceman”
because Grandpa believes in the old ways,
and tells Eddie life begins with a name,
then they build it organs, those muscles of life,
with the odd pieces they find about the house—
A blender for a heart, a gas tank becomes a stomach,
a dictionary, and math textbook taped to the inside
of a bucket become a brain, and a series of random wires
and cords through the arms and legs give it strength,
as Eddie prays over the last transfusion of red, watery,
power steering fluid they found to act as blood.
In the morning, “Spaceman” makes them all breakfast,
carefully flipping the bacon before it burns,
and singing while it works, a last minute addition
of old tunes Grandpa taught it from the days of his youth,
songs he listened to in foxholes, bunkers, battles,
and all the times he wondered if he would get to go back home—
“Spaceman” is whistling “My Little Buttercup”
to itself as Herman comes down to eat; it gently flips
pancakes on his plate, then pours some orange juice;
red-eyed and still tired he looks at it, calls it silly,
but is happy it will most likely get Eddie that A,
he doesn’t notice Grandpa, at the table, for the first time in years.
Grandpa smiles at the faces surrounding him, slowly
bobs his head to the flavor of a pleasant breakfast
and the company of family; he even doesn’t get angry
when Herman walks out to the car, to go to work
without another word, because he knows Vaudeville isn’t dead yet,
in fact, it’s just getting started.
Good Intentions / by Francesca Moroney
White women are going to be white. We will ask
to touch the pile of braids of the black woman
in front of us in the grocery, we will eye
her bunches of kale and sacks of sugar snap peas
and silently tsk-tsk her for not buying collard greens
while making a mental note to ask Google
how to cook collard greens. We love your braids,
we will say, they are so exotic. And the woman,
if she is feeling extra patient and pities us
our mewling children stabbing each other with car keys or
our metal walkers stretched in front of us
like a yawning, reaching trap, will smile a brilliant
smile, shake her head, No.
White women are going to be white. We will carry
Oprah’s latest book to the soccer field,
the one by that woman
whose name we can’t pronounce, but
we know she is from Nigeria,
or is it Niger, no matter,
and we will hold it in our veiny hands,
circling the pitch until we find
the one black mother on our son’s team.
We will smile at her and her friend and although
they will smile back at our zinc-covered,
Botox-injected faces, the smiles will stop
at their lips, when what we want
is the gift of smiles from their hearts, and then
they will return to their lives and their conversation and still
we will persist, as though noticing the book in our hands
for the first time, OH! What a coincidence! Perhaps
you’ve read this, too? And the words
will be itchy on our tongues
but speak them we will and if
these women have been blessed with enormous kindness
and the patience of mythical wildflower meadows, then perhaps
they will smile, again, will shake their braids,
will tell us, No.
And, later, after we have packed up
our expensive coolers and our dignity
and our collapsible stadium chairs emblazoned
with the name of our child’s team
and our tartan plaid picnic blankets,
when we have trekked to the other side
of the pitch, we will tell our friends, all of them white
women harboring not-so-secret crushes on the myth
of Obama, Geez. I was only trying to be nice.
God with Pop Punk and Gasoline / by Ally Schwam
God is pumping the gas / turning on the windshield wipers / and the radio / singing while the rain pummels the roof / of her battered little Chevy / singing pop punk today / but some days death metal / or hip hop / some days classical / whistling / over the engine / but this isn’t important / God pulls up to a gas station / gets out and does the whole thing / leans her butt against the car and waits / she’s anxious to get a move on / to scream behind the wheel
On Our Own at the Shore / by Aline Soules
We race out of our houses equipped for the day—
pocket knife, fishing gear, spade, bucket,
safety pin firmly fixed in our shirts—and run
down the hill to the river and the rowboat.
A whole day by ourselves. No one to tell us to stop
sliding down the mud riverbank, scuffing our shoes
on the pebble beach, wiping our hooks on our shirts.
We rake periwinkles off the rocks, use our pins
to lift the operculum, grab the wriggling snails
to our mouths. We move pebbles to find
the sand underneath, dig for cockles and mussels,
bait for our hooks. We push the boat until it floats,
climb in, put the oars in the oarlocks, one to a side,
one person per oar, and pull. We’ve been told
to stay upstream, but we want to fish the shoal
where Geordie said there’s sole, flounder,
maybe saith or lythe. We find the shoal
by the lighter color of the shallower water.
We drop anchor and lines, wait. Nothing.
We look over the sides. Nothing. We jiggle the line
on the shoal bottom, stirring sand that heads to sea,
a sure sign the tide’s going out. The anchor
drags and we know we need to go back upriver.
Scared, we begin to row even before one of us pulls
anchor, so we’re already fighting the tide before
the boat is freed. We row hard, barely move.
The wind picks up. More to fight against.
We put two to an oar and pull with fear
to help us. Near shore, we leap out, drag the boat
above the tideline, pack the oars, take our gear.
At dinner our parents ask, How d’yer day go?
Anythin’ exciting? We shrug. Nae. Fish weren’t bitin’.
We just gie up and came back.
Day 3 / Poems 3
Bodies of Water / by Jen Stewart Fueston
I remember the sun taut on your back
before we dove in, and the junipers
on the hill around the cove. You set
your glasses on the concrete pier
beside your shirt. I remember waiting
til you were far out from the dock
before stripping to my underwear and
jumping into salt and brackish blue.
When I was young there was a game
we played at slumber parties. Laughing
in our nighties we made each other tell
how it felt when we were swimming,
the sensation, moving free or weightless,
calm or enervated — think, even now
can you convey the way the body can be
left behind in water? Can you describe
the belief in being held? This, we’d giggle
wide-eyed, virginal, is how you’ll feel
when you have sex.
Nearly every afternoon I’d swim
two dozen laps trying to outdistance you.
Sometimes there beside me, sometimes
imaginary, always pulling against water
until my arms were dripping with resolve.
Every day, the water held me the way
I would let no one else. At night,
I looked out on the strait, lights pooling
in the current, freighters plodding through
the passageway, ferries coughing from
their yellow smokestacks, fishing dinghies
pulling silver bodies from the seam —
everything alive and pulsing on the swells.
We’d drink raki on the balcony, eating apricots
while the final prayer calls hollowed out the sky.
You didn’t believe in the soul, the way I didn’t
believe in the body. I thought that’d be enough
to keep me. That it might be enough for us both.
Two Heads / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
Arkansas or maybe Missouri,
this woman finds a two-headed snake!!
With exceptional presence of mind
she drops a bucket,
she scoops up the creature,
she finds someone who knows.
Forked like a dowsing rod,
two heads, one GI tract.
One head has the stronger jaw,
the other a more vigorous esophagus.
Four eyes, a brace of snake-eyes,
stare ahead, yellow jewels set in quilted scales.
You’d think the two heads might team up,
one to clamp, the other to swallow
for the good of their mutual belly,
but no, the two heads fight—
the brains can’t hear each other think.
Turns out that’s why these sports
don’t live too long.
Gotta be some metaphor in there,
but damned if I’ll be the one to say it out loud.
Suburban Extrapyramidal Parkinsonism / by Chad W. Lutz
of the good things
during the worst
a bumble bee floating
like a cloud amongst
the morning flowers
of an apple tree in the
full blossom power of
a soft sallow sun
women and children
who never make it
off the ship first
at the pain
in my neck
through the passage
that leads to Donald
Trump’s idea of heaven
a million-dollar home
in Oakland with bloody
baby carriages and mattresses
ridden with bed bugs
littered throughout the
streets like McDonald’s
wrappers on corners
where children play
where black moms
toddlers to cheer
for white strangers
running with their
iPhones in their
the problem of
having to work
past the wild fennel
sweet against the stink
of human shit smashed
into the ground outside
the bus stop & the man
that claims the bowel
at nothing in the corner
past MacArthur BART
where black women
get their throats cut
& the Fruitvale BART
where cops don’t give
a shit about anyone
roll over and breathe deep
breathe easy knowing
you’re back in Ohio
learn with every
what a privilege
sheets & showers
& flowers &
really & truly are
What Doesn’t Die / by Rebecca Macijeski
I imagine your closet was a kind of garden.
Babylon couldn’t hold a candle to your head scarves.
They bloomed by the dozen, in every color,
one for every adventure, every mountain climbed,
every rainforest and wild land.
I didn’t know you long enough, but I know
you’re still here. When the diagnosis grew worse
and you weren’t sure how long you had left,
you chose a scarf for each of us and mailed them
one by one. All I can think to say is that
you were a tree shedding leaves.
Were the letters you sent with them
hard or easy to write? You wrote to me
you hoped you would be at my wedding.
You made jokes, still, through everything.
I hoped you’d be there, too.
The night before you died I texted you
the following message I will never delete
from my phone: No matter how you feel
today or any other day, know that the world
holds so much love for you—I’m honored
and humbled to carry my piece of this love.
My Christy Bailey pañuelo is blue and rose and cream.
It’s been with me on job interviews, hard days, good days.
It’s moved with me. It was with me on the plane
when I flew back home with my wedding dress.
It’s with me now as I remember you,
my fingers running over the fabric flowers, the knot I tied
when I wore it to your memorial, each element its own keepsake.
This is for you. It isn’t for anyone else.
It’s for the you I knew and the you that comes back
fresh in each new season of memory
just like you’ve been planted again,
just like you’re starting to grow.
The Least of Things / by Shea Montgomery
Season 1, Episode 2
Marilyn has started to date, and the Munster household
is in a chaos of questions, all of them at the wrong time;
she isn’t having an easy time dealing with it, the rejection
of failed first dates, but Lily is happy for her.
The first one she brought back took one look at the neighbors,
lined up across the street, especially that Addams house,
and started barking something about the one percent,
gentrification, before they never saw him again.
The next one got scared off by Herman,
had been expecting someone the same color,
who looked like the rest of the family,
there had been a few like that.
Marilyn thinks its because she isn’t pretty,
but Lily tells her that’s nonsense.
At least the mailman here keeps his hand on the mace when he stops by.
She doesn’t have the family’s black hair,
hers is blonde, and they always have more fun.
Lily knows its all true, every reason seen,
or heard; that the chasm of wealth that separates
their side of the street from the other is a mile wide,
and that when grandpa is lucid, those times
he can actually see the people around him, when Lily
and Marilyn clean him up after lunch while he plays
invisible opponents at checkers, when he looks at her son
and mutters things about clean blood—
The last mailman always seemed to loiter whenever Lily signed for a package.
Still, Marilyn thinks she isn’t pretty.
Lily tells her they haven’t been here long,
and that has to be why she can’t find someone.
He had started taking his lunchbreak across the street from their old house,
on the days Herman was at work.
She tells her the looks from across the street,
from the neighborhood, will one day stop, they’ll be accepted.
He finally tried beating the door down to get to Lily’s heart,
or at least between her legs—
They have to be, somewhere it has to be okay
to be who they are, but Lily can’t think of a good way to say this.
“Call me Tiger,” he had said to her.
Being pretty is the least of her problems,
so Lily holds her, and rocks her when she cries.
Permission to Leave Unattended / by Francesca Moroney
She was cleaning – that, at least,
remained unchanged – when she found,
in his sweater drawer, a letter she had never
seen before. She called me
to look at it, turning it in her hands
once or twice, rubbing her thumb
over the yellowed postage stamp. She removed
the wrinkled sheet and we spread it
atop the bureau. She placed a paperweight
on one corner, his fountain pen
across another. The writing was full
of big, loopy Gs and Ys, nothing like
my mother’s own precise, slanted script.
She turned her head away and I followed her gaze
out of their bedroom window. “That’s just,”
she said, “the way life goes.” Neighbor children
chanting in the courtyard, a television playing
too loudly. Then her crying. I plucked
a moth-eaten sweater from the bureau,
held it in my hands. Time to go to her, I thought,
with my better self, but instead
I handed her the sweater and then
took another one from the drawer.
God loves video games too / by Ally Schwam
God is plugged into a headset – a virtual reality
utopia. God is playing as a teenage girl
just starting college – meeting her new roommate
for the first time, grinning from ear to ear.
God is having the time of her life
talking to other people like she’s one of them.
Forgetting her responsibilities. God is counting
the stars in the night sky, but she can’t see
all of them. That makes it better.
God imagines she has questions with
no answers. God eats an apple and for the first time
tastes it. God goes to a party and drinks
terrible beer and feels wobbly and laughs
at herself. God even studies classical art in the library.
Everyone else is studying, too. God already knows
everything they’re studying for. God is trying
to forget that she already knows everything
in her fat Art History textbook.
She was succeeding until she saw
a painting of herself.
God puts her head in her hands.
Flying to the Moon / by Aline Soules
When the moon was made
of green cheese, my bed soared up
and out of my room, carrying me
and Bunny in its warm folds.
The moon shimmered, grew larger,
rounder. A river snaked its broken
surface, undulating line to the unknown.
Bunny, dark green, in purl stitch,
understood the moon. As we circled
its glow, he snuggled in my arm,
knew that I needed him with me
to explore the universe.
Day 2 / Poems 2
Purity Culture / by Jen Stewart Fueston
We were taught not
to throw ourselves
away, our bodies
the soft petals of white
flowers picked off
one by one, or soiled
like sheets. No one wants
to unwrap a gift that has
already been opened,
they said, which just means
we were still meant to be
given. Which just meant,
men and gods both
thought they deserved
innocence is tricky
to attain. It only is
until it isn’t, a prize made
out of nothingness. And
purity is only ever lost.
Synchronicity / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
Nothing benign about this warm wet wind.
It’s insistent, hot,
pushy as a hotel dryer vent,
wet breath of one hundred beds
huffing right at you.
Monster-storm Rosa sweeps Baja,
sending massive clouds ahead.
Not as heralds, just
pushing them out of the way.
closing shut our impossible blue sky.
And they’re laden with water, with storm-sweat,
getting ready to bawl over autumn
in a drastic clatter of a voice.
Flash flood warnings break in
on public radio, on women discussing
bank bubbles and other big disasters.
A new thing, getting us accustomed
to hearing human women’s voices
Slippin’ / by Chad W. Lutz
a vacuum emptiness
hot air effusing in a dim
crowded room feedback
from the PA evidence I’m not
talking loud enough
but isn’t that a choice?
isn’t that a craft choice?
a decision to be heard
louder than the thoughts of my
drunkenness on a Monday
night in Akron?
missing notes saying please
sign up please please please sign up
this open mic’s a failure
microcosm of the administration
like Thompson buy the ticket then
stick it where the sun
Putin’s is fine
he’s fine we’re all fine
everyone is clear the serial
rapists, killer cops, and
affluent white males are here
trans intersectional feminist
vegan pan artists can get home loans
sure but can they afford
they need to stay
sane enough to
it takes work you gotta work
you gotta work work work work
everyday you gotta work until you die
while people grab your ass
and push you into dark corners
telling you I am what you’ve always
wanted…you just don’t know it yet
work yes you gotta work
slipping on wet floors washing
dishes for next to nothing
waiting tables for white families
telling you how to do your job
why are you in the front of the house?
it’s hard to
keep filing their teeth
working the grindstone
with blistered hands
hard to smile with flat
hungry for something
you’ve never tasted
or touched or smelled
I write it doesn’t feel
like work when I’m sitting
at a bar avoiding eye contact
gripping my favorite pen and the paper
opens its arms and the words
start flooding on the blank page
how easy it is like the host
missing notes on someone else’s
acoustic on a Monday night like this
at a seedy bar in Akron
like this second beer going down
like the way my voice sounds anyway
like anyone you know in the
business of birth and death
Portrait of a String Quartet as a Black Hole / by Rebecca Macijeski
Music built the small house in Brookline.
We carried music there in black boxes.
Music came out of our violins, a viola, a cello.
They were like animals, defending their growls.
When we sat in a circle, trance-like,
the music showered from us.
Music was all we knew
when we bent our arms and fingers
to what we saw on paper
like worship, like reading monastic texts.
Music as a series of dots and dashes.
Music as code. Music as a tunnel to pass through
on the way to wordless thinking.
We became sounds. We became rhythm.
Nothing more or less that the sum total
of our lives added on Tuesday afternoons
to each other’s light.
Music as lantern. Music as pure stupid freedom.
Music remembering itself from wooden bodies
through our bodies. Music as the one shout
we were all born with. Opening
into knowledge. Opening worlds.
Why She’s Always Knitting / by Shea Montgomery
Season 1, Episode 6
Morticia is alone, she wanders the house
like an Inquisitor when Spain was burning
stopping cold at fond memories,
and a layer of dust settled,
on the children’s playroom in the basement.
How long has it been, since dolls hung
from the children’s hands,
or Thing chased them around a play pen?
She retreats upstairs, looking for Gomez;
to find father and son spending time together
in the living room, in those moments
his father grants him, those fleeting moments
between page turns of the evening paper.
The floor must have creaked, as it does,
and Gomez looks up to see her,
the look on her face, and without pause
he tells Pugsley to get his things,
that they’re going to the Fair, just the two of them.
Pugsley races off, excited, and Gomez’s brow furrows
only slightly as he rubs his wife’s cheek,
tells her to invite the neighbors over,
that she needs something to think about—
“No more children.” Is all she hears.
When the house is silent, she phones the Wagner sisters
from down the street, asks them to come over,
tells them to bring snacks, pictures of grandchildren,
and she tries not to think of Gomez and Pugsley at the fair,
ringing the bell in the test of strength.
How my strength has been tested—
Men, adventure, no cares of curdled cream
or the cutting of lemons for tea, or a perfect table,
set and waiting for company when the Wagners arrive,
ready for the usual tour of the home:
the dungeon, the lab, the family crypt—
But she stays far away from the children’s room,
that look in Gomez’s eyes.
The sisters fawn over her plants the most,
ask how she feeds them to make them so
big, strong, vibrant, and her smile is convincing
when she tells them all it takes is blood, sweat, and tears—
most of the time her own.
Later in the evening, when the men have returned,
and after their tales of bearded women, strongmen,
and acrobatic elephants have ceased,
when the children sleep soundly,
Gomez whispers in her ear—
“I love you, Tish…”
and they waltz in the living room,
over an unused room in the basement;
empty, dusty, and in need of filling.
After the Fall / by Francesca Moroney
More than the dreaded browns and golds
of the towering pin oaks, leaves like scratchy,
papery polyester, more than the neighbor’s stacks
of costly hay, piled on a sterile porch, more
than pumpkin-flavored lattes, chewing gum, pancakes,
acrid on my tongue, it’s the disappearing sunlight
that really gets to me. While I wait
for the kettle to turn cold water into hot,
while I steep my tea, stir some ropy honey
into my mug, my reflection watches me,
mocking, warm and smug outside my windowpane.
Where once I watched my world wake up with me,
now I mourn the departure of my morning
companions, those neotropical birds, bellies full
of grubs and midges, bound for the heat
and its attendant light. In my mind’s eye the birds
shoot straight, like well water from these icy taps,
across the rayless sky, beaks pointing south, while I remain
here in the dark, the music of the thrushes and tanagers
gone like the sun on this autumnal morning, leaving me
with nothing more than the tinny Hillside warble
on my iPhone. But I see, today, that the blue jay
has stayed. I see him preening in the sliver
between dawn and day. Those melanin-loaded feathers
I know are brown but trick me every time,
the blinding blue nothing more than an illusion,
light scattering through the feathered barbs.
I hold my warm mug in my cold hands. I will be
like the blue jay, I resolve, commanding my light,
reflecting my own bit of painstaking magic.
God opens her eyes and sees nothing / by Ally Schwam
God opens her eyes and sees nothing / snaps her fingers and feels nothing / no friction no slap / no sound / God closes her eyes / and pictures what something would look like / or sound like / if there was something to look at / or hear
You love the wind / the way it blows your hair in your face so / you can’t see / you like to roll down the car window / when you sit in the passenger seat / you like being / a passenger / taken along for the ride
God is sleeping / God is dreaming about the day / she can create / something
You think creme brulee is ok / but you’re not the biggest fan / you like cracking / the top / with your spoon though like the sound / and the feeling
One day she wakes up / there are so many things in this world and no one knows where they came from
Day 1 / Poems 1
Upon Seeing a Photograph of Christine Blasey Ford / by Jen Stewart Fueston
I think first of Joan of Arc — that movie version
where her hair’s shorn off, her pained gaze skyward
as the flames lick up the edges of the frame. Next
I think of Mary Magdalene as she ran
back from the garden, her body brimming
with the unbelievable, becoming not the last woman
whose story’s just a little too convenient, whose reputation’s
made to be dismissed. These allusions are intentional,
I know, the photographer has framed her, elevated
from his vantage with that upraised arm, and no one else
in view. Every day we’re desperate for icons worthy
of our prayers. But her steady rendering of memory reminds me
no ordinary woman ever tried to be a saint. Who would
choose to be believed in when she’d rather be believed?
Moruga Scorpion=2,400,000 Scoville / by Karen Greenbaum-Maya
Entangled in giggling kids yelling Nana!
I point for my son to get the door,
hard enough to sprain my shoulder.
He grabs the groceries, goes to work at the fridge.
Two packages of peppers? he yelps, knowing
I swell up and shut down
at anything with a Scoville rating over five.
Ham and pineapple pizza times four?
Frozen French fries? Maple-flavored syrup?
He grew up at my table.
How could he think I’d ordered that fake food?
Maybe standards were down, he shrugs,
Maybe taking care of Dad got so hard
you had to break out somewhere.
Yeah, my secret junk-food life,
scarfing down on-line games like bad pizza.
Just like flirting with seppuku by Scorpion sting,
wasting my hours to erase the gnaw
of being unable to stand the heat.
The Hard Part / by Chad W. Lutz
I said I was going
To kill myself
Eat the raw dick
The universe serves
Up for people like me
Inevitable anyway I laughed
Spit like knives
Carving out the space
For words I’d
Never give you
The chance to speak
Math is mute
And so are the dead
That’s what I told you
So get ready to hear
Very little from me
You stupid motherfucker
Get ready to hear very little
The cops said as they lead
Me to the rear of the cruiser
Doors unlocked watch
Your head I thought to myself
Is this what it’s like to be dead?
I called today to say hey
I’m sorry for saying I hate your life
Can we please talk about how I know you called the cops?
You said you had to and I agreed: don’t worry about it
Because I’m a different person
Than I was three days before
A Study in Time and Space / by Rebecca Macijeski
A green stone orbits the middle finger
of my right hand. I bought it in college
as a promise to myself. Of adventures.
Of living. All these years later
I catch glimpses of it in old photos
on a hand that seems barely my hand at all.
There’s the ring and the hand
sitting by a koi pond in Osaka.
There they are at my sister’s wedding,
eating breakfast at a fancy Vienna hotel,
learning how to knit, carrying handfuls of quartz
up the road to Robert Frost’s house, bowing
a Mozart symphony, holding another hand.
Each me feels like a different scan,
all of them ghosts building some constellation
I’m just now becoming.
Here they all are in the sky my memory makes,
which is like the bright Vermont one
I looked into as a girl,
which is the wild movie one
I sat under in Nebraska,
which is this one now in Louisiana
with cicadas and rain,
all this water, like thought, pooling
between houses and trees.
Boys Kill / by Shea Montgomery
Season 1, Episode 3
They are a loving family, but they have problems—
this week it’s Pugsley, their son,
that has Gomez and Morticia worried;
it seems Pugsley is spending more time outside,
leaving them alone, sullen, in the dark.
Fester lectures Gomez on how the boy is spoiled,
they’ve bought him too many weapons,
but all his father can do is pass the time,
blow up model trains in the basement,
miss his son by his side.
Morticia says they should take advantage,
use the time outside to teach the boy,
introduce him to more poisonous plants and such—
but then the boy comes home with a puppy,
and the last thought of color leaves their faces.
They hear it yipping upstairs, in his room,
they try to tune it out, but its always there,
even when its not, and Gomez tries
to sicken the boy of it by explaining to him,
that a puppy can only grow to be a dog.
But still they hear it crying.
They’ve given him axes and guns to interest him
In tools of taking life, but interest in life itself
is too much, either way, so they do the unthinkable
and call a specialist, someone to poultice the poison
from their sons soul.
Secretly they watch as the doctor speaks to their son,
listens to him, nods his head sagely, smirks at his jokes,
throws his arms up in terror, and even goes limp
against the wall, when the boy
shows the man how to kill with a bayonet charge.
Weary, the parents wait for the good doctor to be done,
to hear his advice at the end of the day—
and when he finally emerges, hours after the room went silent,
with hands in his pockets he tells them the boy is just a boy,
that boys kill, that there’s nothing to see here.
The sun sets as he walks away, and they watch the doctor leave,
knowing it is one thing entirely to be white and monstrous,
but monstrous and white?
That would never do,
and the neighbors must never know.
I See the World in Pinks and Greens / by Francesca Moroney
I heave its roundness from the dirt,
cradle it close to my body, reminded
of growing humans inside my womb.
I walk the rutted grooves back
toward the house and admire
the striated colors of my bounty.
The smooth, gentle greens echo
the depths of the vernal pond, its water-
lilies and American bullfrogs, its lady
ferns and incongruously-named
red-eared sliders. They mirror the herbs
at my back door, the cilantro and chives
luxuriating in their fecundity.
Once in the kitchen, I place the fruit
of my labor in the old porcelain sink,
run cool water to rinse away the dirt,
watch it eddy down the drain.
And then to the cutting board to slice
the rind and then the flesh, yielding
but not soft, and then the rind again,
two halves falling open beneath the dust
motes hovering in the space between us.
And then to slice again, quarters and
eighths, pieces falling away in fractals
until finally I begin to eat, standing up,
spitting firm and fulgent black seeds
in the sink, and, at the end, I lift
the cutting board to slurp, my arms
and chin covered in pink-tinged,
tacky stains, until all that remains is a pile
of marbled rinds, the pink flesh gone,
even the white of the rind nibbled away.
God owns a carwash in Iowa / by Ally Schwam
God owns a carwash in Iowa.
I’ve never been to Iowa, and I don’t know if I care to go.
Soap glides down a windshield,
children giggle in a back seat.
I’ve never been to Iowa, but maybe I should visit.
God lives in a trailer park next to a single mother,
who makes bacon in the morning and feeds it
to the stray dogs panting on her doorstep.
God goes fishing on the weekends
and throws all the fish back, sometimes the hooks
still caught deep in their lips.
The sun boils in Iowa and I know no one who lives there,
but I can imagine the writers living there and smoking cigarettes together
as the sun teeters on the horizon.
I can imagine farms and tractors and
the land laid out before me like an ocean.
Where do I want to belong? Where does God belong
and why do I keep thinking about her
humming to herself as she cooks dinner for one.