The 30/30 Project: January 2018, Part I

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

The volunteers for January 2018 are Eleni Bastéa, Christine Hamm, Susan Reid, Jacqueline Schaalje, Kim Bailey Spradlin, and Lisa Stice.  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 15 / Poems 15


Centering clay / by Eleni Bastéa

15 January 2018

Splat! He throws a large ball of clay
on the potter’s wheel, humming & turning
mud splashes his face, his arms & his chest
the clay—still a wild animal, eager to escape.

His hands stay calm, ready & firm
palms locked in position, arms in an open embrace
supporting, coaxing, cajoling the clay
a slow dance emerges, finger tips raising a vase.

I watch & remember learning to throw
little bits flying every which way
clay trembling under my palms pressing the surface
like a baby, it was the center that needed be still.


Neon Sisters: 1962 / by Christine Hamm

You shout about

the stripes

in the mottled, violet sky,


try to distract

me from making

more smelly ink. The doves


are all pigeons now –

the tigers stuffed

and glassy-eyed. You used


to get so jealous

when I was singing

above the hat, pinch my wrist,


rub the pearly

crown of your head

against my shoulder like a cat,


but harder so I’d be

knocked sideways.

We destroyed that Golden Gate


with made-up monsters

27 times, but in each

scene, it’s built again. I take lightbulbs


out of my mouth

and turn them on

in my palm; you jam a sword down


your gullet and slide

it up again, barely

bloodied. Oh, why do we, why do


we, why do we all

want to be the girl that

the knife-thrower loves to hate, the girl


with the red bow

in her black hair,

the girl with scars all up and down her arms?


Lean into the Dream / by Susan Reid

To bend the moral arc of civilization
toward justice, take a firm hold,
Dangle all of your will and weight
Put your back into it,

Make no mistake, it will not bend
on its own, not with insatiable greed,
swinging cynical promises of supremacy,
treasure and heaven
like bait.

Don’t be hooked They’ll use the weight
of your gullible fear and its mean ballast
to keep the power and money flowing their way.
and they have no history
of sharing.

Reach for the true prize . . Take a firm hold,
Dangle all your will and weight
Put your back into it Bend the arc
into the dream.


Why Did We Survive the War? / by Jacqueline Schaalje

Mother, father, what bribery money
did you have to pay a wielding toad
with epaulets that meant short threads,
or shove it under a farmer’s circle skirts
to blacken the potatoes in the fire
or move you up or down on the list
and go left, or nod to the right,
to work your reward in bread?

Mama, papa, why did we survive the war
and hide the guns in the baby’s bed,
when the baby couldn’t wink in the wincing noise,
when the bomber plane, missing its goal, cracked
your wall, and why didn’t you fix it
and left it open to the intrepid dreams
of soldiers knocking, marching away our screaming
assets, nagging me over cups of tea.

And mother, at the garden’s back, why did you
suffer the abuse of the simple Hanz,
who grabbed you near the pear tree, spit
strange vowels in your groin, but you would never
avow to anything but that love is beautiful.
I tasted hatred in your consonants,
and I fruit from your loin shut up in anger too,
because you chose to not specify.

And father, if your work won the lottery that bought
you the house and Swedish car you fancied
with automatic headlights, glowworms that creep
through the holloways, and kept the light on,
why did you, heavy-hearted, warn of risk
when I danced with my shadow, went out
and grabbed my share — then there was a boom,
but your ears harked back to bombs.

So why actually did we win the war,
for the milk jugs and curlicues in the glaze
of tea services that aunties collected
and the blanket chest with its inquisition locks
packed with maggots for a hundred hunger winters.
while a cousin salivated for silver you disdained,
the only curio that pleased you the club-like
Chinese couple from the green isles, which we lost.

So why did we survive the war, if you sold
the carpets for pitiful hollow eggs
when now I have to walk on a cloud of them,
and the grains and the bulbs never sprouted
but in chairs with flammable straw upholstery;
fermented pale youths that you blew
smoke over and gave the bad coughs
in the blue gas cloud, never a speck.

Day in, day out, the setting sun doubles
over the fat-amassed backs of the wajang,
the hand of the shy sister reaches out
to a slender animal aorta, even shyer, biting
back the heart that feeds and nurtures.
But father, mother, what was the point of your war,
won or lost, if not your downsizing
in the huge, huge drop shadow saddens me.


Morning Observations / by Lisa Stice

It is cold again, dawn light slightly obscured
by clouds that pass across the sky as slowly
as the dog and I across the yard, but there is no
doubt this day promises mystery. See those tracks
where beasts have trod. Notice how the dove
sits atop the feeder despite our presence. Listen
to the wind bring word that we exist and are
not alone. Feel the ruts in this bark and the soft
ruffles of lichen. How could anyone cease
to believe the magic of this old earth?


Day 14 / Poems 14


Broken Turkish / by Eleni Bastéa

14 January 2018

I walk down a narrow street in Sultanahmet
Istanbul’s heart & tourist attraction.
What is it that brought all of us here?
The ancient kilims, the juicy kebabs
sweet tea in tulip-shaped, delicate glasses
or the churches, the mosques, the hamams?

The deep blue of the Bosphorus strait
the blindingly white clouds above it
the sharp-beaked seagulls who loop back in time
ancient Greek, Byzantine, Ottoman, Turkish
the hedges of roses, pomegranate, plum & quince trees
or the music: Turkish hip-hop, Balkan, Aegean & more.

Outside his shop in Sultanahmet
an older man is sipping his tea.
“May I take your photograph?” I ask & he nods.
“Where are you from?” he asks with a smile.
Selanik,” I say. But “my father’s father came from Izmir.”
Babam from Selanik,” he replies & looks up towards me again.

Selanik [Turkish], Thessaloniki, was part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912.
Babam [Turkish]: my father


The Grimm Version / by Christine Hamm

The animals in the trees sway
in the wind, call to each other

like children yelling in hide-and-seek.
The biggest fir is a girl who napped

in the driveway one day, decided
not to live. Some nights her leaves

are the color of rusted forks; some
nights as blue as my frozen lips.

Your disease and its cure had
the same course; stillness, the ending

of need. A racoon the size of a small
refrigerator waddles onto the tattered

lawn, sits on its haunches and begs
for dog food, but the hound was sent

away last year; she couldn’t shake,
play dead or sit: a dark wet mouth

that kept pulling me to the ground,
bruising my neck. My disease echoes

yours, siphoning my breath into
the snow while I sort the birdseed

for the cardinals; the dog told me
I was just jealous, and the racoon,
nodding, grinning, agreed.


One Left Turn / by Susan Reid

What if I took just one left?
There are other roads, I see them,
branches off this familiar circle
vanishing in those hills, or that wood.

All I have to do is turn once
in any other direction
and everything would be new.

As it is, round and round I go,
to the right and right again
on the path which my own feet
have beaten flat.

It is pretty, with interesting trees
and modest houses full of light, food,
music, and long-time friends

and always, if I keep to the path,
my own home at circle’s end
But now and then, usually on the way home
I wonder, what if I took
just one left?


When Your Mother Gets Old / by Jacqueline Schaalje

When your mother gets old
her voice gets tiny and decamps,
nestles in a tootling drum,
a starving bee winging in your ear.

Just like her body, desiccated insect rump
with ineffectual arms and stick legs,
shunts aside to preserve its physicality,
reverse-birthing in your womb.

You carry her around shortcuts, mortally afraid
of the siren when you will need to be her stretcher,
when her shoes deflate, her wheels
splay, her wings snap. There you go

pitch her porcelain chalice high on the
column. Screws hold her, your hands, while you’re gaining
strength. She screams something moving
about how she was everything to you.

It was true. It was by design.
You are her tomb


Intangibiles / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

Some say we should be grateful, I do
not disagree, but the thing I need
to say, for you to hear is
gratitude does not equal
safety to a young mother, it fills
an abstraction, not children’s
bellies; nor does it cure
cancer or unbreak a heart or
keep you warm or make the
loneliness dissipate in cloud and sky,
no. Gratitude is a trick of the mind like
quarters appearing behind your
ears when your uncle comes to visit.
It is there, but does not belong to you,
only the cosmos, the empty blackness
devoid of air and light.


A Tale of Not So Ancient Mariners / by Lisa Stice

How strange that evening—

the sea was like a carpet

held down by an island and

two smaller ships besides

ours, and you would think

us cursed, for our ship made

no progress, and try as she

might, the captain could

not steer her port nor

starboard, and so there we –

captain (girl), swashbuckler (I),

and appointed first-mate (dog) –

remained until the oven chimed,

and we jumped ship, howling

like the ghost pirates we

obviously became, treading

that rigid water all the way

to who we were before.


Day 13 / Poems 13


Like orchids / by Eleni Bastéa

13 January 2018

And maybe exiles
are like orchids
growing suspended
between trees
and cultures.
Beautiful flowers
without roots.


This is a Tear or Secret / by Christine Hamm

“Are we still moving,” someone asks.

From the script: that must be the way

I spoke to sam/ he’s a friend/ this is a

wonderous moment (the orange crystals,

how they glow and fade – a Star Trek

stage set) oh, you are ghost/ you are

a ghost/ you come from a ghost planet

you are long dead/ but I can feel my heart

beat/ I always wanted to speak to one

of you / feel it right here/ what does it matter

anyway/ how can you prove you are real/

perhaps you are here (hugging the grass roots,

caressing the buried coins and beetle larvae,

a thing without eyes or toes) you cannot know


A Weather Analogy For The Current Climate / by Susan Reid

All of my carefully scattered sand,
set out to keep visitors, or the UPS guy,
from falling in my driveway
is gone.

Yesterday’s relentless rain washed it all away,
right down to the hard old snow,
until the path gleamed, wet
and treacherous.

Now it is sleeting, cold needles,
pelted from sullen clouds
keeping me indoors, taking down a power line
or two, cutting us off from light, heat,
each other.

Snow is promised; clean, cold,
uniform white, like a pretty movie set,
soft enough to break a fall on the hidden ice,

Tonight it gets cold, dropping to ten below
like an axe, driving anyone still out there
in to candle lit half-warmth,separating us
into our clans.


After an Accident / by Jacqueline Schaajle

What you get from the crack, between the row of trees
a new route, white broken in the middle, a few clouds thrown
and birds pooping from poplars. Bees buzzing. Here is
where my mother tried to dodge an old coot, us two
kids in back. She stopped in time, in the glitter of day.
As asphalt crumbles in the circuit. An ambulance cuts out
the minutes for rescue, and the sky rumbles like a dog,
wholesomeness bending backwards to give us good sanction.
And everything, the great power in the thick of it,
we held like magic close to our skins. As we walked
we felt that something harrowing was behind us,
but there it was again, the funny broomsticks of tree branches,
green sprigs that might sprout into delectables —
let me see yours? We don’t remember the intricacies
of that day. The whole mechanics of tunneling through it
lay beyond us. My mother does. Yet when that air
is above, so encompassing eating us up, I say: I remember.


Lullaby – Day 13 / by Lisa Stice

Row, row, row your boat
toward the lost shore

where dreams reveal
themselves in full color.

Hang your arm over the side,
dip your fingers in the dark

waters of night, last flames
of fear drowned in the depths,

your hand cleaned now.
And when we reach land,

open the cage, release
the questions with their beaks

in infinite song. Then sleep,
for this is peace.

* first line from the nursery rhyme “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”


Day 12 / Poems 12


Map of her city / by Eleni Bastéa

12 January 2018

A woman’s skin was a map of the town
–Carol Ann Duffy, “The Map-Woman”

 A woman’s skin was a map of the town
suntanned, wrinkled & blotchy in parts
–the market, the train station, the countless basements.
In other parts, she looked aged but elegant
–Byzantine monuments, arcades, fountains & the sea.

Some parts of the map remained unknown
–unclaimed bald patches, empty of signs.
But others were drunk in frenzied cross-hatchings
overlapping trajectories, circles & graphs
–that bit of the city she knew by heart.

In her parents’ apartment, where she grew up
she sat on the balcony, reading a novel
the city embroidering itself on her breasts
a portable, invisible, indelible map
she folded it into a paper airplane & headed west.


The Deer / by Christine Hamm

came into the backyard
early in the morning and your

mother, overly excited,
woke you up tearing

open the windows, screaming
the name of these dull animals,

saying that noun over and over.

Gone the squash, the ivy,

gone the pink wild roses you never got close enough to smell –

the deer kept browsing, bigger than life,

slow as fur-covered astronauts,

lit by a sun threatening to burst into seed.


The Tide on Sandy Neck / by Susan Reid

The tide comes in, stealthy over sand,
thin-skinned, shining a little.
Tiny scaled ripples slide into the channel
between sandbar and shore
like ghost fish.

Flat, infant flounder are the first to notice,
lying on their sides, one eye to heaven,
the other to sand,
letting the water carry them swift as blood
through the rapids of capillaries

Then shrimp, no bigger than
the tip of a child’s finger.
catch the current
curved, perfect and translucent
in their half formed shells.

By the time we turn from the flats
with our clam rakes and quahogs ,
we wade, ankle deep
In a current of water and creatures,
both blind to our presence.

We scoop with our hands,
and life and water slip-wriggle
through our fingers
as they always have,
and always will.


Happy Streak / by Jacqueline Schaalje

Who said you were
a happy genius.

Who said you were
a happy genius
who danced around naked.

Who said you were
a happy genius
and rolled your fat tummy round.

Who said you were
attractive with that fat tummy
in front of the window.

Who said you were
in front of the window
at the time that I strolled past.

Who said a happy genius
can bridle his urges.

Who said attack.
Who said streak.


she / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

no secret some are feared
embodying change or inspiration
instilled, in minds and hearts
one way of being

true. reasoning through fear of
someone. something. Other than
dogmatic beliefs, comfortable
acceptable alliances, demeaning

a woman’s
voice and vector, her soothsaying
exposé of his underbelly. unconscionable
abuse, apathy. arrogant illusion

she is less. hate
hinders her purpose, nothing but
a placeholder in history? how?
why do i care if

no one else cares?
all the weight, wringing of
hands to cup her face in
darkness, to drink her years
of sorrow, she

is me.



Day 11 / Poems 11


Strolling with my father in Thessaloniki / by Eleni Bastéa

11 January 2018

“Let’s go for a walk,” I heard you say
“to see the new shop windows
ready for Christmas & the New Year
special displays, winter scenes, Santa Claus, children & toys
I haven’t been downtown for years.”

“Yes, let’s go for a walk,” I said
“to see the streets transformed with garlands of light
golden & amber & cut-glass reflections
lit arcs suspended above the pedestrians
a street map made of light.

Let’s go on for a walk by the sea
you haven’t seen the paralia for years
wide, repaved waterfront, new gardens & fountains
lit trees with stars for the season
couples & families strolling as ever.”

“Let’s go for a walk,” I heard you say
in my dream.

paralia: seafront (Greek)


Notes From the Garden / by Christine Hamm

A bee has drowned in the rainwater of a plastic take out container.
The cats flop in the shadows, nose the overgrown clover.
One climbs the chainlink fence to the other backyard.
I am sure I am being bitten everywhere.

Brown and white butterflies scatter across the the roofstops.
You told me once you knew how to use a mirror to start a fire.
Last night, I dreamed that I was lost in an institutional building,
crawling through refrigerators and smaller and smaller doorways.

You told me once you knew. In the hospital, your face looked
like another face. I kept asking the nurse if this was really your
room. More bees cluster at the edge of the dirty water, and
a moth lands on the plastic hinge, closes its ragged wings.


Because Now One Was Watching / by Susan Reid

the car window opened, just wide enough
on that empty stretch of road
for the coffee cup and a few torn,
white -flag envelopes
to show the way
for the next passing car with a sodden bag
of empties, candy wrappers and kleenex

The beer bottles just couldn’t be found
in dad’s car or the family trash,
So they smashed them on the heap with the strength of thwarted teen desire.

The first bald tires arrived under cover of November dark
after the studded winter set went on
as snow fell, hiding the evidence.

Come spring, worn winter tires, followed by
a broken television and tired bed springs,
were left like anonymous hate mail

“It was a dump before I came along.”
they would say, looking both ways
before sliding the dead fridge off the truck
crushing trilliums and bending maple saplings in a widening arc
of waste, and belligerent stealth.

After all, no one
was watching


If You Know Snow / by Jacqueline Schaajle

If you know snow only from a book
You can be alone, or make a snowperson
And create anything under your g-loved hands

If you know snow only from a book
you can still have white, quiet mornings
and mysterious, fearful evenings

In the wide tide of shimmerings
icicles might trick you
and propose a beauty overhaul

Unseen, you can have hundreds of words for it
your children will have a feeble grasp of
unless you make them read

If you know snow only from a book
you stand looking out, empty-handed,
not the easiest words melting against your palate

You must listen to witnesses of snow
but beware, don’t take over their words
The words must be yours

If you know snow only from a book
you won’t ever use sand to efface it
Snow sphinx sounds like a terrible idea

If you know snow only from a book
you can make a movie out of it
It’s up to you


Black / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

I left my stockings and
a glass of water
the last
place we were
together, hoping
you would come
yet time
is a black
I wait in
the balcony
for an encore.


Dropped from the Clouds* / by Lisa Stice

to defy rationale
to willingly jump

free-fall 8000ft
less than a minute

instinct moves arms
in a breath-stroke
(not what you want to do)

instinct moves feet
searching for a hold
(not what you want to do)

mind must be tricked
a meditation of sorts

before the second arrives
when the cord is pulled

* title of first section of The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne


Day 10 / Poems 10


Salt / by Eleni Bastéa

10 January 2018

Gray winter rain on my forehead
streaks down my cheeks
I open my mouth
and taste the salt.
A mile high in the desert
this is the closest I can come
to the sea today.


Misnomer / by Christine Hamm

when the police
ring my high-pitched
it is only
to ask about
postal theft

white powder
coats the officers’
black gloves

I had called
about the girls

in the shopwindow
across the street

on snow as
useless as a tongue

I tuck myself
in the cupboard

the bathroom
sink: the radiators

like a child
locked in a car


Cat Rules / by Susan Reid

At first
the cat claimed he didn’t remember the rules,
jumping from the kitchen table,
affronted at the spray from the plant mister.

The next time
he said that they are stupid rules,
He did not land gracefully,
sat, offended, in the kitchen doorway.

he explained that the rules do not apply to him,
asked me to get out the butter,
lay down for a bath next to the sugar bowl.

At the moment,
the water in the mister is running low.
There is still no butter out, and neither of us
has learned the rules.


Dust to Dusting / by Jacqueline Schaalje

Holy water for brook, brown habit

for tree, stained glass for a notepad—

Mr X, Catholic by upbringing, inhabits a Latin

landscape, imparting wonder like the vernacular

hassock, I mean my Atlas. Wasting days, until my father,

accusing me of putting down roots, chased me away, I pored

over the forests and plains where I knew

not a soul, what kind of person, what sign, brought forth

a snowcapped steeple. I still don’t know.

Meanwhile round the table where a stern brother

broke bread and gave a stir in the leek soup,

where crows cawed over the wooden St Peter,

Mr X, a farmer’s son, was packed to boarding school.

The prim brothers taught him, besides a firm grasp

of poetics, of sin and nonsense. And dust, heaps of dust,

he told his orthodox neighbour, who contracted a pissed frown,

thwarting his conversion overtures. Do you

want to saddle your wife with all that dusting, he said,

clear up those mud rivers and soot banks,

when we all clutter heaven’s heavenly landscape?


Little Astronaut / by Lisa Stice

Look, I say, pointing up,
that star is really a planet,
far, far away. See how
it shines, no twinkle.

You say you want to travel
there, knees cramped, walls
close in a spaceship, rattle
then boom of take-off.

Your hand mimics the ship,
how it floats in nothingness,
traveling the whole of our
kitchen to capture the breadth

of the universe, gone to seek
a destination then returning
homeward, laughing and
singing, your voice like

a swallow, words chirped
of earth of waterfalls and
yellow hills, home, we’re
all right here and okay.


Day 9 / Poems 9


Hansel & Gretel / by Eleni Bastéa

9 January 2018

Forty days & more
they walk in the forest
forty nights & more
they fly with the bats
they step on dead leaves
meet an owl, a badger & a red-haired squirrel
all dead & half-eaten
in the distance
they hear the foxes hunting for food
they fear the living
more than the dead.

“Go, now!” their father had said
forty mornings ago
twenty-one hundred days & more
no rooster calling the day
no chickens left in the coop
no bread rising in the oven
children in hiding, no more seeking
eyes scanning the ominous skies
ears tuned to distant explosions
their mother smaller & smaller
their father older & older again.

“Go find the beautiful house
at the end of the forest
walk down an alley of roses & dahlias
rhododendrons & tulips
enter the door of rainbows & cakes
gingerbreads rising in the ovens
taste the windows made of sugar
sweet & transparent as dawn”
their mother had said
her mouth now drier
than even the desert.

Forty days & more
they walk in the forest
forty nights & more
they fly with the bats.


Fragments of a Desert / by Christine Hamm

“Things get broken all the time,”
I tell her. The rash has spread

to my arms.Why the cartoons now
on every commercial? Handcuffs

and a pistol on a talking white horse.
Animals fill my bedroom and I am

working on forgetting their names.
Even now, I remember the click and

ping of the emergency room machines,
how I couldn’t move my arms, and how

splendid it was. I fainted, and when
I came to, the same pony was roaming

those barren hills: G-d’s own screensaver.
The nurses packed my head with ice,

and the psychiatrist asked me the same
question – do you know the date, do you

know who you are, do you know where
it is – his voice a prickly white noise.


Thirty degrees / by Susan Reid

The sidewalks are all inches deep in slush
We splash along, coats unzipped at the throat,
grinning silly grins, prisoners freed from steel
shackles of cold for an afternoon.

At the grocery store,
a cashier I haven’t seen before
says. “I sure hope spring gets here soon..”

Half way through January, not one of us
in line, with carts or baskets full of red meat,
root vegetables and batteries
has the heart to tell her.

She wears gloves at her register, indoors.
She is clueless as she tells us
how cold she is

It feels too personal to tell her
about the tenuous chance to unzip,
let her hair down from under her hat,
show a little pale, tender skin.

How long will it take: weeks? years?
before she learns the sensual thrill of
languorous motion after days
of brisk and bitter scrambling,

uncurling like a rare lily in weak sunlight
at thirty degrees.


Mouthings / by Jacqueline Schaalje

Your winter coat from Prague. Thermo-patched, dove-cuirass
lays upon a blond fur corona, buckled forward for a kiss.
Bubble gum encroaches, making mad with riddle,
I ask is that cleanser tea, that scent your collar keeps down.
Beatific with your husky halo, eater of chicken breast,
you resist so many who would have you,

I can only envy you, sculptor of heart muscles. Lightning.

Geranium lips expectant with curling, the first toppings.
A pearly rain drips in the overlit, plum parking lot.
In the boudoir of our seaming hoods it’s cool and warm,
leaning back lucky into hovercraft, spice of spittle,
you’ve taken after the baby. I start to dream.
In this slave market of permeable flesh we control our

import. I like the things that you don’t like in you.

You feed your loss, that pain flattened; bubbling like lava,
I follow your censer. The plated car cracks open
to stay put until midnight. The organs swell and luxuriate:
bitter, blooming, I have done this ad nauseam.
Newbie divorcé, I meet your eye to see
and there is more. With the drama sketched in,

the routines you do seem so marvelously new.


Reality / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

What is real? I sometimes wonder when
my mind like scrambled eggs tries parsing
it out, especially here
in a house full of whispers and
shadow plots weaving through our
sleep. We dream about

another lifetime, where love filled our
home, a meager place nourishing, fed
with light abundant, laughter
and some tears, but always
seeking out beauty, accepting this
life. Two birds with broken

wings learning to fly



Day 8 / Poems 8


Cities without maps / by Eleni Bastéa

8 January 2018

We are all wandering Jews
making our way
in cities without maps
without songs & cemeteries
Echoless cities
of buried languages
burned books & symbols
history hidden
under bridges & temples
monasteries & mosques.

I hear the rattle of ghosts
and the chatter of children
without grandfathers
crying themselves to sleep
without lullabies
hunting for known words
in the Babel of Exodus
teaching themselves the alphabet
by memorizing buildings
still standing.


Ode to Love / by Christine Hamm

as you name the stars turning,
as the air thick with fig trees’
sickly-green scrotal buds,
I describe my glass wrists and
stupid mother’s tongue, pink
petals fall half-dead, lining this
hill’s construction sites. The night
glows like bad meth as I lick, as I lick,
as I lick the skin under your ear,
tasting popcorn, piss. Later, I wake you
four times to make sure we are having
the same dream: the bees in my mouth
shaking themselves free and zooming
back to sting my face, my breasts,
until I swell like a sail, a candy-colored sail.
Surely I’m not the only one who opened
up my arms because it was too hot
and I wanted to let the breeze in.
Surely you know how cool razor
blades feel against the inside of your
mouth in summer. I look for the perfect
dress to make you love me but I look
in the sporting goods store, at the buck
knives and the fishhooks. I settle on
waders and a butterfly net.
What’s your favorite color? Do you
like me better with bangs or a bruised
mouth? Undo me, undo me already.


January Breakfast / by Susan Reid

Outside, the winter world is black and white.
wearing overcast, snow and morning-dark.

I sit in a pool of light at the worn, lovely table,
eating daffodil-yellow eggs
with bits of spring-green sweet pepper,
drinking coffee: strong, sweet, just right.

I make the usual lists in my mind,
but truly, I lack ambition.
What more should I reach for
besides black pepper.

This breakfast I have made
on a January morning
drives all need for climbing
on the backs of others to look tall
right out of my head.

You want some?


Talented / by Jacqueline Schaalje

When the left-handed twins write,
one is deft and concentrated, the other cranky,
but poised straight as a future beauty;

Quizzical of her pen, only the index
Finger snuggles. The other plunges his spear
into his letters like the entrails of a bird.

Once, when we played, the one hung
over her chair belly down, and swiveled.
The other smiles at his sister’s antics

and continues, a light behind his eyes;
the kind that is normally on standby,
turned on by need and demand.

That was long before they got so smart
and were able to twist and twine
their roles like the nest of blankets

on the one’s bed, while the other’s spare.
Each morning they gulp their gummy minerals,
sigh in the weak mix of their hair.

They invented the word joined.
Clearly, one is thriving, one is on call,
in shame, putting a third out.


An Introvert’s Haiku / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

In this stillness we
collect our fragments of light
within our freedom.


Will-o’-the-Child / by Lisa Stice

Right here, in the gap between pines,
the wisps make their homes—look
for them under fungus caps. My old
eyes confound me, but yours catch
a flash of blue here, purple over there.

Our breaths steam in the cold, and you
see them there, too. I think, exactly,
I should have known—the wildness
when you sing, the haphazard route
you take me on, back to our doorstep.


Day 7 / Poems 7


Hoover roses / by Eleni Bastéa

7 January 2018

There was a time we all lived
in a house with a rosebush
that reached my parents’ bedroom
“Deep roots, stalk strong, like a man’s arm”
my father would say.
Tender pink & apricot petals
exhaling citrus & spices
bloomed every year in May
St. Helen’s day
my grandmother’s name day & mine.

There was a time we all lived
in a house with a garden
each bearing a map of life
on the palm of the hand.

“Long lines, long life”
my grandmother once said
maybe all she ever said about the future
spoke even less about the past.
One baby boy lost
“not enough milk to nurse him, fleeing the fire”
One baby boy lost, “doctor’s mistake”
One baby boy lost, “the fever took him.”
My father, born in the new land
named Stergios, for “solid & firm, with deep roots.”

A silent past
of death & life, entwined together
intarsia lace in hues of silver & white
grandmother’s hair.


I Try to Say Beautiful Without Using the Word / by Christine Hamm

In this song, it sounds like “button” or “sky.” The tulips

in the dollar store are too bright to cause much pain. Poly-

ester and wire – it makes for interesting breakfast. I weave

the fake flowers into your hair, pretend you will wake up.

So many things are buried in that backyard. I found a doll

foot once, solid, cement-like, stained. The tiny toes were

not even painted. Pennies and pennies. Plastic barretts,

faded to sky-color. The snow is up to my knees now. My

breath freezes inside my mouth, mini iciles I swallow and

swallow. I said “mini” when I meant “many”. What have

you learned since then. Why do verses repeat: to make the

song long enough. Real pearl buttons, down every girls’

blue sweater.


Some Lessons Are Not Easily Transferred / by Susan Reid

I know the pattern is wrong.
I have to rip out the row,
take a new approach,
begin again.

After years of misfit sweaters,
odd garments laid away in chests
until I could bear to rip them apart,
or throw them away
I have finally learned to do this.

Just last September
I unraveled weeks
of painstaking lace

Usually, these days,
I catch on sooner,
am better at letting go,
picking my way carefully backward
rather than ripping out
large swatches of work
done over days,
While I tried to ignore
a nagging undercurrent of error

I save a lot of time and yarn .
moving on
knowing I’ve got it right.

Why is it still so hard
to say “I’m sorry”.
“I was wrong.”
to do it soon,
and make amends.
before whole friendships unravel.


The City with a Heart / by Jacqueline Schaalje

You know the city where you went to on the cheap,
the city that had positive buzz, said your friends;
see this cozy cafe, salad with pomegranate;
the city where once upon a time they bombed its heart
out, and now you find yourself wandering, looking
for its heart, maybe it is in that street,
behind that mall, palace with its cute sign and turrets,
clearly not the real thing, nor authentic, is it.
Still, it’s cheap here, and warm, because I make that effort.
The museum showed a maquette showing sacrifice
after the showdown. It turns out the city never had
a heroic past, nor gush of glory. After the bloody war
I see orphans recruited by clergy, passing buckets
with rubble from the spire. I am unable to put myself
in the place of a stricken bow-tied daughter.
The monk, once, was smiling, avuncular. He had a past,
parents, that fed him black bread and potatoes, deloused
him behind his ears and coiled his earlock, then
sent him along, a caress on his cold, cold cheek.
What can he say now to those cute kids? More
pictures roll past. Cannon holes and beggars in rags.
Who knows that if I had a daughter I would tell her
the city we visit, it has a heart still, and gradually
I would have her discover for herself, herself.



New Writer / by Lisa Stice

One thing’s clear:
there is a degree of
pleasure in seeing a name
written out in capitals,
seven letters gathered,
staggered and uneven,
scrawled out by a hand
still learning to rest
a pencil in the cradle
between forefinger
and thumb.


Day 6 / Poems 6


Poseidon’s fury / by Eleni Bastéa

6 January 2018

The sea will rise again
Can’t you hear
Poseidon’s roar
reclaiming his underwater kingdom?

Unstoppable waves
years of daily tsunamis
tears swelling the oceans
violent deaths
foresee the ancient soothsayers
who chart the flights of birds
and bury the sacrificed & their remains
. . . . . . . a child’s flip flops
. . . . . . . a plastic ball, rolling alone
. . . . . . . a doll, missing an eye.

And we, on the other side of history
hang onto a red thread of hope
& wait for Moses to part the seas.


A Cat will Show its Wide Mouth as Way of Saying Hello / by Christine Hamm

When I was first able to walk, I fell into a doll. I named
her (—) until my grandmother hit that name out of my
mouth. We wore indentical cotton frocks: red with black
camellias, a black ribbon tied at the neck. Lace at every
opening, stiff, ugly as bark. I fed her tinsel along with the
yellow cat. With the screen door open, the animals started
to come inside. I named her Christine because I couldn’t
imagine another word. I stared at the pink wall next to my
bed with my hands over my ears. The wall receded. The
pink became liquid. Everyone’s face wore a frown that day,
and someone was put in the fireplace. My father laughed
and laughed when a women’s hair caught fire. But that
was another party.


Wireless Epiphany / by Susan Reid

I can’t walk downtown
on line
can’t get a lick of fresh air
or exercise

I can’t try on that glitzy jacket
on Amazon
and laugh with the store clerk
who knows me just enough to know
why I laugh.

I can’t flip through the pages
on calendars and books I never thought
to click on.
There would be no surprises.

I can’t run into Pat at the bookstore
who was in my wedding 30 years ago,
can’t see an old friend
or my cousin
somewhere in State Street
if I sit here staring at the screen.

I can’t see shop lights winking out,
displays disappearing
FOR RENT signs gathering dust
If I click through the emerald on-line city
and never leave Oz
to breathe the outside air,
to breathe life
Into my town.



Girl / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

This pillow she made
much like the headache
pillow she stuffed
with dryer
lint, stitched with 10 year
old hands, a generous
offering, both
sit upon my bed of
grief and regret
while arctic air
seeps through to my


Sometimes When I’m Walking / by Lisa Stice

I am merely walking, but
sometimes each step
is a question mark and
itself the answer
. . . . . . . . . . . . . how
this body moves, slow
today, bending to press
my thumbprint in snow
to feel
. . . . . . . . . . . . . what
the earth must feel now,
not catatonic but asleep,
dreaming, turning still,
and this is
. . . . . . . . . . . . . why
I imagine the stars as
ships sailing a dark sea,
and know for a fact
I am myself
. . . . . . . . . . . . . who
with miles behind me
and more ahead, does not
want to regret I existed


Day 5 / Poems 5


In the Hong Kong metro / by Eleni Bastéa

5 January 2018

In the Hong Kong metro train
deep red doors glide open
each car orderly & well-lit
red grab handles, red poles
clean metal seat benches
students in pressed British-school uniforms
slim young professionals in grey & black
men & women with shopping bags
a traveling city of strangers.

I meet the eyes of an older man
sitting across from me
soft, friendly gaze
deep & familiar like the sea
cradling his city
and mine.


If God is a Father / by Christine Hamm

And when you opened my throat up,
it was full of pearls. But also, maggots.

Some months, birds felt so enraged
they harrassed my every step.“Funny,

ha ha, or funny, strange?” you liked
to say when my lower lip (click, snap)

twisted up, my chin dimpling into
the surface of the moon. In a pet store,

a lovebird jumped on my shoulder and
tried to eat my earlobe. You found this

amusing, because it was happening to me.
You felt the pain of your own knocked

out tooth, hangover, forgotten quarter,
twice as deeply as necessary.That’s why

you threw your martini at me at the diner
when I said, “Tragedy plus –“ then the

room hit me.When I was four, a goose
chased me into the girls room: that made

you laugh. Because you found my pain
so comical,whenever the weather was right,

you took my photo.You said, “That’s
why I’m a poet,” or was that me.


Putting Her Foot Down / by Susan Reid

They came and ripped up
the old linoleum, or started to,
then went off to put in
a few more hours on
someone else’s ripped up kitchen.

But she was used to children,
trying to hoard more toys than they could
play with, and claim more cookies
than they could hope to eat

When the flooring guys dropped by again,
like kids, poking a finger into a brownie,
hoping to do a little work, then move
to some new kitchen for another deposit,
she put her foot down
on the felt padding they had left
the first time.

Blocking the doorway, she said
“If you come in here,
you will finish this job.
If you leave again with this floor
torn apart, and go
to some other job,
I will not let you in this house again.”

The next time she put her foot down
in that kitchen,
there was new linoleum,
not one corner left unfinished.


SOS Children’s Villages / by Jacqueline Schaalje

The lady that I work for that is rather lonely saves her last teabag
For the SOS children’s villages. She doesn’t allow me
to buy new pajamas, rip the blue pair and use it to dust
the ledge under her Christmas cards. In that faded rag
they can burn her, she says, without a trace of rue.
She is worried someone stole those Christmas cards. Fancy pajamas
are a foible. Better put that money in her piggy. Her whole
savings, the afterlife, are in SOS villages. She has to scrimp
as she knows exactly what is happening beyond this.
The whole wing has donated their clothes. Sometimes, a resident
with a less than golden future, already bought a dressy blouse and pants,
from the exclusive store in town, now they hang out to gather
in her shower stall. Her white, flakey body unshowered.
Why shower when it is just as clean to cat lick?
I make her tea, again, while I tell her and then shut up
What she can do, and cannot do, for her and those poor children.


Boy / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

He is everywhere I am
not, giving alms to
a god
inaccessible to us
both, blood of these brittle

He walked past us at market, between bananas
and bread,
or did he? Uncertainty lives
here, my heart a heat seeking missile

He smiled at the camera
some place familiar,
my tears
unknown to him
water this garden, perennials
of grief.


Tea Party with a Realist / by Lisa Stice

You are a hedgehog and I
am a rabbit and then she
reminds me it is just pretend—
from these tea cups we sip
only air honeyed with the stir
of an empty spoon, this meadow
is only a blanket spread out
on the kitchen floor, that wild
wolf returning from his prowl
is only our terrier now joining
the party, and we are not fluent
in the languages of animals
even after all this time.


Day 4 / Poems 4


A million small deaths / by Eleni Bastéa

4 January 2018

A million small deaths
day and night
I can’t hear
Routine explosions
the light receptors
of the retina
The executioner circles the skies
Clouds of vultures
fight the living
for burial rites.

A million small deaths
day and night
And my heart
a broken seismograph
of past eruptions
A city lost
the death of parents
and others.


The Stuffed Body of a Fawn / by Christine Hamm

under a bell jar tipped in the corner

by the kitchen sink

chick-a-dees pip in the empty window

Why can’t I forget what we did?

abandoned wasp nests

failed ivy, yarrow, dandelions

settling and cooing in the ceiling

a pink stain in the shape of a lop-sided buck

chick-a-dees pip

or crickets something repeating

You touching my neck, my wrists under water.


The Point of a Pantoum / by Susan Reid

There are a lot of pantoum definitions out there. This is the one taught to me. I was also taught that rules are made to be broken, so I did that too

1 A friend asked me to write a pantoum
2 She likes the repetition
3 It brings out those important points
4 you really want to hammer home

2 She likes the repetition
5 Say it, and say It again
4 you can really hammer it home
6 Once you know what it is.

5 Say it and say it again
7 Shuffle images and ideas
6 Do you know what it is yet?
8 Maybe it will surprise you

7 Shuffle images and ideas
9 See where the words fall
8 Maybe they will surprise you
10 Words can mean in different directions

9 See where the words fall
1 When you try writing a pantoum
10 Words can mean in different directions
3 and land on unintended important points.


The Tree / by Jacqueline Schaalje

Blinking proudly, the plastic tree
Rootless, splay-toed, vase-secured,
Sends forth its irrational light.
Of who was born, and why, and where,

The crisp dark bashful between the twigs,
The spinster of stars lifts her crown,
Its needles not bristling against the gilded quell,
Bob with irredeemable joy.

And no ten thousand spine-dry creatures aggregate,
Their burrows petered, perished the magis’s gaze,
Adore the hands, the menace of warmth;
Growths on the disposable intersections.



Reading Szymborska During a Snow Storm / by Lisa Stice

I turn another page—this one dog-eared
from some other time. Bergamot steeps
in my cup as snow grows deeper outside.

For a long while, the only sounds: paper
sliding along paper and a faucet’s
light stream from down the hall, then

a word sets fire to a thought and I reach
for my pen—the dog rings his bell, but still
I attempt to write. He is unyielding.

And after he’s left prints circling the yard,
after he’s done his business, I rub his feet
warm and kiss the top of his head because

I love him, and that moment when idea
would explode into poem has passed, but
I don’t despair—more will burn again.


Day 3 / Poems 3


Children of refugees / by Eleni Bastéa

3 January 2018

Children of refugees
born in a land of foreign dreams
and unknown songs
learn to crawl on sharp stones
cut glass under their knees
Fine trails of blood
embroider new maps
of the way home.

Children of refugees
taste the lost country
in silent suppers
of bread and bean soup
olives and pickles, some cheese
the living cannot ask for more
Gratitude, even for hunger
chokes the young.


Unending / by Christine Hamm

I. new year

in and out, phoenix-like, zombie-like

in the x-files, scully got a tattoo of a snake on her ass

the ouroboros, which means a snake eating its tail

it can be drawn using different methods

it often wears a dragon’s head

II. the most effective gun is a gun in the hands of child

i try to write 1 slash 2 as a date, but it keeps autocorrecting to one half

i dream that spiders go in at the mouth, so i use toothpaste, then mouthwash, then drano

When i say “you” i am often talking to my dead horse

i tell my husband that i want a gravestone in titanium,
because that is the strongest metal i know

you suck at my elbow scabs, then eat them

you like the texture of my yellow hair, so you eat that too,
although it hurts when you yank it free

this is useless, he can’t even read


That Little Girl, Pony Dream / by Susan Reid

Pat lived up the road
and had a Shetland pony
named Silver.

We would ride him
every day after school,
taking turns, cantering
up the little rise to my house,
walking back down to the culvert
to switch riders,

two farm girls,
living that little girl, pony dream.

It wasn’t as exciting
as you might think,
far from the variety of town,
just the two of us,

Day in, and day out.
riding some fifty feet up that slope
and back down,
over and over

Except when Silver ran off
With Pat in his back,
all the way home,
scraping her off at the barn door,

Or when he took me
at a gallop down the pasture,
tumbling me over his head
when he stopped suddenly
to eat sweet new spring grass
through the fence

Nevertheless, our town friends were jealous
of our story book pony
With his silver mane,
wicked eye, and jingling gear.

As I would later be jealous
of their boyfriends,
when one of them would say

“It isn’t as exciting
as you might think,
Just the two of you,
Day in and day out,

Unless he runs off with you,
or dumps you
for some sweet, new, spring grass
on the other side
of the fence.”


Female Fretting / by Jacqueline Schaalje

A woman, say, halfway, knows you’re not as great
as you were made out to be when mum said to save
yourself, it would be beautiful. Beauty like Chagall, or
Self Portrait’s lace? Pull that smile off your face.
Where is the beauty? Where is that heavenly
feeling? Only those few seconds
intact— catapulted on a chain that sways yes, then grinds
to a halt. You feel rubbish again.
And the body beside you, don’t you
feel their weight, stroking? You can’t have a bone
they haven’t pressed their lips to. If you love—
conditioned so– will you have more of those lips curling?
Will that be great? I mean how much of that movement
goes into greatness? Ah, and does that make it?



Winter Haiku / by Lisa Stice

this wind steals our breath
lungs ache with icy vapor
even the dog slows

no water today
I wash my hands in the pot
soaking from last night

thankful for water,
saved in a pitcher, boiling
now in the kettle


Day 2 / Poems 2


Thessaloniki / by Eleni Bastéa

2 January 2018

I was born in a sad city
of ships and emigrants
— Cristina Peri Rossi, “Montevideo”

I was born in a floating city
sister of mercury
mistress of the Vardar wind
mother of tongues
tethered to the harbor
by the filigree ropes
of memory and desire.

I was born in a city of secrets
houses made of air
and unfinished suppers
students and ghosts
marching in military parades
strolling by the waterfront


the problem is / by Christine Hamm

sometimes I forget

I am in an atmosphere

I cannot breathe

I am underwater

in a log

trees become logs

after they fall

into the water

and sink

I am mud

mudlike, something small

so easily pierced


The Nature of Art / by Susan Reid

If the window glass
was not old, wavy and scratched,
smudged with fingerprints

If cold air could not
creep in at the edges when
wind is from the west,

if I did not breathe,
moist warmth, sing, cough, talk to the
cat and radio,

these ferns and flowers
of ice would not glitter and
grow on my window.

Lifeless perfection
would leave the glass barren, just
something to see through.


The couple / by Jacqueline Schaalje

The couple mount the mound at every flood
Shaped like a dome, jutting from the meadow

with knotted elms. When the baby isn’t cold,
In its raggedy wrap, small and hard like a stone,

they are grateful cupping its weight.
Fallen from their beds, the dawn, blue-gray

Lights the tops of their heads, it nestles
As they clump together on the soft wet grass.

Even when there is just them — without their stuff,
Not a putrid napkin, a snaggled comb, a conch

they can hear the sea in, this exhausted couple
saved their baby so often, nothing seems

so strange. They will bring other babies
to this pitiful mound that has saved them

each time they ran — one day they may be
too late, a rush of water will outfox them,

and bury their soaked artifacts and rags,
before their time. Biological strife

flattens their wall, and calls their wail human.


Ascension / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

Tall as trees yet greener than the ancient pin
oaks swaying, branches outstretched, I watch

them, get to know their cadence and
chatter, noise to fill a house haunted by

death. Walking corpses entombed, petrified sorrow
preach disdain, dissolves on the tongue. Why not

swallow your fear? Life is for the living. Their young eyes
drive darkness from forgotten corners, clearing

cobwebs gathered dust, rusted remains
rendered in a rue of righteousness, rage

at God, “My will, not His, be done!” But the seed drifted,
and from those tired bones, reach the smiles of children

so much like their father, and his father long ago, shining
like sunlight on Pluto’s surface, bathing, caressing until

a fissure is made. God’s promises fulfilled, should
one care to notice, are right here in front of us.


While Daddy’s at Training, My Daughter Asks Questions / by Lisa Stice

I don’t know how to explain 35,000 feet—
all I can say is it’s very high—yes, far above
our house and those trees, but no, not beyond
the moon or the stars—and how far are those?
but I don’t know how to explain that either.

When will he be back?—so I count the days,
point to them on the calendar—what is it like
in the sky?—I say I know it’s cold and difficult
to breathe, but I don’t know how to explain
50 below or the partial pressure of oxygen.

She pretends to be an airplane—can I skydive?
and I say when you are much older, but I don’t
know if I’d want her to—she counts backwards
then jumps her couple inches—and my heart
rises before it falls back into place again.


Day 1 / Poems 1


Genesis / by Eleni Bastéa

1 January 2018

Feel the warmth of the afternoon sun
caressing your right cheek
brushing it softly
like a mother’s first touch.

Return to the womb of the earth
swim in its fluid world
crust, mantle and core all evenly mixed.
There was a time before oceans and continents.

Tectonic eruptions, volcanoes, comets colliding
Return to the womb of the earth
a molten core
muffling the sounds of genesis.

Pain and fear
Destruction and death
before birth.

Remember a time of ripe peaches
and calmed seas
songs sung in harmony
and gratitude after the rain.

Remember a time bursting with hope
your first-born finding the nipple
genesis finding paradise
time standing still.


Riding Hood / by Christine Hamm

They said

it was a red house

but they didn’t say

it was snowing:

cardinals, jays, starlings

in the branches, scolding,

fluttering, resettling –

the snow filtering down

like baby powder

onto wings.

And they didn’t say

it was me who was hungry,

shivering and stamping

at the door.


Aliens / by Susan Reid

Teetering on zero,
we take the plunge below
Into a world
of frost gardens
and bitter, paralyzing air.

Breathing clouds of ice,
bulky, faceless, we lumber
on booted feet,
the crunch and squeal of snow
amplified on thin air.

We are aliens in this ice-world
making inter-stellar trips
to the grocery store, the coffee shop,
crossing to other worlds
to visit a neighbor.

Coming in from the wind
between planets, we remove
boots, coats, scarves, mittens, hats
In mud room air locks,
slipping quickly
Into spaceship homes,
heated by long dead
tropical ferns.

No H. G. Wells, Flash Gordon
or Jules Verne creation
could be more alien than we are:
adaptive, invasive, stepping
from fabricated warmth
across a thin threshold,
teetering on zero


Fleshing Out / by Jacqueline Schaalji

The decision not fleshed out
so small it didn’t really exist.
Could I resist its shadow

and feel affection for its parent?
That I could give it dreams, maybe bad
ones that I cause?

Sometimes I imagine going shopping
for gaudy rags at Primark
and screaming at the top of our lungs.

So small it is crazy that I flushed it,
it would have been a you now, wan
youth, but of my growing own.

so undefined, I’m shy to ever
Look you in the eye —all purpose, not
One to disturb. What good is a shadow

if not created? A partner only
at parties? I’ve looked at your profile
and thought you resembled me, the shape

I’d been trying to reassemble for
when I’ll grow weaker, so to speak.
You keep with me, small again—

tiny, so I can hold you in my belly.
I talk to you, quietly,
Give you a little pat now and then.



Taking Out the Dog / by Lisa Stice

His jog halts just before crystalled grass,
a pause then light hops to the spot where
he stretches his body and gives a half leg-lift.

I wait in my buffalo plaid pajamas with
my arms hugging me warm with sleep
still clinging to the corners of my eyes.

But this newborn sun rises easy, colors
the sky pink, stretches its arms over
the two of us on this good morning.