The 30/30 Project: January 2018

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

The volunteers for January 2018 were 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.

To read the first half of January’s poems, click here.

Day 30 / Poems 30

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January Renga / by Eleni Bastéa, Christine Hamm, Susan Reid, Jacqueline Schaalje, Kim Bailey Spradlin, and Lisa Stice

Begin with winter
not an easy place to start
Take your time, bring light
Toss a bone to hungry dogs,
whose coats hang stiff with cold

Pull your own coat tight
one hand: holds the collar closed
other: pocket-warm
Sing spring songs to the rosebushes
shivering in the front yard

Summer so distant:
this coat weighs heavily on
Like ice on the rose, shiver.
I prefer short sleeves, even
among thorns, heat cuts to the quick.

When I said “take your time,”
I meant “hurry”; by now, I know, the dogs
gather, their breath white, hungry as sea spray
The dogs sit, waiting for the call
to run inside to warmth and a nap

I hold the lantern, we’ll
turn inside, I say. The kids breathe
daisy rosettes against the pane.
She said, “What did you expect
on a Day like this?” I stared at the fire, fumbling response,
my mouth forming the answer at last, “Nothing.”

Begin with the snowdrops, the crocus, the daffodil
the tulip, the bluebell, the hyacinth, the lily of the valley
begin with the spring
when the kids breathe daisies, the dogs lie like slugs
in the shade, and you can expect something new

*
*

Viens, viens / by Eleni Bastéa

30 January 2018

My aunt drank languages like autumn wine
played her favorite records in French & in Greek
some in English. The living room always filled with music
she singing along «Viens, viens, c’est une prière. . .»*

She knew that all songs were written for her.
& that languages are lyrics for love & for loss.
She learnt the sounds of both by heart, over time
the rules of grammar, like life, could not be changed.

My aunt knew that both language & love first meet on the mouth.
On her lips each word tasted sweet, almost sensual
like apricot marmalade, butter & bread
our last breakfast together.

*“Come, come, it is a prayer. . . .” Lyrics of Viens, viens by Marie Laforêt, 1973.

*
*

Halfway / by Susan Reid

Outside my window
bare branches hold
a scattering of dried leaves.
Last week they were glazed in ice.
Tomorrow they will get a dusting of snow

For months now,
word from the roots has been
“Slow down
Save energy,
Sleep.”

Now, it is the balance point of winter, Candlemas, Groundhog Day, Tu BiShvat — Jewish Birthday of tres,
halfway between solstice and equinox

Here in the north the old ones tell you
that you should still have at least half
your winter fuel.
They say “As the light lengthens, the cold strengthens.”
They scoff at the groundhog’s shadow, and tell about big April snow storms.

And yet,something changes;
roots gather their strength,
send out word,
They are no longer sleeping.
They are waiting.

Something is starting
that we can not yet see.
No sap yet,
No buds,
Just a faint vibration
of energy and hope,

The visible incarnation is sun
Inching closer,
lasting longer,
edging out the dark.

We celebrate the new thing,
even the wary old ones join in,
From Israel, to Ireland, to Punxsutawny
we mark the
nameless trembling
at our roots,
balanced between solstice and equinox,
halfway to spring.

*
*

This Side of the Divide / by Jacqueline Schaalje

This side of my story is for people who
understand life. And this side is for people
who are new to the business. While I suffer
from echolalia, the fighter wants to hear ricochets.

The advice kind is the kind that is most popular
to give. My advice is this: the people who hide
on that side should keep out! The people who
lean on this side, I ask: What did you expect?

*
*

According to the Experts / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

Some people throw their expertise
around like confetti,
confusing knowledge with truth, power
with protection. They laugh from their gilded
seats while children die from pneumonia,
cancer—it’s all Making America Great
again; another homeless woman
becomes an ice
sculpture on a back street. Its far from their
pristine lawns, golf carts on inaccessible
paths. God makes the crooked road
straight. Bootstraps and all. Take the crumbs
graciously. At least, shut up about gnawing
stomachs, empty cups. Survival of the
privileged, Billie said it. God bless our
Children, with their own or not. Freedoms
are just site clicks, happiness is just a
meme.

*
*

Endings / by Lisa Stice

I’m the sort of person
who walks to the edge
of the driveway, still
waving until the car
turns the corner and
is out of sight.

When the book is finished,
it goes back on the shelf:
to be read again and again…

I stand at my seat, clapping
until the house lights go on,
and the roadies clear away
the instruments and mics.
I buy the album in the lobby.

So, just look for me—
I’ll be around.

*
*

Day 29 / Poems 29

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The navy blue coat / by Eleni Bastéa

29 January 2018

I sing to my blue hen. I fold her wings
against my body.
Ann Gray, “My blue hen”

I live in my navy blue coat.
It’s loose like a cloak, with a silver lining
deep, slit pockets on the sides
& a tab hiding the buttons, down the middle.

When I went to Paris for the first time
I hid my mother inside the coat.
Women on the train smiled at me
they smiled at my fetching new coat.

My mother spoke French beautifully.
The nuns in Greece had taught her well.
She stayed up all night sewing the coat
every stich stitching flight maps of desire.

I talk to my navy blue coat: Remember, there was a time
my mother still dreamed of going to Paris
and if not she, then her children?
In your deep pockets, I touch my mother’s wishes.

*
*

Who Are You And Why Are You Following / by Christine Hamm

One of us is connected
to the other by a wet
string. One of us

is burying some-
thing in the sand.
Why am I holding

your hand, hoping you
will love me?
The sky is filled

with tilted mirrors,
the beach littered
with sighing mothers.

You gave me my
first velvet dress,and
told me I was stupid.

Someone’s whispering
as I try to sleep
under the lake.

Can you hear it?
It’s not a pleasant voice,

or the radio. Something angry
and feathered, a crow caught in string.

*
*

Too Big To Care / by Susan Reid

Become
big enough
to scorn truth,
just say
you didn’t do it,
didn’t say it,
It never happened

Big enough
to tell trusted messengers
they are misinformed,
biased, lying,
remind them that they
can be muzzled
or shot.

Big enough
to say, the issue
has been resolved,
No costly effort needed.
There is no longer a problem,
There never was one.
Complainers, no, whiners
will be swept under a great big
suffocating rug.

Big enough
to pump up those
who make you large
with your own hot air.
Tell them they are great
better than, smarter than, stronger than
the other with brown skin, an accent, a uterus,
They, pure and simple,
are deserving of the gold, the guns, heaven

Big enough
to seem reasonable
Until you become so large,
reason doesn’t matter
any more.

Big enough
to toss truth, justice,and kindness
out the window.
Too big to care.

*
*

Plaything / by Jacqueline Schaalje

You who have considered
yourself a plaything,
this bright Saturday
finally cleared up;
the nubbly rain
drew your world into
an intersecting window.

This bright Saturday
you do your Saturday things —
your hawk hands
stick out transparent,
buffing the tectonic
shake when
it gets serious.

You figured,
when corroded,
water sloshes
its delta,
you siphon small
pailfuls,
and think of the water engineer
and that his problems
are pure.

Another view
stands out from the vale,
when you wore a red
windbreaker, plaything
straddling the cannon.
You are in history:
the giant slanted gun,
monument to
the sun.

Fallen in with
the sandal print —
you’ve been waiting
so long for the ritual
of the real;
men are being played
by kids you don’t want
to breed.

*
*

After a This Homecoming / by Lisa Stice

Before, it was like a punishment
for leaving. Daddy wasn’t allowed to
hug her, say good-night, read a story.

He had to earn his way back in
with coming home so many days
in a row, with sticking around.

For the first time, he is the prodigal one,
and she has become helpless. Daddy
must turn on the faucet for her, carry
her around the house. He’s permitted

to join the three of us (she, dog and I)
in a board game. The cowboy dubbed
Daddy the horse, the dog and I bandits,
and Daddy got two kisses on his cheek.

*
*

Day 28 / Poems 28

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After Sappho / by Eleni Bastéa

29 January 2018

Someone will remember us again
I say
in another time
Sappho, Fragment 147*

Bring your lyre, sing songs of desire
for the bride, for the groom.
Early spring explodes with longing
bursting yellow forsythia flowers
flying pigeons finally set free.

Light-footed Terpsichore lead our dance.
Bride’s maids & groom’s men drunk in desire.
Flower wreaths on the girls’ long, curly locks
all cheeks flashed with yearning, hearts still unfulfilled
eyes longing for one, desiring all.

Sing of the well-shaped ankles skimming the grass
& the finely chiseled temples, Apollo’s profile.
Sing of eros, closing his eyes in hedonic embrace
it may be fleeting, it may be eternal
only the red poppies in the field will know.

Bring wine for the father of the bride
honey cakes for the mother of the groom.
Let Homer recount the warriors, the dead
their unbearable heaviness remembered.
We, the daughters of Sappho, drink to the living.

*Translated by Eleni Bastéa

*
*

Ode to Love, part 12 / by Christine Hamm

The sun slides
up from the water

and the water
changes from black

to grey. Clouds gather
in the corner, pile on,

bleed violet and pink.
The moon fades so

quickly we find its
name hard to remember.

Snow and
sand are the same

from this distance.
I can’t recall your voice

any more, or the words
you used to call me.

I answered
like a black dog,
a sleeping thing.

*
*

The Summer Porches of Youth / by Susan Reid

Do the young ones still move to town
in summer, starting out on Jay or Elm,
Loomis or Vine, in jigsaw apartments
cut from grand old homes?

Do they meet on wide porches,
shaded by dutchman’s pipe,
drawn by someone’s three-chord guitar
or the smell of homemade bread?

Are their conversations on rickety steps
intense as new-dyed cloth;
love, work, food, all vivid,
all personal, all political, life or death?

Do they make meals, balancing
shared beans and brown rice,
farmers market tomatoes, ice cream
and good beer on peeled-paint railings?

Do they think they are the first,
Bohemians in summer heat, on the edge
of something we, who are impossibly old,
could never understand?

God! I hope so! I hope the virtual lure
of web and screen hasn’t caught them
one by one, in little rooms, never knowing
the summer porches of youth.

*
*

Don’t Let Go / by Jacqueline Schaalje

Don’t let go.
Don’t let yourself go.
You’re not so old.

Don’t let yourself go.
Look in the mirror;
Make sure you still have it.

Don’t let the things
go that you have.

Roam your glassy eye
over the rumbling sky;
Toss the crumpled paper balls
that are actually seagulls.

Clear away like the desert air
that takes a sea holiday
and comes back filled with moisture.

Spruce yourself up
with osprey talons for fingers,
like the awful ashtrays the kids clay;
put out your bad bits,
but don’t let yourself go.

Leave your slippers in the bathroom.
Shake the roses from your hair.
Don’t let your watch
go to sand.

Don’t let the things
go that you have.

Cast a stone in your story.
Make your sleep not too sweet.
Haul water and wood
for the truth.

Don’t let the memories
darken you,
but don’t let go.

Somewhere between pity
and hate you must
look for love
and there stay.

*
*

We Are Not the Chosen Ones / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

They talk about the weather, call time
and temp on ancient phones, wring their
hands and step on our necks, back us
into corners with dogma, spit reprimands
our lack of loyalty, unforgiven sins; in the name
of love. They can judge us while their mouths
speak hate, categorizing anyone who doesn’t belong
out of both sides of their mouths, yet
shove their doctrine while living as unbelievers—
Where is your faith?
Chosen ones—accepting us if we speak their
language, hold our heads low and backs
hunched in defeat, fear the world and ourselves
happiness waits, heaven is the prize
fighters for justice speak blasphemy, and I
marvel at how long we survived the black
night when all we had to do
was open the windows
to see.

*
*

Homecomings / by Lisa Stice

are often quiet, 2:30 am sort of events—
deadbolt slides, door opens slowly,
dog and I wake to hello, rucksack and
suitcase placed by the door, dog jumps
for licks, hugs and kisses, I’m so glad
you’re back, I’m so glad to be back,
then it’s off to sleep as if this is any night

*
*

Day 27 / Poems 27

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Persephone / by Eleni Bastéa

27 January 2018

Like Demeter, looking for Persephone
I search for apparitions.
I enter the cold tunnel
connecting the dead with the living
I keep crossing to the underworld
& back.

I could never understand
the story of Persephone
until I became an orphan.

Μαμά, κρυώνεις;
Μπαμπά, κάνεις βόλτες;*

*Mommy, are you cold?
Daddy, are you going for walks?

*
*

Thoughts on Seashells / by Christine Hamm

If the world is upside down, then I am okay, watching the black dots inside my cats’ ears gather, coalese, move apart. If I were a good mother, he would have clean ears, all the mites flushed away. I am not a good mother, or a mother at all. All my children are either dead or imaginary. I was a daughter, once. It didn’t take. She kept saying, “I can’t wait until you are old enough and have to take care of me”. I’ve never been old enough to be more than a disappointment. My parents and I are on two different paths. My path ends at the beach. Theirs ends at an empty tennis court. Both of us dying, on different sides of the country. I take care where I put my feet, but I am still constantly falling. The water is cold and bitter. I am not my mother, but I am cold. My cat says, what does that even mean? I bury myself in the sand, hoping that some day you will come and dig me up.

*
*

Walking on Ice / by Susan Reid

I am sad tonight,
so much is over and gone,
no tender green left.

Boys from first grade grin today
in a white haired photograph

I was there back when
we played in summer gardens,
the day long with light

I walk home slowly tonight
after dark, careful on ice

Back then I could jump
in a pile of bright leaves, fall,
bounce back up, laughing

I see boys with winter hair
Most days, I can forget mine:

Now, that photograph
makes my steps more tentative
going home alone.

Spring seems impossible here
walking on moon-silver ice

I am sad tonight,
so much is over and gone,
no tender green left

*
*

I Know a Woman Who Could Never Be a Porn Star / by Jacqueline Schaalje

I know a woman who could never be a porn star.
Her throat, otherwise equipped for pizza, refuses
to pass outsize vowels. If no is yes, and yes was yesterday,
then maybe nothing. The landscape of her hills
rocks wild horses, but they quickly stall into
a hobby, that she can half man. She cannot
abide bulls crashing through her maze. Yams
and gams, she loves them in proportion.
They can be the same diet every day,
in center field reposing. While adjusting,
for age and shortsighted tenderness, rolling softly,
the camera isn’t there to film what she eats.

*
*

Lesson #1,642 / by Lisa Stice

That boy, who picked up handfuls
of leaves mixed with trash and
cigarette butts from out of the gutter
and threw them on you then did
it again, is not your friend and no
matter how much he laughed, how much
his mom laughed, making you laugh,
it wasn’t funny and it wasn’t nice.
And even though his mom laughed
out, oh-oh-oh, that’s gross when he
picked up a folded paper towel –
with who knows what on it – off
the bench and threw it at you as you
walked away, that wasn’t funny either.
And even though his mom says,
he just loves her, he doesn’t because
he doesn’t even like you, so don’t
waste one second more on him.

*
*

Day 26 / Poems 26

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Shopping / by Eleni Bastéa

26 January 2018

Looking at light bulbs, batteries & water filters for the faucet
at the large-box store; short escape in the middle of the day.
They are useful & on sale. We put them in the cart with a smile
as if we are still playing house, pretending adulthood, my husband & I.

Many years ago, in Greece, I chided my parents for doing just that:
crossing town, always on foot, for the best feta cheese bargain
at the new super market; woolen underwear at the discount store
& birthday-party decorations for their grandchildren, an ocean away.

One summer day, we took my mother to IKEA; my father had already died.
She enjoyed the outing, the children, the grandchildren
the store’s colorful, open interior, clean décor & modern flair.
She bought a package of tea-light candles: reasonable price & so many.

Now, I think I know what she was thinking: it was not just the company
the bargain, or good housekeeping. Shopping signaled the unfulfilled
& on-going needs of the living; her promise to be here one more month
one more year; if not a promise, then a wish, a desire, her silent prayer.

*
*

Electro Shock / by Christine Hamm

Count backwards from nine hundred. An ink flood with sharp stars slicing as they slip by. Is the light too bright? The stars bleed. There now, we have moved it away. Organs the color and shape of cauliflower. The gown opens in the front. Organs color the ceiling. Please remove everything from the waist down. A hum like slow windchimes. You may keep your toes on and your hair. Please show me where it began. Are you always this hairy? Zippers at the wrists and back of your hide so you can slip out. Where again, where. Latches at the back of your eyeballs, so they may be entered by God. Are you. A musical hum like slowed down radio. A series of numbers and decimals. Please tell me where it started. Red squares loosely tied to black squares. A heavy vibration. Lie still. Are you always this? Two wolves, silver and brown, tugging on pink meat between them. A series of decimals, remember.

*
*

January choices / by Susan Reid

This time of year, living in an old house,
I have to choose;

I can watch the sun
shine on other houses across the way
through a window half coated in ice,
and feel the fingers of a west wind
through old wood and glass,

or I can pull down half-light,
an nsulated shade against the cold,
and go about my tasks
in dim comfort.

Heat
or light.
one, not both.

So I swap them
as if I am a juggler,
a little of each
to tide me over
until the sun’s slow progress
lets me have
heat
and light,
like slices of both
lemon meringue and strawberry pie.

*
*

What She Got / by Jacqueline Schaalje

The lady in the next seat looks at my face,
and pants, to ask where I got them.

We came here to listen to antique music,
but she is more interested in the plastic,

sly leather imitation. The applause winds
down, and we chat, after she says this

Mendelssohn reminds her of old Hollywood
in the thirties. But I love all ages. Schmaltz,

she says, in the seat of schmaltz. But you never
know, last year Mendelssohn was magnificent.

I lean over the balustrade and give
her some leg space, the elegant immigrant

from the plain. We share the same profession
but unlike me she doesn’t enjoy it.

Her students, so quick today, eluding
her caustic wit, are whittled down to three.

Adults, please, she does not want to be
a slow-coach psychologist. Next week

she’ll fly to Amsterdam — a coarse city
I know well — but not for the museums;

those she’s seen already. I think
I am getting this lady, and pity her.

When the full-blown Beethoven bursts
loose I poke my condom leg.
Very new, very real, her cries are
swamped.

*
*

What I Know / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

Take this
cup, long drink deep
sighs linger, love remains.
We own this moment, hold fast now
we live.

*
*

Plans Always Change / by Lisa Stice

and I should know this by now,
that I should never expect anything,
get too excited, begin imagining
the door opening, having to quiet
that dog’s welcoming bark lest
he wake my daughter from her
midnight sleep, begin imagining
my daughter’s disbelief when she
sees Daddy frying eggs at the stove
in the morning, of course, it’s my
fault, all this disappointment, of
course I’d get the text at 1:30something
in the a.m. that another training
day’s been added and flights home
need to be rearranged, and of course,
I can’t help but worry that a seat
won’t be found at such short notice,
more I’ll let you know when I know
something, always the unknown

*
*

Day 25 / Poems 25

*

Words / by Eleni Bastéa

25 January 2018

Like a blind man learning geography by touch
I traced the shape of your words
& the depth of your sentences on my skin.
Line by line, I etched maps of departure & return.

Crisscrossing arcs of swallows in flight
now draw the distance between us.
I knit ethereal sentences of lace & desire
I span word-bridges to reach you once more.

*
*

The Farm Vacation / by Christine Hamm

The slow tick of the electric fence,
the smell of baked dirt and tires. Animals:

absent-eyed, everywhere – dusty,
neglected, gaunt. Pigs, cats, trembling

dogs and chickens. All hooves splitting,
unshod. The saddles wormy and cracked.

Every horse I rode bled from the mouth. Still,
I dug my spurs in, drove them to jump

the bales I hauled and stacked in the paddock:
I was working on my form. What is a horse,

if not a vehicle? On the ground, my riding
boots tipped and struggled. What is a girl,

if not a rack of unprocessed meat? When
I wasn’t riding, I lay in the corn fields to escape

my cousins. Something in my mouth kept me
from sounding fully human. I thought only

about winning and hiding
that summer, before I learned to drive.

*
*

Anniversary / by Susan Reid

I am sure we both
made an effort,
or thought we did,
thirty two, twenty,
even a dozen years ago.

We liked the same music,
protested against the same wars,
loved Asian food,
laughed at the same jokes.

We were fiercely proud of each other,
outraged at slights, big fans.
We thought each other pretty hot
for a long while.

Until we moved apart,
missing the signals,
lines thrown,
heartfelt pleas,
drifting out of sight,
out of mind.

It has been years since our parting
Yet today I felt the cold ghost
of a wedding band
inside my glove.

I thought of how different
our ideas of love had become,
Like two fingers
on the same hand,
sure they have it right,
that they want the same thing.
then freezing
in the isolation of a glove.

*
*

*
*

Sensibility / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

I would like to have an eagle’s
vision, the hearing of a moth or
bat, and the ability to sniff
out berries and grubs like a bear.

Maybe add some agility, like a cat’s precise
pounce. Throw in some majesty, a wild
horse with a mane of molten ideas.

Pass me the memory, to remember
like a dolphin or elephant, but
to forget like a goldfish.

What would I give to see as an owl by night? Fly

as a hawk by day? Run as the horse or
cat? Remember where I saw him last, like a
dolphin? And smell his happiness when finally
sees me again, like a grizzly?

Probably my life.

In this way I could
find and love, and
remember, my
dog
forever.

*
*

Seamus and I Meet the Ghosts of Carlo and Emily Dickinson / by Lisa Stice
after “I started Early – Took my Dog” – Emily Dickinson

On an early walk – tired –
we stopped a bit to take
a rest – Seamus sniffed
dandelion greens and grass –

I admired a robin skipping
on a neighbor’s lawn – then
something made us turn
our heads – look down

the street – a woman all
in white with a great brown
dog – not walking really –
more like floating – Seamus

and I knew them straight
away – Emily and Carlo –
the street became a sandy
shore – the wind became

the ocean’s roar – little
dog barked a happy greeting –
good-morning, I wished
the two – they halted

there before us – Emily
bent to pet my tiny dog –
Such a lovely nubby tail
he has – Seamus wagged

his nub in gratefulness –
and just as suddenly as
they came – they left us –
standing on a street again.

*
*

Day 24 / Poems 24

*

Family table / by Eleni Bastéa

24 January 2018

On the table, she puts out a dish with black, wrinkled olives
little pickled cucumbers that she made, some sheep’s cheese, water.
She serves her son first, then her daughter, herself last.
Hot lentil soup –chopped carrots & onions peeking through.

The thick-crusted bread she slices slowly.
Caught in the sun, the knife’s blade blinds her
like midnight’s lightening in the winter.
She makes the sign of the cross & sits down.

She talks to her children; tastes the soup. She is not very hungry again.
She sweeps the bread crumbs into the palm of her hand.
The other bowls still full, she brings them to the kitchen
& puts the food away again.

“Has she gone mad,” her neighbors worry.
“Should someone tell her the news?”

“I know that my children were killed in the war”
she finally tells them, her voice barely audible.

“Madness courting me at every corner, night & day
inside & outside the house. I see bloodied stars falling.
I hear the wailing of the nightingales & the mourning of doves.
I get up and set the table every day. It is all I can do to keep madness at bay.”

For Tina Godhi

*
*

Only Ten Pounds / by Christine Hamm

You are not a dog sleeping;
you are a girl. You dream

you are eating the rump
of a piglet while a circle

of lions pick at mints stuck
between their toes. You are

trying to save the pig. You
are trying to vomit the flesh

you already ate. High above
is a window painted with

circles and stars, too tiny
for your hand to open.

The gold hair cluttering the frame
drifts, catches on your lips.

*
*

Winter Sun / by Susan Reid

On the tree outside my window
a few leaves, a few apples
hang on in the cold.
withered like worn out hope.

The sun looks like she is trying
to warm those old summer folks,
but it’s all show.

She’s flirting
with the northwest wind, ducking
behind clouds to show her dazzle,
gazing at her reflection in
ice-edged puddles

But when that false-hearted sun
reflects off thousands of ice crystals,
a few apples,a few leaves.
withered like worn out hope,
hang on in the cold,
glowing like hot coals.

*
*

The Sieve / by Jacqueline Schaalje

The neighbour’s daughter, young still and smoky-eyed,
comes to tell us that her father’s gone.
What she doesn’t know is that we didn’t like him.
Or why would we tell, the bell has tolled.
She gathers her fake rabbit vest snug and breaks down
in tears. I think I heard a stretcher clatter at dawn,
boots and clogs on the landing. All day, their flat,
in the corner, had a distilled feeling about it.
Like a house snow-covered and not a sigh escaping,
not a bated breath sunk between ribs. Except the scene,
relates the daughter, took place in the hospital. There
the three women sat vigil over his slender hands,
hope against news. Of course I am extrapolating,
give and take a fearful in-law, furloughed, in a corner.
One neighbour called him a hypocrite, caught him
behind the shed, looking at daffodils. Not the smoking
to death, but whether you own up to it, is a sieve.

*
*

And Isn’t that How Life Always Goes / by Lisa Stice

I have broken her concentration.
The joke is lost. I have laughed

at the wrong part, and she has
forgotten the punchline. Sorry,

I say, I thought that was the funny
part. She crosses her arms, frowns.

Well, don’t do it ever again, she says
then switches to the safer game of

I spy, the game I know how to play.
I spy with my little eye something orange.

I guess the sunset. Yes, it is the sunset
and the will-o’-the-wisps.

*
*

Day 23 / Poems 23

*

An offering to the Furies / by Eleni Bastéa

23 January 2018

Every evening, like an addict, I hold the knife
closer & closer to the bone, till I sense the pain.

Every night, I cut out all the flesh between words
& graze the bone, etching sentences in twin lines of blood.

Every morning, I trace the fingerprints of my heart in words
and offer them to the infernal Furies, pleading for one more day on earth.

*
*

The Absence of Shame / by Christine Hamm

Black begonias on the white curtains
almost too small to make out.

The carpet in my bedroom had
been a light green, radiant, before

the dogs got to it. The transparent
dress my mother made me wear

to the supermarket, how she
called me, easy to make. My bed

collapsing, such an old thing,
with the noise of a car crash

or waterfall. Each wall of the room
was papered with my feelings –

my mother saying, that day
we spent in the woods picking

pinecones to spray gold, why don’t you
paint some roses for a change?

*
*

Gym Class, 1974 / by Susan Reid

She bounces on the trampoline,
trying to act as if nothing
has changed

But we can all see her belly,
bigger than it was a few
weeks ago.

The boys yell taunts and the girls
are silent, not brave enough
to stop them.

We know we are among Jackals.
They are omnivorous. We too
could become prey.

Her parents sent her to school. Sitting
in judgement. sentencing her
to public shame.

Teachers look to the lions of basketball,
letting lesser animals fend
for themselves.

The father may well jeer loudly, hiding
among the other jackals
who knows?

She bounces on the trampoline,
trying to act as if nothing
has changed.

*
*

Perfectly Fine Jealousy / by Jacqueline Schaalje

It’s perfectly fine to be jealous. Say yes, snatch
up the mug with cocoa. Duck, move it.

At the birthday party that leather football
and speaking doll should be mine. My parents fib,

as money shakes their tree. They don’t get
that the organ teases my fingers, but grates

my ears. I pine for Debussy instead of Bach,
all the vast ocean of emotions kept in or

thrown out: not sure! Their noted company I’ll tame
like the pony I would kick in its stomach.

My parents, wary, deprived. Listen to them, nah,
maybe when I’m as old. I flex my toes,

stand guard in the schoolyard. Bash a weak
undergrown clock. My hair is pulled, my name

abused. I take refuge in the library
as I got nowhere with people. Winnow

books. The wind will but the devil won’t
play with me. Some sprites have got an easy

life, but this at least I don’t want.

*
*

Letting Go / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

Hold this breath of stone until
the chill is a hot air
balloon rising, hollowed out

of disappointment, colored by
hope-filled marshmallow
cream, drizzled with tears.

How long do we wait, wondering
when the sun, in its wisdom will
sear the wound, bathe the scars,

let us breathe?

*
*

Ophelia Among the Reeds / by Lisa Stice
after Sir John Everett Millais’s Ophelia, 1852

bedded in the stream
carried by the current

her palms upturned
in seeming supplication

her lips stopped
in mid word

her final question
left unfinished

like the flower chain
that will never be a crown

*
*

Day 22 / Poems 22

*

The String Quartet / by Eleni Bastéa

22 January 2018

Their eyes acknowledge each other
their breath now in harmony
as the arc of their bows signals the opening
and Ravel’s String Quartet begins to flow
gaining speed, like a stream in early spring.

Heirs of Orpheus, young musicians on stage
they also perform small shards of silence
wedged between movements, unscripted
head tilting, hair waved away from the temples
a furtive look at the music, a quiet exhale.

In the silences that presage each movement
I seek to understand the musicians
in their unguarded gestures & idiosyncrasies
their bodies each holding a sound
unique & divine, like the sound of their instruments.

*
*

Notes on Warming / by Christine Hamm

Two polar bears stroll across the wall,
one poised and thoughtful, the other

watching me, a little hungry, a little sad.
The microwave beeps every few minutes –

something has been left inside for a long
time. Outside the window, it is hot and

raining – the air smells like gas and asphalt.
A chair has tipped over in the kitchen.

I don’t remember it. We spoke last night,
all the lights off, we spoke so late –

now the light hurts and the front
door is open, still unlocked.

*
*

Deep Winter Comes In / by Susan Reid

Gray comes rolling right in my window
along with the bare branches of trees.
The kitchen and living room are filling fast.
The cat and I huddle in a strange,
lethargic panic.

This only happens once or twice a year
when winter is at its deepest,
cold and dark, cloudy and damp,
no end yet in sight.

It’s just gray, nothing to complain about really.
I can see to make coffee, breakfast even,
not much past that,
but what is there to see anyway?

I miss the color some, and I’m grateful
that coffee and the cat show up
bold and black on the scale of charcoal shading

The branches are more of an issue,
The small, rough twigs poke at me
randomly, even when I’m sitting still.
I would hibernate, but those branches
won’t let me.

Coffee helps, But not as much as you might think.
Turning on a light helps some.
if I can get to the switch through the branches and the grey.

The only real cure comes
with the miracle of sun
brushing the gray aside like a cobweb
telling the trees that they have better things to do
bringing color back into the world.

*
*

Life is a Beach / by Jacqueline Schaalje

A beach aficionada, she organized the grains
of sand between her nacre toes,
as neatly as cutlery:

the blunt knife for the fish,
the small glass for the amuse
bouche, something cooked with eyes —

Seals on shoals, puckered drapes —
the banks she sat on slid,
her flip-flops clean.

How she flipped when her bath towel
had not a spotless nail
to rest on. I giggled.

In the gravel storm, you pointed
to the human surface
to do the wash for you.

Swinging under the canopy, it pleased
me to look forward to dinner
that you dissected.

Crisp crudités, snails you smacked,
and what you didn’t want in other places
you proffered your sucking lips.

Although there wasn’t a hair
brushed between seams and shelves,
disheveled shells dropped open

and the sand,
her sand,
leaked
out.

*
*

Oxygen / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

In this place another voice is silenced, unwelcome
heresy to speak against them. They own the air

you breathe, the light and darkness, the wall erected
to keep those people out. As if anyone would

want a place in their world, where women
walk on broken glass, belong in shackles while they

serve, occupying space at their mercy. Mind
your words and make sure to please, ensure

your place, sacrifice equals love. No, not his—
only yours is needed. Never mind the lack of

oxygen, you get what you deserve. Be grateful
and gracious. The Bible says so. He is the Head, you

are his property. This place is an anomaly, frozen
locked down, pious patriarchy poison. Outsiders

submit or face excommunication, exist or
exit the room, resistance is relinquishment.

I will not look back and become a pillar
of salt. The air out here is too delicious.

*
*

This / by Lisa Stice

You’ve made me a cake,
fashioned out of clay,
made just for me, just
what I’ve always wanted.

Years ago, I was only
myself, how lonely
I was then with me.
Now: me, you, you

you, us: three different
people and a dog. It’s so
obvious that this is really
what I’ve always wanted

because thistle-tops with
all their prickliness
are far more beautiful
than those softer flowers

and a tale that never truly
ends leaves me hungry
to learn everything else
I’ve always wanted.

*
*

Day 21 / Poems 21

*

Conversations on loss / by Eleni Bastéa

21 January 2018

Can you define the opposite of loss?” he asked.
“Imagine the bliss in the Garden of Eden,” I said
“when life & death were still intertwined
when time stood still & memory lasted only a moment.”

Is ‘possession,’ the opposite of loss, then?” he asked again.
“Yes, it is a book that you write and I read, later on
the tale of the Sleeping Beauty that lingers forever
a lover’s perfume, the shape of the eyelids, the fingers, the eyes.”

“Birth gives birth to the prospect of loss,” I add.
“Love & loss now woven together
as love is calibrated by the fear of loss
and loss is attuned to love’s echoes.”

Geography is a container for the loss & the framework of loss.
Consider the loss of that framework.
“Memory, then, is spun around the framework of loss
like a spider reclaiming space by crocheting across the void.”

Can you define what follows loss?” he asked.
“Loss is a gift,” I said.

For Angus Fletcher, 1930–2016

*
*

Landscape with Veiled Observer / by Christine Hamm

A deer is picking her
way slowly through

the snow, a front leg tucked
to her chest.

Chicadees, cardinals scold
and sway in the stunted pines –

somewhere, a windchime
is clanging.

A handfull of flung pigeons
circle the sky.

Under the frozen
birdbath, a small fox

waits, her fur
mostly buried.

*
*

This Ridiculous Kindness / by Susan Reid

I remember watching you,
run down the road,
to chase a pair of pheasants
out of harm’s way.

We both laughed
at how silly you looked,
tie and jacket flying, following
In the erratic path of birds.

You did save them though,
at least for that moment.
The birds may not have appreciated it
but I knew you were a hero.

Years later, I carry the neighbor’s
wet, wriggling cat
across the darkened street
and send it home.

I help strangers and animals
with varying success.
often looking silly enough
to laugh at myself.

I hope you are laughing with me,
after all, I learned
this ridiculous kindness
from you.

*
*

Exercise in Holes and Circles / by Jacqueline Schaalje

You can never fill my hole, so deep and lustful,
for shopping and cataloguing, although you could try to pull
that book from my hands, snap my head quick and let
curses slip; soap bubbles that lighten your kowtowing
to family should not be lost, a sudden attention
pricked from the terror of freedom. Two
headstrong deer meet in the waterhole of a kiss.
On the wall, lit in the lamplight, our heads
step up to a bulb that spatters like abandon.
That those spores vamoose clench a hoop together;
hope barrelled. On the track, the bands cross, interference
becomes a little brittle. At last the metals cool,
the quicksilver is tempered. Black holes of charm
lie ticking, pressed in a heart-shaped letterbox.

*
*

shadows of estrangement / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

among dark corners of: this room a tomb:: draped with
dust from wings of moths: barbed wire fences:: clothed in rust: petrified
like one of those prehistoric dragonflies:: I can’t help but wonder: what happened to the baby
dragonflies: did they perish: leave their mother to die alone: trapped:: in golden resin: a
gift to wear later around their necks: to remember her:: she probably won’t complain:
i mean: beingaa so close to them: it’s all she wanted:: it goes to show:
time will make right: in the end give life:: to a mother’s brokenness: her heart:
healing wounds wrought:: someone: had to be wrong:: what would she give
or take: for them to know her heart:: instead of judgment: their oiled lamps
light the way for: them to cast out darkness:: radiate kindness: in penance they
offer a morsel of food: some cool water:: her parched lips pursed: to whisper and hear
i love you before time: disintegrates:: millions of protons
neutrons in the void: like the ice caps of earth melting: a tsunami of glacial
regret:: where her reasons for living drown: beneath pretense to
prove a point: becoming pointless: are there shadows:: on your walls
of Jericho: from her memory:: i wonder will you allow her star: to illuminate and one day:
shine::

*
*

Natural Law / by Lisa Stice

winter grass
camouflage
for the dog

the girl says, sit
trees obey, but
the terrier tracks

he’s a wolf
out here, she says
I nod because it’s true

*
*

Day 20 / Poems 20

*

Departures / by Eleni Bastéa

20 January 2018

Enchanting Sirens call out to the youth
already eager for departure, our daughters & sons
handsome, impatient, excited & tearless
un-aged, uncharitable like Achilles
they abhor nostalgia & returns.

Each one of them a young Odysseus
courting adventure in every detour.
Oh, the lands of monsters and miracles,
the home of enchantress Circe,
& the sweet lotus fruit of amnesia.

Ithaca, a bi-polar magnet, attracts & repels them.
Every night, they skywalk on an electrified wire
suspended between their hometown womb
and the lair of the Sirens.
Every morning, they teach the stones to dance.

*
*

it’s biting again / by Christine Hamm

the sky, cold, the color

of the bottom of

a swimming pool,

tufted by seagulls, skimming,

veering. When they move

their wings build triangles

of shadow, tucking the light under.

The pigeons move in, hysterical –

do I even know what I mean?

the problem is my blood.

*
*

Wish List / by Susan Reid

I want a country I can wake up to
without shame.

I want to make it through the news
without raging at lies and hypocrisy.

I want to walk through town without seeing
pain on so many faces

I want a day to pass without fear for the future
of the people and planet I love.

I want to sleep peacefully after a day spent creating and helping.

I want a country I can wake up to
without shame

*
*

A Stab in the Gut / by Jacqueline Schaalje

Someone took a stab at the roadblock.
I’m not telling you this to be cute
so I’m withholding a name, a face,
and how many kids, okay? And maybe
the roadblock itself, though
I don’t want you to be moved.
Let’s say childless. In any case,
the stab was blown up (aren’t
they always?), so a loud shot shook
the tough-shorn soldiers and our birds
of flight, watchpeople.
How do you like your numbers:
telling me all the violent louts have
to cross to the other side. The news
in pictures shows the hills
are greener there, but we know
it’s due to rankling of daub,
poison lens, too much duckweed.
You will always cherish what you fought
for thither, for the fathers
who are morally incapable of holding
out their babies in front of them —
and shoot from the hip.
That’s sick. I so agree.
Our shield is made of pur greed.
Ambition. Traditions grown long
as beards. Shouldn’t we dole
out money; you said, take it away!
Are you mad, changed my mind.
The fruit machine of peace spun
like lollies, looked windmills from a little
farther. Flailing arms, teachers
turrets carrots. I got dizzy
and almost started to cry when,
despite our precautions, you said
the enemy knocked inside. Afterwards,
our eyes cross in the mirror,
with lots of smiley wrinkles.
I let you go, you let me be.
I’m not the kind that takes away
from you.

*
*

The Flower of Srebrenica / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

While my son swept a ball toward the goal in a quiet
field of laughter reaching for the blue

skies over Bosnia watered the open graves of
children, mothers wailing and gnashing teeth

honed on grief, a world our problems held no
weight within, no sway over, when we thought ours

had ended with two houses, two bedrooms, two
Christmases. Thanksgiving dinners divided a family

afraid of change. A boy watched his parents murdered,
his best friend joined them in the mass fields of death

the hope in humanity uncrushable, two
decades later, he pins the flower on my collar, crying

for their lost lives, smiling as his dark eyes reflect
my son’s, opening his heart in broken chords

offering forgiveness, never forgetting compassion
is a flower, growing from the dark waters.

*
*

Articles of Contention / by Lisa Stice

Reading the news is like reading Love fell over dead
yes, shocking and heartbreaking as that—I feel like
I need a helmet and Kevlar vest just to go beyond
a headline—Love fell over dead today. Suspects
have been identified, but we’re not sure if anything
can be done—and I think, we can’t simply paste
fallen leaves onto a barren bough. The best we can do
is hope for spring, that behind the scenes there is more,
something they can’t tell us yet, concrete evidence
gathered at the scene, something to right us out
again, something to make me say, we are well,
we are welling with kindness in the end.

*
*

Day 19 / Poems 19

*

Elegies of return / by Eleni Bastéa

19 January 2018

I hear the songs of traveling builders’ guilds
constructing cathedrals, bridges & mosques
sailors, trailing the sirens of the sea
and soldiers, crossing the desert.

Left behind, their women
chart the maps of distant destinations
in intricate cables of deep red, hand-knit sweaters
singing familiar songs of departure.

A separation so very long
renders return odd and unusual
departure almost unendurable.
Memory is a selfish mistress.

Some wish for the long days alone
over the short intermissions of return.
At dusk, they unravel the sweaters
at dawn, they start knitting again.

*
*

Changeling / by Christine Hamm

Rocking
and humming, I spent nights
under

the kitchen
table wrist deep in glitter
and off-white

poster paint,
obsessed with getting the right
pearlesque teal

for a unicorn’s
mane. I failed as a ballerina,
then

as a violinist –
my fingers and knees
parts

of a different
girl always a few steps
behind me.

Mornings my
mother wouldn’t meet
my eyes,

slipped me
piss-scented tea. I lay
in the forest

of dead oak
below the house, my head
on our three-

legged shepherd
as he crooned, “the hill of glass
I clomb

for thee,” digging
for god or the silver crown
the books

promised,
carving lace into
my arms.

*
*

Magic / by Susan Reid

I have seen magicians
raising up timbers of rhythm
on thin air,
sturdy enough for dancing,
with just two hands, drumming

They have let out their own beating hearts
to gallop and thunder for us
here and now, every beat
ancient and new
multiple messages flying
quicker than the eye

When I watch too closely trying
to understand the trick
I become lost in motion
tangled in too much at once,
beat, back beat, three against two,
blurred slight-of-hand

Letting my mind sit back, relax,
letting my heart and feet rule
I trust and dance on the resonant floor
made from two hands drumming.

*
*

For Famous People Anything is Possible / by Jacqueline Schaajle

I didn’t bother with the long line
and jumped through the window.
My shin caught a rag of a curtain.
Manning a desk, the wisecrack in a black frock consulted,
avoiding my look because I was a woman.
It took him long before he had cracked his knuckles
into place. His beard was scraggly and uneven in colour,
depicting someone old and new.
His room made a terrible impression on me.
He said: well, just follow the rules,
and I will tell you your future.

At gym practice, the former prime minister
was profusely sweating it out on the stepper:
“How is it you’re not in prison anymore?”
Then saw it was someone else.

In the kaleidoscope
made-up portraits
flit by one by one and I light them
through, remember their lines, their memorable
works, as well as I can, as I sit on the edge
of my bedstead at night, under the lamp
and creak.

“I’d better go to sleep now.”
I lie down, turn off the light. I will dream,
steadily now, if it’s not too worn, of getting
onto the sustainable pj’s list.

*
*

Petition / by Lisa Stice

again, I say good-night,
sweet dreams, see you
in the morning, you need
your rest and so do I,
lie down, close your eyes,
you should be asleep,
should have been long ago,
it’s late and getting later
as we speak, tomorrow
is almost here, again,
I say I don’t want to hear
a sound until day, only
silence should be behind
this door, or at the most
quiet snoring, good-night

*
*

Day 18 / Poems 18

*

Mirage / by Eleni Bastéa

18 January 2018

. . . . . . . . [. . . . ] Deep in the bone
old streets tunneled and burrowed, hunting for home.
–Carol Ann Duffy, “The Map-Woman”

Brilliant vermillion & deep orange clouds
the sky, an infinite ocean of cobalt & turquoise blue
a painted desert set on fire: Albuquerque at sunset.
Elevation: one mile.

Driving north on Carlisle, past Lead
lights glimmer & glow in the distance
the dark bosque spreading beyond.

This is the point: I squint & I am back in Thessaloniki
walking down Aristotelous Street, heading south.
lights glimmer & glow in the distance, framing the harbor
the sea dark; Mount Olympus rising off to the right.

bosque: forest

*
*

the word “astronaut” keeps reoccuring / by Christine Hamm

and I can’t stop imagining a navy sky
with hand-drawn yellow stars

the sound of breathing, heavy,
machine-like

or what it would be like to touch
as you were sleeping

touch your actual heart
– pink, writhing–

and try to remember you are not
my father.

*
*

Combination / by Susan Reid

Just because we choose
words we both use
doesn’t mean the combination
will open to understanding.

We turn memory and history,
emotion, and the mysterious
jargon of our trades
and beliefs like inept burglars
twirling delicate tumblers of a lock
without finesse.

Bent on cracking the safe,
getting the loot,
cutting to the chase,
we fumble and cheat,
missing the soft, sweet click
time and again.

More often than not
we give up, and leave too soon
mistaking lack of skill
or our own impatience
for hopelessness.

Or we blow the door
off its hinges In frustration,
Destroying all
contents, which we never did
understand anyway.

*
*

Hope / by Jaqueline Schaalje

Hope took the clothes off of me
and stuck me in skin and fur,
a little like hell but
before the fire.

I am curious as to its program
always to be skirting along
that abyss, and never bungee
to know how sweet.

It’s a little like love, too,
perhaps, but less bitter.
It has more of goodness in it
like when you quiver in someone’s net:

and you’re the best fish.

*
*

Missing / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

I know you are there, somewhere
lost among dead leaves, decomposing or
basking in kindness of strangers, aliens
to you—strange smells and beds, as long as
you are safe and happy.

I have an idea where, but not exactly. No
forwarding address, a sleight of hand, phantom
shadows in glimpses. You are, and you are
not. So I imagine laughter because anything
else feels like betrayal.

One day I may see you, will you see me? Perhaps
It would be best if I watched from my shadow
world, expecting nothing, living on
memories. You disappeared for a reason. Who am
I to question that?

*
*

Rejoice, for / by Lisa Stice

two Eastern Blue Birds have made their home
in the birdhouse my daughter painted and
my husband nailed to a tree—we watch
from the kitchen window, the pair, merry
in their find, grateful for this little shelter
decorated with a loving hand—the hope
of the young—my daughter says there will be
eggs and she has voiced the fate of spring

*
*

Day 17 / Poems 17

*

Late morning in Albuquerque / by Eleni Bastéa

17 January 2018

Sunny, warm late morning in Albuquerque
I hang our clothes out to dry
jeans, blouses, t-shirts & shirts
they breathe in the air side-by-side
& exhale old stories
woven into their yarns.

This is the stuff of families
breathing in & exhaling side-by-side
the air, the sun, a life.

And then, sharing our thoughts
on either side of Acheron
unafraid of Cerberus
memories pass through the gates to the other world
and messages flow out like soft breaths
like clothes waving, drying in the sun.

*
*

Notes on Remorse / by Christine Hamm

that woe coated him
like filthy vaseline

and when he knocked
I pretended to be a tree house –
he was so thirsty, always

that he learned how
to light matches with the bottom
of his foot:

a house collapsing in a fog of ash.

that I couldn’t protect
the six year-old crossing the

street against the light,
his yellow baseball

cap winking like
an untethered astronaut.

*
*

Late night drive, / by Susan Reid

We ride this night road
like space travelers at warp speed.
Snowflakes shooting toward us
in the headlights,
like stars

Pale green road signs
and ghost trees flash past
like meteors and alien creatures
and are gone

A few travelers pass,
headlights like rare, bright comets,
tail lights trailing burnt cold cinders.

Inside our warm capsule
the murmur of our voices
barely rises above the rush of snow
under tires.

We talk of food, music, friends,
in easy cadences, like windshield wipers,
to reassure ourselves in this new universe
of snow.

We soothe each other with small news
and warm, fogging breath
as we journey
toward the fixed, familiar star
of home.

*
*

The Hum / by Jacqueline Schaalje

The hum is a house in houses
that uses us to propagate even in bunks not ours.

My sleep-deprived friend tells me that
she is too old to believe someone will fix

the noise that restaurant owners
broadcast in the yard. The cranking up at night:

Roaring menace in mess’ belly — oil leak from the
hut steams up spindled bedposts.

Here I bite in the plushness of my pillow.
Here I clutch your tired back throughout.

Like me, my lover likes to moan, inarticulate,
not just when we hang out on our reserved sofa,

but when, embracing nature, elfin-branched,
a pine cone plops down at our moss shoes.

Let’s not forget the forest was not made for us.
Our horses are the hollow spaces, stone and cast

iron. Let our voices accumulate, join in
the brash and be of good humour.

*
*

How To Help / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

When momma cooked supper I washed
the dishes, while my sister dried, caressing

them like a crystal ball, and we saw
our unmapped futures. Unrequited.

Babies are made this way, we clench
our teeth hold our breath hope for more, sometimes

less. We got what we prayed for, more
than we expected. Nonrefundable.

Momma can’t wash the dishes anymore.
We wring our hands, howl at windmills, feel

the earth fall upon our skin; it clings like
molasses until we are face down. Asphyxiated.

I try to help. My words are sucked
away, my breaths are shallow. A

mountain has formed in the curve of
my spine. My chest is gravel. Scatter

me on fields of
cotton, clothe the world.

*
*

Woman Holding a Balance / by Lisa Stice
after Johannes Vermeer’s painting of the same name, 1664

behind her:
a healing grace
the salvation of forgiveness
promise and sacrifice

before her:
value weighed
an equal measure
dignity and decorum

within her:
blood of generations
nurturing warmth
a round-cheeked future

*
*

Day 16 / Poems 16

*

Conversations in French / by Eleni Bastéa

16 January 2018

Nations’ borders are barely visible
as if they wavered—to be or not.
–Wisława Szymborska, “Map”

She grew up with the sounds of French mixed with Arabic
ancient songs of desire, longing & flight
language became her only home country
fluid words sought shelter under her tongue
vowels became rivers, consonants mountains
prolonged pauses painted distant landscapes.

At home, we spoke only Greek, and still do
my father’s language, rich & articulate
our bond in life, my only inheritance.
But when I was four, or maybe five
my mother also taught me the sounds of French
its alphabet, some simple words, a song & a lullaby.

We meet at a café in distant Albuquerque
and unroll a threadbare map of our common country
not France, but French, with its ellipses & echoes.
We travel through the sounds of language together
Tunisian time, Greek history reflected on parallel mirrors
our nations’ borders barely visible, water connecting the edges.

*
*

In the Hospital of Afterwards / by Christine Hamm

The girl was not a radio.
She talked about her god

or the way the whitened
knife opened her up to some

moon-troubled blue.There was
a drug she was not taking instead.

She had the hands of a grandmother
but also a seal. The black electricity

of water was used to seal her mouth,
but she found oxygen in the sucking

of stones shaped like lost soliders.
She was writing about knowledge

marking the wrists of women –
she was keening without
using her teeth or grey, grey tongue.

*
*

Time Travel / by Susan Reid

The delicate harp notes of an old tune
come through the dim red
of my closed eyelids
and quilt-wrapped cold of January
as if across the winter light and frost
of centuries,

In the silver and fire of notes,
I drift back to the time of the tune,

I am blind,
so many generations before
modern medicine
sitting in a smoky hall.
spinning wool soft with its own oil,
a maiden aunt by the hearth

turned toward the Harper
who shares my blindness
my face softens to music
each note sweet on barely warmed air,
beauty where there is little to be found
amid torch smoke,
gritty bread and coarse wool

My heart shows, coaxed into the open
on my turned face,
In my stilled hands,
Lured out by rare and lovely respite
from a meager life.

At the end of the tune,
coming up through centuries
like a diver rising on bubbles
of applause, and warmth
my heart still shows itself
in rare stillness
before I open my eyes
to the over-abundant present
and applaud.

*
*

January Diet / by Jacqueline Schaajle

The diet is bullets you fire
into yourself, and daffodils come out.

The diet is a menu at which
you peer, for an excruciating eternity,
and pick a daffodil.

The diet is a meadow.
where fat bovines could feed
a million babies not their own.

Together with diets
murder was invented.

Songbirds swing on telephone poles,
trails of cockroaches and beetles, uplegged ants,
everyone gets invited to the feast.

The diet is a daffodil,
a bouquet for every birth.

We can, on occasion, arrange it
with silver sky bullets.

*
*

Homelessness / by Kim Bailey Spradlin

I need to write, these rebellious
words falling to cover my view. White
veiled clouds, obliterating my
tracks, taking any chance of finding
my way home. Where
shall we meet when
the end is nigh? Eruptions throb
trembling in death throes
driving us inside, pushing our feet
farther from broken, shards
glittering on side of the road, wispy
smoke rises from charred remains and
I don’t know my way out, anymore.

*
*

Good-night / by Lisa Stice

The moon arcs across the sky
like a stone passed hand to hand
to hand, disappearing behind
a fist of trees, only seemingly
gone when night rolls over
to morning.
. . . . . . . . . . . And while it was
still night, my daughter woke
three separate times, saying
she couldn’t sleep. I showed
her proof of the darkness
outside.
. . . . . . . . . Now the sun peeks
between loblolly pines, and
the girl slumbers in her room,
the house seemingly empty,
me, with only my journal and
this curled up dog.

*
*

*
*

*
*

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