Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
The volunteers for February 2018 were Maggie Blake Bailey, Lanette Cadle, Angela M. Carter, Kate Hanson Foster, Catherine Evans Latta, Anu Mahadev, Jory Mickelson, Akiva J. Savett, and Buffy Shutt. 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 28 / Poems 28
Tiger Lily Orange / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Daylilies bloom in ditches.
No one plants them.
No one picks them.
Barely level to the road,
yellow licking at a median strip.
Nightlilies don’t bloom at all
They open inward like the words
They don’t exist but point
toward something backwards.
I dream a field of nightlilies
presssing against my windows,
aching toward my front door,
each bloom opening like a body
made only of hands and throats.
Tiger Lilies can be eaten,
the bulb boiled like a potato,
asking the stomach
to think flowers are a lie.
And aren’t they?
What ditches could I possibly
remember? When did I last
stain my palms with that dark
orange pollen, the pollen
that causes sleepiness,
vomitting? Dream flowers
don’t need a stamen, I just
require them onto my table
and let them unfurl against
the rain tempered light.
The Whiffler / by Lanette Cadle
Whiffler: A whiffler is somebody who walks in front of you through a crowd, waving a chain or an axe in order to clear your path. Back in Medieval times kings and aristocrats would have whifflers to walk through the town square in front of them pushing away any peasants who might have got in the Royal Way. However, I think that whifflers could make a comeback. They could hire themselves out in busy airports and shopping malls and blast your way through. (Huffington Post/Mark Forsyth/ Oct 1, 2013)
He was a boon,
a human plough
parting the crowd,
a portent for
good times to come
for me, a shopper
too short to be seen.
Normally, I’m jetsam,
a toothsome dainty
for the fluttering maw
between Hot Topic
and Spencer’s Gifts
where teens wear black
and make muttered
plans for later revelry
in yonder parking lot,
where they will do
much the same only
leaning on cars
with cigarettes. None fear
that I will shank them
in their nethermost,
not now or anon, thus
my need for the wiffler.
He paused at Dillards,
bowing his fealty
to good shopping values
to come, his bald pate
a shining reflection
in the display window.
I walked on and stopped
at the cairn, AKA fountain,
resting in the sound
of bubbling water on rocks
until I feel ready to shop again.
1,460 / by Angela M. Carter
This number will be of importance to you.
To love me means to also accept
more of most things, like:
Four pills a day, 365 days
320400 mg of Lithium
And all the life lived in between–
an infinite broken sidewalk
with fleeting segments of dazzling streetlamps,
brighter than any you have ever known.
In Another Story / by Kate Hanson Foster
I am opening and closing the door
of my house to baptize myself in a clean
rush of garden air. I press flat blooms
into glass—violets, daisies, alstroemerias—
The frail trappings of perfect days I do
not think to preserve, I only want to rearrange
a square of time to my fancy. A child buries
her head into the warmth of my waist.
I look down and my own face is looking
back, like the dull glow of moon in earthlight.
I am amazed by my own body. The assembly
of cells building and rebuilding without incident,
or song, or ceremony. I comb skeins of hair,
brush clipped fingernails into a dustpan—
each tiny crescent a sliver of senescence I simply
collect and throw away. I sink my knife deep
into the skin of vegetables—Eat the light hidden
in the tomato. The slow horse of my heart
clopping as if it has nothing better to do.
At the Outdoor Market / by Catherine Evans Latta
He is dark, she blonde
His arms ring her waist
Hers, his shoulders
A Mobius loop, as he
Slow curves her body
To him, and she balances
Beside careful pyramids
Jazz Galas Delights
I gently press an avocado
Pretend to choose
Sweet One Hundred Tomatoes
Touch fragrant melons
And watch aslant
He brushes her mouth
Spaces kisses nurtured
One by one along her neck
Her naked shoulder
To stop at a slender pink strap.
I see pomegranates
With nipples and hold
Their roundness full of seed
In the warm moving air
Her paisley skirt swirls
To wrap his pressing legs
How will I manage
To navigate among the figs
The gloss of perfect pears
Decide if I want a dark Bosc
Or a blonde d’Anjou
Topiary / by Anu Mahadev
If green leaves of milkweed
would stop chafing my
If tea terraces produced
pekoe in stapled packets
blended into your cup
If marigold breathed, sighed –
another wedding, yellow,
orange petals wilted
If bougainvillea would tear,
thorny shrub into lines of
my palm, changing my fate
If gulmohar would spread
wings out wide, setting sky,
midnight sun, passion ablaze
If parijat, drove me to madness
scented tubules, plain simple whites
on a scorching summer day
If rajnigandha blossomed into
flowered dreams of a girl looking
at her heart for the first time
If I could be the gardener, green
thumb and all, tap into rosewater
drops, see the bloom before it dies
I would gladly await spring song.
Wyeth: Heaven / by Jory Mickelson
The afterlife was spare: iron-framed
bed, homespun sheets. Bedside,
a hollow pressboard box with tender
red interior. The stern window
said, empty valley, full
of grass, and this is
where I wondered at
how I’d come to be
alone in such silence, no
one had yet to
pierce. Forever light
sifted itself, between
the peaks to fall
on the scuffless grass. The wind
riffling & quietful until there
was nothing to the world
but the soft rasp of
grass on grasses on grass
the ground is frozen we have so much / by Akiva Savett
men in flannel shirts
daub their toast in yolk,
don their tobacco at work.
I walk behind the counter.
cruce stark owns this diner.
I haven’t seen him in 18 years.
he taught me fiction.
it’s hard to greet
someone who lives inside.
so I make straight for the steel fridge.
hunting for whole milk.
a massive unopened jug
sits on the top shelf.
in black sharpie.
I dip pages of my poetry
in the milk
until the letters slide off
the paper is white.
the milk is grey
like a wolf walking
through by himself.
I gulp and glup beyond memory,
dribble some onto the chest
of my minnesota twins jersey.
cruce walks up behind me
with his wife.
they wave off my attempt to explain,
and point to a lower shelf:
a thousand milk gallons,
each clouded, reduced a swig.
I’m a regular
to this synaptic greasy spoon temple.
always this bitter ordeal
always the same thirst.
VERITAS et VIRTUS /by Buffy Shutt
There is a building in Pittsburgh.
It covers a city block.
Bordered by Fifth Avenue, Bouquet, O’Hara, and DeSoto Streets.
Built in 1967, it contains a 282-seat auditorium, a lounge,
Seminar rooms, classrooms, and faculty offices.
The nine-story building is the home of the University’s
Graduate School of Public Health.
It is a crime scene.
One Sunday in May ten years ago,
Mr. Shaw, Mr. Charlie Pollard, Mr. Carter Howard,
Mr. Fred Simmons, Mr. Frederick Moss,
Mr. Sam Doner represented by his daughter, Ms. Gwendolyn Cox,
Ernest Hendon represented by his brother, Mr. North Hendon,
Mr. George Key represented by his grandson, Mr. Christopher Monroe
Sat together in the East Room. With Mr. Clinton.
Discussing the crime.
Macon County, Alabama 1932.
The scene of the crime.
Victims: Black, poor, uneducated
Sharecroppers and tenant farmers
Agree to be treated for Bad Blood.
Taliaferro Clark conceived the Study.
Thomas Parran Jr., the U. S. Surgeon General
Originated the non-treatment protocol.
This building in Pittsburgh
Fills up with students
Preparing for a career in Public Health.
They skirt the yellow tape strung around
This building named Parran Hall for Thomas Parran Jr.
It is a crime scene.
Do they know that small May apology was almost nothing?
Do they know they must be disquieted
By this purposeful blindness?
Revolted into action.
Truth and Virtue brought low.
Rise up. Slay this mainstreamed butchery.
Brick-by-brick, sound-by-sound, name-by-name
Gut this building.
Start the work
Clear this crime scene.
Day 27 / Poems 27
Sea Glass / by Maggie Blake Bailey
What would it look like to be quiet?
Not end of the night silent.
Not the way I lose my voice
in the morning, give way
to my often-happy son
screaming until he seems lost
in his own rage and bewilderment.
Not the way daffodils can only
stand straight for a day or two,
whole fields in supplication
to rain they should
have seen coming.
Not the way small insects climb
up into my bathroom sink,
slow swarm on the white
with nothing to arm themselves,
no destination in mind.
Turn on the tap. Turn off the rain
Tell the baby again and again:
It is hard being little. It is hard being little
What would it look like to be quiet
without end. If Jesus gets a world
that way, I want a hush.
A whole day, start to finish
eyes trained just ahead
of my feet, looking for sea glass.
Looking for trash, calling
it treasure, calling it quiet.
Iron and Dust / by Lanette Cadle
With iron comes rust, and rust
flakes to the ground in dust or
to the hands in orange streaks
of decay. When Joan Baez sings
of diamonds and rust, we know
the diamonds fall to the ground,
flecks of light in the dust until
feet shuffle and kick them into
crevices next to broken bottles,
gum wrappers and cigarette butts,
waiting to be found, but I don’t believe it.
When a diamond goes, it goes for good.
Yearning / by Angela M. Carter
What do I name it–
what do I call it
if I want to let it go?
How does the tree bark
acknowledge the sun kiss
if it wants to be left alone?
I’m a window which has no
power to shut itself
against what enters my insides.
All day, I must speak to it
in some way; how it roars at me
in the night, it’s breath still fresh
on my face as I wake. How
would you break the news to it?
How would you lie to it
to make it go away? How do
you break up with it for the
sake of reality?
911 / by Kate Hanson Foster
There is no room for God
on the gurney, as I am placed
into the back of the ambulance.
No God in common madness—
A waste of time and resources,
the driver calmly radioing
“anxiety” and slowly rolling me
away. No God in the smell
of my own salt stuck
to my body and to tissues
torn from the box
like bible pages. No god
in the current of cancers
snaking through the wall.
The dry sound of a house
fly hurling its escape at the night
light. The fear of my children
dead in their beds, collapsing
in their own gravity. My name,
a cheap echo—a breath
I cannot pull in. No God
when I want to jump from
the bedroom window to feel
an identifiable breaking, a pain
that might scoop me away
from my own emergency.
Who wouldn’t scream 911? God
Doesn’t know a thing about mothers.
Hot Tubing It / by Catherine Evans Latta
The raptors sky dive me, skimming bush tops
Up to my neck in hot water, I’m not a kill or to be had,
Nude though I am.
Two California vultures, curved, sharp tearing
Yellow beaks, feather by feather visible, swoop
Not in a mating dance.
Two red-tail hawks follow close on each other,
Subtle speckles on feather breasts clear, pass over twice,
Intent and swift.
Only a large kill brings such gatherings, but where?
Follow their lines of flight toward the ravine. Deer.
On a cougar path.
Poem 27 / by Jory Mickelson
The swing of your blood does
nothing. In the dark lot only
darkness is equivocated. Even
the cormorant made of stars
blacks out. Soon it will be spring
and all this will be
There is a mountain which tells
us how to sleep and the river
who tells us how to rise. Isn’t
revelation where the reveler
stands outside himself? Aren’t
there larger realms? On clear
nights, still nights
Without warning, the boat
departs. Our hesitation catches
in the current. Your tongue
rises wet. I’d be lucky to
match it. The spaces between
my ribs are a field
of drying mud.
The horses hooves promise
I am the last. I am the
the last. I am the very last
one you will meet.
the path of totality / by Akiva Savett
the sun sets diamonds
on the moon’s lonely fingers.
the moon wraps itself
in a linen hesped.
ohio has dust on its dancing shoes.
deer lick morning dew from graves,
in their twitchy moral blood,
the lilac of flight.
three women carry umbrellas
to block their eyes from the dark,
we have 800 glasses to protect your eyes,
two per family.
the tread on our national tires is worn
down to a handshake.
is there anything more
cliché than a check engine light,
anything more sublime
than the animosity of a mantis elbow?
the stone river
discount prophet machine
sings howitzer jingles
to bauxite strip mines
in jamaica’s skirt.
with everyone else
I see god’s outstretched arm
track marked by hypodermic
syringes of her own providence.
her temple filled
with torn marriage contracts
her body, small fists
of worry. empty pizza boxes
all over the floor.
I love this lotus eating mother
like water’s hips,
I need her like a pacifier
in a waterfall
its endless raffle.
I love the font inside water,
its pristine crystal fists
punching poems into earth’s cheek.
I love how the “s” in “oneself” is shared.
Three Chrysanthemums / by Buffy Shutt
What she knew of love was through osmosis.
Picked up here and
Dropped when the pressure got too much.
Three yellow chrysanthemums
In a blue and white pitcher wait for her
On the windowsill above the kitchen sink
Filled with seven half-scraped plates and
Tinged red with smelly wine glasses.
You left early this morning.
She didn’t sleep at all, which is why
Last night she slipped from your bed to leave
A razor, a half-eaten pear, and a short red string
On the bathroom countertop.
Day 26 / Poems 26
Poppy / by Maggie Blake Bailey
I wanna be someone else’s fire.
I want to be dumb and reckless
and allowed to hurt myself
against the knife of a man.
I don’t just dream what I can’t have,
I dream what doesn’t want me.
I dream a house built into hillside.
We don’t need to increase my medication
What can I burn if I am underground?
What can I risk if I am done?
I only write one poem now:
my son, heavy, sleeping in my arms
bottom lip dropped open to breathe.
But what about all the other fires?
I don’t want to be loved I want to be new.
On Falling / by Lanette Cadle
It’s a matter of language, not viewpoint.
The sodden ground is here now
but whose fault is a matter of which
language you speak and how your brain
wires sing. In French, whether ground
or the sky is at fault is cloudy. Is it the pencil,
it makes itself fall or is it I drop the pencil?
It rains and the ground is simply in the way
of this unstoppable force. We try, oh we try,
but raked piles of topsoil still wash out
leaving clay and today’s pools of water
where the weeds won’t grow. In time,
it gets confusing whether what’s happened
is my fault or is it what’s going to happen?
And what’s happened is the ground, it is wet.
The sky, it fell. The sun, it comes back someday
Day 26 / by Kate Hanson Foster
My mother always told me
I was a miracle. Her pregnancy,
a long, slow accident just waiting
to happen. I was a drip she feared
coming down her pant leg. If the placenta
continued to separate, I would have come
out unfinished, uncertain. When I was born
my mother says she closed her eyes
and saw Jesus placing me into her arms—a baby
bird—a throat box with only one remarkable sound—
My mother prays to a chain of glass,
circles of fingers pressing into the gems
of her birthstone because her boss was an asshole
that day, like all other days. My sister was a bitch
again. My father cares more about booze
than he does her. On the train she thinks
everyone sees her drop her bag, she loses
her breath in a panic to pick it up again.
One of her God books fell out—did they see?
Are they out to get her—gang-stalking their prey—
a murder of crows so thick you might think
they were an omen, or maybe you might even believe
in miracles. But it’s just a gathering like any other—
a flock, a congregation, my mother filing into a church
pew, chewing on the body of Christ. The twisting
spurs of invisible burdens pressed
like a storm between her hands.
How the Moon Lost Out / by Catherine Evans Latta
On a Baalbek summer night, only the week before,
dancers’ bodies rippled against Jupiter’s temple
columns more solid than their sinuous selves.
Above the cracked pediment’s dropped central stone,
for centuries perilous as a Damocles sword,
we sat content below the rising innocence of the moon.
Before the second half, our consul announced,
an American has walked on the moon tonight.
He pointed up, as if we might see that far.
The moon appeared unchanged until we gathered
Wednesday night at Mikhail Naimi’s Baskinta hearth.
She is defiled, he wept. I can no longer write of love.
He would not be consoled.
language / by Anu Mahadev
nothing like a pebble bouncing off the water to bring
life to the saltmarsh, where we once traced our names –
futile, the mud rushing to fill them, bury them in
the earth. it is one thing to say that the vermilion
in my hair is nothing to you, but what of the brilliance
it restores to my countenance. it’s quite another to quote
the language of deciphered ancient scripts to decode
a well-planned wedding – where paying the bills lasts
longer than the marriage itself. nothing like guarantees,
signatures to hold us together, when all we need
is a promise to cumbia, to shake, to tangle, to break –
till our fingers part, and find each other again. writ
large on the wall, between designers and florists,
seating arrangements and centerpieces, bands
and veils, speeches and altars, dance and cake,
is simply a name, a touch, a scenario, a picture,
of us, with no wave to divide the conquering mist.
sometimes it can be about nothing at all, vowels
and consonants garbled enough to mean nothing
but still, building something out of nothing is worth
a try, if not for us, then for the vivid, cosmic, multi-
layered language of life, laced with ambrosia, salt, love.
Poem 26 / by Jory Mickelson
One ancient school teaches the cosmos cracked out of egg curving like the earth.
A horn-nosed snake breaks the universe apart, and from the pieces form the earth.
In Washington where all the beaches are stone, water flosses the rocky teeth of the coast.
Water, never content with its body, hangs in the air and then falls to earth.
The first earthquake I felt like an accident, hanging plants swayed, the waterbed waved,
and the wall cracked. It was the first time I considered the movement of the earth.
I’ve only seen water moccasins in movies, the way they sly their bodies ribbon-like
over water. Never go swimming in the South. I will stake my safety with earth.
There are so many names for the ground beneath our feet: duff, clay, loam, silt,
jory, sand. From our births. year by year, we are turning into earth.
palimpsest / by Akiva Savett
“Four men entered Pardes—Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Elisha Ben Abuyah, and Rabbi Akiva.
Ben Azzai looked and died;
Ben Zoma looked and went mad;
Elisha Ben Abuyah destroyed the plants;
Akiva entered in peace and departed in peace.”
– Talmud Bavli Hagiga 14b
I’m nailing puddles
Into a bridge
shaped like god’s silence.
walk with me, please,
follow rabbi akiva’s footprints
we pass yozel frandrik,
he sewed god’s name into his foot
so he could fly.
a jealous angel splashed
him out of the air
with a bucket of water.
some say he got the water
at the well from which rebecca
fed thirsty animals.
what is that supposed to mean?
yozel points to his foot,
he never gave the name back.
pass racehorses lined up limping,
pass a pile of comatose triangles
next to pythagoras, a tranquilizer gun
in one hand,
a bag of 30 silver coins in the other.
pass gatsby playing yahtzee with don quixote
pass miles teaching ahab to play it cool
past isaac on the rock
begging abraham to play it cool
pass bob ross drumming his brush
against his easel splatter of
prussian blue van
dyke brown titanium white.
he weighs himself every morning.
pass mr. alpern teaching
us eighth graders
the causes of the great depression,
his wrists bleeding all over his wrists,
the chalk and his lesson.
pass dvorak and dylan
catching birds out of midair with guitars,
then strumming new worlds,
black crow blues.
at the bridge of lies holding hands,
I make my way by memory:
Quebec Romeo and India Juliet,
a November Foxtrot.
at last, Echo, Union.
see freddy paul
his orange hair so final,
a needle in his arm,
sharing a rubber tourniquet halo
with philip seymour hoffman
and there’s robin williams.
they are music, empty clothes,
missing teeth, our parents’ too big shoes.
I pass the blood bank
where my daughter’s stem cells
this disease plagiarizes
the pebbles of the first tablets.
I can’t stay here
among broken flowers.
let’s sew gossamer sentences
from the gold susquehanna
where I’m bound.
Annunciation / by Buffy Shutt
I wonder if god knows I’m an atheist.
The transept pulls me across.
A sideways slog
Like waiting for the subway, peering back and forth.
I wonder what god thinks to see me on my knees
I have my books, here on this pew. A Mary stack.
Perhaps a candle.
I make a ruckus shoving in the coins.
I wonder if god knows I see the moment between them
Pure and unexplored.
Young but bringing her a fierce secret.
If a similar reckoning came, would I keep silent?
Or have I waited and sampled and
Wasted a great deal.
Day 25 / Poems 25
Gold and Silver / by Maggie Blake Bailey
If I open the door
I’ll admit tonight
I am trying to bind
a quilt for a baby.
I’ll have to admit
the old woman
next door, the one
who gave us
the chicken pot pie
when we moved
here, left the bag
on our new door,
died in the morning.
92 years old, dead,
and never thanked
for the heavy, frozen
chicken pot pie
I didn’t eat but
still felt gratitude for
when I lifted the dish
wider than a pie
from the oven
I’m learning to use.
I don’t like binding.
First I learned
to sew, then baste,
then quilt, now
bind. All painstaking
but the most is binding.
I will stay up late
for this baby, his quilt
covered in narwhales,
and squid, one smirking
mermaid in the corner.
Gold and silver bubbles
floating up the cotton.
Tonight: I am binding.
I work as fast as I can,
and there is little pleasure,
just the gold thread I picked
for a boy I meet tomorrow.
Faith and a Streak of Eyeliner / by Lanette Cadle
You’ve got to have faith, he says
and I think of George Michael, not
what was intended at all, but wham,
there it is, stinking of the eighties
and hair spray. Still, I will have faith
and hear him sing wake me up
before you go-go, and I nod, whisper
don’t leave me hanging like a yo-yo
‘cause I’m not made for going solo, so
wake me up before you go-go
and let’s go dancing tonight
doing the boogaloo and the hustle
by the pulsing dance floor light
and I see Boy George who, like me,
wants to know,
Do you really want to hurt me
. . . . Wake me up before you go-go,
Do you really want to make me cry
. . . . Wake me up before you go-go,
please take me dancing tonight.
Again and Again / by Angela M. Carter
The men all have hands.
The children all have bodies.
Neither should matter, or
be a part of the other.
In her lap,
is moving light. She winds
a ballerina’s twirl. She controls
The dancer’s skin doesn’t move; it
Shines, it reflects, deflects.
Its pose is set in happiness,
never knowing a reason to run away.
In her finger’s twirl is a universe,
tangible in one song, church bells,
holy muzak, redemption, a
satellite to new a new body.
After The Winter / by Kate Hanson Foster
It would not stop raining—water
passing through water, obedient
and unthinking, testing the rivers
and pressing the dams. Water dripping
through the wood beams, taunting
my forehead while I slept. Water
weathering with determined divination.
I put the kids in the car for a drive
because it felt good to think the water
was something we could skim along,
like water bugs. I splashed through every
puddle to hear them laugh—their ferocious
joy so bright in the water, biting me at every
angle. Winter buds clinging hard to the tree
tips—shut so tight the water could
not get in, not at least until they were ready.
Look Mom, there is heaven, my son said,
as we drove passed the cemetery. Water
bathing sun-bleached stones, washing over
dead names, and filling green plastic pots
of old dead flowers. And my muscles began
their wide-spread twitch-itching, like water
rippling under the skin. Fat quiet seeping
in, a watchful void, like placid water.
Minutes passed, each tick a death
and a blossom, so fluid, so impermanent.
And so I said look ahead, I think I see light
on the horizon. A glimmer poking pale behind
the clouds. It just happens—the natural pull
of the sun and moon—a slow wobble
in the tilt. The world destroyed in one part
and renewed in the other. Soon enough
the rain is going to stop. Those buds are going
to open—Isn’t it fun to not know why?
Fixing Space / by Catherine Evans Latta
I’m on the weekly tourist ship to space.
“Look right,” the guide says. My friends turn.
As on our recent bus trip through Greece,
I look left. That’s me.
Do you remember music of the spheres?
It’s not all gone. I note shadows, old versions
Not well erased from the palimpsest of space.
Despite scrubbing on some long extinct animal’s
Black hide, a faint flat square remains where earth
Is now placed, very cleverly printed, a sculpture
In 3D. Scraped planet relocation trails tangle around
Where a pre-school creator ground down,
Pressing his jack knife and Ticonderoga 1388-2/HB.
Revised, this newer space has Saturn where
The sun languished centered by the Pope. Even
Perfect circles are corrected to ellipses. The surprise
I like the most is the net shopping bag effect
So gravity is draped with depressions cradling
Each planet like the different sized citrus
I lug home from farmers market.
“Ma’am, would you,” the guide taps me, “please look
That way. The brightness you must see is a quasar.
Nearby is a star explosion discovered yesterday.”
She talks at us, walking between rows. “Put on your
Tinted glasses provided in the equipment sac.
Note the red shift.”
Some hand will be at work again tonight.
Floors / by Anu Mahadev
Feet – antimony hooves, horseshoe shaped
Yet we are not covered in bruises
We drag them across the beige linoleum floor
The lampshade is not so convinced
The shadow has a different tale to tell
We are like goofs in a comedy gone awry
Yes it’s my husband’s birthday
I’m not going to write a sappy love poem
But I do remember a different soapstone floor
When we took seven steps around the fire
Our feet were lighter, towards a future
We couldn’t see but wanted so badly
Now my feet have to carry a heavier me
They complain, groan at the burden thrust
Upon them, but I still dance on a mosaic floor
We don’t have a big house or a dog
Big brand names, cool cigars or drinks
Or an army of children to prove our joy
But my feet still walk the short distance
To my husband and son, we hug, we laugh
Disregarding the cracks on the wooden floor
Coming back to many many years from now,
Empty nesters, thankful for what we have
No formula, no solution for being happy
We talk to lampshades, shadows, scenes,
Someday we will be in tiled hospital floors
But for now, for many such nows, we have today.
Poem 25 / by Jory Mickelson
mum in the hiss of waves
the uncertain body homes
the walls of black dank
rock where blooming
creatures learned in time
to shroud themselves
in light. what is stirring
in the deep, yet quiets
its sleepy turning at
the gesture of approach?
hand, an animal of bloat
and roam, five wicked
candles almost gone
of wax. the sight of
which the inky current
and humrings until
net bone will fray.
waggle dance / by Akiva Savett
my ten-year-old son wrote to a girl,
does she want to be his girlfriend?
I tell him:
there are trees in california
big as months,
put your arms around one
and you’re not even half way.
male mallards are colorful
the women are grey.
let people out
of an elevator
before getting in.
bees who know
where to find nectar
tell the hive
by dancing in figure eights.
an unburied evangelical lyric.
how did you get mom to like you?
she saw me dance
in the booming basement of a fraternity
buzzing with beer and laser giants.
then we talked for six years.
I tell him about lloyd dobler
holding a boombox,
that ghosts carry chains
because they’re slaves
to what they haunt.
don’t be afraid of the answer,
people who see
the loch ness monster
Mid-February in So Cal / by Buffy Shutt
I sit in hot water while
The woods crack their bones.
I smell next-door’s 10:00 am smoke
So keen I will buy cigarettes at the 7-Eleven if I go out.
I hear one crow, two, six, losing count.
They are in a mighty conversation.
I hear the chainsaw coming across the canyon doing its work.
The saw floats inside the tub trimming my bones.
My friend texted me it is snowing where she lives.
She is looking at foreign places that are warmer and cheaper.
Four palm fronds hang upside-down on an oak branch.
Discarded witches’ brooms snatched by last night’s vicious wind.
This hot tub, this backyard, these blades of grass are too big.
They are as big as the ocean. I liked the stars with him.
The sun dips me up.
The sun dips me down.
Day 24 / Poems 24
Cardinal Red / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Too much butter in
the banana bread.
Clean laundry tangled
in the sheets.
Rice from dinner
three nights ago—
cluttering the floor,
the bed, spreading
against the pan.
Only the male cardinal
is red, the female
a muted brown
that echoes red
in flight. Not hard
to believe we were all
red once. What
a small measure
of beauty, a small
measure of worth.
Yes and Yes / by Lanette Cadle
Ask me a question. I won’t know the answer, but hey,
neither do you. What I do know is how to peel an orange.
First you pick the right orange. The peel must be soft,
have some spring to it. If your thumbnail doesn’t
release those tiny beads of orange peel that sting the nose
it’s too late. Toss it back on the pyramid. Yes, this is the way.
After a while, gentle pressure on the peel alone will tell you,
but that spray of scent is the tell, the small yes that says
the orange hasn’t spent too much time off the tree. Of course,
since you left a small crescent mark on the peel you might feel
morally obliged at that point to buy it, maybe thinking
it’s traceable to your thumb, but I was raised by a woman who
returned green seedless grapes if they weren’t sweet. Taste them,
she’d say, but no one would, handing her back her change while
looking outside at two sparrows tugging bread crusts in the heat.
My Father, the Farmer / by Angela M. Carter
Your flannel shirt is still
what I wipe my numb nose on
in my 30’s. No tissue will ever do.
Say that while I dream, somewhere
there’s always shimmering icicles
hanging from the frozen pines.
While you tend to keep the
living alive, keeping them more human,
only I have not forgotten about you–
what it takes to lace up the boots,
how concise God has to be in the
prayers answered for us to survive.
Say the fields minded themselves
and never were held by your hands.
Say, I’d had felt your hand more
than that time death came knocking for
my best friend.
I trust that the right prayers were answered
in that time, even if they were not mine.
Say what’s supposed to happen has happened
and this is the way it’s to be,
your hands holding that land until one of
your deaths, and mine–
mine, while holding your flannel to my eyes
no matter how the prayer ends.
Grease / by Kate Hanson Foster
The world was not my undoing.
It was something smaller.
A house inside a house.
A place where darker veins eel together.
And my body
on a mattress looking up.. . Not at the world.
But at minutes turning loose off the clock.
You need rest, my husband says. The children are
playing in the yard.
When did the sound of joy
become an urgency? I wondered.
You need to relax.
And would you believe me
if I told you that in this place there was a door
deeper. A little capsule falling
down my throat like an anchor. A synthetic
heaviness, and then sleep.
It is that room.
Still as a bar of iron.
No wind or children or touch of hands over hands.
Not even that voice crawling its way in:
Soon, you will have to make dinner. Wash their hands
and feet. Put the baby on your hip.
The mighty mother able.
What was I then but skin
splayed over a match.
Froth on a simmer.. . My life
rushing out like grease spitting into a fan.
Before Arab Spring / by Catherine Evans Latta
At Liberation Square, book stalls
With the latest Mahfouz, new or used,
People eating, sleeping, cover every blade,
All grass. Somehow green. Socialism.
Birth control and Stella Beer’s
Neon blue stars, billboards, beggars,
Village women lay borrowed infants
Covered in flies on black rags.
Same place always, no one glances or
Gives. Even me. I pass them daily in ’65.
The honestly blind beggar,
Galabiyya pressed white,
Forget his name, he’s licensed.
Patient from noon to five at AUC’s gate,
Gets LE 5 daily to make his son
A graduate of this institution.
Long before tourism hits town, I wander
Alone to see pharos unwrapped finality.
Dust, ten tons a day fall from the sky. Silence.
Windows high, unremitting heat raises dust,
An existential mist in the mummy room.
I write my name on a case then wipe
Eager to see unwrapped, if I recall, Hatshepsut,
face shriveled, despite Yemen’s oils.
No room left for fantasy, a glow draws me
Deeper in the old museum’s maze.
A sudden brilliance, for me alone, all
Tut’s stuff crammed, jumbled, lays about
Like a kid’s bedroom.
We nightclub regularly next door at Shepherd’s bar.
Spot Omar Sharif among the usual where we join
the dance of Cairene night animals.
Leaded feet / by Anu Mahadev
My own déjà vu, imprisons.
I struggle with the notion
of escape, from arachnid
Some people need to forget
you exist, and vice versa. They
feel and look like lacquer –
sounds good in theory; reality
is cheap paint. Some things
need to be soldered into
subconscious, and some need
to be burnt into molten ash,
dissipated into the ether.
I outgrow them, my tongue
rejects the vernacular, refuses
to accept affection returned
in splinters. They do not want
to evolve with me, relate to my
change, we fork into creepers
along different banyan trees.
Skating along the icy surface is
not my thing, when I see what lies
beneath. We are at the edge of
evanescence, wondering whether
to jump in or not. I see great things,
skyscrapers of ice stretching
out into abyssal depths, tearing
through rusty ideas, clichéd body
images, the fruitless chase of lost
youth. They see a lake – reflections
of their perfect bodies, immaculate
styles. I see through superficiality,
fake friendships, they only see a fat
girl who isn’t fun anymore. I want
none of it, I want to be myself,
break free of stereotypes, body
shaming, shallow conversations,
forced laughter. The only thing I
can do is jump. And so I do.
Poem 24 / by Jory Mickelson
Cars dissolve across the distance, the moon domestic in its touch, brushes the landscape clean, straightens the wrinkled silence, weaves the grass’ stretching into a threaded screen. Everywhere small hands hover toward the light, reaching for the recurvature of stars. The men who use hammers to break the hills, on swing shift, ready themselves to be swung home. The open field’s purpose now is to a show path, to guide our empty gestures true, a way to trouble us into sleep’s ring-shaped room.
bee killing club / by Akiva Savett
the same year thriller was released,
the same year van halen 1984 was released,
the same year whitney houston released Whitney Houston,
the orange one where she looks Hawaiian and happy.
though it turns out her’s was in 1985,
memory serves different masters.
two are bottled in green sleep.
I was the founder and general
of the loesche elementary school bee killing club
chapter #1/1 Unit #1/1 Regiment #1/1.
allergic to stings, chocolate dust cake pollen,
freshly cut grass dogs and cats mold and muscles,
I walked the recess yard with a clipboard.
I had 68 kills,
part of the late october honeycomb breech.
my soldiers would report anything
stepped on or swatted,
receive a tally mark,
like most things,
what began as a lie to avoid shame
became a clique
to prove danger.
carrying tiger pelts and rubies,
their fingers dripping with fruit punch and grass clouds,
their pollen recess rhetoric,
a map of their need.
girls throw jacks in hopscotch squares,
the blacktop erasing the soles
of their butterscotch chucks,
they smell like dry leaves and sweat
at the end of recess,
a long kiss like a saw that sees
through our games.
The Hospital / by Buffy Shutt
How fast you went
Though I had sat and sat,
Your clock, your camera.
Kept back the angels disguised as family and friends
All poised to hunt.
I filtered the noise through simple nets
And waited for your sign.
Shamefully befriending those bearing liquid sleep.
Tugging at my fingertips, you take a bit of me with you.
Time’s gone—I’m blind.
This space, this new space
Let me sit five minutes more in the sun.
Day 23 / Poems 23
Moss / by Maggie Blake Bailey
It won’t be calamity:
take shelter drills
kneeling in a hallway
lined with lockers
to cover the vulnerable
back of the neck,
that old workhorse
of public school,
fourth grade, upstate New York.
It won’t be disaster:
a thousand bees dead
swept into piles
like horse chestnuts
barbed and pointless.
If you wake up and don’t
It will be moss.
It will be kudzu.
It will be English ivy.
It will be one possum
undiscovered and dead
in the crawlspace, circled
tight as if asleep.
In Case of Happiness / by Lanette Cadle
Know that the worst can happen.
screams spring in fluorescent pink—
gives us fair warning
to pull tab and exit.
This space is not calibrated
for unbridled emotion.
Take it outside, but know
that out there
anything can happen—
chiggers, clouds of gnats,
hidden excrement, a crash course
in the unexpected.
It’s been raining for fourteen days,
with three ice storms folded in
for variety, Look at the bus stop—
a child’s boot still waits at the curb
half sunk in the mud, its foot
long gone on the bus
for a flopping day half barefoot
at the seat of learning.
Connection / by Angela M. Carter
My phone stopped ringing days ago.
The only mail I’ve received this week: three store coupons
and debt bait in the form of a sample credit card.
This could be you. This could all be yours. And you’d be happy.
Someone liked my photo today. Someone likes me today.
Social media seems laughably ironic–how something
meant to connect us, has made us long more for what makes us
what we are, has made us feel so much more, and less, all at once.
I’ve never felt so lonely as I do when I’m most connected.
People try to display happiness on a shareable photo platter;
laid out like smiling meat, willing, for the taking. The knives sparkly. The forest untouched. Happiness isn’t that easy to find and catch. It isn’t that easy to attain.
It won’t tolerate being captured by a click, or swallowed whole.
Seedlings / by Kate Hanson Foster
These seedlings rising
. . . . from the dining room table
will eventually undo themselves
in the garden. On every wall
. . . . trees flash their lifelines.
There are checks and splits
in the wood beams where
. . . . fibers compress into empty
space. My daughter bites her graham
cracker into the shape of a boat
. . . . and laughs. My son fusses
over puzzle pieces on the floor.
A buck on some unknown hill
. . . . coming together. We are
waiting for the first flakes of another
storm to fall. Outside—I can see
. . . . bald flashes of wood where ice
snapped off branches. Cells hardening
beneath the crack of bark, the way
. . . . silica remains liquid as it is super
cooled into glass. I don’t know why
I bother watching these things
. . . . arrive—slivers of pale green stems
I will pin and re-pin to get right
with the light. Roots tricked
. . . . by a matt I plug into and out of
the wall. There is no way of knowing
how it ends. There is always
. . . . a chance some windblown hand
of summer will flick away the last
worthwhile flower. All of this work
. . . . at life take away again, snatched
back into ground without warning.
Excerpts / by Catherine Evans Latta
How do I tell our decades?
By days, places
Lengths of stay
Colors, smells and sound,
How does a sense of us
Climb walls of time?
As curtains blown wind shaped,
Sometimes hanging still,
Limp memory fallible.
The crash of bodies
Falling to ice. A knock down
Orchestrated with no intention,
The suggestion of coffee
Brewed fifty years since.
Why not Egypt, sell the boat
At low tide because it leaks.
Others will sit in its shell and
Wait for their tide to rise.
The ad man’s ersatz utopia,
We go for a year,
Forget time, and midnight watch
The Nile flow and flood
Beneath our windows.
The hawk sun in afternoons,
Wings spread, Horus, flies
Across his disc hung
Millenniums above the Nile.
In a somnolence of heat,
Smell rises from alleys.
Our bodies work against
Each other in search of flow.
Friday is a drumbeat
Chanting on the banks.
Men hand in hand
All movement slowed
Mindless of revolution.
Our horses know the desert way,
Unopened tombs, unguarded pyramids
Star-spangled and heiroglyphed
To tell the keeper of scales,
The dead man’s soul was
Lighter than a feather.
We ride on in easy canter.
The aborted innocence of
Corrupted monarchy still
A dusky sunset
Hangs over villages.
Round flat dung patties
To dry on roofs,
The forever scent of life
Where we could ride free.
Under the Rug / by Anu Mahadev
Where time goes, with Gerber snacks,
sticky spilled juice, where it hides
in the wax of crayons, smeared – amateur
painter in my belly, when he was already
polishing his fine motor skills, my son,
namesake of the sun, splitting light into
seven rays through my eyes, stuffing them
under the rug for days like these. Why
is the rain considered gloomy? It is
the season to replenish low levels –
youth, midlife, when we think we can
influence the weather with a complaint
box, while the aging smile, no regrets
at the skeletons in their osteoporotic
closets, also shoved behind well-lived
lives. I’m toying with the dustpan,
sweeping my mistakes with the broom,
dirty secrets, lost apologies, forgotten lies,
that oddly smell like cranberries cast
aside from cozy movie nights, peanut shells
from Super Bowl parties, the shame spread
around my neck – warm summer breeze,
promising a sprinkle of pollen so, I can
tear up, with dust mites for company –
cleaned out with vacuum, bleach, wood
polish, the color of the veneer comes back
just in time before the guests arrive.
Poem 23 / by Jory Mickelson
Every night the dog, barking
. . . . . . every morning another splintered sun, grass
leans in leaning stacks. Every morning the same slumped
dog, dreaming out the hunt, dreaming I will
. . . . . . . . . . . break this chain and be the death of you
I left the gate unlatched to let it all
. . . . . . come in—door ajar, and invitation—something
other than a noose. To deer, raccoons, and small bats: please,
to packrats, possum, waxwings, gnats:
. . . . . . . . . . . welcome to this
place. I left on the light above the stove,
. . . . . . a comfort, as the collar of drywall tightens and
(why not?) the mica stars set in popcorn spackle, shining.
Eyes to watch and eyes to guide, an eye for—
. . . . . . . . . . . how to fill the sky? How
absolutely overwhelming. This isn’t
. . . . . . how I meant for it to start, to welcome a menagerie.
I’m not an animal lover, which is why I’ve shut the door
behind them, roused the dog and loosed him from the lead, calling
. . . . . . . . . . . Come on, come in, set nose to scent
This is how love can feel: a crowded
. . . . . . panicked house and one thing wracked
with hunger, nearly ready
. . . . . . . . . . . to eat its way through.
endless imago / by Akiva Savett
1. the final and fully developed adult stage of an insect, typically winged
2. an idealized image of someone, usually a parent, which influences a person’s behavior.
the ladder inside me
is afraid of heights.
I’m 42 today,
getting through security,
a saskatchewan banjo knife
in my rib.
old as jackie robinson’s number,
I can’t stop thinning,
I can’t stop thinking
history is like saying
lord, if only this happens,
we’ll be happy forever.
but greedy for california weather,
a mother unwraps
a new g.i. joe figure,
be sure not to rip the file card on the back!
how even then, even then, even then
he longs for the unchosen,
hanging perfect in mirrors.
if you double my age,
you get a savage captain
searching the horizon for a tale
to hold without killing it.
like disco death and penny cremations
each self is a womb
believing it’s the imago,
each wound is a womb,
and the trains run on schedule.
falcons from newfoundland
ache for perches.
where do your lips end?
seeing the world
is like kissing you.
I don’t even notice
anymore when I sigh.
I will miss you
with the hands of a mustang
when I die.
Four Reflections on Time’s Up / by Buffy Shutt
As horrible as duels must have been
I long for them.
One by one we could shoot the sick animals behind the barn.
Ten trillion cells
New every seventy-two hours.
Mondays she calculates
Three days of meetings
Three days of men
Accidentally. .Laughing. .Interrupting
Stealing her ideas.
Brushing against her rigid body.
Talk of the team and her own jokes
Brushes it all aside.
But nights this wash-rinse cycle
Cannot be halted.
He doesn’t know she is slipping
He turns over, eyes her, but it is nothing.
Nothing registers. Thankful.
On Wednesdays she walks
Out/walks back another person.
We sit high— thirty-nine floors up.
Two women, five men
Crowded around his executive table.
Did you have sex this weekend?
Our boss smiling begins his interrogation.
Fueled by martinis, his recent divorce, a big promotion
(Still a good father, still a good father)
He runs the table.
He’s so damned good at his job, a genius maybe.
Perspiring, surprised at our willingness,
We stare into the flowers and
Spill our bedroom secrets across the white tablecloth.
Day 22 / Poems 22
Turquoise / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Too easy to conjure sand
so fine we call it sugar
An eagle ray, half
dinosaur half alien-
angel that has chosen
water over air.
Why is there no way
to say soared but mean
underneath my feet
strange slice of grey
decorated in rings
of white as if
my toddler were in charge
of creation, eyebrows
knit together at the table
armed with finger paint
with finger paint
Too easy to conjure
these lazy waters
But if you say turquoise
I will always ask
for glacial melt
I will ask for water
so cold it glows
I tend that way—
. . . . . . shortsighted.
Why not an eagle ray
here slipping through
a water flooded
crevasse. Why shouldn’t
there be wonder where it hurts.
Safe to Be Pretty / by Lanette Cadle
It happened one cell at a time. The girl I was,
the woman I was walked from my dorm across campus
to the union and noticed
not the trees and detritus of Kansas fall,
that beauty so changing and reliable at once, no,
looked up from my book and saw
men, young like me, maybe the guy one seat down
and back from me in Semantics class, the pencil tapper,
who knows? And these men, one by one, stared like I
was a tree with golden leaves, a tree they might buy
or cut down for display, and I did not like that but
didn’t know what to do or if there was anything to do,
so, I kept walking and made it past the union steps
with the lounger’s signs from zero to ten. I didn’t
notice what my score was. It was a point of pride
not to look. That was the day though, and there
was no epiphany. I didn’t jump up and say,
so now I will gain weight so they stop looking, but
the body has its own ways, its own solutions.
Forty years later, I can count more years insulated
from the catcalls, the stares than not. They were
not bad years. But the body does break from that weight,
the literal pounds carried. Cartilage thins, tears, disappears.
Bone spurs grow, hook tendons, drag me to the ground
making them look again, but in pity, an object still.
So, I lose weight, maybe half, and my face, my body
slowly turns into me again. I don’t congratulate
the Nordic cheekbones for sticking with me through it all
but find myself unsettled, ask that face, is it safe to be pretty?
She is just a reflection with no answer, so I still don’t know.
Remember / by Angela M. Carter
how you held your head up long enough
to hear the song which leaks from the
smallest cracks of earth,
know how far you had to kneel to hear it,
embrace the solemn pride of it finding you,
even though you never would’ve chosen it.
how your fist shook the earth, however slight,
and commanded it to hold you near, you reassured
it would learn to love you as its own again.
this when the corners of your mouth slide
flood waters to the droughted heart,
insist on the ability to rekindle self-love.
what it takes to stay alive,
what it takes,
and you’ll do it again.
We Who Are Nothingness / by Kate Hanson Foster
face the faceless
road kill. We suck
tongues of slaughter-
house waste. Love
cannot fill us; no
nor actual. Turn
the cow pies in
the pasture to snag
the dung beetles—
attack the fawn
at all angles. Come
to our infinite
there is nothing
desire cannot split
need can’t catch
before it lands.
What the Mind Has You See / by Catherine Evans Latta
At the back end of night,
no wind or stars,
one planet still hangs.
Above the winter naked oak,
near the brown shape
upright on a branch.
Sparrow of some sort.
my mind suggests.
My eyes know better
in full morning light.
A winter shriveled leaf
masquerades as bird.
call me / by Anu Mahadev
creepers of moon-fire
call me thought, idea,
word, song, brain
these words are seeds –
lust grows in shards
of cold hard rain
sun-rooms of glass cases
call me flirt, tease,
intensity, passion, desire
mid-life, you creep
up on me, sadist strikes
me with time’s tethers
call me free, rebel,
dance, laughter, fighter
i’m the one in black,
svelte seduction, i dare
you to call me anything,
call me tectonic climax,
taboo, tympanic high,
candlelit tryst, chiffon
call me anything but love.
Poem 22 / by Jory Mickelson
If desire fell from the tree
of knowledge then let me build
a kingdom of apples. The kingdom
will be like this:
ten young men crowned in lilacs
ten young men reclining on cedar boughs
ten young men moving like night rain
Forget the parable
about the five wise virgins who prepared
for the bridegroom’s arrival, they will keep
their oil. This kingdom
is built from the generosity of a kingfisher’s
breast, the thallus of lichen, three agates in the hand
of a boy who’s rowed to shore. In this kingdom there is
no how to be desired, no treasure
to be found in a field, because
it shall not be hidden from you. No, it is
upon the lips of every lighted face that seeks
to kiss you welcome.
royal purple 1909 / by Akiva Savett
kansas state college
rose from the prairie.
pushed like molars through the red clay.
just as water has a photographic memory,
every person in this yearbook
returned to where she was before:
the 1908 sunflower showdown,
the page of “prettiest smiles.”
marion meyer and martha root
mute as yorick.
where hang the lips that sipped
at doc’s pop stop?
the skull behind a face
seeks the sun too.
the axe goes to the woods
from which it grew.
the pages are soft now,
thin, like the memory
of their aspen wrists.
don’t leave your things unattended.
everything is mystic pulp
the earth pushes up,
Eight Things / by Buffy Shutt
You can take
Is it a robo-call, a text or is the TV bleating?
You have ten minutes.
Black and white photographs all of a beach.
New Jersey, Maryland, California?
Take all three to research the location. (You must!)
Take this gold necklace he tied on you the wedding morning.
Take this flat black stone with its white artery.
You have seven minutes. Six. Five.
Locate a child’s hand left on white plaster.
Locate three books—
The Bible, Dickinson, Dickens. (Forget it. Too many.)
Locate the blue pitcher.
You mad cunt hurry
Leave this house.
Locate and leave.
The door slams behind you.
He stands on the sidewalk, chin annoyed.
Tripping over nothing you step out
Pushing everything into the top of your blouse.
It all falls out.
Scattering, glass breaking heart.
Displaced under leaves, between the uncut grass.
He pulls you up—the recording coming through his body.
You bend back to locate the eighth last thing and
Stuff the onion-thin blue airmail letter in your mouth.
Day 21 / Poems 21
Bright Magenta / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Girl your body whistles
like a car overtaking
me on the highway
You make me want to sew
sequins into my hair
glue velvet to my palms
Desert girl I bet you kiss
sunrise . . . . . your hips sweep
& swoop copper & bronze
Magenta darling your
veins hum vinyl songs
I don’t know
I can’t write you a letter
. . . . . . your halo burns
all paper down & you
trace your collarbone
gray with paste you
make of ash & ocean
You paint shadows on the pink
incandescence of you
Manilow Medley / by Lanette Cadle
Barry said it best:
I can’t smile
I write the songs
and if you’re ready
to take a chance,
it looks like
we made it.
you’re tryin’ to get
the feelin’, let me
be your wings
in the night there’s
at the Copa,
let’s fall in love.
Broken Shells / by Angela M. Carter
Sometimes baby birds fall too hard
from their nests,
through nothing more than chance,
touching the earth, before sky.
Mouths opened, waiting for the worm,
instinct looming, turning the gears
of an eternally wound clock.
The misstep, the need is what costs us all.
Sometimes the shell of sanity cracks
a little, or lot,
through no fault of my own.
Had I always been so keen on happiness,
would I still be me?
My hands are open to the sky,
gentle heart, hoping to catch all the birds
which may fall from their nests, but
I do not fool myself. I am the little bird.
Joy Geraldine / by Kate Hanson Foster
Joy Geraldine, Joy Geraldine,
Making your shape in the fifteenth
week. Joy, the quickening
in my sister’s belly where another
life did not become. Can you feel him,
Joy Geraldine? In that room
where only siblings can touch?
Do you kick against his footprint?
Your older brother who left
without breath—without even a death
rattle. And the sky hardened gray
in his absence, a cold and motionless mouth.
You are not the bird, Joy Geraldine,
not the song, or the flower.
You are the magic of an open field
and the childish urge to run through it.
The breeze that fills the gap between
every hill. Tell me something good,
Joy Geraldine. Tell my sister Joy
is in the dust carried off the dresser,
Joy—the curtains coming alive.
We are ready to fall in your wind
however you decide to arrive, Joy Geraldine.
Maxim / by Anu Mahadev
Two different Strands –
I know that now.
A popular bookstall in Bombay,
first in Colaba, then in Fort,
near Flora Fountain.
It meant two things to me –
my doting grandpa,
& Nancy Drew mystery stories.
Now Strand means the über cool
bookstore in lower Manhattan
I take in the potent smell of paper,
wood & curiosity, bestsellers, classics
& I don’t know where to begin.
Eager young ones want to be seen there,
They take selfies with a popular book
in hand, then toss it back into the pile.
There will always be two kinds
of people, the bookish smarts,
& the commonsense smarts
aka the ones that read,
& the ones that watch the movie.
Just like when growing up.
What is one without the other?
The nerds, & the divas.
The poets, & their patrons.
I hear the Mumbai bookstall is closing.
They refused to succumb to the new world’s
demands. Adapt or perish – Darwinism again.
& so, the chapter closes – Strand,
Nancy Drew, my grandpa. Ravaged by time,
termites & people who forget & move on.
Poem 21 / by Jory Mickelson
Dandelion is first,
spotlights the green until
its tune unchecked
is everywhere. Knapweed
knows how deep
to sing its roots. Milkweed
holds its choir silent
until releasing a harmony
of seeds. Blackberry
heavy and dirgeful with
its threnody of fruit
and always, the intermezzo bee
longing to turn
the weed-song sweet.
the messiah, a lost item, and a scorpion / by Akiva Savett
with rivers from the talmud and the sun emerging from its sheath
this is not the city we practiced.
denver is a mile high if you start from the sea,
but if you start measuring from denver, it’s flat.
many things are like that:
levantine fig trees bloom during the intifada,
regarding the evil inclination,
drive it away with the left hand,
and with the right hand draw it near.
a waitresses jokes in order
to hide the bruise of their mouth.
why involve yourself in matters
there is deep water in the river—
go immerse yourselves.
we once bathed in a great fall,
the water beat upon our backs
like a bank closing early
this is not what we intended to treasure,
and you barely remember
how small my feet are.
through broken smoke,
we are familiar strangers
begging for touch.
the same way quiet falls on top of an audience
before a symphony
is the way I love you.
god held a mountain by a string over the Jews,
asked if they wanted the law
and time began again.
this is not the way I remember asking
you to prom.
so be careful not to believe every desert.
truth will become three sheep
and walk away.
jesus told people to pay taxes to caesar,
aim their souls east,
time started over
muhammad ran in the sky
time started over.
siddhartha taught there is no road
until you realize you are the road
and there is no you,
so there is also no road.
and time started over.
exiles, put down your bags of cloud.
gold, stop dressing like things
you almost look like.
let’s stop mistaking the pointing finger for the moon,
the way a rabbit runs through a garden.
there are three matters that come
only by diverting your attention
from those matters:
the messiah, a lost item, and a scorpion.
still, wanting is like playing beethoven
on a rape whistle.
the hardest decision was to melt the golden calf
we forget how much evidence we bury
forget to rake the leaves
of this tall book,
you forget to king me
I forget to queen you.
Acknowledgments Page / by Buffy Shutt
Everyday lives—let alone books—don’t just pop up.
I’d like to acknowledge those who helped me.
Boundless thanks to my mother
For her constant questioning of what I am doing with my life.
I am indebted to Chase Card Services
For the unasked credit card with its ten thousand dollar limit,
Once spent kept me in my apartment for many months.
Thank you Office Work for your generosity
For not promoting or paying me equitably
But letting me keep my job and learning about pending rage.
A special thanks to the University of Husband.
Sincere thanks to the barista
Who looked at me each day like I was from Mars
And not worthy of remembering. Double non-fat latte.
Heartfelt thanks to the book Mrs. Murphy
Made me read summer between third and fourth grades.
Not to Mrs. Murphy who tattled on me to my parents because I asked what fuck meant.
Thanks to the doctor who refused to refill my Adderall scrip
Even after I showed her 500 pages of my manuscript.
Thanks also to the nurse
Who never returned the ten or twelve pages I left in the exam cubicle.
Many thanks to all of you who helped me get out of bed today.
Thank you all for giving me the idea of myself.
Day 20 / Poems 20
Pale Yellow / by Maggie Blake Bailey
I have the wrong words
. . . . again. Or I hear
the wrong words or the way
I hear is wrong and the words
just bystanders caught
up in the wrongness.
The wrongness, what else
. . . . can I call it?
Burns like bourbon I order
but can’t stomach.
Burns like money spent.
Burns like your mouth
turning down at the edges.
Sometimes you just can’t
look at me. You eat your
breath rather than reply.
I think the wrongness is mine,
as if my heart brines
what you bring me.
As if my heart is a salt
cure or a cast iron
skillet, rendering fat
Off the bone. There was richness.
But I lost it or kept it.
Whichever choice was wrong.
The Rules for Finding Good Luck / by Lanette Cadle
Whistle past the graveyard
and on the sidewalk, avoid cracks—
it’s not luck so much
as your mother will thank you.
My last fortune cookie said
“Diligence pays dividends,” not
a thrill compared to the dark stranger
or the windfall. Some people
eat only brown M&Ms or wear lucky socks.
Black-eyed peas may work past New Years
if you go light on the ham hock and add
something green. Do not despair
when these rules do not work. Rules
are born of youth and optimism, the one
fading, the other gaining with time. Try this—
sit in the yard once it greens up
and feel the sun on your face. Breathe
the cool air and measure your heart. Next,
bury your hands in clover, marvel at the shape
of each stem and bloom. Thank them
for filling the sparse grass, and if people see you,
look like you’re weeding. There may be
a four-leaf clover, but if not, there is still
the air, the sky, and you, lucky you.
Six for Gold / by Kate Hanson Foster
When my six year old asks me where
he came from—how he, you know,
got inside my belly, he is swinging a broken
tree branch around in the backyard.
Just swinging to feel the air molecules,
to hear the faint whistle of resistance.
The invisible turbulence satisfies something
for both of us—disturbing what you can’t see.
You were a star I took for my own, I say.
But how does it work, he asks, you know,
getting the star into your belly? I rub
my hands together vigorously and then slowly
pull them apart like a wizard commanding
an invisible orb of commotion. I tell him to try—
keep rubbing your hands, as fast as you can,
and when you are ready, stop—wait
for the energy to arrive between your palms.
He doesn’t know this is just a game, just
our nerves responding to friction. He gently
packs his hands around what he feels, a warm
snowball. I say imagine that energy gathering
into your belly. When you arrived, an old star
collapsed and exploded, and in a huge, energetic
blast you landed inside me. He tosses his secret
ball into the sky—it’s gone somewhere
we will never find. Like gold crashing into a rock,
or sinking into the bottom of a river, I say,
and I can tell he is no longer listening, his eyes
are back to the branch. I smile and scoop
him up before he can grab it again, tickling
his side to make him giggle. He wiggles
in my arms, laughter bright and bursting,
this boy who came to me like gold.
Finding Tomorrows / by Catherine Evans Latta
Not in terms of hours, the question is how
and where do I find the right tomorrow?
In another place, or in a revision brought
to our known space, or could I bring
a dream surfaced revelation.
Remembering such night-truths is the glitch.
Stuck in feathered webbing overhead,
my dream catcher gathers dead yesterdays’
broken threads. A sad collection by daylight.
I also pick loose dust of assemblyline
days, the rags of lost possible tomorrows.
Fresh tomorrows would remain ungrasped
except for my turning into your body
to weave a fresh woof and warp in pre-light
for a damask of tomorrows
guided by your curving shape.
Mother to son / by Anu Mahadev
They say peas in a pod are born together
I was reborn with your birth, morning-cusp-baby, 36-hour labor
You made sure I was really ready for you
We fused, blood to bone, heart to soul, your tiny palm curled around my finger
I am not sure what your eyes saw, in what color, where you looked past my face
Was it to a life lived before – together, apart? In what role, incarnation, connection?
Or was it to what was coming ahead, my new partner-in-crime, our easy camaraderie
Two goofballs on the same page of the script, an instant handle on each other’s pulse
Suddenly no pain, no epidural mattered – only a future envisioned, a new covalent bond
You’re slipping fast from my hand – sand from a sieve, I remind myself from time to time
We cohabit only for less than two decades, and then just like floating logs in a river,
the lumberjack decides to separate our paths, our destinies fork into two
Was I ever a bottleneck I wonder – but never mind, you gush forth into the ocean,
forging your own metal, brandishing your own scimitar, brave fearless warrior
I hesitate to call you mine – we are not meant to own each other, we simply share
our existences, we trade the intangible love in our hearts, firmly install it there
But for now, I am allowed to remember the day you emerged, comet from stardust,
before they cut the cord, you opened your eyes, processed the universe as if to say
luz / by Akiva Savett
luz: rabbi joshua ben hanina taught that the luz is the bone in the back from which the body will be rebuilt at the time of resurrection. this bone does not decay.
luz: light (spanish)
he didn’t ask
or need permission.
my father got his saw,
cut that japanese plum tree
off our front lawn.
let’s ride horseback
over the albuquerque horizon
pray to champagne suites,
swear on heartland bibles.
I doubt with complete faith.
all that’s left of me is a stranger
smoking with ghost warriors
of my birth tribe.
when I hiked in glacier national park
I bought pepper spray for grizzlies
with a 40-foot range
called counter assault.
it’s in my night table drawer
don’t think about it.
killing two birds with one stone
is cruel and lazy.
unless it’s one throw
and the second bird was killed
because I grew up
I asked one of my students if when she hunts,
she hunts sheep—
she laughed, you don’t hunt
I thought the reason was because they’re locked up
and it wouldn’t be sporting.
she said it’s just not done.
either way, if you shoot a sheep,
you’ve done no hunting.
peter gabriel used to be the lead singer of genesis
when they were weird.
I prefer him solo
and genesis without him.
bearded men in brooklyn
would consider this statement low brow.
it’s not cool to like things in general
but certainly not things many other people like.
it’s a sign of bourgeois conformity. not to mention
stupidity. while I’m getting things off my chest,
I know the lyrics to many neil diamond songs.
I sing them unironically in the shower of my car:
be coming to a beautiful sound
forever in blue america jeans,
I’m a holly holy believer on the rocks
bring me kentucky woman flowers
hello solitary man again.
later I hear pavement and radiohead and dylan and kurt,
the assassins of schmaltz.
and it needed to die
so we could be born over
but behind those major chords
and one piece elvis stage glitter suits
there is hope without buts.
of course it’s too simple,
but so are our bones.
population control will last until we fuck it up.
human growth hormone can’t help you
hit a baseball
but it can help you
hope for a fair trial.
or you can save up for a spy
and hand him a lie to sew into a flag.
surely, a reason has everything.
in 1986 the space shuttle blew up
on tv for an assembly
we were rushed out
and told to quietly practice
multiplying to pray
for the families.
I’m going to use PEMDAS,
solve for x.
we always begin with division,
suck the happy gas of addition,
cry with the wolves of subtraction:
leave a remainder.
Who is Chris Foley? / by Buffy Shutt
She has found the missing bees. They’re in her larynx.
The buzzing makes her angry—sigh—like everyone else.
She wonders about this while spooning out the honey hardening inside.
Must spoon it out—every day around five p.m.—it must come out.
Where to put this stickiness that makes it hard to talk— let alone argue.
She sees something online about honey containers on sale
Passes it up and can’t find it when she goes back.
In the afternoons she is filled up with Play-Doh—so much she can’t button her jeans.
The Doh settles down inside her with a thunk.
It displaces the honey—the morning shift.
Jars pyramiding on every surface filled with honey and Play-Doh.
She dips into the Doh for lunch, licks her salty fingers.
The other Saturday, took a cookie cutter from the box of her mother’s things,
Sliced a bit of her stomach off so the Doh could escape—leak out,
Plop into her lap and jam it into an empty jar.
After work, at work, on the bus, in bed, watching television, pushing send memos
She plays a left-brain /right-brain game on her phone.
It soothes her to know that all over the planet others are playing too.
Game calls for her to shave off three-eighths of her right brain.
Flip it like pizza dough from side to side until it settles on the left side.
By two a.m. the honey and the Play-Doh are nearly gone
Yet anger still floods her
Like easing into a hot bath on a cold night, the towel across the room.
Thumps at her toes like a hit of cocaine.
Don’t you go giving up that anger her mother says
As she lays about.
The train had some congress folks on it.
Wait! —A word about Chris Foley.
A GoFundMe funeral.
Who is Chris Foley?
Day 19 / Poems 19
Royal Blue / by Maggie Blake Bailey
My daughter said yesterday
for the first time so
today is royal blue
today my body can stop bullets
my hands wash my young son
tilt his head back
flexing my fingers to keep
water from his eyes
my mouth holds pins
my mouth holds unkind words
my stomach stripes
and flashes purple
because, twice now,
I have been more than myself
today I step into my classroom
bright sky white clouds
my body is an umbrella
my body can stop bullets
that is today. But yesterday
was spoken for first time, just now.
That Feeling Where It’s Just Awful / by Lanette Cadle
and you know It’s never been like this before,
and you hate poems that prance about, admitting nothing,
delighting in vague pronouncements,
so this one will not. I am alone in this life and always have been,
even when married. I sit on my deck and watch the birds
peck and sail, peck and sail, never alone in a flurry of wings
or at rest on the wire. I wonder at it, but think that birds
do not really think, and that is the problem; I do think.
Enough. Even dogs sniff butts and know if the other
Is a jolly good fellow or not. Cats sniff noses, eyes open
In case of sneak attack, and that may be the plan here—
Get out, get eyeball to eyeball, lean in, and breathe.
The Beetle / by Angela M. Carter
The car never did start.
It sat in the waist-high field of Johnson grass.
One door wouldn’t open.
All tires were flat.
It had rust holes as large as fists.
Something within me believed
I could make it run again.
In 1999, I graduated high school with
no idea what SAT’s were, or any knowledge
that I should’ve taken them.
I knew my largest test was getting
that car to run. To run.
That car, still there.
The field, overgrown.
Walking away got me here just as good.
Two Sisters / by Kate Hanson Foster
Not since the last fallen eyelash
. . . . has there been a moment like this—
Dry bone waiting on the windowsill,
. . . . the whispering sounds of boiling carcass
hurling its liquid into the pot lid.
. . . . Two girls with feathered feet streak
past the whiff of marrow and leap
. . . . arabesque to their beds. Tomorrow
there will be brown bag turkey
. . . . sandwiches. Freshly hemmed plaid
skirts and blue knee socks. A glass
. . . . of milk on hurried lips. The bus
is coming. And all hope is hitched
. . . . to the wishbone. In a single clack
good luck lives on the larger side
. . . . for the one who can pull it off.
Take One – Cut. / by Catherine Evans Latta
In the shower, unknown years ago, revelation,
focus and press down, cut. Let’s try that again.
Yes, show discovery, a new persona wells up in you.
The point is you will unmask many overtime.
Each a new kind of vision for a release, but now
relief as you watch your own blood run.
Show how you feel more alive and have
a kind of power over self, and look down
where the drain sucks away something old,
flushed out. Rather medieval. Good enough for today.
My script has this next one sixty years back.
Where’s that guy, the sixty-back actor?
Never mind your relationship to her now.
Make this first burn a slow consideration,
the hairy mole on your left arm
as you smoke and drink vodka. Now, cigarette in hand,
and pressure. Yes, go on. Hair and surface.
Harder with plenty of expression.
I want this to show you can really smell your self.
Proof you are real with the smoke rising,
and show your next intent surfacing. Physical erases
psychological pain, and relax, into relief
for the revealed new self. Close your eyes. Stop here.
Listen. We will insert a flashback to your child,
the hot toaster, the scream, the hand and wonder
at what the body does, blistering.
Frail shows us you learned to feel.
Tomorrow and tomorrow, you both will repeat
the same actions many times over and think falsely,
as you remain blind during destructive acts,
you can create new and other selves, all proof of life,
each altered states a new try-on person.
Yes, I’m aware of flawed fiction. Plots needn’t merge,
only emphasize parallels, generations of discovery
how intense pain can offer a possibility to create
newer selves, within one body, none valid.
5-7-5 in Bali / by Anu Mahadev
of you and I, amped up on
black sand beaches
is the substance of laughter
two lost souls salvaged
what can a lone island do?
it is ironic
torch lit terraces
beauty in every corner
Rama and Sita
such ugliness inside us
it all makes sense now
woman and her punishment
same story then, now
faults are just more encoded
in a litany
of cryptographic ciphers
of undefined crimes
Shame: A Bestiary / by Jory Mickelson
Please click here to read the poem.
two truths and a lie / by Akiva Savett
babies begin as dwarf planets
mewing for their home sun
though they’re covered in dust
they’d kill to return the jewels of the messiah—
better off golden than ruled.
governments rule by jazz and saturation
of language, whatever you hear
is what you’ll love most.
police are a billy club away from royalty
and a bad leg away from power.
the trapeze artist is a net away from fame.
we are begun in the groin of an infant,
her legs curled up in sevens.
brothers are like fathers without belts and beer.
you can get an infection if you hold in your pee
is a lie we’ve been told
that seems harmless.
it’s a white lie.
unlike a black lie which is:
we stole the land we opened
a panera on land from navajos and oglala.
the first time we are horrified,
then each time less horrified
until we just shake out our feet
and order a turkey sandwich.
there are always rumors
if you’d never been to a zoo,
would you believe what cages can’t hold?
another lie is that monkeys open bananas from the other side.
it seems like a white lie
but it makes me question everything:
whether the dead can open the sky
on their side,
when it’s okay to return a flag
to full mast,
where our vhs cassettes end up,
if honey left a suicide note.
The Museum is Empty Today / by Buffy Shutt
The museum is empty today.
A few murmuring people
Amble in oblongs.
She streaks ahead of them,
Pockets bulging with talismans, lucky numbers.
She agreed to install them in the northwest corner of each gallery.
A smug vacancy surrounds these freed-up walls.
She thrusts the Post-its inside the bare frames.
She rushes downstairs,
The Antiquities smashed, ground into the finest sand.
Centuries-old wonders without the new provenance.
Years of spectating, she wobbles.
Cannot unsee what has been seen.
She plops down on the marble floor,
A sign not yet screwed to the wall sways
Hypnotizing her— Opening soon. Soon. Soon.
Day 18 / Poems 18
Peacock Blue / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Not an aspen, not a birch,
this tree dying outside
the hotel window
like a teardrop, a pear
about to spoil, a pinecone
robbed of spikes.
Maybe not dying, maybe
always this ashed
out tan, creek bed
brown, embarassing to
consider all the mountains
in the background:
as if called for a different
show, a regional gathering
on beauty, hosted
each morning in this drowsy
hipster town. Each range
pushes and flatters
offers blue against blue
against blue. Call it a scrim,
say the grass singing
brightly is a prop. The horizon
line wants you to say
all this blue and green:
the way a peacock seems
a joke or a trick.
But that doesn’t account
for the dead tree framed
by the window, by the town,
taller than the building,
refusing to sway in the wind,
somehow finding February a menace.
A Future in Black and White / by Lanette Cadle
In the photo, the red-haired baby on her lap
wears a past on her face, one she
will grow into but now, only knows Mama,
not the woman who painted in water colors,
the woman who went to see Michigan play State
but didn’t care about who won, the woman
who sold her golf clubs weeks after leaving
the state for her new life in Kansas. She is foreign,
yet I know her, hear her still, even now, four years
after her death. I dream of her in her heavenly mansion.
It is cool marble and she feels she can work with it
given time, and surely now she has time. Are decisions
written in our blood, carried by our cells? I need to know
now that my face is turning into hers, whether
I will turn into her in the end, and if I can stop it—
oh, the nose never lies, please, stop it right now.
Midnight Conversation with the Self / by Angela M. Carter
Eventually, the highways seem too adventurous.
The water towers we climbed in our youth begin
to blur into the distance.
Not far away, someone loves me,
but love is never close enough.
Emotions are something I step into,
touch a little of each thing at a time,
all of it, vibrant, but together mixes into black.
You must have the answer to all of this.
The sky doesn’t have it. Sleep doesn’t have it.
The driver’s seat never takes me
All day, my shadow screams to find the night.
Not far away, there are beds with warm bodies,
sunk into the makings of a new day, and I’m still
living their yesterday,
the world is always ahead of me.
When I leave you, the loneliness spreads for
miles across the midnight sidewalks.
Not far away, someone loves me,
but love is never where it should be on
these nights. Within myself, the rain is falling
and it muddles me from myself. I break it off,
take myself back, and give ultimatums.
You never look into my eyes, I say to myself.
Distance is everything.
How far we’ve walked, and how far there is to
go is not the same. I walk at midnight,
with a shadow in front of me.
Not far away, someone else loves me,
but the most important love should be closer
than this. Each corner,
I exhale from the disappointment of
not reaching my own open arms.
Body / by Kate Hanson Foster
The body has been buried.
And still no page in the prayer
book ready. No wick in the candle long
enough. There is no song for that same old story.
Metal entered the body like the first heavy raindrops
on a pond. No—the body is folded quietly back
into the earth. Body behind a thin skin
of glass now, catching it’s first hair of dust.
A mother placing that body onto a nail—snared
by a hell—body dressed in a vest of knowing
this grief, after all, is bulletproof.
Spring: Gray Sky / by Catherine Evana Latta
Baroque day rhythm, broken overcast
scuds by making olives sway, the forecast
is for north wind. The chiaroscuro light,
enhanced by open cherry blossoms’ gift
above our lawn’s retaining wall, gives bees
signal to hum from hollows in oak trees.
By tonight, winds will rise to near gale force,
unraveling this morning’s sense of peace.
Tomorrow, my King Alfred’s will lie bent,
muddy from the Alaskan wintery blast.
Narcissus, sweet outside, are too pungent
brought in and will remain, as is, downcast
when early I hunt with vase and scissors,
cut, rinse and save bloomed daffodils by scores.
Black swan in Banff / by Anu Mahadev
Lake Louise shimmers, a glittering mineral
— the Swan Lake on a midsummer’s night
She is the glacial water pouring in, pure, frigid
The swan queen, delicate, virginal, immaculate
Around the Canadian Rockies, we marvel in awe
Turquoise waters with rock salt as sediment
But somewhere inside, a darkling sky emerges
Blood blooms, unfurls around her navel
We tread the waters slowly, as our boots allow us to
Let the cold seep into our inner selves, wake us up
She molts her snow, feathers of ebony then spring forth
in ecstasy, unleashing her wickedness, her seduction
It is a crimson evening, of the eclipse – we turn in
our canoes at the dock, hike back to the Fairmont
Her eyes of fire, flash in gleams of lunacy, her jealousy,
No, the white swan cannot, will not, rule, not surface
In the night of the full moon, before dawn-blush, sunrise.
Poem 18 / by Jory Mickelson
God never really loved us, not
exactly. I mean the rib & shit
and the breath of course, but
also snake and eviction,
the smiting & pillars of salt,
the laming and the maiming,
the exile & captivity & war.
Even the favorites were
tortured, put coals to their
lips, endured the wet
encampment in a fish’s
stomach. I didn’t even
bring up the flood. I wasn’t
going to, but well, the flood
and the mass extinction
while we are at it & some-
how it’s all on us because
see God as: jealous, just,
terrible in anger, et al.
Punishing us for what he
must have micro-coded
in our DNA, free will or
faulty wiring? & finally maybe
God so unhappy with man he
sent part of himself to become
man and to suffer all the
usual torments, carnival
of grief (minus the fish
so far as we know). So what
do we make of a God who
took on our suffering or maybe
just had to punish his human self?
What is love alongside the human
condition & if God is this bad
then what about we? (see previous
reference to mass extinction, aka
climate change). Are we wrestling
with an imperfect God and we the chipping
off the providential block, or have we
fucked up, making some kind of terrible god
to tell us back the stories of ourselves.
geniza / by Akiva Savett
jews bury books
with the name of god written in it
in something called a geniza.
most are filled with receipts for pottery
complaints about stubborn unions,
descriptions of the cloud orchard harvest,
and love letters to cobblers,
because no one’s sure
if god is written in everything.
there is a geniza
inside every person
too tired to fold the laundry before bed,
learning to read,
hearing bad news.
my daughter and I always search
for shells along the jersey shore.
she writes the date she found it
on the ones we bring home,
we hang each on a single nail.
they chatter like teeth
every time she closes her door.
there will come a time
she finds this childish
then it will just be holes lining
her doorframe not unlike
the way cut hair grows faster,
the way a thousand tigers are all tigers
in the evening
the way a dance goes out of style
as you learn it.
The Promise / by Buffy Shutt
You are the promise.
Exposed to the sea.
You, the first light-keeper,
Bear my name.
Once a mere platform on a hill signaling with fire.
Later a base submerging—emerging.
A monk tending my tides.
Every ten minutes the fog-gun sounded.
Years on, still you warn of hazardous shoals.
The foghorn pressing at your lips wails in counted intervals.
When the air turns to sea-smoke
You sound every forty-five seconds.
Your concentrated beam swells my path
Your patience tries not to imagine my form.
My gravitational force delivers a mixed tide,
A working, seafaring love.
A steady promise,
An individual signature
That I might see—
My way home,
The way back.
In England they collected fees for this safe passage
You stand in ferocious winds
Day 17 / Poems 17
Violet / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Like the girl, not the color,
not the last of the rainbow
I always forget to name.
Violet, the girl who strings
words together like beads,
holding her mother’s hand,
blonde sunlight on the squiggled
line of ocean you might have drawn
yourself, waves and seaweed
and all the shells you can hold.
Boat shells, quahogs, the luxurious
fan of a scallop, ridged
and waiting a hand’s breadth
underwater. I collected Indian
money, pearly thumbprints
on the sand, when I was young.
I held your mother’s hand,
her hair bright as morning,
her toes burried in summer,
summers we spent long
nights telling secrets,
playing cards and waiting
to know more than we knew.
We pretended to be twins
even though we were cousins,
even though my hair smudged
brown, my voice spangled
against her pretty British turns
of phrase. I hear that lilt in your voice,
braider of words, asker of questions.
Violet bright in the July of our
hearts, last color of the rainbow,
first girl of new summers.
My Favorite Things / by Lanette Cadle
Make a list: check that it’s complete. Don’t
fail to fall on the floor with gratitude when
the worst fails to happen, when the dog bite
fails to get septic, when the bees sting
and your face fails to puff into nightmare you.
Yes, when you’re feeling bad, it’s good to remember
your favorite things and then, well, maybe
you won’t feel so bad, but good things out of reach
are abominable. Consider—cream-colored ponies
need stables and crisp apple strudels ride the hips.
Doorbells could be Publisher’s Clearing House, but
that chime could also be a warrant for Gregory,
who no longer lives at this address, and it’s hard
to be convincing when one is in her bathrobe,
but even two mustachioed sheriffs concede
that he may have reasons not to change his voter registration,
possibly because he is a felon? Sleigh bells are better
than doorbells, but they take horses and stables,
and we’ve already cast that aside. It’s cold out though,
a night for schnitzel with noodles. Through the window,
I see wild geese fly with the moon on their wings.
Lost American Woman in Paris / by Angela M. Carter
Marvelling at the city’s illuminating stone,
I chose to believe I was different, chaos unbranded.
I wanted to prove nothing could claim me.
My southern Virginia drawl spat rabbit’s feet
an inch in front of my sure steps.
My hopes scratched the mystery off
the faces of the moon,
my sureness told Hell
where it could go back to.
Near The Arc de Triomphe,
I caught air of a new life, like fireflies,
I am probably one of the millions of American
women chasing the fluorescent trail of wanderlust;
the world is not the same at midnight in Paris.
My future self smiled back me
in the Seine River’s reflection.
I thought of staying, I thought of living there,
only to rediscover the conundrum
of catching a firefly–
once caught, one has no choice but
to let it die, or let it go.
Even when you are a lost American,
Au revoir feels no different
than the time you thought
you’d said your last good-bye.
A Brown Bird / by Kate Hanson Foster
Crashed into my bedroom
window, with fearless urgency.
Wings flying toward wings—
and then broke itself
on what must have seemed
like another bird in a peculiar piece
of sky. It landed half-dead
on my front porch, like an offering.
A white flag, bag of air, inflating
and deflating, twitching into
or out of every ache. I watched
and waited until it stopped. Rolled
the body with a plastic shovel
into my kid’s blue sand bucket.
Carried it to the edge of the yard
and then tossed it into the woods.
Nothing, moved, or flinched, or changed
in that frail moment. Not even me.
The New Food Materialism / by Catherine Evans Latta
The feature article in this free foodie magazine preaches,
I would not have used that word at first, how all
materials in our food matters. A bit abstract as I visualize
upholstery. I get over verbiage to find we should eat only
locally grown veggies. There’s no mention of meat. I
turn back to the cover. Subtitle: Healthy Vegan. Ok,
logical enough. Back on p.52 a great picture shows my
lunch recipe. I learn local dirt better matches me, not to
mention giving help to a struggling farm economy, as
such dirt makes my gut flora happy campers. The kale
salad instructions say massage it first. Bought day
before yesterday, too long ago (tut-tut), from a farmers’
market I seldom frequent, massage releases nutrients. I
like massage, but who would ask a stalky green if it
prefers hard or soft pressure. I decide hard, even cut off
wiry stems, which defies the author statement I need far
more roughage. Enough already! And floss my teeth after
lunch? Stemless kale raised twenty-five miles from me
is good enough and likely grew in dirt as bad as mine
that scarcely pushes up a rose or blade of grass.
Beautiful kale – circumcised, massaged, torn into the
bowl, brings up the cranberries. I rinse the hard dry
beads and, conscientious, read their packet. They fall
short, or long, hailing from that state 700 miles north. I
double rinse them to make up. My materials (I’m having
trouble thinking food) get worse. The pine nuts, never
mind they’re seeds, I toast lightly and succeed. Light is
not my style. When I wad their transparent bag for trash,
I hold back, un-wad and squint at small sideways print.
Chinese! Chinese dust. I rinse them, culinary blasphemy,
but in gentle penance pat them dry. Re-toasting, they
burn. Never mind, I read elsewhere carbon is a good gut
vagabond / by Anu Mahadev
I remember a different time when Orion brought us
good luck. when the Big Dipper would point to Sirius,
and we thought the spirit of every dog lived there
when I would stare at your freckled back and look for a map of cities
where we would go, where we would separate
the hunt is important, you would say, so is the capture
who cares what happens after that?
mom used to say it’s easy to get anything, maintaining is the hard part –
clothes, toys, luxury items,
that change with the winds, trading a kiss for a snub, passion for nonchalance
you with your blasé look me, still hungry, look for a side of a cold bed
that’s no longer slept on
I’d always say your mind is partitioned into different countries,
a concubine in each harem, an echo in each chamber
whereas I am an alto in a chorus, hoping to be picked out as a soprano
singing the same song, in a different intonation,
the way you did when your tongue first caressed my nape, my mouth,
but crumbs of red velvet are still crumbs
and narcissus does meet his fate after all
just in a different mirror each time
Poem 17 / by Jory Mickelson
Nature never betrays
the one who loves
her, Wordsworth said
& lied, but
we already know poets
are liars thanks
to Aristotle. Poems
begins by telling
us streetlights shine
us into believing the streets
are safe when full
of dark & the world is
of want or whatever
while the small
killings continue happening
around us, as we
read in small pools
of light, summoning
ourselves from the blank
because a journey-
song leaves us both hopeful
& unforgiving, but
never takes us beyond
a space to hang our
dismemberment plan / by Akiva Savett
“I guess you could call it superpowers, but no one is going to save the world with what I’ve got.”
in my dream I fly by climbing
the air like steps
the moon is close.
when darkness became darkness
because of light, everything existed
all at once concentrated in a mass of mass
the steam rising from my tea
and dikembe mutombo,
pizza hut and the battle of gettysburg.
the unfinished, current, and finished
sagrada familia, red pigment
in rothko’s number 14,
red dye #2,
pantone 185418-TCX (antique green),
and the riff to “satisfaction.”
fat man’s radiation
the steel which encased it
the fingerprints on little boy
and my daughter’s baby and adult teeth.
I can peel a banana from the bottom
and hide a trombone easily.
I remember my mother’s heartbeat
in primal paraphrase.
Ring of Kerry / by Buffy Shutt
The buses dump you out
Windy, cold in the tearoom
Follow the swarm up the walk.
Come over. I point to the sign.
Cows swaying near the cliff block the view
They look dangerous.
I stand behind the barbed wire, blinking, ignoring the blues.
Watch you walk to the top, toward the very edge,
Talk to the blond girl who rolls her neck side to side.
You come over the fence like you have been gone months.
Turning, you nod to the cows
I walk ahead to stand in line for the loo —you get on the bus.
You took my hand in the lobby this morning.
I ran back upstairs for your reading glasses.
Around the curves I cringe wanting the buses to crash.
They narrowly miss.
You take your eyes off the road.
I take my eyes off you.
Day 16 / Poems 16
Pewter Gray / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Robot hearts are metal.
Metal like the wristside
. . . . . . of a watch.
Battered like a cafeteria spoon.
Bright like a highway exit sign
. . . . . . in the rural dark of March.
Robot hearts are metal.
Holding on to cold like tulips
. . . . . . in reverse,
the last stand against spring.
Tulips the year my father
filled our yard with bulbs
planted with their roots
. . . . . . facing up.
Robot hearts are metal.
Gray like the dappled
model horse I pined for as a girl.
Gray like a lightswitch, a wrench,
. . . . . . a doorknob, the scuffed
entry of any nameless building.
Robot hearts are gray like after
the lights are off but before any sleep
or silence and they beat just as well as any other.
Leaving California / by Lanette Cadle
I still have sand between my toes and feel the salt
in my hair years later, two babies turned into
full-grown hipsters later, and sometimes
when I wake slow, reworking
the rubbing bones into place before heading
for the Advil yet another day, I feel myself floating
on the tide, the water blood-warm. I lay there
and smell kelp and see the little surf shacks
near Carmel, think
of how they are on the historic register now,
an official remnant of freedom
that no longer exists, if it ever did.
I try to picture
who lives there, and if she (or he) ever
followed the surf to Hawaii, to Australia.
Did they ever ride it out at Mavericks,
get up before sunrise to surf before school?
The boy in front of me in History did, his hair
in stiff, damply curling waves, his Pendleton shirt
smelling of salt and victory.
Firesides / by Angela M. Carter
Some like to
fall breathlessly between
a hundred arms,
never having to memorize
the name of the soul
which they altered.
They cannot recall the hue
of what they stared into, or
connect the eyes to the place
their lover’s tears leave.
They wave in synchronization–
never digesting the music
For right or wrong, reasons or fear,
I can count all my lovers on one hand,
and name what they still have of me.
My arms, as gentle and unsure as they always were,
my stare is all but shallow.
I don’t allow anyone to hold my hand
who can’t keep my heart still beyond the night.
The ones who can leave themselves behind,
touch the skin, only ever seeing what
the light of one moment can–they understand,
no light can equal fire.
Some of us wait to approach a lowered flame,
its blue light catches the still air,
and our hand is steady from the warmth.
Flames don’t want to jump into an ocean,
they don’t want seas like me;
they want manmade ponds,
they want small bowls of exotic fish,
they keep so much of themselves as they do.
But, I know one thing about water, any type of water–
you can drown.
And, I know one thing about fire, any type of fire–
Day 16: Erasure Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven / by Kate Hanson Foster
echo into the turning
sinking into the lamp-light
black eyes have all the dreaming
Immurement / by Catherine Evans Latta
No matter where, a wall has two sides,
regardless, brick, barbed wire, or steel
learn how an unholy wind sings.
Medieval saints looked through holes to see priests
transform, so they said, scant bread to meaty food.
A modern prisoner looks out his slot when
food is passed. Yet, either one let out of solitary
is still stuck in. Wherever the immured choose to stand,
they are left with fragile dreaming on the other side
as strange words are parsed. Most unexpected how
a foreign wind pretends to sing.
Those who pass over, through, or under, learn
an unremitting end stalks. No transformations
come beneath the unblinking blue. Hope evaporates
as vultures wheel effortless on thermals.
On the new side, the song sounds different, back there
a glamouring wind sang.
As you emerge from the coyote’s dirt dry birth canal,
given a scant gallon of water, expect to shrivel
guideless, born into a lizard filled, dung beetle
desert under a cloudless sky short on freedom.
At sunset, red pillars weave a dance, dust devils,
no God sign leading to a promised land.
By night, coyotes yelp in responsorial chorus –
no help, no help. Faint Polaris is lost in the dryness of your night
far from the great Dipper’s water. The flash of distant
headlights is too brief to find the road.
Night-crazed laughter falls from rattling stars.
Too hot to breathe, the wind has no midnight song.
Dawn’s rose touches quiet upon your upturned
face that rising winds will cover in blown sand.
Death comes to a tune bowed across barbed wire strung tight.
Gusts crescendo scudding sand, particle on particle,
to a soprano screech. The Sonoran noon sings a dirge
joined by instrumental sections spread a thousand miles long.
The accidental harps of wire whine, harsh brass sounds
from glass topped concrete walls, the bass
thrums off a staggered flat of “I” beams, all compete.
The wind this side plays a cuckold symphony.
Road trip, East Lothian / by Anu Mahadev
Reminds me of Macbeth and Shakespeare –
the whole phantasmagoria in my head,
leading up to the mid 14th century semi-ruin
we see today. Fairytale, ghostlike, green grass,
moss covered walls, the red sandstone sort of
visible in the sunlight, departing to the nadir.
Welcome to Tantallon Castle. We drive on the wrong
(or right?) side of the road from Edinburgh, easy words
escape from our moisture-wrung mouths, courtesy
of the wind throwing our hair into a churning blender,
tangling more than combing. Convertibles don’t disappoint.
The castle, comfortably seated atop a coastal promontory,
beckons us through curtain walls, sea cliffs. Instantly
transported back in time, I imagine canopied fireplaces,
secret trysts at turrets, looking out through bartizans,
movie-style. Reality must have been somewhat different.
Fending off invaders in a siege, running through
the portcullis across the drawbridge, pouring hot oil through
the machicolations, saving honor, freedom, country, pride.
Waiting in caponiers in the rock-cut ditches around the castle,
not knowing when the last breath would transpire. No truth
or dare experiment, this. We look at Bass Rock, looming
in the distance, a lone volcanic island in inky water, home
to a gannet colony. The lighthouse seems to beckon
us to the chapel ruins, and goosebumps on my arms
stand as if summoned. I always search for a sign, he doesn’t –
it is merely a tourist attraction. It is so much more, I say,
a façade would not last, neither in history nor in real life.
My defenses are up, a barbican facing the headland. We return
in silence, darkness, a piece of me left behind, a piece of history
lodged in me permanently. Next day, we’re off to Rosslyn Chapel.
Poem 16 / by Jory Mickelson
I am a little wound made
cunningly, a little break,
some small burn, an ache
at the center of the chest, an
unrest. O, little game we play:
the dodge, the missing. Nothing
winged has ever saved, only arrow
or burning bolt a hissing unbottle
all that was bound tight…the fight
to keep the boom from view
there is a lot between houses / by Akiva Savett
I walk in on mom changing
a colostomy bag,
tearing surgical bandages
I’d know well
in 20 years I didn’t knock,
swollen with paint
an open mine
of ruby mud and pennies,
a snort black rock jag.
mom holds one hand in the maw
and points to go play
in the back lot.
this window faces
holler if you need
to come back.
I bounce my pinkie ball
against the garage doors.
clothes lines sag between poles
straight down the middle of the alley
like the rope of a subway car
in late afternoon’s mug.
there is nothing else
to hold onto.
two boys walk toward me:
one has a tree branch
shaped like a lightning bolt
he’s using like a cane.
a giant cup of fruit punch
from the gas station
his hair is midnight orange,
the sound of burning books.
they don’t know me
so they stare as they pass,
turn to watch
as they walk way up the street.
I offer the slightest nod,
go back to staring
at the pavement,
I almost call up to the window
I don’t even bounce the pinkie
while they’re in sight.
it’s been drizzling
and I’m ashamed
of my imagination,
my round shoulders.
I’m scared to lose.
and the reign
over this asphalt
serengeti is decided
the bedroom shade is still drawn,
pigeons by the curb
peck at a rumpled foil chip bag,
one limps, eats,
They Took the Guns / by Buffy Shutt
They took the guns.
All of them.
Cleaned out our closets, drawers, lock boxes,
Our police stations and virtual stores.
Fleeing like animals, they migrated
Through dried fields, unlit cities, sunken suburbs.
Carrying the guns on their backs,
Over their heads
Across their forearms, stuffed into waistbands,
Zipped into backpacks.
We lost sight of them.
At dawn someone said go—go find them.
No one moved.
They had badgered us until exhausted,
They turned into animals.
A beautiful herd
Dropped our guns, littering the shore with shiny obsidian.
Many galloped, some flew.
Many crabbed across the sand, some dove into icy waters,
Others swam the skies like butterflies.
Not one looked back.
Sometimes in the late afternoon
Someone would lay down his trowel
And say something about the kids,
How they used to do this or that.
Then shouting— drag them back, splattered.
Shut them up and the very bricks would shudder.
Shot from a rifle, the herd joins
The dragonflies, the turtles, the wildebeests,
The whales, the caribou, the zooplankton swarms
Heedless of the thousands and thousands of miles ahead.
Their desperate gamble,
They forfeited their human form
To start over.
Now they wait for us
On this riddled hill
For us to surrender,
To forfeit our breath,
Sink forgotten into
This ash-heap of cruel and casual penalty.
Day 15 / Poems 15
Fire Engine Red / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Tonight is the red of my young son’s cheeks:
visible proof of a body on fire.
Let me barter for another red:
the inside edge of a lip,
the girl cardinal, never showy,
the dress I wear to dinner
. . . . that only skims
. . . . all the almost red flesh I’ve collected.
Even a fire truck, helpful on the pages
of a children’s book, or wailing
against traffic to someone else’s
misery. Keep moving, keep moving.
Why can’t red sound some other way?
Today Is Sam Sun’s Birthday / by Lanette Cadle
and I wonder what he is doing in China
so many years after he was a student in my class
learning digital tools for teaching writing
online. I added him on Facebook although he said
it was pointless since Facebook is blocked in China,
the same for most of the class’s techniques, but optimist me
said we can be friends now and when China opens,
we can catch up. Ten years later, it hasn’t and now
it’s February 13 and I wonder how my friend since 2009 is doing.
He has no profile photo and I am his only listed friend.
He has not made any posts recently,
or ever. Still, Facebook hopes and waits, and so do I.
Fallacy / by Angela M. Carter
What did I tell you–
don’t you recall seeing
the wind blow the vines
against the opposite side
of the earth,
how the flesh of the fruit
swelled before the season’s
passing was due?
But you don’t care,
you only know
to live for what makes
the beat faster, faster,
so unsteady, you throb.
Don’t you realize, I feel it too?
Turn away from hitting wind,
don’t wait for fruit which will
Day 15 / by Kate Hanson Foster
No in-between—just this rush
of tune and air. The secret
is to keep on, whole hog,
to jump over, crawl under, lean into
the music until it’s roiling
around us, all alfalfa sprouting
pop twang. Smear the pitch
cross picking double stops,
layer after layer we chew the notes
off, all animal, sure footed,
climbing the vertical.
Breaking Borders / by Catherine Evans Latta
Falling into the darkness of sleep with luck
after working, or better love, I can reap
remnants of a day and paste them into a second
landscape to animate my night.
Lovers, faceless, usually appear half formed,
their warm bodies, likely cat or pillow, couples
with mine in a pastiche of places. Remorseless,
discreet to dreaming time, I leave them.
The fine border of wake and dream is porous,
breaks down for some as places and people
follow into day. Formerly it was your PTSD,
the bombings in Cairo and Lebanon’s uncivil wars.
Your conjured dreams now slip into woken nights.
Police sirens, fire engines blaring, pull up to perplex
and make you check the house is quiet, just in case.
Bolder images break the borders of the day.
That once seen Gujrat tiger pads our driveway.
I call it a likely fiction conjured from the slant
shadow stripes of winter’s setting sun through oaks.
One afternoon a nameless woman walked
on your periphery in beige coat and green hat. She
kept company till you looked, then merged into bushes.
Not all so. A long-haired wolverine, not yet stalking, melted
into the wall where you saw his hard eyes staring back.
The feral face remains fixed in stone.
antelope canyon, page, arizona / by Anu Mahadev
life, that meaningless thrum of days,
melds into months, years, decades
a lifesaver doesn’t announce his arrival –
a slot canyon, intense and invisible
a crack, a corkscrew, we descend
into dune-like depths, hand in hand
the navajo have names for these –
the places where water runs through rocks,
the spiral cut arches
we fit into each other,
caption and photograph
breast and thigh
sweat and sigh
wordless, without ink, hotel paper,
we transfer ourselves
into a medium of similar frequencies,
striated rays of hide-n-seek sunlight
fall upon us, in a dance, the way we explore
our bodies at night
skin and sand erodes in a flash flood
of climax, sonic boom in the earth’s bed
there is a certain thrill to bask in
warm, satisfied, knowing –
someone knows all your next moves
without gps or iphone tracking
the mystic patterns of tyrian purple, burnt orange,
gradual gradients of cinnabar to carmine
from terra cotta to mahogany
are we spelunking in a kaleidoscope
mixed with our own gasps of awe?
it is too narrow, we squeeze in together
with no qualms, we adore with our eyes
bathe in the drops of sunbeam and rainwater
imagine the rivers rushing through the basin
washing away our sins, our tongued-kisses
smooth away edges, our clothes, our touchstones
until the spell is broken at ground level
a lifesaver doesn’t come with a warning
like the onset of a wintry storm
he simply eases into you with no rush
to be remembered, no condition to belong
emergency superpowers / by Akiva Savett
you can lift a volkswagen
if you’re trapped
in an emergency
people get superpowers:
kids solve equations
on the dewy glass
of their backseat cathedrals.
I take charcoal capsules
and cannot be poisoned
in the event of a coup.
the joke would be on them—
my free will is an ellipsis
between two nouns.
there was a Japanese plum tree
on our lawn in philadelphia.
and like boys who won’t dance,
my dad chopped it down
with the edge of his hand.
someone lights the orange
next to names
once in use,
names like psalms
to be accompanied
by instruments gone extinct.
we all have caesarian scars.
we promised we wouldn’t fight
while you were gone.
shut up and open the envelope.
we twice pulled over to kiss
while the engine was running,
making sure to put the car in park
because we’re responsible kissers.
other than that, it was spontaneous and heroic
and things really have to happen
organically to hope.
that plum tree left
a hole shaped like a throne,
like a bridge,
nothing reveals more
than whom you follow,
what you’re no longer shocked by,
the magic you volunteer for.
Marilyn / by Buffy Shutt
Heard about her death
Coming home from church.
My sister looked bored,
Radioman said suicide.
I felt like a bird forced to ground.
Daddy said he met her once in an elevator at the White House.
She whispered she wasn’t wearing panties.
My mother turned around to us:
Arthur Miller was mean to her.
Why was Bobby Kennedy there?
My sister yells up an invite—Wanna bike?
I slam my door. She had her chance in the car.
Marilyn covers the back of my door
Pictures meticulously cut with pinking shears on long afternoons.
I lay, sway now and then on the floor.
My feet pressing against interlopers.
I never loved anyone who died.
My hands roam my nothing breasts.
I jump up; make a beauty mark on my right cheek
Inhaling my three-way mirror
Flop back down.
I carried her around for years.
Slipping inside her to interest men
Then mimicking her distrust.
Once I see the beaded gown
I finally let her rest.
So tiny, so heavy, so perfect
Floating in a Plexiglas box.
Too small for me
I squeeze my waist nevertheless
Happy Birthday Mr. President.
Day 14 / Poems 14
Indigo / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Some light lives inside.
inside your cupped palm,
bit back against molars
brine, grit, and swift.
Some light can’t come in.
Would track muddy paws
on the washed floor
Keeps to the bright
of the playset
puddled in the yard.
What are you looking at? What do you see?
Valentine’s Day / by Lanette Cadle
It’s not pure sentiment. It’s emotion, pure
and simply the way women
and men get kicked in the gut by love this
and every other day. It’s Valentine’s Day
on The Bachelor, and Arie sits stone-faced
across from a woman who loves him,
she thinks, as if love ever came from thinking,
and he’s just not feeling it, but it’s in his contract
to fall in love in Tuscany, so he thinks of
the Alfa Romeo he drove earlier and how
it really did seem made for Italian roads
and why must his cars always be red—
and she, today’s she, taking that indrawn breath
that means a declaration is coming and he knows
he must stop her. It isn’t really Valentines Day,
but it could be, and as he starts to speak,
a pig snuffles into the shot, rooting truffles.
They were there under his feet,
but he didn’t have the nose for it and neither did she.
My Body is not a Free Country / by Angela M. Carter
I recall it existing
without mile markers,
without a sell-by date.
Now, I know the night can come
before dreams are left over
from the sunrise;
seized by memory, by what words forget to say.
I want to keep that outcry of truth
away from my skin,
but its mouth reaches for the retracted tongue,
its hands trespass a body–
nevertheless, a dream sails in its majestic red sea, underneath.
Day 14 / by Kate Hanson Foster
You can’t make these dead words sing.
And downstairs there is a hurt only you
can fix belly weeping its way up—A fist
knocking on the watching wall you hide
behind. Mothering, like surrender, is something
you do very well. Like the way oar tongue
and water understand each other. You locked
your wrists down to small kisses, the weight
of to-do lists, your morning robe. Little needs
finger you like branches brushing against a bird.
It is a waste to plunge your heart into the depths
of the first sprouting half-note. There is no life
in them. Pack your wounds with mud. Drag
your hand over your head, through those thin
wires of worry. You know the rest.
Silicon Valley Winter / by Catherine Evans Latta
Leaving the fall Sheepscot River’s shine,
we migrate West to wait on Pacific storms.
Orion rises every night, a disappointment
in a cloudless sky, belying his Chippewa name,
the winter bringer. Most call him a hunter of bison
or lion. I believe he hunts un-killable prey, the dragon
who came fire roaring down the canyons
of Sonoma and crossing our saint named cities,
north to south. It twisted homes to metal knots,
killed folks so thoroughly some were identified
by dental fillings in their rubble found jaw bones.
Rain, reluctant, as if in true depression, hung back,
dropping her goods well offshore while brooding up
a two day havoc. Gales arrived to sluice away hills,
half towns. Here in my valley named for sand,
the heaviness of an unwanted summer staggers on
cracking the earth where there is no local genius,
think the old Roman kind, who could invent a winter.
For Nitin – Seventeen years / by Anu Mahadev
Equal to the potential of a pomegranate –
its juice drenching my palm, trickling down
my dry throat – is the capacity to love – ah,
such a big heavy word, a word of substance,
overrated, beyond the rims of my porcelain
bowl. I heard once that it was the fruit sprung
from the blood of Adonis, ambitious, ruthless,
so many facets – sepals, stamens of its blossom
revealing its fertile seeds that turned so many
of us into slaves. What love does to us all.
The nook of someone’s chest and shoulder,
when it transports the familiar scent of a torn
t-shirt and owl glasses is not to be taken lightly.
Flat Stanley may travel the world, but for what?
We’re on a mission to follow the wrong bread crumbs,
when all that there is – is present in our backyard.
There is this co-passenger of our sojourn on a blue
planet, and filter coffee turns out the best when steamed
and foamed with his hands. No, the world does not turn
red and pink on this day, nor does food taste better in
a prix-fixe dinner at a restaurant. It is the framework
of a truss, on a rafter, a strut, holding us together,
where we fit in neatly into our gifts and faults,
grow into a unit. We can dream of a park bench
in the setting sun, watching kids and grandkids play,
but reality is the crisscrossing of hurried mornings
to make things work, juggling the oranges together,
this bee-dance that makes our world thrive. And
brings some semblance of what we know as that
many-splendored thing, that daguerreotype
of old-fashioned x’s and o’s – ah I said it again.
Except this time, we share the load, as it rests –
A bushel of pomegranates, the doppelgänger of love.
Poem for February 14th / by Jory Mickelson
The ark was a boat built
in drought and also a weapon.
How the rain fell & filled
the world & leviathan swam
his way along the fish roads
& the places he hadn’t swum
since the earth was void & spirit
hovered & the greatest whales were
as nothing to him.
Which is to say the tribes carried
the ark through the desert by day
& by night and set a guard about it
a fiery pillar wrapped neatly
in a box & when they marched
with it, nothing could stand before
them. Which is to say, I was like Jonah
and refused & yes (I admit it)
fled and you called out & did not
relent & there was no escaping
because love is a prison & a war chest
made to no purpose at all.
Watch it rise up from the earth &
into the dry air & burn like
a column, like a challenge to the rain.
portrait of retirement to the great plains with alison / by Akiva Savett
open your fists.
release the names,
you’ll not forget,
how could you?
mother of 30 families,
a year surrounded by each
helping them fall in love
with morning’s weather,
which is the same thing as you,
a table of contents
is like a hug,
a compass rose
helps you travel.
there is one inside
each one of your wishes.
you’ve trained young geographers
the difference between
map and globe—
to keep going,
they’ll always return
to what you began.
and this sky land
is our new curriculum,
let’s plant a porcupine grass
mountain to attract butterflies.
no one calls our names
because we wake
gather our pieces,
run toward the horizon,
place our blood and music
down, you can use mine.
we shall ban sharpeners,
the moon learns to read
by the light of our stillness.
from now on,
fields of timothy
and cat’s tail
will grow free
under the rain
of night’s panther eye.
the pupils of our prairie nursery
will brighten the shade,
is strung with stories, hours,
and ghosts of the east,
hours and ghosts to the east.
A Valentine / by Buffy Shutt
Don’t say I do.
Don’t say forever or always or whatever passes today for the knot.
Don’t walk slowly with that awful grin between you
Don’t have kids
Don’t try for that promotion
Don’t get a mortgage
Don’t let them go to prom
Don’t plan Thanksgiving dinner
Don’t get sick
Don’t get old
Don’t love him so much you sink deep into mud
Don’t hold him back
Don’t say I do.
Day 13 / Poems 13
Pink* / by Maggie Blake Bailey
brighter reds, such as crimson
lime white . . . . St. John’s white
thoroughly white and thoroughly purified
as a ray of white sunlight travels
blue and green are removed
from the light
that finally reaches the eye
the remaining pinkish sunlight
can also be . . . . . . scattered
* all words taken in order from the Wikipedia entry for the color pink
Promises / by Lanette Cadle
I’ll give you my heart if you
give me your soul, and I know
the color of that soul (it’s black)
and how it shines like coal in the toe
of a Christmas stocking when you’re pleased
unlike now when you are not, but
it’s the season for hearts and mine
isn’t doing anything that special today,
so let’s go out and see
what the happy people do for fun,
maybe go cosmic bowling and hit some stars,
check out Jupiter before it grows rings.
Intangible / by Angela M. Carter
Why we love is more important than who we love,
but what if we only know of who?
What if we are drawn to a bloodline of mystery,
an enigma forever unsolved–
even though in its center lies the fruit?
Mary / by Kate Hanson Foster
At night I hang the rosary on an old shutter
. . . . .hook outside my window and pray
for the weather to change. . .Mary, make it pour
on Friday. Sister Kathleen makes popcorn
. . . . .inside the classroom on rainy Fridays.
She wheels the old machine from the closet,
and if I’m lucky she’ll pick me to drop
. . . . .the kernels in. . . I love the way they shake
wildly over that hot wind, and then explode.
At recess I‘m in the crawlspace behind
. . . . . your statue, and I let the bugs
crawl up my legs to see how far they’ll go
before I am discovered. . . . Mary,
. . . . . your pink lips are faded from sitting
in the sun too long. I sweat through my uniform,
and stuff tissues into my armpits, . arms
. . . . . flat against my body to keep them there.
Mary, make it snow so hard that they’ll cancel
school altogether. Don’t make me
. . . . .go back inside. . . . . If only I could
bend my head into the river, . . . and feel
the smoke run out my eyes and ears.
. . . . .Mary, I want a hurricane, . . I want wind
so strong my hair unbraids itself.
The other day I grabbed Jimmy Anderson
. . . . . by his hair and flattened him to the ground
just because I wanted to see something
knocked down. . . . I dragged the needle
. . . . . of a safety pin along the inside of my leg
because I liked the way it burned, like heat
was finally slipping out. . . . .Mary, there is soot
. . . . .on the scapula covering my heart.
I’m at the end of the line, holding tight,
and praying— red rover, red rover,
. . . . .don’t make me come over. Mary,
do you even notice I am on fire? . .The children
fly away from me like bats scared out of a barn.
. . . . .Open your eyes, Mary, break the sky, Mary.
Open that gray mouth and make it rain.
Event Horizon / by Catherine Evans Latta
Stars spinning in duet stealing from each other,
as you from me, me from you, energies trailing
across spaces not nameable other than dark.
Separating or collapsing in with brilliance,
we circle a mutual horizon into unknown energies,
as with the stars, we shift in unreachable equilibrium.
four years without amma / by Anu Mahadev
across the ages, they say it’s happened before
because the last time i checked, it happened yesterday
confusing the past and present, when her presence –
dead, on the wall, is visible to me only now.
except this time, it’s covered with thick carpeting.
footfalls rest when it’s time for her to visit us
god lets her in, rummaging for his best-darned
house slippers, his best adjectives to describe her.
i have grown, she, who cannot fathom my rise,
joyously wraps me in her embrace, her sari
knotted with brocade and mothballs, her smile unchanged –
laughter bells ring, she hasn’t forgotten how.
mother, mommy, ma, madre, maman, you left
notes for me in every corner of this raging heart
oblivious to how they will alter me, my days, my heavy
pain. there is no manual to teach you how to calculate a
quotient of healing, from four years, forty-eight months,
roughshod from the quotidian complexities of life.
she is leaving, in the midst of sad, soft, sibilant sounds now,
treading lightly on the floor, standing at the gate saying goodbye
until we meet again. what is diwali or navratri or sunday morning?
vacuous, i was not good enough for her, perhaps, or maybe
we want too much. we think we have oceans of time. she was the
xylem, the nurturer, she gave us the root, the stem, the leaf.
youth doesn’t understand, we are too caught up in our own
zest, but she doesn’t’ mind. she is too busy carving our dreams.
Poem 13 / by Jory Mickelson
In this version they drove west.
In this version it was spring.
In this version they place your shoes gently on each foot,
. . . . . . . . they never took your shoes.
In this version the pickup had a flat.
In this version they forgot the rope,
. . . . . . . . one of them stayed home with the flu.
In this version you had a better offer.
In this version he kissed you instead,
. . . . . . . . they both did.
In this version they didn’t have enough change for a pitcher of beer.
In this version you went to the movies,
. . . . . . . . to the grocery store,
. . . . . . . . to bed.
In this version no one owned a gun.
In this version there was no funeral,
. . . . . . . . there were no protestors.
In this version, not one sign at all.
In this version everything that happened is undone,
In this version it all falls behind us, like litter escaping the bed of the truck as we drive on.
the subject’s attitude toward his speaker / by Akiva Savett
his mom tells me the father
walked out on them last month.
the father is (she uses “was”) a vascular surgeon
but won’t pay child support.
she sits on the couch in the next room
as we work,
grips her car keys.
flips through people
magazine with her other hand.
I tutor her transparent boy.
he hands me a check
the second he walks in my door,
and I ask him to make impossible choices.
pay close attention
this editorial is optimistic,
not quite celebratory.
I offer my standard examples:
is a baby born naked or nude?
do you bring that baby home or to your house?
it depends if it has to stay in the hospital.
his younger brother has lymphoma,
so he plays madden with him
every night to distract the nausea.
the sat is multiple choice
and says the one thing
he’d never do
is swim with a swim cap.
there’s no difference
between relieved and buoyant.
most of us survive
as long as we float.
you have to cut down a tree
to study its layers,
this boy leaves it be.
when he smiles,
I see the rubber bands
of his braces stretch,
pulling his jaw.
Jane is Single / by Buffy Shutt
Would there be Pride and Prejudice if Jane had married?
She thinks not. She clings to a dreamy notion of single.
Against all cries of condemnation, anonymous markings,
She seeks the solitary, the still—the stance of one.
Identity whittled away as a wife,
Nearly erased as a mother.
Determined to sweep-wash-read-gossip-mend-tend-
Exhaust herself into a new self.
Stop the subterfuge; a reckoning at night admits a fierce love.
More than her sketches, more than the minor syllables she hoards
Then drops like small stones into random pockets
Often found when small arms beg at her.
Who, if not
Her own self,
Could live this narrow life,
This small existence so vast,
Day 12 / Poems 12
Baby Blue / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Since my son grows
so fast, I dress him
in sister’s hand-me-downs.
Pink and black horses
were fine for the night
and I would have
left him in pajamas
as we barrelled
to daycare, afterall
where does a baby
go that needs better
clothes than that,
but I worried
those pink horses
would be wrong.
Burnt Sugar / by Lanette Cadle
Line up butter, eggs, enriched flour, baking powder,
and don’t forget the salt. Sugar cookies are so simple,
they are a child’s first memory of cooking. Stand
on a red stepstool, mix with a wooden spoon,
and don’t forget the salt. Sugar cookies are so simple,
yet they taste like dust when done wrong, plank-thick
as that red stepstool and mixing with a wooden spoon
won’t fix it. Dump the batch out and start again. Done right,
they won’t taste like dust like when done wrong; plank-thick
steam coats the house with the smell of burnt sugar although
it won’t fix winter. Dump the batch off and start again. Done right,
the baking sheet never scrubs clean, keeps black remains
so steam coats the house with the smell of burnt sugar
and the memory of a child on tip toe, elbow-deep in the suds
with the baking sheet that never scrubs clean, keeps black remains
on small hands that lined up butter, eggs, flour, baking powder.
When the Sirens Came Around / by Angela M. Carter
. . . .God ain’t been by here in awhile,
no one washes their hands at the kitchen table no more.
The only time they looked up from the garden rows
to see what was the matter,
is when the sirens came.
All us children pedaled on our bicycles
see what others turned away from–
we stepped into misery knowing it housed a pile of bones.
I remember the time I witnessed my dog
being run over by a truck–quick, like
the moment was meant, like another’s bad dream
overlapped into my life. That wasn’t the worst dream
another could have, or would live, that I’ve known.
But, I never turned away from him, even though his
insides hung outside. I faced him,
in the blood of his eyes and whispered him still.
. . . .When the sirens came around
blind eyes were reaching to heaven
pulling for any arm to save us,
God’ll be here soon, cause can’t nobody look away from this.
My dog couldn’t be saved either, but
in our end, saving folks ain’t about keeping them alive–
it’s holding them, in the wake of fear,
so still, so their clearing eyes can find their way home.
. . . .I’m not sure if anyone was there to hold the boy,
but we stood on our bike seat’s
peaking through the forest,
a glimmer of our eyes touched his,
in some way. I never looked away,
and something about us humans knows that,
otherwise, why don’t people look others in the eyes
before the sirens come around?
Bullets / by Kate Hanson Foster
On the day of our exit we entered
a field foreign objects, like splinters
in a palm that would not push out.
First, our bodies in cartridges,
in the pockets of a rag of an old coat.
Then sunlight rising behind the bald
fretwork of trees—that light of possibilities
where we are always prepared for the chew
and spit—spinning out of mouth, metal
rage and blowback. We are built to be
a hurt—for some shred of earth to swell
and turn red around us. On the day
of our exit you should have seen the way
we tore at the target. You should have
watched us lick the guts of that stone.
Fall / by Catherine Evans Latta
When stillness culminates there is movement.
Frogs in our drought shallow pond go silent,
leaving long horned katydids to pick up the chant,
sawing fall harbinger songs at the night.
Chestnuts let leaves drop first, too brown,
shriveled beyond varnishing bookmarks.
Yet maples threw a surprise party last night
leaving a confetti aftermath of red and orange.
Masses of geese land on the browned out lawn,
get in formation fast and leave in higher flying Vs.
Arctic gulls arrive along with northern ducks. What
with not sailing much left, I have time to look them up.
In our last race, a north wind, turned trickster, shifts
south and fouls the spinnaker across the shrouds.
We haul it down, torn, and head to empty moorings,
most boats gone inland to lay up safe in sheds.
In a rare hot afternoon my mate and I sweat
rolling out the twelve expensive racing sails.
Inspected, we refold, sliding them in bags with mothballs
against mice, who always winter in, chewing good lines to rags.
Tonight, sitting with you talking over wine,
fewer lights reflect across the still waters of our harbor.
Under a full orange moon the river shines
newly visible through naked trees.
crush / by Anu Mahadev
take a look, take a listen
a shattered hourglass, a bloody rose-thorn
firefly in my eye
i need to run, sprint,
narcissism is a powerful magnet
a quart of berries, crushed,
maroon rivers in my palms
sugar-kissed flavor one day, bitter pill the next
distance is the best artificial solution
hissing wick of a votive candle
primrose scented, spring beckoning
i need to leave this prison,
of my own farfetched, fabricated dream
come to a place where none of it matters
adoration, adulation, pedestals, trophies
Poem 12 / by Jory Mickelson
I found a garden. He would love it
here. He could love me here.
–Danez Smith “summer, somewhere”
Here: me & he would.
coffin dream shopping in manhattan / by Akiva Savett
thanks to df
the coffin shop is lollipop wild
and kaleidoscope tiled.
its lights seduce
at this hour.
two red eyed zyklon mourning soldiers
wait with me.
the blueprints of grief were lost with the Akkadians.
congressmen are fumigated with rules that kill
even the corners of god.
along the street,
beggars feed themselves on apocalypse
forecasts and sun bear footprints.
the butcher shops open,
warheads of lamb and pig carried in the back,
knives sharpened on the teeth of the moon
out front the butcher wraps hunks of muscle in fog
for sale under the palsied barium light.
there is a dog with her wet pups
yelping for milk,
the runt has sent himself off
who teaches her
the map of forsaken grammar.
night turns to day
asking for directions,
ted williams rings
the wall street bell.
is having a red sock open
bear or bullshit juju?
the questioning are fired
on the spot
so they too, look for coffins
to lie in
to hide from morning soldiers
whose routine dew
is issued in milligrams.
they come whispering
of a well in a field
covered by a stone
in the valley of elah.
where david killed his goliath.
this well is the mouth of every person
we all leave together,
thank the salesman,
for not being pushy
(he doesn’t work on commission.
he says this is the secret).
the stone before us
is a blessing and a curse,
we are a new flock heading to sea.
Spring Training / by Buffy Shutt
The pitch brushes her back
The bat splinters.
He looks away checking for a sign.
Frames his arguments, a catcher disguising the pitch,
(Again) he looks away checking for a sign
That flies unseen by her.
Then he is on the mound
Plays both sides of the ball.
The pitch clock beats at them both.
Someone screams at her
Hit a sacrifice fly.
The sun is warm after so much cold.
On the bench
She calls her mother
The manager waves his arm to silence her
I want to be a hard out.
A hard out should have been part of those vows.
Day 11 / Poems 11
Purple / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Tonight, I want a love poem to bath crayons
those strange half plastic half putty
creations that let my daughter thoughtfully
add ears and a nose to the monster
she draws on the side of the tub.
I’ve read this poem before, you know, but not
for bath crayons, no, I’ve read the right love
poem, but a man wrote it, remember Meditation
at Lagunitas? Remember thinking her small shoulders
could be my shoulders, the thing her father said
that hurt her could be something I heard,
something I’ve tried to live up to and over?
That is the poem I am talking about.
Full of blackberries and longing. I can’t
seem to convince anyone that I feel exactly
the same way I always have. I just ache
for the clarity of bath crayons, for monsters
that I never remember to wash off at night.
Ice / by Lanette Cadle
Nature works by stealth its miracles
of deception, like my driveway right now—
it looks barely wet, but one step will lead to
hilarity for any drive-by who happens to see me
tip ass-over-toes, an inevitable fall I don’t admit
until it happens. Tonight’s Olympics shows
women’s short-track speed skating, a different
sport than figure skating, which is so decadent
that Tonya should have known a working class girl
would end up taking the fall, and she did. Maame Biney
is set to be our new Olympic hero, her braids
flowing fast, arm and legs pumping hard. She wins
simply by existing. I’m glad she chose America,
so different from Ghana. And now America
cheers for her in its lust for medals, the same America
who elected a man who thinks some countries
are shitholes and breaks up families to preserve
our country’s mythical purity. She was only five
and we took her in, but that was a long time ago
before the ice age set in. Let’s see who falls.
Not Myself / by Angela M. Carter
I’ll step onto a bus,
travel out west,
to the sea-line’s seams,
begin my sole search party
for the woman I should’ve been
the first time I knew I wasn’t me.
I’ll check into a hotel room,
stare out onto a highway,
I’ll tell the world what they
are allowed to call me.
When they stop seeing me
as her, I’ll leave.
The Goats’ Tremolo / by Kate Hanson Foster
When the music starts,
something new and unfamiliar bursts
and bursts, arabesque
in the downdraft. The trees will have to live
without their tips. This is the kind
of hunger that comes from many
stomachs wanting to taste
strange flowers, the glue
off tin cans. There is grass
in the glissando, bow hair rosin
in the wood grain. Those strings
and strings and strings—
waves of notes go wild,
bite your buttons off, swell and swell
into the shadows of the barn.
Summer / by Catherine Evans Latta
butterfly net joy sits aslant
in dark closet corners
go capture nymphs
pale green clouds
mayflies alight tack tight
obscure porch posts
rough tongued cats
lick up found snacks.
watch eclipses through old film.
rush to low tide
muddy sea banks
tear salt saw grass
make taut whistles
fill mason jars
for night tables
shaken bugs delight
at dew point
frog pond choruses
symphony from dusk
to midnight with
in summer solstice
I can scarcely wait
my synapses shall not be sorted
because I long to taste
mumbling tree pheromones
the ancient freshness
and you will surely come
when stillness culminates
coma / by Anu Mahadev
sun melts into burning sea paint,
star lyses sky, white sheets cluster around me.
i am a dormant cowrie-shell, discarded
by a random wandering mollusk, awash,
drunk on adventure, drugged. my closed eyes
focus on a ceiling bulb, count sheep
in my head, miss a few numbers.
still compliant, i can hear them
buzzing around me, busy, i’m a daily task –
monitor screen, ekg, trach, catheter
ventilator with its circadian rhythm
contrarily wondering if i want to wake up
ever. people come, go, check a mental box –
enquiry done, rearrange their features,
sympathy, a semblance of false hope,
while i silently make a laundry list
of their crimes – shallow, party animals
with no purpose, living in a bubble.
planets may scream, innocence may die
but i will forever be on the brink of judgment.
i want to blurt out their faults, ignore mine –
but being comatose doesn’t make me a god
no halo around me, except my cranial
pressure persisting, persuading me to forgive
these picture frames that adorn my room,
my favorite flowers, music, faces, words.
insensate, the mind in its own battle
journeys at the speed of a million neurons,
light years, labyrinthine, gray matter
in a limitless loop, meditates on the pros
and cons of aging, living while dead, or
worse, dying while alive, slacking away.
time, you are neither friend nor foe,
you are simply you, i am in you, you in me
says the impatient clock, before the night-nurse
checks in on me, and for some, the world goes dark.
Poem for February 11th / by Jory Mickelson
At its passing, there was a silence no one
knew. His small brown head of hair
and pale hands folded into one another
like wings. Unremarkable until
remembered. The way it used to sing early
in the mornings to itself, forgetting there
was anyone else on the earth who could hear
it hum. The notes a rise and fall, like small
digital empires on the screen—irrelevant,
yet engrossing. In a photo it stands with
its back against the rail, unencumbered
by anything but a smile, as if its lightness
were vast as all the space behind. What a day
that was, and later when it spilled its drink
across the yellow Formica in the diner,
the waitress too charmed by its clumsy smile
to be upset. That was the one day it really
shone. Totally itself. In the year to come
it was hard to see it as anything other
than all easiness and air. So unexpected
when the news came. So hard to believe
that it hadn’t just woken up in some other
kitchen to sing like that, soft and close
like the first three slim notes of spring.
this is the newspaper we work at until we go deaf / by Akiva Savett
I arrive on site
hopped up on caffeine
lucky to stand on a floor you built.
punji in hand,
cobra in basket
all day I worry a tune,
playing the word embouchure
because onomatopoeia is finding a brick
from babel in your backpack
but it also means the mouth of a river
which is the where every song begins and ends.
I cover the stops,
with venom’s curly heartbeat,
but most days,
I’m playing notes to a shut basket
under stanzas of cuban humidity.
this is the newspaper we work at until we go deaf.
we work in construction,
good partners you and I.
each morning with your lunch pail and tool belt
your level, heavy hammer of flowers,
unafraid of a day’s honest work
you built a floor of tree shade
and a crib for your newborn guess.
you hang a mobile
on a different room,
the earth shaped
by light’s soft handcuffs.
This Game / by Buffy Shutt
Why get into this game?
One you don’t understand.
Their talk of poems secret and offhand
Like marriage—gigantic, inside small.
No two hearts can determine its shape.
You feel late to the party,
Gulp a few drinks, a speedball.
Swallow one small bone of a word
On the brink so armored.
Down that grit.
Hide inside your thumb
Throw up your poem.
Day 10 / Poems 10
Cerulean / by Maggie Blake Bailey
So what if I can’t pronounce it,
those words we read and never utter,
crayons sorted and resorted.
When I was little, maybe 7,
they retired a whole handful
of colors, gave them a special box
and never included them again:
we kept orange-red but lost red-
orange, or was it the other way around?
We gained timberwolf and razzamatazz,
but of course, the pale soft pink flesh
had to go, less clear why we lost maize
which feels accurate and needed, something
few colors can claim. Maybe we just got
tired, didn’t want to say violet blue, lemon yellow,
raw umber. But now I learn a new color
nears removal: dandelion. We can keep cerulean,
a blue you never get in real life: an unnamed
ocean against white chalk walls, an october
sky sitting above a broken sunset, water I want
to touch and would never swim through,
but we will lose dandelion. A warm
shade of orange yellow says the press release
but I smell middle school gym class, splayed
out in the grass along side the track, threading
hardy dandelions through each other to build
a crown so quick to wilt. Sweeter than grass but not
flowers, not really. I wore baggy tee shirts.
I hadn’t shaved my legs yet. Afraid of the lockeroom,
focused on gathering handfulls of weeds.
No word yet on what color will replace it.
Make-up Confessional / by Lanette Cadle
Lord, lead me not into the aisle
of new moisturizer for I am weak
and see every flaw in my complexion.
I need eye cream now
for the dark circles I was born with
and cream foundation with HD quality
which still won’t cover them, but looks great
In photos after the kabuki brush
scatters dusting powder to set it.
One more brush, a rounder one,
adds blush to give that rosy glow
found in new love. May the sales staff
not spot me lurking near the Urban Decay
eyeshadow palettes. I have Naked 3,
but that still leaves Naked 2 and the original,
which is just Naked. So many ways
to be naked. I contour,
lighter next to the nose,
lightest under the brow,
darker on the outer edge,
and darkest at the crease. It seems
I never have the right eyeliner pencil,
but I try, smudge, and add mascara.
My brows are still lacking, but
I brush on colored wax so that
the (ash blonde) powder clings.
Lipstick goes on last and I hear
that I should match color with the inner lip,
a disappointment to the child inside
who wants red red red and a unicorn.
Smoke Break(ing) / by Angela M. Carter
I was held captive in every cigarette you lit,
a fiery, crescent moon extended from your lips,
illuminated with your inhales.
Some walk towards light;
I’ve learned to associate it with burning.
I prayed you’d take me in like an orphan,
and that I’d never belonged to you.
As the smoke rises like a wayward balloon,
I wait in the lining of your throat, waiting to be exhaled.
Day 10 Cento / by Kate Hanson Foster
There is no other way to say this:
I am in the thrall of bony whiteness—
How several madness’s are born—
A season dry in the fireplace—this strange
church I am building, excited
by wind, the sudden feel of life—To be
redeemed from fire by fire. No—
let me start again. I can say it now:
In nature there are few sharp lines. The open
window is full of a voice. The sound
of bones touched together. Among
those lost trees—dew on the sleeve of hours.
Sources: AR Ammons, Carolyn Forche, Jorie Graham, Linda Gregg, Robert Hass, Yusef Komunyakaa, Ann Lauterbach, H. Leivick, Mina Loy, Muriel Rukeyser
Travel Guide for the Empty Quarter / by Catherine Evans Latta
It helps to know sands scream at night
because chained fallen angels turn in agony
under the saltating dunes of a dry breaking sea.
Allah’s avenging angels bound them here
to grind through eternity.
Wear knee-high boots lest a lurking sand viper
leap to the sound of your crunching stride.
No boots, ten steps, you die, unless your brother
sword severs your foot before the toxin
reaches your heart.
Sleep in wood huts on stilts with concave
metal shields inverted because scorpions
cannot cling up, down, and around, upside down.
They are active at night. So don’t go out to
contemplate the canopy of brilliant stars.
Once a man came weaving through the dunes
to the camp. On pilgrimage, he asked for a can
of peaches. Give food, honor such as him, as
he pedals a tricycle hung with cans to Mecca.
He may die a sainted martyr to submission.
On entering this center of emptiness, remember
to bring hope. Water sits deep in known wells,
harbored ten thousand years since glacial
streams ran free in tropics on this plain.
By God’s grace, living waters remain.
43 – / by Anu Mahadev
the new 21? Except with google by my side. But my algebra methods are too old,
says my son. In surround sound.
Sometimes I want to feel zodiacal. Counting cusp days and moon moods and
constellations in my palm.
He is a cusp boy. Aquarian/Piscean. Hates the water. The school sends a note
about the HPV vaccine.
That age. When I knew nothing about sex-ed. Because we did nothing but abstain.
No, I’m not a “girl”. Embrace your age! My forehead has worry furrows. The what-ifs
don’t end. He’s no player.
We are calculating and bisecting the hypotenuse. Base and altitude. Right and simple.
Only one correct answer.
Unlike art or opinions or life. Do you think Gardasil should be mandatory? My bearded
professor wants to know.
He’s a decade younger. No, we have values, and religion and conservatism, the righteous
me shouts. And yet, the other…
Yes, I have views. But I step into my son’s shoes, the same size as mine, come on man,
let him fly, go where I haven’t.
He’s turning a year older. The last time he lets me plan a birthday party. He is sky star,
I am earth song.
We’re solving equations, sly and swift. Whoever gets done first gets the last bite of cake.
Ah, heaven, we are in no rush.
Keep your magic. Energy equals mass times velocity of light squared. Someday he’ll kiss
the right person.
Cartilage upon bone. No turning back. No complaints. I get back to my term paper. Yes,
I’m 43. Forever a student.
Poem 10 / by Jory Mickelson
god who didn’t
god who doesn’t
god who can’t be
who couldn’t care less,
god who wouldn’t, god
shit-luck god, rut-
stuck god, god who broke
sword and plow alike
god who wasn’t
there, god who isn’t,
god who choked
god who might’ve, if-only
god. God in spite of god—
michigan dream / by Akiva Savett
I agree to babysit agony’s hammer
if she plays the games already in the house.
my grandmother’s body
is done being bothered.
she made her bed
the day she died—
as good a way to end
as forcing my head inside
a lion’s pink mouth.
when the weather plans
don’t forget where you parked.
here is finally a place
in the gothic shade
where for three days
we can play the early lake quartets
on rainbow xylophones
small and good sing
huron, saginaw, mackinac
The Gardener / by Buffy Shutt
She gives him a promise
Found in the ground.
He mimics his mother.
She hears but can’t stop the racket pounding out his future.
She invites him on this trip to places
She knows but has not been to,
Places he will one day own.
A place like this leaf, this root tripping them, this split seed,
This color, this possible food,
Day 9 / Poems 9
Emerald / by Maggie Blake Bailey
How long does my happiness last,
seems a fair question.
Because I spent so many years asking
and I never asked with grace.
I asked, mouth full of greasy pizza
I ate, sobbing, in my car.
I asked with the match head pressed,
still smoking, against my arm
I didn’t do my twenties well by any
metric, asking for everything while
my rescue dog pissed on the carpet, again.
So if now my life starts answering,
and a man proposes with the emerald
ring that wasn’t quite enough for my own
parents. And I rarely wear it because
emeralds are a soft stone, and my son
touches my face in the dark
when he falls asleep, presses
his fingers to my lips,
hums to himself, the entire
weight of him given up
and over to my collarbone,
underside of my jaw, slope of me.
No one will tell how me long.
Let’s be tired together.
I Only Get One Haiku / by Lanette Cadle
The slow droplet falls
from the rain gutter and points
where crocus will bloom.
Melancholy / by Angela M. Carter
Somedays I can’t find myself
no matter the reach of the lantern’s light,
no matter the etching of name, face and
reminders of the ticking clock.
I’ve run so far off, circled backward
into a fold of time–
a place where all my tears
are waiting for me to return home to them.
Nothing has ever been as familiar as it;
no one has ever sought the depths of me the way it does–
it latches to the air which enters my lungs
holds it, how any obsessed lover embraces
what they believe they love–
injures the very one they cannot live without.
Blood Warmth / by Catherine Evans Latta
Late dusk, damp chill, and swells well out to sea,
our ambient blood pulse binds all movement.
Touching shoulder to thigh, you and me, we
depend on shared instinct at every moment.
We watch the wave-jagged curve of horizon
give way to a starless fog bound summer night.
A flashing coastal mark, three red blinks on
two seconds off, is our single visible waypoint,
and spotted only as we rise high on ocean rollers.
We time our now night-blind tacks to starboard,
then to port. So much trust, and bodies in unison,
we plan rounding the mark to see home’s headland.
We’ve sailed with faith across all sorts of water
still feeling years of being joined will find us harbor.
petrichor / by Anu Mahadev
on the soil of my birth
falls in a symphony
of lyrical arias and adagio –
songs that no longer
sing me to sleep.
dry powdery fields
usher the rain in a dance
of dust mites, girls’ tresses
eagerly catch those first
drops of cloudburst.
pastel dreams do little
to transport me, when
i shut my eyes, all i see-
poor children, skeletons
in their bellies, silent eyes
devoid of any notion
of hope. some escape
to the land of the plenty,
soup kitchens, food stamps
homeless shelters, kindness,
opportunity. some shrivel,
others hide in tried-and-tested
resignation, some day they
will be deported like me. a life,
partitioned by a wall, i walk –
a stranger in my own town,
my accent never belongs
anywhere. gypsy, trapped
in a cage of my own making,
floating limbo, legs akimbo
clawing my way back. a place
where petrichor only smells
like gunpowder, cocaine, fear.
no census bureau marks who
gets killed, no law defines
who is a traitor. no, they say –
you cannot leave. there is no
pasture, there is no green, no
birdsong to match the dirge
of an atlas split apart by lines.
Poem 9 / by Jory Mickelson
Are you my lover
or my landscape, he said,
probably quoting O’Keeffe who
was paraphrasing Corot I think.
What a difference to have
an artist in my bed—
paraphrased—art student. I never
have to wonder what he thinks
after sex as he stares into
the darkness of the room, I know
he is envisioning his next
piece, watching it coalesce from
something hazy like a Turner
watercolor, something vague that takes
its time to come together, the way
it took months for us to arrive
in bed One always seeing
someone else and the regular excuses.
But now, who can mind the hours
in the studio or where the paint
from his clothes end up?
Sculpt this piece in a soft form
of ruined sheets and the hustle
for the next opportunity to shine.
Thank god I’m not a painter,
poetry is easier, mostly staring
out the window, attending
a few parties—waiting for
the next muse to arrive.
badlands / by Akiva Savett
for bruce and lorca
oh, to knuckle a blue car
up 95’s striped macadam
honed and honey mooned,
the night live and holy.
but every second,
the schuylkill and pennypack
alive like homilies
slip into bed
deepen their ruts.
along their banks
pilgrims, deer, lost lenape
bend to lap slipping water,
kneeling further to drink.
way back at the beginning,
or perhaps it’s the end
of this highway,
underneath its bitumen and tar
are 65 black bodies
in a potter’s field
who couldn’t disgrace
the white cemetery
on sunrise boulevard.
right of way,
repaves this ground,
widens its swath
for high occupancy
wolves have returned to chernobyl
who knows why skeletons return to auschwitz,
why water has a perfect memory.
at the edge of every map
a dragon guards the scent of cherries
stripped from their branches
by december’s tremor.
There Is A Humming / by Buffy Shutt
There is a hum/humming in my ribs.
An un/hibernating cache of cells
Sealed/sealing my body
Hiding for days until the moon shift/shifts
This tiny cluster, this untimely force away/lost.
Exhausted, this bundle/knot and I lie down.
A forensic and a ghost
Gallops/flutters across my chest breaking collarbones.
My eyes build at night
A shaft of sunlight from the ground up/sky down.
I breathe back a mermaid . . . . pushed down.
My fingers grip/slip the scant image of you
So close/closing my eyes . . ache.
There is wide glass bowl/fissured from the humming.
I bend over inhale the scent.
You are in heated residence
A tiny gold hammer pounding/tapping
Day . . night
Day you stretch deep into my toes, my nails splinter
Night a force swells/swelling the stars.
The hum/humming in my ribs
A white/wide spreads across my abdomen
Faint/fast disappearing . . . embers
I blow endlessly
Day 8 / Poems 8
Gold / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Yes. More. Everything bright and needed.
I’ve been looking at rings, stacked
with emeralds and diamonds and flecks
of opal. I have rings already.
And I have bread dragged in oil
and I have coffee turned pale with cream
and sugar and I have my forearms turned
up as I drive so I can watch my veins
in the early morning light when my daughter
says, it dark out? it not dark out yet?
What the Skin Knows / by Lanette Cadle
This poem is going to flat-out declare
that these three things did not happen together
but they did. That’s the declaration,
that they did and memory is a failed bowl
best left in the dust of forgotten cabinets
and unswept hallways. I know they happened
because I have the marks on my body—a knee
with a worm-line scar, a web of freckles, and a toenail
knocked right. Memory says the knee split open
from gravel and a too steep bicycle turn into our driveway
in Bellevue, Washington. Freckles make a roadmap
to cancer spilled across my nose, an answer
to a childhood on that bike in the sun. A blister
lifted the toenail during a walk to end world hunger.
That is the chronology, the false stories. Here is what’s real:
my body shifts, from whole to injured. Light stops time,
stops breath, and warms skin with a spreading sun
that speaks, not a burning bush but light itself, pure and silent.
The Hour, Last Seen / by Angela M. Carter
I am a replica of broken stars tonight.
Thoughts of you have burned out into their final evening:
I added skin to you,
tripled your bones,
gave deeper rhythm to your heart, it
didn’t request or
I arrived with intentions–
how wrong of me,
to whisper my longings into life’s ear,
to tell it when to wake
(when to wake another)
within its own
I begged you were a friend of the stars
the same constellations I’d lifted my chin to as a child,
and that you knew secrets of me I’d
yet to tell myself,
. . . . . . the secret is
. . . . . . those secrets are what they’ve done, not what they didn’t say.
The reverie is dimming,
. . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .dimming,
shooting into a thinning dust along the nightfall–
Child and Flower Cento / by Kate Hanson Foster
No flower like that flower,
which knew itself in the garden.
Speech without word. Lady
of silences. Spur of leaves
and shaking wind. She came
onto the stage in yards
of pearls—flashed her golden
smile and sang.
Your eyes are just like bees,
from the worst pain in the body.
Holding onto the hard earth
as not to get thrown off.
I don’t blame you. You aren’t old
enough to know better. Touch
leaf to leaf. Blow the dust
Out of your hand. Let it go. Let it go.
Sources: Conrad Aiken, T. S. Eliot, Allen Ginsberg, Jorie Graham, Randall Jarrell, Donald Hall, Robert Hayden, Mikhail Naimy, and May Swenson
The Annual / by Catherine Evans Latta
After thirty years
I still expect
I have sex.
over my breasts
he looks at the ceiling
how was your summer.
My Knees spread
wide enough to
ride a wild bull
he inserts a cold speculum.
sex ending cries
the metal withdraws.
Tell me about
my inner light – / by Anu Mahadev
is the sun
from its zenith to my feet,
through serrated latticework, cast iron
bars, slate-grey stone walls, all sepia toned
is a black and white shot
a nifty composition of shape, lines, symmetry –
perfect, soulless texture,
a magical expression imbued in its simplicity,
a dramatic silhouette against a westerly sun
is luminous, compelling,
a lucid storm, a blazing starlit sky
dancing kaleidoscope, all the right things to say,
the cool metaphors, the ones that fit in.
is none of the above
is the controlled flame of a candle inside a mason jar
does not want to take over the world, just yet
Poem 8 / by Jory Mickelson
Cascades of slow dripping
water bearded in orange
yellow and brown, a shaggy
algaed coat of floating
life to keep you warm
at ten below. It’s unlikely
to warm and yet your liquid
continues to trickle and fret.
I still myself and all I hear
is you above and below
my feet, how you fill each
direction with your quick
chuckle and roll. How you
kiss the air in steamy wreaths
that do their own sort of dance,
the stink of sulphur like a question
in the air. I wonder who else
has stood near you in this
and other centuries, especially
in such bitter cold, been dazzled
by the way the light gold-leafs
every slip and ripple into shine.
And yet, I know you do not care,
aren’t even aware of my presence
here today and will go on from
your hot and secret center despite
the lowness of temperature or lateness
of the year. I still want for you
to know, impossible as it is for you
to know, that you have been a comfort.
ode to crohn’s / by Akiva Savett
journalist of fire ants
greenhouse of ice keys
airplane of frozen suitcases
train track spike punch
classroom of hooky cenotaphs
fish bone in the throat of morning’s suite.
I hate the lamp you are bright chested,
you wring the towel of night,
bathe me in pain
like a purple amputee.
tattoos of rain spell storms up
my arms, Illiterate editor
of my body’s poems,
vandal inside the gates you raze my children
as much as I do.
they pray to your caterpillar dagger
fingers and you rape the photosynthesis
of my open palms.
you hang in a cocoon
but never transform,
you bite holes in forest’s sweater
the wind assassinates the archduke of sunlight.
the doctors’ infusions
of jupiter napalm fence,
cannot evict you from my trenches,
even as you wolf deeper with your poison
hitchhiking the lyrics of my mood.
late arriving bayonet of the big bang,
free rider on my bone chassis
yelling directions of cauterized ritual.
still, I wash your feet as you enter my tent,
anoint your bread,
fix you a bed of wild ponies
a blanket of apples.
but bright moon of disease
your face is a plate I bite
your face is a cold scalpel,
you trim my green
to white branches
of petrified weather.
a cage of amen,
my stomach is a moonless planet
orbiting an aborted symphony:
I love the braids in the black hair of space,
fireworks slap the sky deaf.
Bird Brain / by Buffy Shutt
We are less optimistic.
But today in 2004,
Before we know we throw in the towel,
Scientists determine birds have brains.
Our neurons piled one on top of the other,
Theirs sectioned—a boy’s best summer bubble
A hive housing the spectrum.
I watch my bird settle on a limb.
I don’t know my bird’s name.
My bird’s brain knows the dimming
Flying over us.
My bird disappears into the leaves
All that remains to lift my eyes,
A soft rocking —until even that is gone.
Day 7 / Poems 7
Pink* / by Maggie Blake Bailey
signifies: charm, politeness, sensitivity, tenderness,
sweetness, childhood, femininity
and the romantic. Chastity and innocence.
The body of Christ, marriage, faces and hands.
A particular aroma, that of roses
* all words taken in order from the Wikipedia entry for the color pink
A Secret Viking Walks Through this Poem / by Lanette Cadle
It’s February, barely, and the wind sounds like
Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. We come
from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun,
where the hot springs flow. WAAA_AHHH_AHHHH_oooo.
South where the hot springs flow in this literal land
called America is Hot Springs, Arkansas, a town
where there are springs, and they are hot. It’s a trend.
Peculiar, Missouri exists. I don’t live there, but still,
it is Missouri. My neighbor has a life-sized Santa staring
out the picture window from November through January—
Three months of he knows when you are sleeping, he knows
when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good—
a lot of pressure without the assurance of goodness
childhood gives. Then, they added a lighted snowman
in the driveway for quicker action in case of danger. I call him
the Sentinel and I’m pretty sure he’d be quick with a knife, ready
for when the hammer of the gods falls. So, it’s February
and winter left with Santa and the snowman, and wreaths
with coy hearts appear, at least on my side of the street,
along with a hope for spring. Too soon—either a vandal
tossed mounds of detergent on my lawn or it is snowing.
Sign of spring: crocuses. Know, and remember.
Sometimes the Earth Whistles her to its Ledges / by Angela M. Carter
When I pass her, I know her well.
Her arm outstretched across her child’s shoulders,
the other arm holds two paper bags of groceries.
Cereal, milk, juice, bread. The basics.
She wonders who would be making dinner that night,
who would be there to walk this world with those
she loves more than herself,
if it had succeeded last December.
Love song of Paxil / by Kate Hanson Foster
after T.S. Eliot
Let us go then, the doctor says,
and write a script that is sure to fix this
anxiety, the licking tongue of yellow fog, quote
unquote gut racket, crisis of day-to-day.
It cannot hurt to try anyway. I should mention
there are claws inside the white powder,
and just a little bit of shitting out your brains,
one smoldering neuron at a time—No, do not ask,
what is it? All of this is just about adjustment,
an exit into something new—A space of cloudless,
psychotropic white, and this, and so much more.
The side effects, of course: restless nights, your mind
sprawled on the peak of a pin—You will enter
the supermarket, rotten and sick on the same day
of every week, and you will walk down aisle five,
only to peek at that same can of black beans,
and you will want to die at the sight of it,
But it will be impossible to explain what that means.
That suggests it’s working. Yes, you are a senseless,
sexless, blank page, the dregs of a body ravaged
like the last seeds of a winter landscape. And indeed
there will be a time for elevator falls—that sudden
drop your brain will make off a ledge, endless
times a day, to float in the oily pool of a sewer drain.
And maybe, perhaps you will slink beneath
A tempestuous sea of shame, scuttling across the floor
acutely aware of what it means to be ridiculous,
to be the fool. But of course, the doctor says,
if the pills don’t work, don’t eat them anymore.
It is simple—do you or don’t you want the wolf
in your room? Those faces in the wood knots—
do they or don’t they need removing? And also—
Do you dare disturb the universe?
As the Tides / by Catherine Evans Latta
With you I sail among, around, rock islands.
Their current is your current, the one I follow,
hugging the shore, as I do you. Nearer shore
There’s no resistance, mid-channel can be turbulent.
Anchored by night, I hear pines sough and wind
Singing in the standing rigging, a constant
As comforting as your breathing beside me
When fog and darkness make islands vanish.
Ashore unexpected fields of purple, blue,
Pink lupine surround me as your arms.
And I know this is my coming home,
My path for melting into your bloom.
You come and go as dependable as tides
Rising and falling against the hard granite
Slabs of storm wall I mindlessly erect to protect
This body against the weariness of working days.
Desire runs as water over my ledges,
Carving away weed, even granite over time.
I lie waiting for the rise of your easing flow,
Coming when your desire floods across me.
Arid storm / by Anu Mahadev
I am in the belly of melancholy, the woman
With a belladonna in her hair.
Breathing through her entangled skin,
pushing through her torn handloom sari,
stretch marks that no coconut oil can ever erase.
I flit with her through dark houses at night, breathing away
life from the unborn, the ones that exist only in dreams.
I am the unwanted, the unspoken secret lover, in hiding
When sands hit my body, a million grains a minute
I am cleaved open with a hatchet, ripping apart her screams clean
Open to wallow in the midst of the weeping women –
Mourners – summoned when someone dies
How does the desiccating desert, come to my rescue at night?
Melancholy is dead. The tears don’t come. No one cries.
Except me, her offspring. I, who had never learned to cry,
Cry with deep gulps of air, summoning the underworld heathens
In the scalding rays of the harsh moonlit sky.
Poem 7 / by Jory Mickelson
Mist that’s not quite rain
falls into a landscape tumbled
gray. Three black stones
no, wet, huddled crows call back
and back again over the distant
song of cars and with their mingling
I forget the words we spoke
in our well-lit house, think how
the picture of security, for me,
more often has been less safe
than these obscure places, how
I am certain in rainfall
if it parted, a city would be
revealed beyond these trees.
precedents and united states / by Akiva Savett
under the robe of every supreme court justice rules a supreme court justice
and under that robe rules a precedent called the self
and under that robe cracks the black jaw of the galaxy
raising an objection
overruled, wired shut.
a body is asked
to place its wedding ring
in a plastic bag.
place that bag
in a locker.
pin the locker key
to the gown,
the MRI’s aisle.
the machine’s klepto magnets
the body sings,
a greek chorus
my mom leaves
the kitchen light on all night,
the iron in my blood
jumps to attention
toward my heart.
I remember jumping
double dutch with the black girls
how their barrettes ticked
in time with the snap
of the plastic snick,
perfect rhythm in release.
we flesh palindromes
in both directions:
. . draw o, coward,
. . . . . sagas
. . borrow or rob
maps, DNA, and spam.
. . . . . . . .a
devil never even lived.
a ladder leans in the garage
like a potential rabbi.
the trouble with wishes
is everyone wishes.
The Stop Before / by Buffy Shutt
I have this friend—an-honest-to-God hashtagmetoo. No bullshit.
She shouts and flings herself around and no one wants to be with her.
I ride on the bus with her but get out before our stop.
We work at the same place, but I don’t want to be seen coming in the door with her.
She never asks why.
She is inside her rage—she deserves her rage, earned it.
I am lost in mine too, but mine seems small next to hers
And I want to slap her for that.
Day 6 / Poems 6
Aubergine / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Auberge is a retreat, which begs
The question, is it the color that led
to the vegetable or the other way around?
I don’t understand how we came to eat
food so resistant. salt the eggplant,
in strips against the side of the strainer.
How do we know to boil corn, much
less the terrifying work of flour, so far
removed from wheat blurring past
in the field. When I think retreat, I imagine
the one time I picked cherries: ladders
and sunshine, fruit in my hand: warmer
sweeter darker than I expected.
The French word for cherry comes
from a region of Greece. A place
on the Black Sea with an ocean view.
When we name colors we name juice
running from fingers down the wrist,
darker for sunlight, darker for water.
The Year of Hunkering Down / by Lanette Cadle
It’s the little things that tear me: Did you know
paper has sound? It crackles when waved
through the air. And air whooshes too—
the wind is not silent. Birds, even
the sparrows fill the parking garage
with chirp and echo, chirp and echo
endlessly, and I lost it all and didn’t know.
It happened slowly, or maybe not. Maybe
one day everything softened and I didn’t notice
because other things seemed more important
than birds or paper or wind and I lost
the words I couldn’t hear or worse, the words
I heard wrong. Walking was hard and arthritis
gave me the irony of needing to lose weight to walk
but not being able to walk to lose the weight. Life
kept on, but my knees and I had each other. It’s easy
to ignore the little aches and silences until
they fill my day. It was time to hunker down.
Resolved: People wear glasses and no one tells them
to wait until they see better. Vow: Tiny pods
behind the ears can happen too. Resolved:
Just because there are wheelchairs and walkers
doesn’t mean that is my only future. Vow: take one year
or yes, two years to lose the weight. One half, one
pound, two at a time it happened and it is still happening
and I type pond instead of pound and really, it’s like that,
a pond full of silt needing rain and with the rain, drop by drop
the rest comes back clean and ready to live again.
Pitying the Moon / by Angela M. Carter
The moon has been an enabler, a lonely story-teller;
it whispers fantasy, airborne against the knocking of waves.
Its expression, always one word away from howling a sob.
I pity its sad face, hovering over an earth it can never touch;
we, both, have this dedication to sorrow.
It glows as it tells me how near my desires appear in its perception,
how delicate and worthy my dreams are when touched by its blushing beams.
But, I no longer listen to its words;
these have been still waters,
where night-swimming with open arms
has taught me nothing more than to not drown.
That poor moon, with no arms to hold itself, or the earth;
In all its majesty, it has no choice but to long for,
to stare out into possibility,
just as we do.
Formation / by Kate Hanson Foster
There is no room inside
this empty fist, this long
awaited reckoning. Whispers
once guttered deep within the body
are tumbling out of us now.
We are a monster of many—a wild
unbreaking, beautiful, black sun.
The more eyes, the greater our one,
ominous eye. There is a list
of names to be weltered into
the waters. We will remove the owl
from our nesting area if it means
we will sleep better. The silence
once snarled within our chest
is half heartbeat now, half beast.
We are an unkindness, a murder.
Your time is up and we see you—
Me too me too me too me too me too.
Morning at the Beach / by Catherine Evans Latta
A mob of sandpipers skitter
on the edge of roiling surf
in a patterned dance
without thought it seems
We head to the tideline
to watch them only to be
stopped by recent ruptures
scabrous hard tar banks
newly exposed this morning
by lashing waves and wind.
A passerby claims
these crude spills are
our sins exposed now
fouling our pristine shores.
We test their hardness
and wonder if this
solid scar is a recent sin?
A casual expert tells us
this is a natural upwelling
exposed seepage from crude
reserves not far from where
we stand. I reply, ah, nothing new.
Watching the sandpipers
move in mob think,
I leave unsaid how one man’s
reserves of black bile
retch up each dawn
to sully our breaking day.
distance / by Anu Mahadev
how easily the heart settles – tea dust in a canister,
lacing eyelashes, fingertips brown-ish.
homeostasis they say – where i’m eager to spring back
into a stable state, a defense barrier as old
as her grey-platinum hair.
i’m peeling off the outermost layer of skin every time i leave
home, homeland, which one is which
i am confused –
a velcro strap, loud, immediate, a bandage stripped –
leaves me in pain. and then i let it settle
like the thick smog of red chillies
on a terrace,
apply emollient. i’m coming home, another home –
to patios and finished basements, granite
countertops and warm fireplaces –
oceans away from a sleepy town where bells rush
to usher in the deepest blush of dawn,
with their clamoring
wake up, wake up
god is … here.
where she prays for us, without a clock to look at,
while we are busy underlining
our calendar appointments
with sharpie markers.
she thinks technology will catch up some day
when I can reach for her
she will know, and i won’t speak,
our fingers will touch –
the nightshade’s final sigh.
Poem 6 / by Jory Mickelson
. . . . . . pain reorders
the eye, reveals a flowered world
. . . . . . his fever garden
held us companion to the hospital bed
. . . . . . the cancer bloomy
filling the room with its own heady scent
. . . . . . together we’re drowning
in slow hours layered like petals
. . . . . . lost at the expansive
center of illness’ off-white room
. . . . . . it’s difficult to tell
now if prayer or pain but he calls
. . . . . . to the Little Flower
whose card floats above us on the wall
. . . . . . her eyes turned up
toward what none of us can see
full catastrophe living / by Akiva Savett
you can’t be neutral
on a moving train:
the killing fields of khmer cubicles,
the dead fish eye lasso of commercials
the tongues of pothole highway justice,
the filament beneath my son’s feet.
I have kilimanjaro feet.
the 50% rate is now up to divorce.
route 70 separates
two corn fields.
if your house teeters,
the way a child begs to stay up late,
lean with the tao of the house.
this isn’t sound physics advice,
it’s borne from years pleasing rain.
when a boa constricts,
it’s best to break down the self
between you and the boa.
or find a hammer.
just as the ocean swallows
sore throat kingdoms.
we don’t forget anything,
only how to find it.
at the end of the day,
walking back from the mailbox,
I zigzag to make myself
a more difficult sniper target.
rushing upstairs after the local news
I’m sure something’s about to grab my heel:
another michigan city moving,
the road work means we have to merge.
everyone loves the ghost inside
winning slot machines.
but we forget the winter
we got so much snow
we lost power,
and kept our food outside.
everything was reversed,
the electricity between snow flakes
became our freezer,
our home became the world.
we played risk,
hungry hungry hippo.
all that’s left
is to listen
to brian wilson sing
wouldn’t it be nice.
there’s no one left or right to cure.
so earth just breathes:
inhale through my soles
out through my permeable skull.
may a battalion of unabridged commando sunshine,
march under the wildcat sabbath royal bone moon.
Three Hundred Jars of Jam / by Buffy Shutt
I want out.
I am at the bottom.
Scraped and scraping the last of the jam out of the
Three-hundred-fifteen jars I have bought for you.
I am not mad. I am emptying my pockets, not slamming the door.
I will grow another heart between my legs.
Pink, drummable, pouty.
It is a risk, this dream to be the last lost sock.
Five loads each week, twenty a month, two-hundred-forty a year
Six thousand times I’ve pushed the dial on three different washers.
Don’t stand there one eye greener than the other
Don’t cut those onions into thin half moons
Don’t play Sinatra and Amy Winehouse and waltz me around
Don’t put your lemon-scented palm against my face
Don’t ask me to decide tomorrow.
I want to take big strides, test out with no one
Waiting for me.
I want, want out of one and into one new
I want to know if I still have time
I want out.
Day 5 / Poems 5
Sunshine Yellow / by Maggie Blake Bailey
My fat. Last I checked my fat was yellow.
Which is fair and right and all as it should be.
But also exit signs at night on the highway.
Daffodils, the throat of a crocus.
No gemstone I can name but wedding rings,
aren’t those still yellow?
Lemonade, the first time my daughter tried it,
slaphappy on s’mores and late summer heat.
Lemons, of course. The lemons on the fabric
I bought yesterday for a friend’s baby quilt.
Smudges of yellow in a sky of dark mediterranean
blue and branch. Somewhere, there are lemon
trees, groves if enough trees agree.
Are they hard to grow, or is bitter
a limited term? Not all yellow is stubborn,
even if we don’t welcome it at our table.
Letter to the Future / by Lanette Cadle
Go ahead. Insult me by sending
unthinking red long-stemmed roses.
Destroy my pride and sense of self
by taking me to dinner and a movie
and insist that, no, no, you want to pay.
Make it even worse and order steak for two.
Wear a suit and tie, so good in candlelight,
and admit that you did just shave, but
it’s no trouble, really. Breathe in. Smile,
but not too much. Know my eye color.
We can be giddy together, far from young
yet the old ploys still work—fingers tap
on the tablecloth until they touch, entwine.
A Snowy Evening / by Angela M. Carter
All the affliction was worth this moment,
I’m disarmed and entering
Earth’s pure, luminous wink.
I began this very poem, anew.
Snowflakes gravitate into the river bends
of my blood-warmed palms,
the beauty of catching the only of its kind
is worth the disappearance which inevitably follows.
In moments like these, the earth squares
offers an open door
and whispers its deepest need for intimacy
before rounding back into its mirage of wilderness.
Poem 5 / by Kate Hanson Foster
The last time I visited your grave I was stuck
in traffic, desperate to move. And I never cared
much for graveyards, you know? All of those
expensive rocks, the heavy quiet, flags and flowers
you will never see. And the thought of your body
continuing to decay right there, right beneath my shoes—
Isn’t that what rotting is anyway? Just another kind
of slow dying? I got off the first exit and found myself
crossing the train tracks that mark the entrance
into the cemetery. You’d liked that, I think. The irrelevant
part of this story—how a few drops of early April rain
sprinkled my windshield and I could hear the rumble
of a commuter train approaching. Does it bother you,
the way they zip by like that—that perpetual state of hurry?
Or is it the endless, lugubrious freight train, dragging
its worn-out thunder of metal. Does it make you brood
in the box? Make you want cancer all over again?
It’s been decades since I bent over your body
and wept. Pressed my lips to your sunken cheek, astonished
at how fast the body goes cold. How quickly we can become
entirely emptied of love and esprit. I laid my head
upon your chest and recited three Hail Mary’s aloud.
I was thirteen, and I believed she could hear them.
And maybe it was because in the end I swear you looked
as if you saw something in the room. Your skinny arms
reaching out, almost in panic, pointing to the corner
of the ceiling. You tried to show us, tried to say
what it was, but no one in the room, not Gramma,
not your children, none of us could hear past the sickness
gurgling in your throat. We kissed your head, said things
would be ok, and you laid back again, annoyed.
In the graveyard, I tried to find evidence of you anywhere—
a tap on my shoulder, a playful tug on my sleeve,
or perhaps I would lose my breath in the feeling of a sudden,
sentient wind. A cloud of gnats arrived, dancing out
from along the river, as if newly born from mud and melting
snow. They came upon me like a net, flew in my face
and my eyes, I spit one out of my mouth and left.
Sometimes I think I’ve outgrown your memory.
Each day, I think of you a little less, forget the details
of one of your stories, put another picture away
and you become a little more gone. And I hardly think
about those final hours, the way my cells burned and split
themselves over the thought of losing you.
And the way you panted and genuflected repeatedly, preparing
yourself, pointing to the corner as if you could actually see
something coming for you. Your sick eyes, all the small
tunnels of your body freezing and seizing at the sight of it.
A poem taken, with a few edits, from an art review.
It could be one of many. This is from Gallerie Nordenhake: Stockholm,
Gunilla Klingberg: When stillness culminates, there is movement
Opening: April 6, 2017
a socialite’s finishing school / by Anu Mahadev
1. gloss over minutiae, details of the mind
2. seduce the light in shimmery body, shameless stems
3. classify the taxonomy of the s0-called-equal society
4. get a selfie flash, before makeup rivulets run, teeth stain purple
5. vape with electronic cigarettes, add volumes to coolness factors
6. chase ephemera, compensate for a non-existent sweet sixteen
7. shimmy away into a corner with strange white powder, glazed eyes
8. pretend to hobnob with standoffish looks, discard the eager ones
9. do not eat – drink a martini, down a tequila shot, drink, drink a lot baby
10. trade the in-things, names, designers, vacations, diets, gossip (no recipes)
11. dance in high heels like your ankles beg for it, even if you’re dying inside
12. domestication is for the boring ones, let the feral roam free in the wild
13. take the fashionable hangover like a soldier in velvet pajamas
14. don’t forget your best friend, Facebook, Instagram, twitter, tumblr
15. you’re a girl okay, a girl – never a woman, no matter what the calendar says
16. wrinkles, my dear, are a call for botox, not celebration of experience
17. omg, you’re a cookie cutter page-3 stepford wife, congratulations!
Poem 5 / by Jory Mickelson
(after Robert Hass)
If I said—recalling winter,
the creek’s deeper run of blue
in its white edged bed—
If I said blue jay on the dark branch
of a spruce, flaring tail
forever spread at the lynx’s
approach in the vintage print—
If I said glacial, if I said hydrangea in the shade of pine—
or counter tile in the cumin-scented kitchen
of his blocky house in Upper Laurel Canyon.
If I said, his lips tasted of raspberry
If he pressed them, cold to my neck
until the skin of my throat puckers
Dripped popsicle, wrist to mouth
(How not to devour a man
whose look says he wants to be devoured?)
Blue. Consuming blue.
niggun for friends together in one sitting / by Akiva Savett
a niggun is a Jewish song sung by groups using repetitive, emotive sounds rather than lyrics to reach toward the sublime
bees swarm the handcuffs of the free
my soul pines for Her honeyed radiance.
open the gazelles in me.
sing the pen of the soul.
the pediatrician’s eyes close tight
the widow’s hands open like a trapeze.
our rabba in red leads,
raising and lowering
then punching the air
she knocks away
. . . . . . . . . . . . of self-consciousness,
. . . . . . . . . . . . of real estate
. . . . . . . . . . . . of intellectual consistency.
I’ve never seen
so many people
in one womb
so many people cheer
so many people
doing wadi cartwheels.
on vowel stallions
pockets of open sparks
through a sluice of dynamite jasmine
we float in the bulrushes
drawn up by gold necklace arms
and leave egypt—
that one lane bridge
bright with panopticon light.
my spine breaks
and out fly archers and cherry trees,
a palace of trampolines
in place of our guts.
as long as it lasts
a hundred years hence
when nothing reigns but iron
and lion claw
we won’t remember
weaving this key.
but. a door is now cracked—
a falling child
makes herself a parachute
of light’s gossamer sleeves.
Eat This Marriage / by Buffy Shutt
I want to eat this marriage for lunch.
I want to hang it birdhouse high— hidden, wooden.
I want to stop-up my nostrils to kill the smell of this marriage.
I want to strangle this marriage by holding my breath.
I want to hear the sound of this motor turning off, little by little silent.
I want to put the tip of my tongue in your pocket to take to work
And wait for you to bring it back home tonight.
Day 4 / Poems 4
Smokey-Grey-Green of Lichen / by Maggie Blake Bailey
The still explosions on the rocks,/ the lichens, grow/ by spreading, gray, concentric shocks./ They have arranged/ to meet the rings around the moon, although/ within our memories they have not changed.- “The Shampoo” Elizabeth Bishop
I had to look them up, the lichen,
to understand what Bishop meant,
that love could be so serviceable,
so battered and shiny like the moon.
We went to Paris for New Year’s, left
our children in the careful care of others.
That first afternoon it rained completely.
Oceanlagged and childfree, we stuttered
our bodies onto Saint Michel, to the window
of a bakery blank with steam, found a table
inside smaller than our bodies. I pantomimed
poor French for chocolate and it came: brioche
studded with chocolate, whipped cream drenched
cups of hot chocolate, cake they gave us with no
asking, hazelnut and ganache, wafers lacquered
in chocolate. We ate ourselves silly,
your hair still streaming water, shoes soaked.
Super Bowl Sestina / by Lanette Cadle
To not watch football, ever, is a drop kick
in the gut of people who do. I pass,
and place English Premier League soccer first and ten
other things next on my personal list. I cheer
when ratings tumble and show the sport has fumbled
its way into being a Roman arena, a spectacle
that maims, that shocks the brain and kills, a spectacle
not worth the concussions, the sad men kicked
to the curb when knees give out and brains fumble.
The glory escapes me. Others rave about the long pass
into the end zone and the brave gladiator gets cheered
for the touchdown, valued, even the term first and ten
speaks to value, the owner’s money first and ten
other things after. Past the screen, this spectacle
smells, reeks of paunchy Americans cheering
because they cannot do, they never could kick
a ball or work as a team planning the next pass
huddled in sweat and farts and what if they fumble—
the fans seeing themselves in every move don’t fumble;
their hands always connect and make first and ten.
No triumph, no Olympic team, and most women pass
on playing, even with the made-for-TV movie spectacle
of the spunky girl kicker. Your high school maybe,
but really, a pack of girls means halftime and cheering.
The Super Bowl brings team jerseys in church, cheered
prayers for the righteous, for the win, and fumbled
awkwardness from Patriots in white to Eagles in green, stealth kicking
when the back of the pew shows the wrong color. The first and ten
most preached sermons feature rugged individuals, the spectacle
in heavy padding lumbering up the field flinging linebackers to pass
the ball to victory, but I think it’s time for another pass,
one that would be so easy, except that no one ever cheers
for change. Americans love football; it’s our battered spectacle
even though we know it kills, slowly, so slow the fumbles
and missteps excused, not the damage done first, and ten
more poems could be written, but as soon as the opening kick,
we watch, gasp at the first fumble from an opponent’s sweaty hands,
the first and ten, and then, another kick, a pass, and despite the broken bones,
we cheer, not seeing the broken futures, only the blessed spectacle.
The Homecoming / by Angela M. Carter
Memory is a two-way mirror
with our open palm pressing back to the other side;
the past carries on in its outbursts without ever noticing us.
I cannot look away some days; I cannot leave her.
I ignore the rain soaking my own back so
that she may sense that she’s not alone.
The future harbors an outburst of pain, it roars behind me,
I cannot face it today.
Through the mirror, my past self weathers her storm, head-on.
With a speck of fortitude in the corner of her mouth,
she knew we’d make it. We knew, even then, that chaos and
thunder are a part of this life.
I turn my back to her.
My hair waves violently in the winds, the clouds burst onto me.
In the distance, the earth is a cerulean blue–
she looked through me because she saw that, too.
The Sentinel / by Kate Hanson Foster
What you know of me is true—
I am an assembly of one, parsing
danger from dangerous. Each night,
from my many mirrors, I empty
myself of emergency so that I might
not dream in death rations. Fear
the unknowns in the understory.
I know something of starvation—
the discipline of suspicion
and its endless hunger of hollows.
I devoured every scrap of sound
in the stillness of an open field.
You might say I have lived too much,
I have done myself in. I have not rested,
not even once. I want to tell you, children,
that there is nothing I can do to save you
from this life. Have one eye ready
to meet the devil. Cover yourself
in the comfort of trees’ twilight.
Take your share of the spoil and go
make friends with the wolf.
Passing Brooklyn Ferry / by Catherine Evans Latta
“ever so many hundred years hence”
The East River rushes to the sea turbid with silt while its edge laps
. . . . . . My feet and exhales pungent summer-loosened seaweed
Ready to seed itself under a hot noon sky. No wind. Passing men —
. . . . . . Turban, yarmulke, baseball hat, and women—saris, head scarves,
Butt high shorts—trail shrunken shadows. Un-minded children skip away,
Dash to forbidden lawns spotted along the winding waterfront park.
. . . . . . An older coiffed woman pushes a designer stroller with a coiffed Shiatsu tied in,
Lest it disobey No Dogs No picnics. Might I? No. Myself, I am tied with the flowing crowd,
. . . . . . Inseparable, from them sauntering to Brooklyn’s late August rhythm.
A few hang near the ferry slip for the next crossing.
. . . . . . They are snapping selfies against the Manhattan Bridge and bend
To read engraved padlocks fixed by lovers on the taut wire fence. As if
. . . . . . Love can be put on lock down by engraving names on salt resistant brass.
Nothing is locked against time, the opposite skyline shifts as I watch.
. . . . . . Contractors’ cranes arc the sky. Yet below a tall ship, sails forever
Furled, is a museum relic at the Bowery, tied up stern to. And islands change.
. . . . . . Ellis’ ornate buildings, where thousands milled, sit empty, but for an archive.
I walk on, one with the current of folks, hear the elevated roar, watch how
. . . . . . Jet trails evaporate.
Poem 4 / by Jory Mickelson
Sparrows tumbled from my throat
which is to say
all my longings sounded
like feathers dividing
air. In the beginning,
I was choked by a cloud
of wings. We must cross
a bridge and it is our enemy,
namely language, our lexicon
an aviary we fearfully
pivot into and carry back
loose threads from, scraps of slang
in which to invest ourselves.
My nest flannelled with
insults, with the names my accusers
have always known me by
patrimony / by Akiva Savett
umbilicus of light,
without your tiger’s eye glow
and tambourine jaw,
we roll on stage in shaky fugue
say our lines in funk and stooge.
sing green, cities
lament your broken brochures.
clouds with crutches return from the front.
when my father drinks poison
the war ends,
he eats potatoes for two years,
my stomach problems start
with Nazism’s “mechanized mysticism.”
don’t blame war,
smoking carolina cigarettes
in the attic,
a skull toothed warden cursing in the cellar.
every cemetery hides wardrobes,
a stained-glass armada
of stone floats on grass waterlines.
hold hands with this waterline,
every word dreams to be the keystone
of its sentence.
we call a whip a crop
when we’re the one holding it,
through our skin,
the closest we come to flowers’
love sick economy.
clothe the naked,
take my feet out of the net.
I know no chimney can protect
this jackdaw nest
that wind slaps with its broom.
I want to love
An open flue
how tall I’ve grown.
The Barn Door / by Buffy Shutt
He walks in the woods
Carefully. A weekend woodsman
A city sculptor
Finds an old barn door
Drags it back
A precise gutter in the new snow trails him.
He throws it against the side of the house.
Startled by the thunk
She hides her work.
Sees him roll his shoulders
Moves back A breath.
Two artists in Arcadia
Sharing three small drafty rooms
Held aloft—suspended by
Held tongues that
Smother, dishearten, sabotage
He offers his plan.
She turns to him, worrying her wine with inky fingers.
Hammer in a nail for every fight
Pull it out when we make up.
She sees what he doesn’t.
The door will be full of holes.
Thirty-eight days later
Back in the city
Back to their area code
Back in the separate spaces they can’t afford
Her back to the February sun
His lawyer calls her.
Day 3 / Poems 3
Blue / by Maggie Blake Bailey
What if we woke and blue
had left in the middle of the night,
pulled up the corners and hit the road?
I worry we would lose purple, green—
but the logic doesn’t hold,
blue just wants to be alone.
Maybe we would be better for it.
All that blue just taunts and weighs:
A cold enough ocean to puff
breath out into squeals.
No sand but pebbles and wine
soft pink in a thick glass tumbler.
At night you bought soft
almond taffy by the pound
that stuck to the sides
of the paper bag and you folded
yourself into the city’s stone wall,
back pressed against a notch
left open for archers. You read
with sweet hands
so that now the whole trip
is sugar and cold water,
even though there must
have been a hotel, meals
salty ham and hard cheese.
But blue does that, overtakes,
so maybe we just let it leave.
Not Writing About Nature, Your Cat, or Politics / by Lanette Cadle
Erase the trees. They distract
from the importance of other things.
They glow against the sky and dim
the wires that pulse our mechanics,
the toast and internet that start the day
not the sun, that wavery beast
behind the cloud layer. Also erase
the cat. It is a real one, not a metaphor
and thus furred, rangy, and in search of chow.
No trees mean no birds, so take that for cats.
The choices in this limited landscape
are not political—oh no. They soar
above, high-fliers checking out the heights
until their waxen wings drip and burn.
For my Daughters / by Angela M. Carter
Earth cannot hold me
a place in line next to you forever.
I may walk with you most of your miles,
or, Time may decide to lead me away
on a day you need me most;
no one should try to foresee its plan.
There are days I feel flight rising inside,
and sorrow nearly knocks a hole
straight through me;
its peephole leaks a dying sparrow’s song.
Each time I am near you,
it rests; it silences.
Don’t worry that it calls me to the
rain clouds each night while you sleep.
When you place your ear to my heart,
listen to how fierce its beat is;
it’s an aria of resilience in which you will carry.
Know that the sky has a sequence;
the rain will never stay long enough to flood.
When you place your ear to my heart,
. . . . hear me.
. . . . Hear me.
How long since / by Catherine Evans Latta
I wait in a confessional for the screen to slide.
Behind the red velvet curtain, hot cedar chants mea culpa.
Mea culpa knees forgive my buttocks for slumping onto heels.
My soggy wool coat bleats sheep.
Shuffling lines scare up frankincense from the marble aisles.
I hold back the curtain to breathe in winter’s final sun slant
burnishing Tiffany’s topaz halos in the stable.
Lambs, camels, oxen, the winged angels – even lions
and eagles – are shackled prisoners of their leaded cages.
Muffled murmurs – likely sex, lies, theft,
maybe murder – filter through the screen.
Above a pew, I see Mary and Joseph leaving
on a donkey. Hot, I leave too, gesturing a sloppy cross
signed to the winter sky. How long has it been since —?
I couldn’t say when. Down collar, up sleeve, the crisp
December air finds its way to rest upon my heart.
She / by Anu Mahadev
because she can’t imagine
a garment that would
somehow want to own her
linear monsoon hugs
her ragtag ensemble definition
into a not so pretty picture of
her eyes a sad shade of smoky
topaz, sun her nemesis, sweat
dripping damp, drapes her into
billboards scream, magazines taunt,
gluten free and this and that,
reducing her to a commonplace
“what happened to you”, others gasp
loudly in their heads, smiling their hellos
and oh, dear god who is this unremarkable
the personality tests don’t lie
you know – introverts need to recharge,
need to crumble and become whole,
when can she get away?
some not so polite, diplomatic,
smug face pretends to be interested –
because it’s not good manners
to leave the ugly ones out, they have
feelings too, and obviously, the best
i have a mirror you know,
she summons her sharpened tool,
her best friend – sarcasm – resting close to
so, thank you for telling me
what i already know, for what
my mirror deigns to tell me every time,
she notices everything, is ready
with a bouquet of compliments,
your earring, your dress, your hair,
knowing fully well no one
will return the favor, no matter
how many swaths of makeup she slathers –
because no matter whoever bothers
to say – beauty is from the inside out,
it’s what you do that counts, she is used to
she could be a writer, a biologist,
a nerd, an IT geek, she could win the Nobel prize
tomorrow and the only thing they would say –
Poem 3 / by Jory Mickelson
When sleep’s last wound
has made him wakeful,
he wakes to a day born
of fog, its gray thorns against
the wall. The wet pewter
disk is hiding somewhere—
clouds all low, like heavy
branches bearing wind or—
because here, in this city,
we eat the sun. The man
says to no one at all, I thought
yellow to be a god.
protocol / by Akiva Savett
the trenches are empty,
the trees are bare
the bottom of its glass
purpled by yesterday’s wine.
I’m falling in love
and there are no long days
I can remember
and my angry aunt is following her dog
without stones in her mind.
I’m walking home from synagogue,
prayers still travelling lonely in my hands.
a man walks down his driveway towards me,
he’s attached to the concrete,
he’s being strangled by appetite.
are you a jew?
I barely see inside the houses I pass
in every bastard’s belly
and the smell of pennies.
He asks me to walk
on the other side of the street.
my house is only two blocks away
and twenty years ago
I may have balled up my fists,
but today there’s nothing
in my mouth but history.
my dad collects coins from the mint.
every year, he orders a proof set.
one morning, he says
if anything ever happens,
I want you to know these are here.
he opens a case,
against the bluebird velvet,
I’ve never seen anything so honest.
Public Domain / by Buffy Shutt
I own them. I don’t own
A house, a car, a cat.
I woke to them New Year’s Day.
Permission expired, forfeited, expressly waived.
Wow— all mine to use.
I dance around my Ikea kitchen — much to do.
I spin the handsome revolutionary in my Lazy Susan— he falls into the flour.
I stand the poet and the supernaturalist next to the coffee grinder, which needs cleaning.
I pour the two painters into my best salt and pepper shakers.
The less lauded of the couple except for her cookies trembles inside the cold oven.
In my fake red Le Creuset pot, I simmer the poet who killed herself.
The World War I poet, I place under my pillow.
I own my words
Though no one hears them, no one reads them.
I own my face; this side of the mirror is mine.
Walking into this New Year I figure no one
Will remember me after 95 years
Or 120 years whichever expires first.
Note: On January 1, 2018 many artists’ work came into the public domain including these artists referenced above: Che Guevara, René Magritte, Alice B.Toklas, Willa Cather, Pierre Bonnard, Siegfried Sassoon, Anna Wickham, P.D. Ouspensky, M.P. Shiel.
Day 2 / Poems 2
Orange / by Maggie Blake Bailey
My daughter says oceans.
Not a mispronunciation,
but an entire replacement.
What color is her shirt? Ocean.
And on the table, just out of her reach?
She wants them, the oceans.
When her words are close but slip,
I gently nudge them back to shape.
But who am I to fix this larger translation.
She knows the water, will tell you waves
and sand the same way she will tell you
backhoes and horses and ice cream.
All loved is loved the same.
Last night, we should have said oceans.
I can’t remember when I didn’t need to change.
Faith Moves in Next Door / by Lanette Cadle
I wonder what it would be like
to have faith as a neighbor, ready
to fit my crotchets and failings
to her needs, which will be of course,
altruistic. Maybe that cup of sugar
neighbors need in old movies
or radio shows will come into play
and I actually have it and the coffee
we share at the kitchen table spins steam,
wreathing the halo glow on the counter
because this is my dream and in it
I have a clean house. And I hear
the rising music too, the heavenly ah
Of an angel chorus. Instead, I sit alone
and wait for words to line up, one
after another, the glow in my empty room.
Overthinking at the Party / by Angela M. Carter
I wonder who you are on a
snow-lit Sunday morning,
when tires are forbidden
to claw at the icy road,
and why you chose the photographs
you hung at eye level,
why you believe they save you from
the bare walls beneath them.
I want to appear an inch from your gaze
in the tsunami of desolation,
discover where you call home
once the sunlight announces safety.
After the dancing, after the
sweat is wiped from our brows,
after the reddened cheeks subside,
how unbroken are your fevers–how muted your cries?
Knead / by Kate Hanson Foster
You know this sound
by heart: the short
of your car keys hurried
back onto the hook.
And the humiliated
shadow that enters you
again. This house
that shelters you—
sometimes it carries
you away in a net.
Sometimes you put
your hand on the faucet
just to watch cold water
rush down the sink. Go
ahead and latch the broken
screen door outraged
by wind and fed up
with resisting. Pull dead
vegetables from the fridge.
Measure the day in dinner
bells; how many times
the dog shits in the yard.
Hold yourself up
like yesterday’s daffodil—
a bloom before the spoil
and whither. Press
your finger tip into
the chipped lip of the fruit
bowl. You were a new
melody once. The crackle
of a fresh-lit wick.
Fold the oil of your hands
into the bread dough—
the world is thick
with worn-out words—
you must knead as if
longing had a taste.
All senses tuned / by Catherine Evans Latta
My senses are tuned to an invisible mandolin
thrumming the B seventh chord of shifty weather —
clouds remain undecided about morphing
to bellwether mackerel banks or horse tails.
Today’s dragon skies wrap our burnt hills
chorusing the dry grass to threnody.
As I search for the knoll where we lay
gathering bouquets of rain beneath apples
hailing in revolt under a late lemon sky,
there is this seasonless snow’s first symphony.
I’d rather not be still to lie, to explain why
with senses vibrating at ultraviolet frequency
how you are difficult as a passing sun break —
fail to linger like the peppery lupine’s scent
briefly gracing my sharp blades of wetland grass.
Passing cloud shadows slice my skin.
Cliffs of Moher / by Anu Mahadev
why would she be found
in a club wearing thigh high
leather boots, stiletto heels –
while unopened cardboard boxes
wait, clustered with silverfish,
exposing her vulnerabilities in a new
apartment. she is a paper cut
on an open road, halfway
between sweet birch & thunder,
freezing sands of algae &
spirulina caught in her tangled
intricacies in the isles of dawn.
she can’t quite sit down –
rising starlit sky, old seaweed, driftwood
shores, crags & cliffs, secondhand
dreams pass her by, and by.
gray brackish water, smooth
silhouettes flying, fall between
her serrated licorice breaths,
wintergreen irises of her eyes marvel,
at the briny sea breeze invoking
some nameless, shapeless magic.
she’s hitchhiking, windblown,
into tesseracts of rocks, throwing
glances, sideways, at what could
have been. next stop must be the gyre,
the vortex spinning her paltry rope
into reality. hope is lethal, an unfaithful
tether, shows her a diorama of her lateral
taproot of faults. why & how her cold feet
sing, skip, climb this skeptic precipice –
when her nutmeg hair, mercurial smile
do the only thing she can think of.
her cast iron hands, obfuscate her doubts –
she flirts with her moxie, fiddles with
the shutter lens, snaps till it all goes dark.
Poem 2 / by Jory Mickelson
its death wasn’t difficult.
it took a long time, so
long it was easy
to forget it was
half there, later
the memory of
but its absence could
always have been
like that. who can say
for sure? so unlike
my grandmother’s death
who made each day
she stayed a gouge
against leaving, too weak
to stop the lead pulling
her from the room, death
some straining animal
shoulders bunched & pointing
away, just beyond the door.
for months she wouldn’t
let herself be led quite
away, not like the other
death which was a kind
of forgetting, the process
of taking the things of this world
making them memories instead
from his bones, joseph’s prison cell / by Akiva Savett
I am not confessing
to anything but belief.
sonatas mob me,
sorcerers misuse me.
my dreams are a rock through
Like anybody, I rest my head
on the side of my mother’s house.
I lay down in my father’s yard,
my bones, a dowry for the earth.
we’re kilowatts from the sun.
in his cell, the warden’s spider eyes
and the saddles of madness,
I have mixed feelings too.
his meals made,
his bedtime made,
as night’s gaze clicks shut
as the day’s gavel rises,
for those seven hours,
an unbeliever in the choir,
the seesaw in a lunatic,
the stone lintel one in 613.
this is so romantic:
his bones clap
like dice in the sack
I’ve slung across my back.
we stop at wells
to find a wife
in villages untouched by death.
I join femur to patella, tibia to fibula,
and use his legs as crutches to sleepwalk,
a grave is a darkroom to develop legends,
our destination a turnstile.
Twenty-Three Ways of Looking at January / by Buffy Shutt
I bought a gun today and
Placed it in the hand of a 9th grader in Kentucky.
The reporter rushing to the school reports
Her son is the shooter.
Eleven school shootings in twenty-three winter days.
Cafeteria, parking lot, school bus, high school, college.
Dallas, New Orleans, Winston-Salem, San Bernardino, Seattle.
Shootings don’t bother us on the front page much anymore.
We track them, if we do, on the chyron
Gliding across our screens with other scores.
This morning my neighbor came over.
She has miscalculated and needs
A gun for a Nebraska elementary school.
I hand her one before we have our coffee.
Day 1 / Poems 1
Mint Green / by Maggie Blake Bailey
Tell me leaves
swept into the pitcher.
Even if the tea is instant,
the herb broken, wilting.
Bring tall, plastic glasses
filled with dirty ice.
I used to eat roses.
I used to swallow gum.
A mouthful of mint
isn’t cold, isn’t new.
My mother’s mother
would warn against
green pistachio ice cream:
The only one worth
eating is white, and really,
you can only get it
at Howard Johnson’s
remember staying at HoJos?
I don’t. Remember because
I never did. Green could
be anything sweet.
The sky never gets
to be green so what could
light even taste like?
Better fill my mouth
with mint in the dark.
Disbelief Sits Next to Me on the Bus / by Lanette Cadle
Disbelief stares eyeball to eyeball
with me daily. It snickers
as I clutch the rail, then the door
as I step off the bus, then laughs
at the chip of asphalt I don’t see
but feel through the sole of my shoe
as it tips me ankle first to the ground
and I lay there, foolish, knowing
how I got there and wondering
how I got there in the same moment,
Iike me, the girl I was, dancing,
and the woman I am, every step
a twinge or a clenched muscle
trying to prevent the scrape of bone
against bone. Some say none are given
more than they can handle but can’t
quote chapter and verse saying why. Others
cry out, pray for healing, and face disbelief
in the mirror when the healing
never comes. It whispers a song all its own,
disbelief, it sings if you believed enough,
you would be healed. And its refrain,
you did not believe even though you know
that you believe. Pay to play. Pay again.
A dancer’s body breaks, but first it soars.
To Tell the Secret / by Angela M. Carter
Why hadn’t this come first, to teach me?
It was the second time I’d been hurt, simply
from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When it feared my hand, the Honey Bee knew what it had to do;
I’ve always admired its decisiveness.
A hurting human stings themself,
stays with what harms, beyond memory.
I daydream of a sting only allowed to touch those it should.
A hurting human is forced to carry tainted pollen.
This pollen–on my feet, in my hair, stamped into the future;
only dead flowers would dare take it.
I imagine the elation of that bee’s abdomen, as it pressed into my skin,
how in that moment, in all its pride–
. . . . . . . . . . . . oh, the fire, the fire!
Did it die pleased,
in the same way I am when I tell the secret
(gifted untouched pollen,
with the need to sting never known)?
She Was / by Kate Hanson Foster
She was mother. She was
. . . . . body in house,
so diligent with rag and vinegar
until shine spilled across
. . . . . sink. . . She was feminist—
flame struggling to break
from candle. She swallowed
. . . . . a pill that removed
herself from her self.
She joined ordinary people
. . . . . in the bottom-up
insurgency. She plucked delicate
excesses and removed head
. . . . . from sparrow
to soothe her aches. . . She untied
God from her body
. . . . . and let her skin spill in
the purple penitential light.
She was problematic
. . . . . to the coddled American
mind. She had the eye
of a woman looking
. . . . . to leap from her own
painting. . . . She was not old
or wise, and no longer pretty.
. . . . . She did not care
for safe spaces. . . . . She walked
alone in dusty lace begging
. . . . . do your worst. She was
dead blessing;. . . . empty
garden,. . . . and when she fucked
. . . . . she was man and woman,
crashing herself on her selves,
glad to be shattered
. . . . . by her own redundancy.
She was public domain—grime
on the pond feet forever
. . . . . enter. Knees hitting bottom
where lightless things take root.
Windhover . . . . . . . . . . . Stanford / by Catherine Evans Latta
In silence I sit still to contemplate movement
in a pair of motionless and magnified wings.
The small raptor’s primaries spread large
to beat unheard while no body holds the center.
The space between evokes the desire
to soar unimpeded.
Brush strokes dissolve the feathers against
a pale beige sky that is incised away
by two rectangles, maybe windows open,
hard-edged to the stars and
a sun and planet rising.
A fine purple line arcs across the painted planes
leaping the skipped heart beat of space,
Oliveira’s icon for lift off,
clear and unimpeded regardless
of the fragile ellipses dancing below
in red and yellow. Imagine the taches
of horizontal green to be windhover’s
passing thought of land.
Poem 1 / by Jory Mickelson
When god wasn’t god
an animal like us,
skin. Not less than
more leather and light,
a curved claw he used
new possibility, the tufts
crowning pointed ears,
How then did we pray?
to never see holiness
for us among the trees
for the 23-year poem with my wife / by Akiva J. Savett
if you need confirmation
I’m the stationary of our cross
I remember a second sunrise
going down above the tetons.
always with a glance
to salt cities,
people ask how old I am
and I say your name,
lit like exit sign.
let’s take this train
past 90 east main,
an apple road jog
when he comes
to punch our tickets
let’s rule barcelona
though everything passes
lighting your eyes
each Friday night
when my life was a bundle of fables.
the blessed hand squeeze
walk to the supermarket,
I threw hot angel hair in the cold sink
around that bare walled flat
because elijah was always coming,
saphira soon in bloom.
your words are ladders,
at the top of each is a coin
I carry in my minnesota heart.
to deserve life I’ve done nothing,
an arpeggio moon
trying to spell zion.
why don’t I get bored,
like I tired of fountain pens and soccer,
the wok and becoming a punk rocker?
you’re an element
on the periodic table
must be august
A Lesson / by Buffy Shutt
Hart Crane jumped
A poet’s life span is 59.6 years
Non-fiction writers 70.6.
You will make all your poetry non-fiction.