THE APRIL, 2023 30/30 PROJECT – Page 2

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 volunteer poets for April 2023 are Jennifer Betz, Ellen Ferguson, Laura Gamache, Kate Gray, Alice Letowt, Seán Mac Falls, Kaecey McCormick, Steve Mueske, Suki Sun, and Nikki Ummel! Read their full bios here.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and warm up your pen!

Day 30 / Poem 30

Threshold / Suki Sun

A Cento composed by Suki Sun with lines chosen by and for  Jennifer Betz, Ellen Ferguson, Laura Gamache, Kate Gray, Alice Letowt, Seán Mac Falls, Kaecey McCormick, Steve Mueske, Suki Sun, and Nikki Ummel.

engine’s siren, thick enough to resist the fire of memory and grief. Burned within salted wound of
dishonest rush, assault of friendly fires as die smoldered out of smoke. Time cuts as it is sectioned,
a staff fires, all the chords are listed in primes. This morning three cardinals caught fire on my lawn,

video fireplace crackling, to whom, choosing                           mothers: the arms whipping with a force
stronger than a girl born in 1921, full of roar,                           the fire bombs on Tulsa you didn’t cover.
Forest fire               pismire           sharp desire,                         Walk steel-toed and fearless into the fire.

Char the Body wicked white sticks for bones, so lock the Love in hospital to make no Harm. Even
in death, it lasts to add thatch layers, perfect fire fuel, and even fire doesn’t kill it. Eventually I had
to grab the poems by the skin, light them on fire and cup their ashes in the hollow below my heart.

gong, chime, heartbeats, prayers. Even the                            toy truck floating in the water, dropped
when some greater joy called. The sea is a                              sauce, quivering in the bowl of heaven
and clouds, blushing with rivers run flushing                          waters older than the gold of stars, into

the sea. The comforting trace, holds water the way hands do. There is nothing you can do to
make them see you differently. Neighbors matter like water. Neighbors matter like rain, filling
you from the inside as your lover rubs circles on your back. Tell me why you change the water

weekly in that purple plastic vase. Tell me                               why my dreams end in dolphin hunting.
A waterfront lined with next week’s eclipse                            moonbeam, thousand ears in Buddha. A
hard Lesson on hard waters. Do not over-                              water the flowers, there is no death worse.

* In Taolism, ☲ is the symbol of fire, with each unbroken line (Yang energy) on top and bottom,
and a broken line (Ying energy) in the middle, picturing a candle: the inner/low-temperature center
(Ying energy) surrounded by the outer/high-temperature frame (Yang energy).

** In Taolism, ☵ is the symbol of water, with each broken line (Ying energy) on top and bottom,
and an unbroken line (Yang energy) in the middle, picturing the none-stop waterflow (Yang
energy) always curving and bending the river banks (Ying energy) from both sides.

Sometimes falling feels like flying / Jennifer Betz

The gulls and terns and puffins flit and fly,
Watching as their young,

Feather and fall,
Into the sea,

All at once,
The fall becomes flight,

Water shifts from gray to emerald,
Jade to peridot,

Salted crests crash like am radio static,
Onto dinosaur sands and Cenozoic shell,

The murmur of a red-eyed marten,
An exhaled fountain, a grey whale,

A bee lands,
Not quite on a flower,

The mist now gossamer and draping,
The tallest trees and cliffs,

A tattered robe,
With pockets,

Filled with sunburnt skin,
And chimes of warm bones,

A dog and it’s child,
Cartwheeling laughter,

The kelp asks a bright orange sea star,
Dance with me?

Bee and dog and child,
On the edge of it all,

A thinking voyeur today,
Peaking through cracks,

The ghosts all accounted for,
The other lives not lived

Good Acting is the Gift that Keeps on Giving  / Ellen Ferguson

Who plays your mother in your dreams? 
Casting directors: unsung heroes of our time. 
Whoever chose Julia Louis Dreyfus to play my mother 
This morning at 4:59 am 
Deserves recognition, so here it comes: 
With your gazelle-like dexterity, 
With a risk flick of your wrist, 
You made moments to come, with my butterflied mother, 
Rich and warm. (Uncanny) dimension Julia brings to the part, 
Again warmth, hesitation before speaking, care in choosing words – 
Magic! We two approach the bank, Julia smiling back over her shoulder, 
Snails before the mailbox, so much brighter with Julia’s brown hair, 
Even Julia’s neck, long and thin; her eyes, laughing – 
Perched atop shoulders, no longer stooped, because you. 

Is April, After All, the Cruelest Month?/ Laura Gamache

My neighbors bend over raised beds,
trowels in stiff-gloved hands, transplant
geraniums, circle their azaleas
with blood meal and chicken manure.

I bend over the page or laptop, open
another book, try out lines, hoping a poem
will take root. If I transplant too early
the fragile germ will fizzle out.

Too much enthusiasm will wither it.
I want it, like my elderly rhododendron,
to un-origami fever-bright blooms from
tight buds, can’t bear to sit in the same room.

Doom is woven into beginnings: pots
crumble, Spanish bluebells take over
the yard. I fear the eagerness of my voice.
Scrape back to bare soil, trowel rusted,

pen leaking ink. The cruelty of April,
its fragrant extravagance teasing senses
dulled by winter’s dusty darkened spaces.
I offer what I have, embarrassed and flushed.

The Oldest Oak / Kate Gray

A tree can ruin your heart, the unfurled acorn, red as it springs
shoots, roots in the soil and loam, its three hundred years
through the chop and saw of shipbuilders on the Columbia River, after
Hudson Bay killers snapped and thudded beaver and fox, after St. Helens
lost its top. This tree filled the canopy where white oak broke until
its moss-soaked limbs dropped, left it one big trunk and one branch angling
toward the sky. With its cockeyed crown, it fed Pileated and Flicker, the sapwood
sucked until squirrels ricocheted around its heart. Now it’s red, the grey and black
bark rotting after drought and fire and my gravel drive too close the last
dozen years. How do I bear wildness in all its glory and gloom?

die happy / Alice Letowt

in front      sky             blue
teapot  truth    sensation
architects         elision
light     beach              
oxymoron fishnets
desert shoes
backseat sand shapes
            a safe city twirling
grammatical possession
into interactions
on wide sidewalks
sand everywhere

Day in the Life / Seán Mac Falls

Groping out of bed,
Keep the sun at bay,
Mirror eyes look red,
Soft in morning glaze,
Shower waters said:
Thank the sun, amaze,
Splinters in my head,
Silent verse word play,
Morning ends, I’m fed
Sweet caffeine au lait,
Later beers— instead,
Wine, my guitar flays,
Splinters in me head
And all ends up paid
As time revolves dead,
Poems making grade,
Song and music bled,
That is my bed made,
Staving off the dread.

Revival  / Kaecey McCormick

This season of rebirth & reinvention, of wet sky and earth—
I pull off my old skin, let the pieces return to dust on the floor,
yank the scales from my eyes and listen.

In the mirrored cabinet beside the door, two birds dancing—
one red, one grey, bodies twisting together,
fluttering in revival and song.

I drape myself in a garland of moonlight— 
press my fingers into the looking glass, 
snake through the cracks and swim 
on a stream of fog wearing nothing 
but feathers and light to the temple
set on the highest of mountains 
and soar.

The Road After  / Steve Mueske

The Tale of Two Americas / Nikki Ummel


Find the word in the puzzle. 
Words can go in any direction. 
Words can share letters as they cross over each other.

Day 29 / Poem 29

Super d duper    / Ellen Ferguson

Sandy Hook 

Crown Heights 
Captain Crunch 
Frito Lay 

I love that it’s your Birthday, 
Cinnamon Sugar Person 

When you were born 
And we couldn’t name 
But we came up with Comfort 
At last 

Who really knew 
The extent of it? 
The distance, 
The hug on the sand. 

Report to The Emmett Till Memory Project/ Laura Gamache

The distance from Chicago, IL to Money, MS
is 702 miles via the I-55. Emmett Till went by bus
to visit his cousins in August, 1955. A train
bore his mutilated body back home to Chicago.

It’s been nearly 68 years since two men kidnapped
Emmett from his uncle’s home on Dark Fear Road,
tortured, killed, and dumped that fourteen-year-old
child in the river. They denied guilt for decades,
confessed in a magazine, were tried and exonerated.

His accuser, Carolyn Bryant Donham died Tuesday,
at 88, never retracted her lies, was never charged,
though his Uncle Moses heard her voice from the truck
when her then-husband pointed to Emmett, asked
was this the guy who whatever it was she’d made up.

I hope a stinger stuck in that white woman’s cruel
vanity, a barb that hooked her heart, bled and bled.

Another Black son who never grew into manhood,
another mother bereaved, another Black mother
called to determination and bravery beyond human
capacity, and though it was impossible, she did it.


The Rapist’s Playbook / Kate Gray

and it is / Alice Letowt

or time’s sake
        bluebells bloom spring
though it is morning not spring

this morning there is a fire in 
the east I see smoke & the cat
is trapped under the claw footed 
        tub and I am
       sleeping beside a new dog

Death Be Not A Doornail’s Rig / Seán Mac Falls

Deep in the screws of his lonely keep,
Waiting for word of a land promised,
Sentinel man watches across the sea
Never knowing faith was so dishonest.
Across the sea of doom lies his joy,
What awe, so spindrift were his days
And what lay behind was no corridor
And all his dreaming has left no ways
Forward, but to sink with hapless sorrow
And flowing to the thirsty ocean seas,
He pours another drink, toasts tomorrow
And all the empty horizons of history.
Spiraling down he leaves stark digs,
Praying, death be not a doornail’s rig.

Red Letter / Kaecey McCormick

We sat shoulder to shoulder in a crowded lecture hall. 

He wrote the professor’s words in precise, tight letters
in pure black on a yellow sheet of paper.

Are you sure it’s over, he whispered, his voice catching
in the curve of my ear, the way conditioner missed
in the rinsing sticks after a shower.

This was the type of scene that makes me roll my eyes
or change the channel on the TV to a different movie.

I wanted to forget it all:

The dim air stuffy with breath in the classroom,
the judgment of the birds floating on the rafters
and the girls gathering in tight behind us;

the flushed, sweaty flesh of wrongdoing. 

I can’t stay asleep through the night, he said,
and every day I’m empty. 

A piece of me remains glued to that seat. 

Leaning Toward Yes  / Steve Mueske

It’s a beautiful spring day
Here at Yes Central. Here on
Spaceship Earth, so many dishes
Are on the buffet. Every question
Of love ends with Yes! 
Are these festival clouds? 
Are there enough blues in the sky?
Yes, azaleas! Yes, rain lilies
And crested iris, the columbine 
Hummingbirds adore. Even
The toy truck floating in the water,
Dropped when some greater joy
Called. Yes, to Nuno’s guitar solo,
The cat pawing to playfight.
The burn of good bourbon. 
Lobster bisque and a bag
Of potato chips. Seize the carp! 
Or something. Reel in the fish!
It’s very simple. Walk around
Naked as much as possible.
Buy the good parmesan.
Always lean toward yes.

The Kitchen Witch   / Suki Sun

who twists the rope of 
your wood swing, my Norwegian
kitchen witch by the window? 

now your witty face no longer looks towards
the stove and oven to protect us 
but the opposite direction

are you mimicking my posture 
during the whole winter in the kitchen
gazing towards the backyard and fancying spring?

or are you the one who is so sick of 
the endless winter trapping us cooking inside
that you finally turn your rebellious head

and lock your eyes onto
the patio, lawn and trees in late April
without looking back? 

maybe not for your own indulgence
but the sweetest threat
I ever received

I can almost hear you screaming
Unless you start to cook out
 I won’t watch out for you! 

let the breakdance
of the kindling and wood 
improvise abstract painting in the fire pit

let the foxtrot of the grill flame
stretch the flowy sunset and 
the bold makeup of the sky

let the sizzling hum of the smoker
harmonize windchimes with
 silverware, ice cubes and glasses

when fireflies twinkle seasonings
turn each skewer into a needle to 
thread this gourmet tapestry 

even the burning marshmallow 
will coat the air around our yard
with a caramelized glaze

a tingling witness 
how the pulsating embers
puff up s’mores as pillows

recounting the folklores
toasted in the starry woods 
with a sugary fresh start 


Medication Poem / Nikki Ummel

Uses for This Medication: To keep your brain from being too much for your body. You always knew something was wrong, but assumed it was your inheritance, your family, your trauma, not late onset (or delayed diagnosis?) Bipolar Disorder. You knew you were not healed but you never knew it would be this much. In so many ways, beginning this medicine is a beginning. In so many ways, beginning this medicine is an ending. This is a medical routine that cannot be undone and abrupt cessation is life threatening. Abrupt medicine is life threatening. None of this can be undone. 

Before Using This Medication, Tell Your Doctor:

  • If you have any allergies or other diseases. But she should already know this as they spent ten hours evaluating you under a microscope. They sifted and weighed every inch of your psychology and declared you “fit.” Your file, now shoved in an intern’s drawer reads good enough. So they let you go.
  • If your relationships, like your five-year partnership, are fragile (i.e., still reeling from emotional tidal waves caused by you being too tired or busy or manic or panicked to have sex, too tired or busy or manic or panicked to leave the house, too tired or busy or manic or panicked to get out of bed, too much of everything and nothing all at once).
  • If your family is still in shock from the lazy susan’s lolling call of meds, updated meds, trial meds, vitamins, probiotics, and supplements that have now infiltrated the space between the microwave and fruit bowl.
  • If your family is confused by the timing of this diagnosis, despite the years of erratic behavior, abrupt travel to foreign countries, hopping in vans with married men, unprotected sex with strangers, falling in love with strangers, moving across the country with strangers, continuous reinventions and career swaps and family dinner outbursts.

How this Medicine Works:

  • It aims to keep the electricity contained by preventing irregular electrical activity in the brain. In some studies, it’s as effective as a placebo at preventing relapse. Mood changes? Nobody seems to know, actually, though they all pretend to.
  • While this medicine intends to slow the electrical fires in your brain, it may result in fires everywhere else central to your being and your life.

How to Use:

  • Use this drug as ordered by your doctor. Or don’t. Your psychiatrist quit after four months and your new one ghosted but keeps refilling your prescription, and thinking of a ghost doctor writing scripts keeps you from calling a new one.
  • Use it with caution? That sounds right, despite your general inability to do anything with caution which is how you ended up here in the first place. 
  • Orally and after eating a large meal. In fact, now you will only eat large meals, feeling a pin-sized hole in your stomach where nutrition drips out. You imagine your food siphoned through a curly-cued straw like the ones they put in your soda at Denny’s. You will be hungry all the time and tired and desperate to fill yourself. 
  • Swallow with plenty of water because a side effect of your meds is cotton mouth and there is never enough water in your body. Swallow more water because when you don’t your mouth smells like the inside of your grandmother’s house after seven years of hoarding newspapers, phone books, and Hummel figurines. But don’t worry, everyone who loves you will tell you.
  • Do not miss doses because the immense amount of electricity in your brain is constantly slipping a leg out and this might be the time its heel blocks the door and suddenly all of you is too you and there’s nothing that can be done but to ride it out, let yourself crest and hope nobody drowns in the process. Do not miss doses as you may accidentally kickstart Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and despite your self-destructive tendencies, having your skin blister and peel off repeatedly feels a bit too dramatic, even for you.
  • If you miss a dose, do NOT mention to your partner because:
    • He will insist on you scheduling an emergency meeting with your psychiatrist who he does not know ghosted you and/or is now an actual ghost because you did not tell him fearing his fear so you fake your monthly meetings and hit up Pal’s for hot toddies instead. OR
    • He may find you at home sweeping the crannies for careening dog hair or in a youtube deep dive on dolphin sex or potatoing on the couch and then be upset that he was bothered and, on the worst days, accuse you of faking it or of having borderline personality disorder or narcissism personality disorder or whatever causes someone to burden someone else with illness and you will cry yourself into a panic attack and then, somehow, the ship rights itself and the cruise continues. 
    • It’s not his fault that he does not understand, and it’s not your fault that you cannot explain it, that your brain is processing thousands of fluctuations in emotion and at any moment is likely to slip off the dock into the churning sea and that, sometimes, simple tasks require maximum effort (e.g., remembering to let the chickens out of the coop, answering a question within a minute of being asked, recalling the question within a minute of being asked). No one knows what it feels like except you and, even then, there are times you do not know either. 
    • Your partner does not like the reminder that you are ill. Do all that you can to cry when he is not home. 


Side Effects and Risks:

  • The most common side effect is physical fatigue and the most dangerous side effect is feeling, which is unfortunate as feeling is essential to being human and even then, you forget how to human correctly, though not feeling is even scarier, a waterfall with no bottom in sight and that is when, truly when, you know things might end, that you might end, and so you choose feeling too much over feeling nothing at all, because at least in feeling something you know that you are still real, still here.
  • Your family will recognize the change and deny its need in the first place, telling you this is another example of your need for validation instead of realizing that your need for validation is a symptom, not cause. They resent your tiredness and watery eyes and need to talk about your dead parents. They’ll ask if you’re okay and then regret asking. You’ll fake that you’re fine and dam your tears for movie marathons in bed because at least, in that, you are free from questioning, though you soil whole shirts with snot.
  • You will continue being late for everything, including the job that you love and events where sharing your words helps you live. You apologize profusely every time but you cannot change the way your medicine tethers you to dreaming, to a reality that mimics this one except in that one, you are normal. You dream of going to work and running marathons and watching television– you dream of television– dreams so boring you crave them. After multiple conversations with your kind boss who asks, “Is it really worth taking medication that makes it difficult for you to function normally?” You won’t know how to respond.

Medication Return Policy:

  • None

Day 28 / Poem 28

Love’s lament: number 1 / Jennifer Betz

Some of the things
You love

Will always be behind
Cold drops of time

Slither down the inside of your chest
Thinking and remembering

Afraid of what’s been lost
What’s in front then?

Bouquets of warm cotton
Filling your rib spaces

New love…

Love cannot be lost to time
Love once held

Is a devotion

nerves   / Ellen Ferguson

all the endings 
little nerve endings 
bespoke spokes, 
outside little bicycles 
tiny spikey tires 
up and down arms. 

that unusual person 
who found our arms 
… we reported his findings to no avail. 
No one talked to the arms 
took the arms for coffee 
told the arms bedtime stories 
or sang to them, 
So their nerves, languishing and shattered, 
shut off their lights 
(except their nightlights) 
(little moons) & 
learned to suck their own thumbs 
learned to rock themselves, like 
gelatin      like     gravel    like    poprocks 

Brake Shoes, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Less Than Sign / Laura Gamache

Jim’s sister takes the car she borrowed
to Grease Monkey for a lube.
The brake shoes are shot, they tell her.
Do I remember when they were repaired?
I think of seeing my surgeon this week.

I’m healed enough to make the schedule
for a second total hip replacement revision.
My surgeon is proud of his
brake shoe metaphor – they’re worn,
he says, let’s trade them out.

This visit we talk about my valgus knee
bending further in, like a less-than sign.
You know what makes the Leaning
Tower of Pisa lean? he asks. I wait.
He says, it started leaning.

                           In Bluebirds, the other girls
                sat criss-cross applesauce. I sat in
the W position, knees turned in, lower legs
                and feet resting outside my thighs
                              on our troop leader’s floor.

Bad Lesbian / Kate Gray

                        ~after J.C. Mehta

Raised in the 60s but out in the leather-and-long-chains,
dog-collar 80s bars, I earned my Queer
by arguing through endless consensus-ruled organizing sessions,
writing hypersensitive mission statements, and marching
in anti-war, pro-immigration, equal rights, Black Lives Matter, Take
Back the Night demonstrations. In ‘93 I wrapped my arms around
the Capitol and filled the Mall with one quilt. Queer voices called out
to the sky where our brothers and sisters were dropping like blackbird flocks.

Flannel shirts and jeans are my native dress. Hair cut in a half-shark
marks me dyke, the imaginary neon L pulsing from my forehead, and mini-
breasts make children ask, “Are you a boy or a girl?” Once a bathroom
attendant chased me out of a ladies’ room until I flashed my tits. No matter

death threats or raw eggs tossed or men murmuring, “Which of you
goes on top?” or my mother spitting, “You’re immoral,” I’m still
a bad lesbian because I went to boarding school, learned at home
which spoon to use with pudding. The home I came from was
like the sky left behind by falling birds, and in the home I’ve made
in the murmuration of queers, I’ve kept quiet. But no more.

waiting room / Alice Letowt

chandelier light drops frames

homesick and hungover

an animatronic ocean

in near-broken gestures                

a reservoir       wanting

a vestibule        atrium collects

rain trees shake off 

Sea Poem / Seán Mac Falls

The whole world is a sea—
A great ball of green blue eye
Watching the skies with a watery
Gleam in the round and swirling
Aye, the sea is a sauce, quivering
In the bowl of heaven and clouds
Are blushing with rivers run flushing
Waters older than the gold of stars,
Into the sea.  I see that hushed time
Is flowing as it all revolves with tides
And birds, white as snow and foams
Pure as dreamed downy wind, wings
Long, sure, set for a choppy pilgrim’s
Sea journey, swaying with the stages,
Always breezy, sliding as fish do flying
In her rounding depths and her gusty
Crests and all are riddled as mariners
Who travel on her spindrift ways, days
Of the dizzying sun and steamy springs,
We all go step into deepest end, darkling
Fathoms of slip, those eventual afterwhens,
Riding the sunk, fabled under-ocean streams,
In mangled kelps of weeds, into the murky wave.

More Than Words / Kaecey McCormick

Do you remember the feel of your skin
on your wedding night? The color of your
child’s first day of school? What about
the taste of their first time in a car, driving
alone? Or the sound of the sunrise the day
your father died? I feel trapped by lines
broken out of verse—I can’t touch you
through these pages thick with words
and pretty poems. Let me lick the spikes
from your tongue. Let me coax the dark
thing from deep inside you. I’ll stroke
its throat until it sings you a song made
of water and sand, until it sings you back.

Garden  / Steve Mueske

He walked the rototiller across the back yard
in slow paces, boots glommed with rich earth.
The four of us planted potatoes in the soft
divots; seeded carrots, peas and corn.
Radishes. Onions. A rim of marigolds to ward off
gophers. I watched the green appear and begin
to define itself, the upper and lower worlds
forming, like a song. When the beans 
became beans and the pea pods more than green
punctuation, we filled our plastic pails with them
and sat in the garage, attending. We skinned
carrots and potatoes, peels piling up in the drain.
Stood at the sink watching sheets flap
on the clothesline. Then I’d head out on my bike
and ride anywhere whim took me, places
I still see sometimes when I dream.

Nonet Poem: Languages’ TikTok Feeds*   / Suki Sun

GrooVy Hume dArts moUse euphoRia.
DarWin’s grassHOPper lisps hopScotch.
BlISs curls Faust sPeaKeasy sElf.
CarBon gap sQuEaks compAss,
Sailing eliXIr.
Swift piG LaTin:

*All the words in this poem are real names of programming languages. The alternating caps are added by the author.

Day 27 / Poem 27

As I eat soup / Jennifer Betz

The door chime
The Star Spangled Banner 
When walking 
Cafe Seoul
Confused me 
As much as Kenny Rogers
In the kitchen

     And somewhere in the darkness
     The gambler – he broke even
     And in his final words I found
     An ace that I could keep

You must know:

When to hold 
When to fold
When to walk
When to run 
          Sundubu jjigae 

     Life changed
     Through immigrants’ bravery
     How much left to learn
     Political lines the real barrier 

Confusion Sets In at the Groundhog Day Reunion  / Ellen Ferguson


Spying Ned Ryerson first by the crudites 
Mrs. Walsh hustled it up for some toast points 
It’s not every day we all get together 
Although sometimes it feels as if – 
Everyone looked better than ever, 
We’d stopped choking on whole cows years back, and yet… 
Something wrenched inside 


A small slippage, Hairdo talked over  
The Mayor of Punxatawny 
But in that slip, the Mayor felt unseen 
As if he hadn’t mattered 
And we all felt it, 
The slip. 


When the first of us called an Uber 
A great wave of sadness washed across the tablecloth 
And in its wake we ordered Too Good To Go 
And our souls packed their bags 
Because it was all over 
And no one could care in the same way 
And somehow no one wanted to 
And the ease of it all 
Was our undoing. 

The World is Ending, and It Begins Again / Laura Gamache

Moonlight pours down without mercy,
whitens the bark of the sycamore
the arborist hacked to restrict it
from the ubiquitous power lines.

The ubiquitous powerful bellow through
gold microphones, inflame followers
whose confusion and overload ignite.
Moonlight enters their windows the same
as mine, bathes our worried faces.

We have been here before, water lapping
through the weave of fraying carpets,
motorboats carrying off our dead.

Clouds obscure the moon and a sun
storm scatters the Northern Lights
across eastern Washington. Days
lengthen, fiddleheads unfurl, dangle
unbecoming wattles beside upright
red tulips. Gardeners clambor
from trucks laden with fertilizer
and fencing, more large stones.

We are frightened, the sky is falling,
we are alone and cannot see the moon.
Everything ends, even the night.

Our resolve tightens, then crumbles
like pebbles worn smooth by the sea.
Seagulls squack over the neighborhood,
undaunted by crow scold and Stellar’s Jays
clipping blossoming branches from
the ailing dogwood. Salmon roil sound
waters. A sea lion dies alone on a dock.

Sun lights the moon and moonlight
has no mercy, opaline as milk. We
walk long distances carrying bags
of rhubarb and asparagus, scent
of soil under our nails. Seed packets
rustle in our pockets. We press them
into pots, into a friend’s hands.

Under the moon that is always rising
owls patrol with their enormous eyes.
They aren’t wise, remember,
they aren’t wise.

Quaking aspen roots migrate down
our hill, under the asphalt, into
the fire station’s groomed lawn. Another
moon rise, another instant message,
another chance to silence our phones.
The world is ending, and it begins again.

Admonishment / Kate Gray

Never write another poem with geese, their cries
in the haunting light when you step outside, their wing-
flaps as close as your mother’s voice, its puffy syllables when
she tapped her chest with her knuckles, “Christ, have mercy.”

Never write another poem about your mother, she’s
dead, after all, and you’ve done your work, felled
the sixty-year-old you might have become, the water-
hogging shoot competing for canopy and winning.
Never write another poem about a tree, even the scarred,
weepy fir that survived the guy cleaning his gas saw while he
smoked, dropped ash, ignited his cabin where you stand, the tree’s lean
uphill, the wind tossing old pine combs against the windowpanes.

Always write surprising poems by leading the reader toward a door
and keeping it shut, or letting her reach, only to grab a mango, the red-
orange object of desire that she rips open with her teeth, the skin
peeling to reveal soft, sweet meat she can smear on her cheeks.

Transitionary Period / Alice Letowt

well built house in the desert hides on mountain lines
with a buzz dawn wraps dawn fingers and large eyes
in the intimacy of allergies two tomboy lesbians kiss
in corners        on Juliet balcony several stories up
is to stand in the infinite with clean hands
beauty graffities itself below   

a cherub looks at you with all the eyes in the plaza
something permanent flees  
in a Manhattan woman’s drunken high-heel pace
mother’s love calls you a slur and paints over the railing

in a confusion and childlike wonder a man presents a half-baked idiom
stemming from never opening windows

it gets dark above hoop earrings   
a no-star sliver
winter hides in subway tunnels 
a train passes
in the time it takes breathe to lose its shadow

bordering death  noise foams
from restaurants
twilight plays in the hair on a woman
and pulls her onto the earth. 

Horn of Jazz / Seán Mac Falls

Notes wash over
The no angled ear
Listener, journeyer
See trails leading
To a cloud of sun,
Break in the skies,
Soon to know again
What was creeping
In the eyes of restless
Thought, unrequited
Sense, the whirling
Ride in the globes
Of vertigo and touch.

Dismembered by mood,
The musician conjures
Lost jewels in thought,
Sparks to the mind,
Sorcery in the bland,
Way-out, man, you dig,
Tap the deep rhythms
Drowning under toes,
Shutters we have lined
Go ourselves together
In the blinds. Turn on,

Off those penny eyes,
The horn careening
In its heights of low
Down blues and sheen,
Be bop and stirring
In a rush, unfinished
The player knows
Your got number, 
Is offbeat, syncopated
With the pearly drums
Of the sheet, read heart.

Jazzman is charmer
To sleepy serpent
Kept, shot in only bars
That leech into night,
The looking glasses
Pouring over misery
Ride sweet nowhere
In the tempos of fix,
Youngling daddy-o,
Plenty is the brass horn
Of Jazz in the clears,
Cool fingers singing
What the mind hears.

Immortal Jellyfish / Kaecey McCormick

Turritopsis dohrnii, if you want to get scientific—
the only creature (we know of) that lives forever
on planet earth. When death drags a fingernail 
across its cellophane bell, it sidesteps the warning
by growing back into a polyp. Then, day by day,
grows back to where it started. Scientists argue
about whether a genetically identical being
is the same being, if it carries the memories
from before. Would it matter if it were back,
swimming in the dark, filling its blood-red belly 
next to those it left behind?

The Vine  / Steve Mueske

Even as a child I could feel the vine
           growing inside. It wrapped round
my heart,
           climbed my spine, and flowered
in the cool back of my brain.  It grew down my legs,
           up my arms, until I was noxious
                                               even to myself.
I liked unlit rooms best: the grays,
           purples and blues matching
the bruise
           of solitude.  Three times I’ve called 
the long, black limousine, the driver’s bones 
           clacking, tongue twirling
                                     round his teeth. 
In my pocket, golden tokens for the ride. 
           Each time I came back 
penniless and bereft. The door at the top
            of the stairs locked. Until it opens 
on its own I tend the thorns, 
            nurture the unlikely flowers.

Waiting  / Suki Sun

The after-workout shower in Planet Fitness
I always insist you enjoy as long as you want
even you hate to keep me waiting.

But do you know the Chinese character 
for waiting — Děng (等) paints an image of  
bamboo forest (𥫗) canopying a temple (寺)?

When I am waiting, I become a temple with
eternal candle flames called me-time, 
blessed by oceans of emerald shades.

I become one of the thousand hands in Buddha,
anoint the chapped lips of my sighs
uncrease bittersweet corners of my smiles.

I become one of the thousand ears in Buddha,
immersive in every vibration that cradles my heart,
wind, water, gong, chime, heartbeats, prayers.

No wonder poetry in Chinese — Shi (詩)
means the words spoken (訁) side by side
with the temple (寺).

Every sound manifests itself around me —
a waiting temple quiet and still
floats into syntaxes, meters, metaphors

Blending with the burning scent that
labyrinths my temple and 
saturates every pore in my timeless skin.

When I am waiting 
I am not waiting for someone,
I am waiting for the poetry.

The way you reappear from the locker room,
the soapy smell of your body like a fresh stanza
sipping the first green tea in the morning.

Even the pause you make between naming each
item we are going to buy in the Dollar Tree next door,
wholesome as an opening chant for a dharma talk. 

Inheritance / Nikki Ummel

2. cutting my hair so there is one less thing to hold onto
3. losing my stomach when hushed
8. i make the active choice that i am real
1. every time i see azaleas bloom i think of leaving
4. i mourn someone i fear, i fear someone i am becoming
5. where does disease end and i begin
6. i am not too ugly for this world
7. we live and we name things and i can’t name this

Use the clues to fill in the words above.
Words can go across or down.
Letters are shared when the words intersect.

Day 26 / Poem 26

 CN I / Jennifer Betz

Remember when
Sticks were swords
Before the internet
Took us
Sitting in a church
Tic tac toe
The scrape
Of a pencil
The back of a bulletin
The Lord’s Prayer
Feeling responsible
For God
As you shuffled
Slowly on purpose
In white robes
To quell
A candle
When you put on
Your weekend blue jeans
And ate
Seven Devilled eggs
Candle wax
You could smell it
In your hair
The First cranial nerve
A favorite memory

Let’s Cuddle Up with the Zingerman’s Catalogue and Make a Night of It  / Ellen Ferguson

The world may have ended 
Or, like the 7 train yesterday,  
             actually turned around and returned to Flushing 

             nothing can stop the Zingerman’s catalogue 
             from arriving, crisp and animated, 
             inspiring lesser poets everywhere – 

             these are different treat boxes:  
             “In Sympathy,” “Bereavement Gift Box” and “Sitting Shiva Gift Box.” 

             Their drinking chocolate, its heady Parisien description, calls to mind the  
             Best of J. Peterman, Seinfeld’s homage, but more importantly the catalogue 
             Itself, worn like a train ticket outta here on that same 7 – 
             Fruit cake luminous like a stained-glass window? 
             Have Nora Ephron’s caper people swiveled to embrace cake? Did they mistake cake for caper?  
             Capers: flower buds trapped in brine never to open, hashtag Grecian urn, hashtag Keats. 

             Fruit cake luminous like a stained-glass window? 
             Have Nora Ephron’s caper people swiveled to embrace cake? Did they mistake cake for caper?  
             Capers: flower buds trapped in brine never to open, hashtag Grecian urn, hashtag Keats. 

American Poets in Today’s Mail / Laura Gamache

It stinks of outgassing printers’ ink, but
I open to Ilya Kaminsky, new Chancellor
for the Academy of American Poets.

He says a poem casts a spell on us.
He says Poetry now is as necessary as ever,
It gives us a gasp, a scrap of air in our lungs.

 Keep it safe, this verbal music.
Memorize new line poems if you can.
You may need them one day,

 war planes or not.
When facing the blank wall that is crisis,
everyone needs a bit of music, a tune, a balm.

I cry, look out the window at blue sky
above the shabbily hacked branches
of old sycamores on the next street.

April / Alice Letowt

is a       is a       is a

coming up for air        the street bottom
fills out passing blushes           seeing myself
waking jet lagged

what bad habits am I bringing to the picnic
the suburbs are no place to raise a dog
or anything for that matter

a drama from the common Daisy
swallows like bats
like a tired tendon
an anxious pinscher
attentive to shadows
coming across the crosswalk
a language strobes from tautology
to abolition 

We As Men Are Lost / Seán Mac Falls

And she so blithely calm,
Perfection amongst nature,
So beauteous, so precious,
Dearer than faint rapture.

How, we new men are lost
Without words, without wit,
Unbeknownst of times’ cost
Bearing, bereft, without pill,

Woman in all her temptings,
Hair, longing to be shackle,
Eyes, mirroring dire heavens,
Lips, that drowning fish tackle.

How, to be a man without fear
When all womankind is near?

My Mother’s Bathrobe / Kaecey McCormick

Two sizes too big and shapeless—
a single zipper running up the front,
fabric threadbare and pilled,
redolent with sleep and sweat
and sugared doughnuts.

This thing, this constant presence—
in the kitchen before sunrise,
under colored lights at Christmas laying presents
beneath the tree,
countless nights by my bedside
reading fairy tales and fables.

This thing, stuffed in a bag—
carried each time my sister’s blood
count dropped to low,
a small comfort to keep warm on the long nights
by a hospital bed.

This thing, gone—
and those of us left behind searching for another,
one discarded after years then folded
among the unraveling sweaters 
and fading jeans.

Draped across the back of a kitchen chair,
we wrapped our fingers around the fabric,
trying to carry the scent with us
when we left for school.

Thief  / Steve Mueske

On the bus window
sunlight reveals the ruby
in a mosquito’s belly.

How to Lose a Poem  / Suki Sun

50 years later, in the same house, in front of 
the same window, I enjoy doing the same to you — 
the way a 10-year-old you waved to your dad
when he drove to work. I also add my twist: blowing
kisses, making faces, jumping up and down on the
couch with your signing back while driving away.
This could be a poem! many times I say to myself.
Then one day when you were at home, I got a text
from you the second I arrived at the library: 
I knocked on the window, but it didn’t work [emoji] 

What did I miss? 

Your waving, blowing kisses, making faces,
jumping up and down on the couch? Or
a poem made of you? When I walked uphill this
morning, passing the evergreen cedar in front of
our window, how fast did I lose this poem? The one
you exclusively wrote to me — the girl afloat with her
earbuds listening to the blasting sound from that daily
poetry/reflection podcast. The name of that podcast?
The Slow Down.

Happy Birthday, Dad / Nikki Ummel

After Ansel Elkins

Someone forgot to whisper your death to the birds and so 
they continue their songs, throats humming with life. 
Today the fruit trees are heavy with glory, delicious shade for the Blue Jays. 
Today I see a hummingbird in the backyard you’ve never known, 
your death the down payment, my only inheritance tucked in the folds 
of grandma’s final days, left to you because she’d already forgotten 
you were gone. In my house that you do not know there are many shadows, 
slated windows crouched against oncoming storms. There are many shadows 
and all of them are you, trapped between the knowledge of what is coming
and having no way to stop it. If you could have walked, in the end, 
I know you would have gone out crouched in the corner, ready to strike, 
like you told me you did, once, when the priest at St. Francis loved your song,
his humming hands trying to tell you how he hungered for life.

One of your shadows lights a parliament, sticks its red cherry
out the crack in the front porch window. One shadow
rummages the pantry for leftover pecan pie,
humming the Beach Boys’ I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times.
A barefoot ghost, shawled in a fraying towel, leans over the back fence, 
listens to the World Series on Mr. Herman’s outdoor radio. 
All of these shadows. Each with the same tuft of honey blonde hair.
And what of the one in the wheelchair rooted in the middle of the street?
We pretend not to see him.

The shadows come and go, drop in, carry comfort,
remind me that your last year was not you. 
The shadow in the street does not move. He closes his eyes
and pleads to the others, I am him, too. Places his hands over his face, 
listens to the birds, the Blue Jays, the hum of life, to you, singing,
beyond the kingdom of the living.

Day 25 / Poem 25

Gravel and thimble / Jennifer Betz

Some days
She crawled cautiously
Out of the past
Walking out of a matinee
On a Sunday afternoon
The movie reels
Still lodged in her throat
Thoughts muddled
Gripping them
Begging them to stay
Her eyes watery canyons
Gravel buried in her knees

And on other days

She leaps forth
In one savory burst
The first bite
Of a summer melon
Dripping down her chin
Eyes wide closed
Senses brimming
Memories as small as a thimble
Filled with lost earring backs
Easy to discard

Lamb it up, Glatt Kosher Uzbeki Cuisine  / Ellen Ferguson

O lemony salad, how do you know me so well?
Good luck passing for carrots, I know carrots         and these are not they.
Loving the Uzbeki people and their salads, Their knowing,
          Forgiving carrots.
Standing at the lighthouse, this
Breeze, once threatening, now warm.
Mom’s powder blue dress with the
rhinestone collar,
                Mostly for Derby Day —
Feels vaguely Uzbeki now
Like everything else.

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble: A Witch Hunt / Laura Gamache

Witch hunts are rife during times of transition
from communal to privately held wealth –
              Germany in 1581, India in 2003, Uganda
              in 2018, Papua New Guinea in 2021,
              Nigeria in 2022.                                                                                       –Scientific American

Lindy West: ‘The Witches Are Coming’ –
              And They Are Rightfully Angry.                                             

The witch community is not a fan of green-faced witches.                           –CNN

I talk about the witch archetype present in all women
              if only they open up to it                                                                       –Huffington Post

Now, witches are getting another crack at dominance.                  

Though locals once hung crosses and herbs on their doors
to ward off the supposedly evil-doers, these days
celebrants emulate the witches.                                                         

Wildfires produce a witch’s brew of carbon-containing
particles, as anyone downwind of a forest fire can attest.              
              -Phys. Org

She was the only person to whom the witches’ prophesy
meant something.                                                                                                 –USA Today

Toads, spells, potions, flying brooms, and witch’s brews –
witchcraft is all about neuroscience.                                                                 –Huffington Post

A female witch doctor brandishes spells and snakes.                                     –NPR

Even though she is the last in line of distinguished witches,
she has always disdained her powers.                                                              –New York Daily News

A practicing witch, she creates potions and casts spells
              in pursuit of new love.                                                            
              -Los Angeles Times

As in, do you see a rabbit or a witch,
              but bawdier.                                                                                             –Chicago Tribune

So often, when a witch was burned,
              a cat was burned along with them.                                                     –NPR

Multiple roots entwine to produce a witch hunt.                             —Scientific American

Inside My Body / Kate Gray

Inside the impish skin of my body lies
the Irish, those wily twisters of truth, those
hotheads, best friends, genuflectors to a virgin mother
dressed in blue, and the diligent Swiss-Germans herding
cattle into alpine pastures for the summer months, and
the stout Germans studying teeth and their extraction.

Inside the mile of my gut, the round syllables
of an English education back up, the nuns at the convent
who expelled my mother for not sharing a care package
of cookies, the shouts and palm-flat slapping of my father
who returned from the War singing German drinking songs
and insisting before dinner his children count to ten in Japanese.

In every muscle, images stick, my grandmother
in a white smock bounced on her Black nanny’s knee, my
grandfather as a teen wheezing in the Texas heat, and later,
in Connecticut, his pince-nez magnifying his eyes louder
than his voice, and my mother saying prayers in her bed
to save my soul from the sin of loving whom I’m made to love.

What is a body but the blood of other bodies, an ocean
of creatures ready for air, or one massive mammal, giant
with power, who dives with its mouth open, taking everything in?
It pushes water out through the baleen to keep the krill, to take in
other bodies doing all they can to rise and dive, move in schools
and swell with the moon? A body is always many bodies.

Skin / Alice Letowt

why worry     happens to everyone
city leaves fall into colloquial patterns
too shy to ask myself for help
in a left-handed house
Vaseline blurs a stray French bob
and half-beauty crowding the street
with suicide ideation upholstering
wasn’t up for it I keep telling myself
a couch that could be friendlier
scratches the hardwood

14 Erotic Haiku / Seán Mac Falls

Wet welling from earth
Deep valleys, hills, sweating breasts
I plunge into her

We are lost at sea
In moonless night our soft cries
Curled waves drowning us

Above her in bed
Little breaths lifting our bodies
Eyes, fingers, dreaming

Her green eyes are set
Jewels from sargasso seas
My ghost ship is wrecked

Her long hair tangles
No struggle in rising— then
We are rapt in bed

Her eyes blinding me
Milky way of her body
There is a heaven

In forest we taste
Each other in evergreens
Hot dews on the moss

Blissful time kissing
My bare thighs sink into hers
Running sands so quick

As olive or grape
So shed, paired souls are threshed
Out of their bodies

Hummingbirds share truths
nature sounds with all sweetness
Bee in the flower

Always in a field
Wild flowers— a bunch to pick
Herself a bouquet

In the park we walk
Flocks of white birds taking flight
Two hearts light as air

We kissed under moon
Pox of stars grew flowering
Nightshade of her lips

She took me to bed
Skinned in bliss— was reborn, lost
In her satin folds

My Handbag / Kaecey McCormick

after Jane Hirshfield

Like Hermione Granger’s enchanted purse,
my handbag holds so much,
and in the rush of leaving
it’s easy to forget where I’ve stashed things—
my sunglasses, my keys,
the container holding my pills,
the receipts the accountant needs,
the small packet of Kleenex pressed into my hand by my mother 
before I walked out her door the last time. 

It would seem impossible to forget for days 
the compartment holding the day I stood by my sister’s bed 
and waited for the quiet after they unplugged the machines.
It is not. 

Impossible to misplace, for months at a time, 
the small zippered space of watching first one and then another 
parent fall to their knees. 
It is not. 

To lose, for half my life, the netted pouch of hope.

Degrees in anthropology, psychology, writing and art;
a signed headshot of a singer whose songs I know by heart;
ticket stubs from nights at the theater with my father: 
Les Miserables. 
Porgy and Bess. 
La Boheme. 
The Messiah.

Somewhere, somewhere
a compartment containing a piano.
a pouch holding a cat 
and keys to a house long empty.
I cannot find them.

When the many feathered thing brushes my fingers 
digging in the dark interior, it slips out of my hand.

Outside the door, the hills sing—
who, who has these trails,
this slippery lake,
the silent redwood trees,
has need of a handbag. 

The Rock  / Steve Mueske

I fell from his hands when the deed was done. Lodged like a tumor in the soft earth. For days the unforgiving sun baked his brother’s blood into a stain on me. Rain fell like God’s tears, and I was spared nothing.

My Time is Numbered  / Suki Sun

This second 
                                             3.85 people who died in the previous second will never have*
                       but I have it 
This second                                  
                                             8.51 babies who will be born in the next second never had
                       but I have it 

This minute 
                                             231 people who died in the previous minute will never have
                       but I have it 
This minute 
                                             511 babies who will be born in the next minute never had
                       but I have it

This hour
                                             13,860 people who died in the previous hour will never have
                       but I have it
This hour
                                             30,633 babies who will be born in the next hour never had
                       but I have it 

                                             332,648 people who died yesterday will never have

                       but I have it
                                             735,188 babies who will be born tomorrow never had
                       but I have it                                               

                       or do I? 

*Data is from

Turn to AI in My Grief to Help Me Human / Nikki Ummel

American Poets in Today’s Mail / Laura Gamache

It stinks of outgassing printers’ ink, but
I open to Ilya Kaminsky, new Chancellor
for the Academy of American Poets.

He says a poem casts a spell on us.
He says Poetry now is as necessary as ever,
It gives us a gasp, a scrap of air in our lungs.

 Keep it safe, this verbal music.
Memorize new line poems if you can.
You may need them one day,

 war planes or not.
When facing the blank wall that is crisis,
everyone needs a bit of music, a tune, a balm.

I cry, look out the window at blue sky
above the shabbily hacked branches
of old sycamores on the next street.

Compartmentalization / Kate Gray

One lover used to grab my hand, snap
my bleeding fingers with her fingers to stop
my picking. Scrapes, snags, cuts, scabs have
always drawn my touch, to smooth
what my body knows is rough, tear
what my body has smoothed over.

 In this forest where I live now with my match,
my mate, trees offer touch, grand first
the smoother bark, white oaks all ruddy
and ridged. Where they age, lose
branches, fight bugs, where sandy or neon
fungus grows, where their bark reddens
with bacteria and melts or they peel in sheets,
they teach me what can’t be
broken. Trees seal wounds, trap hurt
in bark, stretch it like skin. In
compartments they heal, grow
heartwood around broken parts.

 My fingers have turned to roots, entered
webs of scar, shoots, and flowers, grown
thick enough to resist the fire of memory
and grief. The touch that hurt me first, what
hurt to touch, now snaps back, bends in wind.

Day 24 / Poem 24

Searching / Jennifer Betz

Where did my light heart go?

I tore it down one night,
It catalyzed my sadness,

Of being born in the 80s,
Amidst skittles and second hand smoke,

Microwaved dinners,
Fork print peanut butter cookies,

Parallel to…
Shit, innit?

Now, my daughter licks beach stones,
I do not own a microwave,

I make soup,
With herbs and earth grown things,

How is it better?

We buried the dragonfly ,
The drowned bird

She laughs when she talks of death,
Bewildered, nearly,


It escapes none of us,
So we must become

Meat with a side of Meat / Ellen Ferguson

Lamb with your beef 
Beef with your brisket 
Beef with your beef 
Lamb with your lamb 

Fifty years marinating, 
Perfection on a plate: 
Cassava queso dumplings, 
Meat      meat         meat. 

Sweeter than a plantain 
Kinder than a cake 
Neighbor         Neighbor         Neighbor 
Pignoli             Pignoli             Pignoli

Everyone cares about parents 
Everyone talks about children 
Neighbors matter like water 
Neighbors matter like rain. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream / Laura Gamache

              “It is really impossible to dance Shakespeare”
                        -George Balanchine

Balanchine choreographed this ballet, loved the play,
played a bug when he was a child in Russia, quoted
Oberon’s “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows/
where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,” as an adult.

Felix Mendelssohn’s music inspired Balanchine’s
choreography.  It wafts dreamily as the dancers, delicious
as the scrim of trees, the giant tropical flowers backdrop,
human, fairy, and bug costumes, and Puck, Puck, Puck.

Puck’s wit is in their actions – silly running, sprightly
instantaneous springs from feet to prone, rubbing hands
in silent asides, mixing up the couples. Turn of Bottom
to an ass Titania, dosed by Puck with purple flower potion,

adores. They con the human lovers too, but Titania
is fairy queen. Though Puck in Shakespeare’s play
says “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” the gods
here must be crazy too. Puck is androgynous.

They are ambiguous, trick-player, shapeshifter,
situation inverter, messenger, and lewd bricoleur –
Puck at PNB is neither Principal nor Soloist,
I find them listed in the Corps de Ballet.

Unbreaking a Heart / Kate Gray

You can’t. You can’t unchop a tree. You can’t unflood
the lowlands where a city has pushed its poor.

All those fissures opened by want and fake okays, the little slits
in capillaries sticking to the liver, a sieve for sentences you wish

they’d take back. They don’t know. You don’t know how
they don’t know. The veins where lust rushed now

clogged with all their privilege, their once benign blindness
now nothing but plaque and fat. Where do you go

when you can’t breathe? Maybe you can sleep
in moss and wake when the leaflets of your heart flap open

and shut, and your heart makes again the shape
of a hive, that busy incubator of stingers ready to die for you.

ars poetica / Alice Letowt

a good kids’ story on how to live with loveliness
mosaic lines lead to a cul-de-sac littered with thunderstorms
seen from the top of parking garages

            I am often wrong
            and not meaning to be salmon for dinner

                       flash lines
                        crags and syntax
            throwing myself against the wall

against bluebell-mid-spring growth an undercurrent
taking desire past decay-soaked spring flowers
azaleas become a cluttered bar at closing time

against trees occasion makes bodies  
heavenly bodies          dew beads
imagine glass this fragile
breaking out of its rigidity
the shape that comes with a well-fitting dress
the muscles on wild horse next to Joshua trees

a whistle brings a dog to heel
a desert makes longing small
all the drives with Monte asleep in the back seat

Love Was Our Only Casualty / Seán Mac Falls

Rain falls shooting the grounds.
In walks avoiding the shrapnel pits
Bleeding, over spilling, as they swell
Memories play to the mute bitterness
Of far cold, how we went wrong, bled
At arms, burned within salted wound
Of dishonest rush, assault of friendly
Fires as die smouldered out of smoke,
Taint of grace flew into a cauldron dark
A cross of red was only suture to veins
Ripped in the onslaughts and love was
Our only casualty.  We were lost, never
To reach the shining wins of conquered 
Spoils, never to bed with timeless downs
Of lovers on leave, we now just soldier on,
To walk with rains, in campaign of sorrows.

Family Photo with Bird / Kaecey McCormick

The birthday candles are lit, the flicker caught on film as a flash
of blue, one for each year of her life and one more for good luck.

Look how closely the father and mother stand. And the siblings,
leaning in toward the cake, mouths open in song though you cannot hear

their singing. Can you tell how deeply the birthday girl has inhaled? 
Her lungs are full and ready. You must wonder what she will wish for 

when the song ends. Everyone watches her, except the tall girl there, 
half hidden by the father’s arm. See how she looks toward the piano 

under the open window in the corner of the frame. You understand 
why her head is turned if you look closely—a bird, captured 

by the camera as it’s about to alight on the music desk. Maybe she left
the window open. Do you believe they guessed whose fortune

the bird was bringing? The grandfather half out of frame, at the edge
of the table—they must have thought it was him who wouldn’t live

another year. What they don’t know is that the birthday girl felt it 
even then, the dark thing growing at the base of her spine, 

sending out stringy tendrils, like the streams of confetti 
we see tangling in her hair.  

Bacchus, in Middle-Age / Steve Mueske

Fifteen minutes before work

he sits in the driver’s seat, heat blasting,

& watches sundogs dance

through the frost on his windshield.

Over the ridge of fresh-plowed snow,

smoke drifts like a pennant

above the Walgreens across the street.

Coldest day on record, one of those rare

below-zero mornings when it hurts

just to breathe. Inside he unloads

pallets of potato, wheat, & rye vodka

from Poland, Sweden, & Russia;

cases of New Amsterdam

& Tanqueray, elderflower liqueurs,

single-malt Scotch in tall boxes,

wines from mountain vineyards

sunning in thin air.  He slits

the heavy boxes, wipes his face

on his sleeve, kneels before the shelves

pushing bottles into rows straight

as calendar days. He reminds himself

to be thankful for his job. Any job.

It’s been years since the madness

of dreams, the world wide-open & singing.

The long black fall, the broken climb.

It’s a good thing to keep moving,

keep filling the shelves.

Then What?  / Suki Sun

For Mary and Bobbi

for the entire morning
I am mind-composing a poem
about the koan I hear
in the Sunday service

mouse eats cat food
cat bowl is broken
then what? 

I want to sound wow and zen
deep and fun 
enlightened and entertaining
but I write nothing

until 1 pm on Zoom with you talking
about the monthly theme sacrifice 
I see the American sign language
for the phrase give up

both hands start in front of the body
fingers pointing down
then a short upwards movement 
palms facing up to the sky

it’s more like lifting something up
to a higher goodness
than simply discarding
or putting down

is this sign language
closer to the true meaning of
than any other spoken words?  

whenever I give my time or focus
to something bigger than me 
something better will be up
as here and now —

my ears are up
echo the sound of 
your dilemma
in a difficult situation 

my tears are up
mirror the sorrow of 
your loss
over the loved one 

our waves of laughter are up
discover that cows not
lambs are associated
with sacrifice in China

and the Chinese character of sacrifice (牺牲)
is a beautiful saying to describe death 
a process opening up another
dimension of living and thriving

like the ancient rituals 
generations after generations
praying and longing for
more rain
more grain 
more children

but never by one individual
always in a group that the abundance
blooms when I sacrifice
my agenda
my pride 
my ego

mouse eats cat food
cat bowl is broken
then what? 

then now

just like what
I am doing now 
typing the last line of 
this poem —
the poem I stop chasing


Questionnaire for My Rapist / Nikki Ummel

Please answer all questions as directly as possible. Do not rush your responses. I am a patient woman, and I will ask you again, as I have before, if your answers are not complete. I’ve waited a long time and would appreciate it if you avoided evasive responses. Do not lie. Not now. 

We know each other better than that, don’t we?

Is it true you have a son?

Is it true, as the grapevine relayed, that you left for personal reasons?

Why did you hire me?

Is it true that you really saw in me something special, something worth nurturing, something to grow me into a better employee, coworker, human? 

When you called to tell me I got the job, were you fully clothed?

Whenever we spoke on the phone, me, parked a mile down the road from the farm, idling near a blooming cotton field, watching the sky’s flames sink into the horizon, did you touch yourself?

Is it true that you moved me from travel camp to resident camp because you thought my strengths were better suited to managing a full staff?

Is it also true that you told your wife you had to stay onsite at resident camp because we needed the extra support?

Is it a fact that you lied about your running habits?

Can you now or could you ever run a 10k?

Are you aware that 25% of female runners recently reported feeling unsafe, fearing assault, while on a run? When you were struggling to keep up on our morning runs, did you ever consider telling the truth?

When did you first notice the freckles on your hands?

Has anyone ever told you that your hands are too big for your body? Your six-foot, two-hundred-and-fifty pounds, muscular build should pair well with a pair of oversized hands. But they’re just slightly too big, slightly off. I noticed your hands first. I guess what I mean is, has anyone ever told you your hands make them uneasy?

When you use your hands in acts of tenderness, toweling your son dry, pushing your wife’s hair back from her face, do you think of me?

When you use your hands in acts of violence, do you think of me?

Did my body leave an imprint on your hands the way your hands left an imprint on my body?

When I google you, I see your wedding registry. Did you get everything you wanted?

From me, did you get everything you wanted?

Congratulations on your new job overseeing all camp programming. Do you think of me when you interview for my old position?

Do you still touch yourself when you interview for my old position?

Can you imagine your little boy as a man?

Can you imagine your little boy being groomed by his boss?

Can you imagine your little boy as a man, grooming a young woman, an employee, willingly leaving his wife and son at home to be closer to her, waking up to go on runs with her, using his too-big freckled hands on her? Can you imagine your little boy, tender and violent?

What questions would you have liked to ask me on a questionnaire of your own making? 

In asking these questions, would you be attempting, do you think, to give me a voice, or take it away? To define who you are apart from me, or to define who I am within you?

You were once fragile, weren’t you? You were once someone’s little boy?

What was he like?

Sometimes, when looking at photos of you on your wife’s facebook (there is too much of all of us on the internet), I think I would like to make you pay for what you did even though, of course, it’s much too late for that. I would like, at least, to take from you, to tell you lies I believe so you believe them, too. To make you distrustful of future employers, future men, future makers who tell you how talented you are, how special. I would like to touch myself while I compliment you over the phone, during your interview, with my family in the other room. I would like to make you beg me to stop, to make you cry—and I would like your tears to be the bitterest kind and endless. 

Let’s say, hypothetically, that I could hurt you in some way—what would be the most effective way to do that? 

Is there a way to hurt you without hurting your family? Nobody else deserves to be hurt because of you.

Do you ever find yourself curious about me? When you see someone on the metro, maybe, or the person in front of you on a treadmill machine? Do you ever wonder about anybody besides yourself—what his or her life might be like, his or her struggles? Do you ever feel regret? Do you wonder if I have a little boy now, or a beautiful wife named after something precious, or a wedding registry? Do you ever feel tender about our time together, or tender towards a complete stranger, desiring another chance at life, with another woman, the desire to reach out and smooth a tuft of hair or rumpled skirt? Do young children remind you of drunk adults, of you as a drunk adult, and in this way inspire a quiet affection in you? When you were your son’s age, did young women find you cute? Had you, at that point, imagined all that you were capable of? Had you, by then, forgiven yourself? Have you, by now, forgiven yourself?

Do you know what there is to forgive?

Day 23 / Poem 23

Keep moving / Jennifer Betz

When grief meets freedom 
A deep breath can be had 
Just after choking

Beating on helium drums
Full of tangerine peels
Bouncing and vibrating
Skins, oily and taut

Every time he plays
He can remember
The last thing
She said

Photographs aren’t real
Life moves and stays in motion
Every picture taken
Is but one small death 

As Told To / Laura Gamache

            for Carla

Mom’s dad was one of 13 children, grew up
in Nebraska, until his mother left his father.
An uncle sheltered them in Saskatchewan.

The Canadian Army drafted him in 1916.
Did he speak English? He grew up in a German
community. He thought himself American,

went AWOL, slipped south across the border,
enlisted in the US Army. He berated himself for
decades, came clean with Canada in his 90’s.

One friend discovers a deadly family Holocaust
history through Google. Her parents were curious
about everything, but uninterested in their families.

Another shows me the Mixbook her husband made
of his family tree. Names and notations down four
generations. Her own peters out with her mother.

We regret turning away from our elders’ memories –
they were irritating people, wore stockings rolled below
the knees, smelled of mildew and mouldering.

We spared ourselves our too-common human stories.
None ends in ascension, redemption, we’re all doomed
to repeat, and yet, physics says eternity is omnipresent.

Untangle any moment. Open it out and out and out.

Alpha Gal Goes to the Swap Meat  / Ellen Ferguson

When Alpha Gal turned six, she hit
      a nail sideways,
      sending it skyward to scratch
      her cornea.
Undeterred, she marched
      to the forest where
      a parasite sidled past
      her eye patch, latching on.
Now she breastfeeds the dawn,
      eventually extricating the sun
      with tweezers from her chest,
      wondering what she can swap
      for meat.
Across town, another mother places her life on
      the sidewalk. These details 
      too painful to reveal here.
Upstairs, thin neighbors finish “The Whale.”
Next door, Heidi opens “You Could Make This Place
Alpha Gal eats her truth: there’s nothing to swap
      for brasciole.

Line Drive  / Kate Gray

            ~for Aunt P, everyone’s favorite

You might have split a golf ball
with your teeth, like a mother peeling

a mango, sweet flesh around a stone, and with
your sticky hand, offered each of your nieces

a wedge. But you played to win, quick
hip twist, the shoulders turned, the arms

whipping with a force stronger than a girl born
in 1921, full of roar, the fire bombs

on Tulsa you didn’t cover, and I can’t write about you without
writing about politics, its two sides, the drive to war

reporting in the Forties, the Paris desk, and what
you said and didn’t say when my mother

covered for you, or your brother refused
the FBI’s files. What’s too much

to ask? Everyone who knows has died. Your line
drives still land deadcenter on the fair-

way with a clear shot to the green, and I still carry
your clubs across my back, hand you that iron.

I am in Search of the Sun Rising Behind Trees  / Alice Letowt

The noun: occasion 

is from the latin noun occāsus
     setting (of the sun) 
from the verb occidō
     fall down 
     of heavenly bodies 
     I die 
     I am lost, undone, or ruined 
ob: towards or against 
cado: I fall 

the verb
occasion:  to be the occasion or cause of; to give rise to, cause, bring about

to give rise to, (ob) against… occido: the heavenly body falling down 
falling and rising are relative actions…relative to what…. relative against the earth(a heavenly body)… against the trees on
the earth. 

the trees fall against the sun 
the sun rises against the trees 

I Will Sail A Boat / Seán Mac Falls

Someday soon, I will sail a boat,
Away from all the modern seas,
I shall be cast aside, with wind,
The four corners, all calamities.

And gentle waves will carry me
Afar, sailing lost under the stars,
To live in dreamy breaths happily
And never wake, forever slumber,

Free as ocean birds, downy gliding
With currents that are leading true,
To the domes, new heavens hiding,
This is my plan, my soul to renew.

Farewell, fated blue world spinning;
I’m off a rocker, for lofty beginnings.

Swing in Portola Valley / Kaecey McCormick

Imagine the most magical of fairy tale lands
before the evil stepmother’s spell takes hold—
rolling hills, fruit trees and vineyards, cows
dotting the landscape and a sun that hangs
low over the earth, warming the dirt beneath
your feet. Imagine a rope looped over a branch 
on an oak whose arms are raised in praise 
to the gods that created such a place. Imagine 
walking, hand in hand, up the soft grass
to sit with your knight on the rough wooden seat 
and swing and swing while the roses creep closer,
their thorns riding the wake of your feet.

Imagine then the rains, coming first like stumbling
kisses on the back of your neck, then harder
flooding your lap as you ride the wind. Imagine 
the rain clouds gathering their black robes 
overhead, like the priests at the altar before the funeral
begins. Imagine your turned up face, your open 
mouth, and rain water filling you from the inside 
as your lover rubs circles on your back. Imagine 
the heat of a thousand matches striking your skin 
while he peels away the layers plastered 
to your bones, digging a little deeper 
with each push of your toes. 

Further Toward a Theory of Representation / Steve Mueske

this morning three cardinals caught fire
on my lawn
* * *
behind the green door
three fugitives are writing their story
* * *
one method of confession : design a life
* * *
develop a theory correlating
the evolution of drums to common praise
* * *
at zero station : at gunpoint
at exit zero
* * *
when I say “we” we each
imagine the other as other
* * *
in a Fauvist winter scene
simple houses shouldering snow
* * *
a girl in pink
kissing a mud-flecked lamb
* * *
if we agree to let the world assemble
itself, that is, fully appear
we will be its origin
* * *
the price of appearance
is disappearance
* * *
every object is the subject
of itself
* * *
the kite is a yellow bird
* * *
the lamb might be a symbol of peace
might be just a lamb
            * * *
the world exists 
without us 
            * * *
the world, too, is the world
as other

My Silly-able Syllable / Suki Sun

Syllable sounds like silly-able with my Chinese accent 
a love poem for you becomes my flirtation with words

Pick, count, and line up all the best silly-ables
until they sound voluptuously silly or not silly at all. 

What kind of poem sounds best after “little death” 
the French nickname for orgasm? 

Or how can any syllable not be silly-able
In our afterglow and aftercare?

The baton of my heartbeat hypnotizes your blood 
the vibrato of your breath tickles my earlobe.

Let the punctuation of our being 
striptease our throats naked.

Move our tongues not for words 
but for kissing and seamlessly

Silking our brain neurons to
fondle this non-syllable conversation.

The same dedication 
as the mellowness of my fingertips

Mesmerizes my smoky 108 mala beads
Relaying mantra to the next lotus seed.

Client Psychotherapy Intake Form / Nikki Ummel

  1. Have you previously received any type of mental health services (psychotherapy, psychiatric services, etc.)?

    in other words, he wrote in an email, when you know what is enough, you can be happy. 

  1. Are you currently taking any prescription medication?

    a fig like a sunrise in my mouth

  1. Have you ever been prescribed psychiatric medication?

    the bushes singing _____

  1. How would you rate your current physical health?

    sometimes the blood inside my body two-steps

  1. Please list any specific health problems you are currently experiencing:

    memories cartwheel out of my head and tumble across the floor

  1. Please list any specific sleep problems you are currently experiencing:

    waking up is not bravery. what choice do i have?

  1. What types of exercise do you participate in?

    every thought i’ve ever had jogs around the room and then
    climbs back in

  1. Please list any difficulties you experience with your appetite or eating patterns:

    hunger is a hand scooping my organs into melon balls

  1. Are you currently experiencing overwhelming sadness, grief, or depression

    what i want to write about today is  _________                

  1. Are you currently experiencing anxiety, panic attacks, or have any phobias?

    i drag my fear like a trawler behind me

  1.  If yes to questions 9 or 10, when did you begin experiencing this?

    a tornado claws through arabi and me in the closet, on a dirty laundry basket, with two dogs in my lap

  1.  Are you currently experiencing any chronic pain?

    my bones have been switched with eagle bones

  1.  Do you drink alcohol more than once a week?

    the spiderwebbed light of dawn

  1. How often do you engage in recreational drug use

    big enough to contain everything i could ever feel

  1. Are you currently in a romantic relationship?

    sparrows land on my hands when stretched to the sky and i tuck them one by one under my arms

  1. What significant life changes or stressful events have you experienced recently:

    down the street, two horses, mad with fear, kicked through a garage door and galloped along the levee until shot sixteen times

  1.  Do you consider yourself to be spiritual or religious?

    we are all transient and aching

  1. What do you consider to be some of your strengths?

    i can roll my eyes like frightened horses

  1.  What do you consider to be some of your weaknesses?

    my universe is slick as buttered pecans

  1. What would you like to accomplish out of your time in therapy?

    learn to put the grenade in your mouth first, he said, that’s our
    time for today

Day 22 / Poem 22

Nothing gold stays / Jennifer Betz

When grief meets freedom
A deep breath can be had
Just after choking

Beating on helium drums
Full of tangerine peels
Bouncing and vibrating
Skins, oily and taut

Every time he plays
He can remember
The last thing
She said

Photographs aren’t real
Life moves and stays in motion
Every preposterous click
Is but one small death

Yankee Stadium  / Ellen Ferguson

Yankee Stadium must be Heaven
This their pilgrimage 
Tongues lilac swollen
Eyes pollen creased
Tasting urgency
Seeing shoulders 
Blocking their ascendency
To whom/what will they kneel
Hey, get off our train,
Animals with stripes.    But
Wait —
What’s this/small girl clutching cap
Small bear in white and blue?
You can pitch? Your bear can, too?
You love the Hudson River?
I see it, too — a meteor shower? This weekend?
Yes, the Yankees are the best. It’s true.

Odes to Aromas in 7th Grade / Laura Gamache

Choose one: lavender, cardamom,
rose petals, whole cloves, spearmint, cinnamon bark
except one boy who takes spearmint and cinnamon bark
and sniffs them simultaneously.
I take back the bark,
embark on the lesson.
Smell the smell. What color comes into your mind?
              write it down. don’t say anything out loud
              you’ll skew the results.
              think of this as an experiment.
What animal swims, creeps, flies into your mind?
              Write it. Write more than one if more than
              one comes.
What weather? It could be a season, a natural
              phenomenon. Try to listen to your nose.
Smell the smell. What article of clothing, or anything
              made of cloth comes to you. Write it.
What about sound? Sniff again. What do you hear?
              An instrument? a particular tune? or noise?
              Onomatopoeia? Where’s your pen?
Take a deep breath of the smell – where on earth
              has it traveled from, does it take you?
Smell this:
              does it bring back a memory? I tell the one
              about walking past a boxwood hedge, being
              transported to my grandmother’s yard. Boxwood
              smells like cat pee, but the memory is sweet,
              playing with Lady, my grandmother’s dog.

Notes become the metaphors and similes for your ode.
Write skinny lines, like Pablo Neruda.
Use all
your notes in your ode.
Talk TO the smell. Pick
your words well, impress that scent, celebrate it
and praise it. Use the word “O”
Use hyperbole. If you use the color red
use it three times, like a spell,
each use more outlandish.
O lavender,
your deep orange aroma
makes my mind whirl
into an impressionist painting
into the future with my orange tabby
and my casaba colored couch.
O 7th graders, try this on.

The Way It’s Always Been  / Kate Gray

              after Joy Harjo’s Eagle Poem

Two ravens rise
            to the cliff top, a dozen vultures hunch
                         in the tree
            until the sun lifts them
                                     in thermals, the sharp-shinned hawk
perches on a rock facing
            the wind, and we, who know little
of flight, or have been made
            to forget, must learn the language shaped
                         by the whole body, beyond mouth, part
                         moon, all sinew and rib.

We must risk. We must rise out of
            our dense skeletons, wrap our arms
                         around each other’s shoulders, and dance
            this circle of death, in one breath, and be
                         eagle, be osprey, high
above the river
with its basalt cliffs and the echo
            of ancestors etched
                        in petroglyphs, not just
the record, but
                       the art of who we didn’t know we were

wait and see / Alice Letowt

people yell outside at night
snapdragons look tired behind the iron gate
or maybe I am tired and it is shading
the peeling paint and leggy stems

a summer of museums and picnics
so many things can happen
in a de Kooning painting
and I can’t remember what any of them look like
Abbey asks if de Kooning’s paintings are in the public domain
she wants one to be the cover of her book
almost 22 hours traveling, and I feel like a de Kooning
maybe I just miss my friends
I pick up a copy of Bishop and Lorca to translate in the park

morning train to airport with flowers
a block behind a woman in a Vegas pink blazer –
a poem is a street – fanning above the crowd
on a hill, under a pink dogwood, a fox looks
like Al Pacino standing silhouetted over De Niro
            understanding is lonely           don’t try to name anything
all simile  groping       like raspberries taste better paired with estrogen
like Steve Zissou giving you the thousand-yard stare at dyke night
a very Hegelian moment heels me back to the street
some he-she living on the strip

phone rings      it’s morning
can’t stop smiling at all the missing poems
and I want to stay half asleep in a city full of small dogs and snapdragons
a place where I only understand and 

Anatomy of a Tree / Seán Mac Falls

Its form was made for sky,
Reaching into hung heavens.
In the amniotic soils are blood
Veins of bone becoming root.
At the earths breaking is light
Green within the sprouts barking.
To the golden sun on its journey,
The trunks ring into skies praying.
More leaves do come as everlasted
Springs in new revolutions of years.
All the twined branches are knotted
As they grasp the blue firmaments.
And scriptures of heavens proclaim,
Here be journaled leaves, life seeding.

Stupid Girl / Kaecey McCormick

There in the corner—ugly thing exploding from whispers 
and fleshy thighs dimpled with fat. Stupid girl, you burn 
on my tongue when I walk past, eyes averted to miss your 
gaze. But here you are, always around, following me 
like an unwanted trash hound, sucking down soda through your 
dusty lips, chewing on veins and teeth. I know you inside and out, 
the taste of your seaside cheeks, the bitter sting of your pain, 
and what made you think anything would change? Studid girl, 
your hands clenched in prayer. And why when even god 
can’t stand the sight of your face. Where is your father? Where 
is your sister? Name one person who will sing your elegy when we throw 
your dirty ashes on the ground. This is our sermon on the mount, 
you and me hanging by our feet, scratching at each other’s backs 
while the men read poems about birds and ladies riding side saddle, 
grinding each bump. We’ll walk backward beyond the moon, hand in hand, 
leap from the closest star and fall into the naked dark of nothing before 
they read our backhanded whispers. Stupid girl, don’t you understand? 
Your prayers go unheard and everyone is laughing if they notice you at all, 
a vulture squatting in the corner as you wait for their crumbs, your thumb 
up your nose, ears turning purple, thinking by now you’d be someone different 
than the someone no one wanted. You’re a chalk outline where a person should be,
stupid girl. No matter how many zippers you unzip or monster trucks you slip 
inside you’re still worth only a quick stage tussle behind the set where nothing’s
real or a roll in the pews before the priests walk in. Is that your tongue or mine 
sliding down god’s thigh? Pull the blanket tight around your head and drink 
your own blood next time. I hear your roar, stupid girl. But it’s trapped 
beneath a boulder we can’t shoulder so if you can hear me when I invoke your name, 
stupid girl, drop the garbage bag dress you wear, watch your dreams shatter and spin
into the thing they were always going to be—stones under their feet, something hard 
for them to stand on when the rains come and turn the dirt beneath us to mud. 

Short Story / Steve Mueske

It’s after midnight, and the pearlescent moon
Stitches the railroad tracks
To the ground. There are two brothers here,
Stumbling like glyphs in the light,
And one of them has a gun.
Under the bug zapper’s purple light
They’d argued, the older one having come down,
In suit and tie, to settle the estate.
He wasn’t ready for the booze 
Or the soliloquy. The gun. The chase
Through the woods. All that was left 
Were bills. A part-time gig
At the shop. At issue: the money.
From deep in the trees comes 
the diminished triad, the low rumble.  
Then the beast arrives, impossible tonnage 
of metal and freight, the clattering weight 
of vandalized cars. Just two brothers, 
a train. And a gun.  

Fill in the Blank / Suki Sun

Preposition: a word that shows a noun or pronoun’s position 

( ______ ) off. I love you. 

( ______ ) out. I love you. 

( ______ ) up. I love you. 

( ______ ) over. I love you. 

( ____________________ ) off! I love you. 

( ____________ ) out!  I love you. 

( ___________________________________________ ) up! I love you. 

( _________________________ ) over! I love you. 

( __________ ) off? I love you. 

( _______________ ) out? I love you. 

( _______________________ ) up? I love you. 

( __________ ) over? I love you. 

( ______________ ) off… I love you. 

( ______________________________________ ) out… I love you. 

( ___________ ) up… I love you. 

( ________________________________________________ ) over… I love you.

Sonnet for Your First Birthday / Nikki Ummel

My bag of waters burst like the water balloons
I imagined you’d throw at sleepaway camp or
Unnamed Best Friend’s Bar Mitzvah. 
That moment pealing in me, even now. 
The silence in this house is loud. And all I want 
is to lay in puddles of sun. But sometimes 
it does not feel good to be seen, so I draw the shades. 
It’s almost your first birthday. 
I buy a cake at Canseco’s, plant a pink curlycue One.
If you were here, you’d say, I like the tongue taste
and stick a fat fist in the frosting that matches the color 
of your pristine crib, Heaven, hand painted
by your father. In the shadows of the house, 
I eat your cake alone.

Day 21 / Poem 21

A raven I will be / Jennifer Betz

They told her,
Soon after her birth,
Seven ravens flew overhead,
And as she grew tall,
They were always near,
Gifting her an inky feather
A thimble,
An emerald ring,
She thought:
I must be their queen,
She relished her mornings,
Scattering day old crusts of bread,
A honeycomb,
She found the truth,
In their eyes,
And her tears,
Descended into deep corners,
Her mouth,
She’s learned of humans,
And prefers the ravens,
Like the small burrowing voles,
For in their simplicity,
And in their cruelty,
As they peck the eyes,
From a lost doe,
There is honesty,
She loves them,
In truth

blueberry blueberry strawberry peach  / Ellen Ferguson

Blueberry blueberry strawberry peach 
Each to his own and someone to each 
Impossible that you aren’t here 
You must have a very long shift today 

Ginger ginger turmeric lime 
Possibly saw you for the last time 
It sure is a long day of work for you 
Sit for a bit in the parking lot 

Anise anise arrowroot dill 
It’s time to be grateful for every last thrill 
We all know what Dostoevsky said: 
One moment’s enough for a life. 

Estrangement / Laura Gamache

Primal Therapy at 22 through a college loan my college
knew was not for school, and $500 I bullied from my dad.

My mother drank herself into raging righteousness, bullied
my therapists by phone, threatened to expose them as a cult.

Leaving her and dad who mostly didn’t seem to notice
meant no invite to my wedding, no more Christmas.

She was very good at Christmas. Heaped gifts to obscure
her snipping bits away. Withholding. Scolding.

Weeping over the dishwasher, screaming obscenities
pushing the vacuum cleaner wand under the couch.

My friend suggests we embrace “elderly.” I feel myself
swept out to sea, feeble arms flailing, mouth dry with salt.

I erect a levee of words and phrases, attempt to keep pace,
again wash ashore, not virtuoso or victorious, but breathing.

The Stories Kept Inside  / Kate Gray

The Stories Kept Inside
My body the holder
of Bloody-Mary lunches, three-
pack Kool days, a salesman’s knuckles
knocking when hawking
Scott tissue door to
door, an Irish Texan’s
wheeze, and slender
ankles crossed to please
the gentleman callers.

My body the whole
note held by Billie[1], the cheese
sandwich smuggled
to the Jewish boy in the German
factory[2], the flower held
by the man stepping
in front of tanks, the queers
holding hands around the Capitol
for a cure[3], the smiley
face on the mask of the girl
with the megaphone[4].

My body the Pileated’s crack
in oak bark, the choke-
hold of fireweed in the city’s wetland where
mallards dip and rise, the seed
stuck in dog tails wagging
cheatgrass into road shoulders
and rolling savannahs, the blue
of cloudless skies made
for spring rain.

Come clouds, come
catastrophe to level smokestacks
and coal pits. Come wind
and sun in moderation. Come
young with your wit and wisdom.

[1] The first album I bought from money earned by raking leaves and weeding was Billie Holiday’s self-named album.

[2] The college where I taught hosted a discussion with Alter Wiener who told the audience about a brave German woman who smuggled him a cheese sandwich every day in a forced labor factory when he was a boy.

[3] In 1993 I joined hands with ACT-UP activists to demand federal money to fight AIDS.

[4] A young woman near me inspired marchers in George Floyd protests in Portland, OR.

Old Lovers Greeting / Seán Mac Falls

Without speech,
Former lovers meet,
At a party and are reintroduced
To themselves. In that mute
Moment, eyes carry words down
To hands that are unwishing,
Unmoved to join, yet touch
Haphazardly in the cacophony
Of dark party.  The former lovers
Lips are locked in air, unmoist,
Their hearts beat to the tuneless
Drone of old music and stale bread,
Their bodies fuddle in a tortuous groove,
At the reception they could not get out
Of attending.  In a split second, they pray,
It will be unquick, yet soon— just over.

Out of Place / Kaecey McCormick

“They’re learning that the world is a dangerous and unsafe place.”

—“Displaced Ukrainian Children,” USA Today, Feb. 2023  

I think I understand what it means to be afraid
until I see their arms reaching through a sea of faces,

salt streaking their cheeks while they search, but 
the person they seek never comes. Their empty hands,

their broken hearts—held together by shiny foil blankets 
while I watch from a distance, eyes glued to a glowing screen. 

A breeze through the open window tangles my hair as tears 
drip onto a mountain of laundry still warm from the dryer

And I worry the same shirt again and again, smoothing the wrinkles 
from its soft folds as though I were soothing my daughter’s brow.  

The Eye / Steve Mueske

He staggers to the register. His yellow eyes say what he cannot. His clothes are filthy & he’s had no solid sleep for three days. The same number God lay in the earth. He shakes his head, says I cannot, but buys anyway. Cheapest vodka on the shelf: a half pint of Barton’s, $2.52, after tax, with a fistful of change rooted from his pocket. Later, he shuffles like a zombie back to the store from the dumpster behind the SuperCash, pausing to fix an eye on me through the glass. Watching me watch him. His turned eye the jellied eye of a fish. I’m filled with dread. I pray he won’t come back inside after casting for more coins. I don’t want a fight, to have to say, You’ve had enough: tested by an angel–if that’s what he is–& found wanting. 

First Lines Duet between Bell Hooks and Ralph Waldo Emerson / Suki Sun

                                                                                    A train of gay and cloud days*
                                            autumn ending**     
                                                                                    announced by all the trumpets of the sky
                                                                                    alone in Rome. Why, Rome is lonely too.                                                                            

                                    Burning body of love        
                                               bring Buddha.       
                                                                                    Can rules or tutors educate 
                                                                                    Every day brings a ship
                             fierce grief shadows me       
                                                                                    give me truths
                                               hear them cry.                                                                 

                                                   Hard rain          
                                                                                    hast thou named all the birds without a gun?
                      In the gray blue wash of dawn     
                                                                                    I cannot spare water or wine.
                                           Lingering twilight      
                                            listen little sister.     
                                              Migrating birds 
                                           mammoth caves.      
                                                                                   Mortal mixed of middle clay
                                         mud sliding down     
                                                                                   never did sculptor’s dream unfold 
                                                 night moves 
                                     on hallowed ground.
                                        Overlooking water,          
                                                                                  one musician is sure
                                                                                  philosophers are lined with eyes within 
                              pink and white oleander.
                                                Ritual places
                                         soil rich with lime      
                                   small horses ride me                                                     
                                                                                   soft and softlier hold me, friends!
                                 Sometimes falling rain
                                                                                   sudden gusts came full of meaning.
                                                      Take the
                                                                                   thanks to the morning light
                                                tap dancing 
                                                                                   the heavy blue chain
                                                                                   the mountain and the squirrel
                                                                                   the rhyme of the poet.
                        Turtle islands everywhere
                                              toward light 
                                                                                  the sense of the world is short
                                                                                  the wings of Time are black and white.

                                                                                  They put their finger on their lip
                                                                                  Venus, when her son was lost 
                                           winds of fate
                    walking the long way home
                                                                                  who saw the hid beginnings
                                                                                  why should I keep holiday  
                                                                                  who knows this or that.
                                              With water   
                                                                                          winters know
                                       wilderness within    
                                         wingspan wide 
                                                                                  you shall not love me for what daily spends
                                                                                  your picture smiles as first it smiled.

* All the lines in the left column are the first lines from the poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1802-1882) in The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vol. 9 (Poems) [1909]

** All the lines in the right column are the first lines from the poems of Bell Hooks (1952-2021) in Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place [2012]

Day 20 / Poem 20

In poor taste / Jennifer Betz

Wonder bread hotdogs,
and distilled water,

What’s your pleasure?

Have you ever thought about,
How poor tastes?

She moved from Idaho to be with him,

He sleeps with his mouth open,
And his trailer,

Littered in foil paper,
Cat turds on the floor,

A bowl of Frosted Flakes,
A luxury,

You don’t have to use a needle,
You can snort it,

If it makes you forget,

Your father,
That bastard,

That ex husband,
His dirty fingernails,

What makes a life?
Why not dance along the edge?

Do the flamenco of death,
Like that postcard your aunt sent you,

From Spain,
When you dreamt of red fabric,

Around your knees,
Before your cousin pierced your ears,

And they started oozing
Green pus,

And you thought,
At least this feels like,


nice yellow rabbit seeks friendly cabbage patch  / Ellen Ferguson

a tan chair spins away in Jersey 

            peering over the edge of the bin, 

                        a chair like a rabbit 

Over the Town / Laura Gamache

The town is Vitebsk, where Chagall grew up.
                                                          In “My Life” his very poor mother took him
to the one teaching artist in town.
              Marc was dreamy, drew.
                             What else she worried could he do?
The artist pronounced him no painter. He used the color mauve.

              One of these schetl houses is mauve,  even its two chimneys.
Behind, and to its right, the white, green-domed synagogue looks
              over the schetl,                its edges almost obscured by clouds.
              In the center of town, a shed-roofed house
(in another painting might host a violinist or a goat)
              wears three windows across its front, the right two shuttered in mauve.

Marc and Bella fly above and outside the fencing,
closest to us, and farthest from Vitebsk. Their flight is languid, shared.
              His shirt is forest green, her blue blouse has a flounce of lighter blue
at the neck.                      Her black hair is coiffed, not pulled down by gravity,

Her right arm reaches out
              to backstroke air. Together they are one swimmer.
He kicks so vigorously his right booted foot
has turned nearly backward.

                             a billy goat stands in a yard,
                             no other life inside those walls.

On our side of the fence, lower left corner, a small man curls in on himself,
in shame? earthly urgency? his rump white over his black boots.

Their so very young loopy love has made Marc and Bella a zeppelin
                             far removed from the constrictions below.

When You Reach a River / Kate Gray

You throw water above your heart every time you
wade into a river, your cupped hands tossing drops in great arcs
the way galaxies fold into
each other, the way your stories explode tears
in me sometimes when you call
from Brooklyn and I listen
in Oregon where I’m burning last year’s broken
trees and putting the phone down so you won’t stop talking.

Friend, can you hear the murmuration
of dreams in you, the Mississippi gospel choir, the zany
apple song, or Nina Simone? The voices bend you in warrior pose
somedays and push you under covers the next. These are
the voices of your mother and her mother, their beliefs
you’re casting across your sky.
They are prayers. They are wingtips of a thousand birds
swirling over water you disturb and make yours.

Moon Harvest Under Wood / Seán Mac Falls

Deep in the chalk of gloaming flame,
The tawn and pale, of moan and loon,
Where under leaves of forest shades,
The crescent rails of the riding moon,
Here is when the quick blood running
Drains with shear seepings and looks,
With eyes agape, small game stunned
Over pines and green hemlock wood,
The ferryman wings and clawing tears,
Whose silent strike and low red raking 
Blasts unto an indifferent lane of peers,
This is the house of apparition’s name,
A mages fugue, muffled muses reprise;
The kill song which creeps as sun dies.

Life of Girls / Kaecey McCormick

girls grow into revolving doors
to open and close whenever someone 
pushes hard enough or into mothers carrying
families on their hips creases spreading
across their skin like cracks across glass
after the first punch and when the door 

opens they should crease again into origami 
swans with flightless wings bent back straining
to carry us forward or girls grow into needles 
to punch each crease and stitch girls in 

place so they can’t open at the seam where 
is the place where girls grow horns where creases 
fold into armor that breaks needles where is the house 

with windows that don’t crack where is the place 
where backs bend like bamboo where paper swans fly where

is the room this revolving door stops 

Lexical, Sorta / Steve Mueske

A song conjured out of ruins 
            is a form of 
Belief, a dreaming-forward, a broadside for
Civilization, which grew, like every weed’s
Desire, for more
Earth. The green expanse 
            of an endless garden
Forever growing. But what does
Gaia think of us setting up home in her
Home? Industrious as ants. Paving an
Intaglio of highways through mountains 
Jostling the clouds. Does she sit
            in her armchair watching
Kestrels? We are lonely, anxious to
Live, as if living were a job to create
Memories. We were always free
            to create our world, no?
Now smokestacks belch flames, black soot, 
Our rivers too poisonous to swim.
People, my people, 
Quietly, I ask, What does it
Really mean to live, when
             inside there is,
Sometimes, another self 
That looks quite different from
Us on the outside? How
Very hidden, secret, this self,
Weeps like a child for all that is
X. There are still stories to write
Yes? So write them. With love
               in mind, and
Zero regrets. 

Haiku for the First 18 digits of π / Suki Sun

 Colored Grapheme Synesthesia —
a form of synesthesia in which an individual’s perception of numerals is associated with the experience of colors*

bone white silver birch
london fog pussywilow
pristine cloud dancer

camellia coral
festival fuchsia wild crown
lagoon bright aqua

chicory coffee
porcelain rose lollipop
one billowing sail

mars red ski patrol
drizzle clear water moonbeam
meadow violet

deep wisteria
opera mauve sangria
powder bit of blue

murmur hint of mint
lightest mystic skydiver
ethereal dew

*In my boyfriend’s synesthesia mind, 1 is white, 2 is green, 3 is sky blue, 4 is grey, 5 is red, 6 is brown,7 is dark blue,
8 is infinity: transparent like light, and 9 is purple. All the words in the Haiku are actual names of Pantone colors.

Anxiety / Nikki Ummel

Day 19 / Poem 19

Almost happy / Jennifer Betz

The first time she went there,
She was having her second affair,

She taught her friends and soon to be,
Third lover,

How to coax flour and salt and egg,
Into pasta,

The ascent began,
At misery ridge,

The trail ended,
Back in the river,

As always,

Where dried sage,
Reminding her,

Of some thing:  lost
Some thing,
Not moved by sound or smell,

But by the thought of the wind,

Those small hairs,
On her cheeks and arms,

Tendrils of wind,
Fingering her hair,

And she,

Almost happy

palm, conjuring  / Ellen Ferguson

she could form an energy ball on cue 

slick bristle of his hair cut short 

against palm 

Paul Newman, The Hustler, clean break 

crew cut against palm 

it’s there now 

The Snowman / Laura Gamache

(2017 Thriller, USA, 6% Rating from Rotten Tomatoes )

It’s snowing in Norway. An abandoned child builds
a snowman, using coffee beans for eyes and mouth,
faces it towards his house. His mother drowned in her Volvo,
fell through thin ice rather than leaving the car. His father
was married to someone else, didn’t want the boy
or his mother. Jump forward thirty years.

One lane bridges arch above and curve through snowy reaches.
So few cars. Blonde women drink and laugh in bars seen
from outside. Outside is cold. The killer has a newer
Volvo. He drives to a house that rises to an improbable
spindly height on the edge of a bleak cliff, hours out of Oslo,
separated from Bergen by a desolate road. A solitary

woman beheads a chicken in her barn. Detectives
Harry Hole and Katherine Bratt drop by to fuss.
In a deep sinkhole the killer creates a snow woman
and tops it with her head. Harry is the second drunken
detective on this case. Katherine’s father was the first.
Murdered at his remote cliffside cabin years before.

Oslo has a tall, plain-fronted cathedral,
a naked people sculpture park awash in flakes.
Bergen has a waterfront lined with pastel buildings.
More climb the towering hill above the rock cluttered
bay. A sleek train with a short engine speeds between,
skirting fjords and mountains. Harry Hole rides

in a pleasant orange compartment with – unknown
to him – the killer, the boyfriend of his former girlfriend,
a doctor off to a conference, a good enough guy.

Ode to the Dog Comb / Kate Gray

Oh, great rake, you make our curly dogs
flat-coated, show dogs, your tines wider
than whale baleen but perfect
for snagging hedge parsley burrs, the devil weed
spreading in May. Too bad the sight of you sends
both dogs sidling under sideboards, crashing
into crates until all-clear is sounded
by car door or bathroom fan. If only bacon fat or
deer scat could improve your appeal.

Crow in the Sun  / Seán Mac Falls

Crow in the sun so black,
You are blue, a dark shining
On the green innocent lawn.

Crow in the sun creeping,
On land you are awkward,
In the sky you are blotting.

Crow in the laze of the day,
Your eyes are unbalancing
In the gardens overgrown.

Crow in the sun so black,
You are shimmering dread,
On the green unkept lawns.

No Lady of La Salette / Kaecey McCormick

I have thought about you again. 
Every other day and then once 
in a black moon it sticks—
a sort of spiritual velcro, my eyes glued
to the shining golden roof, my knees
rocks beneath me, my hands folded 
fans split open at the seams. 

Pull back the veil, 
O my lord. Am I wonderfully, 
fearfully made? This skin
more yellow than white, 
these solid teeth, the hollow 
where my tongue waits 
to receive your body. Tell me, 
how did you plant the worm so deep 
I can hear it chewing while I sleep, 
shitting dreams of bleeding palms
and soles that burn away the flesh 
until it sags like a grave unturned, 
at home on my body?

I’m but a smiling sinner 
watching as the audience leans in 
to see me strung up before the bloody gates. 
But wait—can you hear their roar? Louder 
than the lion sent to eat out my heart. Save 
what’s left of me when I’m gone, sell 
these relics to the highest bidder. They’ll
wear my bones like pearls. I am your 
diamond. Your sparkling lantern 
fizzling into dust before I drop to the dirt 
into a melting scream.

Buried ten feet under, long and gone 
I won’t be done with you yet. Listen 
close to their warning, the devil’s men 
with their forked noses and silver 
tails—they can sniff out a liar 
ten miles away. But me, I’ll be bent over 
the pew, head tipped over my shoulder 
in ecstasy while the church mice chomp 
popcorn in the stands. I kneel and rise and 
kneel and rise, mouth open and closing 
like a Marian marionette praying silent
Hail Marys with a wooden tongue. Taste 
this salty incensed air. This sour wine breath. 
The metallic clang of bells singing out 
my name. 

This / Steve Mueske

The violent now: this moment, and this moment,
And this, with the gladness of an April goddess.
And still the night presses
Inexorably, like an obscene moth
At a screen. It’s not just the greed
Of unmaking that terrifies me. It’s that the world
Comes at such unimaginable cost.
If we knew the true value of life, the unlikelihood
Of sentience, we’d celebrate our mystery, our brokenness,
Our separate and disparate unity. We’d know,
The way a body knows it is a body, there is nothing
More or less than this This.

How Clear is Your Vision / Suki Sun

Homesick / Nikki Ummel

Day 18 / Poem 18

Full up / Jennifer Betz

the windshield fractured,
phone screen shattered,
her heart cracked wide open,
pouring down her chest,
a golden poached egg,
by a silver bantam fork.

the earth and sea,
its nooks and crannies,
soaked in,

this pain of newness,

bequeathed by fear,

a life lived beyond,
a tenuously salvus shell,

full up,
on soft egg

tonight must be a moon variation / Ellen Ferguson

next week’s eclipse 
coffee water coffee water coffee 

open, wall: 


when you said she was like me but young 
when you said she was like me but young 
when you said she was like me but young 

not understanding: 
when a person is right there,  
what’s the use of a reasonable facsimile? 

Marymoor Dog Park Reverie / Laura Gamache

Pug ruffians hang with the biggest dogs, smug
about their size. Cruiser and Lily, blue Great Danes,
are diffident. Am I worthy? They ask with their eyes.

Sable brown water dog plunges into the slough, scattering
coots, ambles ashore to rub her face against my friend’s coat.
In the scrubby trees, humped blue herons roost and grumble.

Leaping from lowered tailgates, three greyhounds race,
full out, across the field. Cruiser matches their pace
for five seconds, lumbers back, panting.

I stroke her velvet ears. Her best friend, Jasper,
an enormous Airedale with a mole on his tongue, rushes
to greet her. They mouth-wrestle playfully, mock-growl, lope

off bumping sides to meet Bridgett, and Bosch who
is grazing on dandelions and grass he’ll throw up later
in the car. These decades-gone companions come back

as the orange-trousered dog walker calls Sparkles & Louie,
who lick his hands, join the pack already making tracks
down the alley in reverie of fresh smells.

How to Fell a Tree / Kate Gray

Before, consider
            diameter to saw blade
            proximity of other trees
            slope of hill
            slope of tree
            nests in trunk
            nests in branches
            proximity to house or car
            how small you are
Prepare the saw
            chain oil
            chain sharpness/tightness
Prepare yourself
            helmet with eye shield and earmuffs
            steel-toed boots
            leather gloves
            your heart
Take time to
            check out the lean
            the weight of branches
            the way you’ll escape
Clear a path for your escape
            poison oak
            the limbs around your head
            weeds or fallen limbs where you’ll cut
Chest-high, make first cut
            70° angle
            leave 1/3 diameter
            dip the tip of the bar down to make straight cut
Second cut
            just above the bottom of the first cut
            conical piece should fall out
            make it fall out
Step back
Step way back to check that the piece you cut out faces right
Third cut
            from behind
            saw 1 inch above the bottom of missing piece
            leave notch for your heart
Make sure
            the tree leans the way you want
            (if not, your bar will get trapped)
            to listen for tree splitting
When tree starts to crack and fall
            run the escape route
If the tree doesn’t fall
            be extremely careful
            swear a lot
            wrap a rope around the trunk above first branches
            pull at an angle (so you don’t pull the tree on you)
            pull back, release, sway with the tree dancing back and forth
            let it roll, let it shimmy, make it shake
            get out of the way
after it falls
            stand in the forest’s silence
place a hand on the heartwood
            believe you have done what you needed to do
            thank the tree

Eggs / Alice Letowt

all the needles making up yesterday and the day before arrive
at a place sprawled out under tall trees and azaleas  
            and gloaming  all crash together at high tide
leaving bruises and a want to be less alone    open faced bruises
flagging i dont know something something boyhood
I did my shot today     if you don’t want to get pregnant give your boyfriend estrogen
meet half glances at a knowing smile             flood light across the street
screams home come home there is fruit in the fridge  
touch grass and look at the white oak at the far corner of the yard a buck rutted against
one spring and scarred                                                                            boys jumping
off rocks into a river and I am watching in amazement at how sound carries upstream

there is someone asleep upstairs and I am being loud and forgetful an inconsiderate house guest in my own home     body is an aftermath                        a dead woman’s jewelry drapes
someone with the same name confuses and excites longing in the lilies of the valley
starting to drape over ivy  I bend over to tie my shoe and feel the entire cities
on my fingers there are a few scars from playing with knives and fire
against the light there is a woman and and two others comment on her beauty 

Owl   / Seán Mac Falls

In the fall of light,
Trees turn to stone.
This time the sun removes,
Told in tales of the rise of moon.
Light winds rustle rusted leaves—
And a fur will soon be feathered in a bed.
And silence screeches as some flying bark embarks
And the very trees are hollowed in their grieves of the newly
Throrned, red, running rose— of the dearly claimed, arisen dead.

Opa’s Backyard / Kaecey McCormick

A hummingbird paused its beating
wings to sit on the bench beside the fence
a moment ago, sixty years in this space
where he tended rows of bonsai, grew 
Gravensteins with seeds carried under feather caps 
from Mannheim to this state by another sea, 
fused pear and plum trees, grafting branches 
to a trunk with roots deep enough to find water 
in these drought-ridden lands, under a sky so empty 
light glints off God’s eyes to reflect his wife’s soul, 
riding the wings of an owl across the canyon, trailing 
blossoms gathered for sixty years before set free. 

Luxury / Steve Mueske

I love the mornings I sense the surface
Of the day glimmering like light on water
And put off the joy of waking
Just a little while longer. When I can
In gratitude savor this luxury of being
Alive, coming to myself, in stages, 
Rising from a dream I can’t remember
But know was good. Until I can bear it
No longer and say Yes, okay, coffee
Is coming, and Sheila greets me
With a 4-note sequence of Joy that means
Human, my human, have you seen
The birds?

In My Five Hundred Years Dream / Suki Sun

every gas station
in this world
an electric charging station
by singing

old gas pumps
remodeled as microphones
grab and sing
to keep the vehicle charging


no matter 
which station 
you step into
a singing community 


sing the bluer sky 
              clearer air
              greener forest
sing the laughing leaves
              dancing bees
              flirting flowers
sing your 
             morning routine
             meal plan

sing in‘
sing in’

songs bigger
than us

until home
is the beginning 
the ending of 
this song

until this song
has no

until this song



hospital stay / Nikki Ummel

hugs says i should consider shoving the dreams where i leave down my throat
says at least they’ll serve a purpose, fill me up
     but my body has never bent to comfort
                   & the timer in my brain coos & the craving to peel an apple increases

& the ghost bones in my wide window whistle but the nurse tells me hush 
      another coo another tick & inside my room i pry open the wall
        to trespassing time, one dimension away
  mama said to eat an apple when i’m thirsty well 

no apples here for comfort, only trespassing time
    this wall is sick so i work my way down to its bones whisper hush
to the daytime ghosts, my bed splits now I am the hospital
   & press my 500 hands to the wall

we enter the soothing hall all 500 come
      smooth someones all someone escape from the pinpricks in my skin 
   soothing feet soothe halls toes curved for soothing memorial walks they stretch finally 
       PES 105 presses anger against me in my wet flesh 

       PES 105 presses whispers against me, offers apple comfort &
    whisper whisper to open & come back & ligament stretch 
             & so i’m done with trespassing ghosts i sickbed splay warm
         hear someone else’s gullet full of other ghosts, other marrow 
   other daytime ghosts stretch over other patients, other hospital coos hush

& the finger ligaments in my mouth whisper take my spine an open oven 
    i belong to 105 with the ticks, my pinpricked inches 105
finger ligaments too cold this sarasota daytime in 105
   i like the soothing comfort of night and the next wet coo yes

Day 17 / Poem 17

How to love your body: / Jennifer Betz

Look at tree trunks
The curves and scars,

That one year,
Where you stayed thirsty,

When you were so tired and sick,

A home,
A place,

To leave,
And to return

After Great Rain, a Normal Darjeeling Hums / Ellen Ferguson

Isn’t that what Emily Dickinson said?
Past the Great Plains, portable sticky buns
Smashed but not stained, mortal feelings stun
Hash and plantains, my how far we’ve come
Rash on our brains, portal! Peel and run!
“After great pain, a formal feeling comes.”
his sister said “there’s truth in it” when he speaks —
boxed photos, keys, desiderata, note:
“When I thought we might put it back together I waited”

Sound and Sense / Laura Gamache

Sitting still as a rabbit in the cabbages,
nerves taut, brain invisible to the outside world,
its furlings moist with life and foreboding, I
exult our coding immeasurable, what could be
more pleasurable, walk in wet weather, ride in the car.
Debate the donut but don’t ignore your footfall.
The wide world awaits, and also the whiffleball.

open face     run in place     pigs in space
sonic boom     algal bloom     panic room
mortal dread     Diamond Head     oyster bed
moisture meter     car heater     egg beater
forest fire     pismire     sharp desire
apple strudel     pool noodle     Labradoodle

Mary Quant, the British mother of the miniskirt,
died at 93. The look she put together, complete
with turtleneck sweater, vest, and tights,
was trim and complete, put together more than
sexy. Unfrowsy, not blousy. Boots perhaps
with the tights. I wore a navy mini-wale cord
floral miniskirt with a warm pair of orange tights.

Mary Shelley     Botticelli     jelly belly
whip smart     upstart     shopping cart
whoop and holler     silver dollar     gentleman caller
flipflop     traffic cop     Stop ‘n’ Shop
Sasquatch     Timex watch     glass of scotch
humble pie     in your eye     Russian spy

Outdoors an articulate bird sends clipped syllables
over the roof tiles. I don’t speak its language,
it explains again, this time louder. My Republic
of Tea tin teems with free bookmarks. All these
poetry collections over my head, and nobody
is talking. I read Dean Young and Mary Ruefle,
John Ashbery not so much if I’m truthful.

Believing What I Can’t See / Kate Gray

Inside every tree is heartwood. In your dream
last night you cried out in two voices.

The hummingbird’s keel is its biggest
bone. Our dog can smell a deer in burnt brush.

After fires three years ago, oaks burst with acorns.
That April was the driest month in Oregon history.

Doesn’t every girl freeze before the nightmare
wolf? Owls’ ears are offset to hear 3D.

Last May a bear galloped down our hill. No matter
how much we clear between the trees, fire will win.

Owl feathers are serrated to muffle flight. I counted
the brittle branches to know I cut a thirty-year-old fir.

Trees die painfully in drought. You dream in long
sagas where you are chased but get away.

A cistern will help supply water to the firefighters.
Hummingbirds suck pine sap from spider webs.

In the red feeder you refresh the nectar every
four days. After fire, native plants green the understory.

untitled / Alice Letowt

and then French-toast-Sunday-morning
ragweed cowlick       parting    moving presented a man
no, a boy, swimming swimming across the Potomac, and
near-death irises turning transparent half words
periwinkle at the picnic         you worry too much
and if that makes sense you will go to a place where nothing ever happens
missing the desert collects in-between backpack and shirt
it is a genre of days       noiselessness-running-its-hand-along-the-railing  
polysemous between sincerity and remorse calling two mourning doves dirt pigeons

Her Eyes  / Seán Mac Falls

Her eyes, 
Sunken, blue
With edges of ruddy green,
Of olive, kelp, fatigue,
A certain muddy camouflage,
Bright with purpose,
Ambition and fierce urgency, 
Set their twin star sights
On me and I learned a new
Word that day—

fell into formation,
Saluting her stars in the fullest light
Of the falling day.
I learned how to survive
Under such searing heat
And became intimate
With sneak attacks, 
Friendly fire, sudden blitzkrieg
And the nuclear winter,
The dark sheet,
Of sorrows unveiling.

Open Back Door / Kaecey McCormick

Each thing becomes another 
thing, the bright eastern sky 

turns flaccid, the spinach growing 
happily in the greenhouse turns 

to lunch, and you yourself are becoming 
someone else, cell by cell, year by year—

whose hands are those covered in criss-
cross lines and spots like constellations?

Watch the southern horizon. See 
the first signs of summer slip over its

edge, the peach-colored light, the fuzzy
green hills. They, too, will turn back 

to dust. In the distance, machine guns 
and car alarms drown the songbirds 

screaming as they’re consumed by cats. 
What was it you told me about time? That

writing a poem is a way to slow the world’s 
spinning? See each letter with its careful curve 

or sharp hook doing the work of changing 
one thing into the next. Here I sit, gathering 

the world to the page, pulling it in close 
like a magnet drawing filings—piece by piece 

it becomes whole again, the blues of a ball 
arcing through space between white and black

lines. And there, in the eastern sky, night falls 
open again, a screen door with holes the size 

of the sun. When this poem is done, let’s slip 
through that open back door and turn into stardust. 

The Ringmaster Explains / Steve Mueske

If on my way home from the circus my little red car should stall & clown after clown come tumbling out, know that I began, at least, with a shiny heart, an optimism borne of years listening to Finnish death metal. I am a man of many dreams, though admittedly questionable means: too short for point guard, too skinny for left tackle, too pear-shaped for modeling anything one cotton-based layer away from skin. What I’ve done (call it a survival skill) is develop an almost prescient sense of what people can be made to desire. Kitchen implements shaped like toys, toys shaped like kitchen implements, toys for the bedroom & the garage. Pets that seem as real as The Real Thing. The future is now! Blame the elephants, the lions. The mid-level suck-ups saying Yes! & Yes! & Yes! to the next big thing. I am the ringmaster, and it’s my show.

Sunday 3pm at Voices for Climate Song Circle / Suki Sun

the facilitator
first introduces herself 
and says I am tired 

the next woman
I am tired too

then another woman
 I am also tired

how can I not 
instantly fall in love
with this circle? 

a group of strangers
what can bond us better

than the honest tiredness
that we are not tired of expressing? 

I recall how
tiredness fortifies  
every step in
the last miles of 
“Water Protectors” 
silent march

quiet and peaceful
yet the massive volume
brewing inside the human waves
louder than any slogans and songs

I am tired
but I am not tired of making changes
that might never make any sounds 

the first Monarch butterfly
I attract to my colorful
pollinator garden

the first slice of 
tomato with the name celebration
I grow from seed to fruit

the first low mow May
I invite the wildflowers
to roll out
their long-forgotten carpet
in my yard

the first raspberry 
I spot on the bush
like a ruby earring
flirting with  
summer air 


are these the true songs
that the earth is never
tired of
and repeating? 

The Poet’s Plight / Nikki Ummel

Thank you for your time.
Thank you for being here.
Really, I’ve just got a few more left.
Okay, just one more.
Is it okay if I read two more?
Y’all have been so patient, thank you.
Thank you for listening.
Thank you for reading my work.
Thanks to the readers who came before me.
I’m almost done, just a few more.
Thank you for being here.
Thank you for your support.
Thank you for having me.
Just a few more short poems.
Just a few more minutes.
Can I read one more?
Thanks again for having me.
I’ll just read two more.
How much time do I have?
How much more time do I have?
I’m grateful so many of you are here.
It’s an honor to read to you all.
It’s an honor to read amongst so many amazing writers.
It’s an honor to be here.
It’s such an honor to be up here.
Thank you for showing up.
Thank you for being here on a Friday.
Thank you for being here on a Saturday.
Thank you for being here on a Sunday.
Thank you for being here on a Monday.
Thank you again.
I’m almost done, just one more quick one.
Do I have time for one more?
What an honor.
What a joy.
I’m in awe.
I’m really so lucky.
I can’t believe I got so lucky.
This is the dream.
Thank you for helping me live my dream.
Thank you for helping me live.
My book is only $10!
My book is only $15!
For tonight only, my book is only $20!
Come see me if you want a book.
I brought five copies of my book if you want one.
Come see me after.
I’m sticking around after if you want a copy of my book.
I’m sticking around after if you want to chat.
I’m sticking around after if you want to hang.
Thank you for your time.
And that’s my time. Thank you.
That’s all I have for you. Thank you.
Thanks again everyone.
Wow. I am so lucky to be here.
I can’t believe I am so lucky.

Day 16 / Poem 16

The best / Jennifer Betz

The half and half
Left in my fridge
Reminds me of my mother

She showed up
As a mother does

And we spent days
In grief and love

Her feeling
My feelings
As a mother

I felt safe

Her crocheted
A banana, papaya, kiwi
On my counter

She is softer
Her mother died

She became soft
As an egg cup

And I buried my head
In her cotton hair
All white and shining

I miss the way
She held my hand tight
Across the parking lot

The way
She showed up

Her shining green eyes
With her fake tulips

“Because they stay red,
And the world is so gray”

She closed her eyes
And shook her head

You need color
When your world
Is gray

I did the best I could


Money in the Bank / Ellen Ferguson

  1. Divorce ruined everything. 

Mention the text in your thesis. 

  1. In Pachinko divorce ruined everything. 

Present tense when you analyze a text. 

  1. In Pachinko the divorced mother, Etsuko, shows through her Bovaryism that divorce ruins everything and that having dreams that are not reality can lead to failure. 

Verb it up! Avoid passivity! 

  1.  Get out and don’t come back. Get out and don’t go back. 

Who has the agency in your sentence? 

Cruising World / Laura Gamache

El Chapo’s four sons, Los Chapitos, bring street fentanyl to us
by planes, cars, and go-fast boats, the go-to choice for smugglers,
per Wikipedia. Though they kill over 200 people each day
in the USA, they are businessmen, this is all about money,
which is why

Clarence Thomas is in trouble, for twenty years of undisclosed
trips on Harlan Crow’s 162-foot super yacht “Michaela Rose,”
even though Thomas wants us to know he’d rather camp at Wallmart.
Twitter posts blast “super yacht” but it’s yachting parlance. If it’s
over 98 feet long, it’s a super yacht, which brings us to

Jeff Bezos, whose 417-foot super sailing yacht, Koru, anchored
off Mallorca before its sea trials. Its three sails stand tall
as the Great Pyramid of Giza, precluding a helipad on deck.
He’s bought a helipad-bearing boat to trail it, like the RAV4
your uncle tows behind the Airstream.

The world is falling down. Seize the day! Go out and play!
Your captain will watch out for the rafts of refugees.
Live your lives guilt-free! Prowl the seas
as you please, you’re the big cheeses!
Clink glasses and enjoy the breezes!

The Numbers  / Kate Gray

Salmon can’t speak
                     At Google, we’re meeting consumer demand
                                                They bring over 200 jobs to The Dalles
Once 24 million salmon, now 1 million
                        Water cooling reduces carbon emissions
                                                They’re rebuilding our water infrastructure
One quarter of the city’s water
                        100% of electricity used is from renewable energy credits
                                                They’re paying $5 million in taxes
Their water use has tripled in 5 years
                        We’ll pump water back in the aquifer
                                                The evaporation adds mist to the dry landscape
They use enough water to cover the city’s 7 square miles 3 inches deep
                        We dream in 3D goggles
                                                We could be the Silicon River
Salmon save the whale and the bear
Salmon carry the ocean to the land

Line to Line / Alice Letowt

Cannot keep up appearance like a ghost
who tries to be your friend. And I look down
at the paper. There is a war in a
small part of the little smoking small brain
so far from light and from visible form.
I feel the dirt on me and under my
undone shoestrings and that eternal hour,
the lovely voice I have is going to
to end, to end against morning like
to face a fearful sky of eyes. As if
a day is not a long body in a
twin sized bed. A mind you are a part­
of ­–like how Out-Here lays strange like seeds.
For all this wind, this damn small shake from trees.
Idea is not without its weight. Is it
to be held like a babe in bed:
comforts of the light, a gap, a wide
gap-like arch of the palm. The shape it takes
winding up the small hill perennial.

Smoke  / Seán Mac Falls

So many words between us—
The caustic breech of abatement, ruin
Runs atonal, in recitals of indifference,
How even the tawdry birds now sound
Discordant and rain crushes as it falls

The pinprick stars are merely eyes
Undraped to the worn soul’s veil
And gorgon time roils setting our feet
In the crust of wishes and delusions

The bullet riddled skies in absence
Of colour are but particulates of lime 
To the moonless night.  Words have no 
Eyes, they can only finger.

O the sorrows of the untouched—
The cruelty of the sightless and bent blind,
Drab vermillion stars felled like forced tears.

Ode to My Inner Nun / Kaecey McCormick

after Ross Gay

Somewhere inside me
my inner nun tugs
at her dark tunic
secured tight by
a woolen belt so thick
you could genuflect
on it if you
weren’t looking
for bruises
she has not removed
her veil since
she was consecrated
because she doesn’t want our evil inclinations
to be revealed 
mine or hers
or tangle us with temptation
she is maybe the only person
I’ve heard say
“evil inclinations” or “temptation”
when referring to
my friends
she listens to music
with rosary beads in her folded hands
if not a scourge
and if the nun in me sees
two teenagers whispering
in the back pew of the church
I think not
because they get
in the way 
or scare off the widows
but more precisely 
because she thinks it sacrilege
those restless lips
the savior’s name invoked 
for all the wrong reasons
the earthy delight 
in this sacred space
she will lash their smiles from their skin
I should tell you
the nun in me always carries a crucifix and a dove
she wants to forgive the world I suppose
because she feels she needs forgiving
for who knows how many things deemed unforgivable
like the times as a girl she’d peel her dress off and slip between the rails
to slide splashless into the neighbor’s pool 
or how she’d connect the freckles on her father’s tired face
like they were a star chart mapping the heavens
or the autumn days she’d sneak out the classroom’s back door
and between the trees to the cemetery
and rest her naked face on the cold stones
while above her the Carolina wrens chattered and her eyes
drifted deep as the canyon,
on the edge of which, there she is,
right now, the nun in me
tossing her crucifix into the chasm,
flinging the dove up to the sky,
taking off her scapular, and bathing her skin
in the sun. 

Angels / Steve Mueske

To you I sung, babes on the brink of sleep,
of angels. Not Rilke’s angels of terrible power
but beings of grace and light stationed invisibly
in the air. Whose songs could be mistaken
for wind. For whom the canny birds
converse. I do not believe in angels, much less
the solid fact of wings, but I wanted
to comfort you like the mother
I could never be, while the world was still
limitless and dragons swam in the sea. A world
of benevolence and possibility. I still sing
to you in the womb of my mind, where you face
the world without me, your innocence by now
hardened into a shield.

Today I Sang Deep Peace for You / Suki Sun

the first person
I ever sing for
in a memorial service 
with the choir

but I never met you before

only this morning
i saw your picture
on the cover of
the program

knowing that you
had sung
Deep Peace twice 
for other people’s memorial 
as a devoted choir member
for decades 

I couldn’t stop wondering 
when you sang this song
where did you stand
was it also in mid-April 
did you wear the same earrings

were you
holding back tears like me
in the glimpse of the loved ones
sitting in the first pew
while being held by the melody 
that kept moving

running wave
flowing air
shining stars 

chorusing these lyrics
I inherited your treasure
and became
the extension of 
your gaze
        your breath
                your sound
                                        the healing light
               embodied and 
        softened the
sorrow of others

when the whole sanctuary
vibrated with your voice
that harmonized my singing
I suddenly realized 

even if it was the grief 
bringing me closer to you
it was never
too late to say this with joy


so glad

Click here for poems 1 – 15