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 2024 are Sarah Chestnut, Marnie Bullock Dresser, Marshall Malin, Jessie Lynn McMains, Manthipe Moila, Kalliopy Paleos, Briton Szydloski, and Elizabeth Walton.

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

Day 17 / Poem 17

Hand me yourself like a slipper shell,
like a blue bell, like an empty nest2
revealed & retrieved from winter limbs.

Hold yourself out, fragile
as snipped chives, warm egg, a pen,
a prize, an herb bouquet.3

Give me yourself, your hand, your gaze,
your breath, your blessing. My hunger
is a hive of want and need.4

Give me the hope of your hum,
all honeyglow and flowing.


1For the highest form of prayer is the goodness of God, which comes
down to us to our humblest needs.
2God, of your goodness give me yourself, for you are enough for me
3& I can ask for nothing which is less which can pay you full worship.
4If I ask anything which is less, always I am in want
5but only in you do I have everything.
6Our natural will is to have God, & God’s will is to have us, & we can
never stop willing or loving until we possess him in fulness of joy.
7And there we can will no more, for it is his will that we be occupied in
knowing & loving until the time comes that we shall be filled full in
8Therefore it pleases him that we seek him & honor him through
intermediaries, understanding, &
9knowing that he is the goodness of everything.

Ribbed undershirt, no bra, air you could swim in,
Cardinals cap turned backwards, alone,
listening to KMOX on the front porch
(air conditioner broken, cable too expensive),
a string of plastic lanterns looped over the shorting porch light,
tea candles in a metal pan becoming
a conflagration I made worse with Budweiser:

summer of forbidden love and loneliness,
I probably had tears in my eyes half the game, wanting
a game buddy, a boyfriend, a husband maybe, just anyone
to talk stats with, grab a beer for & then go at it hard
after the last out. Blistering line drive, diving catch, lit up scoreboard.

Even before that summer, well before Bull Durham, I connected
baseball and sex.
High school girlfriends and I argued endlessly in English class
about whose ass was finer, Tommy Herr or Ryne Sandberg, applying
rhetorical devices with lust in our hearts and As on our essays.

The 80s belonged to my ball team: three pennants, one series,
and a whole new way of playing, thank you Whitey Herzog,
gone home today. Get ‘em on, move ‘em over, bring ‘em home.
We stole more bases, turned more double plays,
and our uniforms were the same blue
the sky gets on a cloudless day right before twilight.

The longing to be back there right now—I can taste it, wanting
that un-aged body, sure, and warmer weather,
and even more so, a winning team,
but mostly, just a quiet evening to myself.

And if I step out of the shade?
The sun would fall on you.
What if I split my face in half? 
One pupil would dilate


Man crawls from shipwreck
dripping seawater.


We conversed
but nothing I 
wrote down 
survived the 
may have
it all, 
            or I 
might have. 
The only 
is change. 
From where 
I sit, on my 
green hill 
before the 
river, I know 
I cannot 
change the 

I am foretold, twofold, burnt-
bridge and fervor

I am tempest, waterspout:
clean line roping sky 

I am furor, fever, rising
steam and scorch 

I am gale, guile, rock 
piercing footfall

I am thorn, scorn, 
no longer forlorn

I am moor, moon, 
thunder beneath sole,

pit, serrated, spit, slow
            heat, churn, eye orbit 
cracking, sky cracking,
       skin cracking, 
            steep, stark, lone-shark 

I am precipice, barbed, 
hungry – 
I said I am hungry

I am yours now. You will be sorry. 

My father looked up from the burning blue tongues
of Heaven and let me know I was his
not a mistake or a she-bastard
(whomever else he may be visiting from there I do not know)
The soles of my feet
like faces bruised climbing the sharp streets
I had learned that the living 
are also condemned to wander
and I have, oh have I
But it is enough
to see his bronze face turn towards me
through the smoke of the censer
brown eyes focused and wet
a body in and of themselves

He says nothing
as they are often wont over there
May I tell your story? I ask
The head turns back
closed eyes
as if sunning himself 
in the pale light of his next ascent
a silent assent
though he knows it will hurt

I keep watching
sensing his faint, phlegmy cough lift away from him
[the cough of the beaten man]
[man beaten down by all his pleasures]
sense the soft heaven-flesh of his chest as when he was a fine young boy
see him safely enter the palace of forgiving


for John and Pam

who walked 
the dog 


On trend
though not 
on mend 


has the 
dog been 

Day 16 / Poem 16

Mine    the heresy of the pantheist not the deist
You are not far off     indifferent      but breath-close
You are the waking winter grass     the rake tines
enlivening     brash song of snowdrops in spring-winter

Hogwash       It’s mud season           Some mornings
my back bends me to the floor       Others                      a
sends me into lithe arias of praise            My heart
is winnowing wheat from chaff       My heart
is dancing hip-hop over sidewalk cracks    The cracks
are growing empty   The emptiness
grows and grows.                    You should see it overflowing!

Heresy-Pharisee        You are veiled & unveiling
I know this
I want to tell you how easy it is to love your world
To love you as your world
To love your world
you      To say                     you are worthy
of the wood warbler the rose lily     the first bumble bee
to the honest upturned faces of the periwinkle
And by your own unveiling     the reciprocal is true:
each of these is worthy of You

I know the counter-witness Heedlessness           Truancy
Conflation      Inflation           It’s a bargain!

Present or absent       Lord     save us from our jargon

      for Brian

Even when I was driving to work all the time, it was hard to spot:
the precise day the hills were no longer gray but just slightly,
in the right light, very, very pale green, a gray-green,
Russian olive, iceberg, dusty aqua, Pantone 5506. Snapping
a picture, next to impossible but I kept trying today, even though
I had a curbside pickup deadline to meet. Pull over, compose,
click, certain disappointment later when I scan the shots. The phrase
is from my father. I remember him hunting on Sundays when
we were all in the car together, going to church, early 1970s
it had to be, because my brother stopped going in high school.
It was almost always a little ahead or a little past, so now
I wonder if he ever did say, “There. That’s it. Today.” I just learned
he always thought rain drops hitting the sidewalk looked like
little ballerinas. This story from my brother, in town to visit
because Dad’s disappearing, little by little, faster, slower, faster,
and getting extra care from women smart enough to ask if
they should say the word “hospice” to him. Great question and
the answer is no. I say it better than I thought I would, but saying
good-bye when that time comes, soon apparently, will be hard
because I have been saying it for years as he’s faded and is now
essentially gone, the poet, the bear, the rock, the smartest man
who would tell me the precise moment is coming but isn’t here yet.

The neighbors won’t stop fighting. 
It’s been three continuous days of 
screaming, and I wonder—do they 
work? How do they have energy
to wake up and go to sleep hoarse?
Desperate sobbing goes into typing
these lines. The thuds and thumps 
make me question if I should call 
the police. It’s all in Castellano, 
and I can’t understand the words. 
All I can understand is the pain, 
the anger, and I detest it. Correct me
if I’m wrong, but living like that 
isn’t worth it. Nothing is worth that.

Parking lot. Cowboy with a hand in his velour sweatpants
moseyed up. Gas pump or happy to see me? I didn’t ask.

We posed for pictures near bins which read Trash Only
except in the photos it looked like they said Rash On.

The Kid crawls around, pinching and barking. His new
name, he says, is El SeaScab, the Lobster-Seal-Crab.

Once someone told me I was an old-school punk; later
that same night someone said I looked like Kate Hepburn.

I think I will have the Velvet Underground song “Heroin”
played at my funeral, mostly just to freak everyone out.

Fear is the blinking phone 
Red as a siren’s score.
It needs breathing, a recollection of 
Evenings gone right, a soothing salve
Nearby before the barrage begins. 
Don’t say you love me when you don’t.
Sure as a bird, you hammer in my head,

Lower your claws 
Into the earth of my skin. Like a good lover, you
Knock some sense into me. What is there to 
Esteem, right? Beautiful things don’t call out 

To themselves. A) My floor is lava or a 
Hole I keep falling into B) I am an unholy woman,
Eve with her wet and sour teeth C) I am a 
Spiraling leaf, rotting at the veins  D) am I 
Even trying, am I even trying  not to sink? 

I heard the crickets cricking through the grass and it reminded me of staying up all night on the white bow of the boat staring at the black harbor.

I heard the cars whooshing by the house and it reminded me of all us kids sitting on the stoop till late all summer and just talking with the radio on.

I heard the table saw rumbling and remembered when we threw my father’s cigarettes overboard to make him quit smoking, which he didn’t, and certainly wasn’t going to that day.

I heard the padding of the dog’s paws on the yoga mat and it reminded me of the hospital bed and my grandmother’s hair flattened against her dear, sweet skull as she sat up for her soup.

I heard the girls giggling after class and it reminded me my mother was so late getting me from ballet lessons, and so often, the teacher wouldn’t have me anymore.

I heard the first drop of rain alight on the glass table and it reminded me my house needs a good, deep scrubbing.

I heard the sleepy, slow breathing of my beloved and it reminded me the mornings would be dark for many weeks more before spring relented and returned.

I heard the plink of my eyelids unsealing upon waking this morning and it reminded me that my brain sees my bodily cells as Greek and nothing else.

I heard the phone starting to ring as I called the bank and it reminded me I had a dream about my father dying just a few weeks before he passed.

I heard the sandy ticking of my student’s Swatch telling time and I remembered no one can know a sliver of anyone else, no, never more than that. 

Then I gave my class my lightest smile and told them it was time to focus and open their notebooks so we could get started.


For Bronte Somerset

 Inside the bathroom 
of light where the Alocasia leaf 

brings alive its Araceae family 
dreams, the generous lime 

that found its way in,
a weed in a pot 

now lush and green
lifts into uncertainty 

the summer heat, the frizzle 
suckering in and bugs killing off 

the host. Am I the host, and are 
you too, our white hands aligned 

with the shower steam
the windows closed

so malice can’t come in? 
A gardener knows 

the bug 
or the leaf 

must go, and 
chops them both.

It’s a happiness thing, 
to lose the unexpected sting

cool in their trust
that no death 

is ever
the end

Day 15 / Poem 15

Those ripples on the water’s surface? Fairies.
And that’s Blossom Swing. Oh, that’s Water Way.
This is a restful place—that moss—fairy beds.
And these thorns: they break off and take as swords
into battle. There’s one they pass like a word
of might from king to king. The queen gets a dagger.
And when they’re born, they do not have wings.
Just wing buds, which grow—so they can swim
when they’re young, you know. And they speak
the speech of the land of the humans, but also
their own language. Kids learn it at school.
Something like a bird’s. This face in the rock wall,
this fragment, is Anointing Stone—takes sixty fairies
to lift and pour the water on the boy who has become
a man. Or the girl—you know, a woman.

The yard the village wants to take a backhoe to
will have some new plantings tonight, or maybe
he’s gathering something for supper. He’s curved
like a capital C when he stands up, head, neck, back
swooping down to knees still half crouching. Alone,
he doesn’t know I’m watching from across the alley.
I’m hiding in my car to play a few puzzles and then
to meditate away from tax tension inside my house.
I’m halfway aware of him as I bring my awareness back
to my breath. Again and again. The cedar waving
in the wind absorbs me. And then again, he’s kneeling
to dig at or cut something. It goes in a plastic bag
just like the plastic bag I’m going to fill with rhubarb
when I’m done. The first spring pie. I can see that’s not
what he’s after, and really, he doesn’t seem like a pie guy.
The village is taking legal steps to condemn
his house. He slept in his car a lot this winter, somehow
survived a lot of sub-zero nights. The car is so full
of everything, he’s cleared just enough for a space shaped
exactly like him. Sometimes he gets pulled over for obstructed
views and people throw the term hoarder around like rice
at a wedding, like confetti, like rocks at a protest.
His house mess is larger than mine and more visible and
there are windows broken out, holes in the roof, steps
crumbled and unusable. It is a matter of degree. It is
the difference between a wise old man digging up
knowledge and a brand new crone procrastinating.
It is a sweet busyness as the sun goes down and all the green
branches turn black and stop waving because the wind died.

Spring now but doesn’t feel   muchlike   still

Amelia n’ Ashley show             up tie dye n’
bikes n’ we cycle miles            n’ miles        north to

th’ the lighthouse got a portable               radio

ducttaped to handle       bars playin’ New Rock
102.1 n’ we sing into the windalong n’

ride until our calf muscles scream     n’ burnin’

with the use n’ our cheeks     burnin’ pink from
Aprilbreeze n’ by the light      house we drop

our bikes n’        wander I’ve got      a cheap

camera n’ take   pictures of Ashleyn’Amelia
my friends’ dyed swirls of redorange n’ blue

th’ only bright                spots against the gray cloud

bank o’ sky n’                the tarnished                  nickel o’
th’ uglybeautiful lake n’ the gray     green o’ th’

grass’ notyet       n’ we take our shoes off n’

walk in the water n’ get                 the bottoms
of our jeanlegs wet             n’ it’s screamin’

cold            we don’t care          n’ before we

make the longride                      back we sit on th’
gray cement pier n’ dusk is       comin’ on          we

can see the lights o’ our nowhere    town glitter

n’ sudden I long to be   there when I’m in
it I wanna get                  gone but from this

distance even                 th’ awful ’s                gorgeous

(prompt poem – The Rabbit Catcher by Sylvia Plath with the opening line It was a place of______) 

It was a place 
of sweet liquid 
that flooded out 
like a silicone
cup squeezed 
free of blood.

Its flesh 
demanded teeth, 
a tongue, 
a name for its 
seeds – small 
and black like 
pupils. The skin 
betrayed itself, 
breaking with the 
meerest pressure, 
erasing itself 
into its golden

My love, 
sneering at 
the pretense 
of spoons 
takes an animal
bite out of 
the thing as 
though he were 
taking a
bite out of me. 

I wish everyone would finally confess to being a poet so we could all go around talking in poems and nobody would have to be bored by sports. 
I wish I could afford to have someone read my dog’s thoughts because I have a number of questions for him and I think all
good animal psychics should have clients.
I wish, dear reader, for all the holiest dreams of your heart to come to life.|
I wish we were all friends again lounging on the porch with the dark peonies and wind chimes and nobody secretly planning anything sad.
I wish everything was beautifully made, especially sneakers because they all suck now.
I wish the whole family had gone to all those Karpathian weddings down in Baltimore and that we still saw each other every year.
I wish I was never horrible to people. It would be so much easier for all of us.
I wish nobody had any allergies and that we could all have cake all the time.
I wish you, dear reader, fine health and life in a civilization where the systems flourish for all.
I wish all of us were sharing the old house instead of fighting over it because now it’s empty and nobody’s giving in.
I wish those inventions all the kids are making at stem schools to save us from plastics would get a move on.
I wish you, dear reader, were here and we were talking all this over with warm cookies and cool milk.
I wish nobody felt the need to rape others or themselves even if they think it’s all just for fun.
I wish I were on the mind of the people I miss so deeply and that we could all go for a long walk on the Brockport canal. And then have a picnic.
I wish the medieval period were all finished. It’s taking way too long.
I wish to awaken long enough before dawn to settle in and enjoy it unfolding all the days I have left to do so.
I wish you a beautiful day, dear reader, since we likely won’t meet and all things are in always in motion.

Day 14 / Poem 14

Winter sun at noon. Low brightness, cold.
The tumbleweed rolls. Call forth this Rose
of Jericho like Lazurus: stone, rolled;
curled frond, unfurled. Cloth releasing
life, life. The rootless heart
so thirsty for all it knows
how to live without.

I unbind this knot, this spike moss,
place its dry bones on stones
in a shallow of wet. Together we commence
to open. To open is slow breathing,
is the pace of sun, glowing; moon, growing,
is a desert native, holding
the water’s edge.

We are no longer friends,
but say peace, peace, and perhaps,
there is peace. Once, we opened our hands
to winter sun, unbinding every frond
so perfectly shaped to shield
the one it enfolds. Life is hold,
and release. Don’t you see?

Briefly, I was a small pool of stones
you paused in, spread, a gradation
of gray to brown to green.
I went dry. You curled in on yourself.
Rolled on.

Would I like squishing mud through my toes now?
Apparently not (since I avoid being barefoot in general)
but I did then, we did, down at The Pond,
and then pretended to be city girls who squealed
and screamed at how awful it was. Those sissies also hated
how you had to keep moving when you were swimming
or the baby bluegills would nip at your moles and freckles.
I bet those same girls would pay $30 for a fish pedicure
and a mud wrap. We should meet at a spa and make fun
of them again. We should meet anywhere and drink
some wine and hit on our childhood hits: painting rocks
(Gran’mommy was brilliant to occupy us that way,
water paints and a full driveway of gravel, all ours
for the whole afternoon). The time we built a rabbit trap
(just a quiet little spot a bunny might want to sleep).
Building the earth space station in my closet, with knobs
and lids and bottle caps we’d pilfered and worked into
small holes in a big cardboard box, all labeled with words
we didn’t understand like throttle and vector and thrust.
Our vaguely racist, all-purpose, magical chant:
Hiya tucky-tah, hoomy, yoomy, doo.
We almost never got in trouble. We were good girls, but
three times I remember stern looks, stern words, and once
yelling. We couldn’t be as quiet during the farm report
at noon as we were supposed to. One time I discovered
the ice in my tea (so sweet and cold it hurt your teeth)
made a noise as it was melting and I had to share the news.
The giggling came over us in waves and Gran’mommy frowned
(but Gran’daddy smiled, which is why we didn’t stop).
The time we stayed gone too long and Gran’mommy found us
at the end of an old road, watching crews work
on the interstate. We were hidden, spying, and sure we’d seen
one of them waving a gun.  We were warned about
girls being kidnapped and harmed. But the time I remember
the yelling was when Rob was chasing us around and around
and around the house, he was four, we were nine and ten
(the same year “Seasons in the Sun” came out, such a sad song)
and just did NOT want to play with him. At some point he
wasn’t behind us anymore and we were thrilled until
Gran’mommy came around the house carrying him, blood
all over both of them. He’d fallen and bit through his lip.
“Are you two happy now?” she shouted, angrier than I ever
had seen or would ever see her. Any other trouble
we got into later, she never knew about, or if she did,
our family code of silence kept her from saying a word.

                                        for Jode on her 60th birthday

Many small trees 
with yellow leaves
some fallen, car
parked, two blocks
walked, a cherry
latte, bad cheesecake—


through a steel tainted blue
understand, intervene, contradict
take the wind, brace the door 
completely surrounded


Taking the train 
seems idyllic 
I’m sullen, scars 
marked, blue rocks
tossed, at a very
haunted, sad rancho


drink a coffee freshly brewed
what a terrible dream to have dreamed 
take it in, silent sky
delightful the morning


crunching under feet
the rain persists 
less pollen, mosquitos
dead, true flaws
daunted, dragged away—


sing a song I wrote for you
or a pair of covers you arranged 
contented grin, music fills, 
inspired the running!

Every angel is terrifying, and yet, alas
I can’t think of anything more terrifying than the times we’re living in.
I invoke you whenever someone says ‘don’t make this about you.’
I invoke you and it’s almost deadly, this trying not to
write about certain things. I once said I’d never write poems
about sex or politics, and yet— Don’t make this about you,
they say, and I never would, it would be appalling to do so,
but it’s perilous pretending I’m not affected. It’s not about
me but dear God. I think of the children. Think of the children
says everyone, but so many people don’t seem to care
unless it’s their own children. Don’t care when it’s brown
children half a world away, or a soldier-child self-immolating, or
a teen who’s Native, who’s queer and here. I think of my own
children, creation’s pampered favorites, in that right now,
they seem to be American white boys. But they’re both
neurodivergent and sex or gender-wise, I don’t know what they’ll
grow up to be. My husband doesn’t understand me.
Why I get so upset about children that aren’t mine. O God, all
children are mine. That’s what I feel when I look at them. I see
all children and I, moved by deep feeling, evaporate. I am
making this about me. Don’t make this about you, they say.
You’re not the mother of a murdered Oklahoma teen. You’re
not in Gaza. Don’t pretend it’s hard to be happy just because
—gestures vaguely at the world. That’s the thing. It’s not hard
to be happy. You’ve entered my bloodstream, the room, the whole
springtime is filled with you. 
Happiness comes easy. It’s
sorrow that’s difficult. I don’t feel like I have the right to it. Considering—
Sometimes, though, I get so sad I think I’m dying. Not that I want to;
it’s that I think of the children, and then the littlest things set me off.
I weep and weep over everything. A painting of cormorants flying
over a lake at sunset. The lines around my eyes. Why am I crying?
Trees do exist; the houses that we live in still stand. My life
is not perfect but I am alive and so are my children. If only we too
could discover a pure, contained, human place
—I hear the rough
scrape of skateboard wheels on the sidewalk outside

my window. That’s what I want for every child.
(all italicized lines from Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Second Elegy”)

What we call damage could be a kind 
of triumph: fissure in concrete turned 

crack turned fragmented slabs of splitting. 
Agape, we watch the furor of tree roots 

as they compel the concrete to look up 
or else move. We think of how we can undo 

the damage, how to tame the roots back. 
We view it as a form of aggression,

a desire to conquer, to swallow a house 
or neighborhood or, perhaps, to swallow us.  

What if it is language? What if it is speaking 
through the roots in search of another 

of its kind, seeking  something, in this desolate 
landscape, to share its secrets with?


reaches cracked fingers through my lips
Scrapes out my stumbling tongue
Draws reams of dry, uncut silks
from my throat
Tugs out strings of pearls
given to someone more beautiful


Shoves that bony fist into my mouth
flings me onto the floor
rolling me till I puke up
that paper bag of candy
I never got,
Stamps its dead foot into my guts
until the stolen keys come
clanging onto the floor
Paints portrait after portrait
of all the stupid, stupid boys


Ravages my ears
You shall have no home

After the book by the same name by Trish Bolton

In Union Street I see 
so many friends, in your hands I see gritty nails
such hints where family can find a way 

an equal way, among those with few wrinkled
pretensions and in your face they see themselves, 
never too fast or slow to forget to recognise

the special light that flows from bending to pick the weeds
not pressured or hurried on to some other need, pressing 
your face your hands your pen, your friends 

all see the flowers you mend to the kerbside 
the verge between now and zen your light touched 
curled in the steps you take between the compost 

the seedlings of tomorrow call out to say 
hello my friend, how long it’s been. Will you sit with me, 
and drink this tea I made from rose geranium, 

share this Persian Love cake, the icing is fresh as it is 
sweet with lemon thyme and verbena. Whenever You’re 
Ready, you say, an invite to return to this centring space, 

down a laneway with palings and pickets and 
clinker bricks where it’s warm for a city bird 
to sit in the sun making notes on character. 

Day 13 / Poem 13

I do not know your name.
You came, sudden, silent, an unexpected
surfacing. Or, a coagulation
of all the worries that surf
the currents my skin contains.
Are you a surface stain? A buried grief,
unearthing itself? Or the late
cry of a forgotten pinch? Are you
the harbinger of doom – or is that
just me, and my rainy-day gloom?
O nameless new part of me, already
you have taught me I love my life,
want hands that are strong. See?
I am trying to believe you belong.

tripped me up on the piano not because
of the offensive lyrics to which I was oblivious
but because I just never practiced.
“Do you ever play when you’re not here?”
was the first question my sweet teacher asked
one lesson. And then: “Shall we tell
your parents you’d like to stop?” No and yes,
thank-you, Mrs. McPherson. But I could read music
and thus got all the fun percussion in band
and orchestra. The boys could read the notes across
but I could read up and down. Timpani, xylophone,
marimba, temple blocks, vibraphone, glockenspiel.
I still wasn’t fantastic at practicing. At contest once
I got a pity pass. But I loved “Variations on
a Korean Folk Song” (which is probably appropriation)
and tried not to mess it up. When I told my band director
I was quitting to work more hours at the radio station,
he seemed wounded and concerned and touched
my shoulder in a very appropriate and gentle way
and I cried all the way the down the stairwell. If I could
zip back to Mrs. McPherson’s trailer with her shelves
full of little busts of composers, I would try to tell myself
“Don’t quit. You’ll regret this.” But I wouldn’t believe it
and I’d be right not to because it’s not entirely true.


Approached from behind, the night
touched his shoulder. He turned, 
saw opulent clouds of il-ne-savait-pas-quoi—
forged in the passing noise, a name 
on his lips like honey, poised for fall
whispers out into the frigidity
visible breath, puffs of te quiero maybe
te amo, rush of water somewhere, 
cold beer and the smiling beard across 
from him, like a Magritte painting—
bright lights—he dropped the hand, 
and the whole human went with it. 
Let me tell you in two different tones
said the tree he peed on


A taxi to Buenos Aires
appearing slowly into 
city lights, the hotel
dimly lit, electric with 
something known but 
unspoken, it’s fast but 
peaceful in winter—
let’s share a cigarette, 
watch the city morning
the rush unfamiliar 
to us, let’s disentangle 
what’s between us 
at last, reconstruct from 
a limited city view—


No more lines to cross
but maybe, different lines, 
the gray defines itself 
as such—not black, not 
white, not the absolutes
we’ve been taught to 
crave, no, we exist
somewhere in the middle
spikes of pure yellow
skewering sheets of red
the gutter where you 
found me, with my ankle 
twisted, wasn’t that 
different from the home 
that raised me—loosened
the zippers of my jacket 
breathed your scent 
into my memory and 
took my time walking
despite the pain from 


A rolling of thunder, a storm supreme, 
the city fills with rainwater from faraway lakes—
could this all just be a dream?
When what is is simply what it seems
when windows we’ve understood break,
a rolling of thunder, a storm supreme, 
comes to reinvent the way downstream, 
comes to push the city’s trash for keepsake—
could this all just be a dream?
This gathering of clouds seeks to redeem 
others, witnessing other worlds, all now awake—
a rolling of thunder, a storm supreme…
the orange, gray, blue, and violet color scheme,
a crash so violent the whole building shakes, 
could this all just be a dream?
Somewhere a wave caught us midstream, 
tossed us where we’ll heal from our aches, 
a rolling of thunder, a storm supreme,
could this all just be a dream? 

There were rituals. One was the red elephant with a trunk-key
which unlocked the stories. Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. You’d turn it
and the tinny voice would tell you the stories. The rituals

Mostly involved stories. The legend of the monkey bars
the red smell they left on your palms. The penny whistles

And the bullies. We jacked, we beanstalked. Fee fi fo fum
that was the way it was. We ran but also pinched and

Bruised and the pain was the way we told stories. There
was the witchhouse that explained the crack. And the rituals

Which explained the marks. What explained the poverty
but the pumpkins. I remember there was a time they cut

my wings. This may just be a story a beanstalk a penny
whistle. A forest full of deer and fairy tales.

lightening belts the sky silver
i shake like a dog   
keep in my mind its hot spread
of welts

i want to retreat from this 
atmosphere, and for the drums 
to cool, quiet, the water 
to cease

my friend grins, all mist 
and hot air 
she wishes to charge 
through the rain, a bolt 
of flesh, and hair, and teeth
like the moon

i talk her down   she acquiesces
but i know that a woman like her  
can only be held for so long

one day she will be a tree
torn asunder, trembling arms
held up to the sky
the white flash before a burn


My mother snaps the chicken bones
sucks out the salty marrow
her eyes glistening.

Feet bruised, paper sandals on the concrete
I keep my pace
draw a bone like a stick from inside my body
let it fall to the concrete
It shatters like a dish
once belonging to a delicate set

My mother taught us to lift
the whole spine from the translucent fish
Eat the eyes too
silver lozenges disappear into her mouth

Eyes staring, burning with mascara
I keep my pace
reach inside for another long, warm bone
toss it into a low doorway
There’s a message inside smeared with marrow
I mustn’t read anymore

After the novel by the same name, by Suzanne Leal

I worried, my love, would he 
take me up and into the world
or would he take me down, 
where the yard birds won’t fly 
and the light of all of my 
Gods blew away. 

I worried, too, about me, would I 
lift my love up and into the world,
would the love in my wings set him free?
Would I pin him to the heartbreak
of my destiny in loveless 
stone confines. 

The divinity shuttered inside of me, 
locked both of us out, eventually, 
and I worried then too, would my 
darkness overwhelm 
us when all we loved 
seemed lost

I refused to believe he could mislead me,
that either of his stone working hands
had done us in, I never could see 
any other way, than 
to straighten out lies 
and head for the truth. 

My love was never stronger 
than when rock was low, 
and he was alone, encaged. 
It was then that I knew in the
light of my fingertips 
that he was the man to trust. 

I felt his strength inside my bones 
until the light in the summer box 
on the window sill shone complete 
and faced down deceptions and ploys. I believed 
until the worst lie of all took up the key, opened the cage 
and set itself free in the clearest expanse of truth. 

Day 12 / Poem 12

What if I forget how suddenly close the moon,
how ominous, fist-solid, unbothered by all this
fuss? I must remember how deep the shadows,
how you came alongside me, like a friend.
The sky a bright bruise and we mapped ourselves
to Jupiter, to Venus. Then, the unlookable light,
slivering open to an outpouring.

Remember the tail lights’ slow pour, like lava
down the mountain. Recollect how buoyant
you remained. You kept laughter, held it out,
like a moon stone. Do not forget the glow
of our faces, also moons, traveling an endless
road home.

And etch forever the silence that befell us
when the opossum, belonging in the dark,
could not account for the meteor of our car,
rocketing from nowhere. And your hand
in my hand as we wept for the loss.
Remember, O do not forget to remember,
the heartbeat in our clasped hands, the strong,
sorrowful pulse. Maybe mother’s. Maybe son’s.

Free-sewing because I’m in a hurry, one flower
looks more like four nice fingers and one rude one
or possibly something obscene with two round lower parts
and one longer protruding. So it will get layered,
hidden, safe. The flowers are for a wreath for my father’s
nursing home door. I try to switch them out seasonally,
but the leprechauns are still up, almost a month past
their holiday. Fortunately Orthodox Easter is in May
so the bright egg material is sort of still on time, but later
than I’d intended. I’ll go visit him tomorrow and hang it up.
People ask if he still knows me. I say I don’t test him.
I’ve been saying “Hi Dad, it’s Marn, your daughter,”
for years. Last week I got a big smile and a weird wave
(more like jazz hands, really, which he wouldn’t know)
and then he almost immediately turned away from me
and my mother and slept. I’m confident he wouldn’t know
whether the quilted circle on his door is early or late,
and honestly the eggs are kind of piled up and disguised
and who cares anyway? That I don’t meet my deadlines,
that I don’t visit as often as I should, that my heartbreak
moves as slow as a mill wheel on a frozen stream
that will melt as spring arrives so the wooden circle turns
faster and faster, though creaking, and power is
provided to—to what? To do what? To move things along
in a downward spiral or a slight plateau or a goddamned straight line that just won’t stop.

Swift through tundra-fed caribou, 
a fox’s short muzzle, a wolverine’s 
                     we went awondering—
wrong and waning, gelid, nebulous,
about what we wanted and what not.
It was a cold song sung, but I felt 
the rising 
                     sun beneath ice sheets.
Earth turned, I became fireweed
and bearberry. 
                            Carbon from peat. 
The great gray owl and the elk 
have told me their tales, revealed 
to me what it means to be animal—|I flew south and in so doing broke
what had been frozen. I lost limbs
in a forest fire. 
                              Most importantly, 
I left you behind, how you sniveled. 
Once warm, I materialized anew, 
this time, not so much physically as 
left in an idea of an idea, 
where people of great intellect go to 
die—and I learned of less frost. 
Shivering, shivering and coughing,
nature progressed past me until I was 
a petrified something—
                                               less human 
than I had been, more impervious, 
more powerful than ever, unmovable. 

The butch detective limps into a bar and sits down. It’s the kind of bar where everyone in it has seen better days, in the kind of neighborhood that has seen better days. The kind of bar where the pimps’ fur coats have mange and the barmaid could be 25 or 60. Still beautiful, but unraveling, rough-voiced, crow’s-feet, pockmarks on her cheeks; could be from age, could be from living fast and hard too young. The kind of neighborhood where the streets are pockmarked with potholes, where the trash piles up in mounds. Mattresses, bicycles, baby carriages. Where half the houses are boarded up and the youth correctional facility ain’t too far away. The kind of bar where the tracks are so close that every passing freight makes the iron-barred windows rattle and shake. The butch detective orders a tonic and lime, no gin. She stopped drinking when— The same night she stopped carrying a gun. She sips the thick bubbles, citrus and quinine, and looks at the wall behind the cash register. There are years worth of memorial folders taped up there, regulars at the bar who died too young or just died; the paper yellowed now from age and smoke, though smoking hasn’t been legal in any bar for over a decade. The butch detective wonders what it would be like to be known so well they’d paste the notice of your death up on the wall. She wishes she had a cigarette. Scratches her belly; feels an ache in her bad leg that means tomorrow it’s going to rain. One of the regulars puts a song on the jukebox, some scratchy old country tune of lost dogs, lost loves, loss. The barmaid sings along, rough and scratchy, but yes, she really is quite beautiful. The butch detective remembers a woman, the one with the miles-long legs and murderous eyes, the one that was Trouble with a capital T. The late afternoon sun hits the ruined cream brick of the boarded-up house across the street, bounces back into the bar, refracts through the butch detective’s drink. Dames, she thinks, and the shadows are deep and dark enough to drown in.

The water seethes and inside 
the teapot cloves soften. 
I skirt the patch of floor where
I broke glass, turn off the heat
to keep the whistling away, a sharp trill
that would wake my neighbour. 

The tea smells like an unwritten 
thing, spills out from the cup
to hang in the air. It has the same 
register as the light rain that once 
caressed  my face and body awake – 

I stopped writing poetry because 
I was afraid of the glass beneath 
my feet, the blood it might draw.  

I am sitting among the upright bodies
The bodies are talking
The ball of my head swivels north and south
              also talking
Between the bodies
The breath and words interlock 
The signals vibrating outward 
              along the throat from their vocal chords
              strike the tiny machines of my ear
Light is a gong striking the pupil
            quivering the bodies into view, then
            fading until the next gong sparks again
When they are all gone
            and I also am gone
the tingling around
my living skin
        and so do I 

For Sean Burke

After, The Winter Sun Says Fight by 
Peter Gizzi

Does the morning light
say much at all these days these

numbers use a different part 
of my brain not like 
the musician I knew 
who was good at maths these 
numbers must mean something

to someone like him 
though I was mostly good 
at English not maths 
musicians just

the same. The light sweat
pierces my skin the hot
now cold now heat
hears its way in
side the spaces between

the small coloured cells
my crochet hat hot

forgotten logs
gone old in the 
cinder box the flame
wears out 
the tangled pin prick 
nerve pain
pinned to piano chords
unplayed untouched
unheard of 
these days

the wind whistles 
through the soft light
seeking its 
landing place in 
your softly 
interwoven hands

Day 11 / Poem 11

-a conversational cento with Yehuda Amichai

Hello sun, we’ll be thinking about you a lot today / The
of pain / The kings held the Nets to 77 / and the blurriness of
joy / What time is totality? / Can I have the Cheeze-Its / Can
I have the Cheeze-Its / I’m thinking how precise people are
when they describe / It’s physics / their pain in the doctor’s
office / A single

hole will show it to you / What time is totality? / Even those
who haven’t learned / We’re going to take a group photo / to
or write are precise / It has to be about language /This one’s
a throbbing pain, that one’s a wrenching pain / I’m going to
get my
jacket / this one gnaws, that one burns / It’s getting darker /

this is a sharp pain and that – a dull one / We are losing
our vocabulary / Right here. Precisely here, yes, yes /
It’s eerie / It’s a different quality of light /Joy blurs everything
I’d love for you to translate a poem from Hungarian / I’ve
heard people say after nights of love and feasting, / I can just

look at the screen /“It was great, I was in seventh heaven.” /
There is so much light /Even the spaceman who floated
in outer space / What time is totality? / tethered to a
could only say / Look how sharp the shadows are / “Great.
Wonderful. I have no words.”/ You can look with your naked
eye / The blurriness of joy / when it’s at totality / What time

is totality? / and the precision of pain / It’s Jupiter / It’s Venus
/ Oh oh oh / Keep your glasses on! / I want / Whoa / Keep
you glasses on! / Oh oh / Okay okay! / to describe / Take
them off now! / with a sharp pain’s precision / This was worth
the drive / This was worth the drive / happiness / Look at the
kids / They

are jumping around! / Put your glasses / and blurry joy / back
on / Put them on! / Wow / Wow / It was a crown / What was
the red spot / Flare—that was a solar flare / I have no words
/ The next is in 20 years / Maybe I’ll make it / I’ll be 82 / So
big / So powerful / Maybe you’ll watch it with your grandkids /

can actually look into it / The blurriness of joy / The moon felt
so close / That was the dark side of the moon /and the
precision of pain / Right before, right after – the shadows –
did you see them? / I learned to speak / Like desert sand /
among the pains / Right at the edge of totality / The sky was
the place to focus though …

“Dishes don’t think. Dishes don’t judge. Dishes cannot make meaning—only people can.”
KC Davis How to Keep House While Drowning

My Granny’s coleslaw bowl did not appreciate
being used by a possum as a nest or losing its gold
etching to various dishwashers and microwaves
over the years and certainly the shards’ mood
wasn’t happy as they got dustpanned into the trash.
Her jello bowl lasted longer but it is also gone.
I halfway do believe my ancestors’ essence lives on
in my dishes, tables, bookcase, hutch and I wish
I weren’t so certain the judgey lot I come from
keeps a heavenly tally of all my fuckups.
When my mother’s sure her parents are rolling
over in their graves, I tell her “they have all the wisdom
of the ages available to them. I’m sure they’re fine”
which obviously, depending, I might or might not mean.

There’s a man from Belarus
praising Milei. A teenager 
from the US Midwest, doing 
algebra homework. A Peruvian 
woman looking after her daughter. 
There’s a pair of guys arguing 
though I can’t understand
because I’m listening for
my name, which the girl at 
the visa counter pronounces
perfectly. I had seen her Monday, 
and she told me how to stay. 
All the people wait and stare 
at their cell phones. I can’t bring
myself to distraction. I stare
at everything that moves. 
The couple didn’t bring their 
original birth certificates.
An older Venezuelan man
speaks gracefully. The pair of 
New Yorkers with their kid 
are pushy and entitled. I’m 
sat in the non-silence of this 
newly-painted-white office.
Just listening for my name. 
Nearly tapping my shoes together
wishing to go home. It’s still 
early, I haven’t had my coffee yet. 
She gives me the piece of paper
I think is saving my life. I walk 
a dozen blocks to make the taxi 
not so expensive. I breathe out. 
It’s getting colder, and my hoodie 
has the smell from last year’s 
bonfires. I’ll wash it soon and
hang it to dry on my balcony—

not sure where exactly but I knew
I was in love with you for the second
maybe third time. We were two
maybe three beers into the night and you
were on some mystic shit about drinking
you could take or leave drugs the same.
The only things you still craved were love
and smoke. You lit a cigarette and I coulda
said some shit about love and smoke.
How they were near invisible but could
still seep in and fill you up. But what did
I know. I was in love. Thinking how many
times had I already fallen in love in San
Francisco. I was in love with San Francisco.
Anchor Steam and skid row free blow Mission
burritos. Jazz Amnesia City Lights Tenderloin
yes and that bright-painted wall in the alley
next to Vesuvio. Silhouetting Indian warrior
. And the salt the salt the salt. Hated
the gentrification but loved that city. And you.
And I knew you were gonna break my heart.
Or my heart was gonna break over you but
it would be my own fault. I thought of that Elliott
Smith song. I thought of the fortune teller who
said Girl you’re gonna have more heartbreak
than most. Maybe you’ve got bad juju
and people hurt you. Or maybe it’s just you’re
a writer extra-sensitive and you take things
harder than you should. 
You were still talking
and shut up shut up I should’ve said you’re gonna
break my heart and it won’t even be your fault. My
heart breaks all the time. I wanted to say heart
break was my praxis. How else to crack open
and let all that fog and smoke all that doomed love.
All that terrible light in.

The swimming instructor says 
I need more power in the thighs,
less bend at the knee.  I am to use 
my serrated arms to cut through
the water 이렇게, like this, 
she shows me, slicing the air. 

Does a knife bend? she half asks, 
half waters, her foggy face too 
close to mine. I shake my head,
struggle to keep the water from 
dragging me with its infinite arm.

When she asks me why I am so
tense lately, I want to say because 
my love went back home, 
his is an arm that bends
me into a sweet song, makes
something buoyant out of me.
I want to say because
right now my body must be 
the heaviest thing in the world.  

Let’s see . . . what to do with what-was-me when I become a blackening husk of ice, the mind expired like a filet mignon forgotten in the fridge, my soul sparkling like a bottle of fizzy water out into foreverland . . . 

I’ve wanted a winding sheet for slipping easy into the water, my slim trajectory in the air a glottal stop, the same swish as my father’s one perfect footstep that teenage day he snuck up behind me and, with a shove of laughter, sent me spiraling off the tuna tower, forty feet into the waves.

By that summer no one thought I would ever learn to swim. During lessons at the beach I blew bubbles and paddled, my hands underwater firmly grasping the sand and sharp shells below. My father had called down from the railing: Go on, kid. Swim! 

Now, he should have had a winding sheet, slicing the water fresh and clean. But his shell was slipped in a suit, that suit into a luxurious casket, that casket onto a plane. In his homeland they had to force it into the narrow churchyard slip. Looking down from a few feet above, I worried: How will you break free?

Yes, I shall arrange it. Scattering my thoughtless flesh down into the blue, to unravel among the picnic debris and bags sunken by thieves on the run, engagement rings hurled in rage, starfish suctioning themselves in circles, continents of plastic. No-longer-me cold and black, swimming.


– for Bronte Somerset

the petals


to the 

chopping board 


Day 10 / Poem 10

Fact is, beloved, you are full up
with other people’s feelings.  Remember 
in seventh grade, Mrs. Freitas demonstrated 
Archemides’ Law?   Large glass jar, sand, pebbles, 
rocks the size of tangerines,     and water.
The puzzle: how to fit as much as possible?
Each sorrow, each possible offense, all 
the fears, the worries of others     like sand
into the jar of you.
                                And the walnut-sized
lump of your own anger, rolling off the forgettable
desk, bouncing
                                 across linoleum tiles.
Little one, I am not like you.  You will
never fill me, exhaust me, overflow me.
Even now, as you dread all you cannot
hold, I am humming a work tune,
which is also a lullaby.

Well, actually, so far I’ve only thought of loblolly pines,
poofier than a pine tree oughta, especially in spring,
and very southern, like, the sweet tea of trees.

Maybe daisy.  Super cute. Or gorse. Sounds painful. Is.

I used to think I could tell what soap a man used before
he got close enough for me to sniff him and figure out
how right I was. I will say Ivory (the bar, not the dish one) is easy
to spot and Dial, well—that’s what my Dad used and Jason Kelce
apparently so maybe I’ll take it up again, this nose-tarot, this
useless fortune-telling. Do they even make Ivory Soap any more?
My husband broke my habit of buying it because it was a scam,
he said, it floats because they whip it up. There’s less soap. But
I miss the smell. When two become one they give up some
favorites. My parents are the only people I know of whom
that saying’s true: they became one so long ago. Friends 72 years,
married 65 and counting, Mom’s caught Dad’s dementia.

Their first house had crepe myrtle by the front door, elegant
and homey all at once. Safe next to a foundation. Old-school.

Argent apperception
flurry of micropixels
sinkholes that never 
stop filling, scratch
of an eternal back itch—

let me to the betterment
be of use—to these great
friends of mine, to these
neverending heroes: 

Amygdala, the Great,
ever foresting for tears.

Hippocampus, the Dying, 
disappearing in greenery. 

Plasticity, the Unmovable, 
a cold, dark, damp weight. 

Cortex, the Constant, 
instant, sour taste of argyle.

Dopamine, the Underdog, 
you’re working your way up, kiddo. 

Serotonin, the Absent, 
escaping in the night. 

and Oxytocin, the Confused, 
trust a turbine blade. 

My mother once told me
those tiny white butterflies

the ones with the little black
dots on their wings

were spirits. She said they
were the souls of our dear

departed come to say hello
then goodbye again. Used to be

I only saw a few each year
then I started gardening. They

proliferate among the greens.
Whenever I pluck a few leaves

of kale or collard for my supper
dozens upon dozens of the powdery

white (blue too sometimes) things fly
up flutter around my hands and face

sometimes land on me. Hello I say.
Hello Uncle, Great-Grandfather, Cousin

Twice Removed. I think sometimes
of removing the eggs nestled in

the stalks before they hatch. Before
the caterpillars eat holes in the leaves

of collard and kale. Then I don’t. These
ghosts are hungry but they’re mine.

(The poem is written as a palimpsest writing activity out of the book The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop by Diane Lockward. It models the poem “More Lies” by Karin Gottshall which is used as the prompt poem for this writing activity) 

Sometimes I say that I have an identical twin
because I want to know what I am like. 

I’ve wanted her since the time I read that
poem about a twin who was struck 

and her sister who felt immediately
the moment of impact. Today, for example

my fingers, slick with olive oil and conditioner,
rip through the tangles in my hair. 

The floor is feathered with broken pieces 
and my back slopes to reach a particularly 

difficult web. Is she more patient than I 
though her hair is thicker? 

April is beginning to shed its arctic robe,
and I wish to shed as decidedly as a snake 

or a tarantula. I like plants that fluff up 
like afro hair – reminders that I too appear 

in nature. I like the word cuticle, how
Black women online talk about it as though 

it were a flap. I imagine my twin smiling, 
and slick with oil and conditioner herself,

loosening the tangles from my hair, 
slapping away my ravenous fingers and 

saying in a stern voice “be more 
gentle with yourself. ”

Bluebird flits
its cry a silver disc flashing in the leaves
Young girl’s caw
flit through the casement and away

These days the thinned out trees are the new consciousness of
lands and leaves left shot and shy of what once

was here, but no-one remembers what it used to be.
A wide girth has become a rarity, a bird in a tree rarer still

but no one wants the tube stock donated by canopy-seeking-Councils,
growing greening cooling neighbourhoods, freeing

this air-conned community. There are no twisted sticks now, no
turning away. Read the landscape, read the trees, read the soil read

tea leaves, read whatever it takes to read what a land is
capable of when the whole world is not yet the city of some man’s

concrete dreams. Any tree thicker than the arm is rare, but then again
my arms, my hide, my skin are all thick now. I’m dead

serious this is no intellectual gag, the angophoras were replaced with a
smouldering polystyrene burger joint on the outskirts

of Cementville, no twisting, no turning or making a eulogy, a whole ecology put
together with disordered chaos rides roughshod all over this place. Over anywhere

really, now each of us look for our place of last resort, a safe space to shelter in situ in case
of emergency (aka a dog park), a bundled rough line in collage that draws the truth ever so

tenderly. Do you believe there’s a place
for the thirteen insects left? This parasympathetic preying

mantis, (the last of its kind) seeks
a home for twiggy limbs.

Day 9 / Poem 9

I will not say you broke my heart. No. But
the deep, interior bruise
                         (the doctor hands me
the word contusion),
              the rupture, has been slow-healing,
has been hard to regard as true injury—

one in need of light loads, hot water bottle,
that offensive, bossy, four-letter word: SLOW.

Could be it was my ego that took the blow.

Go on then. Break that, break it clean and good.
Let me learn all the ways I am not needed.
Let me behold my glorious gratuity.

Could be we both carried gifts the other
could not yet receive.
                                     Now I am all belief:
x-ray of my daughter’s breastbone proved
the tumbling blow on the trampoline, breathless
confusion, the crumple inward, is no break,

but contusion.

I wonder if the top-shelf whiskey was
still there. I don’t mean quality. Granma hid it
from her father, W.R. Floyd, who lived there after
his wife died. He was an Irish storyteller, a horse-
trader (not thief I don’t think) who died before I was born.
The whiskey allegedly medicinal, measured out
in tablespoons. “Grain for food, not alcohol”
asserted the bumper sticker on her plum-colored Ford).
Granma was a charter member of the Women’s Christian
Temperance Union. All her descendents drink.
When I leaned at twilight against the asparagus ferns
(corralled by rusty wire and leaning fence posts)
and saw Granma in the window doing dishes,
and heard her working her Methodist hymns
(“O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” was a favorite)
had she taken a little toot? Did she measure any more?

He inspired me to write new songs,
bit of jazz, bit of blues, a hint of Latin chord progressions
mostly influenced by Fiona Apple—
I had to take care of him when he broke his leg, 
and I fell further in love than 
watching him sing a song on my guitar named Ghost—
but we’re just Don and Joyce now
he’s not engaged to anyone, and I’m not secretly married.
I still feel jinxed. That’s the one constant
Bette Davis and I share. I’m so afraid I’ll mess it all up, 
the show will fail, and I’ll go running back to no husband. 

Some songs still speak through me, speak
to me. Still fit me like a worn-in tee with the sleeves
torn off. When the singer’s voice rasps through
the reverb of a worn-out cassette, and the secret
chords unlock it all, I’m gonna shout it loud, now.
I’m gonna write, I’m gonna sing. Let’s begin.
(Again.) I’m petaled downward, face first into 
the wind. Speeding past these doors thrown 
wide to the smoky striptease of the spring. Past 
sites since fallen into ruin; places once named 
home where I’ve since worn my welcome thin. 
Desperate for a transformation, got me moving. 
Got me making eyes at coffee mugs, making out 
with boozy bottles. I’m fiending. I’ve felt like this 
a thousand times before. Some ciphers sear 
from the inside out. Scraps of heart ripped apart 
when I can’t find the words to tell you all the dumb 
names I’ve been known by, all the fuckedup shades
I’ve dyed my hair. All the hexes that’ve melted on me, 
and all the best vices I’ve left behind me. Uncool, 
but I’ll tell you anyway. Once I thought I’d be a pirate 
of the great lakes, plunder rustbelt shores. But 
I never was a sailor, never was a boat. Never did 
float on that lake. (Which, today, is seafoam green.) 
Let me make you a gift of this right-now. Sing it loud: 
o unexpected magic. I want to. I want you. Come find me.

There is always a reason to hate the body: a decolletage
 marked with protruding bones, slow growing hair, hips 
that curve inward as though to obey some law of your 
svelte anatomy. 

In primary school you sat clad in a bikini
at your friend’s home. Her mother complemented your 
figure then turned to her daughter to say, in a voice
that rang clear as windchimes,  “Why can’t you look like 

You were so pleased someone called you beautiful 
that the look of sadness on your friend’s face
didn’t even register. 

The cat threshes dust with a curled paw
yawns, checks on other affairs:
chair legs
scent of fresh-roasted octopus

Still, the dazed grasshopper shall not escape
still within reach
its body covered in the saliva of the cat
wings broken from the clasp of its teeth 
in spasms and accidental leaps
tumbling like one scattered leaf in the rain

there’s an intensity

that burns within me

like cigarette ashes

gunmetal smears

in circular formation

forming on my skin

polka dots seared

from the inside out

i wish for this fire to keep burning

i will shine brighter

than you know

one day

one day

you’ll see what i mean.

After The Ache of Marriage BY Denise Levertov

The ache of phoning
click to ear, to listen,   
to speak, and not be    
heard how hard it hurts

the searching connection
now bound by distance, to listen,   
to chat was once compelling

it’s useless, now, yet we   
carry on trying
for sounds, unheard   
down the crackle, the old telephone

lines, crossed out by scammers
and spammers who make elders
to take
a call

on mobile, or landline,
hearing aids in
replacing the din with   


Day 8 / Poem 8

it is a wonder the pace
            at which you turn

the page. I have
            always been slow

at books. Look—
            I am a marvel

to you as you are to me
            for our irreconcilable

speeds. What can I say
            for myself? I turn

each word in my mouth
            like a bean seed

in the palm; chard, mesclun,
            basil too, felt, held,

then bedded into soil
            I pray is good. See?

I read with my mouth
            moving. Each word

is a garden of song,
            rooting. Salads, salsas,

ratatouille sprouting
            on the tongue.

Words are not—
            you know this—

mere gossamer thought,
            but gurgle, heft, hum,

each a thing-in-itself; substance;
            sinew; fruit—no: plum.

Making a regular sandwich is challenging
enough but this machine’s hot and
it leaves marks.  You have to push down
so hard. Taking care of children
and parents is one of the features
of middle age, one of the blessings,
but how lucky am I to have both parents alive
to have a son who was not easy to conceive
survive to adulthood and really just thrive.
Sourdough bread from a pandemic
starter, sliced roast beef from a steer
I probably drove by, Pleasant Ridge Reserve
cheese sliding down those channels like a race.

Hysterical from blood on concrete, 
then recovered, he covered the gash 
in my wrist from the fire escape.

Driving to the Berkshires one night,
he swerved to miss a doe on the road
and held me back with his hand. 

Same air, same water, same house, 
we are each other and opposite.
We share unspoken roughnesses 
and an undetermined delicacy:

his body a broken temple for god, 
quick to anger, a child of land, 
he and his daughter sing together; 

my body tattooed, my face pierced, 
a child of water, I listen cognizant, 
conceited where I change and don’t.

Merrybells on spring break, fall sun, 
fall the day, phobias inside and out 
carve paths through thicket and thorn, 
help me cross the creek’s deep water—

steady the heat, open me the field
of invariable green, wind sways 
all trees, driving down highways
windows down with Led Zeppelin—

the maples and red spruce upstate, 
change colors and don’t, fall leaves
and doesn’t, the promise of autumn, 
I bake you spiced pumpkin pies—

we collect icicles, shovel snow, 
he slowly roasts the pork while I
dip ladyfingers into espresso—
watch a movie, heated by fire.

Cacophonous distance quieted us enough 
through storm, grace—gradually, the 
spokes grabbed us to do us harm—rain,
grass, thunder claps, sky colored violent 
orange, dark blue-gray—offered silence. 
Escape shaped us differently, he for house, 
I for field. Our ideal natures lost for views 
of hospital interiors, books that haunt—
we lost the creek, what I find in rivers,
what he finds scarcely, knoll gone too, 
someone else’s house where we play—
divinity in the unvisitable wildnesses
we harness among cedar trees, vines—
what I’ve known too: uprooting extends
courtesies of reinvention among new 
flowers. If only he were brave enough like
facing the lightning, breaking his ankle
against a tree, running as fast as he could.


I. Skunk Cabbage

Capable of blooming early in the season
There are things difficult to admit
It produces its own heat
Not just that I’m scared of what people will think
A metabolic process called thermogenesis
But I can’t even find the right words
Gets its name from the odor it emits
This is the scent of me
To attract pollinators
In the night, emanating from
It smells skunk-like or of rotting meat
I mean at night I’m
The scent is strongest
In bed I’m
When the plant is bruised or injured

II. Red Trillium

Having these dreams where
Latin name: Trillium erectum L
I run into someone from my past
Other names include: Red Wakerobin, Stinking Benjamin
And we fuck and I want to stress
Bethroot, Wet Dog Trillium
These aren’t people I was ever into
Wet Dog Wakerobin, Purple Trillium, Purple
In that way but it’s hot it’s so hot we create our own heat
Wakerobin, Wake robin
I’ve heard sex dreams aren’t really about sex
Stinking Willie, Birthwort
Maybe I just want to make them part of me

III. Shooting Star

In Wisconsin, Shooting Stars are generally found
Half the things that turn me on aren’t sexual but sensual
Growing in moist meadows, prairies, and open woods
Like the sound of a train in the night outside like
Other names for Shooting Star
The way Tom Verlaine plays guitar
Eastern Shooting Star, American cowslip
Daffodils in the rain a glass of half-decent wine
Roosterheads and Prairie pointers
Moist earth in the woods and on the prairies I am

IV. Jack-in-the-Pulpit

The “Jack,” or spadix sits in a tubular base with a hood
I think again of the worms
The spadix is light green to reddish green
Their wild writhing on the rainsoaked sidewalks
The spathe is light green to purplish green and often dotted
Pink tongues twisting in ecstatic death-dance
With white or purplish stripes
And the springmud
However, not all flowers are “Jacks”
The wet squelch of it
Initially Jack-in-the-pulpits produce only male flowers but
I open up I let it all in I let it
In later years, Jack-in-the-pulpits may have male flowers
I get so full up that I need a release
On top and female flowers (“Jills”) on the bottom

V. Rue-Anemone

I get full up with sound and sight and
Rue-anemone is a native plant that grows
It has to come
4”-8” tall
Out somehow
Rue-anemone flowers are pink to white in color
If I can’t get it down in a poem
The flower has 5-10 petal-like sepals and
I need to cum
Blooms mid-April to mid-May
If I can’t do either one I cry
Other names: Wind Flower
And the wind is my lover and I

(all text in italics from the Authentic Wisconsin website, Ephemerals page)

All who I have for sick company: 
an island of blank and torn pages 
upon a perpetual floor;
my footfall; the ringing of the fridge, 
its strum long and tangible and reaching,
as though to vine itself between the
folds of my mind. 

My words are sticky like honeycomb 
that will not leave my fingers.
I walk in circles, blow on them, even 
lick trying to get them to settle 
onto a lined world; disperse 
the pages, in desperation, with 
my feet, hoping to archipelago 
my way to something coherent.

The floor is somehow bigger now, 
filled with islet upon islet of need.
I want to stick each land mass to 
my downy skin in memoriam 
of language and sanity. 

These were trees once. 
Can’t I sap them into syntax, 
carve stanzas onto dead and live
bark? Could they sing for me? 
Just once? My fingers are so sticky, 
so heavy with dread.

Just this black morning
the angel was asking me
how much longer I planned 
on puking up microbeads  
of household innocence

Later I ask this question
of the breakfast dishes
But like seashells in the undertow
they only clatter 
Wash me, wash me, wash me
My ancestors cluck their tongues
Unless the water lights your hands on fire
they won’t really be clean

Rolling its eyes, the angel hands me clothes 
turns the key in the ignition 
Throughout the day the angel carries my books
watches me swallow ball after ball after ball 
of thinking
Lethal as Easter peeps
it mutters

My lips, disembodied,
covered in flecks of food coloring
smile very hard at everyone

As dusk hits, the angel perches on my pillow 
like a sweet dog waiting to be taken out
Asks me if I wouldn’t prefer 
to live without pretending – 
from this very moment, perhaps
or today or this week or soon

Later when it’s blue out
I rock up and down on bewildered, 
mewling thighs
until the shadow-man gives me permission to stop
Then I am allowed to slurp up any sleep I can 
from his pool of snoring

Bored out of its mind, the angel is watching
but faithfully preparing its usual notes for me
ready to converse again when dawn returns
You need not help the unkind women in the kitchen
You need not lament the dead if they have been evil
Do awaken dear, yours is not the true obedience


Would the 

if someone 
it in 

if anyone 
to answer 

to find 
it on 
the floor 

what conversations 
are for would 

it ring 

Day 7 / Poem 7

Some days, though we cannot forgive, forgiveness
comes in. Then, a woman will raise her arms
as if slipping on her new best dress,
and sway like a budding tree, wind-charmed.
Some days, though we are songless, joy
springs on us, silent as a springtime tick
to a dog’s coat. Then a man and his boy
whoop and holler and chase, sure and quick.
Laugh with us now. The red scooter lives
again! The mailman has his window down:
AC/DC and dog biscuits. April gives
out party bags of weather; sunbathe or drown,
it’s still light out. Inside, sudden strength
to scrub the tub tile-length by tile-length.

The headache that you self-imposed
(from one too many, o.k., more
like four or five too many or
from hiking your shoulders due north)

will be gone soon. Ibuprofen,
good coffee, sugar, local cream.
Your tremor made a tiny tsunami
which now looks like watercolor on linen.

This anxiety I know well—
smoke streams carve afterimages
like cave paintings behind my eyes—
no harm ever came to the boy—
solid and unmoving, the forests
we burn or chop down will seek 
recompense when we are machine 
and slowly returning to the earth—
glass table, breakable, as are the 
coffee mugs I’ve left lying about—
past as concept: creation, reclamation.
Not so much twist as reinvent.
Gun me around a receipt and redden
my pockets with blood money.
No, I don’t want your bribery—

I step out the front door; my neighbor accosts me. Ready for the turmoil comin’
after the eighth? After the eclipse?
 I say. Yeah. You hear about the quake in
New York?
 Tells me the path of the eclipse and the path of the fault line intersect,
and we should expect tremors, storms, and God knows what to roll across the U.S.
Continues: Have you noticed the birds? They’ve been strange. He saw a few geese
fly north, then east, then south. Like they didn’t know where they were goin’. I watch
two ducks fly overhead. West, then south, their wings lit rosegold by the sunset. Of course
the birds are acting strange. It’s spring! Do any of us know where we’re going? His theory
sounds conspiracy to me, but I’m no better. For a while I was afraid to do anything during
Mercury Retrograde—which we’re also in the midst of, these days. Well, whatever happens,
I say, I hope it’s not too bad. Hope for the best, he says. Prepare for the worst. But that’s
always. Every day, we all look for reasons why awful things occur. But mostly shit just
happens, and there is no reason, none we can pin on the sky. Nothing but chaos in the
movements of celestial objects, nothing but springtime in the flight paths of birds.


Oh, now I know who we will be
when we sit down together 
at the table of light
heiresses of the constellations
heartbeats scattering fine-grade
carats of benevolence
faces studded with reflections
comets swirling around our heads
as we chit-chat about all that happened

a stolen bag of candy
broken shoes soaked with sludge and still the bus wouldn’t come
tight slap on the face from the mother’s soft palm
tarnished blade of the pirate striking deep
drifting faces emitting their tinny laughter
aging eyes sinking deeper, absorbing less light each day

Yes, now I see it
golden ringlets piled high
waltzing with the Logos
black-spun curls in spiralling clouds
extracting life from every stone
Happy I shall be
for you and your riches
and I too am wealthy
We have inherited 
the blood of the ages 
ancient and fresh like shy rain on the minarets
gamboling from palace to palace
lying in the fountains staring up at the sun

I am an heiress and I have all of it
You are an heiress and you have all of it
We shall meet at the banquet
Everyone will be there


My politic impertinent
pro humanity, morality,

a luxury, my gratitude
removed, resistance
defeated my love

lies listening,
bleeds, questioning

in air

Day 6 / Poem 6

Hold out your hand,
palm up. That’s right,
receptive. Never mind
how cracked or clammy.
Never mind the loose threads
of your fraying sleeve,
quickened beat
in those exposed blue veins.

This is a brief exercise

in belief.
Here is a kiss you can
carry, soft as a kitten,
light as a kite.
The tug will be yours
to tether.
The tenderness
also, a tether.

Keep the cup of your palm,
this beggar’s bowl,
open. Here, a koala
dope-slow on eucalyptus.
Here, a kingfisher, female,
wearing unusual brightness.
Kittiwake, blessing
with red, webbed feet
the hill of your hand
as if it were one of those four
blessed cliffs. Kestrel,
kingsnake, Kilimanjaro, kiwi,
kiwi bird, kingdoms,
a key.

Do you feel the weight
of your god-likeness yet?

Can you believe
each of these is kindling,
these kin, and your palm,
a hollowed-out home
for the flame?

Cry I have become like wineskin
in the smoke, cry kindness,
cry comfort,
cry come.

Stake choked hope
and openness on flames
that don’t consume.
All palms, all kith and kinder—

do you believe?—
were made and given
to bloom.

Some days are just like this: glitches
pile up, the cup of trembling spills,
the calm you had erupts, it itches.
Is there a meditation pill?

No, just this: several candles, soft,
some Lena Horne with a vinyl scratch,
red wine with notes that glance and lift,
in a glass that sings with your touch.

I have ghost limbs in a hall of mirrors, 
moths dancing around empty, absent flames—
Mantra: I am no one. I am nothing. 
Take that out. No, don’t. It’s close to the truth. 
Or it had been at some point in my life. 
At least seventy-five percent of mine 
was spent worrying about what I thought. 
Break his leg. Throw him under the 2 train.
I’m evil and vicious, savior and saint. 
Tongues lapping from every direction
prove me write, prove me right, prove me written. 
There’s no proverb. There’s no aphorism. 
Living inside of my own head made me 
miserable. When I got out, I found peace. 

Woke before eight to the house rattling. Thought it was an earthquake; it was a jackhammer. They’ve dug a big hole in the street to replace a water pipe. When I see the white and marmalade cat that wanders the neighborhood, I follow. Together, we clamber down. Well, the cat clambers. I fall. There’s nothing much down there but sewer stench and layers of sediment. And flowers—the early violets, the white ones with faint purple-blue veins. Little sparks in the dark. Curiouser and curiouser. I could, perhaps, keep falling forever. But it begins to rain, and the work crew returns to fill the hole in, so Cat and I, we climb back up. I’m home in time for tea. Darjeeling, or oolong, doesn’t much matter. The water is thick, with a rusty tang.

It is in the moving of the tongue,
the pressing against the cave of 
the body, its fleshy peaks and ridges. 

It wants a sweat at the temples,
underneath the breasts, and beads 
behind the knees of salted want. 

This work is a form of water, 
is the lapping up of need;
is need to release out of the body

and  into the wilderness 
of the small city abode 
the truth of coming apart.  

Oh, dear little boat
wooden crate of flesh
I am not of the Earth
skin thickening
fingertips like grapes
until I lie down in you\
and float supine in the dark water
looping and dipping
until the ocean’s many muscular arms
come for me
every winking curl and ridge of its surface
penetrating the grainy planks 
with its own message:
here, nodding plants . . .
become stinging salt . . . 
meaning equals propulsion . . . 

I am colorless in the blue night
I shall be colorless at dawn
and I shall float, as now, swinging 
like a summer girl on a high swing
skirt flapping open
uttering one cry of laughter
before I must disembark
and shimmer into the ether again
waiting for the next keel to surface


full enrapture

a holy rapture

of butterflies

concocting escape plans

from their cocoons

monarch migration

across coasts

i feel as if i’m

twisting in rounds

circular time frames

physical backtracking

on my progress


i see texts

and voicemails

they have the same

rhythm of humor

and timbre of voice

as i

but i’m not him anymore

please stop holding on

i’m about to reach out

with full arms

to grab you

if i could

give you the world

i would

you don’t deserve it

but i love you too much

to not give you

what you should have

had the chance to give me

i came to the funeral

you still claimed me

as your own

polish dynasty

living only through


i came to the wedding

and i felt your eyes

they were bursting

at the seams

with potential energy

that just turned kinetic

retina supernova

in the name of missed time

you came to his birthday

pissing matches are fun

when you forget

what you’re stepping in

the shit doesn’t smell bad

if you’re use to the stink

i’ve gone a third

of my life without you

it’s miniscule to me though

but it would have meant everything

to you

i feel selfish

for not allowing you

to have that time

to wait

to train

to learn

how to be a father

takes diligence and time

i ripped the experience

from your heart

and i spit on it

i disrespected you

on purpose

how you had done

without knowing

im so sorry

They call it 
though it’s

Day 5 / Poem 5

In the old script, each letter was a thing, speaking the song
of itself in hieroglyph. P is for mouth. You’d assume the look
of an O shaped for feasting, singing, parting for a long,
inquiring, pleasing kiss. I tell you this: it has the look
of an ear, listening. P is for mouth, is for ear, is for poem,
opening. Mouth is for poem, is for ear, is for sounding
out the long dialogue at the heart of things. I open
my mouth and pant the old poet sings, sighing his longing
in, out. The world is a song, a singing, a search for one
who hears. The mouth is a smile, a frown, a low hum,
fastening word to body to breath to send it all soaring.
P is for mouth, is for poem, is for ear, hearing. And adoring.

I will gladly be your coaster, baby.
Mess me up, I won’t mind. Soak me through.
When every single thing you own is sweaty,
I’ll be the king of mops so you can do
your wet sloppy jitterbug everywhere.
And if you need a buffer, a cushion
between the fragile glass of your heart and
the hard cold bar top of the world, I’m there.
I know you count on me. I do not need
explicit gratitude. No “thanks” required.
If I were a coat, I’d throw myself in the mud
for you to walk on. I’d dance on a highwire.
Take a bullet. Someday I’ll take my turn.
For now, you have my paper-thick devotion.

Welts, little welts
ironic laughs
daring, pleading

staircase guilt
when fist through 
plaster, breaks

I would have, 
had I known, 
killed the man—

gone gone gone
in earth I plan 
to avoid

welcome sank
lips colored
a small fever 

uncovered now
waiting to chill
the expectant 

parent—I’ll never
have children, 
never teach iambs 

the way I might 
have, the way I 
still could—

little walker, galaxies
rely on your twinkle
your sass and words

go down and heal 
your welts, little 

I recognize him immediately. It’s impossible not to. He’s frozen at

twenty-seven, young and drug-skinny, greasy strands of bleached

hair sticking out from beneath his beanie. I’m just gonna let him be,

not say anything, but we wind up next to each other at the wetlands

exhibit. We’re both mesmerized by the taxidermied critters, these

animals memorialized far past their natural lives. “I always liked

raccoons,” he says. “Envied their masks.” I point at the red-winged

blackbird. “I’ve written so many poems about them,” I say. “Sometimes

I wish I could appreciate them for what they are, rather than the

meaning I make from them.” He nods. “Once it starts, I don’t know

if you can turn that poetic apparatus off,” he says. “It got to the point

where my identity was so fractured, I wasn’t sure what was me

and what was metaphor. Was I Frances Farmer, or a heart-shaped

box, or just a kid from Aberdeen?” We wander over to the display

of art by school-aged kids. There are drawings of families, homages

to Dalí, a portrait of Shrek in a Sailor Moon costume. There’s a series

of pictures from one sixth grade class, renditions of packages from

their favorite sweets and drinks. Nerds, Nestle Crunch, Sunkist,

Sour Patch. Sixth grade, the same age I was when Kurt died, and

all the things I started getting into at that age, way worse than

sugary treats. “These kids made art out of candy,” he says. “It’s

like the purest thing. I hope they don’t grow up too fast. Let them

stay this way, for just a while longer.” I look over at Kurt. He’s not

haunted or hunched inward. He’s not writing song lyrics in his head.

He’s smiling like a kid with a box of candy. I think he’s just happy.

a knot you just untangled 
reroutes itself into chaos,

the chocolate you licked
off just-washed hands

tastes of the confusion
of soap. ink stains all 

your territories into the 
wrong shape and you 

are left to wonder what 
we do all of this for

think of the strands you have saved 
the cocoa and sugar on your fingers

think of yourself as being without 
territories: borderless, stained,

steeped, even, in something like joy

                                        The Soul selects her own Society –
                                        Then – shuts the Door – 
                                                                 – Emily Dickinson

You’ve come! You’ve come at last, I see you there
with flowers spilling from your mouth, and gifts
divine, your laughter trilling in my ear
my mind a puppy yipping as it lifts

I open doors and pouring out sweet milk
can see the crows and starlings in your gaze
Come sit, dear guest! I’ve waited and been sick
Now laughter rains in feathers down your face

Oh please don’t say you cannot stay too long
I made some plans and thought that we could talk
I’ve only noticed now your hands are stone
You’re cold, gone pale, your sparrows jump and squawk

Dear friend, sweet friend, don’t fear your caves of grief
Just listen! You can rest with me – it’s safe

almost like

days of summer

time slipping

grains under my fingernails

memories i can’t let go of

i feel like time

is best summed up

in a polaroid picture


slightly nostalgic

and always developing

you can’t go back

but you can ponder


sit in those emotions

like your dads favorite recliner

feel comfortable in my mind

like an old friend

i used to play with rolly pollies

as a kid

i miss those days.

i can’t recall when they ended.

These days the thinned out trees are the new consciousness of
lands and leaves left shot and shy of what once

was here, but no-one remembers what it used to be.
A wide girth has become a rarity, a bird in a tree rarer still

but no one wants the tube stock donated by canopy-seeking-Councils,
growing greening cooling neighbourhoods, freeing

this air-conned community. There are no twisted sticks now, no
turning away. Read the landscape, read the trees, read the soil read

tea leaves, read whatever it takes to read what a land is
capable of when the whole world is not yet the city of some man's

concrete dreams. Any tree thicker than the arm is rare, but then again
my arms, my hide, my skin are all thick now. I’m dead

serious this is no intellectual gag, the angophoras were replaced with a
smouldering polystyrene burger joint on the outskirts

of Cementville, no twisting, no turning or making a eulogy, a whole ecology put
together with disordered chaos rides roughshod all over this place. Over anywhere

really, now each of us look for our place of last resort, a safe space to shelter in situ in case
of emergency (aka a dog park), a bundled rough line in collage that draws the truth ever so

tenderly. Do you believe there's a place
for the thirteen insects left? This parasympathetic preying

mantis, (the last of its kind) seeks
a home for twiggy limbs.

Day 4 / Poem 4

Every year we are
witness to it, bystanders
who cannot help take in
how the world

rises millimeter by tender
millimeter, how the light
opens her arms wide
again, enfolding more
and more hours, like
all her children’s friends.

We say yes, we attest
to the arresting zing
of new greens. How
could we not? Who
would clap gloved hands
over wind-bitten ears to mute
the blackbird’s song?

Still, sometimes happiness
gathers in the trunk
of the throat like a choked
cry; ground waters
of thankfulness thaw
to mud, then freeze again;
hope sweats itself out
on heavy palms, like
the fear-throb that comes
when you spot coyotes
parallel in the woods,
watching you.

Yes, the love we claim
to have for the world
is as small and fraught
and fitful as the best of us.

To love the growing light
we must learn to love growth
which is both a hard-won
ring, thickening us,
and a promise more

goodbyes than the voice
can bear will come.
Let us go on then, soberly enough,
to exclaim this and every
brightening day,
Welcome! Welcome!
We’re so glad you’ve come.

(In conversation with Mary Oliver’s
“Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness”

The challenge is that polypharmacy isn’t pretty but
the right pillbox forms a coherent base, four chambers
(morning, midday, supper, bedtime) in each one,
and for height, a tiered container, four rows of eight slots
(a month’s worth of pillboxes, labeled 1-31, plus one extra)
on which, inexplicably, my mother has pasted
several years’ worth of “I Voted” stickers, including today’s,
which looks more like Memorial Day, but some years that counts
for spring though clearly red-white-and-blue is summery.

The twist is that refilling prescriptions may involve a change
of manufacturer or lot so whereas the capsule used to be
a lovely cream color, it is now rust (better for fall decorating),
and the statin is now simply white instead of butter yellow.

But in the end, the variety of shapes and sizes of white pills
forms a nice nest for the lilac multivitamin, and oh—
the two-tone pill (rapid release and long-acting)
is the brightest blue on one side, a sunny April sky,
and white on the other, one perfect ovoid cloud.

I win, I win, I get to come back in 30 days and do it all again.

The sun has been setting sooner lately—
mosquitos and their dengue will leave, 

the scorpions will be less active. 
On a cold morning walk with Cappuccino,

I thought about gifting my boyfriend’s 
mom a plum. I thought about eating one 

myself. Why wouldn’t I, if I like them? 
Rosemary garlic bread, roasted chicken, 

mashed sweet potatoes, roasted squash, 
butter-basted green beans and cheesecake, 

all for my friends, my boyfriend’s family—
I let to myself days uninterrupted by meals.

Coffee, spliffs, this is my fifth bong rip 
of the day, let the thoughts slow, slow—

and if I want to walk? Want to cook for 
myself? What if I want to sink my teeth

—mine—into the plum I bought for 
someone else? The window’s open, the sun 

shines. I feel nineteen again, again reading 
Carl Phillips’ first book, underlining parts of

Aurora Leigh. I’ll pick up my guitar to play
songs I’ve written for other people, because 

of other people instead of Coheed riffs—
piano jazz instead of tapping the fretboard.

The sun has been setting sooner lately—
memories will compound as days lose heat—

I’ll make a plum cake and listen to Heart. 

I met him one day when the tall ships docked
in the harbor. He sat by the water and played a beat
on his bucket, a soft one, sometimes, matching

the rhythm of the water. Other times louder, more
insistent. The beat of pirates at battle, of workers
on ship’s decks. I sat down by him and we sang

shanties, drink up, me hearties, yo ho, what shall
we do with a drunken sailor, then took a break
to watch the ships, the wooden hulls black against

the water, the masts and rigging trembling in
the near-tropical breeze. He was out there every
day, he said, as long as the ships stayed around.

Out there in the sun, bucket-drumming, until the
cops chased him away for unspecified crimes,
and he’d longboard home, return early in the

morning. I went back as often as I could, to sing
with him, get stoned, watch the boats. His name
was Jack. Shorn-headed white boy into soul,

ska, and reggae; always in a flat cap and black
pants torn off just below the knee, fraying. He had
bright blue eyes which I can’t describe except

to say the bright didn’t lie in their color, but
something behind them. A St. Elmo’s Fire raging
inside him. He dreamed of one day sailing on

one of those tall ships. Autumn came, then
winter, and we met at the pub, and I followed
him like a lost seadog and he the lighthouse.

Taking walks down to the water, smoking
weed, hiding from the police. Rum-drunk in
the pub, playing Clash songs on the jukebox,

picking fights with Nazi skins. My boyfriend
jealous, thinking I was in love. And I was,
but not like that. I wanted Jack to teach me

how to live in his fearless boy-body, give me
the blue fire from his eyes. For a while, we
had a rocksteady band, the two of us and two

other boys. Jack and I were the rhythm section,
he on drums and me on bass, and for a minute,
we were great. Then I moved away and we lost

touch and I didn’t see him again for a long while.
I dreamed a dream the other night, about the last
time I ever saw him. It was outside a ska show

in Chicago, Jack was nodding out on the sidewalk.
I tried to ask him what he’d been doing all those
years; he could barely speak. But he looked at me,

and I saw that all the light was gone from his
insides, his eyes gone lake-stone flat. He should
have been a drummer, boy, he should have lived

a pirate’s life. He should’ve sailed on a tall tall ship,
climbed the rigging, quick and nimble. Somehow
he sailed elsewhere, got swept into the sea

and swallowed by a whale. Little boy sucked into
the deeps, somewhere his blue fire snuffed out.
Somewhere neither I, nor anyone, could reach.

Evening slips 
the sliver of day

seeps heavy into 
skin like 
thick oil, sits 

soundless – a 
church bell 
on bone

It casts for rib
and settles

beneath the belly 
and we 
barely feel 

the keel, the slip
integer by 
integer It pools

in our hair pulls
us somewhere 

The village of us, 
as though 
in a slow tumble, 

tumble and land 
where the night 
wants us to 


is a proud purse
carrying coins
we collect
and ingest, crying
mine, mine, mine
until we come through
the bewildering seasons
bones emptying
prim attics refusing
to keep our secrets
any longer
and we spend our afternoons

gaping in horror

at our thinning skin, knowing
the film between
our body and the world
is flaking off, that
the nurse is not coming
no matter how many times
we press the greasy button.


Oh, we are bags of melting ice
lying on the floor, whimpering
like a little dog being beaten
and only when
we turn onto our side
to turn it all in
like a cloak
to the pretty girl
at the counter
and rise, rise like a flopping puppy
well weaned
wet and sweet
in a forest of frosts
in a dawn of cornflowers
looking back to see
between here in heaven
and there in flesh
there is only a
pulsing membrane
as between the crescent chambers
of a tangerine
and oh, how good it is
to be nibbled by the bees

tiny little pins

walking on crisp air tonight

i do not feel free

bandaid coverage

weighted blanket/open wounds

rotted carcus below

ripping wide open

bleeding from inside again

blood stain signatures

bloody tattoos dot

markings forever stained on me

crimson guilt raptures

sutures holding on

healing hopefully soon/now

i’m needing reprieve

Stilled snap
straight left
standing sharp this

armada this
bubbly caterpillar of spilt
spritz shiraz clipped

whole from
crinkled leaf alive
snapped dripping dazzling

drenched and
squashed and skinned
deseeded juice


frozen purple
plastic cube indicted
spared from dying

grace in
mouth this myth
this messed up juice

this hedonistic fetish
going grazing

longing for this

vine strings birdless
dry and lush snapped


tomorrow I

will melt
eight thousand years of
Black Sea hands

snip swap graft
eat them juice them
slicked chin bound

the blood of mythic Selene,
of Ampelos spent cool slapped spring
hot summer autumn leaving

naked grape
on chopping boards
stand high and lush

decanted Dionysian

Day 3 / Poem 3

Chorus frog, we are coming home from Easter vigil Mass.
     We are lifting to the late hour our impressions, like smooth
           stones we wish to carry. Crackling pit fire on the church
                portico. Low murmur of the gathered. Spring springing
                      from the altar: hyacinth, lily, daffodil, decked and declarative,
                      tulip, up from the grave. Plunge into darkness. The long, low

waiting for light. Pseudacris crucifer, you know how to slow
     to a stillness, how to trust the antifreeze your liver gives.
           And the waiting. Out from the pregnant dark, the Christ
                candle, flickering procession, spreads flame to flame. It is all
                      familiar, and all brand new. The cantor soars, mercifully long,
                      as we hold our breath to help the altar boy struggling to light

the highest pillar of white wax. Spring peeper, cross-bearer,
     your song instructs us to love being loved. We sit. Stand. Sit.
           Kneel. What are we seeking this night if not the real?
                The moon falls to the earth; earth falls to the sun; sun falls
                      into the hands of the Holy One. You love gravity, too, startled
                      and startling frog, singing your resurrection song. This is the world

holding together. This is baptism by bog and by fire. All you saints,
     pray for us. All wing and wind, pray for us. Choir of peepers roused
           by love for love, pray for us. Little singers, the priest was so happy
                this night, dunking a bundle of holy twigs into an urn of holy water
                      and flinging, flinging the world of wet on all our laughing faces.
                      He had held want in his belly like a hibernating frog for months.

Our forsythia’s really going to town this year
Instead of our usual seven to ten pitiful
blossoms total, both bushes are lit up, full
of 4-petaled yellow spotlights, each a gold star
of spring and hope and life and just—contentedness.
So of course we’re getting snow. Possibly 8 inches.
I said life before. But snow is also life
of course. As is disappointment. Really it’s fine.

I almost said yellow stars before.
But didn’t. The math wasn’t right.
I looked it up to be sure.
My pictures blurred the number.
But it certainly wasn’t a six-sided star
I had in mind. This is not political.
I’m not political. I certainly can’t
fix anti-semitism and state-sponsored
terrorism in one sonnet.
Surely I wouldn’t complain about snow
after reading the news that workers
from a group I intend to donate to
delivered 100 tons of food and then
were blown up. Just—demolished.

List of things that are white and yellow: fried eggs,
beach towels, snapchat logo, Twinkies, snakes:
several pythons, boas, corn and rat snakes.
Daisies, baby clothes, budgies, some chicken legs.
Our poor forsythia, finally old enough to bloom
a lemon ton, only to be smeared by blinding white.

I visited a country for several years
and missed the country, wished for it 
to be my own. I moved to that country. 

The Spanish isn’t the Spanish I’d 
been taught in school. You need to know 
what birra and pija are and which you want. 

As autumn comes and the mornings 
are cold, I miss Riverside Park. But the crunch 
of the leaves is the same here—

orange anger browning on cracked
sidewalks—boludo, he says, te amo tanto

what isn’t the same rocks then wrecks 
when I remember where I’ve been—

obviously I miss pumpkin spiced lattes, 
Thai food, Three Lives, the 1 train, 
but I have the quiet calle Lima, the paths 

I walk now, the plums and kiwis, Plaza
Alberdi. I have my own haunts here. 
The Garay family took advantage of my 

kindness—promised me siblings and parents.
Emanuel almost broke my ankle in only a 
glimpse of his anger—decaded friends. 

Twelve years later, I’m still here, remember 
when I could take the bondi for one peso, 
when Cristina was still president. 

The circles of my neighborhood, my loves
are small but glowing golden, growing, 
full of bellylaughs and buena onda

That night, we wandered into a tent promising
strange delights, and what else would a fifteen
year old girl want? There was a punk rock chicken,
which was just a rooster whose comb stood up

sorta like a mohawk haircut. There were dead
things floating in jars. A two-headed fawn, a mouse,
a baby shark. After, before the Tilt-a-Whirl and
the funnel cakes, we wandered the backlots. Maryland

field of dirt and dung; cicadas screaming in the black
cherry trees, fair-goers screaming on the rides. I
thought of you then, tiny monkeyfish, your gorgeous
freakery. The way they gawped at you. I felt wrong,

too. For what I wanted. Her hand was almost in mine.

If you are still wondering 
why you are here – you came
to close the tabs of yourself 
that open to fire, to alarms
blaring messages of caution,
error, error, error. ..

There are many more
than you had anticipated.
Continue pressing away
at the points of pain. 

Have hope, dear, that
there will come a time when 
language bends toward 
like a body toward 
an oasis. 

What do I know? 
Maybe you are already 
in that time, 
holding the door open 
for me. 

Sucking on lemon ices
roaming Melbourne Avenue 
together in our comfortable way
I noticed a sweet melting stream carve along my wrist
saw suddenly there was only once ice,
and I was alone in the warm evening
The pavement tilted
splitting between my feet
a breaking open of a seed
and gathering fog
pressing in as though I were the hollowness
inside a lost purse
Nor did you reveal anything further
giving leave to the street to reflect its rain
and me
forgotten as any still November night.

Sometimes I feel so lonely;

I just touch myself to remember

The feeling

Of being touched

If I could get it tattooed on my breasts

Where others should touch to please me

I would

Because I have touched myself enough

To tell others

How to do their job right.

i have touched myself enough

to justify

not letting others explore me

because i already know the way

to g marks the spot

i don’t need someone else to tell me how

or rather

do it for me.

/ / / / /

I’ve found such a profound sense

Of intimacy in myself

There’s a stark difference


The lives i live inside of me.

They pleasure each other

In the way’s they can’t pleasure themselves

In the same way

That I pleasure myself

When you’re not there

To do it for me.

Day 2 / Poem 2

                  —After “The Gift” by Mary Oliver

 Take heart, my soul, and rise.
The hour is neither too early
nor too late and the hush without
is the gift extended.  The hand
trembles in its reach.

I am saying, take the cry of your mind
into your arms like a child wrenched from sleep
by harsh dreams, and soothe.
And quiet.  Love what comes.
Love bravely what is yet coming.
Such seriousness is a shadow.  It takes
courage to play.

One of my favorite laughs is one I stole
from Meg Tilly in The Big Chill when she goes
“HA! ha ha ha” in response to William Hurt
saying the dead guy would ask “What’s for dessert?”
Oh, that movie—we didn’t hate Boomers yet,
my friends and I; I’m not sure we called them that.
We saw it so many times, in 1983,
which meant a long walk to the theater because we,
college freshmen, couldn’t have cars on campus.
Banter, sex, dancing, college—it was about us.
Our melancholy wasn’t because of age.
We identified with each character like a badge.
One friend said since I was our group’s glue that I
reminded her most of all of the suicide.

Birds, before the slammed car door,
silent, or not, on their branches, braced;

before the storm begins, the clouds’ water;
before darkness, the dusk—flight, rain, night!

It tastes like the breakfast I made 
this morning: bacon, eggs, toast, fruit—

feels like fresh skin against clean sheets—
looks like anything completely normal but 

isn’t—two guys in a grocery store
repeating their affections in each aisle, 

normal enough, but I’m one of them, 
I’m the one wearing the pink hat. 

I held my breath and breathed out patience.
I held my breath because I could see myself

in the pink hat, next to him, buying coffee
and deodorant. And he was so beautiful, 

and it was so complicated, but now no—


different, dreamt up, but persists—how 
odd to see myself in his pictures of me

after having seen myself first 


I am the seagull’s wing wheeling
through the gray sky. I am the waves
roaring a half mile away. I am
the silver-bellied fish, rocking in the dark
belly of the lake, and I am the silver
dreams of the fish. I am the rabid
void, shambling sideways
through the neighbor’s yard. My rabbit
heart racing, spooked by nothing,
nada, arrowing its way across
the quiet street. I am the rabbit, and
I am the rain. And I am the warped
gray guitar left out in the rain
too long.

after the funeral and that unfamiliar stiffness we could not recognise as kin, we return to our lives with a soft kind of relief. the world spills onto a chair and then slips off. we do with the emptiness what we always have done. fill it with the green ink of the han river, hoping that its undulations carry us through. or gauze the surroundings and say: actually, there is something in there, something like a man in a balaclava on a bike lifting his hands to cup his lips and shout obscenities. there’s an angel, there is flying, there is the possibility that we will know each other again. 

I wanted to say something to you, and you wanted to say something to me and you’re in a plastic bag and I’m in a plastic bag, and both of us are rain and all of us are rain and the plastic bag of my raindrop is my watertight skin, and your watertight skin has webbed your mouth over, so you can’t say anything to me, and I can’t say anything to you and when we roll into the ground it will be the very sound of the stream of hot water first touching the dry porcelain of the cup, and I will blossom open into the dirt and you shall do the same and we will roll into one ball together in the ground and so will everyone else and we will roar as an ocean sluicing through the soil and we will rise again like kids going up the cold metal ladder of the diving board, blue-and-rough bouncing under our feet, and I won’t be able to hold your hand anymore and you won’t be able to hold my hand anymore as we’d planned but we love all things vertiginous and tumble forth again without a word.

[René Magritte Golconda 1953]

i have a morgue

inside my brain

i keep all

my dead friends

up there


in casket shaped


boxes of memories

i wish not to look at

i feel them die

when they don’t

answer my calls anymore

when they answer

in one word sentences

when i feel

my push

but not their pull

i used to play

tug of war

with my dog

he was geriatric

so i didn’t

know him long

i would love

to play again

but it wouldn’t

be the same

i miss you sal

(after the book by the same name by Rachel Matthews)
When the 

the floats at Mardi Gras the 
hot pants going 

down slow along 
the east coast road

you’re wondering yes you’re wondering 

if a wandering one will
eat the slippery figs you dashed 

around the kitchen thinking drinking 

the future loves and 

lives between the sheets 

of uninked pages 

unconcerned and
never looking desperate 

and she will 
step upon the cold bathroom floor 

the porcelain laid down bare 

over damp happenstance the plants 

that ate the mirror there the strange 
picnic blue 

blanket lining the hall where the 
dog scruffed begging for three pm 

food, your absurd response 

to finding yourself alive with
green found feathered 

inside these four walls not as yet 

contributing to anyone’s 
tbr this this this is how 
we slipper on 

and on 
and on 


Day 1 / Poem 1

You must trundle your soul before mysteries.
Look long, then look longer, at intricacies.
Withhold disdain for discrepancies;
ask instead, is this a case of subtleties?
You must coax your heart with proximities—
leg, lash, listen: lean into uncertainties.
For each miss, say, countless mutualities.
Poke fun at your self-sinking gravities.
You must outgrow your certainties;
resist reduction to tendencies;
be ruthless with all your idolatries.
Expect and make toast to treat maladies.
You may bemoan different frequencies,
but hold fast to the joy of harmonies.

-For J.W.C.

My Dad went for a walk with a dog and a gun and a shovel
at least twice in my childhood, coming home
with only two of the three. The alternative
was a man called Happy, on Lynchburg Road,
with a wildlife mural on the side of his shop.
We didn’t pay veterinarians to kill our animals
until the 80s. My sweet Wooly was the first.

When Dad and I took long walks, Wooly insisted
on coming along, but when he got tired, he’d flop
at our feet and whine until we carried him.

We lived so far out in the country.
People dropped animals all the time.
I told my uncle I thought there was a special place
in Hell for people who did that. He did that.

I never thought less of my Dad for doing what he did.
I thought he did what he had to do. I thought he was kind.

(Yes of course we tried to find homes for them, but
everyone we knew already had all the dogs and cats
they wanted, more than they wanted, like us.)

The hard thing my father is currently doing is dying
after years of dementia. It’s awful. It’s ugly.
Today he kept a pill in his mouth instead
of swallowing it. Eventually his mouth filled up
with white foam that spilled down his shirt.
It looked like toothpaste. Or poison. Or rabies.
He’d have never let a dog keep suffering that way.


April showers bring fall shivers
withered leaves cover the streets—

on rainy days it costs to leave,
spiral of the fall, anxiety of cold

weaponry of trash on sidewalks—
no, don’t smell the trash, 

or the butcher’s chickenwater 
let’s go around the block—

I’ll leave their coats long, 
and by my winter in July

they will sleep and stare at me,
Joe will have grown, Cappu

will have gotten a little older—

with the smoky blue-green shadows and the street’s odd emptiness. Here
they’re swept free of trash; no gum wrappers, used condoms, rusty things, no
soggy bread for the crows. No crows. No drained bottles of Night Train, Mad Dog,
Wild Irish Rose. No cigarette butts for the bums to pluck from the flooded
gutters. No gutter, no people out here either, save myself, ever since

I stepped into this painting named Nighthawks I’ve not seen another soul
on these streets. Around the corner, just out of reach, there’s a potato-faced
man crooning calamity, eternally squeezing the bellows of his broken
accordion. Around the corner, out of reach, are the friends I had when
I first arrived, but then I never found my way out again, that is the me

who entered is still in there, longing for some way off the dark blue-green
streets where the empty storefronts stare with vacant eyes and I press my face
to the dark glass, hoping to see something other than my own face staring
back, other than the empty cash registers, the dusty remnants of whatever
was once there. Even the scuttle of a wharf rat in the window would be

preferable to this nothing, yes, I stepped into this painting named Nighthawks.
Above the diner the sign advertises Phillies—cigars only five cents but there’s
nowhere around to buy them, no smokeshops, no newsstands, and I have tried to
get in to that diner. There are no doors to the outside, none that I can see, so
I press my face to that window as well, watch the patrons frozen in near-motion.

The redhead in the red dress with her bruisedark eyes, looking at whatever’s in
her hand, a scrap, a fortune, her other hand almost touching the hand of the man
sitting next to her, the man in the dark suit and gray fedora. He has a cigarette
in his hand which he never smokes and a gray fedora which carves shadows across
his face. He is watching the man behind the counter, the blonde man in his paper

hat, who is watching the man with his back to the window, another dark-suited
man in a gray hat, always alone, and there is the yellow glare of the lights, the dark
sheen of the counter and stools, the silver coffee urns, the salt and pepper shakers,
napkin dispensers, the coffee steaming in the white mugs but never drunk. Every
thing is ideal in its untouchability; everyone is beatific in their solitude. We

never cry, we don’t age, we are frozen in stasis, there is no speech, no growth in this
golden, lonely place. Twenty years gone, I stepped into a painting named Nighthawks
and the self that stayed outside is trying to help me find the exit because out here
in the real world the decades keep moving, and out here we grow dusty with age. Out
here the diners have annoying hipsters and lovers’ quarrels and LARPers; they have

lovely lesbians with faces full of silver studs and rings, and bitchy waitresses, and
the stale smell of old oil. Out here the coffee’s worse but you can drink it, and smoking
will kill you but you can toss five cents to the man with his broken accordion, and the gum
wrappers and shattered glass reflect the yellow streetlamp light and glimmer on the trash-
strewn streets like the sequins on a drag queen’s flashiest, most outrageous party dress.

(after Diane Seuss’s poem “I Have Lived My Whole Life in a Painting Called Paradise

and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks)

We say a bad use of time
as though time were a pencil 
you stick into the soil to stake
your monstera adansonii 
or toothpaste in the hair 
for washing. 

We are not quite
sure what to call where we 
are nor how far it reaches. 

We ask of things what use 
they are unless they run 
out or make themselves 

We try to run out 
of this place (call it ‘behind’) 
only to find we are running 
in place running 
behind still so 
behind that breath 
has very nearly left us – 

My father is always watching me 
but today as I checked 
before changing lanes
he smiled through 
the rearview mirror
from the yellow tinge
clinging to my retinae

You can drive home, no problem
the doctor had reassured me
(his pinky deftly 
opening each eyelid
slipping in 
a single oily drop)
It’s just so I can check 
the health of your eyes.

Now I plunge north on route 17
and as if from below the surface 
of an amber lake I’d been scrying
hoping for any sign
in my filmy yellow eyes
I see blue wisps of his Marlboro burning
the green Porsche
classy-looking girls 
pearl buttons hanging loose
from their silky blouses

Next fall, we can talk 
about that surgery
the doctor had said
in his muscular voice
You’ll be amazed
by how well you can see

i’ve been so introspective lately

it feels like

i’m walking around

in my head

where there’s no sunshine

but only flashlights

that’s not to say

there’s no happiness

it’s just hard to see

i’m having dizzy spells

that are manifesting

in shifty looking corners

lost balance

turns into shitty

figure skating

i feel as if im in a labyrinth

i’m not scared or anything

nothings chasing me

but i’m just lost

inside my mind

what’s to say

this garden maze


marked with roses

for walls

it’s just hard to pay attention

to the small things

when you don’t

even know where you are

in the first place

or what you’re looking for.

If you find
yourself in the

Age of Pesto

quarters through

the green tiles

the smart

through hands

unwashed unrhymed the second
mouse rind the kind reaching out

for a metaphor
a recipe

for love
lost bleeding

in buckets

of basil
in kitchen

the counter in want
of a hand

to slake towards
the edge of

season the taste the hedonist reason the haste

move it around olive oil

raw garlic
cold pressed no cheese

now blend

it down go slow go
scrape the

lip or lick the ice
cube trays reserve

for spaghetti
in winter