THE JUNE, 2023 30/30 PROJECT – Page 2

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

The volunteer poets for June 2023 are Jane Elias, Alix Jason, Heather Katzoff, Jessica Kinnison, Jessica Letteney, Khaya Osborne, P.F. Potvin, Jenny Stohlman, and Hailey Williams. Read their full bios here.

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

Day 30 / Poem 30

A BULLET IN THE GRASS / A Cento composed by Khaya Osborne, 

with lines from Jane Elias, Alix Jason, Heather Katzoff, Jessica Kinnison, Jessica Letteney, Khaya Osborne, P.F. Potvin, Jenny Stohlman, and Hailey Williams.

Eyes flickered over me and I did not drown.
Livestock and humans, we like to get our heads 
stuck into things. Yes, the stars spark with each coyote 
yip. I see branches bounce under squirrel seduction.
I want to stash my pores in my pockets–all the jupiterian 
ailments haunt my bloodline. we sing with sewn down tongues, 
a hubristic fist. debt is a form of grief that you drink slowly 
with a straw. languages unknown both ocean and human.
The beach will never be tacky just windy with jokes 
about how it all turns to dust. Gone is the cowboy 
who prefers whisky to wine; it takes many years 
to understand what pain is. If you run out of room, 
start piling them on top of the bookshelf until you hit 
the ceiling–holy magnificent dance. The wedding is doomed, 
we all know the incessant hiss—tinnitus. I saw smoke 
issuing out the chimney; I’ll be reconciling with the meaning 
of parenthood forever.

Humblers / Jane Elias

To be struck dumb
by the complex chord
of the late-night fridge-hum,
the stroke of the hallway clock
more caressing than you
remembered, the toilet’s
near listless hiss—

and the envelope
of improbable quiet 
sealing you all in till dawn,
a cloistered chamber orchestra—

it’s a gift you didn’t ever think
to ask for. Or maybe you did,
once, and like so many ungranted
wishes it finally slipped your mind.

Come to find out
the witching tics
they build and build
the longer you listen,
the stronger your will
to stop meddling
in what you mistook
for dead air
with your crass palaver.

What relief,
what relief to not have
to speak, to hear 
there is no void after all.


Bells / Alix Jason

Bells for raindrops

make the best christmas gifts

and even in summer

you can ring 

if you don’t call

I have run out of floral shirts

for the season

which has lasted too long


The horns are on stage

and it is hot 

too hot for the sand

and for meals

all songs sound like covers

when I’ve been standing too long

all bells ring

at the beginning of the season


Fade / Heather Katzoff

The face in the mirror

is always a surprise
never knowing which 
version of myself
I am going to wake 
up to in the morning.
There’s no warning
no signal, but it is freeing
always being someone else
never needing to wear
the same face twice.
Nice, but not
more than that,
not good, not being sure
comes with it’s own price
as it should. Who 
would choose
to be a chameleon?
My self is spun in fear
maybe it’s just easier
to disappear.


Names for My Bar / Jessica Kinnison

Sea Cave
Stone Street
May to December

Eye Patch
Vision Quest
Clawfoot Tub

More to Come
Next Time

Still Here

Flood Street
Tootsie Roll’s

The Backache
Laundry Day
Your shoulder

Queer Wheel
Corner Pocket
The Safety Bar

5’Oclock Shadow 
There’s Cake

Turning to the Tide / Jessica Letteney

The earth let me in on secrets.
Stories too big for words
tumble from rocks, half green, all blue,
belted bright, resting at the
edge of the Salish sea.
Tidepool water,
ruffled at the barnacles,
is satin quicksilver in the middle.

A pulse, perhaps
from the turnstones
foraging at the water’s edge.
There it is. And there again,
a push, not yet enough
to wet the tip of the sea star.
A swell at a cluster
of mussels long laid bare
in the summer tide of light.
A crab scurrying into a crevice.

The continent turns into the belly
of the waiting ocean.
I measure change
in grains of wetted sand.
A surge splashes the
driftwood on which I lie.
Time to heed the tide
and seek higher ground.

Soon enough, this bowl will be
filled, the only beyond
the opposite rim.
But for now, I kneel
as trees bend under western rays,
witness the daily miracles,
and cup the salt of communion.

Hunting the Beach / P.F. Potvin

I spied the prehistoric
rugose coral
peaking from a stone
pile of grays and stooped
to retrieve the six-sided
corallites like honeycombs
that once wriggled tentacles
from center mouths
pulling prey
into the polyp when
a shot made me
spin and three deer
blasted from the bushes
their hooves clawing
sandy clods down the beach
and even after they leapt
back into the brush
you could still smell
earth and rain
in their hair

Asking the Artificial Intelligence to Paint Its Impression of the Stars / Jenny Stohlman

do not dream

     this is the day
     we come to know
     that technology made us
     so sensitive
     we can hear the first movement of time
     g wave stands for the goddess
     undulations of her uterus still humming
     from the corpses of her little stars
     to me a starling is seasonal
     passing southbound
     then north like a clock
     movement is time
     and always has been

     under the rainbow
     in a $500 pair of headphones
     work just mailed to you
     as a little treat
     cool sound of Allison Russel
     begging for the joyful motherfuckers
     in two tongues
     three if you count the music
     she doesn’t know if it’s too late 
     sun through the skylights
     on your rescue pup’s gleaming coat
     four laptops
     two tablets
     a phone
     a projector
     a two storey home

     it takes fifteen years
     and all your telescopes to hear
     a pulsar repeating the universe’s first word
     spacetime warping
     through the midst of reality
     the radio waves
     your headphones
     the first religious texts
     old worshippers carving
     reverberations into rock
     it was always prickling the back of our necks
     but we couldn’t see it
     first, there was only the goddess
     and then
     like the rest of us
     she started to sing

of labor

Timrod Park /  Hailey Williams

Each time I stop to write &
think the well is dry, I turn 
my eyes towards something 
greater & smaller than myself.

A pocketbook copy of The Iliad
filled with men falling & dying
like tall poplars, their helmets
bounding off the dry, war-jangled

earth like beans being threshed.
Or a span of moss untrammeled 
on the trafficked pathway, spores
still scrying out for purchase.

I find myself leaving books 
in a lending library in the park
& consider that each living
spore, each swing or fountain, 
nest or batch of algae has been
justified by one man to another.

Here the sun falls on canopies,
creek minnows, small faces,
& elsewhere are complexes 
filled with air conditioners 
& water cooler small talk. 
In one of those, someone
asked for this little park. 

Someone put their back
into it. Many someones,
rallying together without
the aid of Zeus or Athena.

I don’t know what holiness is,
if not words here in my hands
& land alive under my feet &
echoes — echoes 
of those who spared them. 

Day 29 / Poem 29

Revised Protocol of the Wannsee Conference, January 20, 1942* / Jane Elias


                  final solution            of the Jewish question

The meeting opened

                                                      to obtain clarity on questions of principle.

                  practical       solution        European Jewish question

handling                                  final solution of the Jewish question

                                    the struggle                     against this foe

most important       :

Forcing the Jews out
Forcing the Jews out

         cleanse the    living space of Jews                         

                                             not a German problem

                           To prevent                      proletarianized Jews

         wealthy Jews          Jews without means                   destitute Jews

                                    11 million Jews

As far as                         the numbers                           



                            Jews in all spheres of life


                  Jews   utilize

Jews                                       build roads                      drop out

eventually remain             suitable                          resistant

         become                          a new Jewish revival

                  important                                                  precise

                           Jews                     will be

                                             most essential

                                                                        new decision          in favor

                  a matter of principle         merits                   blood

                                    progeny                          settle                    for good

                                                               feels and behaves as

                                                               a person

Here it must be decided

                                    Jewish blood

                                                      must be made       


                                             Jews would not be

                                                                        a great danger

In conclusion,

                                                      the population must be

*the full text of the Protocol can be found at


I wrote these down to tell you later /
Alix Jason

  1. Bells like roller skates 

  2. Rainmakers and harmonicas far from home

  3. Abbreviations that never find their rhythm 

  4. Why did you have me mail that letter ?

  5. I dreamt of a haunted arctic on the hottest day yet

  6. Referring to Chevrolets as Chevys must be a marketing tactic and therefore I disapprove

  7. Listening to an album on repeat is the type of low hum that dulls my emotions for now and intensifies them later can we ever just live in the middle ?

  8. I’m not sure what ‘bells like roller skates’ means I wrote it down hoping you could explain

  9. The beach will never be tacky just windy with jokes about how it all turns to dust

  10. Salt salt salt, now now now, never better

Bloom / Heather Katzoff

The lilies needed coaxing this year

shy about unfolding their colors to the world
“Maybe they’re just late bloomers”
my husband offered 
unwilling to intervene
preferring to leave nature to sort out the yard for us
but every season provides
a small sunny window
when the life that belongs
to that time and place 
may thrive.
And that’s the thing about late bloomers:
they still bloom
the flowers may be smaller
the petals less showy
but they are beautiful
in their delayed determination
I worry more about the ones
dying on the vine
never getting a chance
to share their rainbow
Still frozen,
    still waiting,
         perpetually potential.


Letter to A Young Poet  / Jessica Kinnison

Moonmilk Moonmilk Moonmilk Moonmilk Moonmilk
Moonmilk Moonmilk Moonmilk (Moonmilk) Moon-

Go deep into the cave. Set your fingers to the wall, 
cold and soft to the touch, and pull them along together
to make three lines. If you’re flea-bitten, kick your legs.
If the bats flock for your head, scream. If you lose your fingernails
in the dark, touch your face. 

Moonmilk Moonmilk Moonmilk Moonmilk Moonmilk
Moonmilk Moonmilk Moonmilk Moonmilk Moonmilk

Press your belly. Impress your belly. Climb a ladder
to pull your fingers along the ceiling those flutings run
a better chance of lasting until someone comes  
to study life on earth.

Moonmilk Moonmilk – (mooning)- Moonmilk Moonmilk
Moonmilk Moonmilk Moonmilk Moonmilk Moonmilk

with the distance between 
a modern person’s three middle fingers
the canvas is as big and small as that
of the whole world and its empires of
meanders macaroni serpentines
bison hands outlines of faces

Moonmilk (Moon)

in my bag / Jessica Letteney

a scrap with lines for poetry
receipt for vinegar and paper
owl feather
orange aspirin

silver bear claw             
for protection,
for the same reason

I face the day,
ready for writing,
ready for my stalker,
ready for anything

COMFORT / Khaya Osborne

adorned by disaster, we sought
steam & expiration under rhythms
contrived by dangers lavish as hope.
when this is all over, please leave me
the bottles you tongued as we talked.
in my dreams, they are my kin. isn’t it so
desperate; pretending we haven’t mapped 
each others’ hands, gauged new understandings 
of extravagance by scanning each other’s lips? i cry 
when i think of you; laughter is a cardiac event 
characterized by spasmodic vocal vibration. do i have 
enough heart for sharing? how still are your fingers 
when you catch a firefly? does the light leave your possession 
all in one piece?

Big Bay Point / P.F. Potvin

the room in WWII
with machines
to catch signals
high off the bluff’s
back, practice turret
gunning and warn
of incoming attacks, on
the morning we woke
in the room now named
Keeper Bergan spatting
about how best to spend
our morning as a storm
splashed and puffed
windows, the brightest
light on Lake Superior, sharp enough
to beam 20 nautical miles, couldn’t
pierce the ghost of first keeper William Prior
after his son died of gangrene from a sliced
shin and the father hung himself nearby from a tree


Leagues / Jenny Stohlman

They said hold your breath until the flags
Quickly became hold your breath until the halfway mark
Suddenly hold your breath to the end of the pool

Now I hold my breath and go for two laps
I like the feeling of panic

When my diaphragm is pulling and 
Pulling and pulling until a vacuum opens
A black hole in my chest
And I am the source of the tides in this sea

They never tell you that you can be Poseidon when you grow up

The echo of my voice on a recording
Taken on someone’s beer-sticky laptop
The second to last poem from the second to 
Last reader at the second to last reading
The sound quality’s for shit after all these years
But I feel proud to have made it to the end of
This pool of beautiful and arrogant noise

I want to lay the sound over a video of a free diver 
In the moment they get so deep
That the weight of the water
Depletes the physics of buoyancy
Their skin and fat and lungs a dense anchor
The free dive transmuted to a free fall

What does it feel like when the water gets its leverage
If you black out hard, will you wake on the sandy floor
Thinking, “Damn, I drank too much poetry,”
Before your realize your feet aren’t even in the room?

The tales of mermaids sound like histories with salt in your ears
And once you’ve repeated this to yourself enough times
It’s going to be true:

Don’t you worry, now
We can make our last breath stretch all the way down to the end of the universe

Flyers / Hailey Williams

Us with our bundles,
our upturned faces,
elbows and minutia.
What little we take along,
each one of us. Swimming, 
thrown together for a long, 
unlong, blip of time.

I’d forgotten New York’s
coast line. Hello, odd beach. 
Islands which once were not 
islands. Punctuations of lightning.
Sweep of blue fingerprints,
the Atlantic. Ships anchored 
above the fog line, perched
in the sky. From this angle, 
plummeting over an edge. 

Day 28 / Poem 28

Overrated / Jane Elias

The hoopla over human beings
seems, to me, overkill 
most of the time.

What do you think?
Is your morning station
hyperbolic like mine?

Or does the news you tune into
lay it out flat,
refuse to fatten 
the fact of our frailty

while too many children
claw at the dusty gate?

No one is waiting for us
to step it up,
so what’s the incentive?

I tell you: 
I’m really asking.

How many more disasters
does it take,
how many polished films
of villainies,

how many of anything
before we go 

no more 
no more 
no more


Hitch Hikin’ / Alix Jason

Gone is the cowboy who prefers whisky to wine
or the occasional brandy when the weather is cool
sped off so quickly,
kicking up a trail of olive blossom dust
and enough cardamom to keep you sneezing
through the night
Tore off with your wastebasket boots
and all that you could fit between the hips of your horse
and the pockets of your heart
a handkerchief made of stars to wipe your brow
and catch your tears
a husk filled with sweet corn stuck in your holster 
where your pistol should be, for nourishment is
the best defense 
and the best peace offering you could give
The sun beats down your back
and bakes your skin to orange peels
to reveal your tangerine flesh
will your citrus dry out in the desert ?
or will you always manage to pull a candlestick from your boot when you need light ?
I watched you ride off 
and saw the two silver armed angel’s on the back of your boots,
but you only use them to open wine.

Dictionary Home / Heather Katzoff

Build me a house 
with your words
all the best ones
the ones we memorized
sourcing their etymology
for standardized tests
before letting them creep under our bibliophile skin
to become part of our anatomy

bones, really
timbers with a particular tonality
scaffolding our ideas
about each other
in multi-syllabic ecstasy
each room laid out
in our idiosyncratic syntax
with adjectives and adverbs as our decor

author this fork-tongued fantasy with me
let me live in your words
bathing in their sound as you
speak those words
back to me
the silvery timbre of your voice
echoing through the halls of our dictionary home


Despair More, Fantastic You / Jessica Kinnison

faith is not a work of art
my back of the head existence 
in our tight-rope world

what would I die for
how do I switch my face
to my face—a hatrack 

manifests as a person
sloped shoulders, in the dark
why would Truth be hanging 

there, tall as a person 
if I wasn’t meant to look
and before long, the hatrack lives

in me and I stand in the dark
scaring myself over in the bed 
causing the back of my head to pretend

nothing’s there but a long night’s sleep
how to be completely human, to graft 
my trusting limbs to a rubber tent

bound to collapse and leak forever
how to rest when longing 
to muster up a cause to fight 

for one’s self we are taught 
to do it alone, on a great odyssey, 
sleighing dragons and drowning 

like paying down debt in secret 
it just gets deeper, the misrelation 
of despair to despair

to become fantastic is a hazard
to rest squarely on despair and say so
instead of merging to the temporal job

of living all I know is that I am the reason
nothing matters to me — the tent can stand
Love lives in the ground

Sagebrush Sea / Jessica Letteney

San Bernardino October motel
black garbage bag in the pool,
grass like tinder,
bumper cars, Tilt a Whirl.

With my new rescue dog,
heading north from Hesperia,
I turn west 10 miles through layers:
crushed diatoms, folded sediments,
once-submerged, now they limn the ascent.

On a small road through piñyons and sand,
I turn wrong to silence,
barbed wire, and a ruddy sign:
Sequoia National Forest—Domeview Wilderness.
A man with a mastiff appears,
“No one knows this is here,”
and I tell him how lost I am at 9,000 feet.
He turns me toward Kennedy Meadows,
its sagebrush sea.

I park under two pines,
walk with the dog through the riot of willows,
pick chips of obsidian from alluvium.
She listens for water; I hear the wind.

After hot ramen and shrugged-on fleece,
I sit with a pen but cannot look down.
I am surrounded by flowers, full yellow.
Neon pastels, a Renoir dress on a summer day.
The still-hot sun quickens their bitter odor,
the moon a blade in the eastern sky.

My head nods.
In my chair I dreamt I sailed on a sea of sage.

SUNSHINE / Khaya Osborne

ingratitude is wealth’s largest 
indicator, a neonate yellow’s 
privilege bask. i swallowed smoke 
today & called it living. all the men 
i could love or have loved held only 
bequeathed power, none they yanked 
by root from a living scalp or yielding 
soil. there are gasoline-fed machines pillaging 
coal from the earth. can you blame an essentia 
for facilitating its own depletion? a symbiosis 
is only so when both subjects survive. i was objectively 
most beautiful when i most wanted to die. i spoke louder, 
took fuller bites, wore more colors so as not to be forgotten. 
now i wear white, pray more, pick my battles for those i already 
love. isn’t it fascinating how a bell tolls every hour on the hour, 
but for so many minutes, it rests–silent & still? romance is a waste; 
aren’t you tired of offering warmth to those feasting on their own 

Words for a Mother / P.F. Potvin

In her nightmare the moon
fell & she rose to warn

her father but his chair
sat cold in the radio’s
she switched it
tiptoed through the dining
kitchen living & out

the back screen to the orchard
where her father’s hand

shushed along the gray
mare’s back & muzzle
as he lowered

 his head closed his

eyes & whispered
into her ear

It didn’t take much growing up / Jenny Stohlman

To hear not quite so
Big, not quite so
Strong, not quite so
Tall, not quite so

Not quite so much
You’ve snowballed
Into something just
A bit more than woman

Do you really need all
That flesh, let us take
A pound or two, ten
It’s not meant to
Be a part of you

You’d feel so much better
Without so much body
Any part you can grab onto
You’re going to need to let go

They didn’t like it when I did

Name Day  /  Hailey Williams

I want to marry you in the land between
our childhoods, beside a spring, upon
the death of this long summer. 
I want a wind chime of lost keys.
I want to wear loose linen.
I want to drink from mismatched vessels
around unexpected bonfires. 
I want the ring you fashioned from a metal
coupling, threads smoothed away. 
I want to give you a ring imprinted 
with our newly invented family crest.

I’ll wear your name in private, in silence,
in bed, in your arms. I’ll wear it at each 
birth, each sickness, each death. I’ll write
under my own, the part of me which looks
in on this life from afar, the young one,
the lone one, the one still lost in clouds,
at sea, in grief, in the moment. We all 
carry this distance from one instant
to the next. In this instant, I write 
selfishly, with a self-given name, 
with my small vices and fears, to give
away to strangers with stranger names. 

I want you in my poems as one name,
in our life as another. I want your freedom,
I want your limitless, limb-longer vision. 
I want to stretch in your hands like steel,
like a bow — with intention, with strength. 

Day 27 / Poem 27

Walking Home / Jane Elias

At the last pier
the sail-less masts
sway in unison, barely:
lighters held aloft
by arms unseen
under the sea,
pleading the sky
perform another number
before set’s end.
No doubt I have
walked by them
dozens of nights,
eyes trained on my shoes
as if they’d lose their way
without my surveilling.
Only now, tonight,
me through with my cricked neck
drawn to the ground
and your steady hands long folded,
do these naked boats tug
with their collective beckon
so that I do what they do
face up, finally,
to a high
I may never reach
say please,
just one more before you go

Dream Baby Dream / Alix Jason

when you have no more spells to cast you live on fumes alone and fumes with wine parings to take the edge off aging and losing the ability to create more nostalgia. once you have seen one motel you’ve seen them all and no matter how many times you wake up you will check your pockets for loose change and find fumes alone and in pairs nestled in the dirty crevices that no cleaning will ever get to. no church mouse has seen the inside of every motel and aging always looks better on someone named Frankie, regardless of fumes. no baby looks better than Frankie .

List High / Heather Katzoff

I am writing a to-do list
of all the poems
I am planning to write
there is also another entry
on another to-do list
tucked in between
the watering of plants
and the baking of bread
and the grading of papers
to write this poem
it lives alongside reminders 
to work out
and to pay the bills
to find a therapist
and to make an appointment with that therapist
then cancel that appointment when I lose my nerve 
each task broken down 
into the smallest chunk
each line providing
a tiny bit of dopamine
as my pen confirms completion 


Mississippi Delta People: A Love Story / Jessica Kinnison

phyllo dough and Lebanese folk songs
church wax and thin sugarcanes for a double flute

pacifists and Martin Luther King, Jr. 
open flat land and a need for solitude

comfort day for the Chows of Clarksdale
trying to remember their Chinese mothers’ recipes

something like the blues Lebanese parents would sing 
sad songs, old people remembering the old country

Mennonite activism and quietism 
anabaptists and the best sandwich bread

not black and not white
that by itself gives you some isolation

egalitarianism, nonconformity, separation,
as many as 50 Chinese grocery stores in Greenwood

beef with cauliflower whole fish garnished with fresh ginger
fire under a garage wok and Roast pork with honey-hoisin glaze

at the crossroads known the world over, you can get pork tips
and, for those in the know, grape leaves.

Yellow / Jessica Letteney


–After Gillian Clarke

An Alamance County morning.
Before green, before bees,
while we’re still in bed,
you say, “I can barely breathe.”

Tufts of yellow Lab fur
stir in the corners.
Shadows of
the first leaves,
outside the window.

I wrap us in the harmless,
quilt your mother made
when you were ten.
The yarn she tied
in lemony bows

I curve my hands around your
belly—“Don’t,” you say—
inhale the ochre odor of your ear—
“that tickles,” you say.

The timbers creak when you get up.
The dog burrows under the quilt.

From my pillow,
a butter stripe of sun,
the alkaline of cooking whites.

I fold the laundry,
stagger to the kitchen with
two piles of sunflower towels.

You have set out our plates,
your face washed in shadow,
your hands filled with gold.

So this is how yellow feels.

NEGRO PASTORAL / Khaya Osborne

the deer’s antlers are cocked toward the tree 
stump, grass rich as blood hanging from their 

ends. we pray to the copper hills, sovereign colonies 
of fat, generous bees sharing merciful, promising pollen.

the only threats be the ones we make. the only ropes be
lilac & lavender stems woven into our hair. the hunter’s

pot never cowers cold. we own heat, all embraces borne
by orange yearning. we kiss at coral dawn, pink dusk,

all arresting hours in-between. who knew love brought
jumprope & jill scott to the function? who knew love

kills what won’t set you free? superpredators we are,
cuddling on a familiar mattress, a spoon & fork pressed

under its burden. we play at divination, coax hope’s
coffers to yield more from the earth. this is repair.

my children know safety. my children eat daily.
if one of them cry, they lift their arms to a cerulean

chiffon sky & they always find me, smiling, ready.

Shenanigans  / P.F. Potvin

on the same oak
bench I sat as a kid
kickwrestling my elder
sister under the table
until dad shot us
the look
you slid dominos

                                                           n                 l i k e                s        u        r        f        e        r        s
                                       b                  a                 r                 r                 e                 l                 i                 n                 g
                                                                                                 t                  u                 b                 e                 s

across the kitchen
your sister at the end
too infant to walk
but standing in totters
tittering each time
one bumped her knuckles
and you cried “ow”

All Creatures Must Eat  / Jenny Stohlman

Mother instructs child to raise a knife
Draw it across the neck
Insert it below the sternum
Run it below the membrane
This is where your lungs live, too, baby

And when you were the moon of my belly
You kicked in the water beneath my ribs
Until I gasped every night
Your feet drowning me from the inside

This elk cow was a mother once or twice
Fairy fingers gripped her babies’ hooves
Keeping her abdomen intact from their slicing toes

A slaughter is defensible
We see calves and feel no apetite
Until a fire cleanses
We thrive
On processed animals

Mother gets a doe tag every year
She has little use for more antlers
And the meat tastes better
When it has given her a further hunt
Squinting through the camouflage of wood

Temple of Aphaia  / Hailey Williams

We are prehensile skeletons.
Imagine this: a Minoan cult 
builds an open air temple 
in 1300 BC to pray for harvest
from the fertility goddess Aphaia.
Four times the site is destroyed, 
pillaged, rebuilt greater than before
one on top of the other. Take my
bones, for instance. How many
times could they be animated,
studied, painted, crafted into flutes?
At this moment I am standing 
on the bones of 500 BC. Beneath
lies at least one other temple
untouched for fear of collapse. 
Two guesses at what’s down there: 
ancient dildos, evidence of aliens?
I know what it is to see the outline
of a mystery and weigh the cost
of knowledge with destruction. 
For instance, where will I go 
when I leave these bones behind?

Day 26 / Poem 26

Moving On / Jane Elias

Here lies my to-do list

nothing to do with
getting things done
simply one by one
to an ungodly sum
the earthful of dirty work 
both Wordle-urgent 
&  dead

let us set it 

on the end 
table with the 
unread mail

let us not

say failure
but render

let us together

utter a prayer


Queen of the Supermarket / Alix Jason

I missed the devil 
who lived in the freeze aisle
because I only saw the beauty on the shelves
of bottles
and canned etceteras and obscurities
expiration dates are just a suggestion
of a worse outcome than this
there are no ice cubes here
I can see only liquids
and puddles of a melted list
the tiles make my joints ache
and we shuffle
from square to square
somehow missing the devil’s feet
how did I avoid this mess
the last time
my left pinky was in better shape
and I knew how to steer
unknown waters and slippery whatnots
slower and calmer and colder
than before
my teeth chatter and thaw

For my birthday / Heather Katzoff

all I wanted was a kiss
and not a peck on the cheek
     chaste and friendly
and not a 2am club kiss
     sloppy desperate
     as people pair off
     at the end of the night

I wanted a kiss 
that slides into place
     without work
that makes you aware
     of the angle
          of every hair follicle
     and the sound 
          of breath and heartbeat 
that makes every synapse 
     in your system
come alive with potential
a kiss that hangs 
     in your memory
like a signpost
forever marking time
before and after

all I wanted was a kiss
     from you
and you obliged
appearing at my bedside
     in a veil of moonlight
and it was perfect 
so perfect
it almost didn’t matter
when I woke up

Lightning Storm in Clarksdale  / Jessica Kinnison

Last week I looked at my lover
And touched his reddened cheek
I took his thighs in my two fists
And no more did we weep

We moaned until the morning
We pulled out all the sheets
We slept sweating back to back
And went to dreaming in the deep

Listen up, you June time lovers
You dreamers and you schemers and you, 
storm chasers, Good God A-mighty gonna 
strike you down 

The next day he came down coughing
And nothing could he eat
He sweated and he pained for hours
While fever reddened his cheek 

After he fought his demons
And got up with the dew
We felt bigger than the spirit
And thought our troubles through 

Listen up, you June time lovers
You dreamers and you schemers and you, 
Storm chasers

As light came early that next morning
I woke up coughing and sweating too
My throat swollen nearly to a close
His fever marked my cheeks all through

Scarlet red and full of spite
I wept and thought my hours few
My cheeks gave away our delight
And tarnished our love so true

Good God A-mighty gonna 
strike you down 

And as we both recovered
A lightning storm came over from Arkansas
Shaking the house from window to cupboard
Leaving us in the dark to listen to the thrall

As the room got hotter and hotter 
It got so hot it was against the law
The wind barreled in like a train motor
It was the most lightning we ever saw

Listen up, you June time lovers
You dreamers and you schemers and you, 
storm chasers, 

After while, our modesty could no longer hold
we stripped all the way down to nothing
and still wanted to find a way to be more bold 
we’d have taken off our hair if not for the cutting

Naked again as we were done before
I couldn’t see anything in that melodious dark 
Meanwhile, you said you could see all four
of our legs so lightning white and so stark

Good God A-mighty gonna 
strike you down 

I closed my eyes and pretended I was in Sweden
In winter with snow all around
Not almost July in the Mississippi Delta
With no electricity in this town

What shaky ground is modesty 
Sweating all night in false pajamas
In the dark nothing counts as honesty
In the dark everything counts as honesty

If this were another kind of tale 
We’d be lying so long, so pale, so fair
dead from tuberculosis or poison or sour ale
Instead, we’re still here, a worn but living pair.

Spiral Body / Jessica Letteney

How does one move in a spiral body?
Where hips cant east and ribs twist west?
Dancing, walking—earthbound moves are shoddy.
Scoliosis diagnosis—my ligaments and tendons are stressed.

Any step may be a tumble of crossing tarsals.
Balance demands my attention and care.
I lift at the gym to hone the muscles I marshal,
Yet any action may seem drunk, impaired.

In the pool is where I move with ease.
Slip off the edge and enter as salmon, otter, manatee.
Cup and pull, breathe to one side, reverse, reprise.
Joyful lifelong swimmer, I flip and turn balletically.

I don’t care if, when I walk on land, my body goes awry.
In my liquid lap lane, I’m a bird, I soar, I fly.

VICTORY / Khaya Osborne

let’s drink our pain into children;
soft dusks & dawn glass, wavering.
if we love each other for real, it shines
in the bed puddles & coffee stain infestations,
the dirt ring pirouette of a bathtub’s scrubbing.
hold me in today’s light, no longer sepia dreams.
your skin on me is the prize, everything else a consolation.

As a Day Is  / P.F. Potvin

right after driving                                                     all night through storms

right after running                                                    a mountain marathon

right after signing                                                      the lawyer’s papers

right after leaping                                                     from the rope

right after swimming                                                across the river

right after drying                                                       around a fire

right after setting                                                      the picture straight

right after drinking                                                   from the cup

right after brushing                                                   all her nails

right after zipping                                                     up the tent

right after pinching                                                   both her thighs

right after spreading                                                 the bag

right after covering                                                   her eyes

                                                    she tried

Homecoming  / Hailey Williams

This spring, a bird built a nest
in our dried hanging fern. 
Today as she bowed over 
four bobbing heads, the sun
loosened itself from a brooding
steel sky & I was lulled to peace
by the voice of my beloved. 
His head folded over a leather
copy of my favorite book,
light glancing over his beard,
copper & gold & obsidian. 
He is every man I’ve known
& someone new each day. 
I wait to read him under 
the next sun & the next spring.
At some distant point, each
thread or twig or fiber 
of our days-to-day will be
woven into unassailable truths: 
his cool hand on the back 
of my neck, pages lined with 
wildflowers from our travels, 
something born & raised 
by us or in us every morning. 

Day 25 / Poem 25

Game Night Pantoum / Jane Elias

It’s my turn again to make you say the word

at the top of the Taboo card.
I’m not allowed to say Jew, camp, oven, Nazi, Holocaust.
Those are the rules.

At the top of the Taboo card

is the word that scores me a point if I get you to say it.
Those are the rules,
and if I say one of the taboo words, I lose a point.

The word that scores me a point if I get you to say it

is not Belsen, Auschwitz, Dachau, Treblinka,
and if I say one of the taboo words, I lose a point,
so yes, this game is kind of hard.

Not Belsen, Auschwitz, Dachau, Treblinka.

Not Mauthausen, Majdanek, Belzec, Birkenau, Chelmno.
Yes, this game is kind of hard
when there are so many words the answer isn’t.

Not Mauthausen, Majdanek, Belzec, Birkenau, Chelmno.

Not #neveragain, Shoah, forget, six, million, remember, museum.
When there are so many words, the answer isn’t
at all easy to name, and the answer isn’t even a name.

Not #neveragain, Shoah, forget, six, million, remember, museum,

Sonderkommando, Einsatzgruppen, Zyklon B, Hitler, Höss, Goebbels—
All easy to name, but the answer isn’t even a name, I said.
The only clues I give are Allegra, Calev, Lena, Moshe, Vital, Selly, Dad.

It’s not Sonderkommando, Einsatzgruppen, Zyklon B, Hitler, Höss, Goebbels.

I’m not allowed to say Jew, camp, oven, Nazi, Holocaust.
The only clues I give are Allegra, Calev, Lena, Moshe, Vital, Selly, Dad.
It’s my turn again to make you say the word.

Meadowlands Complex American Dream Reprise / Alix Jason

In 5th grade I had to memorize how cranberry bogs are harvested and in 3rd grade I had to fill in a blank map of New Jersey with all its 21 counties and it wasn’t until my 20’s when I moved to the southern swamps, that I learned we had swamps back home not just malls and other places to get stuck

1: a wetland often partially or intermittently covered with water
especially : one dominated by woody vegetation
2 : a tract of swamp
3 : a difficult or troublesome situation or subject

Flow / Heather Katzoff

the mind wanders

     in a free association fantasy

discounting clocks and passing hours
     without plan or purpose
life floats by like that
if you let it
drifting into days of sun
     and seasons of dark
opening onto twisting paths
     a matrix of opportunities
taking all the turns
     or some
          or none
life allows you to get lost
and then finds you again
     and again 
          and again
if you let it


Serious Lightning  / Jessica Kinnison

What quiet
from her sick bed breaks
Where on the air is written
a silent electricity between two lovers –
Ground and Sky,
It launches the woman from her bed 
into a column of light 
and reaches a crooked arm to heaven
and spreads over the surface of the ocean
only to disappear again
like a body she can’t see inside of
but knows as surely as her own skin.

Spell of the Strange Monsters / Jessica Letteney

Incant the syllables of this spell,
unfurl your heart in verse.
Wrap yourselves in the cold of the lake
and write. Fly with the bats under clouds
and catch the motes of night.

Touch pencil to paper and
write about river and wave,
loud in the tide and a lullaby later
that leads us into dreams.

We feed each other when we
bend over notebooks, begin
to write and read. Your words
float as feathers, her truth cupped
in an acorn cap, and hers clothed in a cape of stars.

Thank you, strange monsters
for casting your spells, for mapping a sand dollar,
for swimming, for your scalpel, for a sisterhood
of poetry, of the forest, the ocean of words.


i’m not sure you can be addicted to what God keeps yanking 
away. i consider the cockroach. how rot is his victory, the home
in which he spawns progeny. diabetes, heart disease, hypertension,
addiction—all the jupiterian ailments haunt my bloodline. indicators
of overindulgence. when a man fucks me good, he never wants to kiss
during or cuddle after. the last man who did had a baby with someone 
else; i fled across the country & the heartbreak followed. am i going to be 
a crazy bitch forever? do i have to give up on marriage to heal?

Caldera  / P.F. Potvin

this morning I tossed your green
raincoat stuffed in a trash
bag the kind
 in the photo

your cap
Yoda ears
stare locked on a cloud
alien or
alien cloud
as steam fizzed
vents in the caldera
we mused
about naming
your sister Pele

a few years following
I returned with a new
partner you said
you remembered
fish and turtles but not
the thousands of earthquakes            
tears from our bones
while we slept

Hartsfield-Jackson Airport  / Hailey Williams

I took my suitcase to the suitcase park.
We took a long walk, observed other
suitcases whose owners matched them,
or didn’t. Handled them closely or let them 
laze under a million fluorescent clouds.
We always enjoy the 2 hour rope course 
& suitcase anatomy lesson. Thankfully 
the suitcase doctors caught & removed
an overgrown toothpaste tumor 
just in time. Now, we rest between 
concourses, my head on its tummy, 
a tender exchange amidst many
angry people in uncomfortable shoes. 

Soon we will return home. I will 
free us both of our burdens. I will
embrace my loved ones, tell stories,
recall the little presents carried 
over oceans, give openly. My cat
will pad around inside my dented, 
wobbly-wheeled companion, asking 
questions with her soft, circling nose. 
Likely they will hibernate together
in the darkest corner of my closet,
grateful — as I am — for the quiet. 

Day 24 / Poem 24

Still Life / Jane Elias

Here she is again stopped at the local indie shop
on break from a daily-declutter sesh

                               less is more than she hopes to achieve
                               still buys the death-denial of acquiring more books 

and the voice of the little but not at all 
small child crying Look! Look! 
compelling as ever and of this

she is both proud and ashamed

                               somehow they are one and the same
                               anyway it’s what she learned early on 

On the display table her ex-husband’s treatise on

healthy relationships is on sale

                               next to it a physicist’s latest take
                               on the universe as hologram

 Ma’am can I help you find what you are looking for

says no one in particular as she stands there

waiting for something to want


Summer clothes / Alix Jason

If you aren’t wearing a muscle tank when you are moving a mattress
you are doing it wrong

It is considered unripe to wear something without holes
in the summer

If you have no scrapes and bruises on your knees
did you even ?

It is too slippery out to wear dresses
unless you have a signed permission slip

If no stain appears after four hours of wear
you may move 3 spaces to the right

It is the golden hour for an oversize t-shirt
you may hold the buttons

Remember / Heather Katzoff

pluck me

from the obscure
corner where 
you’ve tucked 
my memory
bring me
from the cobwebs
of your mind
that cracked place
you’ve created
to cloister
my existence
remember me
in your arms
as I imagine
you must have
at least once
place me
in your present
carve a space
you can cram
me into
I won’t take up
too much room


Mississippi Welcome Center  / Jessica Kinnison

  • Do you know if the streets up in the Delta are flooded?

                        I’m not gone lie to you baby; I sure don’t.

  • Do you know what I just saw?

                        What’d you see?

  • A man mooning the whole highway. 

                        Oh, no. He did not. He did not!

  • He did. His shorts were down around his ankles. 

                        Ain’t that a crying shame. Pitiful. Just pitiful.

  • Do you know red-winged black birds?

                        Yes, they look like they was painted that way. 

  • I’ve seen two today. 

                        You must be doing something right, honey. Sure 
                        must be. I’ve gone years without seeing not a one. 

  • If you don’t mind me asking, ma’am, do you get the weary blues every day?

                        Not sure I follow.

  • Do you ever throw your Stetson in the dirt and beg the sky for mercy?

                        Are you feeling alright?

  • Do you ever want to haul up and wail, catch the next train, and runaway?

                        I don’t want to lie to you, baby; I sure don’t. That bad sign, 
                        it’s just out here blinking. 


One of Them / Jessica Letteney

Birds were flying at me in my dream.
Wings outspread,
covering clouds and sky.
Their tips brushed my hair
sparking longing. “Let go,” they said,
“leave the earth.”
And I said yes.
Crows combed my thoughts,
doves traded velvet love,
swifts sang in the dusk.

But mostly I dreamt of raptors:
an eagle lofting, scattering crows,
pulling apart a pink and red heart.
I dreamt of a kestrel
orange dart in a hot sky,
map of a meadow below.
The grass moved and he drowned
in descent, a blade until
claws sank into flesh,
a mouse now meat.

I dreamt last night of birds,
holding me with wings,
carrying me with claws,
pulling me into a messy nest,
to feed me carrion.
I dreamt I was one of them.

CUDDLING / Khaya Osborne

many years before i met violence
on another’s terms, i killed a small 
rout of snails living snuggly under 
an intricately carved backyard red 
brick. my aunt had bought me 
a microscope kit. i needed to know 
what’s inside of things; flowers, 
mattresses, books, small soundless 
creatures. it takes many years 
to understand what pain is; how 
a sogged teddy bear on a rain-warped 
desk wrapped in a bloody blanket 
can leave one desiccated. there’s a tattoo 
on my right wrist no one notices, indignant 
ungrateful hair patches right below it. i have 
only screamed in agony–pleasure, 
rage, shock; those are all too delicate 
for the full throat. i never mean harm; did you know 
touch is only one of six senses?

Through the Waves  / P.F. Potvin

today searchers discovered
sub artifacts via robots
scanning the ocean
floor near the Titanic
while reporters posit
how & why
dodgy engineering or no
certification as perchance
culprits but who
can really know
the meaning of a weld
language of carbon or
the will of a cat springing
from a window onto
your lap while you recline
on a patio & sip
a second cappuccino reading
aloud to yourself
from your phone about another
set of small
microphone gods
always listening
through the waves
& here & there
giving sign

Biting Habit  / Hailey Williams

With teeth I tell my cuticles 
they do not belong. With blood 
they ask why they still grow, then? 
I tongue away their red protests. 
I love you let me gnaw you. 
Fingers betray each other, 
peeling dry skin, prying 
under ragged nails like jar lids. 

It is this desire to be perfect,
to pick away the rough spots,
round out every edge, which 
takes me further from perfect. 
My hands are the most honest 
part of me. When I am silenced
in that innermost way, I inspect
them closely. They will always
tell me, in their slow-healing way,
to forgive myself — or get a grip. 

Day 23 / Poem 23

Ode to My Moka Pot: 1 / Jane Elias

Silver soldier,
you sit on the range
like a patient lover

your unadorned form

cooling through the night
while I thrash awake

from the last dream

when I screamed 
for a kind of help

I didn’t know was 
helpable until
the offered cup—
I woke to it,
your stance, elegant,
a reluctant debutante,
a classy hunger
fun to fill.
your too-neat substitute.
I played the flute,

the piano,
a little guitar.

This far cry from music,

this stirrer, this helpless-
without-a-flame flame, how

it awaits ignition

each morning
and I give it,

Cast a spell to ward off lice, bedbugs, and other itches / Alix Jason

Gather all the empty shampoo bottles you can find. If you need to, bring trash bags to salons and rummage through your neighbors bins. Sheepishly ask drug stores if they have any damaged goods they can’t sell. You need a lot of bottles. If you must, dump out full bottles into a large pot and start simmering the mixture…you will use this later. When will you know you have enough ?  When your nose and throat are numb from the perfumes…then you are getting close. When your eyes water from parabens, even though all the bottles say they are free of such chemicals…you have other pests to worry about. 

Throw all of the books off your shelves and out the door. Bugs love books and you need room for your bottles. Display the empty shampoo bottles on your bookshelf, order doesn’t matter, lice are colorblind and bed bugs can only sense movement, so aesthetics are a side note and a lofty wish if you so choose. But choose wisely, a misplaced L’oreal could fuck it all up. If you run out of room, start piling them on top of the bookshelf until you hit the ceiling. Throw some on your bed while you’re at it, they’re mostly empty and even if they leak, you need those poisons to deter the bed bugs. If you run out of room still, create a line of bottles going from the bookshelf all the way to the front door. Rinse and repeat.

Ink Therapy / Heather Katzoff

slip past my epidermis
strike the second layer of skin
punch pigment into patterns
of our own design

my body is your canvas
use it to create art from my stories
help me wrestle my demons
     into submission
help me claim space
     for my achievements
help me tell my tales
     on my skin

they are there for all
to learn from
if you know the language

Moon Guitar / Jessica Kinnison

The one-eyed cat / she’s scared / starts running.

Why do poems start here / an intervention / a troubled spark.

Happy? No. / Want to change things? No. /  That’s the moon guitar/

stubborn as a bull. / So what. / Moon guitar / put me in / play

the Allman Brothers again / I ain’t scared maybe / life can be shiny/ 

as shiny as Gregg Allman’s hair / was shiny / is shining

on the VHS tape from 1981 / Come and Go Blues/

got the come and go blues / gonna come then go/

gonna clock you with one eye/ shiver/ then run

shining / as is / as in

a spark.

Grant Graduation 1996 / Jessica Letteney

In new-mown grass I smell wet hope
and summer. Five boys race
pant legs flapping,
I envy their wild honk and bleat.
Mothers clutch a yellow page
lined with names, later to
place in a box or press in a book.
The chrome cast of crone’s cane,
she is helped by a red-haired girl.
A man holds a baby, heavy as a bag of peaches.
He holds her so.
I flick my elbow,
launch a ball for my dog.
Muted thunder of billowing taffeta gowns,
the sun paints orange folds on robes.
My Labrador runs the line of graduating seniors,
disrupting pomp and circumstance.
While families in love cheer them on. 

DEMIURGE / Khaya Osborne

kiss my fingers
play me guitar
harm my mouth
bite my books
push into me
drink my wine
holy magnificent dance
you hold me
caress the child
toes meet leaves 
make me honest
i want us
did you know that i can see the future?

On Its Own  / P.F. Potvin

From their vantage the crows could see his ears burning. They circled in the name
of the father, son, and mother ghost who still managed to glide with feathers gapped
on the wing like broken teeth over the peach tree he planted when he first
settled in, soil too sandy, he dug the hole wider, filled the surround with kitchen
compost comprised mostly of banana peels, egg shells, scraps of lettuce, moldy
bean supreme until the tree stood on its own, bearing fruit the following
year, but when squirrels and birds struck, he netted the tree in a white
bonnet, waking one dawn to a shadow tangled in the branches, he tossed
the entire fabric to the wind, watched it float over the house, eclipsing
the sun, then strode to the shed for his axe.

Traveller’s Guilt  / Hailey Williams

The Sun Also Rises left out
the part about travel where 
you experience meaninglessness 
in the midst of all the greats —
love, history, patriotism, knowledge.
Here you are, surrounded
by that unending stream 
of human survival (here 
Aristotle’s lecture hall, there
the seat of early democracy)
and all you have is the ouzo
in your hand and the love 
of your life back home 
in the midst of the daily grind.
His bosses are dismissive,
his lunch comes from a vending 
machine, he’s holding anxiety
by the shoulder like an old
friend he can barely stand
meeting again and again.
What is it really, to order
a stronger coffee in one
time zone compared 
to another? How about
the sun sets in the same
colors every night? He is
alone tonight like I am.
He is learning one thing
about life and I am learning
another. Soon I will find
him a bit changed and 
wonder if he sees that 
change in me. We will
make our usual coffee
in the morning, and our
lips will touch just the same
before a long, strange day.

Day 22 / Poem 22

Take It from Me/ Jane Elias

You gonna get burned, you start flirting with fire.
Guy like that? Please. There’s no averting the fire.
How many dark animals fooled you, wounded?
Intrepid ones you caught lurking by the fire?
know it’s rhetorical. Kind of the point.
You show up in here hurting? That’s it, he’s fired.
Let me put it another way. Forget him.
Let him grow into another’s working fire.
Jane, take this bruised fruit. It’s not yet gone all bad.
We could draw ourselves open, curtains of fire.

Dust Devils / Alix Jason

I don’t make the rules
I just read the books

The janitors will sweep your melted voices into the bin
and upcycle you into kitty litter, astroturf, and diatomaceous earth

I don’t make the rules
I just clean up around here

The same people who drive the mosquito spray trucks 
will scatter you across intersections with the hope of slowing traffic

I don’t make the rules
I just drive the cars

When the dust settles and the roads are carless
your particles will bounce with the rotation of every tire you don’t see and every horn you don’t hear and every stop sign that isn’t tilted and every rat skittering to safety and every sting of the blazing hot pavement and every rumble of a stolen catalytic convertor and every pothole threatening to unravel your rubber and every sticky wrapper and every millimeter the windshield crack grows and every roach that just wants a kiss and every silence that you missed

I don’t make the rules
I just sing

Barbarella  / Jessica Kinnison

any healthy country 
he was the face

when you become somebody
like any health individual

of the America
you don’t need anybody

in perpetual revolution
people wanted to believe in

when you become somebody
I’d look in houses

and people would be sitting at the table
except when I looked into their eyes

there was a lot hidden
a science fiction story

or maybe I’m always real
actresses are quite dumb 

I wanted to help him help me
become a human woman

 I never felt real
half thorn

I am 
never felt real 

past / present / Jessica Letteney

fields near a river                       drowning from mountains
swollen with meltwater                     ebbing to wetlands
dams opened throats                coursing the miles

willows clouded                                         we shuck shoes
heron screeched dinosaur sound                     under toes
walk furrows                                                   warm soil
mosquito swarm                                        pennyroyal mint
dogs                             tongues trailing over teeth
spiraled diamonds                   glittering in sun
drops hung                 hold worlds
prism              exquisite
                         god me

LOCUS / Khaya Osborne

with most substances, one can evacuate
the atmosphere in which that substance
comprises the evening’s blood. unique
is flesh in this regard. one cannot shuck
their largest organ without dying; stroll 
down broadway at noon with only nerves! 
you’ll make a bitter liquor of yourself, sweet
only to the desperate–those who eat only what’s
offered onto candlelit tables, you’ll itch in places
you aren’t meant to see, yet. so how does one
overcome a craving for friction? a wet dance 
in a blazing embrace so uncomfortable, you need
to call it yours? i don’t believe in hell, but i might
be wrong; there are so many beautiful things i can’t 

Your Spiders Aren’t Normal  / P.F. Potvin

                                                              you said with legs

                      freshly squeezed
into                 knee high                     socks

                                                                                            gossamer as a veil
                                                     spun and peered

                                                                                            into shadows behind
           your knees dried

                                                           by professional
                                                                                                      pricking           go see

                    someone         now     you said
         and traced space

                                         where cobalt
                                                                rivers once darted

                                         and I see myself
dashing along

                        the bank as swell
                                                   becomes slosh

                                                                    blood pooling
                                                                                                                        my ankles not pressuring

                                                             enough to return
                               normal via vena cava

                                                         closing in         on the gush
                                                                                                        of a fall

calling your name

Last Day in Naxos  / Hailey Williams

I bought a watercolor
of a sardine cut in half
from a Greek man who
told me to forget daily
the obstacles, instead 
make joy. In exchange
for a set of silk garments
for my upcoming nuptials,
the designer asked me
to keep living beyond 
four walls after I wed. 
There is a way to do it all,
she told me, and children
will learn to live by living. 

Later I shared a bus seat 
with a woman on her way
to Hilko for the afternoon.
We each smelled of sweat,
each nodded off despite
rugged switchback views
of the Naxian hinterlands. 
We nodded slightly upon
our parting. In Hilko I took 
every turn that gave me 
pause. Low on water, 
dangerous thoughts 
met me on the cobbles —
Why not go a little further?

Two lizards wrestled 
their way off a rock wall
into my path and darted
apart, oddly self-conscious.
I found myself alone 
in an aging olive grove,
where calloused trunks
bowed beneath Mount Zas. 
Seven peaks or more tilted 
their faces to the sun 
and bid me do the same. 
In this way I spotted one
weathered Byzantine church, 
guarded only by a cascade 
of fist-sized stones 
which demanded all my
foot-eye coordination. 

There I picked wildflowers
to press in my book. 
Even the soil spoke to me
fondly of art and balance. 

For poems 1 – 21 click here