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 21 / Poem 21
How It Went / Jane Elias
Lonesome Day / Alix Jason
my mom is brewing folgers
because that is what we serve guests
we save the good shit for ourselves
hell is the coffee they serve at staff training
at least you can gnaw on the styrofoam
I’m so tired of putting leaves in tables
so I’ll brew another
and put the leaves in that
I will never remember
to let it cool
Still / Jessica Kinnison
this water clean
bone and testosterone. We
our own eggs. Eggs that pick up and
in water six hours until they become
We’re making time. We’ve got our
We’ve got both sexes. We
one hundred million eggs per year.
we don’t need you to build our home,
We don’t need you to fertilize our eggs,
We widen the seafloor for you.
you occupy us as if we have no moon.
our shell to clean your world.
again to safeguard our dwelling.
when we want to wax. Look under our muscle
three chambers pumping colorless blood.
into our bed, you sea anemone, you
barnacle, you hooked mussel,
you fair deposit.
I Am Your Daughter / Jessica Letteney
Fireflies in a glass jar, yellow lantern,
until we let them go.
Crow Farm plums in brown paper bags.
The prick of hot pine needles when we raced from the car.
We waved grass with fat seedheads, baited the bullfrogs.
Grownups clinked glasses while we
learned to swim on river rocks.
I turned my back on the laundry basket,
plucked sun-soaked honeysuckle, robbing the bees.
A table of empty lobster claws, black flies buzzing panicky.
The flat grass from the day we let the hose run for four hours.
Nights we laid on white plastic webbing while you quizzed us
on constellations—Cassiopeia’s wings, big and little bears—
till we woke with pink lattice on our legs.
You taught us about summer.
Every time I taste the wet layers of a PB and J,
I remember how you wrapped them in wax paper like presents,
how the thermos flattened them—they were almost dessert.
At Snake Pond, we ate standing up, soaked and shivering,
trembling to splash our way back to green oblivion.
This is a poem of gratitude.
For the morning you wrapped me in your robe,
held my hands on your coffee while the sun rose
sharp and orange over the bay.
For bonfires on the beach fueled by bayberries that snapped,
the curly octopus you sculpted in sand while I
pointed toward the tide.
You held holy the phases of the moon, the longest day under the sun,
the marvel of rain on a smooth stone.
When I smell heat on pine needles, pierce the sweet a plum,
inhale air just above the skin of a pond,
I am your daughter,
grateful you gave me handfuls of prayer,
taught my soul about summer,
showed me how to live twice and three times
on the longest day of the year.
REBOANT / Khaya Osborne
car lights snake along the wall like voyeurs
skin praying to itself with righteous sweat
diaphragm learning new night cadences
there is squeezing pushing holding gripping
there is kissing pulling yielding yielding yielding
anyone who’s been truly loved screams like it
Boy Talk / P.F. Potvin
The Landscape / Jenny Stohlman
The horses spend the least time
In the place they take the most steps
On the hilltop, where man built a gate
They linger in the grassy bottoms longer
Places where lightning won’t strike
And the creek’s warmth keeps wild onion
Sprouting up all winter long; a poison
And a treat. Sweet strawberry, too.
Lightning would be a good name for
The horse whose golden tail flicks unceasingly.
Only humans are ostentatious enough
To shelter on hilltops; the wind whittling
Every crack in the house wider for
One hundred seventy years and the
Gentle sway of the lightning rod turning
To a somewhat inadequate quiver in a storm
Agia Anna in Prose / Hailey Williams
I took my prescription glasses off before finding myself a spot on the nude beach to the east of the cliff below a Cycladic church. I saw nothing in detail except the light on clear water, the uninterruptions of bodies. I braided my hair to protect it from salt and stepped out of my baggiest, drabbest clothes. I pulled out an unfamiliar translation of Homer’s Iliad and let the sun run its hands on my skin. After Zeus appeared in Agamemnon’s dream as Nestor and commanded him to reinitiate combat, I summoned a void to my mind and walked down the grainy slope into the shock of sea. Eyes flickered over me and I did not drown. The imperfections of my soft form magnified under the blue Aegean lens but no voice made comment. A ripple of mountains across the channel to Paros spoke for us all. Wind-whipped boulders shrugged into the sea around us. Thankfulness reached through my skin. Some kind of door seems to have shut in me. One by one we each dressed in mutual unacknowledgement as the sun shuttered off. After, I ate the butteriest calamari pasta at a table on the shore, all to myself.
Day 20 / Poem 20
Revisions / Jane Elias
I was sure,
had bloomed into
a hostile garden.
covered in fun-house
by the door.
like that before
and I wasn’t sure
I liked it.
I wanted to run
a third of the life span
spent in this liminal din.
Gulf / Alix Jason
What Texas royalty
skulks around these parts
I’ve never heard
the keys they drop
there is too much dust
to spit on
and mold into a life
wring out the map
like a stone
turned to sponge
no more roses
no more buckets
I am always stuck to vinyl
Erasure / Jessica Kinnison
complications hinder people diving
to the wreck
on the floor the lack
of light the sea and water
play stricken mariners
found beneath the waves
the first and most important problem:
underwater acoustics often called sounds
lost ship into what
normally is descent/ ascent
out with air
come back with air
hung up on a piece of wreckage
humans reach depths
of time on the way back up
light from the sun
gone, dark reigns
getting the right kind of touch
takes time, start with getting it
without it, the air inside the room
is recycled to sustain life
batteries run down
certain and quick
Girlhood Haibun / Jessica Letteney
Hanging from a branch with hole-poked sneakers, she drops, feels her ankles sting. Palms coated with pine pitch and ladybug wings. When she walks, Matchbox hot rods crammed into pockets clank like a mechanic’s belt. One tooth gone, the other a halfmoon, pigtails askew, ragged ends of hair half-chewed, she is speckled like a hen’s egg. She wears shorts under skirts so she can pop a wheelie on the steel bike, slide into third base in the street game, crawl through a culvert. She may grow up under the thumb of a man, but in her eighth year, she is covered with scabs, able to outrun the boys, flirting with cursing, and fully herself.
Girl body shines wild
Sings balance across thrown limbs
Wildfire Setting / P.F. Potvin
at the lake’s lip
only a loon
fluting as we
passing a flask
snaked and echoed
molten in waves
this must be how
the dinosaurs felt
Reading Leaves / Jenny Stohlman
Ice laden with rosebuds
You desire precious things
More than medicine
If a flower can really tell you
The story of death in your tea
Some anxieties are unsoothable
As humans we still seek fortunetellers
Nature might be more romantic
When we are removed from it
Casting bones in our living rooms
Far from the owls that cast them up
And the beetles that cleaned them
Dogs are always looking for something, too
But they can find it and rest
Happy that their little noses got to sniff
What happens to us after our fireworks
What happens to us after our favorite meal
When do we get contentedness instead of folly
The richer you get
The more often your psychic calls on you
The less you see your own husband
The fewer friends fill your home
The more cameras flash upon the chalice
The further you feel from the queen of cups
Naxos Arrival / Hailey Williams
Never have I been alone
in an unfamiliar country
until this odd Monday morning.
Here are the stoniest waves,
and languages unknown
both ocean and human.
Four sleeps in a row
I dreamt of dying, flaying,
kidnapping, interrupted flight.
There are conflicting acids
rising in my throat. Waking,
one must hold onto breath.
Nothing here is really mortal,
after all. Not these breathing
people, not these rocks
or portals, not these words.
Day 19 / Poem 19
Enough / Jane Elias
Too long hoaxed by the fitness of force,
I’m learning to make myself
want to do.
A saving grace
of growing older,
like holding lightly.
I’m told of other, more dismal turns,
I haven’t flipped.
They told me of certain regrets that never took shape,
peddled the petrified milestones of
say, forty, fifty years.
Why not let this life
decide what’s inevitable,
what are the terrible lies.
Leave the meaning making
to the fictioneers—
as if it hasn’t been
in their quaking hands.
Haunt / Alix Jason
I’ve never seen a ghost at the same time as another person so I will convince myself that
Canned goods are the only way to trap a feeling and
Save money by relying on density for
Flavor is the only sense to trust when encountering the
And senseless except for
The sound of jingling coins keeping time and
Brushing teeth to reduce loss is
The preferred method of ghost chatter when talking to the
The Request / Jessica Kinnison
After Marvin Bell
If the grass is growing too high,
Dangerous heat; burned out cars
at my feet; I
want to believe
I am not alone.
where to slip through openings
to tell you I love you, and mean it,
to tell me.
A school bus struck
and killed my friend’s child
I want to ram every bus
I see. What happens
a wall of rain over the ocean.
Our surroundings demand
the hell out of language.
I shucked fifty oysters,
then washed my hands
in another state. I don’t feel
the slightest rain
causes them to spawn.
Where to start.
I just took off my shorts.
After too long,
it’ll take a machete
to cut across our bed.
If you want me,
Thief in Her Dreams / Jessica Letteney
poem slipping out of her mouth
to the downbeat
fuckyou of a nightmare’s
come home, mattress gone,
grandma’s pearls and father’s signet ring
slipped away under sleight of hand,
the door just closing
on her once-spouse who does her stealing in
Or the dream goes like: she walks in on
that thief come with friends to haul
away her food and furniture.
The dreamer bites the thief,
the friends take pictures.
Who looks bad?
Not the silent owl that takes a
screaming rabbit in the night,
but the murder of crows that defend it.
Maybe murdering crows are better than
quivering under cover,
praying the thief will go away.
sleep a tawdry scrap.
Might as well
sit on the couch
stare into night,
pick up a pen and write.
The thief may be with her like
but maybe she can write herself clean.
HOPE / Khaya Osborne
airfoil controls gears
formula predictability variables
kisses hugs finished books reciprocal
sex insufferable film characters potato
chips entertainment thick blankets shaved
legs predictability understanding slick slipping
spill birth birth birth birth birth
Comedy Exercise / P.F. Potvin
the instructor said jealous monks
people make aggressive eyes
bad plans hungry saw
silly refined wince
selfish fast mountain
petty spontaneous tailor
self-destructive tricky whip
When the belly’s ready / Jenny Stohlman
Lay your ear against it and hear the ocean
The tides belong to nature but
It’s the government’s moon
Like conspiracies of feminine pleasure
Someone will say Hollywood made it up
The burnt orange toad will flee into the bush
The palm tree will drop another frond
The heat of summer will rise until
The babies decide to drop and
Silly little games will give way to an operating room
You could know more about anatomy
But it might scare you
Self-knowledge has that habit
Like knowing that the idea of lizard people
Is a tool of anti-sematism
Or that people are retconning
George W. Bush into another kind of president
Or that there may be another skunk under the house
These days are disposable
If you take no steps toward preservation
One mistake was taking up the word conservation
If you found the depletion of the insect population
As alarming as the speed with which the children grow
You’d be a better steward of the earth
That will be enough now
You’ve heard the rising water
You’ve spent the final weeks
Unlearning several important skills
You’re waiting on a stranger
To come to your house
Ask you about your trauma
Check the water temperature
And give you a firm nod, saying
It’s a good enough home
Is this how it happens?
You start with a thought about the next generation
And everything that comes after is about yourself
Acropolis in the Rain / Hailey Williams
Skies white as marble
cats under every ledge
inheritors of the Beulé Gate
crouching lions, who
less well in the rain.
Fog rests a heavy hand
on the heads of Caryatid
with the galanolefki
which shares its reserves
of blue with a crowd
of yellow ponchos
and bobbing umbrellas.
The rubble rinsing
through my sandals,
a crush of Cretaceous
original human thought.
All the same, it weathers
its way down the slope
in the cradle of my foot,
reshaping itself as it
has always done.
Day 18 / Poem 18
Us: Three Excerpts / Jane Elias
1. The First Night
Our knees touched. Dawn warmed the gazebo. “I like your shoes,” you said. “I like your hat,” I said. So there. Charcoal Kangol like my father once wore. You doffed it before you palmed my cheek, an accidental grace note from another time. Could you have known what you stirred? Why did you?
2. Five Years Later
Coney Island bound F train. Well enough past midnight for me to know better. Knocked out by a one-two rum punch, I must’ve conjured a coda for our long-suspended aubade. How else to read your kind hand nudging me awake, the subway car empty but for the momentary relapse of hearts?
Shitfaced in Luckytown / Alix Jason
when you were shitfaced in Luckytown you had bells for feet and everyone knew your code. you were impenetrable to heat and I had a job to hold you when you got sick of the wheelbarrow it is hard to be on round pegs all of the time. the back channels of planet earth are freezing you said and until the postcards come home to roost I’ll stay on a roll in bed and a few other places without motion. which refrain of karaoke sin wagon will you sing to me today because I know the bells will not help us move and I have a contingency plan that is far more intuitive than plan A I wonder why it takes two tries. you didn’t leave you didn’t melt you sank and used a bulldozer to do it I’m no good with machinery so I never say go.
Pool / Heather Katzoff
crystal clear water
bounded by vinyl lining
sanitized and still–
an artificial oasis
among the suburban sprawl
over the aqua surface–
ten thousand gallons
to keep up with the neighbors
Invitation / Jessica Kinnison
the sea eliminates progress
shining a little room
it’s intensely purple here
disgust desire disinterest
jackhammer at my door
to get a new body
the shore pulls itself apart
until it’s almost gone
then comes back again
Sundays in the Kitchen / Jessica Letteney
For the memory of Esther Dole
Smooth your palms on the table,
feel the work in the oak.
This is the kitchen where she baked us bread.
On Sundays when Grandma was alive,
my mother had me sift flour for scones while she
poured juice into crystal glasses cut with
a hundred facets as complex as their conflicts.
Esther, her mother, named for a star, for a book in the Bible,
drank too much rum, showed off her legs, and doted
on a teacup poodle named Muffin.
In my college years, I’d arrive from the train,
carrying a bakery box and bag of oranges,
then peel the cold rinds while the Boston Pops played.
Grandma danced with her broom to Sunday show tunes.
Today, bluebells tumble down the slope outside,
a purple cloud covering debris.
I open the door and whistle for the dog.
She runs, then stops, and
shivers a pinwheel of mud.
Even after Grandma refused
another round of radiation
charring her chest,
would not cut her braid or
give up the afternoon toast,
I did not realize she would go.
This Sunday, the cabinets she
painted the color of milk,
still smell like cinnamon.
The planks of flooring under morning sun
are warm like her skin.
In the squall of a catbird call,
is the bird who stood on her hand
accepting her daily offering,
proffered in baby talk.
Believe that those you love will die.
Don’t waste time.
Tell sons and mothers, sisters and fathers
how precious their presence,
how much they mean,
so that you don’t sit in a kitchen
on a Sunday surrounded by memories,
smelling bread and tasting regret.
APOSEMATIC / Khaya Osborne
i spill away from myself in all directions, you’d never guess
i’m marriage-minded by looking at me. i sell pussy to men
shaking on my doorstep, darting their eyes around my living
room for coconspirators, strong arms. the joke was always precious
from precious could never have been a real person; she was too ugly,
i guess. i believe marigolds have such short blooming seasons because
there is more autonomy in death; you’d have to be God to eat a ghost.
i never wanted to go to the police, but i did; i figured he was so cute
they’d probably never believe me. i know how to do my makeup, i just
don’t; there’s never been any need. where were you when you learned
it was about power, not attraction?
DESPITE MY BEST EFFORTS, I WILL SIMPLY HAVE TO LIVE WITH MYSELF / Khaya Osborne
as opposed to skipping breakfast
as opposed to yielding my apartment to the roaches
as opposed to calling my mother & pretending to love her
as opposed to sex with strangers
as opposed to begging them for love
as opposed to kicking the flowerbeds into pulp
as opposed to napping on the train tracks
as opposed to eating meat
as opposed to running full speed to the emergency room
as opposed to working a full-time job
as opposed to giving birth
as opposed to sharing air
as opposed to going back to college
as opposed to believing i’m helpless
as opposed to blowing out the candles
as opposed to running from the rage
as opposed to disposing of my body
as opposed to walking only in the daytime
as opposed to shunning my blessings
as opposed to lamenting childlessness
as opposed to slicing the hope from my wrist
as opposed to smoking weed everyday
as opposed to poisoning my heart
as opposed to staying the same
as opposed to staying the same
as opposed to staying the same
as opposed to dying
Care Package / P.F. Potvin
Think of the bird as who
said a voice on the radio
feathers as hair
beak as nose
eyes as eyes how we once
took turns drinking
coffee from the same mug
crafted by a potter
at the farmer’s market
designed in swirling
green to fit
the thumb on my
scarred left hand
since the one
my mother sent
in a college care package
complete with microwave
lava cakemix twisted
too flat and wide so
coins on my desk
for decades until
I brimmed the green
mug one morning in
my new house
down the street
as the kids bawled
for cereal and a bottle
while coffee seeped
out a crack
and ringed the counter
next to my birdlike
Driving to Costco with My Mom / Jenny Stohlman
Everyone turning left pulled over to check
Approaching the blue minivan one at a time
Where the driver and passenger
Both nodded off
Middle of an intersection
I’d thought about getting naloxone for my purse
But it wasn’t there
Father’s Day in Athens / Hailey Williams
My father is an Air Force-turned-airline pilot.
When I write about him, I sometimes keep this separate. Growing up, he sometimes kept this
separate. Today we spent 24 hours in Athens,
and we crawled up Philopappos looking
for a turtle he’d befriended on his last three trips.
I’ve seen the world because of him. I’ve seen
the world through his eyes. Food tastes better
when he introduces it to me. Strangers are kind
because they see his kindness. He is my father,
and I recognize his flaws the way I recognize
the sudden wrinkles on my hands. Maybe
they were always there, but it took a beam
of pure sunlight burning me crisp to see them.
We share pistachio gelato and a fondness
for angry cats. Together we lost Aaron.
Together we lost the first chapter of our family.
We share the same blue eyes and spider-long
lashes. We share a love for my mother, my sister,
who are always two thoughts away. We watch
light crossing cloud banks and wait for the call
of thunder in the olive trees. We wait for those
seconds of clarity we know will come, having
travelled through murk and mire to sit here,
on our shoulders, a burden and a gift we forgot
we had been carrying since Aaron’s death. Night
crawls over the acropolis like a turtle over sand.
Day 17 / Poem 17
Brink / Jane Elias
not yet grape-reddened or held
by my unsure hand
Here a testament
to the salve of light I might
See how it blinks back
how the fact of the arid
day twists in prism
Unfit for future-tripping
this just one night goes fill me
Nothin On / Alix Jason
I watched my teenage neighbors drop
a tv down their stairs
I threw my hands up and said
“A closet full of nothing to watch !”
which they ignored
and swept up the glass
What are channels like these days ?
I feel old
when I look at plasma
and rummage through my closet
all my clothes are for children
and I have skipped through
all the commercials
so I missed my chance
to upgrade my wardrobe
Is the cure eating cereal ?
I don’t feel brainwashed
when I watch an advertisement
because my summer knees
and I can turn off the tube
whenever I want
I have lost the remote
Is there always something on ?
Catharsis / Heather Katzoff
Break me on the rocks
shatter whatever is left
of this shell I’ve built
I’m somewhere under there
Shake me until the tears
fall from my face
force them free
they won’t flow
on their own
It will be better once it’s over
Work, Lately / Jessica Kinnison
Vows Set ‘em and forget ‘em.
I Do Can you hear me?
I can hear you.
How about now?
Anniversary December 31 December
31 December 31
31 December 31
December 31 Dec-
DJ Set You’re shipwrecked
on a deserted island. What are
two songs you wouldn’t want
to live without?
Post to chat.
Dinner Learned what a walking taco is
a bag of Fritos and fill it with taco meat.
Quality Time The time I always delete in my calendar.
Annual Cathy says: Any questions about death
Enrollment and dismemberment? She smiles on screen.
If not, Cathy sighs ever so slightly
through her teeth,
if not, then, let’s move on
All We Have Left / Jessica Letteney
For Lilian Mae Dole
Smoking was an art for you.
The metal clank,
scratch of flint into flame,
that quiet drizzle
exhaled a silver plume,
closed your eyes with the pleasure of it,
and resumed your conversation.
At 14, I stole some stubbed butts,
crouched in dry grass and struck
match after match on a windy day.
I wanted to be you,
all I got was a nicotine tingle.
You were light in a world made for men,
a toast at a captain’s table,
a golf game in spectator pumps,
astride a camel while the beast kneeled and spat.
In every picture,
your gold and white packet of habit.
“I hope you don’t mind,” you’d say,
before you lit the embers bright,
pursing your lips in something that looked like love.
You were 95,
when I joined you at the Cape.
I aimed my camera,
while you looked
at feeding finches outside.
“Give me my Pall Malls, would you?”
You tamped the filter end
on a crossword puzzle,
said “I hope you don’t mind,”
(I shook my head while)
clink, you lit—
“because this is all I have left.”
In the pictures that came back
after you were gone,
you are out of focus,
maybe because I kept your cigarettes out of frame.
Now hung on my wall,
they are all I have left.
Au Sable Point Professor / P.F. Potvin
The man planned to recline
with flies on the beach
by the whitecapped lake
read The Economist
but first he dropped names
people he’d studied
with, said he once
wrote the same story one entire
semester like an independent
study and first
week the professor questioned
on the last day he asked
the man which version stood supreme
“this last one of course”
but he didn’t think the professor
ever read one word
“he was really teaching
me to be a writer”
Angels lighting up the midnight screen of your phone / Jenny Stohlman
You’ll never sleep again
The idea of a call is poison
It’s always someone else’s time to go
You don’t know what your feelings are
Until you see your hands shaking
You knew some people who had killed
On battlefields so far from home
Long before you knew your first victim
The policy is:
Homicide is one thing
But acts of war stay off our soil
At the ballet, seek out the exits just in case
That’s public life
Check your hands
Are they still shaking?
Check you phone
Whose calls have you avoided?
Their niece was murdered
Her brother was found in a ditch
He got shot by the cops on his front lawn
The long notes of news
That you weren’t supposed to know
A grocery store
Two city sidewalks
A church parking lot
A Planned Parenthood
A subway station
A gay club
I can’t believe I can make this list
What is it called when your memories
Were in the room when it happened?
I Think, Therefore I Am / Hailey Williams
Lined on palms, sheets gusting:
morphed medusae. Perhaps blue
(even wind blue air blue
lung and capillary blue)
pathologizes life such that
regardless of breath
bone blood brain beings form
as much out of nothing
as the implacable atom.
But then again, sheets drying
sun-sweet reenact exumbrella
only in thought. What about
I think of, therefore it is?
Day 16 / Poem 16
Reentry / Jane Elias
The bus back to the city rattles
with the spastic traffic,
a brand-new beginning
to wit’s end,
the rat-pellet ping-chime
of nearby iPhone games
making someone’s day
the two canoodlers
in front of me
too okay with not one
in this guzzle-tunnel
found in nature
from the morning walk
the stretch of dirt road
only caught now
by the herk-jerk
and how late
we all are
the clump of cars
the highway sign
a hubristic fist
The New York State Experience
Tough Magic / Alix Jason
Dying in your dreams is only a consequence
of low blood sugar
Keeping spare parts for your teddy bear casts a spell
on a lover
Wearing blue to the wedding prevents heart disease
in the best man
Eating beans and disappearing is a strange way to say
I love you
Model / Heather Katzoff
Map every freckle
Make an exact replica
mold the shape
of my hands
Mirror me in your mind
make note of
every beauty mark
every minor detail
every movement of my body
Maybe that will help you
when I’m gone
Sex is Full of People / Jessica Kinnison
“A little warm death won’t hurt you none.” – Cassandra Wilson
Where can we go
to die and survive?
If we’re having sex,
we’re happy. Or is that
true? Light in the window.
Crumbling walls. Light in
the wind. Sex is full
of people. A little warm death.
Sex is for the people.
Paris 2016 / Jessica Letteney
For Nancy Silver
In the dark outside,
Even the streets are asleep.
I step through the door and shiver,
prowl spills of sallow light,
linger by the window of an empty boulangerie,
trace blue graffiti on stones by the Seine.
In our place, you breathe
under crumpled sheets,
dream deep until
my scraping key stirs you awake.
The tulips on the table
have dropped pink petals.
Pollen coats the note
you wrote last night.
You cook some eggs.
I hold the heat of the mug in both hands.
We talk about the day.
Martyrs and gargoyles wait.
Whose idea was poetry in winter on a bridge?
You open the red Rimbaud, recite.
I touch the iron cattails imitating marsh,
the cold invades my bones.
Later, we throw coats on the bed, heat the dinner,
duck for you, rabbit for me.
Evening rises, the daily tide.
At the corner table, cleared of plants,
we clink a toast of pale chablis,
verres de vin ordinaire.
BINARY / Khaya Osborne
root rot fascinates me. fed flowers
wilting under excess; maroon, vermillion,
paisley, lavender—all dancing away from
themselves. elsewhere in the same garden,
another plant similarly discolored, embrittled
by lack. both plants equally sick—often dead—
too lazy to seek sufficient balance. which one
deserves the shame?
Ding Dong Ditch / P.F. Potvin
said the social post
title and here’s proof
from my doorbell
cam and yeah, I recognize the build
blue shirt and sideflip
now someone’s chiming that parents
need get parenting and others tone
kids will be kids so let them
dare and stir
residents from the commode
or TV recliners and someone
else says it’s all fun
and games until someone whips
into the wrong drive to pull a U
and someone else answers
an unasked question
with a shotgun
June/Many Ways to Live a Good Life/Queer Lessons from Kind Friends / Jenny Stohlman
It’s not weird to be happy in your body
It’s not weird to want to change your body
The appearance of the thing is not the thing itself
Sometimes, jumping off the roof of a shed into a dirty inflatable pool at a house party in Bushwick is suicide prevention
Sometimes, it is foreplay
The difference between friends and family is made up
Running is only dangerous when somebody wants to trip you
Running is extra dangerous when the police are chasing you
If you’re heterosexual and you don’t know what compulsory heterosexuality is, well, baby, I’ve got some news…
Nobody hates straight people
Everybody hates insufferable boors
Let’s figure out why that Venn diagram is pretty much a circle
You do not have to get married
You do not have to smile when dickheads demand it
Yes, that outfit can be sewn
No, that relationship is not worth mending
Even assholes deserve housing, food, clothing, medical care, a library card
Clothes and makeup can be, like, really fun
And so can sex if you’re having it instead of performing it
Genital purists need to get a fuckin’ hobby
It’s not about sex
But it’s not not about sex
Somebody has to throw the first brick
The conspiracy might be real
But getting people to mind their own goddamn business might be all it takes to defeat it
Sometimes you have to demand for your dead body to be dropped on the steps of the FDA
“Saving the day” is a straight thing
Doing the right thing is queer as fuck
Romance Imposter Syndrome / Hailey Williams
You have a vast spool,
of lucky and unlucky life,
and the horizon line
for you is… me?
Even I am struck dumb,
ground to a pulp,
reduced to particles,
in the face of unknowns.
I could not contain
assuage your worries,
if I tried.
If I had the gravity of tides,
I could offer you
of smooth sailing.
If I were eternal,
if I reached one edge
of the known universe
(after another after another)
still I would be unsatisfied.
Instead of worrying,
why not plunge
into or beyond yourself?
Why not let me scout
into grief, into death,
and come back to you
with field reports?
On tendrils of wind
ancient atoms argue
over the creation of the universe:
“I was there! It was cold.”
“I was there before you.
Before the cold.”
At the end of it all,
they will hold
each other’s places,
and also mine.
Day 15 / Poem 15
Hack / Jane Elias
All you need to do is avoid blue light at night.
All you need to do is write down your dream
when you awake.
All you need to do is place your phone in another room.
All you need to do is pause, then make the wiser choice.
All you need to do is align your actions with your speech.
All you need to do is speak your truth.
All you need to do is eat five servings of fruits and vegetables.
All you need to do is set three intentions for the day.
All you need to do is delay turning on your devices.
All you need to do is spend less than you earn.
All you need to do is drink eight glasses of water.
All you need to do is stop after two glasses of wine.
All you need to do is walk ten thousand steps.
All you need to do is breathe in for 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8.
All you need to do is never stop believing in yourself.
All you need to do is stop believing the lies you tell yourself.
All you need to do is believe the lies you tell
All you need to do is stop telling yourself the truth
All you need to do is wait I got this
All you need to do is forgive yourself that’s it
All you need to do is forgive yourself and also while you’re at it forgive others who have wronged you or who you *think* have wronged you and learn how to parent yourself and give yourself the love you deserved as a child and release the past and begin again in each moment and get a colonoscopy and whiten your teeth and donate your old appliances and digitize your analog media and clarify your values.
Yes that’s right. Water into wine.
If He can, so can you.
All you need to do is repeat after me.
Repeat after me: All you need to do is
All you need to do is
All you need to do is
it does have a certain ring to it
Brilliant Disguise / Alix Jason
Yeah there is no point putting a cassette in
my blue tape player
and we won’t make it through the first side
before the track slows
and we question if the vocals are getting deeper
or which dose of insanity we prefer
because it is one of those things just beyond perception
like the moonrise
But I keep feeding it batteries and tapes
because that is my prescribed dose of insanity
because one of the better versions of the love of my life
is in the passenger seat
feeding me slightly defrosted tortillas
Yeah I cannot see where we are going
I’ve needed to replace my wipers for years
and if we drive slow
just like the tape
the cloudy glass
is just a mirror
This is a love letter / Heather Katzoff
to my heart
held together by barbed wire
and bakery twine
still bristling with thorns
of every heartbreak
every unrequited emotion
every perceived slight
broken and taped back up
how I wonder at your resolve
how you still beat
o, you infinite well of patience
may you always remain
Morning Shifts at the Group Home / Jessica Kinnison
after Mary Szybist
The job was easy: I unlocked
the door and found the one
who’d been out all night
sometimes he was bleeding
and sometimes he was fine
sometimes he cried in my arms
together we came inside
and washed his hands and face
and hands again with mine on top
together we washed his clothes
and found his medicine, tending
to a cut or a bruise, taking stock
of phone and wallet and shoes
we would find the recycled flip flops
and put the first pot of coffee on
he’d open the blinds while I checked
the dishwasher from the night before
fourteen minutes to boil eggs for the whole
house, three dozen eggs bobbing there
while the man talked or looked out
the windows at the garden, eyes
wet with dew or beers or longing the man
would tap his fingers on the kitchen table
the man would put on some music and dance
the man would watch the news without speaking
the man would stand close and watch the eggs
as the rest of the home woke up cracking
no one liked the grits, the bacon,
but they all sat with the man, took it slow
careful not to press on his wounds
Principles of Light / Jessica Letteney
After the writers of the Sunday circle: Barbara Egan, Beth Young, Gail Sieckman, Jean Sullivan, and Kayci Russell
A father lifts his youngest child,
sings a star lullaby of
the things we do for one another.
At the end of life, he gapes at
tries to tell
how the body and mind are yoked.
The old adages fall short.
It’s all there:
children eating chicken nuggets,
wishing for ice cream
while the dry late spring earth
drinks rain and
makes a green of all of our gifts.
miracle in the ebony sky,
its light a melody of the beloveds and how
we tend their hearts.
The ocean spills from your eyes
when you brush your teeth and
dream of fish circling in a stone fountain.
Before we consume our lives,
we fly, make a covenant with constellations:
wishes will be granted that we never knew we had.
ADSCITITIOUS / Khaya Osborne
i am surviving, mostly alone.
when i must work, the hands
labor. when i must eat, the teeth
tear. pretending not to hear midnight’s
silence, the lonely erupting from every
cyst in my skin helps. holding a newborn
increases their chances of survival. liquor
has warmed me as i’ve grown, kind smoke
& insensitive company. what necessities do i
know? only enough to wake up.
Book of Saints / P.F. Potvin
Tied to a tree, porcupined
by arrows, Sabastian’s face remained
angelic, his eyes bent skyward,
his head flared chosen while
a soldier glittering
armor, spear and shield
lowered, gazing into a mêlée
a smocked woman smiling
on as a girl with eyes
tight steepled her hands
a man with a lion frozen
at his feet, quilling words
on a parchment, his other hand
stroking gray beard, his vision
lost to clouds and my favorite
St. Peter, original
batman, upside down
beaming the cross
South Carolina / Jenny Stohlman
I didn’t know I was in love with a leaf
Until the magnolia tree
There is always a lawnmower running
This is a defining feature
I’ve never lived somewhere with quite so many birds
Year round they sing the morning
Life is dominated by lawn maintenance
I am in love with a leaf
The lawns are an enemy
And in summer, too, the night
Migrations never leave us birdless down here
Life delivers portents
I’m always decoding them a decade too late
There was an alligator in the dorm dumpster
In Brooklyn, NY fourteen years ago
When I was a poet
I mean a gator painting
I mean a crocodile print on a piece of sheet metal
I am a tech worker—different subjects, different media
I cut my finger on the croc but didn’t get tetanus
A dozen rooms, apartments, haunted cabins, storage units, farms
I carry the sheet metal near to my heart
Wherever we go, I look into the predatory eyes of this student art
The swamp thing is a villain, right?
We’ve been working our way home to the south
To me, it’s an alligator with an Elizabethan collar
I’m not a biologist
He’s got a bald cypress ringing his neck
Not wringing his neck; he’d chomp a murderer in half
These trees, baby, Upcountry or Low,
They are like nobody you’ve ever met before
There’s a whole world shimmying in their waxy leaves
Or a bird perpetually sitting on their little knees
And a guardian about to split from his metal sheet
And snap up a fish from the swamp
Marshing / Hailey Williams
Day 14 / Poem 14
Small City Dusk / Jane Elias
Night touches down on Main Street,
deft and inevitable,
the misting beginning beautifully
as if cued by the waning light.
I’ve just left a tucked-away local spot,
wood-scuffed and raggedy,
the handcrafted pizzas tough to beat
even for my trusted haunts in Brooklyn.
But I don’t want to think of Brooklyn now,
how the dark sometimes clamps down
as if steeling for trouble.
The jump cuts from sun to smoke.
All the years I’d seen broken in there.
Tonight I follow the road to the
banks of the Connecticut River,
its easy lapping hushing the Hudson’s slosh,
ahead the old railway trestle bridge
spanning like a tenuous
I’m on Fire / Alix Jason
Taco bell is inherently romantic
because it is a gamble
like drinking at the airport
no one thinks it is a good idea
but quality is not the goal
and preservatives can only hold a shape
I would love to drive in circles
and in donuts
and in funnel cakes
Running laps around
my happy meal toys I placed
in the center of the ring
each with a small bottle of schnapps
to make things more
like getting a haircut
It gets harder and harder to do things like this in the evening
which is why you’ll find me
at the bar in the morning
when I am fresh
faced and sharp
as a pin
on the nose
String / Heather Katzoff
Wind me up
with silken thread
let the cord go slack
watch as it unravels
at the ends
or pull taut
draw me closer
tie us in a knot
that requires magic
reel me in
and hold me fast
or sever these strings
that attach me to you
but please choose
Sonnet / Jessica Kinnison
Toward the end, you had problems with rats
child of undertow the hotel folded
our toilet paper into magnolias.
A strange thing to possess toilet paper.
Our room, our Bay, our Road, our skin, our thirst
for the wider world quenched only by home.
Is the Bay floor covered in ancestors?
Child of fishermen hold the net (the nets).
Does anyone still call you darling, dear
sweetie, baby, here? Maybe the words hang
stuck on the end of their line you were old
you were the oldest one left, my darling
and gone how many boats went down with you?
A trumpet bled in the grass you’d just cut.
Bathing in the Forest / Jessica Letteney
“Find a forest mentor.” Jennifer Perrine
Sentinel on a sundappled branch
across a muddy stream,
body ruddy as peach blush,
with a stroke of black across its eyes,
Bzzzet, he sounds the all-clear call.
Like a spring raindrop, the female falls,
landing on a salmonberry cane.
She becomes a leaf, reflecting green,
invisible but for her bandit mask.
When she plucks the vermilion fruit,
she’s a bird again on a bouncing branch.
Quiet company, they eat and eat,
leaving only crimson fringe as record of their feast.
Waxwings flock and fly in harmony.
In cold weather, they soar together,
circling in search of winter food.
New Year’s Eve, we watched waxwings
light next to bluebirds
on a desert juniper tree,
its cast-off berries
like sapphires beneath.
A shaman told me “Seeing cedar waxwings is a sign
that the windows of heaven
have opened for you.”
Finding my forest mentors,
this feeding pair,
I wish on them and believe
the shaman spoke the truth.
APPRAISAL / Khaya Osborne
dead jericho rose at my door,
incense dust coating my desk,
dog shit upon my shoes,
on all flat surfaces, stagnant
water, a cracked pitcher, dirty
filter, fraying backpack straps,
dog-eared unfamiliar books
on my bed, dirty clothes, melted
oil pastels, empty canvases — i promise
i live here; i’m trying at least.
Rearview Circle / P.F. Potvin
my son’s reading
my copy of the book I mailed
my dad for Father’s Day last
year, the yellow memoir with a buck’s
rack sprawled across
the cover, about a son writing about
growing up with his dad and we’re
driving to visit my dad when I ask
my son what he’s thinking about
giving my dad for Father’s Day and
he looks up, settles his gaze on
mine in the rearview and says
what about this?
What do the pink ribbons tie together, anyway? / Jenny Stohlman
My toes touch the lump
On the ottoman with the dog hair
Somebody is waiting for her mammogram
I keep the blinds down an extra hour
I don’t have to change out of my pajamas
I sing until my toes can’t remember
The chills pass
I used to cry about the seams of my socks
Seams are tricky
The multiverse is all edges and
Peeling back the layers of the breast
Lifting the corner on each page of the results
No pain, but the seams were still hurting me
How much longer until the doctor calls her?
My toes are upset about this whole situation
If I prod it with my fingers, the ottoman doesn’t hurt
I need a seam ripper to get inside
I can fix it before the phone rings
Advice Notebook / Hailey Williams
Wait to harvest
garlic until the lowest
leaves turn yellow.
A society without
romance is in danger
of becoming brutish.
While baking, add
vanilla with complete
contempt for the recipe.
at the shoulders,
roll palms downward.
Boots made without
openings in rubber soles
cause foot, spine pain.
Hold his face with both
hands, his eyes with both
eyes, take a deep breath.
Do what you must, tell
yourself momentary lies,
to get out of bed early.
There are waffles waiting,
for example. You are late,
you are needed, for example.
Do dishes five minutes
after you dirty them,
Allow yourself small vices:
two fingers of scotch,
a straying glance.
with your tomatoes.
Kiss him goodbye
every time. Kiss
each other hello.
Day 13 / Poem 13
Acrostic with 18 Rimbaud Ingredients* / Jane Elias
Inside, the shape-shifting hearts of unexplained phenomena.
Live certainties of mathematics, answer keys we don’t yet know we’ve lost.
Last night drifting in that sea of unreturned affections I heard their gurgling.
Unable to stave off the embarrassment and unwilling to redirect my attention.
My shallow ritornellos, shame-swollen, still insist I sing them.
I-I-I-I-I scrambles for you-you-you-you us-us-us, summits a jumble
Not one of these chords yet progresses.
As If My Animal Sounds Would Stir You Awake:
Today’s slant of light might not oppress if we let it be. You see, hopeless (me).
Is lighting the way with truths I once knew a viable strategy?
Or is even the most robust proof due to expire?
Never mind all that, says the woman dressed in gauze.
Sit here and warm by the fireplace. Or would you prefer the bed, where the gargoyle-men grow pastoral.
I’m on Fire / Alix Jason
Tom Waits shrugs and puts out his second fire of the day I turn to applaud and he turns to ashes I know it is because he was wearing too many layers. My cubicle is on fire and the man next to me is running his AC and wearing a sweater. I come home in flames and in eyeballs that drip sweat and my burn is early and long and I know it is too hot for all the pens in the office. I want to stash my pores in my pockets and Tom Waits defies all odds and puts out a third fire that earns him a spot next to the devil by the window with an AC. The more I sweat the more the freight train conductors ignore my pleas for a ticket and avoid eye contact and avoid stopping at their destinations. I want to give them my receipt of purchase and intent I want to use a ladder to yell all aboard and slip up the steps and punch soggy tickets because I love to wonder what happens to all those tiny paper dots.
Compline / Heather Katzoff
tiny slits in the velvet
blanket of night sky
inside candleglow guides us
its warmth reflected
back at me from your eyes
before the day reaches its close
pray with me this final hour
reflect on all that we failed
to accomplish this day
all that we will endeavor
to set right tomorrow
lay your head on my pillow
as we slip into distant dreams
joining in the great sleep
let your spirit find mine there
observing the silent
completion of the cycle
Thrall / Jessica Kinnison
What will make you free:
Keep the locusts on your side
Keep a lace scarf and throw it over your head
Keep a garden of gardenias for your bride
Keep your cigars in the shed
What will get you a ticket to freedom:
Having enough oil
Having enough oil
When will you be free:
Keep your lamp trimmed and burning
Keep your lamp trimmed and burning
Pack your bag and leave it by the door
Go ahead and pack you a bag,
wait by the door
Tangents / Jessica Letteney
Frank Black and the Catholics recorded their March 2001 show at the Melkveg music hall in Amsterdam.
The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy, our home.
Henk Pander, a Dutchman, painted the horrors of World War II. “The Floor” depicts Jews hiding under floorboards, terrified, while searching Nazis’ jackboots pound inches above them.
In 2001, I lived in a Dutch canal house, the office of Otto Frank before the war. A photo of young Anne hung in the front hall. She checks her watch on the stoop, her father’s shadow cast over her.
My aunt is watching “A Small Light,” about Miep Gies, whose family hid the Franks. Miep saved Anne’s diary and letters in her desk drawer.
In the first waves, the Nazis sent letters to Jewish families telling them what to bring to the work camps: three pairs of socks, gloves, shirts labeled with the child’s name.
Every kid who has ever packed for camp knows the thrill of setting a bag on a bunk and stowing socks and shorts, a swimsuit, in a drawer that’s all yours.
My first year at camp, I got two black eyes on Backwards Day.
Anne Frank was a fabulist, imagining a world in which people were kind and fairytale creatures lived just out of reach.
In 2015, Henk Pander painted a minotaur with a bone head that drips blood. It strides across a desert in its ruined body, one blue eye completely self-aware.
In Oregon, the Alvord is a desert where hot springs well up and geodes rest in alluvial rubble.
A geode is a hollow rock lined with crystals. Outside they are ugly, spherical, and hard.
Henk Pander painted Jessi Combs in the Alvord desert, her red race car—four wheels on a jet—set to break a land speed record.
Combs clocked 522.8 miles per hour before her wheel hit a rock and her vehicle burst into flames.
Like Anne Frank, Jessi Combs left this life early.
I like to think they both died doing something they loved: Jessi steering her screaming jet and Anne dreaming wild and beautiful on a filthy floor.
Video screens in the Anne Frank House show the liberation of Dachau concentration camp, where Anne perished. One skeletal survivor in the arms of a soldier raises her head, smiles at her rescuer. At the exit to the Anne Frank House, everyone has tears in their eyes.
BLACK GIRLBOSS HEALING RITUAL / Khaya Osborne
fuck a transaction, nigga, shut all this shit down! we knockin’ the windows out the flower shops while the moon is still keeping their blooms! we carving his name & his name & his name & sometimes hers & sometimes theirs onto the trees, slathering that good selfish fungus in ‘em! don’t let them forget, make the earth hurt where you were! you are in pain & you own everything! we drinking naked in the road, the streetlights hitting our tits like a bath! fuck a playground! fuck a library! fuck a home, nigga, this my movie! all my day ones can say “nigga” & we ti’ed of this shit! we not laughin’ unless it’s funny! we not touchin’ unless it’s warm! we not moanin’ until it’s wet! bitch, let’s go! get the fuck up! put your revenge face on, the flat one! drink bitch, drink until you can’t feel—don’t you wanna survive, nigga?! justice is when you kiss like you mean it & disappear while they sleep.
Library of Youth / P.F. Potvin
We stumbled through
the labyrinth of steel
blobs and wrappers
arranged like Barbie
swished a leather
a Lysol corridor
tight roped lines in carpet past
private study corrals
elbowed and pointed
at a table
through a window
“check it dad,
some really, really
left its pacifier”
Writing Invitations / Hailey Williams
How to explain our medieval
wedding plans? We want axes
and waterfalls. We will have
mead and singing late into
a deepening night, round
a fire on the edge of the woods.
Spaces will be held for those
who may only attend from behind
the veil. Candles lit and carried
barefoot down a stream
much like those we played in
as children. Strangers will hold
hands, old family grudges
will take breathing room,
be spelled away by folk songs
we all somehow know by heart.
We will all remember the dark ages —
history’s as well as our own —
and they will be shined like
fresh fallen Pink Lady apples.
Day 12 / Poem 12
Sonnet for Another Day / Jane Elias
all the close-knit children we forgot to have.
They stand in solidarity at night beside
my bed, a row of unread books who look like me.
Are they here to threaten, or bring dispatch
from imagined worlds? Their outlines
soon dissolve in morning light, and with my questions
whisk away their mission. Maybe they just listen
for a clue to who I am without the badge
of mother, to witness ways we tend to one another
in times so plagued by fatal venoms. Is it strange
my wish to make them proud of how I pass up chances?
Every no I’ve spoken goes toward a harder yes.
For all the me’s still yet to be, I broker nothing less.
How to stop crying / Alix Jason
Put on a doom metal album and vacuum
Look into the mirror and repeat the phrase youtube yoga saved my life until you cannot see your eyes
Sit on the corner of the bed
Celebrate the birthday of the fly buzzing by your window. He is turning 7 hours today
Alphabetize your collection of dead moths
Combine all your mayos into one jar
Put your pointer fingers on your eyelids and your pinkies in your nose. This slows down the tear ducts
Is it scary ?
Contemplate why the “fi” in “sci-fi” is pronounced “fy” and start thinking about pronouncing fiction like fy-ction
Ask a neighbor for sugar, then for flour, then for garlic powder, then for paprika, for advil, for oxy, for help, for persistence, for a sign from god, for calibration, for antithesis, for salvation, for nevermore, for a deadbolt, for camera fluid, for patience, for a promise, for a hand, for a foot, for a dream, for nothing more, for nothing less, for supper, for support, for a workout, for a job, for a kiss, for ever, for more, for less, for worse, for better, for a crack in the sidewalk, for terror, for savior, for distress, for a suit, for a routine, for disruption, for the cure, for pixies, for dust, for mist, for a hiding spot, for a nest, for an instinct, for darkness, for a shoulder, for length, for height, for leftovers, for water, for a word, for advice, for good, for nothing, for me
Vespers / Heather Katzoff
evening marks the end
of the sun’s steady march
from our sight
you return in time
together we light the lamps
the glow a benediction
that rushes back in
from my mind
as it deepens beyond our door
the sun is gone
but still we give thanks
for all those
who return home
thanks for the light
that guides those
still on their way
Shelter / Jessica Kinnison
the oak trees arched their arms like synchronized swimmers 1
the roof of their house blew off
and landed over the family 2
up in that tree the sound of rain hitting the tin roof
lulled the children to sleep
as the water continued to rise
capsized boats all around and separated from his wife and child
Leroy kept treading water 3
until he was found
most of the time Leroy took us night fishing we ended up under the pier
waiting out lightning
we never did catch any fish
but we sure saw some 4
 Camille, 1969
 Hurricane of 1916
 Random afternoon storm in Mobile Bay, 1971
 Weeks Bay daily weather, ongoing
Even the Air / Jessica Letteney
—After Maurice Maeterlinck
Moon scoop in the south,
grass and leaves greening,
eight days before summer.
The meadow catching breath
waits for blackberry galaxies.
Even the air will get drunk.
How will we crown the solstice?
With burning and prayer,
maybe strawberry ice cream.
She will chant spells, turn left then right.
He will spill seed below lonely light.
We have only this stroke of pen and the next,
as then thins to now,
until teeters out of reach,
planets on the curve of time.
I offer the brink of summer in this poem.
LIQUIDS / Khaya Osborne
most of my scars are self-inflicted;
cigarette burns, razor tracks, skids
borne from falls. a self-harm mosaic.
blood has left me in all ways but birth.
i have anointed many a California cobblestone
with my piss, so when i die no one can say there wasn’t
any dirt that missed me. who cares if you show up
to my funeral—the fog & tulips will cry out my name,
a sweet rotting ecstasy will sprout from every toe print
i left buried in the soil. divesting from beauty doesn’t allow
your body more time walking or breathing; it only loosens you
enough to dance freely. i want to be loved harder than i’ve ever
hurt. when i came for him, his sheets remained wet and musky
where we slept. have you ever been held in a puddle of your own
cum? it’s almost sweeter than a forehead kiss, a please stay. i slept
alone tonight, stumbled home drunk. i bypassed two train stations
& all my hurt feelings to collapse into a large empty bed. the wind carried
my sweat away, it sang so loudly in my ears i almost forgot i was alone.
Midnight Snack / P.F. Potvin
When the knocking starts we’ll kick off our shoes under the table and leap over chairs like Fame, toss open windows, belt the chorus of Desperado double time in three part harmony, race to the bathroom with boxes of rainbow cereal slung in sacks over our shoulders, brim the tub before sloshing in juice, dig in our hands the way mama taught to dog paddle only twist upward for lipping in the final pull, crunch grind repeat, turn to each other as escapees trickle down our chins and swim pools gathering between our knees, gurgle this is the best idea we never had until someone wakes up and answers the door.
I hope it comes easy / Jenny Stohlman
My dog will chew its feet until they bleed
The chomp of fingernail clippers into calloused skin
Prying back strips of flesh left dead by boots I wore into the river
I woke up in a city with enough abundance to stack 1792 feet in the air
And billboards pleading with drivers along the BQE
Subway ads begging next to Dr. Zizmore
Please somebody take these kids
We’ll pay you to do it
My dog will take his teeth to his fur like corn on the cob
And suck his toes until he’s choking on the shredded nails
I will press my fingers into the darkest ink
And leave a trail of my prints in a database
Begging, please, find me sufficient
Like the itch of eczema in my skin before it rashes
I want to chew my hands all night until dawn brings up the dew
And I can plunge into the cool, damp grass,
Hear the birds advise me to forgive my body for existing
Take a piss on the lawn and reassert my belonging
I’ve always known I wouldn’t have a family
Which is a silly thing to say
For someone who spends two hours a week on the phone with my mother
When people ask me why no children
There is a list of reasons that started long before
The surgery on my uterus, tumor in my head, arthritis in my pubic synthesis, friends confessing their abuses, failed relationships, an inkling that men will never become any better at providing me anything I admit to needing
At some time, somewhere, before, before
Somebody taught me that kids should live in houses
I didn’t know then that houses had lawns that always needed to be mowed
And fences came with dogs that could be allergic to the grass
And after some practice feeding and bathing an animal’s tiny feet
And after some failure doing the same for me
I kept waking up to the feeling of a skyscraper’s shadow
I’ve learned so much about the world and still believe one little thing
Yes, kids should live in houses
For My Friend Who Loves Pomegranates / Hailey Williams
Much like the pomegranate,
you contain multitudes.
You laugh in morsels and
to love you is pyrrhic,
for in your hands is panacea
concinnated like pearls on a line.
You’re worth this night and each night.
With marching teeth
you tear apart the pulp of things —
a woman inheriting death
deserves first to taste life.
Day 11 / Poem 11
Working It Out / Jane Elias
The house finch has been bumping
up against the house
What do I know?
First of all, before it was even a finch:
syncopated plops on top of the air conditioner.
Taking the sounds for an infiltrator,
I waited, still.
The bird’s body popped into view
above the window frame,
then dropped out.
Okay so it’s a bird—
I had at least one word.
As if buoyed by the AC’s butt
above the eaves—an avian
trampoline—the bird sprang up again,
down, up up up, down, up up, and
a change-up to flutter.
What was this now?
Flutter-smack to the glass
inserted like a drum fill.
Once the rondo repeated
three times, my concern
for the bird’s well-being
But what’s with this bird stuff?
Let’s skip to finch,
because research led me there,
which was where I started—
and I read of immature males
who mistake their reflections
It all sounds familiar.
Flying at speed,
the need to defend territory,
the looping frenzy
refuses to dissipate.
What I will do is drape a curtain.
If after that he is still certain
what he sees,
who am I to say—
Philadelphia Chicken Man / Alix Jason
ice cream is not to be eaten in the back of a moving car
and dead horses are just that
this is not a party
this is a place to eat chicken
and wear yourself for worse
the kid who reviewed the album said it didn’t work
like sprinkles on a hot dog
when you actually ordered a glazed donut
chew from the inside out
coat your teeth in crispy skins
never drink what can be swallowed
Nones / Heather Katzoff
begins as the sun
sinks to the horizon
my spirit sinks alongside
descending with the day
succumbing to demons
clawing at the gates
of my heart
with shadows and doubt
my faith falters
after too many hours
apart and this final act
of private prayer
dies on my lips
all hope lies
in the next hour
and your return
Orientation / Jessica Kinnison
5 Fluids that Spread HIV:
- You’d have to fill a bathtub with positive blood
and get in it with open wounds
within 8 seconds of being exposed to the air. 1
- Don’t forget the women! 2
- Breast Milk
It is not spread by:
- He spit in my eye. Do I have it? 3
- Touch/ Kissing (Don’t be kissing
our people. You’re a volunteer.)
- Hanging out.
- Sharing food.
- Sharing the remote control.
- Please stop hugging everybody. Leaves us feeling
some kind of way. Like the only power we have is this body,
this body that’s been used as currency many times before
and will be again.
- Look, we’re trying to practice abstinence here and not doing
so hot because, as we all know, abstinence doesn’t work. 4
- The residents will say they desperately need a ride when
they have no place to go, nowhere in this whole world to go.
Boredom is real.
- Our community members usually have income;
they’d just rather spend yours. Is this so different than our tax system?
- Just a Catholic thing. We talk about sex all the time and most of us
are having sex with people here or people outside
of this facility. This is a place where we talk about HIV. Most of us are hoping
to have more sex, safer sex, and better sex. 5
2 Vaginal Fluid
4 No clothing glorifying drugs and alcohol.
5 No mention of sex or sexually explicit language.
Rescue Dog / Jessica Letteney
Furrows on my face
when I wake.
Weight on my heart.
Your paws smell like popcorn.
You owed me your life,
now I owe you mine.
Untitled / Khaya Osborne
tipsy in a strange apartment
a vulnerable drink
we shove the clothes off
dump the door fixtures
pleasure is messy
The Receipt / P.F. Potvin
October 8, 1945
a white-hatted man with tie
coat & fountain cap pours liquid
glass to glass, says
You’ll like our sodas
while another man in a lab
coat cheers him
with a half-full beaker
name cursives the line below
Rx 5269 $1.75
Rx 5270 $7.00
Rx 5276 $7.00
the numbers story
unknown but paid for
taken in doses
taking its toll
I hope it comes easy / Jenny Stohlman
I hope that backing up a big rental car
Is the hardest thing you have to do for now
The taste of your voice as it curses the pylons
Shall be sweet even as the structure collapses
The overhead light now filtered through the leaves
Every sound that leaves you reaching for your teeth
Bent into a soothing murmur
For these little hours may your neck pop back into place
And let you look over your shoulder, tossing your hair and a wink
And when you hold still in your hospital bed at night,
May the smell of the last meal I cooked
Sizzle on your wrists and warm the whole evening
If it is cozy enough to read a few pages—What else do I have to offer?
A glass of water, the thought that you have family
To call in an emergency. The uninhibited impulse
To ring me up and say it was an easy day
You took your meds; the sun took less
May every card we’ve traded for rookies
Be worth enough to turn into your missing driver’s license
May your body never fail to lift you from your seat
And remember the quiet pain of crawling toward a drink
I want something good for you
May it be easy enough for you to want it, too
Parallel Tunnels Seemingly in Disarray / Hailey Williams
There are tunnels through everything.
I drive through the countryside,
six or seven dead animals each way,
ditches swollen with rain and trash.
Music is a tunnel, numbs the details
until I’ve passed through. Smiling is a tunnel.
At work, for family, with men. A means
to an end, a series of walls falling away
until an exit appears. Deep focus
is a tunnel into a craft, into beauty.
Drifting is a tunnel out of the senses
and into the self. When I think of death
I don’t see tunnels anymore.
There is no need for compartments
or enclosures, no direct path, no exit.
Since the day of my brother’s suicide
I’ve been marking time on my tunnel walls.
There are some I follow over and over, backwards into fire. Sometimes
they open up beneath me
as I drive into town, interrupting
that tunnel which takes me to work,
plummeting me into my 13-year-old self.
I see her often. She glides through the fires unscathed, despite living in flames,
desperate to be disintegrated. Every day
for her is the day she learned
she was cursed.
Day 10 / Poem 10
Palimpsests / Jane Elias
—“Where Is Everybody?”
The place is now. The time is here. Dime-store novels
spin on racks in unmanned stores. The war is over.
No one is celebrating. No one is anythinging. The jukebox
solos in the café next door. The war is starting.
On the stove, the percolating coffee jabs at the glass
like an insistent finger. It’s winter for those who’ve lived
it before. For the visitor it’s an unmarked season.
Now is the town of the left-behind, and the visitor’s mind
can barely take it. Who’s watching the store.
Who’s watching any of the stores.
Of course I do not answer, because I am not there,
and what I am watching is not the store.
The more the visitor runs around,
the more the visitor runs around.
Maybe the war is being prepped for.
Except it’s a real oddball thing, it’s just
I don’t seem to remember who I am.
When the visitor says this I say it too.
I run into the standing mirror that shatters
remembering what it’s made of
into the mirror that shatters remembering
The River / Alix Jason
my Mary gets older
not the biblical mother but
and the karaoke god
who makes church
out of a stage
and will perform for an audience of two
it’s funny to make up stories
it’s funny to calibrate a voice you can hardly hear
it’s funny to think of the rolls of films you hatch like eggs
it’s funny to be sweaty and watched
even though i know that
the river is dry
and the microphone is wet
and everyone has left the bar
because they did not come for the show
they came to take space
in public space
it’s funny to know everyone is always smoking outside
it’s funny to pick up a call from an unknown number
it’s funny to think of you itching
Sext / Heather Katzoff
the fullness of noon’s sun
warms the day
with its splendor
rays beam down
reminders of a divine
in the traditional hour
of respite from the day’s labors
my world becomes
illuminated not with prayer
but with passion
and the heat of skyfire
brings me halfway across
the arc of the sky
halfway to you
if only I can find peace
of heart until then
Quarantine / Jessica Kinnison
Low-cut jeans and a wrinkled shirt.
Despite the violent death we all know
is coming. Low-cut jeans and a wrinkled shirt.
Arms up, raving in a field of rye. On Zoom
from morning to night, got blue
blockers, soft light. Arms up, raving in a field of rye.
A country of my mind surrounds me. Black cats
on every block, one with a gray eye. A country
of my mind surrounds me.
Where were you when I created this place? Wandering
out after dark on walks to the canal and back. Where were you
when I created this place?
Your kingdom of strangers et up
with dignity and magpies and vertical decay
the world is a crime light
be still the clamor of my exile
I’ll have to leave the house
to tell someone who I am.
Postcard from Maine / Jessica Letteney
Beneath light and water
voices become bubbles.
She strokes, roiling the known world.
Liquid hair tickling.
Above are fractal floating reflections,
blurred willow branches,
and someone reaching from the dock
who yells, “you forgot—”
In her suit the color of a lobster claw,
she tips her hips,
breathes out the land-bound air.
First foot nearly slaps the murk.
Second stroke, she stirs cool from deep.
Light is lesser below the surface.
Sun bars on white skin.
People think she belongs,
aiming to swim across the lake
before the end of spring.
She holds the secrets of
people in their summer homes,
and the coming season in Maine.
If she disappeared, only the swallows would know.
DUPLEX / Khaya Osborne
colored time has become a violence,
rent is due in ten caucasian days.
rent is due in ten caucasian days,
& i ain’t sold a lick or thrust of pussy.
before i sold my first thrust of pussy,
the nigga asked me if i loved someone.
someone i loved asked me if i’m a nigga,
the air branded my cheeks cold. i said nothing.
nothing brands my cheeks. cold air ain’t shit.
i’ve been left by worthier gods than warmth.
the gods left us no worth or warmth,
so i hoard my prayers & good fruits.
good fruits hoard prayers in my slick palm,
violence is simply not on colored time.
Mirror’s Drawer / P.F. Potvin
The slant’s my dad’s but
two generations older, along
with other papers and sepia
pics that slipped from under
the mirror’s drawer, one rough-
edged on two sides, three categories
Clothes, Tackle, and Misc., all
items checked in red
pen except sombero, dark
glasses, and money-Canadian, which
wasn’t what the man stared at
off frame at the mouth
of the tent nor what the nine
studied from the hillside,
their rabbit-eared scopes trained on
a white plume blurring
background like a sandstorm,
explosion, or ghosts in the brush,
weaving home to haunt
the horizon with their songs
Dawn / Jenny Stohlman
I make love to the morning where it blushes in the window
For this hour the world is soft
Each mound of naked flesh illuminated by a tender sky
I wake up so human in this placid light
All of history joins me in my fingertips
Tracing scabs and bruises from the days that didn’t kill us yet
Aching joints and dry tongue
The catalytic drive to rise and release yesterday’s water
Somehow, every day begins
An illusion shared by all living things that we have fled the cosmic darkness
I rely on the knowledge that the bats lay low at dawn
To feel safe under the shield of our radioactive sun
I find peace in your even breathing before I interrupt
Good morning, good morning, it’s time to wake up
The world is bright and demanding, even if you haven’t slept enough
like rain a candle / Hailey Williams
once you woke me with your electric guitar.
once a bucket of ice water like putting out a flame.
now i wake with the thumbprint of your voice
perched in my ear pressed into your pillow –
if i sleep without it im pulled from dreams
on puppet strings. it works like a conch –
we hear each other. i hear ice cream churning before
you dump the salted water over your own head.
you hear cold rain shine smiling slinking
into my open windows. like rain you still make music.
your old songs stick in my throat. wind carries you
to the cup of my ear. you are somewhere between
sounds. im a puddled candle. wake me again
and I will wake singed singing drenched
in dreams or thoughts or living.
Day 9 / Poem 9
On Missing / Jane Elias
If I’d left my new room
after one hour instead of two,
would the hems of the green curtains
grazing the floor
ever have appeared
as ballet shoes
frayed in first position?
The porcelain doorknobs
revealed their hairline cracks
like egg veins?
materialized on the wall
and been there all along?
Or is it not at all
a matter of time when things decide they won’t be ignored
Speed / Alix Jason
faster sound is higher pitched and brighter and it’s great fun to see how high you can turn up the treadmill before you fly off or start to age. the sounds you put in your cereal bowl determine your daily youth and all the songs springsteen wrote for others did better on the charts than when he sang them himself and to think the ramones almost had hungry heart. I wonder which brand of mold that would have sprouted and who would have accidentally eaten it. yeah I would taste it but I come from a long line of hecklers so I would have commentary on the growth and perhaps an apology to issue because I’m not sure if I meant it, it was just a spry thing to say. it’s okay to be a bad singer if you’re tired or if you can shit talk real fast or if you have a nice butt and there is one more rule but I forget and it changes depending on venue. if you’ve ever woken yourself up singing or screaming or doing something double time you are meant to be a drummer and it’s okay to be too old for that today.
Terce / Heather Katzoff
bearing another divine hour
calling me back to prayer
from wandering attention
fumbling with the need
to hold the impression of you
firm in my memory
trying to recreate
the contours of your face
recall the charged feel
of your touch on bare skin
but invoking the spirit fails
to sanctify my thoughts
whether you suffer
these hours as I do
or whether you are
thinking of me at all
If Souls Do Not Die / Jessica Kinnison
We left each other on a corner called Yesterday. The time that comes next but before
the present. The present before the time we are spending together now.
As you walked away, I pressed my palm to my nose to smell the soap of your skin. A
public park opened between us with waterfalls and quicksand, hills and clean paths, a river
view, and a landslide. It was five o’clock on an ordinary afternoon in an old city. How was I to
know you’d get lost.
We did not see each other on that afternoon again, and years later you were dead or
your child was dead or I had died in ways I used to be uncooked.
And now I find notes you wrote in my copy of Dream Tigers. How about we meet on the
corner of Want and the Unknown? You wrote. There, we’ll drink coffee and tea and hold hands.
You who no longer have hands. I replay your wave goodbye and our afternoon together
and wonder if it ever was as present as this present is. Your nails cut short and clean.
Grief is Loud / Jessica Letteney
No wonder my neighbors moved away,
the woman and her shy man, named for birds, the Finches.
Their bed and bath were flat against my wall.
What did they think that night
I screamed “Someone help me” in my sleep?
When I could not wake from the feeling of fists bashing my ribs.
My dog in her crate dragged every scrap of cover through slats, pulling protection close.
No more pretending it didn’t happen.
Months before, when I left an abuser, my arms were blotched by bruises
colored like night, indigo and twilight, turning in time olive, then sallow, then yellow.
Beautiful, the progression of blood under the skin after a blow.
I fled to freedom, traded two houses, maple shadows and moss in the spring,
all hope of getting back my stolen money and my dying father’s gift, his ring.
Now night brings the bruise of memory.
Perhaps it was not a single day that drove my neighbors away.
Maybe it was all the ways I cried, helpless as a fallen leaf.
Set a lunch-hour timer on a Tuesday,
lie on cheap carpet and sob.
Sunday morning showering with hot metal tears.
Like a newborn desperate for food,
I trembled, I shrieked, I cried.
So, perhaps, for those two people named for a bird,
my wall of pain was too much, too loud, too near.
Perhaps they had to pack coats and shoes,
put cans of tomatoes and bags of beans into brown boxes and move away.
Because the sound of pain is nothing at all like the song of a bird.
MASTURBATION / Khaya Osborne
pleasure a private dialect
lexicon be touch a man i almost
loved hugged me tonight earning
a public rebuke jars are made with wide
lips for this kind of necessary violence when
i scream it’s for my own hand no rancid stench
belonging to me repels the climax i brought
my own self home tonight held power by
the throat summer has arrived the heat
entices me to swim naked in brown
sting one cannot rebel against that
which they control
May 4:11 / P.F. Potvin
not under pines where ferns, rye
and hostas all sigh Hail
Mary’s before withering
brown like needles, not on
the hill’s arm where even clover
and fescue crawl, hide
their faces beneath
cherry slender leaf, only
here or here between
pillars you pointed
adjacent the walk, add
chicks and hens
to cop full rooster if lemon
balm springs too edgy and
she can chase them around
at night the kids said when
shadows cast long
and the hole’s been filled
with red-ribbons in a laced
box pulled from the freezer, not ice
cream but handheld, we dimple
our chins to chests, tell true
tall tales, say thanks
for our cat
The Tennessee Adult Entertainment Act and Other Vagaries / Jenny Stohlman
He doesn’t like what the drag queen revealed,
That nature has few secrets, but you’d have to look twice
To see the breasts upon her chest are a plate of silicone
He’s a one and done chump, no second glances,
So he missed all the beauty of her construction,
The architecture of gender, rising closer to god
With every wave of spray supporting her hair
He doesn’t like the way he likes her sparkle and
Envies how much fun she’s having in the daylight
The way his children laugh with her as she points at the pages
They never giggle at his stories at bedtime
They whine, “Daddy, you’re so boring. Do the voices,”
But if he lets out the voice of Thelma, the unicorn,
What else will follow from his mouth?
Otis, the ass, or even more horrific, that Ada Twist girl,
A scientist and a female…
He’s not going to read them that one any more
No woke bullshit or he will never get to sleep tonight
Variation On The Word / Hailey Williams
After Margaret Atwood
I would like to watch you free yourself,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
free. I would like to free you,
set open the doors
and wander with you
over rolling fields and sinking swamps
where you are never touched
by critters or cold. I would go with you
through the cypress and the mire,
square off with scaled monsters
who know not their own monstrosity.
For whom the absence of the word
is essential unshared wisdom.
I would like to release you of all words
which do not bear you through
the wilderness, offer a blank slate
or a stringed instrument, which might
vessel your thoughts to better shapes.
I would like to tear the unsaid shames
and unfelt pains from your inner horizon,
and gather you upwards into wind.
As wind you might rush breath
into the breathless, redefine form,
inhabit everything. I would like to be
nothing, hidden in that everything.
Day 8 / Poem 8
Visiting / Jane Elias
The night I stopped by
Emily Dickinson’s grave
a guy about my age
twitched his hips to
“Blister in the Sun”
on the cemetery path.
And when I say my age
I mean I wasn’t mad about it—
the reverence in his
Em as Violent Femme dance
forestalled all offense
and it seemed we both were moved,
For me the death
of decorum had long
it was the shattered clay pot
at the base of her stone
that did me in,
the mourners’ pencils
once held inside now scattered
through the grass like wayward
I thought I needed
to pick them up,
but I didn’t.
I stood in the drizzle.
I read once again that she
was first born, then
7-Eleven / Alix Jason
sit in their tattered bags
in the parking lot
sucking down their neon liquids
midnight has long gone
hair drawn dry and chalky
shoes not just lost
and the deep fryer
and now the orange sun
reminds them that the amusement park
won’t open for another few hours
they have plenty of time on the concrete
to reheat the leftovers of their night
and to not spill a drop|
out of their plastic cups
Prime / Heather Katzoff
daylight takes hold
while shadows lengthen
in the angular early morning
light and I must suppress
my desire to drag the sun
back across the sky
back into the darker hours|
closer to when you are
with me but here
in this first little hour without
you I am lost
the congregation brings
no comfort, the antiphon feels
without your voice
joining the refrain
Pantoum / Jessica Kinnison
At the shiva for your dead child
we can neither sit nor stand
we are black sailboats in black water
we sing with sewn down tongues
We can neither sit nor stand
both dangerous and benign
we sing with sewn down tongues
holding books full of numbers
Both dangerous and benign
heat lightning becomes our language
our hands are books full of numbers
you scare me when you leave the room
Heat lightning becomes our language
we are black sailboats in black water
your hands scare me when they leave the room
at the shiva for your dead child
Riverwet / Jessica Letteney
Footfalls crush fringecup when we rush.
Down the dirt, a slide,
pebbles beneath our feet
clatter and rattle when they land.
We tug at sleeves.
Below lies the watercourse, a ribbon, our blood.
You slice the deep green,
white shoulders, petal nipples, copper hair.
You are all the way wet.
Not so bold, I toe back in mud, lick my lips.
You turn three quarters,
braided water sliding over,
hold me in your blue gaze.
Naked, pinned to safety, to shore, I want
to be bold enough to
touch your warm places in the cold river.
HUNGER / Khaya Osborne
complex trauma is sexier on me than ever. the economy is involved now. strangers compliment the poverty dangling from my hips as i shuffle off the bus, ignore the scent of a happy stomach’s harbinger. men buy me cold cherry confusions, call me selfish for refusing to share my skin; i just don’t want to lose anything else. it’s cute how children assume they’ll always eat their dinner, then they have to survive. sometimes, one simply drinks it—cup upturned all the way—a desperate tongue gliding along the rim. true love is close—i can smell it; on her table, a loaf of sweet, warm bread to exploit for nutrients. i can’t wait to colonize my next lover’s kitchen.
Landing / P.F. Potvin
Just in Michigan a hundred more species than calendar days my app cries drought and remain inside as smoke from Canadian blazes wheeze my chest but I’ve never been hype to signs or weather or pollen infecting my left eye already bulging like eggplant I’ll race my sty to the garden fashion a deer fence around the rabbit fence of kale romaine and butter yet leave a landing for insects swaying heads of clover in the field the way I’d stumble sneezing through grandpa’s roses with bees in my hair until my sister shouted out the window to stop my damn humming and wash my hands
Tread Lightly / Jenny Stohlman
It’s a bullet in the grass
The smooth metal passed
Across my skin
Running barefoot on the land
The blue sky and the fleeced lamb
My feet interrupted by a bump in the flat
It’s a bullet in the grass
I don’t own a gun and I haven’t welcomed one
To fire through the fields or shatter glass on the fence posts
No hobbyists have been here fingering their triggers
Feeling for the happy backlash of that high-pressure muzzle flash
Ignoring that their feet are flat and their targets are all fantasies
Of killing anybody who has made them feel meek
It’s a wonder such a person could walk into a bar
Preaching gender and proclaiming that they shall be the arbiter
Of manliness and womanhood and who will die for failing these
Mistaking their reflection for that of god’s in the sky
Assembling a Reddit chorus to serve as earthly guide
What do they think they will feel while their victims die?
Pride isn’t up for grabs at the end of a life
Tanka Sequence / Hailey Williams
There is an otter
with a blue stone in my dreams.
You are there also,
without a stone, with a gun.
You eat oysters together.
Inside an oyster
you find a silver mirror
showing other worlds.
You believe them fictional,
your otter friend disagrees.
I’m in the mirror,
waking, reaching for your gun.
You shoot me three times.
Otter buries me under
his stone, which is the ocean.
Day 7 / Poem 7
Medley PSA / Jane Elias
look, everybody wants to look cool
Pee Wee Herman spotlit
holding on point crack vial
signature bow tie
it isn’t glamorous
it isn’t kids stuff
Xer sensibility crackling in the pan
this is your brain
this is drugs
where did you get this?
I don’t know
R2 lights up to 3PO’s dismay
hey that’s bad for your heart
yes I know I don’t have one
but humans do
Oh good oh thank God
I do want to keep America looking good
I will never be a dirty bird
School is different now, kids bring more than lunch
(Florence from The Jeffersons wants you to know)
Jimmy, where did you get those bruises?
Mom, who’s Jimmy?
Shira and He-Man have something very personal
they want to talk to me about: my body
But I can’t
I can’t talk to you
They know it’s hard to admit if you’ve been touched
in a bad way
good as dead if I can’t stop my friend drinking and driving
only I can prevent forest fires
a little too much right now
it’s all a little too much
but here comes Captain America
yes I can help you do battle
yes we can
together vanquish thermal thief cold-air crook wattage waster I will close the front door I will turn off the unused lights I will shut the refrigerator door I will turn off the unused lights I will close the back door I will shut the freezer door I will close the doors the lights the doors together we will battle these insidious villains yes Captain America yes together because I do want to keep America looking good I really really do and I am not afraid I am not at all afraid
I will never be a dirty bird
I will never be a dirty bird
I will never be a dirty bird
all the owls all the clowns all the crude cartoons and all the AI too
You, all right?
I learned it by watching you
Badlands / Alix Jason
I went to the dump to buy a pair of shoes
and meditate on how my family left New York
and moved to the shittiest of states
New Jersey, Florida, Texas
at the dump I found rotten Pepsi, cannonballs, unsteady ground, bagged up storms, and an itch on my left calf
there was no DJ at the dump this time
and no shoes that fit me
I abandoned the heaps and trudged back through diapers with the same shoes I arrived in
and vowed to take better care of my belongings
to fix my own holes
or avoid them in the first place
I listed the holes in size order:
New Jersey, Florida, Texas
I counted the debris that had stuck to my shoes
and peeled them off in size order
a trash city only turns to garbage if it doesn’t get picked up
Lauds / Heather Katzoff
the alarm blares its command
no less determined than the cock’s
crow, breaking into dreams
unbidden, dragging us
from bedded bliss
to the work of the day
to chant canticle and hymn
the office of Aurora
calls us to praise the day
and we rise to its glow
from ours as we trade moon
for sun, as the path
of the daystar pulls
us to separate
journeys, still we praise
its rising, we praise the waking
praise each spare breath
before the parting
Scorched Earth / Jessica Kinnison
Lie to me. Oh baby, lie to me,
tell me there’s clean salt in the sea,
I’ll hear you.
Soak the corn in brackish water
cook it in its shell down on the battre
Tell me I was just born
Tell me I was just born
yesterday on the tip of a horsehair bow
playing a Cajun fiddle going slow
no one ever drowns here, no one aches or strokes
after so many years
of living, keeping living, playing sad raggedy tunes
we will think the forlorn fiddle is mocking the loons
“And all our betrayed lovers speaking?
If you have an outfit to take
Take the one that is the color of cinders
It is Sunday, the saddest day
For a lover who is living in a spirit of languor.”
hardwood floor pushing up at the joint
stomping softly, looning, to make his point
he dropped his fiddle there with me on the end
Absence and Presence / Jessica Letteney
Skin rash on the dog’s belly.
Coneflower sprouts in a pot.
The check engine light glows bright and orange on my dash.
Leaves and needles susurrate under afternoon winds.
As rain fades, this sound becomes
the fear of fire in the West.
Cedar cones hang like grapes, I mark their swell from my deck.
I aim to find poetry in the cracks between spreadsheet cells and red lines in text.
Perhaps the time for writing is like a window in feng shui,
not a long sheet of glass, spilling its glamorous view,
but a smallish opening in a wall,
requiring attention, intention, and discipline
to stop, notice, and peer at the mountain on the horizon.
A rabbit screams outside my bedroom, taken by talons just before light seeps in.
The calendar shows a ladder of meetings to climb on a Tuesday.
A white scrap of paper scrawled with, “Don’t let your life leak away.”
The weariness of squeezing a muse or a life or a dog into the margins of a job
while the wide cold river flows, the cottonwoods shimmer, and the
world holds its breath before fire.
MIRAGE / Khaya Osborne
refusal precludes all the best blessings. i have been drunk nightly for two weeks. in a home heated by nature’s mercy, i contrive a formula for love in my itchy sheets; x days of fasting plus y colored powders on my face multiplied by n times you’ve heard me sing squared by p crazy bitches you have already loved equals my chances. are you even worth knowing or am i just crumbling from touch deprivation? that’s impossible, i’m a whore. both questions. i could say i’m healing my inner child but i am still buying books to forget how lonely i am; that bitch been the same age fifteen years. when i dream of my wedding, the spouse never has a face. always a suit. always carrying me over the threshold of some holy place, a bouquet of flowers evacuating my arrogant hands. my person will show the world how wrong it’s been. how much it failed. i need to be held. no one can stay strong alone forever.
25,000 / day / P.F. Potvin
mom says the proof’s in
the nose, once always plugged now
one nostril free and
pixels and lines form
rainbow cover lungs, a new
science of lost art
uncluttered by swell
I don’t know who gave me this
but you might find it
helpful when you quiver
yourself or others awake
or rattle doors like
northern winds caught in
red pinebranch sway, just, float, soft,
exhale, then repeat
The Moral of Jenny Big Bones / Jenny Stohlman
I look across the table at my father’s face
And tell him about my other life in a dimension not so far away
I’m saying, Jenny Big Bones runs a bar by the same name
It’s in Alaska. She shoots guns and drinks all day
She tips bottles in the space my stories fill
And turns the jukebox up when my narrative threatens to turn her way
She wants no plot, no thoughts
Except the goodness of time passing through her clean, well-lighted place
And the soft, drunken tongues telling stories to her face
Another Jennifer works in the library of the United Nations
Stands in the window and counts cars on the FDR when she’s running out of patience
Raps her knuckles on stacks of research papers
The weight of the world disguised as a single page
I keep these stories about my selves running in their own lanes
Reciting facts to bolster up each aspiration I say
I give the moon a honied tale of lovers whispering about the sea otters at Morro bay
The thin light reflected over lapping waves
And every animal has a voice
I make recordings of my own
Asking them questions about their ways
Soliciting tours of their homes
I make up the moves of their grandchildren
Across the sun-scarred planes of future days
Feel their thirst and hunger, their endless body aches
I tell myself stories all damn day
The way I see across dimensions, into time, and through space
Jenny Big Bones is no alter in my brain on this day
Jenny hunting troubled rabbits in post-apocalyptic drought isn’t telling me what to say
I’m just telling stories to understand my place
Takes of trickster rabbits have always kept us entertained
I be telling stories every day, for myself, habitual
Free Agent / Hailey Williams
Days when loneliness
stuck its knife
down my throat.
When I grew
what I could
where I could.
Basil & cacti,
an emergency fund.
That little used bookshop,
store credit to folks
who traded their lives
in cardboard boxes.
That old apartment
with locks that froze
in the winter,
gunshots each night —
on the ears.
My wide window
brimming with leaves,
thick, glossy, verdant.
My cat stretched
in their glow
I wasn’t waiting,
I know this now.
Something held me
to self-given promises.
The child in me
hair cropped short,
sleeping hot summers
with AC shut off &
every screened window
open, raindrops collecting
themselves after their
big debut —
that long fall
Day 6 / Poem 6
untitled / Jane Elias
The thing with feathers
not hope not grief the other
thing singing wordless
I’ve heard it called awful truth
but who can name what endures
Hot Devil in the Freeze Aisle / Alix Jason
“Innocent hot dog man threatens to murder beach bum”
is the headline
that my head made up
and spun on repeat
until the funnel cake curled up in the corner
I cannot undo the danger by the sea
I cannot unsee the ghost by the river
A permanent haunt
skulks in the freezer aisle
making “clean up on aisle 7”
the constant refrain
repeated puddling and mopping
a little neater
Matins / Heather Katzoff
rise with me in the dark
sing to me in the darkness
of the small hours
or sit silent in this midnight
office, mouthing prayers
under a veil of stars
light the incense
watch the smoke curl
and weave in response
to our whispered psalms
even though they
are not ours to speak
even though we
break the solitary
nature of the hour
stay with me
share the mercy of this vigil
until the spell is broken by dawn
Matins / Heather Katzoff
rise with me in the dark
sing to me in the darkness
of the small hours
or sit silent in this midnight
office, mouthing prayers
under a veil of stars
light the incense
watch the smoke curl
and weave in response
to our whispered psalms
even though they
are not ours to speak
even though we
break the solitary
nature of the hour
stay with me
share the mercy of this vigil
until the spell is broken by dawn
Borrowed Shoes / Jessica Kinnison
Ms. Hope is wailing.
Ms. Hope is
Someone else’s black
ballet flats on her
feet. Little plastic bows
laughing at us.
spit out. They
scare me. Her
baby shot down
jack-a-mo kiss my ass.
He was gold.
He was double gold
rainbows eating an ice cream sundae.
homesick now for sure.
Ms. Hope is groaning
up from her
Out here in Algiers
signs are all
turned. All signs
all the way to Minnesota
if we have to. The bullet
won’t ever have been made
we’ll go so far back.
It’ll be cold, sure,
and all upstream
What does it mean to be remembered? / Jessica Letteney
—After Mary Oliver
When we are young, we are blessed with dark eyebrows, glowing skin. We are like Greek gods and goddesses, sandals striking sparks when we walk. We are we are seeds, swollen with potential, or flowers whose bright nectar soaks in the senses of bees. We are memorable. / Perhaps when we get older, we can argue and parry in clever sound bites, quote from famous poets. We may be memorable. / But we are born women and we are aging. No longer do our hips cradle the possibility of procreation, our scents announce our readiness. Once our jowls hang below our jawlines and our hair is shot with silver, how memorable are we? / I thought the earth remembered me. / Two years ago in the West, heat trapped us inside houses, melted road tar, and bubbled creosote in telephone poles. Wildfires swept across the land, choking people and plants in pearl yellow smoke, dimming every shape, every face. / Stooped under a long shadow of trauma and grief, I was desperate to find somewhere swept clean of the dust of devastation. State parks were full, hotels were out of reach, but I reserved a glamping tent by the slow-moving Trask River. / When I arrived, the host offered her hand, “I’m Carmen, and we grow long-horned steer around here.” In the clear air, cattle with horns as long as their bodies, quietly cropped grass. Oak trees waved in the coastal breeze. At the river’s bubble line, a fish jumped, sharp as a knife. Then another, mouth gaped to catch the hovering flies. / All afternoon and the next morning, I wrote, pouring my grief onto pages, watching a buck browse, hearing the territorial trill of a kingfisher. I cried at all that had been cut away, my unbearable memories. / When I went home, I left a poem on the picnic table, weighted down by a stone. / I returned to that tent this week. Again, Carmen came. She said, “I remember you; you could not figure out how to turn on the lights.” Then she showed me carefully. / On this stay, the kingfishers still whistled up and downriver. The cattle lowed and insects hovered. I wrote in my journal. / But it was Carmen this time who moved me. Two years ago, I had been gutted, invisible even to myself. Yet, even as a ruin, I was memorable to her, a stranger who had no stake in me. Hearing this, I wanted to weep. / I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly.
FIX / Khaya Osborne
unstoppable lights immovable pains
you should hear what my heart says to me
when we’re alone the nerve is an awareness
highway when you smoke traffic clears into a
hostile atmosphere is hope truly good for you
i haven’t swallowed fully since last year gratitude
is so unnatural in this thinner body only my dreams
house my child i worry the warmth of real air would kill
them am i a good mother for protecting a black baby from
existing few others are willing to say it but it hurts so so deep
you have no choice but to open your throat pull in the substance
call it prayer i’m lying it is still a choice i’ve just been so exhausted lately
i may as well rip the pillows to shreds if someone bought me a teddy bear i’d
probably weep what do you do with soft lifeless creatures but envy them
Trespassing / P.F. Potvin
“You can’t do that here” he hollered
the boys, their backward caps like sleeping
swans awakening, turning to brandish
cheeks, beak & the one reeling
in, his fingers hopping adrenaline, his line still
taut, his pole domed above a red
wing blackbird trill, nest below hungry
for light & dew “because it’s a nursery, see
little swimmies?” & they nodded, inched
away “but you can do something” & he ambled
the shed, returned with a coffer “go to the river’s
shoe & take this in case you’re good enough
to catch any clouds
Strange Bedfellows / Jenny Stohlman
The machine knows when I sleep
And opens my throat
To save me from drowning in my nightmares
It teaches me to sing and circular breathe
It feels like snorkeling at dawn in a place of shelter
The fresh full lungs of pressing my face to the cracked window
As I ride across I-94 under the big sky
The wind leaves marks on the cloud and across my cheeks
My machine sounds like an airplane—not propellers, like cabin pressure
The hum lets me know everything is going to be alright
It hugs my face at bedtime and whines if I shake it loose
I’m suspicious of robots with humanoid figures
But my machine is just a little box, a simple thing
I know how she works, and
All she wants is to let me rest easy
All she needs is to control my breathing
Green River Cove Tubing / Hailey Williams
If you have never stuck
your backside in an olive
green, May-cold river,
here’s your sign. Slap
a Hamilton on the counter
of Green River Cove Tubing,
select a neon pink plastic
donut & offer your pasty
cheeks to the river snakes.
Bring your looser sister &
discover that she screams
just like your mother now
at each dip into the rapids.
Wriggle your way free
from the blanched skeletons
of fallen timber lining the banks
like so many discarded combs.
Remember cold water
is good for the heart, even
as you pinball yourself
from boulder to boulder.
There is a time for holding
yourself back, making plans
& laying them aside to clean
the bedding again, empty
your inbox, visit the dermatologist.
In a world full of trees & rivers,
there is also time for shivering
in the wise silence of slow water.
Ahead, someone you love
spins & spins her way
over the smoothest stones
your toes have ever touched.
Day 5 / Poem 5
An Interruption / Jane Elias
After Raymond Carver
The smoke detector outside my bedroom
chirped at dawn. When I opened my eyes,
I breathed and counted
the seconds between beeps
The manual said
was alerting me of
its imminent demise.
The sound was shrill.
I was unwilling at first to
What if this special unit
heralds sea change
with its bleatings?
Even if it’s more Hello,
can you hear me? I am dying
to do anything
other than listen
at the time.
My head hurt
in a new way.
On the stepladder
I pressed and held
the test button.
Eeeep Eeeep Eeeep.
Eeeep Eeeep Eeeep.
Deep, deep silence.
The battery still
juiced. And things
went back to dying
as they had before,
with little fanfare.
Chevrolet / Alix Jason
No boyfriends allowed !
Just / Heather Katzoff
hollow little gut-punch
of a word, thief of breath
and calm and
and not the just
of righteousness or
the just that is precisely
the right thing
the just that is no more than
that is barely
the “you are less
important to me than
I am to you”
the “this didn’t mean
just some girl…
Road to Weeks Bay / Jessica Kinnison
There was a point:
From there, you could imagine the whole world.
Pere, a support of, span of
a bridge Pera, breakwater
Vulgar latin petricus, latin
petra “rock” a structure b-
uilt out of the water to use
as a landing place a place
for safe harbor for protecti-
on for walking home and all
the words a stage for kissing
for stepping through rotten
boards and pulling up crabs
for a meetup to gig flounder
in boats sturdy and floating
beer enough to last til dawn
the mooning wild-eyed din
springtails jumping cool air
if they could dunk it
Chapel / Jessica Letteney
A rocky cut of coast where waves race
and oystercatchers keen,
my chapel has no liturgy.
No heraldry here, only silver water falling from a cliff—a banner in wind.
A sea lion rots on the rocks, red and black, bone of its skull exposed. A crucifix.
Smears of gray and green announce each season—Imbolc’s cold tide or the equinox.
Pines bend low, bare branched candelabra.
I have craved this salt.
Robbed, my threadbare life in tatters,
I come to this place to know I am powerless.
The hymns I sing have no chorus,
just chants to the beating sea,
different rhythms for rising, king, and ebb tides.
Today, a girl says, “My parents search for agates, but I hunt for the perfect smooth gray rock.”
She is you and me, combing through planetary dust.
Agates are offerings:
moons in a basalt sky,
stars in the rattling rocks,
blue eyes staring, daring me to draw upon the truth.
I fill my pockets with them,
grateful for the wild ocean that moves with utter disregard.
I am healed here.
MUSCLE MEMORY / Khaya Osborne
there is information living in flesh, unknown but anticipated.
my mother once crouched in front of a water heater at a party
while bullets made brain confetti. sure, there was terror, but
breath precludes that. the body rewards preservation with wisdom.
ten seconds later, hot water was flooding the garage; she was blanketed
by her sweat & the california twilight—purples & blues placating a mind
reddened with violence. i believe it is unrighteous to bury the lede—all
my family’s women have been psychic. i believe i have just met my children’s
father & i do not yet trust him. he stays up late, writes art & feeds it
to a machine. he doesn’t look like he understands when to run.
Listen / P.F. Potvin
to him with your hands
the ones you keep for troubles
the ones always watching
for owls coyoting moon
when he wakes in
dim and caws, rub his
back with circles, pat his
i t ’ s o k
in marshmallow tone until
and his bed becomes
a boat again with
ropes awaiting word to
jib out, lean back into
darkness and run
Little Spells / Jenny Stohlman
I give up golden
Let the stars fall to the garden
With the clipping of my silver hair
This practice is witchcraft
I can know this
Without a word from my ancestors
By the simple summon
Of the ritual pulling me back
The robin makes off with
A mouthful of my metal
Reflecting little spells in the sun
Nesting its eggs in my mettle
The shells encasing my familiars to come
I call my dog off from his scenting
For strangers on the wind
I’ve freed my hair to the winged creatures
No enemy shall cross their nests
Pearson’s Falls / Hailey Williams
Today I hiked to a waterfall
so beautiful it nearly slipped
into cliché. Later, I worked
alongside my fiancé & sister
clearing a small square plot
of root & rock-rich red clay
between three trees where
we laid mossy slate fresh-
plucked from the creek,
a makeshift foundation.
We raked away decay,
piled up deadfall along
a winding pathway,
laid the first trimmed logs
into place with room
for a door. We carried
my overly-tired niece down
the slope at dusk to unveil
the first lines of someday-
Someday-door, -stone stairs,
-little window. She wanted
baby black bears, instead
she got a red square
full of upturned worms.
I remember the first stone
wall I built, age 7. Hours
each day with my sister,
no tools to speak of,
side-porch shouting distance,
What makes a waterfall
cliché is the parking lot
ten minutes away.
One day my niece
will reach hidden falls,
found by accident.
Hours & hours
into the green,
into the skunk funk,
the laurel branches.
She’ll breach the murk
with her thin bare toes,
offerings to tiny trout.
Trees will lean over her
like they were made
for this & every moment.
She’ll find that she too,
was made for this
& every moment.
Day 4 / Poem 4
Origin Story / Jane Elias
The six a.m. bus from Sitia
leaves me in Zakros
just past sunrise,
in front of the kafeneio
where the old-timers are already
deep into their morning cigarettes.
One of them sits under
a sign for the E4 walking path.
When he eyes me he points east
in tandem with the hand-painted arrow.
The path starts in Tarifa, Spain,
and ends here, in eastern Crete,
at the top of the Gorge of the Dead.
This is why I’ve come,
he must have guessed,
to descend the canyon where
the Minoans buried their own.
To be solitary but not at all alone.
A kind driver offers to take me
the rest of the way as he passes
in his Fiat. I decline (I think politely),
because when else will I find myself
like this, unaccompanied and ready.
I marvel at the trailhead,
its dearth of tourists.
Only three goats and two hikers
cross my path on the way down,
and how have I never been
so unalarmed before now.
Three hours later, the sea.
A sleepy taverna.
The fresh catch after the swim.
Naturally, I think of my father,
and his father’s house in the north
of the country, where their fig trees
shaded the whole village
from the truth of 1944,
from the war out of which
I would soon be born.
Rosalita’s / Alix Jason
Every day that I get a margarita from the taco spot around the corner
which is most days
which is mostly days I decide I don’t care about money
I see their sign
and I think about heckling them by saying “Oh, where’s Rosalita ?”
and breaking into song
doing a “dad in a restaurant” thing
like my dad would
if we were still in Jersey
if I were still in Jersey
if I didn’t finish the drink on the walk back home
and consider turning around to get a second
that this Tuesday
I care about money
and that this Tuesday
I won’t be my dad
and that this Tuesday
is the last Tuesday
I will go to Rosalita’s
because next Tuesday
I have to care about money
because I’m not a famous person
or a girl with a salary
someone who is responsible with money
I’d rather be responsible for people’s feelings
and give them margaritas from Rosalita’s
that I can’t afford
and that if they don’t want
I will gladly drink
with or without a straw
with or without consideration
for what I want to do
on my walk home
for what I want to do
about my incomplete thesis
on how debt is a form of grief that you drink slowly with a straw
and how what we owe and what we lay away on credit
is genetically determined
and familially encouraged
and how Tuesdays seem to be immune to all my theories
except for the conceptual next Tuesday
for which the theories and the money will follow the rules
and I will return home
having drank my one allotted margarita
and sucked down my salt rimmed earnings
with a straw
Fracture / Heather Katzoff
my flesh is not me
my flesh is not me
my flesh is not me
Wedding / Jessica Kinnison
The people who live here soak their swollen feet in the sand, dry their hands on the air between drops of rain. The people who live here help the stars stay alive a little longer. Serve stars their last meals of naming and renaming themselves into oblivion. The people here twist instead of walk. Their hips turn out a full circle with every step. Try it: right, then slowly back around, say out loud “just (right) a (up) nother link (over to center) in (left) the (back) chain (right).” The people here turn circle into circle from dusk to dawn until dusk and dawn marry in a hilltop ceremony. Everyone is there. The wedding is doomed, we all know, but we clap and cry anyway because it’s raining and the people throwing the party thought to doula the stars.
Tinnitus / Jessica Letteney
Just after dawn, echoes of a dog bark,
the quickening pulse of the highway below,
and the incessant hiss—tinnitus.
In the pearling light,
a robin announces territory,
his 1-2-3-4 chirp is loud on a
a morning ripening into sound.
Perhaps others are calling too,
the trills of dark-eyed juncos are too soft for me.
More of the world wakes and makes disturbance:
a siren in the distance,
now the chant of a jay.
I see branches bounce under squirrel seduction.
I’ve read that, if you really listen, you can stop
hearing the barbed-wire tinnitus whine.
Leaning in has never worked for me.
When the sun touches the rooftops,
people stoop to clip collars to dogs,
laugh, talk into phones,
water their plants.
I watch these pantomimes and
strain around interior red noise, its unbearable line.
Their footsteps, sneezes, and sonatas
will join the fading birdsong and rustle of leaves.
Like a person losing their field of vision,
piece by piece,
I release the sounds of the lives around me.
All I hear now is the caw of a crow
cutting across the stirring of morning.
Bless that brassy crow.
WORD BANK / Khaya Osborne
you keep saying
she’s with him
honky tonk town
you need to piss
you want head
you’d like to hookup
i’m cool it’s whatever
honky tonk town
come on let’s just do it
you’re so attractive
she ruined your night
i’m not the bitch to try
i bleed between my legs inside
in bed questioning the no
you are probably home saying
Apples and Corn / P.F. Potvin
With three separate stalls, the outhouse behind the cabin cried 50’s rustic. Thirty years on, seats stained and mossed-over, someone finally tossed them into the adjacent pit and covered the holes with plywood the way our neighbor built his addition, back before leaching from cans, jars, and other junk was common but little known, when we burned trash in the iron smoker designed for leaves and drank water from a rusted mug hanging over the piped artesian well. In hunting season we’d stack burlap sacks brimming with apples and corn to the ceiling. Come spring we’d creak the door ajar to find my great grandmother’s jitterbug partner, a mannequin with cropped blonde hair, plaid shirt, and jeans still hibernating, her marble eyes locked on ants flooding a crack in the wall. Some years later we cleared the space. But a bear still tore the door from its hinges, searching for something already passed.
Ron DeSantis Knows What Happened After Bebelplatz Square / Jenny Stohlman
I wonder if the feeling of freedom will ever pass
It’s a hard thing to keep in check
When my mind knows it’s an illusion by half
Yes, the ricochet of sunlight off my skin
Yes, the cold water soothing me in the mountains
Yes, I have run wildly over the rabbits’ warren
Yes, the stars spark with each coyote yip
Yes, I can call myself at home on some land
Yet, the boot falls of fascist plans
My liberty does not exist when it comes at another’s expense
I keep thinking: my friends are moving to Uruguay
But the thought is wrong when it’s the verb fleeing that applies
Governments don’t really declare war against their own people
But they sure do wage it, and more violence creeps in
There is no utopia in Nashville, Tennessee
But neither in Stamford, New York
Nor here in front of me
And still my toes in the soft, pink rug
And still my little dog asleep in my lap
And still a box arrives with new sheets to prepare the bed
And still a protest flag raised into the wind
And still the babies coming and an older kid
It’s the same now as it was back then
I’m living through this, but not everybody is
About Josephine / Hailey Williams
What is there to say
except she has a gap
between her two front teeth
just like I do. She collects
rocks like other children
collect candy. Every animal
is her favorite. Every color
is beautiful. She’ll walk
right into the brambles
to find a bear, who of course
would be her best friend.
Best friend, that is, after
Mommy & Daddy
& Baby Benny
& Papa & Gammy B
& Auntie Hay.
She loves green while
it’s growing & stops
entirely when it enters
her food. She laughs
eyed, limbs akimbo.
It makes you wonder
when was the last time
your soul shook in its
own joy. The most
terrible thing about
two is knowing her
laugh may change,
someday. Some other
day, when you may not
be there to call it back,
across the wildflower
yard, hands full
of her favorite
Day 3 / Poem 3
Screening / Jane Elias
I’m at home again
with Hopper’s usherette.
She has always seen it all
before. The snow-capped
peaks on-screen no more
worlds away than her old
life beyond the parted
She knows that even
what has grown
at any moment
We both know it,
though what I do
with that isn’t much.
She minds her post,
torch in hand to either
fend off or
light the way.
Cirque du Silence / Alix Jason
Kitty’s cirque du silence service begins with champagne and dessert
and you must ingest everything with a spork in one hand
and a hummingbird in the other
Kitty dances over to your table
leans in a for a kiss
the hummingbird goes wild
Kitty places the bird
back in the tophat
to the tune of the word hummingbird
“Missy Bimbo, Missy bimbo” the next table over beckons her
her waltz quickens to a margarita
and she and hummingbird dote on table #5
Kitty Missy Bimbo, queen of the hummingbirds
Doles out slices of live wires, rhubarb pies
and slivers of Arkansas
The tins cans explode
Kitty is shot out
You Should Adopt / Heather Katzoff
“You should adopt,” they say
as though the idea has never occurred to you,
never kept you up in the lonely dark
convinced you hear a child’s voice
in the silent hum of 2am
“You’d be so good at it,” they say
as if being given up comes with a secret handbook
explaining how to fill that void
in another person’s soul
while wading in the quicksand of your own
“You should try it,” they say
as though that urge hasn’t growled in your core
clenching your heart with greedy claws
as your chest bubbles over with hope
and anxiety in equal measure
“You should adopt,” they push
ignoring a burden that child never agreed to
just to claim them as your own,
never noticing the fractures of abandonment forming
under barely-healed skin, waiting to swallow you both
Seatrain Tavern / Jessica Kinnison
“All art is made by the dead.” – Andrea Gibson
If I dare the dead to make a poem,
could it be a seatrain pushing up walls of water?
A song keeps playing in my head—
I crowd-surfed in a packed field
asking every person: Who sings
this song? Then I sang it.
They all gave what I knew
to be the wrong answer. They were making
a boogaloo out of a ballad. They were calling out
Unpronounceable names. Names long forgotten.
I shook my head all over town(s). I didn’t see
one bird. I didn’t see one alligator. I was frantic
Snakebit and delirious until my friend turned me on
to the water’s edge. Her flashlight revealing sets of eyes
all around us. Dozens of pairs of eyes. Alligators
with their bellies in the mud.
Suddenly, the owls hurt my ears with their proclamations.
Too many birds filled my head. Tiny bubbles covered the water.
Green bushes and lice-filled moss became train cars
of knit walls and openings
of walls full of holes.
Good Luck to Those Who Inherit / Jessica Letteney
—After John Freeman
Not far from my suburban home
water washed in the margins daily,
rising, lapping, swelling with the moon.
I was 12.
I did not notice the wetland enough.
I remember minnows,
cold and speckled.
I could scoop their bodies with both hands,
would let the water spill,
watch them wriggle on my palms.
Perhaps I saved them then, letting them fall again into
their brackish world.
Made of mud and grass, anaerobic microbes,
this fringed fen took up water,
and breathed it back to the ocean.
Where crabs and fish, grass and willows
bathed in more water than the world could absorb.
Like my lonely 12-year-old self, it stood on the verge of that suburb.
In legal terms, all wetlands have been waters of the U.S.,
a phrase wrangled between Army Corps and EPA for 20 years,
finally codified this past March.
Frozen in the Federal Register for four weeks,
The definition said that the seeps and ephemeral streams
that rise up in floods,
where egrets and herons spear fish
and frogs announce spring,
were protected by those simple words, waters of the U.S.
But last week, our black-robed Justices assumed the authority
of scientific studies penned by men and women who
have stooped and sampled porewater,
dissected the tissue of clams,
measured the fractal motion of the tides,
and predicted catastrophes of climate.
All the knowledge and love of these fragile filters,
the French-curve fringes between roads,
and the wild ocean,
matters not as much as
the heavy leverage of money or the influence of a bro in a game of golf.
Someone appealed to Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Thomas, and Barrett
to pen an opinion that
wipes away thousands of miles of coastline and inland waterways
from protection as waters of the U.S.
I hope the gold to be gained shines brighter than
the flash of afternoon sun on a rising tide.
I hope the pound of flesh they will make is worth more than
the handful of cold minnows
that taught me more about being alive
than any science class.
Paved and riprapped,
hardened on an unimaginable scale,
will filtering wetlands live on only in legends?
Good luck to those who inherit the earth,
we did not love it enough for you.
I JUST WANT TO BE LOVED / Khaya Osborne
i take a supplement
boosting my liver’s ability
to cleanse itself. getting drunk
takes so much effort, i have resorted
to meditation & feeling how i feel.
the rabbits in my neighborhood do not care
how gentle my soul is. they see a large, looming
something on asynchronous legs & recuse
themselves of its company. animal bigotry
is so sensible. no one who’s ever fucked me
has bought me chocolate or balloons. only
my father. the man i crave tonight is half
my size. we discuss his trauma at length. he does
not want to cuddle. at the bar, other comics tell me
how hilarious i am, how talented. they pat me
on the shoulders, never bother with saying, “get
home safe”—i don’t look like that. i look like
i always know where i’m going. i look like
i’ve made it this far & that will always be enough.
Brother / P.F. Potvin
He woke before dawn
and cradled her on the couch
like a gorilla. “You can be
an inventor in my movie
He woke before dawn
and sprawled on her blanket,
studying her face
until she balled.
He woke before dawn
and sang, “Your cheeks are so big
you can’t see your neck.”
He woke before dawn
and told her the tale
of “The Three Musketbears.”
He woke before dawn
and poked her cheeks while
proclaiming her “The Caker.”
He woke before dawn
and showed her how to balance
eleven hats on one bopping head.
He woke before dawn
and huffed her stroller up
and down the gravel drive.
He woke before dawn
and confessed, “She’s a superhero
who throws cakes at bad guys.”
He woke before dawn
and confessed that all
his pennies were finally
Capricorn Cusp / Jenny Stohlman
The changes come unexpectedly
I can no longer quite remember what
Bedlam smelled like at 3 a.m. through my drunk nose
And at some point I formed a strong opinion
About the daily habits of mischievous goats
Livestock and humans, we like to get our heads stuck into things
It is no longer just the skin under my arms that is soft
But my chin and second chin and now
My forehead, just like my grandmother’s looked
Peaceful, but not untouched by years of sun
Every day I am still me
When I look across the easement, I focus on the purple tinge of brush
There are power lines in the foreground, but my brain doesn’t give a fuck
All I see are purple hands stretching out of green lush
I wander into the live wires, body gone purple before my mind’s unstuck
Probably Not a Ghost Story / Hailey Williams
After Mark Wunderlich
Momma drove us past
the haunted house
twice daily, to and from school.
White, with a caved roof,
field stone chimney
visible each winter
on Sugar Loaf Mountain,
when crab apple limbs
hung empty & underbrush
was tamed by thirst.
A fascination for a trio
of bowl-cut youngsters,
for a time. No way of knowing
what drove the folks out.
Fodder for fireside fables,
forgotten each spring
behind new growth.
Just once, Momma
pulled the car over,
herded us through
the long grass,
said I’ll go first.
Sprawling white porch,
planks broken & diving,
shards of window glass
& grand daddy long legs
the primary residents
besides the unopened jar
of picante salsa
found in the dark icebox.
The ghosts hid from us
like wild cats. The house
was its own ghost,
we poked around its ribs.
We knew what it was,
then, to be shelled.
Those wooden guts
spilled across swaths
of untended farmland.
We took the salsa home,
for science. Momma
never let us taste it.
Years later, I saw smoke
issuing out the chimney.
Maybe a daydream.
Day 2 / Poem 2
Live Music Hour / Jane Elias
All that leaks through my living room wall—
a pair of middle school sax players,
Nordic sisters duetting every eve at six.
I don’t really know if they’re Nordic
or sisters or in sixth grade or seventh
but when else would you, relentless
and tall, honk rock guitar riffs
as if you were born for more
than this stage-band arrangement.
Yes, in my mind’s eye their hair,
flaxen, low-ponied, slow to tangle,
hangs like spare brass bells
while I, in the neighboring cell,
earworm-infected, mark time—
Why can’t I Shazam this?
This tune, so famous that even here alone
the shame of googling overtakes me.
“The 50 Greatest Guitar Riffs of All Time,”
says Total Guitar mag, and I scan,
convinced the list will bring me home.
I know it’s not Zeppelin or Eagles or Ozzy—
but for the love of God what is it.
And there, just behind “Back in Black,”
coming in at number four: “Smoke on the Water.”
If I had two daughters like my neighbors
on the threshold of a new age,
would I want them carried
over by Deep Purple circa 1972?
Who will show them the fires in the sky
are not just Swiss casinos turned infernos
the night Frank Zappa came to play?
And if I tap out the rhythm on our shared wall,
will they even understand I am listening?
The meadowlands complex american dream mall contains the following shops: / Alix Jason
Sweat Sock Nymphs
Just Shoulders 4 Kid
The Bus Stop (no loitering please)
Soft Hometown Rejection (newly renovated)
6 Tanning salons (one of which is carousel themed)
Surly Pearly’s Fried Desires
The Ran Through
Sweet Bee’s Sweet Knees
The Missed Exit
Heart Stopper’s Jalapeno Poppers
Wheels! Wheels! Wheels !
The Meditation Room (but the staff just smoke in here)
Xanadu’s Lingering Sporting Goods
Xanadu’s Lingering Lingerie
Hope Dies / Heather Katzoff
Hope dies in the bottom of a drawer
or in a shoebox, hidden
in a dark corner of a closet
ignored, then forgotten, like the baby
clothes bought on sale
when the cries of children
seemed more sure, when I imagined
there would be progeny, some tie
to bind my blood to this rock
securing the lineage of diamonds
twisted in platinum, the ring
a matriarch bore. The band survived
four generations, passed from one hand
to the next, now collecting dust,
seldom worn, a shiny reminder
of failed attempts and broken hearts
of wishful waiting and poor prayer
of tears and lies, but what for?
Poems half-written, letters unsent, loves never confessed
pour into this secret hole in my heart
awaiting their final release.
Hope is dying in the bottom of this drawer
dissolving slowly as the years pass by
though the time of its death remains unsure.
The Hardworking, Loving Kind / Jessica Kinnison
A whole momma’s boy he stayed up all night
body found 50 yards from the road in Holly Springs National Forest
five teenage cousins hit the bridge wall, died
in the creek grown man drove his ATV off the bridge, falling 30 feet
many people separated Rasheem’s spinal cord
from him in Taylorsville without knowing it I carried an ancient snake with me
up onto the porch he spilled out of the hollow arm
of the umbrella starting toward my mother we both stood there trying to see
what was happening right in front of us Olympian
cause of death unknown two women shot each other dead on Facebook Live
a modern Russian Roulette with no winner
in the community of Money Carolyn Bryant killed Emmett Till more than a wolf whistle
she said she was more than a wolf whistle
the tornado picked up and dropped a semi-trailer like a bomb on the couple’s house
“they were good,” another neighbor said “about the best,
I can tell you that” the next morning, their front yard was covered in trophy deer antlers.
Packing / Jessica Letteney
Why do I pack so much for a two-day stay?
The optimistic swimsuit,
realistic down jacket and pessimistic rain pants.
I pile up the comforts of home:
wool socks and a pair of Crocs,
a box with books on feathers, on water, poetry, and conflict.
From his dying hospital bed, my father said, “You always bring too much.”
But that wasn’t always true.
In my twenties, I
wore only flip flops and white shorts to a cabin the woods,
dove off a dock in a pencil skirt and pumps.
I packed less than a carry-on, but it was still flight.
I don’t miss my unbearable lightness,
the weight of a bottle in my bag,
my constant thirst for a shot at oblivion.
Sixty years on, I want so much to be awake for
the shadow of a buck browsing next to my tent,
the first mug of coffee steaming in my hands,
the dazzle in grass after rain falls,
and the resting heaviness of my bones as the earth begins to welcome me back.
Presence and possibility,
lugging too many books to the beach—
these are good trades for all that gorgeous youth and
the unconcern of traveling without my toothbrush.
THIS POEM IS ABOUT RAPE / Khaya Osborne
on the way home from the wilson red line station, i pass
a fragrant jasmine tree with many crushed, wilted flowers littering
its base. the tree is well-loved, carefully groomed. still, many
battered petals surround its roots. when the wind is strong,
its leaves sway with grief. the last man to kiss this neck
earnestly, the last man i enjoyed, is not speaking to me.
this is a recurring life pattern. my loneliness is my fault.
i drink bone broth in the mornings; everything else is too
heavy for the stomach. the body must first absorb salt—
torture the tongue with too much taste—before it can hold
water. i don’t think i’ll be a good mother; i want to raise
the children as offerings to themselves, not the world.
i tell jokes one can only enjoy if they have ever invited
a speculum into the body, felt every flash of the camera
land on thin, lacerated skin like meteorites breaking
through the ocean’s surface. octopi are not of this earth.
i believe some unwelcome rock penetrated the sea, made her birth
its seed & she just kept doing that over and over again, because that
is what mothers do. i got drunk tonight. & the night before.
& the night before that. don’t worry—nothing really belongs to me.
regarding the children, i would name them after beautiful
things: rage. machete. aggression. cyanide. dishonesty. i want them
to live longer and better than i ever could. there is no safety
in aspiring to softness i think it should be illegal to name
little girls after flowers. my name means home. it comes from a language
that comes from a people who currently bleed more than they laugh. every six
minutes in that country, someone with a vagina is challenged to a duel of counting
evil’s harshest seconds. perhaps they stare at the ground, or the ceiling, or the wall.
perhaps there are flowers in the room or on the road or in their hair. perhaps those
flowers smell sweet, irresistible. how do you heal from that which never ends?
Prescribed Burn / P.F. Potvin
When the crayfish snaps
its fingers on the creek
edge, the queen
snake flicks about, tongues
for beats before rocketing
through sedge and stone with a slender
whisper and who would muse
that tomorrow goggled
men in mustard
jumpsuits with blowtorches
would wave me across
the field, my footfalls
crunching over char as I sprint,
catching the wing of a heron
startled from an adjacent
marsh, holding both our breaths
In Care / Jenny Stohlman
I’ll be reconciling with the meaning of parenthood forever
I say confidently, I will never have children of my own
And what would it mean to be mine
To live in my house
To receive my love
To add to the grocery list on the fridge
To piss me off
To pick out the movie on Netflix
And what if I take out my IUD
And what if I fall in love
And what if my uterus swells
And what if it isn’t a tumor this time
And what if I am already a parent
Would I go in for a D&C
What would it mean to be mine
Children’s fresh cartilage helps them bounce back
From falls onto the grass
From the knowledge that they have been neglected
From the complexity that the pregnancy wasn’t planned
From the story of how their scared mother
Waved the test through the stream of urine beneath her still-bruised mons
But I am getting older and more brittle
I do not spring up against gravity after I fall to the ground crying
I remember every minute of the pain
Until I can’t remember the minutes
I kneel on the ground searching for graves between the weeds
I scrub the headstones clean
Can the dead belong to me again
Or the ones never born
What about the ones right here in my house
The ones who make it a home
Can I remove the idea of possession from my love and simply let it go
What would it mean to be family to a person I would never say I owned
Try It Again / Hailey Williams
Something you haven’t
in a while. Start
small. For example,
look at the ground
All its green & crawling,
all its bald spots
all the breathing things
clinging. Try sunning,
writing with pen & paper,
eating a raw tomato
like an apple. The way
grandma ate onions, all teeth.
Try making time
to laugh once a day.
Just once. Half of once
if it’s all you can spare.
Try pulling wild grasses
out of the bewildered lawn
& bundle them in your arms,
tread poison oak lined paths
towards a friend’s place
on a hillside by a creek.
Let it remind you
of somewhere you lived
when you were very young,
before you carried grief
in every pocket. For example,
try scooping the red clay —
pound it gritless,
releas the air bubbles,
save the color red
under your fingernails.
Prepare it, like a higher power,
for its next form.
Day 1 / Poem 1
Overdue Process / Jane Elias
I assemble timeworn wants like litigants
who plumb forgot to sock away.
They sow a discord that grows expectant.
It’s class action on behalf of I can’t
even—though someone’s got to pay,
no? So assemble the timeworn wants like litigants.
Let each one make her case for most repentant,
the ones who hid in the oven and the ones overtly delayed—
until they sow their discord, grow expectant.
Whoever’s on the bench you better respect and
I’m not kidding this time. Today and only today,
assemble your timeworn wants like litigants.
Christ, are those your unborn descendants
standing in the back? They got skin in this game:
you’ve sown discord, they’ve grown expectant.
The din’s too much now for any sound judgment,
Her Honor’s handing down will just have to wait.
I’ll assemble, timeworn. Wants like litigants.
Sow. Discord. Grow. Expectant.
Asbury Park Rat Race / Alix Jason
New Jersey NASCAR favors clown drivers
stacks their odds
the state’s name is printed incorrectly on the flag at the finish line
it reads “ New Jeresey”
as in heresy
as in shit talking the king
scatters shoe strings
from her remote control go kart
and floors it
down the track
her engine fails
the pit stop rats descend
to chew the wires back into place
Mary takes off
but is leaking down the track
she is shedding wires
Mary and her kart are dripping
puddles of not quite flavor syrup
Westbound on 78 / Heather Katzoff
The highway meanders, forcing cars to turn north,
and then south, weaving through farmlands
and woodlands, dodging mountains
and following rivers before abandoning them.
The sun pokes through the gaps as it falls
to the horizon, disappearing behind one peak
reemerging from above another just as suddenly
as the road turns again.
Light catches the quartz in the ridge
and we’re frozen in fairy magic for a moment.
The collision that inevitably follows looks tragic
and everyone slows to stare at the wreckage.
Love is like that:
meandering and magical and blinding,
equal parts beauty and pain
but I promise you, you’ll miss it when it’s gone.
Something in the Way / Jessica Kinnison
you lay all your love on me makes me want to run out of my own skin/ I try to run
down Music Street, non-monogamous and elated/ a pro-rated life/
I get the time back with a receipt that disappears into solid air
then comes traffic/ comes rain/ comes empty bed/ a downed power line stuck in a car wheel/
drinking/ comes sacrifice and an image of you on your deathbed/ you don’t know what
it’s like on your deathbed/ not like I do/ orange light, a Christlike tableau, velvet fit for a royal chamber,
your delicate robe of golden thread/ you don’t know what it’s like/ to love someone the way
I love you/ oppositionally / it’s a Cracker Barrel brunch all day long/ free bleeding into a rainstorm
that never comes/ a temporary no parking sign the day I park my new car
on my own street/ he was an outlaw and she was an angel/ she could out cuss a sailor
and that’s the truth. The truth/ you don’t know what it’s like to love someone the way I love
you/ or do you/ do I/ birds in the sky Ana, Dinah, Annabel Lee, Bill, Sara, the “you” the singer sings to
wanting you/ hands like weeds disrupting the sidewalk with bloom,
buckling it unrecognizable/ a pile of sand glistening in the morning light/ quiet
birds everywhere/ all the time, all the time/ wanting you blue-breasted,
red tufted, pink wing-ed/ making nests, one wet branch at a time/ balancing in the rain
and wind/ holding on by a claw/ what would I be buried in/ a Stetson hat/ a gold watch
chain/ a Delta field of winter grass / a poem /
Spring Ferns / Jessica Letteney
Spring ferns quicken in mystery.
Bracken ferns sprout
lacy luna moths pinned to stems,
the first to proclaim.
Deer fern are purple spirals keeping
secrets in the shade.
Sword ferns unroll
in heavy ringlets,
waiting for rain.
Maidenhair’s slender sticks droop with
knobs tight as baby fists
before they let down their tresses.
These green flags aloft
above the duff of the forest floor
herald the heat of summer in their slow-motion flights.
THIS POEM IS ABOUT RACE / Khaya Osborne
you can plan to thwart the devil; god will
laugh & remind you he that nigga father.
i hold so much secret animosity for nature
& time. last i gripped grass with my bare toes,
i cried. the next morning, i awoke covered in bug bites.
it seems like everything knows how to protect itself, except
me. i spend late hours in strange streets, filling my ears
with music. i tell the men i love what they mean to me. my bone
broth simmers at all hours, even in my sleep. a deep breath is only
so when you don’t cough at the end. before i have sex, a man waits
in my foyer while i count the bills & hide them. i won’t let him kiss
me & he doesn’t ask; he’s not here for that. this morning, a procession
of small children in bright yellow safety jackets holding ropes
with holes in them passed my porch. someone cried loudly & the teacher,
her voice resonant with honeyed irritation, said “you’re okay,” when i dream
of motherhood, it is of violence. cutting, cursing, killing any who’d dare harm
my babies—the men in grocery stores with their hands conspicuously
deep in their front pockets, the men on park benches, at bus stops, in bars,
at school telling them, “where you goin’? let me come with you. you look like
you need company.” how my children, beautiful & trusting & grown because i have
loved them, may offer the benefit of the doubt. may offer their last smile. the same
smile they slept in my arms with at the hospital, their little plastic crib unoccupied,
displaying their names and birth weights on the sides. i was taught to gauge all dangers
before succumbing to joy. my mother never bought me white shoes as a child. “too
clean,” she’d say “you have too much energy. i know you’d ruin them.”
In the Kitchen / P.F. Potvin
“One dad is good. But
two dads would be
awesome, so both could
play cats, tea party, and
dance with us. And it would be
really, really, awesome to have
three dads, so two could
play skateboards and cards and sew
puppets with us and one could
do all the dishes.”
Sugar, Darlin’, Honey-Pie / Jenny Stohlman
I always knew I had sweetness in my blood
Even as I tasted my own sour tongue
I’m getting used to the needle’s prick in morning skin
A sharp reminder that getting too sweet can stick a sickness deep within
“Aren’t you sweet?” they ask like, “Bless your heart!”
And the tone conveys the sin that’s judged between the wordy parts
If you want to be your self down south it might be hard
Because the self is something a sweet woman’s been expected to discard
So you walk on wounded feet until your house is clean
And at the end of the night you check your toes to make sure they aren’t still bleeding
Where southern sun has spilled the tea into your veins
The syrup thick and red won’t let your capillaries drain
But the bitterness of mind must be made bright like lemon rind
For black tea, for black dirt, for tomato sandwich time
A sugar pill, a water pill, a shot to jab yourself with
A sweeter girl they’ve never known, they just can’t taste our blood yet
Road Trip Poem / Hailey Williams
Your somebody is waving you off
as you pull the hot vehicle into traffic,
your eyes disengaging from theirs
like the loosening of a hair ribbon.
Your somebody isn’t filling the miles
with their deep singing voice,
their cologne isn’t permeating shared air,
you don’t judge other drivers together,
you don’t debate the urgency
of the Joe Rogan Podcast &
stop so they can buy Jack Link’s.
Instead you watch the South Carolina
sandhills thread by, followed by piedmont,
snaking your way to the foothills
of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where
a childhood friend waits to rediscover you
over a box of fried chicken. You’ll tell them
it’s been too long, because it has.
You’ll tell them you remember playing
survival in the backyard of their house
when you were 12. They were the only
one who still wanted to climb trees
when everyone else in suburbia
was learning how to pluck their eyebrows
and flirt with boys. You won’t admit
you’re here for selfish reasons,
some assurance you are still yourself,
despite the engagement ring.
Some evidence of the girl who went flying
and hallooing through the myrtle branches,
a girl who was her own somebody.