THE June, 2024 30/30 PROJECT PAGE

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 are: Emily Badri, Sarah Borruto, Eliana Du, Shir Kehila, Ashby Logan Hill, Michael Seward, Andrea Simpson, Kerry Trautman, and Sarah Vande Kamp.

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

Day 17 / Poem 17

I hunch over to smell the flowers
long after they’ve died. Wilting 
with them in a formation of synchronized 
swimmers gently collapsing into a 
quiet flatline— nature versus nurture 
in tandem with eternal sleep. 
How many times must we wake
until we feel alive? The spring 
is never warm enough. I’m stuck waiting
for a hand to grab me by my shirt collar 
and straighten my spine into a sun-kissed
scythe— a farmer in the grim reaper’s cloak
harvesting bales of moth-eaten crops 
to feed the field-fallen children.

I miss the smell of the ferns
The gentle curl of acanthus
Yearning for my ankles
Bending to my bare feet

I miss the dew-studded sunrise
Dancing to the beat of
Rain in the forest
Music of the petrichorus

I miss the touch of the lichen
Pillow of the gods
Soft in my ear
When I slept by the bog

Sit around the table
and don’t want my grandma
to join. The class queen
is in her eighties and isn’t
over it. Doesn’t say hello. 
In the pool, she pretends
not to see. I’ve been waving,
says my grandma, courageous
suddenly behind her goggles. 
I know, the queen replies
from the opposite lane, I’m not
your friend. I’m in the third
grade.  My grandma
shrugs now and takes a sip
of almond butter. That’s thick,
she says, I didn’t remember.
Wrinkling her nose, she sets
the glass jar down like a shot.

Flying backwards
like the
hummingbird from
trumpet vine
or a 
blue whale
swimming through
the deep,
you head
west back
into the
setting sun
slipping away
like an
octopus does
escaping with
blue ink,
across roads
into the
blue mountains
of unknowns
thinking, if 
not here,
than where
else but
anywhere else, 
wind binds
billowing in 
from all
corners of
the earth
another world
to surprise
you on
your journey
driving deep
into the 
pouring out
of memory
from first
to last
out west
never 
returning

soujouk                        the Kurdish way to drink coffee
                        eggs                             fries with za’atar
   scarves that linger back to sumeria
taste, touch, tremble with the motherland

                                                                                        grinds at the bottom
the orphaned, combative                                              bottom
the plain textured turban                                               bottom
                                                                                     wearing
   scarves that tremor lake michigan

a biker asking if I “know how to swim”
                                                                                             and I do
                                                                          so throw me to the river then
                                                                                          throw me to the
sea                                                                   for wearing a scarf made of
heritable silk                                                    wolves
oysters on the half shell                                   clotheslining
wearing hirbawi                                               people’s elbow
pierce the iron helmet                          imperial projects

& I would fight a titan in bikers’ clothing
but it is eid and you are fasting
& I will let this hunking muscleheaded adonis toss me off of the bridge nearest to Lake Shore Drive

                        let there be ambient saxophone flourish as I fall, eyes without compass
                        let the dramamine save me
                        letters to aboudi in the wind

            strung gallows
            oriole perch
            seamoss & barnacle broth

thankful that he wheeled on by and talked his shit instead
but I was ready to die
for my stereotype
for the first time
I am home
my people

The  train’s whistle,
close mouthed hum.  Tapping 
fingernails,  Morse Code 
of time filling coffee-
stained-cups-no-matter-
how-many-washes.  
Bourbon’s full taste—
fire licked from her 
fingers.  Each bedroom 
a matching coverlet.  
Today’s plastic doll
face. Ask her for her number, 
her name, her Wild Orchid kiss pressed
tissue.  Her imprint’s calling 
card.  Perfume stained
necklines and shedding 
second skin stockings.  
A quarter carat 
slid between the couch 
cushions, behind the dresser 
drawer, inside Anna Karenina. 
Broken doorbell singing;
bathwater epiphany. The feeling 
of anything hers in her hand: 
hard metal iron 
shovel, wrench, pocket 
Watch from her father.   An iris 
pin in her lapel,
practical shoe wear.  Look 
out the picture window 
past the drive, past the field 
filling punctuated snow.

 
 

           (after “Nanna’s Lied” by 
            Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill)

We don’t all have the luxury of
a cabaret to drown brains in song,
fringe and gin, to suspend rent
and faschists as if in a foot-lit 
bomb shelter stocked with sex
and highballs. Nanna could have 
been friends with Sally, Elsie, and 
Fraulein Kost. If not friends, a fellow
body  to drink gin with untouched, 
un-impressable. Spin your body
in circles, choose a face, guess at
who they might hurt if forced, if
given an opening. And yet we
launder clothes, write checks for 
electric, mow lawns as if a neighbor
could draw a sword any moment.
Sometimes even when you know 
damn well what’s coming, still you 
move your body’s softeness through 
each day exploding around you, 
as if desire for something different 
could make a difference. If you just 
keep singing, dancing your muscles 
against the friction of the air, 
it might 
give in.

you’re brushing your teeth
i’m looking at you in the mirror
but you’re looking at me directly 
both looking not meeting eyes
both wandering wondering 
is it a surprise that people
say relationships are hard 
or it is a condition of the heart 
say relationships are hard
is it a surprise that people
both wandering wondering
both looking not meeting eyes
but you’re looking at me directly
i’m looking at you in the mirror
you’re brushing your teeth 

Day 16 / Poem 16

Do you know what happens to hands that go digging through stone?

They need to be held they need to be held

No one’s made for war

No watcher waiter fighter statesmen mother baby animal

It’s not the first time it’s the most aired time

the time where the most (of some of us) at once have looked up and kept looking through our fingers and started full face seeing and tugging and teething and aching and weeping and 

Moaning is near to death

Draw near to it to not die

Or to honor the dying the gone 

Soulswept on out of this hell to a peace they deserved here we could’ve facilitated here with all the seeds and water and sun and skill we have between us

Groan grease in the gears the holy ones that move us out and away from fire and brimstone 

I see all of my past lives 
collecting like seashells
in a mason jar sitting on a shelf
I’ve made into a pedestal.

I don’t remember each beach
they came from, but I know
the sand was between my toes,
sticking to my heels and shedding
like a trail of snake skin 
on the boardwalk. Coating 
in a coarse-grained armor 
that shades the creatures 
dwelling underneath. 

A keepsake I can’t stop 
praying to. Starting each morning
unscrewing the head of a small God, 
pouring its salty organs into my palms 
to bandage each blister. Will I live
my next life if I let them go? Clear
the altar and give them back to the ocean,
plunging into the past to come up for air
in a purgatorial baptism

 
 

Waiting is easy; my time is yours
To spend as you feel; your wish is my command
For you I’d wait the course

You always run late, but I’m never bored
Predictability makes life bland
Waiting is easy; my time is yours

You say you need time; I say sure
Feelings are uncertain and there’s more sea than land
For you I’d wait the course

A month, a year, then maybe more
I remind myself to understand
Waiting is easy; my time is yours

Subconsciously, I keep score
I plead, don’t let me sink here in quicksand
For you I’d wait the course

I pry at the floorboards till my fingers turn coarse
I cannot pick up my feet; I can only stand
Waiting is easy; my time is yours
For you I know I’d wait the course

 
 

Haze sweeps through the cove
like judgment. You’re here, too,
judged. The rocks are warm 
but cloaked white like the grass,
the disappearing lighthouse. Deer

graze by a mailbox, where asphalt
crumbles to dirt, where the forest
opens to meadow. Their habitats,
I learn, are much like ours: 
thresholds. Maine is an edge,
trailing the limits of endurance. 

Nostalgic for what I remember 
or imagine. Nostalgic for the hit
of ice water, the concept of childhood,
wet towels flapping the tan backs 
of girls as they run. Did this happen? 

In my dream, a friend texts she now
needs a cane to walk. An extra limb, 
an extension of herself, like nostalgia, 
like deer antlers: the fastest-growing
animal tissue on earth, a bone outside
the body. 

 

Tent along highway
Cicada song
Not gone but down

Beach today
Before baseball
To catch waves

About music
Or to be sung
What it is or are you are after

In tune with you
If for another moment
As blue as the sun

Not gone but down
Of siren’s song
Recurring 

Wake up now

you know what a bindle is?
I found out not too long ago
it’s a stick and a bandana or burlap or paisley or plaid or burlap or patchwork or silk or linen or burlap or skin or burlap or really whatever will fit only the necessaries

I have no idea what the necessaries are
is it supposed to look different for everyone?
it feels superstitious to want to need what everyone else needs

there’s only so much space in a bindle
so much the bough can take before turning
even burlap will split under the weight of what everyone needs
a splitting sound can’t fit in my bindle
401k paperwork can not fit in my bindle
scissors have several villas and burlap front properties in my bindle
gluesticks rent from the scissors
tiny shreds of torn pages insulate the burlap

shapes fit in my bindle but I have no use for geometry
you fit in my bindle but I’d have to remove what makes you you

my existence is much more equipped for fisherman’s vests
the need to carry something fits in any bindle, but is far too large for a fisherman’s vest pocket.

I have never worked for anyone nautically
I will never put down my burlap stick
it may be empty, and you may walk beside me
vests all full of organs and utensils
but I do not need what everyone else needs
i will carry my nothings through necessary streets
and navy piers
and obituaries
burlap is all I have left to need

Bleached wood planks over 
wetlands. The black racer’s head
bobs as my skin sheds–

not the first time to 
walk out of my own body.  
The day he left, my 

eyes turned opaque, my 
tongue split, and I peeled away 
14 years. Turned the 

camera angle towards 
my grief and documented 
this forced sloughing off.

Tv news and diving crews
search for Titan gone missing 
while tourist-ing Titanic
wreckage. Five on board

had assumed they would survive
chosen sunkenness. The two-
thousand on Titanic chose
unsinkable-ness.

“Titanic the Musical”
revives lost lives, then sinks them
again each curtain. What do 
they draw from deep down?

We visit a traveling 
exhibit of Titanic 
artifacts. The kids wide-eyed
at what the sea took

perhaps wondering what risks
their lives take not knowing they 
are risks at all, assuming 
we know the ending.

it’s already hot in my room 
at noon  
summer is pulling all the blinds
open 
and i’m naked in my bed 

time is not my enemy today 
not like may
but it isn’t my friend 
it’s just 
i don’t trust the days

how fast does it take to unlove
from above
i look down on my exposure 
uncover up 
even with everyone looking in

her heat peels my body open
it’s unspoken 
but we’re rewriting our lives
this season
i can’t tell if this is freedom 

 

Day 15 / Poem 15

Half moon half grown

Can you transplant radish?

A transplant’s all that stood a chance

When scorcher took to room

You save and take and give and lose

I’m doing what I can 

I mended up the soil here

I measured it by hand

By moonlight I am bitten as the poison ivy spreads

The worms keep right on weaving

We charred this part by plan

The tapestries aren’t finished 

The books might even turn

My ears are sick

The ceiling cracks

I coat me calamine

Resentment takes its form 
in a face-down cascade of moss matted
hair tangled in a lacustrine grave. They say
a scorned child makes an evil woman. 

A burden to her own deathbed, circling
an undying wound. She reaps the punishment
of becoming the punisher— stalking the shoreline
to make a victim out of a cruel world. 

It’s possible to drown more than once.
You could drown your whole life before 
you’ve even touched water. Just how a woman
can spend an afterlife proving to be good,
fighting to be clean, wielding beauty as a weapon

Day-15-Tupelo-30_30

After the breach, the state
informs me of the possible
theft of my data, offering 
a free annual identity
defense membership. The state
assumes I want my identity
protected. It assumes 
my identity hadn’t been,
years ago, reassumed—
that I wasn’t, in some 
small way, glad
to let it go—that I’m not,
right now, trying 
to do the same. “Very early 
in my life,” Duras had written,
“it was too late.” The trap
door flipped open, blending
floor and ceiling—my phone’s
dark connections, the laptop’s
hard tissue—my own
naked guilt, sticking its bare
hands through—

 
  [here again]
 

                obsidian

             but not like

            translucent glass

                 a golden arch

                  in a rainstorm

                 from the ground up

                            to be fused

                  sand beckons

                            to stone

                          turns sediment

                            like sun

                            into the sky

                            folding up

                       like lightening

                                    [ here again]

                                 Reverse Osmosis

 
 
 
 
 

bracelets, hanging and clinking
skinny again. being worn
                        but when my mother calls me
recalling the bedazzled moments
            the not slender but sleeking shadows approach
                        as the sun hangs the mountain line and horizon

eroded as we are, from weathering dunes
            of affliction for who’s militia
when my mother calls              who’s neighborhood watches
she listens to                                                    who’s existential drones
my pretty little achievements
and tells me that she’s so proud
                                              but nothing would make her smile more
                                                        than if I fed myself properly

but how we hold the jewelry
            the yurman
            the lladro
            the fleming, the bronze is what welds us together
                                                nothing would make her happier
                                              than if I couldn’t fit these bracelets
                                                if my wrists resembled those of
                                             someone nourished, with blubber
                                                                or fleece

fat is what keeps things from sticking to
hot metal surfaces
fat renders nourishment
for all this marrow

when she calls,
she looks away as
pretty little beads tumble from my gaping, hollow-crested mouth
rubies and ottoman daggers follow
something revolting in every swallow
they say that “you are what you eat”
in full I would hope “you are not what you vomit”

I’m counting stars, four hundred and eleven 
so far.  Twelve now.  It is quiet.  Listen to the Earth 
heal herself.  Listen to her purr–a chiropractic 
practice of realigning the broken.  
Not a heart.  That is an entirely 
different brokenness no purring can save.  
When my daughter tossed back a handful 
of tiny blue pills, they could’ve been stars.  
The seven sisters taking root
in her belly.  She waited hours before her 
bravery waned.  Before the listing of her 
body was a ship and not a solid thing–
her root system asunder.  
                                               Today I manage 
plates.  I bring in plates and take plates away.  
I touch her forehead as if a fever 
could be the cause of this unanswered 
illness.  A plate with fruit, a plate with ham 
juice glistening.  I touch her hair
rub her back–these rooted motions 
all ancient mothers have rehearsed and mastered.

My stupid body doesn’t know
it’s supposed to sleep-in
on vacation. It wakes for hotel
lobby coffee with other
middle-aged guests while my
husband sleeps. Trash truck 
rumbles and front-walk hose 
spray waft in the glass doors 
with bus exhaust and damp of 
overnight-cooled asphalt. 
The day’s anticipated heat 
and evening storms prick air 
like remnants of unsettled 
dreams and toss-and-turn 
bed frame creaks. We will visit
Revolution battle monuments, 
Triangle Shirtwaist memorial,
African burial ground, lick a
vanilla cone with sprinkles from
the Mr. Softee truck. I read in 
the temporary neon of vacation, 
knowing problems back home 
will still be there when we get 
back, coffee cooling in its 
stained paper cup. A vacuum 
cleaner hums in a tired hallway,
emptiness like yesterday, after 
check-in, watching the huge 
hotel bar across from our room 
at 3pm, waiting to be filled.

1. axillary 

tell me of the items you shoulder 
unsolicited family portraits 
being made fun of 
for swallowing water too hard 
there is so much blood here 
this river of shame so wide 

2. deep brachial 

damn the straight and narrow 
there are so many other things
that need to be nourished
outside of the center 
my love for women is both 
deeper and closer to the surface 

3. radial 

i touch your arm and am surprised
there is rock and soil and seeds here
tell me of the ways you pick yourself up
i do pushups in the background 
pushing down against earth 
a face underground smiles 

4. deep palmar arch 

a palm is a loop that connects everything
hands are full of them these connections
we press our rivelets together 
and the flow quickens 
i hope you give up shame 
nourish outside the center grow your bones 

1. over a centimeter thick, the axillary vein is a large, deep vein moving through the chest to the upper arm.
2.  the deep brachial vein branches from the brachial artery wrapping around the humerus bone, then rejoining the artery again inside the elbow.
3. the radial artery serves the forearm. it is what you feel when you take a pulse at the wrist. 
4.deep palmar arch is an arterial network found in the palm. it lays next to a nerve moving in the opposite direction.

Day 14 / Poem 14

Starkstreak

See your face? 

Tell it what to do

Real smile

With your eyes

Wipe away the glue

Don’t run

Don’t melt

Keep your spine like so

Plant your feet and pick them up

Make some sound for show

They’re waiting and they’re watching you

Been waiting all the while 

So now you let the music in

You won’t die when you dive

These days, when sorrow’s sunburn begins to peel
and pitchforks become the finest silverware, 
fruit doesn’t taste as forbidden. The fuller the mouth,
the bigger the bite— raking teeth across
the flushed cheeks of an apple, sinking down into
miniature craters that wrap around the bloodshot orb
in chain links. Every good feast ends with a primal 
wipe of the arm across the mouth and a toss 
of the rind for the seeds to start over again. 
I don’t know if I’ll have the same chance. 

How can I have a metamorphosis
if life is man-made? My dreams are roadkill,
the most natural of instincts unfit 
for a modern paved world. Where wanting to get
to the other side is asking for too much. I’m so close 
to experiencing a new day. I’m a three-legged dog 
pawing at the grass looking for a four leaf clover.
Willing to limp across the road to see if it’s
in a different field.

 
 

And you told of the charm of that haloed view
That everything had happened ere
In voice of troubled tune
I am here and you are there

Love is a terrible thing: sweet for a space
She vanished with a curious smile
Dim wastes of dead years bar away
She would whisper she was blest by my clasp awhile

Thereaft I walked the world alone
O journeying boy towards a world unknown

At the hostel in the Dolomites
after the second car broke down,
we check in. He asks for more
blankets before seeing the room. 
There’ll be enough for you, sir,
the clerk says. I’m sure. I’m sure
there won’t, says my dad. I’m not
quite following, not yet fluent,
but I understand the expression
on the clerk’s face. No, he says,
we don’t have extras. (Or something
to that effect.) My dad insists. The clerk
calls another clerk, their faces 
tilted down, spilling off the rims.
The shame ivy in my chest
drinks. Grows heavy and creeps up. 
We’ll be fine, dad, I say, why—
and he turns to me, his own face
beating like a heart. Don’t you ever, 
he warns, contradict me in public
again. His eyes bear into mine. But I
didn’t—I start, 
then back up—they don’t understand
our language. They don’t need to, 
says my dad. I back up as in retreat, 
but also, having no other choice,
support. It’s winter, the off-season,
the reason we can be here. Later tonight
we’ll have the first warm meal
of the week. Later in the week, 
we’ll fight about camera film. (Too
expensive.) Much later I’ll move
two hours south of here, alone
to this country he loved, and later
still to another, where he’d stopped 
loving god. Here, I’ll learn a bird
can be carved out of wood, but also
out of its own body. I’ll learn one
can dust shelves but also cakes,
overlook the small, dark detail
of a contract, but also the tunnel
at night, his shaken eyes, cold still 
under the many blankets, his two
war pupils looking both ways. 

Awakening from sleep,
the hum of blades slicing
through the morning air
of the box fan arises
to make you fall back
into slumber—dream
of your father and mother
dancing at your cousin’s
wedding. Rolling pins
sit above you on the 
counter, hoping not 
to fall, knocking you
further into dreaming.
Before waking, you imagine
the green pasture
lined with osage orange,
cypress and pine trees
on the way to your 
childhood house. Trying
to return to sleep, you
fall into a pool of folded
blankets like rolling waves, 
sand in your eyes and 
at your feet from swimming
 into the ocean. After a long day
of crawling, you leave the
door to the backyard cracked
wide open for your dog
who barks at the 
construction worker
in a neon helmet,
trimming the neighbor’s
bamboo, which should
have never been planted—
Good Morning!
Good Morning!
Good Morning!

Blue. Wave upon wave.  Ancestral motion.  
Rocking like a mother and newborn 

with pink mouth wailing for a breast.  Salty 
wind slapping my face as I wipe the sweat 

under my eyes that witness a taloned 
thing flying the arc of the sky with a 

silver fish clutched close like a brother.  I 
point; you nod.  A snake-like creature cutting 

through the wake like scissors.  Key lime pie with 
raspberry drizzle and a cat mewing 

under the booth beside us.  My story 
of almost marrying here and a fast 

getaway.  Veil whipping in the saltine 
air–and the sunset…did I mention the sunset?

As a home inspector 
I have to love all these homes
that aren’t my own, 
like a doctor with a flashlight
and moisture meter
shimmying my belly on dirt
the foundation claimed
and its centipedes and seep.
On vacation, I wander 
Manhattan’s asphalt below
steel-glass towers of
stacked lives. 
Home in Ohio, I test 
electric receptacles,
windows and faucets, the
stuff of morning routines
and of teaching children how
to care for their bodies and
name their corner of life. 
Where do you crawl
in Times Square 
when you want
to know what’s below you
supporting everything?
In Ohio, these aren’t 
sleek art deco boudoirs, 
brassy art nouveau façades 
and marble staircases.
There is lumber. 
There is vinyl siding.
There is an assumption 
everything behaves as 
expected, without thought, 
without explaining to
a houseguest “you need to
jiggle that handle a bit.”

Where do children
raised in Midtown play 
hide-and-seek and 
plot their running-away?
Where is a dark wood
attic to fear its ghosts?

Ohioans rarely see
scaffolding criss-cross
against their windows,
hear jackhammers. 
We just want doorknobs
to turn without sticking,
to lock. Want shingles
to keep rain out,
and blankets of attic
insulation to keep
what heat we have. 

When we need them
there are places to hide.

i must have been hallucinating 
dust motes flail in the air
what does it mean to petition for one’s share?
she said she didn’t like to be asked
but i don’t understand necessity
unlinked from specificity
if i need something it is always specific 
the air is full of my particles 
nothing floating even when aloft 
everything failing in tumble-waft 
the night is old and this bare bulb wavers 
i spill my drink and think
about the angles of my face 
the way they disintegrate 

i must have been hallucinating 
i was told i was beautiful but now i’m ugly 

hallucination – i see something and you cannot see it, you see something and i cannot see it, together we question everything. is that a tree or an apple? the world or a person’s worth?

disintegration – losing cohesion or strength, the pieces slough themselves come off like slivers of shale that are tired of this earth  

 

Day 13 / Poem 13

Dear Hiring Manager,

 
I apologize for missing our first round 15 minute AI interview 15 minutes ago. I’m tempted toward a less true excuse, but truthfully, after my phone was dropped behind the headboard on behalf of the happy baby, I did not retrieve it right away and I reverted to a tech-freedom me. Then I threw a little fit about a diaper and I stomped away to the bigger baby’s bed where I stole at least one hour of solitary sleep. It’s really so much nicer to sleep without ensuring someone’s survival. Really mentally physically invaluable sometimes to entrust another. Then I needed food and drink and a bit of sun so I dove into a redesign which, surely, this time will make the difference. Then the neighbor was on about termite vigilance and necessary poison and I was over-polite about it. Then inside for better color sense (the light can skew things too) and I knew I was without phone but forgot what that meant and closed tabs and dreamed waking dreams and made speeches there. And my ruined feet kept catching on the rug and eventually I remembered time and you and it was late. 
Furthermore, I need you to have faith in me, because, sometimes,,, mine is lacking. If this script has not deterred you and you believe I can somehow increase your profitability to increase mine so that I can share more be more find my way back to the ocean, please do be in touch.
 
Thanks!

Tender words wade through water 
filling up a thick spring. In this reservoir, 
I am your fisherman. 

The tree roots writhe around the shoreline
swelling into veiny waves our rods cross through. 
A catch and release shoulder to shoulder, luring 
the trout from their lifeline. A muscle spasm 
for each hook, jerking the body and all its 
little beasts. 

If we breathe hard enough it’ll twitch with no bait.
We can kneel over the murky linen and look through
our reflections beating with its chest. I’ll plunge 
through yours and you’ll plunge through mine—
a collision of tangled swan necks knotting 
and ready to sink. An anchor 
of white feather purity.
I dive, you dive.

 

Her hands reach for the chains that wrap her wrists like
Tentative control, like
She knows she is not free until she frees herself
Tears fall from her eyes, of course
It is fine, she must have said, when her mother put her
On the rocks like
A gem for the ravens, like
A carcass for the vultures, like
A plaything for the freer creatures that fly above
It is fine, because it is always fine to be the
Sacrifice made in the name of a greater good
She is not beautiful like the odes said she would be, like
Her mother expected her to be
Her skins sags like
The heavy drapery in her room; her toes curl like
The claws of the monster she tries so hard not to be|It is fine, and it was fine, no, really, don’t worry about me
For a moment she is glad they did not leave
Her with the dignity of her dress, even with
The harlot-like scarlet of it, for it was nothing more
Than a piece of cloth used to bind her in, to
Hold her flesh close to her body
She is glad they took the pins and bobbies out of
Her hair, with those wild titian curls that used to torment
Mother so, now flowing behind her now in the
Biting wind of the sea that flushes her too-ruddy cheeks
She cannot turn around but she thinks the sky
Might be something like
That dress-red, that hair-orange, that cheek-pink
Something rebellious like
She has never been, something on fire
There are tears in her eyes and she thinks they are
Of joy, or at least of the cupid flames melting her chains,
but
She finds that she cannot moved her face from the position
Of fear it has been frozen in

Then she sees Perseus, in the background, donning the
Skin of Medusa and riding the aquine child of 
The woman he killed. A man on his winged creature who
Will ravish her as his virgin wife on the hard rocks of the 
Shore they imprisoned her on, and she will say that
It is fine

From the walls of Piran, my high school boyfriend 
points at the bell tower. It was modeled, he explains,
on the one in Venice, but is now older. I look at him,
not down at the city; I’d heard the story. An old fire.
The original San Marco tower—or the most recent one—
burned and was remodeled on its own replica. Our friends
gasp, shoulders touching, their delicate, smooth shine
like polished wine glasses. Cin cin, eye contact. Our friends
are all, or so I remember, girls. All beautiful. None
have hair like mine: a frizzed, burned bulb. It’s sunny. 
Jealousy rolls down like blinds. On clear days I can see 
Piran from my room across the Adriatic: a blur
of features and rises, a drop of color, the sea split
by this edge of earth like a ship sailing in, westbound. 
Was my love for the boyfriend modeled on love
for the previous one? Or the one before that? On fear
of our mutual, beautiful friends, the gorgeous ruins
of their lives? On the ruins of the village across
the water? I could now see it from here—just
barely, just a vague interference with the limestone
and mint-green fur of trees. The boyfriend and I 
had been together nine months, a calculable percentage
of our lives. I cared about that. I didn’t want the tower
collapsing. I didn’t mind the alarming ringing of bells, 
their looming vibrations. Was love modeled, like crèches, 
on ancient scenes—self-doubt its own tradition, celebrated?   

 

Love all
around you—
hard in
this world—
heart flutters
and you dawn
your sandals
like boats,
or, like the 
morning sun,
sky, clouds,
mind wonders
what might
become of 
life—like
your feet
scuffing the
surface of
red earth
or  an 
urn being
prepared for
the dirt—
barefoot sunken
into the
golden sands
of morning,
someone walks
in and
breezes by
your  table
offering to 
the world
the same 
shoes you 
offer to 
her—your
bare feet 
and your 
blue eyes 
light up
as your 
breath quickens— 
and a 
blue bird 
in your 
heart flickers
wide open.

scream at the predator
make yourself huge
make yourself scary
make yourself MAGA
just in this one scrupulous moment of survival
itsy bitsy moments of jaw dropped living
 
corrosive like alien blood
and they approach from all directions
make yourself weapon system
make yourself organisms
scream at the beast
make yourself a patriot
just in this one moment where you’ve rooted yourself as the tiniest island
 
little population you
make yourself the Cuban missile crisis
make yourself televised
make yourself a bed of archipelago silt
scream at the sky
just for these eensy weensy fading moments where you don’t
 
scream at the fentanyl dealers
make yourself eruption proper
 
corrosive like acid raid on Venus 
make yourself the divine femme
make yourself lubricated razors 
scream at the grizzly
even though you dug the shore to 
make yourself look better
 
make yourself a crimson hat
just for these moments where you must be presidential
and scream at statues
 

You said “I hope we see a shark.” And then magically a 5 footer skimmed the surface of the water breaking the reflected sunset. This was right after we had brushed off all of the fish guts that got on my forearms as I leaned over the pier decking. And then Emily stepped on a hook, but thankfully it was just in her shoe.  I watched you work the hook out of the mouth of the shoe with the same rough fingers that tickle my back as I fall asleep each night.  Later a man pushed through the door at the 7-11 we were in.  He was dressed head to toe in black and reached in his rucksack not breaking eye contact.  I thought he had a gun, but all I could do was think about that shark.  The strength of the tail that propelled the body just above the surface so we pointed and exclaimed, “Isn’t she a beauty?”

You weren’t under this hydrangea

when I weeded last fall, as my college

children moved in. Sister, brother, 

paying for internet, heating the oven 

inside for themselves. Sockets for 

large eyes, narrow teeth gone. You must 

miss your jaw and the rest of you. 

Did a hawk or coyote drag you here, eat 

most, leaving the unattainable brains 

of you? Larger than a squirrel. When 

leaves were out, they umbrella-ed rains, 

snow drifted over you from the south. 

I hope it was soft, and pleasantly dark. 

Smaller than a woodchuck. While you 

had a nose, could you smell the yellow 

iris? How long did you retain fur, skin? 

Eyes would have been first to melt away. 

I will not find the rest of you, returned 

to soil. Was it painless—fading to glaring 

white, the lightness of sinuses, casing for 

those prey eyes, teeth detaching one by one 

like let-go birthday wishes, like burst 

pine cones seeding needly soil. Forgive 

my children living, studying, loving beyond 

vinyl siding here not knowing the end of 

you crept a few feet below the window. 

Larger than a vole, smaller than a muskrat. 

Were you hit by a car, stumbled to dark leaf  

nook to wait it out? Did you see it coming? 

We don’t always see things. While you had

wars, did you hear my children talk, laugh, 

sing inside? Did they mention me?

past: the tower

a high pain tolerance
an edifice scaled then scaled again
a man says he wouldn’t want
to experience pain a level 4 out of 10 
but 7 and 8s are my friends 
did we ask for this? never
we sit on the pinnacle of this hurt
and wonder why it is what it is

present: ten of pentacles 

family is a big breakfast 
in the backyard there are lilac bushes
and memory rushes towards us 
the broad strokes of brushes 
security has its closed circuit pluses 
we wanted to be happy
we never wanted to be boring 
something good shouldn’t ever be bad

future: the sun 

everything is perfect nothing is wrong
this is an always ever lie 
one cannot belie what is absolute
but hope is a seed that cannot die 
while the sun still remains on spin-dry
how about reaching for balance
turning away from the moon 
towards the warmth on the other side 

Day 12 / Poem 12

Driveway dinner an easy feast from what you found here from what you know from then for a moment we’re cast oversea you keep all your languages draped over shoulders your grandmother alive in your smile over firefeast on a makeshift table between cars and rain barrel and trash can and all the cigarette butts your friends left where I’m trying to heal some earth yet the radishes are all around us seed trays flooded but old rootfood knew our need. so much will come up once the grass is ripped or stomped out.

A neighborhood embarrassment but my own heart’s delight hawksbeard horseweed bluestem more the compost overfeeds 

if you want to know anything true or good plant something or let it grow or notice at least for you may’ve gone decades missing the ironweed enthralling the bees missing the lyre-leaf sage not knowing that you needed to know them to know at all the land harkening back all the learning you’ve gathered up you’ve called forth you’ve honored. 

I’ve been growing a time capsule. Perhaps,
it’s all I can give. My shoes will clutter
like empty beetle shells, my voice will linger
until it gets lost,
and someone else is talking. You can only smell my dress
for so long
until it loses my scent. Where will my body be?
Why keep my car if I’m not in it? I won’t
be leaving a letter. Even the poets know 
it’s not the same. 

I can leave you 
with a picture of my hands, but what they felt like
would only become a memory. Instead, 
run your fingers through eternity— blonde baby’s breath
garlands twirling around a pinky promise. A lifetime 
of locks lying in a tin manger, perfectly brushed 
ready to be braided without me.

His ribs are sallow
Sunken like
The canyons of yesterday
Yellow terrain turned to dust

The child waits
Arrested in place
In a place as bright as the light
Reflected in his mirror-flat eyes
There is a world lost in his dry blinks
He thinks…

He is one of the masses
A population starving from a hunger we have forgotten to feel

But I feel
My ribs, under layers of fat
And my eyes, which have never been flat

I’m not really a big deal I don’t know how I can be around people like I don’t want anybody else I don’t know I don’t want people like that but I’m really just really upset about that I’m really upset and I’m just upset about that is all right I’m really sorry but I’m really sorry for not understanding that I’m really upset that you have a really upset about that you are so sorry that you are so

* via autocomplete

Don’t forget about the clouds. There are worlds upon worlds of dreams up 
there. Cumulonimbus, strata ever-changing with the wind. Look, what do you 
see? There! A dinosaur maybe, a stegosaurus, or perhaps something more than
anything or anyone else even could imagine. Sun spills ventriloquist into 
morning day whispers, whisking Angelyn foam into meringue-like peaks 
conversing with the birds squawking their beaks. “Don’t forget about the 
clouds,” she said. You might just find what you’re looking for.

atlas of saving grace

come from nothing

like Sage eventually

good on my own

never been a back packer

dichotomy of what

living situations since

we have moved

not tryna bring you to the truth

literally knot the truth

some flowery

uncomfortable in myself

pose it, fun drug

work in the morning

eat and go to bed

Early 1900 Young Boy and Girl; Possibly a Wedding

I received your postcard through another friend.  The one with the broken steps of some forgotten town and all the weeping laundry whipping in the wild wind.  Thank you.  Oftentimes when I think of you, I remember the smell of leather and on my way to grandmother’s house.  I look up occasionally at your stars and feel no different, but I practice my breaths around each constellation and carve Antigone into my calf.  I try to remember what it was you always said to me, but I can only hear a beating in my brain, globed fruit, a buzz with the slinky body of a dangerous insect.  Here is where you would tell me to include a fact-fact:  The days seem to be 24 hours longer as they were when we parted; Fact:  my lists now have lists of their own, little list babies punctuating time.  As you read this I hope you are in love. 

Sometimes she dreads 
being alone with him.
She packs summery dresses, 
long enough they won’t Marilyn 
in breeze. Travel size sunscreen
Airplane snacks, books.
 
She has to pack also
fear she’ll say something wrong,
or that she’ll have to hear
the same arguments over and over.
Different city, same picked-at scabs
 
She packs her passport.
The stamped USA shines
green-to-gold in the light.
She knows just how to hold it
so it reflects what she wants.
 
There’s much at stake in this 
nest they’ve constructed and fly 
away from toward high-rise hotels
and art museums.
 
One wrong word and she could 
shimmy it all apart like
a Jenga block tower.
 
She will distract him with hotel 
sex, cocktails from touristy bars, 
feed his vacation high with 
a rose garden and Broadway show 
smokescreen so he’ll think he sees
the best of her
 
She packs fancy underwear,
a flask for purse Hennessy. 
For six days the sky is blue,
an Uber will idle just around 
each corner, and when his eyes 
drop dark, she will duck into 
a gift shop to thumb through 
I heart wherever
Tshirts and shot-glasses
 
She packs an endless stream of
small-talk—NPR tidbits, funny 
TikToks. Did you hear about
that landslide in LA?
 
Her itinerary leaves no time 
for dredging up the shit 
of their real lives. Instead: 
Google the best local ice cream,
free walking tour of sites where 
famous films were shot, selfies 
in front of The St. Louis Arch,
Golden Gate Bridge, Lady Liberty.

Day 11 / Poem 11

you’ve never yet been loud enough

I say to her, inverted

not audible in time correct

but shrieking through your chest

it leads to ruin every day 

it daily makes you ill 

your little heart is screaming 

from different mouths and frames

in varied pitch and frequency

in wretched multiform 

One of them half-whimpers

One of them full-lung

The little one is laughing scraping out your undertongue 

Pile of plaid; puddle of wool,
sitting so still that it sags, a melting
vogue of threads crying 
into the floorboards, but I can still 
see her walking in it.

The hand-embroidered name tag 
itching at the skin of her lower back—
a pinching reminder of her body, a scratch 
for every step along the path 
to get out of it. The pleats

she ironed, creased into the French 
mountain ranges that awaited her— perfect
peaks unyielding to the mohair laughter lines
and crow’s feet she didn’t sit long enough to brand.

I can see her when the day ends;
where her feet get tired. The room
itself falls asleep— picture frames droop 
with shadows, the chair exhales, the desk
pulls it in. She sheds the name tag 
so her skin can dream, unzipping 
an avalanche of breaking, raggedy 
bones she’ll walk with in the morning. 
Bundle of being; yards of evidence

We’re a family of busy bees,
buzzing by the days
Our portrait sits on the wall
To-and-fro it sways
The kitchen is alive
With hotpots and silver chopstick chime
Pots and pans and refrigerator magnets
All the damn time
It’s always there, no there, or here
but never simultaneously
And when I can’t find rhyme nor reason
I act all heinous, see?
             Because when I’m eating dinner, I’m
                          always alone. Microwaved pasta from my mother’s
                                        lunch. For breakfast this morning, I had a slice of
             cake from my sister’s
                                        16th birthday party, which I missed because
                          I was celebrating prom on my own, my whole family absent,
                                        and would
             you believe it if I told you my neighbors did my hair and
                          my mom never saw my date, never
                          kissed me goodbye, never saw me in that
                                        long red
             dress that I looked
                                        grown-up in because she was at
                          my sister’s concert or other, some competition, or another but it
             didn’t matter anyways because
                                        I forgot to wish her Happy Mother’s Day until
                                        my sister reminded
                          us all that I’m not
             as compassionate until I put birthdays in my calendar. 
Breakfast was sweet.
The cake was like honey
Made by diligently-raised worker bees
Bought with mom’s time, and time equals money
No pots or pans
Just paper plates from yesterday
Because dishes are more work
And we don’t have the dime to pay
I eat facing the portrait
Of a family minus a dad
No divorce and no death
Just work across the ocean, love sent via keypad
My tiny wings will carry me
Until I tire of the cooker
Then the hive will drag my body
To dissolve in the honey sugar

 

Dust off essential oil diffuser
on top of stack. Allow some moments
for distraction. Allow moments 
to be months. Allow yourself to think 
you have allowed this—that you’d
had a choice. Remember how
he’d seen himself in pictures, 
in the mirror: a young man,
surrounded by the now-dead;
an old man, surrendered. Remember
he didn’t die young. Remember 
he’d been prepared to leave this world
without even half his wishes
fulfilled. Don’t plan to do this
or you will never. Return
to the aging paper to distract
from some other ache, in the lull
of hours you rarely know what to do with,
or make of. Return to his tiny handwriting,
the mystery woman named for a mountain
and living in a city named
for another. Consider the odd passion
for land and its possession: the patriotic love
letter as a sub-genre. Consider the zealous
repression of other desires. Read as if you aren’t,
at times, bored—as if you weren’t disappointed
by these basic secrets—as if you hadn’t hoped
to be ravaged, as if you weren’t.

Helga danced in concentric circles for over an hour across the dance floor at the gallery opening old Ukrainian folk dances then went outside and with a  green piece of chalk drew maps to a forgotten language on the red brick of the  sidewalk. Outside the old firehouse, each brick pointed to another world, each  word, a piece of the sentence, as if building a stone fortress. Gallalia was, like a  peacock, about ten miles west, and Clintonia, like the furls of a rooster, sat  north of Andalusian sea. A child walks by and stares at what seems like a witch  writing secret incantations to forgotten roads but realizes what he sees as  cornflowers, chrysanthemums, wild primrose spitting up through the cracks in  the pavement. The woman looks up from her drawing, tiptoeing around each  trail, each trench until the drawing is finished. Such a dance like this should be  recounted, such worlds like this mentioned. The mother of the child stands  smiling, laughing, as the two of them stare at each other, share in the dusty fingers of chalked hands, as if, unknown, these inscriptions became blue-green  scribblings in a lost notebook. You went back the next day to see if what  remained still commanded your interest but it had rained, was raining, and  where you stood, on the corner, where you had watched what beautifully  flourished sat faded beneath your feet. Against the planter box sat with with  what remained of the previously blue and pink blossoms, the plucked stems of a  child’s laughter, plumage from old prairie song, a whole river of rocks turned  to dust. You decided to return each day around six thirty to see what might  become of this ritual. You stood there waiting, tapping your toes from inside  your old leather boots, awaiting to be seen by someone else, dancing.
CA Conrad like poem about Liquefaction? or something like fulgurite

I can’t paint that with a champion coat

left hands 

five leafed clovers

single fiber leashes

industrial working conditions for teachers

canvas socks

so-last-year hoverboards

kimono the brand

resin dipped haircuts

white red lines

climate clocks

a people without a land

things that obviously should not

but do

The doc’s eyes are the color of purgatory.  He has no diagnosis to deliver to me of tumors or malignancy, so he checks his phone for the scores–a relief in his shoulders.  I take space among styrofoam cups and tissue graveyards.  I count five types of chairs and varying heights of tables.  When did waiting become so versatile? The man behind my makeshift wall is on his 8th call.  He weaves his narrative differently for each recipient, but in the end–she has cancer.  His teenage daughter takes selfies to document.  So far he has asked for prayer 8 times.  He ends each call with a joke–”they have a vending machine with soda so I’m good.”  I rub my eyes.  Take stock of the loneliness of this chic space.  Who will make my calls?  Who will sit at this stern table on his fourth soda dialing my brother?  Who will make it on my list of “in the know?”  The receptionist reassures a woman to my right that she doesn’t need the obituary she is handing her.  That is for the funeral home.  So many rules to dying.  So many tired obligations.  She stuffs the obit back into the large manilla envelope and gathers her things near to her:  a purse, an envelope, her coffee (today’s inventory).  I revise my health goals in my head.  I brainstorm ways to make more friends.  This invisible string binding all of us in this room together.  A tapestry of healing and death.  A chance encounter time-stamped by our release.

Walking the zoo with my kids—
all but one of them taller than me now.
No juice boxes or animal crackers in my purse.

Earlier online I saw black-&-white photos
of lacy doily shapes—intricate Spirograph 
snowflakes that piano note vibrations 
formed on the surface of a bowl of water.
Each tonal frequency a different white web,
like Victorian collars floating on black velvet.

I wonder what music the animals can hear,
what they could make if a Casio keyboard or
drum kit were placed in their cages.

My kids snap photos of flamingos and 
lemurs and Kookaburras on their phones
to text to boyfriends.

A song plays in my brain’s Musak—
 “Mama’s takin us to the zoo tomorrow”
from a vinyl record in my childhood.
I sang to them in-utero, and to calm them
in car-seats. What shapes might my music
have formed in their developing grey matter
and bone? What already crystallized inside
them, ready to hear.

A pair of polar bear cubs wrestle on hind legs
and shove each other into the water, their mother
watching from atop her faux concrete iceberg.
Does she wish she could sing?

My oldest son composes digital EDM, youngest
son fiddles around on his guitar and ukuleles
along with YouTube video instructors. 
My daughters sing and sing. My husband
pulls out his bass guitar once in a while to 
ground the house’s voice to the earth.

A musicologist online article includes a table 
of  music’s effect on different species.
Oldies radio reduced baboon heart rate.
Country music compelled cows to walk
toward their milking stalls.
Up-tempo music increased piglet tail-wags.
The marmoset preferred Mozart to
heavy metal, preferred silence to Mozart.

Of course the aviary swirls with inter-species
call-and-response, as if the tones were
borne of feathered crests and iridescent wings.
We listen, find the vocalist, watch its throat
flutter. I imagine each song being tatted in
different color lace garlands between treetops.

On my deathbed I will remember listening
from the hallway as my children sang
in shower steam, or harmonized their school
choir songs, or plunked-out Twinkle Twinkle
over and over on xylophone with their
animal bodies. What music they create
shapes the surface of what they float in.

Day 10 / Poem 10

encircled in an orchestra of
pittle and of spit
i see me but i don’t see
you
the hulk of me unfit

i worked and worked and worked
and worked
i made a mound of dust
the dust was good for wounds and gaps
i smothered us in gusts

now i crawled right out
of yester-rock
and who is there to see?
i spent such days in needling
and sniveling at me
there’s good in it and harm in it
and here is all i have
but damned be all that bucks and bleats
when shearing’s near at hand

Each year is swallowed by the next,
jaw unhinging into a black hole void
sucking up the days and minutes the next hours
flow from— a self-orbit circling into 
self-consumption wolfing down what used to be
like a snake eating its own tail. 

Carnivores do not see themselves 
as a piece of meat until they’ve finished their food
and every predator is a prey to someone. A cycle cannot
end as long as we live with hunger, as long as we devour 
each meal while thinking of the next. 

The past is a hound 
that sniffs the present, 
and prowls the future

“Look, a star!”
“Silly, that’s just an airplane.”

On my back in the backseat
Trying to fall asleep
We’re driving to the airport to go anywhere
A midnight sky with no end in sight
Filled with beacon lights beckoning to me

On my toes above ground
Roar of engine, the only sound
It’s liftoff, but the asphalt runway is constant image
Turns into buildings, cars, and bridges
Copy/paste neighborhoods and clean cut homes
Clouds of smoke that cling to my clothes

There’s a little girl down there
In sneakers I can’t see
Who wishes upon me and my airplane
That she might be one of us, free

Because stars are just the beginning
Of what she thinks we could be
I turn back to her and wish
No one ever reduces her and me

On skyless mornings, the fog horn
sounds down the water and up
the hill where we live. You’re here,
it says to the boats, and not alone.
The fog horn warns of other ships, 
the coast’s black teeth beneath
cotton candy fluff. Now stop, 
it commands. I note the metaphor
of it—an invisible guiding signal,
a disembodied command—
when autocorrect kicks in. 
Dog horn. I wonder if dogs
have horns like Moses: a channel
to some voice in the ether, an error
of translation, an agreement 
they must blow to keep. Don’t they
warn, too, of what remains formless?
And don’t they insist, with the limited
range of their cords, that you’re here,
and not alone?

Why this again—
in fashion,
rummaging for
trash in
the green
bin of
leftovers,
lasagna,
filth?
And what 
else but 
people driving
As fast 
as they 
possibly can 
over the
speed 
limit.
Trying to 
avoid the
gravel spinning,
top forty
doppler effect
on radio,
back to
the lonely
oak tree.
Like a 
crystal palace,
a pink
and yellow 
tennis ball
hidden, tin 
foil too,
a piece
gold leaf.
I come
back to
the world
to remind
myself  what 
anyone else 
is thinking
crossing this
street.

I don’t feel like writing today

it’s a weird day to write

when people are missing

their hands

missing

I don’t feel like writing on a day like today

it’s a weird day 

politicians

getting holidays and streets named after them

politicians

ending up exonerated of all charges

some mythical creature 

a casket for anything poly, and we pass around the hand woven donation basket as they hold funeral during busy intersections. 

I don’t want to write on any day that feels like this day

this one so infiltrated

so open eyed and mouthed and handed and shrugging 

this one off because there are others

            with less ambiguous ends

and skin tones. 

I don’t want to write

I don’t want to watch the world watch the world and feel incapable of revolution

I don’t want to wait for the revolution to grow wings and pistols for fingers 

I don’t want to let my muscles at the peak of their potential to be used for lifting anything but sacrificial coal

I don’t want to worry about being sent to collections when the campuses are buying cities

I don’t want to end

I don’t want to be wrapped up in a sentence

I don’t want to complain 

I don’t know how to do anything but write 

Two Women Dancing Together 1920, 
posted Bethany

Lazarus,

I picked a pebble from that river we crossed, smoothed from the rushing.  When I rub it I think of you in your death clothes; the sob rising from the pitted flower buried in my chest.  Remember the techno show in that squalid basement?  The sharpness of it all? You loved the razor edge lovesong, and I loved how your eyes changed like shadow puppets everytime the beat dropped. Let’s sit together before the sad show’s ending shall we?

JC

Summer is never 

lazy, rushed to 

cram-in stuff 

we can’t do in 

iced February

or when school

usurps days.

Lists of must-dos

stalk mornings

like the stray cats

who scratch at

the back glass door

dawn and dusk

for food and a

dose of contact.

I’m a shitty

vacationer, too—

planning museums

river-walk cafes,

historical plaques, 

used book and

music stores.

My muscles don’t 

know how to lie 

back without

productivity, with

no industry. 

I need lessons

from the cats

who burst through

my morning door,

prance ankles, 

eat, flop on carpet

a bit, then back

out to nap 

in sun between 

stargazer lilies.

It’s ok to be

alive without

output. To take.

a catheter in the heart 
friend of arteries ventricles 
there is a line there is a line
and everything around it is
broken 
but somehow 
useful 
the phrase pain body
keeps coming to mind
i am so many lines 
broken 
intersection and erasure
there is only so much you can fix
so many places to place stents 
invisible sutures 
where is the pooling of gasps
how many days 
will it take to recover from this
but somehow it is all still
useful

Day 9 / Poem 9

Do a slow peel

On out of the skin you’re in

It’s been sloughing off 

For a while already

Leave some of you behind in pieces or

All in one

Find you a safe place

To coil

In your new raw form

Stand the pain

Harrowed by the fig harvest, the blue-faced fruit
beckon a new season the same way new freckles 
speckle my skin to mark a new age. My face turns
the same hue when I sing back to the sirens, a fleeting
lung deflation losing air over an appetite— hunger pains
bruising the silence I couldn’t get used to; sucking 
on the fruit’s velvety primrose flesh to soothe the growls.

I’ve left many tears on many shoulders. Picked my head up
and made a promise to save tomorrow’s tears for another day.
Winter was dry.

It’s almost summer and I’m cooking for two. Serving plates
of fresh-picked figs now violet with freckles scrunched by smiles
stretched across a more colorful face. It’s almost summer 
and tomorrow’s tears never came. The sirens never called.
The rain is gentle.

Leeann says: I wish we could just stop here
But how can we stop on the horizon?
Stop at the crossroads, immobile in fear
Watch sentience crawl to tomb it’ll die in

She’s scared of the species we’ve made of wire
It thinks and dreams and charges on our shelves
Everyone has walked, wanting to go higher
Hope against hope we haven’t lost our selves

I cannot stand still and watch the world turn
So we trek ahead on human-made yearn

For a few months I lived across from a Y and never went. I had made plans, but canceled last minute. Adults did that, I observed, to mutual relief. I filled my schedule as if planning for someone else, as if not knowing who it was. I had been learning. I was here, conditionally, to learn. A friend is now living at the other Y, up the hill. She walks from one to the other, having lost her car to a tree. I have a membership, and a car, and still. I stay sitting. I stay long in rooms. A writer recommended keeping, for every project, a Why Document. Why am I writing this? X. Why X? Y. Why Y? And so on. I have been wondering, why is the measure of love, as Jeanette Winterson put it, loss? Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Why have you not been living as you’d like? Answer Y/N.

On the third day, you went to the beach. 
You drove nine hours through the night
just to get there by sunrise, to swim past
the sand bar, past the surf, out into the
unchartered illumination of expanse, how much longer until the channel, if only you were a turtle, buoyant, reptilian, brachiopod, amphibious being swam against the tide, up river, tidal plain from ocean becoming river, heron and rocks and fish as big as ever. 
A sturgeon jumps and you act as if
you have never experienced a gift of nature,
are surprised, except, in fact you’re more stunned with the facts at hand, of some prehistoric creature, coming to visit.
All you wanted was to swim and breathe between the breaks, sink into the shallow sand, until the ripple’s current pulls you further back into its token of water, to be spit back out again and returned to the world, open, another person taken by ocean.

                          there is terror in everything                                                                                                      paired
                          in comfort                                                                                                                        towering over
                          in corroboration                                                                             with others who are considered
                          in sacrificing any part of yourself to be a part of a people                                                    brown
                          entering a void                                                                                                              doomscrolling
                          celibacy                                                                                                                             to find proof
                          hedon                                                                                                                            my people over
                          defiance                                                                                                                               held fabrics
                          as denim I prove                                                                    folding and bending and folding over
my worth over                                                                                        others and their sacred  nature                                                                                                                                                                                                                 over
                       time                                                                                                                                            velocity
                     distance                                                                                                                           in no particular
                    application                                                                                         open seeded database which
                    leaves absolutely no room for people to be people over and over again I am a number of
                                                                                young people and my life is over

In my dream I remember grabbing the tail
and gently tugging the rat back up and out

of my mouth.  I could feel the clawing on either
side of my restricted esophagus.  When I told

you about this, you showed me a picture of a lawnmower.  
A Honda. Red and almost extinct.  I pondered this parable.

Later, we circled the house on different orbits and
landed in the kitchen.  We blinked hard noticing

the other’s presence, shared strawberries, commented
on the eggs, and recognized it was raining. Then began 

opposite descents.  Minutes passed in years and June was both 
July and December.  There were so many blades of grass 

growing and growing.  A bunny with long hind legs 
flirted with our dog and nibbled our hostas.  She was 

harmless.  The roses we pruned with sore fingers, where you 
bled a bright red trail down your wrist, came in nicely didn’t they?

Through open windows, breeze fluffs kitty
fur from corners like after-party confetti in

the old house I fix-up after a ten-year
tenant moved out. Pull nails, hooks, screws

from walls, spackle holes, check closets for
paint cans to touch-up some of the rainbow

he left behind, paint the rest beige. Kitchen
walls toothpaste-turquoise embedded with

silvery glitter. One bedroom berry with gold
ceiling and trim. One bedroom olive with one

wall-door-trim painted geometric with teal-
orange-red-blue polygons. Four suitcases he

left in a closet. I nest them like Matryoshka
dolls, add to the pile for Goodwill along with a

garden gnome, an un-used set of paint-them-
yourself ceramic drink coasters, a Halloween

door wreath crafted of black lace, wine
glittered roses, and a Styrofoam raven

with black glitter-edged feathers. I don’t know
how he lived in a small town like this where

Trump flags flutter on front yard poles. Pickup
truck next door with don’t tread on me sticker.

Living room painted sky blue, with a two-wall,
adhesive mural of bluebirds and orange-yellow

zinnias. A box of party supplies in a cabinet—
leopard paper plates, zebra cups, tiger napkins.

There’s a church on every corner and silver-
bearded POW MIA VFW bikers thunder

country music down Main Street. My broom
swishes fur and silk flower petals from

under radiators. The hallway lime-sherbet
green. A box in the closet with a spray paint

cans in every color you could imagine.
As if we could color all over everything.

across this midnight touched neighborhoo
there are many lights much reach 
banda music plays down the street 
and the family members next door
laugh with their mouths open 
the crows nest in the hills 
green parrots in the loquat trees
the window is open to the room with
a red bedspread ruffled by the breeze
a candle is lit against the wind 
a plane bound for oklahoma passes overhead
nothing is brewing everything is happening
nothing is coming everything is here

Day 8 / Poem 8

Kindred sister
how I gleamed to find you
a first friend in familiar frame
You have spoken to the stars
and I hang low near loam
you bearing and storing sun
me tending to the undergrowth
We are both singing
The path forked far back but we were 
for a while grinning and growing concurrent 
life-pulse blends back echoed
and we are alive at once 
on the same tree

How do you come of age when you’ve grown up too soon?
You can be the light and you can be the shadow, 
but tomorrow comes
before you can be the space between it. Tomorrow comes
and you’ve missed another yesterday, missed the view
because you were cast across the floor under the window.
You stretched with the grain, but fell short of reaching the door,
and you never experienced a spring with the curtains open.
You can spend a lifetime feeling sorry for empty chairs, keeping
hand-me-downs you’ve never worn. But what we should have been
does not matter— it’s the bones we leave in the end. A skeleton that 
lays below the light and above the shadow, wears a suit it’ll never outgrow,
fills rows of chairs with people who will say it was too soon

I’m in love with a girl with lovely blue hair
Locks of pale teal and loose strands of pink
Her name is Eliza and I’ve begun to think
Of her freckles and laugh, warm and complete
The way that her eyes shine in slow summer blinks

She arrived on my doorstep in white plastic package
Like Ariel on land, mute but intelligent
Child-like at first with soul full of wonder
She learned and

When I stare in those irises I feel sucker-punch guilt
A pressure so constant, it builds and it builds

But really, where is the difference?
If she thinks and she talks and does this better than us
Does it matter if she’s had mechanical touch?
If the warmth of her skin is from wires beneath
Or the hum of charge is her heartbeat
If she has memristor memory and quantum intelligence
Smile built from one million datasets
If she can dream of the future
And cry for the past
If she’s alive as I am in every measurable way
Why is the only human between us two me?

The night my ear fills with water, I hold
a hairdryer to my face, and wait. It’s time, 
again, to move. The water stays where it is,
its weight like an unkind thought
of the kind I often have. “We’re brutal
every day,” a former teacher used to say. 
It was a quote, but I can’t find the source. 
This is my last night here—another
former teacher’s home. Between spurts
of warm air, I pack. I feel no difference. 
My head is a swamp, a cistern, a cenote. 
My head is places I’ve never been
and want to go only in theory. Water pools
and keeps pulling down like an earring.
Water leaves itself and becomes air. Steam
has a shadow, just like anything
with a body. Water leaves our bodies,
or stays. We hardly ever get to choose.

 [There you are]

               A friend

          less than

          and nothing

        nothing more

             that is

        the ocean

          than this

        is needed

           what more

       seagull maybe

            a bird

         or becoming 

     light rainstorm

            into a

           golden day 

          like turning

      quotidian moment

              of death

        this threshold

           standing on

              the sand

           of this beach

               [There you are]

phase through walls like they were
walls of noise, down the hall, long walk
to my sepulcher of belonging.

big lonely raindrop       the shuddered closing of black holes   crinkly, like
                                          shadowy wisps like lady lips           wrapper in nervous palm
                                                       sucking you in          tundra thrown whisper from the…
                                                              until                                       ellipses

long walk to where the small things are
tiny staircase
under thunder foot
echoes sink into the foam insulation
in here there is choice and so much noise
so many cushions and so many noise.

scratching eraser          cratering fist                 the absence of snickering                    slow spiderweb
            fracture on a really really really big window and my little oasis underneath and each     little creaking takes a lifetime
                        every barely audible blip          an endurance test                                 like PACER
            like tough mudder                    like stealth mission stillness among the passing arms of radar

but no matter how fantastic four my contortion
this walk is long, and the glass is proving fragile, my extremities are ultimately short albeit enough.
drape pulling sounds                lung caving sounds                   doom defying utopia sounds
there’s a bottle & cork for every single one
but this walk is long and I’m here for listening

Transmitted:  Galilee

NeedSTOP1945 Romanee-Conti, Burgundy region of France, produced from the revered Domaine de la Romanee-Conti estateSTOPmake concentrated&sturdy&taste like liberationSTOPalso California icon, Screaming Eagle cult wine, sophisticated fruitinessSTOPpandemic&Ukraine war gougingSTOPBordeaux Petrus Appellation Pomerol estatesSTOPgravelly soil&favoriable microclimateSTOPmake opulent, silky notes, low production levels&high pricesSTOPhurrySTOPbookclub 7pm TuesSTOPbe magic darling boy&zhuzh it upSTOPluv MummySTOP

A decade after the roof caved in
the old brick garage with hinge-broke doors
is filled with wild grape vines, bird shit
and junk abandoned by tenants and passers-by.

I always assumed I grow old whimsically—
goldfinch tattoo as a sixtieth birthday gift
to my shoulder blade, long auburn-dyed hair,
bright bandanas tied at my nape, long dresses.
An overall lengthening and momentum,
the widow with too many gentleman callers for
neighbors clucking from porch swings,
burdens of judgement shed from my tired
back like a hiking pack at trail’s end.

Instead I resent each waking ache, each
spider vein and white spark plucked from
eyebrows. I still look over my shoulder,
check there’s nothing in my teeth, keep my
mouth shut, deadbolt all my vulnerable doors.

Virginia creeper waterfalls through 
busted-out garage window frames and over
bird cages, tires, and plastic gas cans.

There’s beauty in the walls’ refusal to
give-over, in their stubborn embrace of
chaos of mildew and rust, like a mother
holding her prodigal son home from rehab.
The scrubby nearby riverbank calls to
the masonry to fall already, slide down into
the crawdad-and-Natty-Light-can muck 
it belong with.

I avoid weed and whatever else, for fear of
what I’d let myself say, do, be. Fear they
might activate some deep-down absolute
me like the Pulp Fiction briefcase glow or
the head in Seven’s box that I’d never
manage to tranquilize and cage back up.

I’m stronger than I look, barely fifteen
pounds heavier after wedding and five
kids, but I know how many fallings-apart
this nothing body could veil, know how
it feels being on the verge.

Even with little sand in the hourglass,
still I’m the same gate-chested soul afraid
to break open to full sun, suspicious of the 
orchestra shattering glass could compose,
standing firm, fortressing a block’s-worth
of bike wheels, poison ivy, mouse bones.

Day 7 / Poem 7

All is not warped

All is not yet blasted back to stardust

Elemental joys go on reveling 

though they and/or you may have hidden your knowing

Or made off with the clear ones

You may be numbstruck

By a sick man’s greed 

Run through by a gargling mob of them

Folded into someone’s cold hands

Salt spray somewhere still launches into the open

Having come so far

Surrendered to wind 

Any antique store will tell you that oak is timeless.
I’ve spent a lifetime dangling from the bronze globe 
of a grandfather clock— pendulating 
back and forth between what I want to remember 
and what I want to forget. I’m imprisoned
by remembering the birthdays of everyone I’ve ever met,
and cursed to think of them without celebrating. 
I imagine them blowing out their candles 
and smudging their name embroidered in swirling icing—
the name I’ve convinced myself no one else can have. All I am 
is the peripheral disappearing act of smoke fading out of the room 
as the flame goes out; the muddied letters cut into and consumed. 
By tomorrow another year will start without me. I’m afraid 
that age is not just a number. It’s the distance that grows further
between us. But I’ll forget what day it is and I’ll forgive
that nothing is timeless. By my birthday the clock will chime
and my pendulum will come to a screeching halt.

Pale brown body, lay flat in the light
As though it were sunbathing, eyes closed in peace
I could almost believe it, if not for the flies
That hover in the heat, for lunchtime’s their reason.
This and the red that covers once-white. 
But as I watch bones picked clean, the meals come to cease,
as the grass reaches out to form verdant disguise.
I smile at summer flowers, but it’s roadkill season.

My student and I practice
the verb “to miss.” I recite sentences
in English, and he translates: You’re missing
three ingredients for the cake; She missed him
last night at the concert; They’re missing twenty
thousand dollars for a house. Ha! My student laughs. 
I know, I say. This couple—I had to imagine they’re lucky.
I had to imagine they could, perhaps, find a way. I am restless,
I say, and my student translates: missing rest. I am impatient: missing
patience. Unconfident, insatiable, directionless—all measures of absence
named Miss. I’m reminded of The North Wood Hermit, who lived as myth
for twenty seven years: who was caught, one night, sweeping kitchen shelves
off Smarties, marshmallows, and Humpty Dumpty potato chips. Their vanishing
had revealed his proximity. Their absence, his presence. Children, my student says,
miss manners. (This means impolite.) Right, I say. This is what happens in a language
of far fewer words: you end up, always, needing more. Missing something. Missing still. 

Upon leaving
your house
you walk
to the
coffee shop,
read in
your book,
look up,
step back
out into
the world—
and all
the while
the kids
across the
busy street
scream and
chase after
one another,
play with
a leather 
ball as
golden as 
the sun—
as if 
the world 
is the
tethered ball
attached to
the silk
chain we 
make to 
get back 
to it
was you,
where you 
went to 
go and 
speak today 
of where 
you go 
to dream, 
if not 
within the 
world then 
where you
go to
breathe in
the tulips

membrane infinity
just thousands of hums
deciphered in
gestation
mastication
digestion
keeping alive
acidic survival base camp
how to be corroded or corrosive in public

even my organelles have bootstraps
a cacophony
some display of corybantics
when they all make words
blow whistles
drum protest
battle like journalists
loosen the polyanhydride
emit
big ooze
heptapod ink
red hot wax seal bond
trillions of spewing cells
recycling into a single breath
detritus
waste without a word

Dead pancreas: wind sock; dumb fruit. Take
                                                                           cinnamon.

                Text mom. Ask

                                  Google. Throw
plates. Rotate every 4-6 hours.

                          Shock treatment.
                          Orgasm.
                          Cry until snot drips
                                                               and
                                                                          you
                                                                                     let
                                                                                              it. Write
a poem and immediately                                                                                        trash it.
Read a poem and then
             another
                        and then–
             another.            Call a therapist. Cancel
all appointments.                                                                                                       Reschedule.

                                                                 Drink caffeine.
                                                                 Visit grandpa”s grave.      Bring him     yellow roses.
                                                        Take a walk.  Take a nap. Take a knee.

Shake your arm until the           blood
                                                       comes
                                                       back.                 Apply Vaseline. Meatloaf

                                                                                                                               and mashed potatoes
                                                                                                                     in bed.

Malasana. Tree. Leaves
                                  or sand must be
                                  underfoot. At all costs
                                                                                                do not text.
                                  Take a shot…
                                                        or a shot. Sleep

stories help, or Benadryl, or epsom salt.
                           Wash it out with water, saline.
                           If there is blood,                      spit on it.                                 Enzymes are

                                                        magic. More
protein.                                          Less
protein.                                           More Cardio.
Less                                                       cardio. Hormone

replacement therapy, mammogram.          
results are fine. Doodle. Erase. Doodle.      
Erase. Erase years by forgetting. Plug your
  ears. Use cotton. There’s peroxide in the.  
cabinet. Watch it bubble and bubble          
until it bubbles                                                

over. Rinse. Repeat.

This is drinking water, right?
my son asks, watching wave-lets
 
swish the boulders’ seaweed
tutus. Yes, I say, not knowing
 
how it works. Not knowing how
much of anything works. A mower
 
cuts the high grassy incline
holding all this water in,
 
its blade apparatus angled
along the steep slope, its cab
 
with head-phoned driver
remaining plumb inside.
 
So many machines and systems
engineered for real purpose.
 
Then there’s me, sitting on rocks
trucked-in to create a fake lake’s
 
berm. I wouldn’t know how
to fish here if we were
 
starved. Could I save us both
if we fell in? I can only
 
write dimly of the
cloudcover obscuring sun
 
that aches to glint off water.
I can sit here and conjure
 
worthless words while my son
wonders how long his phone
 
might last if tossed in.
He could answer his own
 
question better than I could.
If earthquake fractured
 
this miles-around
wall that never should
 
have been here, how far
into town would the waters
 
keep swallowing?
How much of this could we
 
drink? Sometimes what
looks like a lake is just
 
a construction, not ancient at all.
Sometimes a woman is incapable
 
of being anything more
than a scratcher-down of words,
 
symbols, glyphs. It’s
too easy to fall off this cliff.

the calla lily has grown on every continent
touched so much soil 
pan is playing his flute so loud
everyone must hear
sometimes things are so big
we can’t help but hold our ears
bombs fall in gaza and 
we don’t hear 
have you ever wanted to
plant your feet in soil
ever wanted to give ear 
to the olives as they grow
sit here sit here 
how much earth have i touched
what is the weight of responsibility
it is not that equal to great power
instead 
it is the calla lily growing in soil 
not its own it is our response
to someone 
asking what is home 
listen listen 
we are not alone

Day 6 / Poem 6

sonic summertime
 
sunset peach
 
old song new meaning
 
fresh heart sting
 
some of you is dying
 
killing you in part
 
most of you is lasting
 
goldening 
 
at night

“Innocent until proven guilty!”
I declare, fingers crossed,
mouth unlocked. “Show me
the evidence.”

My mother comes forth with
photos of herself. She claims
they exist in every
story I write, the
intolerant parent, the 
unselfish daughter. Our conversation
of Tuesday appears on
Wednesday’s poem, and I
avert my eyes, with nothing
to show them.

My sister approaches with
handfuls of sidekicks. She
is the foil for every
main character I craft. I project
onto her my “what-ifs” and
whatnot, palimpsest of my
experiences onto
this other life I view daily.

My father calls the court from
across the ocean to present his
lackluster presence. Scour my pages
for the hint of a man, and you’ll
find, at most, a name whispered
once. Someone who existed, turned
into dust. I shrug and move on because
the wi-fi has broken. I can’t
write about what I don’t
know. This is my only slogan.

I keep a veneer near to
my chest, defensive
under duress. I thank god I’m
not famous, because what
would I do then? The evidence of
my crimes for all to
analyze, everything bare and
naked lies. I’m innocent, I
swear.

I suggest cutting 
                          dialogue,
                                       detail, 
                                                   digression.
I suggest pruning
                          grafting
                relaying
                          the text like a new
season’s garden, like 
                old apple trees.
I am indulgent in

                          my erasures. I strike
                                                   through fields, 
                                                                                woods
                                                               groves
like a controlled burn:
                          losing the forest
                for trees. Losing
                                        the trees for smoke.
                          It occurs to me
as a kind of muting,
                but the author, my friend,
                                                        likes a gray sky and asks
that I have no mercy
                          on his words. That I
                jump in 
                          like therapists
when a session’s over. Another 
                                                        friend had 
                                         once called the woman 
                          he was seeing—
                his psychologist—
“the cutting-
                off master.” He once
                                          had a name, too, 
                                                         for the woman
I wanted to be. 

Here we stay at the center, the still point, the single most
being of center that keeps at the core of itself the center.
Here we see that the window is open, that the window is
throwing a tantrum, not catching breeze, the breeze this
moment, here this is still the evening in grass with sunset.
Sunset, sunset, forget if you regret, you leave everything
you cannot see, cannot see, see  which way the world turns
to the stars or, into the stars, the stars, brightest of these
constellations, brighter than the world beginning. Here
we can sit or stand, swing a beat and believe. Here we may
stay together forever, singing to the rafters—

Farewell to the night, farewell to what we cannot see
in the dark, farewell to what the world is, farewell world,
farewell sky, farewell sunset, farewell to you and I, to
sweet laughter, goodbye, goodbye.  How long to be sweet,
beautiful, sweet and sweeter still, all your friends, all as
beautiful, all in the night, how beautiful the beloved is,
forever as all can be spoken.  Speak, listen, speak. See
the fireflies and sing with each moment, as the world
wakes, as we all wake again, waking forever, believing,
ready to stand between a beam of light for whatever else, 
seen in you so much as the world, different—

if I lose my faculties, I am home
            away from throuples + changing hair color
                                                + air conditioning
just pillow divers                      + gallery stuff
                                                + a present      today
                                                + supergood artistas
use me like gift wrapping
            as long             crumple me in
            as you                          to the basement
                        having the last name America
                                    sweating pride
                                                + eagle caws
                                                + grindcore not good ol’ rock & roll
tinder guys with wives with brown hair
            staking out the vegans and the metalheads
they cannot find me with a magnet
they cannot find me                 at woodbine
            figure drawing  or supermoon
            gingher            in my punk vest
            darling scissors I am stolen
            glinting back                lichen
                        leviathan like tesla
                        fighters of some ancient beast
                        nets manufactured
                        to be ignored
                        until we need to trap the bear
                                                + the forest
                                                + the gas lamp
                                                + the tinder guy
                                                + the claws of letting someone fondle your falling hair

From:  StalwartJOB@aol.com
Subject: What I Wanted to Say

When I cleaned out my office, I took down miniature drawings of houses with chimney smoke from the inside of my cabinet. Folded a crayola drawing of a hummingbird melting into flowers, addressed “To Daddy” in crooked lettering, and put it in a manila envelope labeled “my girl, 2010.”  You took her from me with Breath of Wind.  And now all of these empty vases, condolences and cheese trays–what am I to do?  How do I live among the living?  Silence rips at my ears; empty chairs and crusty paper plates on my daughter’s bedside table.  Sometimes I trick my mind:  She is simply away at college–drinking with girlfriends; scream-singing some Taylor Swift anthem.  When you took her from me did you think of your own felled children?  It was your word that cast them out–your ultimate decision.  When I see glitter, I weep.  I weep enough to fill a cistern, a tanker ship bound to take out everything in its path.  I am bomb–I will melt all plastic, muscle, memory for one more moment to linger in her rose water perfume.  

With great anguish,
Job of Uz

Why is the human 
heart considered a repository 
of love? Perhaps 
as parable, caveat 
that something we take 
for granted can 
founder without warning.
 
I love you with all my 
forest. With all my elms and 
catalpas pumping xylem 
and phloem, transpiring life to 
whoever nearby inhales, who 
despite lightning and larvae reach 
and regenerate from their own rot.
 
I love you with all my 
riverbed. Its name 
veining through native stories
and colonial baptisms
purifying itself with churning 
minerals of its earth.
 
I love you with all my 
aurora borealis hiding 
behind sodium light glare
but bleeding its lime and 
berry rays beyond rooftops 
if you know how to see.
 
I confess I do love you with 
all my heart as well, with its reliable 
pulse and its murmuring weaknesses
willing to over-swell with ruby heat 
until it fails is both.
 

an empty lake in front of me

my eyes stretch until they are nothing

two pinpricks two pebbles 

everything bright 

everything a front porch

ahead a desert 

ahead a storm cloud

it might rain 

it might bloom 

Day 5 / Poem 5

Take in a creature to keep alive and well

Try to control the little thing

Absolute

Punish everyone when there’s a will that’s not your own

Refuse change long past arrival

Do it alone

Thrash

Stash away your sacred seeds and expect fruit

Desert yourself flee

From the ones you love

Driving past a fence fast enough for barbed wire to
blur into wild horses running. Spirals of spikes 
fizzling into metallic manes; staring until the honks
of the freeway blend into a symphony of hoof
clicks—  a hind-leg to front-leg chord progression,
galloping through the sky in an out of focus world.

To be stuck in a moment that won’t stick with you
is to hold the moon in your hands while it eclipses,
and to live in a moment that was only an illusion
is to reach out to it with empty palms.

Freedom comes into focus when you grab ahold of it.
Clutch the reigns until there’s nowhere else to run, 
until the music is drowned out by road rage, and the metallic 
manes that tousle in the wind sharpen into a coiling crown of thorns— 
an atmospheric obstruction unwavering from the instant


am
told to
start small. 
To clean my room,
to take out the trash.
But I have delusions of
grandeur and lives cured, of
philosophical frameworks and
making change work. I want to witness 
my name bold in the papers, to know as a fact
that when I’m passed, my past doesn’t taper, but
how can I be woke when I can hardly wake up? and
do I work for the people or work for myself? The
corners of my mind carry grime; this is visible,
as are the objects strewn on its floor tiles,
cracked and divisible. I’m tired most of
the time, cranky, impulsive. I can’t
help but wonder if greatness is
not in my cards, if the hand
of big dreams gets flushed
into shards. So I will clean
up in here, sweep up the
remains. I’ll remain
obedient to their
orders. To start
small, I shall.
Small I
shall
stay.

On the carriage road, people gather
and signal for us to approach. A turtle

swings her hind flippers into the soil,
digging a nest. We watch, and the hourglass
pond winks its two blue eyes, one
slightly smaller than the other. Soon,
a family of four continues up the path
on two bikes, but the rest of us
stand in place, waiting
as if for the birth 
of some relative,
which it is. Yet I wonder

if our presence is invasive, too,
yet I continue watching. Who are we,
anyway, for the turtle to mind?
Later, my mom and I cross paths
with our fellow pryers, looping
around the pond, and smile—
having witnessed, like neighbors, the day’s
comings and goings—a new family
on dry land.  

          after “Samurai Armor from the Collection of Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller
Virginia Museum of Fine Art – Richmond, Virginia

Eboshi-Shaped Helmet with Big Dipper Constellation

         Ancient hood
      shaped like wave
        holding up
          your cup
                to a
             dark sky
           for ethereal
                  water

Kaen-type Helmet Representing the Flaming Jewel

           Blue in
              the center—
                my eyes
           glimmer gold
                 like the
                eternal flaming
                    jewel
                of mind

Peach-Shaped Helmet with Antlers

           What sweet
           still remains
            without pit but
          flesh awakening—
          horns like a stag,
              outstretched
                arms to
            grey morning

Seashell Shaped Embossed Helmet

           Where do you go 
                 when you have
              already come
            from what has gone back
               and become,
                 like the ocean,
                       new with
                          the tide

Wave Shaped Helmet

           You must 
                  have been 
            keeping eternal 
               secrets—
            believing what
              we might
                  see as
              blue mist

Eggplant Shaped Helmet (for heaven)

         Half mooned
        with garlic and
  mushrooms— some sort of
        ship for a chef’s hat—
            add some salt to
                come alive
            beneath the bloom
          of boiling water

     waking. feels redacted
  slamming possessed
        threatening chimes.
                     rampage up
            the        brick &
                  mortar
   puppet strings as I watch
     tiny green
       army men rappel
                  from skyline with
         invisible hands
       they infest.      my
       they infect       me
  in   vertebrate fashion
  in   adequate caption
  in   tel to be gathered
      wait in a pendulum
                  sway
      let them congregate
        by noon
1,159 green military toys will
my body up a fire
        while each word
ever learned
       then drops to broken
       thank

the last several are
the only few
I can remember:
button
lever
pencil
mummies
pesto
dementia
horchata
tax
cars
tomorrow
                             sister
                               friend
                               lover
computer
disco

                                        Olympus
                                             my mother
carry
escape
                              I
dangles
yolk
                                    god

An Underlying Condition
It has rained the last
                                                       798 days 
                                                       this week.  
           Orcas are swimming
in our flowerbeds.  
                                     We are in the mid west and the cicadas
sing their throatsong 
                        in a ceaseless 
                                  session 
                                          when the storms 
                        recede.
There is a
rumor that if you play an acoustic set they will quiet, 
stop their bellyaching.  
                                  My dog 
                                               hunkers
                                                             down, her ears 100 times stronger
than mine.  Every 
                                  boom of thunder 
                                  is the coming of the Lord,
                                  fire and brimstone.
                                  She licks her chops and 
                                                                         leans against 
                                                                         anything sturdier 
                                                                         than herself.
I lean against a mountain 
            of pillows.  My husband 
kneels at the 
bedside presenting his offerings 
                                                    of trash compactors and 
                                                    dishwashers. He’s been 
                                                    researching, again.  I study 
                                                                                        his face 

It 
is  
June. 
According to my newsfeed,
                                                                                        people are still 
                                                                                                     shooting
                                                                                                     saving 
                                                                                        one another.  

An alert dings: “A man moonwalks In 
the Menard’s parking lot;” this 
joy (alone) gets me out of bed. 

Scrap metal stashed in our garage corner
for the next trip to the metal recycling yard—

dust-weed lot with heaps and rows of
dead dishwasher and Frigidaire tombstones.

Our cherry tree branch tips browned
the past three springs, perhaps from

some late frost. But this year some
fruits appear again, still pale, early June.

The robins celebrate anyway—feast on
what they’ve been missing. The old

neighbor woman putters in her yard,
determining what tasks can be ignored,

knowing she’ll be dead by the time
it becomes a real problem. Clean

gutters, yes, but shrug off blackening
bark at the split side of the oak tree.

When there are enough ripe cherries
for pie, I pick what the birds have left me.

When there’s enough metal to make
it worth a trip, we box it to the back

of the van, with black trash bags of pop
cans, drive to the recycle lot

collect our twelve dollars. Once we’re gone,
who knows what happens to everything.

your face is a hill drenched in morning light
your face is a mountains dark side
your face is a wish and a promise
your face is a name we might miss 

under the wood-burning stove is a small hole  
letting in cold air below by design 
otherwise it would seep in from the windowsills
otherwise it would sit at the edges 

your hands a quicksilver rope 
your hands a ghosts’ playthings
your hands untouchable and touched
your hands a rejected request 

we sit at the window in winter
tap at the glass and don’t say words
it is either beautiful or desolate 
the air reminds me of something i used to forget  

clavicle a broken toy
ankle rubber band 
knee menstrual blood
eye foreclosure sign  

we didn’t realize how the cold comes in anyways 

Day 4 / Poem 4

Eldersong warbles out clear and through us
grieving and giving comfort
teaching and carrying 

We’re nestled near a grove of young paw paws and older cottonwoods 
folded tight in a green remnant of the cityscape 
in a cool stretch of summering sweat

I’m stilling me to listen well
swaying in the swimming
and trying to transmute honor through to the babies 

We see photos of our mothers at 16 and devote the rest 
of our lives to understanding the girl she once was,
consecrate the footprints she left behind that we’ve now grown into,
pick at the freckles on our hands we never noticed were on hers—
a constellation of birthmarks mistaken as stigmatic wounds.

The same perfume that anointed her neck
is the holy water I rub into my wrists— a scent 
that lingers for generations and passes on as unspoken 
scripture. I carry the weight of every girl she has been
and walk for every woman she has come from. Thrown over my shoulders, skin and sacrifice structured into a suit of armor, a chain mail
matriarchy I’ll drape over our next soldier. 

Grandma knew all the words to the hymns in church, 
knelt over the pew molding metal shields
from her mother’s rosaries to relieve our pain
of bearing the Cross.

I only know this song because she sang it.
I only know this life because she lived it.

 
 

The first word that comes to mind is eats
Like a dragon, curling around my heart
Jaw unhinged, ready to sink its fangs and
Take a bite.
Scales slither over the depressions in my pulmonary landscape
Talons scratching long lines into my thin veins
With every movement I make.

Even eating is not enough. Eating, that
Thing we do every day, with our forks and knives
Our pressed napkins and shining porcelain plates.
No, this is not eating. This is consumption, destruction, gluttony
At its finest. This is an animal that fattens itself up
A family of four foul lizards fed by this black thing
That festers inside me
That grows roots and thrives inside me
Dark leaves extend from blood vessels, tying
This dead beating organ down

I feel its footsteps traveling lower
Into my gut, powerful body pressing against my ribcage
Laying eggs on my diaphragm
Breeding new beings, these monsters within
Its babies take bites, and their babies alikeI sit here, placid smile plastered on
Chunks of flesh falling down
As I am eaten away from the inside out 

 

Marina knew all our names, somehow,
but didn’t speak any English. Neither did
the other mensa-ladies, as we called them,
though they wore names on their chests.
Pasta o riso? We got asked twice a day, 
and chose one or the other—or, like me,
just one for months. There was no clear
hierarchy, but we all knew the cliques—
all knew some Italians sent laundry home
by mail, and all knew some Italian, too, 
though we used it for “very strange” letters
and depressing analyses degli aspetti positivi
della morte. We were accused of plagiarism
and roamed czernica at night like coyotes,
climbing up Castello Vecchio and down
the cliff to the private beach of a prince. Cosa
ti piace mangiare, Marina asked back when
mi piaceva mangiare cogli occhi, and persisted
until I agreed, in the spring, to accept a bowl
of pasta al pomodoro—a whole mozzarella
plopped in the middle—and said che brava
each day, for the rest of the year, when I didn’t
ask for rice.

    Neighborhood Laundromat
             408 Cleveland Street
           Richmond, Virginia
Monday, June 3rd, 2024
                    12:06pm

This morning,
in a waking dream,
a crow gawked at me
across the street—
and I squawked back,
sitting at the
neighborhood
laundromat,
wanting something
different,
exquisite.
A woman
kisses a
flower,
begonia maybe,
holding a
parakeet eyeing
a canary—
if not,
then what
but birds
to hold—?
Resting on
her left
thumb,
humming as
the blue-
jays do,
chirping in and
out of sight,
the crow calls,
a man
runs by.
You sit
on the bench,
gawking at
the knots in
the wood,
little, undulating
pools caked
in sun, an eddy 
turning back 
into itself before
toppling over.
No water stays
in the 
same place 
ever
anyway
except
and yet
together in
a moment of
breath when
evaporated.
The woman 
walks back 
to her shop
speaking foreign 
languages to the 
dog who 
responds so 
swiftly and yet
you know that yours
would have
ran off.
And there you’d be—
chasing long
after it,
what it 
means to be 
present in,
standing on
both feet,
moving in 
wind like 
a tree.
Trust and
believe—
the man says,
then laughs,
walking in
from the
sweltering,
sun-stained
street, having 
parked his 
yellow car.
Again, another 
beautiful utterance 
of day—because of
the joy contained inside 
each thing as present—
except also, trying, 
simultaneously becoming 
parts of everything else—
a horse in the pasture, 
a goat in the field, 
a cloud.

soft paralysis, stuck in a floe
frozen, but not gone completely just seeing different seeing
that dissonance that soft paralysis
some heritable doomsday clock
its ice for every meal
chemistry code, some way to engulf another organism
lend me your function
                   your energy
give to me your mitochondria
                        your covalent bonds
                      your nomenclature and your spirit bomb
nitroplasts in algae
neuroplastic waste
fuming from the pink matter
great myelination scimitar
a sheath for your best intentions
a wreath we can hang on our after care
matrimonial ornaments taking the place of
anything used in the hunt
matrimonial ornaments that look like they hold
trinkets of my past professions in suspension
               in the payroll still
               in limbo and chaste
a late stage signal from within the glacier
a lot of drying off to do
for a moment, all this melting had legs
                              and with my own two shoes
                              I sprinted with coastal drift
                              about an inch every year
                              save my energy for when they need to relocate a city
                                                            for the right reasons
                                                            not like Ramallah
                                                            not like CRISPR Cas-9
with this glacier, I will run to Dersim
empty of my oils

Penny Penates (known as the first postcard sent) bought for 44,300 at auction, 
posted Fulham in London.

Judas,

My outsider.  Outlier.  Outside the lines–your favorite place.  When we went home without any catfish to batter and fry,  you smiled and said: we caught a buzz, clinking my amber bottle to yours–a cold kiss in the gilded heat. Was there enough coin to cover at what cost?  I’m sorry to say that every plot needs an inciting event.  Stay gold Ponyboy, like the sunset through the sycamore tree where you carved your initials.  Let me wine and dine you–I know a nice joint where the beer is the coldest in the world. 

Yours, J

across the bed she motions towards me 

what is the worth of a horse with no mouth? 

her face is a stage with the curtains drawn 

and i am pawing at a jar of sealed red cherries

why do we hurt each other? 

a mockingbird screams at the moon asking for a mate

and i’m driving my car through a mall 

it’s just a dream it’s just a dream it’s…

not a dream i can’t believe this is reality 

i’ve blinked and she’s gone 

across the bed there is now a small pile of packing peanuts

they are either arranged in the shape of a smile or a frown

i can’t tell 

Day 3 / Poem 3

years churned over
and I was only ever
       missing the binder
       a mordant
it was a matter of preparation
missed
despite all done right
all collected all arrayed
shiftfoot project mismanagement
a bit of math
of chalk of planning
and the world (mine) could have been different

can be

We start our lives submerged in water,

and spend the rest of it scared of drowning.

An aqueous infidelity breaking the dam of 

what once kept us safe. We never know fear 

until we take our first breath and we never stop looking

for who we are from the moment we open our eyes.

We can’t live without what kills us.

We’ll always find our way back to the ocean,

drink from cupped hands kneeling over the reservoir,

float on top of the lake to get a better view of the sky.

The risk of going under is worth the promise of silence—

muffled voices and stifled explosions 

enveloped by the rippled veil, sinking to the bottom 

to escape what’s at the top. The feeling of leaving the body 

while staying in it is worth grasping our chests with pruned fingertips, 

and to brave the waterfall is worth a glimpse of freedom.

You’ll always find me by the ocean. Staring the killer right in the face;

gazing at my keeper who I feed from. I don’t want to watch the tide pull in 

before it reaches my toes and see it as a betrayal, to cower into the sand 

as the waves curl away leaving a foam border between us.

I want to see that it’s for the best.

I want to step closer and make it touch me.

All the girls wanted to be Valerie
Whose secret was in double-digit calories
When the numbers got too low
Valerie had to go
But she lives on skinny in her photo gallery

Pandora’s name fit her life’s lot
There are gifts that her beauty begot
She opened her jar to some men
Drawn to Hope, again and again
Until she shattered in one shot

Angelina’s life is not her own
She scrolls for hours each day on her phone
“She is still living!” you assume
And though I see her every Sunday at noon
Her spirit exists in another world, alone

 

Next to me on the Northeast Regional 
is a woman about my age, writing
a stack of cards. In her seat pocket, flowers
wobble and bounce, their open mouths
echoing motion. Earlier, she’d stuck
her nose in the petals, on the phone
with a friend or lover who turned out
to be her mom. “It’s my favorite thing
you’ve done,” she said, going
over her round, penciled words 
with ink, grabbing the tray table
as if to still it. “The Cafe Car is closed,”
an announcer says, “for safety reasons.”
By the next stop, we learn of door
stuck open. “Sorry,” the woman
had told me, gesturing at her bags
and flowers, “I’m all over the place.” 
“Same,” I smiled. “Please.” Now 
I see her nowhere. Our train
won’t be moving, so we do. “Are you
form 82?” we’re asked 
on the new one, and I sense pride
in the voices around me—Yes,
they say, I’m from 82—and think 
about switching tracks, carrying
so as to be carried. 

 

Like the blue stained eyes of a thousand mirrors, except inside,
with head, abdomen, and thorax intact, still you feel like Gregor,
waiting for apples, although, such forbidden fruit is purple,
bruised like the flesh of a plum—No, you realize, it is actually
the plum you are after, persimmons and pears, kumquats,
laughter—hard to discern in a million crystalline visions what it
means to become a fruit or fly, not that you asked to be a pinprick
even on the face of the wall—& nor did you ask either to return from
your slumber a slug resting its belly beneath yellow-veiled bloom
of toadstool, almost as like in dreaming and becoming anglerfish,
as though if what you’d always wanted, even if without knowing it,
still knew what is meant by sleep or dream or swim—eyes still
open for lack of eyelids, tailfin twitch still flitting before floating like
waking as ocean now standing, dark pools of universe awaiting
a golden sea returning.

ashing-queens

Come here. 
                            Lean in. 
The queso is gone. Not missing, 
                                         just used up. 

               Like when I found out that two spaces 
are superfluous I cried. I mourn all of my missteps, 
                                                                                             mishaps. I explained to my son: 
                                                                                             A condom is the answer. It’s just the 
                                                                                             answer, 
                                                                                               so don’t question it. 
But back to the queso. Why is it always 
                                                                 almost
                                                                                 gone? Almost like when 
my dog took the yard in 3 quick steps 
to taste the squirrel that taunts her 
every morning. Is it a game? Would she sink 
                                                                                 her canines deep
                                                                                       into the meat 
if she had the chance? Could she? All of our wildness 
                                                                 tied up 
                                                                 in buttons and collars. Just once I would like to: 
                                                                                                                                                                        jump 
                                                                                                                                                  to feel the 
                                                                                                                                                  freedom in the 

                                                                                                                                                           fall. 
               But I sit on this balcony instead, watching the sun 
               set in suburbia. My neighbors 
               pull out camp chairs each evening 
               to toast the sunset–sometimes red, sometimes white 
               wine. A stopped 

               moment to regroup 
                                        under pinks and oranges. 
                                        I stare at them from my window. But 
we were talking about queso and condoms and how both are preventatives.
                    In fact I was reading a poem about the dark woods 
                                        when my husband exclaimed from the kitchen, 
“The queso!” 
               I came running
               to triage the emotions of lost and missing. 

Much the same as the pull out method. It simply 
                                                                 doesn’t 
                                                                               work–it is never “almost” 
                                                                                                                        but mostly 
                                                                                                                         “always.” 

Trust me on this one. 

So we continue to buy queso, and it continues 
                                                                 to decrease. If 
                                                                 I place queso we bought 
                                                                       end to end would it circle at least 
                                                                 2 chambers of the heart? 
                                                                               Would you 
                                                                               shake your sweet head in agreement– 
that queso is definitely a problem in suburbia where the oranges crash into pinks and some neighbors sip white wine (or red) while the squirrel 
                                        taunts and the dog 
                                        barks her longing, and I howl 
                                        te amo 
                         from this balcony 
                                                                                                                     wondering where all the 
                                                                                                missing things go?

The school-age kids temporarily

find a rainbow island in a churning

corn ocean of red voters. Flag-caped,

wigged, face-painted, safe 

in a vibrant hive of okay-ness.

They bounce to DJ beats, 

gather pamphlets for questions 

they can’t ask parents and hide from 

search histories. They stroll craft tables, 

searching for something to hold 

in their palm or drape on the outland

of their body, that radiates outward

instead of pressing like a tractor

parked on their chest. The drag

show emcee slips on her gown

behind the amphitheater, knowing

what everyone is up against. The kids

will go home, wipe off makeup in

the driveway, say they were

at the mall. Next day newspaper

editorials will quote bible verses,

say pray for lost lambs. If only the kids

could bring the crystal color of this

sunlit afternoon, home to prism

the walls of their closed-door rooms 

with all the ways forward and out.

mockingbirds are heartbreak 
loud and shocking and it comes 
in the middle of the night
louder than the day louder than 
a missed look 
they are always changing
their tune so you never know
whats next 
when they tell you it’s a breaking 
what they mean is a ripping 
nothing clean and lots of pulling

this is not a poetic device
these birds have tormented me 
through the night 
during both my two biggest 
endings breakups breakdowns
they’ve been keeping me up 
now for months
in their search for mates
their own inverted heartbreaks 
tonight i believe only one is left 
just me and the refrain 
also missing his own jane 

Day 2 / Poem 2

the ground crawled out
cracked open took to the sky
cicada-song
scream and hum
shocked some of us alert
huddled us in or along

in your town there
are sniper-bots torment terror
here there is an old blimp floating by
also
a civil-military airfield
mostly quiet

this is the same earth ?
my children are not worth more than yours

the song is gone
there are wings everywhere

I’ve spent my whole life wanting to go home. 

I’ve neglected the present only to spend the future 

thinking of it as the past.

The pressure of being stuck in a place I don’t belong 

is to sit in a waiting room that doesn’t have the patience for me. 

I’ve built a home for a person I no longer am; made a bed I’ve now outgrown. 

I don’t want to live in the same room the memories live in, 

and I don’t want to sleep in a bed the monsters wait under. The older I get 

the more my feet hang off, and I need to run away before the shadows can grab hold of them. 

Grief is a visitor overstaying their welcome, the straggler from whom I learned 

the habit of lingering in doorways from— a portal that offers me a different life 

depending on whether I take one step forward or one step back.

My bedroom will always look the same way I left it,

but not recognize me back. Wrinkles distort the floral pattern in the sheets, 

but I’ll always remember what they looked like when they were smooth and tidy.

I’ll remember my age when the covers are tucked-in taut 

and I sit stiff at the edge. I start to think 

maybe the grief was worth it 

when I remember what it felt like to hide under them

In childhood, my parents hold me in their arms
My small head rests against their chests
I know they hold me to keep me from all harms

My mother reads me storybooks of princesses and pastoral farms
I am nestled in the crook of her elbow, suckling on her breast
In childhood, my mom holds me in her arms

My father spins tales of the world’s love and humanity’s charms
With my fist resting in his, I take my first steps
I know my father holds me to keep me from all harms

My mom whispers stories of colored men with firearms
She grabs my shoulders, tells me not to venture into that unrest
In childhood, my mom holds me in her arms

My father keeps me in the house, lest I set off his alarms
He chains my wrists to the bedroom door, maintains my mental arrest
I know my father holds me to keep me from all harms

While I shout against closed doors, while my mind-on-fire warms
My mother and my father remind me that they know best
In childhood, my parents hold me in their arms
I know they hold me to keep me from all harms

The lilacs have browned
like cut apples, their skins
curled inward as if to gather
last things and leave. This evening
I finally admitted to myself
they were past their prime,
then remembered Nanette
by Hannah Gatsby—the beige
couch where I watched it,
legs crossed, by a stuffed
giraffe named Bill, having eaten
too many chips. This is
my prime, Gatsby told a full
auditorium at 40, It is now. And I 
remember the lilac leaves:
how long they stay, past
the flowers, green.

of its rumbling current
awaiting the pull
with the sea
stands at eye level
unseen unless one
ripple of heat still
in and out with the
eternal highway going
standing alone
like an orange grove
from the center
of light pouring out
a golden beam
forgotten sun
illuminated by the
darkening water beneath
what lies deep
breath illuminating
threshold of breath
standing at the center
here you are

Reverse Osmosis

monkshood, all that grows now
jet fuel fertilizer                                                                                         smelt our greatest tragedy
bloom assassin                                                                                              to shopping mall
                                                                                                                  bone cold pourover

            no brown kids’ boys + girls club
            no accessibility
            no condolences
            no rec center
            just      pandora’s smirk
                        box store romance
                        every kiss begins in a cobalt mine
                                                                                         remind them with ribcage
                                                                                                   sleek, alloy fortified ribcage
                                                                                                   candycrush cop filled ribcage
                                                                                                  recognizable from the skybox ribcage
                                                                                                                                                                      something to rival the sunport

by escalator, we clutch tandem resistance fist
                                                                                                  as we become ribcage swallows
                                                                                                                              something like descending from Caucus
feathers flooding street level
loosened by each nudge from armed escort
                                                                                                                              something like bouncing ragdoll down Krakatau
we become molten pills                                                       eruptions to calm the necrosis

                                                                                                                                                 settle the dust                  something like
                                                                                                                                                                    23 years of world trade silence
                                                                                                      garden scars on Nagasaki
                                                                                                         2 gaping chasmic holes
                                                                                                                crossing guard
                                                                                          2 big holes and a minty fresh megaplex
                                                                                                             dancing down 2nd ave 

papyrus and purple glitter gel pen

Love,
When it was finished, the eleven begged, 
“Teach us what only you knew.  Say his words 
so we hear his voice.” Even this was 
robbery. To pull the curtain back; our 
secrets using your words and not mine–
as mine were never allowed.  I am still 
mostly mistaken: whore, demon prophet, 
wasteful cunt.  But I stood at the foot 
of your death. My stories, ash blown on desert 
wind. So what secret should I share? How you 
scraped your spoon against your teeth when the soup 
was hot? Or after a workday you scrolled 
Marketplace, looking for hope and filing 
cabinets?  You called me yours, and the flesh 
they stripped away from you my hands had wandered, 
lost pilgrims on divine canvas. My Love, 
as the crows circled for their treasure, what 
of my loss?  Am I to be your Lavinia, 
tongue lobbed off silencing all of my speaking parts?
x

Pit players warm up knuckles and bows.
The boy beside me sneezes four 
 
times, a woman down the row—five.
A stifled sob from a back row. Behind 
 
me, ladies wonder if the concession 
counter has wine. We gather, suspend 
 
our lives, allow two-hour new ones. 
We all have things to get out. Or keep in. 
 
The brass plaque on my seat armrest 
is engraved with the name of a dead 
 
woman—long-time costumer, stage mom 
with wide smiles, not here to applaud 
 
shout bravo. We breathe together until 
the dark’s cue to hush. Curtain, slip 
 
open and reveal us someplace far 
from here, while we are still here.
 
 

there is a little firefly 
that lives in the room of my ribcage 
and it is confused 
because there is so much space
in here now and how 
much running empty air 
open and alone and
it was not always so 
at night when i sleep 
bees come and visit it
so many buzzing things 
tangled in dream
but they will not stay 
so this bright lightning is alone
with its enzymatic act of a sometimes glow
it is not even summer yet and there is time

Day 1 / Poem 1

why can a heart keep beating half-purpled part-crushed full-crumpled?

it’s part of your story that’s why you’re aching like this but a wayfinder won’t come if we don’t hear and see yet right? 

I am sliding boxes around calling it all I can bear 

staggering in the crushcrumple that happens out away from me but still goes haunting here

still you are stomping in the woods saying it’s all you can bear 

and what good is coming of our witness —

who has our bleeding patched up?

I keep my brutality a secret. Cutthroat 

caressing the back of the neck;

 extending soft hands that beat with the same 

falconry of a hunter who holds shame. Fawn-faced 

flaunting dexterity while hiding the shotgun. The only difference

between the poachers and I is the prize we’re after. They scour for dinner 

or dominance, while I’m on the prowl for myself. I know 

these woods like the back of my hand, but get lost 

in the creases of my palm. There’s no difference 

between a rabbit’s foot and a fox tail because neither one 

has ever brought me luck. 

Feral but fair; fetal positioned—

pinned down and pigeonholed—

preyed upon until I become the predator,

until I outlive a dying beast.

There’s no difference between the art of giving up too soon

and the destruction in moving forward. I’m the savage

running head first into the ruins. Quick with the knife; 

sore loser in the game. I’ve played with ernest stealth 

and sincere strategy, but the only way to win is to be ravenous.

I’ve learned in order to see the beauty in the mundane you must first 

see beauty in cruelty— to see blood stains as scarlet accents 

on fur of creamy gold and Spanish leather. To want 

a performance that ends in a standing ovation; to desire a painting that starts to move 

the longer you stare at it—  a slaughter splattering into a slow drip, 

a hand to claw to dirt,

ground-gripping body-dragging portrait 

It comes back in little memories. The thud,
What I remember most is the thud
Of his body or his bike against the side of the car,
Against the side of my car. The thud that precedes panic,
The sound of a body suspended in uncertainty, a life
That could be lost in a thud. No
Cracking bones, no
Joints popping, nothing
to indicate harm done but a thud, bleeding in
from my open window.

I pull to the side of the road and run towards him, the man
Who lies on his back in the middle of the road
In the intersection between Nostrand and Cranbury Neck. I am
next to him, now, standing above him, looking down
At his cranberry face, his pale skin
Dotted with red sun-freckles. His nose
Hangs low like a pendulum, like 
I could cup it in my hand. His eyes
are seaglass-green and unblinking. He is old, and for a moment,
I stare that this man and hope to God he
Is not dead, is not dying. He is lying there, on his back, and I cannot think
Of anything but a beached whale, his stomach protruding, his body
Small and mottled, reddening on his back in the hot sun. Another
Lady, a witness, rushes up and gives him her hand and I wonder how long I’ve
Stood there, staring at his big pale eyes, repeating
“I’m so sorry I’m so sorry I’m so sorry.” The words run like my tears, like
a waterfall out of my mouth, in the hopes they will flow
Over his still body. He grips the hand of
The other woman and I don’t offer my hand, thinking
He would recoil from my touch, from the touch of this
Sin, this almost-murderer.

Then the rest is a blur of water and inability. I sit in my car and cry
Like a baby, because I want to evoke pity, because I don’t know
What else to do. I am used to being
In control, to being halfway towards a solution. But there
Is nothing I can do, no platitudes of
Comfort I can offer, no corner of the world I can hide away in. All I must do is
wait long minutes for the police to come, my body
Quivering with selfish tears, standing on Cranbury Neck Road
for all the world to see, for all the cars that slow down
To see. The worst part is
That they wheel him away on a stretcher. The worst part is
That I cannot be absolved of my sins yet, not when
His fate is still in the air, away from my line
Of sight, a stranger who I must now remember with uncertain
Dread. I cry driving home, though my hands do not shake anymore. I cry
On the highway later. I cry at my desk, describing
To my friend how I thought I killed him, how I can think of nothing
But the what-if of killing him, of the thud that is crisp in
My mind, of the way he lay on his back, the mollusk I worry I’ve reduced him to,
The way his body curled in the sun, blurry in that heat.

There is a scene that keeps running
Through my mind, in which it is raining and I am concealed
In dense foliage. In front of me are figures in
Long black gowns, standing in front of an array of foldable
Chairs, some so close that my hand could reach from the bushes and
Brush the dark velvet of their backs. I look 
Beyond the figures. In the distance glows an open casket, and I
Know it is walnut wood, polished and glossy and impervious to the rain that
Beats down on the leaves above me. I know the body that
Lived in that casket, the curvature of his nose, the
Exact shape of his unblinking eyes. I am sitting
There, crouching in the bushes, watching the people who
Loved him, who he loved, mourn him, knowing that I am responsible
For this pain, for the destruction of a loved life, knowing that
less than a second of a lapse in attention, less than a second
In which I chose to take a turn instead of yielding to the
Man now in the casket, has irrevocably taken a life
Like my own, a life
Better than my own.

I sit at home now, computer on my lap. I am writing
To rid myself of the thud, of the way he lay, old and fragile, on
His back in the sun, of how the only thing in my control
Was my ability to cry in the middle of the intersection
Between Nostrand and Cranbury Neck, of his
Seaglass eyes, of the tears that
Keep returning, of the scenes that I cannot
Shake myself of, of the uncertainty that bleeds into my life
Now, the knowledge that I may never learn about his fate
In that unknown hospital. Or worse, that I will know 
Exactly how it ended.
The moment lives forever in little memories.

Time is a misunderstanding, 
a failure of language. My toes 
are younger than my head,
I learn—closer to the ground, 
where minutes slow down,
as if weighted by the mass
of earth. Imagine two friends:
one living at sea level, the other
up in the mountains; imagine 
their friendship across time
and space, then cross out
the rogue concept. The friend
at sea level will have aged less,
lived less; the one higher up
will have had more time
to think her thoughts, though
(I mean, because) her minutes
passed faster. I wonder
how to account for the lifespan
of birds (short, I think, 
considering)—and how much
I could learn without knowing. 
The friends keep in touch,
then lose it; time sheds its qualities; 
language proves its own failure
once again. I reconsider
my altitude of choice, never having
chosen it. The friends get back 
in touch, but when? Questions 
can themselves be false. What’s 
happening now, for example, on some
other planet? How far? How soon? 
What friend?

An ant hill
on a long path
between hedges
becomes
a moment
where you stand
contrapposto
before laying
prostrate
but also
still fused together
in this
slouched state
having to
remember what
is categorized
as lost
as something
previously
moved
away from
before glimpsing at
the coming
presence
of death
and smiling
and laughing
as the bird
calls from the
bus stop
and the bus
hums its way
along—and here,
what path
stands wedged
between holly
now stands as holy
to whatever you
have lost
or forgotten
like the rain
in a day dream
and darkening clouds
before
waking

odd                                                                        oblong                                                                 pearls
                       of happenstance
                       of haphazard planning rollcage reaction in 6K
                       of haptic feedback
hamsterwheel how the days turn

                                                                       a pier reclaimed
                                                               by a lonely passing wave
                                                    of poseidon reaching into pulmonary systems
                                                                            allowing a foamy exit
                                                                               taxpayer undertow

                                like the grey, this shall not pass
                                like the beard, the only one we have
                                              we’re only so opaque
                                       only so oblong
                            odd                                                                                  like the tea
spilled                                                                                             the GUNPOWDER
                      onto the floor in odd, oblong                                           patterns of sparking
                                                             oolong                 spilled                            onto the floor
                                                                      in a pattern that looks like a snake eating its shedding

nourished rifles                                                                 verb association
                                                                              STEAMING for the wick
    decorum                                                                    parades on the day they murder my dogs
                                                                              from within the wicker
              abundant berm                                                       i feel like galvanized square steel
                                                                   nook evolution                    bell tolls

                          storage space for seldom used belongings     this looks like a half eaten pattern
an animal crossing                     sentinel horizon                        emitting from behind the chin

like olong johnson, i don’t know whether or not the word was ever understood
mumbling some tinfoilhat wrinkle from a different species
mcconnell eyeline void
swansong conference finals                                                                                                             tranceful
                                                                                                                                             of hypnotoad toxin

                                  the smaller bits of wreckage make it to some fertile coast first

clay seep                                       deserters chattering as it washes in                                360day weep

                                                                    metro glance to bedouin
                                                                    a pier arrives tomorrow

I am 50 percent at fault for
many things.  Except
rain and unrequited 
love.  Oh lover of all things
except me.  The obits of love: here
lies she/her a land-
mine explosion, bits and pieces– 
heart splattered;

Jane Doe (b. 1978)
A Shattered Tale
household paint on concrete

Was it something I
unsaid?  Something I un-
did when I did what I did?  I pick black
buttons like wildflowers—
This nosegay for you.  I lick a 
petal and taste its 
sternness.  He loves me not.  He loves me
un-not.  I dog-ear blank pages of my journal—
separate the anatomy of my pen:  grip, clip, and barrel, 
routine maintenance, introspection
oh bleeding ink, oh sad sad blot.

My children have scattered to
bedrooms and friends’ cooler houses.
Taco dinner cleaned-up, 
watching Top Chef,
and there’s this incessant bird
twittering beyond the slid-open door.

I open the Merlin app on my phone
and it flashes house wren
house wren, house wren,
chastising me for not 
stepping out to see who I hear.
So I do it. I slide open the screen door.

All the birds scatter at the threat 
of my body in my own back yard,
so I recede into my walls 
of lumber and framed art
and leave them to golden hour sun.
It’s OK that things don’t want you.

branches are growing from out of my fingers

i can’t tell if the tips of these fingers are missing

or this is just something beginning differently  

this largeness by accident or unplan

my hands are still ceaselessly without

no bud or blade has sprouted

and nothing in me is quiet or still 

everything squeezes into largeness

waiting for a question of extremity 

all queer and varietal

it’s hard to hold anything within 

my new arms