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 March 2023 are Ashna Ali, Carmella Braniger, Caitlyn Coey, K Dulai, jawno okhiulu, and Alexandria Regilio! Read their full bios here.
If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and warm up your pen!
Day 15 / Poem 15
CONSIDERING WITH COCKATIEL / Ashna Ali
Whirligigs of dead leaves and detritus paint
assessment of storm swirl. Lay here, face toward
the blackened window. Listen. Body equally languid,
and terse. Combined relief and restriction: There is
nowhere to go. An orchestra of choreographed
sandpaper grinds the rhythm of snow knifing
lamppost beams at cat scratch diagonals. We have
learned to call it threat, romance. The lone cockatiel
disagrees. He putters contented across hardwood,
singing sweet serenades to a single tear of paper towel.
Creatures of nature though we may be, we can sing
with little hearts open to the chaos. This is prerequisite,
he wants me to know, painterly in his flirtatious flapping.
Every good foundation is paved with death, molting.
Every good beginning starts with chaos—birth.
Floodplains Forest / Carmella Branigan
Mesic is what they call
a well-drained floodplain.
Mesic comes from the Greek mesos–
Middle, so moderate amounts of moisture.
If you walk the trails long enough,
you will catch a spring flood.
Or a summer fire.
This is the prairie after all.
Soils waterlogged in the spring
crackle dry by late summer.
The tall trunks stand in several feet of water.
But only a few times each year.
We walk for a while together
past the floodplains forest
and muse on the veracity of trees submerged,
covered in water, how the saplings withstood–
seasonal disturbances of its ecosystem
water-deposited sands and sediments,
being reshaped by the river’s meandering.
Intense floods crash large flotsam into trees.
Fast-moving waters deposit sand and pebbles.
Layers of sand, silt, and clay
build up when left to stand in still pools.
You mention the moving water
of the manmade river flowing beside us
and how we are growing older.
Walking in cadence with its current,
you say, can strengthen our mental health
and improve our mood. I already feel
soothed by soft ripples over stones.
Scientists’ call it “blue space.”
Dozens of studies in favor of a sea view.
Biophilia blames the comfort and familiarity
on predetermined instinct–
the closer we are to water
the less likely we will die of thirst.
Attention restoration theory contends
water empties our minds like meditation.
I remember the way it feels to fall asleep
to the sound of rain outside the window.
We move on to our divorces and deaths,
the burden of folding his clothes without love,
what it’s like to sleep alone, our aging bodies,
wondering if replacing the kids with plants
will work or maybe a new Masters program
to launch a mid-life career crisis.
These seasonal disturbances of our own,
the weight of life’s sands and sediments.
Light on our feet, sweat across the brow
unafraid to die, watching the waters recede,
we are remaking ourselves with each step.
Move Your Head Here / Caitlin Coey
I’m sad in a way I can’t explain.
Heavy, like I’ve been submerged in water in a thick winter coat.
The chiropractor places the films on the wall opposite me,
Like they’re coming out of a polaroid.
There are scribbled notes, things I can’t make out,
And 5 small white dots in black and white film of my upper spine
Like something shattered.
But the chiropractor doesn’t deviate from her all smiles routine
Or take me to another room with a box of tissues.
She is so excited to help me
And I am
I am handed a brochure that looks like a children’s book,
Explaining the role of cervical alignment in one’s health.
It talks about injuries that can cause misalignment, car accident, work injury,
But nothing about trauma, the way constant panic can change the shape of the body,
Bring the shoulders forward, render you inflexible
Put your chin here,
Look straight ahead,
Follow the stripe with your eyes,
Now the pen.
She brings it close to my face so my eyes cross.
Did you know your left eye looks out?
It means your brain isn’t working right.
Beast / K Dulai
Round Tomato / jawno okhiulu
The sun dried red and yellow on the ripe tomatoes:
They must have eaten the sun
Lite and overindulged to
Carry such power
Dandelion Yarrow Mint / Alexandria Regilio
On the first day of school
to learn about herbs,
I will be an herb.
Don’t feel much like a
dandelion, not especially
dandy or lion. Not today.
because it sounds like
sorrow. Or perhaps
mugwort because my
mistakes are like warts
and they won’t seem to go
away. Showing up in you
like a mirror snagging on
what I thought was peace.
Or maybe I’m a little
mint. Tiny and stuffed all
the way down inside the
deepest corner of your pocket.
Like lint in the aftermath
of getting tossed around
without permission. None
of these sound right. So
I guess I’ll ask them for
the herb that heals a broken
Day 14 / Poem 14
Why We Tell Ourselves We Still Do It / Ashna Ali
They say nicotine is the cynic’s
drug of choice. Think about it.
The bedridden poet in the winter,
Paintings from asylums, prisons, harems,
the sitting rooms of the old bourgeoisie.
Find me another as lowly, sophisticated,
crass, sexy, flagrant. Femme streak of rebellion
in my bones. All the ways they tried to kill me,
and I’m still here. How many lovers
we meet through cliché, a missing
lighter. Molly tells me of a sick, sad
man who cups her neck during
foreplay to place a vape in her lips.
How it ends, wrapped in a wet bedsheet,
cackling amidst flavored fumes.
The Yellow Wallpaper. Frida Kahlo.
Their nightly risk of burning down
their beds. They took it. They took it
The Violin and the Child / Carmella Braniger
It started with a golden sheet of paper
and a young girl who’d heard a violin dance
in a first-grade music class demonstration,
who, on her way through the front door,
signup sheet raised high above her head,
announced she’d just found a life calling,
who was already reaching for the source
of the deep sensation aroused inside her
when she stood before the mirror,
violin tucked tightly under her raised chin,
searching for the vibration she experienced
at the pure sound she couldn’t match,
not by plucking, strumming, running a rosined
catgut-strung bow across the strings. At first,
her fingers moved cautiously along the neck,
seeking the right combination of notes to pull
from within the hollow body out into the quiet air.
She kept pressing down, hard, trying for a tone
she had heard in a dream, mysterious, full,
bigger than itself. The sounds came faster than
her fingers would allow, the tone that cries within
yearning to slip out. Face strains, fingers lashed
against the shiny ebony fretboard until they hurt.
And her wrist poised to break, chest full of water,
she keeps pressing down on those strings,
her eyes barely closed against intense sunlight
pouring into the room through an open window.
The touch of the breeze, the sound of children
playing in the distance, the cat purring in the chair.
The dream tone she had never heard before,
suddenly painting the walls a new shade of gold.
The Dark Blues / Caitlin Coey
If you’re having trouble loving someone,
then love them.
Funeral Day / K Dulai
What I Should Have Said Was / jawno okhiulu
Whereas we are beautiful
These bodies are not the art
to be witnessed
Contrary to charges at birth
we’re not cursed
we are blessed with curves and earth-tinted skin
and dark curls in our hair
and every kiss is a prayer and so, invariably
our kin left us to walk beautifully
into our own home that we get to make
in this skin,
and one day we will learn
how to witness ourselves through
pray for it now / Alexandria Regilio
pray for the
kitchen under fire
for the table with the wobbly leg
where he held her
and she held him back
where the children came and ate
pray for the
person in the street
waiting for a bus—or a gun.
for the mother whose baby
disappeared from her arms.
for the sister whose brother
is making homemade bombs.
for the families torn apart, we pray.
for the men and women staying to fight, we pray.
for babies moved to safe zones, we pray.
for the storytellers, we pray.
Day 13 / Poem 13
MIGRAINE REPORT /Ashna Ali
Text messages notify flood warnings. We do our due diligence.
Chug coffee at 6 pm. Triptans. Stretches. Breathing. Breathing.
My love’s body is sacred. A solo joint on the stoop soothes my profane.
City rain sharpens my bangs to stalactites. We begin the fight.
Breathe in, breathe out. Molly texts me. “I always forget the drop
kick before the spring.” Elly sends a string of aggrieved emoji.
Moira and I exchange yellow sad face with bandaged head.
I remember the fateful week in 2016. Again with the death of RBG.
The wordless impulse: Hey, I know. I love you. Fade to bright
white. Sweep to total darkness under blankets. Eyeballs on fire.
Offering Before the Storm / Carmella Braniger
I open the shutters
to let in the lighting–
through the stiff bottoms
of my feet.
through my leg muscles,
gathers in the core
into my chest open wide.
touching like the wings
on the back
of a painted
lady emerging fresh
from her cocoon
still as the night air
which never stood
through the room
and I, perched
before the storm,
wait in stillness
to stretch these wet wings–
inviting the next bolt
through my ribs,
straight to the heart.
For Judge Anne Harper / Caitlin Coey
I check the box asking the court
to take away
my perpetrator’s guns.
I hand the paper to the judge,
who asks if I really think he is capable
At this point, I don’t know
I never knew.
Judge Anne Harper
lifts her eyes to mine,
and whatever she is looking for,
a spark of truth, authentic fear,
she must see it
because she nods her head,
marks her approval on my application,
locks me safely away.
ect / K Dulai
The Last of Us / jawno okhiulu
for Sam and Henry
The forest foliage will fuck your property lines
Your houseplants will make themselves at home
Your home will settle into the earth
Every variety of moss will cover the slickest stuff
The vines will twirl and spire over everything else
The fungi will make a good meal out of us
In the end.
ode to spring onion / Alexandria Regilio
spring onion, bunching onion pulled up by saturn
pulled down by soil of sulfur and mica
upward blade rigid, admirable
something to strive for when you’re a river
with water running over indecisive rocks, pray to atabey
for a soft, sweet underbelly
and a generous bloom with its fight or flight
properly in check
Day 12 / Poem 12
SONNET FOR THE RETURN / Ashna Ali
Only in the afternoon of this life do I understand wilderness.
Why these coddled boys were pushed out to sea, packs stuffed with aphorisms,
mysterious tools, animal companions. I have climbed into so many such canoes.
Oared my way into the belly of the incoming tide, wordless. Woken up
screaming to myself encased in armor, slick with blood. They always return
to physical land, these men. Emerge victorious, swollen with scars only
to collapse into fragrant bosoms. I could only imagine myself washing up
bloated, seawater embalming me into grave wax. I am almost disappointed.
I recognize the frocked, pigtailed girl from photographs. When I roll up, seaweed
circling my ankles and shells in my pocket, she is already hungry, waiting to be
walked over the dunes, given names for flora and fauna so she can shape
her mouth, pronounce our real name, switchblade to driftwood.
Even Then / Carmella Braniger
I thought it was you
rising up out of the grasses
ahead of me
pointing the direction
of my next turn.
I thought it was your motion
in the quiet still
of silver morning dew—
the sward parting,
I thought it was your love
rumbling in the bush
stirred by my presence
I thought it was
your summer soul
making itself present
vibrant, awake, alive.
I thought it was you, again,
in the painting
at the Van Gogh Museum,
crows lifting hard
out of a wheatfield.
When the leaves of grain
waved gently in the breeze,
in certain solitude before
the startling journey up—
I thought it was you.
When the shoreline of the sea,
changed like lapping waves—
sheaves swaying silently
by a sudden gust,
wasn’t it you?
In the mirror
of our souls stirs a space.
After you left,
I slept and I dreamed
of Van Gogh’s crows.
Only they weren’t crows.
Were they great harriers,
nesting among the low-land prairies,
their long, white tails
in summer’s rays?
Or perhaps little bush-hawks
uttering their neighing scream
as my startling self
approached the center
and unfolded free.
It is not you, after all,
nor sharp-shinned bush-hawks,
nor harriers, nor crows
spreading out into flight
to whom I return, but another me.
Text Poem / Caitlin Coey
I found a giant bird woman,
A Xena Warrior cry,
A pig eating a shoelace
In a cemetery
Of salt monsters.
This is Damnit. LIVE YOUR BEST SALAD!
And aggregate the spreadsheet of
Spreadsheets. PDP, EHC, TO, OOO, The point person
For the monolith retreat will be Sheriff Pants-Too-High.
We are wine bottles,
Rantle / K Dulai
No one on earth cares about my mental health/No one on earth/I might as well not be here/You don’t know how bad it is/And no one cares/You’ve never lived on this earth with no one who cares about you/It’s close to the worse it’s ever been/And no one is going to help me/It’s the worst it’s ever been/I’ll die and no one will miss me/You’re all better off without me/One day I’ll have the courage enough to leave this earth/Hopefully today/I’m useless to everyone/Everyone thinks I am useless/Even strangers think I am useless/Why is there no medical for people like me?/Because we’re useless!!!!/It’s like euthanasia/You’ll be happy when I am dead??/That’s so heartless/You’ll get what you want/I’ll have the courage one day/I’ve never felt this low in my life/I’m going to die/I guess everyone will die someday/I might as well go now though/This world is going to kill me/This Wordle, too/Jesus Christ it was bunk today
For Better Days / jawno okhiulu
I would love you regardless
If I loved regardless
But this life is so hard
That it’s hard to move thoughtless
Yet put a harness around my waist
And I’ll jump into an abyss
Of unknown plots and storylines
Telling stories of the times
We moved freely like butterflies
Moved like youth in spring time
With age we’re slowly losing time
And missing times
And making time
For better days.
Skeleton Woman / Alexandria Regilio
My job here
is the Spider Medicine.
To weave and fold the edges of the mist.
Make the raindrops,
Love bigger than all my lovers.
Show them how it’s done, how to use a rainy day
the way a rainy day was meant to be used–
from that place deep in the belly.
Full werewolf mode,
Skeleton Woman at her absolute skinniest.
That has nothing to do with Fat, Taylor.
It’s when a woman is stripped of all the bullshit.
All the media she is fed,
when she loses her mind and pays $12
for a single slice of cake.
My job here
is The Remembering. I cried at this.
To know my job
is not to ascend, but to descend.
To get dirty in the Earth. Remember.
Bring back Spirit back to the line.
Again, I cried at this. But like a true source of blood,
I will do my job with dignity. And when my daughters
choose love again
and weave and fold the edges of the mist
into raindrops that magnify everything,
I will die a happy
Day 11 / Poem 11
INVENTORY / Ashna Ali
Her disappointment. Because dolls serve needs. I had them.
His lack of other outlets, demeaned as he was
by all that which makes him proud. Dolls don’t talk back.
Proximity, ignorance, youth. These too are expensive.
If there is intention, it is always good. A kind of fortune.
A gut jammed with haunting and hatred. Sleuced open
and up the throat, again and again.
A body with no doors, windows, lights—only sounds.
Their ignorance and hubris; houses only heal into the plainest of stories.
This is unsuitable to power, its romance.
Tragedy shrank quickly to narratives in which I do not appear.
Unnamed narrators, but there are many, some of them silent.
Time. The turn in which a woman grows windows, decides that this is a book,
an orchestra. Rips holes into architecture without frames, latches, locks.
Boasts every need at once. Triumph,
voices, a bloodlet.
Love’s Trajectory / Carmella Braniger
Each time, it opens out
away from and back
into the present moment
turning this way and that
like the winds of a hurricane
ready to shore—
those waves, tidal, sweep
across the screen
where my cursor points
to some offshore islands
opening out onto a window
of sound, vibrations
pulsating through the womb—
those golden oaks again
and grandpa’s apple tree,
opening out onto bees
slumbering in late summer
on yellow cosmos blossoms
before the harvest begins—
a quick glance at the monitor,
the uterus suddenly
a radar map,
ovaries flapping wildly
like ponytail palms in the storm
opening out onto a field
where we stand at a fencepost
waiting for the monument to come—
opening out to blue waters
where a child sees
a man pulled up from the deep
before we can shield her eyes
from the opening out,
from the way a poem stretches you
to love more deeply now
than ever before.
If I could go back / Caitlin Coey
I step off the porch.
I run and I keep running,
my heart the pavement the wind
the hill I ride my red fendered bike on
I can see my best friend’s house now
the full force of my body is against the door,
The porch light turns on and I don’t care that everyone was asleep.
I only care about being on the other side of that door.
I tell them everything. They believe me.
Pour a glass of water, hold my hand. I put my head down on her shoulder, my friend, my friend’s mother. I stay with them.
And I never wish to go back in time again.
Sing Us a Song / K Dulai
I got a red microscope / jawno okhiulu
I got a red microscope
When I was in the second grade or so. It was for my birthday.
I think about that gift today for no profound reason other than the simple fact that back then all I wanted was to make small shit seem really fucking big.
I wanted to stare at the little aliens swirling around in some soup of life and imagine they had minds, and feelings, and families, and destinies; that they’d face and hopefully overcome challenges in their microscopic lifetimes. That they might fall short sometimes, miss out, feel disappointed or dissatisfied.
But they’d keep on keeping on, like it was all they knew how to do.
The microbes were in that soup just living.
That little red microscope was a portal into a nature of life I may never have gotten to witness otherwise. Under that lens I learned that life will
persist, even on the smallest scale.
Holy Fire Song / Alexandria Regilio
It begins to drown you:
That it might only happen at your funeral.
The new man sitting next to the old man.
New kid next to your other kids.
You wanted it to happen when you were alive.
For the reason that is your success.
The success that everyone works harder for than you do.
At the red light,
you know you should’ve tried harder for their sake.
But it’s too late.
The Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
have been divided.
When does a woman stop adorning herself?
Stop admiring herself in the mirror?
You walk from the shower to the dresser
draped in only a towel, get shouted at for tv remote something to eat
a toy lost behind the curtain.
This body was holy once.
It swam in ice cold water in the mountains of Colorado.
This body was fire once.
It made love to a stranger on New Year’s Eve.
This body was song once.
It danced until sunrise on a beach in Phuket.
This body was never ending all at once and more than once.
When, you think, did this body
No one told you Mother
is the darkest period of a woman’s life.
Just before Crone you press your face against the water’s surface.
A pelican flying above would only see a nose and a mouth
and a vague figure floating below the water,
loosely draped in a towel.
You suck in air. Fill your lungs. It burns.
The light, green again.
It’s almost Winter Solstice.
It’s colder this year than it has been in awhile.
Sometimes you still leave the house in sandals.
Because: California. And you like to see that you’ve taken the time
to get your toes done.
You look in the rearview mirror.
The woman looking back at you has bright green eyes.
They are portals. You see your grandmother’s grandmother. Hear her singing.
Hear her Holy Fire Song.
The call to flow again.
In your body.
Day 10 / Poem 10
WHAT I MEAN WHEN I SAY BIG GIRLS GROW SPINES / Ashna Ali
Sister mane bon, bone mane haddi!
–The Zaman Sisters
It’s not a bone, it’s a tooth.
It’s not a beak, it’s a bone.
It’s not a tooth, it’s a practice.
It’s alive by
so many names,
like love, like snow,
Four Jesters: Pedantic Learning / Carmella Braniger
The director wears a bowtie to look like
an obstinate clown. And clicks his pen.
Click, click. Sad boy from the last row with
a good-for-nothing grin. The provost hums
an old church hymn, spit caught between lips,
a thick wobbly string. All arms hanging low
like a slow jungle sloth swinging between vines.
Call the dean, Bozo, with a patch on one eye.
His constant rebuttals always questioning why.
“Pedantic Learning” Socrates calls these halls.
Then leaves. Plato swoops down from above
Like a great horned owl honing in on its prey.
Caribou, California / Caitlin Coey
I open my closet to return
a jacket to its hanger
and the rustle of polyester
and zippers sounds
like sleeping bags and tent zippers.
After 10 hours
in the airport I admit defeat
to the ice storm—and bring
a piece of California to me,
in the form of incense
that smells like campfires,
ink black night, and the warm
hum of voices laughing.
I catch the scent of pine and fir trees
on my walk home from work,
and think about chocolate chip Its-Its.
from the general store,
(burned down now)
reading all day, and the chunk
of rock several feet under
the center of the Feather Rivers
strong current, where my cousins
and I would test our swimming skills,
I always came back stronger
for those trips.
Toward an Ode / K Dulai
On this day / jawno okhiulu
because of Nikki Giovanni
On this day I was scrolling through tumblr
And came across a conversation
Between James Baldwin and someone
I’d never heard before
Her name turned out to be
On this day I heard
Nikki Giovanni say
…it’s my house and I plan to live in it
On this day my lover
Asked me if I could have
Any material possession
In the world right now
What would it be?
I answered a book
By Nikki Giovanni
On this day I Iearned that
I have a healthy obsession
With Nikki Giovanni
And ain’t this a silly poem
On this day my lover
Gifted me a Good Cry
For love day
and I loved it
On this day I learned that
Nikki Giovanni hates drinking water straight
and I pleaded over the airwaves that
she strongly reconsiders seeing as
Sugar ain’t all it talks itself up to be and um
I need you to survive
Maiden Mother Crone / Alexandria Regilio
The maiden might know how to drip
herself onto a bed.
Even if her heart more monkey knot
than dahlia, she knows enough
to please a simple lover.
A mother might know how to shapeshift
into a broom,
sweep her sweetness over a household.
The entire neighborhood watch department
inside this woman in t-shirt and sweats
during a one a.m. breastfeed.
Don’t mess with her. Her senses
are white fire.
And the crone? The crone knows
how to melt herself over the moon,
descend into the underworld, pour tea
with the devil and escape with the diamonds.
The crone knows we are oceans.
Day 9 / Poem 9
THE NAMES WE GIVE US /Ashna Ali
She paints sparrows on every surface.
Says we are like them: compact, adorable,
common. Having grown my scaffold from her,
I know us to be storks in disguise. Her life, its black hole,
grants me my longitude. Her face in my mirror is not
likeness but the bones of it, centuries running their train
through our angles, failing to kill us. Even when we ask,
even when we’d murder for it, even when it’s each other
we’d take out. I’m the kind of grown where I stand all the way up
in the water, beak prominent, weaponing, ready to scare
the world bare. Call me sparrow all you wish, Mother.
but we are shoebills. For you, I can claim for us our stillness,
strong, slow movement in marsh, gargantuan dinosaurs
dreaming forever fruitlessly of earthly peace.
Where My Blues Begin / Carmella Braniger
I reach from sorrow
To gather the blues
To bring me back again.
Swollen eyes, dull hunger,
Lovesick, desire’s disease
So contagious my heart twitches.
And skips a beat.
There’s nothing left to sing.
But I hold it in.
Turn melody’s thick skin,
Into dried berries on the vine.
I’ve lost a husband
Where my blues begin.
Sometimes it just happens / Caitlin Coey
The residue of a bad dream
slides into my trapezius,
pushes my shoulder joint a little farther,
rehashing that 17 year old fall on my skis,
mistaking packed snow for soft powder.
Pressing on nerves—
Now an unknown assailant chasing me
down the stairs of an elementary school—
Now an old friend’s betrayal,
apparently she hates me all these years later.
In pain reprocessing therapy,
they use dialectical behavioral therapy
to retrain the brain’s neuropathways
because some of the pain is in the brain.
The Lake I Cried Into Being / jawno okhiulu
When I learned that my little brother had passed
A year after he went missing
Classes had already gone online
My morning walk towards them shortened
To the flipping of my computer screen open
Maybe I was already open for the worst news to come
Maybe I was primed for the shedding
I heard my Dad’s voice quake on the phone
And my brother’s voice followed
They both said something like “be strong”
And maybe it was for them but I even tried,
For a few hours, to hold steady
I was rocked by the view of the almost lake
That was more of a large grassy crater
A soft dimple in the earth’s face
Kissed by the soft glow of golden and
The steady trickle of my rain as the son
Accepted his rest over the horizon
Wild Woman Craving / Alexandria Regilio
I often thought being saved was the medicine,
but I was wrong,
I’ve never needed to be saved.
To be held, yes.
Seen. Heard. More.
Saving is easy. The others are not.
If a woman is an apple,
she is tart, sweet, rotten. Season to season.
Or she is all three,
and one may be disguised for another.
Her lover must pivot and not sweat it.
The trick is to give equal to what she takes.
A woman whole will take what she needs,
but become bored, exhausted
if not offered honey and teeth and tears from time to time.
Or treasures for her wrists and ankles
on holidays known as Tuesday and tomorrow.
she’ll keep your spine upright, your beard trimmed,
rosemary in your glovebox.
Your heart beating with curiosity,
a tickle here, there, everywhere as you think of her silhouette and wonder what she’ll do at the next high full moon.
Move your hand toward her after dark,
more often for the giving,
and know you’re in the care of Wild Woman Craving.
Day 8 / Poem 8
ON SHAKING OFF THE FUNK /Ashna Ali
Potions against winter
perform an exorcism. Someone else was driving.
Time loops back in service of redesign.
She is here, the sun. What I called her under hypnosis.
I had to find her somewhere else.
Like me she is not a mother.
Different tools. I had to touch magic
Interruption becomes rhythm. This much I have always known. Still.
Int-er-rup-tion. In-ter-rup-tion. In-ter-rup-tion.
InTerRupTion. Ruption. Rupture.
Inter. Up. Shun. Shun. Shone. Shown.
Potions against winter
perform an exorcism. Someone else was driving.
Time loops back in service of redesign.
She is here, the sun. What I called her under hypnosis.
I had to find her somewhere else.
Like me she is not a mother.
Different tools. I had to touch magic
Interruption becomes rhythm. This much I have always known. Still.
Int-er-rup-tion. In-ter-rup-tion. In-ter-rup-tion.
In. Ter. Rup Tion. Ruption. Rupture.
Inter. Up. Shun. Shun. Shone. Shown.
Inter Between Through Navel.
Like a heart.
I had to develop
A condition. Of the heart. How literal.
But poets, we are. Inevitably. This is not
Details, how we suck on them,
spit them into the palm to examine
This one is waking up
at the wheel
to realize the body
has a haunt in it still moving.
Waking up poses a question.
The Bowing Out of Dark / Carmella Braniger
Odd how early
of the spirit
smolders into puddles.
Fluorescent lights pale
like downriver cold drifts.
Odd how often
the leaving of pain,
the bowing out
Dear Friend / Caitlin Coey
I wish you could see what I see
You are gold
and gold doesn’t
change its worth
No matter who holds it.
You are the oyster,
creating the pearl.
Tilth / K Dulai
The Dalai Lama Asks Me How I’m Doing / jawno okhiulu
And I say:I’m chillin’
Chillin’, sounds like chitlins
Translation: this’ll do just fine
Chitlins sound to me just like
Solid hope and good meat
Fried deep, served with vinegar and hot sauce.
A frame of mind
A stance of hope
Not perched on perfect
Nah, it’s sat on my bestie’s bed
It’s sat reading bell hooks aloud
It’s sat knowing a prayer’s been said
knowing a hopeful prayer’s been said for me.
we plant in spring / Alexandria Regilio
hands in dirt
we feel the peace in pieces
the ghostly liftoff of renewal
of roots of sweet pea and borage spiraling down
into the earth like threads of ripped flags—
there is heartache in anatolia
truth in the new monarch’s
then you grow up
hold the trowel like some heirloom
think about the family story
how grandma made every woman green
because she kissed men who weren’t her husband
and cast out spirits for their wives
used nightshades on their bellies—
traits that made her invincible
like a weed
we plant in spring
to clear static from the line
to see their hands in our hands—
how he held the wheel
how she sipped her tea—
we plant in spring
desperate for discovery
Day 7 / Poem 7
STILL LIFE WITH TAMALES /Ashna Ali
In Mexico City I eat streetside tamales
while my mother buries my cousin in Faridpur.
I grieve youth as she celebrates a wedding in Dhaka.
I stop at a sanctuary, watch a python’s slow choke
on the tiniest of mice. A girl’s recorded voice boasts
mattresses and microwaves over continuous barking.
I make no friends. I miss the car to the hot air balloon,
but spend the morning painting puffin feathers
violet and emerald. Realism eroded so long ago.
New York’s grimace still tenses my lumbar.
We do not talk about how this is longer
than I was expected to live. Pairs on dates
meet wine glasses by moonlight as my body
becomes a hoax. I steal time with reckless men,
needless accomplice to their impulses. Yes,
I know there are other ways, but this light is so lustrous
it rephrases possibility with confidence too great.
I don’t know which one of us is lying.
I choose a ring of assorted stones as reminder
of these phantasms, the names I have yet to give them.
My mother calls to say, Don’t you feel better
now, in the sunshine? You look so beautiful.
Eleven Staircases / Carmella Braniger
echo your name.
Always near the
well of old spirits.
Forget the flights you
took down metal steps—
such innocent non-
acts of violent love.
Each step down those
eleven put you closer.
Still, inside your doorway,
a night oak stands.
Its limbs sway like a
woman in love
hanging her white linens.
Twain we are the same
Here is a window.
It closes. Then opens.
Never will a drink spill
from your shaking hand.
Never will you ignore
the bitter of my silence.
And a sliver of rusted
leaves like a case
of remarkable dreams
through the sky’s blue
branches as the rain
For A / Caitlin Coey
I used to babysit for a
two-year old girl
who delighted in using
her hair–dark chestnut
at birth that grew
blond with tips—
like a napkin,
her fluffy curls
becoming a utilitarian
The Holiest of Holies / K Dulai
Weight & Rememory / jawno okhiulu
Climbing your first mountain is hard as hell.
The first time I climbed a mountain I learned a valuable lesson:
When climbing a mountain, one must be mindful to watch your back;
It’s often the friends traveling with you will make your climb harder
by occasionally adding stones to your bag when you aren’t looking
I’m for real, You’d be surprised how easy it is to sneak a stone or two
into someone’s backpack when they’re only looking up and ahead
It’s a somewhat harmless prank until you realize, as a group, that you’re
all gonna to have to reach the top together, or you all gon’ be stuck
heading back down, unfulfilled.
See and sometimes in this hike you’ll be ahead, other times you’ll be behind.
What’s really funny is that two or more hikers can be simultaneously pulling
the same prank on each other, unbeknownst to one another;
so easily a harmless prank becomes mutually assured destruction.
When I look up at the sky sometimes, when it’s real bright outside
sometimes the sun feels like more than the sun
it feels like the exclamation point to my last words
feels like the rubber stamp labeled return to sender
feels like the ctrl + alt + destruction to my whole reality
I look up and i feel the suns mass on my shoulders like a mack truck
full of Black oil siphoned from my dear mother earth’s soil
i feel the sun’s inevitable heat on my skin, and it almost burns
I look up and feel the suns rays on my cheeks as my tears skirt
across these hot chocolate hills like oil in a frying pan
I’m staring up at the sun, and yes I know you’re not supposed to but
who cares, it’s all ending anyway.
sometimes I feel like a motherless child, dispossessed from the earth we once knew.
I can tap blood from my veins and see generations
who felt this same weight, all the way back they
saw a changing a fate for us here on this planet.
They didn’t know where the ship was headed. Bewildered,
they learned that not knowing can be terrifying, but nothing compares
to knowing you are en route to be stripped of your humanity, and
in those moments for them the unknown of the bottom of ocean
became more home than anything they were sailing towards
and i remember them. my bones, my skin, my blood,
my tears, i wholly remember them.
and they, me, we remember how it once was to breathe free
gen z I think our ancestors can help shake the weight of climate anxiety.
we come from a sustainable people,
formed from the clay of the earth
we knew this dust, it was our creator
it shaped us, don’t you remember?
Sometimes i dance with them and I feel loose from it for a while,
that weight I once thought no one would be there to help me carry
they’ve always been there, holding me up
singing “praise to this child”
“a living, breathing testament
that our memory lives on”
We Shall Overcome rings in this little one’s ribcage
They told me “be bold, little one. Hold your head high,
And hand in hand you all will reach the other side”
I my head I hear Keep Your Eyes on the Prize and I
imagine what it will be like to hold up fresh produce: greens and okra,
the yams, grown from the ground right outside my home,
where the soil was once rich, then polluted, but
we helped restore it back again. I can’t wait to prepare,
with that produce, the food by blood once knew to be
good, good food.
on this mountain we’re climbing
there is a weight, but we can carry it
and on the other side of this mountain
there is world truly worth living in.
peaking / Alexandria Regilio
they call you the mountain
i follow your trails
eating your berries
listening and tending to the wind
slip through the branches
caressing my cheek
breathing in your views at every switchback
feeling the ground move with me as i climb
higher and higher
your peak not so far away tucked under in
mystery, clouds soft and gray
like the beard of a god
i walk toward them
wisps of ghosts at my tail
distracted by what i leave behind
fear doubt confusion
i empty them onto the rocks
who absorb them to make light
i raise my hands to greet you
at the top
you offer me a bowl
i begin to pour
Day 6 / Poem 6
BHASHA / Ashna Ali
My American Love, when I step outside
the borders, the past busts up my English
to breaking. Some days, I stand over it,
boot on its colonial spine, triumphant.
Swish my tongues, coat my mouth with time
and small bombastic secrets.
I can’t help it. You’ll never know how
moonily I recite Bengali love poems like my father
did Rabrinda Sangeet, as if he were here
to make proud. I covet you and pour
its welling into my mother’s lasagna
to show you something of me
by the belly. I shower belting Silvana
Estrada, watch the clock till you arrive.
How do I teach you how to receive
this motley serenade:
amar jaan, shona, kolijah,
sei una poesía tutto da solo,
mi alma, mi vida, mi amor!
I want to say: Asho, eat fuchka
on Dhaka streets with me. We’ll hop
a rickshaw to Xochimilco, debate
the mystery of las muñecas, take
a trajinera into the pestilential Tiber
to Trastevere, where I’ll feed you
the amatriciana of your life.
You will never know while you hold
my bag on the New York subway
across dreary Northeast winters
one hand on my shoulder, how I daily
sharpen the knife of my consonants,
square up with English over and over,
tell it: This is my time. Obey.
Pandemic Transport / Carmella Braniger
Late afternoon violin practice
during the pandemic—
—and I wonder what the dog
in the chair
looking up at you playing
hears in her ears
that draws her eyes
—as light streams
through half open blinds
and she turns
her brindle back
to the music,
squirrels outside the window
pulling her from revery.
And you keep bowing notes
up the scale
and back again
until the room
falls to a hush
and the horses roam free at night
in fields flooded
with moonlight and music.
March 4, 2023 / Caitlin Coey
There have been more shoo-ngs
than days so far this year and more shoo-ngs
than at this point in any year
647 in 2022
691 in 2021
611 in 2020
417 in 2019
since at least 2013.
When this soapbox tree germinates, I collect my germs and make a fountain of them.
It is not the bullet that kills you
but the path the bullets take,
Pulse nightclub shoo-ng in Orlando
Newtown, San Bernardino and Aurora,
(I chaos like a motherfucker, ain’t no one can chart me)
Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas
Michigan State University
once they enter the body
fragment and explode
Half Moon Bay, California
Monterey Park, California
Enoch City, Utah
shaTered the hipbone into h u n d r e d s of pieces,
shredded the femoral artery
“The bullet had disintegrated his spleen and torn his aorta”
“Four ribs had essen-ally turned to dust” life-threatening bleeding
destroyed whole the bowel and bladder
(I chaos like a motherfucker,
Aint no one can chart me.)
tearing blood vessels liquefying organs. destroying as much living -ssue as possible: (I CHAOS Miffin Township, Ohio Oaklamha City, Oaklahoma Ocala, Florida Clinton, Maryland Durham, North Carolina Chicago, Illinois LIKE A Allentown, Pennsylvania Washington, District of Columbia New Orleans, Louisiana Dumfries, Virginia Bal-more, Maryland Enoch, Utah Miami Gardens, Florida New Orleans, Louisiana Dallas, Texas San Francisco,California High Point, North Carolina MOTHERFUCKER, AIN’T Lee Township, Michigan Hunsville, Alabama Minneapolis, Minnesota NO Albany, Georgia Denver, Colorado Philadelphia, Pennsylvania chart Minneapolis, Minnesota Cleveland, Ohio Homestead, Florida Phoenix, Arizona Rockford, Illinois ONE Houston, Texas Goshen, California Fort Piece, Florida Sanford, Florida Houston, Texas CAN Lynchburg, Virginia Monterey Park, California Baton Rouge, Louisiana Brookhaven, Georgia Shreveport, Louisiana Tunica Resorts, Mississippi CHART Dodge City, Kansas Chicago, Illinois Half Moon Bay, California Oakland, California Red Springs, North Carolina Lancaster, Pennsylvania Newark, New Jersey Los Angeles, California Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Aus-n, Texas Andrews, South Carolina Columbus, Ohio Greensboro, North Carolina Dallas, Texas Lakeland, Florida ME Durham, North Carolina Texas City, Texas Los Angeles, California Huntsville, Texas Colorado Springs, Colorado Newport, Arkansas Tucson, Arizona Stockton, California Corpus C
ABC News Network. (n.d.). ABC News. Retrieved March 5, 2023, from https://abcnews.go.com/US/mass-shootings-days-2023-database-shows/story?id=96609874
Asghar, F. (n.d.). Pluto shits on the universe by Fatimah Asghar. Poetry Foundation. Retrieved March 5, 2023, from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/58056/pluto-shits-on-the-universe
Mao, S. W. (n.d.). Anna May Wong stars as Cyborg #86 by Sally Wen Mao. Poetry Foundation. Retrieved March 5, 2023, from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/149818/anna-may-wong-stars-as-cyborg-86
Map shows how many mass shootings have taken place in 2023 and where in the US. ABC13 Houston. (2023, January 25). Retrieved March 5, 2023, from https://abc13.com/mass-shooting-2023-interactive-map-shootings-this-year-what-is-considered-a/12732265/
Wen, L. (2017, June 16). What bullets do to bodies. The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/15/opinion/virginia-baseball-shooting-gun-shot-wounds.html
Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, March 5). List of mass shootings in the United States in 2023. Wikipedia. Retrieved March 5, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mass_shootings_in_the_United_States_in_2023
Brooklyn, Punjab / K Dulai
We had no other
I lost my voice again today / jawno okhiulu
Lost it scattered amongst the ashes
Of scorched eucalyptus trees
Lost it buried beneath fourteen floors
Of crumbled housing projects
Lost it blowing in the breeze
Of soot and despair
And without her
I don’t know
How to help
us get free.
Oh baby / Alexandria Regilio
Keep kissing me like that
so that I might play with time
like a toy
and fall out of love
and into love all at once.
There are daggers in
songs in my memory–
some kinda love
in a thousand small
Dance with me in the kitchen.
Pour my heartbreak on the floor
like honey so the seconds get stuck
and I can see you for
who you are:
Someone far away,
someone so big
my love splits the sky.
Smother me with the loss
of it all.
It’s how I’ll remember
looking into your eyes and thinking:
Take it, take my grief,
rip it to shreds,
turn it into song.
Day 5 / Poem 5
YEAR IN REVIEW /Ashna Ali
after Jay Desphande
For eleven months
Saw the gain
in redness. Streets suddenly
into skin. She failed,
neon moss, festivals
Her hand a sudden wing
slowed the city
Even in winter,
there were larvae.
to new myths
she took root
to dark water.
In this raw form,
her flesh spoke:
audaciousness is revolution.
She felt the calm of life cycle,
knowing we are placed here
stumble to land
on cacophonies of blessing
knocking one another around.
There is only light, unrelenting,
our throats bejeweled with
interruption over every volta,
however unseasonable the time.
Early Winter Behind the Barn / Carmella Braniger
The sheep’s smirk
as it watches
the lax of lilies,
the fused center
radiant near the pistil
like a welcome glance
catching the eye.
Night appears receding
near the border,
hooves alive, healing,
but not healing.
He refuses to put
the horses out at night.
A hush crows low
toward the barn.
Dark glacier soil
crosses with desert grains.
A blue nondescript
The cat meows from five eternities away.
like a gap
near the nape.
This lack of veracity,
this low, quiet noise,
our ability to do no harm
just beyond reach.
How not to break up with someone / Caitlin Coey
Don’t let them pay for the last meal
or make them take the bus in the rain.
The snap will disappear
but what you did lives forever.
or a post-it,
I curse you until my dying breath.
And if the woman you want to leave
brings you a present from that lonely trip,
the first present she’s ever given you,
don’t wait until you’re on a walk
wearing extra layers of her clothes
against the cold
to tell her that you’re done,
to tell her she’s too much.
Because after you say that,
after handing her a letter to read later,
You still have to walk
together in the dark and the cold,
up the stairs to her apartment
to give back those clothes, to lay them
on her bed.
there is never a time
It won’t hurt,
never a “right” time.
But you can do so much better.
Urban Son / jawno okhiulu
A dream like dust
insistent on living
in possession of life, You cling
just enough for the city
in this place You are a droplet, a speck
full of stars, tucked beneath gravel, You rumble
and trust You are enough
in waiting, You are a seed, a spark
of life, clung, carried on a shoelace
a shoe laced with dreams
to take root and rise.
Where Were You During the Hailstorm of 2023 / Alexandria Regilio
There’s a hailstorm outside
and inside I hold your wrists above your head.
Something must go to make room for this.
Goodbye to the geometry I learned in fifth grade.
There are no more shapes;
everything is liquid and we are the water
or can breathe under it.
The hail hits the windows — it sounds like a rockslide, the kind that sends mountain goats running.
Trees bend in prayer to the wind ten miles north, and I am unfolding origami at your fingertips.
I can’t help it — a synonym for thunder might be magic.
A synonym for magic might be 1,000 souls racing across a mesa to sow the seeds and knead the bread.
You and me and all the souls.
All that thunder magic.
Oh that’s how
Day 4 / Poem 4
CARETAKER /Ashna Ali
No one has ever
I am always most powerful
in my tenderness.
Hearts belong not
on sleeves, but swelling
deep in one’s chest
diagnosing the rhythm
of the other’s music.
Extending a hand to say
Look, you are here,
this song is just for you,
and would you look
at that: I know it already.
Dance with me.
Geometry of Saints / Carmella Braniger
I listen as she reads me
a story about monks
who dwell in the Swiss Alps
and their Saint Bernards.
Who wouldn’t love a dog
warm enough to thaw
a face frozen in snow,
each lick of his long tongue,
bringing him closer
to the surface of things.
I begin a review of my day
beings bounding in and out
of this binoculared viewfinder.
I’m not so concerned
with the holiness of bodies,
what saints know instinctively—
the way a bee knows how
to get back to the hive,
and camels how to find
water in the desert.
The smell of wet dog fills
my nostrils as she reads on,
the patience it takes to train
these enormous, self-sacrificing,
furry, slobbering beasts
who delight in nothing greater
than to make grown men
blush with delight—
to see how one loves
not just out of the corner
of a single eye looking back
but without abandon
gazing out ever forward
over the edge of snow drifts,
a cliff, the sky, your eyes—
the greatness of an endless
capacity for the moment
of each silent constraint—
snowfall lightly covering
the tops of their heads—
sun shining brightly on his blue face
at the pool’s bottom—
the shape of her bow lifting up
a circle before finding high A—
endless only because you allow
what you see to empty and renew.
Even our greatest saints
cannot promise salvation
the way you do: sitting on the edge
of a half-broken stool
in front of the geometry
you’ve created with your song.
Trauma isn’t over until the body says it’s over / Caitlin Coey
The vagus nerve communicates 80%
of the body’s messages to the brain, the brain’s
solo messages to the body are so much
smaller than we’ve been taught, just 20%
Not even a quarter, if you found an extra
brain’s-messages to-the-body in your
jacket pocket, you still couldn’t
So when they tell you just don’t
think so negatively, change your brain,
change your mind, everything happens
for a reason, just manifest joy, don’t let LABELS
define you, sprinkle sex dust
on your moonbeams, charge your
crystals to your jade egg, just Gwenyth
to your forest bathing, sunshine to your
You look them in the eye and you tell them,
20%, that’s not even old enough to drink yet.
Then you wink like a motherfucker
And you let them eat your dust.
Why a Corner Apartment in Lower Harlem is a Canvas for a Mughal Garden / K Dulai
we like wet water / jawno okhiulu
after Gwendolyn Brooks
We like wet water. We
Float atop. We
Break tha box. We
Shoot tha shots. We
Wet like water. We
Flew tha coop. We
Sought tha loot. We
Earned the scoop. We
Like water wet. We
Bathe to cleanse. We
Made amends. We
Bought a Benz. Now We
Real cool, smooth. We
Juked the rules. We
Broke the school. We
Earned the moon.
Decolonize Call / Alexandria Regilio
come with me, she says,
Come with me
inside the dissolving of space
and time. Not over Earth
or under, but within.
Not over water
or under, but within.
Not over air
or under, but within.
Not over fire
or under, but within.
Come with me, she says,
crawling through worlds using words as fingers to feel her way.
Carrying the dandelion seed from elder to younger,
a knife between her teeth for harvesting of herbs,
pruning of children’s wild hair.
How will you know who to follow,
Look for the one who stops
bleeding the data, the one who keeps
the mysteries intact.
The one with the breath of story in her lungs,
a reservoir of old ways in her heart,
a chain of evening primrose
as her crown.
Day 3 / Poem 3
SELFIE #2 /Ashna Ali
I wouldn’t always choose
to have a face,
if I had a choice.
Isn’t it enough that I am here
with a face I cannot take off?
All it does is mean and mean and mean. to everyone,
least of all me.
And now to exist from my bed, or at all,
it is praxis to curate my face as portfolio for a thing
I am too tired to feel
let alone represent.
Let’s try this: How about
I carve it out
create of it an option
with infinite possibility of replication.
One amongst many
What did Abraham Lincoln say
about choosing that face if he had another?
And how many of us spend our lives cultivating
the face that matches. I would. but.
I’d choose to sport the color
of a smooth unlit lightbulb
tungsten spine at rest.
No reason not to be fabulous, even when asleep.
But that face?
That face is off.
nothing with no intention.
It is neither shunning the world nor dead.
It is simply
I could wear that face.
Knowing that whatever meaning
it meant, it would look
something like the world of me.
Steampunk bug. Cyborg truant
in a de Chirico rooting around
for grim roots.
Instead, I live trapped
in the unending prism
of this face
in the world
the eyes on it,
and meaning it
Almost Like Being In Love / Carmella Braniger
Nat King Cole and Lester Young,
Frank Sinatra and you, too, Charlie,
playing your jazzy upbeat show tune,
yesterday’s love shadows everywhere–
climbing up the walls, across the ceiling–
leaping ahead then falling back again
like gentle waves, your shoulder blades
pressed against the sun’s glorious blaze.
A blast of big brass sets the tone early on,
your horn comes in strong with a melody,
smooth, deep slurs rolling from your bell.
And it seems as if it were always this good.
How you undressed me with your eyes
the first night we met, told me I smelled
like sweet lilac blooms softly drifting in
through the narrow slits of window blinds.
The thin silver ring, I said, I’d taken out
from my old, golden leather jewelry case.
It gleamed like a spotlight on the moon.
No, you said, not the moon. But more like
the bell of a horn, all polish and sweet regret.
More like the blues, I said, or this love of ours,
or the weariness hiding under all that shine.
In an alternate universe / Caitlin Coey
after M says I believe D__
After M says she was trying to make herself famous
(a woman who is already famous)
After M asks why didn’t she film it?
Instead of saying At what point during her sexual assault
should she have brought out the camera?
I would have…
Burned down the patriarchy? Women before me who ask questions like this
Are often the same who say it was my fault, I’d been drinking
I wasn’t being careful
I shouldn’t have
In an alternate universe,
instead of numb,
i would be my own fire-starter, lightning at my wrists.
House of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus / K Dulai
home-smoked asada / jawno okhiulu
We’ve built a nest for ourselves that we dash from daily
Because all the breathing in the world can’t slow the pace sometimes
And so sometimes we roll back out to the sea of despair
That once coughed us up and toward one another
And we fall into work, and bills, and bottles
And we need someone to call us back to shore
And tonight, just a Thursday night in March
You called us back with homemade carne asada
That filled so good it planted us back into our nest
And we cared and cared and cared over one another
And I thought maybe – just maybe – our home was really home
How Everyone Feels Right Before Spring Including You Don’t Lie / Alexandria Regilio
Tame me tame me tame me
Pin my wrists to the wallpaper
Smooth them flat
Know me like the rainbow knows light
Hex me like an angel disturbed in the night
Turn my muscles into gold
Drink me drink me drink me
And hold me until the fire disappears into the flood
Day 2 / Poem 2
SELFIE #1 / Ashna Ali
Shadow shadow as my only visible.
For so long, half-moon
and only half-moon, rather than effervescent
lemon wedge, juice of my whirlpools.
Time watercolors contour into story.
A lover once called you unique, as if we do not
all traverse the world prisming into light.
What photograph could hold this?
Yet we seek and seek, begging
small screens: Look at me.
We only ever get one. And so much else
we never get. I only found peace
under your cover, sacred shield leading
battalions of so many warriors
living me and living me, despite.
I have been such a miser, anemic
in my love, and so much else
you didn’t get. And yet, you repeat
and repeat me into space.
I shall name you:
Your word is faith.
Pilgrimage to the Future / Carmella Braniger
after Katie Paterson’s Future Library: 2014–2114
Take the metro in Oslo
to one of the last stops
where you will find a forest
for the future of language.
After you get off the train,
walk four thousand steps
into the clearing of saplings,
a field where books become
trees and libraries forests.
Sit in the midst of sprigs
whose growth rings are few.
Think of people playing lute
and skipping down the trail.
Call it a handover ceremony.
Pass the sacred manuscript
from origin to destination
before sending back to Oslo,
whose public librarians
await its arrival when they
will seal it in a silent room lined
with layers of its own wood
and one hundred glass drawers,
so we can watch words grow.
Growth rings mark chapters.
But only words dice time.
A secret archive of unseen text–
future writings held in trust.
Nobody will read the words
for one hundred years.
A golden harp in the forest.
Vietnamese monks chant.
A minute’s silence. Now listen.
To the future passing beyond
between the then and now.
I am trying to help you, aren’t I? / Caitlin Coey
I am trying to help you aren’t I?
-Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight, 1944
A DANGEROUS SALT / K Dulai
to the Black women teachers who shaped me throughout elementary school / jawno okhiulu
thank you. this was before social media and before i knew adults had first names too, and so while i may not know where you are or what you’re up to, i just wanted to say: thank you. at times, because of you, it felt like i had two mommas at once. you showed me a different Black than my momma’s Black, or my daddy’s Black. each of you wore a different Black, and my-oh-my did you wear that Black.
Mrs. Robinson you showed me Aretha Franklin and Maya Angelou, and the power of gathering in a circle to sing and rhyme; thank you! Mrs. Wicks, you taught me glam and what it meant to be cool; thank you! Mrs. Dearman-Hill, i’ll never forget learning about metaphors and like similes, thank you! Mrs.Thornton and Mrs. McGee, the third grade tag-team of my dreams, who coined me and my friends willie and michael as “larry, curly, and mo” aka “the three musketeers”. you invited us in beyond the veil, showed us we were people and that school could and should make sense; thank you!
and i know now how teachers are treated, how hard your work must have been, and to have never felt like i was just “work” to you, i must say: thank you. contrary to the apartheid in the air, you made me feel spoiled: kool-aid pickles you made at home, and all the candy you gave out or sometimes sold, probably to raise funds for our classrooms, thank you. i remember diorama projects, where I wholly confused washington state and washington dc (here’s a hint, one is in the pacific northwest, and one is a cover-up for still more disenfranchisement), thank you!
your wisdom deserved more than cramped portables and broken chairs, more than overstuffed classrooms and understuffed paychecks, you deserved more. you deserve your flowers, you deserve many more lines of poetry, you deserve barrow-fulls of thank yous for all the shaping you did. thank you.
On Your Birthday / Alexandria Regilio
Starve ourselves until summer’s first fruit
if only you’ll help me find the lever that reduces pain,
and I’ll help you.
Let’s stand. Sway in the center like marigolds
as the spring garden around us grows wild, and that’s good,
Straight into that dollhouse with the fancy porcelain tea set
so we’ll remember playing like princesses,
knowing we’ve grown into queens.
Day 1 / Poem 1
RIVERDALE / Ashna Ali
in the fourth year
of illness as sentence,
and one year into war,
winter is long, however mild.
why not lose a day,
part of the night,
into the wee hours
warm, milkshake curvaceous
laughing over hot chocolate at the local spot,
an honorable boy’s hand,
bloodied, but strumming!
so many coifs springing flesh to life.
small town, local heroes, villains,
tailoring worth so many dollars
every body supple, taut yearning
through creamy lips, wigs
want that in some small way,
let it permeate their dreams
when the muchness
of waking is just
Snow Cover / Carmella Braniger
From the kitchen window,
the mailman’s heavy footprints.
Winter birds mark their paths
from tree branch to corn feeder,
small scratches on the surface,
not like the dents my dog
makes as she bounds across the yard,
nose leading her to more vermin,
soft indentations of squirrels and rabbits.
An aerial view of the landscape
highlights the streaks the elementary kids
leave on the neighboring hills,
their sleds slipping slowly into dusk.
Park paths welcome the soft feet
of runners still dedicated despite
their cardiovascular health.
Tracks in the snow reveal deeper layers.
The chaos of surface scatter, how
the mind breaks off at the edge of
dream, how my nosey neighbors
will know my dog was off leash
when they look out
their own kitchen windows.
The tracks, what they show,
each routine unveiled in this
surreal covering of snow.
First Kiss 5 and 6 and… / Caitlin Coey
A dance party,
Unicorn hanging from the ceiling,
Strobe lights, fairy wings,
my lucky burgundy skirt, black velvet
tank, floral fishnets.
On the way, walking in the dark,
safety device in my hand,
new gloves, coat with the torn
sleeve, it’s 30 degrees in November,
But I’ve been inside for so long.
Another girl is headed to the party,
we’re both there too early for dancing,
we get our lemon drops and start talking,
Another girl asks if she can sit—
we commiserate about the lack of queer events in the city
Everyone in Seattle looks a little gay,
so how do you know?
How do you flirt with women?
It’s like they’re lifting my internal monologue right out of my heart.
Love In-Betweens / Jawno okhiulu
the same old between the news
the old wall that bricks the views
the blocks passed en route to stores
not the best time, but the time-befores
i bake the brownies and miss the timing
so they turn out just okay
the van “maybe wait?” amidst the van gogh’s
the yellow lights when i halt from slow
the christmas left unkissed by snow
i love you still, i hold you close
the left turn
on a new street
on the way to an old spot
i choose you every time
this that and nothing at all
i gotta love it all
you’re my little moments between the big
when my heart can slouch its beating
the space to be made, so the taking can mean
i will love the beats between the drum-breaks
the world we build will know rest as a soundtrack
Wake Up, Sleepy Head / Alexandria Regilio
Time to rise,
Time to fly,
Time to love,
Time to dream,
Time to March.
To the pulsing
of what’s growing