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 May 2023 are Josette Akresh-Gonzales, Vincent Basso, Caroliena Cabada, Meredith Davidson, Jessamyn Duckwall, Tracey Knapp, Darwin Michener-Rutledge, Christopher Romaguera. 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 31 / Poem 31
with the sea living in my name / A Cento
A cento by and for Josette Akresh-Gonzales, Vincent Basso, Caroliena Cabada, Meredith Davidson, Jessamyn Duckwall, Tracey Knapp, Darwin Michener-Rutledge, Christopher Romaguera
kneeling on the floor, thinking of salt
fertile, teeming with weeds. all my wastelands
what we all can call winter’s leftovers.
how can i ever truly be here, when
~in the darkness i cannot look myself in the mirror
no amulet to tell me any different
i know that i am separate from the grass
my hands and hair wet from the rain that comes at the end of this poem
water leaks at
it’s a terrible smell, like honeyed ammonia,
but it’s the only thing i know to do to stop it.
and just like that we’re in an echo
that we’ve picked up with cupped hands
you’d just be the ostrich standing next to yourself
tempted by the cool, fresh water bubbling up
i find a cheat sheet on my hand
wide, the loops of the letters intricately small
and thought that the moon was the one sure thing
you built a beautiful home for us
(i had to go)
and learned to love it gently, furnish it with long walks
i will reflect that back to you, my sweet bird
i’ll nest you
a stone found breathing after midnight and made clean
in the burn, the hand unheld; the body unknown
Day 30 / Poem 30
Summer / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
After a nearly vertical climb, we form a small group of amateurs waiting for the climbers to return.
They arrive sweaty and smiling, shading their eyes looking up for the parents.
They’ve reached into a deep crevice in the rock and pulled out a peregrine, a nestling,
but falcons are nesting in cities, too, on bridges.
Falcons will defend their nests, and these people have the scars to prove it.
One guy shows me a photo of a gash under his eye when a local TV spot insisted he do the shot without his sunglasses.
Some animals are so difficult to glimpse that they’re like spirits.
Make your hand look like scissors, one says, gently —
Avoid the talons —
Hold the wings back with pinky and thumb, palm the breast —
at four weeks old still has its tooth, to crack out of its egg,
and a fluffy down catching the wind.
Pressure/Release / Vincent Basso
I think that sometimes having a family can be an incredibly heavy burden.
I think that’s what it was for you, dad.
It’s not that you didn’t love us because I know that you did.
I don’t think there was a wall in your apartment not adorned with a photograph
of mom and I or my wife and kids.
It’s just that in the center part of your mind the pressure was intolerable.
You worried about everything and I imagine
that you had your reasons for always rejecting the kind of intimacy conveyed
by a family’s love, even though you needed it, so badly,
like we all do. I have pondered you for my entire life.
I just want you to know that it’s okay.
Whether you had a crossed wire in your cerebellum or if some pathway to enlightenment
got snuffed when you were a boy and almost drowned
in the Hudson or if it was an unsteadiness that you brought home
from Vietnam or the prison where you punched a clock for so many years
or if it was some deeper pain that you locked away
and took with you to your grave, I just want you to know
that I forgive you for being such a goddamn freak all the time.
It’s not hard to find reasons to be bitter about this life.
I want you to know that I’m not bitter anymore.
I’m letting go of my anger because it does no good. I think you would have been happier
if you didn’t accept the system as gospel truth.
I think you would have been happier if you committed to therapy,
but I think we both know how that would have worked out.
I know you had your moments. On a day when the heavens opened
and deluged the streets of our hometown, you opened your school bus door
and said, “Hold on a minute,” to your pint-sized passenger.
You got out before that little girl and opened your umbrella
and held it over her, so that she wouldn’t get wet.
It’s those moments of everyday decency
that I admire about you the most. It’s the little kindnesses
that keep us from falling apart.
I start this the way I began / Caroliena Cabada
I start this the way I began: with lines
merging and repeating in a tachycardic rhythm.
Merging and repeating the rhythm,
the images are static, elevated diction.
More the images, elevate them
to the sun and stare through the membrane.
The sun glares through a membrane
of dough, what is called the window test
in bread baking. The window test
is a check of dexterity, in hand control.
Check dexterity, a dice rolled from a hand
for a game that is more than a role.
In a game that is more than a role,
I start this the way I began: with lines.
WELCOME -I’M A WRITER AND IT’S MY ESCAPE / Meredith Davidson
on earth.” cover them loosely,
Between the cosmic title, desolate moments in out-of-body vocal
virgin act, lopped off her “broken”, causing the sparkling eyes
-all night. with a view overlooking the shimmer I find myself
as if I had anything to do with it.’
up at the end of our multiple identities. What did a creator
on the car stereo, sing- vague dreams of a at first reticent,
broadcast a lyric that seethes at the sickly sweet
When we meet, The sound is less
is scattered with
the virtues of An escape route
it was a flush of pure
of pushing his daughter into the white heat
of the grieving process, too, its
boundaries. – killed by coyotes
and borders around myself that
have felt a churn of fear
On the face of things, internet and just all those stories.” we begin a new era
and notice We are cursed. Already, at the tender
USA’ the screens will say ‘education’ parted, seemingly
intact, still so close and we love each
in developing any sugared pill
you dance to summon that creative seam
Though in truth, you’re breaking wild as
ideology hides in pop-country ditties.
from a dying spacegirl.
that sounded like the last body
is the truth,” – but in /Every
artist. my laughter is untold
blissfully Even with
the same liberties
reached its artful conclusion
It was a shock to her
a found collage poem
Break Glass in Case of Emergency / Tracey Knapp
if I am a cellar door cemented shut
if I am a blown circuit on a complicated motherboard
if I am a new sheet of plywood strapped to the roof of your car
if I am the blizzard that leaves you cold and without power
if I am an old sock, riddled with holes at the toes
then cut my dress off me
hand me a towel and point me towards the edge of the river
invent a new gesture for give me the money
pull clovers from my neighbor’s lawn in the middle of the night
call my mother and tell her there’s a sandwich in the fridge
Eurydice in Provence / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
Summer, (can I say it?) my heart
is growing cold, I’ve let my wings down, I’m
going foot-wise from room to room each one
drenched in your voice, in upholstery and green
scent of stone and sky, I can almost
see you, glimmer of your heel moving down
the stone-dark hallway—I’m waiting for dusk,
for the bats to rage their silhouettes against the purple
for the night’s shadows to crawl across the day’s
until this house is skinnied down to doors and windows.
Things that Mold / Christopher Romaguera
(After Karisma Price’s Things that Fold; Which is after Jamaal May’s Things That Break)
Broken native tongues that speak with a limp
Only seeing your family’s homeland
on a clear day in the Keys,
next to gringos who bump into you
and try to play cool,
taking Instagram photos despite
voting against you and yours.
My sister’s apartment after hurricanes
that kill the power.
Hurricanes that kill everything
but power in Cuba.
Food in refrigerators where apagones don’t pagon back
The family’s unmarked graves left uncared for.
Everyday after the 30 days pass
when Pompilio was going to
send for you to come back
Being a child exile who is told
that your father will never
Being the child of a child exile
who inherited the struggles of
not being able to say
Being the child of a child exile
that inherits more goodbyes
Day 29 / Poem 29
Almost End of May / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
This time of year red lights seem to rush toward me, my lips chapped after too much sun. Stop me if I’ve told you this story before. For a second like static on the radio, the world fuzzes. A toddler skipping waves in the blue and white surf, two people hugging after the world ends, while their friend dies, of something curable today but fatal tomorrow. What I see now (the beach, surfers in wetsuits, my skirt getting wet up to my knees, the sun slowly starting to set) all gone at some point, maybe even in my lifetime, staticky or sticky like melted ice cream on my lips, like memory of the future, a little blip or repeated riff, the story changing slightly with each repetition like a funk drumbeat, over the houses and cars the tide coming in, like maybe we are only here for half a song.
Serial / Vincent Basso
People ask me why I do it.
Isn’t that just the stupidest question you’ve ever heard?
Why don’t we ask the cat why it hunts the mouse?
Know what I love? I love the air in the country—pristine
and pastoral hills. Hell, I even like old Gus
in that rattrap gas station at the end of town. It’s all so atmospheric.
Nothing bad could ever happen here,
except, you know, it’s rural America. You think I’m a myth?
Think I’m the coked out Id let loose from some Hollywood screenwriter’s noggin?
Buddy, I’m real as a heart attack. How many? Geez. A lot.
Hundreds? Thousands? I’m not talking about dropping a bomb on a city, neither.
I do my business hand to hand. Guns are for pussies.
My machete in one hand. My axe in the other.
How many heads can I fit in a trunk?
I once rammed an auger through some guy’s sternum. I javelined a chick
to a cabin door. Oh, man! I hate to even say stuff like that because you professor types
always got some perv notion. Okay. You’ve humored me,
so I’ll tell you the truth. I’m actually a demon, a monster
straight from the pit of Hell, a rogue malevolent spirit set loose on the world.
Or, maybe, that’s all bullshit?
Maybe you and I aren’t all that different after all. Maybe I just learned early on
not to feel. I understood that cruelty makes us human just as much as any notion
of compassion or love. We’re animals.
You look at a successful politician or a banker or some captain of industry
and you applaud them. You buy their biographies and ask, “How’d they do it?”
Never mind if their machinations sowed despair. So what, if their systems
for success kill people? You look at the arc of history
and the only thing that matters is who’s on the winning side.
Pol Pot was evil! Andrew Jackson’s on the twenty dollar bill.
I suppose it’s a question of scale, isn’t it?
If you torture someone for a confession or for some perceived wrong,
you’re still doing it because you want to;
because it’s what makes you feel good. I’m not afraid of how I’ll be judged.
In this day and age it’s all about celebrity. I’m still fairly young,
as psycho killers go, and I’m still racking them up.
Hell, maybe I’ll get on TV.
The Best Night’s Sleep / Caroliena Cabada
At one in the morning,
I’m talking to the few
leaves on the trees
still clinging from last
fall. I’m having trouble with
sleep, I tell them.
Insomnia at one time in
my life was romantic.
College was a sleepless
haze, fuzzed around my
edge, which was still
sharp, but hidden.
The best I could do
on my own
was walk, one of the city’s
many new phantoms on
wide empty streets.
The last thing I think
before I return to bed
is that it’s a shame
the best night’s
sleep happens so fast,
two winks, too quick,
and the worst nights
are interminable—if only
I could luxuriate in
slow like slumber.
TO AMOUNT / Meredith Davidson
there in the universe, the same pre-teen dollar
ruling ‘dual-identity’ [the breakup] concept
a seamless flip between
on their other storm clouds
princesses are sticking to alter ego,
in pictures: it’s part of her.
Everything fuel for the future! “I would be
here’s a girl and here is a reflection
meet her, she’s such a ray of light
to explain her anger
to embody (a conundrum that
was always in me.
it seems clear: some heavy things. I feel
where the roles end
airbrushing it out
Hometown Twin Bed / Tracey Knapp
The molding around the door
is painted with pigs and frogs.
I did not know you liked them.
A Star Wars poster and a page ripped
from Rolling Stone about INXS sag
beneath their thumbtacks.
Time stopped here once.
The light arrives, pinkish gold
and a little late. I think that kind
of gentle entry must be good for you,
so sensitive about my critiques about
the Grateful Dead, your younger self.
What pleases you about your past?
You seem unfamiliar now in this old space.
I don’t know you entirely.
Downstairs, I hear your mother—
the one woman of your whole life—
making coffee, hear the water run,
the kettle hit the stove, the burner tick
beneath it. As its whistle blows, you roll
over and reach for my breast—this small
twin bed crowded with our own adult bodies.
I remember my own small bed,
its simpler pleasures.
Proposed Schedule for the Fairy Queen / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
(as transported by swallow)
Monday: you come to my balcony and throw stones,
I meet you barefoot in my long dress, hair alive.
Tuesday: we put on our green eyes and let the sun pour
gold into them until they are almost hollow.
Wednesday: we float caught in each other’s hands
like frogs, we hold each other just below
the surface so we can still breathe.
Thursday: we hold the Council of the Ladybugs
(we will have to do some work, after all).
Friday: we sleep nestled in tulips waking only
to watch the moon rise over the forest–
this is something we pick up from field mice.
Saturday: we walk blindfolded from California to Delaware
getting caught in the tines of highways, eating only flies.
Sunday: you commemorate me in a locket to ease your pain
when I prove mortal, which I will inevitably do quite well.
Rico / Christopher Romaguera
The old Cuban tour guides
invite me to their table,
no idea if because of
my partial connection
to the island, because I
can speak Spanish,
because they are bored,
because my loneliness is just
translated through all languages,
cutting through all bloqueos.
They ask what I want out of this trip,
as they squeeze orange onto yuca,
me searching for the words, ideas,
hoping that speaking it out,
in a second language,
as I second guess myself.
What am I doing here?
They pick the chicharron
on top of the yuca.
Comment how it isn’t bad for the ricos,
though I can’t tell if they are picking at it
to enjoy the taste
to get it off the yuca they love,
to peel another layer off the rich.
How they say ricos,
let’s you know that it’s not
riquisimo, like how Pops said,
when he’d suck sugar cane sticks,
he swirled his mojitos with.
How Pops said, riquisimo
every time Moms made anything,
or anytime we had dinner together,
tradition we could afford.
It took me years to learn that
rico did not mean delicious,
rico wasn’t rich,
rico was an expression of love
So when the tour guide uses rico,
you don’t think she means delicious
and maybe she doesn’t even mean
she mostly just means, not us,
not family. And sadly,
you’re afraid you know
where you are in that number,
as she asks you again
what you want from this trip
and you can’t pick your brain,
like she did the chicharrón,
and you can’t answer in a way,
that lets you enjoy the yuca,
the way you did with
Moms, with Pops, with sis, at a small table.
One that is oh so far away.
Day 28 / Poem 28
Jack in the Pulpit / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
slabs of rock form the cliff face
bow low and brush away the ferns to photograph the preacher in his “pulpit”
a green stalk sheltered by the canopylike spathe, which is green with white and brown lengthwise stripes
in a little while after staring at the light hitting the folds of stone like curtains waving
you see there are metal hooks screwed into the overhang
it’s not possible to explain how this makes you feel
like a small child, maybe, asking dumb questions
and everyone around you being so patient with you
as though they had all day to explain how long falcons live, in the wild
If you peer through the saplings you see a spot of red: the scientist/mountaineer
hanging like a pendant off the cliff’s neck
you’re handed a pair of binoculars,
the greenery looming like falling into a well
better to squint at the red dot and ask if that’s the biologist or a scarlet tanager
it sings, louder than you’d have expected, a hurried, burry, repetitive warble
and you know which one it is, even if you’re blind and nauseated
all of a sudden (as if you’re living inside a marshmallow) there is a baby falcon in your midst
that’s why you’re here, after all: to watch the banding of the peregrine falcon
as a poet and editor, not as a conservation biologist,
so you watch the fuzz come away in tufts like dandelions being wished on
the falcon is merely a nestling, four or five weeks old
you listen to the screech of the bird in the hands of your brother and his colleagues
they laugh and tell stories — Biologists Defend Themselves Against Falcon with Pool Noodles — that’s the headline?
you look up to see if the parents are preparing to dive-bomb the assholes who’ve kidnapped their only son
you’re here as an observer, not as the expert twisting the screw to bolt the band tight to the leg, you watch the black eyes blink shinily in the sunlight
how every time the little guy flaps his wings, more white fluff escapes, with more burnt-orange-and-black smooth plumage emerging underneath
the tail feathers like petals, a black-and-white striped flower
dark-gray talons sharp as needles that keep getting stuck in the T-shirt fabric
and the delicate work of untangling them without damaging the delicate new weapons
the scientists work quickly but don’t mind handing round the sharp ball of fluff to their “assistant”
a six-year-old girl who hasn’t minded writing down the band numbers
or climbing up a vertical rock crawl to watch her dad work
the dogs Cadence and Cosmos don’t mind, either
from below, you can tell a falcon from a vulture by its wing shape
Saint George of Lydda Hands Me His Spear / Vincent Basso
I had a dream in which I was a boy again.
I was at St. John’s Church with my cousins and we were preparing for mass.
There was scaffolding on one wall and it led to a giant school desk built up to the ceiling.
I was meant to study, so I climbed to the top
and looked out over the hall. Then the wood snapped and the structure buckled
and I hurried down before the whole thing collapsed.
Father McVicker strode past the altar and took me into his arms.
Although frightened, I accepted responsibility
for destroying the scaffold and desk. I promised that in time
I would make restitution. He held me and he wept for me.
His tears fell hot against my face.
I dedicate this ex voto to Saint George and his holy spear for he came to me
in the form of my mother when I was afraid and said, “That’s enough.”
You see, the priest in my dream was my mother and she knew that I must go.
That is the problem between fathers and sons.
The boys march into a No Man’s Land. They head out to the factories and farms
and offices where they labor under another man’s yoke.
They drift through failed marriages and broken homes and take to the bottle
or to the pipe. “There are sons and there are fathers,”
said my mother, who was also Father McVicker and Saint George rolled into one.
“And one must always abandon the other.”
The spear became a pen in my hand.
Imagining Trying to Explain the Death of the Author to My Mother / Caroliena Cabada
too many people believe
death is the end of all things.
I mean, it just means
readers want to own
the meanings of what I make.
It means I am there and not there.
Like, a reader can’t
just call me up and
ask what I
mean by the late-awakened tree
bloom and the artillery sneezes—
they can just believe
I think Spring is a violence.
It just means my work
leaves me the moment
it leaves my pen.
No, I know it’s stupid, Mom,
but it’s like—you know how
the priest always preaches that
Jesus will return and bring
peace, saving us all? No, I’m
writing, not saying I’m Jesus. Listen: I’m
saying that writing poems is like
his sermon. I’m not
playing dead, even when I’ve died.
I write and I’m alive.
GENDER DEBATE / Meredith Davidson
she wants to have sex
with the surreal situation
Sunset surrounded by old resilience
sprawling city. still covered in paint
I really am pretend-
ing this is a date.
culminating in extreme Christian Charisma
pauses between each sexy Southern drawl,
she felt lonely – Something Shameful
men play sport, and they eat meat, shoot you
for just being politics: the tongue-wagging
drunk and found
misguided youth, barely touch
disillusioned by country
an army of young women to grow
her genderless world
We’re born humans,’ she says,
The so-called ‘shameful’ things
Last Day in Town / Tracey Knapp
oh how he smelled like anything inedible
but I left my door unlocked for him I would do it still his broken nose
how he leaned against his ’85 Camry the windshield cracked
the heat rising from the hood was not unlike our bodies
the hair around his nipple a burned flower
and somehow I never bit through his lip or tongue
my shoulder fit under his armpit and our knees met
his long warm body a simple pressure, a welcome weight
don’t ask me his middle name or the name of his mother
but his dad was a preacher his sister in trouble
and don’t think that he was that simple I bet he could tell you
he packed my car so neatly but still things fell or resettled
what would he say if he knew I didn’t leave town ‘til five hours later
the floor needed cleaning I had to return a window fan
I never told him he was or wasn’t perfect I thought he knew
when I was on the interstate I saw that I was not the only person moving away
if I had stayed I wonder when he would have left me
miss means not catch too I did write him weeks later
he didn’t run to answer it never threw it back
The Right to Be Forgotten / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
We are the Loch Ness Monster and someone
screaming about the Loch Ness Monster.
The light seems unimpressed—it backpedals,
balances, rolls forward again. A bike?
We are faces floating in the water, just faces.
We are fish with fins that mimic the human silhouette
to intimidate predators. The light is perhaps
somewhat intimidated. We are protectors
of the great primordial fire, found smoldering
on the shore, not flames anymore just warmth.
We are bodies stepping tender-footed across
the sand, so many arms and enough legs.
The wind plays coy in the leaves.
Day 27 / Poem 27
I Gave Up Years Ago / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
Dragonfly zips an inch above the water,
a patch of yellow flowers
of floating lily pads, the lake
indigo but dotted canary and moss green,
the surface glittering —
can a dragonfly tell what’s real
vs what’s imaginary?
* * *
There’s a company
proud they cleaned up zero point two percent of the giant garbage patch in the ocean.
Vaclav Smil called plastic one of the four pillars of modern civilization.
I am going to take a plastic straw.
I gave up when I found out about nurdles or mermaid’s tears —
I gave up years ago.
I bought an SUV,
Ziploc bags, remodeled my bathroom.
Realize that this list
of what’s piled up in converging currents
streams become rivers
rivers flow downhill bringing to the sea
bottles, buoys, bags, etc etc.
What that company has done is invent a machine to intercept the trash in the river.
Two boats pull a U-shaped barrier.
The latest version is almost a mile long.
* * *
The electrochemical currents among the trees will walk among the trees
and will be, to the trees, the Forest
and the trees will be the Forest’s people.
“I brought you out of the narrows.”
“I will walk among you if you walk in my path.”
What “walk” means is simply the deed—“one foot in front of the other.”
What “among you” means is simply one-ness, unity, “intimate and close.”
Dissected fish with guts full of sharp plastic fragments, close
sea turtles entangled in abandoned fishing nets
Mayfly-up-your nose, hair-on-your-tongue close.
Slip-off-your-clothes, jump-in-the-lake, silty-mush-on-your-toes close.
Vincent / Vincent Basso
There is a river that runs through each of us, connecting one
to the next. Sometimes we stumble and fall
and the current drags us under. Without breath,
we forget ourselves and tumble through our years like so much dross
until, one day, a hand plunges in
and grasps our own and pulls us to the surface.
It is impossible to know if you are the one who is saved
or the one saving another because the father
and the son are a mirror image
to each other. There is a river that runs through each of us
and the pain that you feel deep in your lower back
is your father’s pain as much as it is your own.
It is the only way he knows to tell you that he does not wish
for you to suffer. Even though his flesh
has burned to ash, still your father opens his arms to you
in ways he never could when he was alive. Lament. Your father’s spirit
watches over you. There is a river
that runs through each of us and it is inseparable from the tears we cry.
It is easy to forget that you are beneath the water’s surface.
It is easy to forget the sun’s warmth
and the blue sky. Reach out your hand and pull your father from the river.
He can hear you now. He draws you from the river’s depths.
See how your love for one another survives.
Future Self / Caroliena Cabada
Among other things, I hope you
learned how to write a long poem
with so many words your mouth rushes to say
them all. Or else, I hope you learn
to read slow, to appreciate the way air
tumbles over your tongue, percusses your
teeth, shapes your lips. I hope you
learn decadence of description: overflowing
bookshelves, dried flowers in glass vases,
a plate from a good friend, hexagonal
boxes that honeycomb into fine textures
for the eye, photos in picture frames
in varying styles that match in miscellanea,
a quilt square, origami cranes,
candlesticks with melted wax droplets,
a tea set on a tea tray for company—
all of these things swept by a river, or
sun-faded and covered with fine dust
from the hills, or covered in so many ashes.
Among other things, I hope you learned
to travel lighter than you can daydream,
and that words are enough to fill your hungry
mouth. Say all of them—say them aloud.
(LOVE) / Meredith Davidson
this is nori and cashew
this is arid meets the sea
this is the impossible effort
writing a love poem, lines
composed in a hotel room
(no American sockets, just
USB outlets) he will deem
corny, but fuck was I not
serious? Circle back
to the connection unseen
we may envy those
who for themselves establish
home but what do I make
of the home filled with strangers?
I could not appreciate the place
we named on the Pacific
coast – far too much fear
of the tidal potentiality and
when the neighbors offered
the King Tide I could no longer
relinquish my anxieties.
Now I examine the images –
cherish the list of ocean
in the motion of the lookout
blessed Oregon and the way
you fall to sea – stake
the interest of seeking love
though the superficiality seeking
it nonetheless demands – think
of the warehouse wedding
in Nashville I said open
your heart and love will find you
(cliché, I know) – now the heart
exists occupied, the womb too
and I on the Isle of Bute make
up for an absence felt
on a former western arc to sea
Talking Head / Tracey Knapp
Upstairs, the neighbor’s child
thumps and thumps, leaping
from what sounds like the top
surface and landing full-bodied
to the ground. An excuse for
everything now related to my
attention span. I want to teach
him how to dance and crash
in time to the Talking Heads.
Let him come down the stairs
and scare my cats. I never had
a child. I did babysit for half
my neighborhood growing up
and was the kind who brought
crafts. Now I would teach my
neighbor’s child to drop and roll
like a stunt actor. Fall softly to
the ground like I have learned
to do after years of falling hard.
But he’s not my child. My brother
was rough and tumble kind of
kid, a small machine on two feet
who frightened adults in the glass
section of the department store.
I think again of my mother’s casual
management of the two of us in
public—how she had us trained
to follow the sound of her key ring
dangling from her wrist. She never
lost me, but my brother wanted
his name announced over the intercom
at Shop Rite and so would lose himself
in the cereal aisle. Hide among
the apricots. He never had children
either. I received two “Happy Mother’s
Day” greetings this year, and didn’t
correct them. My cats must count
for something. Otherwise, I’m simply
alone in this life, and I haven’t really
been looking. Sometimes the heart
stops beating as fast after a certain
number of failures. I’m not sure how
to explain except to say that I’ve found
love in smaller ways, and for now,
that is sufficient. Do I sound cold?
I’m so tired of crying.
Elegy for May / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
For grief the flowers change their names;
the moon is in her starving days,
the night slumberless with stars.
Just light enough to send us, gold,
into the other’s eye— before you twist away
from me, empty as a slanted mirror.
Walking Over Yonder / Christopher Romaguera
We redefined yonder, as listless walk
A way we killed evenings of our life
Walking up and down the streets
Making little missions our lives
Making days for our peoples, us
I think of my great uncle
Walking down the streets,
Needing time to decompress
His son said, long after he passed.
My first night on my first trip away,
I called Pops,
Asking if he saw all the stars I did
Some stories take years to tell.
I think of my walks
After my homie had died
After I left Pops and my home
After they became so much more alone
I think of walks in Cuba, El Malecon
Echoing your steps,
Seeing what you saw
Living what you lived.
I walk late at night with my blind dog now
Seeing all my homes and friends and loves
Reflect back at me from the river
Always making it back home
Always walking through my homes
A little moment of peace, alone
A little moment of peace, with you all.
Day 26 / Poem 26
On Receiving Torah / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
We used to eat blintzes
on Shavuot—the most forgettable
Jewish holiday. It comes seven
weeks after Passover and celebrates
the newly freed Jewish people
receiving the Torah.
You’re supposed to eat dairy
(for some reason).
My grandma made blintzes
some years. You could buy them
in the frozen section, and they
were a lot of work, so
not every year.
I remember, she wouldn’t
let me flip them.
She’d pour a little batter
back into the bowl,
swirl the pan around.
She had a special blintz pan—
just the right size.
The cheese, she called “pot cheese.”
It came as a shrink-wrapped loaf
labeled “farmer’s cheese.”
(You should add salt
otherwise it’s lousy.)
My job on the assembly line
was to scoop the cheese
into the center. Someone else—
probably my mother—
folded the blitzes. Envelopes
carrying their rich, dairy messages
to coat the tongue with.
It was many years later
that I learned the word “crepe.”
My dad would fry the blintzes
one by one, and my sister
and brother and I’d jump up
to grab the next one, hot
off the skillet. (Stop pushing!)
Sour cream or strawberry jam
or even maple syrup—
or maybe I’m misremembering—
I can’t remember anything
for sure except the sour cream.
You know, the Torah was only written
down after many centuries
of being sung to one’s children,
of people learning verses “by heart.”
As a kid I found out that the word
for “by heart” in Hebrew was “b’peh”—
which literally means
“in the mouth.”
Martín / Vincent Basso
You have to keep with a certain compassion, a kindness of the spirit.
But it gets hard to check in with that aspect of ourselves
because of all the suffering we see. That’s why it’s so important to do it.
We have to remember to stop and maybe don’t even think.
Actually smell the flowers. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay
to cry. It’s okay to feel something for someone else! It’s okay to grieve
and for God’s sake love. Love like your life depended on it.
It’s okay to be hurt. I am! None of us are actually alone.
Stories I Keep Hoping Someone Else Will Tell / Caroliena Cabada
Don’t want to skip past the boring bits.
This will never be real time, but tell me
what happened between climax and
denouement. Is there a denouement,
or is the action Keeling—trend line
always rising to the right?
Don’t give me the satisfaction
of a happy ending—I want
rage and apoplexy, everyday
urgency. What else are stories for?
I think I was happier when I didn’t
know what it’s like to write and never
reach the ending, never feel it going
right, never quite liking how it
reads in my mind or in my mouth.
Speaking of Grounding / Meredith Davidson
Usually with bare extremities
grounding is conducted from skin
to earth – his first read of another
asks, is this person grounded? Override
if you happen to like them, if they are not stranger to
you – grounding is in theory a balm for inflammation.
From dust to dust, we take the animate
alive in our bodies and seek resonance with
the inanimate alive below. Settle in for a drink
a false face, the entrepreneurial spirit talk
the pitfalls too far the kitchen goes aflame
evacuate the building but please do not take
your pints – as if I am going to do this without
blackmail for a burger to get your purse out the fire
if you ask what the firetruck is doing, I will tell you
it is blinking its lights – blue, red. Jade is a stone
in many more colors than green, but besides earthing
grounding is a practice, a way we discover to self-soothe.
Cave Dive / Tracey Knapp
The hollows. A bellow. Your murmur: a curse.
Rodents, their scratch. The dark. Dampness.
The dryness: your tongue, its paste.
Chicken shit. Scaredy-cat.
A cavern. Wetness. The walls. Some rubble. A match.
Your gasp. A hole. Hands, hammer, crack.
Following the rat. A room. The scuttle of things.
A choice, the chance, no action back.
A candle: the lamp. A lake in a cavern.
The water. Immerging your foot, your
legs, your torso. Your lungs, full of breath. The only raft.
Will You Put This In The Poem Later? / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
I nod. Probably. We are picking asparagus
in the blue afternoon, bend, pull, shift,
from row to row.
Do you think it remembers?
What? She turns back, squinting.
The sun pools between my shoulder blades,
runs over into her eyes. I am burning.
The asparagus. Do you think
it remembers what it felt like underground?
She nods, Oh yes, yes. It must.
They used to think it was part of the lily family,
you know? Like garlic. Same little white flowers.
Does it miss its family? I shake my head.
I used to think it could fly, she says. When I was little.
I thought they were saying sparrow grass. I take in
our harvest of wingless birds.
Perhaps we have deeply misunderstood the purpose
of asparagus, I saw. Maybe it wants to fly.
She reaches into my basket and takes one.
Throws it straight up.
Green bird climbs, climbs
Sliver of sound against the earth. She smiles, shrugs.
The horror of seeking yourself is yourself, she says.
Her teeth flash in the light so clear it is almost
Enraged Insomnia / Christopher Romaguera
“Us and Them” separates you from love
Don’t be so mean, they’re probably nice
Like if any thought is oh so original
Like if any action is unprovoked
You can’t isolate from the hate in the world
It is easier to poison than to nourish
To break a door down than to build a house
I have caused harm in this world
I want to protect loved ones
I’ve taken punches before, can’t I
Now do it for good?
I can be the mouth that sucks out
And spits the poison
I can be the calloused hands that
Holds the hell we find on this earth.
But the world doesn’t work that way
So I sit in bed, sweating
Angry, sad, impotent to help
Waiting to pass out,
So I can wake up, knowing we’re all ok
Just for one more day.
Day 25 / Poem 25
Tell me about the God you don’t believe in / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
We stood outside in the lamplight
and the air was cool around us
and the pavement shined.
She smelled good.
She took my hand
in the blue-gray light.
Like deer heads down at the creek,
we startled at our own footfalls.
I Dedicate this Ex-Voto to St. Brigid of Kildare / Vincent Basso
My father, god rest his soul, was a cruel man. He abused
and ridiculed my mother. He was petty. Vindictive.
If our neighbor bought a new truck or a friend got a raise,
my father spat venom over every little thing. He believed
that work was the one true thing because it produced
what one could hold in their hand. Even when I was a girl
of ten, he made me work our farm as if I was a man.
Digging trenches, hauling hay, feeding the hogs and chickens.
When he saw me escape the sun beneath a tree
at a time I was meant to fetch the water, he devised new
and more difficult tasks to occupy me. We had one cow
and I had tended the heifer throughout her pregnancy.
When the time came for her to calve, my father ordered me
alone to the barn. He paced behind me. When the calf
did not come easy he shoved me closer. Her snout
and forelegs hung in their sac. I did not know what to do.
It was an early hour and the air retained the night’s sorrow.
My father threw me the rope and instructed me to tie it
to the calf’s legs. “We have to pull her loose,” he said.
My father gently stretched the canal. My hands were slick
with the birth fluid, but I closed my eyes and pulled.
I begged the calf to part from its mother. My arms shook
and hot wet tears covered my face. “Good,” said my father.
Then the calf separated from its sanctuary and I fell
to the floor. Its mother licked its fur. My father lifted me
to my feet. That is when I saw it had two tails.
“We should put it out of its misery,” he said. I leapt between
my father and the calf. He swore that it was a freak.
“It will be dead in a week, but if it means so much to you,
then you will tend it day and night and make your home
among the animals in the barn.” I nursed the calf by bottle.
I named her Brigid. I sang her lullabies to get her to sleep.
When the train gets to where it’s going / Caroliena Cabada
When the train gets to where it’s going, words
become nostalgia: once they’re said, they float
into the same atmosphere as the birds
whose frantic spring song is stuck in my throat.
I have lost the migratory instinct.
The city lured me away from lines.
You are a Sulu bleeding-heart: extinct,
or believed to be since 2009.
Let’s sing when I arrive, or maybe when
the Cebu blackish cuckooshrike appears
in the forests like your forests again.
We might wait a long time with the end near
at hand, but at least we’ll have memory
of the end of the end of history.
Bridge-building / Meredith Davidson
men on the streets in aprons
domiciles of the urban you smell like outside
earth memory of the man at church camp telling
the story of how he bit off his tongue. Remember frying
egg on the sidewalk cookies baked on the dash, his
voice in my ear herald the feat of engineering: concrete
a hand growing shakier lines of his abstract paintings
less precise. Waiting for us across the water but
the river punctuates sand it’s no Rappahannock, but
it will do to lay bodies flush with the dusk at the
bridge cut the engine float til something catches
on the line. My mother in the slurry of it treading
circles, praying to avoid July jellyfish beneath the
triforce beams at the city edge aortic architecture off
suspending no scent in poetry because scent is just
memory so poetry is all memory so all poems are scent
Piece by Piece / Tracey Knapp
November now and the pumpkin
on the porch has collapsed inward
on itself. It feels like someone has put
a cigarette out on my skin kind of day.
Only a biopsy of my breast tissue could
desaturate the color from the sky
in this way. If only my mother could find
remission after years of her fight. Her
hair grows back thicker on the sides,
and no one can tell if her fingerprints
will return, if the nerve pain in her feet
will diminish. She sits alone in her house
on the other side of the country, snoozing
in her armchair while Judge Judy delivers
verdicts in favor of the unpaid, in favor
of the wrongfully accused. If only
there was a way to win my mother’s life
back from the time she spent in treatment.
Treat me with some dignity when I must lie
on my face with my arm and breast pitched
through a hole in the table. X-ray after x-ray
until they locate the spot, take a bit.
My mother reminds me I must do it, despite
my dread, a cruel spell cast over the formerly
fun and perky. Is this age the time to finally
disassemble my sexuality? Piece by piece,
I follow my mother down the slow course
of a woman’s life, scars accumulating
throughout our bodies.
PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG WOMAN OF TWENTY-ONE DONE BY HER FRIEND OF THE SAME AGE, AN AMATEUR / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
Still a work in progress, no she says, shaking her head
don’t call it that, those are my least favorite words
my heart will break if you call it work or worse, progress.
A little purple at the edges of her hair, the shadows
under her bottom lip, cupping her nose the trick is to see
what you actually see my art teacher said to me, years before
today outlining the shapes of a black & white photograph
in pencil everything is carved from light; do not draw what you think
you see, draw what the light is telling you. And what is the light
telling you, the young woman asks, lifting a hand to her cheek
then setting it back into place that you are moving too much
her cupid’s bow bends deeper as she smiles the arrow soars.
San Lazaro / Christopher Romaguera
I hear the drumming in the distance
It reminds me of street parties
In New Orleans, Mardi Gras Indians.
It’s for San Lazaro.
Cuba always reminding me of a home
But just a little different. The three
Beat of the clave, just off/on.
San Lazaro was Jesus’s best friend
Brought back from the dead
With a simple called out name.
I see the statues
A gimpy Lazaro.
I crouch down and pet all these dogs,
A kinda Lazaro. I feel a
I am wary of some of these dogs,
I have physical, other wounds.
I have been a hungry dog
scarred flesh never forgets
I hear you call your dog’s name out
When she passed, I wondered if I’d
Ever hear you call that name out again
No one here knows my name.
Or yours. No one here can bring
Us back home, bring the past back
Alive. I hope telling Pops this story,
Can bring him back. I hope writing down
This poem can bring a bit of you back
I hope one day to hear you say my name
Again, so you can bring me back to wherever
It is you are. To wherever it is we can go together
Day 24 / Poem 24
Father of the Atomic Bomb / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
My husband tells me he wants to take our son to see the new movie about the Manhattan project. I say I’m sorry I’d rather like one hundred times more rather see the Barbie movie. I laugh, but in a book I’m reading about dreams, there’s a section called “The Figure Across the Lake: Finding Gifts in Nightmares.” The author recommends working through them in stages, and to ask if the demon has come to the dreamer personally or if it is an archetypal energy. I can count at least five ways the H bomb movie would give me nightmares. One: skin falling in sheets. Two: the mushroom cloud in the clear blue sky, in visuals that are legitimate art. Three: the WW2 nerds nerding out about how the two bombs were nicknamed Fat Man and Little Boy. Four: the desert where they practiced. Five: the fact that the good guys are still making them, and so are the bad guys.
Weird America / Vincent Basso
If you take a driving tour through the highways and byways of America;
if you visit the cities and the country towns where you can ferret out
a cool tee-shirt or a coffee cup at a gas station, then you also chance to encounter
some grizzled old coot in a smoky barroom or an eccentric librarian
at a diner, spouting cryptic nonsense while you’re just trying to get a cup
of coffee to go. You may well hear supernatural tales of hauntings
and monsters and things that go bump in the night. If you have any sense,
you’ll keep driving and forget the madman with the cardboard sign,
and just let the scenery play out like postcards. But if you are prone
to imaginative wanderings or sometimes question the nature of your reality,
in short, if you are a fool, then you may find yourself under a spell, searching
a graveyard in your underwear under a blood moon or reading incantations
from an ancient tome, all the while putting yourself at risk of becoming
just another gone statistic, a tragic story on the five o’clock news.
If you travel Weird America, you’ll no doubt hear the one about the guy
in Death Valley, who got abducted by a pterodactyl or the story of a little girl
in Nashua whose toy dolls pull pranks on the other kids at school.
You’ll hear about the lady outside Eureka, who posted a video on YouTube
of a Bigfoot stealing pies off her windowsill or the Bar Harbor fisherman
who’s clocked over 500,000 views of the leviathan that rocked his boat.
If you drive long enough, you’ll learn the secret history of zombie outbreaks
from Albuquerque to New York and the government coverups
of time traveling space aliens who like to mash the old West into the new.
You’ll get up close and personal with New Orleans vampires in recovery
and the ghost girl who dances on the Vegas Strip. You’ll meet a guy
in a grocery store who claims he’s possessed by both a demon and an angel,
and who is always complaining that they play chess inside his skull.
You’ll hear tales of a thunderbird outside Saint Louis and a devil in south Jersey
and a Wendigo off of Lac La Croix. There’s a thousand stories more
of the beasties at your door, and I advise you to keep driving.
Motherlanguage / Caroliena Cabada
to learn one of my parents’
Ako ay isang guro, meaning:
The last five years of my life,
I have been learning and unlearning
ways to convey my rage, then
direct it at ignorance.
Ako ay isang babae, meaning:
I feel I know myself now
at the hour if that knowledge
being taken from me.
Ako ay hindi magulang, meaning:
I’m not sure I have the grammar right,
but I am not, have never been,
will never be a parent.
I hope I learn quickly enough
to sit with you in a place where
you do not have to translate, for once.
gunpowder / Meredith Davidson
in the sense of I learned of hollow point
bullets from a Christmas present
in the sense of my childhood home had
a no guns policy but my Dad
kept swords crossed on the walls
not to mention tomes with giant-texted RAPEs
down their spines
not to mention I tipped a plant off
the table just now singing
in the sense of a pervasive scent of mint and urine
in the sense of soil darkening my nails
in the sense of I thought treason had to do with eggs
not to mention I thought centerfolds was quiltwork
not to mention my coworker pining for a guy
because he only had the guns
Keanu uses in John Wick 3
not to mention how I can’t unsubscribe from the emails
subject line: “GUNDAY BRUNCH”
in the sense that fandom breeds a kind of currency
in the sense of everything’s a war crime
except for what’s mine
a molting / Jessamyn Duckwall
If You Stand Back / Tracey Knapp
You won’t risk falling off the edge of the cliff.
You might hear the mother hawk swooping towards you to protect her nest.
Stand away from the nest.
You can count the number of people in the room with greater accuracy.
If you stand back, sit down, and close your eyes, all the people may encompass you and tease you with touch, the tip of a feather.
You will fall down, crumple to the ground, and weep from the attention.
If you stand back, hold on tight because it’s going to be a rough ride from where you’re positioned.
You won’t go unnoticed.
Swan / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
they call him, pushing ahead
the herd with his head down,
right foot left foot right hoof left hoof
sometimes he catches himself
wincing when one of the animals
stumbles he almost feels it.
Better to move in the day, the pigs
forage their own roads across hills
into the royal forests only the swan
is allowed when he follows them no other
boybirds not even his lover the wren
that mender of lutes. Pigs are not always
the heavy sleepers you would expect
some nights he rises his mind torn open
in the dark he runs a hand over their warm
backs stumbling after their approximate
shapes the air is cool. Following the
woody smells of mushrooms the pigs
lead him out out out to where he can
see the stars fallen double in the water
he hears a sound like a nightingale
poured over his skin.
Regla / Christopher Romaguera
Havana gets farther, your Havana gets closer
On a lancha that coughs across the water
The church pristine, not purposefully decaying
No museos here, solo nuestro mundo
Here you talk to your legends, pray to our Gods, confess to priests, baptise children, bury the-turning-cold into the warm earth
I pray to you
We bring back fotos to you
You conjure a memory previously lost
Praying to the same statues,
With your mom
And just like that we’re in an echo
That we’ve picked up with cupped hands
Like a conch shell that plays the ocean back
One that you would have shared with your Mom
Day 23 / Poem 23
Is This an Ode to My Blue Bike’s Lugs? / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
Blue is a good choice for a bike
that is otherwise fancy—
it’s a matte, light blue
add some clam white acrylic to your
greenish blue palette
and you’ve got sky blue
parading around with Robin’s egg blue—
jumpy and keen,
the bright blue quest, the hips
bumping over potholes
just to feel the cushion
of those gumwall tires
like balloons under
the balls of your feet.
As Anais Nin wrote, “She is the mermaid
with her fish-tail dipped
in the unconscious.”
And like all the Rivendells, my ride
has a creamy head tube
and matching lug windows—
if you’re not familiar with lugs
picture in your sepia frame
a very old bicycle, an antique,
a steel black one
with a curve like a crescent moon
and a woman
who’s just given herself
permission to remove her corset
standing beside it,
her fingers greasy and pitched
a little high—
see how each piece of the frame
is attached to the next piece,
the way they fit together like a
tongue and groove?
On my bike there are little windows
in each lug pocket, and the windows
are in the shape of hearts—
this sounds ridiculously silly, I know,
but it’s cool— it’s like in a dream, when you ask a rock star
and tight leather pants
to explain how their pedal works
how it loops the torch singer’s voice
into layers of self-harmony—
and they interrupt you and answer,
In a book I’m reading about dreams, I’m reminded that
we need not feel small!
When we encounter a very deep
feeling and sensuality
we are at the heart
of our journey into the temple
of our dreams, and we are
not only part of the web of being,
we are needed and wanted,
embraced and aroused.
And that’s the truth, right
at the center of those Robin’s egg
creamy lug windows.
You do not know
what you are missing.
Baudelaire is Beside Himself / Vincent Basso
I don’t know if you’ve been watching the news lately, but if you have
you’ve probably seen a story or two
about the psychopaths indiscriminately gunning down kids at schools
and people in shopping malls and even old folks just out tending their gardens.
Rest assured, this is perfectly normal in twenty-first century America.
Have you heard that half the country is actively legislating away
women’s reproductive rights! Not to mention all the laws and ordinances
designed to oppress queer people and others who might think
about their gender differently than you!
From the city to the country, everyone’s so content they’re taking blue happy pills
and dropping like flies. The police keep killing black people
at higher rates than they kill anybody else
and some of America’s most populous states are openly dismantling diversity education,
which helps everyone stay on the same page.
Know what I mean? And get this, the former president, who actively incited a coup
(a woman was shot to death inside the capital) is running for re-election.
With all that’s going on, you might of missed that those egg heads
over at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists just set the Doomsday Clock
to 90 Seconds to Midnight! That’s the closest it’s ever been!
Oh, and global warming is eradicating species at an unprecedented rate,
driving global disasters, and altering the very climate of Planet Earth.
Psst, if you thought COVID was bad,
you haven’t seen nothing yet. Isn’t it amazing how quickly a democracy turns
into a Theo-political state! But don’t worry! Don’t be afraid! We’re safe.
We’re free people. We’re free individuals with the highest total prison population
and the highest rate of gun ownership in the world.
I’ll tell you the truth. I’ll give you a truth bomb! There’s an invisible man,
who lives in the sky, and he loves you.
Heh! Yup, he thinks you’re just the cat’s meow. How do I know? Well, I talk to him
and he wrote a book. It’s a bit cryptic,
but I understand it because I am a very smart person who surrounds himself
with other smart people like me. Now, friends, put your hands in the air
and wave them around like you just don’t care.
Enough / Caroliena Cabada
enough of space : how about
enough of slow : how about
imagineif everything merged
eachword morewords inatrenchcoat
enough : I’ve had enough
of languor and clarity
I’m feeling rushed, so rushme
don’t let thispoem overstay
seared steak / Meredith Davidson
how my mom attended seminary
how she examined the biblical role of animals
how before that she was carnivorous
how she’d put us in front of chicken-
trying to convert us
with my sister always having a steak in the fridge
with her always being a picky eater
I used to make her pickle & butter on white
bread after school those long hours
with a minor earthquake shaking the house one time
with my spoon quivering on the edge of the bowl
how I’ve not eaten meat in ten years
how one mushroom gave me the suffering
of every living thing
how I starved myself for five days in indecision
how I finally conceded to gnash teeth exclusively
against plant matter, fish flesh
only (sometimes in the bath I revert)
with the sea living in my name
I owe it something, no?
with an ordained friend asking of my mother:
what does she think then of dominion?
175 / Jessamyn Duckwall
Birdsong / Tracey Knapp
“If you are a bird, I am a bird”—Nicholas Sparks
If I am your enemy, you are my enemy.
If you hold a gun, hate cats, talk over me,
I will reflect that back to you, my sweet bird.
I’ll nest you. I am the twigs you have assembled,
the string of pearls I can’t untangle. I am your
forever ferret. If you love me, I love you back.
If you most want someone to feed you carrots
in a tub of honey, then I want the same degree
of gesture from you. My own tub of honey,
my own birdsong. Be my only bird. Feather
me and I’ll find your favorite kind of worm.
Go ahead. Replace me with a younger version,
someone with a better knee. I will be the mad
one who removes your clothes from the closet
and throws them on the street. Sometimes
I despise you. Sometimes I think we are two fallen
apples from the same tree. If you bite me, I’ll
bite you back. If you hurt me, I will clip your wings.
Okay Here This is a Good Photo / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
Plastic Rose Decima / Christopher Romaguer
You ask anyone for a hand
You ask questions, God only knows
It doesn’t matter where you stand
Your gift will be a plastic rose
You ask anyone for a hand
But people get so much healthcare
We even get a Russian bear
Please yell over there, your demand
Under some palm tree where you stand
Why would someone under the palm
Need to sing such a sad psalm
So maybe there’s a long food line
Stand up straight, it’s good for your spine
Please, hurry up, fuckin’ get calm
You ask questions God only knows
What is all this useless money
Do they censor where its sunny
What happens to those that oppose
Oh you so know how that goes
Even the plastic rose has thorns
Poetic peaceful ruler mourns
Within revolution anything
Without revolution, no bling bling
Fuck with the bull, get the horns
Just kidding it feels oh so grand
Our healthcare cures sick joking
No people are living broken
Just need some tape, a rubber band
It doesn’t matter where you stand
In a shuttered up hipster bar
Lighting a broken down classic car
At a no Cubans Cuba beach
Ripped out pages help you teach
Comet crashes, just shooting stars
Your gift will be a plastic rose
For each of those in a prison
For all who serve every mission
For those that do nothing but oppose
For those who god only knows
For all friends, also for all foes
For those for those for those for those
For the work of Jose Marti
The best crop from the party
Your gift will be a plastic rose
Day 22 / Poem 22
Summer / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
By the river a goose flaps over asking for boba tea
while a 1980s Volvo station wagon is winched out dripping invasive weeds
Neighbors walk behind grass expellers, seeding the land a single patented species
And the backyard songbirds are fine with this—if they can beat the squirrels to the sunflower seeds
We’ve selected our favorites to evolve with us
or have they selected us, shiny rhinestone rings, garbage trucks, fertilizer
We insist on our differences but know ultimately we’re the same
as these carp, gathered to the stone wall where I rest by the water, gray-brown just below the surface
not even a little bit afraid.
If You See It, It’s Already Too Late / Vincent Basso
I drop five or six mothballs into the Dixie cups
and place a cup in every drawer. I put them in my closet
and in my trunk. There’s no way I’m letting another one
take a nibble from my old uniform. A sickly sweet poison
for every one of those little bastards.
I admit the smell is a little overpowering, but if you’ve seen
what I’ve seen you’d know it has to be done.
Lots of people have heard about the mothman out of West Virginia—
seven feet tall with skin like ivory
and giant luminescent wings. Its eyes burn red like electric fire
and when it catches sight of you and you it,
the thing exerts a hypnotic effect.
It calls you to it against your will. I had broken down
on a lonely road when it found me.
I didn’t have the sense to draw my gun.
It loosed its insect roar and its hairs and antennae went wild
and then it lashed me with its erect proboscis.
That’s how I got this scar along my collar bone.
It wanted every last drop. Headlights
startled it and it flew away. I came that close to being dinner
for a freak. Some folks say it got brought over
from Vietnam. Some claim its an alien.
Others swear it rose from deep underground; that it woke
from its ancient sleep back when the Centralia Mines caught fire
in Pennsylvania. Some nights, I can still hear it
among the trees. The mothman ain’t content
with snatching up a dog or an opossum no more.
It’s got the taste for people now.
They talk to each other, the little moths I catch
and that talc-faced demon. I can’t help it.
I still hear the artillery fire.
This is the work of war. I load my guns. I fill up my Dixie cups.
Its a terrible smell, like honeyed ammonia,
but it’s the only thing I know to do to stop it.
Twenty-Six, Thirty-One, Thirty-Six / Caroliena Cabada
I tell my students imagine themselves
five years forward and five years back.
I know how hard this exercise is,
because every day I wake up seeing
only what’s right in front of me, and
change is so deceptively forgettable.
Five years from now is worse than a fog—
it’s a smoke screen that turns the sun
an upsetting orange disc. Five years ago,
I was doing whatever I could to vanish.
What is there to say about in between?
But I don’t want to dwell here.
Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to
the moment the fried egg yolk breaks
over my rice porridge breakfast.
And with my belly full, I’ll sit in
the high noon sun with a book held
aloft to block my eyes from the light.
At some point I’ll run along
the side of the road to the creek
flowing slow through the city.
My lungs will feel small, my breath
squeaky. But I’ll breathe in one time.
Another. And another.
rum / Meredith Davidson
once a visceral rescission from the lip
once a syrup glint of fermentation
once your nephew’s hair in the sunlight
the way a vein of caramel catches
in the brownie of the throat
liquid singe of the tongue
the way a pose captures in bodies across time
the way we forget the clear
once the age of a flower before fruit
once a limpening onion in the saucepan
once a crystalized California
the way we inhabit the reflection
the way we monument our admiration
for the girl playing basketball
without the net no clink of the chain
the way you hold a tear in your eye like a waxed lemon
once a spider with legs raised to strike
another ray of web mistaken
for a glimpse of cotton caught
once on the opposing frame of a night’s window
the way we’ll hold Malibu in resin
to the irises i pulled / Jessamyn Duckwall
A Diminishing Trace / Tracey Knapp
My fingers hover over my keyboard, but I am skunk steam, a hot stink. I am the dark back road with windows down and high beams, the particles of dust swirling in the light. You can’t collect me or put me together. There is not much to me. My fingertips touch the keys and my hands disintegrate.
I am writing this from memory. Once I occupied a more permanent form. I had scars to remind me of falls and burns. A dog on a leash, a quick morning route. A stabilized pressure between my body and the weight of air. Water passed through me slowly.
What happens to gaseous elements when put under a lot of pressure: a solid form. The reverse happens to me. I can slip through the keyhole and disperse throughout the space, a spritz of eau de parfum. I never rest on the surface of anything. Trapped, I find cracks in the spines and darken the binding over time. My remains gather in the forgotten corners of the books and you can blow me away with a simple puff of breath. Infinite impermanence. A cloud of black smoke rising above the burning building, diluted by the ocean air.
My New Rules for Poetry / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
No more fields. No more night. No more birds.
No more water as a metaphor for the suffocating home.
No more mention of the Great Undying Love and NO sonnets.
No more vague we/us predictions when we will never talk again.
No more contradictions. No more altering the rules. No more irony.
No more appropriation of Christian imagery to express
the abnegation of unabnegable desires.
No more clever word bending to skirt lyricism with humor.
No more coy self-awareness.
No more lists. No more anaphora. No more predictability.
Bitch. Apricot. Tornado. Ha!
For a Lost Friend / Christopher Romaguera
We watch drumsticks ricochet off tip buckets backstage.
Backstage being the street where we get birds eye view of the drummer.
We let the tourists, the drunks, the has beens and the never will bes, crowd the front of the stage.
But we, are learning, scoping, studying, the worlds of oysters that will be ours, in our makeshift backstage.
We are backstage, outside the bar, where we can put smoke in the air, where we can brown bag booze that doesn’t need to be brown bagged in this town, but we are cartoon characters of cool.
and we like this backstage, cause we’re watching, scoping, cause you dream of being on this stage, of making this sound, and you watch the hand movements like a studious child, like a pickpocket, taking everything, no one around us the wiser.
And if we make it to this stage, or to even bigger stages, don’t worry, we’ll take you with us, cause we go, you go, cause we can be big enough to carry us all.
And we watch the drummer stay in the pocket,
And I think of all the things that stayed in our pockets
just joints, brown bags, lint, my balled up fists that have gotten me into too much trouble, and maybe whatever it is that has gotten you into too much trouble too, I never asked. you never ask.
But we’ve gone different paths, now
I went one. You went another I could have easily followed, fallen into, lead. But I’ve been lucky. At least, for now. And I haven’t seen you in too long, and with one word, “unresponsive” I won’t see you again, in this world. For I was lucky to be young with you, while none of us are lucky to grow old with you. But I look forward to the next one, when we can empty our pockets again, of the joints, of the brown bags, of the stories of the stages we did fill on this broken world we briefly shared, that we tried to make a little better, one beat at a time.
I look forward to hearing what pockets of sound you’ve stayed in since we’ve last crossed paths. And I look forward to seeing what’s stayed in our pockets when we next meet again, the things that filled us with love, not the ones that end us.
Day 21 / Poem 21
I will rain fire on you / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
hovering between two dueling beings
one creature’s beak cuts through
a column of cloud
folding arms stance like a cocky bitch
the other’s feet spread ready to fight
a bear’s face wearing Robin Hood’s cap
above them thunder cracks
patterns of black paper fans
trunks of trees
branches of trees
canopies of trees
come clear in the mist fire pasted over with the most beautiful trees
I can’t imagine what those devils are mad about honestly
cover the patterns
with beautiful trees with feathers
I will rain
Communion / Vincent Basso
I open one door and it’s a Dantean hellscape.
I open the next and I’m a mile beneath the sea. I am tired
because the last few months have been just awful.
I open a door and I’m in the jungle of a distant planet.
I open a door and I’m in a field of deer. I open a door
and I’m in my living room. Outside, the same cars
I remember are parked on the street. My neighbors
are busy with their routines. The cypress in my front yard
with the one mad squirrel climbing its trunk
is the freest thing I see. I close the door
and open another.
Lessons I Am Still Learning At 30 / Caroliena Cabada
How to bite bullets
How to grind stone with my nose
How to make fun with flying time
How to guide
How to eat a frog
How to sing a different tune
How to make hay
How to boil a watched pot
How to catch flies
How to pass time
How to not build Rome in a day
How to find the it I must hop to
How to bed early, rise earlier
How to catch a worm
How to find other fish
How to live
How to come easy, go easier
How to go out the other ear
How to get in one
How to gain pain
How to get out what I’ve put in
How to know thyself
How to be the sweeter juice
How to lose
How to follow through
raspberries / Meredith Davidson
little juice thimbles
like the memes you know
YOU HAVE THREE DAYS
like a hostage situation
like yes, please mousse or tart
little flavored vodka
little take-a-few shots before the concert
like, climb in a car with all these strangers
like, look for salvation on the soundstage
like good luck holding back from throwing up
all over a Swiftie’s mom
sandals chafing your ankles
face flattening to bowl
like why did I do that
little socially anxious
little try to remember your way home
like, won’t like “raspberry-flavored” ever again
little redemption comes lovesicked, fresh
like, can you believe this is four dollars?
this would take forever to pick yourself
thorn diary / Jessamyn Duckwall
Don’t Move / Tracey Knapp
There is someone approaching you from behind with a broom
and I want to see what they are going to do with it.
A spider has dropped down directly above you, but don’t move.
The cats are running up the stairs for their dinner.
Don’t move. There is a hornet on your shoulder,
a man in a store window posing as a mannequin.
You twist your face into a turnip and press your lips on the glass.
I absolutely must capture this moment. With watercolors. Don’t move.
If you move your hand away from the Jenga tower, it will crumble.
If and when it crumbles, there will be another opportunity to pick up
the pieces, like you do with everything, so why don’t you just sit tight?
If you always stay perfectly still, nothing will happen to you. Ever.
Listen to what the policeman says as he approaches your car: Don’t move.
All bad behavior is a result of action or inaction.
Relax. In through the nose, out through the mouth.
Inertia (n): Objects in motion, objects at rest.
Idolatry / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
Deer jawbones and ribs from the fields,
a grocery receipt from our perfect June,
Love in a polaroid, unposed and like so much of her
life: a bad memory laughing. Now that the last
of my saints have been lost, set down on a park bench,
forgotten, it looks like clutter.
I cannot help my instinct to gather the relics:
a stone found breathing after midnight and made clean
in the burn, the hand unheld; the body unknown;
even the orchards caught fire, remember? Ash, ash, all kept.
Sweeter than honey,
Endless Loops / Christopher Romaguera
Your arms wrap around me
Fingers spidering on my back
Even in the darkness,
We hold onto each other
Cause when it’s light again
I, you, we, are still here
I see you everyday still
Better in the dark
Or back home
Haven’t touched you in forever
You are not of this plane no more
Our endless loop is a snake eating
But I can’t tell if I’m the head
Or the tail
Or who is shedding whose skin
Just that I, you, we, are nowhere near
Each other now.
Day 20 / Poem 20
Addressing the self as “you” / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
You’re having a hard time right now / and it’s all your fault / you can’t tolerate your sadness / even a little twinge / a microexpression / you reading about another antiabortion law / with a look of pure anguish / you getting angry about some normal gossip / clearly this is your problem / you can simply ignore the cat crying for an hour / when she is desperate to go outside / but you, you / I can barely look at / when you are even a little bit tired / and you, to your credit, though it pisses you off at the same time / go to great lengths to protect yourself / avoiding talking about the past, old droughts and floods / your sinkhole decisions / sucking your feet down and then your legs / your thighs, your crescent hips, your neck / stretching up, to mix your metaphors, like a giraffe / like your tongue is black and prehensile and 18 inches long, reaching up for treetops / no, right now, going back to the first metaphor, you are swallowing mud / you almost never cry, but you remember every time you did / for example, you on the couch at the end of the movie Quo Vadis, Aida? you were holding your fist up to your mouth / not mad but so deeply disappointed in humanity / that tears welled up / and there was nothing you could do, of course, but cry / or try to hide it / though rarely, giraffes might die in a sinkhole / for example, a quick Google search reveals that a giraffe and an ostrich once drowned in a 15-foot sinkhole that developed after a water main burst at a Louisiana zoo / a freak accident like that could happen / and it would be all your fault if you were the one to tumble headfirst into the sinkhole / you’d just be the ostrich standing next to yourself / tempted by the cool, fresh water bubbling up / the ground would just collapse under your weight / and you would drag both you and yourself down.
This is Your Friend / Vincent Basso
This is the sort of night that a man could find himself levitating three feet off the bed
and then gliding out the window and onto the lawn. When someone tells you
that they’re your friend and maybe touches your arm as they pass by in a “Hey, friend”
kind of way or, perhaps, goes for a fist bump like “Right on, man,”
but they actually say mean spirited things about how you have a degree in poetry
or have a good chuckle when they talk about how much they’re getting paid compared
to how much you’re getting paid and then follow you around town
in different cars and send cryptic letters to your boss and call you up but then remain silent
on the other end and, if you’re lucky, make a few clicking sounds with their tongue,
then it’s likely that this person is not your friend. This is the sort of night
when actual shadow people come out from the shadows and torment the people
who claim to see shadow people while in the throes of drug psychosis.
“I don’t think anyone trusts anyone anymore,” says your friend. “But what does that mean
for us?” This is the sort of night that the mouse people flee the deluge
and abandon their garden homes and fasten sails made of leaves to cigar boxes
and, gripping their little mice babies to their breasts, bravely sail into the flood.
It is considered uncouth and distasteful to crack jokes about someone behind their back.
This is the sort of night that your dog wakes you up at 3 a.m.,
so you take him outside to go bathroom, but because of the lightning and downpour
he tosses you a pitiable glance and lowers his head and slinks back to the door
and even though you’re half-asleep you know that he’s just going to get you up again
in an hour and you don’t want him to have to sit around waiting
to pee, so you walk your dog out into the yard, the two of you getting wetter by the second
and when he finally relieves himself and scurries back to the door
and looks to you to open it, he knows and you know that this is your friend.
I worry I’m too tired to feel gladness, but I’ll feel gladness for you / Caroliena Cabada
When you’ve had a breakthrough without breaking anything,
I’ll celebrate you more than what makes sense in the moment.
All these little joys need something to commemorate them;
we don’t want them tumbling, bruising in the fast current.
There’s a bottle of carbonated water flavored with watermelon
waiting for you, because I know you don’t drink anymore.
I’ll drink to that with my own Shirley Temple; no, I’m not
going for sobriety, I just like it. And I like that you
are feeling good right now, though I’m sorry that some days
you must feel the world move under you, and you wish, just once,
for a sip. Drink this instead: the sight of a line of gold stars,
or the feeling of crossing off a calendar box, another day.
Let’s scream because we can, because we know what it’s like
to be drunk with no barriers, and we can pretend that that’s
what we’re like all the time: like ourselves, but more so,
effervescent, sparkling like a wine. We can be our own
glasses, singing when a finger circles a rim. When you’ve
had a breakthrough, let’s celebrate. Let’s sleep on it, too.
Let’s thank Goodness that we’ve made it to the end
of another hard day. Gold star. Cross off. Wake up clear tomorrow.
Queen’s Park / Meredith Davidson
Scabs of daffodil wither to crisp tissue off their own hollow necks
I miss the yellow, the turn of face, to sun or storm or my own
Am I supposed to synthesize something here, staring up to sky
light eye to light overwhelmed to the point of osculation: silver
discs about my sight – surely buttercup sprigs should not reveal
themselves? A rusted signage hints at something once identified,
now blank with time. When did you learn lavender was a color
for you? At sixteen, folk could tell you needed something to feel
good about. There’s not enough scent in poetry – foaming fervor
of scuffed jade blades I cannot pronounce in a way that feels new.
Astronauts have described space as smelling of gunpowder,
seared steak, rum, raspberries. When I look up I remember
my tongue knows the texture of tree bark: a coarse sepia wound.
Insolvent / Tracey Knapp
I have had my share of water
from the hose yet didn’t pass
it on at the garden party.
I’m sorry. Water leaks at
the spigot. Forgive me.
I’ve overspent, maxxed out
my line of credit, come up
short on rent. I have damaged
my own body, my vessel, beyond
repair and then filled the cracks
with gold. One day I will uncover
my interior face of dread and press
rose petals into its skin. Lift it
towards the telephone wires.
An aloe plant leans toward
the light. Let sunlight fill
the holes my bucket, let
the bucket be the vessel
that represents my best
attempt at remembering
the star map of an old friend’s
freckles. Frown lines now
mark my brows. Let it rain
before it shines and may
the rivulets of lonesome
find ways to couple and join.
Catullus Revisited / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
after many oceans
through many lands
I have come to offer
these sad last rites
passed down from
no one young
tradition in its first
iteration to weep
and speak to your
no coin in my
but a palate expander
no ferryman’s fee
sufficient for words
as your original name
no one young
tradition in its first
hail and farewell
?ash? I have
to offer you
Marti Remains / Christopher Romaguera
You can’t use something too much
without it losing a little of its power.
Marti is the patriot, the poet, the airport,
Marti is the martyr
that we are to believe
stays alive if his name is used
over and over again.
But marydom’s price is always the same
But Marti wasn’t meant to be stagnant,
Marti wasn’t meant to be looking at you:
from every single statue,
from every single peso.
Currency isn’t the only thing that gets inflated,
a punchline doesn’t hit harder
every time it’s repeated.
A poem, a patriot, a martyr;
doesn’t get stronger,
every time its dictatorship
Day 19 / Poem 19
Daydream / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
Everything is a prism if you have the
I don’t, for sure
for me the clear daytime sky
& the deep sea
There’s no mirror to hold up
to outer space
& that can mean
a clairvoyant’s crystal ball
or the color of the sky as it darkens
a deep blue or dark violet
& perception, how it cracks
into scattered particles:
from glacial ice blue
to the juicy orange-red near
a mango’s pit to lavender
or closer to lilac
I find a cheat sheet on my hand
in blue ballpoint pen
oxygen–hydrogen (O−H) bond
stretch in water, absorbs light
at the red end of the visible spectrum
my point is, RGB ‘blue’
is not the archetypical blue
‘azure’ is significantly closer
to the archetype
or anyway, what was your intent
giving us the light hitting the surface of water
the nuclear motions of the molecule
and each dolphin that dares the
hydroplane trick risking getting
I Dedicate this Ex-Voto to Saint Hubert, Who Saw Christ’s Fire Above the Stag / Vincent Basso
When I was a teen, I was very angry with my parents
because they abandoned me to my abusive grandmother.
She yelled at me whenever I played video games
and threatened to “slap me but good,” if I did not comply
with whatever harebrained demand flitted into her head.
She let her chihuahua poop on the floor. I took off one day
to the mountain, hoping never to return. The forest
was a story being written with every step I took.
To hear my parents say how much they loved me
and make baby talk when they were young and kind,
I only needed to listen. The animal sounds floated
among the leaves. Sadness gripped me. I was a boy alone
in the woods. I trekked on, hacking the brush,
and scaled a limestone cliff. It was cooler the higher up you climbed.
The river curved past me, a great cataract arcing
over the side; its every gallon crashing into the water below.
I contemplated the rushing spiral and thought
how it was a kind of blessing to dive headfirst into oblivion.
The mist fell over me in waves. I felt infinitesimally small.
I felt powerless. The river could take me
and the waterfall crush my bones if I only let go.
Mother Earth spoke to me and I felt my mother’s hand
caressing my face. The lion leapt from the tree line.
It bristled and hissed and bore its fangs.
I am not embarrassed to say it. I did not want to die,
but I could not fight it. I cried and fell to my knees, sobbing
and then I remembered telling my two drunk parents
that I hate them before they lit out for good.
The shot tore through one wall and into another.
The cat bolted into the woods. When the hunter got to me,
I could not speak and found that I had peed my pants.
He hugged me anyway. He said, “There, there.
You’re going to be alright, son.”
Everyone is so much cooler than me / Caroliena Cabada
Everyone will learn just how much one degree
is on a grand scheme. Yes, something
so monosyllabic as one can have that
much of an impact. Imagine the summer being
cooler. I mean, everyone is so much cooler
than me in the humid summer heat. Trust
me, you’re probably fine and don’t smell. I’m
in the middle of my sweat. I’m
the strange one fainting from the
humid air. I’m the one grumbling while
summer flaunts its radiance. I’m taking
heat for saying so bluntly.
From the Logic of Reproduction, We Are Wresting / Meredith Davidson
We misunderstand each other
when we say “free” I have asked you
if that means crossing the space
into mania, but I really mean free
from outcomes or purpose or product
when I say free, I mean to be.
We argue over chip salt and honey
crisp breath pollinating every handhold
and still we grip. Outside perfectly upright
an empty KFC bucket. You want to know
if we can fit balloons through the crack
in the window. No, I am definite, you have
to pop them slowly: puncture at the nozzle
and let the air release.
fallowfield / Jessamyn Duckwall
Resting Pose / Tracey Knapp
Leaning over the pylon and spitting the shells
of sunflower seeds into the tributary is not
what you’d call productive: there are no new flowers
waving from the riverbanks and your lawn’s not mowed,
but it’s better than doing nothing, lying on your back
and watching grass grow, which is what you did
yesterday, which is why you’re not mowing it, having
noted no progress. Sometimes progress happens with very
little effort: your uncle stopped speaking and got the golf
vacation with his buddies from work, your little sister
held her breath until she got a new doll that the dog
maimed significantly in two minutes flat after she left it
on the couch. Sometimes complacency can result in
having your face chewed off, but sometimes it can end
in quiet contemplation. You’ve written a few solid lines
moments after you zoned out to the TV on mute.
But poems don’t finish themselves and now you have
a choice—to wrap this one up or continue considering
the fruit flies hovering over the compost pile. Did you know
may flies are also called “Ephemeroptera” because they only
live fully developed for a few hours? Might as well make
the most of the time you have here, find your favorite mass
of rotting fruit and fly around it frantically for a bit.
I’m sure the end will be worth it.
Ponder / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
As in more pond than you [are pond].
So pond that clouds tumble across its surface,
doubling the sky: a mess of copper
and bluish velvet. So pond a plane’s white trail
makes thin scratches on the glass.
It makes me ponder, too, such that
I climb down from the dock, learn to breathe
underwater. The fish and I, we push ourselves
through the rippling the sunset.
Maceo Remains / Christopher Romaguera
You hated New Orleans—
a country free
because people with your skin—
paid more than full price
what must you think of Cuba now?
A country free of oppression
or so the story goes to anyone
who gets stories translated when they come
What would you think, of all of this?
of the price your people still pay
after you already paid a price. You thought it
would make things better
things that are still not better
Day 18 / Poem 18
Did you know that whales are color blind? / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
Did you know that some languages have no word for blue, specifically? Some have one word for green and blue? Separate blue-green and yellow-green, lumping blue-green with their word for blue? What about turquoise, aquamarine, and lime? In art class, I loved learning about cool and warm colors? The simplicity of that distinction—fire and water? Ultimately I’m a lumper, not a splitter? Like language can precisely name a thing yet I’m frustrated every time I learn a new word that means something very specific? Have you ever seen tekhalet, for example, a precise shade of blue, named in the Torah? The specific method of extracting this color, maybe from a sea snail or a cuttlefish, is lost? I just get kind of angry, thinking that meaning hinges on naming this particular color? Like when I find out someone I love has spent good money on a kitchen gadget that does a single job and otherwise just takes up space on the counter?
Go Home / Vincent Basso
Wing of the whale, a ragged coastline: Picotee blue
writing by dim light might ruin my eyes one day.
Here I bear suspicion for an artificial melancholy, the sadness lowered—
the weeds I marry in
and no one has time for any—
she would never eat the last piece of bread.
We stayed at a kosher hotel.
The last lilac scent
amped up to fifty Celsius—so sick I forgot
summer come. i keep his
in the park, no tents beneath.
They go wandering
and I ask you, you with the newborn.
Protection / Caroliena Cabada
Past the mine shaft entrance,
you are mine. Pray for my
protection—give me and offering
of leaves, of light, of breath,
all the things I would not
see in the dark. In return,
I’ll keep your lanterns lit.
In return, I give you back
to the village at the end
of the day. I know the best
word to describe me
is “Devil,” but it hurts
to imagine hurting you.
And I do not tempt—you made
the desire for silver
all by yourselves.
BeSotted / Meredith Davidson
The glitch aesthetics are at it again
four times revising the day’s data mine
~refresh, refresh, refresh, re-
harvest drawn from beneath the chin, man’s thumb
~keep it light, now
guiding a gaze disdained. The images
~it is important to be seen performing the rites
degenerating with every tap
~even if it is bad, just be seen
from home inward. The timer loosens sand
~in a way, metaphysical
with a threat: miss your moment and you only
~your moment, like you own it
have the one; with a reward: be present
~I do have an issue with intrinsic motivation
again, again. There is a principle
~not to mention obsession
to applications, an imperative
~ think business
To encourage our continued visits.
~ ”the feminine urge to disappear”
If I am always replicated there,
~that’s me rent-free in your mind right now
how can I ever truly be here, when
~in the darkness I cannot look myself in the mirror
intimacy is a closeness you feel.
Epithalamium / Jessamyn Duckwall
Martha Stewart on the Cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue / Tracey Knapp
Martha Stewart looks hot in her golden shawl
Her blown-out hair looks hot
Did you know Martha Stewart was once a model
Once she was in prison
A low-security penitentiary, sure
Maybe she was allowed one phone call a day
Maybe she wrote an entire cookbook about canned peas
Martha doesn’t have much to say about prison anymore
No one wants to say anything about the usual female objectification or ageism
No one wants to think about the inner Martha, beneath the swimsuit
We know she likes holiday decorations and Cornish game hens
We know she has great on-screen chemistry with Snoop Dog
We have purchased cloth napkins from her home décor line at Macy’s
She is bad with taxes, we definitely know that
But good at making money, and that’s nothing to laugh at
Yet Martha as the cover model for Sports Illustrated
I did not see it coming
I spent all day trying to imagine what she might have been thinking
Martha said something about looking and feeling good at any age
And maybe it works and our ideas of sexy evolve
Some people are real dicks when it comes to change
But not Martha Stewart
She’s ready for anything at 81
When I look at her on the magazine cover in her swimsuit
I don’t care what the men will say
Whether or not they keep it under their mattress
If I stare long enough at her smile and eyes
I find myself practicing her face, saving it for later
Telescoping / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
No, don’t spoil our night vision
with a flashlight. You’re looking for what?
Socks? Find them by touch. Here, I’ll help.
There’s something cold here, smooth, dry.
Did you happen to bring a large, polished
stone with you? Or this thing that rattles?
It sounds like a box of jewelry, or maybe teeth.
Are these your teeth? Well they’re not mine.
Actually they might be. Any luck over there?
No, I don’t have a cat, or a fur coat. Is it warm?
Don’t worry about it then. If you come to water,
stop. That would be my reflecting pool.
What does it reflect? What do you mean?
Upon various things, I imagine. I don’t pry.
Have you found socks yet? Oh wait,
this might be a pair. Now where is your hand?
Are you cold? No, my bedroom isn’t well insulated,
I’m afraid. Give it another few minutes. I know
it just looks like ceiling for now, give it a minute.
See there, our first star! Bright enough to be two,
I bet. If you look long enough, sharp enough,
you can sometimes make out the two stars
of a binary, resolved into its disparate parts.
Cometa (Duplex) / Christopher Romaguera
After a cousin tells me Ustedes eran como la cometa after the family had disappeared after our first contact)
Fireworks in the sky celebrate the fall
that fireball in the sky can end us all
a sight to behold and see
a sight unseen in so many lifetimes
Cito thought we came
you can’t hold on to a family after just one day
I refuse to be just like the comet
I refuse to just pass through
I refuse to be excitement turned existential
I refuse to leave any wish left to fade in silence
Day 17 / Poem 17
shallow seas: blue* / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
whale calling: dark blue
parenthesis of whale eye: PANTONE blue
male humpback whale sings to attract a mate: sapphire
wing of the whale, a ragged coastline: Picotee blue
a calf, no more than a few weeks old: light blue (sky blue, baby blue, angel blue)
floats next to the mother whale, clumsy: duck blue
three meters long and weighing nearly a ton: Uranian blue
fins stretched to either side of his body: resolution blue
as he begins to tire, she supports him: ultramarine (lapis lazuli)
close to the surface he can breathe more easily: fluorescent blue
these waters are warm and calm: Spanish blue (azul)
the playful calf drinks 500 liters of milk a day: twin bed (#BEDBED)
but his mother must starve: PANTONE cool black
like many tropical shallow seas these crystal-clear waters: Delft blue
are essentially lifeless: International Klein Blue (never patented)
the mother will be trapped here: Neon blue
for the next five months: medium blue (h = 240°)
Can You Not Hear the Invisible Speak? / Vincent Basso
I put my arm around the empty space. It feels
alienating to stand alone in a white room. I’m still trying
to figure out how to say it. Whenever you came west,
you always talked about going back to White Sands
or Roswell to see the Alien Museum. I can picture
you clear as day, always raring to go. It’s not pain, anymore.
I think that life is impossibly confusing and so we
get lost in someone else’s story of who we are. I unveil
a granite statue of my father in his school bus driver’s uniform!
I give to you an oil painting of my dad very dignified in his suit!
I present to one and all, a giant holograph of my father’s head!
He watches over the city! He sees you in your most vulnerable state!
No. Don’t be afraid. He’s here to help you change a tire
or run out to fill your prescription. He’s hefting a box
to help you move. He’s shoveling your driveway. What a guy!
Everyone! Everyone! That’s my dad on the video call.
He’s ringing you up, calling to tell you
that he hasn’t heard from you in a while
and wants to know how you are.
When I say I love my sister, I mean this / Caroliena Cabada
Writing by dim light might ruin my eyes one day, but when it’s dark, I dream easier and can imagine being someone like my sister, who is older and still so much like me (same zodiac animal), but also an opaque vessel of a life before I knew her—more than a decade of Before Me—which, selfishly, I sometimes forget because when I was younger and still living at home, we did so many things together: watch the same Asian dramas, listen to the same pop music, go for drives (she taught me that some things, like driving, you can’t learn from books), eat at Mitsuwa on the weekends, shop for interview-appropriate clothes for the ex-felons she helped look for a job, learn to knit and crochet, sleep in the same room on the bunk beds that used to be our brothers’ (and there are so many things I have done that she did before me, like get a real job, like graduate college, like start a family, like live a life while getting laid off, like making some living from all the stuff she could crochet).
/ Meredith Davidson
On the third floor of a tenement with a melt of rice in my mouth
a spoon wave of curry sauce hardening on the walls of a bowl &
scar flakes falling with their stretched strokes of color onto the table
All these shreds of time disseminating before me – look, the intersection
is still the same that asphalt pocked & luminous in coat of ice or sunlight
my partner setting fire to our recyclables somewhere west on the beach
Here I bear suspicion for an artificial melancholy, the sadness lowered
about like a heavy coat not from within but from a novel
the cold eyes of its protagonist imbuing a paperback despondency
We will not name this here, not in language or sound or feeling
I want you to leave free, and I am trying to avoid an entrapment;
dissuade entitlement as entombment when applied to the other
triptych / Jessamyn Duckwall
Why I Stopped Writing Poetry / Tracey Knapp
Because I was distracted by a punch
bowl from the 1950s on Antique
Roadshow, I couldn’t finish
the poem. Because I picked up
a book for inspiration and put
it down in awe. Nothing to say
after that. Yes, an entire poem
can shut me down for days, just
like a paper towel shortage every
time there is a disaster, as if
there will be lots of messes
to mop up.
I stopped writing poetry because I started writing prose and people finally seemed to pay attention.
Because the lemon tree is full
and no one has time for any
more lemons. I blame
the Below Deck marathon
on Bravo. I blame myself
for not finding a fun way
to use the word “cathexis.”
No one cares. Because perhaps
the lyrics to some new Taylor Swift
song are better at pinpointing this
specific moment in time than my
delight in complicating the narrative.
I stopped writing poetry because
battery acid doesn’t work
in most metaphors as well
as gasoline. And I need gasoline,
baby, to set this place on fire.
Interlude / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
We slip down under the bridge
into relief cut by moonlight
on the tomb of spring.
Silver stream on silver stones.
Wild roses wreck themselves
trying to chase the wind.
I follow just behind to keep
our shadows separate.
Frieze! you say, and I do.
Abuela (Duplex) / Christopher Romaguera
Abuela is the definition of kindness
She would never eat the last piece of bread
Abuela’s bread always lasts
Her stomach fails so she can no longer eat
Abuela asks for more vodka secretly as you shake her drink
No matter what she does, her hands always shake
Before the funeral, Abuela made you quiche to eat
Your friend is dead, you can no longer eat
Abuela used to wait for the dictatorship to fall
The doctors don’t know why she always falls
Abuela’s home was blocked by 90 miles and the whole world
Abuela’s heart bridged 91 miles for us to find a sense of home
Abuela wont go back, there’s nothing left for her there
Abuela can’t go back, there’s so little left of her here
Day 16 / Poem 16
Miami Beach / Josette Akresh-Gonzales
When I was about ten years old
at the boardwalk with kittens
purring all over my fuzzy legs
adults feared ticks and impetigo
made me wash my hands
but couldn’t pull me away from
those little faces I loved
to bump-kiss and scritch
as they twirled round my ankles.
Something I may never understand
is how to answer an adult
who demands an answer.
We stayed at a kosher hotel
and ate matzah and gefilte fish
and black-and-white cookies.
Grandma took off her winter coat
and sat in the shade of an umbrella
near the pool while my sister
and I played shuffleboard.
In the original Planet Earth series
the episodes ended in awe—
the small, bright spark in your kishkes
you can’t go back to or ever define.
In the new series each chapter ends
with five minutes or so of grief. We
learn about conservation efforts
or how the ecosystem is failing—
that same shiny feeling but kissed with terror.
Today I read in the Times
of French bakeries and Cuban pastries
little round flan and danish golden
in their layered flake and plump
shine of guava jam topped
with a perfect kiss of cream.
I will never understand how they
think they can afford to build
these boutique experiences and
even more hotels to tower above
the clear turquoise surf, rising from
limestone shelves, the level of sea
already topping sidewalks and garages
and officials shaking their heads
saying “We’re not going to want to
dredge and fill forever.”
But one way to get someone to buy something
is to tell them it’s going fast.
The Freaks of Upstate / Vincent Basso
There was a ton of pollution and weird magic
after the last great war. It didn’t leave the Freaks of Upstate
with a lot of options. There was Tom the Tooth,
who was born with his mouth on his foot
and had to wear an oversized boot with the toe cut off
just so he could ask a guy for change. Mikey Upsideyahead
had two normal arms and then another two branching out
the sides of his head, so when he hustled down
to the gas station to meet one of the rats it looked
like his head was going to charge off from his body.
And there was Slimy Pete, who secreted
a weird ooze that stuck to everything. They were best friends
and liked to cruise around in Pete’s mom’s old jalopy.
Pete’s mom kicked the bucket of fish heads
they used to stew and cut her foot and caught sepsis
and died, so technically it was Pete’s car.
But I digress. Tom, Mikey, and Pete were best friends
and they cruised around the abandoned post-industrial towns
looking for the sugar stuff because taking a whirl
or firing nitro or whatever you want to call
getting high out of their minds was, to the Freaks of Upstate,
the best way to stay in the moment and keep
their imaginations from drifting down some dark
forbidden well. Who wants to think about getting tossed out
on your ear by your two-headed dad?
Or the stink of some creep’s breath making every inch
of you claustrophobic when you’re just a kid
hiding under the covers? Who wants to remember
despair so unrelenting that you just want to pitch yourself
into oncoming traffic? Still, the normies judged them.
They cursed at them and shouted, “Get a job,
ya trash bags!” One time some guy winged a hamburger
at Mikey Upsideyahead’s head and Mikey caught that sucker
with one of his weird arms and gobbled it up
just to spite him. To be honest, life was hard. The shelters
in the wastes weren’t really safe zones and you
had to watch out for the weirdos looking for weird sex—Tom
had an incident like that and the SOB stole his shoe.
There was always the boar-headed cops
with their cudgels that you had to contend with.
Not to mention the other freaks, who didn’t think twice
about ripping off your sugar. Pete liked to say, “The hardest part
is that everybody looks at you like you got a disease.”
But you could never really trust a thing Pete said.
A Morning Walk / Caroliena Cabada
The last lilac scent
permeates the walk
from campus to home.
Fog dampens the breeze
so every breath tints pale
purple exhale. Spring
straight into summer.
Petal-fall down in
slim spiral floating.
This morning, the last
smell of blossoms rose
from the changing plant.
Spring smelled more like spring
this year, bouquet of
pollen, perfumed all
day and all night. Some
time in the future,
this is nostalgia:
that everything was
more itself before
the rains dissolved all.
Anyone Older Than X Is Mommy / Meredith Davidson
The day the second skin sheds I have a fever
clothing shorn from my frame and the heat
amped up to fifty Celsius – so sick I forgot
to open the vents so I’m just directing
donations to the energy monopolies – oh
well that is on me. Measure the tension
as written: my body as yours in a dream
I cannot allege our disparity: a hybrid
author in my ear looping do you want her
or want to be her? I can’t bear the projections
lit upon my ceiling it is better for your neck
that way, the only way some women know how
to be with each other. It really is
not our fault, not her fault, not your fault, not my-
repetition compulsory to breathe absent arrhythmia,
our inhalations are innate, our exhalations
involuntary – in, in, in, in, in, now release:
jack-in-the-pulpit / Jessamyn Duckwall
I Can’t Take You Anywhere / Tracey Knapp
No downtown or sidewalks,
no beer served at the bowling alley.
No bowling alley. No hand holding
at the home team game, no road
to the top of Mount Tamalpais,
no espresso in the parklet, no
glitter on a Tuesday, no bikini
wax or leg wax or manicure
or hand job. No decent chewing
gum, no single-use stemware,
no election propositions, no
democrats, no lawn signs, no
detritus of an old Bernie bumper
sticker peeling from a Subaru
Outback. No tea in the garden
in the park, no tents beneath
the freeways, no Sundays
with mimosas and brisket.
No sushi. No Wonderwall 1995.
No single-use condiments.
No bridge that spanned
a body of water over which
you could safely walk
without thinking about
the jumping. No red leather
on a Wednesday, book club
on a Thursday. No acid in
the high school gym and no
pot in the portapotty. No
new construction, no luxury
condos. No luxury, no cost
of living. The living eat every
supper like its their last
and fall asleep on the bus,
the bus left for the next
disaster hours ago.
This Indifference / Darwin Michener-Rutledge
With the diligence
and long patience
of the rising and setting sun
they go wandering
standing still in bedrooms:
an effort of
[to a feather’s weight]
that landscape might
bent to bind
to the jagged rock
so he might
kiss that knee
return the healing
this [is their]
Between the leaves
the effects of light
one by one;
the soul too small for
on the way
forever to anyone who was
or who could?
Regalitos / Christopher Romaguera
Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste
(Toothpaste is like a currency here)
Combs, brushes, hair ties (I bought
From god knows where
A little rum, some bottles of water.
Who maybe has use even for the
Plastic nails, if there’s anything you’d
Like to look at, it’s up to you, no pressure
And you raise a hand, reading me quicker than I could fumble even another word,
Telling me not to be worried about embarrassing you,
And then you swallow more pride, and