THE MAY, 2023 30/30 PROJECT – PAGE 2

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

The volunteer poets for 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.


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
a highlight
the same liberties
reached its artful conclusion
It was a shock to her
                                                                      is still

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
than homes.

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
suspension forever,
             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

increasing visibility
working together
to explain her anger

to embody (a conundrum that
big change
was always in me.

it seems clear: some heavy things. I feel
third-person about
an All-American

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
that transparent.
A loneliness
translated through all languages,
cutting through all bloqueos.

They ask what I want out of this trip,
as they squeeze orange onto yuca,
doctoring mojo;
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
or love
and maybe she doesn’t even mean
legitimately rich
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

Mom—it just means
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

             sitting shotgun
                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
is realism
not pessimism:
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.”

How close?

Three full-size-adults-in-the-backseat close.

Inchworm-inching-up-your-knee 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 
a thought.

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.


after Cavafy

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
Dogs following
A gimpy Lazaro.

I crouch down and pet all these dogs,
A kinda Lazaro. I feel a
Lost dog.

I am wary of some of these dogs,
I have physical, other wounds.
I have been a hungry dog
scarred flesh never forgets
the wound.

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

Because Duolingo does
not have Tagalog
I make do with English
for Tagalog speakers

to learn one of my parents’
many languages.

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

O leave me to my gnashing
hot & feral in my room.
I will not dress for company,
only peel the skin crusted over
with too much air & sun.
I’ve sucked the light from the risen
hours, cut the moon from the sky
& let it crumble to dust on my
windowsill. I stalk & pace &
line the halls with brittle
teeth & nails. Hair tied
all in knots until it splinters,
breaks like fiberglass. O let
me at that calm facade I’ll
eat it from your eyes. O do not
touch me for I cannot dim this
radiant hunger. I will not 
temper any forking tongue.
For I was made to burn
& scream & shine.

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 
on purpose 
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 
wearing sunglasses 
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 
blue, heart-shaped, 
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
cozywarm softspringnoonsun

enough of slow : how about
teethtripping overflowlip
imagineif everything merged
myriadmoments languagecompounded
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-
                        processing documentaries
                        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

        Last night:        horror of unknown
rushes of fever                                            –the
flood by red flood–
                    kneeling on the floor
                kneeling on the floor, thinking of    salt
and          marrow
                                then    came
                                        the sound of leaves, falling–

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

from the sunk bed in front of the trailer. the irises, and the fern too.
my small body frenzied, copper taste of rage on my tongue.
i wanted to tell you i’m sorry. i put your tearful faces
somewhere deep in my stomach that day and carry them
still, a little graveyard in penance for my human sin.
how could i have judged you as noxious and left
a patch of barren ground in your wake. nothing
i plant in your stead takes, and every year the grass
creeps higher up my burned and hollowed body.
forgive me. from now on i promise i will let
what blooms inside me linger, drink of my blood
and eat the dark parts underground, and be nourished.

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
little burst-on-your-tongues
little mold-too-soons
like the memes you know
                            YOU HAVE THREE DAYS
like a hostage situation
like yes, please mousse or tart
little simulacra
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

all the words i am forbidden i whisper as i prune the roses. you have
some kind of root-rot in your trunk that makes you angry all the time
and i cannot uncover, cannot cleave it from you. i say something
pathetic like i wish i could bring you joy into the toothy chewed-up
leaves along the outer edges of the body. 
                                                                    infected canes thrash at 
my touch and the sun urges me to undress though i am
 all skin and nerve, mycelial and raw. these rootless 
passages gasp for air and light. 
                                                    heart and throat afflicted 
by some sickening bacterial blight.
yes, i have opened my guts 
                                                        to the needs of flowers. 
we share a nervous system 
and a set of ribs meaty and fluorescent. under
this astringent length of sun i lop limbs and will my tongue to
sprout thorns and rap against 
                                                    the mouth every time it rains.

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,
                              a swarm. 

Endless Loops  / Christopher Romaguera

Your arms wrap around me
Fingers spidering on my back
Eyes closed
Even in the darkness,
We hold onto each other
Cause when it’s light again
I, you, we, are still here
Endless loops

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
It’s tail
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
dear one
passed down from
no one         young
tradition in its first
iteration to weep
and speak to your
        silent? ash?
no coin in my
own               mouth
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

young rites
across your
?ash? I have
to offer you
your first
death mine
my first
death yours
to offer
   I came

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,
the anti-American.
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
mutilates him

Day 19 / Poem 19

Daydream  / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

Everything is a prism if you have the 
    right attitude 

I don’t, for sure 
    for me the clear daytime sky 
& the deep sea 
    appear blue

There’s no mirror to hold up
   to outer space 

except logic 
   which explains


  & that can mean 
a clairvoyant’s crystal ball

or the color of the sky as it darkens
   towards evening:
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 
  highly vibrating

and each dolphin that dares the
   hydroplane trick risking getting
  stranded onshore

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

when silence widens
                        veil between us
                        something candles the space
open palm to  
                        stone in the throat
gone to seed    
                        puckering the air
brittle & unspooling    
                        salthot, irrevocable
loose gape

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
          ~I guess
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

There never will be tears quite like these again.
Wise of you to drink and savor.
Tongue coated in the boozy jealousy 
of all the grass-widows in the meadow.
All those bleeding hearts weeping in the pews.
Look at you, ghostly in your veil and your hennin.
Your garments laced with pennyroyal, trumpet-flower.
Entwinement of bindweed for a sturdy handfasting.
Gaunt, gaunt.
Mind the moon leaking out the corneas. 
Mourning doves would tear at your hems,
should you let them in.
Fawning of your slippers on the carpet: pact
between your feet and what they are by nature
beholden to. Fingers and their ring-burden.
Rung. Wrung.

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°)

*The scene described is from Planet Earth, episode 9, Shallow Seas, and the shades of blue are from Wikipedia:

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

up to our knees        in
                                nothing happened. Nothing, til
                                                               the red stain dreamed of
            didn’t come:
the weeds
                I         marry
                                                                        a        dead lull
have been            spoiled:
                                            I haven’t written
                                            since October
                                                    have I written:
                                                                I must feel the pain
of work        &
                    live in
the sun always calling,
    the sun…
                                                       That is what I need to end
this horror:

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
pheromones and
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

all stirrup and lashing and froth
and i love him, he is my grandiflor,
laden. he weeds into my throat
and i let him. laden, enflamed.
he pushes from the hot ground
up that horsetail, manroot.
makes his own heart and makes
summer come. i keep his
pecks and fleshy holes and humid
scent. when the rain comes he
deliquesces and i relent.

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 
the imagination
[to a feather’s weight]

that landscape might 
go beyond

gnarled oaks 
bent to bind 
his wounds

her kneecap 
to the jagged rock
so he might 

kiss that knee
return the healing 
                  this [is their]

Between the leaves 
the effects of light
the ancient
                  mute poetry

they promise 
each tomorrow
one by one;

who made
the soul too small for

on the way
forever to anyone who was
or who could?

Regalitos  / Christopher Romaguera

Advil, sudafed, allergy meds
Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste
(Toothpaste is like a currency here)
Combs, brushes, hair ties (I bought
the wrong hair ties for my partner)
Plastic nails and eye lash extentions
From god knows where
A little rum, some bottles of water.
And I ask you, you with the newborn
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
Follow me to my room, to see what
regalitos you can find before cleaning the room of us for good.