THE May, 2023 30/30 PROJECT

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 15 / Poem 15

And wrecks passed without sound of bells / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

              —Hart Crane

at age 18 so sure of my first love 
I sent a dozen long-stemmed roses

then alarmed his mother 
asking if they’d arrived 

then made no sound when she 
put him on the phone 

I saw the delivery truck outside
a man carrying the long white 

box tied with ribbon and my love
opening it on the kitchen counter 

the smell of flowers heady and 
him completely confused 

The Farmer Loses His Cow / Vincent Basso

The farmer shouted to the boy, “Boy! Boy! 
Have you seen my cow?” The boy pointed to the moon 
still visible in the blue sky. “Yes, Sir. Your cow jumped over the moon, Sir.” 
“What? My cow jumped over the moon? Don’t be ridiculous! 
If you know something come clean about it!” 
From the other side of the far hill, the cow again launched itself up, up, 
and arced over the moon. “Well, I’ll be,” said the farmer. 
“What do you suppose she’s looking for up there in the clouds?” 
The boy thought about it for a minute. “Sir, I think she’s looking for her mother,” 
said the boy. “I bet she sees the moon and thinks of a time
when she was with her and the two of them looked up at it together 
and thought that the moon was the one sure thing 
illuminating the tall grasses and the animal shaped earthen mounds 
and the sea. The moon must have guided the mother and her calf 
through whatever dark crept over the land to surround them each night. 
That’s why she’s jumping over the moon, Sir. 
Your cow misses her mother.” 


Museum Object A92.002.034 / Caroliena Cabada

Where this line ends: the Union Pacific
Railroad Company Museum, east from
the climate-controlled campus storage room
that protects more artifacts from the air.

To ask it its age would be to ask for
a sliver of skin, a strand of fiber,
a bite of its painted leather and stem
woven and tasseled into a basket.

Western Apache burden basketgift
given with more ethnographic trinkets.
      Jicarilla or Ute water bottle
      Western Apache (probably), coiled…bowl
      Great Basin? (maybe?) Winnowing basket.
Checked in/out Personally by Gunnerson.

Blues Jam  / Meredith Davidson

  1. There’s this man
  2. he died
  3. he made art
  4. a painting of Howlin’ Wolf
  5. bottle pressed to his lips
  6. and the way the face was lit was beautiful
  7. (repeat 1)
  8. (repeat 2)
  9. (repeat 3)
  10. (repeat 4)
  11. upon the wall
  12. in this dank bar
  13. I’d do anything not to look
  14. (repeat 1)
  15. he’s here with us
  16. (repeat 5)
  17. (repeat 4)
  18. (repeat 11)
  19. above us
  20. (repeat 13)
  21. but he gropes the waists of every girl
  22. waiting in line for their beers
  23. (repeat 12)
  24. I’m feeling sick, wondering
  25. Is true blues:
          a. penned in cerulean ink
          b. in the corner of this blues bar
          c. the creep groping girls tonguing another
          so deeply he has to clean his glasses
          d. when I look away

i’m on my knees in the tall grass again / Jessamyn Duckwall

because the how-are-you of 
scotch broom is probably
a lot more functional–how else
am i supposed to gather little knowledges
in the folds and apertures of my skin?
i want you to look deep into this keel-shape petal look what’s
inside and stare there long so i can learn the color of your eyes.
just, hold still. what is it you want from me?
a mouth, a body to unload 
your ache into?
i am curious about you.
my may-i-examine-you hits a wrong
note. we check for ticks, go our separate ways.

Three  / Tracey Knapp

Remember that Sunday we spent                        
swanning around the hidden pond
on rafts fat with exhale, horseflies orbiting      
our shoulders as the dogs swung back     
through the hawthorn, lapped the minnowy   
shallows, then rested their mouths
against our overlapping sandals—    

how we did not say a word for so long.
I didn’t speak of a possible rift,   
but I thought it: our mutual lover,
the unlikely handshake we made and let              
release to a gentle hold.

The breeze loosened the ragweed                
and soon we both began sneezing, one
after the next in metered exclamation—            
but the ears of the dogs barely lifted,      
the late sun flattening everything,
the sweat slick on our backs.             

How hot it was. I did not get
into the water then, holding our calm      
like a small cold coin. If I let myself
get in the water, I might have          
lost my breath.

Ode to Indolence   / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

(after Keats, with lines from Keats & Carson)

I’ve been reading Keats again and wading
[the moving waters at their priestlike task] 
waist-deep in the rain-turned pond, sinking—
markings everywhere of life: feet torn bare 
across dry grass, the tender burns (sun; rasor)
in one hand always my pocket-bible Anne Carson
[better to be his downfall than not to be she thinks]
full femme-fatale in yesterday’s shirt/sunscreen/sweat
as minnows jag past my ankles questing for algae
no, no one gets nothing done like me. My sun:
screened. My mosquitoes: bitten. My ivy: poisoned. 
My dilly: dallied. My lolly: gagged. 

Love  / Christopher Romaguera

A smile can grow a smile
A laugh can breed a laugh
A love can turn a life around
Can poke light through the darkest sky
You can’t cure my weaknesses
But without you,
I’m a beach umbrella without wet sand
I’m a severed lizard tail
So I can get out of bed rested just
By having my body curl around yours
Knowing my heart beat to the rhythm of yours
A puzzle piece doesn’t know it’s incomplete
Until it snaps into its perfect fit


Day 14 / Poem 14

Jubilee / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

It’s early summer, and a red-tailed hawk
sits far above me on a steady branch.
She pulls entrails in strings out the belly
of some prey, and I watch until now,
until her hazel eyes blink sideways
at me, within her leafy maple cover,
until her head, twitching like a razor,
bends down again, dipping beak into bowels. 

The Second Sight  / Vincent Basso

Ever since her girlhood, Lucia Maria Pisacreta was known to possess
the second sight. Her gift first revealed itself one morning 
when her brother, Carmine, poured himself a glass of water 
from the kitchen sink. Without even looking, Lucia remarked, “Don’t drop the glass.” 
“What?” Said Carmine just as the glass slipped from his grip and shattered 
on the floor. It was the first of many occurrences. 
At thirteen, and without any formal medical training, 
Lucia related to her beloved uncle Salvatore that his weariness and pain 
was caused by gout. To her cousin Francesca, Lucia beseeched that she avoid her work 
in the city on the day that so many like her died tragically at the Triangle Factory. 
By her eighteenth birthday, the people of her small Brooklyn enclave 
had taken to venerating the girl and would come 
to her family’s apartment bearing gifts of freshly cut roses or hand stitched dresses 
or choice sides of meat, and, sometimes, even cash 
to beseech her insight into their futures. Lucia promised 
Anna Moretti that her husband, Jerry, would return to her 
from the Great War unharmed of body, but not of mind, and advised her 
to keep her husband from large crowds for at least three years. 
She disclosed to Bruno Amato that his chronic itch had nothing to do with invisible fleas, 
but a problem with his blood and counseled him 
to avoid sugars and breads, which was an awful blow to Bruno 
because he was a beloved baker and now could no longer sample his breads! 
So prominent did Lucia become that people sometimes missed mass 
just to seek her prophesies. This caused Father Umberto no small frustration. 
He even came to her family’s home one day to rebuke Lucia, 
but instead fell to his knees and cried when she revealed 
that in eight months time he would himself be the father of a little girl 
and that he would name her Maria, not after the Mother of Christ, 
but after Lucia and that he would travel north 
with his blessing and his shame and there reinvent himself as a teacher of writing 
and classics. The people loved Lucia because, although she could be direct, 
as when she told Gabriella Colombo to avoid intimate relations 
with her husband because he had contracted an unfortunate disease, she was also kind 
and gave whatever she had to the poor and handed out 
a piece of fruit and a loving smile to the children, who adventured 
up and down her street. Lucia preferred a life 
of quiet contentment and shunned the celebrity of her gifts. 
It was not until she disclosed to a wealthy councilman that he would lose his shirt 
in the Crash of 29 and then foretold of a Great Depression 
soon to sweep over the earth that the Brooklyn Sage came to the attention 
of malevolent forces. In the sewers deep beneath the city, the city fathers, 
adorned in black cassocks, discussed Lucia’s fate. “We are making money! 
Who is this girl to say what the future holds!” Declared the wolf-masked man. 
“She could be excommunicated from the church,” 
suggested the man with the alligator face. “A sex scandal run in all the papers 
would get her good,” countered the one who wore the mask of a fox. 
“Let’s crush her family and turn her parents out of work!” Bellowed the man 
with the face of a boar. But Lucia, because of her gift, 
already knew of the dark ones’s plans. 
When she told of the plot against her, the Brooklyn faithful rallied to her side. 
Even certain members of the Black Hand, who she saved 
from grievous harm, came to her aid. The people clamored for retribution 
and planned to abduct the evildoers from their luxury apartments 
and mansions, but Lucia counseled restraint. 
“Yes, the villains out to grind us under their wheel have money and power, 
but they are ignorant of our strength! We will always remain one step ahead of them 
because we know what they are and I possess the second sight!” 

Museum Object A00862 / Caroliena Cabada

Pueblo bowl, modern, from Rio Grande Area. Collected 1930
         by a Florence Sunderland, whose handwriting is long an
         wide, the loops of the letters intricately small
         like the weave of the

A3267 Women’s ^ Gambling tray
         purchased by the museum on Dec. 8, 1953
         for 15.

To be used for a special ^ exhibits
         Bertha H. Agee Memorial

The bowl:
         polychrome—black and white with a red base
         which hides from view when the bowl is seen

From above: subtle lobes outlined by solid and hachure step
pattern. As in—there are longitudinal indents that
shape this bowl like a pumpkin. You would not see it from
the side, only feel it (no touching the artifacts, please).

ampersand w/ or w/o / Meredith Davidson

it w/ be lazy to say the internet
complicated everything, but then so
did the library, w/ w/ place
a thing in an enclosed space
for an audience & w/ an entry
fee, then w/ becomes the practical
difference between a museum
& a book? At least with a library
& the internet only one is trying
to build an archive of you in order
to sell you things. Rule of thirds
I’m tired of meeting the camera
eye as I impulse buy another
item as it comes across my screen
idem (alter) conditioning in spite
of the w/ holding Capricorn
mother w/ removes her arms
to suffocate the natal intimate
from the comments section
w/ a man is angry about the
ampersand, demanding the poet
w/ deploys one in their w/
not also use the w/ or w/o?
He says, if / can show us the w/
w/ speak/think/echo each
others’ behaviors then w/
aren’t we being cute w/ that
too? I only have so many
data points & they’re showing
more w/ than w/o – if the &
is so cute then w/ does it entrap
you so, sir, the disruption
is intentional on the part
of someone, just maybe
not the composer here. 

intra-uterine desert Inbox / Jessamyn Duckwall

no one ever talks about how sexy it is 
to ovulate with the waning moon–
how hideously yearn to desire what comes 
already spilling out.
copper spool turning in my uterus, 
the most conductive metal. 
i wonder what ghosts or dream-seeds
it may have ushered through me,
what it means to be a vessel
electively barren somehow still
fertile, teeming with weeds. all my wastelands
coming in your mouth–like milking the tips
of all the rhody buds before they bloom.

Aubade  / Tracey Knapp

There’s a janitor clapping
erasers against the wall
of the school next door,
and the first birds call for
the sun to fully emerge.

Let’s feed the chickens together,
floss our teeth with the new grass,
let’s mow and roll down the hill
in our old shorts.
It’s time to get up.

Look, no dew today.
Nothing has happened yet.
Not even the sun can
wrestle that night fog

back out to the bay. Not
even dirty dishes can make
me rehash last night, your
angry unfinished fish,

the ice cream melting
against the spoon.  
There’s a fresh bag of flour
and new eggs from the store.

Let’s eat before we think about
the last time we chewed together.
Someone has swept a path
through the autumn leaves

to our steps, left an old sneaker
there, scuffed and softened
with sweat.  It must have seen
a long life with the other —

They were probably quite a pair.
Wake up, it’s still dark but for the motion
light flashing on and on again while
the raccoons scatter trash across the driveway.

Be Careful, You Know, Because  / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

In ancient times, I believe, the gods would have smote 
you for your hubris—I mean this in the best possible way. 
Cultivator of strawberries and beans, scruncher of books,
creator of the Scarf-Dress, the Slop Soup, the language 
of our home! I was ten and then twenty-one shortly after,
not without learning that this is your first time living, too. 
The more I wonder at it all: that you have built the world
and learned to love it gently, furnish it with long walks
and morning coffee, irises, bullfrogs bellowing at night—
Here it is, my pocket, where I still keep my backup bravery. 
Look! I cry to the envious heavens, here are my hands! 
But hubris is the wrong word. You did not dare; you did. 

Mom  / Christopher Romaguera

We’re an immovable object and an unstoppable force
We shared one body
Sometimes one of us tries to
Make the other move, stop
Is there anything more beautiful than stars exploding?

Your mom waa exiled from her home
(She had you)
You built a beautiful home for us
(I had to go)

But there is no call I feel deeper in my bones
And I can’t think of a greater comfort?

Than when you squeeze my foot 
over the comforter, sitting at the 
end of the bed.
When I was too sad to sleep, 
To leave my bed. 
Just like I can’t think of anyone 
else when I feed myself, 
The people I love, strangers 
I’ve crossed paths with, cause I 
Remember how your hands moved and
Molded my mind, with how to nurture
Myself, and our loved ones, using the body
That grew from you. 

Day 13 / Poem 13

Deserts  / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

On maps, deserts look like blanks, few labels. 
Graphic designers preach the empty space on the page, sometimes called “white space” or “negative space” but space can be any color. 
In the desert, sand grains reflect the sun and the moon.
When a page is too cluttered, we don’t know where to rest our eyes. 
Lizards skitter over the hot sand. 
Space offers the eye a map to what matters. 
The desert forms shapes between elements — a postage-stamp sized well. 
Mothers and daughters memorize where the water is — and isn’t.
Information bombards us. 
It’s the big picture we want:




Some Guy Who Wants to be a Tree   / Vincent Basso

I know that I am separate from the grass
beneath my feet and that my life

is not the life of the squirrel in the tree.
I wrap my arms around the tree and say, “Give us

a hug.” The tree’s branches and roots
push me into the sky and into the earth. Being tree-like

means that I must let go of earthly conceits.
In a certain time of year, flowers sprout

where there once was hair and at another time
the seeds shake loose when I walk

and at another time I grow stoic and silent
until I release the past year’s grief.

Museum Object: A95.001.024 / Caroliena Cabada

Date 1/3/95
Approved by Thomas P. Myers

     “I recently agreed to purchase the following materials
     for $2085, a bargain I think.”

Note: not a steal

At first glance, from the side, only colors
catch eyes, then the eye of the snake that wraps
around the concave bottom of the bowl
emerges from the pattern of hatches.

This bowl, bought from an estate that contained:
Jivavo Bowl
Apari Bowl Apalai Bowl [in pencil, amended]
Jemez Jar
Acoma Black & White Jar
Acoma Salamander Jar
Acoma Animal Jar
African Beaded Apron




Hohokam Bowl [in pencil, appended]

This bowl, part of a bargain, collected
from a people who left behind traces
and descendants. This bowl with a painted
snake, black on buff, red outside still in place.

In Address  / Meredith Davidson

You          step away from your desk for a minute, gaze out the window. What
you           cannot possibly synthesize in print is the physical experience of watching the 2013
                  VMAs from a fraternity house in the American South, on land hosting broad oaks old
enough to have witnessed the plantation those grounds used to be, watching a 21-year-old
                  former child star attempt to own her own body, watching her bend over and twerk on a
                  36-year-old man, performing a medley rendition of “We Can’t Stop” along with Robin
                  Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” – which later in the year would draw controversy for its
                  explicitly “rapey lyrics” and apparent ripoff of the work of Marvin Gaye (to say nothing of the bizarre optics
of the background dances at this performance). What 
you           cannot possibly synthesize is the places these songs evoke for 
you,           the utterly transportive nature of music, or of pop cultural moments, how every time 
you           hear “Wrecking Ball” 
you           are once again on a midnight highway out of Atlanta, talking 
your          roommate through an unexpected pregnancy. How every time 
you           hear “Slide Away” 
you           are on a beach in San Diego, rescuing 
your         relationship from the brink of collapse. 
You           are not sure where to go from here, lost in the here, but lost in the then too. Is there a way to bring it all                                   together? This begins to feel like a larger endeavor, for another time, maybe. In 
your          oscillation, 
you           lose
your           place. 

rose :: hierophant / Jessamyn Duckwall

if i’m to be initiated low at your feet
i’ll be the one with roses sewn into his
gown. i like your symbols. i’ve been
practicing opening that flower
at the sacrum so that food tastes
better and i fall in love everywhere i look.
there’s a music that does it and also an herb. i want
to do the dance as you’ve described it and i want
to do it just for you and make the roses under
your skin bloom so sweetly. so beautiful you won’t
even notice the wounds the thorns my one big
flowering desire. look in my mouth and see
the bloodred petals all pantouming out.
all your doctrines memorized by rote.

Preverbal / Tracey Knapp

memory of
                           a furry blanket being thrown over my head
                           something like happiness

at twelve I found a photo of me taken at Olan Mills in 1975
                           in it, I am engulfed in a fake fur throw
                           a teary smile on my face         
                           handwritten on the back of the picture         nine months old

I couldn’t believe it                
                           this was evidence of my first nonverbal memory
                           nine months old!

but today          right now         
                           do I remember the blanket, the crying|
                           or do I now remember finding the picture when I was twelve?

I remember
                           the blanket          yes
                           the lights           maybe
                           the photographer/smile/crying           I don’t know

lately I think about how much I tried to enjoy sports like my father
                           at times it was impossible to access him otherwise
                           beer in hand at the t.v. all Sunday

my mother says we all have different memories of how things were back then     

what she means is that
                           we all have selective memories         
                           mine was a child brain

some things I won’t forget         
                           the day of my father’s death
                           the first time I took my dog to the beach          how I nearly lost him

please waking god don’t let me forget
                           my father         
                           my dog
                           the forest floor beneath bare feet
                           the friends who fell away              

that one broken love hurts less every year         
                           a fractured wing

our brains decide to forget the memory of pain         
                           not the memory of its memory         
                           the pinch in my chest slowly releases its grip

Stone Fruits  / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

we hang head down in the orchard
ears in the grass / barefoot on the sky

this is what I see when I see you
thin veil of horizon / gauze of your skin 

goosebumps on your arms from
wind breath / condensation of dew 

you are fruit flesh and I am fruit flesh 
miraculous drupes / we bruise and unbruise 

Delicate Honesties  / Christopher Romaguera

After Jose Marti’s Last line written, unfinished, before his death

There are affections of such delicate honesty… 

Like the fact that no body wins a war
That no love doesn’t hurt
That no lost home can ever be discovered the way it was
That there’s no such thing as a scar that doesn’t hurt
That scars like this burst back to wounds

That Dos Rios all end the same way
That no hero lives long and stays a hero
That the only heroes that stay heroes are martyr’d early in life
That heroes that stay alive turn to the oppressors
They had originally vanquished
That heroes that stay alive kill off
The next generation of heroes to stay alive
That there’s no such thing as a scar that doesn’t hurt
That scars like this burst back to wounds

There is no greater honesty, more delicate than that. 

Day 12 / Poem 12

Summer  / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

just got an email discounted burial                   these are the deciduous forests of home
plots a summer sale                                             dormant throughout the winter
rabbi forwards with a note                                  now undergo one of the most magical 
folks wait way too late sprawling                        transformations in the natural world
16-acre tranquil historic proximity                    by late spring the landscape
to nature sections marked                                  wrapped in a vibrant fresh green
Reform (R) or Conservative                                 being broad these leaves trap much 
sprawling 16-acre tranquil                                  more light than needles but they’re
histor—do I even know where my                     also thin soft and edible
people are? Queens or Brooklyn                        [grunt of brown deer eating leaves]
can’t remember the last time                              and others can eat
I put stones on stones                                          [green caterpillars munching]
mom dad have you bought                                 the leaf-eaters

Sundowner / Vincent Basso

Emiliano Huerta made his way down the main street at Davisville. 
He had walked with a limp since the age of thirteen, the legacy 
of a Sonoran rattlesnake bite that had burned out the nerves in his right foot. 
Wherever Emiliano traveled, the crow followed. “You know 
what’s going to happen next?” Said the crow. The sun collapsed 
into the mountains. “Shut up,” said Emiliano. 
“What’s going to happen is those gringos we passed about a half mile back 
are going to show up here guns a blazing and blast you right out of town.” 
“I think we must be inside one of your poems,” said Emiliano. “You say 
such beautiful things.” 
“No,” said the crow. “This is a story about history.” 
“If this is a story about history, then how do you explain the talking crow?” 
“Shows what you know, pendejo,” said the crow. Then it flew up 
and away. In the distance, a truck turned onto the dusty street. 
The truck’s windshield caught a blade of light. Emiliano thought 
about his wife and children. The men leapt from the bed 
and cocked their weapons. 
“What did I tell you?” Said the crow from the safety of a pecan tree. 
Emiliano Huerta balled his fists. “What the blah blah blah 
do you think you’re doing, you no-good g-damned blah blah blah,” said their leader. 
“You know,” said the crow. “He didn’t actually call you 
a blah blah blah. He called you a—.” Emiliano Huerta looked incensed 
at the bird. “I am just passing through, señores. 
No need for us to fight.” 
The men grinned as they advanced. “How unfortunate that we should be 
both black and Mexican in this place,” said the crow. 
Emiliano thought to plead with them to put down their guns and go home 
to their own wives and children, 
but then another thought crossed his mind. “I think,” said Emiliano. 
“That this world would be a better place if you took those guns of yours 
and shot yourselves in your pea-sized heads.” 
The men raised their weapons and fired 
and fell to the dirt. “You might want to file down those horns,” said the crow. 
Emiliano limped beyond the town’s limits and through the pecan grove, 
still trading barbs with his winged companion, 
the two of them turning the world into something other than what it was 
with every word they spoke. 

I Say / I Say / Caroliena Cabada

After Gerald Graff & Cathy Birkenstein’s “They Say / I Say” (Second Edition)

A number of my lucent daydreams have recently suggested that lurid bright days are ahead of us.

Common sense seems to dictate that what goes up must crash down, except temperature, maybe.

Although I should know better by now, I cannot help thinking that I do not have to agonize for advancement, just chill in this couch and watch the world get better without me.

While they rarely admit as much, the constituency of my personas often take for granted that they are in any way distinguishable to an outside observer.

X celebrates the fact that we contain multitudes within multitudes.

X refutes the claim that those multitudes are equally valid.

The essence of X’s argument is that the scent of lilacs in the morning cannot always be recalled in the middle of a compressed two weeks in two hours.

X can’t have it both ways. On the one hand, she argues that her life is a voice for the plum trees, whose voices cannot be heard, only scented. On the other hand, she also says there’s enough life in her mortality to speak.

Though I concede that humans are not the ideal messengers to millennia, I still insist that we try, we try, we try.

Of course, many will probably disagree with this assertion that these writings are contradictory—that I/X/we can bouquet all these stems together.

The difference between what I believed this morning and the daydreams that keep me awake at night is probably due to how I conjure the image—alone, or all at once.

Tomorrow A Cardinal Alights On My Shoulder  / Meredith Davidson

Cut Piece II  / Tracey Knapp

—after “Cut Piece” by Yoko Ono

For My 47 Imaginary Ducks  / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

Who have revealed themselves to be night owls
and dogged gamblers, to boot; always getting 
into catfights over penny antes but they’ve learned 
to work it out with a rousing game of us, us, goose. 
Who have done a great deal of community work 
with their fellow Anseriformes to dispel unsavory duckling myths
among other things: all are welcome Tuesdays at 7:00 pm, 
Asking Today’s Questions for Tomorrow’s Ansers!
Who have proven themselves brave about so much
but always chicken about doctors’ appointments—well really
it’s just Swanhilda, decent at first aid, calls herself a medic
and sort of a quack, to be honest, but a real hoot. 
Who even now are howling at the moon, or trying to,
part of the exchange program they run out of my backyard;
the wolves had less success with flying south it seems, 
but it’s a work in progress the ducks tell me, reassuringly. 

Pues ya sabes / Christopher Romaguera

And you love how sing-songy
the Spanish you’ve known all
your life sounds. Even when you
didn’t speak Spanish, you spoke this.
And now your distant relative
relatively new, relatively old,
says this to you.

Another part of your family—
severed but you have traced the wound,
followed the feeling of the phantom limb—
and now you’re here. Together.

And you think of how he writes
about anything you need.
You think of how often you’ve wished
to have family here, you’ve wished
to have love here, how
it hasn’t happened,
until now.

And you think of how he writes,
if he can’t help you,
how you both will go out
into the streets,
and yell out together,
until someone who can
help, hears us.

And you think of family
that has never offered to help you,
much less screamed for you, with you.
And you think of how rare that is,
but you’ve accomplished this
with Cito
over: a pizza, a rum, a Nesquik.

And you think of how so much of living
is finding someone to scream with you.
You think of scream therapy,
of yelling grunge songs
yelling in pickup games,
yelling to release,
yelling in pain,
yelling up above,
from down below
in your gut.

And you think of how often
you’ve yelled aloud, alive.
Searching for something, finding nothing.
And you think of how much
you’ve yelled in the streets,
or in your car. And you wonder how
much of this book is just you yelling,
a yelling of:                                                         you as a writer
                                                                                as a Cuban.
                                                                                as a American,
                                                                                as a Cuban-American

the hyphen the incomplete
touching neither word,
neither world, neither home.

And you wonder if this yelling
will get you in trouble with one
government or the other. And you
think of how you can’t help but yell.
And you’re now yelling on the page,
while writing, while reading,
while rereading.

And now you’re not together,
but maybe he can hear you yelling,
howling at the moon,
like a called-upon coyote,
and maybe he will hear it,
over: the Florida Straits, the bloqueos,
the food rations, the censorship, and
maybe if you’re quiet,
you can hear him yell,
over: the 6-day work weeks, the propaganda,
the protests and the politicians and their thumbs
on the red meat of your family’s wound,
and maybe after you hear each other,
even oh so far away, we can yell together,
anew, finally, for the first time, again. 

Day 11 / Poem 11

shallow seas  / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

Someday only these late stage capitalist full budget documentaries will prove corals existed, 

once the largest living things on our planet

Back when I was a kid
 we floated in a restaurant-sized fish tank, 
bubbles rising up from a hundred tubes. 
We cupped our palms around striped fluorescent fish 
wriggling in the bright world.
 We charged it to our credit cards. 

Near Lizard Island, corals glow in highlighter colors
 before washing pure white. 

Asked about filming it, a cameraman 
describes the bleaching 
as horribly beautiful, as bits of color
 float off the tips of branches. 
They’re dying as you watch them.

There is no God; we’re giving up everything
altogether shallow seas constitute a mere eight percent of the world’s 
oceans, they contain the vast majority of its marine life.

Leonard / Vincent Basso

What you learn inside is how important it is
to control other people. That is why I respect law enforcement
even though cops still shoot me
dirty looks. You learn that you can’t let nobody mess
with your stuff. But that’s hard because there’s always some fool
trying to rip you off. I don’t care if it’s Toby, two houses down,
who’s always asking to borrow a tool and then acting
like he didn’t or a bank trying to charge me an overdraft fee.
It doesn’t matter what I do! I go into a grocery store
to buy a loaf of bread and security’s following me around
like they got radar just for me.
I can’t even buy a pack of cigarettes from the Dollar Store
without some chick giving me an attitude.
Like I’m there to rob the place. I don’t sling dope
from the counter behind a gas station like George or dope lean
my way up and down Main Street all day
like Flunky Pete. God! And I can’t just go choke somebody out!
I try to be cool. I say, “Yes, Miss. No, Miss.
Yes, Sir. No, Sir.” What? What do these people want from me?
It’s like they’re trying to get me in trouble.
I got religion inside. There’s nothing really to do there, but read
and workout. Leonard of Noblac.
He was a fifth-century Frankish saint, who went around freeing prisoners.
I started thinking what that might be like. You know,
being locked up one minute and then free the next?
It’s because I venerated him that they let me out early.
I believe that. But damn, I didn’t know
it would be so hard this time. It’s crazy today. All these psychos
going around and shooting up grocery stores
and shopping malls and schools! What kind of person kills
a little kid? Inside you learn
that there’s no place you can go where you ever feel safe.

Attention Span / Caroliena Cabada

And if I break
                             I break
off the wall jumping
skipping class
to prove myself capable of
staying on track.
                                 I trust
myself to fail
I rest my laurels on
a steady shelf of dusty
participation trophies.
What a way to say
will be a new kind of
Tomorrow I will
                                wake up
                                                   still me.

The Muse  / Meredith Davidson

after Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell’s Girl in Blue (Reflections) ~c.1912

Is she girl or woman when made
subject or muse infantilized
in perpetuity it is not a mirror
without the blue soft blue blue
like water blue of distance blue youth
blue nearness or the just unreachable
unknown when I behold a borrowed|
woman and a borrowed idea hosted
in a borrowed frame in a borrowed
archive on borrowed land what am I
permitting: giving license to exist
or to remain? How haunting
a lost muse her remains most
complete in a refracted dual-
 a portrait strokes loose the lost
or lazy from representation you
could not pick her from a crowd
nor a grave, yet something remains
in the haunt of the eyes…the gaze
that drifts just off the frame
to a sycophant of the brush, gone

170 / Jessamyn Duckwall

                            mat-green fungus
                                                           a poem will come. Daily,
                            the cow,
rooting of roots,
                                                                                      a Ouija board.
                                                                                 it gets         out of
                                            the gap
            breaking open
in                                         me

Cut Piece  / Tracey Knapp

Three Bears  / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

Did we forget that they left with dinner on the table, 
lifted on an angular dream to witness the purple husk 
of light turn brittle on the fields? I remembered them 
for the first time in years today. Did they even discuss it?
Or did they just shove back their aptly-sized chairs,  
throw down their proportionate spoons and set off,
blinking long-lashed eyes agasint the glare, that 
orange creamsicle sun just spilling its white middle? 

Dengue  / Christopher Romaguera

We were worried about dengue,
another of the old school epidemics
brought back by Cuba. Museo del mundo
brought back not just the old buildings, but disease.
but there were no bugs in Vedado.
No bugs in Habana Vieja.

Pops says they used to have spray trucks
drive around in the middle of the night,
gas rising, flies falling.
He says this as I wonder of the tumor that
grows/grew, in his head, wondering if that
gas killed more than just what flies.

There are no beggars here, no piles of garbage
on the corners, the buildings typically have
four walls, the dogs four legs,
even the police don’t bother us.

We go to Hotel Comodoro,
where little pools of blood geyser up my arms,
where temples form blushing pink, where the
quitos prayed. I wonder if I’ll wake up sick.

And the people, the security, don’t understand
why we are here. They try to send us back.
For our safety, so nothing happens to us
for their safety, in case something happens to us.
And now I know where they don’t spray,
and now I see
another place where they don’t clean the
streets of Cuba, of Cubans,
and of what is left for them. 

Day 10 / Poem 10

We can never fully perceive the Being  / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

that holds us: can’t touch the electrons
or the stars or the cosmos inside us,
the neurons, blood, muscle, and bone.

The lunar month is 29.5 days long.
My period used to match but now
arrives between 25 and 27 days.
Studies show no association
between onset of menstrual cycle
and lunar phase; the speed-up is normal.
Still, I picture the heavy body of the moon
whipping around the earth
like a yo-yo on my finger.

In a dream I fly above lush canopy
then I’m pulled down to the ground
over and over like a bomb on a string,

all our holidays coming up closer
and closer: apples and honey
in high summer, matzah as soon as
the costumes come off the shelves
(this is funny because the supermarket
already puts the Chanukah stuff out
for Christmas and doesn’t even know
about Purim or Tu B’shvat).

A dull sharp ache on my right or left side
and that’s my ovary launching an egg
into the abyss. Now that my cycles
are every 23 days, the day after ovulation
I begin PMS: the circling vulture of anxieties,
the rage that wakes up first thing
in the morning with a blood pact to kill
dusty corners and throw out bags of Legos.
A fortnight per lunar month of rage
and night sweats.

No one’s touched the piano in months
so I put it out on the curb with a FREE sign
and grieve grieve my lost loves,
my dancing companions
tapping feet on floorboards, pulsing
neon egg-shakers to keep time,
hips slung with acoustic guitar,
standup bass thumping til midnight —
where did my life go?
When the pandemic hit and lessons went online
we all quit playing.
No one could blame us.
In a book I’m reading about dreams,
Jill Hammer reminds us that nightmares are our witnesses.

By the way, my kids have no idea when anything is;
the lunar calendar baffles them. I remind them 

daily when their least favorite holidays are coming up,
remind them to look up at the moon.
Tonight the waning gibbous is at 83 percent,

so the next phase will be low energy, brain fog, and hot flashes
quickly followed by depression, headaches, cramps, and clots
then quickly swinging like the whistle on a string round my finger
to euphoria, synesthesia, a sensory high, and unrelenting lust:
whiplash of laughter characterized by anguish
manifested in bad dreams and grief
hammered into the grain, splintered
into dangerous spikes.

My Father Hollered Woo Woo When We Won    / Vincent Basso

My father rose early each day in my youth. He dawned his suit 
and packed his briefcase and headed off to the city to work. 
In my youth, my father woke before the sun. He clambered 

into his ill-fitting suit and trucked down the street, his briefcase exploding 
with papers. I had a pet cat that I walked on a leash. 
The neighborhood kids pointed and laughed. If I could have wrapped 

a collar around my father’s neck, I would have tethered him 
in our yard to keep him from running. My father’s favorite breakfast 
was a buttered hard roll with black coffee. My father read the newspaper 

and stayed up on current events. The newspapers stacked floor 
to ceiling throughout the house. My father believed 
that nothing could harm us, if we stayed in Jesus’s light. My father claimed 

to work on Wall St. and patted me on the head. “Things have been tough 
since the crash,” he often said. My father packed himself a thermos 
and a baloney and mustard sandwich with an extra slice of bread. 

My father had an egg shaped head that bobbled back 
and forth. He sat on a bench in Central Park and ate his sandwich and fed 
the pigeons his spare piece of bread. My father woke one night disturbed 

by his dream. He cried in my mother’s arms like a baby. 
My father went to my baseball games and sat in the bleachers 
and he clapped and he hollered “Woo! Woo!” when we won. 

Names for Things / Caroliena Cabada

Along the path, the same
kinds of shrubs covered
in clusters of blossoms
are in different stages
of bloom. Soon, the petals
will drop, become wet
confetti in the rain,
and the leaves will keep
hanging on.

I’ll call this plant I passed
on the way to class ‘lilac’
though I don’t know if
lilac grows the way this
plant does—delicate
spiral of pale purple
and velvet-soft scent
from four or five petals.

There is a pleasure in
naming the world by
the names people know,
but I like lilacs that
aren’t lilacs, but should be.
I like naming based
on a feeling.

Guardrails  / Meredith Davidson

                    His biggest complaint with the city is the guardrails.
                    He wants astounding landscapes but does not
                    wish to discuss with the architect it
                    is just a matter of design with consideration
for pedestrians he is asking me for the color
of the lake when it is frozen
                                                                 – surely blue?
  he doesn’t want anyone to know how he smiles
 in green lamplight – with eyes closed he will
ask you if maybe the 24-hour hormone cycle is not true –
                I am googling the homophones hostel and hostile
                  tracing a word back to its source – before
                     militaries and telephones and air travel – when
                        host could mean someone who invites the foreign
                           body in knowing them not as guest or enemy, but
                                                                                  welcome stranger.

Inside looking out / Jessamyn Duckwall

It’s when we
        sit by the creek I
talk about the baby’s death it’s
        when you see the mushrooms veined
and vaguely
sparkling            It’s when I
                                watch the whorl of hair
on your cheekbone as your jaw moves when I cut them
                                from the duff for you
My hands and hair wet from the rain that comes at the end of this poem

Age Report  / Tracey Knapp

I step onto the scale while
holding my cat and the math
part of my brain scrambles
with panic because either
he weighs 25 pounds or
I’m the one who gained
the weight. Afterwards,
I won’t weigh myself
without him, for comfort.
A friend once said, isn’t
gaining weight just part
of being in your forties?
I’m afraid of the number
of fudge-dipped macaroons
I ate in the past 24 hours
but I’m not afraid of much
else anymore, and you can
thank that to my forties.
Thanks to my thirties,
I relived my twenties
and thanks to my twenties,
I actually lived. I don’t know
why I was so depressed
most of the time back then
except to say that I’ve
since realized anxiety is
a freaked-out cat to
the overturned turtle
of depression, and there’s
a pill for both. I had  
an abandoned pair
of boxers in my bed
kind of problems back
then. Don’t worry—I’ve
lost count of the number
of years that I did not
“fail better” but failing
better does not mean
failing more. The ground
just becomes harder to
fall against as you get over
a certain threshold—and
maybe for you, that happens
in your fifties, but I just had
two bang-up years in and out
of the hospital and I blame
failing and falling in my forties.
It just looks messy now,
and there’s nothing like
another sleepless night
to keep you on your true path.
But is there really such a thing
as a true path? I’m in my forties
and I hope I didn’t miss it!
I can’t find it, but it could
be out there. Maybe
I’m just not seeing clearly.
It must be my eyes.

Notes From the Atlas of Sacred Places  / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

Parking lot behind a Motel 8,
four or five cars, three trucks. 
Night-sound and honeysuckle 
on highway breath. 

Through thorn bushes on the far side,
thick cut of moon. Red cigarette stars 
floating outside the lobby entrance,
a thirteenth zodiac. 

Rain-turned water in the creek,
shy poem of tree branches 
weaving into each other’s bodies,
you me you me you me. 

Translations  / Christopher Romaguera

Phrase                                                     Google Translation                                           Wiki

Que Bola                                                  What ball                                                           How are you doing?

Asere                                                         ??????                                                                 (You) (if you’re cool)

Nos fuimos                                               We’re gone                                                       We’re leaving

Complicado                                              Complicated                                                     I don’t have time for this right now

Complicado                                              Complicated                                                    You’re an idiot

No entiendes                                           You don’t understand                                    I sincerely fear that I have
                                                                                                                                             pass on this pain to you, which
                                                                                                                                             makes me feel like I’ve failed
                                                                                                                                             not just me, but you

No jodas mas                                           No more f***** around                               I love you

tu veras que todo te                               You’ll see that everything Will                      We think of you every day
va a salir bien                                           turn out ok.                                                     Abuelo. We miss you, but we
                                                                                                                                             will be ok.

Que eso no tiene importancia               This has no importance                              I’m having a bad day and this
                                                                                                                                             phrase is all the help I get.

Te quiero mucho                                      Te quiero mucho                                          Today, I feel alone.

Day 9 / Poem 9

Scrubbing the Bathroom Tile Is like Kvetching to God  / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

I told Joey I don’t Google on Shabbos. But that’s a lie.
I just didn’t feel like looking up the name of that actor
who plays the skeezebag lawyer in Better Call Saul.

Rules are like lies. Actually they are like secrets.
The only secrets I have are lies, and the only rules I have are secrets.
Searching for evidence of truth, I make myself crazy with rage—

a way to keep God while disassociating from creation.
Mistakes are relapses are inevitable are lies.
What do the stars do when we’re not watching them?

What is the devil bird anhinga doing in Brooklyn?
How could a father make his son a Shabbos goy?
What’s happening when we’re asleep

and our brains aren’t aware of our thoughts?
As we wake, as a rule, our brains
start lying to us, keeping all our secrets.  

The River is Always Changing  / Vincent Basso

It was on the verdant hills beyond the ruins at Quarai 
that Mary of Jesus of Ágreda appeared to me. 

She floated in her blue cloak, arms outstretched 
and uncorrupted, just as she did before Fray Alonzo de Baca 

and the Jumano congregants in 1630. She descended 
from the clouds. Golden light crowned her head. 

I have seen many things, my friend. Flying saucers. 
My elderly neighbor walking around stark naked and cursing 

the ghost of his wife. I once encountered a devil 
with not one head, but two! I have seen the fearsome creatures 

that yip and howl and have no natural place 
on this earth. But none of those things ever changed me. 

I tell you, when the Blue Nun revealed herself to me, I knew 
that I must one day forgive my brother for stealing 

my wife off to Texas. I knew that I had to open my heart 
to Jacobo Powell, who overcharges for every little thing 

you need done on your car. And I knew that I should 
walk with love and ask Mary Saiz for her number, 

and not budge from her register until she marked it 
on the palm of my hand. I don’t know how else to say it. 

Mary of Jesus of Ágreda brought the oxygen back 
into my lungs. My heart pumps with life! I realize now 

that a river runs through me and that my past and my future 
are like stones tossed in a river that is always changing. 

To Lost Time / Caroliena Cabada

                           I will not futilely wish
for your return                                     only mourn
your vanishing                                      I am past grief
past acceptance                                   only looking
forward to a future when                   I lose and lose you again.
The only path ahead is                       where you’ve already been.
The only way to come                         back is through.

An Orphan is Anything Absent An Author / Meredith Davidson

On Facebook she’s asking about the orphan books
The Orphan Books, the orphan books from the 90s
probably, for kids, the fantasy of being an orphan,
a child with no authority, a child free – synonymous
maybe when penned in texts crafted for the young,
funny how when penned in otherwise, a child “freed”
means something perhaps more sickening – she is
asking about an orphan story, a series of orphan stories
Victorian orphans maybe, candlelit waifs held in
the cold architecture of a sort like that doll that was
satirized on that late night sketch series (comedy)
& Instagram carousels, or the orphans that hung about
a train: orphans in children’s literature, like how
every Disney Princess origin story involves the dead
mother, how all the young adult fiction has plot
motivated purely by the absent parent (usually
the mother), but this mother, young, of two, asks
what are those orphan books from when I was new
I mean I don’t know, but I can deploy a search term
across the web: it will yield nothing but on every
orphan book’s Goodreads page there is someone
asking in their review: is the orphan moniker apt
still, if you are not a child?

kitchen sage / Jessamyn Duckwall

today i’m
crying on the floor picturing red
roses in bloom, crashing
waves on the backs of 
my eyelids
                    my body luming, lumining
today i learned my hips & coccyx hold
the memories that hurt the most & my hands
are where most of my magic powers are
today i couldn’t eat & then my stomach
fell down into my right thigh; from this new
position there rose  
                                    a different kind of hunger
today i sweated out all the poem’s meanings
all its meaning-sounds
i chewed up fuzzy leaves of kitchen sage until my
tongue went numb 
& then i tried to talk like that

The Only Thing I Can See   / Tracey Knapp

The curtains bandage the window
as I stretch the one leg I can from bed.
Buckley, my dog now deceased, sits
framed on my dresser, looking at me
from his studio headshot. When we
walked to the photo fundraiser that day,
his ears and tail were up in a confident
stride. I worried he would be a dick
around the other dogs because of his
bad manners but when we arrived,
the room was alive with the sound
of Chihuahuas squeaking from
their little brains. My big Buckley
became shy and we couldn’t
console his concerned brow. Looking
back at me now in this bed, he still
emits concern and I’ll take it.
Somewhere beneath the surgical
dressing is my new knee.
Any movement feels as if I’m
breaking open the wound again
and again, and yet I want to see it,
see the exact coordinates of
my pain. The pain is all I can think about
and my entire body wants to curl
around itself if it could. A dog curled
in his bed slowly dying. You cleaned
his bed of poop. They say I should
be walking within six weeks.
I walked Buckley into the clinic that
laid him on the floor to die. I ran
barefoot along the Pacific with him,
leaping over the waves. I’m leaping
around right now in this poem, this pain,
this image singular in my attention.

Intercostal Muscles  / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

Who knew the Hudson was so wide
after sunset;
when you’re not watching 
these things take up more space. 

The lights don’t stay on
but the outlets work. 
There don’t seem to be bibles
in hotel rooms anymore
I keep checking. Not for God or anything,
just nice to know
what’s in the dark with you. 

Hot and AC somehow on top of each other
the kind of couple who could actually go
to Romance Corner, fuchsia neon
Pleasure! Adventure! Couples Welcome!

Sweaty hands passing a tube of chapstick
tank top straps and shoulders
in the sapphire night.

Rip Tide  / Christopher Romaguera

you talk of trauma,
you feel the trauma,
of others
it’s everywhere
you used to seek it,
feel dirty even thinking it
but you needed to be there
to try to give your experience

You hear of how others struggle, stuck
in a rip tide. But you remember, the way out
of a rip tide, is merely to float until the danger is gone.
You hear of others losing their loved ones
and you haven’t had to wonder about last goodbyes
in a while

But you damn near miss the pain
The thing that was with you all those nights
That kept you warm, cold, that never left you hungry.
The thing you’ll never fully believe is away.
Cause it’s there, still, just under deep cover
but it still pops its head out,
on a full moon, when a car revs by,
when your half-hook goes in, when
you strum your guitar, when you open your
eyes off too much or too little sleep.
And then you can feel a tinge of the pain,
of the memories of everything tasting bad,
of the pits in your stomach, of letting go of the wheel.
And it reminds you, no matter how much you float,
no matter how many rip tides you float out of,
you’ll never be out of this sea, and who in this world
worth anything, has ever left enough for the swim back

Day 8 / Poem 8

Eat Not of Whatever That Is  / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

“Here we are on the Kalahari at a water hole and there are the elephants and the wildebeest and leopard and zebra.” —Planet Earth, episode 7, Great Plains

an animal is unfit if it is broken      or maimed or has a growth
but a person          without a struggle              is considered useless

it’s hard to quote Leviticus with a straight face          (I get that)  
just as times have changed         I’ve changed       we never ate pork
or shellfish             mom served meat and dairy              separate    
“the idea of a BLT kinda sounds disgusting”          I think I said once
to a camp friend            the rules passed down            generation to
generation            we don’t recognize the original

make a fence         put the whole herd             of cows           inside
keep the wolves               out of the          village     the urge toward
alpha        I am doing this wrong             I am a vessel full of flaws

I favor the predators            their talons      and teeth    camouflaged
shoulders rumbling       like grass-covered hills    dictators of their diet
I admire the way they close off        the airway          of their prey
with their          own mouths            silently           beneath them
avoiding the horns       raptors dive        into three feet of snow
to catch a mole or a mouse and                      without irony or humor
I congratulate them       mazel tov          I whisper              
your stomach will stop complaining.

I should probably consider             the doe       the baby hares
the defenseless turtle eggs          as my more-compassionate friends do
they’ve replaced meat with Impossible        or Beyond
with soy products or tempeh            (itself a product of the plains)    but
(and this may be my most unpopular opinion)
I like my steak rare       “still walking”    (as my dad likes to say)              

dripping juice onto a slice of rye         barely seasoned      just the flavor
of the flesh               a little crispy and black         where the fire touched it
where the fat        maybe an inch or more of it          invites me to gnaw
the bone          lick my fingers              pick bits of gristle        stuck
in my teeth      and lean back        exhausted      full            and glassy eyed
in the glare                 of the sun             on the grass.

as Rabbi Aexandri said:         if an ordinary person        makes use
of a broken vessel          it is a shameful thing      but the Blessed
Holy One           only makes use               of broken vessels.

Wonder Boy / Vincent Basso

A boy walked home from his bus stop. Sun 
and showers, fresh rain and warmth. A frog leapt 
from someone’s lawn and onto the sidewalk 
and went ribbit, ribbit. It followed the boy 
and then did another and another after that. 
When the boy strolled to the corner store to buy 
some ice cream, a neighborhood dog jumped 
its fence and gave chase and then another and another 
after that. The same was true of the cats 
who sat and meowed when he played basketball 
and the pigeons and sparrows and doves that flocked 
to the elm tree in his front yard. Each day 
they came to him: cats and dogs and frogs and birds. 
Garden snakes slinked into his mother’s rosebushes 
and salamanders skittered through the grass. 
Then the deer came and the black bears 
and the mountain lions that gave his elderly neighbor 
an awful fright. But to the boy, who fed the bears 
fresh raspberries and always had a scoop 
of oats for the horses or corn for the goats, 
the multitudinous animals that crowded his lawn 
and trotted and prowled and flew wherever he went 
were his friends. He did not fear the foxes 
or turtles or bison as big as cars. He talked to the cows 
about their troubles and patted the pigs 
on their snouts and laughed long and deep 
so much that he cried at the beaver’s jokes. 
He promised to always provide his animal friends 
with a bowl of water and something to eat. 
He promised to always rub their bellies 
and comfort them because it was a wonder 
to snuggle a pit bull or mend a raven’s wing 
and to live just one day by their side. 

Storm in a Round / Caroliena Cabada

Rolling thunder echoes down 10th Street,
and the squall throws rain in piercing sheets.
Midnight strikes as lightning does a rod
protruding from a tower, a hot
streak through the nighttime-darkened heat.

Ambulance sirens, cacophonous fleet
around the breaking city elite
as they watch the storm, fingernails gnawed
while rolling thunder echoes.

Soon the water and first floor will meet,
all the shards of broken glass will sweep
through the second story, the facade,
cracked and crumbling, falls on the downbeat
of a kind of raucous symphony
of rolling thunder echoes.

On the Inconvenience of Parts / Meredith Davidson

Five sacred wounds all made by nails except for the lance in the side
the church (?) does not verify a stigmatic until long after their death

and if a woman claims a mystical union with the suffering of Christ
well “hysteric” becomes a more apt acknowledgement, like I am thinking

of Therese Neumann, 20th century holy woman, she claimed stigmata
marks on her chest, hands, rumor has it they were generated from self-

harm. She was popular, see, so the Third Reich kept an eye on
her while numbering others in ink or ash, I am remembering

the nineteen-year-old on her hands and knees
in the back of an SUV, that is sport utility, offering up

her body for a Marine – he’s gotta let loose you know – serving
as an agent of an imperial brand can be corrosive – a particular

violence best meted out onto just one scapegoat
pierce one body, do it again – again – again – again – again –

however, he cannot seal his back** / Jessamyn Duckwall

i know you walk with
coins in your shoes. i wonder if you are sleeping
with nietzsche and burroughs under your head; if 
your walls are covered in every page ripped
from your dream diary.
                                        do you still get up in the night
                                        for bites of cheese. are your windows
fastened–fettered.         did you seal them
                                       with a bitter salt-banishing? wormwood, wormwood
on the tongue? are you
shooting heroin, drinking your dark sweet wine? if you would
                                                    let me, i’d brew you a cupful of star
                                                    stitch you
                                                            a talisman to wear on your chest so
you could walk in daylight again, cut
                                                                the grass, holler.
if i could sing you
just one song it would be                                                            greensleeves
** taken from Rachel Pollack’s Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom

So Much for Nature / Tracey Knapp

For a minute, the Oakland Hills appear above the weeklong cloud 
cover. Even the one leafless tree across the creek glows yellow with buds. 
Somewhere the sun watches you, still wintering. Rain rivers the balcony, 
where once you might have had a smoke but now, you slowly puff
out your abdomen as you fill your lungs with air. The Siamese
occupies your lap, ready for you chill out because it’s past his dinner 
and you’re still hunched over your keyboard like a blues pianist 
with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, but then there we are back 
at smoking, something that seems unlike you to yourself right now, 
but a lot of things are different. A lot if things are still the same: 
for example, you haven’t put the crutches away, but wait, you meant to 
talk about the weather, but no, you brought up crutches. (“You” had a knee 
replacement in March.) (It wasn’t as big a deal as you thought except
you would like it to stop hurting.) Staring out the large sliding doors
of your new condominium, miserable in the rains of May, you pull on 
some jeans, your boots and a raincoat. Drive to the nearest coffee shop 
and ask them to put a flower on your foam. You get a fern—close enough. 
It does awaken the day to Spring—the one season that gets blamed for 
what we all can call winter’s leftovers. The one that separates the dirt 
from the gravel. But wait, you were talking about what was different
now. You can’t really tell while walking with a limp through this puddle, 
and the tulips could be a little less cheerful, and the sky doesn’t appear 
to be clearing, and your heating bill was almost $300 last month, and you just
bought this condo, but look! There’s something underneath the rain
and the puddle and head full of muck, and it’s going to be beautiful.

Abuela upon Hearing That Another Person got the Flag Wrong  / Christopher Romaguera

You can tell which one is ours
because the star is surrounded by red
by all the blood of the people we’ve lost
and you think of how many people are lost
in the red and how many have gone unread
around the star of people

Day 7 / Poem 7

Shallow Seas  / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

Near any coast, 
I can’t resist 
the pull of the ocean.
In Salem for the day,
I abandon a panel 
on leading a double life
for the flat green wharf,
the pier rotten with 
centuries of grief.
A dead cormorant, slick and
fuzzy with black flies, 
trips me as I walk down 
to the edge.  

Dream Again of a Perfect Earth  / Vincent Basso

Atop the desert mesa west of Nowheresville, toils an old woman 
and her idiot son, who was actually a Great Dane named Gustavo 
that, depending on the season, the woman would dress in tee shirts 
or flannels and who sat with her at the dinner table or curled up
in a recliner when they watched game shows on TV. 
Ever since the woman quit the inter-dimensional carnival 
and told the elephant-headed foreman to suck a nut, she has worked 
the rocky soil with a mother’s care. The people knew her 
as a diviner of the terrestrial god-soul, a conjure woman capable 
of reanimating chickens from chicken bones, a lady who, if paid 
the correct devotion and fee, could shape clay into human forms 
and so shaped the course of a human life. “Every blessing 
must be paid in blood,” said the old woman to Gustavo, 
who she had dressed in a white collared shirt and baseball cap. 
The people of Nowheresville both honored and feared her 
and to a one they knew not to disturb this town elder on the longest day 
of the year because to beg her intercession on the solstice meant to reverse 
all of one’s good fortunes and become diseased or abandoned 
by one’s family or struck from above by a falling piano. 
“Can you hear them, Gustavo? The ancient rattle? The ascending drum?” 
In the dead of night, the old woman lights a candle and crawls 
beneath her trailer. With several clicks of her tongue, the mother snake creeps 
from her den and slithers into the old woman’s hands. 
The snake mother’s children know the ritual, but it pains them 
nonetheless. Fiercely they rattle and the air vibrates and Serpens shifts 
its tail. With one swing of her machete, the old woman severs 
the snake mother’s head. Carefully, she puts it into the hole 
that she has dug and there the snake mother’s head continues to strike 
at nothing, injecting its venom into the earth. “You see, Gustavo? 
So strong is its spirit that it cannot fathom that it is dead.” 
Gustavo salivates as the old woman gets to work, skinning and deboning 
the snake mother’s still twisting body. She anoints the meat with sacred herbs 
and barbecue sauce and grills the snake for breakfast at dawn. 
“For another year, Gustavo, our crops will rise. Babes will be born. 
We are blessed because the snake mother has released 
that which destroys us and dreams again of a perfect earth.” 

I’m worried I’m worried about the wrong things / Caroliena Cabada

My attention to the line
breaks give me respite
from the place where my
brain feels the most
acute tender bruises.
Memory is a record scratch,
compact disk skip,
artificial integrity.
By which I mean:
some mornings I’m more
computer screen than
cream cheese on an
everything bagel with
a two-sugar coffee—my
everyday order from
the coffee cart near
my classroom, the things
that make me human
again. My attention
makes me human again.

Midnight Marfa / Meredith Davidson

Border trucks hide in the filament brush
headlights dimmed toward the interstate
the billboard smear of America
beams ad copy onto the blacktop

late night livestock vocal down that two lane
hurtling at the speed of – Did you know there is
a word for the smell of rain on parched earth?
Distinct that: dirt shielded from the sun for a flash

We pull over to snap a photo: mimicry luxury box
blinking half-lives into the dwell of dusklight
now’s the time to watch the sky for starships
green, I’m told, where in the saloon, I’m asking

Tomorrow at the grocery in town
a clerk will tell me I look “lost”
& I take that to mean “don’t belong”
here sure, not under those kinds of lights

166 / Jessamyn Duckwall

        from this red
                                                                            a strange sleep. No
dreams of
                                                                                        blue new morning,
            coffee made with milk and
            suddenly possible        I
can be good daughter.
            yet furious        .
                                                                                                                        Then what?

Mutant Goals   / Tracey Knapp

Imagine a dog crossed with an alligator, a labragator.
Think of the possibilities when you play this game.
When you play this game, pair anything with anything,
a marshmallow with a Volvo. Your first goal this year
is to expand the space your imagination takes up
in your brain, the supersized version of a purple caterpillar,
a purple caterpillar crossed with an envelope, a purple
caterpillope, and in the envelope part of the caterpillope
you will find a secret letter containing your second goal:
to find more reasons to eat in public. There are too many
energy bar wrappers in your garbage, and you should aim
to eat pork helicopters, porkopters, every evening with dinner.
Or at dinner, with a side of peanutery, edible peanut cutlery
that can both feed you scissorbeans and picklemice.
The final goal, a secret message coded within the DNA
of a snagglemonkey, is to climb more magnets up to the top
of an iron ore. To swim with turkeys. To brush the long grass
aside from a lost meadow and skip with one foot on your one
good knee to a downtown only a mutant can imagine.

Not Fit For My Essay (But Very Important) / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

that he romanced desperately and tragically
and often, like a lost little boy, no small talk,
people said, but one hell of a presence,
gentle, sad in a hot way, elegant gloves.

that he couldn’t untangle himself
from the wife of his uncle (yes, gasp)
and ran away to Rome to forget her,
to worship the Sistine Chapel, to weep
because he would never be Michelangelo

(and before that, he wept because
he wasn’t a musketeer either and before that,
presumably, because he wasn’t his uncle).

that when he was just a student
he corrupted the other boys at the atelier
(as one does) and their teacher scolded them,
said, “why are you trying to copy him?
he has enough for three or four painters
but none of them are like you,” 
which was ambiguous but true.

that he cut his hair ugly-short while painting
the Raft of the Medusa so that he had to abstain
from society and devote himself to the work,
but he also had a child that year so
it couldn’t have been that bad, I imagine.

that his cousin died when he was ten,
and he talked about it for years to his best
friend, who talked about it for years
after the last riding accident—died
in the friend’s arms—and now I’m (weeping)
talking about it to tell you that he loved
and was loved and was loved. Her name
was Rose.

and I promise you this is all true; I read it
in a 472-page French biography with tiny footnotes
in the middle of an aching night. 

Day 6 / Poem 6

When I Grow Up  / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

I met J in an AOL chat room in 1997
and we’ve been friends ever since. 
Did you know married men 
live longer than unmarried men?

I think, as a universe, that’s potentially true. 
J got divorced a few months ago. 
He sometimes gets horny, but, 
he says, he rarely feels lonely. 

On Tuesday, the US surgeon general declared 
a “nationwide epidemic of loneliness,
as deadly to one’s health 
as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.” 

Last night I called J from the subway.
I was laughing so hard at his 
Christopher Walken impression 
I almost missed my stop. 

“As a kid I wanted to do standup,” he said,
and reflexively I replied, “You can do whatever you want!”
and he goes, “Thanks, Mom!”
and we both laugh. 

“A nationwide epidemic”—
Is it wrong that I roll my eyes at that? 
It’s true, I’m sure, but the remedy 
will probably be “get off your phone” not 

“pay people more and give them more time off 
so they have time and energy for a social life.”
I am married, have lots of friends, and 
feel lonely all the time. 

I called my dad just to tell him 
“The Knicks are on my television!” 
And he said “don’t tell me the score,
I’ll watch it later without commercials.”

I agree, the ads are so repetitive: 
it’s all beer, trucks, and insurance. 
“And drugs!” My mom shouts from somewhere else
(my parents, always on speaker). 

“As deadly to one’s health as smoking”
Is there data to support that?
The ads for drugs bother us — 
all these happy, fit couples with their friends

magically cured of their stage-four lung cancers, 
their intractable diabetes. No one is fat, 
no one’s an alcoholic. My kids are at the age 
now where they are actually good company, 

so I almost miss them preemptively. They have 
their own lives, they need their space — that is 
an amazing transformation, isn’t it?
Empty apartments and takeout containers, 

“fifteen cigarettes a day.” On the couch 
watching the playoffs, my thirteen-year-old 
leans over and puts his head on my shoulder. 
The moment as tender and fleet as childhood itself. 

My friends’ neighbor came inside the other day
and tried to tell his wife about a frog he saw 
in their pond. He could not think of the words, 
and his wife took him to the emergency room, 

and he was having a stroke. “Epidemic of loneliness” —
like a giant lung, a frog’s thin skin allows oxygen 
to pass through, which is how it breathes. 
Are these the words the man having a stroke 

was looking for? When one of my friends texts 
the groupchat this story about their neighbor, 
another friend replies, if you’re ever home 
alone and see a cool frog, please feel free to call me. 

I give a thumbs up and a love emoji,
because for once I want to be parented, 
to have someone tell me, 
“You can be whatever you want.”

Medicine for the Masses   / Vincent Basso

The elderly peregrine-headed woman once soared high above the city 
and its lights. She rode the currents above the great evergreen forests 
and swooped over lakes and thought to herself that nothing was impossible, 
so long as she stayed aloft. But, eventually, every object 
must fall. The years were unkind to her. Her once proud plumage 

had gone bald in spots while other greasy feathers bunched in tufts. 
She had become frail and deathly thin and spent most of her days cowering 
alone in her room. She demanded things through the keyhole 
and called out to her three daughters and sent them on quests to score 
her medicine from a dude named Rocco, who hung out on the corner 

of 10th St. and Oblivion. She demanded that someone procure a bag 
of cheese puffs and a case of Diet Coke in the midnight hour. 
She screeched until someone sat by her door and jotted down 
her every disorder in alphabetical order. Her three girls talked solemnly 
about how their mother went mad. They agreed that they were enabling her 

and when they conveyed that they would no longer fetch hot dogs 
on a Friday night or give rides to strange characters in exchange 
for a baggy of crushed vitamins, the peregrine-headed woman squawked 
and bolted from her room and, despite her debility, ran out 
onto the lawn. “It’s medicine for the masses, baby!” 

The peregrine-headed woman looked over her three dumbfounded kids. 
“I love you more than the earth and the sun and the stars,” she said. 
Then the peregrine-headed woman spread her wings and, flapping 
with all of her might, launched herself into the air and lifted 
high above her children, who stood agape, scratching their heads. 

Cloudy Days / Caroliena Cabada

The first day of my new self refuses to accept
thin apologies for the way the world is. This shirt is a
scrim hanging in the background, a membrane
of fine cloth to project lights and make
clouds out of refraction. The stage
leeches all sound into the velvet,
the whispers and footsteps—everyone must project
green just to be heard in the cheap seats, let alone the
lawn outside where the real world lives. I am
of the generation who believes in destiny and
its falsehoods, part of the generation in love with
neon signs of the end times. All songs have
undertones we can only hear in silence.

Indentation / Meredith Davidson

he’s dusted cinnamon about the roots of every houseplant
butterfly keyboard buoyant against my every touch
it’s about impossible, no? – to write anything but revenge?
though what but vengeance could counter a violence when
                           to the (       ) there was no witness

where a net of hibiscus soaks at the base of a succulent
where a fig leaf weakens in the margins of a flake of tourmaline
where a converted beer can now hosts furred shoots from an unseasoned cutting
I’ve made a choice. What if we selectively bred all plants to be carnivores?
                           I’m trying to tell you, there was a (       ) here
knees skidded in carefully maintained grass outside the site
of this violence – carving a gash near to bone with nothing just
photosynthetic pulp: blood and green dried together to a complex
scab not unlike a bird’s nest or an owl pellet. Something beautiful
                           to be shredded when examined;
                                                            to mark this (       )

Mugwort / Jessamyn Duckwall

what is it about you that makes you good for dreaming is the question that i want to ask, who
decided. how uncovered.
i’ve never been able to astral project whenever i dream i go in the dream so fully it’s the only life i know
who does the naming and who does the eating, who dreams and who scribes
artemisia: so named for the moon, heavy night realms are yours also      vulgaris: ugly, rotten, common, low
wort means root and here i thought it meant                    to heal
mug:                                     cup,                        mouth
whose mouth did you first dream into and when you’re harvested do you still sleep with us
when i dream i do it with my whole mouth and it comes over me
                                                                                        no amulet        to tell me any different

Be the Ant  / Tracey Knapp

At work, my manager begins the Super
Happy Friday Meeting (named by me
in a moment of genius) by asking
the team if we are familiar with “ant
philosophy.” It’s a tough crowd: it’s
Friday afternoon and we’re ready
to bounce. He continues: Someone on
this call has practiced ant philosophy
this week and I wanted to acknowledge
him. My manager names a name (not
mine.) Finally the point: When an ant
encounters any obstacles, the ant does
everything it can to go above, below,
around and even through the rock. Let’s
call it a rock. The ant will continue to
persevere until it dies. Nothing. Silence.
“Don’t die!” I finally cried, and a few
people laughed. I’m an ant like that,
always pressing at the silence until it
pops, and then I die. I’m an ant like that
because I’m willing to die for a laugh
sometimes, or even a simple reaction.  
I’m not always the ant when I become
distracted and leave my phone in one
room while I walk into another, losing
my train of thought over a quick piece
of toast. I can’t be the ant because 
I wouldn’t die for much except the privilege 
of living a long life—long enough but 
not too long, you know, I don’t want 
to die over an office desk, if you know 
what I mean. I won’t bring up my dad’s 
short retirement but oops, I already 
did because I am persistent like an ant
and have a hard time keeping quiet
about my dad. He was a true ant.
He showed me how to hold a gun
when I was nine and I’ve completely
forgotten the information, as usual.
My manager says that sometimes
he feels like I have no idea what he’s
talking about. I nod my head but
he couldn’t see because we all work
remotely, in our different rooms.
He’s not wrong. Another reason
I can’t always be the ant. I don’t
want that life, I’ve decided after
much contemplation. And now,
I’ll be silently determined, like
an ant. (Silence. A super happy hush.)

Kvinnans Kropp / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

We talk about the bodies that we’ve lost
like Ikea furniture. I used to have that same one,
yes, yes, with the calves? No, mine was shorter,
mine was taller, mine was afraid of beavers
but not snakes. Mine came with an instruction manual 
forty pages long but had the nerve to look
uncomplicated once you got it together. 
Mine lasted for four or five years, not bad,
I never planned to change but it just wore out
one Saturday afternoon. Mine came in a set
with matching throw pillows and paper flowers. Mine
was in one of the little boxes by check-out,
I got it for the bit. Mine was left behind in the move. 
Mine went to the yard sale. Mine was donated 
to the girl next door when I wasn’t home. 
Too awkward to ask for it back but I missed it 
for years. Mine was never put together quite right,
no, no, neither was mine. 

We sit around with screwdrivers, learning Swedish. 
It will be better next time. 

Hotel Comodoro  / Christopher Romaguera

Your Abuelos met here, out in Miramar.
So many years, so many revolutions ago.

And now you share a cab with a driver and another
Cuban with no interest in talking to gringos.

And you get dropped off,
outside the hotel, the love-at-first-
sight bar, but the guards don’t want
to let you in. Security stops you,
saying you shouldn’t
be here. Hotel closed, no vacancy, no guests.
All of Cuba is under peer review,
but also they’re not your peers.
They’re peerless peers.

And the security guard says how sad it is,
that people like your abuelos left.
As if it was a decision made as casually, callously,
as leaving a friend’s drink off their tab.

and you see Security eying you,
as they toe, cross, set fire to the line,
as you add another line
to the tally of microaggressions
that you and yours have had to swallow,
long after the aggressive aggressions
first started taking a toll on yours.

Day 5 / Poem 5

the peonies are up  / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

cherry lip
bites my
ditches my
silk drawers edged in lace
tiny bow tie
sewn with a single stitch
lobed leaves
I smell oranges and lemons
high sweet garden rose
I don’t ask permission
I’m the artist squirting
color on the palette
more and more white acrylic
into the crimson
I become a puddle of pink
descending or trapped
within my riddle self
ruddy glowing inflamed
swollen blush fuschia dahlia
healthy rusty chestnut brick
yeah I’m the one who told you
you were naked


The Cockroach is Ubiquitous   / Vincent Basso

The woman said, “I cannot stand living in a house infested 
by cockroaches.” 

To which her husband replied, “The cockroach is ubiquitous in Albuquerque. 
They reside in every building and gather beneath every rock.” 

“I’m not doing this,” said the woman. “You need to get out there 
and spray.” 

The man hated himself for it. He believed that even to squish 
a single cockroach, which was clearly an act of unprovoked violence, violated 
a sacred law because 
by his actions he had transformed life into death and, subsequently, contributed to the suffering of all beings. 

When he found a cockroach or two scurrying around the kitchen, the man would get down 
on all fours 
and whisper sweet nothings and even bestow names upon them. “Hello, little Erika. 
Vincent, what are you searching for today?” 

The cockroaches bred and grew in number and became ever more brazen in their nighttime raids. 
When the woman found one in her cornflakes, she screamed. 

She procured a kind of sonic disrupter, a device that was said to drive the cockroach 
and other vermin to the point of madness and thereby repel them 
from the house. 

The effect was instantaneous. 

The little cockroaches bridged on their backs and squirmed and kicked their many legs 
in the air. The man’s face grew gray and grim. 

“I have loved you, as perfectly as I could,” said the man. “But the years have 
turned you. What did they ever do to you?” 

He bent down and scooped up Antonio and Margaret and Gayle. 
A pressure swelled inside the man’s head and then it was like a great many nails plunged 
into his skull. It was excruciatingly painful and the man buckled over
in pain. 

He quavered, but pushed against what felt like the ocean’s depths until he rose unsteadily 
to his feet. A tooth fell out. An ear peeled away. The man’s face split and tore 
in two. 

Unintelligible chittering filled the space between them. The image of his wife fractured 
and multiplied. 

“I knew it,” said the woman. “I suppose I’ve always known.” 

The word of the night is lightning / Caroliena Cabada

The word of the night is lightning—
branches of an energy tree, flashes
of the past spreading high
above the high-rises. I’m in
my house, watching the
progression of nighttime, oncoming
thunderheads piled deep. Storm
nights are hard sleeps—clouds
shift and friction thunders. Suddenly,
a rumble. Suddenly, it’s
like I never fell asleep in the bright.

Salvage / Meredith Davidson

In August’s transient tidal pools we’d
float: bellies to the sand and prunefingers
propelling us with gold Carolina
sauce sun soaking shoulders submerged searching
for shells with a crab still inside, begging
waves not break, pools remain just so: half
full and bathwater warm. Burnt thighs across
dunes dragging buckets back to the house.
Place our captives in cardboard, salad leaves
stolen to soften their new space. As our
uncle queued up a Jaws DVD we
came up with fresh names for our pets. The next
day we were too fearful to enter the
water and all our hermit crabs were dead.

uva ursi / Jessamyn Duckwall

            (italicized lines borrowed from Eliza Rotterman)
by the hospital in hedgerows.
star of bethlehem under the holly tree. a first radiant
adornment; an essence caught sharp with too much
            rhododendron and corkscrew willow: my inheritance.
all i have.
how to orient myself in space when i let it all go.
the nettles pulled and heaved from the creekpath; the child’s
name for violas (violet mommies) and the skunk cabbage
bigger than his head. his first scowl. that hardening.
feeling of a dress
                            lifting                                        she said, left it
                                                                                                    hinged upon this

SPELL  / Tracey Knapp

Take a handful of flax seeds and scatter them around your front door.
Kiss your cats quickly with the intention for them to behave.
Call the mariachi band from Puerto Allegre and ask them if they do early morning wake-up calls.
The alarm doesn’t do the job anymore.
Mix a bowl of aromatic spices and burn them slowly over a low flame.
Take a razor to your ankles and calves in a warm bath.
Drink a hot cup of ginger tea while you tweeze your chin.
Dust your face with a light powder.
Stroke your eyebrows black.
Put on the one dress that still flatters you.
Eat strawberries. Suck on a lime.
Take your hair down and dry it with a round brush.
Create fat, round curls as if you were preparing for a date.
Memorize a name, the details of someone you might love.
Be prepared to shift your posture.
Anything can change for the better.
Be sparse with eye contact, but make it last.
“The gods celebrate human pleasure.”
We recreate their carnal indulgences.
As a teenager, I just wanted to touch and fuck.
We all learn the hard lessons of sex this way.
They hover over you, never call you back.
Relax your standards.
Call out to the cats when you turn on the light.
Love is found in the smallest of places.

In Your Defense / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

A handful of potatoes
for good luck seems only
appropriate. Perhaps even
a sword. You have crossed
a country to be here.
You have learned to eat
crow with your fingers.
When they ask how
you made it, point to 
the blisters on your heels.
Take as much time
as you need. I will be
waiting outside for you.

Ball Don’t Lie in Havana / Christopher Romaguera

Ball don’t lie
But the courts are always empty

Rusty rims
Bent broken gone
Like the players
Nowhere to be found

Ball don’t lie
But no one lies
In the shade here
After games,  after drills
After talking about first loves
And next dreams

The courts back home were my temple
One game. One ball. Bounce and play

The bouncing basketball 
the heartbeat of the hood, 
my childhood. But these courts 
have no life. Empty temples. 
Silence. Relics of a long gone time.
The only life left
Is the open space 
on the hot days, where the 
mirages can form, where all 
the shots, dreams, ballers, 
people should be 

Day 4 / Poem 4

Cop City  / Josette Akresh-Gonzales 

We follow the ducklings
on their mile walk
from nest to water

    brown leaf litter
    fuzzy duckling

Mother duck
smooth & elegant
leads the way

    at ground level
    the ducklings vault

 a fallen log sheltered
     in broken bark

              & green moss

dappled & playful
    as jazz

We wrap innocence
    around our secret

In Atlanta
police dress up

    as soldiers
in a mock

   model blocks

in place of
   red oak

      loblolly pine
    & sweetgum

Weelaunee means
    brown water

hundreds of trees

Gresham Park, by and large
a Black

    26 years old
    shot with their hands
    in the air

“God…”their mother

used to be chestnut

    but blight remakes
    all American forests

In March, police
   arrest 23 people

   for having mud
      on their shoes

The Four Plagues of the North    / Vincent Basso

I had accepted a position, sight unseen, because the job came 
with housing and I had a new wife and baby. Our home 

sat dangerously close to the gorge, which descended eight hundred feet 
and fed upon the human energies such that one felt irresistibly drawn 

to its edge. It hummed at night. The ants came that first summer, 
a great winged mass streaming from the desert’s crust. 

Their black tide marched straight to our door and climbed up the face 
of our home. When the ants breached the chimney, my wife screamed 

and bundled up our infant son and bolted with him gripped 
to her chest. What looked like ink spread from the fireplace, staining 

the adobe, their bodies rippling across the walls and floors. 
It was a bad time and my wife cried and thought me crazy 

for ever moving us here. In the fall, the tarantulas rose from their nests. 
The horde moved west to east through the sage. You could not drive 

down the road without popping a few. Their furry legs searched 
the lava rock and yucca, tracing a current that lead them 

to our fence. The spiders dragged their prickly rumps 
across our windowsill. I told my wife, “This looks like something I saw 

in a movie.” She said, “Can’t you hear what I’m saying to you?” 
I could not hear what she was saying because I had slowly gone deaf 

from our time living beside the gorge, but I refused to admit it. 
The mice appeared in winter. They nestled in our garage 

and burrowed behind the cabinetry and even infested our jeep. 
They darted across your feet when driving and one night 

we found their droppings inside our baby’s crib. My wife packed her bags. 
“I’m leaving,” she said. I could not hear what she said. 

I said, “What?” I was ordered to the couch for many nights. What could I do? 
I was under the thumb of a terrible boss and could not flee 

because of our debts! We made it to spring without divorcing. 
The winds and yellow-flowered horizon coaxed 

the rattlesnakes from their eggs. I found the first one curled up in the closet. 
The next made a shoebox beneath our bed its home. The third lay coiled 

under the kitchen sink and when my wife shouted and leapt 
I made to kill it, but only launched myself clear across the room 

when it made to strike. My wife and I did not know what to do. 
I beseeched Saint Gratus of Aosta, who appeared 

before me in an exterminator’s garb. He said, “My boss is a putz 
and I’d do well to drive away from this Hell.” I quit my job 

that day and found a better one in the east. Thank you, Saint Gratus of Aosta. 
You delivered my family from the four plagues of the north.  

Teeth Skin / Caroliena Cabada

Right now, it’s the kind of
middle of the night when
I half-awake dark dream
a vision of gums growing
in a thin film of membrane
down and over the edge
of my incisors. I awake
and I know this horror
is not what people mean
when they talk about saving
by the skin of their teeth.

Flammable And Inflammable Have Different Meanings, But Non-Flammable Is An Antonym To Them Both / Meredith Davidson

We felt it numbing in the ovoid synthetic caverns of each of us, bubbling our fluid. A fuel frenzied, forced phase transition into a state of froth. One of ours, gripped in the fist of the woman as she shook it at the shopkeeper. Shouting, I just needed a light, I’ll give it right back! We can feel it lurking about our register display, the collective discomfort of each customer present, quietly permitting the altercation to run its course. Neon fringe of a store title leaking through the windows, sheening green at the woman’s feet. The shopkeeper is hoping the police will come collect her. That isn’t how this works! He yells from behind his plexiglass defense. You can’t just come in here and take whatever you want! You can’t. An insistence. This isn’t how it was supposed to go. Uniformly manufactured, then packaged neatly in a broad slotted tray for sales. A lighter is an ephemeral thing. We pass from factory to shop to user to user to user until we inevitably mosaic beneath tires on tarmac, butane seep and a plastic shattering announcing our end. 

two of wands / Jessamyn Duckwall

I am collecting rosehips            You
                                                 are gathering eyes
I am making sigils on    windows        You are
organizing me into your taxonomy
                        I am nameless you are nameless
                                                    I am lighting candles you are
sporing        Sporing is a kind            of lighting candles                We are
tucking a bay leaf in the rosehip jam
We                arrange our bodies
around one another                            You are spilling innards of
                                                            beetles                I am
                                    low in a squat searching for your fruits

There is Nothing Moon About This  / Tracey Knapp

By now we know the moon is not
a pocket for the stars, a flat disk
pinned to the grey dome of atmosphere,
not a face of sorry fretting as the light
fades from the earth each month.
We know now the moon is not
incrementally enlarging or an asteroid
just flying slowly away. I have not
held it in my palm as I cannot touch
the bottom of the ocean. No. The moon
is a lamp under which I smash a wasp
in an orange sombrero ashtray you brought
me from San Diego. Its sunken eyes
are just craters, not the face of OH NO,
you’re gone. I’ve come to realize
that I may never look at you again, casting
your tall shadow across the slatted fence
in the daylight, swinging your arms with
a whistle as you cross the street. And since
the moon is not you, oh no, I will unlikely look
at it again for comfort. I will only acknowledge
that sometimes, even when the moon 
is darkened from the earth’s shadow, 
I can still see the full circle of it.

Thanobotanists of the World Rise Up / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

Tender scent
of cedar on your sheets,
hands making pour-over
in the morning: lift, lower, lift
& lilt of night wind through
the open window
any time of day.

Fern unfurls, gathers
dust and quivers on
skeleton stems: lower, lift, lower
& gardens into ash,
the open window.
Put on your gold earrings,
your long skirt. 

Cienfuegos / Christopher Romaguera

Abuela calls me Camillo,
anytime I let my beard grow
out, my hair grow wild.
Camilo Cienfuegos,
the champion of the people, killed.

US says Cuba
Cuba says US

But he’s dead, memorialized saying “Vas bien, Fidel,”
which you can’t help but wonder about the insincerity, insecurity
of having to tell yourself that in public for your eternity,
in the police state you’ve built.

Abuela always calls me Camilo
when my hair grows out,
as if she’s worried that
I’ll become like him,
used, killed, by someone trying
to get away with using, killing, for himself,
as if I were too precious to
have that happen to me,
even if Camilo was clearly too precious for us.

Camilo, the hero from the campo,
not the prestigious school boy
who married into the dictator’s family,
and inherited that claim that all dictators have
of another’s home.
Camilo, the one who actually knows what
an empty stomach grumbles.

Abuela always calls me Camilo, who Abuelo drove
side by side with in the celebration,
Havana taken over by campesinos y colegios
y congresos, and for a moment, not by anything else.
When he gets excited that I travel, he’s happy I’ve seen
the world. But he has apprehension of me trying
to use what I saw, to make the world better.
Tonto Util. He’s afraid of seeing me drive side by side
with him, celebrating, only to never be seen again.

Vas Bien, my father remembers that differently.
How Camilo was talking and how he asked
that as a question to Fidel. Vas bien, Fidel?
Is it ok that I keep going? Am I doing right
by the people, our island, our home,
our vision for a free and better Cuba.

Some people claim more people
cheered for Camilo then Castro
when they gave speeches.
The beginning of the fissure
some claim resulted in the end
of Camilo’s life. How Castro y Che
knew how to talk to the US press,
how Camilo only talked for the people
for us.

Vas Bien, Fidel?
Sure, for me, but maybe not for us.

Abuela calls me hot tempered, 

while also referring to me
as a man of 100 fires

Abuelo, Abuela, Pops and Moms
all worried about me disappearing.
To flame out like 100 fires at once,
but I am not afraid of being the one destined to disappear.
But I am afraid of being the one cursed to stay on the road, alone,
wondering where the cars I rode side by side with,
with my friends, my family, my youth, my loves, my dreams of finding
a home, went.

for nothing is as cold as the ashes
from 100 fires that have been
extinguished, quickly, then slowly

Day 3 / Poem 3

Bear Cam*  / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

Was it you who recommended the ice-cold dip,
said it was a quick healthy dopamine hit?
Go to a lake or a pond, get naked, run in, five seconds that’s it?
Better than reading the news, do it with a buddy
like two bears standing on the edge of the falls?
You should check out the bear cam,
I’ll send you a link,
it’s just 24/7 bears.
Today it shows highlights from last fall,
I guess the bears must still be hibernating,
the rest of the videos say OFF SEASON,
so what else am I doing that’s so important?
I tap the highlight reel, it’s Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska.
In a book I’m reading about the meaning of dreams
Jill Hammer reminds me that the bears are not symbols.
So they’re just standing there, balanced on the edge of the falls,
one a little bigger than the other one.
But I want David Attenborough’s voice, his confident narration giving meaning
to a scene that requires no human attention to continue.
I imagine the soundtrack would indicate a little humor at this stage.
In fact the bears not only have no need for us
they’d have a better chance if we would leave them alone.
Anyway, there’s now three bears somehow balanced on the falls,
maybe a mother and cubs, while the river flows around their legs.
The bears’ heads hang down toward the falls where (if you stay with the video)
you’ll see what they’re waiting for: a good size salmon
flings herself up out of the gushing waters,
shining in the sunlight, using all her energy to power her quick
curved body against gravity.
I don’t need a symphony, I’m just gonna wait and watch —
and within seconds (after all this is the highlight reel)
I get my reward: The bears catch a salmon.
Quickly they shift to the bank and tear into the red flesh,
fish tails still flopping for a second, and gulls show up
ready to snatch pieces of fish that the hungry bears have lost to the falls
as they use their giant heads and feet to eat their meal,
another bear swims over the falls!
His whole body underwater, just his head above the rapids,
he jumps in, and when he comes up, shakes his round furry ears.
He’s got one in his mouth!
The bear calmly takes his time walking across the riverbottom to the bank
with the fish in his teeth, flopping around like it might still live a while.
I wonder what it feels like:
the cold rushing water, the ooze and slime and round rocks under padded paws,
the fish in your mouth which you won’t let go of
despite its struggle to escape,
and then the swallowing of the flesh,
which needs no soy sauce or sticky rice,
perfect as it is.
But when a bear looks up, I’m suddenly embarrassed:
I shouldn’t be here. And I’m little angry — do I have bear FOMO?
Most of these animals have never had contact with humans —
no music,
no selfies,
no David Attenborough.
May it always be so.

*a response to the Brooks Falls Bear Cam:

I Dedicate this Ex-Voto to Saint Giovanni Gualberto   / Vincent Basso

When I was a boy, the children of my neighborhood often played 
at the edge of the haunted forest and dared one another to venture further 
into its depths. Our parents and grandparents forbade it, 

but children, by their very nature, must seek the truth for themselves. 
The legends say that deep in the ancient grove, among the wood sprites 
and human-faced birds, exist the souls of those lost to madness, 

who, in their lives, did not receive justice and, so, are consigned to dwell 
within the grand cottonwoods, their laments audible 
only to those children brave enough to creep through the thorny briars 

and brush and stand before them unafraid. At Julio Ortega’s insistence, 
I took those first tentative steps. The shadows swept light to dark 
and before long Julio took off running and I was abandoned on my quest. 

I was to find a whispering tree and carve my name into its bark 
and so cut the spirit’s flesh and return with its blood on my knife. 
In that cursed place, the elders said there dwelled another malevolent force, 

a being without mercy, who choked the little children 
and made them wail for their parents until it dragged them under the earth. 
I told myself that I walked with Jesus, but that was not enough. 

I knew it when I was there. The day faltered and with little time to waste 
I raised my blade and from the tree I had selected 
to brand, came forth my mother’s voice. “Hijo,” she said. “Run 

from the doctors! Run from the police!” There were pieces of her 
in the wood. A branch that could be an arm. A knotted burl 
in which I saw the contours of her face. “Don’t let them take me away!” 

My courage failed me. I started to itch. Cottony seeds burst 
from my teeth. I cried for my mother as I did the nights when the police 
and the doctors took her from our home. My feet sank into the ground. 

That is when Saint Giovanni Gualberto rose from the forest 
and commanded the spirit to his heel and cast my mother 
into the body of a bird and carried me beyond the countless trees and set me 

slumbering at the river’s edge. I dedicate this ex-voto 
to Saint Giovanni Gualberto, who rescued me and saved my mother, 
whose voice I hear when I am lonely, trilling from the red-feathered bird. 

How I want you to read this poem / Caroliena Cabada

after Min Hyoung Song’s Climate Lyricism

On your back, on the lawn of the library with the book shading your eyes from the sun.

On a nice day, your body full of pleasant prickles of grass on the backs of your knees and the blood pooling, just a little bit, when you haven’t moved for a minute.

On the last day of the month, after your eyes passed over it once, and then again to catch a turn of phrase like a blossom dropping from a tree on a windless evening.

On time to do something about the worry that rushes through your veins.

On your own, stumbled across it like a discovery.

On the way home, when you’re looking for a reason not to meet anyone else’s eyes on the train home, and I hope you do lift your eyes to a stranger anyway, because I hope that you read this on a day when you’re feeling like you could use a little bit of hello, how are you, are you okay?

On a day when you’re not okay, and this poem might not be the best foundation on which to base your mood, but it’s a start, anyway.

On the page, which you turn when the sun sets, and you love the book so much that you read through to the end pages, to the dust jacket, to the back cover, and beyond.

Bracket Tranquility / Meredith Davidson

source the : poetry as property
or (occupation) (something held within)
or [something foreign] [held within?]
or {something external forced} {to hold interior}
there are unnamed roads
                        :           or rather
roads mismarked          :
what does mapping impose
on our {corporeal} experience
                                      of place(s)?
often the locus [of the problem]
lies with the response
a bracket (closed) offers tranquility
or {anxiety – what does it mean to be
a rootless poet what does it mean to be
a poet generated without origin
is (origin) a {place} or [other?]

Blue no. 1 / Jessamyn Duckwall

something about wearing an ash-
locket is almost too neat, too
simple. how must one
remove oneself from
the fact of his
hair, his toes, alight and flickering.
something too-much about it i
feel i must bare it you must 
look at it. no,
i won’t turn my face to the moon.
i’ll lower my body to a basin
of hot water and let
the dead parts of me slough off and surround.

Too Hot to Happen  / Tracey Knapp

Something drips from your hair
to your hand, a spot of sweat.
You examine it with curiosity.
Summer shuts its door at the end
of August, says the light must lower
itself in the sky. You lower onto
the floor, extend your legs across
the cool linoleum, swirl your ice
around the damp cup, your hair
damp at the nape. The cats, too,
have surrendered their full bodies
across the floor, fleas popping off
their necks under the veil of stagnant
air. To move would mean you could
handle it, hold a long yoga pose
while the sweat drops off the chin
with intention. You’ve lost the will
to stare at a fixed point while holding
your leg over your shoulder. Lost
the moxie to suck in your gut, get
out there, show a little leg at Dolores
Park. Today will not be the day you
join the gym again or deny your base
cravings. Bring out the Cornettos.
And although it’s too hot to cook,
too hot to eat, too hot to move
across the room to the diabetes
commercial on the radio, you let
the ice drop and bump in the damp
glass. Let your thighs stick together
when you trudge across the rug  
wearing loose cotton, only cotton.
Maryanna knocks on the screen
door with one of the last summer
tomatoes and you are too hot
to slice it. It’s too hot for salt,
too hot for hot sauce. The birds have
gone to bed early, and you, with
an icepack balanced on your head,
write another bad poem about
sex and exercise and all of the other
good sweaty things not happening. 

To Explain the Gap in My Resume / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

The war-song of August was sort of howling on, day by day,
you know? Broad days with narrow hours. Root rot in the orchid plant.
So I crossed barefoot through the trembling night using a CVS receipt as a map.
I answered to names not my own and knew no gods but the loves I’d left behind.
I sent them postcards on butterfly wings. I spent two months trying to reach the horizon.
Eventually settled in Michigan, writing the autobiography of Wheatgrass.
Sort of a ghostwriter situation. Did you know their language
has thirteen words for wind?                       No, I wouldn’t say I’m fluent yet.
Funny story—I hit it off with one of the interpreters a few weeks in.
I had a torrid affair with Dogfennel, ended on good terms.
I still call her when I can’t sleep. Really traveled, you know? Really found myself. 

False Alarm Fire / Christopher Romaguera

“Something happened in FIU. I am fine. Can’t talk right now. We were escorted out.”

And that quickly, your life could have almost changed, drastically, dramatically.

You get the text from Mom, still saved under a name that is different than “Mom” or her real name, from the days of your paranoia while dealing, from the days of you writing and having that fear that just won’t go away, probably from trauma from what happened and happens to writers in Cuba. And what happened and happens to their families. Your choices are yours, and your consequences are yours, but for it to happen to Mom, is unacceptable.

And now she’s texting you, and the posts start coming in, of a potential active shooter in her building.

And Mom isn’t a war general or a police officer, and your family left a dictatorship, didn’t flee to a “shithole” country, they’re in one of the top metropolitan areas in the country, she works at a college. At a job that won’t pay her more cause she doesn’t have a degree but that she can’t leave cause of the insurance. At a job whose pension she’ll need as this country cares less and less about the old, and the young, and anyway who doesn’t have their hand on some sort of power.

And you feel all the guilt of not being there, which is better than having survivor’s guilt about this, too. But you feel almost as useless as the thoughts and prayers that will be tweeted out by politicians sitting on their toilets, or by their aides hoping they’ll be noticed by the politicians sitting on their toilets. And you just hope that your world doesn’t end, before this one does.  

Day 2 / Poem 2

Cold Season / Josette Akresh-Gonzales 

The sun’s energy powers these forests, not for one month as it does in the Taiga, but for half the year. —Planet Earth, episode 10, Seasonal Forests

the coffee has got cold
the temperature will not rise above fifty-five
the squirrels are busy mating
a distracted squirrel is an easy target for the pine marten
this town used to be all farms
road names tell truth to suburbanites — Cottage Farm Road, etc
in the first centuries of the common era, Jews named five seasons:
harvest, hot season, seed time, winter and cold season
there’s only one farm left in town and the mayor has a grudge against it
the farm has been busy raising funds and drumming up publicity
volunteers move seedlings into the greenhouse
which they are being forced to demolish and rebuild a few feet over
I won’t turn this thing into a religion, but I can understand why people did —
“The seedling sale will take place on one weekend only.
This is because we have been asked by the City
to relocate our greenhouses by May 15.”
I can see why maypoles and bonfires and crowns of daisies
the farm’s marketing empire™️ attempts to destroy
all the dumb conspiracy theories with these words from Margaret Atwood:
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
and the fundraiser begins at sundown on Friday night, so I’m reminded of
Shabbat: radical release from control and domination!
a collective interruption of boss exploitation!
on May Day, a rousing fuck you to you, Mayor!
at the farm fundraiser I lock eyes with a woman I cannot place
as her eyes look with love to the stage
where my friend leans her head back
on the wall of the house in a pose of satisfied exhaustion
she’s pulled some strings to bring in the Massachusetts Cheese Guild,
of which she’s a founding enthusiast member
I pile a plate high with great balls of goat cheese rolled in pink
and purple flowers, three kinds of crumbling, decadent blue,
a creamy Gouda, a hard aged cheddar with a deep yellow rind,
dates stuffed with soft, sweet, funky chèvre, strings of pickled
carrots and ginger, bunches of dewy grapes, slices of sourdough toast —
the only thing pulling me away from the cheese table is the sight of my friend
waiting for me by the steps answering my many dumb questions
“the best season for cheese depends on if it’s fresh or aged,” she says
my mouth full and happy like a squirrel
my guard is down
I haven’t thought about my troubles in at least an hour
and though the evening is damp and chilly
it is twilight and we are at a party
and it’s Shabbat
so I can’t help it
I kiss my husband between mouthfuls of cheese
the band from the town next door starts up again
and plays Al Green and Sly covers to get the people off their butts
I promise I won’t make this religious
but what is truly due is this rest, is this bread
little LED lights strung around the porch
and the last light of day
and the lawn stretched flat out for about an acre
and the line of greenhouses and a high brick wall framing the land
and a woman with long curly hair wearing loose slacks and black Docs
running with a little girl in a light summer dress
across the grass to the tree nearly all the way there
they’re blurry but I rise to follow their movements in the half light
the tree ringed with white flowers underneath like a blanket spread for a picnic
the girl cartwheels and my heart lifts like a parachute
and as the music finishes a mist of applause goes up the steps
so I can’t help it
I’m delighted

Santo Roque Feeds and is Fed   / Vincent Basso

Constantino Urioste, who works the register at Al’s Gas N’ Go, earnestly believes 
that Roque, my pet pug, is imbued with the consciousness 

of Constantino’s dead cousin Pablo, who lost his life tragically at twelve years old 
after falling from his bicycle in the street. “Look at how happy he is,” says Constantino, 

as he hands Roque a piece of Slim Jim. And Dolores Marquez, 
who labors each morning in the Del Sol Supermarket’s bakery department 

calls my dog Pedro and claims that when he wags his tail 
and shakes his hips for a bit of doughnut that he reminds her of her long departed husband, 

the night he wooed her at the Sheriff’s Posse’s dance. 
And Katie Alderete never fails to pronounce with Milk-Bone in hand and in front 

of every shopper at St. Vincent’s Bazaar that deep inside the brain 
of my goldfish-eyed little friend surely exists the spirit of her mother, Patricia, 

who, like Roque, could, with but a knowing glance, disarm even the hardest person 
lost in their grief. “Pug love,” they call it. Roque and I make our rounds. 

Everyone has a different version of who has been reincarnated to press their soul 
into his skull. Roque doesn’t mind. He licks the plague from their hands, 

then waddles off on his stubby legs, a bit fatter from their losses 
and treats and to them Santo Roque returns a golden bread. 

Halfway through reading Anna Karenina, I / Caroliena Cabada

suddenly understand what my teachers
mean by character: the way women move
through the world with a secret, their features
smooth like a cart wheel in a straightened groove
in the street where their feet might trip over,
stumble head over heels out of fashion.
Suddenly, eyes open with a lover,
a single bite into a ripe passion
fruit—but more than mere infidelity,
I find myself tracing tangled kinship
and learning their names by their melody.
This is more than a failed relationship:
this is microcosm, ripe reportage
literature disguised as a marriage.

Adjusted for Inflation, Christ’s Arms Could Sell for $506 A piece / Meredith Davidson

after Salvador Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross (1951)

Queue the organ spaceship, Christ

hang a head above ambivalence

men and a crater is all this just

in Myspace angles, righteous

flesh arise or spotlit; the body in four

directions – cardinal sound, breath, as pipes

boast the base of Salvador’s sea

crucifix on the cloud whimpering we are

not privileged with the face of God

perhaps it would ruin the mystique

to see a man not suffering but aroused

ecstatic or simply already gone a tinfoil

punnet square aloft at the crown

not sending light but harvesting it

and sending a shadow off somewhere

unseen: the alchemical nature of creativity

as an energy exchange: beauty & joy

(organ sounds in the body) atoms

prove God with physics, or dreams.

two of cups: a diptych / Jessamyn Duckwall

some keen        |          blade

shape-              |          s us

mercurial,         |          ribboned, cut

from me           |          your wound

bled to             |          my

chalice, o          |          angui-

sh— carry        |          over creek, under

blighted            |          cotton

-woods :           |          gall-wasp, henbit—

bitten, ex-        |          cised, grass-

widow, liver     |          -wort, ivy

-leaved, bloss   |          sssomed

Homegrown / Tracey Knapp

—after “Silent Poem” by Robert Francis

barefoot footbridge riverrock minnow

horsepuck stonewall mosspaint wallpaper                                  

shadowlurk mudsling brownblack headwrap

stonethrow turkeyduck hedgehog middlebrook

creekrot bug tent handsaw brow sweat

motionsick chinstrap kickstand handsfree

prickerbush backyard forest mapletree

Dunlap tireswing roperot doubleknot

eyecrud milquetoast tearduct knockknee

mothership kee-caw backhill sundown

flashlight bedroom singlepane rooftop

Love Poem for a Femme Lesbian / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

In your season it’s too hot to walk barefoot.

Where I’m from, we lie in the fields until vultures come

to try and catch them with our hands—as hard as it sounds

and tough luck if you miss. Find another patch of grass,

a strip of interstate; play dead again, play it better.

These games go on for weeks.

Emma Anthony has won four years in a row now,

says her secret is chatting up roadkill, asking for tips.

Phony secret if you ask me—they’ll all tell you the same thing:

you’re not playing the vultures; you’re playing the sun.

Yeah, you figure that out after your first round. No, I think

Emma Anthony’s got the knack from a previous life,

probably one where she was a vulture chasing the scent of decay,

and I was some beetle who loved you, you, the prettiest beetle. 

Ciao Pescado / Christopher Romaguera

And it’s said like those
who understand joking
when they can’t take a fuck.

And now the fish are all gone,
and we turn everything into a song.
But how could all the fish be gone,
in a land framed by sea?

Restaurants hoard fish for tourists;
white out what they do or don’t have.
Restaurants whited out from Cubans,
they don’t have any day of the week.
But don’t you worry
the “rich” get all the fish anyway.

y en la mañana el picadillo
cause no matter how much you
grind something up,
there is no meat left on this ground.
Because if an island doesn’t have fish,
what do you expect the land to still have?
Because if an island can export all of its fish,
what do you think that government would do
to its people? 

Day 1 / Poem 1

Spring / Josette Akresh-Gonzales

solid gold : this yolk : cracked into the hot iron pan :
today is the twenty-fourth day of the Omer :
with a flick of the wrist I flip my egg
like a clod of earth : our region producing grain
in abundance : the rain falls : is this fried egg perfect?
I am not religious : I do not count the Omer :
I count the pills : I count the days : I count the pills :
I witness the yolk : semisolid and glossy : its crisp lace veil
this morning : cooped up : is today the third week
plus three days of the Omer?
ridiculous : superstition : “you shall bring an offering
the day after the Sabbath” : “you shall count off seven weeks”:
“they must be complete” : I count the pills : nine left
suspended like seeds in soil : I roll my eyes : who’s counting :
what’s the point : in nine days shall I cut my hair?
“the Omer shall be a gift of grain to the temple” :
a sheaf of seasonal anxiety : the moment naked and compulsive
and unapologetic : solid gold : our yolk : our granary :
our country : barley runs through our fingers : sui generis
just as the hens begin to lay again : the sun breaking earlier
and earlier : such stupendous genius the world may never
see again : how do the birds know it’s time?
mystics meditate on balance within judgment :
tiferet b’g’vurah : a time of mourning : each day one step
away from captivity : such pluck : I know
the dose : I count the days : each day one step : too soon
on day thirty-three a bonfire : a whole nation
wading in a purity pool while holding aloft the unclean creature :
no weddings no joy only martyrs : who’s counting on fingers?
yesterday was the twenty-third day of the Omer :
but I : I forgot : celebrated in advance : forgot
how I got here : I count the pills : I bite into the bread
topped with fried egg perfectly cooked : a little jammy
yet still firm : take one pill every day in the morning :
I lick the golden crumbs off my fingers : what happens
when we forget to count?
is it too late?
can we still say the blessing? 

The Pain is All in Your Head  / Vincent Basso

I carry my grief like a barb in my lower back 
and ball over 
from the pain when the angels pluck my nerve 
for their music. “Even today 
my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy 
in spite of my groaning.” 
The Lord has removed my father from the earth 
and though I walk 
through his garden and feel his love 
as sunlight at my back, 
I cannot forgive him. Not for destroying my father. 
Not for the daily massacres 
that paint our streets red with blood, 
a footnote, perhaps, in the encyclopedia 
tucked beneath Saint Peter’s pillow. 
“If only I knew where to find him; 
if only I could go 
to his dwelling!” I sit in my backyard 
and weep because my father is gone. 
“But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? 
He does whatever he pleases.” 
The beaked creatures peck at my spine. 
My right foot has gone numb. A friend told me 
it’s all in my head. “He carries out his decree 
against me, and many such plans he still has in store.
That is why I am terrified before him; 
when I think of all this, 
I fear him.” My father’s ghost is milling about, 
needing to stay busy, but not knowing how. 
He paces in one direction 
and then the next. “God has made my heart faint; 
the Almighty has terrified me. 
Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, 
by the thick darkness that covers my face.” I know 
that I must set down my penance 
and so I dig in the earth and into my back. 
I pull free the star-tipped seed 
and with it I bury the angels and their burning song. 
The pain does not matter. I tell myself 
that it’s all in my head. 
I limp to where my father’s ghost is still pacing 
and he is glad to see me 
as I am him. 

Air Quality Warning / Caroliena Cabada

Afternoon caffeine rush as

my long sigh blows past lips, gusts
against steam—steam swirls rush
into atmosphere, much past
the point of return. Mouth closed
to control sips. Picture windows
lit up with dust dried from rain. I
try not to focus on it, instead hear
my blood pooling in my feet. How
colossal the clouds in blue, the
harsh, hot prairie wind
picking up smoke is
getting to me. How vast earth’s
circumference, and how labored
my lungs, my wheezing breath.

feverfew / Jessamyn Duckwall

the leaves that curl around last year’s
tall dead stalk and all the paper
airplanes wrecked around the house–take them.

take the yellow from my dress, one of the buttons.
the candle-flame, dead skins shed from the bath,
take my virginity preserved so well like medicine.
the orgasm let slip with a spell. they call it gathering, before a great release.

i don’t know what you want from me. here,
feverfew buds in a jar soaked in rancid oil.
i’m all ate up, i’m all fucked off. take this

memory i have of being eaten out behind the library.
it was the first time and i was too scared to come.

i loved his crooked teeth–take those, too.

i never planted feverfew. its presence was a mystery
which i thought was a message.

i could put it in a bath to sweat out the energy
swarming around in my head like flies. it’s bitter.

it’s bitter, but you can drink it. it’s a gift.

The Carrot / Tracey Knapp

Not a carrot, but the soil that surrounds its orange form.
Not the soil, but the hand opening to let the dirt slips between its fingers.
A hand, not the shape of fingers retracting like an octopus.
Not the fingers retracting like an octopus but the sign language symbol for food.
Not a symbol, but a flag shredded by the wind.
Not the flag, but the people who raised it.
Its raising, not a fall before the great nothingness on your broken knees.
Not nothingness, but a cavern dotted with inexplicable light, the blink of bats.
Not bats in a cavern, but a planetarium that projects imploding stars.
Not imploding stars, but the reminder of our own brief light.
Not this beat of life, but the greater timeline that forgets you.
Not the forgotten, but that odd carrot you pulled from the ground in late summer.
Not the carrot, not the string, but the stick the carrot hangs from.
Not the hang but the swing. Not the swing but the rabbit.
The creature who dug for food, who tirelessly chewed.
Not the chew. The elemental need.

Moth Day / Darwin Michener-Rutledge

Windows have moth and butterfly days,
you said before we left, they change with the sky—

Blue back up to blue, gray back up to gray. 
At the second rest stop, I wondered whether 

time finds the love to do things like this,
not the other way around—

We kicked our heels in the lot, sore. 
What is art but the thing that grips, lingers?

Caught behind the eye
like a barn-red door on a white house.

It will be a moth day, you said,
merging onto the highway. 

Trees spilled themselves behind us,
agony of green on the wet-dark branches.

Airport Trees / Christopher Romaguera

For Pops

 The trees in the distance,
did you see them?
Were they always small?
Do They keep them the same
height to torture You,
people like You?
Or for those with inheritances
like mine?
Or were they small then,
big and strong now,
after getting to stay in the soil
that you didn’t?
As they were able to remain,
not just looking
for remains,
dancing in the sea breeze.