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 November 2023 are Brigid Cooley, Elizabeth Howard, Bridget Kriner, Dennis Mahagan, Anna Priddy, and Linda Sands. 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 30 / Poem 30

A cento composed of lines contributed and written by Brigid Cooley, Elizabeth Howard, Bridget Kriner, Dennis Mahagan, Anna Priddy, and Linda Sands

It is easy to make babies and hard to make
Thunderbirds 2 from the asbestos
popcorn 3 , bobbing, like car dash tchotchkes 4 .
Things move very slowly 5 . It’s ok: you can tell lies
in your poems, and you can stitch them together 1
say, this belongs to me 2 – midnight cat pawing
biscuits into my naked thighs 4 , sitting on the chaise,
touch a button and the world explodes 2 . What a struggle
life decided to be, day to day riot of being 1 prepared
for bioluminescent escapism4 with Dollar Store tools
and trash can lids3 , you are knee deep in shredded garbage5 ,
stacking the memories inside cardboard boxes, taping
down the seams4 . Why would you save darkness in a box
for later5 ? Taught to see the beauty in numbers 3,
trying to tabulate all the vagaries of the human heart or to tell
the truth 2 : you don’t have to know anyone to be known 4 ,
you can make money selling pictures of your feet 3 . It’s more
than truth I have to contend with here 5 . A day discloses
its story 1 , but the trip from the east is long 6 .
How many years still seem undone 1 ? There’s a light,
arriving like a mistake 6 , a drone wind 1 in one’s jaw,
bruised past chartreuse 6 , frogs and muck and mud 3
in swampy water, I closed my eyes, held my breath, stayed 2
to take the kiss away from death 6 . Everyone loves
a good story 1 , love, and poems, and all 2
hungers of the body 2 . Each tomorrow we’ll rise
and brush our teeth, and breathe 1 , hold our broken
bones together 4 , watch the collisions
and their aftermath 2 , eating peaches in the front

1 Elizabeth Howard
2 Anna Priddy
3 Lisa Sands
4 Brigid Cooley
5 Bridget Kriner
6 Dennis Mahagan

row 3 . So many trees. So much debris 3 .
Nothing will be spectacular. Everything will be
mundane 1 . There may be no path,
but every way there is you 2 –you’re a writer.

the branches are bare now, brittle leaves of 
october coating newly deceased grass 
in the trees, there is an emptiness 
so in line with the season 
invitation to shed, shake yesterday 
off your shoulders 
replace it with sweaters, 
cable knit and cashmere 
tying together your otherwise 
loose and jittery bones 
as you stumble, tumble your way 
through the glow of christmas lights 
feel the splotchy rose settle across
cheeks and freckles — the bridge of your nose 
stomach, all goose-skin 
and shivering 
as wafts of mariah carey and hot cocoa 
follow wherever you go
autumn turns winter, frigid winds whispering
of the dormant promise of spring 
as the close of the month, once again, 
brings us closer to the beginning

So much pressure on the last word:
how does one know what’s enough?

I keep remembering men stirring mezcal
with their bodies, meanwhile Taylor, in HR

(age 28) refuses to return my call.
Where is the edge? Where Bedouin men

laugh at sunset daily, pouring tea,
strumming el oud, for a sunburnt crowd?

I’ve given up discerning tea time
from happy hour. Age and concern:

illusions. We all work
and die; there’s no helping it.

Might as well re-watch Cage films
if that suits you. Abide with those

who feel you, ride your wave.
Set down the accumulation:

it’s not real.
Worry isn’t yours

but wonder, rather.
This is not test.

A story flanked ends as it began–a bookend 
a door, rusty at its hinges swings shut, opens

another, possibility gleaming, even in light of open
wounds–septic crimson–though hope’s ray peeks, hooks

into a sequel–i.e., to be continued, like a swivel hook 
which allows two pieces to turn without tangling

two strands in a twisted state or two characters tangled
up in a dangerous story of the kind that leads to a cliffhanger

a kind of ambiguous & unfinished end that can anger
audiences who only want the promise of healing—

would settle for it was just a dream, a well-heeled
villain’s demise, even a brick joke, all is well

that ends well, brush aside the trauma incurred–
a story flanked ends as it began–a bookend.


There are so many ways to dissolve,
some I haven’t availed myself of
in particular, but in the wider view
I’ve hit upon them all. I began with
tawdry scenes enacted in sloppy
bars in the dark, then moved on
to the dissolution of a marriage
and the failure writ large,
large enough to be recorded
on forms to this day, an ongoing
scarification of the heart
every time my children are there
but not here, now I am working
on the dissolution of the flesh
and cannot say where the clean
arc of my pelvic bones has gone.
It is in the dark and the light
and invisible, these evolutions.
Archaically, dissolution was another word
For death, but it seems to be life too.

Day 29 / Poem 29

every day starts the same 
with colors streaked across a vast sky 
vibrant orange ombre-ing its way to 
pastel purple, baby blue 
this constant blending of color
set in motion by science or perhaps 
a disgruntled artist 
with paint palettes and coffee cups
my god, it brings me peace
this knowledge, recognition 
that even when cloud covers grow
thick and demeaning 
full of jet streams and chemtrails 
somewhere on this green planet 
someone is looking up at an 
airbrushed canvas
trying their best to understand 

A clear blue day.
Spirits passing through
on their way to heaven.
Sky is a backdrop
to everything:
his velvet arms
reaching for her.
Ocean nodding.
Thin blood swirls
racing toward the drain.
A pool of cerulean
to lay back upon.
A recipe tested:
how life should be lived.
I see now: answers
from the ashes, always
a surprise. And me,
all along, measuring
moments, squinting
at results, when
moments are the thing.
Wispy tendrils,
not just passing or
portending or
casting shade:
the actual thing.
Oceans aren’t blue.
Prisms particles
wavelengths decide,
how deep, how thin,
how lovely. What is
known, what is
forgotten on
a clear blue day.

It’s not a guilty pleasure
it’s a commitment 
to satire, watching 
intent to be amused 
by mocking it, to take 
pleasure from failures, 
perceived shortcomings
to say, it was bad 
spectacularly. you say, 
you could learn about 
self-righteous speechifying,
failed satire, aesthetic 
perfectionism, clear ambition. 
You understand the comfort in 
critiquing a constructed 
reality, a true salve. Buy you 
can’t blame the guinea pigs 
in this competition, snare 
them in your snark. Move
on to Billy & Sookie, Velma,
Jim Parsons–all mere 
distractions from the perils 
of daily life.

And so is a camel at times a cloud
and a name can incite laughter
and we will all once wear a shroud

and that is the end of transformation
though to transform be a magical thing
so we sing a song to imagination

because we cannot conquer time
let the owl fly to the camel
the daughter go about dressed in a cloud
let what is inside remain outside time

For Truman, thank you for your support

if I had to make up a story
about who you were in another life,
it might start with a lion

not in a Disney movie way
there would be no
singing monkeys,
no turtle shell drums

 of course, there would be drums
 an entire percussion section
with bomb ass lighting hung
from scaffolding
that the crew must climb
like Jack’s Beanstalk

their secret access 
to the land of giants
while down below,
burlesque dancers in fishnets bow
under the weight of shoulder
slung albino pythons

whose tongues flicker
at the heat of the spotlight,
the pedal of the snare
your smiling face

there would be
adventure and sunshine
a coalition of cheetahs
a flamboyance of flamingos
a thunder of hippopotami

all the things
the world owes you
for all the things you
released before their time

a gift almost as beautiful
as November’s
haloed moon
God’s perfect white circle
ringing steely blue
as we stared into the 
iris of the
pupil moon

*”Live each day, as if it were your last.
It’s written in the stars, your destiny is cast.”
Elvis, Wisdom of the Ages

Day 28 / Poem 28

it is a type of ritual, isn’t it? 
stacking the memories inside 
cardboard boxes, taping 
down the seams. rearranging 
rooms of the heart until 
they shine like new. 
spring cleaning for the soul. 

throw out the t-shirt, 
the love letter, even 
the birthday gift. you 
are not a storage bin
for his baggage — 
a garage full of ghosts. 

perhaps you knock 
down the walls. 
paint the ceilings. 
purge the closets. 
renovate until 
you are unrecognizable. 
there is a certain strength 

in destruction, after all. 
you deserve hallways that echo
& so much space for dancing. 
great rooms with ornate everythings:
disco balls and crystal chandeliers. 
record players stocked with 
only your favorites.
pianos, ivory and grand. 

one day, you may decide 
to throw open the curtains. 
host dinner parties with guests, 
handsome and tall. ladies in 
slinking by in cocktail dresses 
as champagne flows from every faucet. 

the day will come, my darling, 
when celebration seeps back in. 
but i promise, there is no rush. 
you may take your sweet time. 

Music beside the shore,
woven in liquid landscape:
dovekies laughing, waves nudging
               and nudging,
     a drone wind wondering,
          and you,
enter exit enter again,
in soft shoes shushing
breathy fables
to mist the glass:
two ships glancing —
I cruise by, wild with hunger, rebound off
               a screen: ope. nope, not there, where?
        Vacillate, vibrate, sticky with gallimaufry,
    smearing residue — cannot help but laugh! Hum
the tune, sucked through teeth and spackled:
           now this then that geranium needs watering
                                         brushes need soaking
          door rumbles a slide:
Shoes shushing. Always music
beside the shore. Our honeyed scene,
whippoorwill tripping, twilight
sighing, your keys ringing,
and me,
trying to nest
(just a little less).

You eat eight spiders a year in your sleep,
dogs are colorblind & bats are just blind–
two species that should eat more carrots. 
Do not wake a sleepwalker or  touch
a baby bird, or swim 30 minutes after eating 
or go outside without a coat & catch a cold
Heat mostly escapes your body from your head 
& you only use 10%  percent of your brain–left side 
to think, right one to feel. Hair & fingernails 
still grow after death. String Theory relates 
to the physical universe. Big Bang 
was an explosion.  Rorschach inkblot tests 
are reliable.  Positive thinking heals cancer.
Tabasco sauce causes stomach cancer. Henry 
Ford Invented the assembly line. Thomas 
Edison invented the lightbulb. Isaac Newton 
discovered gravity when an apple fell 
on his head. Ben Franklin discovered electricity 
with a kite. Espresso shots have more caffeine 
than coffee. Toilet water flushes the opposite direction, 
depending on the hemisphere. Pluto isn’t a planet
Pluto is a planet. The North Star is the brightest 
star. Bulls get angry at the sight of red. Classical music 
makes you smarter. There’s no gravity in space. You can 
see the Great Wall  of China from space. You only 
have five senses. Camels store water in their humps. Einstein 
was a failing student. Seasons are because of distance 
from the sun. Do not throw a penny off the Empire State 
Building. It takes seven years to digest gum.
Goldfish have a 3-second memory. Dogs have cleaner 
mouths than humans. Chameleons camouflage 
to blend in. The primary colors are red, blue, & yellow.
Blood in your veins is blue.

Some days, it is hard to keep
one’s head above water,
what with this thing and that
claiming one’s attention.

Some days, one might achieve
a sort of brilliance at dawn
but completely give up by evening,
or vice versa. Today, I taught:

I should have been a pair of ragged
claws scuttling across the floors
of silent seas, and I felt that,
but I always do. I suspect

it would have been unpleasant
to meet Mr. Eliot, but there he
gave voice to something real
and true, that primordial ooze

feeling that we all know,
and when he says, I do not think
that they shall sing to me, well,
I know that feeling too.

You can make money
selling pictures of your feet
so, why wouldn’t you?

In our heart of hearts,
we know what we truly want.

Words are spells, she said
use them wisely and for good
because…Karma, bitch.

Day 27 / Poem 27

my volkswagen and its sagging headliner 
cruising the streets i call home 

back to emerald green pillowcases
& night time routines 

frustrated over the laundry
empty baskets and socks, unleashed 

moments of loneliness while watching 
couples walking, hands entwined 

friendly relationship with Envy 
i have always been green eyed 

arriving 10 minutes early to everything 
no distractions tempting me to stay inside

back to laughing alongside children 
who say “miss” before my name 

to pre-packed lunches and midday coffees 
ways to get be through the day 

back to praying for patience 
calendars & counting down the days

until i am back to right next to him 
and things are perfect, but not the same 

Feather light
a tidal wall–
girls in halls
dress code
poco a poco
skin flickering through
polyphonic refrain.
What’s the composition
to stand out
to blend in
the mass
class to class
delicate moods
ready to roar,
Slower now,
eyes on me
the sway
hips lips chime
lows and highs
pitching toward
the prime, slender
selfie intervals;
rivulets of girls
meno mosso.

One kind of knowledge, know-how, differs from 
know-that–suppose a swimmer’s swimming & 
a swim teacher says, that is a way in 
which you could swim, too–so, I now know a 
way I could swim, a fact–but in a pool, 
I might drown—true facts do not float, do not 
flutter legs below, do not pull one arm 
out, reach forward, then push cupped hand behind, 
while you turn your head, lifting enough to 
inhale & exhale above the surface.

What it means now is not what it meant then,
the way the young toss it about, still
it seems meant to shame women, not far
off from the time when only one body
out of wedlock meant eternal flames,
and yet they seem freer, less worried
about hell and all that, which has to be
a net positive. How I worried about hell
and its ever-changing rules, was one
enough to send you there, or one who was
surely off limits? And what about five,
perfectly reasonable and available?
What about twenty, then? And couldn’t
the right one wipe the slate clean?
If the number is less than your neighbors’,
are you okay? And the exemptions for
vacations or different states or hall passes?
Exhausting trying to tabulate all the
vagaries of the human heart or, to tell
the truth, the simple hungers of the body.

And if you are going to hell, anyway,
then why not let the numbers mount up
and up, let the fall be as glorious as Lucifer’s
and the body count be like one
in a Shakespearean tragedy.

Prompt: A roll of Rory’s 9 Story Cubes

 Everyone loves a good story.
Especially those with happy endings.
This is one of those.

It starts with a house. No, a home.
A beautiful home in a neighborhood
behind a gate that sometimes locked.

Shannon, when not flying somewhere
or working late hours would meet us for
book club and bunko and sometimes to watch
TV on her big red couch, the color of roses in bloom.

It didn’t matter who we were outside of that room,
how important anyone might be at their job
or in society. On the red couch, we were just
girls who liked red wine and popcorn- our food pyramid.

We got together off the couch too, more times
than I can count on my abacus. For birthdays, holidays,
dinners, rafting and hiking. For weekend getaways and trips
to vineyards for which Shannon may have taken the very scenic route.

That’s when the story began. When neighbors became friends.
When secrets were spilled and advice given. When girls on a couch
became the first people you shared your news with: A promotion.
 A sick parent. A new man in your life. An injury. Another injury.
 An engagement. A wedding. A passing. A move away…

And yet, we never moved away from our friendship.
I don’t know if you still have the red couch, Shannon.
But I do know if you ever step on a needle again,
you won’t have to scoot up the stairs on your butt
because you have Todd to carry you.
And if you ever want to break out the red wine and popcorn,
I’ll bring a carload of Downton Abbey loving friends to join you.

Welcome back to Georgia, Shannon.
May the scales of life always tip in your favor.

Day 26 / Poem 26

in texas, hotel waffle irons 
are almost always stately shaped 

poorly drawn four-point stars
tasting so delicious slathered in room temperature butter, sickly sweet syrup
cavities in liquid form 

at the silverdale best western 
the waffles are just round
sized similarly to 
silver dollar pancakes 
collected in a group of four 

i point this out while standing in line for apple juice and Z. nods knowingly 
silently understanding my sudden 
homesickness. he’s always been 
more of a texan than i am anyway. 

back home, we have biscuits with 
every meal, drench then in gravy 
the diner waitress will 
surefire call you “sugar” 
and when you order a coke, follow up
by asking “what kind, baby?” 

you don’t have to know anyone 
to be known. met with a smile in 
every room, a two-finger wave when 
passing someone on a park trail 
or driving out of a neighborhood. 

over breakfast, Z. and i are 
mostly quiet, save the occasional 
inside joke told in overdone 
southern accents – little bit we do 
with one another, for laughs. 

we walk the black stone beach
later, collecting seashells and 
searching for crabs beneath rocks

he pretends he can speak to the gulls
and i giggle. then, reaching for my 
camera to snap a photo of the lazy
fog hanging just above the glassy 
water, i notice 

in his eyes i see 
a little slice of home 

I am coming.
I’ve set down my plans.
I’ve carved out the time.
I’ll be there.

Let me tell you what to expect:
expect nothing but
the wave of energy I
hit you with when I arrive.

I’m coming.
I wish I could say when:
I don’t have all the answers yet.
I have a good idea.

Nothing will be spectacular.
Everything will be mundane.
Each tomorrow we’ll rise and
Brush our teeth, and breathe.

I know I can count on this:
Nights or afternoons for us.
We set time aside
to walk and listen.

Can you answer this?
Is this ok? I don’t recall
asking permission.
Sorry, but, too late now.

Yesterday I laid out the clothes
then one by one, put things back.
I want to have what I need,
so I am what you need.

I don’t know what to tell you except
we don’t always have to know.
Let’s be quiet and still sometimes,
add some subtraction.

I want this to be a thing that
happens that doesn’t need
recording. I want this to be a thing
that happens outside of praise.

Don’t need to know what’s what —
Let’s go with it, then,
look back on yesterday
together and know.

Meanwhile, I’ll see you soon.
I have the bread I baked,
the blanket you like,
and I’m bringing the cat.

between eyebrows 
begins, seizes the day 
quietly persists will not be 

displays far from 
helpful situation blow 
up above my head sulphur smell 
fills air.

Not so 
much the smell but 
all of it, too much at 
once, too much to process for 
one head.

Lacking family, I am always
trying to attach myself
to someone else’s. Days
that are so long, like
the ones spent in college
hiding in closed dormitories,
with Triscuits and Cheesewhiz.
Jesus, where were you
the Christmas I spent napping
on an uncomfortable sofa,
my only bed for the month
of December? So many times
I’ve wished they didn’t come
at all. They are like reminders
popping up in the calendar
saying, not for you, not
for you, not for you.
I had plans to marry into
a hallmark movie, but I
never managed, and my plans
to create my own fell through
too. Sometimes, approximating,
I seem close, but a lack
of practice, maybe, leaves
a feeling like impersonating.
That college dorm room is never
far off, someone else’s room,
that no one knew I occupied.

Let me clarify. The wife wanted to leave.
So, stop saying I heard about the divorce,
making that wincing face like it’s a bad thing.
Stop saying I‘m so sorry which only makes you
sound like you’re glad it wasn’t you. This time.

When she says, why are you sorry?
You look nervous, embarrassed (hopefully)
and she says, you should be congratulating me.
I have been trying to leave that man for ten years.
We will all be better people now.

And they are stunned and maybe
a little upset with themselves because
how could they not know this?
You’re their friend.
Well, an acquaintance and besides,
you never knew the husband. No one did.
She was always alone.

So you backpedal, try the sincere approach.
Okay, but still. It’s the end of a marriage.
The end of a thirty-year relationship.
It’s the end all right, she says with a laugh.
And goes on to list all the things
that have ended.
They are all things no one wants.

They look at her closer now.
How had she kept those secrets?
Held them inside for so long
without it eating her up,
depleting her,
making her small?


She shines.
Shines so bright
you are blinded.

Her glow expands
Entwining you
as her words drift past.
Wait, What?
Sorry, she says.
For you.
You’re not ready.
She puts her hands
over her heart
pushing the brilliance
back inside where it lives.

She raises the zipper
on her people flesh
before asking you
with her eyes
to look at her mouth
and when you do
she says,

Day 25 / Poem 25

his hiking boots 
clack rhythmically against 
a million smooth, grey stones 
as he chases after 
the bright red ball
kicked down the waterfront 
by his older sister
cheeks, flushed bubblegum pink 
nose, dripping just a little
thanks to frigid sea breeze
his world is no larger than
this beach, scattered with 
driftwood and tourists
his only task, to retrieve
tiny legs warm from all
the running. hands outstretched
toward his prey. the child’s laugh,
all inherited melody, 
rings just louder than 
the rolling waves
and i wonder aloud 
when i last experienced 
such joy? 

Cut no ice
cut to the quick
quick buck
quick red fox
fox & hound
fox in hen house
house of pain
how’s it going
going all in
going for broke
broke the bank
broke my fall
fall on your sword
fall from grace
grace our presence
graze my neck
neck & neck
next to nothing
nothing to say
nothing at all
all I can say
all I can do 
do the right thing
do not poke the bear
bear in mind
bare bones
bone of contention
bone to pick
pick up from here
pick of the litter
litter everywhere
literal meaning
meaning listen to me
mean what I said
said so much
said nothing at all
all you can do 
all I can say 
say the right thing
say what you will
will you please
pleas to the void
please stand up
up to no good
up to the task

Not too long ago you played
together: sardines, trampoline
jumping, stuffed animals, forts
of blankets all over the house.

Now, teenagers, you regard each
other warily, like animals
unsure of your territories, 
and turn back to your phones. 

But give it a few days,
and there will be blanket forts,
and chasing and giggles, 
blanket forts that never come down.

with lines taken from Mary Oliver, I Have Decided, and Diane Seuss, To return from Paradise

Are you following me?
the way back to where you were before you were
cold and the silence, It’s said that in such a place certain
appalling loneliness. Messy foam at sea’s edge,
revelations may be discovered. That’s what the spirit reaches for
slurry they call it, where love and death meld
doubt. I’m not talking about a vacation.
I always return, it’s my nature, like the man who
may be eventually felt, if not exactly understood.
To return from Paradise I guess they call that
somewhere high up where one learns to live peacefully in the
lies, this one with an adorable speech impediment.
I have decided to find myself a home in the mountains,
gleam, bay shine, mountain’s sheen, blissful.
Of course, at the same time, I mean to stay exactly where I am.

Day 24 / Poem 24

mason jar 
tin covering 
what if 
really just 

You probably didn’t know you were the first:
first mast holding fast in the storm.
What a struggle life decided to be,
day to day riot of being–
tilt-a-whirl fun / fury,
questions scraping the night:
Are other people living
a mardi gras of the mind?
Beads busting, masks melting,
shotgun Sally Field edging the ditch.
Now I’m older — slower
I want to say sorry for the mayhem;
remake the me I was: tamp down
impulses, those baby wildfires that burned.
Revisit your room in the memory house.
What did I ever do for you?
A person is a tender universe:
who knows that at age 20?
Heart not yet swallowed,
let alone refined.
Youth is a howl to be seen.
I see that now.
Life revs on, unfolding
unmarked roads,
miles of apologies on
snow-sugared curves. 
I’m driven awake by
regret monsters
in my dreams.
Love never leaves:
they don’t tell you that.
Its sweet residue
coats the camera lens
softens the breast of being
interrupts days with caches
of the past. How soft and kind
you were to me

KISS Fan, 
explodes Bentley 
Rainbow Bridge,accident?
investigators think not terror.
just chance.

A moose
called Rutt on loose, 
tracked by herds of fans.Brother
Bear, Bullwinkle a rare sight seen
down south. 

Four men 
charged in theft of 
golden toilet titled 
‘America,’ at Winston Churchill’s

Heinz new 
Ketchup flavor
announced & that flavor, 
pickle fans will love to dip fries
but why?

There are things I remember,
shared only between myself
and one other, that the other
does not remember, and I suppose
that is a matter of what is important 
to one and not necessarily another.

In the middle of a party,
on the middle of a stair, 
I saw you for the first time. 
It was my first college party.

I was dressed wrongly,
in a red angora sweater,
paisley pants, gold slippers.
I had never tasted beer.

You on the landing,
also alone, wearing 
a lifeguard sweatshirt, 
beers in the front pocket.

In the middle of the night, 
when we knocked on your door, 
you answered, when no one
expected you to. 

Thank you Karren, for supporting the arts.

If a poem can be anything I want, then
let it be this for Karren, that’s with two r’s.
TWO. Smallest and only even prime number.
A mathematical fact that most people
cannot appreciate and/or understand.
Not this woman, not this former OM’er.
She will take you to the bridge in bridge, no joke.
Problem solver, mentor, mother, wife. The boss.
She was taught to see the beauty in numbers.
A stick of lead, black smudges on the heel of
her hand. Always measure twice, cut once, he said.

Day 23 / Poem 23

how planes can  fly
defy gravitycasually
above us 

and why my messages 
soar through space & time
from place to 
international place 
men who bald 

but maintain beards 
despite the years 
of loss and tears 
face magic between their ears 
how a drummer uses 

every limb on a whim 
turns songs into 
albums, second nature 
for him 

youthful act of 
upside down 
trusting the ground
never to abandon 
parents leaving 

somehow believing 
it’s the right choice
forgetting that quiet voice 
of reason 
how skin can grow back 

find fellow cells to attach 
to, because they have to 
hold our broken bones 
heartache and how 

it dissipates 
over time 
without reason or rhyme 
ne morning, distant whisper

and how it sprouts 
om concrete hearts 
ust to turn body parts 
into gardens
how planes can  fly

defy gravity
above us 

and why my messages 
soar through space & time
from place to 
international place 
men who bald 

but maintain beards 
despite the years 
of loss and tears 
face magic between their ears 
how a drummer uses 

every limb on a whim 
turns songs into 
albums, second nature 
for him 

youthful act of 
upside down 
trusting the ground
never to abandon 
parents leaving 

somehow believing 
it’s the right choice 
forgetting that quiet voice 
of reason 
how skin can grow back 
find fellow cells to attach 

to, because they have to 

hold our broken bones together 
heartache and how 
it dissipates 
over time 
without reason or rhyme 

one morning, distant whisper 
and how it sprouts 
from concrete hearts 
just to turn body parts 

into gardens 

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. — Gal 5:6

My mother planted blue irises
against the garage wall:
view from the kitchen sink.
Between clothesline sheets flapping,
they wink at me.
How easy it is to rely on
perennials (if rodents
don’t ravage them).
Sleep the seasons away
yet wake to glory.
Iris, such a confusing bloom,
not neat and tidy like the rose:
flaps and curls and drooping
(falls and standard, by name),
what the heck is happening here?
A face only a bee could love.
Long and drowsy under
dog days gaze, they return,
lolling without complaint,
upstanding. Faith, the bloom 
in summer, but also
the water, the winter,
the ground.

The day before I was born, the first 
Cathy comic happened into the world,
which incidentally was the day after 
the very first Rocky debuted in NYC
theaters. There is a great unfolding
we only know, begin to understand after 

we are situated here for a stretch of years;
I won’t say how many–except apneist  
Jacques Mayol reached 100 meters undersea 

without breathing equipment on the same
day the US performed a first nuclear test 
at Nevada test site & the USSR did the same

too, in Eastern Kazakh. I am pretty sure
my dad was watching O.J. gain 273 yards 
for Buffalo v. Detroit on TV, on Thanksgiving,

even as my mother was recovering from 
birthing me. That week, many people watched 
The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. & I am tipping 

my hand now, showing my age, as they say, 
which tracks, because, as I understand it– 
Sagittarius people can be careless, impulsive even.

Ophelia offers only rue,
some for me and some for you.
If none can be found who is true,
then we shall have no more. 
Having forgotten what they are for,
knowing the ending is torture,
is there is any reason to try
when no god stands by
to make us comply
to any rules. In the water
is Polonius’ daughter
and Laertes’ sister
And there is no future
beyond the water.

I remember finding the recipe,
clipping it out, pinning it up, buying the items.
Shopping in a store. Battling the crowds. Bringing everything home.
Unpacking it, putting it away.

Pulling out Grandma’s tablecloth, washing, steaming, ironing it.
Finding matching cups, dishes, enough silverware.
Buying small gifts as treats. Downloading the music.

Setting up the electronics, the speakers, the TV to be run outside,
the blankets and cushions, the snack trays. Buying the cocktail mix,
making the cocktails, buying the wine, opening the wine,
washing the glasses, setting them out. Baking the pie and the sweet potatoes
and boiling cranberries that popped, burning my wrist, perfect circle scar.  

 It took days to vacuum, dust, and hide your toys.
Scrub the toilets. Bathe the dog. Sweep the porch, clear the yard,
trim the trees. Decorate the table. Light the fire.

You remember Dad’s turkey.
With the bacon criss-crossed on top.
Something about how it looked like tic-tac-toe
or something about the bacon. Fancy bacon.
The way he was so smart to put it on top.
And how long he took to carve it.
His masterpiece.

Day 22 / Poem 22

step one: acquire kissing partner 
— does not have to be future spouse 
— should be at least a little attractive 
— preferably, josh hutcherson or nick jonas look alike 

step two: determine location 
— the perfect place is imperative to success 
— twinkly christmas lights are a plus, but not required 
— avoid the top of the jungle gym and the roller rink. older sister says that’s where the easy girls go to do it (not sure what that means).

step three: prepare to pucker  
— rehearse on pillow or knee in bedroom, alone
— chew lots of gum
— slather yourself with lip smacker, either cherry coke or dr. pepper flavors. 

step four: initiate action 
— don’t use tongue the first time. older sister says that’s skanky.
— make sure to close your eyes 
— make him think it was his idea – guys like that. 

details to work out: 
— where to put hands during the lip locking 
— what song to listen to during ride home 
— ride home 

Another day, another friend.
She, of chestnut hair
and ribbon memories;
she, who could be warm honey–
there’s no one who doesn’t love her
giving spirit, her soft motherly ways.
She, who finds morning rays
bending to her whim:
watch them shine out of her.
There’s no one who doesn’t love her
tender heart, her velvet voice
excavating traumas:
piano keys sounding
in an old oak room.
She, who unfurls her threshold
to a torrent of souls in need:
there’s no one who doesn’t love her
home fires, hospitality edged with
rag rugs and sopa.
She, an autumn cache of nutmeg
and phantoms:
Another friend, another day.

with a fictional character. Come to terms 
with your feelings. Falling in love is nothing 
out of the ordinary. If you want to fall 
out of love, remind yourself they are not real,
pinpoint their less appealing qualities. Cut 
yourself from the source–avoid consuming works 
involving them. If It affects your life, you are not 
alone, not the only person attracted to them; 
some fall in love with characters because
they don’t have to deal with the messiness 
of a real relationship. Sure, they seem realistic, 
but the author purposefully made them this way. 
Fantasy is normal but has limits. In this case, 
the limit is they do not exist, even though you picture 
a relationship, getting married & living together,
how the relationship ends–divorce, arguments,
death. All things are possible with imagination. 
If this love is hurting, remember they are not real. 
Remind yourself you fell for someone 
who doesn’t exist. Make sure it is clear 
in your mind & remind yourself throughout the day. 
Look for their flaws. If they don’t have flaws, 
that is the flaw. Sometimes, it helps to have real 
people say these things to make them more real. 
A good way to get over it is to remember they are 
a representation of reality. Real people aren’t 
as uncomplicated. As witty. As perfect. As lovely. 
Cut yourself off. This works for ending relationships 
with real people too. If you want to stop thinking 
about someone, cut them out of your life. Remember, 
it’s okay to grieve. They have become part of your life. 
It’s natural to feel loss.

What is more lovely than Ophelia
in Millais’ painting? Elizabeth Siddall
sinks, and appears to be already
out of life, in a realm beyond this
one, surrounded by flowers. To
be or not to be remains a question
for so many, but some do not waffle.
There she is, Ophelia, looking lost
but decisive, choosing the way out
which is not the way out, merely
the word Exit painted on a wall.
Who would not want to be like her,
except that she is only an image,
painted on a canvas, catching cold?

1985 to 1991
Gathered leaves only when necessary. Most of the time
 they blew themselves away. I didn’t need to be bothered.

1992 to 1995
I have no recollection of gathering any leaves.

1995 to 1997
The hay fever years. I used my arms and a crappy kid’s toy rake,
filled trash cans with weed and plant debris, dragged it
to the end of the driveway of our rental house. White scraped line.

1997 to 1999
Our first house. For days, I pulled handfuls of slimy leaves
from a shallow brook where deer came to drink. Ten months
spent lining the bottom with a mosaic of odd stones, squatting
open-kneed to accommodate my growing belly while our son raked.
Impossible to keep up with the trees of New Hampshire.

1999 to 2001
Schwenksville. We bought tools to make leaf gathering easier.
You raked the Pennsylvania leaves. Blew them into the woods.
I had the house, the kids, the dog. Outside was your job, you said. 

 2002 to 2012
House Three, Georgia. Our first landscaped property.
It was my job to make things pretty, do the nesting. I could see
the big picture while handling the little things in the corner
of the picture. Always tweaking the expanse of the vignette.

With Dollar Store tools and trash can lids, I scooped, filled and
loaded bags of debris in our Durango, then drove across Rivershyre
where I could back up to the woods and shake out bags of yard litter,
saving them to be re-used. No one said a thing as I drove past
expensive, wasteful, yard bags waiting at curbs for collection.
In the big picture, I was nature’s helping hand in a cul-de-sac
where the wind just wasn’t strong enough.

2013 to 2020
House Four, Georgia. We pay to have the leaves gathered. We pay
for the noise, the inopportune timing, the open gate, the lost dog.
We commiserate with our neighbors. We’ve all sold our tools,
downsized in every way. Even our expectations.

2021 to 2023
Four lives in five places. Are the leaves falling where you are?
Here, it doesn’t matter if I gather them or not.
There will be more tomorrow.  
So many trees. So much debris.
I could burn for days.

Day 21 / Poem 21

days of broken water heaters 
boiling buckets on stoves before baths 
christmas presents of 
knitting yarn and 
dollar store lip gloss 

and sometimes, there was no a/c
but we always had cul-de-sac olympics 
skiing down hills on 
pairs of razor scooters 
while older sisters argued

screaming in the kitchen 
we’d go outside 
so we didn’t have to listen 
instead, hit tennis balls 
from driveway to driveway 

sacred act of child’s play 
adopted into daily life alongside
middle school survival tactics 
everything seemed so normal before 
we learned to ask questions

after eating pavement past dark
i learned saliva can double as salve 
picked gravel out of
skinned knees before walking 
my bike back home 

body, bruised and exhausted 
i wrapped wounds with toilet paper 
and quietly internalized 
playground insults containing 
words like fugly and poser 

K and M learned to fight 
after a neighbor called 
one of them gay 
confessed to rough housing 
later that very same day 

& i’m not sure what came of it 
but i know no one was grounded
we were good kids, after all  
well-versed in the art of 
self-soothing. unaware 

we may have been losing out. 

Colin and Blake went to the Barbie movie together after all the hype and us girls talking it up so much. No beers after. No stop at the Phillips 66 for candy beforehand. Straight in to do the deed. Straight home after with a report: it was terrific.

Last night I dreamt a perfect metaphor for the patriarchy. Trying to shout it into a crowded room, HEY! I hollered. Can’t you see I’m talking here? They settled down: faces blanking.

Men are the ocean, women islands within. Awake now, my grasp on the dream slides away. Yet, I see I took Mary’s words to bed with me:

            “The imposition of the constructed world onto the natural world is the same imposition of patriarchy on the feminine.”

I probably loved pink once, or wanted to: a faded Mattel dream tangled up in a soft configuration of self.

My mother demanded short hair. What was that all about? I never thought to ask. School placed us in black and white uniforms: nuns too. Sister Stasia’s hair curved around her cheeks, a surprise of copper red.

Other colors, then: velvet purple irises leaning onto chalky siding. Sedge grasses nodding from the edge of the blacktop. Brown Mississippi, ever present, agitated, and unknowable.

In her attic bedroom, Bridget had the Dream Home. I got to play, but I had to be Ken.

            “fish in the tank do not know that there is an ocean they have been cut off from, do not know they belong to the ocean…                  They do not, and cannot, imagine what their lives would be in the ocean because all they’ve ever known is the tank.”¹

¹From poet Mary Silwance’s Instagram post:

Keep your hands 
in your pockets.
Do not touch; 
the collection
bites back. Tours
begin at top 
of the food chain:
lions, tigers, bears.
Oh my. Those jaws
that bite & claws 
that catch & whatnot. 
Pachyderms, beloved
star of childrens’ lit,
kill more people
than lions, or tigers
or bears, a slight
shock to some
who have never 
seen an angry
elephant. Next
exhibit is small
& mighty–mosquitos,
most kills. You will
pass sharks, snakes, 
until, a docent
leads you deep 
into the fossil 
record, where, of 
course, carnivorous
dinos–T-Rex & kin
flash their petrified
teeth. Further still,
and deeper, gyas
ago, you will see
beasts who swallowed
other cells whole to live.
And after perusing
parasites, scavengers,
opportunists, venom,
electric fields, & teeth
nashing, it is a capstone
exhibit in experiential
art: Gleaming Lights 
of the Souls, Aftermath 
of the Obliteration 
of Eternity, The Souls 
of Millions 
of Light Years Away;
Let’s Survive Forever

A first edition of Frost 
is practically attainable, 
signed too. I could hold 
in my hand what he held
in his hand. The hundred 
greatest books are not 
out of reach, if your pockets
were middlingly deep. 
Mine are not. But once,
in a dream, I came upon him.
He was sitting on a rock
in a pasture, and he was glad
to see me. All the time,
there he is, the dark frost
and, well, not quite the local
yokel, but almost approachable, 
which he was not. All the time,
there is that man doing it 
all so well I can’t come close.
But once, he welcomed me.
I would have liked to run my finger
over his signature, repeatedly,
Instead my mind runs over
and over his lines. 

I’m not sure
                       how I feel
                                                      about poetic exorcism
                                                                             or if that’s even a thing
                                                                       but that’s how it feels
                                                               when I uncap the pen
                                                 aim the point at paper
                                          not flesh
                            blue not red
                            and I’m not sure       
                                         everything needs
                                                 a label anyway.
                                                                 I am sure there are angels.
                                                                         I am sure they’re watching.
                                                                                                       I am sure that
                                                                                     I’m doing the right thing.
                                                                            Have done the right thing.
                                                      And will do the right thing.
                                     I’m just not sure
             where it ends.

Day 20 / Poem 20

the earth, for a moment, would stop spinning
gravity, suspended
i’d watch in awe as my feet floated
just above the ground
weightless, same feeling i felt as a little girl
traipsing through meadows in princess nightgowns
imagination running overdrive
as morning dew dampened my bargain bin slippers
dreaming of Neverland 
and flying
praying i’d never land 
if she apologized, the wounds in my heart tissue
would begin stitching themselves back to healthy 
thread of gold turning past hurts shiny 
bedazzled and better
than ever before
instead, words are left 
shattered pieces of souls
left clattering around ribcage 
so fragile, i’ve become hazardous
one false move and the pieces might 
come tumbling out, destruction scattered
across childhood bedroom floor

How many ways ought I sustain
those requiring shoring up?
Which arms should be kept alive 
for bracing, buttressing,
I forge time
to lend a hand,
to transport & transfer.
How can I convey 
the heart’s extractions
needed to buoy up, 
to hold fast from falling 
(or jumping)?
Who gets a leg up: 
What’s the right measure
of fortitude to foster,
and keep going?
How do I continue
How much (or who)
should I save, and
carry on
the helping?

                                             I would make sense. 
You would understand  my slow stepping 
ambulation as my nature,not just me never 
keeping up. You would see me–an adorable 
little water bear with 8 legs moving 
along the seafloor. 

                                             You would understand
my plump, segmented body & my flattened head 
as typical for my species, you would not ask why.
I am visible to your naked eyes, but  nearly microscopic
& almost undetectable. 

                                             My magic is all about my smallness
& my survival–I emerge from freezing, recover after boiling, 
withstand six times the pressure of the deepest ocean,
weather the altitude of a Himalayan mountain,
pull through a naked orbit around the planet, 
unscathed by solar radiation & the vacuum of space–
& all my battles to defeat my own darknesses.

                                             You try to convince me I am ok, 
that I am built to endure. You show me the evidence 
of my living body through your microscope 
& still I don’t believe you.

Today, I am going to see you
and thinking of Dickinson’s
if you were coming in the fall,
I’d brush the summer away.
I know it is criminal for the days
to lie fallow between, to push
them like abacus’ beads
quickly as I can, to the side.
Better to have a book of hours,
each recorded and accounted,
but not if the time isn’t ours.

my ex-husband used to joke
that I could make friends in a Wal-Mart bathroom
but I didn’t meet you there

you sold us a house on a cul-de-sac
in your neighborhood

I thought you were so classy
so put-together, like an unapproachable
perfect businesswoman

until your calculator malfunctioned
and you laughed that adorable Laurie laugh

your smile lit up the room
and I was determined to befriend you

within weeks, I’d heard all about
the famous Laurie and Ed Superbowl party
how people waited years to be invited, if ever

I knew then, we were cut from the same cloth
women who gave, who served, who entertained

and so we did-for years. Even when life got complicated
we stayed in touch, went through it all: moves, jobs, kids,
dogs, houses, friends, families…all the challenges

you were always there – even after a five-year separation
you showed up with that same Laurie smile, that contagious laugh

with one hug, it felt as if we’d never been apart, still that
classy, put-together woman that I’ll always admire and adore
but now there’s more to you- a curiosity running deep

questioning, seeking…this new Laurie evolving
now wiser, stronger, beautifully glowing
beside the angel with his wide-spread wings.

Day 19 / Poem 19

shakespeare himself
vessel for a message whose sender is unknown 
space filler
painter who forgot his palette but can’t stand to leave the page empty
film school dropout 
terrible stand up comedian 
word wizard (this one only if you play DnD)
failed lyricist 
starving artist 
old soul 

The relative severity 
of various profanities, 
(as perceived by 
the British public) 
was studied 
on behalf of the 
Broadcasting Standards Commission,
Independent Television Commission, 
BBC and 
Advertising Standards Authority. 

The results of this
jointly commissioned research 
were published
December 2000 
in a paper called 
“Delete expletives?”

It placed “bollocks”
in eighth position 
(its perceived severity), 
between “prick”
and “arsehole”.¹

¹Wikipedia on the experience, meaning, and etymology of “bollocks”: citing research paper “Delete expletives?” published December 2000, undertaken jointly by Advertising Standards Authority, British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting Standards Commission and the Independent Television Commission. 

Begin with electric vulnerability, 
             which may not be the beginning, so black out
                          the parts before it started, discard phrases & abandon 

lines. There will be failures, distractions
             building liquid narrative,  mosaic of mortality.
             Roadkill is common in the places where roads intersect 

natural habitats. Water falling,  mesmerizes
trickles to a  reflecting pool, natural endpoint. 
                          Still ideas blink, complete with stars, interrupt the clarity 

of the ordinary, disrupt the prominent
             shadows. How many myths were broken that summer?
             How many untimely crossings until the detour sign is placed?

was better than changing a tire,
chain-hugging a fifth of booze
at a funeral, wearing a wire
in one’s jaw, bruised past chartreuse
and some clouds had knitted together
like a brow in the helpless sky —
Pastel to goldenrod, purple forever
a film reel fashioned by God; nothing hurtful.
in that backyard—only benign spirits
hoping beyond hope to change the news.
I strolled, barefoot in the grass;
It was better than expiring by gas
chamber, or a head on collision
and I felt better; backyard’s mission.

Often I think of Frieda Hughes
and hope she is well and 
worry she may not be. 
Just a little envious 
of her literary pedigree,
then, thinking it over, not.
Every family has its horrors
and some more than most,
but hers are all out there.
And I am sorry, sorry,
for her mother, her father,
and most of all her brother.
But I saw on a news report
that she has an owl sanctuary
that started with a magpie
and has grown to the most
amazing wild things, eyes wide
open and coming to her hand.
And I think of her father’s 
hawk, and her mother’s pain,
and her brother’s restless travel,
and I want to say thank you,
Frieda Hughes, for living  on
and nurturing the broken, wild things.

Day 18 / Poem 18

i am an invitation to expand 
to list drowsy bones from 
tousled bed sheets and
step into self-love 

somedays, i am a chore 
reluctant ritual 
cat-cow containing 
snaps, crackles and pops 

everytime. i take the shape 
of an apology — to your lower back, 
your cinched shoulders, uneven breath. 

in conversation, you refer to me as 
quiet rebellion against your 
very religious mother;
a preventative measure adopted 
to keep your mind open and knees
healthy. lesson in flexibility. 

but i know,
we both know, 
i am really your 
most gentle companion
always waiting and at the ready 
to tidy the rooms of your 
worried mind.

I’ve never faced a mind
so blank as morning 18
waiting for my next revelation.
Even bolstered by coffee,
I feel my eyelids drooping:
sleep wants to rescue me
from this task, from being
present again at the wake
of the day. I’m alone,
few tools: only
the will of meaning
and hope.

It’s November, the month
Michelle died. Every poem
is an ode to my teacher;
I chuckle at the thought
of her reading them
with a bleeding pen.
She had a way of loving students
like my mother did:
impatience and expectation.

Oh, how the body keeps on dying.
I remember those years, having no
presence of mind to death–
suffering only the impermanences
of romance. Then amour
itself dispersed to
revelations of the body:
I am here, now! as it slides
down a soaking slope
from under me.

What a view of the sky from the ground looking up!
(if only pain would cease its bloody screeching!)
But irritation and gravity press on:
holding me steadfast and awake.
I ink another day.

–When Harriett Gould died in 2016, a trove of valuable art was discovered in her attic. Her son, Jon Gould, who died in 1986 after AIDS-related illness, was a romantic companion of Andy Warhol. Previously undiscovered works by Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring were boxed in the attic. All pieces had been gifts from the artist to Jon Gould. 

Late edition New York Post, captures
a 1983 days’s dead– “Marine Death
Toll Hits 172 & could top 200”and “Inside:
10 more pages of dramatic stories & photos
on the Beirut atrocity” and “TV’s Jessica
Satvich Killed in car crash”

Pink Marilyn, hot pink,
black lip, grape teeth, highlighter 
yellow hair. Iconic Marilyn. 
Marilyn 31. Pink as bubble gum
Pink as hot pink. Baby pink.
Watermelon pink. 

Black Stelton thermos, 12 inches 
high, smothered orange, etched
with Jon, signed JB, who colored
every surface, every object in his 
vision gifts. 

Italia 1983–tricolore, green for freedom, 
white for faith, red for love. offset lithograph 
faceless man, white, bursting with brains,
brawn, sex. Carrying a green man 
beside his heart. 

Intentionally broken, stretched canvas
corner with frame affixed up front.
Splotched gray, splattered yellow,
& red as the artist’s blood.

He watched the snow in the park,
thinking of him asleep on the other side,
snow falling past his lover’s windows open
blowing onto the rose carpet.
He watched his lover breathe 
on 57th, waited for the green light.
Light drifted by the window.
Provenance is love. 

or propitious stroll 
down a center-cut 
—camellias, roses and vinca  
spilling out  
along the sides 
like green icing.  
So much brilliant 
fragrance and color 
yet a silver 
in the road 
was the undoing, suggesting
entropy itself could be put to right
with enough patience, vision 
and appetite. this fork, it pressed 
crumbs into nothing, the gleaming 
silver tines level
with the loam.
It was far too enticing.
We brought it home.

My old apartment was one of sixteen,
red brick, horseshoed around a pool,
so that I could always see water.

My old apartment was five hundred
feet square and mostly empty. It cost
three hundred and fifty dollars,

due the first of each month.
I was sometimes, embarrassingly,
late. It was the last apartment

on the second floor, which felt
to me, safe. But I didn’t know of safe.
I lived recklessly in that space.

It was a dozen feet into the air
and twenty paces across, and
there I felt, almost, an adult.

Now that it is gone, I cannot point
and say, I lived there. Like the Strand
poem I’ve always loved, I am

sometimes the absence of field.
And yet, it is hard to believe
that the air there isn’t changed,

that so much life can disappear,
and in the places we are torn,
there isn’t always a tear there.

Load shedding,
they said.
You heard
load sharing
and knew exactly
how that felt.

You wished
you were
an incandescent lamp
taking a break,
turned off to last longer,
burn brighter.

But probably
if you were fueled
by electricity,
you’d be a buzzing
tube light under yellowed
plastic inserted
in a suspended tile grid.

A grid of holy, chalky
paper rectangles
installed by the man
that bought the house
when his family was happy,

when he cared enough
to protect them
from the asbestos popcorn
ceiling in the basement
of a split-level
in the oldest neighborhood in town.

Day 17 / Poem 17

a golden shovel 

you float across rooms, celestial being 

fallen from the heavens, unto this

wasteland. old spirit. heart, young.

but i wonder if this life is 

as you hoped? have you crafted accidental art?

“One person’s craziness is another person’s reality.” – Tim Burton

I’ve seen the twisted roads unfold
before me at night,
whispered wishes made manifest
while others snooze
(or look away).
Voices drip acid meanings
onto my aural plane: I can do it.
I’m their conduit,
I am their king.
So what if I wear rags?
So what if I smell?
A day discloses its story for you,
but not
if you
its gaze.

Bent and broken and burdened
free, wary, not worried:
a tumbled warrior lies
on cardboard under a bridge–
He’s off his meds his sister says.

What a surprising container
for magic, for dreams,
wilderness unbound,
and love songs.

–for Mary

Be careful. This bottle
is cold. Do not use
the sharp side. Find
a weakness 
with your hand. Run 
a finger around
& find the ridge. Feel
the seam, a line to wield  
along the body to the lip.
Adjust the wire cage.
remove the foil, 
untwist the wire, 
slide the cage up, expose 
the neck. Use the force
of the blunt side, strength 
of your arm, flick 
of your wrist. Hit 
the neck. Physics 
separates cork & collar, 
Point the bottle away
from people you love,
windows, pets. Let it 
rip. Follow through. 
Be brisk about it, 


Scarifyingly sad, the moments pass.
thinking of life rafts, and Sylvia Plath. 
Chris Cornell’s last gig, that precious voice cracking 
at the high parts.
Guitar out of tune. 
Nobody heard it. Nobody had a clue. 
Then the guy was gone and lights went out. It was sad 
yet so is most of what’s 
made from the past.
—a world of sorrow and the rest of its wrath
—… oh that guy? 
You didn’t hear?
He pulled a Chris Cornell. 
—thinking of life rafts, and Sylvia Plath.
so sad from the git, and gone down
the path. The incontrovertibly 
irreversibly wrong 
 sad, man, a hundred thirty seven swan songs
every day.  .. but he wasn’t going 
no and he wasn’t going 
that way, too sad and scared to add to the math.
He strips off his clothes, and runs 
a bath. 
he  thinks of life rafts
and Sylvia Plath.

You never saw my old apartment,
nor made it to Louisiana at all,
though we had it planned out
until the doctor said no to you
flying. You would have said,
like you did in Connecticut,
I was living like a student.

Not much had changed since then,
except the distance I had put 
between us, leaving you to question,
“This is how it ends?” It doesn’t end
with the miles between, or the amors
on my end or the wrongs on yours.
It doesn’t end with the blinking light
or the connecting wires relaying
messages along like bombs falling
on my old apartment, severing time
into before and after. It doesn’t end,
though they’ve lately torn down
my old apartment, and now there
is nothing there but a small 
footprint of weeds, 
with nothing to show.

The year I built my castle
on rocky soil,
the crows came.

Black murder
In the hemlock.

The year I built my castle
near the water’s edge,
I was visited by
 a shrewdness of apes.

The year I learned
 the architecture of fake
bases, I was enamored
with an exultation of larks.

It took years,
decades, but in time,
I built my castle
over everything
that had gone before.
Stone stairs numbered
until I ran out of zeros to give.

Day 16 / Poem 16

these days, i’m 
dusting my skin, searching
for remnants of music
unwritten, our story 
song without bridge
perhaps beautiful
but incomplete 
drop needle to vinyl 
your voice, crackling 
singing lines dedicated
to someone, not me

England’s First Fleet hauled
Cattle to Australia by way
of Good Hope: one trick to
make their new pad homey.
Weak, weeks below deck,
is it any wonder those
two bulls, seven cows straight away
went on walkabout? Nothing could
coax the creatures out of the
Indigenous cornfields:

Come back to domesticity!
Yet, fertile and feral they tramped,
spreading seed and shit,
rejecting husbandry, even such
rational shouts of “come boss!”
Enter: ye olde PR team, to adjust
the nature of things. Whence came
borders wrapped around
animal whims, and roads for
the brave men who ruled them.

She draws comics where she breaks the fourth wall 
& tells me what that means, in case I didn’t know–
explains how the racoon on the toilet in the panel 

is yelling at me, the reader. Which makes me the reader, 
except that now in the telling, I am also the writer. 
Creation is an unruly joy; sometimes, your tooth cracks, 

colliding with the pit of the juiciest summer peach 
& sometimes, you are knee deep in shredded garbage, 
mining for that scrap of brilliance you tossed away, 

as if it meant nothing at all. Until it didn’t. Sometimes 
a susurrous swirl of leaves in the night street gives 
voices to the ghosts you’ve been brushing off, as if 

they have nothing you need to hear, as if you 
are already satiated with all the universe’s secrets. 
Look, she says. He’s telling you it’s time to work. 

Sick of myself, and full of joy
I’m street side pondering the sun
replaced today by a gunmetal alloy
of the wheel that makes shadows run
away; don’t even call it grey, say 
a company of souls, in time 
to reach me by break of day
—which is a new field, or page. No crime
in any weariness, freshened by bays
of hope. I’m shore-side, both arms reach
up like a Sioux too brave in spirit to hide
from the galvanized motes of absent suns
—they up there, shells in a breech
cocked.  — Shadows be made of everyone.

Driving around, I would point it out,
say, “That’s my old apartment.
That’s where I lived when I first came here.”
Maybe I’d talk about the mattress
and box spring on the floor, or
the moving box I used as a nightstand.
I would not say I live there still.
If I could go back to the old apartment,
maybe I would not touch the button
on the answering machine, the one
I bought from Sears on time when
I bought my first computer, and
that light would be blinking still.
And you would be away, just away,
as you so often were, though I can’t 
imagine what lie would get me through
New Year’s Eve, when you’d call 
no matter where. No, I wouldn’t touch it 
or the Times the next day.
That button was like the detonator
of a bomb that went off inside me,
with the first concerned voice building
to a crescendo of care that could do nothing
except make it truer and truer. Like some 
terrorist in a suicide vest gone wrong,
the girl sitting on the chaise touched
a button and the world exploded,
though it was mostly herself. And the girl
who curled upon herself on the mattress
was not the same as the girl 
who came in the door. This is a thing
that happened in my old apartment.

for Christi (and Sandy)

When I first met Sandy, he spoke about you. A lot.
He was as vocal as a Gray Squirrel in a Pine with an Acorn.2
With his chest puffed up like Elvis, the Rooster, 3 it was easy to see
how proud he was of you and how you made him as happy as a
Turtle Eating a Mushroom.4
Before we shared our first beer, Soon, too5 , I felt I knew you,
from the Front Half & Back Half6 stories shared over
the sounds of construction: humming generator,
pop of nail gun, buzz of saw.
I couldn’t wait to meet this Bluebird in Budding Maples,7
Sandy’s elusive Rainbow Trout. 8
It wasn’t until later,
after Signs of Spring in Late Winter9 ,
that I got a Flicker10 about how serious
your Kingfisher11 was about you,
his Double Wahoo, a wildflower12 .
Forget 3 German Brown Trout, 2 Gray Squirrel, 5 Quail13 .
Never mind the intriguing Bobwhites under a Red Oak14 ,
your Wild Tom15 only had eyes for you. No other Chicks16
would do. Not even Dominique Chicken17 ,
even if she wore Persimmons at Night.18

1 John “Cornbread” Anderson is an American folk artist from rural Lumpkin, Georgia. 
2 Cornbread, Gray Squirrel in a Pine with an Acorn
3 Cornbread, Rooster
4 Cornbread, Turtle Eating a Mushroom
5 Cornbread, Soon, too
6 Cornbread, Front Half & Back Half
7 Cornbread, Bluebird in Budding Maples
8 Cornbread, Rainbow Trout
9 Cornbread, Signs of Spring in Late Winter
10 Cornbread, Flicker
11 Cornbread, Kingfisher
12 Cornbread, Double Wahoo, a wildflower
13 Cornbread, 3 German Brown Trout, 2 Gray Squirrel, 5 Quail
14 Cornbread, Bobwhites under a Red Oak
15 Cornbread, Wild Tom
16 Cornbread, Chicks
17 Cornbread, Dominique Chicken
18 Cornbread, Persimmons at Night

It was as obvious as Black Bear in the Full Moon.19
Sandy wore his Pink Heart20 on his sleeve for you, Christi.
His love for you was like Buster After a Mad Ground Hog21 ,
like Muskrat Love 22 , Overlapping23 the intense desire
of a Large Mouth Bass After a Brim24 .
That’s some kind of special love, right there.
As beautiful as a Tiger Swallowtail
in the Joe Pye Weeds at the Lake at Juno25 .
Yep. Leave it to the Beaver 26
to bring you two together. My favorite
married couple, always there for each other,
spreading love on Willard Mountain,
like Two Catfish27 in Camo28 ,
hiding from a Raccoon on a Cloudy Night29 .

19 Cornbread, even if she wore Persimmons at Night
20 Cornbread, Pink Heart
21 Cornbread, Buster After a Mad Ground Hog
22 Cornbread, Muskrat Love
23 Cornbread, Overlapping
24 Cornbread, Large Mouth Bass After a Brim
25 Cornbread, Tiger Swallowtail
in the Joe Pye Weeds at the Lake at Juno
26 Cornbread, Leave it to the Beaver
27 Cornbread, Two Catfish
28 Cornbread, Camo
29 Cornbread, Raccoon on a Cloudy Night

Day 15 / Poem 15

prompt: write from the perspective of the first flower to die in a bouquet 
i’m sorry, my friends 
for being the first to leave 
it’s just this cross of quiet comfort 
we so selflessly provide 
has left me 
tasks stacked upon our stubborn stems 
this water doesn’t feel fresh anymore 
from it, no more life to pull 
our vase, now overcrowded 
i think i’ve done what i can do 
so slowly
i leave you 
knowing my job is finished 
i have given all i’ve got 

after Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”

I’m Somebody! I thought, at least
that’s what I hoped
then I started 
laying down boundaries
defining the scope — 
Yours, his, mine.
I headed down paths
asked and answered
all along;
meaning unraveled 
on the vireo’s wing,
in the air of its song. 
So, then,
I stopped, sat down
on an existential log
revised and reviewed 
leaving, meaning,
the primordial bog. 
I found myself waylaid, 
while the sun sank.
Songbirds got silent,
creatures came crawling 
from the dank. 
I’m somebody, I whispered,
out loud to the deep, 
to the ink of the trees 
asleep on their feet, 
to the bat and the cricket
and the burping frog. 
Is another day promised? 
Worms and grubs 
as I fell asleep on my log.

The sign on the gelato case reads: no samples–
all flavors are true, which makes me wonder 

again about truth. And whether flavor is a truth 
to be reckoned, an objective reality. Contrary 

to popular belief, your whole tongue detects
it all–sweet, sour, salty, bitter, savory. So I get

to thinking about cilantro–how Heather says 
it tastes like soap; I don’t sense soap in the salsa, 

but I believe her anyway. It’s more than truth 
I have to contend with here; it’s also stracciatella,

its lovely shaved chocolate in a field of vanilla 
& Fior di latte, a simple staple. I can’t even 

get into cioccolato, all of its possible nuances
milk, dark, orange, mint. By this point, I am a mess, 

hovering over the fluorescently illuminated freezer
in the crowded bakery. It’s hard to trust a stranger’s 

truth–to know, really know how this sweet cold will 
touch my tongue, how my mind will cipher its signal. 

not to go merely
but armed with what you know
now against 
what you thought you knew
then, I might even pull through!
who knew?

At the intersection of two busy streets,
near the university, at the point
in the night when the bars would close,
I could sit on the carpet next to the window
and watch the collisions and their aftermath.

Like a cat, I lived nine lifetimes
In the two and half years spent
In my old apartment, and any one
would make a novel. Randomly,
let’s look at one:

Go inside the brick corridor,
climb the steps to the second floor,
walk to the very end to the door
of apartment four, turn the key and see
the white walls, all bare, the carpet,
tan, builder grade, the rug,
Persian, my best thing, a desk, a shelf,
a chair. In a corner, the rattan trunk
my grandma got me the Christmas
I was twelve, and a chaise, pulled
from a dumpster.

The trunk functions as a table,
holds a lamp and a phone that is also
an answering machine I bought on time
at Sears. The light is blinking insistently,
along with the number thirteen.
Something’s wrong. It’s the evening
of Super Bowl Sunday, and I’ve missed
all the calls saying they are sorry,
some more than once, they’ve just heard
that you are no longer in this world.

after Egbert van der Poel 1600-1700, A Nocturnal Fire

Perhaps it was the poltergeist. Perhaps it was the canola oil. Perhaps I should have implored the
maid to walk the hound. Perhaps I should have let Victoria do the cooking, but she looked so
sweet asleep in her quarters, so drained from the week’s social events, so calm with her pill
bottles arranged just so on her 17 th century marble nightstand.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have had that third martini.
I’ll have my attorney explain to the insurance company that the turkey was an inordinately large
bird and we had been assured previously that the flooring was fire-retardant. It must be the
contractor’s fault. That stupid Mexican or his fat, filthy son, who’s always peeking in the
window of the billiards room then asking to use the bathroom.

I can always do things the political way —a pair of Chiefs tickets on the fifty or a discreet
envelope of spending money —and they’ll see things my way. After all, we’re all adults here and
Lord, imagine if it had been me in the house when the second story came crashing down

Day 14 / Poem 14

mom used to tell tales  
of a tornado 
that waltzed through walls 
of a double-wide living room 
as skies turned nasty 
shades of green
story told so vividly 
i could feel the way the air 
right before the destruction
somehow devastating and 
beautiful, all at once 
i wonder if that’s why you
felt so familiar, every night 
right before the fight 
days of bottled up 
resentment cycloning past  
velvet couch, piano 
causing the crystals dangling from 
lampshades to dance
heads spinning fast
bobbing, like car dash tchotchkes 
it’s amazing the furniture never 
flew around the room before you came 
down, back to earth 
how addicted i was to 
the calm before the storm

when they saw the fish dying
they tried to raise their voices
you know, 
they were just Indians.
They didn’t have a voice.

Who knows what a river knows?
A century after the first dam was constructed,
                              giant Chinook lived on in memory

Dam removal began when my daughter was in kindergarten
To visitors, the Elwha Valley felt wild–

[Trees were the only spectators 
old enough to remember 
when the Elwha River ran free]

People who knew the river well 
heard the silence,
saw a system on the verge of collapse.

When the upper dam came down, the river began 
      to wander and tear,
   carving unfamiliar channels.

From crazy idea to imminent reality:
eight hundred acres laid bare by dewatering–
revegetation specialists outrace invasive plant species,
24 million cubic yards of sediment.
Crews collected native seeds, 
Volunteers transplanted 300,000 starts, 
and one last seed species 
(despite limited supply): 
lupine, known for its nitrogen-fixing capacity.

Reservoir inundated the Klallam people. 
Drained away, tribal members rediscovered 
the sacred they’d lost.

Memory is now a physical place:
a surge of summer steelhead in the upper river 
surprised scientists:
ocean nutrients in the tissue of trees.

Ten years later, once Lake Mills,
our family pushes through a young forest, 
cottonwood and willow, dense thicket;
the smell reaches us before we emerge:
A sea of purple. 

Former reservoir awash in lupine. 

(found in “A River Rewakened” by Jessica Plumb in Orion Magazine)

—-Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River, rife with industrial pollution caught fire in 1969

Deeply, they say, those still waters run.
You never step in same rusty river run

twice–a river slickered with oil run-off. 
At the time, it didn’t matter in the short run.

It bubbled like a deadly stew, fetid with dead 
rats big as dogs, like a twisted salmon run.

It was known–to step in that river was to run an epic 
risk of drowning or burning.This river, city’s life

blood, flames flowing like still waters beneath
& a story that ran away with that city.

Someone takes off, something tries to land,
I lie here taking notes, listening to the notes
in my head, which are the one-and-only song
made from silence. distance, dark—blown
under the eaves, stretching the first moment
of winter into departure, my brother
saying goodbye. I said goodbye to my brother
as if he were bound for work in another land
and we can’t be together one more moment
yet I keep my brother whole by my notes
scattered where the wind or a mind has blown
into one long keening— a departure song,
telling the eaves I didn’t know it was a song
or a wave—sadness for a departing brother
flying with half a dozen turbines blown,
scattering debris like confetti upon the land
as a news anchor reads teleprompter notes
insisting “we’ll be back in just a moment…”
We’ll be together in a matter of moments,
I tell myself, as if memory held a favorite song
composed of guitar, wind, confetti, the notes
on a fuselage keening, a whistle for a brother.
a brother, gone to work, high above the land.
Visage of a brother, red hair wind-blown… 
A doctor confirms depression is overblown,
“If you hang tough, feel better in a moment
which doesn’t include jets trying to land
behind a soundtrack of Immigrant Song
—one of many favorites of my brother,
you know it, after a few notes, a few notes
from a guitar of Page, such well known notes
of an Age, a thousand solos nailed and blown
as if this here were an elegy for my brother
or a way to hold on, for a precious moment
of Rain Song, Stairway, confetti on the land
of my brother, my brother, oh, my brother
I’m afraid, as I defer to these notes,
some sentimental, some half-overblown
I will lose you like a jet trying to land
with seventeen circuits and hydraulics blown
yet Lord surely, it will be over in a moment
before my brother takes off, I tell
him I love him.
he hums a one-and only

There are so many ways to be married;
today’s Times reminds that quick and dirty
is still a viable option.

The rain is assaulting the house tonight,
which increases the sense that this house
is a box. A marriage, too, is like a box.

Elvis was married in Vegas, which
seemed then the height of romance
and is now looked at askance

by most thinking people. Even
thinking people are excited by risky
behavior, though, the turn taken

too fast, the last minute submission,
a final dollar into the slot. I confess,
I do love riding the limits.
What can match the thrill of the last
dollar triggering a hand pay, though
with that comes the taxes?

Thank you for supporting the arts.

Blame the deficit of knowledge for your inability to understand.
All the years you had observed life like a man incarcerated
in a world you thought you knew, never attending the church
of original thought, blind to soul insight.
Now awakened, mind open to explore
alternate possibilities: that existence is a treasure.

And what will you do with this new life, this treasure
chest of opportunities? Now that you’ve begun to understand,
now that you have the time and the means to explore
life from another perspective? You could help the incarcerated.
Bring your knowledge to those in need of insight.
Those who condemn and judge, born into the wrong church.

But you found the right one. Mercy Community Church.
A place that feels like home. A hidden treasure
in the middle of a broken city. A place where insight
shows up as kindness, generosity, hearts that understand.
As if they have awakened from feeling incarcerated
in apathy. Finally revealed, all free to explore.

What if we worked together to explore?
See each other as more than a body in a church.
Could we repair our world? Mend minds incarcerated
by propaganda and societal norms? Like lost treasure
no longer sought.  Or have we given up trying to understand
our fellow man? Tainted by a world devoid of insight.

How might that look? Breaking norms, change. Insight.
As you leave a job, a wife, an expected life…. to explore
foreign lands, travel with a purpose to understand.
Trusting in the protection of God and His church.
Knowing now that your mind is open. The true treasure
is not found in the footlocker of the incarcerated.

You have made bare your life, like the walls of man incarcerated.
Filling brain rooms with knowledge and insight.
Your new mind works differently. Each thought, a treasure
trove for the sharing. Never to question but explore
with kindness, open hearts and ears creating a new church
community where education builds desire to understand.

They may never understand why you want to help the incarcerated.
They cannot hear the call. To serve the God of this church of insight.
Wherever He may lead you to explore, know this. You are a treasure.

Day 13 / Poem 13

i am practicing the art of looking up. 
back resting against hardwood floor,
eyes lifted toward the 
ceiling skylight.  
i take in the vast unknown, 
marvel at its periwinkle presentation 
— the way it juxtaposes the oak leaves 
peaking through the window.
a bold autumn breeze 
invites them to dance 
and they do — leaving stems behind 
and allowing their tiny bodies to be carried away.
they fall, i imagine gently, to the ground. 
no longer visible to me as they 
grow accustomed to a new resting place. 
meanwhile, the white underbelly 
of a hawk cuts across
the cloudless expanse above,
catching my attention. 

*a true story

went back home, to my mother’s church–
her dead now 9 years but no,
it refuses to let go. Wild-eyed,
a young father queues for Communion,
baby strapped to his bride: I know that look.
There’s tired, then there’s the greasy
chaos of parenting, when 100 percent
altruism is not only expected, it’s–

         what’s the word? idk here’s a bag of
bones and blood breathing
good luck– no idea, none, whatsoever–
all the emissions and the asshat advice–
           his eyeballs BULGE
wishful escape pods from the mothership.
Bulletin advisor Martin quips how NFP¹ works         
because life is our cross and abstinence is
baked chicken or, wait what, I don’t freaking know and
“we are expecting child number five now
but we knew it might happen,” Jesus,

now, from the second pew,
I hold my dad’s hand while also
setting Martin’s paragraph aflame
with firestarter eyeballs–

the deacon drones on 
of dogs, generic wisdom, 
and the end of the world (per usual).
There’ll be a second collection,
I guess, for hungry people? 

I dig out my wallet–
The good Christian soldier next to me
cannot wait–
jams down the
kneeler on my foot.

¹Natural Family Planning, ie., the “rhythm method”

My first daughter asks 
me to explain fear
of the number 13. 
She cannot wrap 
her mind around 
the why, so I try 
to explain Fridays, 
the ill-fated Apollo 
mission that never
made it to the moon, 
how elevators, hotels 
& ships skip 13. 
That sometimes 
people need to name 
fears to understand, 
to draw a box helps 
because control matters, 
how any kind 
of container gives it 
shape to see & touch. 
She asks me why, again,
why would you save
darkness in a box
for later, hide mysteries
from yourself? I don’t get
how knowing could 
make a difference

Only when one is alone 
does the mind get carried
away—making the body scared to leave its home
when one is alone, alone, alone
the mind makes  backroads where shadows are grown
for fear to fall in love with the unknown; they‘re married 
under a cold shower of rice, clocking the one who‘s alone 
and the mind that‘s been carried.

I suspect I was nine
the first time I wore stockings,
what we called then the decidedly
less elegant, pantyhose.

Around that time
I became interested in all things,
let’s call them womanly now,
though then, girly. Heels,
dresses, ribbons, and lace,
then to be dressed properly
required the legs encased
in cheap nylon. I felt grown.

Except, my mother made
Something of a deal about it.
There were negotiations
And tears. My father said
It was wrong, and on the drive
In the truck to the country,
most confusedly, my mother
told my brother it was okay
to sit on the floorboard
and stroke my leg. I didn’t
like it, and he said it felt weird,
but we did as we were told.

It was Easter. That meant the
long—it wasn’t long, why did it
seem so long—drive to you,
to our cousins, who lived near
to one another, who lived
differently, on land, big pieces,
in trailers, who went to church,
who were older. To whom
the day meant something,
with ham, and cake, and candy,
and an Easter egg hunt.

I was too old for such things,
I think. Certainly dressed wrong.
Who clambers over fields, in weeds,
looking for prizes, in stockings
and heels, in a dress of ribbons
and lace? You were the one
I always wanted to see. Five
years older, the one with us enough
to see, with liquid brown eyes
I was told you had because
when you’re mother was pregnant
with you she was frightened
by a cow, Terry, it must have been pity,
that had you go in front of me
to point out what was hidden.

Clearing out my closet
Thirty-seven poems
Four paintings
Saying I’m sorry
Two novels
My new will
Potato salad before it goes bad
The memory course I forgot I bought
A bottle of  Monkey Shoulder scotch
Burning what needs burning
That important email
Yesterday’s workout
Hanging the moon (sculpture)
Growing up

Day 12 / Poem 12

i am anticipating the end 
like the first drop of a rollercoaster 
all white knuckle clenching, molar grinding 
fireflies swarm in my stomach 
poised and at the ready  
prepared for bioluminescent escapism 
as my emotions ride along 
the waves of your voice
i panic once i’m strapped in 
and yet, i also fear the fall 

There’s always been 
something between us:
What you use 
to play along.
All these years, 
elegant alibi 
our container: 
mahogany, steel
leather, felt
a date without 
dating, for saying 
wordless things 
in glissando.
Hands off, and still
Maestro sostenuto.

So, you want to know which theropods 
roamed Antarctica & when, which three
flavors make up spumoni, how many miles 
from here to Detroit, how old Diana Nyad 
was when she swam to Cuba, what year 
the original Ghostbusters  was in theaters 
or how much a gallon of milk was the year 
you were born? So many innocent curiosities 
to quench. Attention is the only cost only,
slivers of time where suggestions hover
innocuously in your sightlines like wool 
leggings, alpaca socks, weight loss drugs, 
running shoes with arch support, rolnek 
cervical vertebrae releasers, gluten-free
snack boxes, dog leashes, political stances, 
meal plans, tree planting services, wardrobe 
updates, chandeliers, temporary hair color.

I draw her a glass of ice water, she tosses it
off in one go. Gulp. Ahhhh. Wipe the mouth.
Winds whipped up, oh, those old air eddies. 
And what the trees lost. Leave them out.
My favorite brand of clouds, roaming 
stewards of the land. Hi Gossamer embrace.
Walked about, with a boot full of broken toes. Limp, gimp. Secrets held close till morning.
The brothers stayed up until midnigt, listening to Trower. War. Gary Wright’s Dream Weaver.
The songs he heard in his head. Keep on 
going yet do not try to sing. Good. Peace out.

Dear Composition Students,

You have access to all the great
minds that have ever been.
You don’t have to enter
the library to get to them.
(“In the middle of my life,
I found myself lost in a dark wood.”)

Blogs are not credible sources,
neither are websites.
Anyone can say anything
on the internet. (I don’t think
I should be the one to tell you this.)

You need to seek out valid source material,
which would have an author.
Once you have something credible,
you use the ideas there
to arrive at your own ideas.
(“Good writers borrow,
great writers steal.”)  

It is not enough to read a thing,
you are also expected to think about it.
Every idea, number, word, or phrase
from a source has to be cited.
Everything that doesn’t come directly from you
out of your own head has to be cited.
(I was not enough, myself,
but that I had you to lean on.)
Your writing is composed of your ideas
and the expert evidence you bring to the table
that shows how you arrived at your ideas
and why your ideas deserve to be taken seriously.
(If I made a list of citations for all that I am,
it would move you indeed.) 

Dear God,

Please let him look like his pictures.
Or if he doesn’t, then Lord, please
let him at least be tall. Not too tall, like Frankenstein tall.
But definitely taller than me in my red heels-you know,
the ones you led me to buy at that secret sale at Saks
after D-bag3 dumped me. Well, ghosted me anyway.
Then sorta secretly moved in the middle of the night?
Why the hell would he—?
Oh. Sorry!
Sorry God. Jesus. All you guys.
But hey…
You know there’s a hell. Right?
We’ve talked about this.
Like, all the people you’re sending there for me?
Okay, cool.
What’s that?
I know, I know. Rejection is protection.
Yes, Lord. No. No flood necessary.
Yeah. Hold the locusts.
I hear you. Not a mantra. More like that
repetitive penance thing… on my knees.
“Rejection is protection.”
“Rejection is protection.”
“Rejection is protection.”
“Rejection is

Day 11 / Poem 11

Just Killed A Man  / Elizabeth Howard

I don’t care.
every rocket is a phallus.
change my mind

shot up into space for
reasons unintelligible,
we blow up boys.

i prefer silence.
even after the thunder,
bathe in the abeyance.

80 years, give or take
(mostly take from what I’ve seen)
and this is your plan.

/anyway the wind blows
doesn’t really matter
to me.    mama/

you have to stop   and   look
to see. it’s there.
a wilderness. the space between.

rocks in a jar don’t fill it.
rubble won’t neither.     
every rocket is a phallus.

i prefer silence …
a wilderness…
change my mind

Magnetic Resonance Ghazal   / Bridget Kriner

One day, I am sitting in the waiting room before a breast MRI.
Listening to 2 ladies talk is distracting me from the breast MRI.

One of them is talking about her sons, bragging, all they do is work. 
How wonderful, the other says, I am still waiting for my breast MRI.

Their wives are beautiful; they only cook, clean, & take care of the kids.
How lovely, the other lady says, while I wait for my breast MRI

When the nurse calls my name, she tells me how to undress, 
reminds me, remove your watch; metal sears skin in a breast MRI.

Now me & my thoughts are alone in another waiting room, 
in a paper gown, holding my locker key, before my breast MRI.

I lie facedown on a padded table with a hollow depression near the top.
Metal coils detect magnetic signals to create images in a breast MRI.

This padded table slides into the mouth of the machine, a yawning cave.
The machine creates a magnetic field around the body in a breast MRI.

A person does not feel the magnetic field or the radio waves.
A person only hears loud tapping, thumping, screeching in a breast MRI.

The edge of the table is protruding between two of my ribs when without 
warning the waiting room ladies return to my mind during the breast MRI.

People only think they are happy, but they are not happy. No one 
is happy unless they accept the lord. No one is happy in a breast MRI.

You wonder why you have problems, why you have chaos, why you’re 
not happy. I wonder if I should be happy in the midst of this breast MRI.

Hurricanes & blood & guns— there is too much wrong going on. 
A dye injected by IV makes the tissues easier to see in a breast MRI.

Bridget has been lying still, wondering if she is happy for 30 minutes.
The nurse tells me I will wait 2-4 weeks for the results of this breast MRI.

Versifier etc. / Dennis Mahagan

Your reader is Radar
O’Reilly. Gary something 
something. Opie on Mayberry
RFD, imagining a Cocoon, there is no time
for the sprawling line. Chop that shit
down. Anything more than nine syllables
is aggrandizement —in diametric 
opposition to hope. The eyes glaze over
see? because they’ve had it. Re run on Me TV,
reception going choppy, Quagmire go go
Giggity. Forget 
Bukowski also, too, you were never him, 
and he not
you. Oh perish
the thought. Be blue 
as a sky blowing by, blowing
by—autumn afternoon well nigh
unto winter. Don’t be that guy —
Cummings don’t struggle 
into shoes a size too 
much is happening 
at once, All in all will not 
get it. The multiple giant So 
What. Walk and write and spit 
out the Wrigley Spearmint 
Ron Howard chews. 
It’s bone on bone here. It’s the nursing 
home can you hear? Wax the floor, slip
and fall. Someone is groaning, ear 
to every wall. Snap that shit 
off, Matlock
there’s another calling. Work a little
under the weather. your summation. Mourn 
a little more as you go. 
That’s simple and rhythm
and far enough, Good  Lord 
Byron, Why the fuck on God’s earth
should we care?

Lisa / Anna Priddy

Your little jewel box apartment,
like the snow globe city
you gave me when I left
New England for good, it seems,
exists preserved somewhere,
with its mismatched china,
red sofa and black and white
cat, all perched above who
knows what, a mystery below,
so it seems to float in air.

Lisa, so like and unlike me—
that’s the definition, isn’t
it, of the uncanny—only
you would call and wake us
in the am about a line
of poetry, leading him to say,
“Forty years ago our Lisa
would have been CP,”
which I took to be an expression
of your open enthusiasm
and your good heart.  Now,
my friend, you’ve married,
which I said in class the other day
is the ultimate symbolic act.

Love, and poems, and all
things minute and precious,
put them away so that we can,
when we wish, bring them to light,
examine them so closely,
say, this belongs to me.

Things Men Have Given Me Lately  / Linda Sands

an orchid
a butt plug
an airline ticket
a wonderful meal
a ball cap
a single-store shopping spree
a silk flogger 
a bottle of bourbon
a dance
a tiny pinch from their gummy stash 
great sex
a tiny pinch of their heart
a reason to question everything
their time
a ride home
wonderful conversation
a vacation
sleepless nights
a massage

Day 10 / Poem 10

Thief of Joy   / Brigid Cooley

holds a mirror to my face
without asking. morphs reflection 
into something it’s never been 
      — doe-eyed and glowy — 
then snaps back to reality, leaving 
me to question if my nose 
is overgrown
whether there are too many freckles 
stitched into the fabric of my skin 
Thief of Joy makes a home in my closet
becomes comfortable among
dresses i forgot to donate 
hanging two sizes too small 
asks why i never wear them anymore 
cackles at my response 
reminds me of when 
they used to fit, six months ago 
tells me how much he hates change 
Thief of Joy speaks in simile 
says my laugh sounds like 
someone who’s trying too hard 
that my home looks as if 
a tornado flew around my room 
before he came over 
this guest, so unwanted 
yet so aware  
i am too polite to make him leave 

Traditions  / Elizabeth Howard

It was the FLY Lady¹ who told me
(on her blog which once was a thing)

Ask your husband: what holiday traditions
Matter to him! There’s so much to

Learn in a marriage, in a family;
Rooms empty and fill again.

How many years still seem undone
Without midnight mass

Move over! Bums bumping on the bench seat
Nostalgia has a rosy color, a tangy taste.

New room: pull open the paper door
A house drains like a sink.

Diorama days persist: unfilled calendar boxes
Tingle, but I’m tired. The planning. The prep.

Uncluttered now. Yards of paper snowflakes
Dissolve in an unopened bin.

New room: another paper door.
Folding origami stars past bedtime.

He stops me short of collecting
Bodies off the streets as mere noisemakers.

¹FlyLady Marla Cilley covers clutter, the value of routines, weekly and monthly cleaning, increased self-esteem, and letting go of perfectionism. Her system encourages “baby steps” to develop routines and habits to organize and maintain your home. 

A Rock is Born: Four Cinquains  / Bridget Kriner

Learn to 
think like a rock. 
Things move very slowly 
when you’re a rock. Time’s measured in 

an intrusive 
igneous, crystal 
mineral formations forged in

a sediment 
composed of dust, pressure—
fossilized evidence bone

rocks with limestone parents 
whose beauty comes from accepting 
its flaws. 

PANTING PANTOUM / Dennis Mahagan

It won’t stop bubbling up
—like a hiccup only short of breath,
a dog crossed with locomotive;
scrabbling pause on the steps
like a hiccup only short of breath
rasping in an instant that directs
scrabbling paws at the apex of steps
hunting for what comes next.
rasping instants that only direct
a pair of lungs to go and fetch
the last best hunted breath, always next
behind the whine, this rhythmic rest
from a pair of lungs playing Fetch.
Last best breath that is always next
—from pitter patter to pause,
a hunt for water on a desert Steppe, 
and the best breath is always last/next
catching up to respite, and rest —
a hitch in the giddy up of belt loop
hooked by crook of thumb and pressed
into the hip and waist—inflating
with no choice, none when it comes to breath
—One size fits all
yet there’s a catch
see? and a hitch, climbing steppes
these mere nano instants ahead of Breath
which won’t, which cannot stop bubbling 

Pat / Anna Priddy

For you, I will write one with rhyme
To say it’s not just you
thinking about mind, music, time.

Imagine a Venn Diagram,
intersecting lightly.
On Rittiner Drive, I am

working my way through LSU.
I think you are there too,
working to say something new,

or true, or maybe that just rocks.
We were moving toward
something outside of the box,

that cliché, before it was one.
Tonight, I am so tired.
it is nearly thirty years gone;

I get closer every day
to an eternal box.
I’m still thinking about what to say,

an image that will arrest time,
a music more than mine,
a link to another mind.

Marriage Counsel  / Linda Sands

Day 9 / Poem 9

poem written at writing conference  / Brigid Cooley

colorful people congregate 
in the beigest of rooms 
writing psychedelic sonnets 
across pages, pale 
you can’t help but wonder 
how so much magic 
could emerge from such 
a drap, depressing space.

There is a wide open space within  / Elizabeth Howard

There is a wide-open space within:
               space I have no name for.
It’s a kind of translation — a liquified
Dance floor where the me who is
Seen revels and escapes.
                                                     This is the place where I am.

                                                     The world has a way
Of whispering “It’s all out there!” and
What isn’t more romantic that the
Search? I saw it once when
I was 19, gazing out the convent window
at Pike’s Peak.

I’ve known one or two people

                                                     Then enter
Electromagnetic needs — shimmering
Screens, the endless juke, the promise
Of satiety around every click. I am coming
I am coming Here I come!

                                                      The girl who used to roller skate
                         on the blacktop side street
metal wheels
leather strap        already visiting
the aloneness vibration
                                            Here I come
This is the place. 

The Legend of Rotor Man  / Bridget Kriner

Rotor Fred was a Geauga Lake legend, by all
accounts rode The Rotor from open to close,
thirteen hours a day. Spinning drum, centrifugal force 
stuck you to the walls, while the floor dropped 
out below you–it was the world’s greatest 
sensation & maybe it was, exhilarating 
controlled danger. Everyone, including Rotor 
Fred, would laugh so loud because it felt 
weird & funny & because it was sunny summer–warm 
& easy with joy. Hiding behind the door 
between rides, seemingly to evade detection, Fred 
could be counted on & was an inscrutable mystery 
to me at 10. He had a manual clicker to count
the rides as he went. I wanted to know more, what 
so much force would do to a body, how much
a body could take. I wanted to know why. And 
like any true legend, there were so many
implausible possible reasons to wade through
each summer. Some said he had terrible headaches
and this was the only cure, or he worked at NASA, 
where he became addicted to g-forces; others swore 
he was trying to get in the Guiness Book for most 
consecutive rides on a Rotor. Maybe he just loved
the Rotor more than anything. Anyhow, I heard 
he moved on to the Double Loop, loved again,
reinvented himself. 

D’s Blues / Dennis Mahagan

“…are you able to roam / faster than the lighthouse keeper credits you?”
—Robert Pollard
The backyard was sun-kissed,
better than death.
a sun –
kissed lawn always better
than death.
and he came back the way
he had left.
He came back in a way
he had left.
It was hard, but the sun
was better 
in this yard.
He came back, he came back
the way he had left: 
to take
the kiss
from death. 

Randall / Anna Priddy

The shades between right and less right,
between wrong and more wrong,
were not plain. How could one explain
having not known for so long

meant it hurt to be shown a line
sharp as a Mondrian
separating care from crime
might be there beyond

the fog that was my atmosphere.
In swampy water, I
closed my eyes, held my breath, stayed here.
It seemed best to comply.

UNTITLED  / Linda Sands

I was the blind girl at your magic show
eating peaches in the front row
in my invisible cloak.
No one saw me cracking open lethal pits.

You were too busy on stage.
Swoosh of your cape.
Click of the secret panel.
Snap of the band on your sleeve.

While high above the tented crowd
the son of the fat man shifted
his weight on the creaking catwalk
as he focused a tight beam of light
on your left hand.

You tried to walk me through the trick
months ago, unable to describe light
without using the words of colors
I’d never seen. But I smiled anyway,
and kissed your peachy lips.

Day 8 / Poem 8

social anxiety feels like   / Brigid Cooley

fist lodged 
deep in throat
hard to swallow 
impossible to breathe
spend entire event
figuring ways to 
remove it 
without causing 
a scene 

find the strength 
cough it up 
only for it to 
e r u p t 
swarm of angry bees 

buzzing sounds
awful lot like 
every mistake i’ve ever made:  

  • laugh during funeral
  • poorly worded compliment 
  • that time i accidentally touched my history professor’s butt while walking out of class

i watch, paralyzed as bumbling insects 
overtake room 
no one else 
is reacting 

muster courage 
to call for help
except i drop 
my phone dialing 

screen cracks 
shards of glass 
barely hanging on 
to biodegradable case 
someone get a broom 

can’t take anymore 
jump up, need escape route 
scan walls for exits 
only to realize 

the bugs were just 
my busy body thoughts  
everyone has left 
& i’ve missed all the fun 

Grace gazes at her reflection  / Elizabeth Howard

Grace gazes at her reflection:
mirror smudges her
already softening edges,
fading, graying, frizz.
As if some of her had already
Exited, folded arms tighten,
memories loosen
set free within
crumbling infrastructure.
Ears ring on and on
lento lento crescendo;
Grooves grow–
orcas slip through
the metal soft surface.
More and more she
rides them away into
the deep.

Existentialism in Bachelor Nation / Bridget Kriner

The first question is about being 
here, is whether or not you are 
here to make friends, but of course,
no one is here to make friends; 
they are here to shoot their shot 
at finding love, to make hard choices 
about their  places in the universe. 
To be tested. When there is a date 
card in hand, do you actually have 
free will or are you just another cog 
in the machine?  You wonder 
if the group date is predetermined. 
You want more time & even ask, 
at the cocktail party, can I steal you 
for a second?  But really, can you 
ever truly possess another? 
In the fantasy suite, you wonder 
if love differs from desire, if love 
lives in the brain or the heart.
In paradise, the process works, 
but obviously, it’s hard to accept
when you are blindsided & confused, 
deep in the suffering of being
sent home. Even a prayer 
to the paradise gods cannot 
always yield simple answers, 
cannot help you find your person,
the meaning of life. Remember,
you deserve to find love, even 
if the bloom is off the final rose 
of the night. Will you accept 
this reality? 

RECIDIVIST / Dennis Mahagan

The ignorant came to fortune tellers. They say
over and over, what’s going to happen?
One answer, and it will all be ok.
But the ignorant return. they say
there’s a need to know—of coming days.
Patience of ignorance, a brocade unfastened
and to soothsayers, to a man they say
look man, what… is going… to happen?

Twig / Anna Priddy

Memory like a long ago
dream, a Jefferson Square
palm reader said that we know,
have known, will know and share,

How many lives? A large number.
I wonder about the next.
And the ones I don’t remember,
And mostly about the first.

For me you are the one constant.
Did we decide on that,
Or did something turn our infant
Worlds toward each other?

After the Poet Speaks to the Crowded House / Linda Sands

He knows to step to the side,
and bow politely,
showing us the top of his head.
How it shines.

For forty-two minutes,
he’d spoken of his youth,
his influences, his loves, his yearnings.

How he had to learn
to speak slowly. 
To write smartly.
To avoid adverbs.

Now, when he speaks,
his voice commands the room,
From his mouth words float, flood, fly,
spewing the finest of literary

We love it. We love him.
And he loves us. All of us.
Men and women.
Young and old.
He would bed us all,
this shiny, pleased poet
standing beside the podium.

And yet, the man who
stood behind it
a moment ago?
The one who shuffled
his papers,
stacked his books,
sipped his water?

That man would
rather be hermitted
with his thoughts
on a distant mountain.

His adoring fans
singing his praises
well below.

Day 7 / Poem 7

morning view / Brigid Cooley

a gentle fog settles on the horizon 
its wispy whiteness turning 
autumn trees into shadows. 

i observe this morning motion
with quiet wonder. peace momentarily 
interrupted by rooster’s crow.

inside, my world has not yet woken 
still stuck in that groggy state 
found just before the dream ends. 

i take advantage of this slumber
wrapped in borrowed blankets 
with breakfast perched atop porch steps. 

almost entirely alone, save for 
the midnight cat pawing 
biscuits into my naked thighs. 


out beyond qualms  / Elizabeth Howard

another day in the studio
breaking in shoes:
capezios cut her heels but Cora
dances into pain’s desires,
emboldened blisters. She wants to
form each sinew into story
go deep within rhythm, let
human afflictions unravel as
iridescent vibrations: she’s
jarred awake now. Tiptoeing along
kettle drum reminders,
links in choreography yank at her,
meddle with her concentration–
no. that’s not it, her torso
objects, feet pummel the floor; now she’s
passed through the rough spot, out beyond
qualms. She leaps into questions,
raging with untold myth, drenched in
shared secrets, like poison.
Time dwindles, a waltz anticipating
unlucky partners. Cora sends
vine arms out searching;
waves of sorrow rise as
xpression cools, solidifies–
young hearts beat wild, but how
zeal fades in time, in time.

Color of Noise Abecedarian / Bridget Kriner

Auditory range among human animals includes
brown noise—low rumblings from a distant waterfall,
continuous thunder in an adjacent town, or waves
deep from the center of the ocean. Blue noise
emanates in a hiss from a garden hose—a high
frequency kind of white noise, as in city streets
gleeful & gaseous, sneaking in an open window, 
hum of heavy machinery. A white noise generator
is popular with parents who want a baby to stop crying &
just fall asleep, though only a fantasy in those early days.
Kids can hear higher pitches than older people; 
length of waves is shorter in higher tones 
much like cymbals crashing or birds chirping. Pink
noise is random & lower frequency, in fact: equal energy per
octave is how it is defined technically. Pink is perfectly
pleasant–balanced even–a babbling brook, a light rain.
Quadraphonic–or surround sound can be any color
range, it is really about the position of the speakers:
surrounds the listener in a square. Red like blue hisses–
televisions, computer systems, & radios all
ubiquitous in modern life. Red is a type of brown, while 
violet noise starts high & increases–or an inverted
whir, opposite the spectrum to brown noise, which decreases. If
xanax were a sound, it might be pink or green. Interestingly,
yellow is not a type of noise that has been named–
zones on this continuum eventually blur, like watercolors in rain. 

UNTITLED / Dennis Mahagan

There’s a light, arriving like a mistake
to blind the eyes,
a pair of pyres on a lake
outstrip the channel distance makes
from outer space, meteor-sized
light arriving like a mistake
across trillions of  miles of space—
light that gathers, never dies —
so sayeth this prayer of pyres on a lake.
Each breath a year that light makes, 
the pitiful year that flies
away, only to arrive as a mistake
—a cold feeling one can’t shake
without Prozac and alibis
of pyres on a lake.
seen from shore, light like a figure eight
of fireflies, and more fireflies
drawn to the arrival of mistakes
without a prayer: these pyres on a lake.

Veronica / Anna Priddy

In the first grade,
on the first day of gym,
you sat beside me
on a dusty blue mat.

I think we lacked
proper shoes, you
too nicely dressed
and me otherwise.

I remember a print,
repeating, of a house
on Pooh corner, a long,
red ribbon in front.

Your glossy brown hair,
open brown eyes, shiny
Mary Janes. You were
Too much for me.

How do we fall in love?
Someone told me once
that we see something
of how we want to live

In the beloved. That
seems right. In the scuff
and the shine, the running
on the gym’s floor,

where the children
seemed too fast, too
loud, too physical,
we talked till the bell

and I loved you, when
the walk to the lunchroom
seemed long, the library
overwhelming, the path

Between our houses
frightening, I thought,
one day I’ll have a daughter;
I’ll name her for you.

Afterword in 4 Parts / Linda Sands

Part IV.

After she took my twenty bucks,
the palm reader adjusted her grip
on my right hand and aimed her I-phone
flashlight at the creases in my flesh.

I watched her lips, the furrow
of her brow. Felt her sharp,
pointy nail as she
calculated my life in lines.

Before I could speak, she said,
“You’re a writer,” as if it was obvious.
As if I hadn’t spent fifty years on earth
with this same damn palm trying
to figure out what I should be doing
in this life. And where I should be doing it.

It had never occurred to me to simply ask,
“What am I?”

Day 6 / Poem 6

mary, did you know?  / Brigid Cooley

– after wild geese, by Mary Oliver 

that wild geese scare me 
with all their freedom 


the way they glide
from cloud to cloud 
never bothered 

by rules of gravity 
your thoughts
so cleverly painted 
across empty word canvas 

an invitation simply to be 
yet i find them unsettling

conundrum, contemplated 
as i stand on the 
precipice of forever  
dress, white as a goose feather 

i am asking 
is it true

                            i do not have to be good? 

the wrecked thing  / Elizabeth Howard

Angry people aren’t all that popular.
When someone explodes,
the air empties of humanity:
souls vanish;
breathing’s left
on hold while
the wrecked thing
(troubled, still smoking)
gathers its skirts and handbag,
somehow, and stumbles
out of the way.
My oh my!
Tornado of relief
as the door rushes to close.
Laughs wobble about
while forms materialize,
solidifying in watery union of
what the heck
was that all about?
Someone passes ‘round
judgment cookies
with amnesic tea.

Daylight Savings Pantoum / Bridget Kriner

Last night, we fell back in time 
resetting clocks & adjusting our body 
reclaiming a borrowed hour 
is a zero-sum game

resetting clocks & adjusting bodies
nowadays the robot clocks change 
so just a less visible zero-sum game
of sleepy kids, confused pets & car crashes

nowadays the robot clocks just change 
except for the one on the microwave 
kids & pets can’t tell time with clocks, only bodies
it’s like we cut a foot off the top of a blanket

while the microwave clock is still blinking
clocks used to wind, they had to be turned
then sew the cut foot back the the bottom 
to claim that we have a longer one

Last night, we fell back in time
reclaiming time we forget we lost

Passage / Dennis Mahagan

Sleep, for the pleasure 
and the respite
only, —not escape, nor rejuvenation 
but to simply pop
the bubble of the burden of learning
how to live or 
it’s alternative…
a stinging damp cavern or hall, half remembered.
Negotiated on all fours, some penitent
scrambling into prayer, this crazy crawling 
and the call-and-response
babbling of a toddler,
a traveler.
Through a spinning iris 
of starlight 
you are summarily sucked 
into the last dream 
of a gleaming kitchen 
with sparkling 
chromium appointments
—where your best friend from high school 
smiles at you —as if from the other side
of the ancient snow-covered 
he stands there and strums 
an open E chord on a strapped-on 
Martin acoustic guitar. 
I know what you’re thinking, he says
(think Rob Lowe or Tim
Matheson smiling that same old smile 
from Study Hall) ;
but I’m not here to talk you into 
or out of 
Pick out some
Zeppelin, any Zeppelin at all, 
and we’ll sing.

A Start / Anna Priddy

There are stories I have
dined out on
would bring you to tears,
plus some I’ve never told.

One from Grimm:
A baby is born
to a young couple,
poor. Nearby, another,
elderly, have a daughter,
age sixteen. She dies,
struck by a car while
awaiting a school bus.
Bereft, they approach
The young father
with a proposal: they
have five thousand
dollars and a new

It is easy to make babies
And hard to make Thunderbirds.

Afterword in 4 Parts / Linda Sands

Part III.

In high school, I tried to unlock
the secret job that was meant for me.
Certain it wasn’t hawking
record club memberships at The State Fair,
or tying newsprint PennySavers
to doorknobs as the sun set.
I took the test that told
Keith he should be a janitor
and Kathy, a teacher.
Everyone got teacher.

After English class,
Mrs. Brody pushed
an application in my hand.
“Go to Wellesley. I’ll get you in.”

Before I understood
what she was offering
I wished I’d understood
what I was giving up.

Day 5 / Poem 5

rainbow poem   / Brigid Cooley

i sign my name in red ink 
lick the seal of an orange envelope 
the sun shines yellow rays across my skin 
as i walk, buttoned in green, to the mailbox 
i hope this letter doesn’t find you blue 
rather, relaxed: painting toenails purple 
and sipping spirits, clear 

It all started with amplexus  / Elizabeth Howard

after “Noli Me Tangere” by Traci Brimhall

Traci recounts her time killing frogs 
to the flavorless conference room–

how her hands dripped with guilt as they suffocated in bags;
how she invented an Aussie lover;

It’s ok: you can tell lies in your poems,
and you can stitch them together 

like Frankenstein
like I did with 

STI-riddled tree frogs 
in Queensland, murdered under a sexy Latin title 

hearkening an epic Spanish novel 
by a Filipino activist. 

It all started with amplexus,
but that wasn’t quite right.

Traci chews her club sandwich, 
unspooling her Power Point as if it were 

a quilt sewn of her own dresses
and her ancestors’ hair. 

She loves us as much as her serenading stockman, 
so she makes a generous pour of an hour 

for this smattering of gray women in
Conference Room 20.

How to win / Bridget Kriner

Throw paper; some people
often lead with rock.Throw rock 
against other people; some
people lead with scissors.
Switch your move & assume 
they won’t throw that move. 
Suggest a throw in explaining 
the game. Use hand gestures 
to suggest a move. Explain rock 
beats scissors using scissors
instead of rock. Gesture, 
then use the scissors again,
explaining scissors beats paper. 
Prepare to throw rock. Play scissors 
in the first round. Switch moves. 
Announce your throw. Tell them
you’re about to throw rock, 
then throw rock.Throw paper  
if your opponent gets frustrated. 
Throw paper for the statistically 
superior move. When you’re at a loss,
throw paper. When you’re lost,
paper. When you’re unable 
to speak, paper. Grief, paper.
Want to know, paper. Light it up,
paper. Burn it to the ground, paper.
Write a poem, paper. Read 
a story, paper. Make a wish, paper.
Paper is the safest way 
to go.

FOG HORN / Dennis Mahagan

There’s a light, arriving like a mistake
to blind the eyes,
a pair of pyres on a lake
becoming one light, arriving like a mistake
to warn travelers on a river in full spate;
to warn us away, yet stay within its guise
of light arriving, like any mistake
in time, and so blinding the eyes.

Brass Ring / Anna Priddy

At the bottom of a deep water, glittering
Were the things of which I were afraid:
Money, good jobs, the overtly attractive.

The anger at that first pretty boy
Climbing as the car climbed
That winding way, past horses and gate

To that house, alone, high on a hill
With both elevator, loving family,
Rooms with baths and balconies,

As if his good, innocent face
Were not hard enough to take.
That night, crying, said repeatedly,

You should have warned me.
There are places I cannot be, things
Not meant for me, just out of reach.

Afterword in 4 Parts / Linda Sands

Part II.

Before the gig at Le Meridien, 
I bible-dipped the phone book and 
got a job answering calls for a company 
that gigged your pay if you had to pee.
Before I had to pee, I had to read 
whatever scrolled the screen. From 
landscape services and pool cleaners
to specialty healthcare providers, 
I was never the voice they were after.

Unlike the job at Great Expectations, 
the precursor to Internet dating, where 
my bodiless voice as smooth as French
cognac, read the pitch
designed to convince thousands of sad singles
that we had exactly what they were after.
Eh, de rien.

Day 4 / Poem 4

ode to the dress up box  / Brigid Cooley

portal to perfection 
freedom adorned with frills 
stuffed to the brim with 
8-year-old daydreams 
& garage sale dresses 
i would like to 
make a home inside 
this imaginary wonderland 
castles made of cardboard 
i used to turn the 
hall into a runway
dressed to the nines in 
oversized button-downs 
& shoes three sizes too large 
childish fantasies formed from 
mom’s graduation gown
dad’s old trench coat 
oh, how we used to create 
such makeshift magic 
out of mediocre life 

I had no mother / Elizabeth Howard

I’ve noticed her for the first time,
her watching over me. 
I’m resting on undulations 
at Punta Cana–
her breaths are 
the tide nudging the day. 
I’m spread eagle on the
Bends of the surface– 
For a moment, 
She and I together 
Re-make reality;
I close my eyes against time
against the insistence of tomorrow–
I lay here and wonder
what the gull knows as it
Does nothing, 
feet dangling,
lolling upon crests. 
I had no mother
(not like this)
one who saw me,
one who didn’t count
my heartbeats 
against me.
I lay back and rest, finally.
Up above the moon watches over,
Half wink but attentive.
This is the first time I’ve noticed her.

Nix v. Hedden / Bridget Kriner

–1893 Supreme Court case decided tomatoes are “vegetables” and not “fruit”

The tomato hides its griefs, 
heirlooms without a home, 
a fixed botanical meaning. 
Speaking with a plum 
in your mouth, you equivocate 
about semantics–
tomayto, tomahto, you say
no matter how you slice it, 
let’s call the whole thing off. 

Today, I slipped up at dinner, 
called a beefsteak a vegetable.
Etta said, It’s a fruit, mom, 
that’s a truth. And she’s not wrong, 
but more so, I can’t explain 
all the ways truth withers 
on the vine of facts, how 
its heart squishes out 
gelatinous seeds, 
how it is eager & fragile 
& prone to rot. 

Of course, there’s a history
with tomatoes. with meaning 
& knowing. How the fleshy 
ripened plant ovaries 
denote fruit, connote veg. 
Nightshades parsed & diced 
into evidence, Webster took 
the stand—pit peas against parsnips, 
carrots  & eggplants, cucumber, 
squash, peppers. It’s a savory
fruit, a fruit with ambition.
Potato, potahto. You need 
an entire life just to know.

REASONABLE RHYME  / Dennis Mahagan

Morning fears the afternoon. 
Wait right here. 
Be back soon.
A will to live, 
it’s been assigned,
walk in the city 
in the icy
Time is so strange, now and then
it’s been arranged
for us to spend.
No matter.

Forking Paths / Anna Priddy

Every way there is you.

Turn toward the hottest climes,
And I am writing these lines.

Let what was satisfy,
And we are a triad, holy.

Walk further, faster, and
Tow-headed babies on sand.

Way leading to way, gates
Closing behind, turns of fate

What cause, what effect
We know not what we do
There may be no path,
But every way there is you.

Afterword in 4 Parts / Linda Sands

Part I.

Before I was unlocking the doors
to a San Diego gym at 5:55 a.m.
after handing a sandwich to Ron
the homeless guy who
preferred to be called Dude,
I was serving cognac
to four rich men sandwiched
in a hot tub at a French hotel
on the island of Coronado

Before the hotel manager,
who preferred me to Cherie
realized that the only French
I knew was bonjour and
Remy Martin Louis XIII.

Day 3 / Poem 3

beautiful thought / Brigid Cooley

and do you think 
we should 
try again?
it’s a beautiful thought, 
but it’s not 
one i care for anymore.

my heart / Elizabeth Howard

I want my heart to grow even wider:
What’s the metaphor that works?
Not the deep canyon.
Not the unknowable sea.
Not the speckled night sky going 
on and on infinite.
What’s awake but not sleepy,
open but not naive?
What’s warm but makes way
for a cooling breeze?
What’s truthful and lean
and kind and sharp,
worthy and imperfect– 
full, but with space:
willing but wanting?
What is the metaphor that
works, that takes it easy,
but refuses to give up?
What’s that thing that 
knows love is heartbreak
and that heartbreak is 
life and that life is
this moment and that
this moment is
all I really have?
i want my heart 
to grow
even wider, but 
I’m busy 
doing living things, and
thinking I’m not 
loving right and 
second guessing which 
way to steer 
the skid.

On Saccharin & Lab Rats / Bridget Kriner

Uncle Walt meticulously constructed reality, appeared 
in the wilds of Anaheim & hollered through billows 
of cigarette smoke, uproot that tree & move it 3 feet 
to the right, perfectly indifferent to what had already 
taken root. Haranging beleaguered builders & arborists: 
make the river deeper, the giraffe’s gait is not just right 
enough. To fashion his vision, kick down the walls of perspective, 
place incarnate spenders inside his assembled adventure, 
he bulldozed flora, displaced the fauna, poured cubic yards 
of concrete for days, built lakes from scratch, erected a 20-foot 
wall to keep outside out—a precise replica America, right as rain
& then a little more to the right–so what if water fountains ran dry,
he said to herds of bona fide humans traipsing miles along
oozing asphalt paths, aboard his sinking steamboat, buy a pepsi. 

ANOTHER GHAZAL  / Dennis Mahagan

mornings we dive back undercover. what’s felt, what is owed. To warn others. to warm others.

climb a ladder, splint the gutters.
Fingers froze. one rung snaps. Then another.
Here’s something—when starved buy Tootsie Pops. sugar bulb, gummed to nub. Eye others. 
Such promise, yet little panning out.  One audition waltzes in. a waitress. next. Another.
Warm over kitchen stove. Stomp feet on
floor, rub hands, chips of flesh. one, to another. 
In L.A, escalators run only down. banisters dissolving, into teeth. Step by, each other.

For Hadley / Anna Priddy

The light on the roof across the way
Indicates the evening coming.
You’ve called in tears three times
This week. Happy daughter,
Who as a baby always smiled,
Now nearly a continent
From home, I cannot make
You content or stop the tears
From coming. I’d like to say
That in the long run this will
Not matter, it’s just a hill
In the way of a climber, and
You know how to climb.
It’s not what you want to hear.
You don’t have access to
The long view, but I do,
And it’s you, happy once again,
where all the good things are.

BE THE OCEAN / Linda Sands

You are a pond.
I am an ocean.
You are a crappie.
I am a shark.
You are bugs and
frogs and muck and mud,
the annoying grass
that tickles and tangles.
I am dolphin, tuna,
the glorious marlin
you’ll never catch.
I am the crashing wave
thundering in,
smashing the shore,
sending you adrift
into the mouths of whales
dying to

Day 2 / Poem 2

less – a Golden Shovel/ Brigid Cooley

the more i gave, you’d want me less – taylor swift 

i sleep on the floor, shivering in the 
doorway, empty space in case you need more
we aren’t as pretty as before, you and 

wilted, like the rose i gave
i think it’d be brave if you’d
just leave. it’s what you want

i suppose your solitude soothes better than me
i suppose you couldn’t love me any less

you / Elizabeth Howard

who is this person?
the party throbs around me
I know you, I say to myself
as I snake my way through
the bodies, the clattering.
even as I wonder, you
appear and disappear
among shoulders
and hair flips — I’m interrupted
heyyy omgggg
embraces of the familiar.
I edge away, lean into
the table as I top up
the memory isn’t real
I try to picture you–
you’re here but
I’m lost–
I’m in the way–
jostled aside,
tables legs screech
everything sloshing.
someone stops the song
a gulp of silence and
a groan.
music slaps the air again 
YAY! I close my eyes and
disappear. You are

Attempts to Classify / Bridget Kriner

My body is this obstinate domestic mammal,
burrowing into layers of fear, consumed 
by its shadow youth, once bright with resilience, 

now devouring alchemies of fiber supplements 
& multivitamins. In the pink today, but this knee, 
these eyes won’t be squatting to squint spines in 808s 

section of dewey-decimals at the Noble Rd 
library. Now just 613 or 614–promotion of health,
incidence & prevention of disease. It helps to know 

the specific stages of wound healing: inflammation 
leads to proliferation, then remodeling. Better to know 
whatever needs knowing, to claw through the flesh 

of facts. Too often, I wander off to random shelves, 
skimming through fossils of 560, onto cold-blooded 
vertebrates in 597, habitat of the axolotl whose  

smile belies its endangeredness. Mane of feathery 
gills, skin that breathes on land–little bodies that
regenerate dorsal fins, lidless eyes, limbs, hearts, brains.

November  / Dennis Mahagan

Some time after dawn
the sun does its best
but the trip from the east is long,
as if twilight were already beyond
the purest imagination of long Johns
and burning noon, the dispatch of frost
patch after patch sometime after dawn
we shiver, knowing the sun will do its best.

Working on College Applications with my Kid / Anna Priddy

I’ve read more lines of yours in the last week
than in all of your eighteen years, 
watching you work so hard to break
away from me, my baby, my last. Tears
will come when you go and silence
will reign in this too-large house, the only
one you’ve ever known. I glance
backward and there’s your nursery, 
I look forward and it’s only this dog, me,
a computer screen, and what I can make
of words, and the rest of my life, 
when the best things I’ve made are gone.


How many years of her life were wasted needlessly perfecting golden masonry skills?
Adhering to caution lights and yield signs, passing on the left. Signaling. Signaling. Always 
staying in her lane. Even in the fucking roundabout. Circling. Circling. How many minutes
whiled away proffering false niceties to strangers? How many hours of face-lining forced
laughter and plastic smiles? How many enduring days filled with banal, congenial,
repartee with neighbors who left without a goodbye? How many months squandered
with immature lovers blind to compass, roadmap, sand in an hourglass? If only she’d
tallied her misspent life, she could pass through those gates abacus in hand demanding a
refund of time. A chance to speed through yellows, cross the tracks as the arm lowers,
park cattywampus, rip up citations, make that U-turn regardless of the hour. And maybe,
one time, walk away unscathed from the heap of burning rubble on the wrong side of the road.

Day 1 / Poem 1

what is dead / Brigid Cooley

have you placed marigolds on the altar of us? 
nestled between your best harmonica,
my favorite books
and do you wipe the dust off
clean the cobwebs
every time you walk by
are the items on the side table 
forgotten, the same way i lost track of
your birthday, you ignored my questions
or do you attempt to keep what once was
alive, at least one day of the year 
beg the autumn chill to breathe new life
into this corpse: relationship 
whisper of a word 
that used to mean something
but now 
is only a ghost

Goals  / Elizabath Howard

am i awake?
this is the first goal of today–
to become alert
to welcome the day–
what goes on the to-do list?
I draw imperfect ink squares
alongside items needing
completion so that the day
will feel complete or,
maybe, so it will be safe. 
bills, groceries, 
what is the correct speed
to travel? i hear myself
ask as the dog and i 
take the usual sniffari
around the subdivision–
i get annoyed at 
her pulling, her curiosity–
it interrupts 
my target heart rate; 
neither of us seems to
enjoy ourselves
when i’m counting steps.
i have goals
but how?
the day keeps breaking itself
into moments, and into
tasks, and also 
wishes, and tiny rewards,
and meals to be planned
and made.
am i awake, i wonder 
as the day sinks away
again and 
I feel myself

Pilot  / Bridget Kriner

Did a girl falling from the sky kickstart the plot
or it was a dark & stormy night or did you awaken

from a dream about a two-galaxy merger 
where an orange question mark pulsates

amidst a field of stars? So many ways to prologue, 
so many once upon a times, so much exposition. 

In an opening pan, the gaze of bird descends into the outset, 
sets a Fichtean Curve in motion. Cut to you 

cloaked in the bliss of dramatic irony as the old phone 
rings, the ignoble caller inside your house or the part 

where twin wolves approach the gate: 
hero & villain, redemption & contamination. 

You cannot feed them because you cannot name 
them or bend your own arc towards denouement. 

NADA GHAZAL  / Dennis Mahagan

We have been acquainted with the mustard sandwich. And fashioned from TP,
cotton and Scotch tape, a very frayed kind of bandage. You hurt? … it’s nothing.

The cold begins to sting. A drummer’s high hat goes zzzzt … numb phat…ring

and she was. Her brown eyes, hippie hands, ponytail, a totem. My Mayan.

Smoke clearing, yet you can see your breath. Steam/mist from mouth, nostril 

tendrils with no origins. Walk by, a plate glass cracks. Too-bright shard shower.
checked your limit? It’s no sin being broke, breaking, broken. She whisked a big broom to the driveway, might say sweeping up a storm, yet that’s only a part.

I’m awake, don’t you worry. Sun hanging like plantain, so low, hey, might we do

a Do Over? Gracias. de nada. gracias poor tambien, ,,, de nada.

Not what we were expecting, wrote the worms on our sidewalk. The kind 

of cursive makes one shudder. Buzzards break their circle, overhead. the squall.

 Water / Anna Priddy

You cannot swim in the same body twice,
nor move against, sidelong, the same tide when
the rushing moves as the rushes move, you
may find yourself, held securely and still,
until the difference between the water
and you is negligible, is all but
gone. And yet, elementally, you are
not the same. You move in all the water
the same, and suffer a sea change in each:
not the water, not one with the water,
not ever the same, never even you.

Anti-love Letter #6  / Linda Sands

You are like the drake in the pond.
Aggressive in your approach.
Making your choice known.

Until I am caught in your vortex.
Made dizzy in your presence.

Mesmerizing me
with your colorful tail feathers,
you dip
your strong, hard beak
in the scummy water.

Sending rings across the surface.
An offer I can’t refuse.

And then
you’re climbing on my back,
forcing my head underwater,
jabbing me with your clawed hallux.
Worming your way inside.

It’s death,
unless I submit
to your fertile corkscrew.

So, while you do
what you need to do,
I think of other things.

How there might be eggs.
How I will starve to sit on them
in a nest of feathers plucked from my breast.
How few will hatch.

How I will never be alone again.

How together we might explore this farmer’s pond.
Dipping into coves,
sluicing through grasses and rushes,
feeding on mollusks and fishes.

How you’ll be my mate,
father of our ducklings.
Protecting me from other drakes,
and the teeth of the black dog.

I imagine those teeth sharper
and more cruel, than your lamellae
currently clamped on my neck.

Before I can imagine more, like
us making house in the dead tree,
keeping each other warm all winter…

You finish.

I am released with reluctance.
Unclamp, ungrasp, pull out,
slide off.
You disappoint with your
graceless dismount.

While from the murky water
I rise
shaking and flapping,
clacking my bill,
clearing my nares.

Filling my sacs with air.
Until I float higher than you
on these hollow bones.

In this fading light
my wet head and dull feathers
are the perfect backdrop
to your iridescent dome.

Gleaming, impossibly blue,
now green, now blue.
Everything is brighter
in the aftermath of your conquest.

Here in deep water, all is forgotten
as we perform the mallard ballet.

Choreographed by genetics,
we glide across the pond
bobbing our heads in unison,   
breaking the surface tension as one.

While below,
my webbed feet paddle double-time,
as if I could outswim
the blood in my wake.