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 will 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.
To read more about the Tupelo Press 30/30 project, including a complete list of our wonderful volunteer poets and to read their poems, please click here.
The nine volunteers for August 2014 are Linda Cooper, Dana Delibovi, Jennifer Stewart Fueston, Christine Hamm, Kevin D. LeMaster, Michael Metivier, Daryl Muranaka, Rosanne Osborne, and Anna B. Sutton. Read their full bios by clicking here.
Please follow their work (by clicking “Follow” on the bottom of the page), and feel free to acknowledge their generosity and creativity with a show of your admiration and support by donating on their behalf to Tupelo Press. (Click here to donate, scroll down to the form at the bottom, and put a contributor’s name in the “honor” field.) Just imagine what a challenge it is to write 30 new poems in 30 days!
If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your offer, a brief bio, and three sample poems and warm up your pen!
Day 22 / Poems 22
Geyre / by Linda Cooper
Two elderly men, long beards,
chat and smoke beneath a fig tree
on a Byzantine bench. Another man rests
an elbow on a giant marble face.
Little girls link arms to circle
pedestals and boys kick
a ball through a giant arch.
Cottages are built around
columns, and a horse slurps
water from a tomb
box. Life always passes
like this. The extraordinary
waxes ordinary before our eyes.
It takes an outsider to show
us what we cannot see
and later, to uncover
what is buried beneath the surface.
Somerset Manor Court / by Dana Delibovi
Climb the hill and there, in the setting sun,
perch mansions, dropped too close and akimbo.
One French Provincial pile; one sugar-spun
Victorian; a faux van der Rohe;
and a couple, just American, with grey
garages smack in front like watchful eyes.
This cul-de-sac, all dovecotes and porte-cocheres,
this realtor’s juggernaut—once it pledged the sky.
But now the curbs hug hopped-up trucks with dents
and trash cans brimmed with baseboard and TVs.
The goods of empire, yanked out of vanity,
junked in flight. Under a hand-drawn placard—
FREE—a stove awaits the families who will rent,
a gift from those who know that scribbled word.
Midlife / by Jen Stewart Fueston
My own words have
left me, I
nest in others’
or gather scraps
of sound that
flew from my own
throat when my
wings were different
The Year of Purple Unicorns / by Christine Hamm
We can’t translate this rhyme for you:
We don’t have the vowels.
Grey on gray on grey: the clouds,
the sky, and the water below.
Our tails twitch in time to the low-
rider’s beat. Sometimes purple becomes
gray and the reverse, depending on
the time of day. We are plagued
by the bites of lightening bugs, just
as horses and goats are tormented by flies.
At noon, we are two inches tall, a small
quandry for the crossing guard. At five,
we are the size of houseboats, our horns
great masts as we float above telephone
wires, brush the tops of trees. This is
the year of no irony, the year we learned
how to finish a pas de deux with just our eyes.
Onion / by Kevin D. LeMaster
it is still layered
despite its lack
peel it back
and the same story
I don’t find it
when I chop it
it’s just easier
sometimes the story
makes me cry
but then so does
at the very end
when they shoot
this broken promise
to be more than
you are just as dull
as everyone else
seems to be
The Third Adolescence / by Daryl Muranaka
In the third adolescence, he finds sadness
at the bottom of the pint glass, wisdom
in the seal on the whiskey bottle, regret
in the eyes of the woman who liked him
too much when he couldn’t be ready
to let go, not of the mysterious woman
he got carried away with, but by this time
to be young as he’s growing older
and fatter, wanting food he’s never had,
wanting wine that pounds the inside of his
head, wanting women he will never know
in any sense of the word. This is his
time to be free, to be wild, to be.
He is, at thirty, finally not afraid
to pass out on the couch, spill tequila
on the floor. He is not afraid to waste
his life on riotous living and embrace
the nightmares of youth to exorcise them.
Gathering / by Rosanne Osborne
The sound of late childhood plays at our funerals.
–Richard Powers, Orfeo
Concentration on the deceased, casket open
below the altar, is minimized, all but ignored,
as conversations waft about the evening wake.
Occasional eyes are cast that way, to be sure
the dead stay where they have been assigned,
no surprise stirring or resurrection. They prefer
the dead to know their place. Eyes averted,
folks huddle in the pews in forced talk
of the rain, the crops, family changes since
they last gathered. Then, not wanting to seem
too eager, they stray in two and threes toward
the kitchen, careful that the dead not realize
they came for the fried chicken, turnip greens
and cherry pie. They side-step the plastic
face changelessly locked into its own take-home
box. Filling plates with potato salad, ham,
casseroled squash, and field peas fresh
from a fertile garden, death is deferred
to that other room, that sanctuary marked
by stiff life, fake makeup and careful hair,
the lingering fear of might have been.
Port City / by Anna B. Sutton
If you could forgive the palmetto bugs blanketing
the slick rocks under the dock, the dog shit left
to shrivel on the salt-washed wood, a man emerging
from below, mud-stained to his shoulders, a cage
of crawfish and a look up your skirt, once, a body breaking
at the end of the slips, face bloated and mercifully
turned to the reeds, the Riverwalk could be lovely—
If you could keep your eyes on the current, the clever
lilt of little whitecaps that belied the rush, the dip
and tuck of birds on its surface—In Tennessee, you knew
the Cumberland, Mississippi, muddy hunger widening
with every rain. But the Cape Fear is a filament, a wick,
Atlantic finger digging a road into or out of Carolina.
Day 21 / Poems 21
Dinar / by Linda Cooper
“Turkey will abandon a traditional agricultural practice in order to make a significant
contribution to the well-being of the world.”—Richard M. Nixon
purple and white poppies rise
from the soil generous faces
open to possibility opium
begets embargo begets a
tenure of tension the poppies
do not understand sugar
beets and cherries need
a lot of water now sightless
sunflowers reign in the land
of thick cheese and creamy
yogurt why must the children
drink powdered milk?
Dragonflies / by Dana Delibovi
Every leaf important, every wing a world—
That shimmering July day, when the burnished
Dragonflies crisscrossed my back lawn,
Casting tiny shadows that zipped across the grass.
So I stood on my porch, shaded by an awning,
A sweating glass of ice water in my hand,
And watched them zoom from hydrangea to fence,
Uncomprehending. How do we share one world?
Coleman / by Jen Stewart Fueston
The propane can feeds fire to
the summer night, a cotton net soaked
in rare minerals becomes a little sun
the forest splits to orbit. You think
of Moses’ burning bush consuming
not consumed, lit up from inside. Or
of Charon’s lantern swinging in dark
caverns down below. But nothing
so portentous or so grand, this is ordinary
dark. The lantern breathing in and out, like
a well-loved dog’s attentions at your side.
A moment of concentration, the match
sheltered in your hand, threading through
the lantern’s ring, a whir of gas, the hum of heat
collecting in the glass. In common act of
making light, you chance combustion.
Brown Horse with a Paper Horn / by Christine Hamm
A girl and a man twice her size comb
through a windblown field, their faces
sad, her skin a broken out map.
You with the eggs taped under
your shirt, you with the collection
of sheet music and filthy fish tanks,
this is where I fall in love with you.
Nothing happens in the right order.
The lost girl is never found. The small
girl grows up small, surrounded by
animal-shaped mirrors. All good things
happen in reverse – we start to forget
to feed our former fish, grow tender for our
violin-enhanced future. The problem starts
when the girl disappears at the 7-11, or right
when her penguin scarf is found.
Morehead Kentucky, June 1900 / by Kevin D. LeMaster
The talk around town, we were up to no good.
Great-grandpa alight family honor to prove.
The drinking continued further into the wood.
He rode all night without sleep, without food
with bottle in hand his mule dappled gray.
The talk around town, he was up to no good.
His demeanor was mean, he was vulgar and lewd.
As he came to the place, he began straight away.
The drinking continued further into the wood.
He wrestled him down, the brawl it ensued.
A cabbage sized rock, his hands raised to the sky.
The talk around town, he was up to no good
Words from their mouth, a curse would include.
A murderous heart he wouldn’t surely deny.
The drinking continued, he was up to no good.
As shots broke the day, it changes his mood.
And he falls to the floor, bloody holes in his back.
The talk around town, he was surely no good.
The drinking, it ceased, body dumped in the wood.
Webs / by Michael Metivier
Only here, and nowhere else I can remember,
starting in late summer when corn stalks flirt with amber
and steam rises from the river every morning
and thoughts reluctantly turn to burning
wood and even snow-shoveling, I can see the webs spun
between telephone wires along my drive to work, the sun
glancing off the dew on their proteinaceous silk,
one after another after another, each round as a yolk
and for miles. What better place to set a trap,
a home, than such a glorious, precarious keep
where every car-strewn fly has a decent chance
of blowing in by accident, sweet happenstance.
I wonder how long it takes the spiders to amble
out, how they agree on their turfs without stumble
or war, and when it was they learned this trick
in the past hundred or so human years, to walk
the narrow path so clever, and how I never
knew their grace before, but now am a believer.
Birds / by Daryl Muranaka
sparrows float down
wings outstretched catch the air
and are warmed by afternoon sun
searching for crumbs
under the benches
the faster one eats
the nervous one watches
no songs, just chirps
to no one in particular
unlike the Kauai roosters
crowing in the dark
at the clucking rivals
sauntering too close
to the little brown hens
My Mother, Who Dreams of Turtles / by Anna B. Sutton
Once, an angel held her when she could not
sleep—this is what my mother tells me when I wake
after another night terror. This time, a tarantula that fell
from the damp crater of my hand to the sheets, as real to me
as any hiss of tires on the wet streets outside. The doctor
said that what I could see—bats diving for my hair, river
gators scaling my dresser—were signs of a healthy imagination,
would pass. After all, the spider was mine for a moment before
it toppled to the mattress; I was unafraid until I couldn’t feel
its tufted claws feathering my skin. How foolish, to think
I could keep it close—a cameo, an heirloom. When my mother
dreamt of turtles, it was a baptism. Like the myth, they lifted her
across the thatched raft of their backs and carried her away, sunk her
in the Potomac, the Chesapeake, the little creek that ran behind
her childhood home. One night, afraid to die, my mother stayed
awake, taunted by the song of her siblings’ soft breaths. She tells me
it was an aura that weighted into the edge of her bed like her father’s
work-weary frame, like a hand blanketing hers. She tells me about peace,
promises rest. Returned to my room, I stir myself from sleep
pleading to my mother’s ghost—find me, come, quiet these animals.
Day 20 / Poems 20
Caravanserai / by Linda Cooper
Merchants travel with their wares
on camels in caravans, eyeing
the sun as it melts
like butter into the horizon, when roving
bandits emerge from the burgeoning
moonlight. Imagine the gooseflesh
rising like individual stars. The suspense
that builds beneath an unturned stone.
We all hurry toward refuge, hoping
not to be the ones left out—
alone in the dark. The moment
the thick rock walls are
spotted—their high arched portal
and promise of a cool courtyard,
full belly, slaked
thirst, and a safe
place to rest—the sellers
are home for the night,
until the sated
moon releases them once more
to morning, the lingering
road, and the pursuit
of sunlight for as long
as it will offer illumination.
Trim / by Jen Stewart Fueston
Sharp snap of the limb cutters cleaves
through apple wood, its soft strength
fraying as I twist the shears, I remember
how my mother made us weed,
reminding us of proverbs about sin, how it grows
without our noticing, requiring constant efforts
to uproot. I hated weeding. Always thought it futile
to resist — the weeds had mastered
every needed thing, except the way to file into rows.
Shaping the apple tree I grieve the fruit
shed unripe on my lawn, fruit that bent the limbs
to touch the ground, not willful but extravagant
fecundity, merely life overflowing its bounds.
Letting the Unicorns Decide / by Christine Hamm
When I was 12, I became one, but not the best
kind – my coat always matted, my tail a tangle
of twigs. If you were a girl, and not a collection
of weasels and wire, you would have loved
my sticky mane, my myna bird. Girls can fit
very well into garbage cans, but why should they?
All the teacups can barely hold our random
aggression. Girls perch on roofs and clotheslines
and TV antennae just as well as moths or slugs.
The feminine is no excuse for fallen snow or
missing teeth. This story was originally titled:
“Break in Case of” or “Spoonful of Sugar”.
Tulip / by Kevin D. LeMaster
the tulips have organized
they keep us in deep suspense
things they don’t want to tell us
tortured blooms that keep secrets
tickle nights ear while we sleep
they close tired eye at first light
tempting us to slit their throat
Evil-Lyn / by Michael Metivier
Grim hulks with insect eyes, lizard tails
and bat wings, golden fists and green fangs—
I buried them all in sand,
lowered them with shoestrings from the top bunk,
risked their rubber necks afternoon
after afternoon with only blunt
battle axes and tiny, improbable swords
to defend against catspaw and cat’s paw alike,
but not my sister, who promised me
she’d play but never did, even when I spent
my allowance on a barbarian woman
with glowing lemon skin, hands sculpted
perfectly to wield a tall staff topped
by a ram’s skull, just for her. The day was always
growing late, the phone rang, or some
half-remembered chore clambered over
the crenellations and called her out
of the playroom as Evil-Lyn stared after
through unblinking purple-shadowed eyes,
knees forever unbent, staff idle and unbloodied.
The Wisdom of the Master / by Daryl Muranaka
We want to be enlightened.
We want to be emboldened, reassured
that the blending spirit is love
and peace can come to everyone.
So you watch us struggle, wrestle
with each other, forging our bodies
by striking them against each other
like madmen, swirling and twirling
around the room. Then you say
that the world is broken, slipping into,
nadir, strangled in a fog that wraps
around us like a naked choke.
What you saw so long ago that you want
us to see, to understand, was that the heart
of the disease still was rooted deep
in the veins, in the pulse that beats
beneath our feet, that courses
like blood through our streets,
that the impulse those college boys had
to rub your head to steal your luck
had merely changed clothes
and upgraded its gun.
But you stare at our blank
confused faces that don’t comprehend
that this is your great commission,
that we need to be the surgeons
to dig out this cancer from our hearts.
Preaching the Shine / by Rosanne Osborne
Soul-polishing was the family business.
–Niall Williams, History of the Rain
So, that was what was wanted
when the preacher asked us
to open the doors of our hearts.
With that big white handkerchief
used to mop sweat from his brow,
the church growing hot and steamy
as the revival rose to its climax,
he intended to reach right inside
and give our sinful souls a snap
of the old polishing rag, matching
the shoe shine that my father paid
two bits for at the barber shop.
Friday Mass / by Anna B. Sutton
Ceremonial gymnasium—two hundred children lined up
like empty cups on the yellow-wood bleachers that folded
open from the wall like a fist, released. The smoky bite
of incense pouring from the censer never could overcome
the pervasive sweat of adolescence; buzzing fluorescents
drowning out the sound of the penitential act. From my place
at the back—where the unbaptized lot tended to settle,
rooted in our original sin, out of the way—the scriptures
were a crow’s song. Come spirit, flame tongue, sacrifice
and a list of demands. I watched as my schoolmates held
their mouths open for the body. Once, we were allowed
to take an unblessed wafer, to feel the way it melted
against our palates, down our throats—how I wanted
to understand the taste after the word was made flesh.
Day 19 / Poems 19
Harbingers / by Dana Delibovi
In the reeds, snowy egrets skitter—sign of the fall.
Are these acorns the runes to cast a sign of the fall?
The grass undulates and hisses by the cindered trail.
Morning dread, despite coffee, is a sign of the fall.
Malign now, the dew blackens the sage to its roots.
Cloaked in myrtle, the school-bus stop’s assigned: it’s fall.
Go ahead, set some goals; buy a new notebook or two.
False hope like that, Dana, no clearer sign of the fall.
Renovation / by Jen Stewart Fueston
Up on the roof of my neighbor’s house men
balance and perch, shuck shingles like husks. One stands
on the apex watching, from my vantage seems caught
in the arms of the birch. They hammer
rhythm into soft spring air, cleaving old tar flaps
from the plywood frame then fastening again. The way
each spring the birds renew their nests with bits
of string and newborn grass. We make and make
new by turns with hand and hammer, by beak or
tongue, by pen, or, sometimes, tomb.
The Flesh Failures / by Christine Hamm
Is there a word for the oily amoebas
that swirl across psychedelic ceilings?
You were missing that tooth and I had too
many. Before you left for Turkey: so many
hundred dollar bills in your shoes you could
hardly walk. I picked the wrong guy to sell us
drugs. Fainting unicorns & diamond-eyed
fairies & constant, constant swirling fluff
in the wind meant to look like petals.
October: a cross between a “my little pony
party” and having my fingernails set on fire.
I didn’t really understand what “boyfriend”
meant, so I applied it to everything, including
my socks and bra. I cried, shivering, naked,
out on your roof. Nun-chucks. Popcorn.
Metal guitar and constant mandolins. We ate
Schezwan until we vomited in the taxi. King
Crimson, Zepplin. We stole perfume from
the dollar store to fix the carpet. You forgot
to ask me in. Our sound track was unreal –
after that, we hardly ever had to get stoned.
You carried a hump on one shoulder, so you
walked like a crab. I had a hole in my head,
so I walked this way.
Garden / by Kevin D. LeMaster
it’s starting to rot
the leaves and vines
being choked by morning glory
I feverishly harvest what is left
like a migrant worker
getting paid by the piece
the fruit is only half ripe
they line my window sill
until none of them can
get their piece of sun
the rest are hollowed by pests
they taste sweeter around
the bad spot—sickening sweet
sometimes we eat it anyway
life is a lot like tomatoes
you cut out the bad
and swallow the rest
and try to keep it down
Nantucket Sound / by Michael Metivier
On the slow ferry, car- and truck-loaded ferry,
trying to access a memory
that’s not my own. Epigenetic, birdsong,
one moment of 1/32 of everything
I am on this bay, headed toward a blade-
shaped wedge of glacial moraine, understood
to be where my ancestors married
at the meeting of their parlous roads. Ferried,
my way is cake compared. The tulip festival
is this weekend, the whale
feted, not boiled into lamp oil, and the beach
is for basking after the long winter. Oh this ache
I’m not sure why. I have a few of their words,
some photographs, more than history affords
most. But most of the time, I just want to sit
with them, hold each of their hands—quiet—
and watch the birds spiriting wildly on and off
the island. That would be enough.
Midpoint / by Daryl Muranaka
At the end of the summer
we come to the midpoint
of all things, the fade
into autumn and the clean
bleakness of winter, before
the new spring arrives
and all renews again.
But at the midpoint
of my life, so much rises
and falls, less like a cycle,
more like a tide, sometimes
hiding, sometimes revealing
the life below. Little life
growing, while old life pulls
back and sadly withdraws
into the sea or lies gasping,
marooned on the shore.
Pedagogy / by Rosanne Osborne
But somehow the teaching saves her from herself.
–Niall Williams, History of the Rain
She waits until the final bell to begin
like the grey tabby stalking the red bird
among the bobs and twitters beneath a feeder.
Her calculated spring may startle the flock
but she’s only interested in the crested tuft,
the slyly intelligent ones who standout
against dull grey minds, concentration
hardened by the determined scratch
for kernels of truth. Her drone in the closed
room transforms itself, an insistent call
to migratory paths of meaning that entice
both clutch and gaggle, dull and gleaming.
First Love / by Anna B. Sutton
What we called love, I call a dead jellyfish crusted
in gray-gold Atlantic sand—something children toss
at each other once the birds have carried off the poison,
long ribbons dripping with salt and venom. What was touch
is the length of the Blue Ridge Mountain’s tubercular spine.
How a park bench in November was your hand, each unrelenting
plank refusing to give. How my body looked elsewhere
for softness—to the black dirt, the ryegrass, finally,
the ocean. Middle Tennessee reached for coastal Carolina
in the bed of my truck. The tidal hush of feet in an empty house—
I never understood ownership until I left you. Then, everything
was mine. The old mattress tucked into a back room—mine. Mine,
the small collection of flatware. The rotting deck, the salt
in my nostrils—mine, mine. When I walked the shoreline searching
for the jagged cut of a dorsal fin, I found one—a six-foot
shark circling the breakers. And then, she too was mine.
Day 18 / Poems 18
The Cats of Ephesus / by Linda Cooper
In Managua, it was dogs
who lined the ruins, alleyways,
trash bins. Curs, their rib
bones curled taut to skin.
Their eyes shift and settle
low, evidence of hard scrabble
and boot. In Ephesus, feral
cats, clean and clear-eyed, round
bellied, trot along marble
paths, splay their long legs
in the sun near the ancient baths,
sit regal on empty pedestals, form
their bodies into C’s around
the cold marble feet of statues.
They own the place
and the tourists, who
search daypack pockets
and purses for something
to please them. Cleopatra
and Mark Antony honeymooned
along these very streets. She
brought a gift of fresh
kittens to the great city.
Their progeny, living on
treats, field mice and pride,
like the great queen,
continue to claim the land
where they walk
and the hearts of those
who are useful.
Twin Sons / by Dana Delibovi
for John and Joe
Tell me, how can these boys with long, straight legs
have started out so bent, sliding from me curled
after so many months twisted time and again
upon the blunt arc of my bones? They run
now in rumbling steps that shake the kitchen floor,
kicking their feet behind them without care,
and just as thoughtlessly pumping their arms.
No caution guides them or tamps the energy of limbs
weighted no more by a baby’s dependency.
Can these two, dashing through the house, be the same
two things that once lived only if I lived, too?
I was stronger, I tell you, before these boys
began their long, long race away from me.
The Hidden Life / by Jen Stewart Fueston
Refrigerator buzz the loudest sound
midmorning in the school-day neighborhood.
Electric wires feed through underground, branch
house to house, light windows, all our glowing
eyes. The garage doors curtain up and down. New
babies sleep. Cars pass by on arterial
roads beyond the fence. In spring yards grasses
tinge, a little fearful yet but trying. Weeds
stake claims already. Aspen grow shaggy
caterpillar beards like scales over eyes
not yet rubbed open. The locust tree sprouts
thin red slender arms, and in the mind of
apple trees a pebble lodges, thinking
bloom. Within suburban dirt vast larvae
warm and listen, grow ears and eyes, and wings.
Haiku 1 / by Kevin D. LeMaster
The day the joke died
there was no other answer
Rosh Hashana / by Daryl Muranaka
At the Thruway rest area,
the smell of cow
drifts across the highway.
You lean in, resting your head
on my shoulder.
“It smells like home.”
We’re only an hour away
from where your mother is
setting out crackers and cheese,
from where your father is
kneading the lekach dough
that clings to the hair on his arms
because the recipe,
your grandmother’s recipe,
is missing a step.
I’m not coming to meet them
for a cultural education
in apples and honey,
in candles and challah,
or to take the salt shaker test,
but I come to add you,
as your parents add me,
to add a new New Year,
to extend a family that has
already survived, already grown,
and now building to thrive
in the next unknown.
The Hat in the Frame / by Rosanne Osborne
We are our stories. We tell them to stay alive or keep alive
those who only live now in the telling.
–Niall Williams, History of the Rain
I never knew my mother’s father.
He remains a figment of imagination,
of half truths kerned between stray comments
and the smudged photo in the black frame.
I peer at the black overcoat and see
that it’s not as severe as I had thought.
Coat and legend merge in mother’s
resistance to his rigid creedal zeal.
No Santa for her, no tree or tinsel
to soften the harsh Missouri winters
or the judgmental moustache, bushy
beneath penetrating eyes, grim mouth.
I reach back in time and place the red
on white Baby Ruth in her grubby hand.
Egg / by Anna B. Sutton
Twin yolk trembling in the glass crater
of my little mixing bowl, good luck
to some. Two marigold orbs, delicate
as grief—to most, it is the happy herald
of pregnancy; elsewhere, a double ovum
can be an omen of death. Looking down
at the pair—one couched in the other’s
soft flesh, membrane spread and narrowing—
I consider leaving them, setting the bowl
in the cupboard until the twins sallow
and dry. Instead, I carry it to Jacob, trimming
the overgrowth along our fence. He shrugs
and tells me it’s no miracle—a young chicken
learning to lay or an old girl in a hurry. Deflated,
I return to the kitchen and pierce the tender skin
of the top yolk, watch it weep into its other.
Day 17 / Poems 17
Theatre at Ephesus / by Linda Cooper
Along the lane lining
the great theatre, the biographies
of the gladiators are chiseled in stone.
The script is large at the top
and becomes smaller at the bottom
as the carver ran out of space.
What could he say about a life
lived in combat? There was no
gold nor great jeweled
wife. No creations. Blood
lines ending with a progeny
of pain. What of the etched marble
once the wounds were found
mortal? In the graveyard,
only the bones speak. Nicks in the
vertebrae. Trident in the
skull. Signs of wounds healed
and repealed. Fractures
made by a heavy hammer. What mercy
dwelled in the last deadly blow?
Strike / by Dana Delibovi
I admired all his trees so much
that it upset from across the yard
to see how lightening split the trunk
clear down to where the roots began.
It could have struck the thing it did
or what, by minutes, it had missed:
the tree that bore gold fruit each fall,
or, pruning it, my neighbor.
A promise, after / by Jen Stewart Fueston
A bee interrogates small flowers
on a red-leafed bush
blooming along the walls of the shop,
an ornamental set just this side of wildness.
We have forced the river back into its place
where once it raised its head
to swallow all of us, the shop,
the red bush, and the bee.
The bee just raised itself and hovered
waiting the recede of waters,
our wrestling boulders into altars
Now he angles thin wings downward,
bowing over now-dry ground,
seeks a new bud,
and resumes his work.
Chronicles of Violets / by Christine Hamm
We saw this film half a dozen times with your closest friends.
I ended up with a life-sized poster of a woman tied to a pool
table, the details spelled out in jagged Italian. I used duct-tape
to seal my dorm window so no one could hear us. “A love
letter’s a bullet from a fucking gun”. You said to me twice
a day, when I tried to hold your hand in public. You were
in love with your best friend, and I was in love with the way
you made me feel like an electric monster, mostly with your teeth.
Your best friend drew us one night, me flying in crayoned
white and you on the ground, your face like a crow’s, but with
…………………………………………………………………enormous candy-striped eyes.
Sounds of Summer / by Kevin D. LeMaster
I like the crunch of earth
the dry crackle of parchment
under bare feet
I like the crisp sound of birds
with worms in their mouths
their young hungry
with beaks agape
wanting more than they can
possibly give—feathered pride
keeps their backs breaking
it’s hard being a parent
the weight of many—impeding flight
scavaging for whatever is found
in the paths of cars
one can never fly headlong
toward the light
Courtship / by Michael Metivier
Just before midnight we watch
a field cricket jump ten times
its chitinous length amid the chorus
of its companions’ chitinous
racket, my hands between
my knees, yours pawing
the gravel. Soon the train
will come and break up
the lamplight like film, the crickets
will scatter in the wind, and we
will bite our lips, wondering
where it came from
and where it is going.
Midnight Echoes / by Daryl Muranaka
Sleeping in the midnight living room
the crick in my neck and the peeping baby
wake me. The glittery gold picture made
of origami cranes, hung over the mantle
peers at me like a giant eye. Groggy
thoughts, wandering about in my head, stumble
towards a similar night, not so long
ago when my phone buzzed then buzzed again.
A text message then another and another.
Who is writing me from Hawaii now?
I thought. And in the distance, a thump—thump—
thump, low and hollow and far away
like fireworks on the Fourth of July,
suspicious and worrisome in April.
Then more buzzing and buzzing and buzzing
some more until I had to get up to see
what they were trying to tell me. All from work
to say “stay away!” on a night when two
boys are on the run. And as I settle
in to sleep, there is a lonely pair
of footsteps echoing in the night.
Shock / by Anna B. Sutton
My hand across tepid bathwater and the image changes shape—a cyclone
of lines, distorted. Meanwhile, a satellite’s discovery: comets that cut
through space like shot birds are not as cold as once believed. On the radio,
a woman says Despite all that is in the news here and abroad…invasive vines
are now known to communicate on a molecular level with their hosts…let us try
not to forget about the devastation in South Sudan. It’s too much. A mind
can realign itself to survive violence—the pain of childbirth, forgotten; gunshots,
misremembered; a body in the street…somewhere close, kudzu is whispering
to a small pine…hundreds of bodies in the street…the makeup of a comet
is less ice, more dust and rock than originally thought. I can’t.
Day 16 / Poems 16
Anzac Cove / by Linda Cooper
My waves break all day
along the whitewashed
steps where you sit.
I’m talking to you.
Put your camera away.
This may be your only visit,
and you will surely leave when the guide
calls you to your bus.
I am lovely, sure, green gems fragment
on the shore, sand and pebbles
gleam. Beach grass. Rosemary.
Not all is what it seems.
Remember me here, alone at night,
carrying all these
memories. The leftover tears
of mourners. O
how they cry. Etched stones.
Fire latent in a bed of
bones. Everything is weighted
and tardy. I have heard speeches—
so many speeches—those are laden too.
On the hill, stands a lone
pine with another memorial. In battle,
boys from both sides died. There
is a bond between soldiers and
peacemakers, who continue to ask,
When will the Age of Conquests pass?
Constantinople 1453 / by Jen Stewart Fueston
Did the Byzantines,
their causeway breached,
a city’s seizure dropping curtain on an age,
think the end of everything had come?
Their empire slipping down
the straight of Bosporus into Marmara
believe, as they rowed way from
bright Sophia’s dome,
the center had not held.
This pin that fastened
heaven’s blue-gold to the folds
of earth had given way.
Did they think as highly
of themselves as we?
Who suspect our own diminishment
Not just a decampment of wings
out over the waters. A form
that will settle on another branch
nestle in, and breed.
From Giving up the Ghost / by Christine Hamm
The backyard, a field of muck and tires. The hound dog huddles in his blackened shack, too preoccupied to howl at your head lamp after midnight. The wind and then the rain. I wasn’t sure if we were burying your alter-ego or digging her up. You said the antlers in the bucket were part of you, asked me if you should burn your necklace, the one with someone else’s name. I asked you to share your needle. You turned your head to hide your smirk, and your lamp lit up the tree above, leaves wet and shining.
My Writing is not Berries and Flowers / by Kevin D. LeMaster
There is no sun today—
just the gentle pour
The sound rain makes
when it hits stone—
is like when we would
swat lightening bugs
as children with frisbees;
their bodies smash
under the weight
of hard plastic.
I feel the same
when my creativity wains
under the weight
of your eyes—
their heaviness burns a hole
through every page.
The Matter with Kansas / by Michael Metivier
Some people drink two liters of cola a day. Sometimes
I wish I could manage that kind of commitment
toward anything. The Lord’s Prayer
always rankled me—how could a god stand
to hear the same words delivered every Sunday
with that same Episcopalian mumble? Just so
I’ve finally learned what total scams
greatest hits albums are: carrion for wayward sons,
dust in the wind. True love
is the supposed filler, or even better
the songs and prayers and drinks
you make yourself differently every day.
The End of the Day / by Daryl Muranaka
The night comes slowly,
like a heavy curtain pulled
by a little girl or an old man,
the heavy fabric drags
across the stage, tired and limp.
Dusk is gray, orange, or
purple if we’re lucky or blessed.
This is Becky’s time, when she
sits across from me and asks
all the questions of the day
scribbled into the blue notebook
Mom gave her on her first
trip to Hawaii, when I hid
in my suitcase for future use.
This is the time
when we are alone, minus
the sandwich of family.
This is the time I look forward
to, the only time when I
am a man, not a boy or god
of imagination, but I
am me and she is her
and the world is asleep.
Silence / by Rosanne Osborne
What is so fragile even saying its name can break it?
–Siri Hustvedt, The Blazing World
The TV blares to give the illusion
of community in the vacant restaurant,
inviting the disenchanted to join
the camaraderie of the vacuum.
Elevators rise and fall to the antique
chords of ambiguous time, preventing
vapid pleasantries and civilized salutes.
Even the stray cough in the concert hall
is a discordant reminder that music
that once celebrated social bonding,
distances man from man, providing
the center of a vortex that deadens,
dehumanizes. Sound confronts
commonality, loss of the particular.
Parasitic Plants Use Secret Code to Communicate / by Anna B. Sutton
Wrapped around its host
like twine, like ribbon, a weed
can tell a tender branch its fortune.
Tarot molecules mingle and divinate:
external influences, a three of swords.
Next to you in bed, I want
our DNA to dance together. My tongue
was once an invasive species—a vine,
quick shade and slow suffocation. Forgotten,
how I could consume entire forests in a summer.
Day 15 / Poems 15
Dervish / by Linda Cooper
“All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know!”–Rumi
Clear glass bowls the only
light in the room suspended
above the wooden floor. The music
of the ney snakes from tomb to tomb
and Shams is alone in the desert
left for dead with nowhere to go but around
and around like the men in white robes
and coarse hats skirts enflamed like wings
like the minds of those whose love is
forbidded a marketplace filled with cardamom
and honey the merchants
refuse to sell. The circle is alive
and the inner ear is fooled by a certain
tilt as the mind unspools its
longing. Rumi searched for his beloved, found
a young girl dressed in rags. She taught
him what is present in the arc
of silence and the whirling is
like a fever a candle just before
the vanquishing the sound wraps
its golden arms around the pillar, O
the one who sees my soul the child
the poor beggar girl listens as he
empties the whole world
at her feet the heads tilted the eyes far
gazing the skirt—calyx . stars . orbiting
eyelids—the spin and spin until
the world has vanished and the child
teaches the master that to love
one must only open the door.
Domesticon / by Dana Delibovi
Water, the origin, is best, but on its flank
Bleach and Lysol wear the laurels.
Household gods sigh deep in their guts.
The kettle splashes boiling water,
And the whistle sings of bright deeds.
It is a test, to flush out the crud
That burrows in the rill between counter and sink.
Like it or not, science says we are never
More than three feet away from a spider.
Ariadne confounds us with webs
Strung from the high curtain rod
Down to the dunes of school papers.
Power to overcome
Their stubborn entropy
Lies not with that bullish man who feasts
On the meat stored up
In the downstairs freezer.
It is maidenhood
That prepares a woman to care
About dust on the tines of a ceiling fan.
Only she detects
That smell in the refrigerator.
But only silvered Artemis
Can fully remove
Cat puke from a carpet.
Pride of contest
And lemon-scented victory,
Flow from the lyre-strings.
But the gods never leave
Their abacus of worn-down beads,
Clicking off unceasing chores.
Life passes from wash to spin.
Guillotine / by Kevin D. LeMaster
their heads have been loped off
but their petals remain
soaked with the blood
of a thousand raindrops
I try to support their fear
that they will no longer bloom
they know this is their last day
before they are pruned
but they remain erect
staunch and aloof
unable to think for themselves
clothed with dew
they fold up for the night
and pray for sun
Lowell Folk Festival / by Daryl Muranaka
San Francisco hula
troop—a vision of home
in Lowell, MA
I came for music
and not for Jack Kerouac’s
old, gray city
the booths at closing time
looking for extra food
Coloration / by Rosanne Osborne
Before we can name the color we’re seeing, it’s in us.
–Siri Hustvedt, The Blazing World
Our first tears reflect the light in our mothers’ eyes
determining our choices, dictating our preferences.
We squint through eyes unused to the separation
of rays, filtering pigments, the miracle of prime.
We internalize life as the color wheel whirls
and flickers, hues bending and swaying, straining
with the intensity of light, dominant wavelengths
altering, shape shifting, keening our perspective.
My preference for brown was welded into the core
of my being from my first focus on my mother’s eyes.
My gravity was centered as I pulled myself horizontal
grasping my grandmother’s brown duofold. Color
enveloped my soul as my mouth shaped the matriarchal
name, claimed Brown as my authentic birthright.
Gemini / by Anna B. Sutton
A two-headed dolphin pup washed up
on the shore—pink heads split like legs,
opening. Two dead mouths smiling
where I expected feet. A single fin stiff
with weeds. Conjoined couplet—color of
nail beds, early melon—be sure, there are
as many horrors in the ocean as there are
on land. I can’t stand to think of you alive
for even a moment after spilling out into
the saltwater, struggling to swim while
your mother made the grim decision to leave.
I hope you were gone long before then, hope
holding each other close in the womb—inverse
of the ocean: warm, shallow, and sugar-sweet–
a chorus of blood and breath sung you to sleep.
Day 14 / Poems 14
Cappadocia / by Linda Cooper
You wake before first light, load
into a van for a balloon ride. This is
after the cold fear, settled in your spine,
zings your fingertips, heartbeat and the
walls of your throat threatening your
sleep. You are calm now, you believe, and
you can do this thing.
Once you drink sour coffee, and dawn
begins its rise toward daylight, and you hear
the flame whoosh into the pliant fabric, promised
to keep you safe, and you climb into the wicker
basket wedged next to near-strangers—fear
whips you once again. You can do this.
There is still time to get out.
Is it always like this? Does fear dress
in a coat of armor one day and a coat
of nails another? A pause
comes before battle, the moment
of rest or indecision before someone meets
their own death. We cannot live
inside the pause. When you begin to rise,
it is effortless, like breathing is
until after you’ve held
your breath. Higher and it is as if you
are an actor in someone else’s dream—
the tangerine sun is at eye level
and you can pluck it from the sky.
All around you and below, the balloons
ebb and flow, bob and float like
colorful buoys anchoring you to the
world. Below you, the lavastone of Cappadocia,
its spires and minarets, tiny windows
and doors to underground cities
where once lived an ancient people, who
just like you, dug a safe place and lived there
until necessity and nerve urged
them out into the light—
Hector / by Dana Delibovi
No one would lay
poppies or white cyclamen
upon your dusty flesh
had Achilles his way.
But the gods took pity
on your parents, and
had you redeemed
for Troy to burn.
Kept whole by Apollo,
your limbs were oiled
for the pyre of a grateful city,
half-heartedly for you.
The Invention of Color: White / by Jen Stewart Fueston
I grew up reading prairie books of girls who looked like me.
Brown-braid Laura, orphan Anne, British Lucy and her faun
climbing through wardrobes and the Banks of Plum Creek,
up smooth bark of Canadian trees. In 5th grade I read Uncle Tom
for book-a-thon. I got a star, a pizza prize and, I think,
an A. I was always very good at
raising my hand when they called on me.
In high school, I read Ellison and Harper Lee, then went
to university with lots of Swedish Andersons. I took a class
my first term called “Minorities in America,” read Hughes’s Great Big Sea.
Someone said I was the only one who got an A. Next I read the Renaissance,
Zora Neale, Booker T, Marcus Garvey, Morrison. I learned soft ways to
wear my guilt, learned my color through its shadow thrown
against the street. Jim Crow, Brown v. Board and MLK, and how
oh how I wanted to believe I would have
raised my hands if they’d called on me.
I moved around the north and west, then to Europe
where I matched. Taught Beloved (gave some As), and had
a blue-eyed son. Now I listen in my white suburb
to NPR, police reports, from Florida and Ferguson,
say some prayers and drink my tea. The Help
was a good book, I think, vaguely
sad I will not get gold stars for
raising my hands when they call on me.
Note: A Bop is a poetic form introduced by poet Afaa Michael Weaver. It composes stanzas of 6 – 8 – 6 lines with a repeating refrain.
Related Substitutes / by Christine Hamm
As the snow melts, the roof leaks onto my pillows
and shoes. Garden wasps, covered in debris, crawl
in the wreckage, sucking on dimes and baby shoes.
Women are accompanied by their shadows. No one
can be bothered to find a bustle, but girls down
in the valley tie their hair into buns with shoe laces,
wear baby powder on their hands and cheeks.
Nostalgia for the pain of scab root tea burning
my tongue. Water oozing from the sky mural
on the ceiling. My heart is drunk and so tired.
When dresses show wear, they are “turned” (the skirt
taken apart and the top turned to form the bottom)
and refurbished, trimmed with different fabric and coins.
The women are accompanied by their shadows. I said
already. When I step in the snow with my bedroom slippers,
it turns out to be ash. The precious now. You stick your hand
in my robe’s pocket as we walk through the burnt and frozen
grass, but no one is sitting around the table – you told me
everyone was here among the sunflowers, waiting for my entrance.
* Note: the title of the poem and the sixth stanza (When dresses show wear) until the first line of the seventh stanza are taken from a booklet called “’Making Do’ or Substitutions of Scarce Items During the Civil War”.
Cart Corral / by Kevin D. LeMaster
it seems a sort of game
to shove your cart further
than any man
for it to float effortlessly
and bridge those two posts
like a field goal that never
leaves the ground
we shove them the length
of parking lots for a chance
to hit the metal wall causing thunder
to take notice
And a Little Hungry For Nonpareils / by Michael Metivier
I finally looked up the definition of nonplussed
and I must say I’m rather pleased
but at the same time confused:
the word can mean “unsure how to react, confused,”
but also “not disconcerted, unperturbed.” I’d be more pleased
if it were one or the other. Instead, I’m nonplussed.
Rainy Day / by Daryl Muranaka
rain pools at corners
rushes down the street—
nowhere to cross
beneath a tree
mud oozes under my feet
waves stretch towards the edges
collide with each other
the rain drums down on leaves
welcomed with open hands
just before bed
rain applauds in the dark
Animals She Has Lost / Anna B. Sutton
A domesticated raven would wait
for my mother after school, follow her
back to a Bethesda bungalow—home
for the both of the them, for a time. Skunks
with their scent glands removed curled against
her thigh like housecats, until her father decided
to put them back out. She raised chicks
in her bedroom. Once, the soft shoe that cradled
her youngest brother’s little foot landed hard
on yellow downy. An accident of balance,
perspective. A crumpled body, feathers flexed
and matted. When my mother was mine, she waded
through our tragic list of typical house pets—dogs
and cats, gerbils and a goldfish. My sister’s rabbits
systematically slaughtered by the neighborhood
hounds. Does our love always bloody
what someone else loves? The hollow stump
in our old backyard casts the answer in buried bones.
Day 13 / Poems 13
Heinrich / by Linda Cooper
Domestic happiness is the greatest of all earthly blessings. –Heinrich Schliemann
I am a scholar, archeaologist
and merchant. I speak twenty two
languages. I am a wealthy man. First,
Sophia, I have much to offer you.
I am certain that, compared to most, my worth
is greater. Together –you must trust me—
we will uncover rich layers of earth
to reveal Troy as it was meant to be seen.
I offer you fire, Sophia. The golden apple.
A warrior’s shield. Dare I hope you will consent
to love this mortal face, ugly and dappled?
You are young and lovely. Can I depend
on the beauty of youth to clear the haze?
I fear you will be the torment of my days.
Webs / by Dana Delibovi
Out on the patio
late last night,
spiders hung their webs
in the black bight
from downspout to grill.
If spiders hope,
may have hoped
to site their lacework
from the crush of day.
But this morning, I
burst relentlessly out
the kitchen door,
the webs with my
The Invention of Color: Tyrian Purple / by Jen Stewart Fueston
I knew it first from flannelgraph. Sat up straight, for once
it was a woman’s name. Lydia,
a purple dealer, welcomed Paul and sparked
a church with kindling of her wealth. In Sunday school
we did not stop to count how rich she was, or let sink in
the fact she was a merchant and a woman, only
that she was a convert and a Greek. Paul’s step across
her doorway the first step
West. Then Christendom unfurls
across her table like purple cloth, a continent to dye
in doctrine wars and martyr blood, Crusades.
In rose flames licking up the legs of Cathars, Mennonites,
and anyone who looked at Calvin wrong.
But wait. Let’s circle back a moment to this purple dye. That point
where Sunday story holds another turn. A little prod
reveals how rich she might have been. 12,000 sea snail glands are milked
to make one royal toga. Lydia deals in haute couture,
in status symbol, in cloth sold for its weight in silver. Pliny
the Elder explicates in Historia Naturalis the creature’s capture
and extraction. In one account I read extols
the fact their hungry greed allowed them to be caught.
There’s a little irony, I think, to force a plot, something about how
it’s greed from start to finish, enticement, then some money changing hands.
In Pollex’s Onomasticon he links the dye to Heracles
who walked his dog along Levant. The dog fetched back
a spiny shell, his mouth a greedy lick of purple. Or what
the color of the Cretan thread that Theseus unspooled to mark
his way out of the Minotaur’s cave?
There’s the thread, I think,
some line from myth to saint, to science. But the story spirals
like a body whorl, contains itself, accretes particulars and turns again, still
carrying around the Greeks and Romans,
New Testament, Linneaus with a ledger
naming Murex brandaris of family muricidae.
The tale spills open from its shell. Somewhere on a beach there is a first,
I like to think a woman, pricks her finger on the spiny edge and sees
her own blood mingle where its body bleeds, sees how sunshine on her skirt turns
liquid darker day by day, discovers colors do not fade, take on new shades in light,
depending on which way she turns.
Party Animals in the Form of Wallflowers / by Christine Hamm
I am both inside and outside the Hokey Pokey,
depending on what I do with my left hand.
My sister stands shivering near the exit,
yellow streamers brushing her back.
She mumbles as she nudges the punch
bowl: You said we could leave at ten.
You hum, pretending not to watch, perched
on the top bleacher. My gold-wrapped shoes
pull you close. You touch the crown of my head,
where my horns start, as I study my lap. You tell me,
I’ve heard your teeth are undetectable. I offer
you my hem and you begin to chew. You chew
until the whole silk mess dissolves in your mouth,
until I am naked. The gym with its straw hats, congo
lines, fake palms, folding chairs and disco balls
sinks into the beer-soaked sawdust. My sister gets
a ride home early. The room fades to hoof prints
in frost. We are alone in the snow. And this is how
we wed, jaybirds, a bear presiding, the stars like little
forks, pricking then pricking again.
Here Again at this place / by Kevin D. LeMaster
no air moves here
no animal moves inside
of this blackness
of inner toil
of noiseless trees
and birds who have
lost their voices
nothing can be said
the sky’s have lost
the roof that
ducks under itself
for shelter from itself
can I draw you a map
in my clean white shirt
and ironed pants
soaked from your rain
the pain that dissolves
like a sugared mouth
trying to speak truth
September, 1865 / by Michael Metivier
Five days west of Cadiz,
the quarters below too stuffy and skyless
for sleeping, William lay down
on the top deck of the Niagara
as a cow’s cream moon rose up from the deep
underside of the earth, and reflected
on Nature and Home, having spied
earlier that day a pod of whales
tracking north just beyond the shadow
of the sails, chuffing and spraying
attended by a coterie of terns. Such luxury,
he thought and so longed for, to possess
both at all times, he who had been enslaved
prior to the war, who had to author
his own life surreptitiously, to seek
with his own internal compass land
that would embrace him back.
A Walk at the Reservoir / by Daryl Muranaka
gray sky, humid day
watching people make the lap
making thin, buzzes us
when we’re too close
lands in the same place
facing the other way
as if we’d disappeared.
Third Grade / by Rosanne Osborne
Think of it as my own personal Schrödinger’s cat.
–Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Is this your father?
My teacher opened
the morning paper
before my eyes.
I recognized the red
and black checks,
sleeves carefully rolled
above the grey sweatshirt.
The angry grimace
fastened on the mangled
slot machine seemed
to belong to some other
The image haunted
the words of story
like the fugitive ache
of a worrisome molar.
Meaning, an evasive
its clues buried
with Schrödinger’s cat
in pecan and spruce boxes
in Chilhowee’s cemetery.
A Haunting / by Anna B. Sutton
The dog, always trembling, built herself
a den of discarded laundry under our bed—
she bit you once—that’s how I knew our house
was full of ghosts. While you were away
at work, she’d stand at the top of the stairs
and whimper or pace the peeled linoleum
by the basement door until I reemerged. At night,
we’d hear her fighting something furious
in the living room. Hours later, a bodyless
knock on our door. Her terror was gnashing, wet
froth, brindled fur stiff as quills. She didn’t sleep
and neither did I. When we moved, I wondered
what shadows would stitch themselves
to our feet, what creeping dark we’d carry
with us like a box of books, like a bruise.
Day 12 / Poems 12
The Horse / by Linda Cooper
Let us be clear. I was never made of wood.
My great haunches were built of stronger things
and my belly full of more than could
be stowed in the dark. The load was exhausting
like a breath held for too long. Homer was
wrong. There were no warriors. No battle
ready swords. I held dead eaglets. A buzz
from Anticlea’s belly. Smoke from a rattle
of stone. Did Paris believe a golden
apple was enough to win the love of
a goddess? Enough to win an emboldened
city? All great sagas are born above
a mortal’s humble pen. But truth, I daresay,
to a poet is the ghost of heresy.
To-Do List: 7 AM / by Dana Delibovi
Cringe at the shadows cast down by the leftover moon.
On the fleeting chocolate earth, savor some leftover moon.
Stuff the cholera of a paying job into ice-trays.
Sacrifice infectious ice cubes to the leftover moon.
Beg the gods for guidance, and as the last raccoon retreats,
Try to trap Venus in the snares of the leftover moon.
Tally up mistakes, and subtract from peace of mind.
Where to remit the balance that’s left? Over the moon.
Failing all this, fish the grotto of submerged feelings.
Hook green envy, but throw it back to the leftover moon.
The Invention of Color: Ochre / by Jen Stewart Fueston
As salt scrubs into skin I think how this
was the way the body was prepared for
burial. Eyes closed as a corpse I make
this vain attempt at preservation, salt.
Outside, rock the color of dry blood ruddles
sky, earth’s commonest stuff, colors that became
queens in other deserts, hematite, iron
oxide. The ladies at the mineral baths
discuss their supplements, magnesium,
potassium, coconut water. We
spackle skin with fountained mud from a late
oblation ritual of earth. We lie
on plastic chaises in the sun, trying
to take ochre in, trying to dissolve
our separate skin painted by salt, by colors
that we named as most essential. As soon
as we crawled out of mud, we wanted back.
We wanted in.
Three Dreams about Writers / by Christine Hamm
I. You’re sitting bareback on my pony, swinging your long blonde toes with their black toenail polish. You are tall, much taller than me, and when I try to kiss you goodbye, my head only reaches your collarbone.
II. You get up from the bed yourself again, wearing high-heeled boots that make you look like a member of KISS. I say, we both used to cut ourselves, but how come you never let me cut you? You fall down the stairs from the bathroom to the kitchen, bruise your elbow. You lift yourself up using the vintage cart wheels on the wall, whispering, I’m afraid people will recognize me.
III. This martini is stuck to my hand, no matter how I try to shake it off. You tell me, remember what the nuns said– those kinds of thoughts should be kept private. I’m tired of your birds, your stones and water. I tell you that the worst kind of poet is a scared slut: you hiss and spit, high-step around the rusty nails spiking the floor, clutching your bruised elbow. I apologize and embrace you hello, feeling guilty about the sex, because you are only a ghost or a buried book, and I am much too young.
The Moon Rises at Night / by Kevin D. LeMaster
when darkness falls
and lights go on
across the street
I can no longer
when there are
no curves left
all of it rolls
together in rhythm
silently from my window
at some point I wonder
why I’m still watching
this larger than life
fifty years ago
he would have exited
a weight cabinet
but still whole
Morning Edition / by Michael Metivier
there’s a store that only sells luggage
that was lost and never claimed. There are aisles
devoted solely to tank tops. People
don’t get ten feet in
before being completely overwhelmed.
I was happy coming home covered in grease.
In real dollars I made the same
in 1992 as I do now. Someone brought a telescope
every night shift so during meal breaks
we’d look at the moon. It wasn’t that far
of a drive.
Take It Easy / by Daryl Muranaka
She stands, steps back,
hands held out, pushing
open air. “Put your hands,”
she cries, “behind your back!”
But it’s useless, she knows.
I still have to clean
the wound on her back,
change the bandage
so she can get to bed.
When I gingerly place
the gauze pad on her,
she clinches, shoulders curl
forward, back hunched
over. “Relax,” I whisper,
“it won’t hurt if you relax.”
I want to tell her
about the time, as a boy,
ear clogged with wax,
the doctor took a water pick
to clean out my ear.
Relax, he said, it won’t hurt.
But I held on tight, heard
the rush of water, felt
the burn in my head until
Mom held my hand, and I
let go, let the water flow
and the wax fell free.
Oh, how I wish she’d listen to me.
Ten Ways That Elephants Are Like Us / by Anna B. Sutton
I wrap damp fingers around the hem
of my mother’s dress. They unknit
and she is lost to me—I stumble
through the crowd, reaching out.
A bull rarely stays with a herd—
no longer a juvenile, he is shuffled off
in search of mates, wanders between
families, his bloodline a river.
When my grandfather died, his wife bent
over the casket, rested her head on his chest,
kissed him. She wanted to hold his hand, but
his fingers would not come undone.
A bone removed and carried, the elephants
will often lay grass, leafed branches across
their dead. They inter, remember—a mother
that has lost a child moves slowly for weeks.
He says don’t cry, says if you cry,
I will cry. He lays his body close, breath
across my turned cheek. He wants
to understand darkness, reaches for constant.
A flash of color and they might remember
a spear lobbed into their midst. They hold
anger in their gut like a child—let it expand,
grow lungs, and finally, tear its way out.
Weeping, as I understood it, was an expression
of grief. Now, it partners with any swell—a mother
embracing her child in a movie, a guttural laugh,
and yes, a loss—I slip into that river like a sound.
Language is not lost on the elephants—they hear
danger in the way a tongue snaps against
a fence of teeth. In the distance, a finger points
toward the herd and they know then to run.
I try to sign my name with the pen clenched
in the wrong fist, imagine left-handedness—
a world ruled by my opposite. Left-handed, I am
small and quiet. There, I can laugh without crying.
Her face was marked and she was shown
a mirror. She lifted her trunk and ran its end
across the mark—recognized what was wrong
with her image, tried to wipe away the inky scar.
Day 11 / Poems 11
Osman Hamdi Bey / by Linda Cooper
A modest, seaside
home. Pink blooms against a white
fence, Sea of Marmara—a thousand
shades of green. Inside the house,
his paintings, one on every wall.
In one, a sultan in a red
dervish robe and turban,
and wandering— a ney behind his back.
Was he impatient for change?
Did the turtles represent resistance?
The party people of the Tulip Age?
Torture? In one room, a wax likeness
of Osman extends a brush,
pretends to study his work—
a woman arranging flowers;
the woman is made of wax too
and the flowers.
None of these paintings are real,
although the originals exist.
The master is long dead.
The Ottoman Empire is dead too.
What of the ideals?
The new republic artists
A Turkish boy laments
the positions of his peers and their lazy
music, lazy politics. Their eyes cast
away from tradition, respect for the past,
for art, for Ataturk. The old way
become new. His friend, she overhears him,
passionately disagrees. It is clear
that so much is unclear. Wax
can always be molded into something
new. The images in paintings
are very easy to cover up.
Mattress/Pea/Slipper/Wand / by Christine Hamm
You spit in my eye and stutter, there, there, that should stop you you you from feeling sorry for yourself. The spit rolls down my cheek, becomes glittering, faceted – my hands, when I try to wipe the spittle away, are webbed, sequin-encrusted. Again, again, I cry.
You grab me by the ankles, hold me upside down and shake me. Mother wafts on to the porch with laundry, begins to sew ruby buttons up my spine. In the backyard orchard, Sister Princess has treed another ballerina; our dogs howl out of tune, like weeping and furious girls.
A Piece of Sun / by Kevin D. LeMaster
the sun sinks
like a moving clot
the sky’s hemorrhage
trickling past tomorrow
in its yesterday
the dark is the death
of every old sun
stars mark its path
as it rides off
like an old soldier
looking for lost comrades
and never finding them
Turntable / by Michael Metivier
I’m not sorry the turntable’s broken
with all the stomping upstairs
it would surely skip. I’m not sorry
the turntable’s broken with all the stomping
upstairs it would surely skip. The corn
is high and green and I was thinking
of taking an ear or two. The corn is high
and green and why don’t we take
an ear or two. All up and down
the valley the corn is growing so tall.
I’ve been reading about Keowee
and Shamokin too. I’ve been reading
about Keowee and how I wish
it were still around. From here on out
let’s do no harm to one another.
I’m not sorry it would surely skip.
There is a landing where we could catch
the river. There is a landing we could
use to get us home. From here on out
the corn will be green forever. All up
and down the valley why don’t we take
the path down to the landing
or two. I’ve been reading about
Cahokia and Gouldtown and Keowee
all morning I’ve been listening to McDowell
so tall in my mind because
the turntable’s broken with all the stomping
upstairs, from here on out
let’s do no harm to one another.
The Inner Light / by Daryl Muranaka
I got my first apartment
on a “developing” block
in downtown. The super
smiled broadly as he showed off
the space, reassuring Dad
this was a better place than any,
the whole block filled with good people
(except for the hookers
and addicts across the street).
A week later, exploring
the neighborhood, I saw him
down the block, cursing
and yelling, holding
a dog down, neck
and hip, and giving him two
swift, hard kicks.
The dog screamed and yelped
and, when released, ran away,
proving the old Klingon proverb
to never trust anyone who smiles
too much. But then again,
I smile all the time.
House People / by Anna B. Sutton
A weekend spent sleeping in, repotting
herbs in the backyard in a late-summer
storm—constant, gentle. We try to teach
the dog not to be afraid of the wet grass
that needs cutting, not to chase the outdoor
cat, who languishes on a patio chair
for most of the day when he’s not slipping
through the neighborhood, drinking from
puddles. The only one of us unencumbered
by bricks, he lopes home like a drunk, scratched up
from a fight. He disembowels a nest of birds
and brings one to my feet. His indifference
is bloody and insinuating—no matter how tightly
we’ve woven the twigs, we are not safe here.
Day 10 / Poems 10
Cybele / by Linda Cooper
Sit at my feet, daughter, and listen.
I want to tell you something fire and gold.
I am stone, pressed clay, bone,
but I built my throne out of panthers
and a belly full of heat.
Did I not pass you and your sisters
through to the world to rule it?
Gazing into the mirror into another
and another all the way to the beginning,
I see everything and much of it
is lesser, smaller, weaker
than it was meant to be.
You were not born to serve a master.
You are no fool, no dribbling rain.
Inhale the fire. Explode
your words into the world’s ear.
Elements / by Dana Delibovi
Right now, with Saturn stuck in the crescent of the moon,
I’m ready to go out and burn my scavengings of wood.
All spring and summer, I’ve collected branches in the yard.
What storms have littered, I have taken as my own
for August, when I sit on the crooked patio alone
and light up this harvest in my rusted fire pit.
There, I can think my secret thoughts, the ones I hide
at work, at Little League games—wherever it’s bad form
to smell of introspection: That somehow I remain
alive, despite anxiety I cannot seem to end;
that ancient things, like fire and the sky at night, defend
against the panic. In debt to the elements, I keep on.
The Invention of Color: Tekhelet / by Jen Stewart Fueston
All day I harvest snails, languid creatures, all hard crust and gelatinous insides. I long ago got used to slime, the puss trails staining the bins or down my caftan. It’s mucous we need, collect it in the vats, a brown-yellow ooze, a bodily yet otherworldly substance. We milk the glands, discard the shells in the heap outside the city walls. Then cotton spools of cord are soaked in snaily brine, taking into their fibers the juice of patient crawling things and their slow thoughts. We make use of the sun. Dry the cotton threads, lay them out like a priest at prayer, and let them blue intotekhelet. The rabbis prize it, won’t let us tell the secret ways we make the dye. The blue cords go to tie their shawls together, at the corners where prayers most show their threads. They remind us always how the Talmud says the color must stay beautiful, unchanging, subject it to their tests. I am no holy man, have no time for their dithering ways, the long debates, their prayers going on and on. I crush the creatures or spool the thread, go home at night and sleep. Sometimes waking to blue sky and a hope the careful making of a thing might be a kind of prayer.
Dialogue with Bar Dog at the Slaughtered Lamb / by Christine Hamm
He tells me I might be a little fat.
He tells me his kitchen is too painful to use.
He tells me the bruises should be healing shortly.
He tells me he’s not an alcoholic.
He tells me that taxidermy can be very soothing, when done correctly.
He tells me that, in his country, there are no large supermarkets.
He tells me when he was twelve, he stabbed his brother.
He tells me he is best at dismantling small things.
He tells me he has never let a woman use his bathroom.
He tells me my future is uncertain and I should ask again later.
He tells me he doesn’t remember when he got that scar on his neck.
He tells me that he hasn’t washed his pillowcase since the ’80’s.
He tells me that he just quite smoking and that I should go outside.
He tells me that dentists are too expensive.
He tells me not to assume he’s lying.
He tells me he’s still trying to pick up the pieces.
He tells me he only drinks every other day, and even then, it’s not very much.
He tells me that scrap of red cloth in his pocket is not from a girl, that he found it in the woods.
He tells me his best years are behind him.
Killin’ / by Kevin D. LeMaster
we’re gonna have a killin’
soft and smooth
we’re gonna raise the knife
and take a life
we’re gonna have a killin’
lines wide and deep
we’re gonna say our prayers tonight
for our soul to be right
we’re gonna have a killin’
sweet and low
gonna sharpen our wit
throats to slit
we’re gonna have a killin’
fast and swift
gonna let the blood seep
gonna get some sleep
this nonsense gonna keep
Conclave / by Michael Metivier
I heard strange bells in town—discursive bells—
and thought instead I’d drive up to the hills
beyond their reach, past a row of old field pine
along a brushy meadow, to a floodplain
where a kingfisher hovered, reflected in an eddy
of a mill brook with muskrat dens in its muddy,
cut-out banks, and a mockingbird sat in cedar
boughs as if they were as plush as eider,
and on to where seeps played host to bloodroot
and wild onion, and only a vestige of a gate
impeded truancy, the stones the farmers broke
their backs on tumbled by time as by a creek,
and deeper still to plains of outwash sand
so poor for growing that settlers paid no mind
and called them waste (as if nature made
any such thing, which only humans can abide),
until finally I felt free of the bells’ tolling
having witnessed no lack or lower calling.
The Jizō / by Daryl Muranaka
They say we must mourn
properly, send them off
as if we were sending them
to college, off to a new life
free from hardships
free from the laughter
and the cuddles of babyhood.
We are supposed to send you
off, hoping that you’ll be wrapped
in the folds of Jizo’s robes,
maybe peeking out to see
the Sanzu River as you cross
to the other side. But that
was another world ago, not
just another religion past,
but my mind drifts
to those little statues
wearing bibs, standing
in faithful rows, while
Maya dances wildly
in her “doctor’s coat”
trying to make Mommy
and Daddy smile.
The Preeminence of Failure / by Rosanne Osborne
…what you accomplish will never matter so much as where you fail.
–Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
My family celebrates failures like some
celebrate birthdays and job anniversaries.
We rehearse the details over dinner
and invite the neighbors in for coffee.
No dud goes without mention on the phone
to Aunt Sarah or at least as an item
in the annual Christmas letter
we send to those we barely remember.
We include negligence in our affirmation
of faith, our sel-shaped creed, and take
its wafer on our tongues with the whine
of blame, the whimper of disappointment.
The plague of failure covers our Egypt,
and gnaws grace from the manna we receive.
By Accident / by Anna B. Sutton
I find myself in Tokyo with
the almost father of my almost
firstborn. It is midnight
on a Tuesday in a rose garden
and I am washing my hands—
ladling cool water over the left
then the right, then sipping from
a cupped palm. This would be
a prayer at home, but here it is
forgiveness. The almost father
positions my face by a particular
flower and takes a photo.
Day 9 / Poems 9
The Spice Market / by Linda Cooper
We are looking for saffron—
what the spice market is famous for—
and a dozen men claim to have the best.
One merchant calls us to his booth.
Saffron is rare. Delicate. Expensive.
Some is pre-packaged, but vacuum sealed
is ideal. We are distracted
by flowers masquerading as tea
mimicking the opening of a blossom
in front of our eyes. Then there are
colorful bowls from Iznik. Bursa silk.
The rich savory smells of cured meats. Dried
apricots and mango. Sweet figs.
We try to hold back. We do not want
to spend too much on the first day.
Our credit cards call out from our pockets.
Restraint is difficult when we have
more than enough.
Barefoot children tap at our pockets.
We are afraid to open our wallets
to so much need.
We buy saffron. Only saffron
in airtight packaging.
We must wait until we are home
to watch our rice explode in an
excess of yellow.
Little Boat / by Dana Delibovi
for Mario Andriolo, Jr.
held it firm
as your disease
you said, and
I could see,
you did not look
but at an ocean
you to slip
to this life.
unmoored from us
strand by strand
On this day
your upturned hull
The Invention of Color: Ultramarine / by Jen Stewart Fueston
Even on the adobe walls of missions
she still wears her blue robe
and in our childhood nativity the made-
in-China plastic doll is wearing Mary-blue
that color, I was told, reserved for virgins
only, but I doubt she really wore it
that peculiar shade of ultramarine a
Middle Ages fiction painters made from
crushed, fermented mineral lapis-
lazuli mined from Silk Road destinations,
reserved for rich, the ones she sang of saying,
they would be sent away empty.
Wax/Wane / by Christine Hamm
A bear purring in my ear.
But when I hold you, you whine
and sag. Why can’t you be
a good baby like everyone else?
Some days you spend rolling
on the carpet licking your
hands, and won’t look at me.
When I give you a bowl
of chili con carne with cheddar,
you stalk into the bathroom
and close the door.
Pink Tip Of Silence / by Kevin D. LeMaster
It would seem alive;
holes punched in silver holder,
like the container that held
the remains of that lightening bug
you didn’t want to die—
when you were nine.
It traps the filth of erasure
in the tiny pink nub,
all the words that
you didn’t want to say,
or couldn’t afford to
What remains is chewed up
by a small child;
the words digested again,
afraid to emerge
from where they’ve been hiding—
Kakapo / by Michael Metivier
Every evening a flightless bird
greener than the taste of grass
climbs to the lip of the cinder
cone and sings into the basin
the sad strange history of the world—
how each of us is purled
using the same pattern not even a caisson
can destroy, though all appear as tinder
and every moment an impasse
the song will be heard.
Harvard Square / by Daryl Muranaka
A one-man band sings
an early Beatles tune
in front of the church
that’s divested from fossil fuels
and tells us so
with a big banner over the door.
Tourists stop to listen
and then move on
as he plays, trying to be heard
over the traffic.
He sounds like a Target
commercial, with his tiny bells
and his ukulele, that Maya loves
as we walk by the Big TV’s
From across the street
I can only hear
an occasional strum
while the bells are clear
like coins raining into a can.
Rosetta / by Anna B. Sutton
I’ve been sent to live with the gods, frozen
balls of gas and dust lurching heavy-footed
through the ether. I left an avocado
on the counter to fester with life, my own
little universe beginning to expand.
I am told to report back what I see, but
so much of it is what I can’t—colors:
red-trop, deep indigo burgle. On the inside
of my eyelids, everything is gray. I pray
to these new gods, slice me open like
a stonefruit. That I may see myself
contained and falling deeper into orbit.
Day 8 / Poems 8
Oleander / by Linda Cooper
frames courtyards, alleys,
climbs trellises, old city walls.
Oleander flocks the gates
of ruins. Named the desert rose
in the Bible. The food of the
sinful in the Koran. If applied to
the outside of a body, it can soothe.
If eaten, it is toxic. The unrelenting
heat of a summer day
mocks its cheerful face.
In Istanbul, the Sultanahmet Jail, a former
Ottoman prison, was transformed
into the luxury Four Seasons Hotel.
Roman Catholics transformed into warriors
in holy crusades against Venetians. Churches
were transformed into Mosques
and then museums. What next?
One thing is certain: everything changes.
The once captive are released
to be captured once again.
All that is saintly is
susceptible to sin.
An oleander blossom is a vibrant pink
star, so bright and vital it has the power
to heal, yet the whole of it—
every cell—can be used as a poison.
Remains / by Dana Delibovi
What did she leave for a recompense? Ashes and bone.
Even these I buried, a box of ashes and bone.
My sneakers, squeaking down the road—could she still hear them?
Oxygen? Could her brain cells clutch more than ashes and bone?
Beer and sardines—she liked them—with the fan blowing cold.
She never cared, chugging her can, about ashes and bone.
A fence of skulls. Tamerlane? Think he piled them up.
Everyone, she said, ends this trip as ashes and bone.
When a ripe pomegranate came my way, I ate it.
Few things annoyed her more, down to her ashes and bone.
Ever the lover of poison—of booze, butts, and pills—
She metabolized pounds of cigarette ashes to bone.
There, in a house that did not match the neighborhood
I peered out of curtains woven from ashes and bone.
Beyond the lawn—the river—trains rolling on the bridge:
Escape transfigured all my prayers, my ashes, my bone.
What could I have wished, other than a road of diamonds?
What would guide me? Only gems forged of ashes and bone.
Years those walls ached, in beige, propping her house of pain,
What kept me from burning the place to ashes? Our bone.
She glided on casters; the embalmer sent me out.
Then into the furnace, and out as ashes and bone.
Carved oak shelters her cinders in stony earth—her urn—
On a hill with Connecticut’s best ashes and bone.
She lay her suit out nicely, then called the ambulance.
You’ve nothing to protect now, Dana, but ashes and bone.
Fire Season / by Jen Stewart Fueston
To live in a time powerless to stop
loss is nothing new. It’s just
now what’s lost seems apocalyptic,
the word for all-revealing,
laying bare. Which is what the
fire promises with every tongue
lick of these hills, what the
rivers whisper as they rise to carry
trees away, the song the beetles sing
as they nibble out the hearts
of pines: “we will show you,
we will show you” how our
harmony’s undone, a house
in pieces or a body naked of these
creatures of her keeping.
The 4th Party / by Christine Hamm
The adults get down on their bellies, scoot
wooden trains across the pink tufted carpet.
You and I sit and stare from a couched
shaped like a long sad smile, hold hands
and stare. The air hangs like a heavy gray
wig over the scene – when will it be night,
the children whisper, it would be nice to see
a real fire this time. We’re waiting for your
friend to come and make every thing alright –
he has beer and earplugs, or beer and pills.
Outside the front door, a heavy thumping begins.
Drowning the Parakeet / by Kevin D. LeMaster
My Brother-in-law stuck his head in the fish bowl
just to “Shut him up”, and placed
his weak talons back on the perch.
Soon after, he fell like Goliath,
succumbing to the biblical stone,
onto the bottom of his cage;
talons up and stiff as old socks.
His eyes were open, and I could
imagine his underwater adventure;
not before seeing the world
through his newly acquired concave
camera, a fascinating view that excited
his heart beyond beating.
If he had grown gills, he could have stayed
underneath like an amphibian, knowing both
land and water.
Instead, he took one final look at his murderer,
and flipped him the bird.
Truro / by Michael Metivier
There is no such thing
as wayward light, which knows
how to be everywhere
at once. Its residue
is what dithers and derails,
hedges, enslaves one another.
Once I sat on the beach
in Truro at night. I could have stayed
in that solitude for months
for the single star
piercing the clouds’ sails:
a faith, a balm, a brother.
Osae-waza / by Daryl Muranaka
The boy is planted
face down in the ground
shoulder pinned softly
one arm stretched out and held
by one hand at his elbow
and one hand at his wrist
like staples to the floor.
He feels the old man kneeling
next to him. One knee
poking against his ribs.
But the boy is flexible
and tucks his head
and pushes his butt in the air
to tumble forward
fast and get away.
The old man smiles and lets him
roll. He shifts forward
to follow the boy
keeping his grip on the wrist
light, letting the arm spin
like a crankshaft
and the boy flips over
but he won’t make it over again.
The old man takes his free hand
and every so gently presses
his fingers into the soft flesh
under the boy’s jaw.
A sudden gasp
as the boy’s body stretches
and forms two bridges,
one from head to foot in the air
and one from wrist to shoulder
over the old man’s knee.
The old teaching is true
a little piece controls
the whole body,
and there’s always someone
who knows more than you.
*Osae-waza is a Japanese term for pinning techniques such as you’d find in judo or, as in this poem, aikido.
Origami-Inspired Self-Assembling Robot Crawls By Itself / by Anna B. Sutton
Time-lapse blossom, swell
and fold—rise up and render
yourself useful. Clumsy crab
shuffle across the table
of your making, foolish
fixture to think that simply
pulling your panels together
would be enough—a dance,
a pittance. A street corner
and an upturned cap. Come see
the magic metal lily, watch it
crest and fall! Every movement
like breathing—miraculous, forgettable.
Day 7 / Poems 7
Taksim Square / by Linda Cooper
Syrian children hold their palms
out to you as you strain to listen
to your guide. One small boy stops
to rest by the statue of a soldier
grasping a giant Turkish flag.
A barefoot girl tugs
at your shorts. Another asks—
in your language—
if you would like to
buy some cold water.
The square has been cleaned
of all but a few tents and tarps huddled
in small patches of grass. Most
of the makeshift homes remain
unseen. You and your group
carefully walk the bricks. It’s easy to
stumble on uneven surfaces.
Your guide introduces you to a story—
a Turkish teenaged boy named Berkin,
slaughtered on this spot, by police,
one year before. This story
tethers itself to you and will not
let go. This story attaches itself
to your breastbone like a
bat, tiny teeth holding it in place.
On subsequent days, you see more children
from the tour bus—on roadsides, in alleys,
in your mind when you close
your eyes. Daily, your guide says, they cross
the open border. The government never
thought they would stay this long.
After you return home, your television
tells you a story of refugee children
from your own southern border
and the men in white hoods
and flip flops who offer solutions to shoulder
rifles sited on them. The newsman smirks.
It’s obvious they are crackpots.
Who could possibly take them seriously?
Congress offers the National Guard instead.
Drought / by Dana Delibovi
A trickle from the hose traverses the stones of the ditch.
Neighborhood cats seek coolness in the stones of the ditch.
Who, without rancor, can bear witness? Stones of the ditch.
Murdered tomato plants lie on the stones of the ditch.
No one wants to carry even a stone from the ditch.
Behind window blinds, we hunker like stones in a ditch.
Dwellers in glass need a place to throw stones. In the ditch?
Cast runes for the lawn, Dana, with the stones of the ditch.
Visitor’s Center / by Jen Stewart Fueston
They suppose what we desire is science,
a shiny but precise display of facts
arranged around the room with charts and buttons
labeling scientific names for native plants.
Why then these summers later I forget
everything except the photograph,
the Shoshone girl, her dark eyes meeting
all the tourist glances as we read
the way these rivers entered into legend:
Yellowstone and Snake caught in a basket,
coyote, trickster, spilling them on land,
so they forever flow from one another,
one north, one south from point where they began.
Her dark eyes scold, or maybe pity, me
for not seeing, as she did, the osprey arc,
golden valleys, great blue bearded heron
still and solemn on mid-river rocks.
Instead they are relentlessly explained.
We walk amid a place but do not name it,
we sleep here, but we do not dream.
Transfusion #3 / by Christine Hamm
The cats can’t tell me
how they feel about
your absence. They run
up and down the stairs,
quarreling. The man in the bed
next to yours has a wound
on his ass. The cut comes
from a cyst that erupted in his 20’s –
he’s 80 now and it’s coming back.
All the nurses hear his story twice.
On Facebook, Nikki says, “Where
did all these trolls come from?”
After I met her in person,
I decided I didn’t like her,
despite her poetry. The nurses
lift the old man to put him
on a bed pan: he complains
how cold it is, and rough.
Summer Night where no breeze ever blows / by Kevin D. LeMaster
the flies soar in perfect squadron formation
for their comrade lost to old age
not more than twenty-four hours before.
they always fly this way
because loss is ever part of them
appreciating life in their short existence
they are content to be what they are
never do they aspire to be birds
cats or dogs, but they do make an appearance
at all of their funerals
laying their eggs in the corpse of another
bringing more life into a world where death hasn’t
had a chance to stink in the nostrils of men
Guns, Roses / by Michael Metivier
Two men beside me in worn black
t-shirts pump their fists when the lights
go out, bristling like the last feral dogs
you’d ever want to lock eyes with
across some treeless lot, each the kind
of guy who always wins in fights
not because he’s stronger
but because he always knows
where the nearest broken bottle is
or can be made. I wonder how far
they’ve driven tonight to see this band
with only one remaining member
play the hits punctuated by flash pots
and gilded with piped-in strings,
from Rockford, Galesburg or Kankakee
to recall what kind of burnt out glory—
I who could have been the mascot
they beat up after the game
with these very songs blaring
from the high school PA. But later
in the night, as the lighters come out
like stars, I watch them sway
arm in arm, mirrorball
reflected in their tears, singing along
like some sweet children of mine.
The Forgotten Web / by Daryl Muranaka
The spider web,
weaving the banister
to the column,
lurks in the corner
of my eye
I never see
the spider, only the web
tangled and balled,
a ghost town
in the wind.
What if I swept
it all away. Would he
build the home again
everything the same?
Center Hill / by Anna B. Sutton
Moon lilt, sloping to the shore—tonight
the lake is quiet as a glass of water set
by the bed. Midnight thirst, throat smoked
like straw catching. Matted grass pulsing
like tongues underfoot. Are you here?
Is it quiet? Can I tell you now, there are
bodies sunken in this lake? Let me show you
the chimney ghosting ten feet deep. Before
I came to the water, I was told a man wrapped
in barbed wire was thrown from the bridge.
Even the most beautiful things are full
of our blood. This holler is heavy with sacred
stones and broken glass; its mud was once a valley—
I’m trying to tell you a body is never its body for long.
Day 6 / Poems 6
Chora / by Linda Cooper
Outside the old city
another church turned mosque
turned museum opens
its doors to you.
The cool air inside offers
respite from the heat
and your eyes effortlessly rise up
the marble walls to the murals
in the narthex. The frescoes tell
a story—wordless and colorful—
so the illiterate will understand
as you do now—perhaps
for the first time—the woman
who finds herself in a storm
of distrust. Who would believe
her now? What angel would be by
her side while she weeps? You stand a
long time at the painting of the moment
she is doubted. You wonder from where
your own doubt was born. Peter and Paul
guard each side of the door. Jesus watches
from above. You note the shimmer on the gold,
the deep reds and black veins
on white stone. How Mary was covered
in plaster for ages under
the Ottomans rule. How earth
quakes nearly destroyed everything.
Later, you will visit a glass studio, discover
the first glass was found in Anatolia. How
fragile things can last for eons
and how easy it is for something whole
to one day break.
Cave / by Dana Delibovi
“Imagine people living in a cave, with an entrance open to the light and wide as the cave itself.”—Plato
Come friend, and we will live within the cavern of our bones.
There, unselfish walls will take the diary our charcoals make.
Our picture of the memory of a dream—so shielded from the sun,
so far and free from its annoying kind of truth—will rake
tableaus from ashes of the fire. We’ll pantomime:
the shadows that we cast (our favorite lies) will still partake
of Purple, Justice, Love, or Mud—any noun we pick.
Topside reality will never best your finger-shadow snake.
Friend, time does not wizen a silhouette in flickers of a flame.
Truth is maggot-ugly, and a climb. Let’s not be so awake.
Thumbtacks / by Christine Hamm
I am surrounded
by the suck, suck, suck
of the respirator tube,
the gargle of pus of the old
man in the next bed.
You are sleeping, glasses
askew, amethyst tubes leading
in and out of your arms.
I sit in the uncomfortable blue
chair next to you, tearing open
envelopes. The thumbtacks
have arrived, oversized metal
blossoms on their heads.
Your mother stands
in the doorway, asking me
to wake you, but her words
are reversed, a language
I can’t understand.
Smoke / by Kevin D. LeMaster
Like a wisp,
the fire was snuffed;
the mangled metal
lay crumpled, like
art made from what
no longer matters.
is the flesh and bone
between; the man
that God breathed life
into—from the formed clay.
Cleanup wasn’t hard
and life for some resumed.
He, however, was gone
in the time it took to sip
a latte, or buy a paper,
or stop at that light
to look at the woman next to him,
disappearing in a moist cloud of red smoke
that dirties your windshield—
Peter Marler (1928-2014) / by Michael Metivier
When you slow the song
of the veery down, you only begin
to understand the true age
of the blues, how deep
her spiral goes, so that it’s hard
to keep from cursing
out of love.
than the syrinx—added
by the field’s edge, the doe’s paw,
the wobble of the summer sun—
answers back, precipitates,
instructs. There are notes
and there are spaces between
the notes. Both are important.
…………………………………….If I stand
on this old mountain and listen
and you do the same but miles
away, the song is different.
Lord, sweet lord why
shouldn’t it be?
Cooking / by Daryl Muranaka
The whole world
fits into my red
or the big smooth
mirror of my skillet.
I love kalbi
the decadence of beef
in the smokey kitchen
the scent of charred
soy sauce on the grill.
I love dim sum
its frugal origin
the varieties that only
leftovers can bring.
Still I am
what Grandma made me
a fat roll of stuff,
playing out life
from one end to the other
Food is both life
and not. People are not
a cuisine, but a feast
to blend, to find
the better angels of design.
That was the promise
Sometimes we struggle
to remember that.
Time Before Tears / by Rosanne Osborne
And he would remember a time when people were ashamed of crying.
–Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The rawness of emotion hung in the air
but he would not cry no matter the pain.
He would not let his brother see
the depth of the betrayal, the widening
gap that could not be, would never be
bridged by word or deed. Twins, they
had shared bread and bed, victory
and humiliation. United against the pack
snapping at their heels, their history
had been forged in a darkened womb.
Yet courtroom blame was declared
without so much as a blink at binding blood.
Through unwilled tears of outrage, he heard
the death knell in his brother’s indicting word.
Barbecue / by Anna B. Sutton
Pork lodged in your throat, gristle
stuck, sealed up your trachea like a
cellar door. It is New Year’s Day
and your children circle, snacking
on their black eyed peas, their lucky
greens. One bean for good blood, a leaf
for some money. You took them
to the garden once to show how collards
grow like elephant ears, to trace each vein
protruding from the earth. Your children
talk about the family cat and it takes time
to notice that your hands are wrapped
around your throat. Even then, they stare back
blank like their beans. What’s this? Your straining
eyelids. What’s this? A frantic finger pointing
staccato at your chest. You can’t be certain
where the meat is anymore—feel that pit char
filling up your lungs, seeping through
your skin, to think, to die like this—buffet
brunch and a half-drunk mimosa. In Gatlinburg,
your mother choked on a rare filet, woke
with her blouse open on a steakhouse floor. What color
was your mother’s bra? Her face? You never thought
you’d find yourself in her place. A daughter’s
arms around your stomach are warm and weak,
but she gets it done—the pork unknots. You swallow,
sit, sip water, say thank you, digest, digest.
Day 5 / Poems 5
Tiger-Lilies / by Dana Delibovi
In a roadside ditch,
flowers hunt for the sun.
Wild orange faces snarl
at the impassive sun.
The air of July—
its molecules sun-
the agile stalks. Sun,
how have you sown
my childhood here? Sun-
day bike rides, rolling past
savage flowers, poison
my present—still to roam
friendless roads in the sun.
“Nothing That is Not There” / by Jen Stewart Fueston
A dragonfly kites to the corner of the room,
its body a silver pin, tissue wings a desert’s vellum,
a parchment scribing the short story of rain.
High desert’s termed by what there is not there,
a stucco emptiness, mapped
by bare arroyo, arid canyon
a nothing filled
with sage and piñon, yucca, shaggy olive, succulent,
by crows aloft on updrafts, tattooing themselves on clouds.
Brief rain arrives to succor brittle bark,
demands, do much with little,
as one leaf does little with its gathered light.
Synonyms for Loss / by Christine Hamm
I can’t remember the address. I arrive on a boat in the rain. There’s a band aid with a blood stain in the ferry sink. I try to get lost at the terminal but fail. I share a cab with some of the women you’d slept with. More photos of you up on easels around the room. It’s raining. Your friends slide up to tell me I shouldn’t have come. A woman acts as if she has never met me, as if we had not planned a wedding salad together. Sarah whispers, They’re probably scared of your tattoos. Your mother sits in front, smiling the whole time. You would have told me, “She’s happy I got what I deserved.” It’s raining; the ceiling fan is broken. The windows panes, tiny diamond shapes, fog until I can’t even see. The rain makes a soft sound on the magnolia leaves and the small dogwoods and the obscenely green grass and I want to stand outside, curl up on the grass in my black skirt.
Alone / by Kevin D. LeMaster
you will stare awkwardly
at your aloneness; T.V. dinner,
lunch table, bed, one chair,
and the view of that neon sign
and the brick wall pained alabaster—
because you requested it.
Someday, the end will come
but no one will realize you are gone,
until your next door neighbor
smells death and finds you
with the T.V. on—Life Alert
Virga / by Michael Metivier
All these plaintive vistas for the linden,
oak, even the deerwood, where the rain
over the valley appears smudged
as by a thumb across fresh pencil, are not
so for the little wood sorrel, who are more
likely to have their hearts trampled underfoot.
Fireflies / by Daryl Muranaka
After the disaster
of smelly pig poop
at the Great Brook Farm,
she resigned herself
to the reality
that her one and only daughter
was a city girl,
afraid of the farm smells,
the moving, the squirming
animals, the scents
of life and death,
too used to the crowded street
lined with maple trees
and Curious George on TV.
But in the failing light
of Grandpa’s country garden
by the light of the massive fire
burning in a crumbling
cinder block stove,
after charred marshmallows
she finds herself
with the girl
by her side,
on the little green flashes
dancing around the garden,
catching the biting bugs
in her hands and sharing them
like a sacred secret.
Hurricane Marina / by Anna B. Sutton
Center Hill Lake, Tennessee
Thousands of silver fish flash like melting ice
along the wind-whipped peaks of the lake
in April. I think pollution, see human error—
I am told otherwise, that each year the lake turns
like a body in bed and the shock is too much
for the smaller fish. Months before, I sunk
a tarp with a stone and, inside it, a cat
who died open-eyed in my sink while
I worked a double—came home to find him
stretched stiff across a dirty pan. A bad heart,
an open mouth, fur matted with the wet remnants
of the dinner before. Tonight, the revel of my naked
coworkers cannonballing from the patio. I swim
away, between the foam columns that hold up
the dock, under the lacework of steel. I am never
as bold as in water, never as naked as when dragging
my body up the boat ramp at the other side of the marina.
Stumbling drunk down the slick aluminum bridge,
my whole world a clatter of afterhours bouncing back
across the lake. I want to pray, want to believe the stars
are just a scatter of light on my inner eyelid,
that what is vast can be held between my fingers—
every night, the hills that encircle the lake are dark
and silent as the sky; they only reply in echoes.
Day 4 / Poems 4
Pergamon Speaks / by Linda Cooper
My marble arms rise from the earth like great
trunks, roots feeding on the expired
breath of ancients. I’ve stood it all.
Tremor and burn. Quake and fire.
War. Very little remains.
The mortal learn to float
their lives—moments of clarity pop
like honey from the comb
and are consumed.
Olive trees, figs, oleander come
and go. Full white clouds pass
through the mouth of sky. Blue
overtaken by black. Words
of many tongues roam the treetops,
enter the throats of birds and these pass
through too. Rulers—Byzantine,
Seljuk, Ottoman. Giants. Gods.
You too, Little One—eyes
like the Aegean—will tip
toe and twirl and
march in the shadow of Mt. Ida.
Sip tea and smile while your heart
fuses into glass. A figurine.
A goblet. A shard. Come now,
sit beside me. Listen.
Your face is blank
as parchment. Even now
you turn and twist
and follow the flight
of a wasp. I fear
upsetting you, yet
you must be prepared
to step into the oversized
boots of your ancestors,
take up arms, though you make
a vow to your mother. You
will grow pale, Child,
and someday—though you cannot
this moment imagine— you will forget
this bright sky. Heady
breeze. Golden fig, sweet
and seedy on your tongue.
Darkening / by Dana Delibovi
Moldy autumn composts down.
Iris fronds and lemon balm
crunch and shrivel, the crown
of daisies is bared by frost.
Short days, the leaf-strewn town,
the wind whipping dirty tarps
on berthed boats: light has flown.
On the cold porch, laced with webs,
Philosophy’s season has come.
Put away trowels and peace—
Summer’s dumb sun is down.
Bath Time / by Jen Stewart Fueston
My son cups his hands beneath the faucet
laughing. Clear water rushes in
to fill the bath. Sun floods
the angled windows and parts his hair
into thin white ribbons. His eyes widen,
catching a glimpse
of their own brightness
in the metal disk of the drain.
His fingers stretch and wiggle, trying to grasp
the rivers, keep them from spilling
out of his tiny palms. I look at him
and see the years ahead
when everything he tries to hold
will slip away.
The tub fills and rippling echoes
off the hard walls while I kneel,
turn the knob and stop the flow.
But not before I run my own hands
in the stream, curving mine
beneath his as he laughs.
Learning again from him how to want
to gather everything,
and the play the water makes
as we let it go.
Dress Rehearsal, II / by Christine Hamm
You slip her on the bed, I remove her shoes. The sun flows wetly through the room, a sodden yellow orange. A high whining, dragonflies in the rafters. Through the window, we watch the trees turn dark and disappear. She breathes slowly next to us. I get a washcloth, warm it with hot water in the sink and dab at her face. You tell me I am turning into her as you try on her hat. We sit on the edge of the bed and watch Gilligan’s Island, narrating the wardrobe choices so she can hear.
Pirate’s Anonymous (PA)
Confessions of a Reformed Pirate / by Kevin D. LeMaster
I gave up the eyepatch
it’s a prosthetic leg and
matches my other one
I don’t talk to parrots
arghhhhh is no longer
in my vocabulary
I don’t terrorize young children
captivate the high seas
with my charm
I got married
had a few kids
settled in a suburb
drive a minivan
go to my kids recitals
do the laundry
and scare a soccer mom
kick the neighbors dog
or treat that damned braggart
to the tip of my sharp tongue
harsher than any keen blade
Grace Fujitani / by Daryl Muranaka
She was the hardest
woman I’ve ever known
tough as nails
stubborn as a mule
making her own rules
and when she died,
until we arrived
stood by the side
of the bed. Her eyes
the sudden breath,
We waited in the quiet
a long time
before calling the nurse,
but I knew
she was gone.
No need for her
to call out in our dreams
and slip away
like Grandpa did.
Today, I look
at a photo of her
in nineteen thirty,
young, pretty, and smiling,
orphaned but still
looking for a good time
the Road Closed sign
at the edge
of the cane field,
Mom, still a dream,
me, not imagined,
with little brothers and sisters
to attend to.
But for a moment,
for this picture,
not a care in the world
in the soft radiance
of her face.
Parvo / by Anna B. Sutton
I had to pinch the fur
at her neck, the dog—pinned
down to the bed, a hospital
bladder of fluids hanging
from the ceiling where once
there was a dying plant. Later,
I would paint those walls purple
like a vein. At the time, they were
whitewashed as my twenties—
empty and blinding. Saline
solution spit from the tip
of the needle; how it tinted
the wall. I haven’t had
a pet of my own live
past five yet. She’s almost
four now, thick and bold, but
at two months was a skitter
of sick, what we called skin
and bones. How they said
a long shot. At two months,
she was a mirror, shattered.
Inconsolable in her crate; I let her
out. A howler, a jumper, a hunger
I couldn’t feed. A lifetime of calling
myself a mother and I couldn’t face
her need, couldn’t fix her gut. I put her
out, watched her carve a circle
in the sandy backyard, settle in
a patch of leaves, turn her eyes
toward me, and wait.
Day 3 / Poems 3
Sophia / by Linda Cooper
“Sophia Engastromenos, is a splendid woman, open, indulgent, gentle and good housewife, full of life and well educated.” –Heinrich Schliemann
He is much older than I. My father
likes him, and I am beginning to be quite
fond of his stories of wanderings, of indigo
and gold. He is more sensitive than
his countenance reveals. His face, such shock,
when I recited the Iliad from memory.
And those eyes, heavy lidded, I
made them shine like the Dardenelles
when I said, Everything is more beautiful
because we’re doomed…In that moment,
love bloomed. I am intelligent
enough to know a young woman
is always at another’s mercy. Give me
a place to stand and I will move the earth.
Grudge / by Dana Delibovi
She heaved her slur, a red-hot brick.
My skin, so thin, couldn’t slough that brick.
Around me, smoky wraiths arose.
Pride fumed beneath her words of brick.
Now, from the stoked furnace—30 years—
one, then another, brick then brick,
slides out, then tumbles from rusted tongs.
Every day, memory’s blistering brick
plummets down me, gullet to gut,
ousting yesterday’s tepid brick
(that daily cools in a short-lived rain
of mercy). Dear, life-scorching brick.
At Yellowstone / by Jen Stewart Fueston
At the old hotel guests gather. On every lip
the question, how long yet?
We’ve accustomed to this pose of expectation.
All across the green caldera steam lifts, wafting sour incense.
Fissures bellow, clefts crack earth open like an egg,
each blue depth demanding witness.
Sunlight thins as darting swallows knit their web of dark.
Warmth peels away to leave us bare and shivering to the stars,
we wait while the world grows yet more beautiful
in the interval before the sky is split.
The hot star within our world seeps slowly
upward, meeting the waters seeking their way back.
For the Angel of Abandon / by Christine Hamm
And my mother said, always let him win.
I drove a Pinto over cliff without waking up.
I drove a Porche into a light pole without hearing the music stop.
You were there with me
both times, small, trying not to die.
At night, the animals ravaging the garden sang my name,
the noise a constant unpleasant sigh.
I burned my hand in the kitchen fire, the scar
like a dragon’s mouth.
You hold my scar now, hold it with your teeth.
Summer Night Serenade / by Kevin D. LeMaster
the light shines through
making a kaleidoscope
no colors except
for a faint amber glow
almost making the filth
look lovely in this new light
the heat stills the fan blade
gumming up the motor
with thick humidity
like fog that buzzes lakes
swooping close to see its reflection
the crickets make their own
music—the night dancing
a minuet to the pleated blink
of lighting bug and passing car
I wish I could twirl with its lateness
instead—I sit here watching
through a dirty window
I couldn’t bring myself
Two States / by Michael Metivier
Snodgrass wrote in praise of Jarrell’s “Protocols”
that it’s not poetry’s job to say that it is wrong
to kill children, but to bear witness to the truth
that children are being killed, avoiding the temptation
to equivocate, dissemble, or otherwise make unreal
their dying. If you need a poem to tell you
it is wrong, well then. I’ve turned this over
in my mind all day through the usual mundanities
like passing a car on the highway with mattresses
lashed to its roof, noticing the first splash of red
sumac leaves in the utility right-of-way,
and catching the scent of vanilla from the yogurt
factory that sits on the border between two states:
Vermont and Massachusetts, their gentle, green
hills indistinguishable but for different names
just like people, mercifully, miraculously whole.
Five Years / by Daryl Muranaka
Today is five years
since we stood under the huppah,
willed the rain to hold
while the wind whipped
around us, threatened to tear the seams
of the delicate canopy.
Remember how I was too hot
wearing white tie & jacket
and you, too cold, with shoulders bare.
Five years since we wandered
into the open field
beside the farm
and you whistled
to your brother weakly
with a blade of grass
& he called back
from the side of the road
and our parents laughed
while the camera clicked on.
Our wedding night started
by looking for deer ticks.
The next day was filled
with goodbyes and driving
before fresh baked cookies
and yak sausage,
wadding in ice cold water,
and flipping through
the Hawaiian Dictionary
from the Inn’s library,
a strange find in Vermont.
That was five years
and two children ago.
And as Jeff once said
getting through a wedding is
a shodan’s worth of time.
On Becoming a Lotioner / by Rosanne Osborne
…people everywhere that morning were just starting to rub
lotion into their hands. I missed the point.
— Joshua Ferris, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
I’ve always hated Jergens, the way
it left your hands slightly tacky.
My mother used Jergens and her mother
used Jergens, but I was a rebellious child.
Now, hand sanitizer is the preferred unguent
for the daily, make that hourly, anointing
of fingers and palms, certain protection
against unseen enemies that rage.
Give me hands roughened from subzero
milking, calluses of choice, and knuckles
gnarled by the integrity of aged sagacity.
I long for things genuine, unadulterated
by pretense or the false fronts of Gold Rush
buildings promising civilized society.
Dry Spell / by Anna B. Sutton
I tell you I want rain, thunder–say
childhood, say luxury. Don’t say a half-
eaten tube of cookie dough hardening
in my desk drawer. Don’t tell you how
I cradled my swollen belly atop the bright
floral bedspread and listened to the hiss
of tires outside my open window, the long
languishing rumble of another swell of storms
moving in. At eight, a bicycle was a gesture
of trust and I broke my promises, cobbled
in the downpour over the imposed boundary
of train tracks to Hill Market, three dollars and
an alibi tucked into my pocket. Even still, a storm
can make my mouth water–the citric bite
of preserved egg, crystalline crumble of sugar soaked
in roux. I was certain the clatter of rain would hide
the crinkle of plastic peeled from the glistening log.
I was certain the cool damp would wash me clean.
I curled my knees to my chest–a long cramp, a splinter
of lightning. I shaved slivers with the edge of a stolen spoon
and slipped them on my tongue like a communion wafer:
Forgive me, chocolate drop. Forgive me, liver. Forgive me,
thunder and lightning, for forgetting our history, wiping it
clean like a mouth, burying it at the bottom of a tin.
Day 2 / Poems 2
Bursa / by Linda Cooper
The mosque was built around water—
blue arcs cascade and splash as men
wash their feet in preparation for prayer.
Everything is circular. Domes adorned
with holy names and prayers. Light circling
the room like birds rising from flame.
Chanters round the balcony. Was this
the same spot where Beyazit once reigned?
Proud warrior, humiliated in battle,
made servant to Timur the Mongol,
finding solace in poison
concealed in a ring.
The prayer rises and crowns—
surrounds the holy and sinner,
the dead and the living. Does Beyazit’s
ghost hide in the niche until nightfall?
Or is he nothing more that bones buried
below this holy place?
Down the lane, silk flows from stalls
in the marketplace. You can
lose yourself in the curl
of the building. A merchant lights
the hem of a scarf to prove
the slick fabric is real.
Experiment / by Dana Delibovi
Here’s an experiment: count the hawks over the lake.
Tallies are a precious tradition over the lake.
Jot the rainfall; sum a hatch of mayflies near a dock—
God’s that way, a fussy reckoner over the lake.
He clacks His abacus with humiliating power.
The percussion scatters whitecaps over the lake.
I’ve heard it, and relentless is too tame a word.
One recreation I’m totally over: the lake.
I adore, but can’t control, my breathing cache of cells.
So when He says jump, I say how high: over the lake?
I suppose—just because I can’t hear 7 billion prayers
Doesn’t mean He can’t, while cartwheeling over the lake.
One hawk is more data than a human mind can crunch.
There’s no conclusion, Dana, just the wind over the lake.
A Swim / by Jen Stewart Fueston
The desire is to dive down
slip under the surface
sliding effortless through blue.
To let go of breath in all
its regular insistence, the
To see beneath, a milky
light arresting other eyes,
liquid dissolving distances
between what’s concealed
or visible. Our flesh
not escape. The body merely
quieted, not shed. Arms
propel limbs ligatures,
their rhythm patterning
our daily breath,
while we swim,
in substances we barely see,
through and into but
The Tropical Storm / by Christine Hamm
Your paw prints all over the stove,
your teeth marks on my favorite boots:
Do you remember last May,
what happened when I touched your face?
I’m sorry I left you in the garden, sorry
I used that canoe for myself.
You told me once you didn’t care about poetry,
but I knew you couldn’t read.
Later, you forced yourself through
my kitchen door and my parrot cried
hello like it meant fire.
I still see you on TV occasionally,
that image of you losing
your shoe in the river.
Why did you curl in my lap?
Why did you sing in my ear?
You never explained what you wanted
from me, me and my drawer of hand mirrors.
Heart Like a dying fish / by Kevin D. LeMaster
I always thought the heart glowed,
alive with life; its pulsing fist
charged electrically, like flashing neon
at an all night diner,
but when they brought it to the outside,
it was more like a dying fish
struggling for air.
Its eye stares at me,
wondering if I will awake
and take it back
like nothing ever happened.
The truth is
we were separate for too long,
and even though we were compatible,
we have grown apart.
No longer am I amazed at its wonder.
It is a balled fist, waiting for the day
it gives up its bullying ways—
and lets me go.
The Haunted House / by Michael Metivier
The late-Victorian house we drove
past every Sunday
on the way home from Sunday
School has now been featured
on a television show about ghosts.
We suspected it was haunted as kids,
especially at Easter holding lilies
from the altar in our laps, their bases
foil-wrapped with colors that matched
the gables’ lavender and lemon,
our heads still ringing from the sermon
of the rock rolled away. What was inside?
Well, the crew went in with infrared
cameras and waved their antennae
through the mote-filled rooms
like the stations of the cross
and made a show of it—
the plastic-wrapped chaise, the holes
in the floorboards, the hanging
plaits of wallpaper, and the promise
that life may well be as grape juice
is to wine, poured only to some
in some distant, longed-for time.
Absent Friends / by Daryl Muranaka
At forty, so my mother says,
all your problems come out,
that youth no longer hides
the flaws that course
through your veins,
your joints, your brain.
I am at an age when
friends and relations
start dying. It’s not
normal, but it still happens
and everyone shakes
their collective heads
and says it was too
soon or maybe if.
But that doesn’t change
the absent friends
I think about, watching
Maya and Sam at play.
And what do you say
when it happens?
There is nothing
to say. You’re left
with “thoughts and prayers”
but what does that mean?
Are my thoughts and prayers
are with absent friends
though I didn’t speak to them
in years, and the miles
I traveled took them and me
farther away than we dreamed
of when we were children?
Like wet sand built into castles
we stand until the water comes
and washes every trace away.
So, yes, I think of absent friends
before time washes even those
When he was ninety,
Clark Byse told me,
the hardest part of being
that old is that most
of your friends are gone.
The last man standing is
just that, the last man,
and strangely, I hope
that it won’t be me.
Pitch the Ball Already! / by Rosanne Osborne
Every pitch was a matter of life and death…
–Joshua Ferris, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
Burtville was my introduction to baseball, its dirt diamond hidden
in the pasture behind the country store on the road to nowhere.
Crawling along the gravel roads like so many ants to honey,
cars found those bush-league games just after Sunday dinner.
Fans sitting on fenders drank Coca-Cola and cheered strike-outs
and homeruns indiscriminately. The game meant little to me.
But I had ripened 12-year-old lust for the red baseball caps worn
by the older girls, eyes on the muscles rippling above the bats.
The blood-red connection spidering between player and fan,
a bare hint of the web of dalliance woven into backwoods life.
I knew little then of balls pitched or caught in the deep pockets
of well-oiled gloves, the thrust of the bat, the legs rounding third.
Boy Returns to Water to Wash Sand From His Feet / by Anna B. Sutton
Flame. Vein. Fissure. The lightning
strikes a nearby pier and electrifies
the shore, shocks bodies to still—
and you wonder why I’m so afraid
of living. When the sky opens up
to remind us that, no, the vast Pacific
is not impenetrable; it isn’t just
what cuts circles in the water around you
that you should fear. When three
commercial jets come down in a summer.
You tell me that it’s safer than barreling
down a highway, but the sky wants you
to know that it is not your heaven. It will rain
on you however it can until you begin
to understand. It will tell the ocean
to rise toward the clouds and swallow
your beach house. It has sacrificed
your son. You should have painted
blood on the jamb. I opened my artery
and sugar poured out—lucky
I’m childless. Lucky, cyst-riddled. Lucky
to know so well what’s got my number.
In the mountains, the trees bend like
spinsters, boughs branching their fingers
to the dirt. Lucky, what struck here
was sickness, slow and grounded in stone.
Day 1 / Poems 1
The Walls of the Old City / by Linda Cooper
From the tour bus, the Bosphorus
shimmers steel-blue as this modern bridge
spits us toward the old city. Constantinople
rises like the dead from behind carefully cut
limestone filled with brick, moats replaced
by asphalt and broken white lines. These walls
have seen what we now hear of, sanitized
by time, speech and the comfort of conditioned
air. What our American ears will never
let us truly hear. I try to imagine the individual
Byzantine boy, in desperation, throwing a bronze statue
after the projectiles were gone. His last words a mumble
of gasps and moans, gurgles into an absent
mother’s ear. The guide’s voice is raspy from leftover
cigarette smoke and Raki. Inside—
he tells us— we will soon see the Hippodrome,
Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, pillars
and arches of marble, snake-
patterned pools, the faces of angels
in glass and stone. Gilded holy names and
frescoes. The long spine of an ancient circus.
Much remains unchanged.
Tomorrow, we will walk Taksim Square
as Berkin Elvan did one year before us, at fifteen, before
he was swept into the crowd and struck
by another projectile, a different type of soldier
at the trigger—police with numbers
scratched off helmets.
A loaf of bread for his mother
lying next to him.
As our bus enters the old city,
I look behind us, off in the distance—
the Prince Islands—where
ghosts of rebel sons pace and pound their fists
in defiance of their fathers.
Outremer / by Dana Delibovi
Why these long marches? Why kick up so much dust on the road?
When conquest called me, all I loved was but dust on the road.
Hear my flapping banners? These proclaim my in-born right:
To eat an extra ration, then toss my crust in the road.
Not that I’m averse to sacrifice—I bring my own bags.
I tramp from woods to desert, because I must own this road.
I plan to found a suzerain, bounded only by my thoughts.
I’ll strip the plants, then unveil my marble bust on the road.
My certitude—that’s my sword—and I impale to the hilt.
Progress demands no shyness about bloodlust on the road.
Slay the rhino, massacre creatures of the sea and air.
They’re nice, but I like to get my French fries fast on the road.
I must force my will on life, if I want a good career.
One place Nature will never win my trust: on the road.
Honestly, I don’t care about those buggy oaks back home.
Or the melting polar icecaps, much discussed on the road.
Smog-bejeweled sunsets—ruby, opal, gold—astound.
I set palm trees made of plastic at the cusp of the road.
And if I feel something, I just numb it with my phone.
I’m soothed by toys, like a baby who’s fussed on the road.
The world I want is more important than the world that is.
I, Dana—maybe you too—will grind it all to dust on the road.
Note: The Outremer were Crusader states established in the Middle East after the First Crusade (1096-1099 AD).
A Fine Monsoon / by Jen Stewart Fueston
The climatologist asserts that all this water represents
a plume of tropic air strayed far off course.
The drought-blanched southern counties need it most,
so even with the flood close in our thoughts,
we welcome strange grey days in late July.
“A fine monsoon,” he laughs a nervous laugh,
because we’ve not forgotten last fall’s rains,
when all the mountain rivers spilled their banks,
undid the roads, swept half the canyons out
onto the plains.
We aren’t yet fine, look anxiously at clouds,
watch culverts careful for a sign of breech.
Worry this new geography of rain might
remake our arid range without its subtlety
or grace. And yet new greens appear.
The apple trees explode with fruit,
heavy-weighted by a sudden bounty
where thirsty roots before took just a sip.
I see it now, in aftermath of flood -
if you survive the stripping and the mess,
everything strewn broken on the lawn,
the basement oozing mud, the roadbeds bared -
there’s odd plenty in the coming year.
A fecundity of spirit, the way my weary rosebush
only now is putting out its second blooms.
The Green One Piece / by Christine Hamm
You are trying to teach me to breathe
underwater. The pool is bright,
the same color as the underside
of my tongue. The women sunning
at the edges sing something I can’t
understand. Your body is heavy and
cool: it shakes with laughter on top
of me. I watch the blue swirl
of paper clips and barrettes
around the pool drain; I remember
the mouse I found floating
like a wet sock last week –
its soft triangular head,
the fleshy lace of tiny fingers.
Science of flies / by Kevin D. LeMaster
they mate in flight
tumbling like Walendas
on the backs of Elephants
neither one knowing
who will give up first
I wonder if they know
and this act
is for life
a vow we sometimes take
if we fail
who will fall first
and who will be the one left
listening for the sound
of love dying
Wooden Song / by Michael Metivier
Through with wailing in fields of cultivars
and snakeskin, I threw
myself down in a copse of yellow
birch and stared up silent under
a rain of aments.
Bored with the metric system’s ineluctable
march toward tyranny I closed
my eyes amid the litter of madrones
and tried to count the quail
scratching single file.
O! Opossum! Before she scuttled
behind the woodshed the sunset
was red on her pale face
but it was I who felt ashamed
never wanting her to leave.
In a Child’s Mind / by Daryl Muranaka
Whenever we went to LAX
and saw the round restaurant under
the intersecting arches, lit up
at night, gleaming during the day,
it meant we were going to
or someone was coming from
Hawaii, those magical little islands
on a plastic map on the wall
of a Gardena restaurant.
Not the aloha shirts or fireworks
in the garden or mangos and lychees
from Grandpa’s yard, only LAX,
then the trip was special.
But years on the road, long
hours going east, going west,
going north and south,
my legs cramping and straining
in coach, wore away the shine
of Hawaii, until it was a chore
to go to whatever concrete
monster slept outside of town.
I wonder what will pass
through Maya’s mind, getting ready
for her second trip to Mililani
red & baking between the mountains.
Does she think about the tropical sun
or the pineapple train or the salty
blue water, or is it the long, long
Ted Williams Tunnel that sticks
in her head, and means Hawaii?
When You Sleep / by Anna B. Sutton
you are always running to something / or from / chasing your father / a blue whale / wading in after him / fingers to fins / fairy tale in reverse / clawing your way up / down mountains to find your mother / riverbank / she has a message for you / can’t see you / your fingers are no longer fins / still you could swim from shore to shore / escaping the curled talons of leathery carnivores / tyrannosaurus / velociraptor / unfeathered as you knew them first / furious at their domestication / the backyard busy with cackling hyenas / tongue and bristle / search your house for a rake or a rifle / you know you won’t find / you know empty-handed / you know inevitable / they splinters through the kitchen door / all smiles / now they are / the faceless undead / familiar / no matter / not a single microbiotic memory buried in that viscera / no reason not to plunge bared teeth into your arm / tear at your face / even the house means you harm / its shingles shed like snakeskin / taupe tint of the upstairs hallway / jagged bark of a willow / it is time to give in / knees to chin / doe to water / even the air is bloodthirsty.