30/30 Project

Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets 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 seven volunteers for October 2014 are Rosalind Brenner, Kelly Fordon, Douglas Luman, Rebecca Macijeski, Darcy Shargo, Amber Shockley, and Carolyne Whelan. 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!

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If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please contact ksweet@tupelopress.org with your offer, a brief bio, and three sample poems and warm up your pen!

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Day 31 – Bonus Poem!

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Passing the Torch / by the October 30/30 Poets

In honor of the November 30/30 Poets

We were Olympians, quickened each morning
by an insistent muse, honing outpourings
stirred by October’s decree that we whet
our various voices, engendered poetry

& there were unexpected words for air or
common salt. We may have called an eye a bell—
small accidents will happen turning something
into summer or a weather.

October was warm for some of us, and fertile.
For others, cold came closer. Regardless, leaves
fell in their different shades, softly
drifting to land hopeful on the world.

Patterns of light may appear
suddenly & viciously where before
the world you inhabited
seemed simple shadow, colorless;

moments of stillness,
Saran-wrapped pages, wonder
at windows devoid of images.
How many ways to erase the
tameness?

Questions keep at us, hunting down
what we try hardest not to lose: a split
in the shadow, a hint that heals us,
a dim heart kept warm by inner fire.

And now, the witching hour. No poem
to beckon for metaphors summoned
by our electric imaginations: take it,
November. Use the blaze to blast
through writers block, and be fearless.

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Day 30 / Poems 30

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Epilogue / by Rosalind Brenner

Now the season
of putting out long shoots
completes its unswerving tread
toward finale and the clock retreats
of its own accord,
roots revisit separation.

I try to catch
a glimpse of green as it rusts
but the moment of the fade
evades detection.

How does this cut transpire?
How does it heal?

Each year I open briefly
to autumn’s fires returned,
nostalgia wafting from suburban houses,
on the cooling air.

The face of memory
stares back at me,
though she hides behind a veil.
Deep gray folds repel the cold,
a garment to seduce yet cover

what was: promise of warmth
in a cup of hot chocolate,
Charlotte Russe in a corner bakery,
a dad with child perched on his shoulders,
fleeting image from a window on a train.

Babies she once knew
who in one moment grew
as I gazed the other way.

Who is this woman: memory,
whose imprint, indiscernible
as earth’s orbit around the sun,
reappears as I spin through
the cycle of the tides—

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Thanks: 5am / by Kelly Fordon

For the lone purple flower blooming in October.
For the friend of a friend whose name eluded you.
For the many hours you spent analyzing your husband’s
flamboyant respirations, for the dogs who woke you
at daybreak, for the children who disappeared
to do their homework and emerged with suitcases.
For the woman taking attendance who never quite
believed your excuses. For winter, which should have
been filled with eggnog and crackling fires, for the many
vacations you almost took and the money you never quite
saved, for the places you always meant to go, for the world
from the top of the General Sherman (which you never saw),
from your bed right before you put your foot on the cold floor,
for all the days and weeks and months when you weren’t in pain,
when everything remained the same, and the sky vacillated
between gray and blue, and you didn’t have a thing to do,
for that too.

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The Magician: Light & Heat – Shadows Made Darker by Increased Light / by Douglas Luman

last page of the parcel scattered on a floor

Given lips, some paper, lump of wax make anything.
Spirits make hollow company, the Sun a spectral whenever;
place a thumb over a part of it & it becomes a filament
that bends ‘round the circular piece of a hand like a window,
a performance of hydrogen from the first of the dawn
or hours before.

Common writing muddies the proposition—handle what
is found there like a lamp meant to help unscrew time,
to mix up a wafer—a ready ladle for an eye. The body
will be the trick, a boy made of capillaries—that part
of the whole that foretells what things are composed of:
fractures composing what is under the skin.

The neck ties itself up tightly—except these are no gills
but are separate compartments of air less explicable than
the former. Like catgut. Like the difference between fingers
& thumbs. In the uniform of the body spirits can pass
as something other than themselves speaking a shell, turning
up its cuffs.

On some journeys, one must render a coin. I approach to return
my shilling. Place two half dollars in a fire and hold them under
the tongue— that lunar muscle, acts according to phases—
mostly waxing the moss of promises, echoes of some other name
spilling the crumbs of you that are left about. No matter volume,
sound travels farther in warm places, but is no substitute for a body.

Health & state—two descriptions that mean different things, the former
is time until the shilling is spent, the latter nothing but the dream
of a snuff box. Something grows in the bulb of my throat, twisting
the tongue. I think I am a variety of loud shadows. Invite spirits in by
writing in their voice. But once there, do you feed them cabbage or grains?
Oil or tallow? Stale fish if at hand.

Turn rain to steam, somehow. This liquid was hydrogen once, then
twice over with oxygen, juice of some minutes shared by all breathers.
All or nothing speaks the siphon. I cannot give a name to nothingness.
As soon as it is called anything, it fades. What if this shell is empty?
Gently knock to sound its thickness. If you ask for an accident,
you usually get two; a flash of color then a swallow of lightning.

What do the atoms know? But, to write an account alters
what others saw. Declare a bush blue or green, bursting out
writing & suddenly, a garden— but petals are only half
an indication of a shrub. Incant now, I become an ounce
& the wax melts, then bends into a knot like a body. Close
your eyes, pretending that you feel them.

Next, fill a room with darkness. Shut up in rooms into
which no light is admitted. Perhaps some though a small hole
in the window shutter. Imitate a silence, or a bell, the clapper
struck dumb inside. Consider time a jar & hold it. Let combustion
do what it does: not utter a consequence.
The sprit boils.

You are told moonstone. You are told moonglow. A chip
from the edge of the Earth; picture it,the slip of a boy’s
pop-gun. Fill a wick with stars. say, a briskness is here.
When the hands open as a whisper or an oyster,
have a feather if you cannot conjure a bird. Simple: fill
an appearance. As a porter for a spirit, feed it bread to manage.

Who present is tinder? Porcelain? A vessel
for water? Douse this wound. The flame, big as a mouth.
To the figure: speak your name to a room full of salt.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

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Today is One of Those Times / by Rebecca Macijeski

when I want to meet you in the secret we’ve made,
the library or garden we keep where our minds grow
elaborate mythologies about who and what we are.
Where it grows dark along the silence we gather
onto the campfire.

We let the flames do the speaking.
We let those incantations rise above us,
signaling to the creation gods,
We are ok. We are the food and blood
of our own stories. Watch us make ourselves
over and over. The stars will want to look.

They’ll open their eyes. The birds and
the dark bodies of the forest animals
will wonder where we’ve been all this time,
our faces lit in the fire’s questioning light.
What must it want of us? What must the warm say
when it writes across our skins? Here, together,
our hands open like holy books. The whole world
readies to recite us.

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A Bar Called Passive Aggressive / by Darcy Shargo

Today a flame was lit. Not all girls
are this passive. Not all girls are mere trinket
or doll. Do with me what you will,
but remember how blue is fire’s hottest part.
And what burns hottest
hums with highest frequency,
filling barrooms with dead birds
overtaken by the sound. Belly up, baby,
for the blue-tinged drink that makes
its drinker beg for bone. Not all girls
can take it. Not any man.

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Amber_leaf

Eve of All Hallows’ Eve / by Amber Shockley

Now the trees are throwing leaves
shaped like hearts. Wind-blown
rustle, then they hit the ground hard.
I pick one up that looks like me –
small, weathered, freckled.

Tomorrow children collect candy
in their pretty pails and sacks,
wearing wings and capes,
plastic fangs and face paint,
like trees that haven’t shed yet –
colorful, with full limbs, not bare.

They’ll knock on doors
with whole, green hearts.

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Poem About Coffee, By Request, for Evan / by Carolyne Whelan

In the morning, you make coffee.
I can make it myself, I pour
a damn fine cup, but I love the sound
of you working your way around
the kitchen, moving the chairs we never
push in, shoving clutter from one end
of the counter to another, the grinding
of beans, your steps creaking back
to me, hands warm with our hot mugs.
You say, write a poem about coffee,
but I think of working at Tazza d’Oro,
when you’d sit and pretend to read,
watching me tamp and pour. I’d catch
your eye between pages of Kierkegaard,
offer you a croissant, free refill, sweep
around your crumbs, invite you
back to my apartment for more.
You say coffee, I think of our first dates
at 7 a.m. riding our bikes before class
in a warm spell of February, heating
our bodies with the grind
of Pittsburgh hills, the river thawing
beside us as we stopped for a shot
of espresso at La Prima. You say,
write about coffee, I remember driving
to Boston, to Florida, to see my family,
those long and intense conversations
where I realized I might never tire
of loving you. I took you to the original
Dunkin’ Donuts storefront and we sat
dunking out plains into our regulars,
dangling our feet over the wintered seawall
of Wallaston Beach. You say coffee, but
I hear the wheels under foot, early morning
driving to a bike race, fueled by coffee,
adrenaline, and Cocksparrer. After work,
you come home late to me already tired,
you’re buzzed with caffeine dust from work
at the roaster, at the cafe, and never tire,
never exhaust from love for me or coffee.
When I miss you and stop by the cafe,
you pour me a shot, sparkling water, a chocolate.
It’s the perfect combination, each bettered
by the other two. Neither of us
is the dark bitter, the citrusy sour, syrupy
perfect caffeinated concoction. We don’t have to be.
That’s what the coffee’s for.

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Day 29 / Poems 29

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Gelotology (Halloween and—The Study of Laughter—not Jello) / by Rosalind Brenner

Day of the Dead approaches,
witches, skulls and Marigolds,
the Dapper Skeleton of Mexico
costume parties, scares and prayers
for troubled souls and dear departed.

And while the deep recesses of my poet brain
ache to compose a poem for Halloween
I read Dave Barry in the Funny Times
and laugh so hard I spill my tea.

Dave writes about the American demise
of manufacturing and garbled English tech support
that comes to us from India. Says the pilot of your plane
is ten years old, also in India, a joy stick in one hand,
lollipop in the other; and Congress’
legislation is mass produced in Taiwan.
Says all our stuff is made we don’t know where
and our only challenge to use our hands
opening the package without slicing off a thumb.

Controversial (devilish?) giggles
known as holy laughter had church goers
in Toronto writhing wildly lying on the floor.
In Laughter Yoga, laugh captains lead 8,000 worldwide
laughter clubs, conceived in India (where else) in 1995.

The elixir of hilarity
lifts the soul-destroying profusion
of the cycle of bad news.
Laughter is contagious, but sadly
not infectious as the plague of mayhem
haunting every corner of our world.

For Halloween I’ll draw a smile
across my mouth, or write a poem
renewing memories of innocence,
of baby ghosts and made up ghouls,
and wandering the neighborhood
with my spider man and ninja sons,
their pillow cases filled with sweets
and sugared smiles that lasted weeks.

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3am: / by Kelly Fordon

One child in Germany
with strep sending photos
of his throat, the ominous
white spots, the canker,
one child down the hall
throwing up repeatedly,
six hours until the doctor’s
office opens for Ambien,
for flu shots, for shots
of adrenalin for a shot
of B 12, my grandmother’s
cocktail, the 1970s
pick-me-up, it didn’t help
with the curvature, the way
her spine started leaning
toward the earth, like a
roller coaster ride plummeting
toward the ground. She was
so tired, she’d fall asleep
in her chair with her Louis
L’Amour novels and her Kent’s
and at 5pm she poured her first
Manhattan. Today I walked
the dog through streets turned
psychedelic with fall and though
I saw neighbors, I didn’t have
the energy to speak. It’s still
3am, by the way, my husband
is snoring, bellowing, broadcasting
his satisfaction, and I’m slapping
his arm and rolling this way and
that and wishing my grandmother
were still here so she could tell me
how to do this for forty more years.

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The Apprentice: Fire,Water, & Air – Proofs that Air is a Heavy Fluid / by Douglas Luman

Now, you approach the description of your thirst
& these minutes congeal like a jelly. The heavy vapor
of days to be seen is issued from the throat. Light
is the product of sunbeams, the word “glass”, &
the thick skein of ingredients that make up space.
What is the proportion of mistakes to the need
to breathe? The light makes distinct the matter
that it covers—the dirty mesh of hair, windows
blinded. It is the right of the will to become visible
thus, I approach this box to return my shilling.
Spirits make for hollow company—they are holes
of names transferred to skin. They may exist as
light, but will become like remains of fish.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

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At First Frost / by Rebecca Macijeski

The world grows cold. Finally leafless trees
surrender to their future of waiting, the promise

that green will find them again months from now
after spending winter listening to the stories

snow brings from the distance as it falls,
after the quiet of white stacked high on branches.

This is what begins, air stealing heat from my hands
to feed back into the sky. Children waiting for the bus

become little woolen smokestacks. The moon’s
razor edge recedes back into its day home. Ice

feathers a slick universe on each of the windshields.
star maps that fade away like Alexandria

into the morning’s warm engines.

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Deaths, Separations, and Boats Lost at Sea / by Darcy Shargo

When I left your sauna mouth,
I felt woozy like the first time

I’d done a somersault or written
my name without making an error.

Like a teapot filled with scalding water,
meeting tannin and blooming brackish

in the one square of sun left during
a winter afternoon. It was not

because you forgot to cut your hair.
It was not because you knew

fourteen ways to tie a scarf
and wore Chuck Taylors until the sole

was gone. You told jokes
without ruining punchlines

and read Anna Karenina all the way through
despite your disdain for romance.

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1995, You Think You’re Going to Walk in Looking Just Like Cher from Clueless / by Amber Shockley

You’ve been carefully planning your
back to school outfit for weeks,
but when the moment comes you
wear her red handprint to homeroom.

The skirt’s only worry was the dress
code, but now you wish the hem lower,
to your knees, to your ankles, you wish
the edge would hit the ground then rise

back up to swallow you in warm cloth.
No one notices your new clothes
because you’re still robed in the same
shame you were last year,

same loyalty that keeps your mouth
shut, your brows furrowed, your brain
daydreamy. You are never in Math class.
You are figuring new ways to love her

enough. You’re working out the ravel,
the impossibility of leaving, of college,
of stepping away from worry’s dizzy,
closed-fist grip that makes you see stars

most days. You look at the stars in
others’ eyes, and they twinkle. You
seem almost the same as them, but your
stars flicker, like they too are afraid.

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At a Gas Station in New Mexico / by Carolyne Whelan

Being hyperactive with the rush
that comes from a break in winter winds,
being an introvert and having nothing
particular to say and no one
particularly eager to hear it,
I dressed up like a superhero
and skateboarded the evening
streets of Santa Fe.

At the Allsups, strangers
were filming a documentary
on gas station convenient store workers
and the shit they have to deal with
like drug deals, like attempted robberies,
like that time that one guy got shot,
or that lady some months ago, like spills
that creep from aisle 4 to aisle 1
when stoned college kids forget
to turn off the Slush Puppy fountain,
like that manic chick in hot pink kneepads,
tube top, denim vest, goggles, and mohawk,
drooling for a churro and a chimi.

Rocco, our attendant, was annoyed
at being held up once, nothing kept in the register,
the bullet proof glass now covered
in finger prints, people always pointing
and never wiping their feet before entering.

I wasn’t crazy like they hoped. When asked,
mic and camera rolling, what I was doing,
I told them: I was waking from a long sleep,
watching the city’s characters
play out our rolls, listening to traffic
that sounds like a song played in reverse,
I was grabbing snacks, I was saving
my own life.

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Day 28 / Poems 28

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Lunchtime Meditation / by Rosalind Brenner

Welcome, the sign says; if meditation is in progress please enter quietly,
and I smile to think that in a moment one half hour spent in silence
will be good for my head and for those who enter wanting
peace for thirty minutes as I lead them in their breath.

Joe is slouching into sleep. Nan is fidgeting. Maureen taps her feet to some pinging
nerve that has her trapped, perhaps in thoughts of Gerry’s new wig or suicide bombers
in Iraq, what George Bush wrought, or the day of busyness ahead.

I say Just breathe, remind them (and me) to connect mind and heart. Be the still point in
the turning world,
I say. Don’t board the train. Don’t force your breath or beat yourself for
thinking. No judgment in the now. Just breathe.

(Soon enough we’re compost. Tossed out like sprout-eyed potatoes rotting in a basket.
Leftovers, use by date expired, catapulted back into the mind continuum.)
I don’t say this.

They namaste, thank me, and I remind my happy group: bring this equanimity to
everyone you meet today.

I leave and think about the ice cream in my frig and the blouse I hope to find in TJ Maxx.
On the car radio, news report: one more child dead from yesterday’s school shooting.
F… the world, I think, and its constant stream of ugly news.

I scribble a note on a sticky to pick up bananas for the turtles in my yard. Try again to
breathe at least until I have to find a parking space and navigate the market place.

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They Don’t Come Back* / by Kelly Fordon

I heard a siren and wondered who’s next?
The lunchlady killed crossing the street.
This somnambulant town filled with peril.
One friend moved away and promptly died.
I feel the urge to rhyme to stave off sadness,
and the chant that keeps looping thru my head:
They don’t come back, They don’t come back!
My father in his gray suit and my other love
who drank himself to death. When people leave
they don’t come back. They don’t come back!
What was the name of the book about the organ
donors? The games where only one survived?
A man turned wolf, kids lost in the woods.
I’m starting again, I wish this was a jingle.
Something to crochet and hang upon the wall.
A pithy epithet, a couplet, a ditty that would
make you laugh. At home alone on the couch,
day bleeds into night, it’s time for prayer
or not. Either way these thoughts won’t stop.
They don’t come back. They don’t come back!

*In memory of my 90-year-old neighbor, who kept saying it toward the end.

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The Magician: Transmutations – Union of Two Metals Without Heat / by Douglas Luman

.
The mercury of fact

soaks knots of words in heat

creating the burning

feeling linked to the Sun

without its circumstance

or presence. With this hinge

fix head to shoulders—though

optics do not translate

to the tongue easily

& it may be asked why

do we not speak double?

The answer—a matter

of habit. Given lips,

paper, a lump of wax

make a mere anything.

Bore through some minutes, rub

them to a furrow. Make

experiments, make some

mistakes.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

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When This Begins / by Rebecca Macijeski

Deck lights on the apartments pool their glowing
on the dog walkers still wearing sleep things.
Hounds stagger yawns out from their beastly mouths.
Commuters wear cars like exoskeletons.
Dozens of beetles climb a length of highway,
red and green streaking along their metal backs.
My mug holds its pond surface of coffee,
these calm waters I drink down to their source
each morning. Too soon, before I’m through,
the day has lit itself. Birds chatter into their bodies,
flying low like missiles. What I long for
is the place of silence cats tilt their heads toward,
the quiet that grows in them from the small animals
they’ve hunted. The questions we ask ourselves
are furiously cluttered with words,
vast ribbons of thought tumbling out of us
like so much fourth of july bunting
trailing out of its own universe toward
a perfection in details. Like the laddered palette
of my housecat when he yawns and I see down
past his tongue’s tight curl
into the same darkness that stays in all of us.

*
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Note to Self / by Darcy Shargo

You are willow. You are rain pooling
on sewer grate. The earth
rotting under leaves that all afternoon
whisk up, reshuffle, then come back down
with a sound not distinguishable
from rain or the a voice
of a child lost in woods.
You’ve been accused of being voltage,
pestilence, & too much inside
your own brain. This is why you’re brusque
& have a mad horse’s gait.
‘Tis why you bruise, why you graft
yourself to other living forms.: you’re just
a pattern of bad weather.

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Scott Fights Father Time / by Amber Shockley

In Science class Scott watched
film of a water droplet swan dive,
oblong slow motion into a cup of water.
From that day forward he was changed,
saw everything in delay.
Holding his mother’s hand,
walking toward a store entrance,
the slide doors waiting to swallow them,
he would light his mind on a bird,
imagine its ponderous hops,
the little spring of talons.
His mother would tug his fingers,
always in a hurry, but for the most part
he found he could lag any small
item of his life – leaves along the sidewalk,
his sister blowing out birthday candles.
He could keep those things and replay
them later, longer, stretched.
He could collect and keep each moment safe.

*
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Duquesne / by Carolyne Whelan

The truth is, I don’t remember
what it was like before 9/11/01.
You were just post-war
graduating college, but I think
of that time as pre-war: before the attacks,
new witch hunts, digital revolution
and self surveillance. Before war became
so abstract and constant that any confrontation
was a battlefield: war on Christmas,
war on guns, war on women. If this is a war,
we are political prisoners, Mary–
I’d read your manifesto, hold up my fist
next to yours.

I wish I knew you then,
wild as a dream, a genius
sipping wine in the courtyard
between classes. We would have
been friends, I hope. I’d always try
to keep up with you. You might have called
at 3 a.m., knowing I was awake,
our brains in heat for knowledge,
and we’d walk to the Point, throw rocks
into the rivers’ merge, then our bottles,
then feel guilty.

For now, I’d settle to fly on a plane
without a body scan. I want to bring
my coffee through security,
use my own shampoo, and lots of it.
An in-flight meal, check my bike for free.
End a relationship and move
and be done with it, never know them again.
Make a mistake and walk away from it,
not like from a burning building,
but from an ice slip. Smooth, harmless,
unreported. It’s these little things.

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Day 27 / Poems 27

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Toothy Gratitude / by Rosalind Brenner

Fragment gift,
and I, recipient,
spit little bits
of thread and chips,
slivers of bone.

For this donation:
the promise of chewing
passed on,
I thank the man or woman
who signed their driver’s license
so that I can eat
and I wonder if
we share DNA
now that he or she’s
a part of me.

Ice cream, crème brulee
rice pudding and soup
please my taste buds
and I don’t care
to bear down on a steak;

but cashews, almonds,
crunchy crackers
apples, cabbage
broccoli raab
hang suspended
like a carrot dangled
just beyond a rabbit,
till I can bite,
smile without a gap
and happily feed my face.

Patience, the surgeon counsels—
From this kind offering of
cadaver bone
my own new bone will grow.

He promises I’ll feast again
when my brand new tooth is placed.

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fordon

VILHELM HAMMERSHOI
Interior with a Lady 1901 / by Kelly Fordon

It’s one thing
to be incarcerated.
It’s another to enter
freely. The emptiness
leaden, the days
dusty shelves.
dwarfed,
by the window,
no entertainment,
nothing to occupy
your time. No man.
No children.
Only the light
outside.
So close.

*
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The Apprentice: Light & Heat – Effect of Light on Plants / by Douglas Luman

If two clocks together take the same rate of going,
how can it be that the sun becomes a spectral whenever;
place a thumb over parts of it & it becomes a filament that
bends ‘round the circular piece of a hand like a window,
a performance of hydrogen from the first of the dawn
or hours before. It is the tone that reduces thunder
to a sound, or a number of clicks that cause the spring
season & its hyacinths. Place that & a narcissus
in a glass—even the latter will grow faster. One says
that the flame of a spirit is what makes things glow.
But, in lamp-light, what does not shine? If that
same lamp be introduced to a dark room, wherein
there are faded blooms (or a man)—tell me again
what do spirits have to do with handsome oak plants?

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

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What / by Rebecca Macijeski

What the day buries in its light.
What the night, gleaming along its cyclical end,
gathers in the shadows before tiring out.
What the bicycle tires know when they grip the world
and spin their little circles. What the dog
and its antagonized mouth say into the air.
What birds breathe when they make their straw houses.
What the garden snakes spell, winding vowels in the grass.
What sends a tree’s leaves careening from home. What
pulls vegetables soft, back to the land. The promise
today makes of coming back tomorrow. What finds me
to tell me what I’ve been thinking all this time.

*
*

Poem Composed with My Children’s Assistance / by Darcy Shargo

Roses are red &
your head a fireball. Violets
are blue I & want to hear
that supposed song. Pockmarked
with pushpins. I love the hair
of the dog. Your glasses of course
yellowed, like a pretty poem.

*
*

The Hair Witch / by Amber Shockley

She’s squished between the head board
and the wall. She reaches her fingers
through the slats, grabbing at the length
I’ve grown to my waist, long because
my father wants it long. He won’t
let my mother cut it. My mother sits
with me at the window in the daylight,
she checks my scalp and picks out nits
by hand. The shampoo stings and stinks.
Neither the poison nor the bugs repel
the hair witch. She wants a child’s silky hair
for herself – a wig for her bald, veined head.
My mother braids my hair at night
so it won’t become knotted by morning.
I wrap the braid around me, hold the rope
like a blood-dark, vulnerable cord.

*
*

Letter to a Former Self (for Becky) / by Carolyne Whelan

I have nothing to tell you really, child.
You are fine to begin with. You feel
you have it all figured out and people
will tell you, no, but honestly:
it’s true it doesn’t matter how you dress
how strangers see you
how lined your pockets, how empty.
You give all of yourself to almost anyone
who needs it and you’ll keep with it,
even more when you have nothing,
giving your hair or heart or hand.
Take your own. Relax, you’ll be angry
for a long time, that doesn’t
go away. The world is infuriating
sometimes, and baffling in its charm.
That’s what saves you: romanced by life,
the smell of pine tree fires and wild
lavender, the sound of trains, the sound
of pedal distortion and snare, and wind
against those bulbous cheeks. You’ll never
stop riding your bike. It will take you places
you dream of dying, and you’ll live. Time
still stops, sometimes you’ll wake up
months or hours or a year past
when you thought you were,
you’ll rarely see yourself in the mirror.
It never changes. But you’ll walk it
like a bass line, like a melody.
You’ll still hear music in everything.

*
*

Day 26 / Poems 26

*

What is ‘I’ / by Rosalind Brenner

with thanks to Roger Housden

The answer seems to shift as tides
are pulled by weather and the moon.

Waves will never cease to rise and fall.
Only the current beneath the patterns

of the immeasurable persists.
There the I endures.

Into this vast and empty
we submerge and re-appear.

Now is invariable, alive in breath
that conjoins heart with mind.

Begin to find the source inside the question.
Seek who it is that wants to know.

Find the ineffable crevasse
where sky meets sea

and you will find yourself
at your own door.

This has been said before. But do you hear;
do you know you wear your habit’s

secret under the flimsy costume
you think is you? These rags

fragment as the course decays.
This has been said before

by Whitman, Merwin, Rumi
Dickinson, Thoreau—

and by the ‘me’ always searching
to explore the mystery, and more:

purpose, reasons, meaning—
or what are poets for—

*
*

Witness #3 / by Kelly Fordon

The witness read Us

magazine thinking it
might reveal something

significant about us.

*
*

The Magician: Fire, Water, & Air – Resin Bubble / by Douglas Luman

.
The glass shadow of sad

ammonia. Water put

to air—take the frozen

crystals of it, nitrate

of time reversed. What forms

is often opposite

of what litmus suggests.

Complementary you

may be made an angle

or bits of asbestos;

all but a brisk fire or

an ornament or box.

Common writing muddies

the proposition—let

one cease to be thought

singular. This construct,

this thin case of body—

press it like a bubble

in the length of your hand.

But, this is ocular

deception. A brief drop,

tenuity. A small spot.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Ghost Town / by Rebecca Macijeski

Books yield under time and sun
into dusty butterflies
swarmed on schoolroom floors.

Old storefronts and church houses
lean into the mountainside
weathering out apologies to the trees
that died into them, that die again

each time noon creeps up over
the porch of the saloon
looking to drink through the bottles
still gathered on tables
in eternal conversation.

*
*

Keyhole / by Darcy Shargo

From this keyhole the world inflates.
Nebulized air. Indistinct possibility—
as though a game of Telephone
at a slumber party. From it you must

write the story of your life. You accept
this challenge—fine,—with its infinite
clauses, with its dirty little adjectives
and verbs, which hang at the edge

until the last minute. From this keyhole
it is difficult to get oxygen, and so
you confuse the order of things:
an infinitive gets split, among other

disasters—and those diagrammed spaces—
even with clear lines—don’t mean anything.

*
*

Look Out / by Amber Shockley

My mother has gone early to make
biscuits for McDonald’s. She tells me
she can crack eggs with one hand.
She tells me how fast she works.
When she comes home, I smell
other peoples’ hunger on her, not
her own. She leaves so soon
the sun hasn’t had a chance yet.
The moon is still out, a flashlight
with its battery dimming. I look
out the window of her brothers’
bedroom, where mama has stored me,
in her childhood home. I sit in the black
back bedroom and wonder what home
feels like, and brothers. Their papers,
posters, books smell like dead things,
look like flesh rotting off the bone.
Where are her brothers? Are they
angry at her like my father? I let
the moon watch over us both –
the soft gleam eye sees in the dark.

*
*

Fire Walker / by Carolyne Whelan

When the lights went out on Swinburne Street,
little fox, you were a coruscating brilliance
in our dark. It was late enough to pull my bike
to the guard rail and hover over you. No traffic
would bother with us tonight. The power line
wrapped around you in a sparked circle,
your tenemos, as your tail twitched to the spark
of electric current it carried. Bewitched,
I thought of other fires: Zozobra’s Old Man Gloom,
heartbroken dumpster fires of forced nihilism,
and finally the car fire on Pulaski Street, Brooklyn,
where I watched —we all watched— the man
in the driver’s seat burn and thrash and try
his pathetic handle, the door molded
shut with a heat only metals know. The fire fighters
for some reason tried the trunk, and I
tried to keep walking, but I couldn’t. I stayed—
we all stayed— and watched him die, his screams
just audible beyond the brilliant roar of the fire,
the pointless sirens since quit, none of us talked,
except to ourselves, Oh, just so awful, and my
poor groceries near spoiled from the heat
in my backpack, a fire on a summer night, and however long
I waited for the show to end, the thrashing to finally cease,
so I knew what to tell my friends later, how to feel
about the deaths I’ve seen before or since, about you,
little fox, your eyes blinking. I knew it had to be
the electricity pulsing through, but I hoped, just a little,
you were okay, lying calm and painless, more
than alive beyond a life you ever knew.

*
*

Day 25 / Poems 25

*

Circus Revisited / by Rosalind Brenner

What child would not love acrobats,
performing elephants, tiny car
that bulged with red-nosed clowns, their floppy
shoes protruding from open windows, sun-roof
gushing yellow hats and orange hair,
huge ears stuck on and buttons big as dinner plates
sewed to their silly garish suits?

But in a scary, tragic tent
the side attraction of the show:
a lady with full growth
of beard; a boy with alligator skin;
two fellows joined as one, billed as
“the man who has two heads.”
A giant with twisted legs
looked ten feet tall, and next to him
a sad and crooked miniature man
with a head round as a ball.

In a corner sat a little girl
with shrunken legs
and an enormous crooked skull—
She smiled at me—

No wonder the ground fell
from beneath my feet.
Until I stepped
inside I never knew the world
was anything but me:
cautious, pretty child in ironed pinafores,
boutique ringlets, milk and Oreos,
Hopscotch, Hit the Penny
in the courtyard with my dad

and mother’s fear of polio
swimming pools, elevators
dark spirits that might lurk
in basement laundry rooms.

But Mom and Dad were unaware
how a three ring circus could teach
their sheltered child
to press her hands against her eyes
to keep from seeing
“Freak Show” images haunt
her bedroom walls.

Such displays have mostly been abandoned.
Our macabre everyday, these days
is filled with children who, like brave Malala,
experience horrors so much worse—
trapped by assassins, fanatic freak-show zealots,
profiteers wielding weapons, crazies run amok.

*
*

New Orleans 10/25 / by Kelly Fordon

People
Who eat too much
Who don’t eat enough
Who have a hitch in their hips
Who hop
Who scoot around on scooters
Who sleep with mouths agape
Who flag down the man in the turtle costume
And drink piña coladas that taste
Like suntan lotion
Wet footprints on pavement
And boys in board shorts sucking
Down bright blue slurpees
Screeching birds
Peeping birds
tree fronds like peacock tails
Books about haunted houses and
The memory of running
An old woman in a leopard skin
cover up
An old man with a face like a
cork board
A cold wind
Clouds
A girl yelling
Mommmmm
Heads turning like
Ducks in the shoot’im game
At the county fair
Silence

*
*

The Magician: Melange – To Tell what O’clock it is by the Moon / by Douglas Luman

notes the margin

The method of legend is an inscription
upon absolute darkness & a promise to
what is called the skin. It makes the eyes
borrowed rubies simulating motion of coals
in the pan of a fire-shovel. Instead, you must
settle for pouring the sluggish light of embers
& what is sand-like about hours—ashes—
into a large bowl of occasion. The moon
has been seen to vanish in a jar, thus
invite it into a full basin to make itself
an image of the atmosphere. With this still’s
diameter, of course proportions will be off.
But, handle what is found there like a lamp
meant to help unscrew time, to mix up
a wafer—a ready ladle for an eye.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Landscape with Salt / by Rebecca Macijeski

It’s interesting what we choose to remember,
how we make our lives into movies. Even
the tragedies become reel after reel of myth,
each failure a prequel to what debuts now.

When we first went for groceries in Japan,
longing for home in a pitcher of sweet tea,
we bought a five kilo bag of sugar
that wasn’t sugar. Salt instead.
We always said we’d make a little dead sea
with it in our steel sink, build paper boats
to watch our world claim them for the deep.

We left the country before we could, but
I keep a space for them in my mind’s ocean.
Ships absorbing and corroding, dragged
with their treasures to the sink’s bottom.
Paper birds tease the waves with their wings,
dripping as they light again for a tatami sky.
I like to think fish have built lives there, too,
white and lounging on the surface,
leaving paper eggs as they glide,
paper gills filling then clearing.

*
*

The Ninth Year in the Decade of Sorrow / by Darcy Shargo

Someone tells me this suffering will
end. I cannot enter anything
until this becomes true. If I offend,
then I apologize—but it is true: another night without
comfort from a friend and I might lose
my mind. All I bring tonight is wine drunk
from a Dixie cup, and the flame
I used to carry in my shirt pocket.
And again: the rabbit’s foot worn raw
with wishes, rubbed to tendon and useless
against my left breast. If there were a mender
for this broken thing, I would empty my pockets
to pay her price—splay my heart as long
as it took to make a new stitch….how to forge
a seam where only gaping was before.

*
*

Chipping Wombats / by Amber Shockley

Australia is beaming from my television screen –
a pink-rimmed eye, surrounded with fur,
peeks out of a satchel. Two men gather
the small beast from the bag like a bowling ball,
polished, rolled. They smooth the fur
with a few pats, then introduce a needle.
Now they’ll know when she mates, where
she goes. The next scene, they’re pulling
a koala cub from its mothers back, the baby’s
fingers like Velcro. The mother breeds again,
as the men, laughing, shelter the infant’s eyes.
Last, the men are holding a platypus up
from the water by the tail; they’ve lucked up
on two huge males that were fighting. Shirtless,
the men intervene, like Adam and his sons
must’ve done, before they’d even met
all the nature we’ve named now.

*
*

Love Poem / by Carolyne Whelan

Whatever moves you rolls me over,
Love. Those branches rustling in your head,
the incessant chaos of thought, that
is the ringing in my ears when I try to sleep,
Love. When you burn your hand, mine
doesn’t swell and blister, but I feel the guilt
of carelessness like a pipe against my knees.

Love, we are two seeds fighting to grow
the same tree, and it doesn’t matter who wins.

……………The tree wins.

……………………But still, keep fighting for it.

*
*

Day 24 / Poems 24

*

Haikus / by Rosalind Brenner

Prediction

Delphic October—
Death with fading auburn hair
waits for November.

Lamp

Full October moon—
we mistake its rising for
a neighbor’s searchlight

S.A.D.

Whitecaps, inky sea—
my summer heart shrinks, sinking
in the choppy waves.

Wind

Small sleeping Buddha,
bent grasses tickle your face.
They don’t ruffle you.

Respite

Sheers purl in windy evening,
shift in a moonbeam.
Bare feet on a heated floor.

My Worker Bee

You take a quick break.
I yearn to spoon with you dear—
Salve with sweet honey.

*
*

Mid-Life Anorexia / by Kelly Fordon

The women disappeared one by one,
chalk paintings on the sidewalk,
they slid through mail slots, lozenges
on their lovers’ tongues, so slight the
sunlight shone right through them,
children tried to catch them as they

floated up over the playgrounds toward
the city where they landed in nightclubs,
in the dark, with their skinny jeans and
extensions they might have been twenty again,
out with boys who wouldn’t want to be anyone’s
father, who won’t surf porn sites or trade up.

The days are for counting cups and crunches,
everything has to be perfect, except that it’s not,
except for the hunger, so insistent that filling
the hummingbird feeder is too tempting.
The kids scream like passing ambulances,
the only thought how long until bed, where
no one eats, in dreams they are always gorging.

Much later, officially old, they’ll slip into their own
pocketbooks, into their flasks, spry old ladies
in swimming pools standing on their heads,
At least we didn’t let ourselves go.

*
*

The Magician: Melange – Illusions of Touch / by Douglas Luman

notes in the margin

The body will be the trick, a boy made
of capillaries—that part of the whole that foretells
what things are composed of: fractures
composing what is under the skin. Hollow objects
still enclose some air or sound. But, like any other,
cotton still grips to figures of straw—that person
strewn dry, kindled card of tinder—the difference
is in the echo, how the mass of linen & hemp is cold
when the Sun is withdrawn. For example, split a reed
finding the sole thing agreeable to living—some sap.
The weakest part of porcelain starts in the solution,
speak into a bowl & when it cracks, notice
a bloom of powder in a cone of light. The empty
end of a candle, the produce of a sprout never
growing less & less bright.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Patience / by Rebecca Macijeski

The pink in the sunrise tells time
softly along the pale green yard.
Pumpkins carved too soon
sag out of their ghoulishness,
orange hulls gumming the air. This
humid October, mouths warp
and stumble into new expressions.
Horror tamed to lemon puckers,
a devil’s smile into the look
the neighborwoman makes
when I glimpse her in the window
leaving milk for cats. A face so old
it might die tomorrow, and then
who would I imagine becoming?

*
*

Semblance / by Darcy Shargo

You are bribed to live inside
this life: & must continue

what is required because
that is what love requires:

reaching back to the beginnings
of things that seemed would only become

beautiful & are beautiful in the way a horse
breaking a bone mid-stride is: holding

breath & hoping for the spectacular
when you know how the race will end.

*
*

Camp 22, a 4.2 Star Review / by Carolyne Whelan

Kim Jong Un, you affable clown. How your roly-poly stance
on genocide and sincere smile to your starving subjects
makes us forget. Hoeryong Concentration Camp was voted
4.2 stars on Google Plus. Political prisoners kept
with their families and starved together shows such amnesty,
Supreme Leader, while you grow daily from imported cheese.

Our people, whom you view as ebola-stricken peasants,
love the pomp of your terror, your family history
of clowning with massacre, indulging in wine
and blood and sport and execution. O, to be a Roman
in Korea, the bread and circus you’ve offered yourself.

Defactors have been shocked and awed in Siberia,
held in prison camps with more food than they could stomach.

Did you watch your father in awe, Supreme Leader,
in his efficacy, strong hand, self branding? Did he pass down,
like my father passed to me the skill of finding small objects
in a cluttered world, the rules of torture etiquette and how long,

how young, for what reasons? Do you share a favorite method,
favorite treason? Clown Supreme, so jolly, so marketable
by militants, is this the life you planned as a child,
could you dream another way, would you dare to?

*
*

Day 23 / Poems 23

*

“Flirting With the Dark Side” / by Rosalind Brenner

I could read a contemplation-meditation
like I may die today. Buddha books
line my shelves. But I am
at the counter eating toast, drinking coffee
and last Sunday’s Style Section
of the Times pulls me in.

With one friend lying in hospital, recovering,
but another found dead in his living room
and murder on every other page,
I’d rather read the styles and fashion trends
keep it light. An article about the latest Met show,
“Death Becomes Her,” speaks of ‘romance
with the reaper,’ a voguish sense of brooding,
‘winsome’ despondency; proclaims that death is chic!

Perhaps death is the new life,
I think, seductive, all the rage
the cries of mothers quashed,
soldier suicides not mentioned.
This is not what Buddha meant.

Mesmerized by these deranged ideas:
mortality and modishness are intertwined;
‘in grief folks still are in the large thrall of the world
of fashion,’ I feel glued to my comfortable seat, set in
the hourglass though the sands keep seeping.
Not for a second do I wonder what my friends will wear
when my turn at sexy death appears.
The outcome creeping closer every day still smarts
no matter what the garb of mourning.

*
*

On Grief / by Kelly Fordon

When the car door locks and unlocks by itself.
When the wind chimes through stillness.
When the phone rings and then stops.
When the milk expires on his birthday.
When the dog barks and rushes the door.
When I sit in his armchair, my hand on the remote.
Whenever I smell Old Spice.

When it is too cloudy for stars, when I hear
wingtips echoing down marble hallways.
When a chickadee pecks at the window pane.
When I stretch out on the cold ground.
When a lone clematis blooms in October.
When the leaves plummet like suicide jumpers.
When I remember that he used to say:
I’ll always be there.

*
*

The Magician: Fire, Water, & Air – Proofs that Air is a Heavy Fluid / by Douglas Luman

.
Take now this nebulous

apple, like the goldfish

from water throws itself

into a pan. The neck

ties itself up tightly—

except these are no gills

but are two separate

compartments of air

less explicable than

the former. Like catgut.

Like the difference between

fingers & thumbs. But at its

driest, the weight is still

enormous. Do not close

your throat while moon clasps

its tongue. Drink this fluid

which in another cup

disappears.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Sometimes the Best / by Rebecca Macijeski

choice is simplest, watching
the quiet in the sky fill
with distance, unseen birds,
the lag of a train. Autumn trees
empty like lungs
for the long exhale toward winter
and what I feel, waiting to be found,
is not grief or fog,
but belonging, the knowledge
that what builds my body
has built the world.

*
*

There Are Still Fine Days in October / by Darcy Shargo

But today is not one of them.
The ocean broils, froths up
a soap that covers outcrop & threatens
all things bucolic: facing the bay, windows open
a finger width where curtains flail.

When I pass this much wealth I want to destroy it.
…………I like the sea spitting

at landscaped lawns that old-money families
take for granted. I like the wet-weathered, fur-soaked stain
that passes over and lingers in the air like the smell of sex.
The way back home, my own accomplishments
seem ridiculous against the rage the sea

makes and it doesn’t even know
…………what tragedies are hidden here on land.

*
*

CAM01059

Hospice for a Long-Life Cat / by Amber Shockley

for Molly

little curl of black and white,
wild child, couch scratcher,
chicken thief, sneaky ninja,
sooted snout, meow,
wisp of fur at tip of ear,
dip your nose in a cup,
now a towel from the
dryer’s hum, let me
keep you warm.

*
*

My Second Riot (1997) / by Carolyne Whelan

Before Jenny broke her neck and the world
was boring and accountable, and the Middle East
nightclub still had all-ages shows, we waited.

In February in Cambridge we still wore fishnets
and minis, freshly shaven heads covered with a knit, steel-toed’s
a bad idea. We shivered in our bomber jackets and leathers
waiting for the line to move forward, dwindle down. Hours passed.

The sun crested Hubba Hubba’s, then TT The Bear’s, and by the time
the darkness set on us, the cold winter shade of night,
the sidewalks had a melted path from our stationary warm bodies.

News traveled down the channel that the show
was sold out, had been sold out, sold out at pre-sale,
the hostility building like snowball, avalanching toward the back.

As the line dispersed towards Tony’s Pizza, fires ignited
in trash barrels and someone shouted that’s the owner’s car,
and everyone bounced the little white sedan ’til the bumper broke,
then flipped it – the brute force of teenage angst – slashed
the tires and set it on fire. It was a bad idea. It wasn’t

his car. But I had to admit, we were all so cold,
and the fire was so sultry, so brilliant.

*
*

Day 22 / Poems 22

*

Maidstone Drive Bike Ride / by Rosalind Brenner

The gulls, dining on seafood,
litter my path—
shell fragments
clams, whelk,
an occasional crab leg,
scallops laid bare.

Scallops! Fluted sculpture,
autumnal architecture;
the road a banquet table

and I, uninvited guest
on my bicycle
greet the sensuous mantle
of chill morning mist.

The birds scatter at my approach.
Some fly, grip their booty in their beaks
as if it were the last supper.
The brazen ones
swivel their bobbing heads,
look at me, offended
drop their hard won
hapless bit of meat
and saunter off.

*
*

The Witness #2 / by Kelly Fordon

The Witness volunteered
to make cards for the sick principal.
The teacher hobbled around in her
black sensible shoes passing out
cut outs, stamps, paper.
She spoke very softly as if
she had just been released
from a nunnery.
The Witness enjoyed
folding the colored paper
and gluing the stickers on
one by one.
She tried not to look up.
The teacher spelled out
Get Well Soon! on the board.
Soon, it was time to draw.
A little red-haired boy said,
May I please have another marker?
The teacher’s head rotated toward him,
Markers? More markers? she screamed.
The Witness clapped her hands
over her ears. When she woke,
she was surrounded by children,
and the teacher, who suggested
The Witness see a doctor,
and mentioned that her husband
was also prone to fits.

*
*

The Apprentice: Sight & Sound – Straight Objects Seen Crooked / by Douglas Luman

It will cease to be singular, the facts
of objects. Shut one eye & direct the other
to any fixed object. In the uniform of the body,
spirits can pass as something other than
themselves. It keeps what it replaces in a barrel
until it vanishes or ferments with buckthorn;
the ether that most enables, resulting in a pattern
of ashes & the ring of an acorn. Will becomes powder
that sparks communicate when coal changes. How
copying this writing assists in the disappearing act.
I suppose the next word written to be cat, the first
letter c, but it appears as nothing of the sort. The images
of any mischief have been dissolved in chlorine. What
proportion of liquid to trifles renders a man
to the size of a pea?

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

What They Would Tell You / by Rebecca Macijeski

The apple tree: You’re welcome, earth, for my fruit
that knocks on your door each day
and asks for a future in pies.

The river: Thirst brings me memories of climbing
poured down from mountains along my throat.
A calm, perennial swallowing.

The maple: Autumn is not my end. This weary
shuddering only brings my leaves closer
to the home in soil they long for, a tidy burial.

The bird: Wings are weapons of gratitude
lifting you in and out of the world.

The porch: My favorite is spending night time
listening for footfalls, imagining a rhythm
of deer along my back, the imprint of hooves.

The geranium: Here is my promise of red,
the loose blooms that keep clustering,
my pot like a closed room.

The woodshed: Stop collecting. Tools are
what you make of them. Build something.
Find a way back to the forest.
There are thousands of ways to go home.

The house: Remember me?

*
*

DS22

*
*

Moth in a Mason Jar / by Amber Shockley

Daddy, when I fluttered my wings
at the windows that day mama
got out of the house and I wasn’t
quick enough behind her, were you
a boy that had found some magic
in the woods, sealed the lid to keep
me whatever the consequences?

*
*

For Colin / by Carolyne Whelan

The days were short then, but bright.
In your dorm, we tucked in layers of curtains,
trying to block out the New Mexico sun
that fought for entry like an RA, cop,
or –this is where you’d make some great reference
to a historical figure, and I could carry on–

Your room, in my memory, was a maze
and I thought you were a genius for having built it.
Hallways out of thrift store armoires and bureaus,
fort rooms of sheets and curtains. By the time snacks
and comforts were spread out, we pillowed against
the cool window as Butch Cassidy pushed his face
against the bank’s, all of us surveying our surroundings.

I couldn’t tell you then how happy I was
to be invited to hang out with you and your friend,
how cool you seemed to me in your wit
and banter, like the movie buddies themselves.

Not often able to stay still, there was something rebellious
about a dark room on an afternoon,
drinking half a beer and watching a movie,
knowing the world was happening outside
and for once being able to let it.

*
*

Day 21 / Poems 21

*

Love Poem Written in the Car Returning From the Buddhist Festival / by Rosalind Brenner

for Michael

We are as fortunate as a blind turtle
swimming the ocean for 100,000 years
who comes up from the depths
to find himself embraced by a golden yoke.
Our lucky break, our karmic good fortune
to have found the Dharma in this lifetime.
The teacher tells the gathered crowd
if we abandon all self-grasping
we can become like Buddha, living for the benefit of all.

I can promise to be here for you,
my Bodhisattva friend.
You have been my love so long
you inhabit my smile.

I hum our hymn listening to Donavan
and remember the lesson. Then, shifting
my attention, I think of your morning pancakes
the smear of shaving cream on your ear,
pillows I tower between us when you snore.
So long have we been a pair, but I still breathe
the sweet surprise of you when you climb my stairs

I will sweep the studio, turn up the lights
and try to abandon grasping
as the Nun instructed, so I can
find within myself compassion
for all living beings, spread joy
along a more generous path,
see clearly how the mind
is like a flitting little bird
looking for some morsel in the grass.

Blessed as we are, I see the pitfalls
of attachment, but I’m the bird
who found the worm, and want
the banquet to last forever.

*
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Bring on the Snow / by Kelly Fordon

A yard filled with heaped debris and little more.
Empty patio chairs, the grass gone brown.
A chill in the air, but not yet cold.
Tree limbs meandering highways in the sky,
cul de sacs of leaves, roads that whorl like snails
clinging to rotting wood, elephantine skies,
skeletons skittering across deserted
trampolines, weary travelers sinking
to their knees. Where is the white blanket
and the rambling Christmas choir?
Where is the cup of good cheer and the fire?

*
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The Magician: Melange – Holding the Breath / by Douglas Luman

.
Any measure of this

results in emptying.

A man who can hold breath

in his hands for even two

minutes may give another

life. It is these atoms

from the opening of

the larynx the broken

handle of a name comes.

The first letter is L

pronounced like summer. It

may appear as nothing

has happened. & you are

emptied—the contents

of you filling a glass

no more than some ounces

of water, air. I have

less than a pea or dram

of these properties. I

speak a shell. I turn up

my cuffs.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

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Cooking Onions in Slow Oil / by Rebecca Macijeski

Cubed stars settle to dusk in their frypan sky.
The aroma of unearthed worlds let out
into a quiet kitchen.
The gentle bubble of steadiness under the onions,
oil feeling up through the spaces that separate
spreading gold under them,
a give and release of warm.
I lean over and breathe in the simmering,
a smell filled with untold stories, the ideas
of bulbs in the ground, peeling umber skins
and slicing, raw onion milk on my knife.
Today, when you come for dinner,
this is what I feed you. Onions cooked down
from their white minds into thought’s
wispy embers, a slow harvest back
through the layers, back to the ripe particulars
of food, willingness, and joy.
A slow death of stars
writing their way home
along our tongues.

*
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Writing a Poem in the Middle of a Dog Fight / by Darcy Shargo

What I know of mouth is hemmed in
and all rooftop, mortise and tenon
over mouth. What I know
of roof is red as Prague sunrise and stiff

as soldiers who guard the castle—
castle quiet as a monk. What monk
from a flock of migrating geese
does not become violence: does not become

fading light plus the river pulling
away from tide. A monumental absence.
Teeth in the middle of this absence. Teeth
on flesh that a moment ago was fantasy.

*
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Ferine / by Amber Shockley

When my mother is gone,
what nation will hold me?
An entire people could not
console the loss. I will be
a shivering bird, scant nest
built on a low branch. Like
any other homeless woman
turned feathered and animal.

*
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Small Talk at the Birth Center Financing Desk / by Carolyne Whelan

We talk shop, first, about the lighting.
So bright, not enough, or more
like an unexpected moon when our eyes
fix for darkness and the path in front
peels back red from the early, low globe glow.

Is it ambiance we’re going for, or function,
and what’s the difference really, besides
some note taking, more bathroom breaks?

I like the harsh light or nothing, to see it all
in hi-def or left completely blind and stumbling
across myself. A voice that seems to come
from down the hallways says that fixtures are important,
what we see when we make that decision for light,
no light. How we will feel in the darkness
is encoded on a fixture. Visibility’s handshake.

Like the doctor’s office downstairs, by the time she’s done
assessing her thoughts on my small desk lamp,
the shot’s done: I hand her the signature receipt,
scan her a copy, and try to say I’m Sorry with my eyes.
I tilt the lampshade back to my desk and watch her leave,
the snow just starting, the day long gone.

*
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Day 20 / Poems 20

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There’s a Lotus on the Moon Seat / by Rosalind Brenner

At the lecture yesterday
Gen Dekyong spoke
of mental factors
that destroy our equanimity
and that our aspiration must shift.
In other words be careful
what you wish for;
and how people chase after objects
and never satisfied, deluded and stuck
always want more, and we need
to travel Clear Light Road in order to be free.

And afterwards
I sat in a diner in Port Jervis
looked around at the decor:
Port Raiders football jerseys hanging
on the wall and photos of the team,

a woman in a booth near mine on her cell phone
distressed about the shortage in her bank account.
Sweet young waitress, hair braided to her thighs,
a country smile, polite, served my eggs and French Toast with genuine
corn syrup. A tobacco and fireworks market across the street.
When I walked outside, a man, 300 lbs. or more
stepped from his house next door and I looked up and softened to his wide
howdy do. A sign on his porch read “Take off your shoes or don’t come in.”

I kept wondering because in case you haven’t noticed, I am always wondering, if there’s
a way to tell all this, one day upstate in different states, and add too, how the sun shone on the
vibrant autumn foliage, glowed intensely as I drove the cliffs above the river at Hawk’s Nest,
how the trees and rocks and river and winding road and light became like a Morandi still life. For
years he painted the same jars and bottles until they blended with the background on his can-
vas and there emerged no separate jars and bottles; the ground became the set-up and the
foreground was the background and these paintings were perhaps the first abstracts.

It was hard to tell if what we saw on the beautiful road to Glen Spey for the second lecture of the
day was landscape or the ghosts behind the scene, like the diner, the subjects and
the objects, the confluence of matter merging into oneness.

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First Dog / by Kelly Fordon

Grownups had better things to do.
You got used to it, there was

the dog. The dog smelled terrible,
but you could not have loved her more.

You learned to think of yourself
in hypotheticals, in the second person,

but the dog was Shannon, she had
a name. She liked to swim, she shed

too much. In the woods she’d approach
anyone. Sometimes you walked her into

shadowy places were the babysitters
couldn’t find you. You learned early

to avoid them. Perpetually petrified,
you hid under the bed, in the closet.

Shannon wasn’t much of a guard dog,
but she was affectionate. Unlike the

babysitters who snarled, bared their
teeth, wandered through the house

like long-limbed monsters dragging
their coarse and knotty knuckles across

the floor. Shannon hid under the bed,
you with a blanket in the closet.

After they found you, you moved
to the bathtub, then to the attic.

So she didn’t technically save you.
Maybe no one could have, but you

had a witness. It was something.
A nightlight clicking on in the dark.

*
*

The Magician: Transmutations – Splendid Sublimation / by Douglas Luman

notes in the margin

It depends on how the body’s surface opposes
the air & state of the jawbone. Though the hand
may be touching something cold, the litmus
in the body reacts. Utter that it is an object sought
by another. Because it is made mostly of water,
to assume this as the only solution is wrong;
there is some salt & a kind of juice like that
of beet roots—one can imagine other substances
that cool and become ruby in a crystalline form.
Make an experiment & write with it; the characters
will be scarcely visible or legible. Gently apply heat
until the color is a pinkish. This is not another
optical pun or some beams folded upon themselves.
On some journeys, one must render a coin. Place
two half dollars in a fire and hold them.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

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Japan: The Walk Signalmen / by Rebecca Macijeski

Stationed at crosswalks in their digital boxes.
You never hear them grumble. Louder in the mornings
are the mental engines of the pedestrian commute
corralled neatly into suits and ties, all buttoned and clean.
Before climbing their keeps, the signalmen adjust their hats
and practice gesturing—out for walk, in for stop.
In their little white jumpsuits of light.

*
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Image Breakers & Deal Makers / by Darcy Shargo

If once I knew a man who could refuse
an image, I don’t recall him now. My mind
is like Snapchat. More giddy posts may
lie ahead./ But for now the message is clear—
women are ghosts.

The ghosts who turn the camera
on themselves. The ghosts who want to thrill
for an instant & then retreat into de-
vice. Find any of us through forensics. Find us
without any anxiety about permanence./

Italicized lines from 2013 blogpost on Snapchat, printed at http://www.theguardian.com

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Keep On The Sunny Side / by Amber Shockley

hit weren’t but five dollars I give ‘im
an he went an took an turned at
inta-tweny so nex-night I went out
with’im an we had us a good time
down at the jolly barn. at use-tah
be a real barn on a real farm, before
mary lost her kids and shrivel up
like nothin’ you seen, jus cross
her hands over her chess an die.
she didn’ care, didn’ make no
plannin’, so her brother, he just did
the best he could, which he never
had a mind for gardenin’ at-tall,
but he like to drink, an it surprised
us all when he made somethin’
useful of it, open up a honky tonk
we all could enjoy, and we all did,
we all enjoyed it, meetin’ there
on a Saturday night, it was real fun.
Like I said, Jessup, he took my five
and made a profit, an took me
to town for a new cotton dress
an then to the barn and me I had
my figurin’s, but Lord knows
I didn’ ask no questions, I just
let the Lord provide as He sees fit,
by whoever He provides it an by
what means. who am I to question?

*
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Anniversary Poem, Parents / by Carlyne Whelan

What was it like, almost half a century ago,
waiting around a soda shop for that person you just met
and want to see again, no way to find her
but with hope and a little luck? It must have been so hard,
and so liberated, to not cyber-stalk
to find a name or favorite movie, to slowly tease
the details out over coffee, long walks
around Charlestown, a trip to Nantucket with friends.

You both were so beautiful and kind, her fiery streak
a warmth to his cool observational quiet.
Maybe you were different then, so young,
a little dangerous. And you could be nothing but yourselves,
no online profile to angle the camera, highlight hobbies
you’ve not close to mastered, spew jokes
that took 16 hours of wit and hive mind to harvest.

But it worked, you fell in love and kept
that sapling watered and protected through lean years,
teenagers, injury and illness. When I look at my husband,
it becomes so easy to block the distractions we create–

I think of your love across the kitchen table,
of your love at its hardest to hold, and thank you
for teaching me to measure twice, cut once
my heart, to hold tight through the strong winds
and let them carry us.

*
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Day 19/ Poems 19

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Words / by Rosalind Brenner

love is most mad and moonly…
and more it cannot lie…    
– ee cummings

What was a spoon
before it was a scooped bowl
before its capacity to cradle soup
before it had a name?

What are words but forms
blocked onto created shapes
our flawed attempt
to affix labels to the flimsy
what is. Wanting
to be understood, we define,
confine life into sealed boxes
try to capture its trajectory—
long ride, uncertain destination.

The words I said, I still love you,
and your answer,
And I have love for you, lie
like gouged eyes,
scrambled on the floor
in sawdust, trampled
as I rushed away.

I am as empty as a bed of ice,
a hooked fish, stunned face,
worn out flip flop on an abandoned beach;
Death Valley once was sea.

A chasm swells between I love you
and I have love for you, the frailty of words
fails comfort. Letters can be torn.
Chaos gave birth to words.
Words return to chaos.
Crushed in a trash compactor, a spoon
is no more spoon than promises
are fixed, nor does rigid definition
for what love is make love last.

Still, we pack our poems
with love because we want to know…

love… is more thicker than forget.

*
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Chimney Swift / by Kelly Fordon

Looking for an abode in the chimney’s column
we hear him at night when he is foraging,
during the day, swooping, circling,
the only sound the swift beat
of his wings agitating,
unremarkable, yet steadfast,
it’s not clear how long he’ll last.
All of the columns are recently capped.
For watcher’s a misfortune, for him catastrophe.
On the outside walls, we watch him clamping on.
No small matter he can’t stand on dry ground.
One small failing that insures his decline.

*
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The Magician: Sight & Sound – Theory of Whispering / by Douglas Luman

.
Literation somehow

leaves you, though all the neck’s

other parts seem to be

working fine. But the tongue,

a lunar muscle, acts

according to phases—

mostly waxing the moss

of promises, echoes

of some other name spilling

the crumbs of you that are

left about. No matter

of volume, sound travels

farther in warm places,

but is no substitute

for a body. Loudness,

as such, mistaken for

carelessness. Dismantle

the parts of his minute

& find a mouth or a proof

the surrounding space is

hollow & still.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

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What I Believe / by Rebecca Macijeski

The earth rides its space bicycle around the universe,
pedaling through nebulas and bright purple clouds
on its way through eternal formulation. It loves
to ring the little bell.

Birds are tiny beautiful machines. Their chirps are the sounds
of seeds passing through gears—a melody of digestion
and release. If it wasn’t for their well-crafted beaks and wings
the world wouldn’t have oak trees or tulips or meadow grass.
Sometimes they fly so fast a feather breaks free, spinning slowly
for the ground. This is how quiet spreads, fluttering into deep stillness.

The pink at world’s edge after sunrise
is a sky god’s radiant blushing. Smiling through to blue
after closing his romance novel in a drawer.
Celestial embarrassment painted out of its mind.

When grass ripples in the breeze, it is earth’s hair
feeling its own speed through the galaxy. Bicycle wheels
spinning endlessly through the stars on the way to meet up
with Mercury to skip rocks and drink sodas under a bridge.
Neptune’s not invited. It knows why. They put their feet in the water
and make a toast to lesser worlds. May they find their way.
Fizz bubbles along their cavernous throats.

*
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What it Feels Like to Fly / by Darcy Shargo

-After Patti Griffin’s Trapeze

The shirtless men came to tents
in search of wonder:

bearded lady who shaved for the sheriff
in exchange for bootlegged whiskey,
& a girl I shared a shack with
who had two vaginas & balanced
a feather on each eyelash.

One of those men watched me
while the others watched
her, his gaze an elegy that filled

air with water, moving me
as if atop a wave. Next day’s trapeze
act I thought of that wave & knew

I was in trouble. The way suddenly
I felt possessed: a body wingless
but held aloft. He touched me no more
roughly than the sea coming back
to shore. That tenderness

my undoing. The Lady of Snakes
had a potion ready: thick as oil, & green
as cobra’s eyes. It grew scales inside my throat,

my tongue forking at the sight of a boy made
from the very sea. I struck him. I struck again.

*
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To the Boy Whose Father is Not Upset with Him, Only Curious / by Amber Shockley

Do not, under any circumstances,
tell your father what you have done.
Let him figure out misbehaved
from your teacher’s note on his own.
Let your teacher tell him.

Look, we have a nice day outside,
unseasonably warm and breezy,
and Halloween is coming,
and you have an ice cream cone
in your hand, and if there’s anything
I’ve learned, I’ve learned not to ruin
perfect moments with unchecked honesty
because there’s plenty other times for that.

For example, some day soon your eyes
will be honest; they’ll scatter to the side
as a woman (or a man) is passing,
some extra bit of their skin exposed,
then your eyes will turn back
to your boring companion, your lids
lowered with truth, you’ll look up
and there will be Caught wearing
a red face like a flipped caution sign
as you’re scooting your car into the road.

Yes, and there will plenty of times for
giving up information, plenty of interrogations,
I suspect, in your future. Your dad,
he’s doing a good job, establishing trust,
making you feel safe. He is lying.
I’m telling you, he’s lying,
because whatever you’ve done,
if you’ve done it well (my guess, you have),
your father will tumble over your deed
like a rock, skin his soul’s knee.
He’s tough, don’t worry, but for now,
for the rest of this day,
lick your cone and bless him with wondering.

*
*

A Possible Memory / by Carolyne Whelan

It was still dark when we crawled
from our twin beds and creaked the floorboards
towards our parents’ bedroom. We knew
they were sleeping, but we wanted breakfast
and were awake so early this cold morning,
the blizzard winds whining the glass panels
of our second floor window.

In my memory I was a gentle, loving toddler,
but I know at five a.m. on Saturday, jumping
between my exhausted parents in their one warm
and solitary space, their love was thick as dreams
for not tossing me like a Nerf ball.

Katie, big sister, plopped my by the Atari
and flew down the infinite stairs to the kitchen.
As smoke billowed up the stairs
and snow fell in cosmic heaps,
I pew-pewed enemy alien spacecraft
and falling astroid star matter.

Moments later, a pile of pancakes crept
from the dark stairwell, a headless mass
of Bisquick, bacon, and syrup, my parents now awake
from the Astroids and smell of fried fat
and dough, built a fire to warm us.
The sun finally alight in the sky,
the storm outside waging on.

*
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Day 18 / Poems 18

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The comedian skews the old cliché: / by Rosalind Brenner

As long as you’re alive it’s not too late.
That’s why they invented death

and once more a voice on the telephone
(just yesterday) has left a message:
I have very bad news.
My mind spins through the possibilities.

I call back; another friend is dead
found on the floor face up.
They don’t know
what happened and

I buy sunflowers and climb
the day into my studio
raise my cracked voice
to the bitter and the sweet
and try to sense absence
in the benign, balmy presence
of the flattened light.

And though the obsidian shadow
chases me, my paper walls,
inked pages, still visible
in twilight, provide a cloistered comfort.

A million autumns I have admired
the empty Osprey nest
out on the marsh and wondered,
when they return in spring,
will it be the same birds,
or the fledglings grown.

I’ve seen sweet green grasses
pale to amber, watched deer
and their growing brood
nibble fresh chrysanthemums.

Each fall a leaf or two takes hold,
will not drop from the fiery maples,
will stay through winter’s storms,
and the clock moves into dark too early.

*
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Why You Should Wear Pajama Onesies / by Kelly Fordon

First, they are generous.
Second, they are relaxed.
Third you can watch TV in them,
they will not hog the remote.
They will not scarf up
your skinny pop.
Fourth if you wear onesies
from morning to night,
you will be too embarrassed
to leave the house,
so you will not have to
repopulate your hair follicles
or smear on face cheese.
No amount of fussitude
will make up for Superman onesies.
Besides, your skin is sliding off
like pancake batter glopping
off a spoon. Best to stay inside
and avoid Ebola, Enterovirus 68,
and all of the brazen politicians
who have invaded your yard signs
and are shrieking at passing cats.
What you need is hot chocolate,
you need your sofa, your trusty Whisper app.
If you feel frisky you can do a two step,
your rubber soles are as reckless as teenagers!
It’s dangerous out in the world where
people smoke girl scout cookies
and Chocolope.
Do we really even want to know?
Zip up your onesie and put up your feet,
if we can’t find a good show,
we can just sleep.

*
*

The Magician: Melange – The Physiognotype / by Douglas Luman

notes in the margin

When is it desired to take a likeness? Is it
to have affinitiy for each wire of skin, whose
points disappear & bend with every little pin?
This pale frame speaks the appearance of a face
as common as a mirror exposed to consciousness.
It would seem that a mould has been made, but
that gradually will shrink. Health & state— two
descriptions that mean different things, the latter
is time until the shilling in your eye is spent,
the former nothing but the dream of a snuff box.
Something grows in the bulb of my throat, twisting
the tongue. I think I am a variety of loud shadows.
I cannot give a name to nothingness. As soon as
it is called anything, it fades.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

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Ladybug in the Library / by Rebecca Macijeski

I’m in the poetry section and so is she,
a speckled button climbing Jane Kenyon’s spine.
We’ve both got reading to do
and I envy those pages she’ll wriggle between,
her micro feet bookmarking the good stuff,
the flash of red as she passes on.

*
*

On My Haunches Long Enough / by Darcy Shargo

I want to know who will witness me.
I am asking as would a wound. I am asking as would a dog
scratching at the door all day, when no one is inside
to invite her in. When I’ve been on my haunches long enough
and begged at your feet, maybe then we can talk.
Perhaps then you’ll clip a line to my collar
and make me drag it through the house, drawing a map
to treasure and curatives. Or the wound will gape
and ooze and you’ll have to hold me then. And lick me
clean. You know already I cannot be trained.
Cannot come, although I keep on trying.
Cure might come or it might not.

*
*

Ode to a Phlebotomist / by Amber Shockley

Relief when she can slip the needle
in nice and clean – one quick, dull sting.
Butterfly is best for coy veins like mine.
Rollers, she says. Little tricksters like
toddlers she peeps before they run
and hide. Small, incorrigible.
She’s after them with the queasy
smell and snap of rubber,
the tourniquet, the squeezy
ball she plops in my palm.
Make a fist when I have no fight.
Rip the pouch, single swipe of swab,
alcohol’s dizzy headache fume,
crook of my arm burns and sings blood
in whispers. I don’t give easy,
this one fluid.

*
*

An Apology / by Carolyne Whelan

I’m sorry I gave you
a bloody nose that time,
caught in the thread of a pillow fight.
It was an accident. 17 years later,
my knuckle’s still bloody. I’m sorry, too,
I brought my dog to your house,
hyper and well-slept, with that hideous
training collar we’ve since abandoned.
I know you still have the scar on your leg
from when he tornedoed past you, a chunk
of your shin gone in his wake.

While I’m at it, I’m sorry
for being so unapologetic all these years,
unladylike in my protest
against meat and waxing and the IMF.
You raised an idealist for an imperfect world,
and thanks for it. I know it was hard watching me
Carmen San Diego, borderless master of disguises,
but things worked out. You raised me right.

I’m still alive and pretty happy.
Speaking of, I’m sorry I was depressed
for what was probably years but felt
like minutes. I stopped time then, it hung there
like a noose around my neck. But my feet,
I promise: they were on the ground, so firm,
it was just my head floating in the clouds,
my gray ghost above me.

*
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Day 17 / Poems 17

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Retreat / by Rosalind Brenner

Twenty-one days dematerialized
and I, who thought I was I
before the silence,
before the mantra counting,
became invisible
as I walked the cold
Sag Harbor streets and Haven’s Beach.

Bundled in ski clothes,
I avoided bumping
into friends who would require
hello or conversation.
I hid inside my hood,
studied the ground
steered clear of ice and eyes,
negotiated drifts,
watched thoughts sharpened
by the blade of withdrawal.

Conscious of my fingers curled
to keep warm inside my mittens,
I marveled at the courage
of laborers who seemed unfazed
by freezing weather
as they laid shingles on a roof.

I stopped to admire a holly tree,
its red berries flashing through frost.
The clouds were heaps of fresh white curd,
the sun, Vajrayogini’s cushion
and the blue sky marked my wandering
with the beams of light
from Buddha’s heart into my own.

When I returned to the retreat house.
the ladies of the cloth
were reading Dharma.

What if,
books memorized
art spent
time drained
words empty
love found,
found and relinquished
found and unbounded,

what if, counting complete
and all the sutras sung,
there was nothing left to do
but walk—

*
*

The Writer’s Workshop / by Kelly Fordon

Your character has no
redeeming qualities.
He has to be speaking
before his voice can catch.
All of the guns are pointed
at him, but I can’t tell
who’s holding them or why.
How worried should we be
about her mother’s ghost?
I thought he was at the bank?
Finding out he’s in a bar
five pages in does not work.
If you, the writer, want to stay
outside your character’s head,
that is not a good sign. Too many
adjectives in these bumper cars.
You are trying to convey disorientation,
and you’re doing a great job.
It’s not boring to write chronologically,
it’s boring to write boring prose.
You are just applying rhinestone
appliques to your character.
Give him a model train set
or plantar fasciitis.
Some things are mysterious
and some are just mystifying.
To quote the Peacock Princess:
The eye is gliding right over
your cleverness, writer.

*
*

The Magician: Light & Heat – The Luminous Spectre / by Douglas Luman

.
Invite spirits in by

Writing in their voice. But

once there, do you feed them

cabbage or grains? Oil or tallow?

Stale fish if at hand.

Throw out laws your mother

told you, offer your will

stewed in arsenic & ether.

In the space once lived in

by thunder—a body—

the greatest shine, the tint

of the lantern, witness

(or delirium?). But

humidity descends

like a sound; sample it

in teaspoons, it must be

the same liquor as one

gets from a pinch.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Marquette, Nebraska / by Rebecca Macijeski

A skunk ambles through twilight corn
like a shaman. He’s earned his stripes
here where infinite rows
blue out into darkness
along the horizon’s dull mirage of farms.
From the road I hear his rhythm of scuffling,
some primal chant his claws dig through the earth,
the sun following him down as he goes,
white ghosting out of the world.

*
*

Gleaning While / by Darcy Shargo

Crushed chest, bone pen, & all the ink you can drink,
I’ll make a poet of you yet. Wear that beatnik-black
and toss back a few drinks, cut your Achilles
on the french doors, map that blood down
the street to a doctor-duo making it

in the backseat, although one of them is married
and known to be astute. There is no way
I can get through this much
blood loss and live to tell about it.

I am hemorrhagic. In my historic period—to be called
“the tragically hip—” I’ll make glaciers
from the pennies in my pocketbook.

*
*

Ode After an Arrhythmia / by Amber Shockley

Oh, my heart, you are sillier than Cisneros’s clown.
You flitter at the slightest provocation.
Some boys were blasting bass, their speakers
bouncing thumps, and it set you off.
You picked up the
syncopation.
You are such a sympathetic girl.
You cause me such
trouble,
both the you-you muscle and the metaphorical you,
the Valentine, ring-finger you. When
will you ever settle down,
find one slow rhythm? You love
to flash and flirt, show off.
Here you go again, you dangerous stranger, you skittish,
startled kitten you, you muse.

*
*

Ode to My Arms / by Carolyne Whelan

You tough things. You strong mothers.
You flexing pulsing snakes of energy,
you could pick me up without blinking,

move a living room, lay a floor, punch a person,
dough, or bag away from me, seemingly tirelessly.
You tattooed vixens.

You’ve got me buried in your bones, my inner exo.
When I run it’s you I pump for speed,
you who tell my legs to go, dammit.

When I destroy you, which I do, you form
like steel around yourselves, hard and stronger
at the break. You re-locate, claim squatters rights

in my awful shoulders. And more, still—
you’ve held me like a child, and my family,
you: suddenly so soft, a tender
nothing but words can break.

And you ache in wind, now, and rain,
and with too much sugar or grain. So here,
my sweet limbs, an offering: a poem

to untie slowly through an afternoon,
some balm at the hinges where you’ve calloused
and calcified. For today, I’ll nurse you;
tomorrow, there are walls to burst through.

*
*

Day 16 / Poems 16

*

Late Early Swim / by Rosalind Brenner

Mary bounds in as if the season
of fireflies and knockout roses
has prolonged its hold
and we alone are keepers of the secret.
We two mourners of summer
refuse to let chilling water spurn our entry.

I suit up for cold ablution
this baptism of autumn that stays the sting
of the combat of the coming day.

She plunges, strips off her bathing suit
throws it on shore (no-one else is here,
come on she says.)
And I in my armor: swim shirt,
neoprene vest, hood, goggles,
skin devised for winter surfers,
test the water, inch my way like a cautious crab.

Glorious glorious! I submerge and shout
crawl fast to keep the bite from seeping in.

Bella follows us, climbs Mary’s back,
wraps paws around her neck.
We laugh; she yells
above the puppy’s barks and rising wind
Next time I’ll wear a shirt.

The current pulls us,
wind stirs ripples.
Rain threatens.
Air temps somewhere in the 70’s.
Unusual October.
For now we put aside concern
for global warming
and will repeat this ritual
until we are the last swimmers;
until ice forms on our faces.

And start again in early spring
before peonies bloom
and the bay’s magnetic draw seduces
summer’s less stalwart swimmers
who yearly swarm our beach
and inhabit our lagoon.

*
*

Locket / by Kelly Fordon

The dream again.
A locket
around your neck,
in the hollow of it,
downturned.

Impermeable
locket. Tiny, stony
person within.
I’ve long
dreaded
you.

*
*

The Magician: Sight & Sound – To Make a Prism / by Douglas Luman

.
Open box containing

darkness. Introduce a

commonly dismal light

made completely of heat,

the degrees of which lie

in holding objects above

you. Follow the moon with

care. At the same time hold

tight to the weather. Steep

the air in your mouth. Call

a name to the glass—the shade

cast is amusing & burns

like fire. Laugh to cool

it. Iron folds out of

a paper slip, writing

the varieties of

gems & marble—one of which,

the eye occasioned by

magnesium, nitre,

some compound of beauty

& time breaking like a thumb

from hands from arms—hollow

stalks of lightning. A wan

figure. Shutter the blinds.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Riding the Elevator with a Bird / by Rebecca Macijeski

I don’t know how
she got in here,
a dark word let loose
in the clamor of the morning.
Her body buoyant
in this box
down the eight floors
of the parking garage.
Her little feet writing
sanskrit in the air,
wings the frenzied flutter
of forgotten tongues.
The doors open
and so does the bird,
her round body out
for a larger world,
for the treeline,
for the welcome noise
of pink filling the sky.

*
*

DS16

*
*

Apology from a Nomad Child / by Amber Shockley

Tall grass, green.
Me and you, Nathan.
Before-breasts shirtless, fearless,
tearless as baby shampoo.
Our mamas bring us popsicles
‘cause we don’t care for poppin’
wheelies and we didn’t carve
that tree. We don’t know
we’re half-naked, we’re free yet
to pluck caterpillars from their sacks,
trade tricycles and action figures.
We haven’t kissed,
we haven’t promised anything
more than to be here tomorrow,
under this tree, meet in your yard.
We have big plans for picnics.
We’re happier out here
than at home. Nathan, I’ll move
away some day soon. I’ll leave
with my mama ‘cause she’s
my best friend before you.

*
*

Bikepacking, Crescent City, 2002 / by Carolyne Whelan

The cats were out.

Someone unhitched the latch
at the shelter
or tore down a barn
or evicted a hoarder
or let his cats out out in heat
or released them from a lab
or released them from a cat show
or finished the Cat Fancy photo shoot
or the Friskies commercial,
the one with all the cats frolicking
and teaching kittens how to be bad.

But anyway, the cats were out.

And Aaron and I rode towards
Crescent City as it started to rain,
the headwinds harbingers, everything
was so grey against us.
We pedaled so slow, our tired legs
pressing against gravity and nature,
and the cats appeared one after another
in the mist. We approached each one anew,
and no blood, no mangle
could be seen as we passed,
and there was no one to ask.

*
*

Day 15 / Poems 15

*

The Model / by Rosalind Brenner

because glossed beauty ravaged
and time .. obstinate
accomplice .. envelops
squeezes her body
sap scraped dry
syrup mildewed
like a narrow alley wall
as summer withdraws
and even the cicadas’
call is mute

she feels undone
brittle boned
eyes sewn shut
hands clenched

her words .. spilled
like milk in winter drifts
invisible and

caught long throated
in her shrinking hours
she simply packs
a few rags .. decides
to endure the travels
of a woman of
splintered parts

turns from her reflection

chooses
to break through
the web that hangs
from every rafter in her rooms

fly from the spider

so close to capture

exits from before

knowing later
will not come

*
*

Incubus / by Kelly Fordon

If, one day, you wake
to find an incubus crouched
and greedy-eyed
on your chest,
know that the world
is full of crazy folk,
some cowering in cubby holes,
some screaming like jeremiads
on the street corner,
others meek and taciturn
in the kitchen or smoking
on the couch. Demons who
pose as saints or real estate
agents or television anchors,
people who would like you
to remain prostrate.
So much vitriol, so much
recidivist behavior.
Last night’s nightmare
could be true tomorrow,
but only if you
don’t brush him off.

*
*

The Apprentice: Sleights & Subtleties – Curious Experiment with a Glass of Water / by Douglas Luman

What is the reverse of fire—steam? Do not say
water. The life of the shrub says otherwise. It leaves
chance to the weather & angle of rain or nitrates,
the shortest distance between seed & lilac.
But, consumption leads to slackening like the sea.
O, not another bottled thing whose glass glistens
like a pearl! This liquid was hydrogen once, then
twice over with oxygen, juice of some minutes
shared by all breathers. All or nothing speaks
the siphon. Oceans are full of scared things
like fish which in short times drink saline
& brine. I’ve been a vessel. Once, words
were unformed bowls of copper
waiting to be filled.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Spring Walk After Flooding / by Rebecca Macijeski

Along the guardrail between the road
and the rocky stream
marches a parade of cocktail umbrellas,
tiny green almost-trees
traveling two by two,
morning air ruffling their canopies
and leading back to the river,
the mountain’s continual snare.

Instead of this world,
I imagine a hillside filled with bears
eating through the silver backs
of river fish, creamy white lives
passing along their growling tongues.
A calm kind of violence.

Silt gathers under my feet
where the river licked the road
thirsting after heavy rain
for a distant home. And as I curve
the bend by the old bridge,
I pass a storm-fallen tree
on a neighbor’s lawn
stripped and jagged,
mangled back to prehistory.

*
*

Aubade / by Darcy Shargo

You are singing again
with a bell stuck in your throat.
You are a fistula strung together
with two languages: one Romantic,
one pure gibberish. I follow
neither but know what it means
to touch tongue to tongue
& I remind you that a man
who kisses his wife every morning
may live as many as five years
longer than the average.

*
*

When I Threw Up Onto the Street in Front of Grace Lutheran Church / by Amber Shockley

I was four years old and didn’t know
that this would become my life’s work –
spewing all my inner-most secrets, always
standing just outside some holy place.

I had been spinning on a tire swing.
I didn’t know that this is how life works –
that the world will revolve so fast
it will make me dizzy, that I’ll want to shut
my eyes and make it stop sometimes,
that I’ll think I can’t last one moment more,
that my hopes over the years will become
simple, that I’ll pray for stillness, for mercy,
for peace,

that at some point the last thing on earth
I’ll want will be a windmill cookie.
It’s hard to imagine at four years old –
your life’s work, the world, something
sweeter than a bit of sugar.

*
*

Breakfast on Pemberton Pier, 1986 / by Carolyne Whelan

Sunrise on the dock
egg on English muffin, ketchup
and the fishermen already at work
hauling the lobster boxes,
fish nets throbbing with catch.

If I knew what a poem was,
this is where I would have found it,
four years old, Hull Gut–

Bumkin, Sheep, Peddocks, Rainford, all lighting
with the sun against their morning dew
one by one like a candle ceremony.

Pass around this bright, this day,
the chum sticking to my small sneakers
as I step plank to plank,
catching each morning happen.

Pass around the incoherent laughs,
last night’s beer bottles clinking in the cockpit
with each calm inlet wave, or deep sixed
when no one but me is watching–

tiny eyes starboard, ears
to the mainstay.

*
*

Day 14 / Poems 14

*

Food Peace / by Rosalind Brenner

Pick up chopsticks or use your fingers as forks.
Doesn’t matter if it’s alfalfa sprouts or duck.
If you’re not hungry or your diet is restricted,
smile and take in fellowship. But if you can,
be generous with Bel Paese or Bleu or home made
beach plum jam. Dine on quince smothered
with honeyed kefir, spread
compassion for dessert.

Break bread, share pleasure
in water or in wine. Pass a cup of care
to strangers, neighbors, drink together.
Expand your appetite for kindness;
put by provisions laced with empathy.

Partake slowly. Cultivating
unfamiliar taste takes time.
Don’t inhale your food
as if this were your last meal.
Swirl white or red in your glass
and sniff before you sip. Try
retsina; it may inspire you to dance.
Choose a partner, but don’t slug
the heady liquid down or
you could lose your ground.

Brew tea from a samovar, share chai
heated on a street vendor’s makeshift burner,
have some more samosas,
boil your coffee in a feenjon; your fortune
in the grounds at bottom reads:

Lay down the guise that conjures
enemies. Nourish hunger with love.
Share sustenance with your brothers
and sisters. They are not ‘others.’
You are shaped from the same mold
forged together in the arcane fire.

*
*

Ode to Joy / by Kelly Fordon

I waded through prairie grass and cut my foot on a beer bottle. There were one hundred teddy bears affixed to the light pole. An old man agitated back and forth across his porch. Another man pulled out a hose and washed the street in a pale light. A kindergartner handed me her Hello Kitty notebook. Her mother hitched back and forth like a metronome. There were boys playing basketball. Sweat liked diamonds skittered across the pavement. Snacks arrived in little plastic containers—turnips, radishes, cucumber, the gift of some eager farmer, but how do you eat jicama raw? Someone got shot in the leg. He was lucky, everyone said. We wrote Aladdin’s lamp wishes. Half of us wished that the guy would give our stuff back and the other half for upgrades. Someone turned on Ode to Joy. The children conducted and danced through the streets. Then they asked if we could play it again.

*
*

The Magician: Fire, Water, & Air – More than Full / by Douglas Lumen

.
Of the skull—what a nest—

a song or crucible

made of smooth masonry.

We think of it crafted

of ivory, dull &

polished, or an engraved

color of pearl. What if it

was empty? Gently knock

to sound its thickness. Find it

filled with stuff of yourself.

A space filled with crumpled

gray metal? An extract

that melts like camphor & in

an hour, it hardens.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Taking Tea / by Rebecca Macijeski

is drinking its language,
the liquid riddle that pours out
into white cups
lined along the breakfast table
in steaming sentences.

Guests arrive in paragraphs
and begin their meal of speaking.
Scones soften in a warm world
of words, as old friends remember
their way back through stories
of morning light by the duck pond,
the morse code of fireflies flashing
through the tree line.

As currants crumble into early grey,
we keep brewing. The promise
of a history. The promise of storykeepers
gathering over tea, each pot a new chance
to open, for the dried cache of our minds
to bloom into song.

*
*

Shocked Still / by Darcy Shargo

I know it is supposed
to be crowns and roses, and the smell
of just-mown grass blowing
in the side yard. And that for any other girl
such delights would be
enough. It is more like tearing open
the skin that barely covers
the shin, shocked still by the charge

such pain creates. That shock point =
an easy place to live when there is
not much left still moving in the ruins. It is not

that I crave mysticism or magic, just
a bright enough bone
that it is possible to stay inside this body.

*
*

To the Next Woman Who Wears This Pair of Heels / by Amber Shockley

Please, buy them on impulse.
But them because you need them
to go with your skirt, your nail polish,
the buttons on your blouse.
Buy them after you turn and squeeze
your foot into the tight crevice,
like a last person on the elevator,
like maybe five pounds and one quarter
inch past maximum capacity, even
though it’s dangerous, you’re unsure
the structure will hold, your heel
wavering on the stem like elephants
on tightropes, or tiny unicycles.
Do me a favor? Before the pain
makes you pass them off to a friend,
or a sister, or a thrift shop,
wear them one time some place
you shouldn’t – to traffic court
or a small bar down town
with the sign outside hung crooked,
with a bartender missing a tooth,
with the liquor-soaked clientele missing
their women, maybe women like me,
high-arched, spread-toed women
walking off wearing flip-flops.

*
*

Ode to My Belly / by Carolyne Whelan

Through all my years with you,
belly, you have rounded and padded and flexed
and at the core of you is a glacier
some mornings I feel it melting
and if I had a doctor I might ask
what it is that makes you drip like so and clench
my walls scratched like a door begged to be opened.

There have been times when you’ve shrunk,
the lean years with midnight cardio
and stress runs for hours on my backyard trails.
I didn’t miss you until you were gone,
but without you, I’m not myself. Let others stare,
driven mad by magazine models,
hating their bodies to perceived perfection.

But perfection is a hole we leopard crawled out from,
confidence bridled tight to our back,
I gladly carry your weight as mine,
swagger your curvature, and defend you
like a national border.

In my evening realignment, it is you
who rocks my dhanurasana,
pads my salambhasana,
stretches lean and slick for a backbend,
and it’s your glorious largess protruding from my shirt
like none other in the room could dare.
Belly, in your stubbornness to stay put
and unyielding, I’ve grown to love you
like a midnight snack, to love a human hand
around my waist or ear to your grumbling joy.

*
*

Day 13 / Poems 13

*

the problem is we are the problem / by Rosalind Brenner

1.
the ny times sits flaccid in a wet blue wrap
drips a puddle on the floor

leave it at the door I shout
hang it .. let me keep from reading

turn away from the tv and shut the cabinet doors
before I throw a rock .. break the screen

don’t want to see the news that bleeds Ebola
into severed heads .. the scream

of murdered children’s mothers .. I know who we are
we watch the crawl

of carnage and forge the stream
in helpless impotence

as mr handsome talking head spews
the latest violations

of voting rights and civil human
rights and women’s rights and right thinking

2.
lately I can’t even kill an ant
the eyes of buddha gaze downward

even he can’t look at the way
we cause our own demise

how self grasping
wreaks inequity

rage wreaks rage
forces people

to the brink .. the well runs dry
the deaf who hoard the water

do not hear the hollow rasp of thirst
as we keep inching toward the end
2.
when there’s no more ny
and no more times .. if we survive

we’ll see how we saw everything
through heavy goggles blind and stupid

and at the time said .. oh well what can we do
the whole damn mess seemed such a drag

and we did stop drinking plastic poland spring
recycled shredded separated tied

at first held fast to lies and what we thought
was right .. then later easy to stop thinking

3.
my lover says it’s all samsara
reaches across the chaise where I am hiding

positions the umbrella
to protect me from the sun

and takes my hand
let’s swim he says

but I resist because I am afraid
I’ll drown the way the rising brackish water

fills my eyes and seeps into my ears
just let me be .. I hiss

it’s come to this
we walk into the waves and keep on walking

*
*

Thoughts on Teenagers and/or God / by Kelly Fordon

Gangly, loping, mangy-headed kid
cruising the weekend streets,
yikyaking, snapchatting, spray-painting
peace signs on abandoned buildings,
slamming doors to stave off despair.

He’s turned off Find My IPhone.
He’s been out all night and nobody
knows which party he’s attending or
even who’s hosting. He could end up
in a ditch or worse. What could be worse?

All the missed connections:
He was just here. You missed him.
He’s the best, such a great guy.
Don’t worry, he’ll be back.
When has he ever let you down?

Some days it’s hard to figure out
how we got here in the first place,
why anyone keeps working at these
fraught relationships when cloud nine
can be so many different things.

*
*

The Apprentice: Sleights & Subtleties – Curious Experiment with a Glass of Water (Attempt #2) / by Douglas Luman

I have inverted the palm of my hand. According
to this cup’s dew, water has taken on a double
meaning. The candle, tires of throwing heat &
becomes a partial reminder of its particles’
past knowledge—that it is sight, not speech that
speaks to being. If you ask for an accident, you
usually get two; a flash of color then a swallow
of lightning. But, then, what do the atoms know?
It is easier to gently empty yourself of ether.
The only thing extinguished is the pendulum
of a clock. Still, the ear is a special collection
point for hearing the report of thunder, or…
What is it that the paper saw; as if drawing
was an act that could be done from fluid?

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

As I Look Out on the Sky / by Rebecca Macijeski

Be melting snow.
Wash yourself of yourself.

A white flower grows in the quietness.
Let your tongue become that flower.
~Rumi

There’s an elephant again. She’s often here.
Listening. Pointing her dark eye
toward what I’m writing, toward
the sometimes hopeless rift that ink fills.
The quiet in her big animal presence
carries outward as she drinks
from the wild lake in my mind
and rests on her legs, sturdy
and complete as a forest.
And the bits of branches shaking free
from their trees in this morning’s storm
are spoken back to the earth,
blown along the lawn’s blustery ear.
When I take notice,
the whole world is this listening
and the elephant smiles, sleeps.

*
*

Bedtime Story / by Darcy Shargo

If I stake my claim
inside a stone I can know
………….invisibility that has
no consequence—but yet
I recall that child’s story
………….where the donkey-boy wishes
to be unseen & so turns
to pebble in the field & outwits
………….the hungry lion but does not
outwit his own mind. At times
it may be better to be torn open
………….than it is to be sealed shut, back
against the cold field & without
the means to make a sound.

*
*

A Song to Hasten Autumn / by Amber Shockley

Come, November.
Come, cold and bite.
Come, ghouls and soup.
Come, ghosts.

Barbwire that loops the fence
like a lady’s hair around her finger
waits to see if snow will fall
this season and embarrass
every sharp edge with gentleness.

Leaves crinkle in their shame for dying,
geese have formed their skein like soldiers,
their heralding honks and laughter –
cover over your gardens,
scatter candies to the children, then
close your door against the first frost.

*
*

Anniversary Poem #3 / by Carolyne Whelan

Honey, we’re broke. It shouldn’t be a shock –
we’ve never had any money. But today
I want to buy us some time, bank
on a day alone together, and I’m exhausted.
Even our dog, also a mess, barks furiously
at Dolly Dollarsaurus outside the bank.
We are thrifty in our understanding.

We celebrated our anniversary today,
because you’re working all week. The hustle,
you call it as if we have somewhere
to be, a future at which to arrive. You bought brunch,
I bought you a bolo tie and a belt
for myself at the thrift store. Now you’re napping,
spent, an investment in recovery
for a long week ahead that’s like so many others,

so taxing. And I was told like consolation
that happiness is wealth, but I wanted to take you
to Moab this winter. I’m sorry. There’s no money
in poetry, like there’s no depletion of love.
Our friends are getting divorced. Over coffee
we tell them, she was a bad investment, good thing
you pulled out before he drained you.
But we don’t know anything, we’re just
lucky, happy idiots.

*
*

Day 12 / Poems 12

*

Old Photo / by Rosalind Brenner

I am peering into the crooked igloo
the older kids have built
on our wide Brooklyn sidewalk
from piles and drifts taller than
the me who was that child.
I look as if I want to hide inside
but my checked coat
with velvet collar hinders entry,
curbs play, dressed as I am
for perfect girl-ness
too tidy for adventure.

Her head wrapped in a kerchief,
big sister huddles deep inside her parka,
boots burrow into snow.
Not looking at the camera,
she scans past her small charge,
squints in the sun
toward some distant point.

Does she remember that winter day
when we were other, mistaking
ourselves for something fixed
as we kept treading into
what lay ahead?

Does she continue,
though she is vanished
while I appear to be here
tracing memory paths,
my fluid self
still marking time?

She remains because I do,
both of us fragmented,
until I, beholder,
disappear.

And yet I think
we persist in being

not what we thought we were,
not real; out of reach
but somewhere.

*
*

Legacy / by Kelly Fordon

for my father the war vet

I remember you, arms crossed,
a general addressing the troops.
And me, the enlisted man, meek,
skinny, ready to run for cover,
hiding in the back row, a wide
swath of humanity between us.
It’s still that way all these years
later, the longer I live the more
extraordinary you appear, even
more striking your heroic feats
given my toy soldier life.

*
*

The Magician: Light & Heat – Incantations / by Douglas Luman

.
But, to write an account

alters what others saw.

Declare a bush blue or

green, bursting out writing

& suddenly, a garden—

but petals are only

half an indication

of a shrub. The word place

is copious enough

when spoken, the atoms of

oxygen—lambent—air

over-printed, yet blank,

a wafer to take in

& suspend on the tongue.

A parlance like wax, breath

yet to be taken.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

When I Tire of Being Human / by Rebecca Macijeski

These days I stare at the sky’s floodlight
and wish myself up there,
a goose traveling its migration highway,
air rippling along my feathers
underneath me, lifting me higher
and higher out of a world weighted down
with weekly promises, inventions, groceries,
abstractions that take us away from what
we want to be, and away from where
the quiet in our minds sends us
in the lonely moments
when the Sunday sun comes in,
the living room like a church,
worshipping the green in the houseplants.
That’s why we gravitate to windows
in case today is the time light and air
will take us. In case today
I am ready for the wind,
in case today is when I learn to fly.

*
*

It Was Jaunty Before I Got a Hold of It / by Darcy Shargo

They say some people are born with orientation to light.
These people float like bright balloons
in a sky subdued before a storm. I am more like an anvil
tied to the string on a red balloon—flapping in the wind, wild
with a desire for freedom. But what lasts longer, I ask you:
balloon or anvil? What is the perfect plane for forging, and what else
could accept blow after blow and remain utilitarian, beautiful,
with a patina coming on slowly as schoolgirl’s blush?

*
*

For my Mother, who Kicked the Bathroom Door / by Amber Shockley

and broke her waters,
who lay back, let the doctor cut her,
who lay back, let me split her,
who taught me to pronounce episiotomy,
who taught me my first epistle:
Dear Mommy,
……I love you. I love you. I love you.
who worded my first word for God,
who worded my first language, my whole tongue,
who worked the grill and the cash register,
who worked to wash the wealthier houses,
and was broken, and broke herself,
let me now un-pain the lessons of love.

*
*

We Stole a Car / by Carolyne Whelan

Because it was late at night
and we were bored and mean.

Because it was left in the neighborhood
we would never afford
and we told ourselves we never
would want anything so nice
and yet had to have it.

Because the keys were in the ignition
and they had it coming.

Because it was shiny and slick
and could run us down
and sue us for scraping the paint.

Because we were a sounder of boars
and nothing stops a charging herd–
not reason, not daybreak, not guilt.

Because the song “Ghost Ride the Whip”
was a chant in our collective memory
and it sang to us like gospel
and we needed something to believe in
besides ourselves.

Because the sun was soon to rise
and we didn’t want to go home.

Because we didn’t think we could offer
anything more to lose.

Because freedom was a cliff
we sprang off like a pier, the water
so cold, and deep, and dark.

*
*

Day 11 / Poems 11

*

Contemplating Karma / by Rosalind Brenner

At night, the sutra says,
malevolent spirits cannot enter
the needle cannot pierce
spears not penetrate

floods will retreat
you will not drown
nor go down screaming

if you fill
the outstretched hands
of golden statues
with your faith
follow, careful not to falter

now that final
cleansing has begun,
files labeled
febrile essays written
and unread .. shredded

the way one life .. deconstructs—

you are prepared
welcome Yarma
into your finished room
to muzzle the pressure of
words and pictures
ideas cast—

and you are murmuring
mantra memorized

as he shatters the cup
fragments long held secrets
saps your flesh
deactivates the head

your body will be found
wrapped in leaves
scraps of poetry scattered

this span .. shot

next one
pinned like voodoo
to this moment.

*
*

Homecoming / by Kelly Fordon

The girls get ready for Homecoming
listening to a song that goes,
I love you so much, you’ll never
have to work. And I wonder what
the singer means by that? Work
on themselves? Work for a living?
Work at the relationship? Work
as in no fun, work as in not
what you’d choose to be doing
if you had a choice, work as in
fair trade for compensation?
And what compensation?
Money? Love? Clothing?
How many hands make light work?
And those hands, are they
just patting you down?
Is that work? Is that play?
Does the speaker believe
if the woman doesn’t have to work
she will love him and sit on her hands
and stare out the window and click on
and off like a Hammacher Schlemmer light–
which has a precision bulb for crafting
and is really worth investing in–
if you want to see comfortably
when you are knitting, when you
are old and blind, and then it will be
work to get up from the couch,
and work to make yourself
a boiled egg, and perhaps work
to kiss your man, the current singer
of the song, because by then
he will look so much like
a boiled egg too.

*
*

The Magician: Sleights & Subtleties – Curious Experiment with a Glass of Water / by Douglas Luman

.
Pick a mirror, hollow

glass; a highly polished

dish filled with the right air,

quicksilver, water, &

a scruple of alum.

Convert scruples to grains

to drachms—the apartment

of the palm, hold it,

vitreous animal.

The candle’s spirit turns

violet, turns indigo.

Even shutting the eye

they burn themselves from rest.

When Sir Isaac Newton

found fire, it was dropping

threads in liquid. Incant

now, I become an ounce.

The point—to vibrate in

unintelligible

jargon of linen. A

beverage of a voice,

the phantom in a skin.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Cat in Sunlight / by Rebecca Macijeski

He climbs his living room shelf
and beaches there,
calm as a walrus,
while Saturday sun shines in
from its bright other world.

*
*

Dreary O’Clock / by Darcy Shargo

The opposite of light
is a rope dangling
at the bottom of a well.

A gull caught
in an eagle’s throat
is more likely to share
the same language.

*
*

What Potions Will I Make With These? / by Amber Shockley

Harmless loss from a bluebird’s wing,
frail, vibrant centerpiece some brush away
into garbage on a Sunday night,
with the pears that have rotted peacefully.

And wet, gray slivers that look sickly,
longer than a dove’s misgivings,
regal, thin-boned, finery to swallow up
ink and spit out a Constitution.

A black crescent, slit like a clown’s smile,
place mark a page in a powerful book,
slick and greasy, sorcery and worse.
Beware, lovers! I collect feathers.

*
*

Calabacitas / by Carolyne Whelan

If there was a recipe I never wrote it down-
just the basics, squash, corn, oil and cheese.
A pot or open fire, a group of friends to feed
and strangers on tour, and a bottle of rum
and a tomorrow to waste. A pickup truck
to be put to bed too soon, disorderly
and antagonistic, poor Anita was sober
and still alive and taught me how to cook
that night, how to be patient and accepting
of too much or too little heat, of making do
with what we grow, of wind and sandstorm.
Put a tarp up for sound, keep the bands happy
buy a record, thank Jaime, count pills,
try to stay up late enough to taste the pot.
Tend the fire, keep these embers stoked
to last the night.

*
*

Day 10 / Poems 10

*

Cutter / by Rosalind Brenner

Fingers sliced with blades and teeth,
re-built with her own wounded
hands, hide inside her paintings.

She chewed, obsessed,
consumed herself
in spite of doctor’s warning;
it started when the fearful child
reached blood stage.

She slivered amputations
on soles
gnawed her thumbs
not for the pleasure
but relief
a pain locator
direct, meticulous,

spots carved off skin.
Mother’s kin—

In spite of biting measures
the mother’s malediction
lingers inside the painter, a whisper:
you are not good enough

and she, now grown, remembers
gnawed fingers
bound by bandage
sapped by shame, no thought then
but to excise,
eradicate herself
by incremental suicides.

But in these latter times
her art gags what lingers of the voice.
The body’s secret beggared,
desire subdued, she mortifies
the flesh with pigments,
stretches new canvas,
pours her colors onto
a kinder palette
every work a birth,
discharged issue
out of all that came before.

*
*

John Wojnowski / by Kelly Fordon

On the corner of 34th and Mass
in every weather, stands a man
holding a sign that says, Priests

Molest Boys. For 14 years, they’ve
ignored him, but he’s still there.

*
*
The Apprentice: Sleights & Subtleties – Curious Experiment With a Glass of Water (Attempt #1) / by Douglas Lumen

The wood of a chair or table—the muscles
anatomize these, imprinting them over & over
on the skin, a mixture of water & ordinary
matter. When emptied, you will be surprised
at the dust that results. This is the theory
behind the candle, all things become small
lumps of themselves whose particles stain
the lit meridian of time, as iodine. It melts
& bends into a knot like a body. Close
your eyes, pretending that you feel them.
Like furniture, the spirit is considered
a type of resin. Let a drop of air fall
into a convex mirror. Now, carry the Sun
without spilling it.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Making Perfume / by Rebecca Macijeski

Remembering has its rewards
coming and going through your house unexpected
like guests who bring pies and stay till morning
filling the kitchen with lamplight and soft talking.

And one word, one moment, one gesture can take me back.

My hands and my sister’s hands reading through
the backyard lilacs, to bring down the new purple
blooms, to pluck each paper star off its grape-cluster stem,

to put them in water swirling with honey and vanilla,
lavender claws settling to the bottom of their milk bottle sea.

We’d keep them in the refrigerator in back of the mayonnaise
to save the smell of summer. After a week in their watery world
the lilacs softened, browned, withered, drifted out of their own light
into little bogs of death. And when we opened the bottles
we gave their stories back to the ground.

*
*

Connecting with Nature Via Social Media / by Amber Shockley

Corn Creek Farm uploads video to Facebook,
so I can sit surrounded by sheet rock
and watch ducks waddle, goats kick.

The goats, particularly, have presence.
They are it goats, the kids, easily
recognizable stars like when Carrie Underwood
auditioned for American Idol and Simon Cowell
knew right away that she had it, she was an it girl
who could sing pop country and sell Almay’s
hypoallergenic eye shadow.

The it goats, who each go by one name,
like Cher, or Madonna do, jump and flip tricks
like Justin Bieber with his skateboard
but better because the goats have boundaries
and behave themselves. Besides, if the goats get
out of line, the chickens can give stink eye
for days, the chickens who lay and guard
their eggs, who aren’t afraid of snakes, snakes
so long they take a slow camera pan to see.

In the city, we’re starved for this stuff.
My backyard is a parking lot, and when I walk
outside I can see a Taco Bell sign raised
highway-high, or the moon, which seems smaller,
but I choose to look at the moon.

*
*

Troubadour / by Darcy Shargo

You make a game of playing king.
Setting the finest table & taking
it all for yourself, setting teeth
to underdone flesh, rolling it
in your mouth in front of all
who go without.

You send women to swoon
& lop their hair for memento,
Lifting the strands to your nose
so you smell the way to a poem.

Once the writing is done,
you finger your way through
the village girls lining the streets
open-mouthed and holding death
in the space between their lips.

*
*

Hanging Posters, Shadyside / by Carolyne Whelan

Aaron grunts at me, turns, pretends to sleep
when I admit I have no money today, no food,
just my work posters and a few rolls of tape.
I want to still be mad at him for kissing me
when he sat with me in the rain a few weeks ago
and I gave him money for food. I was too tired
to see what was happening, until it happened.
But he’s so hungry today and I can’t help him,

and meanwhile the two girls are still on the corner,
still arguing, You’d rather be smart and hideous
than pretty? Really? And I want to block it all out
but the friend goes, It’s who I am so I might as well
embrace it. And I wonder, suddenly, if we must claim
who we are simply by how others make us feel,
if Aaron will forever be hungry and rejected,
if I will always be foolishly sympathetic,

and someone shouts Asshole at me from their car
and I wonder if I’ll always be an asshole,
and it’s three in the afternoon and realize
none of us have real jobs or anywhere to be.

*
*

Day 9 / Poems 9

*

Happy / by Rosalind Brenner

with thanks to Robert Hass

Because last night as we drove home
we talked a bit, mostly I did
to keep his eyes from glazing at the wheel,
and he attempted conversation
through his sleepiness—

because when we arrived the air inside
was washed with fresh cooked applesauce
from apples growing in our sangha buddy’s field—

and because the lesson he had taught
about the fifth perfection:
mental stabilization (concentration,)
was well received, I was telling him
about my challenges with concentration
how I climb the stairs each morning
and my studio looks to me as if my mind
has overflowed, spilled out on the floor
and work tables, no faint resemblance to order

and then I told him my dad’s
favorite expression: Don’t cry over spilt milk
but what about spilt marbles, I ask

and because he and I can laugh and reminisce
about our dear dead fathers and—

how I can ramble, god knows, on a page, or with my brushes,
it feels as if no work is ever done and nothing finished
yet I wake and bring a cup of coffee to my desk and I begin

again and marvel that I’m here, another season and the sky
is overflowing too, violet in the angle of the sun,
swaying trees are turning slowly toward winter’s retreat
leaves soon will be crunching underfoot and

just then my son telephones on Facetime, interrupts
my poems and paints, pure joy, a visit
through the screen with my grandson,
all work recedes and everything I think I know
about focusing, in that new moment concentrates
on him and I am hopelessly in love—

another precept to reflect on, another day, another chance
to practice living till I get the fifth perfection
viscerally and right and can move on to the sixth
and last perfection: wisdom—

and when my children kiss me on the monitor,
goodbye, I go downstairs and fix myself
a bowl of applesauce.

*
*

fordon

Poetry Exercises / by Kelly Fordon

Part I

blue like a bathroom wall,
in prison, in parochial school,
blue like under the pool, under
my eyes, blue the way I feel
about you, submerged,
my engagement ring,
Payne’s blue, shadow blue.

Part II

What the Blue Woman Said:

I hate the color blue,
it flows through my faucet,
sluices over my body,
blue in rivulets flowing
over knobby rocks,
my fingertips shot blue,
Gray blue except in the morning
standing in front of the window,
aquamarine around the edges.
Yesterday waving goodbye
to my children, several people
took pictures, and my son shouted
at them, just like he yelled at the
Doberman in the rabbit warren.
Good boy, misguided boy,
soon to be blue.

Part III

What People said about The Blue Woman:

What is that blue woman doing here?
Even her hair is a dingy blue.
Where did she come from?
How long will it last?
Is it contagious?
Is her husband embarrassed?
How about her kids?
Why isn’t she in hiding?
Was it spontaneous?
Is she frightened?

Part IV

What She Felt:

I felt the proximity of the water,
I felt the blue of it, the true blue,
the place where it melds into the sky,
I didn’t go toward it, I dissipated
and then dispersed into it, I became
a droplet among many droplets,
so small when you fill this glass,
you won’t be able to see me.

*
*

The Magician: Light & Heat – The Decomposition of Light / by Douglas Luman

.
Provide a card-board circle;

paint large characters

AT REST. Next, fill a room

with darkness. Shut up in

rooms into which no light

is admitted. Perhaps

some through a small hole in

the window shutter. In

a short time, you will bleach.

Appear stationary.

Thin partitions do their

bounds divide. As of wit

& madness. Incant this.

If at the window you

slide into anyone’s

retina, depart it.

The eyes, proportionate

to hearing, substitute

for the weak mesh of truths.

Be kept by the kitchen.

Rise only for rations.

Imitate a silence,

or a bell, the clapper

struck dumb inside.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Early Harvest / by Rebecca Macijeski

Adolescent peppers in backyard ground,
broad leaves troweling the sky.
A determination in the plants,
like they’ve been thinking. The garden row
an earthbound congregation of food
inching closer toward their own benedictions
when I’ll bring them in the house, wash them,
towel them, and tear them into dinners.

One morning the white flowers dropped their petals
and peppers began, green and eager near the stems.
Tight faces ready to fill and grow.
The next morning when I went to see
they had all been eaten, taken just as they became
their own ideas. I smile, thinking of the deer
or raccoons that claimed them, the green I planted
teaching life into their bellies.

*
*

If You Must Know, I am a Mockingbird / by Darcy Shargo

Procurement—obtaining that
which is desired—my mother seeking
broken dolls she spent her life
patching together. One living without
an eye. One became skull.
Awkward, how they stumbled
and cried out in the dark and mimicked
every bell or siren or other form of song—
Another kept holding a lipstick tube
to her already cupid mouth, spackling it
the way a handyman might a hole in the wall.
Every time she was filled in she cried out
like a saw vibrating against bone.

*
*

This Morning You Turn Off the Radio So It’s Clear That This is a Silent Treatment Not Comfortable Silence / by Amber Shockley

Yesterday afternoon we were autumn’s adventurers.
We were out but behind a windshield
to watch the trees bloom their October glory.

I stick-shifted the winding tunnel,
ever-elevating, passing one lookout spot
then another ‘til we reached the top
and tilted the binoculars down. We made
a game of passing them back and forth,
picking some fickle speck – a bird
that could flit away, a particular sapling,
and challenging each other to find the same.

A few times, we each shouted I see it!
then described the scene to the last freckle
for proof.

In the motel room last night, your body
smelled like the underside of a leaf,
your limbs were a little starker,
and your hair frizzed, caught fire
as the television flickered colors.
I kissed every explosion on you –
your pierced ears, your fading tan lines,
the knock-elbow bruise reversing its way to green.

*
*

28//To the Boy With Flowers, Smithfield Ave / by Carolyne Whelan

I know they’re not mine, but thank you
for walking with them today,
and glancing, and glancing, so proud
of the flowers for their brilliance
and of yourself for the brightness
you thought to share.

Today I see flowers everywhere–
potted and arranged and wind blown.
I miss my dead friends. Max died yesterday
on Brian’s birthday – don’t you know? I am tender
in a coarse world. Coarse like salt and
like someone who always thinks
I have something more to learn.
But I’m done. Give me ignorance
and flowers just because, give me back
my mad women and men, give

this gesture of kindness and remember
to memorize the smile it brings,
trace your good friend’s happy heart.
She may need to remember what it looks like.

*
*

Day 8 / Poems 8

*

Walking Past a Playground from the Meditation Center / by Rosalind Brenner

If this is emptiness, why this fullness?
If I am dual and scattered, what is this web
I’ve stitched from fragments, how then
this joy in spite of grief?

In this imperfect, hungry body
with its gurgling pit, useless
babbling of the perilous process
that is thought: intrusive and involuntary,
I pass through, attempt
to keep from being snared
by the constant thrumming

of this chamber made of nothing
but a screen; searched room by room,
neither subject nor object found.

Still the incessant buzz continues
and the question flares
like a book of faulty matches
Why am I? Why am I?

Is this the thing I must renounce:
these footsteps that have trekked
their markings in the moist, chill sand?

And this left hand, this book, this sun?
The question?
Why say no to all that rushes by?
If I must die, why must it be today?

A little girl in pink sweater
and shiny rubber boots
chooses the blue swing.
Her nanny sings of Mexico
and pushes. The swing squeaks.
A small plane flies above us,
blue sky, cold air, like the child’s laughter
full of everything that’s good.

Empty? No—this feels complete.

The gulls in retreat
squawk at my approach
fly into the horizon
disappear, but I know they are
still here.

*
*

What is Forgotten / by Kelly Fordon

Reading Life 1951 in Pictures

Every celebrity save two,
every author listed too.
Page after page of American
communists, a time when
McCarthy seemed sane,
self-lighting cigarettes
and tray table safety belts,
Marcel Breuer, the Dome
of Discovery, crystals as
cancer treatment, the world
before DNA, FDR’s beloved
terrier, the first black
baby doll, Queen Elizabeth’s
father, almost every world leader,
John Cockcroft, Ernest Walton,
Edwin McMillan, Glenn T. Seaborg,
all the other people featured,
who waved and clapped
and danced the Bunny Hop,
who opened these pages
with great glee, so excited
to be immortalized.

*
*

The Young Magician: Lessons in Self-Possession / by Douglas Luman

As a porter for a spirit, feed it bread to manage.
Make no illusion of it—what is done is vulgar
opera. If magic were of consequence, imagine
what might disappear forever. Fortune is a feat
of removing the present & its conditions;
putting a stopper in the great bottle of night
to halt the clock no matter how large. Belief
is a thing etched into creatures, brought by
syllables slight as a spider’s silk. Utter these
words & objects are produced. Draw crumbs from
the heart of a nut. Do you think the ocean wants
to render up sponges or have assistance
in motion? Swallow a sword or an acorn, you
mass structured at the mouth. Become rehearsed
in this refrain of emptiness. Apparently again means
over & over, but even that has ends. Be prepared
in tongues for the moment. Think pencils are made
of cedars. Who would volunteer to be wood?
When the hands open as a whisper or an oyster,
have a feather if you cannot conjure a bird.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

October Eighth / by Rebecca Macijeski

The knots in the porch slats whorl into faces,
oval yawns in the woodgrain.
Dozens of starers fixed under what moves above them.
Brown-bodied sparrows clamor at the feeder
knocking food loose form the perch their feet
grab hold of. What they don’t eat lands on the lawn
with a chance to open, to dig in,
and come out new again as corn or flowers.

They’ll become faces, someday, the softness of pink,
their petals rounding up, taller each morning.
Each bloom a recitation of what it learned
in the earth, a new chance to see.

*
*

Long Dungeoned from the Rose / by Darcy Shargo

I observe the mothers in their jackets
made of grief, their hair plated

to hide strands of gray, or dyed the color
of trombones. Many times, these mothers

move in an unintended orchestra way,
crossing hands over chests in unison, shifting

weight together in one groan because
of how much they are forced to carry

inside. These mothers make magic
from what is mundane: air into language,

absence into a pocketbook that fills
with invention and aspiration, that grows fat

with receipts given in exchange for hours lost—
those interruptions, those nights

when the thought of sleep grows murderous.
The mothers button up those collars,

clapping when music stops, and rising
from their chairs in a slow bloom.

*Title is from Dickinson’s poem #360/”The Soul Has Bandaged Moments”

*
*

Charles Goodwin Fixes Oatmeal for His Wife / by Amber Shockley

Gets to where my bones wake up and ache,
so that’s my alarm now.
I let the puppy out into the yard,
Christopher’s puppy that he named Ranger,
a lab mix that gnaws on wood, on everything,
but my oldest girl folded it up in a blanket
and handed it to me three days after
they put her son next to his daddy
so I keep it. She’s lost her mind, left town.
She says I don’t know and I’m safe
more than anything when she calls
but I don’t believe her on either account.
I tell her we’ll be here when
she gets back but I don’t know about
the furniture and I laugh real careful,
sort of like a chuckle but she doesn’t
laugh, she asks me to take Ranger
with me when I go visit Christopher
and I tell her I will but I won’t
because I haven’t visited in weeks,
not since I saw the plastic flowers
and balloons people were putting on
the graves out there and got disgusted.
People can do better than that, or just
do nothing. But me too, I’m just as sorry
because I heat the oats in the microwave
like the home nurse taught me instead
of on the stove like Patricia always done.
I tell Sheila how I put some sugar
and a little cinnamon in it, about how
her mother likes that, I can tell
because her eyes perk up and she opens
good for a wide bite, and on the other
end of the phone I hear Sheila get that
quiet she gets now, and then she says
the first thing she’s said about her son
since he’s been gone. He liked that, too.

*
*

Late Autumn Camping Trip, Raystown Lake / by Carolyne Whelan

And the sun resolved
to the mountain

and the air turned crisp
as an apple

straight from the icebox
straight from the tree

And the stars appeared
like a heat rash

And the moon approached
like a warning

And we felt threatened
by our mean selves

and the winter months
that breathed on us

in our sleep, the lake
agitated

by the last small boats
pulling away

from our small, bright dreams–
put out the fire.

*
*

Day 7 / Poems 7

*

October 7, 2014 / by Rosalind Brenner

In this season of harvest, giant moon
and found mirrors in my windows
in the dying of the day, late blooming
upstart Montauk Daises assure
the end of warm times approaches.

I am conscious as a dinosaur
among robins’ eggs. I am
a thing that never was nor can be.
I tramp the red path, blue evening enveloping
days’ laws. Weather I can watch
out on the bay warns of its arrival
through the scent of hearth fires;
all this abundance
and I dream for a moment
aware only of the air of home.

Memory intrudes. Me then, me now
meditating to relieve myself of the Me,
tapestry near complete, honeysuckle trellis bare.

Turtles I have rescued find the pile
of mulch my love built for winter’s hibernation.
The fox that entered the downstairs room,
sat on the sofa and watched TV
till my return startled him and me
this summer, long gone.

I have come upon a place
where thick trunked sycamores stand
in a line of complex knitting
and I choose, or this is chosen for me—
each morning no matter fall or spring
the blossom greets the light.

*
*

2am / by Kelly Fordon

Lorazapam, melatonin, valerian root, chamomile,
scrolling through Facebook posts, hovering over
Tweets, poking the slumbering man beside me,
a sleepless stalker, swishing back and forth
like a human windshield wiper, restless body
syndrome. An hour in, I happened on a blog
by a Zen psychiatrist suffering through
cancer treatments. She laid her pain out
like crackers and cheese. No gourmet
dips or fancy napkins, just a platter
of truth for the other slowing coaches
along this deserted stretch.

*
*

The Magician: Sight & Sound – Imitative Haloes / by Douglas Luman

.
Spring suddenly burns in

a rosemary, the ruddy

color of lit charcoal,

artificial light, or

things a person intends.

You are told moonstone. You

are told moonglow. A chip

from the edge of the Earth;

you picture it, the slip

of a boy’s pop-gun. Two

minutes of crystals of

whispers. O, such a small

quantity leaves wanting.

An ounce of crow. One dram

of you. To change places?

Simple: fill an appearance.

Look from the moon’s long view

a blueness. But from here

a dark brown knot of dirt,

body shaken of moss.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

These Things I Know / by Rebecca Macijeski

The train’s rhythm drinking steel
along the country’s winding throat.

The uncluttered blue of the morning sky
before we send our words up into it,
quiet before all the usual wishing.

Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid
with chords big as the ice that flattened the plains.

The red hiding in the maple leaves
until cool fall decodes it, makes way
for the singing on the hillside.

Libraries fill with medical records,
each book a meticulously catalogued mind.

The plastic flowers on the mailboxes
dreaming of being real.

How street lamps light power lines,
a long row of slack crosses.

My cat pulls a crane from a shelf.
He hunts even the paper birds.

*
*

History Fugue / by Darcy Shargo

Stop living as if you’ve been abandoned.

You still have the stone
on your tongue.

What are you flirting with, if not disaster?

When you swallow any stone, you must know
that you also swallow memory,
and it goes to seed in your belly despite
the inhospitable nature of your body.

There must be a way to knit those rocks
together, as in—ladder—to climb out
of yourself. Imagine the relief of crawling back

into daylight, washing off slime
with the garden house coiled in grass,

your skin taking on the aroma of whatever flower
it first has pleasure to see.

*
*

Taking Exit 102 toward Blacksburg, South Carolina, I Look Past the Flying J Travel Plaza and See My Mountains / by Amber Shockley

The ramp climbs a steep hill,
the zenith of which is Gasland, USA
and Hardee’s, if you cross the road.
You can stand there with your shoes’
soles soaking up motor oil rainbows,
getting that funny tingle of dizzy
from the fumes and the cherry grape
pina colada new car air fresheners,
listening to the transport trucks barrel down
the interstate toward Gaffney’s peach
like clumsy, sleepy giants who’ve tripped
over a house and rumble while they fall.
Look for blue ripples in the distance.
Definitely North Carolina. Maybe Tennessee?
Maybe Knoxville, where my mother was born.
My mother who’s thinner than thin should be now,
and doesn’t hold me like an infant anymore.

Mountains do not have panic attacks.
Even though they have every right
with all the roads built,
the trees sawed down and shaved off,
the trinket stores opened and closed,
the pagan rituals,
the too-soon back seat car sex, the campers,
the preservation societies, the lost hikers,
the boy scout troops with gay leaders,
the men with mid-life crisis and a peanut butter
power bar, the white girls whose father’s
father’s father’s father was a Cherokee,
the business leaders, women’s groups,
and church congregations, the trust-building,
the ropes courses, and at least one mountain’s mother
is thinner than thin should be now,
doesn’t hold her like an infant anymore,

but the mountains sit there, silent, not worrying
if they’re getting fat, or age-spotted, or dying.
They don’t lash out, or cry, or withdraw
from their friends, or form extremist policies,
or read self-help, or participate in monkey mind, or
fret over past due medical bills,
or beat themselves up for not walking twenty minutes
twice each day, or for eating a donut. Two donuts.
They stay, they wait, they be. They let the rain fall.
They love and take what love is offered.
My mountains, those. Off in the distance.

 *
*

Morning Routine (for Kris) / by Carolyne Whelan

Junior and Senior year of high school,
you’d pick me up most mornings and we stopped
and bought bagels before school.
By then we’d well learned we hated school
and the Resource Rooms they put us in, easier
than trying to teach to us. You were the good one and I
always hoped you’d just keep driving, to Nantasket,
to Cambridge, even just to Bickford’s for some coffee
and a few rounds of Uno. But you always got us there
eventually, to the school parking lot where I know
we both sat and sighed for a moment, staring
across the frozen field hockey field, the fog
presenting the brick institution like a dream.

We’d let the song finish on the tape, then maybe another
and another. The Business or The Dropkick Murphys
complaining about jobs, union rights, but we
kind of liked our job at the video place,
the small pleasures of eating Zigzags and tearing lottos,
hoping someone cute or new or dangerous might come in
give us a big tip or maybe rob us, anything
to stir things up. We were young and thick and bright
like paint. Some teachers called us dumb
behind our backs, to our faces but I always thought you
were a genius, they just couldn’t understand
the complexity of kindness, the mastered skill
of getting up every morning and making a day happen.

*
*

Day 6 / Poems 6

*

Searching For the Poem and Finding One That Might Be Two—
Or Not / by Rosalind Brenner

1.
Balanced on the on-ramp
I test the magazine section,
read about an art show traveling
the world’s museums,
a photo essay of four sisters,
four sisters spanning forty years.
The story says that audiences weep.

The sisters stand closer to each other every year
caress and touch, arms wrap, enfold,
hands find shoulders, embrace waists, their stance
more hug than pre-posed offering.
They grow old. Bebe’s head rests tenderly on Laurie’s.

Flesh loosens, but their hold on one another tightens.
Forty years of faces decline, jowls form
from once perfect, independent chins,
lines incise skin once fair as summer,
brocaded by the cloth of time like a shroud
slowly descending on what was.
And their eyes, always clear, though in the last image,
tinged with sadness for the things they’ve seen;
strong, guileless, honest, and still willing.

I stop reading,
think of my sister,
twelve years dead
and how the opportunity
for us to grow together
like these lucky ones,
no ghost or empty shadow in the pictures,
was lost to us,
to me.

2.
Mike’s footsteps.
He is running.
What? I shout and he replies
Come down; hurry.
He is soaked and cold.
And in his hand
a turtle, little more than an inch around,
wet and still. He’d spied the turtle lying on its back,
a baby newly hatched and looking drowned
and on this chilly morning fished him from our pool
from certain death.

We rub its tiny shell. We stroke the legs.
He moves and we are grateful.
We vow to build a terrarium
do the little that we can
to save the world
in this small moment—
Art and poems, the news,
our sorrows and complaints,
recede; we focus
on a life that we must save
that’s not our own.

*
*

fordon

In the Chapel of Bones / by Kelly Fordon
Capela dos Ossos

We bones that are here, for yours await.

Reads the sign
above the entrance,
to the Capela dos Ossos
in Portugal where
skulls line the walls
and the ceiling, the arches
fashioned from ulnas,
radiuses, shins and thighs.
5000 monks excavated from
neighboring cemeteries,
meant to remind us:
Keep your eyes on the prize.
I wish some fiendish
monk with gleaming eyes,
had fashioned a chapel
called, Raison d’être,
arguments for emerging
from your dank cell,
costs and benefits of
dragging these clacking
skeletons back and forth
across stone floors despite
the cold and loneliness.
No one here has ever
said a word.

*
*

The Magician: Sight & Sound – Glass Broken by the Voice / by Douglas Luman

.
From the center, bellow

such that furniture feels

frustration on the tongue.

Thus goes the lamp. What should

such illusion be called?

Calamity. A strange

peal dividing the throat;

hollows time & seconds

telescope. The hour drawn

out to a point. Somehow

you become shallow. Face

heavy as dead weight.

Admit it no longer

suffers music. The most

delicate of effects

becomes a rock—a stone.

Ask—who is the tailor

stitching this darkness? How

is it to know nothing

but a penknife is home?

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Morning: A Myth / by Rebecca Macijeski

The mornings grow into each other,
wheat bursting toward harvest,
the great fiddlers of the world
rosining their bows each tie
to teach the birds a thing or two
about how it’s done. First
the long slow draw, careful
and droning. Testing the air
for spies, for what resonates,
for what will remain when
the morning quits its happening.
Then a red-gold frenzy slips
under their fingers and spreads
across the sky. Each moment
a brighter, clearer tune until
the world fiddles open my big ears,
pink light shouting along my quilt.
Clouds like great ocean barges.
Geese in and out of sight, announcing.
Everything begins. When I finally rise,
those tune gods wander off for breakfast,
put their fiddles in their boxes. Light
gives way to blue, humming
over my fruit and toast.

*
*

The Cue-Finders / by Darcy Shargo

This disease is by design. Poverty
breeds poverty—whether in accumulation—
shoes—saucepans—diamonds—
or more often in mind—which fork
to use first, how to hold
a glass of red wine: I am unsure
how to place my fingers
where stem meets bell & so follow
the cues dropped by the woman with heels,
who pinches the stem with thumb & forefinger,
sloshing wine so it slides to the rim and glides
back as would a figure skater. Researchers call this
looking-for-cues something else—
internalized deficiency: marking self-worth
by ability to wear the mask of something
you are not. I set my glass down. I admire
the mark I’ve made on the rim with my
dime store lipstick.

*
*

Alba Gomez Applies Eyeliner at the Little Miss Truly Beautiful Pageant / by Amber Shockley

The mothers, they let you take
the child off into a room, alone.
Just get it done.
It’s not sanitary, but I’ve seen
my aunt take a spit-moist thumb
and rub the corner of a red mouth
when she was pressed for time.

I got this job from her,
when her fingers turned arthritic
and she couldn’t hold the small chins
in place anymore, couldn’t sweep
the mascara wand so deftly
that it wouldn’t flutter the moth wings
of the children’s eyelashes.

On pageant nights, I sweat and hurry.
I say Look up, sweetheart
and Sit still, honey
about a hundred times, just before
I touch a brown crayon to their waterlines.
What I should say is Look everywhere, darling.
And Run, if you want.

*
*

Growing Up / by Carolyne Whelan

We became adults at age 14, dressed
as drag queens for the Eddie Izzard performance.
Candace’s mom dropped us off at the T station.
I don’t remember the train ride, his jokes, what diner –
what we ate. Grilled cheese or milk shake or something
adolescent. I remember only the black hole

they became, the shadows I wanted to become. Holed
in our booth, a group of men we thought were dressed
like truckers but could have been lawyers or fathers, something
that should have known wiser, assumed our performance
to be invitational, midnight in a Downtown Crossing diner
so far from the police station.

They asked us how much, and how soon, and where we stationed–
the collateral of our bodies, puberty was a hole
we’d backed into, the verge of breastdom at night in a diner,
everyone wanting a midnight snack. We were dressed
in their desires, too young to separate the performance
from the daily, that satire was something

bred in reflection of another life. I felt something
poking into my back and in the mirror of the waitress station
was a guy so close to me I should have felt his breath, a performance
ritual of intimidation to push us into that hole.
We were smart-mouthed, angry, and scared, dressed
like tough men dressed like women, but we were children in a diner

at midnight. It was black outside but so bright in that diner,
as if we were suspended in space. And I wanted to yell something
to the cops I wished were outside, anybody dressed
in a uniform. But 18 lightyears away was so far from the police station,
suspended above anything I once knew. This black hole
creating another dimension to this terrible performance.

The waitress eventually bore witness to the performance
of men harassing children as we shivered in her diner.
She made a call, grabbed some coffee, pulled us up from our hole.
Hank, drink some coffee and back off, she said, something
like a tuning fork silencing in my ear. Get back to your station,
Maggie, Hank responded, look at how they’re dressed.

They’re children, she yelled and sat in our booth, protector of her diner, stationed
between us and her regulars. A performance in two acts, now holed
in this booth. But we liked the way we dressed, and that had to be worth something.

*
*

Day 5 / Poems 5

*

Chronicle / by Rosalind Brenner

Muck in the storm flesh
trapped in the rigging
as wind whips the sails—
to be alive still

and re-visit time
when time was but a footstep,
the cracking of the door

so soon almost no more, a slip
of sand left in the hourglass
and then, no more,
a scarred but holding bud
on a trampled bed of Peonies.

What am I in this
dull chair, hot office waiting room,
waiting for room on the memorial
stone waiting to be nothing
but an elemental carcass
on the slaughterhouse floor,

a watery collage of found materials
loosely held till some schooled creator
announces she was here once
or never here or when
some curator scans my body
of work and answers with a question:
was she here?

This jammed ear
full of deafening wax
fills with every flight of paper
written scrapped and resurrected,
poems, poems about

the rub of life, forehead
sliding from its grip
its hold, bone off bone,

arrives only to be
too soon deaf, dead,
dead but become,
(she wishes,)
someone’s idea of art,
an archived page,
a MoMA installation
extracted from
an unwieldy dream
of real.

*
*

Reliquary_Detroit_Institute_of_Arts

This Reliquary Holds a Saint’s Bone / by Kelly Fordon

*in the Detroit Institute of Arts

A perforate coral,
held aloft by
gilded twine.
Two golden
angels bearing
le petit aperitif.
A protuberance
encountered
while snorkeling,
which could
have been dug
up by a priest
facing plague
or worse,
who longed
to offer his
congregation
a finger hold.

*
*

The Apprentice: Notes on a Turn / by Douglas Luman

If extremities are hands, then what happens at the ends
will amaze you. Consider time a jar & hold it. Fill with
what is said at the mouth—an aperture for articles too thin
to be visible. The effects of sound are surprising—a shadow

produced of air. A crucible the size of a walnut shell
that fits in the ear. You are a tuning fork, chalk, apple
alum, lines of flour, tallow. But, somehow, you change
to soap or disappear a goldfish. May it be metallization;

may it be an escape. Lacuna attests to something missing,
but you can only fill one of one hundred holes or draw
something from a hat. Knit a wire of lead. Turn some string
to silver. Swallow them in the moment. Point right. Now,

what is left?

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Late Sunday Morning / by Rebecca Macijeski

Heading out the front door
I see last night’s shriveled leaves
still clinging to the carpet how they were
when the wind brought them in—gentle,
brittle, and brown. Laying like a map of war,
or tiny funerals, the way locusts fall
at the end of their season. Death in patches.
Husks deepening in their hollows.

I walk out for the hillside and sit,
the sun on my back like a hymn,
squirrels scattered through the grass
like shape notes, and the trees become
church ladies struggling to keep their hats
and hold onto the tunes that warble out
of them, like birds rustling from nests.

*
*

Jelly Donut Redux / by Darcy Shargo

Inside the world was full of sugar.
The kind so sweet it makes your teeth hurt.

The sweetness made me think of being young
and feeling like what you wanted to happen

would happen to you, in all the good ways
& that if you kept being the good girl

that sweetness would just keep coming,
would swell and settle down.

*
*

Burlesque Stockings at the Episcopal Church / by Amber Shockley

It ain’t easy for a lapsed Baptist to pick up the liturgy.
First week, I tried to follow the leader, crossed
myself with the wrong hand, set the kneeler
down on my toe. Second week, I slurped the wine.

This week, the first snap of cold has come,
and ladies are covering themselves with cardigans,
lowering their hemlines, clomping in sturdier shoes.

I dug in the back of my top drawer this morning
like an archaeologist, sifting through thin sheets
of slips and stiff, wired brassieres,
searching for some semblance of decency –
opaque, control top, with reinforced crotch
seemed necessary. Instead, I pulled up

flimsy, slinky stretches of fishnet and lace,
thigh highs and garters, with the clasps
dangling, the metal tinkling like the soft
giggles of embarrassed girls, show girls
like me, who love the steeple and the stage.

*
*

Installing a Dishwasher / by Carolyne Whelan

I’m sorry you came home to me
battling the kitchen with a crowbar.
I was hoping you wouldn’t see.

Demolition’s so easy, typically,
the reconstruction is what’s hard.
I’m sorry you came home to me

an inch in water, a foot in debris –
in three hours, my wreckage goes far;
I was hoping you wouldn’t see.

I destroyed the sink, the cabinets, and we
have no water in the house, the fixtures burst.
I’m sorry you came home to me

and the fire department on our knees
forcing the valve shut under the porch.
We were hoping you wouldn’t see.

Of the mistakes I’ve made, this one was so easy–
I started as soon as you got in the car.
I’m sorry you came home so early to me,
I was hoping you wouldn’t see.

*
*

Day 4 / Poems 4

*

Long Corridor / by Rosalind Brenner

One bulb dangled from the ceiling,
a string pull to light the bulb
but never to illuminate.
Apartment walls stucco white,
walls that could scratch you if you leaned;
the kind of surface that covers
but cannot obliterate the grey
years of lives in that old building
women tucking babies into drawers
made into cradles,
men home from factories,
thick sweat stifling pores
on August Brooklyn days.

At eleven I knew nothing; my sister was eighteen
and wanted out of there. Mother’s door
was always closed, forbidding entry into her
at the end of the long corridor.

In our small kitchenette
my sister, Marilyn, drew a diagram for me
stick figures stretched out sideways,
one lying on the other on a page
torn from her school notebook.
From the male body, a skinny knob poked
into the black line dress that proved
the bottom figure was the woman.

I laughed at Sister’s silly rendering,
skewed the scraps of information she revealed:
the baby lives in the mother’s “private parts,” oh dear,
and we were once inside our distant mother,
came through into the world that way.

My sister married quickly, got her way.
I, now an only child, read a book of hers
she left behind, Forever Amber, hidden
in a plain brown wrapper,
tested how it felt to be a girl.

I thought surely Sister would by marked by some grotesque sign
because she’d done that thing with her new husband,
but no, she still was mine, my Marilyn, until…
I don’t remember how it changed but one day she had kids
and I was fourteen and learned to lock my room door too.

Then came the man I married. He knew astronomy,
spun oranges and grapefruits
to show me how the planets moved,
taught me with his body how
he needed me, and in those days, as I always say
a girl was born to please— and for a while, I did.

*
*

Mourning / by Kelly Fordon

A snowflake landing
on a warm pane.
A fly agitating
between glass
and screen.
People gliding by,
stencils on parade.
Silence as indictment,
benediction, curse.
A voice sounding out
over an empty field,
over the town,
an alarm clock life,
constellations under
cloud cover.
When we were young,
we held hands
and peeked over
The Cliffs of Moher.
I will never go again.

*
*

The Magician: Sleights & Subtleties – The Visible Invisible / by Douglas Luman

notes in the margin

Music of frost-work on the window-pane. At once
a plane vanished & un-vanished. What happens
if one writes a word upon space? Here,
it condenses into words of dismal liberty,
an almanack of particles that ring together
a few days. What would you do with only mirrors,
water, & fire? Let combustion do what it does:
not utter a consequence. If a spirit boils, it
witnesses any acts. Perhaps I am animal that
appears to a person’s name for whom
death appears to be involved with carbonates;
dissolved to pounds, gas, & sound. Any mistake
is a nitrate. Vapor will remain. Condensed
into a slight phial of silk & what pockets contain.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

When / by Rebecca Macijeski

The stories only deepen when you’re sleeping
like birds flying further out of sight,
like red threads unspooling into quilts,
the smell of cinnamon and icing lifted from pastries,
the warm in bathwater called back to the clouds.

What I create flashes along my mind’s moviehouse
inscrutable as a silent film, an endless gray
murmuring in light, until I awaken
and everything stills, waiting for me to direct the world.

At least that’s how it feels when my eyes open,
sun brightening the little room. When my cat
climbs near my face to lick sleep away
and the scene fades to
morning with coffee, morning
with train whistle, morning with October birds
plotting their communal V across the sky’s peach screen.
Morning of watching the sun glide up for a better view
of the trees’ balding tops, squirrels clinging inside
asleep in a forest of leafy minds.

*
*

Alice Is Not In Wonderland / by Darcy Shargo

She’s shacked up with Typhoid Mary,
and compulsively washing her hands.

When they make love,
Alice turns her attention
to the cracks in her hands,

which map like rabbit holes
into other worlds, striped with blood,
flaked at the edges with

co-mingling DNA. She had not seen
the signals of distress, how
Mad Hatter’s stare was toward

a deepening necessity inside her,
a cellular curse—a need for pleasure
that no man or monster could fulfill.

She’s following those red lines
& will follow them to each terminus,
to each mystery. She’s shedding

skin and soiled blue petticoat, cutting
those apron strings.

*
*

My (Imagined) Daughter / by Amber Shockley

She is prehistoric. She has gills.
She’s selected her swimsuit for the season –
wavy pattern of blues, purples, greens.
Sophisticated, no cartoon characters.

She slips into the water like a sea turtle.
She doesn’t need my hands under her
anymore to trust-float, my fingers
touching gentle as sea weed.

She can go under, open her eyes,
bleach-blink and lung-hold
for 60 seconds. Her hair dries
to chlorine-green, her skin soft

and water-beaded like a swan’s
feathered back. She breaks
the smooth surface again and again,
her body stretched and muscled

for one dive, roll and hooked for another.
She doesn’t apologize to the water
as she slices – she expects the give,
and the push. As I would have it,

she cannot fathom panic, or drowning.
She’s never in danger, but if needed
I would crack my own ribs
to re-crank her heart.

*
*

Danny Says, Revisited / by Carolyne Whelan

Danny says we can’t go surfing,
it’s too cold in the Quebec Falls,
and Sheena’s playing tonight. We promised
we’d watch this time, the way
she stands like a teepee, strums
down and hard, her band a blitzkrieg behind her.
The river is running so fast today,
the hail – just like BBs, Danny says –
an incantation on the leaves.
Idaho, Idaho, it calls to us, and I wonder
if anything could be so prudent.

Danny says there’s a 5:02 soundcheck
but in these woods my feet are so wet
and frozen I am thinking only of television,
the blue glow of kindness, Maxwell Smart
makes mistakes I could only dream of.
I feel less like an idiot if only for a moment,
so less lost among these rapids. The river
next to us so loud, it’s hard not to hear
a jingle in there somewhere, but I know
if anything I hear Sheena warming up,
Falls City Pub pouring heavy hands
and we are so close, so cold.

*
*

Day 3 / Poems 3

*

TV or Not TV / by Rosalind Brenner

So that you will hear me
my words
sometimes grow thin
as the tracks of the gulls on the beaches.
Here in Neruda’s words, there is, for me, relief.

*

This morning, sun wicks puddles,
settles on the garden
gleams a dust ray on my desk

after two deluge days.
I ball words in my fist,
stare at the computer screen
scour Random House
huge dictionary and books,
root through Neruda’s poems of love.

Where is the squirrel of yesterday, I wonder.
Buddha statue sits outside, white and inscrutable,
brass umbrella above his marble form,
lacquered against winter. In Burma
where we first found him it doesn’t snow.

I could spout some piece of small profundity:
congress and the middle east,
drones and bombs and women’s rights
or ask the air how Buddhists can kill Muslims;
I thought Buddhists meditate and offer peace—
I could question why the world is such a house of carnage.

But instead I’ll mention here the message
on my telephone from Optimum:
My TV service may be interrupted.
because autumn is “sun outage season.”
And on this perfect day a warning
from the keepers of the channels:
in fall, sun’s path across
the sky sinks lower and at times
it drops behind a TV satellite,
and radiation overpowers our signals.

How upside down we are, this crazy culture
of guns and holier than thou-ness,
godmoney and consumption.
How dull and shallow seems such premise for a life.

But not to worry when the TV accidentally shuts off.
It will return its warp at its usual vapidity.
And we can all sigh easily and resume
what we were watching.

*
*

4am / by Kelly Fordon

A brutish wind, specters racketing the branches, the door agitates, the television flickers, the anchors battle major depressive disorders, droning on and on about droughts and viruses and people paralyzed sometimes indefinitely, sometimes just for the duration of the sound bite. Somewhere in some hollow, bejeweled crib, someone is praying and God is not just a homeless man rubbing his hands together in front of a campfire or a demented penitent babbling on the street corner. When I can’t sleep, I keep watch, press my nose against the opaque pane. Once I met a girl who’d seen angels climbing up and down a ladder in the sky. They were carrying buckets.  She couldn’t see what was in them.

*
*

The Apprentice: a Pledge / by Douglas Luman

as he sorts through the documents in the parcel

What should escape this sensible ink?
The I is drawn upon what is reflected
in the face mistaken for the surface
of things: skin, a large unintelligible thumb;
most of my machinery is made of gears
& wheels—hydrogen once, when
flesh was not natural enough.

The barometer rolls, atmosphere
strained enough to sieve the air
of these hours. Winter will come
if, as most minutes, we will watch it
expel these walls of degrees. In the cold
we will try brighter postures, what we know
about being sockets or lending light
to eyes. Now, thunder-storm. But, even
after lightning the shell of the air is still
warm.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

I Read Somewhere This is True / by Rebecca Macijeski

that hermit crabs, naked of their former shells,
will make homes in what you leave them:
hollowed out eight balls or little souvenir hats.
I think of this when my mind’s grown quiet.
A team of crustacean linebackers hunched
on orange spindles across their field
of aquarium sand. How they gaze out the grates
of their bright plastic helmets
such a long, long way from the sea.

*
*

Genie / by Darcy Shargo

I am obliged to meet
your wishes. I can skin the tiger
tonight and make you a new suit,
and what good cufflinks my teeth
will make. Sometimes I forget
what it is to love, returning to
rituals of violence and sacrifice:
my nails sharpened
to make etchings along the wall,
including a quiver of arrows
aiming for your gut.
Sometimes I’d rather have
this violence than the burden
of holding these pieces together.
I’d rather be ravaged and left
beyond repair.

*
*

Taking a Kiss to School / by Amber Shockley

Like a gun, he used it to shoot out
Mrs. Peterson when she gave him
the hairy eyeball for talking out of turn,
and Joshua, who knocked him
off the monkey bars on purpose
and said it was an accident.

The kiss was still there in gym,
when the ball bounced off his head
instead of his forearms like it’s supposed to
and the coach’s vein popped out
when he hollered, Open your eyes, son!

He sat on the bleachers for a time out
and thought for the thousandth time
of his father’s arm wrapped around her,
his father’s hand spread flat on
his mother’s back, their waists touching,
his mother’s lips’ corners still curved up,
enjoying a joke she’d just made,
his father kissing that joke on the mouth,

even though last night he’s said
Damn it, Sarah when he’d stepped
in dripped bath water with his socks on,
even though last month, for almost
a whole week they’d moved
careful around each other like sore bones,

this morning they were pressed
together in front of him,
tasting each other’s coffee and toothpaste,
so he felt alright to fail a little here and there –
at home was proof you could be forgiven.

*
*

Habitual / by Carolyne Whelan

At 3 a.m. he’s still tinkering, building
the dreams he wishes he fulfilled, the future
he wishes he wanted. The cans stacked and tipped,
bottles crated in the corner, overtaking the basement
like a mold spore, filling the space
that feels so endlessly empty.

I write because I don’t know what happened
under those stairs, those long nights the family
tried to sleep above the banging and loud music,
the house guests, strangers brought in from the street
relatable in their irrelevance.

I write because I’m angry, and heartbroken, and because
I know the fine line between distraction and destruction
is blurry as last call at an after hours club, as curved
and smoothed as the slick edge of bar we lean on
when we find ourselves slipping.

I know that feeling, to stay up so late it feels easier
to never come to bed, a scorned child who’d rather run away
than face the embarrassment of love.
We are not children. We make mistakes that ruin lives.

And drinking is cliché, and so’s forgiveness. I write
because there’s nothing to be said or done
worth trying, some days. But it’s raining today,
the leaves are clapping incessantly, a gross applause
considering. But I left the house, and did my chores
and loved and loved. And that’s the difference between us.

*
*

Day 2 / Poems 2

*

Optimist / by Rosalind Brenner

Squirrel finds his way
into the courtyard,
climbs up the slatted fence,
balances upside down
on the espalier apple tree
jumps to the whitewashed wall
runs down it headlong
into the thicket of our Cosmos garden.

I watch from my window as he ruminates,
mulls over possibilities
his cheeks puffed full;
acorns, I suppose, from the forest border
near home, false starts, ground too hard.
Roots snag as he tries to dig.
Tail flaps, clods fly, paws
claw at breakneck speed.

Ah, at last he finds a faultless spot
burrows a hole, drops in his winter store.
I want to open the window,
shout No, not here.
Your treasure isn’t safe.
You could starve once we turn soil
and snow conceals the last of autumn’s rot.

But he is so determined,
and I’m not one to spoil hope
and industry. He inspires me.
Indeed, he spawned
this poem, this little being,
so passionate, such faith,
such zeal, who finds our yard
a welcome place
to store his winter meal.

*
*

The Symbolism of the Pelican / by Kelly Fordon

The pelican pierces her own breast
to feed her starving young,
then grows agitated, irritated,
so aggrieved she beaks
her darlings to death.

Later, after the assault, she’s
traumatized and again she
wounds herself until the blood
spills out over the corpses,
her little ones revived.
Remorse transubstantiated.

The offering up of the body,
the regret and the blood money,
the mopping up that follows,
so much more than any child
bargains for. The offspring
open-mouthed look on.

*
*

The Magician: Transmutation – The Spectral Lamp / by Douglas Luman

*
Fill a wick with stars. Light,

this, a feather, quickens

through a glass globe; the sheets

of people bear the bloom

healthful. This narrow-necked

Earth; the blue of the wind—

say, a briskness is here.

One marvelous finger

to the lips, speak what is

a trick’s main circumstance:

to alter all that is

apparent to the eye.

Who present is tinder?

Porcelain? A vessel

for water? Douse this wound.

The flame, big as a mouth.

Speak your name to a room

full of salt.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Brain Atlas / by Rebecca Macijeski

Next to the phone numbers and the shape of my name
is a thread back to drawing for hours
through long summer days as a girl—my hand tight
around the bright markers.

Frogs in the creek along the neighbor’s yard,
mud’s primordial hold on my little boots.
My very first bat flashing in and out of the street light
carrying with it some black distant knowledge
I still can’t make sense of.

Then vast regions for the places I’ve been.

A crescent of tissue the size of Japan,
salty and solemn and wrapped in paper.

Italy still kicking at the door
with my first bursts of history at sixteen,
the way the rain in the Colosseum filled the gargoyles
so all of time and sky gushed out their eternal mouths.

And Vienna opening in layers like a sugared pastry.
Prague a night mind where all of us were poets
drinking beer where Kafka drank and slamming glasses down
on pitted wooden bars.

My deck this morning and the cold that finds me here
tunneling through my sleeves. The way I sit here
each day with empty pages looking ahead
into what might fill them.

*
*

Girl / by Darcy Shargo

She does not wish to be covered
in fur. It makes her smell of the soil
that covers a farm town where
awareness is born: hot & hairy
in July air, where joy lasts
as long as a fruit fly.
Things that seemed easy
now are not. Breathing,
for example, under the weight
of that wet fur—
& the arrangement of bone
bleaching in the sun, & the dirt
& the damp: how to navigate
becoming animal.

*
*

To the Children Eating Chicken McNuggets in a South Carolina Emergency Room / by Amber Shockley

I remember the kind of midnight
you’re having now –
your arm broke, or your mother’s
arm broke or your father
is broken. It’s all the same.

Something’s snapped,
and here you are
in your too-thin pajamas,
with your hungry belly
and a hurt you want to curl around.

It’ll seem odd when the strangers
in the blue rooms here and beyond
want you to open up, let them see.

It will feel wrong to your
simple and fine understanding
of how to treat a wound,
antithetical to everything
maybe your teacher or television
told you about adults you don’t know.

Antithetical is a word you don’t know
yet, but let me tell you something new
that might help you digest this
better down the line – antithetical
is the word adults use for un-life times like this,

for when things happen that aren’t supposed to,
for hurt, for confusion, for stunned children.

*
*

Mechanic//Ode / by Carolyne Whelan

Squatting in the dark gravel lot
I shine my light into the gray space by our feet
pick out the nuts as they fumble from your fingers.
My license plate has been off for a month,
my mechanic dead in a crash, and his apprentice, you tell me
as we step inside for a vice, killed himself two days later.
Such a tragedy, we’d both agree, but there’s nothing to say
these days. Everyone is dead. No one, is seems, wants to live.

So I just apologize for anything and try to adjust my shadow
on the scooter’s fender, the most
and least I can do, but really I’m just
so lazy and impatient these days, so poisonous.

I found your business card thumbed into a bulletin board
and here we are, now, thumbing through dark creases
in conversation, finding how linear two lines can be
and still manage to cross. I think I thanked you
for the half hour of time finessing under flashlight
what I, with all my stubbornness, couldn’t fix.

But I don’t remember, I don’t pay attention to anything
anymore. I think your name was Ed, like my dad
who taught me the trick in finding shining objects
in even the dimmest debris.

*
*

Day 1 / Poems 1

*

Anthropophobia at the B and B / by Rosalind Brenner

This was not a breakdown
only a feint, a sly hoax,
a trick my body played on me.
I fainted—A lapse of grit,
a plea for some elusive strength
of character that failed?

It happened quickly at the dinner
table, friends gathered for a meal
the ribs, salad and the stories
laughs, the wine—
but it was all too much.

Mike and I had been barraged by guests,
the kind we love to feed and serve,
dear ones that we couldn’t do enough
for, wanting so to please.

Broadsided too, by alcoholics,
old men sporting much younger women,
the privileged, the entitled
all summer, their smiles, their questions
and their questionable doings.

The fog, sun, the smell of lavender,
the taste of home-made beach plum jam,
moonrise above the bay, slanting evening
at our windows, the following darker days
of autumn narrowing our field, promise of quiet
but for the desperate chirping of crickets
and cicadas who found their way inside;
our hunt to catch and toss them back
into the woods.
Our nights finally alone.
Morning love.

I learned early, her panic palpable
as I watched my mother dust and sweep
and vacuum for the family, his family
that she felt were visiting to judge,
when she was silenced by
their whispered reprimands
and then refused all company
and found her fellowship in novels,
magazines, and singing with the radio.
I learned early to fear the walls
she claimed had “ears,”
to hide from prying eyes, keep my guard
in place against the strangers’ knock.

Perhaps that’s why, as summer ended
and my life of busy service closed,
I took a deep, long breath and crumpled.
My friends bent over me, pressed
a cold, wet wash cloth to my forehead
and quite okay, I sat, a little stunned
but happy it was done,
(and for the most part, fun)
glad for another season, Mother’s
dread of people, overcome.

*
*

Riddle / by Kelly Fordon

Many misinterpret our arrangement,
think it unusual, wonder at the proximity,
yet lack of intimacy, seeing life through
two eyes. One growing fatigued, another
taking over. If we keep copious notes,
we never forget where we’ve been or why.
We use Map My Path. Each successive
day provides opportunities for recovery.
Who is essential and who isn’t?
Some think they are nursing
this organization back to health,
others work the security detail.
Let’s face it, all of these departments
could be better integrated—
everyone on A working in concert
with the team up on B. Most of us
should not have come on board,
some of us wheedled our way in,
while others were occupied,
connections, that’s what we lack.

*
*

The Magician: a Prestige / by Douglas Luman

a note tied to a bundle of papers by a string

In the closing, put a linen upon it;
the whole length of desire – one thread.

Drop into flame, bottle away
the pearled ash. Let it tell its truth

by fireside. When the sun is a pane of phosphorus,
as noon suggests, these papers yellowed

by facts of hands, let them tumble
into a candle. A void. Something that diminishes

straw. The night will polish what
day tapers. I am old now.

How I’ve transformed. I pass pages
to you as heat passes through rooms.

Provide a body so the cotton of
the spirit will stay awhile, laughing

in hollow snow, dissolving
cold. Turn rain to steam, somehow.

Source text: Perkins, Henry, and Barrington Haswell. Parlour Magic. Philadelphia: H. Perkins, 1838.

*
*

Three Rooms / by Rebecca Macijeski

Mushrooms bloom overnight after rain,
roofs to little village homes
along the curving roads of tree roots.
On my morning walks I bend down close
and search through the sloping walls
to what I hope are kitchens inside
and hearths. The last glow of last night’s fire.
Maybe someone’s cooking inside, rooting around
in the pantry for spices, breaking eggs into a pan.
Sipping from a warm cup and running her old hands
along the cat’s familiar spine.

As light dawns, I telescope out from this world.
Suddenly there are joggers as big as me, and engines,
a harsh autumn wind crowding the sound
of tiny dishes in their sink.

Later, on my porch, if I strain I can go back again
by way of the double shadows of the bird feeder
haze shapes onto the wall, a cricket
like a beacon flashing its cryptic sounds
when first light walks its daily inspection
on what remains of rain along the flower pots.
The gray wash of clouds gathers soft above us.
How tired they must be of all the earth’s spinning.
I wonder what they’d like for breakfast.

*
*

Here, Even the Lowly Listen for Lovers / by Darcy Shargo

The mosquito’s dread buzz
looping—here the lowly listen
for lovers, too.

……The mind’s a difficult portage:
yet we slog through wilderness
to make our intent

……………………….known.
Oar and soaked boots.
Mud that tastes of crow.
When I lick that mud
from your tongue
it smells of cinnamon.

……………………….There is
no other means of discharge
in this open field.

*
*

Oh, Antonio Banderas / by Amber Shockley

- reflections on the third wave after Never Talk to Strangers

You really put yourself through so much,
starring in those movies with the women
always either crazy or lesbian or both.

She’d taken self-defense.
She’d been in therapy.
She was so free she
couldn’t remember liberation.
She, she, she, she
was probably pagan, she
probably worshipped She.

Brown eyes and chivalry were no match.
Look! She shot you in the chest!
She did it all by herself,
twenty years ago.

Antonio, where are you now?
Did you survive being shot in the broad
chest by the crazy/lesbian/pagan woman?
Did you marry? Did you divorce?
Of course, you’re still here.
Men, cockroaches, the millennium:
survivors, you.

*
*

Mannequin / by Carolyne Whelan

If she had a name, I never knew it, already more human
than I wanted to consider. My grandmother, in my memory,
so stern and standing in a housecoat, a wall of a woman, really –
such contrast to this slight and slender frame of well-dressed
porcelain and plastic, sitting cross legged and leaning
slightly out of the hallway shadow, as if excited to see who it was
coming with that delicate, tip-toeing, terrified gait.

She was the ghost in the house, I was convinced, and she never ceased
to startle me. My dad, in confidence, once told me
he never got used to her sitting in that corner. She was always
wearing something new, never looked like what
we expected to see. As a kid, this confirmed
her phantom nature. Not until adulthood, my Nana shrunken
and curved, the mannequin dusty and drab,

could I imagine the hours of picking out an outfit
she hadn’t snaked into in 50 years, dressed her life-sized doll
into a dress last worn on a date with my grandfather,
or a suit worn for meeting with JFK. Those lonely hours
in a house so big and emptied from the chilled gusts
that came mainly from my grandmother.

Each holiday, before the families came dutifully
with pies and corned beef and squash, my Nana must have squatted
in that same hallway shadow, eyeing up the angle,
checking the pleats and hems, picturing herself
anxious and ready for greetings.

*
*

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