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 November 2014 are Sara Biggs Chaney, Karen Craigo, Regina DiPerna, Emily Gwinn, Mia Herman, Alan Katz, Allison Mitton, Ansley Moon, and Mary Stone. Read their full bios by clicking here.
Please follow their work (by clicking “Follow” on the bottom of the page), and feel free to acknowledge their generosity and creativity with a show of your admiration and support by donating on their behalf to Tupelo Press. (Click here to donate, scroll down to the form at the bottom, and put a contributor’s name in the “honor” field.) Just imagine what a challenge it is to write 30 new poems in 30 days!
If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your offer, a brief bio, and three sample poems and warm up your pen!
Day 20 / Poems 20
Assembling the Bunk / by Karen Craigo
The hardest part is first:
make an H of right and left
end panels, attach frame
for mattress between. It’s what
the directions tell me to do,
and it requires strength,
a modicum of balance,
each part threatening
to fall. I drive in the bolts
before it all collapses.
The job is to make it sturdy
beyond fail, but the outset
is wobbly and gives me pause.
It’s like when we took him home
the first time, no nurses around,
no one to help us find a latch,
his father and I staring
across his sleeping form.
Those first days we took turns
holding him through the night,
no place safe or warm enough.
But tonight I’ll send him
up a ladder to sleep, and he
is gleeful when he tests a step,
and he hugs me and tells me
I always wanted to be up high.
Questions For The Moon / by Regina DiPerna
How did you seep into
every pear, every stalk
of sugar cane?
Can you feel us on Earth
winding your pale cogs?
Where is the edge
of space, and how faintly
does your light glow there
like sheer milk spilled
along the seam of being?
Are you cold up there
with not even a cloud
to break the cosmic wind
whipping your face?
Which way is north?
Is there a fragment
of white neon
lighting you from inside?
And what hands can you
conceive of to pluck it out?
Are your pocks thick like cream
or fragile like rice paper
folded and re-folded?
Is every surface borrowed,
just a shadow projected
by a mammoth object
underpinning all things?
Are you a whale among stars, all
white flesh, teeth, unearthly ribs?
What sound do you make,
blanched drum? What song
sung you to sleep?
What dream is at the end of dreams?
Is it the one with the kettle of blood
or the one where the world
goes blind and the gods
rust and we realize there is room
in our bodies for more hearts,
more bones, more veins?
First Day of Snow, November / by Emily Gwinn
As if my morning window
suddenly burst into fields
of corn, dressed in sugar,
a tapestry of spider web
How long had I been awake
before I realized
things had changed?
The pulse trips and starts
Had I forgotten how
how a world can feel pieced
together in dark bands of sky,
and instantly open into light?
from City Haikus / by Ansley Moon
We found her sitting
in the same pants, the same pants
in. Pants that didn’t
belong to her. She wouldn’t
look at us. Wouldn’t
hold a gaze. She was
someone else. Someone we al-
ways & never knew.
Resolutions / by Mary Stone
& fuck it – this year
I’ll be better at staying
awake in the Midwest.
My doctor listed Trazadone as a sensitivity.
The smoking a disorder.
Sends the updates via email
and the city suddenly seems so big.
& I’ll go through each prescription one month at a time,
use infomercials and gasoline to put off
I can’t taste the mimosas anymore.
No one believed I’d found a swollen star
in my chest till they saw the X-Rays.
There’s something delightful
in being a forgetful burst of light.
My doctor reminds me of you when she smiles
away from me, I can tell her anything I want.
She always believes. The next man
who tells me I sleep
so sweet will hear the song,
the dark matter of my mouth.
I know how to avoid a diagnosis.
& this is not what you taught me
& that is good.
You’ll send citrus and sand first class
but I’ll only the save the stamps.
& my doctor can’t believe I took a year to return.
She touches my navel
like she might break me.
By now we know, though, my body
is not made of porcelain.
I’m waiting to enter
a soybean field, to find the old train bridge,
to jump. To remember what it feels like
to be pushed.
Allow my slippery bones to fossilize
in a shallow river.
If I write it down, it’s easier.
& if I write it down, I can read it to him
over the phone and we’ll laugh at you
till we cum together and I’ll breathe
like I always have, mimosa,
fuck yea, I’ll breathe.
He tells me I perform so well
to talk me out of using condoms.
I practice smoking blunts so I don’t disappoint.
My doctor draws my blood. For days
I press the bruise & I think Hamlet
would be so proud of my condition
so I take his cold hands to bed with me.
& I think of Georgia, but it’s not right.
Georgia is always mourning
or Georgia is always so green.
& I think of falling snow and know
you build another fire for me
to come trample with the hooves
you call dark and sad and bloody.
& these things are not so complicated.
He knows how to navigate the dark and I can learn.
The next man who calls me baby
can start naming my migraines
I no longer see you
in the aura of bright glass shards,
of floaters that glitter up my eye.
Today it is your birthday
& I’m finally smoking
my first real cigar.
Everyone is such a fucking romantic.
Choosing the diagnosis is easy,
my doctor says.
Symptoms may worsen
when it gets closer to bedtime.
The best home remedy is honey
and I’ve got enough acid to last
the year, enough till I see
all the irises grow
from that beautiful man’s chest.
Day 19 / Poems 19
Something about Dried-Up Fruit and Twice-Chewed Gum / by Sara Biggs Chaney
Salma Hayek and Nancy Pelosi walk into a bar.
The barkeep makes a joke:
Something about drunk goggles & saggy breasts.
“I am not a feminist,” Salma Hayek says.
“Hell, I’d hit that,” quips the barkeep.
He eyes her up, gives her a free shot of tequila.
“How many times that question is asked of a woman,” Nancy begins,
but never finishes.
The barkeep turns up the television, a story about Kristen Stewart’s
nip slip at the film awards. Coverage is ongoing.
Latest reports indicate some intentionality behind the act.
“Hell, I’d hit that,” quips the barkeep.
“I am not a feminist,” Salma Hayek says to her her shot glass.
“If men were going through the things women are going through today—“
Nancy Pelosi purses her (old) lips and furrows her (old) brow.
“I was never on the front of Time magazine,” she tells the barkeep, who isn’t
listening. He makes a joke:
Something about dried up fruit and twice-chewed gum.
“I am not a feminist,” Salma Hayek sings out while twirling on her barstool.
A new story comes on the television.
Something about Keira Knightley’s naked photo shoot.
The barkeep turns up the volume. Everybody takes another drink.
Note: This is a partial found poem, with lines taken from the Opinion Page of the Washington Post on 11/17/14. The first piece is called “Why Some Women Shun Feminism” and the second, “Nancy Pelosi, Partisan Warrior in Denial.”
Top Ten Items You’re Too Old to Wear / by Karen Craigo
A middle-aged woman with long hair?
There is nothing more ridiculous.
That’s something my mom used to say,
and it stuck with me—that there is an age
when choice is lost and rules kick in:
hair length prescribed, strappy heels
off limits. I have a confession to make:
sometimes I wear my nightgown
in the school car line, no bra or pants,
on certain spring days no shoes,
and each time I pray there will be
no ad hoc conference, me cross-armed
as the teacher talks through my window.
I read an article today, and it told me
what I can no longer wear over forty—
microminis, low-cut tops. Some things
people just don’t want to see in a woman
my age, but here I am, in front of you.
No one is forcing you to look.
from A Thousand Acts / by Regina DiPerna
A sun-damaged portrait of a Hindu goddess
on the window pane. I was just rude
to a complete stranger. I can’t decide
if he was being nice by calling me little lady
or if it’s a problem: he never would have called me little man.
Some people are nice
when they want something from you
even something abstract.
There is a bigger picture inside the picture
others have of me.
I’m chewing something
I can’t get my mouth around.
I don’t know what’s
on the edge of space
and neither do you.
I’m a whole flock of birds
You’re right here.
Painted lotus, painted feet,
gold crown, red eye drawn
on your forehead.
The coffee is cold
but you don’t mind.
You’re too busy wondering
who is going to hurt you.
Some people reach for their keys
in their jacket pocket
or close their laptops
or go out for a smoke
or, let’s face it, die
or open their mouths to speak
and then don’t.
It feels good to have secrets
with myself. It feels good
the mutilated world.
To live the only way
we know: red blood,
thought, touch something
and feel the universe
swirling under my hand.
Some people lift water to their mouths
or set their hands on a table
or switch off the light
or watch shadows move
their soft, strange eyelids.
Taking Root / by Emily Gwinn
- for Gabby
You don’t choose your family.
They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.
- Desmond Tutu
We are all tributaries
here, pieces of
extended in soil.
We are bud of heart-shaped
ramie, stalk of rhubarb,
honey tobacco and cotton.
See how the Xiang River is simply
a child of the Yangtze River,
who is a child of
the East China Sea,
who is a child of
We’re all born of the same
Are they twins? people would ask
as you were pushed beside
your adoptive brother,
two babies, both with plump smiles,
it is hard to tell the difference,
not between your faces,
but the space between your stories –
See how you were always
how we were simply waiting
for you to cross the ocean of your birth,
straight into the headwaters
A Hallmark Channel Original / by Mia Herman
in the first twenty minutes
(if you don’t count commercials):
Guy meets Girl
but Girl is all
I already have a guy!
and just like that we’re back
with white snow
and green pines
and hot chocolate
and isn’t that all you need
to make things work?
and now Girl is crying
because she can’t fast-forward
and another twenty minutes must pass
before Guy whispers in her ear
“Eternity is where true love exists”
and they will walk down the street
hand in hand, only stopping
to wish each other
a Merry Christmas
or Happy Hannukah
or Happy Kwanzaa
before continuing on
into a life without interruptions.
*the quote appears in the Hallmark movie, “A Very Merry Mix Up”
A piece ((of a layer) of tissue) / by Alan Katz
A pork chop
once was a pig.
Opus 72 No. 1 / by Allison Mitton
Arriving home from dinner late
at night, I turn off the lights
on my way through the house,
pausing in the kitchen for tea
in a purple mug with Emerson College
on one side. I sit on my bed to process
the day, a flurry of thoughts
in my heart. Not ready to look at each piece
I turn on Chopin, feeling my way through
the nocturnes. I can play E minor
with my eyes closed: balancing
the triplet rhythm against the right hand’s
eighth notes in the air above my bed.
My body moves as it would on the edge
of the black piano bench at home,
the lid of the baby grand partially open
to create a full sound. I play the piece
on repeat until the tension resolves.
from City Haikus / by Ansley Moon
My ribs are caged in
& eyelashes beat into
darkness & mother’s circles.
My father’s gift of
light. Shining eyes be-
tray everything. Take this girl
& make her pretty.
The Complaining Husband / by Mary Stone
The day will end with a flat tire
or an empty bottle of Scotch,
another lie I’ve laced into sheets
and he’ll go to bed a big sigh
facing away from me.
Our first Christmas together,
he’d refused a tree
saying he spent his childhood
rearranging ornaments for a mother
who couldn’t be pleased, a woman
who spent that day in the kitchen
overcooking the meat,
soiled towels thrown to the floor.
It’s already snowed this year
and he’s playing dress up
again, in blue coveralls
pretending his dreams
lie within reach. I don’t stay
late enough at work
and he hides the crate
of ornaments in the basement.
Comes up the stairs
with dust in his mouth
his hands too cold.
What he holds, he won’t give
because we’re out of filters
for the heater, out of hot chocolate,
because his mother called again
and he speaks to her in other rooms,
whispering. I lay in the dark,
knowing outside they’ve begun
to string red and green lights
across the park that I can’t
see from my window.
I wish he’d stop losing
his keys and ice his back.
Flip the mattress again.
His mother will call earlier
tomorrow and remind him
to shovel the sidewalk
till his hands crack,
till he’s unable to use them
to rinse the holiday dishware
to touch my cold nose
no matter how much lotion
I offer to rub into his skin.
Day 18 / Poems 18
My Thank You Note / by Sara Biggs Chaney
The leaves are off the trees again.
We bow our heads against
a bitter blast of wind and I
can only hope we will survive
another cold season.
If you were here, you would
send me a coat in the mail.
The coat wouldn’t fit;
the color would clash
with everything I own.
You would ask me later
if I got the coat and if I liked it
and I would say I did and smile,
hating myself for forgetting
the simple kindness
of a thank you note.
“You looked cold,” you’d say,
“I thought you needed a good coat.”
This year I wear your old
brown parka everywhere.
It’s much too big
and hardly suitable for work
but I’m more than ready
for an unplanned arctic expedition
and I’ve got ample room to grow.
I reached my hand into the pocket yesterday
and found your crumpled tissue and
I liked it. It bore some mark of you.
Dad, your coat keeps me so warm.
If I could, I would release
all my forgotten thank yous
to find you,
where you are.
I Wake From Dreams of a Thief / by Karen Craigo
In sleep, I stood in my rooms,
scanned for a place to hide my fist
full of jewels. Come morning,
the residue of worry: I can barely
believe my empty palms,
and so I keep up the search.
Spidery crawl space, cereal box,
someone would look there—
a cop, a company of robbers—
or the toilet tank, the toaster,
inside a hot loaf of bread.
Outside, I eyeball the door
that covers my gas cap. A person
could stash a small thing there,
but I’d want it closer, the heat
from the purloined sparkle.
I settle on the cat box—
at least make them work
for it, make them suffer,
I think, or maybe they’ll pack up
and go away, asking each other,
Why would she need to steal
with a thing like that, a cat
that shits diamonds?
One Year After the Move / by Emily Gwinn
What I miss is
accessible – the vulnerable
hills of what was home,
the bare shoulders
and graying sage pushed
into thistle purple,
the burlap of earth,
how it rubbed against skin
There was always wild mustard
I have spent the morning undressing
this new hillside of pine
imagining ruptured soil
and ripples of rock
hidden beneath evergreen.
There is little vacancy here.
I spent years
imagining myself pressed against
I want you to know
I am dressed –
The Question Every Writer Faces / by Mia Herman
So u, like, want 2
do the writing thing? she asked
me in last night’s text.
It Seems You Have a Rather Special Relationship With…. / by Alan Katz
Didn’t even have to go
out of my way, just
woke up this morning
finally thinking in words,
well not in, more like about.
As in, if I said what I mean
you would judge me. Would
you? You being some dissociated
aspect, like all you’s. Here I
check myself: an array
of abstractions, I know what’s
happening yet lack the will
to counteract. A lot
of life is like that. Knowing
is insufficient, though necessary.
Tomorrow may be different
he lies to himself.
Grandpa Nels / by Allison Mitton
—for Grandma Kathy
I creep quietly down the stairs
so as not to wake anyone; you are there
already, heading to the second freezer
in the garage. Outside there are coyotes, llamas,
a barn cat where the horses used to live.
You taught me to ride when I was nine:
I still have a scar from the day Patches bolted.
That is one of my favorite anecdotes, and I don’t
let the facts get in the way of telling a good story.
The last time we went to a rodeo I cheered for the cows,
wearing a hat and boots borrowed from you.
Each time I go to buy moccasins I hesitate,
knowing I should ask your opinion first.
Yours cannot be heard above the wind fighting
to get through the house as you dish generous scoops
of ice cream into two white bowls. We sit on stools
in the kitchen eating and singing cowboy ballads,
knowing in a few hours we will wake up too early
to the sound of children running through the hall
toward the smell of buttermilk pancakes.
from City Haikus / by Ansley Moon
Girl when you sense fear
run. This is your body, one
thousand looking eyes.
Pawing at your skin
put one foot in front of the
other. Run. Away.
Listen not to mouths
hungry for bones & skin
waiting to devour.
Day 17 / Poems 17
The Girl Under The Blanket / by Sara Biggs Chaney
6 am: My girl is nothing
but a heap of blankets
in the dark.
betrays that she is crying.
I squeeze onto
the narrow mattress
and try to make myself
large enough to enclose
her body with my own.
The task proves hard.
She is full grown, 13,
and bursting with
a full-grown sense
of her own smallness.
I press my cheeks into the
comforter where I know
her cheeks must be.
“What’s the matter, baby?”
She talks of the shame
of being seen
and also the shame
of not being seen. She says
“nobody likes me”
like someone who has just learned
to say her own name
and hates the way it sounds.
The very thought of which
so hurts me that soon,
I’m crying too.
and whisper through
which is nothing
like a magic scrim,
and does not have the power
to filter pain—
Class Evaluation Day / by Karen Craigo
The brownies are in the oven
and you’re fine-tuning your plans
for the day—maybe a game
is in order, some break
from the sound of your voice.
Yes, jobs are in short supply,
but it’s not about that—
you just want kind words
in that sealed packet
someone tucks beneath
the secretary’s door.
The brownies may tilt
the scale, or your hair color,
a shade brighter than before.
You’re getting older in
an unforgiving field,
and though you’ve served
on committees, you were never
the one to praise one’s energy,
one’s new ideas, universal
code for youth. Baked goods
are an old idea, tried
and true, and you work it
best you can—hell,
you may even frost
those sons of bitches.
Ode / by Regina DiPerna
A blue bicycle propped against
a cedar column, its bars gone cold,
thick with snowfall. Wheels paused
by frost, useless beauty—gears
in a frozen watch. All of life
is holy: balance in the jagged air
between snowflakes, their multitude
the inverse of atmosphere, proof
that snow clouds are made of vapor
and become vapor again—this bare
white reaching for everything, becoming
what it brushes up against.
The Center of All Things / by Emily Gwinn
- for Norma
Begin at the heart – Middle C –
everything else will echo
pianoforte means soft
with greater force comes louder
Here are your hands
here they are pressing keys
appearing in twos and threes,
sharp and flat notes,
hammers striking strings
into Moonlight Sonata,
Silent Night, all the music of darkness
start first with simple pieces,
then move into Ravel,
Le tombeau de Couperin –
trust yourself to know
when it is time
Here are your hands
soothing each chord
from one pulse to the next
quarter rest –
a small supplication.
the more mistakes at first,
It has little to do with fingers,
more with the blood
and ear, the bass
and treble –
the mammal of song
pressed into creation.
At the center
of all things,
is your song,
morning, cracking wide
into molto allegro,
I suppose we’ll just stand here ‘til we’re dead / by Mia Herman
-overheard in a parking garage while waiting for the car
Or we’ll end elsewhere –
perhaps in bed
with a lover,
as the snores come
and the engine
I Said Look Out For My Sister, Not Sleep With Her / by Alan Katz
A Russian immigrant,
high school BC calculus,
a deep baritone with a beard,
round wire rimmed spectacles.
Math is a universal language,
In love there are variations.
No, not variations but all the fist
the expression of principles:
who makes the cabbage,
who makes the money,
who rubs the potatoes
on chests of sick children.
The history of anarchism,
at turn of twentieth century
America, former Soviet Republic.
Isolation of the individual–
Aesthetic or ethical?
The difference between philosophy
and then there is sexual freedom,
free love means expressing ownership
of oneself–but how and with what
What I’m trying to tell you, George,
is that money is this century’s god.
But why state the obvious.
Mermaid / by Allison Mitton
Glide through the water
cool and light through your fingers,
bright hair streaming behind you
like vibrant seaweed. Come to the surface
only when you want to feel the sun
on your skin. There is more color
under the ocean, forests of purple
reeds waving in the current as the fish fly
through them. Slow down a moment
and float on the foam, watching sunlight
refract through the water before it reaches
you. Call to the sailors on the horizon,
they will search for your voice forever.
another man, another woman / by Ansley Moon
because she fought back
because she was drinking
because she drove herself to safety
because he beat her & left her alone & bleeding
because the courtroom was filled with battered women
because the fear was palpable
because the women were given one side of the courtroom
because there were only two guards
because the men were brought in handcuffs
because the handcuffs were taken off
because one woman trembled while she prayed
because she fought back
because we were so young
because she had evidence of her injuries
because she could not ask for help
because she asked for help
because he was white & she was brown
because she fought back
because the white judge could not see herself in this girl’s brown skin
because she expected justice
because she fought back
because she fought back
Lavaflow / by Mary Stone
It crawls down the mountainside
and we refuse to look at it,
close the curtains, turn of the porch lights.
It doesn’t advance for three days
so we let our feet touch beneath blankets
scrub the air for smog with miniature fans.
As the temperatures rise, the odds
of finding a shark tooth or a sand dollar
or your handprint or your shadow grow
and we avoid the beach another day
though the boats float so lonely at the dock,
rocking back and forth as if they contain
something. A man keeps singing
the same song in a language I’ve never heard
but each symbol resembles your name,
the vowels rising up to where you must be.
The news plays images of bright red
paths, of ash, of people huddling
where grass still stands
where the sand is so cold, it’s almost warm
and we can’t even tell it’s still sand.
The volcano has not been awake in so long
that we had forgotten how to feel
the smoke, and we feel it now,
the way the earth heats up
for miles around us
and we know it’s our feet,
our own satin blood, our curse,
that this is our own
Day 16 / Poems 16
From “In the First Place And Subsequent To” / by Sara Biggs Chaney
At any rate of course and granted that the house is sending a bill forward, despite battery woes on the Philae. Baby keep drilling. And while it may be true, sure, I’ve read the research. You can’t argue with that prolific pig; she popped out eighteen babies on the front of the New York Post. You can’t argue with a calf cramp, either. And in spite of another serial killer, we’ll all be lined up at the cannibal bakery if the NFL can’t get its act together. When all is said and done we’re still giving drunk speeches on a flooded deck but the shore lights, aren’t they something.
Fucking beautiful, she said, pursuant to the bright edge of a shriveled leaf in the cold November sun. In the eyes of the law, smoke eases from a crumbling chimney. The coming winter recommends we mind ourselves, in consonance with a treacherous road. Did you hear me? We best wrap our infant birds in warm tea towels and hide them in fir trees. To the degree we can muster it, of course, strictly speaking, to attempt an aria is good.
All things considered and generally speaking, we are still contemplating a tragus piercing and isn’t it weird? We always stay in the car till “Shoop” is finished. Spoiler: Any student can download. Spoiler: Six time outs in the second half. In summary, you can’t privatize Ebola but you can try kindle for free for thirty days. In a word, cleavage. Ten times, and it still feels fresh. Read our case study. Then go ask Justin Timberlake about expanding the medium’s possibilities. In the final analysis, we knew we were horrible when we began.
Doubtless, our ragged voices tell a different story. Sweetheart, don’t worry, I’ll be there at 3:00. Yes I wanted you to feel bad but no I didn’t want you to feel bad. In fact, I could have replaced the flue, why didn’t you ask me? Of course I do, of course, of course I do remember. How could I forget? In fact, I was about to ask you. In fact, the sound of the cello, darling, surely. Oh without a doubt as perfect as your hand cleaning the coffee pot on a Sunday in November.
Note: Numbers 3 and 5 are partial found poems. Number 3 draws on language from the cover of the New York Post and Number 5 draws on language from the author’s twitter feed.
Installation Art / by Karen Craigo
In an argument for transparency,
my son has heaped the sink
with the contents of a drawer:
Frankenstein makeup from Halloween,
nail clippers, a hairnet for some reason—
I guess I’m the one responsible.
He is showing us things we believed
we had buried, the Band-Aids we use
to hold things together, more tampons
than I’m likely to need at this point.
Despite what this tube says, no one
admits to hemorrhoids here.
My son is little and ahead of guile
and there’s no face more lovely
than his mother’s, no matter what
she uses those tweezers for.
Ouija / by Regina DiPerna
I saw the black sheet unfolded, the red slip
over the lampshade casting light in half-circles
of dusk. Plastic pulled tight along the windows
to keep winter from seeping in—
the unplowed driveway, the neighbor’s roof
looked bleary from behind hand-to-mouth
translucence. Another Buick parked on the street,
another shade of rust oxide or washed out blue.
Another remembrance half-shattered, half-pinned
beneath the attic room, the stairs, the closet
stuffed with leather and cheap heels. And if junk
could rise from the dead, I think, it would
exhume itself from a Cleveland landfill and beg us
to let it back in. The Ouija board my father made
my mother throw out, the black wax she spilled
on it years earlier—there is no grave deeper
than the one just out of sight, just under
the snow. Let’s bring back the beer cans
we tossed, pull the red slip from the wreck,
and all the childhood loveletters my father
made my mother burn, let’s unburn them.
Let’s throw away the skin, hair, teeth someone
else gave us, and look for ourselves where
we might actually find them. I saw the old
green armchair falling off its hinges.
I saw the vinyl siding slide off our house
in a dream. I saw our hands trying very hard
to spell a word we all knew.
November 16th / by Mia Herman
Somewhere in the world,
my high school boyfriend
is celebrating his birthday.
I didn’t mean to remember it,
but some things stay with you like that.
Customer Service Shouldn’t Be Off-shored / by Alan Katz
If someone makes a mistake
they pay for it, not them
but their parent corporation.
Let me talk to your supervisor.
You left for the evening and I finished
your twelve dollar ice cream,
the dog’s spinning, can’t take her
out with a child sleeping.
Siri says rain tomorrow, picked the wrong
day to let the nanny come in late,
no HBO, switched to Showtime.
SMS to contractor: don’t forget to pick up the grout.
I reflect that life is pretty good,
and that mean reversion’s powerful,
someone’s due for cancer.
Yellow Birch / by Allison Mitton
Deciding in a moment
she was done with fall
she drops all her leaves
at once. Branches stretch tall
without the weight of gold
foliage now surrounding her
like a silk petticoat.
She is more graceful
than the trees who cling
to dry leaves that crack
at the slightest touch.
from City Haikus / by Ansley Moon
Zippered tracks, we are
subject to her moods, jostling
stopping & pushing.
They wrap the baby
in a sunflower costume
tiny head of seeds.
Covered throats and heads
bowed. The wind rustles. A dog
quivers its haunches.
The First Thing People Usually Notice About Me / by Mary Stone
(composed entirely of lines from OkCupid dating profiles)
Who is that bald guy at the bar
drinking pineapple juice instead of beer?
My hair is long. It doesn’t behave well.
I’ve cultivated a remarkable fluency
in sarcasm, look like a dirty electrician,
have a large Irish head, hipster glasses,
and now I have a beard again.
My pants sag a lot.
I will come off as an asshole.
Try to mix a little sweetness
every now and then.
I bought a truck and cruise
with the radio going,
never been content
with hitting a time clock.
I am starving for a night hike
in warmer weather
to a camping site lined
with meteor showers.
Once, during a full moon party on Maui,
I was told that I am the man behind
the blue-diamond eyes.
Day 15 / Poems 15
From “In the First Place and Subsequent To” / by Sara Biggs Chaney
Approach a man slowly with a staple gun. After which you’d have my mind. Taxable and hard like the baseboards or the snare drum. After which. Under the bridge and the circumstances, in the murky water a hand trails and can’t you recognize the indications. In lieu of collapse and prior to. Oh and another idea, wait can you. I didn’t say contextual I said coming back. I said coming back to the birch trees. I didn’t say home, I said home. I said somewhere because we could.
In which case, thin wings are the worst idea. Because think if we held everything captive. Can we nail this down? I’m thinking, after the fact. A dozen codicils do not a domicile. So, we huffed and we puffed and after a while, we got bored.
In the Middle of the Last Good Dance / by Karen Craigo
Everyone moves. They don’t know
they can’t. No one has presumed
to tell them this, and so my son
has made up a dance and named it
the Jumping Zombie. It involves
a sort of gallop, both arms out,
and he growls Brains, brains,
as he cuts a swath across the floor.
I sit in the hallway to wait it out,
and there’s this kid who pretends
to talk on his phone. Don’t bother me,
he says, I’m at the schoooool dance,
last two words protracted,
and he hisses Stupid, stupid,
then jabs at a key. I was like that.
No phone, of course, but just
as dramatic, star of my own
life story, everywhere, everyone
an audience. The custodian and I
agree—it’s not even a real phone,
but maybe a toy, or some object
sized to the palm, and the boy
paces, paces, someone keeps
bothering him, won’t let him
get jiggy with it, or whatever
they do these days. He rolls
his eyes. Some people,
he seems to say, and I know
those people, people who
would tamp down your joy, you
who should be kicking up heels
in the cafetorium, a glow stick
clutched in your fist. My son
is in there. He is the gayest
zombie, full of pizza, arms
leading him everywhere
he goes. It’s a good show
he’s putting on, this boy,
two grades above my son,
the kid whose phone won’t stop
inaudibly ringing, drawing him
toward us eavesdroppers
and far from that beat I
can almost feel, even
at my great distance.
Metal Garden / by Regina DiPerna
You covet something of its
rust, acid, its junked scarlet
beauty. Razor wire shaped
like a temple, a cart of blue
glass, walkway lined with
bowling balls, horse skull,
vertebrae, hoof print caked
in dirt beside your own
exposed ankle. You want
to know the path metal took,
imagine its burnt red trail
lacing the land like gums
around crooked teeth.
You want to touch decay,
understand with your hands
how nothing is stable—what
crumples a car hood, eats
through a paint can, and why
we see ourselves in rusted
out bottle caps and scales,
discarded license plates.
You see oxygen casting its
pickaxe, watch it sear through
one tarnished atom at a time.
Wolves on Huckleberry Mountain / by Emily Gwinn
The only thing the wolf does worthwhile is keep wildlife biologists employed.
- from a Letter to the Editor printed in The Spokesman-Review on Aug. 26, 2014
It is the nature of sheep
that endangers them,
the timid bleat and grunt,
light feet of dam,
this is only a fact
the wrong leader
can send them to
In the fable, the boy who cried
didn’t survive –
that, too, is a lie.
He simply shouted wolf
until his sheep
disappeared, a simple
lesson in subtraction,
say any word enough times,
and it slips
into other sounds
on the tongue,
loses all meaning –
wolf, wolf, wolf.
A recent study showed
that children told the tale
of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”
Today’s headline reads:
State targets wolf pack,
gunners sent out to cull four
over sheep killings.
A death sentence is issued for the pack:
huckleberry, huckleberry, huckleberry.
It is feeding time, and the animals are hungry.
- Text taken from The Spokesman-Review article printed on August 24, 2014
Carnevale di Venezia / by Mia Herman
Half masks staring
through empty sockets
and lips whispering
come be something you aren’t,
we shall fill the streets
with kaleidoscope colors
and strange faces.
History insists that carnevale began
to a consuming hierarchy
but we must not think
of that as the night glides away
Tonight, we will vie for
la maschera piu bella –
the most beautiful mask –
as judged by costume designers
and the rest of the world.
Like Everyone / by Alan Katz
I wanted to take my socks off,
climb under the comforter,
wash the thin film––
imposing excess gravity on me.
I usually wanted some time alone
though I consistently tested
for extraversion. The thinking
was out loud, or maybe just too
loud and internal, whatever it means
to be layered beautifully, like a cake,
but such that cooking the inside
and the outside just right proves
nearly impossible. We slept too little:
bakery workers, New York City
sanitation slingers, whether or not
we unionize, there is some relief,
the solidarity in suffering,
some relief in sleeping
off our specialness.
Nighttime / by Allison Mitton
I walked into darkness. The air was cold,
frost that clears your lungs when you breathe
and as I looked up I saw the moon
protecting itself from the air as though tucked
in to the sky. A fading orange, cloaked in the time
between daylight and dark. I wanted to call you,
Go outside right now and look at the moon.
The clouds must have contributed,
camouflaged by the lack of stars, but I didn’t ask.
I stood in the street and watched the moon
as it prepared for its day. I went home to sleep.
Untitled / by Ansley Moon
My mother is a ghost I never met. What I know about her is limited and was largely created by my own imagination. In a recurring dream, she is walking in front of me, maroon sari. Gold bangles. Her brown skin glows as she walks. She will not turn around. Faceless mother.
Inbox / by Mary Stone
(poem composed entirely of lines from OkCupid inbox messages)
Good morning. You caught my attention. Did you know the bear population is very scarce in this part of the country. You don’t even need to hang your sandwiches up in the tree. You have a lot on your profile and I apologize for not reading it but want to be friends with benefits. I am built for comfort, not for speed, a career soldier. I’d like to converse. Your profile is such an incredible turn-on. Did Jerry Maguire get at least a few tears from you? Thank you for being so beautiful.
We are looking for a girlfriend. Someone to meet up with once a month.
Roundabouts are actually efficient ways of controlling traffic and loss of life. If only they weren’t so fucking annoying to drive around. The force is strong in you. I’m a married man, looking for a spontaneous woman. Want to have an ongoing affair?
Wanted to let you know you have the best profile of the day. I’m a mailman and a gentleman. What did the pirate say when the steering wheel fell out of his pants? Sexy lady, let’s talk. I think we should grow flowers along the state highways. Do you know how many acres there happen to be in the medians?
I’ve spent much thought in disclosing who I am and how I enjoy being a pleasure giver. I’m good in bed. Just saying. The register here was worth it just to see you. You are absolutely gorgeous and that’s not even the one of the most interesting things about you. You have sparked my interest. I’m sorry for being so forward but you my lady have got quite the lovely physique and body there. A beautiful, alluring face. Are you into the phone sex thing?
You are everything in a woman that a man is afraid of.
I passed a car on I-29 the other morning. Looked like you driving. I was telling someone about the panel discussion I went to Friday morning: “Contemporary Sexual Culture, Gender Equality & Sex Positivity.” How’s that for mundane?
We should go ride some roller coasters together and I would so let you make out with me.
The more I write about myself, the more I realize that I could be saying the wrong words and lose the right girl’s attention. I’ve been used for a little human interaction and then discarded like a cheap date. I’m not an asshole unless I’m forced to be. You and tequila is a good song, but it’s a duet.
Well I sure in the hell don’t intend on dying here, so when will we get out of here for that ocean view, Bonnie? If you ain’t ready, Clyde will go ahead and find a good spot on the beach. Just follow the dead bodies. You will find me.
Day 14 / Poems 14
Heddy Lamarr Wishes To Consume The Bloated Heart of Fascism / by Sara Biggs Chaney
“In 1933′s “Ecstasy,” a Czech film, she raised eyebrows and drew condemnation around the globe when she appeared nude in one part of the film and simulated an orgasm in another.”
– “Ministry of Gossip” in the LA Times.
As it happened, Hitler became Chancellor that very winter—
January night, floodlight on a marble window. Dogged little silhouette
and all that waving, waving.
In another country, I laid down like sleeping beauty or a woman on her deathbed.
Still, what I could do with my face was a menace to nations.
Only Prague was brave or lewd enough to watch me bite my knuckle. Germany
secured the border. My hand trawled the sheets for shrapnel.
I tucked my hands behind my head to make petals from my arms. I shut,
I opened, I shut. A respiring bloom. (I can do a lot with a little. You have no idea.)
Oh, unspeakable noise of pearls falling from their string. Soon, the Reichstag
would be burning.
Good Morning America / by Karen Craigo
Dawn, I write
with the TV on.
Cash for gold,
it all edges in,
with online universities,
actors on junkets,
how it was to work
with the incomparable
Meryl Streep. Republicans
dig in their heels,
your results may vary,
and I’ll do anything
not to be alone.
In time, gray light
will render the lamp
I don’t know
what scares me,
but I feel it
on the periphery.
Six easy payments
and it’s mine.
In Hong Kong / by Regina DiPerna
In Hong Kong, even the asphalt sparkles.
Air flecked with mist. Neon and light
pollution beaded in each drop.
In the lobby, a man asks for directions
in broken Cantonese, wants to know which way
is north. In the rain, the streets are combusted
stars, people look like wax statues
as they wait for the bus to materialize
from a thicket of city-white lights.
Waiting for the Reveal / by Emily Gwinn
It is believed the first woman ever cut
in half went uncredited for her deed.
It was 1921 at London’s Finsbury Park Empire Theatre –
that we do remember.
We remember the magician’s name,
P. T. Selbit, and that when the woman was locked
inside the wooden crate,
her hands, feet, and neck were knotted into
held by wary audience
Then it happened,
passed through her body –
blades, glass sheets –
all slipped through
Sectators were mesmerized,
the magician commended,
and illusionists began to mimic
and perfect the trick
into decades of assistants shoved into boxes,
thousands of women cut into
parts – left waiting
for the reveal.
It was a simple act of contortion,
of twisting the body inside
itself, detaching itself
It is through the body we lose
our way, parts often go missing –
it’s best to catalogue early.
I have retraced my steps countless times,
I have bloodwork and paperwork to prove
an empty heartbeat,
the anxious need to answer –
proof of fault.
When death passes through the body
it comes out in secrets,
in stories of women who slip
out backdoors unnoticed,
disappear down driveways,
gravel crunching beneath
the weight of their storms.
We learn to divide ourselves
into diptych narratives,
to take inventory:
she never held a baby
to begin with,
but a still life traced first by pencil,
then dipped into wax,
folded into wings.
It is through the body we can reappear
onto stage, slip from boxes
made for illusion,
from smoke into
the way two hands can be chained
to two other hands,
can suddenly erupt into
we can finally begin
to feel whole again,
speaking to itself –
Remember, it says,
Milano / by Mia Herman
A soccer game in the arrivals of Milano Malpensa airport
(the makeshift ball of paper and tape)
before getting in a cab
only to discover that language is like fashion:
“one day it’s in and another it’s out”
and the sound of my voice as I frantically repeat
Dodice Via Calatalfimi! Dodice Via Calatalfimi!
each time a little louder, because maybe then I will be understood.
(Thank you, Rick Steve, for the number twelve and the rest of my address.)
Then out to the city streets with cars and mopeds zipping around
and Italians stepping off the curb with more moxie than New Yorkers.
I will be sure to make my way to the Piazza and Duomo,
ride the metro and shop in Corso Como,
wine and dine at a pizzeria that God Himself works at.
But for now, non parlo Italiano
and one thing at a time.
If You Give Me A Dollar, I’ll Tell You What You Want To Hear / by Alan Katz
in decibels and white teeth,
brown curls and cursive s’s,
Ya lyublu shokolad.
You show the fluidity of high and low,
an ecstatic cartwheel turns
boneless on the floor in despair.
You refuse to hold it in,
refuse to be pinned down,
liking bok choi and artichokes, quelle surprise.
And your style, it’s your style,
puffy skirts and pink sneakers,
like mustard on a BLT.
You are what you want to be
a wise owl, a lady bug.
If you see a baby in a crib
just jump right in
with lightbulb laugh.
You really need me to tell you?
You are awesome my dear,
don’t forget and next time
your price is five bucks.
The Bicycle / by Allison Mitton
Our first summer you wanted to rescue
your old cruiser from your parents’ garage.
You rode it back to the apartment, forgetting
the slight incline between your two homes.
With only one bike between us, we decided
to trade off, one of us riding slowly, the other
walking briskly. We made our way across town,
drivers watching curiously as I struggled
to stay balanced on the bike. Down the street
you spotted a fireman we knew, and the distraction
made me lose focus; turning the handlebars sharply
I crashed into the bushes on the side of the road.
You rode the rest of the summer.
from City Haikus / by Ansley Moon
There, she lived on a
roof. Afraid to teeter, fear
of jumping. City
swaying beneath her.
a Coca-Cola sign red,
Cannot live alone,
cannot be alone, she can
not. Alone she. Is.
I’m Really Good / by Mary Stone
(composed entirely of lines from OKCupid dating profiles)
At mowing the lawn, fishing,
working on Jeeps and trucks, hunting,
making it awkward, networking,
doing handyman stuff, being passionate.
I don’t plan that far ahead.
At googling. I can even find armed squirrels
riding a horse on a battlefield.
I’m pretty universal. I stalk
people online. Reject all
the marriage proposals I get
from females. But I must say
I’m just an experience away
from giving excellent oral
to a woman. I am like batman.
I wear a mask and creep
up on people at night.
I have a car and my own place.
I am sure there are people out there
better than me. I surprise people
all the time with what I know how to do.
If there was a kitten caught in a tree,
I’d definitely try to get it out.
You need a spoon but you only have toilet paper?
I am gonna make you a god damn spoon out of it.
I’m an even better boyfriend.
I cast a tall shadow most places I go
and imagine having a duck pond in my future.
Do you want me to tell
the whole world
or just tell you?
Day 13 / Poems 13
Heddy Lamarr and George Antheil Meet At Dinner And Make A Plan To Win The War / by Sara Biggs Chaney
His music was worse than the war,
and louder. But I couldn’t stop listening.
Every movement lost more melody
and was the better for it.
He showed me the future inside his piano:
Plain of silver hammers, interlocked.
Each one slammed down in place
and was trusted to fall true.
We talked of allied victory
till our throats caked up with salt.
If the ocean was an enemy,
we would tame it by aping its stride.
We wrote vacillate and oscillate and amplify.
We stayed up till 3, playing military hopscotch
on the living room rug. George loved my hands
and together, we could turn big men to task
like the rolls of a player piano, always
singing the same tune, and sprightly.
And George and I, we were two cannons,
creaking. We turned slowly
on our pivots; we eyed each other up.
The torpedo was true in the end,
and George was a quicksilver finger,
never missing his note.
Cooking With Ernie and Mom / by Karen Craigo
We slice the Swiss, we place it
on bread, we narrate every step.
We are learning to move together,
to stand the length of the focus we set
just past the reach of an arm.
He holds the camera as I talk us through
and the butter starts to sizzle.
We tidied the kitchen before we began,
heaped apples up in a bowl.
The heart of the house was exact.
After, we watch and laugh at our jokes.
Strings of cheese tether us
to perfect sunflower toast.
The One Who Splits The Night / by Regina DiPerna
He’s made of black leaves
and cicadas, thrumming
in the spine that can’t be
soothed; of the lamp
you won’t switch on,
the bulb, a dark goldfish
swimming circles; of cards
and cloth; of throat swallowing
itself, tree trunk gathering
more wood, theatrical
silence; of archways,
smell of ink, split feet
bare on marble; the bowl
of blind eyes turned; of clay.
Daughter Tongue / by Emily Gwinn
She says the word Louisiana
like her mouth is on fire
as she clicks puzzle pieces
of the United States into map.
It’s a riddle for her, the staccato
and slide of tongue around new vowels,
she collects them like dimes,
warms them in her cheeks,
Arkansas, Indiana, Florida.
She wants to call everything
by name –
What is it called, mama? What is its name?
I tell her Boone Avenue,
I tell her referee, condensation –
how lucky I am, how grateful.
Tonight, she is tucked
between her father’s body and my own,
and I can hear her breath,
even in dream, sounding out
syllables, freckles, she says,
panda, Florida, petunia,
even in sleep, the need to speak,
to arrange letters,
to call out names in the language of her birth,
speaking back to me,
in my own tongue.
Untitled / by Mia Herman
I am glued to midnight,
always yawning blue.
And when I look up
at the moon –
the sticky white circle
caught among sequin stars
and construction paper
sky – I hang between
what is and isn’t.
Footprints in the Sand / by Alan Katz
(for Thich Nhat Hanh)
A brain hemorrhaging,
the South of France,
a young traveller drinks wine and
eats foie gras overlooking the Dordogne,
like another many years before.
In the hospital monks in brown,
nuns chanting in the halls
thumping brown beads.
They imagine their vibrations will
break a growing clump of blood?
For years I read your poems
on Saturday afternoons
sitting on my green Ikea couch
my budding solitude warming
with your words:
If you want to cry,
that I will cry with you.
I would drip
a precious solitary tear.
Why should we talk about death,
I don’t need to die
to be back with you.
But now you are sick,
and I remember your poems,
how they would
guide me towards returning.
The young traveller and the old
are both here now.
Here with you,
here with me
dying each moment.
(italics from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Oneness)
Tally / by Allison Mitton
In the second bedroom
is a white paper chain
strung by its loops
from the ceiling. It circles
the entire room
four times, wrapping
like a nautilus shell.
At its creation
there were 609 links;
one at a time
they are removed.
Ten months from now
there will be
only a blue loop
pinned up alone
above the bed.
Across the hall
its creator resides,
destroying her work
as she marks the days
until her brother returns
and everyone is home.
from City Haikus / by Ansley Moon
Standing all the way
to Manhattan, I study
scalps, foreheads & roots,
dandruff. Morning train.
Coffee. Makeup. Sleep. Shoulder
aches from bags of bones.
After New York’s sky
line, flying back home–anti
climactic touch down.
On Spaghetti high
way I remember how to
drive faster than life.
Untitled / by Mary Stone
For seven days I wear black lace panties
and you wake teasing my bed hair,
how wild my body
in sleep, that space of almost.
Your snore is a stupid prayer
a smoke song, another complaint.
In the morning, I tell you I’ve had
enough, though I haven’t had
a cigarette yet and all that’s left
a strand of hair, a broken locket,
a lonely sock.
A friend tells me to prepare
for the sound curtains make
when they are pulled open
and then closed.
Your eyes only avoid mine
the moment you think
of the lie.
What’s wrong with my love?
I’ve lost the ability to say
words that cling, wrap
black mist around my hips.
Or perhaps it’s your hips
being guarded all this time.
Day 12 / Poems 12
After Wedding the Ammunitions Manufacturer, Heddy Lamarr Gives Some Thought To Her Future / by Sara Biggs Chaney
The problem with marrying
is always being able to predict
whose jowls will molest your neck tomorrow.
Surely, I cannot be expected
to do nothing but smoke
and pet the puppy on the front porch.
I remember how I started, before the old man. My sixteenth birthday.
I wasn’t much more than a flea market trifle
mewling with diamonds.
I dispatched my breast to the camera
and it went dutifully,
bleating my alibis.
I’ve learned the price of looking stupid
in a beautiful dress.
The sum is handsome enough.
But looking stupid at dinner
while these bloated spleens
sputter to speak
their seven languages of greed–
Well, that may turn out to be too much, even for me.
There is something to be said for a little mystery
and a newly sharpened pencil.
For a clear view of your own hand
in the dim light of the drawing table.
Maybe You’re Depressed / by Karen Craigo
You wore sweatpants to work on Monday
and you don’t teach gym. That’s definitive—
it’s right there in the manual, next to a picture
of someone rocking as she cries. Mornings,
you slam aspirin, but everything hurts,
back of your neck like tires on gravel,
whole pot of coffee not enough.
You want bread and no one loves you
enough to bake a loaf, to drizzle some honey.
That’s what it tells you, anyway, as you try
to focus your eyes on some middle distance,
though there is nothing you want to see.
An American Sailor Being Inked By a Shipmate Aboard USS New Jersey On Their Way to the Pacific, December, 1944 / by Regina DiPerna
“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.” –Diane Arbus
In their eyes: shade and focus. Their heads tilted,
visions fixed on the focal point: needle of ink
becoming sword, black flowers, a portrait on bare skin,
what they do to get by. Their arms: gaunt
and boyish. The sailor’s right bicep already tattooed
with a rose—petals hang in stark relief—
and on his left forearm, a woman, a bombshell,
her hair blown back by invisible wind. The shipmate’s
arms are empty, except for his veins, the hardball
of muscle whale-white against the lens. They are shirtless.
The sailor wears an issued hat, his haircut juts
across his forehead like the blunt edge
of a wave; seeing it, you see the shears
that did it, the barber chair, the pocketful of change
he left on the counter. The shipmate’s regulation fade
reveals a scar, a blanched crease of past scuffles
strung behind his ear, the soft part of the neck.
Their faces: shaved and caught in concentration.
Each brow knitted, each jaw pressed, but ease
in how their heads hang like horses grazing
in a field of ink; their features still themselves,
pull themselves taut against the task.
Tips for a Post-Dilated World / by Emily Gwinn
She felt like some new-born creature, opening its
eyes in a familiar world that it had never known.
–Kate Chopin, The Awakening
They will numb the glass a little,
adjust the iris’s
constrictors and bicycle spokes –
one muscle will be stopped while another
is unwound –
leaving you spinning
It is temporary.
Your world will slowly adjust
back into darkness – into November’s
They will peek into nerves,
into macula –
the oval heart of the eye –
they will search for a tiny
tear in the fabric
of your retina,
the denim of your father’s fast blindness,
if you start to see spots,
floaters, flashing lights,
a grey curtain converging
it will be an emergency.
You will be in the world,
but removed of the world.
Pupils dilate in stress
the more difficult
the larger the aperture,
try to enjoy this lingering
the earth will only be this bright
for a while.
Upon Reading “Silver” by Walter de la Mare / by Mia Herman
I remember his silver
(what they call premature)
and how he first looked
under the smoky bar lights.
But now I know what you knew
then: silver reeds are the first
to grow gray when they
arrive too early.
Working Towards An Ideal / by Alan Katz
conclusion totally relevant,
no that was a fatigue induced mistake,
make that relative,
Won’t know success
until the moment of death.
The ideal’s identity?
Can’t be known until
unbirthed last-line crowns,
if we can help it.
On Birds / by Allison Mitton
Last night I discovered an illustrated book
of poems about birds. The artwork was painted
by an ornithologist—a profession more rare than poet.
Did the bird historian approach the poets,
or did they seek him out with requests
for a painting that captured Charles Lamb’s swans,
Queen-bird that sittest on thy shining nest?
Each bird on display twice in ink,
the poems are organized by species:
Three pelicans in a row, two parrots, seven owls,
Bishop’s sandpiper looking for something,
and only one albatross gliding for days.
from City Haikus / by Ansley Moon
Tempt with sugar. Dreams
of saccharine. Ignore the
bloat and swollen feet.
A family sings
on the four train, clapping a-
long to a phone song.
Cackling from the floor,
lit cigarette poised between
fingers–line of ash.
Untitled / by Mary Stone
The last time he speaks to me,
it’s already cold and I feel better
knowing the snow will take
less time to come to us .
He allows my hands
to trace the air
where our breath sparks.
I decided long ago
that most people are boring
and he is most likely nothing
like I’ve imagined.
This is not the first storm
warning of the year,
not the first Hallelujah muttered
and he knows the cold
has already found its way
to us, even when
he refuses to touch it
to see how we build
snow between us,
let it grow wild and swirl
until it separates us
the way snow
always promises it will.
Day 11 / Poems 11
Preparing the House for Sale / by Sara Biggs Chaney
–For my family
We chase down the house at twilight.
At last, we find it– lost in a strange neighborhood,
crumbs drying in the door hinges.
The old place needs a spit clean. We wet our fingers with saliva;
then we swoop.
Resting the back of one hand
against the plaster siding, we try
to soothe the floor boards with a coat of spackle.
So many coats of wallpaper
will not release without some weeping.
We want to make it painless,
but the scrubbing is slow.
Under a metallic dress, we find
a peasant blouse, and under
that a tattered apron.
There is always another layer
and a bare wall.
We know it is fussy at this point to stretch the carpet, perhaps
an exercise in vanity. But we do it anyway.
We hum a little
while we roll out the underlayment.
We trim, allow to set, and trim again.
We do our best to be decisive
with the staple gun.
Then we hover, voices hushed. We turn the lights off, one by one.
Before we shut the doors we turn back, we look, we listen—
For breath’s soft passage in the dark. A child’s ribs, rising and falling.
The Movement You Need / by Karen Craigo
The key, you know, is emphasis. English
is a stress-toned language, and we listen
for the punch, in a word, in a sentence,
and that extra oomph, that little flex,
is all we need to make sense of a thing.
There is an exercise for this—to convey
that where we stretch a syllable matters,
gives resonance, expression, and that’s
why I am singing, my voice meeting
those of my students, visitors here,
people who have been misunderstood
by cashiers and taxi drivers,
the lilting mismatch of Arabic, Polish,
Yoruba, Japanese, but today in class
we layer vowel over vowel, and we sing,
no hesitation, all voices present and clear
from the first “Hey, Jude.” I tell them
they can swallow most of a word,
but if they nail the stress, we’ll get them,
we’ll know where they come from.
When I was a child, I watched
the black record turn, green Apple
rolling over and over, and I knew
every word, and I sang them all,
and I tried to understand—the movement
you need is on your shoulder, what
did that mean? Even Paul thought it
a bit of nonsense, and he planned
to revise, but John said that was the best
line in the song, and it’s in there still,
and we sing it together, and it means
something, some fluttering by the ear,
apple rolling, rolling down a hill.
Don’t you know that it’s just you,
hey Jude, you’ll do, and we do know,
we feel it, we punch each key word
to drive it home, into our heart,
then we can start to make it better.
Self-Portrait As Ritual / by Regina DiPerna
When we were children,
my brother used to offer his soul to Satan
to win at board games. He won
because he rigged each board, stacked
each deck, only pleaded to make us think
he was desperate. We were baptized
late, in a kiddie pool my father
had spray-painted gold and silver.
We daydreamed through the sacraments.
We played Bloody Mary
and she never came.
We built forts, we took them down
and they went back to being
armchairs and sheets, encyclopedias
once again a sum of ideas, not blunt weight
holding together a makeshift house.
At twenty-seven I visited a sanctuary,
shoveled sacred dirt into a bag
with a plastic spade. A friend told me
he once saw the priests at dawn
gathering damp soil from the river,
blessing it; I know now, it shimmers
because there is mica in the riverbed,
because elements striate under water’s
sliding mirrors whether we see them
or not. As a child, I took a sip of gin
to see if I was an alcoholic. I wasn’t,
but I liked how clear it was, like being woken
with a bite on the cheek, how even
the juniper could be tasted and named.
Surviving the Eastern Wind / by Emily Gwinn
I went to sleep
with a story inside my head
and woke to Eurus raking the sand
behind my eyes
into patterns of strewn
How will we make it through
The Iroquois believed
brought the Eastern Wind,
its grey breath a cold mist
on the shoulder,
I have found this animal
in dark country,
have watched it search
for willow, finding the tallest
branch with its tongue.
I went to sleep when the world
forcing itself inside my bed.
It’s an Eastern Wind
my husband tells me,
and yet he says nothing of Mary Poppins,
how when she arrived
at the Banks family doorstep,
there was no mention of magic,
of the twins barking with croup
or John and Mary’s misplaced father,
only a simple conversation
about the weather.
There is a difference between
imagination and belief.
What she called compass
was circus in the sky,
elephants dancing with pigeons,
stories simply put inside
a lesson in survival,
it took nothing more than
than waiting for the season
to change, for the West Wind
and carry her away.
Purple Couch / by Mia Herman
I am rubbing aloe on his sunburned back
making soft circles from left to right
and hoping his pale skin won’t peel off
but I am not thinking about my grandmother’s couch –
purple satin covered in plastic
because stains were a part of life,
eventually unwrapping it by the time she was ninety
and leaving pieces of herself everywhere –
and I am not thinking about that purple couch
now covered with filmy flakes of skin
as the body decides
this is no longer needed or necessary
or worth having around.
Whispering, Talking, Screaming / by Alan Katz
Whispering is quiet.
What I said in your ear
was wisha woosha woosha
and: its a secret, and
some time ago: I love you.
Its how we talk in libraries,
in crowded midtown restaurants.
Most of the time we are just talking,
most of the time we inhabit the in the middle,
what time will you be home,
can you pick up the vegetables,
how was your day?
And then there are the times when we
find ourselves back to six or eleven.
Not that eleven year olds scream
more than anyone else in the house,
And when we scream
we scream, loud
It feels liberating,
the force of air surfing a wave
the words in bolded all caps
pouring out faster and louder.
But is anyone listening?
At what volume can you hear me,
he asks, truly not knowing.
Mount Auburn / by Allison Mitton
On dark days I walk through cemeteries
reading the family names as I wander
through the footpaths, careful not to step
on flowers left by loved ones. In the summer
bunnies chase each other around the pond,
beneath the bushes, ignoring me as I sit
motionless on a bench near Longfellow’s grave.
I place a rock on his headstone. Once in a while
a hawk takes flight from a purple tree,
gliding low through the branches preparing
for winter. His nest is barely visible
from the ground. The gates close at dusk,
and I leave the dead to sleep alone.
from City Haikus / by Ansley Moon
Body of bones sleeps
a spiky skeleton, the
breathing forms a cloud.
One day she will leave
me dusty & in a ball.
Limbs buried under.
Untitled / by Mary Stone
No one wears a watch anymore, mother, nor do we
sit down for breakfast with a newspaper and a bagel
and a lover standing in the doorway. They say it’s
going to snow earlier than usual this year and even
earlier the next and though the harvest has left us
feeling well-ordered and clean, dirt-covered boots
still dangle on back porches and fleas don’t die easy.
We didn’t even notice the first frost. Or perhaps
it hasn’t happened yet and tonight the wind reaches
record speeds and I think of you waiting in the cold
for us or for your ride. I’ve wondered for a while
now what we are all waiting for because it’s never
as simple as you said. It’s the tenderness that comes
with silent falling snow, the way everything appears
so still out a window. I don’t love the winter, mother,
but I do love making the first fire and sending
my sweetheart the first strike- anywhere match.
Day 10 / Poems 10
Against Meadowlarks / by Sara Biggs Chaney
I was not seated in an enclave.
I have never cared for balsam.
I saw a bell and then I rang a bell.
The bell was heavy and my hand was shaking.
While ringing it, I was thinking about humans
and their unbearable smugness,
second only to their noxious way
of having ideas about things.
Later on, I put a pebble in my pocket
and it didn’t resemble anything.
I may have slapped a meadowlark
in the face with its own wing.
Due to the fact that meadowlarks
can be real assholes, sometimes.
Family Photo Shoot / by Karen Craigo
This is what you look like—
a Christmas card won’t lie—
the four of you together,
no ketchup face, no sweatpants,
all of your eyes focused
in the same direction.
Your husband is handsome,
and you are happy, not
the mother of forgotten cellos
and calls from the school,
but the one who laughs
with her eyes, the one
you’d like always to be.
No one is running or falling,
no blinks or butt-cracks here.
A photo is the work
of a moment. Before
this was snapped,
your toddler made off with a prop,
and you snagged him
on the move, recovered
the purloined apple.
In your favorite,
your cheeks are still pink
from the chase. The thief
touches your mouth,
his brother feels
for your hand.
This is the truest—
everyone asking a piece of you,
and you give it, and always
you find a little bit more.
Facts about the Cormorant / by Emily Gwinn
Children imitating cormorants
are even more wonderful
- Kobayashi Issa
I believed when I was young
that when the sun came up
the moon tucked itself
somewhere beneath the earth’s
a tidy bloom
glowing in someone else’s
I was easily deceived.
Light is only part of the illusion –
not everything is meant
to be seen.
Cormorants imitating the moon
are even more wonderful
than the moon.
The dark bird
dips beneath its own reflection
without a single word –
what seems a simple theory
snags sharply against stone.
It is said the cormorant has no pretty
song, no graceful step,
no redeeming quality of light,
these shadows, when low,
pass through the atmosphere
even the name cormorant means
searching for moon,
searching for a way
They have started to cull
for imitating cormorants.
This is no way to die.
Their throats yellow at night,
they balance their chicks
against darkness, eggs hatch
like black leather.
Tonight the moon
floats like a cormorant,
it slips quickly under the surface
You’re going to have to take your hat off, ma’am / by Mia Herman
after giving me the pat-down.
And even after
I’m sorry, I have to wear it for religious reasons
(an apology along with the explanation,
although I’m not sure why)
she raised an eyebrow and shook her head
putting miles and countries and cultures
instead of just allowing me to enter
the venue like everyone else
who had come to the concert
to hear some music.
A Love Poem / by Alan Katz
I am intuitively oblique.
I am sitting with ankles crossed.
I am sitting with outer edges of my sneakers
touching well polished concrete.
I am in a DUMBO cafe. My nose
is stuffed up and I’m upset about it.
I am not talking and she’s writing
neatly with my mechanical pencil.
I make her feel like a soft boiled egg,
if one can really make anyone else feel
anything. Now she’s looking out
the window at the cobblestone and I
wonder if she is looking at me
like I was looking at her. It turns out
she is not. I have to change.
I must ripen by getting more sunlight.
At least we spent the morning
together and it was not not nice.
Afternoons with Merek / by Allison Mitton
Most of our conversations are questions and make believe.
Where is your house? Do you have a car? Every day we walk
down the hill to the park, even in the rain. Sometimes
he rides his bike, flying ahead on the way there, refusing
to pedal on the way back. I push him up the hill.
What is your mom’s name? Can I see your phone? There is a slide
and a swing set with two baby swings and two big kid swings.
We can’t get his legs out of the baby swing, so I push him
gingerly on the real one, hoping he doesn’t slide off. Can I go
around the top if you push harder? Once I teach him a swinging song
my mom sang when I was little; he reminds me of a song
she taught him about the library. He skips numbers in hide-and-seek,
giving me little time to crawl under the bed. He always hides
in the closet or the bathtub. We play chef and he wears a tall hat,
an apron down to his knees, wooden spoons in the pockets.
Do you like my cake? Where is the cheese?
from City Haikus / by Ansley Moon
Early morning frosted
windows. Baking heat. The dog
wakes herself from dreams.
The four train arrives
late, a swarm enters buzzing
Untitled / by Mary Stone
I know you are one thousand times sadder
than me right now and wish
you were a migrating bird,
a flutter in the open dusk.
Tear open the winds and the light
fills your lungs like a great sadness.
Often, the cool wing of grief comforts me.
It covers my face and stirs
the flight from my bones.
But I do not want to compare my grief to your grief
though we have the same delicate jawlines,
bruised collarbones and pelvic bones.
Pieces flung together at the last minute,
gentle and flimsy and greying.
Some women want to watch the world burn
and others want to leap from every open window
and others still wait for the burial.
Though we may try and try we cannot yet be scattered.
Day 9 / Poems 9
Sylvia’s Shoes / by Sara Biggs Chaney
It has taken me awhile to notice,
but I am hounded through my days
by girls in boots. The boots themselves
are so ubiquitous, and, God knows,
so shiny. They have nearly erased
the girls with their clean, straight hair.
Most common are the tall ones.
They come in a variety of shades,
always with the same (non-functional)
clasp, worn like a birthmark
on the ankle bone.
A haughty set, their leather buckling
as the fashion dictates, always
buffed within an inch of their lives.
Earlier, in line for coffee,
I was suddenly uneasy in the presence
of so many goddamn boots.
The tall ones, lording it over
the booties, with their tragic
tooth pick heels and second-
The unfortunate moto-bootie,
so stupidly proud of its fat
triangle of steel.
In a moment of fancy, I was
living in a booted world,
having done away,
once and for all,
with my feet.
I heard a triumph of boots
marching marble hallways.
Boots drinking double-shot lattes
with one percent milk.
Boots discussing Keynesian economics
while shining their buckles in bathrooms.
Boots declining a third drink at parties.
Boots moving to Westchester,
because the schools are better there.
Boots retiring to closets, where they refuse
to hold their shape without the help of cardboard.
Disturbed, I thought I could hear
waxed leather fighting to breathe.
I retreated to my office, shut the door,
and promptly googled “Sylvia Plath’s shoes.”
I couldn’t tell you why.
What came up first
was a picture of pumps.
Pen and ink.
Sylvia drew them alone on the page,
posed at angles not intended for standing.
I noticed first their mouths (canoes)
and their bottoms (stairways),
so straight, then rising at right angles.
In the corner, someone had written
“The Bell Jar” in pencil.
Puzzled, I sat for awhile
alone in my office with Sylvia’s shoes,
wondering why my feet
still hurt so much at night.
Wondering if the leather
will outlast me.
NOTE: This poem was inspired by Sylvia Plath’s drawing of her shoes, titled “The Bell Jar.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturepicturegalleries/8846565/Sylvia-Plath-drawings-at-The-Mayor-Gallery.html?image=3
Broken Furnace / by Karen Craigo
You may not be loved
as much as you think,
cat pressed to your side
as the baby enjoins
It is apple-crisp fall and you
have a problem here, pilot
or filter, blower or pump,
dimensions to which
you’re not privy,
and the morning is cold,
and everyone wants
Yazidi Refugee / by Regina DiPerna
“[ISIS] took the girls by force and raped them,
and after they returned they killed themselves.”—Witness
Her body is more water
than anything else
in sight as it unspools
down Mount Sinjar,
a spilled tear of bone
and blood. They say
devil worshipper, they say
woman, slave, spoil
of war. Her body speaks
the language of gone,
her churning arms
and legs the root word
of no. Spires of hair,
mouth an open archway,
a church crushed
The Dark Country / by Emily Gwinn
shattered with the strain
of trying to belong to earth –
-from “Persephone the Wanderer” by Louise Glück
It is time I told the truth,
I have never liked the taste
of bread, the sour howl
trapped in my throat.
No one will speak to me
about the child –
she wasn’t even my firstborn –
how many daughters
did my body shed,
before she disappeared?
My milk-born girl
goes missing in dark country,
how could I not be blamed?
They have cloaked me
in black robes,
given my eyes
flames for fists,
it is no wonder
I could never
hold my child,
I was undone,
by a terrible truth –
What you call spring,
I call dowry,
what you call black ice,
I call daughter,
will ever come of this –
no amount light
will ever be enough –
This was not my
I have been asked
I have never said
Nyctophiliac / by Mia Herman
Because the air smells different
when the light falls back
and the whoosh of the wind
after crawling into bed
and the percussion of cicadas
is an update on weather
and the roads begin breathing
when the speed limit wears off
and the creak of the floorboards
as the house winds down
and the right words come faster
when nobody says anything
Spam Folder / by Alan Katz
Two seniors together since birth,
split apart like a November pumpkin,
cast out on the cold streets.
that’s all we are told.
Roxi is a goofball
eleven year-old puggle, easygoing,
down with accompanying you
to dog parks, to work, or to watch t.v.
All he asks for is love.
Roxi is a petite twelve-year old
beagle Boston mix, more shy
than her brother, she approaches
politely for affection.
How does an apple ripen
…………It just sits in the sun.
…………Chocolates delicately infused
with honey and clementines
…………Silky almond pralines await….
A Memory / by Allison Mitton
On December 1 there is a small piece of paper
folded into thirds with a four-line rhyme written on it.
In the evening just after dinner, Dad sits at the island
his head in his hand as he comes up with lines to match
your age. Do not disturb him while he writes the clue.
There will be one each day for the next twenty-four,
oblique hints to locations around the house
where candy might be hidden. We wait in the bathroom,
carols echoing throughout the space too small for
four grown children and a dog. When Mom knocks
the dog scrambles to be first to the kitchen, paws sliding
on the hardwood floors, his nails clicking while his ears fly.
When we were young there was no dog; instead, the boy
raced to the red calendar on the wall, bunny blanket trailing behind.
Now we compliment Dad when the clues are clever
or tricky. If you miss your turn it’s free game,
the dog might find the treats first. No clue is ever used twice.
from City Haikus / by Ansley Moon
The jade plant makes the
window a home. Light fractures,
splits the floor in two.
Manhattan beast of
heeled shoes. Tireless tormented
city. Leave me be.
You Said the Neon Would Fade / by Mary Stone
All that follows me
are these blonde bones,
remains of a well-lit room.
The butter-yellow lights
don’t even flicker anymore
and I think I’d like
to see more
than a shivering hollow.
How we fell and fell
into that dark museum.
Placed ourselves beneath
into the soil.
You once told me
I’d look better
if I attempted a smile –
my mother had just died
and all I could do
was shovel snow,
gather up all
but the green.
The neon fades
Who says the world
much more slowly
than we’ve been told?
I like to think
we’re suspended now,
just blossoms on a tree.
the blackening shade.
Day 8 / Poems 8
Why the Orange Palmed Girl Married Winter / by Sara Biggs Chaney
I was without a fertile pasture.
No clutch of sweet-faced oxen
traipsed behind me. When ice
bid me lay the table,
I upset my hope chest, rooting
for a legacy of linens.
Within, I found forgotten dirt
bone dry and oh so hungry.
Even hard descent of frost
looked to me a decent meal.
Mother said: Child, be glad
that winter asks no dowry.
For you have neither cloth,
nor meat, nor much
that looks like hope
After the Blah Moon / by Karen Craigo
A friend says the moon was nothing special
last night—full but ordinary, not
especially close. He’d seen better—moons
sized to crush a town, and in every
astonishing hue: pumpkin, Red Delicious,
a bare suggestion of corn. There is no magic
in a white moon, hanging over wheat stubble
like a bulb. The indigenous people called it
the Beaver Moon, the almanac says—time
to set the traps—but I am skeptical.
You can trap a beaver any time of year,
yet we picture a guy pulled from his bed,
fumbling with rope on a tree-lined bank,
the moon next to useless there.
Trapping is nothing like harvest,
which works the farmers late into night
to beat the frost. Sounds like we’ve made
a muck of things, or a mockery, some truth
lost in our twaddle. Last night’s moon
deserved an honest name—Spotlight Moon,
Moon That Resembles No Fruit, Moon
That Won’t Let You Lose Your Way
Though You Walk in the Cold for Hours
and Try Like Hell. Moon That Makes
Shadow Puppets of Trees, That Figures
You Can Sleep Some Other Night, Moon
Whose Lunar Fingers Rake Your Face.
But friend, the moon hasn’t changed.
It never really does, until we tromp on it,
our footsteps still fresh, decade after decade.
Take it up with the Earth, your rue,
your want of color, if you dare, that is—
if you would ask of her one more thing.
Teeth / by Regina DiPerna
Glyph meaning hunger,
mouthful, watch me
use my jaw as a knife.
Wine turns each one into
a red pagoda wet
with drink. The stain
an earthly stain: porcelain
full of scarlet pinholes
In winter, a temple
frozen in the center
of a lake. A man takes
a crowbar, chips
the Old Monk’s teeth
from the ice. He knows
where to find them,
how an incisor
masquerades as air.
Fish scale, cotton,
Our ancestor’s molars
are buried in shale.
My brother’s baby teeth
rattle in a pill box.
And somewhere, lips
close around a cigarette,
part, close again.
How to Cross Over / by Emily Gwinn
Step One: Assess the Situation
It will not be easy
nor gentle –
not the settling
or morning rocker,
not the slide and click of lock.
Just under the wire –
the doctor smiled –
you almost didn’t make it
my body disagreed,
shed its little cells
became a body
This may not be the best place
to get to the other side.
Step Two: Watch Out for Debris
There will be rubble
at the point of entry,
remember rivers can carry
both pulp and sorrow:
high blood pressure,
there is no such thing
as safe passage now,
high risk of miscarriage,
keep your hands
in the water at all times
to prevent drowning.
Step Three: Test the Current
A mother of advanced maternal age
should always throw
her sticks into the water first,
see how quickly they move
Step Four: Straight. Wide. Shallow.
move your feet in an act
and don’t look back.
- This poem uses information and text found at “Hiking Safety: How to Cross a River” from About Sports.
Recital / by Mia Herman
Whispers run up and down the aisles
like children who don’t wish to be here.
I walk across the shiny paneled floors
and the voices come to a crescendo:
Don’t lose your balance, lose the notes, lose your nerve.
The baby grand is all curves,
dark and heavy like the bags beneath my eyes.
I have memorized how this is supposed to go
and every other possibility.
There is sweat on my palms
and moisture forms along the violin’s fingerboard.
I cradle its slim neck
and the ebony shines with anticipation.
and the pianist nods
and this is how I know that it is time
to take a bow
tuck the instrument under my chin
lift the length of the bow
You’d Have To Test The ____ to Know For Sure / by Alan Katz
Woke up with a head-cold,
my son babbling don’t mention it
through the video monitor,
the dog snoring on her side,
three text messages from my wife,
she barely slept.
Drank three coffees before 11
because of and in an attempt
to counteract (such a head-cold).
The way of tweaking
this way and that until you
feel just right, but rarely do
because how can one aim at an idea.
I’m all riled up and fuzzy, a lightening
bolt in a cloud of skies, and such thumping––
children running overhead.
There may be a sky above the sky.
Meditation / by Allison Mitton
As you allow your body to become still,
bring your attention to the fact that you are breathing.
My lungs automatically remember their musical training;
beginning at the bottom they gradually fill, increasing
their capacity with each breath. Oxygen floods
my limbs and hands, simultaneously heavier
and taller than before I knew how to breathe.
As you maintain awareness of your breathing,
see if it is possible to expand the field of your awareness
so that it includes a sense of your body as a whole.
My right wrist tingles with a decade-old ache,
matching the weakness in my left knee.
With each breath anxiety starts to crack,
leaving in increments on the exhale.
Expand your awareness to include thoughts as they move
through your mind. Let the thoughts just come and go
as you sit and dwell in stillness, observing them.
Fifteen years old, I am lying on the floor concentrating
all my energy on my right hand. The world has dissolved,
nothing outside my body exists. I banish the pain,
and for just a moment it disappears.
from City Haikus / by Ansley Moon
with a line borrowed from Jay-Z
run over the broken man
A new normal. Pain.
By illness. By heavy gait.
Subway stairs await.
Hoop dreams deflate, on
worthless beachfront property
waves stalking the sand.
Untitled / by Mary Stone
I’m thinking of you tonight, Kansas,
looking for what’s been misplaced
in the underbrush and the dusk
a squirrel longing
for the open wound
of a frozen chestnut.
The fields burst
with dandelion remains.
In the morning, I’ll find a way
to rebuild the town
among the fish carcasses,
gather what I need for kindling.
Perhaps you’ll be there
and we will build together
like we always said we would.
Everyone has been quick to ask
for my tongue, though it’s
tender and swollen.
Though my hands
are too far away
from my heart
Day 7 / Poems 7
Dr. Moreau Explains (Again) / by Sara Biggs Chaney
I am sick to death of your hot grasp on this blue bauble life.
How long since fire grew phosphorescent legs and walked abroad!
With those legs, heat paid you a visit.
Call it oxygen, call it carbon, call it father.
With those hands, life made you a present.
Call it form, call it meat, call it toy.
Your sorry flesh is no proper ending to such a promising story.
(How stupidly you clench — like a fat baby’s sweaty fist.)
Do you really persist in believing
that the pebble in you is a prize?
Your veins were not intended
as an end to themselves, and you know it.
Let’s not waste time howling over lost trifles.
You can be sure: When I pull each finger back, I will be gentle.
Writing a Poem on Deadline / by Karen Craigo
Someone expects a poem today, on top
of everything else, breakfast, diapers,
my last chance to pay the power bill.
To say nothing of the 9-to-5 job—papers
to grade, students who sit and stare.
It adds up. I did some calculations.
Today is my 16,726th day on Earth,
and it’s the 1st day anyone has called
for this. So what will I write about?
Math, so far—like those word problems,
each a small story in verse, a train
leaving Chicago, Suzy buying,
incomprehensibly, 100 apples,
and there’s some trouble built in,
that train reeling toward its twin,
Suzy a little short or due some change.
I’m starting to reject the notion
I’ve been led to believe, that math
holds the gravity. Today someone needs
my words, and they must be sparse, with
line breaks that seem almost random.
There is a void, gaping……..like a caesura.
Don’t worry, people. I’ve got this.
Handful of Birch Bark / by Regina DiPerna
We cleaved each sheet
with our fingers and nails,
pulled back rough skin
to reveal a bit of bone.
Color of marrow faint beneath
this gray-white, that slash
of orange leaf. Cold pins
itself to us; a rusted anchor
in every cell. Papery roots
shift so slightly they almost
stay still, ants fan out under
the dirt. Sky full of silk and ash.
We are Just Preschoolers Here / by Emily Gwinn
My daughter came home from school today
with hands crossing her heart,
she blesses herself,
she has been practicing
and wants to teach me
how to pray.
and repeat after me:
what is devotion but a ritual
The thunder of Friday
trashcans rumble into
the neighbors all playing
their minor chords.
compasses of fury and purpose
these routines provide,
a place to put our hands
a constant rehearsal in
I met God today,
my daughter tells me,
he was at school, on the crosswalk.
Her teacher said they visited
the sanctuary and saw Jesus
nailed to the cross, and I
do not correct her –
all this noise about submission
and supplication –
we are always one step closer
to those white painted lines,
one crosswalk away
from finding out
if all this piety
will pay off.
When It Hit Me that Verbal Abuse Is Still Abuse / by Mia Herman
It wasn’t after his words
slapped across my face
And it wasn’t when he smiled, dismissive and distant,
pointing that beauty-marked finger at me for
not driving fast enough
not parking close enough
not understanding the inner workings of his mind
and the iPhone 5
It wasn’t even once he drove away,
leaving me alone
in the dark parking lot
(although I did wonder
how he could shift gears
It was an autumn afternoon
as we strolled through the park,
the tone of his voice as it tore through the leaves
You’re just going to write for the rest of your life?
and the way it made me feel
like this poem would never happen.
Infinitive / by Alan Katz
to take off all my clothes
And With Bright Angels Tower / by Allison Mitton
—for Todd and Allison, Abby and McKay
The wall opposite my bed holds artwork
that is sacred: an olive wood Madonna
purchased in the Old City, a print of tall ships
in the Boston Harbor, a family photograph,
and a German painting titled Agony in the Garden.
Peace radiates from the blue-green wings
of the angel enveloping Christ in her strength.
The first time I saw this painting I could not breathe;
the sorrow in his eyes was a reflection of our own
at your absence, the power holding him up felt
among our gathered family. The Agony is the last thing
I see before sleeping, a daily reminder of you:
your years in the city we both call home,
the secret language you share with McKay,
joy in your face as you sat in your red chair
dressed in white while serving in the temple
with your siblings. I like to believe you visit
the most significant places: the Oregon Coast,
Fenway, your home at the foot of the mountains.
Agony resides there now too, one of six copies
owned by our extended family. In the evening
fading light through the windows illuminates
the angel’s halo and golden frame, solace pouring
from the painting throughout the room.
from City Haikus / by Ansley Moon
Umbrellas up. Eyes
downcast. Wet & soaked through socks.
New York always wins.
She is a Van Gogh
starry night of absence. The
haunting came in waves.
Her hands are deserts
& the face an oasis—
vignettes of water.
Some People Like to Be Alone / by Mary Stone
Someone once told me October is the only month worth tasting.
Always the smell of spice and burning leaves.
All the renters check out. If we are lucky. If the harvest goes as planned.
But every morning I don’t want to take time to slice into an apple and so I go to work hungry. Children look out from a bus window, faces warped from the first frost.
The combines are out all day, lifting roots like nothing.
There is always a job to do or to hold in our hands. Papers that need to be signed. Silos that remain full far too long.
An empty house will lose another window and it will be boarded up. Weeds grow wild in the walkway. The landscaper has yet to arrive.
Why would anyone let a complete stranger stay in their place?
I spend most of the time thinking what it must be like to say yes to a stranger.
What happens when one finds herself alone on the sidewalk? You do a little turn. Kick at a leaf.
And now we have a face.
It is true what they say about the world, how it can appear so still. That sudden blue. People move in and out of houses. They drive so very far and go nowhere.
To break open the fruit and hold the seed in my hand.
As a girl, I held seeds in my hand and tried to make them grow into something using only my mind.
Everywhere I’ve been the seeds are all the same. They either grow or they don’t.
Some girl today carves a pumpkin with her mother. She plans to leave it on the porch till it freezes or rots. Whichever happens first.
Day 6 / Poems 6
Effigy * / by Sara Biggs Chaney
“in effigy: under the form, or by means of, a portrait or image.
To inflict upon an image the semblance of the punishment which the original is considered to have deserved.”
“a 1631 J. Donne Serm. (1953) I. 267 In those that are damned before, we are damned in Effigie.”
–Oxford English Dictionary
In effigy: In the image of.
We burn the picture
when we’ve lost power
to burn the thing itself.
Set fire to absence;
lay salve on loss.
Straw sparks as well
as paper smolders.
Still burning is not justice
any more than pictures
are the things they signify.
Likewise, a picture of a woman
with impossibly calm eyes
is not a theory about human nature.
Looking dead into the lens
from under seven oceans
as though the mass
of a whole world’s water
had long ago crushed
all feeling from her face–
a picture of a woman
is neither explanation
Nor is it case,
nor rare exception,
This picture. This woman.
This woman in this picture.
No misfired neuron, she.
No sad tale of catastrophe,
No horror story of possession.
Just cheeks, once amiable.
Just skin, strewn under the lens
like so much week-old bread
across a dirty countertop.
And less than that, just points
of muted gray and white–
blocked out, projected, duplicated
on my dim and pixilated screen.
I am left
without even a picture
*This poem was inspired by the photo that accompanied a recent news story about a mother accused of throwing her autistic son off a bridge. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/05/justice/oregon-mother-autism-son-death/index.html)
Light That Hides the Light / by Karen Craigo
The shapes of branches on your door
aren’t moon shadows, but floodlights
from the college, its athletic fields
laid for lacrosse. If it were dark,
you’d still have to peer beyond sycamore,
or up through the crabapple’s limbs.
Someone needs to argue for wildness.
You let a corner of your yard grow thick
so one or two creatures might nest.
From Betelgeuse, a red warning
winged a quadrillion miles to find you,
only to be canceled in the last
hundred yards. It made it
an awfully long way to be lost.
Variations on Saturn / by Regina DiPerna
Gold fog clings to core like sound
to cymbal. Smattered like paint
flicked from a brush, a riptide
of brass ice. How many finches
died before Darwin
mapped them into existence?
Cone-shaped beak or not,
a gold face or a crimson,
dirt threaded the old wings
as planets fell and re-aligned.
The sun spills down mountains,
across fields, faces, strands
of asteroids, moons, waves
of sound. Overhead, bronze clouds.
A beehive full of smoldering honey.
The spin of all things whipping the coals.
Proof and Bone / by Emily Gwinn
for Auntie Martha
In the photograph
it is 1944, Denver,
and my grandmother
is as young and beautiful
as she will ever be
in my mind,
her gaze is fixed
beyond the camera,
her face is quiet,
waiting for the shutter
of her life
so many years before
her body betrayed
before it began its
into bent parable,
into a new word
Before the word
grandmother meant Osteo,
porous bone –
not unlike wing –
a riddle of life pouring
whale rib and oil,
the vertebral column,
earlywood, oak and ash.
Giving birth to daughters
is a form of division.
I have gone searching for her
in every woman I have
ever loved – pieces to connect
her nose with my face,
the smile in my mouth, but the light
behind her gaze
belongs to whom?
My husband tells me
I have her eyes:
I look through the few old photos
I have left,
reaching for myself,
for my own daughter,
looking for the woman I remember
only in pictures.
This riddle of memory,
the entire catalogue of my childhood
can be traced to the images
left in albums –
I have lived
through these photographs,
created my own mythology,
pieced together story
with film and questions –
how many birthday parties, footballs games,
did she, too, go searching
in pictures, in her daughters’
faces, who did she see
when she looked
under their skin?
Her own mother,
perhaps, her own
in their fists,
Martha and Linda:
proof and bone.
Bedroom Talk / by Mia Herman
I am pretty sure
we were speaking different
languages last night
It’s Impossible. Possible. Don’t mention it. / by Alan Katz
to not wipe
the grease of
on the F-platform
because a napkin
in my back pocket
holds the beginnings
of a poem
Apology / by Allison Mitton
I had blinders on, so I couldn’t see
the forest for the trees. A cliché
becomes cliché because it is true,
and I’m sorry is full of them.
But, I am. Friends?
from City Haikus / by Ansley Moon
In the station I
swim upstream. A lone fish. My
feet, my currency.
The morning fog dis-
sipates by after
noon the sun returns.
Body this body
is worthless skin. Guilty for
being a body.
Each neighborhood is
a primary color. Red
and full of music.
What They Said When She Died / by Mary Stone
The whole family fits in this room and she is here. In the fifty-eight years I knew her, she never wore the same outfit to Mass. We know what it means to walk up to the door and not touch it. To hold back. What it means to be held. This was her necklace. We wear the pearls for her. To feel the river in our bones and allow the swim to move us. What she didn’t know how to do, she taught herself. She is our guide and a stylish one at that, wearing the moon on her feet. Every time a child grabbed the necklace around her neck, pearls would scatter. What carried us to her arms. At night, the land flinches after a brutal harvest. She gathers the pearls. She takes them to her room. It wants us to come home. She is walking there. She is not alone. Patiently, she restrands the pearls until the necklace becomes a choker. What comes next is more wind, more of the same, though the moon no longer has all that much to say. Those pearls, those pearls, my god, look at those pearls.
Day 5 / Poems 5
The Many Faces Of Fire / by Sara Biggs Chaney
~600-900 A.D. China
Alchemists stumble onto gunpowder
when in search of the elixir of life.
Sulfur and saltpeter. Honey and arsenic.
They name the brew huo yao, fire drug,
elixir of tumult, of sudden fire and sound.
With parts in balance, huo yao
sings a terrible warning
to the evil spirit, Nian.
Replace honey with charcoal,
and song becomes shriek
of flame, scattering
of bamboo shard.
Soon, the more ambitious
will see all the possibilities.
– 1605 London
Of all his fiery toys, the dragon
is most prized by the king.
An intricate affair– dry wood
and finest whalebone–
this flaming puppet, stuffed with rockets
can be propelled across a great expanse
with the help of gunpowder
and a fleet of tireless craftsmen.
And oh, the ladies gasp,
and oh, the sight.
Below ground, Guy Fawkes waits
to light the fuse.
To Brenna <3 Ernie / by Karen Craigo
Last night my son
drew a picture for Brenna,
who watches him sometimes
and is sweetness and joy.
They stand side-by-side
in blocky slacks, and you know
she is a girl by the bun
balanced like an apple
on her head. In the picture,
each wears a U for a smile
and they stand apart,
not touching nor able
to touch, their arms
short and handless.
When he gave it, he broke
into grief, racking sobs,
eyes closed in shame.
He loves her. Consider
his vision, two, standing,
so happy and plain
in their britches. It is
simple. There is nothing
easier; the beauty
hurts him, each one
dignified and glad,
small arms open
in the twin flags
of their rectangle pants.
To the Mother Waiting to Be Born / by Emily Gwinn
- for Katie
It is true that Mary Cassatt
never painted a landscape,
not the morning light resting on the Seine
or the charcoaled shell of Chicago
after its great fire –
and although, on occasion,
lilacs did rest in formal vases –
it was the human form that offered
her true artistic contest,
the composition of home:
Little Girl in Blue Armchair,
The Child’s Bath, Sleeping Baby,
each canvas a gentle lullaby
of pigment and linseed oil.
Did she go searching for herself
in a land called mother
only to find a countryside of want?
Sometimes, it is left to us
to paint our world.
Today, you will be born,
the seasoned traveler
will enter into a new
I know you understand the language,
it was inside of you from the beginning,
you will need no translator,
no map or compass to guide you,
simply climb outside
the human window
of your body,
and begin to give.
Supermarket / by Mia Herman
He sees me as I am
clawing away at the Snapple
(mango madness) –
talking myself through the ordeal.
You’ve got this.
When the soles of my feet
come back down
nice and flat
and I am no longer playing
lord of the dance
in the middle of the aisle,
I find that he is next to me
standing close enough
to see the fine lines that have formed
around my eyes
but just far enough
to not be mistaken as my anything.
How have you been? I expect,
or maybe something about joining
a gym since then.
But this: Are you happier now
than you were at our happiest?
And a hand, casually reaching
or past me
towards the cranberry splash.
And I think: Cleanup in aisle seven.
When You Finish Your List, You’ll Die / by Alan Katz
Woke up this morning to
a pile of leaves on the front stoop,
black contractor bag on top of the recycling pail,
a box of thank you notes recovered and left on the mat,
dust covering the kitchen countertops,
a burnt out hanging pendant,
19.95 box fan that never stops to inhale,
an unborn child, nameless, not-yet-contemplated,
squares of roasted sweet potatoes and
a bloody thumbnail in the garbage,
a birthday card from grandma with no check.
The way you can leave your car
on a no-parking day and not get a ticket––
a symbol of how life is unpredictable,
especially when you lengthen your horizon,
the more you know the less
shelf space for time to slow,
for joy or countless abstractions
that lose their meaning less some specificity,
unlike my cherry yogurt,
small batch & handmade
spoon scraped jar beneath
a barcode, when you scan it
no item is recognized.
Whistling / by Allison Mitton
You call while preparing chicken,
a distaste for raw meat underneath your words
as you tell me about coming home to a newlywed
husband in basketball shorts wielding the vacuum
against an army of ants. In such great numbers
they act as one giant bug, worse than a spider
in the bathtub (but not those fuzzy centipedes).
Their dedication would be admirable
if they weren’t in your house. We move on
to wedding photos, haircuts, boys
our friends are dating; I close my eyes
and we are in the kitchen we once shared,
discussing all the mundane details that build
a friendship as you cook healthy food
while I eat candy corn. We both forget
a celebrity’s name—the girl who loves sloths—
and your laugh echoes through the phone.
from The Ghost Father / by Ansley Moon
10. He will not die.
……Often the phone rings, odd hours.
……I imagine him crumbled and cold
………..alone on his floor.
11. I imagine myself unable to move.
……How does one prepare for grief?
12. As a child, I saved shoelaces,
……an overgrown Halloween costume,
……candy wrappers, anything he gave me.
13. The ghost father becomes a cloud.
14. He is not the man you think he is.
Untitled / by Mary Stone
When she calls, I know it’s the last time
I’ll have to speak his name out loud
in a whisper, as though he’d arrive
any moment, the garland of track marks
and cigarette burns on his arms
covered with stolen red shirt.
He’s been sharing needles again,
just out of prison. Calls her
a baby killer. Says he read
up on ectopic pregnancies
and knows. He’s lying again
to our father and we protect
him out of fear. The things he knows
of us. The things he remembers
and how it’s our father’s fault
we all learned to lie to survive.
She still wants to see him.
Says brother like it’s a word
like a brother is a real thing.
My migraines have returned
knotting each morning
and I have no way of showing her
my grenade shaped lung
the way my devotion to her
grows and does not for him.
I walk home in that wrinkled dawn
in my boots and an unfamiliar jacket
and there is no music
and cars drive by
with their headlights on.
Day 4 / Poems 4
Fable / by Sara Biggs Chaney
Once, an orange palmed girl
met a boy with irregular heartbeats.
He was famous for his fainting spells,
her voice box rumored to be fitful.
When summer rains came
and stouter children stayed inside,
they sat together on the fire escape
and waited for lightning to visit.
In the crackle and glare, they smiled
with their mouths full of water.
She had a theory about him:
His eyes could make the grass grow.
He maintained: The trouble in her throat
was a bird of paradise still learning to sing.
They walked through torrents of rain, stopping only
to save abandoned books from mud puddles.
After the storm, a porcelain beetle
crawled over the boy’s palm, searching.
The boy turned his hand against the sunlight,
and while the beetle made its brave way along his fingertip
the boy watched it with wonder.
The girl watched him with love,
that he would never hurt her.
Casting a Vote at Rountree Elementary / by Karen Craigo
It always rains on Election Day.
I feel sure of this, just as I’m sure
of my candidate, earnest blue farmer
who vows, in this red state, to cooperate.
The machine says I’m the eleventh
to cast a ballot, and it’s dark outside,
but not in the cafetorium,
with its posters of apples and calls
for RESPECT, TOLERANCE, all those ways
we want our kids to live. That’s
a tough enough sell, to say nothing
of EMPATHY for obstructionists,
polluters, people with contempt
for my body. I draw the line—
it’s how we vote here, we fill in
the missing part of an arrow
that points to our choice,
and it occurs to me that even
the goddamned Republicans stood up
under this ever-changing sky,
held up a hand and said, “I’ll serve.”
Vigil in Scorpio / by Regina DiPerna
Every porch light is a lantern,
every gypsy moth a word
scattered around what
I meant to say.
On the new moon, the sky
was eel black, nothing
cast a shadow. For weeks
I’ve thought of time: red
draining from the leaves,
the length of shadows,
how I’m growing older
than you, ink lines
on a graph of us intersecting
and untying. Each breeze
a whispered elegy, each
dried blossom a bowed head.
Now the moon is waxing
crescent, a lit larvae
in a nest of stars.
You are the first person
I’ve lost since I stopped
believing. Tell me
what shape the moon is
where you are.
A Lesson in Gratitude / by Emily Gwinn
- for Nancy
The garden thanks
for her hardworking hands,
for the rich, dark, compost –
organic matter –
pressed beneath nails
and into boot,
this most basic exercise
The gardener thanks
the nitrogen-rich marrow
with grass clippings,
unpaid bills and hay,
Post-it notes, popcorn,
pumpkin seeds and clover,
egg shells, black tea
and apple cores,
these everyday gestures
found beneath the surface,
stirred and watered
The ladybug thanks
for thatched lace-leaf appendages,
for hospitable flower and seed,
the gardener for letting
so late into season,
for the last bite before
The gardener stretches her body
thanks the daylight
folding in around her,
drinks in her wine
of potato, tarragon,
and late carrot,
as cows dim into distance,
become shadows in pasture –
stones left standing.
It is too late for
harvest, too late
Venezia / by Mia Herman
a silent city
or squeaky brakes,
no clicking of the turn signal
signaling right to San Marco.
Even the glass –
translucent color swirls
fashioned in the back room
of carnival shops –
producing smooth ripples
tourists and natives.
Even the Z in Venezia
mocking me each time
my tongue attempts to
After School / by Alan Katz
you’re carrying your loneliness
around your neck
on a white shoelace.
When you take it off,
the quiet of an empty house waits for you,
the small end of a peephole.
You insert your key,
squeeze your thighs,
do a little hold-it dance.
You dribble your weaknesses,
sighing out the lightened
Don’t forget to lock
the door behind you,
then listen for the garage door’s
grumble, flip off the tv,
pretend to study.
You are such a good boy.
Professor / by Allison Mitton
—Inspired by M
I am distracted as I try to catch the accent
only present in your long vowels,
matching whatever mannerisms—politeness?—
betray you as Canadian. Your voice
(and your glasses, and your Converse shoes)
makes it difficult to internalize your views
on medical ethics. Are you for or against
flirting during office hours? I wouldn’t
know how to begin; I am too flustered
by the accomplishments on your résumé:
Angle the laptop so no one behind me
sees as I type your name in the search bar.
It comes up after three letters;
obviously, you’ve been googled before.
Universities in Johannesburg, London,
a grant from the National Sciences Foundation.
Tell me everything about the impossibility
theorem for amalgamating evidence. You love
epidemiology? I also love epidemiology!
from The Ghost Father / by Ansley Moon
5. The ghost father is shrinking. Skeletal,
….he hangs his clothes on his body.
….He sits. All angles, all bones.
….We bring him fruit, cigarettes,
6. No one talks about the ghost father as a boy.
7. He is always disappearing.
8. He shined his shoes each day
….before work. I slipped pennies
….into his loafers. Hid, while the
….change clinked and clinked.
9. He plans his escape. No funeral.
A Man Sends Me a Message / by Mary Stone
He tells me he has a Prince Albert piercing
and types a smiley face.
I use the floor as an ashtray.
Collect beer bottle caps for later projects.
More than once, I thought a man
might break me. He had a knife.
He had a sweet smile.
He had very large hands.
When I don’t respond
he says no one likes a negative attitude.
My feet are too cold but it’s not yet time
to turn on the heat.
When I don’t respond
he says no wonder you’re single
and it starts to rain.
Across the street, a woman drops a leash,
her dog fleeing down the sidewalk.
She lights a cigarette.
Draws an emoticon in the air
with a finger.
When I don’t respond
he says just you wait
says I know what you need
and it’s already night
and the ceiling fan
makes the loudest sound
in the world.
Day 3 / Poems 3
Ode to Bloomington / by Sara Biggs Chaney
Her name was Jill Behrman
May 31, 2000–
Local girl with iron calves
and crowd-pleasing smile
goes for a bike ride.
Tomorrow, every maple tree
will wear a missing sign.
The town will scream the name
of the girl on the bike.
Three years will pass
before the forest
returns her, before the
hunters find a bone
and know it is human.
The Girl on the Bike
August, 1999-August, 2005
I came to you on a cheap bike,
but forgot my helmet.
I learned to take your hills
without tiring– I held on
to my breath while climbing
and climbing and climbing.
After the bar, I pedaled home
to my paper house
and screamed along
with the tornado sirens.
I learned how to sleep
while the walls shook,
how to keep my hands
steady and ride.
On Nov. 3, I Eyeball the Pumpkin / by Karen Craigo
We did what was required.
Our zombie horde stumbled
down the avenue, faces
greened, clothes tattered.
The candy passed inspection,
all the good stuff claimed.
But on the table, the pumpkin
my son chose, the right shape
for apple-cheeked grin,
great circles of boo.
Turned one way it stares
at the sky, the other it stoops
in despair. All Saints, All Souls
are behind us, but the gourd
remains intact. When
will we carve the pumpkin,
my son asks, and we may yet.
Like so many things, this
could go either way,
as our tardy ghoul
awaits his fair chance.
Crystallomancy / by Regina DiPerna
It can be done with obsidian,
or a necklace, or a shard
Nostradamus used water
in a bronze bowl.
I tried it once with a wine glass
under the piano.
It’s not about crystal, how it
traps light and bends it
in a circle.
It’s about branches rustling
against the side of the house,
how my mother thinks it’s Satan
crawling in the dirt.
She threw holy water
in the hall.
The Egyptians used ink
in a child’s palm.
It can be done
with animal blood, moonlight,
an oyster shell full of pond water.
It can be done with a window
in the dark, your own face.
Each atom is a variable:
the moon in Pisces
the hushed theater
in the house of cards,
a glint of light caught
like a seed or an iris.
Drawings for the Zoetrope at Mobius / by Emily Gwinn
After the geckos, the walking sticks,
the paper airplane launch
and reluctant tarantula,
after the water wheel and magnet bench,
my daughter always finds her way
to the zoetrope display.
There, she requests the same picture
Draw me growing bigger, mama.
I start on her small body
in stick figure, her face
a bubble, a pebble with a smile, really,
then the line of arms and legs expand
and soon each white square is filled
a child, stretching into every frame.
She waits with eager anticipation
as I secure the strip inside the metal drum.
Zoe means life,
tropos, to turn,
to wheel ourselves beyond outline,
to let go of gravity
and take in rough light,
this perception of time
is only illusion.
With a squeal of delight,
she spins the wheel:
Watch me grow bigger, mama.
Watch me grow so fast, mama.
Zoetrope means wheel of life,
a trick of motion
produced by the persistence
our brain’s desire to make meaning
from shattered form,
the heart and eye pushing a story
As my daughter spins
this living wheel
inside the canister,
I can never quite bring myself
Honesty / by Mia Herman
but then my lips quickly close
around a feathered apology
capturing the bird already
freed into evening sky
Trees are motionless / by Alan Katz
I’m the one on the bar stool
in the white shirt cranking his neck
from side to side––
the search for a comfortable position.
On the menu: avocado toast,
one or two eggs (optional),
house made ricotta,
honey, sea salt, sourdough,
how too many options
are worse than none,
how to properly sequence a morning,
coffee, water, squeezed in lemons,
the toast, the softly poached eggs,
the weekend New York Times article on ADD,
how it’s really just boredom,
New Yorker article about gluten,
it gets a bad wrap,
piled up stacks of digital to-do’s,
to reads, to buys,
anything besides imitating
the London Plain outside the window,
how it grows deeper
and deeper into its place,
lifting the bluestone sidewalk,
until we amputate her branch
to allow the sun to dry a mosquito refuge
underneath the dripping air conditioner.
Ask her how she faces loss,
she will not answer.
These are merely words.
A side of bacon.
On a Fall Day in Oakland / by Allison Mitton
We go to see the baby elephant
at the zoo. He holds his mother’s tail
with his trunk, stretching high
to reach it. He could walk beneath her
without ducking. His father follows
close behind, a parade of elephants
in a slow loop as they introduce him
to his new habitat. The other adults
keep him in their periphery
as they patrol the fences, wary
of human children on the other side.
Partway through their circuit
Mama notices a pumpkin just beyond
her reach outside the fence. Straining
as hard as she can she sucks in,
the sound like an amplified vacuum hose.
The pumpkin soars under the fence
as though magnetically attracted to her;
she catches it in her trunk
without blinking. She crushes the pumpkin
in one squeeze, setting it on the ground
in front of her baby for lunch.
Mother handed me circles / by Ansley Moon
Carry these. Place them where
everyone can see. Where you cannot
forget. Draw yourself. Daughter,
you’re more than a closed curve. Estuary.
I carried them over mountains,
swam with them in the sea. At night,
I dreamt of salamander tails. Limbs
regenerating. Awoke to find the circles
gone. How could I return home?
Daughter who lost everything?
Untitled / by Mary Stone
He shows me the pattern of buckshot on his shins. Scars on his torso and hands.
Are we always simply waking?
In his past there are many fires and many knives.
At twenty-two, he doesn’t yet know how to move his body around mine. How to undress without standing.
I have a habit of looking too closely at hands. At finding something missing.
My friend Jennifer sends me links to articles about how to move on from something. How to open up my hands and collect the soil and fold it into the laundry, scatter it in the vents. I wake with soil in my teeth.
He won’t move away from the bed.
I would dismantle all the lights if I knew we’d still be in that room together. But the only way to do that will be to demand.
He requests things by doing nothing. I know to make choices.
There are often stories. Bobcats. Shotguns. His father bed two women for seven years.
Jealousy is nothing more than fear. Except when it’s a bird landing on the same wire day after day and simply flying away. Except when it’s the recoil of a gun.
His mother and his father are still married.
Jennifer tells me to date older men because they know how to replace things.
Good morning lips, good morning honey, good morning, good morning, good morning.
They say on the news that families are hurting. I want to know what this looks like.
It’s about as dark as you can imagine here and graffiti covers the walls.
Day 2 / Poems 2
Letter to Miley Cyrus / by Sara Biggs Chaney
Dear Destiny Hope,
A country calls for you in comment threads.
Can you please explain your mouth?
How do you make room for all those teeth?
Are those caps? Do you wear braces?
We are burning to locate the source of your lisp.
There is a running bet in Alabama
on the condition of your bowels.
North Dakota wants to know:
What have you done with your hair?
An imaginary mayor of a town
we just invented has called for a doctor.
He says you’re bad for national digestion.
Destiny, I’ve been down
to the belly of the beast
and they are asking for you, there.
They are shredding the prairie.
It’s a massacre of sun-dappled wheat.
Every girl is called to answer for your tongue.
baby, won’t you
sing me the theme song from Little House on the Prairie?
Inspirit me with horse manure and the stink of a boundless sky?
Be quick. Stuff my mouth with black-eyed susans
before I start licking everything in sight.
For you, Miley, oh a gallon of Tennessee temper
I’ll drink and still I’ll thirst.
I’ll shake my ass till it sweats bullets under all this muslin.
I’ll shear my infant head and leave my body behind
to gyrate for its evening meal.
I’ll make a grenade from the mouth God gave me
and don’t you worry, Miley, I won’ t go down smooth.
Autumn Sunday at Unity / by Karen Craigo
In front of me the backs
of heads, an earring dangling
by a braid, and when we sing
I am unlimited I am so close
to believing it. No one asks
for my confession, but here
is one: I am wearing an old love’s
socks and they are warmer
than you’d think. Something
never ends, and it moves in me,
but now the wild apples are done,
and you wouldn’t believe the size
of what the sycamore throws down.
I’m Not / by Regina DiPerna
Not anymore, not hanging my head
in the doorway, silhouette
like ivy growing quiet
over your walls. I’m not
there, I’m not your
propped too close to the lit
end of your cigarette, not
your daughter. I’m not
a canvas for you to spew your
paint on, a drawing of a beast
with your lips, your teeth,
and no throat. I’m not
midnight and smashed dishes,
not a bruise you left
on the earth. I’m not the snap
of your belt, I’m not
even Catholic anymore,
I don’t even believe
in Hell. I’m not you
rearranged. I’m not outside
in the snow because I can’t
stand to sit in your house.
I’m not the flesh of your flesh,
the bone of your bone,
the damned, not anymore.
After the First Miscarriage, A Bloom / by Emily Gwinn
Seeds listen to things
from inside the fruit –
there is no amount of force
greater than this,
chestnuts falling ceaselessly
We move towards earth
like salmon returning
to spawning ground,
to burial ground,
from inside the seed
plucked from inside
an absent mind,
we were never meant to come so far
from the source of river.
I opened into
We learn first to give flowers.
My daughter presses the yellow yolk
of dandelion into my palm.
From inside a breath
comes an impulse to
we learn first to give
away what we find
NYC Remembers Boston / by Mia Herman
Did the Boston bomber
think about alliteration
and the way his title
would form from our lips,
like a bowling ball
a well-oiled lane.
Or did he think about the stats –
the way MapMyRun calculates
pace and distance and energy burned –
measuring human endurance
by men hobbling on bloodied feet
and children screaming
for mothers who couldn’t be found
and smiling bystanders who now
New York can’t fuhgeddaboudit.
Those twenty-six miles of enjambment,
like twenty-six lines of a poem, keep us
We still hope to be understood / by Alan Katz
Want to come over this weekend sometime,
maybe Saturday night?
Wife’s out of town for the weekend,
I’ll be partying (smiley with shades).
Sure! I’m in Wisconsin…
back on Tuesday.
Great. Come over after bedtime,
watch movies, drink some wine.
OK. Thanks for your condolences.
What is she talking about, I think,
pulling out an oversized phone
from the pocket of my black down coat.
All the things that fail to register,
we skip to what we want to hear,
the way we overlook what’s right in front of us,
a penny in the sidewalk sunning.
The way we write it down to document
how much still’s elliptical.
I’m in Wisconsin for my mother’s funeral,
I’ll be back on Tuesday.
Brittle / by Allison Mitton
A palm tree grows from a bed of orange poppies,
its fronds always rustling as though the wind
never stops. In the winter poppies are rocks,
a place holder while the flowers wait
for better temperatures. Years ago
owls took up residence in the top of the tree,
too high to be seen, but at night
the neighbors hear them as they start
their day in the dark, calling over crickets.
Mouse bones and pellets border the base
of the palm, table manners not being
high on the list of owls’ priorities.
During a storm, their nest was blown out:
inside it were two opened egg shells
perfect for elementary school show-and-tell.
Burn / by Mary Stone
The girl with the bruised knuckles
made her first little fire in a sink.
She simply wanted to burn
an old polaroid of her some woman
standing in a kitchen. Her mother,
they claimed, could make men feel
things. The girl would learn to burn
the patch of weeds in the backyard,
her own bangs, a lover’s mattress.
What she knew of fire
she’d learned from her father
but she’d ignored the blisters
on her feet, though she’d earned
them running hard and fast
through all that snow.
What would a father know
of a woman’s ability
to burn, to taste, to light
a cigarette, to fight
That first fire,
took too long to smother.
She only remembers the faucet,
the drip, the silver, the shape
smoke used to take
in the loneliest of rooms
Day 1 / Poems 1
The Primality of One / by Sara Biggs Chaney
Henri Lebesgue, creator of Lebesgue integration, is known as the last mathematician to publically refer to one as a prime number
Henri sits, head bowed, before an open window
while outside, the cold stone plains of the Lycee
make final their grim preparations
to greet a new century
with the same perpetual indifference.
Henri readjusts his glasses.
He runs a calloused thumb across the page, on which
he has been mapping functions since first light.
How could he know he would be last
to note, in passing, the primality of one?
To be divisible by one and by oneself—
such are the conditions of primality.
And does not one meet these requirements
in their fundamental form? If one is not prime,
then in the name of numbers, what is one?
How could he know that circumstance (that scold)
would opt to hang him up on such a paltry thing—
a given, to later be discarded–gossamer and gravity in equal parts?
Just a stepping stone, really, a rung
on the ladder to more perfect integration.
How could he know that they would call him the last devotee
of originary faith, that they would cast him
as the last to take the first for granted?
How could he know that primal one
would take her lead from the miasma theory of disease?
How could he know that one would go the way
of humours and the hollow earth?
He walks to the window and gives praise
to the symmetry of stone, below–
to the stolid weight of number, never,
not for a moment, expecting what’s to come.
Samhain / by Karen Craigo
It’s the night when the veil is thinnest—
this world, the other, rustle the same curtain
with their breath. The veil between having
and not having Milk Duds is barely present,
only three to a box. Apples are deadly,
and home-baked cookies, too, the veil
between grandma and sociopath
ripped wide. In ancient times, villagers
would place food beyond town’s edge
to lead spirits away. They wore masks
to fool their ghosts. Tonight, the veil
between costume and none is stretched
by cold. Princesses wear tuques for tiaras.
Batmen are puffy with down.
You swore you’d grow into the one
who offers the full-sized Snickers,
but look at you, bowl of Dum-Dums
by your door. The margin between who you are
and who you planned to be is a heavy scrim.
There is a bell. Could it be they found you here,
your churlish dead, one an ice queen,
white braid at rest on her shoulder, the other
a wraith whose eyes glitter through holes?
Self-Portrait as Anima / by Regina DiPerna
There is another body beneath
this body, pulling itself through
my tunnels, staining dreams:
cut cherries in the shape of woman,
sister, brute. Drawn bow
of hips, scythe eyelash.
There is another heart
behind this one, shadow-red,
full of stone. Hair, a tree branch
constellation, leaves half-stripped,
half-gold. Two crows perch.
One pulls its beak through
the other’s feathers and
their silhouettes are one.
Light refracts into obsidian,
dark auspice. Breasts flushed
with ember. Blushed cheeks
and the mouth of the volcano.
Saturday Afternoon / by Mia Herman
We lie in bed
on the fourteenth floor
of his apartment building -
too high up for problems
and people with problems.
He twitches in his sleep,
like a cat dreaming
of warm milk and slow mice,
and his whiskers brush against my face
as if to say, I have caught you.
So I play dead,
on the large Tempur-Pedic,
and my body sinks further
and further into the memory
foam as if to say, Running is not an option.
And as we lounge here
in bed on the fourteenth floor
of his doorman-ed apartment,
I swallow scratchy bits of chewed-up hope
and think, Problems lie everywhere.
The Audience Cries For An Encore By Shouting: More Trucks / by Alan Katz
street sweeper, stopped
sweepers spinning sweeping
the sound of reverse, its beeping
horns honking honking
a man looks
like an older version
of one I knew
is it him or another
stop honking you mother fucker
a conversation in french
I hadn’t noticed
a yellow taxi
big construction site
Settling / by Allison Mitton
I live in the attic. At night
light creeps through the window
for hours like a cat prowling
the tops of your kitchen cabinets, lessening
shadows the only clue it leaves
along the ceiling. Air currents blow
through the floors, through the books
stacked around the room creating walls
where there are none. The air settles
in the morning, tangible outside
the goose down cocoon where
I dreamt of ice skating on water:
I wouldn’t hold your hand. Later, we got married
but you left before cake. Birds congregate
on the storm drain as the light becomes
braver, reaching past the ceiling
to a desk, an old mirror, maps filled
with words. Only half awake
I have forgotten the meaning of the dream,
but the bitter air remembers the blades
on the water, the uneaten cake.
Brooklyn you’re a slobbering dog / by Ansley Moon
kicking your paws off the grass, scraping
your ass along the pavement. Belly full
and snot-nosed. You sniff me. Always
that quiet. Gesture of hello and goodbye.
This is Dating / by Mary Stone
(a partial found poem composed from lines from OkCupid dating profiles)
I’m not quite the same person as I was before
so I’ve started this new profile.
Hedonist, I sing the fire. Or maybe it’s the body electric.
I know enough about confession to unroll my acrylic tongue and paint the space
between our mouths bruise-red, unholy.
I was one of those kids whose Mom hosed down before I could come in
from playing. Mud used to be safe.
When I want love I let my body love first, love hard.
I clean up nice. Think, paint, eat, repeat.
I love tattoos and plagiarism and finding her
on her couch at night with a guitar
and a cigarette, wearing a hangover.
A lover should be okay with sneaking cigarettes in a dive bar bathroom. With lifting her skirt.
I’d rather turn forty than understand
visit an old friend than say the “Act of Contrition.”
I don’t really like people. Eat, think, paint, repeat.
She does not walk. She hovers and trades back massages even when I interrupt her.
You should message me if you
are a country girl, are a not a telemarketer,
if you want to know more about beards
if you love to satisfy, if you live somewhere
between Arcadia and Beverly Hills,
if you are polyamorous, if you are faithful,
if you’re a super hot super wealthy nymphomaniac
- a boy can dream, a boy can dream -
if you have patience even for ghouls.
She chooses me. She chooses me and wears mismatched socks and says O God O God O God.