Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets will run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
To read more about the Tupelo Press 30/30 project, including a complete list of our wonderful volunteer poets and to read their poems, please click here.
The nine volunteers for March 2014 are T. Thibodeaux Baar, Cristina J. Baptista, Kate DeBolt, Ellen Ferguson, Bianca Lech, John C. Mannone, Naomi Tarle, Mady Thuyein, and Jennifer Yeatts. 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 email@example.com with your offer, a brief bio, and three sample poems and warm up your pen!
Day 11 / Poems 11
Power Lines / by T. Thibodeaux Baar
They bear the energy over, while
all carry on underneath—
all the moving parts, the subtle intrigues—
without the lines, no heat, no force:
(Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.)
Where does it come from, this authority? What spark
(…who made thee? Dost thou know who…)
lights, and how it ignites, like magic
…spirit and process…
(What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.)
Of magnetism, dynamism, (witchery?):
(Come live with me, and be my love)
mastery, my story, messy missing madnessy
(heaven must be missing an angel)
the lines become
masquerades, or they mask themselves so
(You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows)
or do you?
There is only one path to one place,
and it runs
beneath these (Danger!) lines.
You may read between them;
you may color inside them;
you may love in spite of them;
but you need them, and when they won’t come
you are left in the dark.
***Credit? In order, Wallace Stevens; William Blake; Don Pearce & Frank Pierson; Christopher Marlowe; (every imaginationless bar hawk, ever, and) Freddie Perren & Keni St. Lewis; Bob Dylan…
Curvatures & Pop-Up Monsters / by Cristina J. Baptista
“Funhouse country: trick mirrors and curvatures and pop-up monsters”
(Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried).
Maybe it’s because I’ve never worn a purse on the crook of my arm,
but men don’t seem to like me.
Which brings me to my next trick
of the Disappearing Woman. This sight for disbelievers
and the sore-eyed is guaranteed to put hair
on your chest and on your face and on
any place you don’t even want it.
Come all! Come one. Behold! Nothing
special but the insignificance of one accustomed to speaking
truths in a voice so loud
nobody notices. […]
Please click here to read the rest of the poem.
She is on a vehicle approaching the speed of light and takes a mind to run / by Kate DeBolt
Francis Underwood and Samuel Beckett Go to Breakfast in Dublin: A Villanelle* / by Ellen Ferguson
“They talk while I sit quietly and imagine their lightly salted faces frying in a skillet.” — Francis Underwood, House of Cards
“And yet you know our covenant: no communication of dreams on any account.” –Samuel Beckett, Mercier and Camier
Let’s sit and watch their salted faces fry
This is my town, Frank: let’s go for a stroll
That’s Leo Bloom, Sam — I don’t want to try
The actors at the Abbey are quite spry
We’ll leave the pub and get a buttered roll
Let’s sit and watch their salted faces fry
The bridge over the Liffey burst, but why?
It’s not like underneath there’s still a troll
That’s Leo Bloom, Sam – I don’t want to try
Frank, I’d never guess that you were shy
You’ve come to Ireland to eat oats in a bowl?
Let’s sit and watch their salted faces fry
Once I’d drink tea all day under that sky
But these days Dublin’s folk all play a role;
That’s Leo Bloom, Sam – I don’t want to try
“Old Ireland’s dead and gone” Yeats said, oh my
But I’ll not sit and dream; those dreams I stole
Let’s sit and watch their salted faces fry
That’s Leo Bloom, Sam – I don’t want to try
* “A French verse form consisting of five three-line stanzas and a final quatrain, with the first and third lines of the first stanza repeating alternately in the following stanzas. These two refrain lines form the final couplet in the quatrain.” — Poetry Foundation
Three Anxieties / by Bianca Lech
You mess up your elbow in Mesoamerica
and you do not speak the language.
Are you afraid of Mesoamerica or
of your elbow, of being alive or being monolingual?
You wear a red patent leather belt
to church and God thinks differently
of you. Do you question
God’s judgement or your own?
A stranger waits outside while you
negotiate with a clogged toilet.
Which stranger is more afraid of what?
If Today Were the Beginning / by John C. Mannone
It’s just another day: 3-11-14,
but the beginning of a Fibonacci
sequence, a Fibonacci date:
day, month, year leading to
decade, century, millennium,
and so on, in power of tens
through millions, billions of years,
a sequence of time, of creation,
of uncreation. A different kind
of string, a theory of the future.
Imagine this date to grow as
add two numbers to get the next:
three plus eleven equals fourteen,
3-11-14-and so on to-25-39-64-
the beauty of math-441-713-
but no need to go beyond 1154,
a golden ratio of time, spiraling,
the swirl of history, events,
ending in cosmic heat death
of the universe or in cold empty
space filled with black holes
1.154 trillion years from now.
we must survive
a galactic cluster catastrophe
in 71.3 billion years.
And before that, in 4.41 billion
years or so, our sun will shrink
when it runs out of fuel, then bloat
to a red giant as it burns helium,
as it burns our oceans. And if
we survive before then, ask
your astrologer when that
of planets, stars, and galaxies
wobbles us into sun or to freezing
loneliness that she might say happens
in 272 million years.
And before that, in 16.9 million years,
an Oört Cloud vagabond, a mountain
sized comet, might be rogueing
its way to our home. At least
the dinosaurs were too dumb
to know what hit them. What if
Betelgeuse, a supergiant red star
holds off another million years
before it supernovas?
It’s a lot closer than I like it to be,
its hot breath singeing our atmosphere.
I’m going to ignore any aliens
with malicious intent looking for
its next conquest by 6400 years
from now. I have confidence
we could zap them. But what if,
in our arrogance, we were wrong?
Sooner or later, and probably
by 39 hundred years, a gamma ray
burst is going to burn our atmosphere
a soup of noxious gas: one hell
of a nuclear winter to suffer through.
But we don’t think of such things,
after all, it will be our descendant’s
problems. I suppose
we might weather a great plague
in two hundred and fifty years.
We’ve done it so many times before,
but we better hope and pray it isn’t
a super-strain of the cold virus!
But first…first we must survive
tomorrow, for there must be wars
and rumors of war, before
the end will come
the end will come
the end will come
the end will come
The backstory of “If Today Were the Beginning”.
Author’s Prayer Revisited / by Jennifer Yeatts
…………….And of this not-so-solid ground? I’ll wade across the gleaming fields
knee-deep in white, pretend not to notice the chill seeping up
from sole to ankle, fix my squint on some dot at the horizon. Snow
…………….is nothing if not the definition of impermanence, at least here
where an hour or so of sun can morph a drift from gargantuan
to slightly-smaller-than-gargantuan. An hour between blind corners
…………….and a glimpse of front bumper to keep me from sailing through
the intersection at my own demise. An hour from glare ice
to puddles every step. And in an hour, I’ll still be trudging
…………….straight through this vastness, wetter and wetter, every drop
of sweat and snowmelt another weight to carry, another strain
to remind me that moving forward means effort, means owning
…………….burdens that are not mine. The distant spot remains the same size,
but one boot lifts, and then the other. Pass me your worry. I’ll bury
it here, come back this way tomorrow.
Day 10 / Poems 10
Intrepid / by T. Thibodeaux Baar
In front of the old b-and-b, daffodils
poke their heads through the wrought-iron fence.
When we were kids, we used to poke our heads between
fence posts, too.
What is it with kids and reaching into spaces
unknown? Even seeing beyond the pickets
didn’t disabuse us of the idea that somehow,
sticking your head through made it
different. That you could know something
with your body on one side of the balusters
and your noggin on the other side
that you couldn’t know otherwise.
And once in a while, someone would get stuck, right?
Remember that? Remember how red
that kid’s ears would get as he gave it
just one more try to get free, screwing up his face
against the rub-burn and bruising before
giving in to the inevitable?
And you know what really kills me?
How many things we did like that,
how many places we went in without looking,
or looking, but just not believing our eyes,
despite our fathers’ warnings
never to reach blindly into the hedge
where the blackberry vines grew,
where the snakes love the berries, too.
Weather of Weapons / by Cristina J. Baptista
The tongues are green and licking
far beyond their season. The bit of brown
betrays their clinging, reveals a desperation
even nature holds, in every curl and frond.
The window is in seizures, usurped by an army
of slim white figures splaying on glass, completing exercise
and rituals. No one saw it coming, although chilled breath
gilded the ear slowly the day before: denial.
The only fingers that break more than die
are all knuckles and knots. Ancestors lured the reaching of begging gods,
planting seeds here once. For generations, men reaped the benefits
before the fruit dried into hardened pits and leather,
as if something in the world is always trying
to remember and remind. When the logs
unroll from where they seem stitched together
by abandoned webs, beneath the porch, it is an omen.
A desire to tuck things away comes clean,
as snow shucks its mantle in filthy folds
and coaxes out faded leaves and nuts,
the home and hearth of squatting creatures.
Beneath grey cloak, rain fires its arrows
in mostly-straight lines, the archer
tucked behind the brightest patch
shadowing over with movement and flicker
of elbow and shoulder. The sinister look of stratus
is too much. There are spies in the world,
most of them large and, so, unseen. There are dangers
far beyond our control. Yet that never stops
anything from a distracted clutching,
like the way morning fog scrapes along the boulders
lining the trail; or the way a single bird,
crying before his hours, seems a guilty
being. Every note is a betrayal. I can never find him—
the stray warbler—but his sound is always mournful
and rattling. When I whistle back, I feel regret
that it is only I who can answer.
Ars Poetica / by Kate DeBolt
I’d love to lie
back & let the muse
do his thing,
shove himself out
until a flowering
from the wound.
I would. Instead,
today & everyday
I’m a heatseeking
body bruised red
where the flesh
meets a fact it can’t
change. I may dig
& scratch to give
my hurt a surface,
to bury my face
in a little blue
color. A girl-
doll who’s gaga
for some toy
soldier. I’m the way
rain sounds when
The wingless web
between your shoulders.
stop opposite all
the duck & weave.
There’s a place
between mute & left
unsaid, a guardrail
for striking sparks
which is where
I’ll be if you want
It isn’t that I
I just haven’t
Sestina for Wes Anderson / by Ellen Ferguson
Just returned from a brief stay at The Grand Budapest Hotel
Let’s just say it was no Moonrise Kingdom
Not sure of the difference between Tenenbaum’s elevator operator and
A Lobby Boy
But somewhere a man who knows and knows well
Plans and schemes to take over the world cake by cake
I expected Owen Wilson to serve me some cake
I thought Bill Murray might run the hotel
I don’t know the Royal Tenenbaums well
But I weep and fast at the foot of Moonrise Kingdom
In my house lives the ultimate Lobby Boy
(So my house is not really for children, and
Yet it is full of them every day and
I serve them all their hot dogs and cake).
Michael Chabon in his piece “Wes Anderson’s Worlds,” boy
He nailed it by calling them Cornell boxes. This hotel
Is the ultimate box, even more than in Kingdom
Anderson crafted a world in a box, well
Certainly deeper than any well
Wider than any church door, and
Vaster than any kingdom
And the icing on the cake
Is that once you walk into this grand old hotel
There is finally a narrator who is not cloying. This boy
Who tells the story is just the right boy
He tells it so well, not just right, truly well
You’ll think of Mohonk, or any hotel
Where stories abide; like Jack types in The Shining and
The Streetcar scene with the birthday cake
Nietzsche’s order and chaos collide in this kingdom
But you never forget that it is a true kingdom
This is not so for Jack’s labyrinth boy
Navigating that hotel is no piece of cake
It’s not that he doesn’t do it well
It’s just there’s no joy, and in And
erson’s world, there is nothing but joy, this hotel
Makes me long for boxed cake, there’s Oz in their kingdom
But less scary, this hotel makes me love this boy
Who tells his story so well, with no but, if, or and
Late Winter Limerick / by Bianca Lech
Oh why, Winter, why can’t you see
I’m eager to be rid of thee?
Your time it is come,
You dirty old bum.
Now please do start taking your leave.
Prelude to War / by John C. Mannone
I. Serene music fills the ballroom—atmosphere mischievous, naughty, faintly bucolic, a grace ruffled with offbeat accents—a farewell dance for commanding officers and their wives. Uncannily appropriate, the complement to lazy, arrogant discussion, the chatter of war by men: A major to his lieutenant, “This will be quick war. We will put those rebel-rousers in their place, send them back to the cotton fields.” Then laughter. The pretentious discussion of their politics fades to the shuffle of feet on the dance floor. Their wives, artificial debutants, equally idle in their speech—their high-pitched noise of social justice, the clinking of their tea cups.
They dance as if they’ll keep dancing the next day, there is nothing to stop them but the nuisance of battle, mere duty. And they dance the minuet, and waltz, they sway to the violins—delicate with two-part textures—that lend a chaste, yet finicky elegance.
Yet the only innocence in the room is each instrument in concert with each other—
violin, viola, cello—Beethoven’s violin concerto, Opus 18, Number 5. Notes flutter as from a bird who knows, and wants to whisper in their ears a very different story.
II. In a Virginia mansion, with its own military dignitaries who also discuss politics and war, also hold their wives tight. And outside, across the front of the house, past a few stately oaks, stands a solitary white barn. There, a young soldier and his bride. Tomorrow, he marches, also for duty and honor, no less romantic, no less adolescent as his brother wearing blue. But tonight, he holds back hard the watering of eyes, the truth of fear and that of, perhaps, not seeing her again. His blond curls yield to the soft sweep of her slow fingers as he touches her lips with his more gently than the stars can kiss the moon. There is only the haunting of a woods owl outside the window, and the breathing inside as their clothes fall to the floor; only the touch of starlight through the pane, and the softness of skin, breasts and thighs, the silk of her hair; only the scent of hay and gardenia, the breath of night, the sweet smell of sex; only love. For tomorrow’s tomorrow might not come again.
III. If only the whippoorwills could carry that tune intoned by the violins to the Union outposts, to Confederate countrysides, at least the final opus, the andante, with its series of falling and rising scales, its elaborate coda, its scintillating movement, which even the constellations hear, then perhaps Longfellow would not have had to write his poems of night, the occultation of the stars, nor war would have to come. Instead, the sun cracks the horizon and reverie announces dawn. And the cool air sizzles with bacon, steams with coffee, and soon, musket smoke.
The backstory to “Prelude to War”.
Tanka written on March 10 / by Naomi Tarle
I nest the sweaters
Tool the cuffs inside the arms
Beat out matted hearts—
No amount no position
Will save these coated corpses
Midnight in the Kitchen / by Jennifer Yeatts
Out of my sails has gone
every lick of breeze. A wind
that came my way a day ago
died just as quick: stillness,
sudden like a stroke
of smartest-idea-ever. Then,
I thought, it’s bound
to pick back up. This luck
I’ve had has carried me
over slick and gleaming ice
without the merest
wobble; so far it’s been
the perfect temp
to keep me balanced.
But now. This calm
won’t seem to end, a fortitude
of silence in the trees,
not one whisper
from the jays that every other
afternoon have jawed
their gripes to give me fuel
for all my own laments.
They, at least, complained
their way into my daily
missives. No letters left
for this one voice
before she finds her way
to bed and dreaming.
Except these few.
Day 9 / Poems 9
Better Fortune / by T. Thibodeaux Baar
It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.
Instead of spreading rumors, do something.
Happy life is just in front of you.
With green prescription lenses and a blonde wig…
You are the master of every situation.
You could walk in someone else’s shoes,
A pleasant surprise is waiting for you.
See how another half lives.
A soft voice may be awfully persuasive.
Don’t forget to leave a trail of bread crumbs.
Disbelief destroys the magic.
Live to tell your tale.
You will be blessed with longevity.
You will be blessed with empathy.
Bless the world with empathy.
Cleaving / by Cristina J. Baptista
All matters are interests I may not love, but I will cleave—
I always do—to beliefs, as I want to belong, to cleave.
“You have more eyes than stomach,” Papa insisted, at breakfast.
Even now, the words taunt and tease, they lean-in. They loom and cleave.
Sofa feet were stuck in the doorway, despite all the heaving!
So, that afternoon, we severed limbs with a screwdriver’s cleave.
What is the proper way to take wrong feelings and erase them?
When I find the answer, I will hold tight, I will clasp and cleave.
Even if you don’t know the language well, know this word: triste.
Why does sadness sound so crisp in foreign tongues, the way sounds cleave?
I took out the garden hose, which snagged on a fence-nail and tore,
through green skin, leaking its wound. You can’t teach fake bodies to cleave.
The hoarder knows just how everything will fit in space and time.
As the world topples, he lays out his tools, and begins to cleave.
The trail beyond the house is lovely-dark, pebbled and fragrant.
In the grain of trees: a thousand still lips, each trying to cleave.
How to Remember that You Are A Body / by Kate DeBolt
with the pads
of the fingers, all
ten a stack
them together. Kiss
leaf roll itself
over the knuckle.
Find a strident
world that thrums
to be touched,
will arc & arch
& spark to
kiss you back.
Let your skin
When your coat slips
the shoulder, know
that this too is
the skin’s murmur,
into the fountain
of the air.
Sestina* Approaching Essex County Airport All Morning / by Ellen Ferguson
(after Philip Levine, Poem Circling Hamtramck, Michigan All Night in Search of You)
Most moments, she is entirely, utterly alone
Particularly at moments meant to –
She watches herself float away from her three
Suspended from the ceiling for …
On the wall, the clock strikes five
She was reading the poem “Now We Are Six”
Spring is here! Outside #406!
Let’s think of happier times, at least one
Perennials show in groups of five
(How many weeks till the wedding? Two?)
Planted extravagantly, she couldn’t affor-
On the wall, the clock strikes three.
They always knew they wanted three
They are two years apart: the eldest is six
Her sister’s now four
(Level the yard! See her gardens undone.)
And he’s turning two
His birthday treasure hunt starts at five
How many candles? I don’t know, five?
The most that he can blow out will be three
The goal, of course, to
Avert bad luck. He must get them all. In the county of Essex
It matters a ton
Otherwise, what’s it all for?
It was Prospect Park where the oldest turned four
Her first backyard party was when she turned five
That may have been her Mom’s favorite one
The last combined April; Anna turning three
Russian dancers; clowns twisting balloons into sixes
And flourless chocolate cake. It’s Passover, too.
Now in his yard there’s not one bear but two
Kissing, of course – that’s what ceramic bears are for.
(How many tiers on that wedding cake, six?)
Their son’s his best man; his toast is at five
She’s in her own yard now, seeding perennials for three:
What’s done cannot be undone.
Why wait until six? Today, she’ll only plant two
Her new neighbors watch her alone. It gets cold around four.
Cocktails are at five; she’ll toast each of her three.
* “A complex French verse form, usually unrhymed, consisting of six stanzas of six lines each and a three-line envoy. The end words of the first stanza are repeated in a different order as end words in each of the subsequent five stanzas; the closing envoy contains all six words, two per line, placed in the middle and at the end of the three lines. The patterns of word repetition are as follows, with each number representing the final word of a line, and each row of numbers representing a stanza:
1 2 3 4 5 6
6 1 5 2 4 3
3 6 4 1 2 5
5 3 2 6 1 4
4 5 1 3 6 2
2 4 6 5 3 1
(6 2) (1 4) (5 3)” – Poetry Foundation
Dressmaker / by Bianca Lech
Look out the window this morning
and see that God made us naked just so
we could wear the bay full of sequins.
Sequins for the day so far into winter
we can finally see through it.
Yes, if God is all things then God
is a dressmaker and today we are
stepping into a handmade dress,
no devils in these details.
Byron’s Star / by John C. Mannone
How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
—Isaiah 14:12a (NASB)
unleashed brittle flames
from a hot tar sun,
of planets intumesced
with strands of light
tangled as seaweed—
shards of galaxies
…………….rising from depths
of an unknowable universe
where the moon revoked
the laws of physics, flung
itself to the outer reaches,
while the sun, as a drum,
snared with swish of heat;
seethed its nuclear power.
in a cosmic wind, magnetic
lines, draped with blaze,
sway to choral rhythms
pulsing with heart of sun.
And quakes inside the lofted
ball of gas, shudder orb like a
bell gonged a million times,
of a million nations
but speaking the tongues
of angels. But whose bell
does it toll?
…………….That of freedom
…………….or that of death?
The backstory to “Byron’s Star”.
Arts Poetica / by Naomi Tarle
These forms caked with flour and rimmed with salt
Flayed and dried like wooded beasts
There is no paradox of form
So these bodies lay dormant
Waiting to be extracted
Waiting to interact not as the thin patina
But as the contact itself
Less than they ought
Too stiff to open
I begin again
Madame Sosostris in Central Park / by Mady Thuyein
I met a clairvoyant in Central Park, wearing a Maharaja turban
Called her Madame Sosostris; the pythoness on her tripod, a wooden bench
She points to a sandwich board: $10 for your future; I say, $20 for my past
No need for your crystal ball, Oracle of Delphi. Tell me where it all went wrong instead.
She brews a fortune in her coffee: venti, non-fat, dolce soy skinny, 2 pumps of chai
The thing about the two of you, you see, was that you had been written of
Nabokov wrote of you, Yeats wrote of you, Baudelaire, the Romantics too
They bathed you in dulcet’s & mon coeur’s but they all wrote for your love to fail
Who are you? A soothsayer? I ask in tears & watch her unravel the turban
A tag: Zara, “Not a fortune teller, just an English major. Times are hard for us, you know?”
Author’s Prayer / by Jennifer Yeatts
To speak for the sky, I must draw
a thin line from nimbus
to stratus. One gust alone
can change my face
from picnic to disaster, so I
trace each day’s page
with a silver pen, and every letter
bleeds a trail behind. For the vast
atmospheres that keep me
from dirt and clay, I call myself
a bridge. I call myself
……………It’s not every day
we find a straight line
from green flash to civil
twilight. Not every try
will bring us back
to hard earth,
though a well-
is worth rehearsing.
To keep the ground
from rising up
to meet me: I stake
a claim in cumulous.
I lean against the firmament.
Day 8 / Poems 8
Work / by T. Thibodeaux Baar
Dress in your rattiest clothes; the porch needs work.
It’s March, and the lion is roaring now,
but the lamb days will come, and you will want
the ease of the lengthening afternoons under cover
off the ground, hanging swing rocking just a sway
to stir the breeze as you watch the sun set.
Scrape by hand the Tuscan columns’
decades of white, layer upon layer;
on their sides, the logs provide a perch.
Astraddle, you have better leverage for pressure
but you have to be mindful of gouges;
it is not a brute force job.
Eventually is time enough to be concerned
about replacing capitals,
about matching or mismatching your Tuscan
with Ionic, about finding a friend with a lathe to turn
new pedestals and necks, new plinths
and echini—about whether you will retain
all this new knowledge.
Today, just scrape, and be mindful.
Of the paint and the wood, steel,
putty, pigment like snow blowing
up off the blade as you cut through the years.
See the sun peeking through cotton-
ball clouds now and then. Sing, sometimes,
when a melody strikes you.
Stop for a memory once in a while.
Stretch your neck, when it aches,
stretch your back, when it stiffens.
Stretch your hands, when they cramp
from the grip and the pressure.
At the end of the day,
lean against the truck and let the rain fall.
Tomorrow, start again.
Rearranging Objects / by Cristina J. Baptista
In old books, sometimes, the first word or line
of each chapter blooms in CAPS, as if habit
of the typewriter to plant its feet firm,
or the writer’s own inferiority complex rousing
itself to compensate in oversized letters.
They cry from pages, like pedestrians
crossing during green lights, plunging through New York
City traffic and howling-and-fist-banging apathetic taxi-hoods
as if their drowned sounds make them tough.
These modern brutes, lycanthropes, extremists
of insanity. In Bibles, I cannot just read the swelling
progress of painted letters, but must touch
the plumage of these gaudy birds. Letters
can be loud, nasty beasts, their derision
a lasting ricochet in a wind-tunnel, a closed-can, a fused skull.
“My mind does not turn like yours.”
To my mother, my brain is an heirloom clock,
the kind with exposed gears and three slim legs
mysteriously anchoring a robust mechanism,
placed under domed glass,
Some say it works when unwatched.
Let it be, I say.
Everything deserves its moments
of pure unhinging, of unhooking, of—even when hands won’t work—
letting fly the fingers.
I tug the oriental carpet closer to the baseboard
to hoard heat and block orientation patterns
of peripatetic neighbors
who are certainly no Plato
or students of Plato. (I’d say I checked, but the sounds are a giveaway.)
The carpet keeps me hidden, too,
dulls all things in the necessity of protecting secrets.
Charades are easily executed without an audience.
When I dance, it’s on the toes of time,
splay-footed and ripe with intention.
Do nothing small, nothing safe—vaunt
and paper the world with letters.
How dare we think we have so much for which to boast,
when in reality, the machines do it all, compensating—
the lack of the mechanical switch, the instantaneous decision.
Even the desire.
Only when we expect one outcome
and get another, do we use the term
as with an unsettling feeling of turning,
to face a mirror on the wall—one hung there for years—
and finding nothing but blankness.
No trimmed face swimming in gilt.
Is this the wrong room? How long
have I been here?
Reassurance of your nothingness
and reminder of a forgetting. Earlier,
you’d taken the mirror off the wall,
claiming to repair the hook, really—
in hopes of forgetting.
Back to the book—I can’t help myself.
It’s not even the text but the inscription
that tethers me, the child I am.
Line by line, I pull through each moment
and memorize what I could not say
in order to disremember.
(Ask me later what I’ve read; conveniently,
I will forget, sparing the lie.)
Always, everything that follows the thing that glows
is a disappointment.
a betrayal as hurtful as thunder
that fails to follow lightning.
A Curtal Sonnet, for Babycat / by Kate DeBolt
(after Arielle Greenberg)
You’re the curl of the crescent moon around
a best-beloved star: you’re the blue wink
in a teacup. The far pasture, calves crowned
with daisies, the fangs of tiny rattlesnakes.
When the last light warms the rocks your stretch-purr
furs the falling sun, sleepily masking
one more grim end. You’re friend to the pink blur
in the balance of a dead day’s asking.
Climb down from your late ledges, show
us all the rightest wobble for the straight line
Ode to the Fifth Street Entrance, Prospect Park / by Ellen Ferguson
I. “Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.” – The Avett Brothers
We are born of pain, all of us
This: our legacy
For good reason we seek return
To that place we understand most
This is a 9/11 poem
This is a poem of 9/11
Sitting on the sandbox wall
Crippled by exhaustion
All movement pain
Breathing no picnic
Watching you: you are a real firefighter
And the fire pole on the Fifth Street Playground is not a metaphor
You are lifting my child
Her hair red as flame
We all claim our fifteen minutes of fame:
A pilgrimage in September is mine.
They are still looking for you
There is still hope.
I carry a pie
Desperately hang it from your door
As if to say: I was here and it mattered.
On the other side of that door
Rests a bed I slept in many times
On the counter, a blender I spun
Out the back, a blue plastic pool
Where my daughter splashed naked
Who am I?
I was your apartment sitter, Dave Fontana
Your death made you famous
Your wife blossomed into the world
I now teach her voice on the radio
Telling Ira Glass about the White House.
II. “I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain. One always finds one’s burden again.” –Albert Camus
We left Brooklyn a year earlier
Unable to climb four flights
Crippled by the rent
But you? Not only did you stay
You went back into Manhattan
Into the flames
Why do we all return
To an infinite stairwell of pain?
Is it because we recognize the climb?
Camus said Sisyphus’ burden
Is not the climb but consciousness of the task.
I disagree, Camus
Yet I will test your hypothesis:
When I fall under hypnosis Wednesday at five behind door 211
I will jettison consciousness and see:
Turning the curve of the foothpath
Pushing two children, carrying one
Through the Fifth Street Entrance
Back to the fire pole red as Waldo.
Today’s Lunch / by Bianca Lech
Today doesn’t ask me
what I want for my sandwich,
then gives me ham.
‘Yesterday was ham.’ I say
loud enough to hear. Today
says back ‘No yesterday was
Today. Today’s lunch is ham.’
Eulogy for a Dog / by John C. Mannone
Max loved to eat cat
-head biscuits at the Sweetwater
Motel where we found him. A truck
driver fed him biscuits everyday
outside his courtyard room.
My wife and I watched the dog
through the restaurant window,
his methodical search patterns
left no shrub-dirt uninspected
for food someone might have placed there.
Only a two-month old collie,
shaggy black with a white diamond
on his nose, but already showing signs
of remarkable intelligence
and survival skills. In the motel
restaurant at a nearby table,
the trucker, seeing us look
at the dog …
Please click here to read the rest of the poem.
Urbanitis / by Naomi Tarle
I arise in the morning as tightly coiled tape
As if the crisp shell of night were a spiral reel—
Heard as far off speeches—like a wisp
Of sleeping seagulls upon the roof
The beaded dew and spider’s web
The sporing column and milking tree
And softly as a fresh blade I may open to the light
Clever and proximating—the almost approaches
You are the thatch and I the thistle—
Little tacked kartush on my wrist and rind
Dear Diary / by Mady Thuyein
Dear Diary, (straight out of the neurosis of a femme)
Today was rose-gold
I ate birthday cake & watched you get a haircut in your Bastille Day sweater
In my pocket, there’s a rosebud, cigarette butt, and a mini Nietzsche finger puppet
I played with it on the 1-mile walk home, thinking of our Dionysian conversations
I like how you spell your name with one D, it’s alternative, it’s all so debonair
Sitting cross-legged (the only way I know) on a bed, pass the blanc de blancs and
Call me Lady Byron; self-proclaimed svelte in a shirt that says Babes at the Museum
Come away with me to Estotiland for a day, it’s alternative, it’s all so elegant
A Pre-Raphaelite maiden
To Remind Us / by Jennifer Yeatts
A dove is nesting
in my freezer. I hear her
from one story above,
muffled coo, the smallest
fluff of feathers nestled
near a quart of cherries.
Not what you expect
to discover on a Friday
after work: shallow breaths
of a bird in the coldest
place that’s not outside.
Impossible to say
how she survives, puffed
up amidst the jams
and sausages, the dozen
half-pints of pesto stashed
away to remind us of July
in mid-winter. Her lover
paces just along the egress
window, somehow ducked
in between banks to claim
the cave of drifted snow
that frames our house.
He pauses now and then
to glance inside, the freezer
door within his line of sight.
It’s not a witness I take
lightly. His mourning
eyes are strangely
Day 7 / Poems 7
A Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Really?! / by T. Thibodeaux Baar
For Marie Curie, Zora Neale Hurston,
Tina Fey and Mary Phelps Jacob,
we humbly thank thee; Mother,
hear our prayer.
For Dian Fossey, Dorothea Lange,
Frida Kahlo, and Adele,
we see what you did there, benevolent Ma,
and we want you to know,
For Wendy Williams, Mother,
…you really shouldn’t have.
Stilled Man / by Cristina J. Baptista
Reflecting upon the work of Harold Pinter
His skill was a pregnancy
in pauses, quiet spaces, the hollows beneath the staircases
or behind cracked walls. Wind would whisper through
the chinks, whip corners into carbuncled façades,
and still—he would absorb the hush like a stealthy
shadow climbing his body
His skill was silence, the slaying kind,
the empty throat and shackled tongue,
the final blow of what is unsaid.
Exquisite Corpse / by Kate DeBolt
(With Joelle Nivens)
Midnight hangs in the balance,
ready as I wait breathing. I do
not know what it is about you but
it does render unto Caesar the
things of Caesar was betrayed
too, as all those who love can
expect that he knows what you do.
The winds still cross at cross-
purpose. A plan, idea, dream
of the deep ocean, of lantern
fish and meat and attitude that will
not get you anywhere, and this
is the truest truth.
The girl from Ipanema sun glows
indomitable, poppy and over every
thing. I prevail, over everything. I am
sometimes left speechless and breathless
and ponder my fate has grown, a
balloon, iron balloon. Won’t ever float,
succeed one after the other, like winter
flurries sprinkling down from glory,
a descending sigh.Your name, bold
Letter to San Francisco / by Ellen Ferguson
This is that story:
I only knew one person in San Francisco
He was away for the weekend
I took one bus to the beach
Transferred on the corner, went to the corner store:
Apple juice (a sixpack) and pretzels
Got to the beach
Maybe an hour
No way home.
Spent the return bus fare
That’s right: apple juice (a sixpack) and pretzels
How to return?
Walked over to the pay phone
Quarter of a decade ago
When pay phones were a live option.
Stuck my hand in the change slot
Full of change
All the quarters
Carry me home
Day at the beach
Quarters in the slot
Who knew a miracle
Was waiting that day
The Man in the Middle of the Bay / by Bianca Lech
If you didn’t know where you were
you might look out past this morning’s
opalescent cove and wonder why
there is a man in miniature standing
in the middle of the bay
never-mind how he got there.
I was just thinking that this house reminds me
of a ship who’s given up the sea
but won’t give up looking at it.
Sometimes knowing where you are
is yours by birth, or hard work, or your hands.
I doubt that the man in the middle of the bay
is thinking romantic thoughts right now:
he’s digging in mud surrounded by ice,
alone, three winter ducks flying low by his side.
Resolutions / by John C. Mannone
This year I promise
not to promise
losing weight or
even join a spa,
buy only one pair
of shoes ‘I really need,’
to quit my cigarettes or
switch to some nicotine
or like my best friend
Jane, to see a therapist.
This year I promise
not to promise
that I won’t burn
your pictures or
wash your smirk
from my memory.
This year I promise
not to lose myself
in the shadows
of last year
or in your fading image.
The backstory to “Resolutions”.
Poem. / by Naomi Tarle
When I grow up I will be a person.
I will not be a baby shark sniffing blood.
I will know the truth of commas.
I will know that the butterfly of the same name may be peripatetically idol.
I will by all accounts be in the middle but leaning towards the other.
I will readreadreadreadreadreadreadreadreadreadreadread.
A Whole Foods In New Jersey: A Parody / by Mady Thuyein
……………..What thoughts I have of you tonight, Allen Ginsberg, for
I found you talking Moloch by the tofurky, kale, and quinoa bread
Intercom: Literary genius in aisle 7, literary genius in aisle 7
……………..I saw you, Allen Ginsberg, in the chrysalis of dissent, a left-leaning daemon
Raving about the Cold Warriors, the McCarthyites, the fellaheen in the produce section
As the gray businessmen bought local meats for tomorrow night’s nuclear family
……………..I followed you to the mental institution where Carl Solomon extended a hand
“I’m Kirolov”, “I’m Myshkin”, and here we are, the New York State psychiatric pagans
……………..Where are we going, Allen Ginsberg? Which way do your horn-rimmed
spectacles point tonight? Will we walk all night through the negro streets?
……………..(I touch your poems and dream of our crusade of negligent coasting, bebop, and
……………..Allen Ginsberg, what bourgeois Americana did you have when Cassady’s savage
driving sprees sired & you had a vision of Blake’s Canaanite fire god & remembered
childhood Communist meetings?
What I Mean When I Say California / by Jennifer Yeatts
His hands an echo of my father’s. His uninterruptable focus
as he sketched at the table nearest the door, until I approached
with my mother on my arm. I spoke his name to her,
her kind, pale eyes smiling, not betraying
her approval or anything else. Rough, calloused palms, large enough
to cover my whole face, to curve my soft waist so easily, as though
it were nothing but distraction, convenient detour
to keep him out of those dark alleys for a night or two. He left
three tulips tucked into the iron slats of my locked
gate. Wilted in a moment.
Day 6 / Poems 6
Ghazal for a Friend / by T. Thibodeaux Baar
Let’s solve our spats with kite races, anger strangling in the strings.
Let’s transpose them to peace in songs with Django on the strings.
Let’s herd our ducks with guitar music, feed them by the lake.
They’ll be our swing ambassadors; we’ll tango to the strings.
Let’s reconcile our catastrophic chords toward harmony.
The dog gods sing the rapprochement that’s dangled in the strings.
Let’s rendezvous at Libido Café, toast to our wild oats.
Let’s celebrate wild horses, blissful stabled in the strings.
Let’s spin our webs in verse like spiders spinning out the fates.
I see a blessing woven there, entangled in the strings.
Hesitating Fractions / by Cristina J. Baptista
Bravery is mysterious as a penny in the hull,
like the first man volunteering to try out
the modern bulletproof vest. Something rattles in the ribs,
in the belly. W. H. Murphy held out
hope like casually draping laundry on a line,
expecting to take it down later. Less than ten feet away,
a gun could have done anything
in September 1923.
He may have thought,
do what you do with grace and form—people are watching!
Just don’t expect anyone to remember.
Everyone, as it would turn out, also forgot Fred Noonan.
Filippo Negroli tried it first, in 1538. Of course,
nothing is a new idea, although we often pretend to not see,
more dazzled by damascening, forgetting its practicality.
Even now, a Western comes on and people watch
because it’s John Wayne whose name is billed,
who plays the star-packer, who puffs an impressive chest
and makes an impressive chase—but I can’t help it.
I spy Yakima Canutt and won’t pretend no one can tell it’s him.
Nerve means never unraveling,
a cloth caught on a loosened nail that has to tug out
instead of gently let things go. Pluck, audacity—
a determined sense of knowing no one will know.
In Washington D.C., it wasn’t Murphy who kept the slug,
nor the vest—having swallowed it. Deputy Sheriff
Charles W. Smith was given the bullet as a souvenir,
though it was Murphy who took the risk,
who “never batted an eye,” as witnesses claimed. Eleven pounds
of protective wear and a bullet tucked close to his mortality,
and he was left as he had begun: with nothing
but oppressed shaking and his life. But both men
must have been hesitating fractions surveying infinity.
They must have listened for that moment, as before the match strikes
a wick; and the wick, dry as Adam’s skin,
thirsts for a single touch to be alive.
it must come naturally slow,
like the perfect skin of ice healing itself
after the cutter has trampled and charged.
Inspired by Emily Dickinson’s Poem #642, photography archives, Westerns, and history.
Lullaby / by Kate DeBolt
Let sleep slip
a hand beneath
Let forest floors
in foreign lands
sigh & settle
curl into its
the sweet snug
of its three
hearts. There is
there a ribbon
of good road.
is your face
on the pillow
a ward against
Ithaca / by Ellen Ferguson
A photo or two remains:
Girl in sequins
Boy in a tux
After the fire this fall, I gave away the sequins
To Carla: she is young.
Carla and the sequins leave my house; I think these things:
Colette, in Chèri, wrote pearls are for women
Whose neck will season them
So too sequins, for one whose neck will shimmer
Sequins floating down Cedar Street
Lift present debris, desiderata of fire and snow.
Come Ithaca, it will all be washed new
If anyone can get there again.
Bed and breakfast
A photo or two remains:
Woman on her wedding night
“yes I said yes I will yes” says the shirt
To the sweeping porch and stair
Stare at the middle of Buttermilk Falls
Count to thirty
Turn to the wall and watch the wall move
Faster than buttermilk
Slower than a Bloody Mary at the Glenwood Pines
“Time,” my father sighed, “you old Gypsy man.”
Untitled / by Bianca Lech
When the public learned there was a chess master
Inside the machine
Everyone started taking down their houses.
Depending on which form it chooses,
The hermit crab might not exist at all.
The other day I saw the sea ice just forming–
I knew then the ancient technique
Of casting sheer fabrics to expose ghosts.
Hitchhiking / by John C. Mannone
Guys will do anything
for a beautiful girl,
even hitchhike two
and a half hours each way
just to hold her hand
in a movie where her father
had driven us to.
Hardly watched the movie.
Blame it on the spell of her
perfume, sweet caresses
of her lips. I always
had a weakness
for auburn hair.
But way too soon,
the movie was over
and I’d have to hitchhike back.
I’d talk about my Maureen
to every kind driver,
my ear-to-ear smiles
and adrenaline surging
with the other hormones.
I’d wear a Navy Pea Coat
I bought from a Sunny Surplus.
It helped me flag rides
but impersonating a sailor,
and conjuring stories,
exposed me to a real sailor
who stopped to give me a ride.
Later, I learned not to spin too many
lies, they’d hang like loose threads
on my coat. Eventually, her father
told me to get a car or don’t come back.
That wouldn’t happen for some time.
But when one Maureen says goodbye
another is just around the corner.
I was at Woodstock when the Chevy
pulled up on the grass. She stepped out,
slimmed into tight jeans
and waist-long auburn hair
sacheting the air with lavender.
Her name was Maureen,
she thumbed a ride from Orlando…
I brought her home. I never knew
it would be such a wild ride.
A few years later, I hitched
unto a Destroyer. Got a better Pea Coat
out of the deal—no dangling threads,
just an occasional strand
from her tress when I was home
Thirty years later, she lost
all her hair, her pretty red hair
…before she left me.
Now, I look out the window
and every time I see a hitchhiker,
even fifty years after that first kiss,
I wonder if he is going to meet
his Maureen, his long-distance date.
Today, who would be so kind as to give
him a ride? Who would stop, and not
have ne’er-do-well thoughts?
I still hitchhike
in my mind on a friendlier
highway, my thumb barely lifted
above the gurney, waiting
for that angel to pick me up,
to take me to her.
The backstory to “Hitchhiking”.
Poem written on March 6, 2014 / by Naomi Tarle
After the rain is never enough
A bloated turtle sags into a death float
And as promised no music and never silent
Don’t Marry a Poet / by Mady Thuyein
Disclaimer: this poem was written with a feathered quill
Never marry a poet
In the morning, she’ll fall into a heap of tulle & histrionics on the floor
Never marry a poet
As much as he dotes on you, he’ll always adore Anne Sexton more
Never marry a poet
Many mimosas later, he’ll tell you the importance of Rilke & bottomless brunch
But if you do marry a poet
In the afternoon, she’ll buy you little violet potatoes & velveteen for lunch
But if you do marry a poet
As much as he dotes on you, he’ll always love the blackberry stained world more
But if you do marry a poet
Many mimosas later, she’ll disappear with nothing but a bouquet of mimosas on the floor
Yesterday in Chicago / by Jennifer Yeatts
When you miss a friend it’s a blister,
tender pulse, rubbed awry by friction
or the deepest parts of memory.
Nostalgia tangle. This loop winds round
and round, some days a quiet murmur.
Triggers: pork belly. Opulent lobbies.
Michigan Avenue in the rain,
ducking under storefront eaves, the occasional
browse. A panel session we forewent
for dinner number two. What kind of tree
was in the painting of the whooping crane?
Snap your fingers. Someday it could all come back.
Day 5 / Poems 5
Golden / by T. Thibodeaux Baar
As the arrow flies, one day may as well be another, or,
as Janis Joplin famously said,
It’s all the same fucking day, man.
Quiver that: As the crow flies,
the vantage is much better, and fields
with fences turn to calendars—days into
haystacks, weeks into rows of corn.
You could put up a murder of relish.
Hush. As the Monarch flies, all the days
spread out like spilled honey,
glowing and sweet, creeping slow
and sticking to your wings.
If you got it today, you don’t wear it tomorrow, man.
Soldering / by Cristina J. Baptista
When apocrypha beckons, I run—
making no move to correct words or facts,
history or language, sign or faces—I become all-
open, all-knowing, all-willing-to-receive and to-be-taken
anywhere, even buried beneath too many ellipses and the skipped
stones of semi-colons.
When did it come to this—seeing parentheses,
thinking of rib bones and the heaving beneath cloud-covers one jagged
night of fusion, of steam and breath?
That moment is as piercing as the stained-glass window over the back pew
in an old church—all cobalt and navy, split by a fusing seam
of molten solder. “Confusion” is just a fear of mingling together,
not understanding. A nameless chipped-faced saint, splitting at the joints? A little parsing
never hurt anyone, trying to cling in half-explanations like metaphors:
we never fail to be searchers in a desperate place where, because everything
means something, nothing means anything. Everywhere anyone looks
holds clue & answer, crook & anchor. But we do scarcely know the right questions,
like children grown too fast—splitting like bean pods A thumb’s gentle nudging
sets so much in motion. To think: once, all it took was breath, a little clay,
a patience long-coming. The only records
were the lines on a face, illegible by the end. Sometimes,
people look as if a little smudging would do them good. Funny
how a huff of heat can turn so many things
loose. Bracketed, then unhinged—reckless.
On Viewing Previously Unphotographed Ocean Life in the New Hebrides Trench / by Kate DeBolt
Chopin pours the stretch of your long-unloved body,
how it brims & lips & mouths at the length of you.
There is no inner sea it touches: you are simply
bathed. A parched thing wriggling for a sweeter view,
tonguing the crest of wave after wave. Some
depth off the coast of Vanuatu churns & teems,
rocked asleep in the great threshing. One
prawn like a firebell strokes the keys of its feast,
a little whiskered mote. Deep dreams. Your own
lids close, all fell & merry where you’ve no claim
on the shell of flesh that surrounds. The muttering bone.
They say God’s love sounds these deeps too, a flame
that doesn’t hurry. But what can love do other than turn
the mud over? Buried, burrowed in my center, something
freezes & burns.
Austin is a Young City / by Ellen Ferguson
“I love you even more than I love Texas.” – Slaid Cleaves
Austin, Texas and Athens, Georgia:
Two small music capitols
One eclipsing the other
Each leap year or so
Fly your flag high, Austin
Though Athens has got you now
Parading for Maurice Sendak
Rolling in red dirt and clay
Athens, if I love you more than Texas
You are younger
And we all know a good swap
When we see one.
Notes on ‘Messy Lunch’ / by Bianca Lech
Hey, let’s meet up unconscious:
You know, it’s like a ‘when I dream you
do you dream me back?’ sort of thing.
Do you know anyone unedited?:
Not sure if it’s possible so I’m asking around.
Do you mean snapchat?:
Confusion as to why the universe is passing the baton to teenagers.
I’ll bring my ulu
and listen to you pluck at your attachments:
Women have been doing this for centuries.
We know next to nothing
about the inner lives of insects
but if we look around
it seems they always have the upper hand:
You are being asked to examine
your levels of denial.
I’m pretty sure, with practice,
I can levitate:
Hard work rewards those who believe
that hard work rewards them.
I’ll have to finish this not
in the sunshine but over the sink:
Just trying to keep my shirt clean.
Fire Polished / by John C. Mannone
On my knees at the base of an altar,
with my face cradled in the dark
of my hands, and my eyes stinging
with salt, I convulse in prayer. Shame
batters the ramparts of my heart.
The only thunder rumbling in the dark
clouds is my voice, yet lightning
blinds my already closed eyes
in the storm raging inside me.
Flames flicker scarlet with shards
of gold and intensify the piercing
of the darkness until their light
reveal shadow, a shadow crowned,
stretched across the beams cloaked
with blaze. Warmth. My face softens
the despair. I transfigure, fire polished.
In quiet pain, I understand the silhouette
as it beckons me to look below
to a pile of ash at the foot of its cross.
And the ashes shall be taken away
from the altar and spread on a purple cloth.
The backstory to “Fire Polished”.
Yet untitled / by Naomi Tarle
in the blue glass of dawn
through countless feral fields
where the water holds its fire
………………….a city of sparrows and crows and blue jays and tan doves
……………………………………………………………and all the horrors of a life fulfilled
Persephone In the Subway / by Mady Thuyein
Persephone is on her phone; dialing, re-dialing the claret colored seeds
The line drops, in Williamsburg.
Persephone, call your mother; tell her it’s awfully cold here this winter
She won’t pick up, not at her harvest, the Eleusinian mystery.
Persephone, you met him at the Underworld: a basement show
Said, “You look rad, lady. I’m in a band called Verlaine & Rimbaud”
Hades, he wore Birkenstocks and brewed pomegranate cosmos in your mason jars
Two drinks? No, one. One and I was stuck.
Persephone, now you spend 1/3 of your days crying in his East Village loft
I fell for the bohemian pilgrimage, his troubadour guitar, for the bête-noire.
Persephone, call your father then; tell him the world is fucked up
Once upon a goddess, tell me. Is love really enough?
Below Zero Today / by Jennifer Yeatts
after Lisa Olstein
Direction: not so clear. Think she said right
at the red-roofed copy shop, slight curve
along the river, watch for potholes as you merge
onto the one-way called Carradine, though there’s no sign.
Could have been Aubergine, but that’s an eggplant
and she wasn’t talking vegetables. Distraction
by way of dinner plans means I wrong-turned,
lost track of flashing yellows, dead-ended on gravel.
Direction: sense of knowing how to find one’s way
without being told.
Direction: a movie star can lean the perfect angle,
tell us what he means without a word. The one
in charge can point or nod to mark a shift in tone.
If only attitude adjustments came so easily in real life.
Direction: I finally find the avenue, but I’m facing the wrong way.
Direction: north. South will only make you stickier
and stickier, feed you barbecue, speak more slowly
than you’re used to, tuck you in each night with whiskey
and the warmest kiss. I take it back. Go south.
Direction: authoritative order or command. My friend
is living in Ukraine, which pulses loud against a red
and heavy hand. The embassy is the least
safe place for him to go, and so he sinks
into the edges of foreground, out of the battle, but barely.
Direction: go home. No—stay there. No—stay here.
Direction: the point towards which I move or face. The way I lean. My purpose,
which may or may not be evident from the movement of trees, trembling
under the persistence of snow. The oak pauses, considers, holds on to a single leaf.
Day 4 / Poems 4
Rovinj / by T. Thibodeaux Baar
for the summer-lovers
Stay with me now.
Imagine a set of stairs, in a warm seaside town
in summer. They are stone steps made dark by a roof
shared between the buildings on either side.
The cold you perceive is the welcome relief
of that shade. No more, no less.
I am going to count backwards from eight.
Eight. Look down to the water below you, and the blazing day.
It seems far, but it isn’t.
Know that your feet will land on solid ground when you step.
Seven. See the open boat, gently swaying on the surface. Maybe
your lover is there. She calls out to you. Her voice
is sweet and faint, like perfume on the wind.
Six. Linger on this moment. Remember mayflies.
Five. Halfway down, you can see below the arched stone overhead.
Beyond the boat, beyond the bay, beyond…
Four. Between you and the sun are only three steps. Choose.
Three. You hear the tiny swells lapping at the foot of the wall.
What does the water want? Nothing.
What does the wall want? Nothing.
Two. In another moment, you will wade in the Adriatic. You will reach out
for your lover’s hand, step into the boat, take the sun, take an oar.
Collateral / by Cristina J. Baptista
Every cracking, I hear deep
like bone breaking—but a small
bone: metacarpal, a pinch in the thalamus.
The stapes itself crushed under echo
of empty wonder and sliver of silence
that trickles downstairs. Upstairs,
it is ten degrees warmer, and blankets
slacken and slump to knees and tease a tibia
while I brush lint that isn’t there.
[Motions are what we do when no one is looking;
we test ourselves, feel for live-wire nerve buzzing
in subtle pausing pulses. Try sneezing without blinking; blowing out candles
while crying. You can’t. Keep trying—keep trying to prove
you’re still there.]
I lie down, wait for nothing, fold
reckless fingers beneath my head as if preparing to stare
the sky in the face. The ceiling—invisible
in an ashy cloak—shudders in wind
and storm and pains
of indifferent weather; I creak, too, although
the roughness of years has only nibbled
in a few crude places.
My ilium feels well-traveled—sounds like a foreign place.
[Motions are more often memories of doing something,
or being somewhere. The French know it better
than anyone—gave it a name. Dépaysement. It sounds
like a disease that could grip anyone at any time,
a homesickness for a place only imagined as home.]
I am not any age. I am beyond
all that, but too young to truly understand
questions I am meant to ask. These questions
are not for the taking, or the making,
but for the answering. Each night is the same,
with the yawning of mouths and beams,
the smothered cracks,
popping mandibles chewing staleness,
the calls into dull-thumping halls taken
[motions mistaken, that is—shadows interfere
at every corner because I have too many sticks of furniture
too many bones in this house to rattle, thrusting brutishly
with oversized supports like swollen sternums
and buttressing clavicles curving into the walls]
with false light and hope. I amble into the bathroom
and stare at the light-blue-veined face so
limp in this dim. Slack. The shower curtain
behind me is an oversized Blue Willow
plate, one of Gramma’s, in white and cobalt flowers. I mesmerize
myself right back to sleep, in a foreign bed with white rails—
still standing. It’s the same—bone
china and a little skin of paint to cover the war. The same
as it’s always been, all these years.
[Motions are anchored in the end; a pair of collateral ligaments
keeps each knee from moving too far,
side-to-side. We are not, therefore, meant to break;
we are meant to sway like palms or hammocks—hammocks
between metacarpals. Always, everything returns to the palm of a hand.]
Overheard #1 / by Kate DeBolt
When you close your eyes,
………..how do you know where you are?
It’s not so easy.
Anna Manhattan / by Ellen Ferguson
Before the party on Park Avenue
I bought a tiny little dress
Black and white
It was like fitting in a prism
Not the tallest of men,
At the time you sported a cane
Read your biography
You started as a waiter
And now run a mysterious lab
In addition to being French.
I will keep you
In my imagination
Where you all end up
Eventually, I helped to create life
We thought to name her Anna Manhattan.
Wish we stole that name
From the family that had it first
Wish I stole you
From the woman who had you next.
Manhattan: better than words or people
Messy Lunch / by Bianca Lech
Hey, let’s meet up unconscious.
Do you know anyone unedited?
Do you mean snapchat?
I’ll bring my ulu
and listen to you pluck at your attachments.
We know next to nothing
about the inner lives of insects
but if you look around
it seems they always have the upper hand.
I’m pretty sure, with practice,
I can levitate.
I’ll have to finish this not
in the sunshine but over the sink.
On Hearing / by John C. Mannone
On the way to the doctor’s,
I hear the loud rush of blood
through my ears, and the flex
of capillaries thin as whiskers,
all pulsing under pressure. I hear
the surge, the high frequency
whoosh of static, the rising noise
out of nothing. Sense the onset
of vertigo, its vortex of confusion,
but it doesn’t come. The sound
of cars drowning out, but I’m
deafened by that peculiar sound
of my thoughts… I hear only
At the doctor’s office,
the audiologist listens to me.
She closets me in a small room,
an anechoic chamber, headset
pressing ears and head. Softly,
she speaks from another room
mouthing words for me to repeat.
I say ‘Yes’ when I hear the beeps
pulse my ears: pitch & intensity changing.
Then again, transducing through bones
in my skull. She looks into my eyes
as she maneuvers my head in her hands
the way Epley taught her. Finds all
the little crystals in my ear—the otoliths—
in their rightful places.
The Ear, Nose and Throat doctor
listens to me, too, looks into my ears:
they’re good, no fluid, not like before.
But my imbalance in hearing confirms
acoustic trauma to my left ear. Perhaps
a different kind of subluxation, a word
I had to look up. I’m still confused.
Before last month, before the violation
To my ears at a nightclub in Knoxville,
the beating of drums in my ears, the crash
and clash of brass—symbol and horn—
amplified noise way over 100 dB
might be a wake-up call:
tumors announcing themselves.
Going home, I’m thinking about
an MRI that should be scheduled
and about the fear that doesn’t fade
The backstory to “On Hearing”.
//—Scape / by Naomi Tarle
band the angles:
a troop of faint rats
circle the blocks
again the rise and fall
the building(s) deep trachea
this is always the one spoken of
remember that the city is real
like cupped eyes
the deficit is plain
the life the stock—
………………………………..of so many revolutions
Rose Hobart / by Mady Thuyein
The New York City wine club meeting, in the terra incognita boulangerie,
Crème Yvette flagons, Byzantium cassis, the parma violets sing,
Hey dreamboat, wanna go fishing?
I miss you sometimes, on Saturnalia nights, in the memories of
…………You, a true yachtsman of this Sargasso Sea
…………Sailing your flowerets to the Garden of Hesperides
…………Where you read surrealist astronomy journals by day,
…………Kept dossiers on a star by night,
…………You named her Rose Hobart,
Hello, this was us, do you remember?
The plumassiers made us from an aigrette & we, the flaneurs, watched ourselves
Through the window of the boulangerie, the New York City wine club meeting,
I’m sorry, darling, for everything that will happen
And when we grow up, we’ll meet again
But tomorrow, dreamboat, we’ll go fishing in the Crème Yvette rivers
Maybe you’ll catch a wild strawberry carrying a lover letter or two
P.S. I hope you do
Demolition / by Jennifer Yeatts
With every pry and tug I breathe more fully,
lungs open to new possibility
that until now has hidden less than one
inch down. No longer every speck and crumb
in the foreground. No longer slip and glide
beneath my stockinged feet. When it’s done we’ll
have a universe devoid of false wood
grain, trade it in for something scarred and old
like the barn out there on the outskirts. I’d
rather see a snowstorm than a wall
while drinking coffee. Rather splintered
toes than the tired hue of a winter
wheatfield underfoot. Give me ancient steps.
Give me an ancestor’s floor to collect
the spills, furrows carved from years of pacing
between tasks. This domestic queen will trace
them daily too, once all this dust is whisked
away and normalcy returns to fix
us calm. We’ll sit right here, quiet, wonder
at what’s gone, where next to swing the hammer.
Day 3 / Poems 3
Sometimes the Ghosts / by T. Thibodeaux Baar
Sometimes the ghosts, finding it is spring again,
take to the street, strolling through the lamplit dusk
to the old magnolia park. They sit on benches they don’t remember
being there, they linger on the bridges over the creek.
They wonder aloud about the bicycles ticking past,
scandalously-clad runners on the path,
people picking up after their poodles;
and their murmurs stir the blossoms,
scenting the air.
Sometimes the ghosts frolic so splashing
in the Neptune pool that the smell
of summer meanders up the hill.
Sometimes once the sun fades, the ghosts make light
in the windows where no light has burned for decades.
And the glow is warm, and there is almost an audible
tinkling of laughter, a shade of melody,
Sometimes the ghosts catch a glimpse of fire out the fifth floor windows.
But that is only the blaze
Of October’s splendor on the hillside
Across the avenue.
And the dancing resumes.
Sometimes the ghosts sit so thick
at this cafe table that our conversation cannot be
private. Our now is infused with the past
Magnolia fragrance and October senescence.
And when we walk away we feel relieved
but we are not really alone.
Composed While Listening to “Moonlight Sonata” / by Cristina J. Baptista
Linger in the sound of bending fronds—
they curve their necks like swans kissing every eddy.
Formless grace, if there is such a thing, must hurt
to fold the arms into a sleeve, or wedge hand into pocket
without clumsy, oafish endeavors.
I wish upon stars when it is not my birthday,
hoping for an excuse to explain why dreams never come
true. The treachery is one self-taught and ageless,
birthed in foul mornings when dust clutters sleepy blinds
I never feel fit to open.
The petals of the unnamed green plant are only half-concealed
among tinted green-grey-red leaves, either tunneling or cocooning—
or maybe they haven’t decided yet
if they are hiding out or hiding in or escaping into something worse
than what’s outside the sink rim or windowsill.
That’s where the real action is
resting like a spoon on the curved trim around the neck of the faucet—
turn any handle and watch it drop with hackneyed clatter.
And leave behind the intriguing specimens of nature for another day
and content yourself to the breakfast objects that never talk back
or leave you disinterested because there was no interest to begin with.
In the hollow of your ears is the throbbing waltz from the honeymoon
you never had or said you wanted, even though you did. The single form
of everything gets to you—the swan, the hand with no other to hold, the one unfurled
bud of the nameless plant that beckons, listens, weeps
its unthreatening tears of shed leaves. The single spoon perched like silver dove
or tongue forming the curved words, smooth, infrangible
unless stroked by light and the memory of another’s fingers,
the one who touched the pool, made eddies, and laid his neck to rest in your hands.
The spoon is left alone because never used,
the plant unnamed because unidentified, leaving only—like green-grey-red finger-
prints—nestled tiers of petals on the counter.
History / by Kate DeBolt
(after Robert Lowell)
History has to live with who we were.
…………..It must collapse our manifold loves
until the light smears – a spot on
…………..the lens where the stars wheel & shimmy.
It is so dull & gruesome how we die,
…………..unfinished, unremote. Bare-knuckled
belly-up, with the belly for it. The old blues
…………..of new machines. The flash doesn’t settle.
Our Bibles spoke of Lazarus, white-faced,
…………..predatory, a changed man & mouth open.
A hunter for stolen hours. The moon ascends
…………..with its child’s face: two wholes & one non
nose. A father, a mother, a mirror.
…………..O we are terrified, silvery, savage,
wrapped up in all this dying like babes.
winter morning multiverse / by Bianca Lech
a crow flies into one day
out of another
the owl turns his eyes
the other way just because
we don’t see it doesn’t mean
it isn’t there
A Relatively True Account of Talking to My Son From Fire Island / by Ellen Ferguson
I called my son on the last night
When I couldn’t watch the sun set with you
Because your interest waned: spoiler alert
Usually you insisted on ice cream first
Because that was the way it was done
But on the last night
You did not want any
“My child,” I said
“I am coming home from Fire Island.”
“Okay,” he said.
On the first night, you recognized our waiter,
While the sun set over your shoulder.
This was unusual, because people from our neighborhood
Did not go to Fire Island much.
On the second night, you surprised me
With a ferry ride to another shore
Where the best sunset could be seen
From our table. You made a joke
That was actually funny, like the one you made
In the Hamptons
At the end of everything.
Beaches brought out your hidden humor.
Maybe we should have just stayed on the beach,
Maybe you would not have lost interest
Even in grazing my knee during movies.
When I wrote my dissertation on Frank O’Hara
When I taught Mayakovsky to the youth of New Jersey
No one said this:
Listen while men
Talk to the sun
Because soon, they will tire of talking, even to a ball of fire.
So what more can you expect
When you are not exactly
A ball of fire?
The Art of Lying / by John C. Mannone
Start with the right facial expression.
Press your lips, try not to twist them
into frowns. Smile, even though the eyes
betray you. A trifle depressing
…………but staple your mouth shut
…………pledge to remain silent
don’t give temper a voice. Stare vacant—
the whole truth must remain absent.
Let your body lie for you: doff the dust off
your feet and move on, don’t balk.
The backstory to “The Art of Lying”.
5 Haikus made of overheard conversations… / by Naomi Tarle
Surprise on purpose
Dropped the molasses—Aisle
Bitches are bitches
They heard me singing
So lonely in here—Never
Better in the lounge
May I borrow a squeegee
This one has five splits
Are you eating this
Sometimes you do sometimes you
Don’t—touch the good stuff
I’m sorry with pulp
Too late so that’s how I roll
Phantom Cigarette / by Mady Thuyein
Phantom cigarette [fan-tuh m sig-uh-ret]
All life beings with a—
…………Do you smoke?”
All life ends with a—
………….“Your little soufflé”,
Meet me by way of the carousel on a French cartoon afternoon
You— the Parisian dandy and I— his lady of the 1930s rosewater island carnival
When you are an empty pack of Camels,
A picket fence staked into America’s exhausted concrete,
Meet me at 1117 Washington Street where our lavender brownstone stands like a minaret
Summoning the religious inside the both of us when we believed in nothing except the Socratic cinders of Russian Sobranies & love letters addressed to dead writers
Will they write back?
An elixir of time travel & tea party repartee will tell you what the clairvoyants can’t— Notice the caryatid, gleaming alabaster, in your bedroom
A lampshade raconteur crafting tales of crestfallen knights, their painted ladies,
Lilac petal vessels meandering the raspberry vodka sea
Your eyes are carnelian jazz bar lanterns in Kyoto,
Your inkwells are champagne flutes you drink from with a cigarette case decorum
Perfected in the élan of all the roaring centuries you belonged to, but not this one
Your words, jewels— you, a lapidary stringing together a necklace
With pearls of eloquent’s and a talisman of intangible’s
I fastened the clasp around my neck, locating the blue of your shirt when you bended the crystal cul-de-sacs
(Beirut sky, Turkish waters, the ever-reliable Robin’s Egg, to no avail)
Meet me where I was taken by a fundamental question of your own making,
“Do you believe in randomly expanding boundaries?”
Taken inside the museum where the Romantics carried us on palanquins made of imperial eggs,
cue a half-glance,
a nod from a dying Keats,
a shatter of the Baroque parapets,
What is art for in the daytime? For existential rumination, pedantic conversation
What is art for in the night? For covert operation, a Magritte expedition
“You have the kind of body artists paint. You were Picasso’s wife, his mistress.”
For you, I was a cabinet of curiosities but I have become as transparent as the vitrines encasing your heart beside—
Byzantine mosaics, Jacobean portraits, the queen’s scalloped minaudieres
Everything came to you in ennui but not the astronomers pouring claret for their cosmic cavalries, not your wooden globe fixtures, not the—
“Fireflies. I swatted them as a child.
They looked like shooting stars when they fell to their deaths.”
What is affection if not past our oblong companion in the sky,
To boundless galaxies, beyond Immanuel Kant’s empirical space?
Meet me in the throes of foreign affairs and black market cabarets
In the filigreed pavilion, a black and white Berlin through Bryant Park
All flowers look like roses when picked in the dark
Dream in Which the Tiles Fall Off One by One / by Jennifer Yeatts
The wind scrapes harder now.
No interrupting murmur of color,
no edge-by-vibrant-edge to steal
a knot from its force, not one single junction
to suggest that things come together—are forced
to intersect—even against will. Against
intention except that of the one whose hands
are there to wield the glue.
I knelt collecting shards, gloveless
hands trembling numb, and felt a gaze
upon my back from across the street.
A neighbor, the tallest one, and old, labored
against the shovel. As I turned, he paused
at the center of his driveway, caught
my stare, willed me still. A beam of sorrow
passed between us. How could he know
the glue was on my hands.
Day 2 / Poems 2
The New Old World / by Cristina J. Baptista
I am reassured by the look of maps,
by the heft and hulk, the tattered corners
of an oversized atlas. Here is permanence
in vibrant ink, allowances
that we flow and throb in reality,
to make these charts.
Skins and hides, and musty-leather-bound,
looped in straps; stitched, or laced with glue—
something is always holding
the world together. There is a secret webbing, a rigging,
that ensures nothing lays flat for long.
The older they are, the more they wound—
immortalizing mistakes of men thought gods
who could conquer a world one knot, one plate,
one sack of spice at a time. Each map is the footprint
of feet peripatetic, grinding oakum further into salted boards.
How comforting, too, weight of a compass, the turning of the slowly-
arcing body to check the accuracy. A hand at the eyes,
shielding sunlight and spray. I, too, keep awake
at night, beneath navy covers, learning
to navigate like my ancestors
before they abandoned Columbus
and let the Spaniards take the credit. A foolish
reaction but how could they know? One day,
the blood of men would be burrowed and buried
deep in unsettling lands, but the lines and ridges,
the blues and browns, the greens
of a new dream, fragrant and far-off
would remain to scar the land, scatter
the ash and arsenic where earth and water kiss.
It was a different place there, but always, we–
dots on a chart uncharted–were in its bones.
A Love Poem in Winter / by Kate DeBolt
Since we met I’ve been ready
for the moment I’d lose you,
like the soft earth hoards sunlight
during shrinking days. Some nights
in early May the streetlights wear
blossoms, & bend down benevolent
to watch a body walk away. You
are like that: the glove my body
feels it fits in this best dress’s
builders’ hands. You are a mouthful
of blueberries in our little kitchen,
the just-uncovered sun like furtive
honey. You are the blest beloved
magic hour that settles on Manhattan,
the light in which each thing looks
its best. I’m so sorry. I’ve made you
believe I am just a maple’s red
protest, but really I am the wind
that rattles those trees’ femurs in
dead February. Where you see loam
for planting, I am sown over with
gravel, brilliant ancient light
from the corpses of stars. Not
the diamond’s flash, but the hole
in the earth that housed it, & I am
trying not to love you like a shadow
eats a flame.
Bangkok, It’s / by Ellen Ferguson
Certainly not where I live.
Apparently where you live.
Fine. Even lovely.
Often I say, “you need to hit me over the head for me to see anything, preferably with a frying pan.”
Dogs everywhere, resting at the foot of shrines
Baskets to offer filled with bathroom tissue, Nescafé, and respect
Pomelo dipped in salt, sugar and red pepper.
Boys playing volleyball with their feet.
Expats at the blues bar.
Young women. Young, young, young, young women.
People who do not remind me of you
True: they are you now
The Pilgrims Had Something To Do With It / by Bianca Lech
In the rush to board their God-Ship
they didn’t think to bring a doctor.
We still make the same mistakes:
Think about the overly-tanned lady
at the airport, gurgling expletives under her breath
because she cannot board the airplane first.
All I’m saying is we live in a world
where only a handful of people
can ride first class, regardless of their beliefs.
Life is violent at any level, it just so happens
that this is New England and the Pilgrims
didn’t do their research.
Take 100 white people and send them to Cape Cod
with only One Book
and they still will not know how to fish.
The internet can make anyone seem like a pea-brain,
but is it bravery or cowardice to destroy
what threatens you? ‘If only my hands
would warm up I could touch you’ is a wish
no Pilgrim dared utter.
A Self Portrait / by John C. Mannone
On the back of a Native American painting
in the Koshare Indian Museum, La Junta, CO
I saw myself
I saw myself singing
I saw myself living
I saw myself happy
—Taos after Kause
What is there to fear? The thundering
hooves of a White Buffalo? The White
Spirit spoke to me in a dream, whispered
that I was fashioned in his likeness, with
even softer words, Look into the still lake
I see you through your eyes, and when
the eagle flies through the water-sky, know
that I am looking through its eyes, too.
Do not be afraid of your own image
for you are looking at me. Your soul is safe.
… I will let the artist paint my image.
My smile rippled the water, shimmered
oak trees and their leaves, as if a wind had
breathed a song through their falling tears.
Visit The Art of Poetry for Backstory to this poem.
Loss Mass / by Naomi Tarle
If city then pen stilt,
knitting people as asphalt,
bricks of people of mortar steeples,
smooth and melt the dreams of trees,
straw bird toys, twist the beak facets gold,
recite tiger, tiger, burning bright, and think of a time when you died,
swarm the buds still and idle, you are the corpus and we the cold, cold black rustle.
Dream in Which I Cover My Home in Mosaic Tiles / by Jennifer Yeatts
At every point there is a junction.
A blue like nighttime squinting. Neon
lizard. Each mortar slap completes the sea
that faces south, absorbs afternoon heat,
never the creep of shade.
My palms are slicked with mud and reek
of moss that used to grow among the stone
path leading to my grandmother’s raspberries.
Where is that last red tile—
I had been saving it for this corner
where it would point directly to the path
of satellites that nightly pass due
west. It is nowhere to be found.
Day 1 / Poems 1
In the Old Hotel / by T. Thibodeaux Baar
–for the Majestic, 1893-2014
She doesn’t check in, but sneaks. (There is no one
behind the front desk anyway.) She takes the stairs, slowly,
keeping close to the side, where the wood
bears her weight without peril.
It is a copper mine now, tapped out. Frozen radiators
hold the corners of guest rooms where the window glass
still grows fields of frost before the February sun.
Drafts like icy shards through the gaps in the frames.
Should’ve picked a room lower down, but then again, cops.
And the street, and real wind through broken panes.
At ninety-six, the old ghost is still pretty spry.
Still, too, the celebratory whiff of cigar, and brandy—
curfew be damned!—who needs Spring Training
when he already smashes ‘em right out of Whittington Park?
The game’ll never be the same, Babe, so run
those stairs, man, masseuse on one arm and
the world on the other and
the whole empty place to echo back.
“Once Al Capone decamped for Arlington 4, the Majestic welcomed Bugs Moran.
Although the two were sworn enemies, no violence broke out between them
as they trod the neutral ground of Hot Springs.”
Park Avenue is quiet now, and the sun replaced
by copper-colored street lights,
softer by far, and safer.
Even the police won’t be much of a threat this time of day.
But the splintery cold still pricks me
and I weigh the prospect of sleep against
the last half-inch of Sterno in the can.
And it’s been days since I’ve slept indoors,
days since I even could
close my eyes
to the Park Police and thieves and raccoons.
I light it, scoot it close to my pallet,
rest my head.
Other occasions bleed over.
Reunions, a wedding by the spring-nymph fountain:
each has its own spirits.
Briefly, the Babe pauses, annoyed at the intrusion,
He glances over his throwing shoulder
at the nymph, gleaming in his 1918.
Nobody, he thinks, and starts back up the stairs.
On the third floor, a shade of Bugs Moran
pours a whisky to toast the happy couple.
When she arrives at the old hotel,
she doesn’t check in, just enters.
She takes the staircase, slowly,
admiring as she goes the rich
brocades and polished mahogany.
She considers for a second going back down,
crossing the long lobby to stand
before the spring fountain.
But she is tired now, and the sprites
will always wait for her, after all.
On the fifth floor she finds her room
unlocked—cover turned down already
but curtains open to the warm afternoon outside.
She hears laughter, and it catches.
She smiles. She will never see the ashes.
She never sees whatever comes next,
but always the Majestic.
Listening / by Cristina J. Baptista
(a poem with lines from Emily Dickinson and Rainer Maria Rilke)
We can find no scar,
without begging to hear the story.
Beneath mirth is murk,
air—heft of darkness.
Shallow breathing exposes truth,
and the truth is fear we will never call by that name.
We cannot dissuade the words
from pouring any more
than we can stifle the echo that follows.
Swallowing only gets you
so far. It’s in the clutch and wanting
that you begin to realize
everything does happen for a reason
and it’s too much to want to understand why.
Here, then, is what you do:
recognize that every stick and stone
carries a story. And isn’t your mouth
simply a cromlech
able to speak? Never mistake
emotion for reaction, for it is possible
there are no reactions
but all are things occurring
for the first time. No one can control
situations to take place exactly
the same way, every time.
Not even science. Science is a method, not omnipotence.
Real power comes from the story.
You can’t exist without that.
The story is yours, is proof,
is the scar you never let fade.
In time, people will forget to ask you
anything about yourself.
You need the scars to remember,
to recall, to reassure that
every body has a life worth living
out in the open, vulnerably.
How gorgeous that living means the luxury
exposed and alive, of testing breaths in shallow
corridors or thoughtless pauses
in awkward conversations. And if pain happens, well—
at least things happen.
Beware the man who has no stories;
owns no books; has immaculate, un-calloused hands;
speaks only when spoken to.
You will find no ghosts haunting
his house, no echoes yielding life,
no depth in his eyes.
You will find a cloth—and he smoothed each wrinkle
clear, scarring nothing.
Of course, it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer,
yet stranger still to linger long enough
to meet so many eyes and mouths
and never think to ask for stories.
We imagine ghosts are smudges
in an afterlife, but that is us now,
reckless, uncaring, fragile
with ourselves, as if yellow plates of glass.
We are not meant to have the delicacy of a daguerreotype,
captured phantoms complete only when held to light,
moths hoarded in square cases, without holes—
wings desiccating fast beneath spare pins.
You lose something in the freeing.
Isn’t it always just like that?
You sacrifice some part of yourself
for the internal truths, which you will never say aloud.
So, let us welcome the scarring,
the questions from strangers reopening old wounds
with their tongues slicked across lips
like a silver letter-opener through expensive stationery.
Let us ask the questions and be willing
to answer them ourselves. Always,
I have imagined myself a receptacle
of too many words,
too many not quite snug or fit for my tongue:
I promise, though, that if you tell
me your story, I will
tell you mine
and not run from the echo,
or turn from any syllable,
or shirk from any letter.
I promise to tell the truth
slant only in times of desperation, like out of boredom or being held
for ransom by an overactive mind that demands
too much, or when I don’t feel
much like talking, so I start a conversation.
After all, some moments are more
dreams or fugues. I have to make up pieces
to stop-up cracks,
to bridge the gaps.
This, in my story, and without begging,
is where the scars enter.
Sing In Me, Muse / by Kate DeBolt
Always a whir & a click
at the start of it. Always
a bloody cloud bearing
down on a grass-
braided hill. Always a toe
on the cliff’s lip, born a morning
child, a mother’s gift
to lick sense into shape-
less anyway. If we are really
contenders with death,
I’ll need a cigarette, fresh
debts, & a recent bruise,
flesh having met
some fact it couldn’t change.
Mark licit somewhat less. Set
the ceiling to starry fire. Open
some new bubble,
little bee. If I’m going
down (and I’m going down)
I’m taking you with me.
The Last City Shall Be First: Maplewood / by Ellen Ferguson
She comes like a dog after a treat
Or, a lamb to the slaughter
A diner in Maplewood.
A man serves it and swoons
(The man swoons. It’s a lovely thing to see.)
The check arrives.
“Call me.” The check says.
There are two free brownies on the check.
How bad can a man be who brings free brownies?
In retrospect she realizes that in Maplewood, there are no free brownies.
It’s not even fun anymore.
Not only has he taken the treat
And slaughtered it with his touch,
He’s taken breakfast and sullied it
And even Maplewood.
To the First Day of March / by Bianca Lech
We are not fools—
you belong to February.
Surely other worlds are brought forth
by the act of naming,
but forgetting is not so sudden.
Who hasn’t closed their eyes hoping
to pick up where they left off in a dream?
A Found Poem Inside an Event Horizon ‘On This Day In History’ (March 1) / by John C. Mannone
Inside the event horizon of a super massive black hole,
time and place exchange; we could move anywhere
in time, but place would inexorably march on toward infinity.
The Salem Witch Hunt begins (1692) and almost
a hundred years later during the American Revolution
the Articles of Confederation are ratified (1781), yet
Lincoln nominates Grant for lieutenant general (1864).
In the West, Old West Yellowstone Park is established (1872)
and disaster avalanches the trains, buries them (1910). A World War,
the first one, is published by the Zimmermann Telegram (1917).
The literary E.M. Forster takes a passage to India (1921). It’s a crime,
the Lindbergh baby is kidnapped (1932) and another World War
prompts Bulgaria to join the Axis (1941). There is no general interest and
the Puerto Rican nationalists wound five representatives (1954). A Cold War,
and Kennedy establishes the Peace Corps (1961). War, peace, and more war—
the Vietnam War: the U.S. informs South Vietnam “we’re sending Marines” (1965).
More General Interest: a Soviet probe crashes into Venus (1966), but back
to the Vietnam War, Clifford replaces McNamara (1968) and Mickey Mantle retires
a year later (1969). Then Richard Zanuck and David Brown join Warner Brothers
in Hollywood (1971), while James Taylor makes the cover of Time magazine (1971).
This leads to a Vietnam War bomb exploding in the Capitol building (1971). Eventually,
Honda unveils the new Civic (2005), but today, at 30 minutes past the midnight,
it is raining in Chattanooga, Tennessee, while I’m driving home in a Chevy Impala,
in any event, to write this poem (2014).
Author’s Note: This poem was constructed from the “This Day In History” by re-sequencing the events occurring on March 1 throughout history (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history). Backstory here: http://jcmannone.wordpress.com/tupelo-press-3030-project/march-1/.
90th / by Naomi Tarle
We sit at a long table
in a restaurant on 69th Street.
We are three generations.
We pray for a fourth.
We listen to the same story
of the woods and the German plane.
Her small hands
sway and clasp.
She tells me we are humans
because of our brains and hands.
Because of our brains and hands.
Ophelia of the Upper West Side / by Mady Thuyein
A cherub of Versailles is born into the world with an industrial tremor
A faulty stroke of a brush— a careless slip of the wrist,
Boucher painted a rococo nymph into the wrong century
He name translates to ‘maiden’ in two languages
First of her bloodline, second of her heart
Calling all femme fatales— Bianca, Giulietta, Margaux, Florence
Shall we chase winged specimens across Watteau landscapes?
With a rapid flutter of forewings in the constraints of netted prisons,
She grew up reciting the Latin names of butterflies
Ornithoptera alexandrae, Papilio palinurus, Cethosia hypsea, Cithaerias phantoma
Aligning childhood visions with hues of the Emerald Swallowtail, the Xerces Blue,
Wondering which had been the captives of her youth
The Grand Tour— Lady Chrysanthemum, the 19th century sojourner
Left her eggshell estate in Avignon with the regalia of leather-bound journals & a lace chemise,
But who is she?
Lucrezia Borgia reborn? Eliot’s hyacinth girl?
He projected jacquard silk-screens onto her eyelids,
Enclosing their metaphysical discourse into cardboard caches of
Antique earrings, postcards from Naples, a monarch wing, an aubergine haiku
Her love was a message in a bottle— he retrieved it from a saltwater tempest
His love was a wounded carrier pigeon— she nursed it to a flight of fancy
She was a scorned Polish countess, plucking end-all’s and be-all’s from marguerite petals
He loves me, he loves me not, she loves him, he loves her not
“Mademoiselle, a letter!”
Addressed to the woman in a trench coat who dreams of Wharton societies
Should she be bleeding villanelles onto a piece of toilet paper in Montreal,
No, in an atelier decorated to resemble Madame Pompadour’s boudoir
Solace in an envelope from Dostoevsky, the reply to an appeal for the meaning of life
Stamped, sealed, sent— To the empress bathing in an oyster tub of rosebuds & taffeta,
Crystalline faucets dripping an eau de perfume— Corsican bergamot, Egyptian balsam
“I saw you behind a gossamer fan, by the pyrotechnic tapestries, and you need not worry Madame. Life is—“
A fine tip pirouette across a loose-leaf stage, a fountain pen that bursts in reservoirs of Calumny & larkspur cascades,
Stamped, sealed, signed—Your ink-splattered concubine
Polar What / by Jennifer Yeatts
It’s a long way down to soft earth,
miles maybe, through layers and layers
of hardpack, steel-stiff soil, frozen loam.
All of it convenes to still the life beneath.
It’s a long way from here to Mexico.
A long way, too, from this chill house
to the things we don’t have but don’t need
either, like more rooms, empty but for
all the stuff. Years and years to another
story higher up. Maybe never. Mexico
looks awfully good when all there is to see
out the window are varying shades of white,
small pieces of a month simply moving
from one cold resting spot to another. One grey
squirrel braves the drift in search of some scrap.
The recycle bin is buried before noon.