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 six volunteers for December 2014 are Mike Dockins, Atoosa Grey, Leigh Anne Hornfeldt, Dawn McGuire, Eva Maria Saavedra, and Susan Vespoli. 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 20 / Poems 20
The path to the end overwrought with thorns / by Atoosa Grey
communicating with you
…………is like trying to read music in
braille………………have you ever
…………found the soil in her
you were looking for
…………from behind your smile
her counterattack practically
…………a bomb going off
her self splintering
…………as she runs, disembodied
head open, and there it is
the roots of her mind, a maternal
like slender electric currents
…………an abandoned magnetic field
Newness / by Dawn McGuire
So you get on the floor
Activate your core
Try to stay off the spin cycle
where mites in the sheets
the meth lab down the street
all the hates in the heat
Try to keep you monkey minded
But tonight the Art of Soul is
on the radio and you’re already
halfway to Sacramento, A good restaurant
with God’s woodwork, & the new rain we need
makes the freeway slow. It takes forever to get
home, like we like it to.
After Reading “Widow Basquiat” / by Eva Maria Saavedra
Even Basquiat returned for Suzanne.
Stoned or cocaine addled.
Perhaps slowly—too much dope
in his veins. What does this say
what does this say about us.
Burned Out / by Susan Vespoli
rundown, reduced to
narcoleptic, no more
of gas, off task,
Day 19 / Poems 19
Minor Scale / by Atoosa Grey
I promised to love you
but the seemingly
sometimes hold you
My Partner and I Argue over My Desire to Have a Child / by Eva Maria Saavedra
You won’t accept this, insist
that I’ll change my mind one day.
Is the thought of a woman
accepting childlessness so foreign.
Did we forget that I’m in charge
of my own body. Is this something else.
Don’t we all negate
the things we’re scared of.
Or we believe them to be true
and prepare ourselves
for the disappointment.
I want a child the way
I want a million dollars.
It would be nice, but highly
improbable. I’ve accepted
the chances are slim to none.
Splurge / by Susan Vespoli
Apple Air laptop Mac
replaced my heavyweight
crashed Windows tank.
Slender, chic gadgetry
lifted my tech status,
zeroed out bank.
Day 18 / Poems 18
You, Reader: A Mythography, Vol. 1 / by Mike Dockins
O you, whom I adore, etc., etc. Your pigtails wither me,
your smile drops me to the bar-room floor. Where else
would I be? A board meeting? Laughable. A heavy metal
festival? Please. A college classroom? Don’t make me
swat you, you who can be so pleasantly swattable, O
swattable you. I know where you are, of course: a-sway
in a hammock slung between tropic lines. 400 miles
above the planet, painting its loneliness on the little
capsule window, humming “A Space Oddity.” Riding
a god-damned bus to your sad job. I feel sorry for your
job, but I feel sorry for all sad things: a kitty mewling
at the door when her owner shall not be returning,
an ICBM crawling with cobwebs, a wink unseen, you
when you slouch in sad waiting rooms with nothing
to read but worthless rags like People, Vogue, Rolling Stone.
OK, no more sadness. Let’s have a look at this canvas
you’ve been working on. The Great Lakes are skating
eastward below you, & you have just been inflated,
O my lovely balloon, with a hope that frightens me.
alert / by Atoosa Grey
the neon tiger sun
neon stop sign screaming
the starfish &
lost articles of clothing, neon
neon hands or light
shooting from hands
the veins, neon green beneath skin
broken bones, neon
the shores of the body, neon,
the color of panic
Neurology Takes All / by Dawn McGuire
Today, alas, no poetry.
My clinic patients needed me.
Now my brain on EEG
is flat, no mountains, not
a breast. The lyric turns
her back when she
After My Sister Tells Me I Write about Sex Too Much / by Eva Maria Saavedra
Ask me why. Ask me how. I say,
yesterday I slept with a stranger
in a motel room with cheap green
lighting. You look disappointed,
taken aback. There is no way
to deny feeling when it’s on top
of you, sticking you. You can’t ignore
it. Can’t turn away from it.
It’s one of the few times I feel anything.
You turn away from me and look at the floor.
Act of Nutrition Contrition / by Susan Vespoli
OMG, I am heartily sorry
for having offended my gut by
eating Pop-Tarts, and I detest
the sinfully empty wrappers on
my counter. I dread the loss
of my waistline and the pains
of indigestion, but most of all
because they offend my all-good
taste buds. I firmly resolve to stop
buying Frosted Brown Sugar
Cinnamon-filled pastry rectangles,
to snack only on communion wafers
with grace and to amend my diet. Amen.
Day 17 / Poems 17
Preparing for Winter / by Atoosa Grey
we say goodbye
to the house
dry leaves fill the fountains
the garden water we turn off
it is the end of a season
the hydrangeas, pale and slumped
over the fence
the trees suddenly married
to a vision of their future
* * * / by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
If the house is the shape of a man do not enter, even if the door is open and the lights are on. Sometimes it’s tricky to tell the difference. Use caution. Be prudent. Be the sort of woman women want to be. Whatever that is. Whatever made you think you could keep on walking by. Remember your father’s advice: Always locate the exits. Always make sure the window opens to a fire escape. Yell fire. If all else fails stop, drop. Stop, drop, and something else. Rolling is no longer an option.
Big Tent I / by Dawn McGuire
Maybe she would have said be
a doctor, if she had said.
And you still wonder when
you’re in that inside turn
and your unicycle wobbles,
even after thirty years,
and the dread tilts the wheel
at that one angle you haven’t
mastered, though you hide it well;
but the pedals feel suddenly so
foreign your floppy shoes slip.
The cheap pink streamers
whipping your arms are
her switches, Filled with
(discrete) lactic panic you just
dangle, let your angel
make the turn, flip a shoe
into the crowd, beluga-blast
your horn, turn on that wide
Only you, animus, do I trust
with this night.
This hammer heart, ligaments
too lax to hold a shape to ghosts,
how long until morning?
Not as long as you think, you say; yes, I believe you.
Meanwhile the crowd’s leaving
and laughing so hard they’re crying.
They talk about you all the way
After Listening to The Joy Formidable’s “9669” / by Eva Maria Saavedra
I like the piecemeal of what’s being asked
here. It breaks the fall, masks a rupture.
I asked to be taken because what
am I left with when birthdays
are no long about those celebrated.
A knot in the stomach, slight tremor
in the right hand, you brace yourself
for more. I say, being pursued
in mythology always ends
in something unfortunate and I don’t
believe things have changed too much.
As I talked about my family,
he pulled on my coat, playing
with a detached button. He was trying
to fix what was broken. Why is it difficult
to let go. When we’re left we regain
parts of ourselves and isn’t that better
than being a half of a whole.
Forget four years ago,
that you even knew his name,
a man can’t fix something that’s broken
because love doesn’t flourish in a month.
Plagiarizer / by Susan Vespoli
you with hands in lap
in the corner rear
chair of ENG 101, rip
off king of Wiki rag.
Your final essay a lie,
a direct word-lift to rig
your way to an A.
You took the lazier
route to the prize.
How did I know it wasn’t real?
You didn’t err
in spelling, rare
for you. The grammar gap
was too wide, above par,
perfect, which made me peg
your trick, your pale
attempt to skate, to glaze
over this last paper. Pal,
let me give you some lip
service advice, a plea:
If you’re going to be a liar,
at least choose a better web page
than Wikipedia. Your lag
in judgment just zig-
zagged your grade to a zip.
Day 16 / Poems 16
Yonkers NY: A Mythography, Vol. 1 / by Mike Dockins
On what could only have been a muggy July afternoon in 1645,
a ragged band of Dutch gypsies leaped from a Manhattan boulder
into a canoe, & paddled up the Hudson River until their feeble
gypsy arms were exhausted. Pulling shoreward, they heard
a mysterious wail from over one of the many yonder hills.
Weary as the gypsies were, they hiked up & down the hills
until they found it, my hometown, wriggling in a little crib
at the marshy edge of Nepperhan Creek (now the Saw Mill River).
Not all babies are cute, & here was the ugliest baby they had ever
seen, & the gypsies considered eating it. They weren’t hungry,
but they thought they might rid the cosmos of such an historic
ugliness. The baby continued to wail but its wailing stirred
in them a sweetness. The gypsies baptized it, baptized themselves,
in the creek, & the most motherly of the group picked up my infant
hometown & rocked it, singing some or other impossibly incoherent
Dutch lullaby (Dutch not being the planet’s most mellifluous
of languages), & the wailing stopped. But the silence was too eerie
for the Dutch, so they set up camp & started building. They built
ill-lit pool halls & in them placed teenaged hooligans in denim
jackets to smack together the billiard balls. They built the hospital
I would be born in nearly 327 years later, & in it they placed mothers
& babies to cry & fathers to pace helplessly in the lobby. They built
junior high schools & in them placed teenaged hooligans in denim
jackets to slam weak-necked dorks into lockers. They built the jungle
bars from which I would fall exactly 335 years later & the pins to fuse
my shattered elbow bones so many moons hence. They built a pizza
joint at the foot of Palisade Avenue & in it placed a Centipede machine
& teenaged hooligans to jostle the pizza-greasy joystick. They built
BMX bikes & dodge balls & kickballs & hi-top sneakers & Rubik’s cubes
& the baseball diamond up the hill from Getty Square where some
or other Shannon would break my heart 343 years later, kissing
some or other hooligan in a denim jacket. They built the taxicab
that, 347 years later, would drive me away from my gramma forever,
my gramma waving to me from her front porch, the taxicab hauling
me off to LaGuardia, to Los Angeles, other impossible places.
They built the warped attic ping-pong table that I would drench
with my own wailing after my gramma got tangled up in whatever
she got tangled up in. The gypsies built Movieland in the suburbs
& zebra-stripe guido pajamas & slinky buses & nerf footballs
& they built the great Ark that would carry me away from that place
forever upon floodwaters that defy description, good old Dutch gypsies,
good old monstrous lullabyes. I miss Centipede so much I could weep.
Dying Leaf / by Atoosa Grey
a wild leaf
reached an age
and now lies still
on the snow
* * * / by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
The trees have bared their souls and all you can do is cry in a hospital, acquaint yourself with IV tubes and the steady beep of a telemetry box. Your father is dying and you’re the only one there, your mother holed up inside the Tudor home, curtains drawn. You can feel the numbers of the hospital room burning into the back of your neck, Room 122. Room 122 is sterile and you’re thankful for this. Your father has been restrained. You’re thankful for this even though he cries. He cries for your mother. When the nurse comes in for vitals she says you should take a break. You walk through the hospital gardens. You see the trees. Each one naked, brave in its sacrifice. You want to be a leaf. You want to fall away silently as the branch dies.
* * * / by Dawn McGuire
They told us the bodies
would come in by boat, which
was the wrong thing to do
All night under the deck they
would bob, slide towards
each other’s bags in a wave
They would be that lonely
is how I imagined it
The group on the pier
doesn’t touch, talks
in quick tetralingual bursts
no one answers
The young in drowsy
fleece go inside
There will be DNA
but we’re to ID
by sight, at least
the ones who can risk it
In the dream, my sister
is not on this boat
or the next
This almost too long life
spent at the edge of her
Soon no one who ever touched
her face will be left, but this
After Listening to Elliott Smith’s “Between the Bars”/ by Eva Maria Saavedra
An abundance of beer bottle caps
underneath the kitchen table
and toys scattered on the floor.
The apartment is freezing,
he never pays the gas bill on time.
It’s funny how some things
are enough to bring you back
to your most humbling moments.
You chose to stay
because you wanted to feel
special and doesn’t everyone want
to be Persephone —taken, the frost
produced in your absence,
a tart taste on the tongue.
The plates smashed,
bruises on your arms, you would lock
yourself in the bathroom to cry and I didn’t choose this.
Six Ways an English Teacher Looks at a Stack of Essays / by Susan Vespoli
A silver staple
four sheets of paper
and holds on tight.
An aerial view of an essay
shows squiggles and dots
lined up like zebra
stripes or traffic.
The essay was given to me
in black and white,
so I decorated it
with red ink.
How many trees
gave their lives
for this stack
Hours of reading
swirl in brains
on a keyboard.
To an unwalked dog
an essay is a chew toy
a jaw exerciser
wide white shards
of confetti to throw
on a carpet.
Day 15 / Poems 15
Afternoon Walk / by Atoosa Grey
Again, I walk
the sun’s light off
the dark portraits
and so much unuttered
one ear hears
and responds to
the boats like eyes
the size of figs
forever on the cold
the gray border
like the outskirts
the lens through
which we can
Studies Show that Pigs Are Smarter than a 3 Year Old Child / by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
Which should be reason enough for me to stop
eating pork but just this morning I slid a baking sheet of bacon
into the warm mouth of the oven. It’s only recently
that I’ve started cooking it this way. Before, I fried,
watched as the strips wiggled and grease squealed
from under them. Baking is less messy.
I can cook up an entire pack, all 22 cold strips
and all I have to do is close a door and wait
for kitchen timer’s neat ding.
Did you know pigs lead complex social lives?
Like primates. Like humans. They live
in matriarchal circles called sounders. Think family.
Piglets nurse to the sounds of their mother’s
porcine lullabies. I’m sorry if I’m making you sad,
but this morning when my son
snuck into my bed before dawn and rooted
his icy feet under my generous thighs
all I could think was hoof, snout, tusk. His favorite
animal is a pig and even as he nestled
into my ribs all my hard human heart
could do was moan.
Logomachia / by Dawn McGuire
It turns into fighting with rain,
a pit turns into a pat and back,
no discernible pattern. I trust
it makes some fractal kind of sense.
I’m with you until the sky breaks–
acid deluge of rage–Who are you?
The oaks are old now.
Strange to think of them even
having a lifetime. I need to pull
those vines choke-holding them.
Garner set you off this time,
Grendle at the mead hall door,
to the kalimba of rain starting
to fill dry reservoirs.
Not a Limbic job,
to decline the binary.
The singer of praises
neither tries to tame, nor shame;
includes the excluded
middle, where the hard
enchantments of this one life
live. Your black and white
break the displays. No one can
breathe. I want to know you;
even when you fire
hollow point words
and it rains clay pigeons;
even when fragments
Maybe you need to see me bleed.
Yes, you can make me bleed.
But sweat with me
like the mules that pulled
the Teacher’s last carriage.
A frictional harness,
the work, hard to master, to
act justly, love mercy. Both/And.
Spring Finally Gave Way to Summer / by Eva Maria Saavedra
This year and we’ve taken to your wooden room,
the dirty white carpet sprinkled with old pine tree
needles that stick to my Vaseline coated legs
and thighs. We are one continuous motion
of in, in, in— the smacking sound of skin
against skin, a reminder that there is only
so much space for you to plunge
into before your body meets mine.
Afterwards I’m a mess and you smile
at me, tell me you’re good at that.
I pull strands of hair from my sweat-covered
face, neck. I hear my mother’s voice,
you’re only good at one thing; being on your back.
And then you add I like your mind,
how you remember dates by what you wore,
all of you. I sit there my left bra strap
hanging off of my shoulder, my head cocked
to the side. Things like affection,
like care aren’t determined by genes and I’m worth
more than what is between my legs.
Dream Thieves / by Susan Vespoli
Shrieks of coyotes
rip up my sleep like teeth.
Rabbits wail death cries.
Day 14 / Poems 14
O’Hare: A Mythography, Vol. 1 / by Mike Dockins
Born in a wide & lonely field, O’Hare was reared by Old
Man Winter, cruel bastard who never gave his boy gruel
or warm sunlight, & who would threaten to skip his little
airport like a flat stone across Lake Michigan—all the way
to Michigan!—& if he thought his Old Man was kidding,
why just try him. In kindergarten he skulked around
the sandboxes & swingsets & merry-go-rounds & jungle
bars, bullied by wind, by sleet, by trace elements, poor
little airport. Junior high was a mess—a terrible circus
of oily secretions & locker-side rejections & impossible
equations on impossible chalkboards, dismal report cards
dangling from his back pockets like spiders’ legs. No one
likes being a teenager, but O’Hare seethed his way through,
& he rebelled by moping in his room, blasting the music
of jet engines & of sleet pinging hopelessly against aluminum,
his moody hair hanging petulantly over his weepy eyes,
& Old Man Winter banging angry melodies & holy sonnets
upon the door, shaking his brutal fist like a Steinbeck hero
in the face the wide & uncrossable Pacific. Days & days,
years & years of such, until one day, sobbing in a bathtub
until the tub overspilled with saltwater, the young airport
had mystical visions & cosmic vibrations, O beatific airport:
he would learn to strum a guitar, & he would wander off
to college forever—to study geography, meteorology, physics,
& to join a lousy cover band. But after months of stomping
around on sweaty pub stages—the eyeballs of the drunken
crowds swirling like pinwheels, iridescent storms—& cursing
broken pick after broken pick, broken string after broken string,
broken heart after broken heart, he flunked out forever,
& then spent his entire adulthood slumped over warehouse
boxes somewhere in the sloppy, sloppy suburbs, terrorized
nightly by dreams of flying. This was all long, long ago. Look
at him now: paragon of inconvenience, pillar of freezing
misery, a bitter old man himself who has fathered thousands
of little airports out in the wide, cruel, & lonely Midwestern
fields mercilessly whipped by the American Rust Belt—
too many unimaginable childhoods to even bother to name.
Myth / by Atoosa Grey
I am silent beneath the canopy
of the acacia
for my sorrow is
private as bones
my hands cup
which grows immense
as the color violet
nothing goes as quietly through a door
as the moon under the bridge
a crazy moon swimming like a fish
or a voice in the water
* * * / by Dawn McGuire
Why Spellcheck changes “thanks”
to “that Nissan” is beyond me.
Pam and Steve next door
had a home invasion last night.
Raving meth-heads, I’d wager,
kicked in their front door at 10.
Steve must be some guy–
at 68, yanked from sleep, he
“scared them off”. No one’s
neighbors are calling for
private drones (Goldman
I thought “dog”.
And then Glock, which spellcheck
changed to “flock,” which made me hateful
……………..Oh, crazed people.
Some of mine being some of them;
on meth or hate or going hand-over-
hand over private razor-wire.
slicks the streets everywhere,
even in this tiny zip where all
the children are launched,
One who breeches
this redwood and glass
who routes the gentle
6-point buck from under the deck?
……………..Will I kill?
……………..Fire a flock
as a shoulder rams, a boot kicks
at my bedroom door?
tell me hollow point bullets
Making Mazamorra / by Eva Maria Saavedra
Steam rises from the pot and I know the mazamorsra
she is stirring has come to a boil. My grandmother
asks me for the raisins, they will color it a deeper purple.
I only see the worst of your pictures,
and instead of pitying you I wonder what made him
look at you. Natalee was blonde; blue eyed a beauty
by American standards. You’re like me dark, dark
haired, dark skinned and we’re far from Natalees.
What did your mother tell you about men.
Were they the same things my mother told me.
That as soon as you give them what they want
they leave or that lighter is always better,
you can only love what is your opposite.
Nuts / by Susan Vespoli
Blue Diamond chocolates
arrived in their gift box
by UPS van.
Reckless, I toss ‘em with
cocoa sweet ovoid treats
hand after hand.
Day 13 / Poems 13
Chub-Chub the Cat: A Mythography, Vol. 1 / by Mike Dockins
He looks Siamese, but he’s not Siamese, though he was born
in Siam. Well, it’s Thailand now. The most remarkable feature
of this cat is his record collection. He owns 4,037 records—
all by punk bands you’ve never heard of, & he guards them
as though they were backyard chipmunks or baby squirrels—
you know, something cute but doomed. For example, he’s got
one record by a band called Oblivian. It’s uncertain whether
or not the misspelling is intentional, but what is certain
is that the songs on that album feature a maximum of three
chords, probably the 1-4-5 progression (think “I Wanna Be
Sedated” by The Ramones), fuzzy electric guitars, & a messy-
haired 96-lb. lead singer who was born wailing, who wailed
across his childhood & teens & into his 20s, & who is now still
wailing, or who a least was wailing in 1979, when every punk
album ever was released. Because that’s what punk is all about.
You never hear a punk song that croons about how awesome
the president is, or how the singer’s relationship with his heroin-
free girlfriend is healthy & not completely fucking doomed.
How do I know all this? I have the horrifying scars from Chub-
Chub to prove it. That bastard clawed down to my wrist-bone
when he caught me listening to his Oblivian record. I don’t know
how they wean non-Siamese cats in Siam, I mean in Thailand,
but they do not mess around. I don’t even know why I tried
to listen to it in the first place—but it was probably because
of the provocative cover photo of a naked young woman captured
in perpetual moan—O perpetual moan, O lovely lovely oblivion.
Rainfall / by Atoosa Grey
the rain of fall
the window, ovals
take their time
happy and light
high and white
into a morning
of the world
can be wet
an acre of tears
a bright flash
purifies the old air
Twenty Three Women Have Now Spoken Out Against Bill Cosby to Various News Outlets / by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
It’s a singular story, easily ignored
except now it’s amplified by 23 separate voices, 23
women chanting in unison: It happened to me too – a chain
of paper dolls scissored down to hands and heads,
fragile as lace. It shouldn’t take so many
years and it shouldn’t take so many
recollections and it shouldn’t take so many
anything. And how many more
are sleepless tonight, silence weighing
down on them like a thumb against a throat.
Dirty Double Life / by Dawn McGuire
She’s a hobo at heart.
Dirty, but smart,
re-named by a doctorate.
In the heart’s grimy boxcars,
a taste for clean beds.
Out the day-mouth,
out the night-mouth,
So in love with pitch black
that a candle’s high flame
leaves its portion of soot
in her name.
I Tell You I Think of Strange Things during Sex and You Ask Me to Explain / by Eva Maria Saavedra
Think of breath, of patience, of trying— A married couple’s
first huayno. Of attempting not to touch, how they circle
around one another. The man chases after the woman.
Remember how this pairing came to be; the push
and pull of sex. As a woman I’ll always be penetrated.
Tell me, how is this fair. How do I accept the dominance
placed upon my body. Is it how you took on my request
for the moon. A clever smile, shovel in hand, notes on building a pool.
You could only construct a place for me to enjoy a reflection.
On the Plane / by Susan Vespoli
Southwest Airlines is a travel slice.
Flying with them is no sacrifice.
Equal weight here, no coach-class bias.
Row six on left, hooray for aisles.
Middle seat empty, woot! A jackpot prize.
Headrest in leather curtails fear of lice.
Business suits, laptops, a plane full of guys.
Magazine spreads look like chic paradise
but who buys those gadgets they advertise?
Dozens of passengers scrambled or fried.
Flight crew and seatmates’ moods are roll of dice.
Some surly, some drunk, some chatty, some tired.
One wears a plastic nose, mustache disguise.
Ziplock bag sandwich as meal will suffice.
Seconds on peanuts, please—who’s on a diet?
Soda is free, wine and beer cost a card swipe.
Day 12 / Poems 12
Kevin Caliendo: A Mythography, Vol. 1 / by Mike Dockins
He’s the un-Americanest of all of us: he hates baseball.
Such a pedestrian activity, he mutters in airport bars,
in old dusty libraries (which he loathes), in his sleep.
He especially hates the Cincinnati Reds. If you’re smart,
when you see him you’ll back away slowly. This is sad
because he’s really a terrific guy, even though he once
mugged Ken Griffey Jr. in a dark, bricky Cincinnati alley.
Such a pedestrian activity, he had told Griffey, all Cagney-
smirk, his hand shaped like a pistol in his jacket pocket.
But even Griffey had to agree, & that’s why Kevin—
good old Kevin!—gave Griffey his wallet back, O wallet
full of moths & million-dollar bills, O irony. Kevin
hates irony, too, so he split Cincinnati like an atom
in his sad little Kevin-mobile, meandering wherever
the Ohio River meandered, knowing that the branch
would not break, O James Wright, & he landed in Louisville,
Kentucky, a town infamous for its insufferable mugginess.
Luckily, like all the tragically misunderstood, Kevin loves
insufferable mugginess. He ducked into the nearest
crowded pharmacy so he could buy a single 12-oz. can
of something cheap & un-American, something like PBR.
When his credit card was declined by the stupid machine,
the cashier (“Lolita”) said that Kevin could pay back the 60
cents the next day. But Kevin had to work that next day,
& so he had to earn the 60 cents the old-fashioned way,
by washing dishes. Typically, there are no dishes to be
washed in a Louisville pharmacy, but they all found a way,
as we all do, to make things work, & in the sad shadow
of a sad spatula, Kevin found his true calling: teaching
medieval literature to sleepy sophomores in east-central
Oklahoma. Sometimes the universe just makes sense,
un-American as it is, stupid universe, stupid Kevin.
Beginning / by Atoosa Grey
was beautiful she had
no, one gown
and one white suit
It seemed the whiteness
was spreading everywhere
from out of her veil
bleaching the wood planks
of her parent’s house where she married
there was fruit and honey and flowers
enough for hundreds though only seventy-five
witnesses were there
in the house of her parents, a white stage
for her brand new life
Raptor / by Dawn McGuire
Strange how the red-tail hawk
keeps coming back to the ledge
of your window at Balboa.
I just left your bed, reason on,
fed, untwinned from the one deep
sleep of no tomorrow.
A ledge like that requires heedlessness
of heights. And after, need needs no reason
to come back.
After We Fight on the A Train II / by Eva Maria Saavedra
A Tia of mine suggested I teach ESL.
She told me you speak
without an accent,
you could teach those classes.
I don’t want to tell someone
they should wipe themselves
clean as if they were some plate,
to allow their identities to be consumed.
The problem isn’t the need for immigration
reform it’s the need for acceptance.
Assimilation is destruction
and who wants to dismantle
themselves for something
they don’t believe in.
We exist here because of necessity,
not desire. When I’m asked about
my family’s history I say my Viejita
crossed the border for love.
I want to be clear, it’s important
for you to understand
there is nothing
better than the way Spanish
rolls off of the tongue,
that no one can ever
forget the smell of their clothes
after being hung out to dry
or the way dust in Peru settles.
Ode to a Bathtub / by Susan Vespoli
Of fiberglass or porcelain in white
my horizontal cave comes with a drain.
It’s five or six feet long and three feet wide,
the perfect size to soak and clear my brain.
When faucet’s turned, hot agua splashes down
with bubble bath or aromatic oil
till effervescence foams like low-slung cloud
to wash away my problems and B.O.
I keep the door closed to the world outside
for bit of respite worth earrings of gold.
In candlelight, this room’s my spot to hide
to lull and soak until the water’s cold.
When I towel off and exit my bathroom,
I’m carefree, clean, and wrinkled like a prune.
Day 11 / Poems 11
Virtues of a Ph.D. in English, Vol. 1 of ∞ / by Mike Dockins
Telescope: roll it up like an ancient scroll,
& stare at the sun until your retinas pop.
Unroll it, blind as Tiresias, flatten it
like a map, & imagine the fertile crescents
you’ll never see. Fold it into an airplane
& slam it into a Lego skyscraper. Crumple it
like a crappy poem & alley-oop it trashward.
Miss. Frame it, punch the glass, & woo
the chickies at the bar with your bleeding
knuckles. Swallow it like an Advil. Choke
on it. Dog collar so your dog can’t scratch
that terrible itch. Postcard to the Dept.
of Education. Postcard to your folks, who
are so proud. Door mat, napkin, paper towel,
handkerchief, doodle-pad, kitty-litter lining,
cutting board, dishrag, dartboard, TP.
Paper hat for your new fast-food job. Mop
for spilled fry oil. Placemat for a customer’s
tray, complete with sophomoric crossword.
Confetti. Spitballs. Möbius strip: an infinity
of sorrow. Paper-cut torture device. Hairshirt.
Make your shredder feel less lonesome. Teach
nephews about rectangles. Scissor practice.
Kindling. River raft, goodbye, goodbye.
Nonsense / by Atoosa Grey
From the Cookbook
new words emerge
in your world
of so little language
The Birth Mark / by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
Because in February I stayed up to watch
the lunar eclipse. Because when the moon moved
from cold snow to muddied red I felt
you wiggle in my womb like a goldfish
in a glass bowl. Because everyone else
was asleep. Because I should have been too.
Because instead I fought sleep, stayed
pressed to the pane for five full
minutes, because of all this
you wear your little crescent
on the back of your hand,
warrior that you are.
Persistent Pursuit of a Prefix / by Dawn McGuire
I should sweep my deck,
ship-shape my shelves.
Then I can open the book of snakes.
It used to make my mother frisson
when I’d stand on a chair and hold
the Copperhead page to her face.
Her pretend terror.
My pretend tall.
In between, little nips, then pinches, slaps, then harder smacks. But it was
always words that fanged the page boy thatch over my brain, made the solar
plexus fail its breath–
So I’m careful with words. They need
An intimate, in-dwelling, anti-venom
Made with a touch of the lash, yes,
in bloody wrath–
After We Fight on the A Train / by Eva Maria Saavedra
Because I hate being reminded
that before me there was a present
in which I didn’t exist. I say Viejita
crossed the border between Mexico
and California on an empty stomach
and two hours of sleep and what have
I ever done besides being tipsy
at a baby shower on a Saturday night.
Argues / by Susan Vespoli
Watch me ignore he who argues.
Calm is my mantra, my anti ager.
Anger makes cortisol levels surge
turns teetotaler into booze user
or cookie snarfer, not sage
ways to douse rage.
No. I will take the sager
route. Don my piss gear
against the storm. Avoid ague
with Om as my ruse
breathe in and out sugar
to sweeten bitterness in he who argues.
Day 10 / Poems 10
Why Silliness is Underrated / by Mike Dockins
Because a skyscraper will collapse on top of you
& not even apologize. Because your government—
it doesn’t matter which one, or in which epoch
you toil away hopelessly—is a cauldron of lies
(eye of newt, etc.) & will not apologize. Because
apologies don’t even matter, they’re just words.
Because poems don’t matter, they’re just words.
Because even words don’t matter, they’re just
caveman grunts translating to “When you pulp
me with your club, Oog, it kind of hurts,” or “Help
me, Oog, I’m being eaten by a panther,” or “Oog,
you broke my fucking heart.” Because all you have
worked for has turned to nothing, & even the ashes
of the uselessly symbolic paperwork won’t apologize
across the ashy wind of their ashiness. Because you
are merely a complex array of organic molecules
(that’s actually quite lovely). Because the spiders
skating eights across the dismal dust on your guitar
(wow, even the dust is unused & must suffer the skate-
blades of spiders) won’t even bite you, that’s how little
they care. Because, & I keep saying this, the comet
is on its way, even if it won’t strike during your lifetime—
yes, even if you are worm-dust when the global tsunami
squashes the last sad lung on the planet, especially the sad
lungs of those who don’t deserve it, & who’s to judge?
Not God because there is no God—there, I said it,
& because “deserve” has got nothing to do with it.
Because in your lifetime you will never bounce
to your flavor-of-the-week crappy pop song across
the surface of Mars, or even the lame old Moon,
the Earth a pale blue dot in the distance, O Carl Sagan.
Because the older you get, the more people you love
will die: they will somersault off a dormitory tower
or they will spill into a volcano—I’m not fucking around
tonight—or put a pistol in their mouth or their heart
will fizzle or their heart will burst or their cells will grow
ugly & gray or they will be publicly symbolic puppets
of a regime far, far way—& all of them will stop
breathing & they will turn blue & cold & pale, like that
sad distant Earth, but they will die, maybe even right
in front of you, & guess what—they will not apologize.
Because you might get mugged tonight, in a fancy
neighborhood (a neighborhood so fancy, you already
know). Because pop music sucks, because television sucks,
because being broke sucks, because being sucks. Because
the buses are on time only when you’re not already late
to your crummy job, your lousy job, O Holden Caulfield,
the job that you hate even more than the worms that will
one day carve tunnels through your graymatter. Because
your fellow bus riders will not turn off their fucking cell
phones & will not apologize. Because your crummy job
doesn’t even pay the bills in the first place. Because you
will never be out of debt, & because you will always
convince yourself that someday life will be easier—no more
debt, no more messy break-ups, no more awkward dates,
no more night terrors, no more endless death—yes, because
those things will never end, & daily you lie to yourself.
Because what it always comes back to is not the skyscrapers
or the beheadings or the interminable tedium of days—
no, what always comes back is that damned bus—the #15—
which if you ever ride again you will sling an ironic prayer
for an urban sinkhole, for a twelve-mile-wide tornado,
for the comet to step on the gas pedal & get here already.
So you will forgive me, O the insufferably grave among you,
if I like to stroke my kitty-cat’s chin, & as he squints & purrs,
ask him who’s a good widdle boy, & then say to him, you’re
a good widdle boy, & then conclude, yes you are. Squint, purr,
squint, purr, squint, purr, squint, purr, squint, purr. The End.
Daughters / by Atoosa Grey
with my girls
I clean the mess
from the day
it’s not permanent
I can see
the floor again
and I can hear the song
and say to it
that for now
everything is about
and the girls
are good and glad
I have loved
being their Mama
Voice Mail / by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
Somehow, despite my best efforts,
you’ve reached me. ….. I’m sorry
but I can’t answer
right now. ….. Does it matter
why? .. Please wait
for the beep. Leave
a message I won’t return.
The truth is
I saw your number
on caller ID and chose
not to answer. Instead I held onto
the phone and practiced deep breathing
while I sent you
to voice mail. But hey,
don’t let this stop you
from trying again. ….. Who knows.
Maybe next time ….. I won’t be
such a mess. .. Maybe next time
Splitting Apart / by Dawn McGuire
Love/lust, who’s really got it right?
The popular books on romance
turn out to be written by loners
My book would get about a dime
at a yard sale: unpopular
thematic otherness, teeth
that draw blood–
Even to the last page,
my old friend,
a trace of it.
After Hearing Gold Panda Play “I’m with You But I’m Lonely “ at The Bowery Ballroom / by Eva Maria Saavedra
I close my eyes and sway.
I hope to get a contact high
off of all the weed smoke.
I think there’s something wrong
with me because I left a man
for writing songs about me.
How do people build
all of that up inside of their heads.
How does one create enough
excitement over another human being
to commit it to paper. My friend
told me the best way to write
a love poem is to pretend
the beloved is dead.
I’ve known love to be avoidance,
a conversation in which the focus
is on hanging up the phone.
It’s always missing small
details like forgetting my last
name has two a’s in it and
that I hide my feet during sex,
afraid of being judged for my scars.
So when you pronounce
my name the way it’s meant
to be pronounced, I’m taken
aback. I’ve never known what
it’s like to feel foreign in love.
The truth is I’ve never written a good
poem about anyone or I would like
to tell you that I appreciate the warmth
of your body more than those of others.
Say none of this is easy and we’ll
always fight over stupid shit
like which side of the bed
I get or who ate the last
piece of cheese. I’m telling
you this because two
years earlier the thing
I did best was to move my body.
I Remember / by Susan Vespoli
drinking warm water
from the backyard hose
pumping my legs
on a swing into the sky
metal swingset legs
going thump, thump
jumping off the ground
having peas for dinner
AGAIN learning to hold them
in my mouth like hidden pills
spitting them into my napkin
instead of biting
their poisonous taste
standing on my head
a sticker stuck in my scalp
horny toads spiky backs
and smooth bellies
linear mouths and eyes staring
pressing the silver circles
of my pajama top together
to hear the snap sound
tossing a kitten into the air
catching its fluffy body
in my hands, not thinking
about the possibility of hurting it,
but rather the softness of its torso,
Day 9 / Poems 9
Travis Wayne Denton: A Mythography, Vol. 1 / by Mike Dockins
Born in a spidery swath of Cedartown kudzu,
from his first days he began cultivating his own myth—
his name straight out of Hollywood westerns (p’kew!),
his grin more crooked than the forked fractals
of a Cedartown junkyard fire.
In kindergarten he whipped (you must emphasize
the h there, & everywhere else) his pony-tail
across the faces of every Cedartown Sally & Molly
& Bernadette, & you can still find those belles
huddled together in the barroom corners
of Cedartown, splashing their broken hearts
inside their bottomless weepy pools.
He is certain that God put so much fire in him
that he had no choice but to spit that fire
back out in the form of words.
He has shot rats at the county dump.
He has taken aim, but not fired at, the evening hawk.
He has been delivered to us, amen,
upon a Waylon Jennings record flung like a frisbee
into the blackest of Georgia nights,
& in that blackness he has yanked the sun
from its flaming underworld hammock,
& told it to “Whistle Dixie, you sumbitch,”
& the sun, that sumbitch, started whistling Dixie.
You kind of had to be there.
He has leaped from a bi-plane’s wing
&, spread-eagled, his face muscles jiggling
like Jell-o, grinned as the harmless earth rushed up
to destroy him, & even then he was writing
another god-damned poem.
In a way, this is where to find Travis, limbs
stretched to the hallowed Four Corners,
even his limbs grinning, the humming of propellers
scribbling sharps & flats upon the endless sky
above Cedartown, the kudzu waiting for his return.
Now, Here / by Atoosa Grey
I had slept some
in the cold where
the furnace failed us
our arms and ears icy
My daughter sneaked beneath
my covers earlier
than she usually does
Maybe being mother
has left me restless with
the torment of concern
and those volcanic rants
maybe the pages
of my history
are pressed too closely together
and history becomes some sort of
collage, pieces of which
may or may not find themselves
in the book of the present
in which everything is
layer upon layer
page upon page of the now, here
What’s Frightening / by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
is that I’m only ever
3 bourbons & half
a Turkish Gold
from that night
when we kissed
in the car and you
told me you didn’t
like the scrape
of my teeth
on your tongue.
What Else / by Dawn McGuire
and so I gave up joy.
I believed I must burn up entirely,
the ashes wash down a thousand
I gave up desire.
I believed Hurt
when she said
And I did not tell my story.
For doesn’t it require
a concentrated muteness,
a draft-horse silence, to strain
this way, to pull the pallet of heavy
elements, the split central
beams, to haul the flattened
hive of mind, wherever
She was wrong
This is what is left
to give up.
After Giving my Godchild a Bath / by Eva Maria Saavedra
The first time she sees my tattoo
I’m washing her hair. In her innocence
she lets out a high pitched Ohh whas that?
It’s permanent, I say, do you know
what that means. Permanent.
She shakes her head.
I work the shampoo into a lather
and say think of permanence as hair color,
as skin— something we can’t hide
no matter how much white foam
we slather on. I twist her black hair
into a frothy knot, say for example
Dora the Explorer will always be brown
and she laughs. I wait for a sign
of understanding. She doesn’t get it.
I want to say get used to it.
We will always be in the state of waiting
because there is almost never anything
being given to us. What am I supposed to say
to you here at your most vulnerable, love.
The realization of otherness happens early.
It’s as simple as the exchange of the peach
crayon for the apricot, only a few shades
darker but it’s enough. I smile at her,
she closes her eyes and throws her head back.
She splashes me with water and grins.
I’m left with a heavy skirt,
kneeling in a puddle of old bathwater.
Haiku for Kingman / by Susan Vespoli
Motel 6 desk clerks
flip hair, tilt hips, swap visa
cards for plastic keys.
Brochures in lobby
invite: “Hike the Grand Canyon!”
“Shoot a machine gun!”
Room door flung open
by old man in mint nightgown
protecting his truck.
from windows: industrial
zone meets khaki buttes.
Coffee in office
free shots between 6 & 10
chug before checkout.
Day 8 / Poems 8
Ike The Cat: A Mythography, Vol. 1 / by Mike Dockins
He was born during Hurricane Ike, & this makes sense
because he was born inside Hurricane Ike, & the details
don’t matter except to say that they are a stringy tangle
of physics, meteorology, & nonsense—the chalkboard
of his birth a-scrawl with chalky equations: spirals,
isobars, & a tremendous unblinking eye, & Ike the storm
made landfall, as the eggheads like to say, in Texas,
but Ike the cat was not born in Texas—he was born
somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico—well, more likely
somewhere over the wide Atlantic (O Shenandoah,
the pipes the pipes are calling, etc.), & Ike the cat knew
that he wanted to be my boy, my pal, but he didn’t
know how to find me because, well, nobody does,
not even me, so after being weaned on Galveston BBQ,
Galveston jambalaya, & Galveston storm-wreckage,
at 6-to-8 weeks he journeyed on paws to the Nebraska
Panhandle in hopes that he would find my parents
there, which he did (& the barometers of Miracles
across the globe burst into a spray of mercury globules,
or whatever swims inside barometers), & this was way
back in 2008, when the kind folks of the Middle West
still left their milk bottles on the porch for the milkman,
& Ike (the cat, not the storm—the storm had by now
fizzled to a dismal little eddy in the plug-hole of some
poor Galveston slob’s bathtub) found that bottle of milk,
the bottle having tilted over from endless Panhandle
winds, & that one drop of milk lured my boy, my pal,
1,214 miles to that porch, & when my folks saw him curled
in a spiral, & when they swayed to the tiny black sonata
of his tiny black purring, they knew that he was Ike,
& they let him inside forever so that he could blow great
winds across the Great Plains, & toward me, wherever
I was (& I was indeed lost inside the great spiraling eye
of Wherever), & he’s my boy, my pal, because when
the scene shifts, the whole gang of us is clinking mimosas
in muggy Florida—no one knows how these things happen,
but it pleases Ike the cat because he’s back in Hurricane
Alley, & while I’m not with him right now, I’m breathing,
& every breath makes me think of a tiny black wind.
Category of Wind / by Atoosa Grey
The wind is awake
The wind is almost
unbelievably alive, slapping,
and getting softer
The wind is writing us further
pushing us to the edge of the paper
filling the paper with surprise
then dragging us to another page
The wind is speaking to us lovingly
and then like a lover
never speaking to us again
Day 3 in the Hotel / by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
I must admit: I’m enjoying my loneliness.
I know you can’t understand that, like you can’t understand
why I always point out the number 22. It’s not about luck.
When we parked next to a car from Kentucky
I couldn’t believe it – it’s more about coincidence,
that strange occurrence we’ve given a strange name: so unlike anything else
I’ve said today. The highway outside my window helps:
to see so many cars coming and going when I’m doing neither.
Maybe some of them are going to Kentucky.
Come here. Lie beside me in our borrowed bed.
Don’t ask why I packed 6 books and only 2 pairs of shoes,
or why I haven’t enough clothes to last the week.
Let’s just do this – let’s just enjoy the quiet while we have it,
drink bourbon till it’s gone. I like that we’re making do,
that you use the air conditioner as a fridge
for yogurt. Today when the cleaning lady came I was so desperate
for affection I carried our dirty towels
to her laundry cart in the hall,
bagged the trash myself.
Bad Apple / by Dawn McGuire
Self Portrait as a Visit with My Family for the First Time in Two Months / by Eva Maria Saavedra
When I retire to my room for sleep
I notice my bedroom
has become a place for storing gym
equipment and my parent’s summer clothing.
My books have been thrown
into laundry baskets on the floor.
This is the act of separation.
It hurts; a Hispanic girl without her family
is nothing. I won’t say anything; I’ve tried
too hard to carve out an identity for myself
that doesn’t hinge on them.
The next morning I ask my mother
about how they’ve rearranged my room
and she says you’re almost never
home, I’ve gotten used to it.
Crash / by Susan Vespoli
Windows won’t open
Poetry docs disappear
laptop belly up
Day 7 / Poems 7
Michelle Bonczek Evory: A Mythography, Vol. 1 / by Mike Dockins
—for Michelle & Rob
A canoe shaped like a crescent Moon drifts on the Mediterranean.
Forth & back across the June solstice sky swings a crescent Moon,
plus just enough stars to make one’s jaw plink like tiny anchors
into the sea. The canoe overspills with joy: a dry red wine, olives
& grape-leaves, a scattering of cats, & her love. The canoe is close
enough from the shoreline of some Greek village that its harbor
lights shine also upon the canoe. With every sip of wine that Michelle
swallows with her love, another star appears to sink into the under-
world. Science grumbles, but this is not a moment for Science.
It is a moment for wine, for olives & grape-leaves & such, for cats,
& for the canoe, too—yes, a crescent to match this Moon—the Honey
Moon, la lune de miel—& whenever that phrase is spoken, a new
constellation rises. Look, The Tiger-Comet, The Spanish Cilantro.
Look, Ursa Medium. This goes on for days & weeks until the police
arrive in their own little canoe, drunk & in love like everyone else
on this gorgeous planet, & they tell Michelle & her love, perhaps
in Greek, to move along now you crazy kids, & the young honey-
mooners offer the police some wine, some olives & grape-leaves
& such, some cats, some new constellations, & for an imperceptible
moment, the stars align, the planet stops spinning, & the canoe
glows with moonlight so perfectly that the Moon sighs an epic
Mediterranean sigh of jealousy. It’ll heal, but just look at that face.
Visitation / by Atoosa Grey
She said these are your
I’d like for you
to meet them
He looked well
He arrived two nights after
the night of his death
I am your father
in the other room
Like a pair of dragonfly wings
mirroring each other
fused side by side
in the dream as though awake
except it is impossible
to visit the adjacent room
Bottle Rocket / Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
I’ve known two people
who took bottle rockets to the chest. Their mothers
cried over their scars, the third degree burns
of no purpose. Yes, I’m talking about you, that scar
pressed up against me in the dark,
how you told me your mother knew something was wrong
streets away. She ran into the darkness calling your name,
asking the strange neighborhood children
if they’d seen you. You used to be good at blending in,
but that night you came dragging your pain
down the sidewalk, hands to your chest howling.
Your mother wrapped you to her chest and your father,
that sad statue, drove you to the hospital
noiselessly while you screamed in the back.
I wonder sometimes if looking at me was like looking
into an old mirror. One about to break.
Need / by Dawn McGuire
This is what it feels like:
your body’s uncut pages,
pulses in tender places.
I hear the little God laughing,
aiming more arrows.
Feral, tender, feral,
page after page.
Love with rust-covered
hands, the smell of fresh kill.
Cities we live in,
in pain. Like countries
we attack, I say;
we defend, you say.
None care what we say.
Still, I will try the shortcut
through your park. I’ll arrive hopeful
and confused as some construct
of consciousness mayhem has made.
Home, I’ll feel lost.
hollow. The honeybee hive
in the west-leaning oak.
Self-Portrait as My American Self / by Eva Maria Saavedra
You say when it rains in Peru it’s as if it never
happened and this is unfair or when it rains
in Peru the only evidence is the wet pavement
and this is unfair. It’s times like these I wish
my tongue would fall out of my mouth.
I’m tired of repeating myself; I’m tired
of translating. My eyes sting with sleep
and I’m sorry as a rule I’ll run ten minutes
late to everything. There is always somewhere
else to be, something else to be done
at the last minute. I lose sleep often.
I wonder how foreign I sound,
could I pass for something other
than what I am. Last night I stayed up
late comparing myself to la chingada.
I want to build a home for myself here
though it’ll never be enough.
There is nothing marked about me,
no foundation for stability.
Imagine / by Susan Vespoli
(Sung to John Lennon’s tune of the same name)
Imagine there’s no 7-11
or Quiktrip runs late at night
No Big Gulp, beer, or Snickers
or packs of Marboro Lights
Imagine addicts jonesing
for chips and nicotine today.
Imagine there’s no Red Bull.
It isn’t hard to do
No Little Debbie’s or Pringles
or spinning hot dogs too
Imagine all the customers
living without processed sweets.
Your may say you need creamer,
and your coffee’s not the only one
so head to Circle K
because it’s Minimart Number 1.
Day 6 / Poems 6
Return / by Atoosa Grey
This is where we were
the last time we spoke
I remember because you said my name
I never heard it that way as if
there was an old acquaintance
stored in the syllables
I have never heard it so
the way it impregnated the air a ghost
You stressed the first syllable
What struck me is
the space you held within it
distance enough for me to
Birthday / by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
This year it’s mice. Last year it was a trumpet.
The year before that I can’t remember.
I know we had chocolate cake & Neapolitan ice cream & Sprite
because we only ever have Sprite on your birthday.
The same for the cake & ice cream. But whether it was a toy
or a book or a new video game you wanted? I couldn’t say.
Each birthday that comes I forget the one that came before.
One day you’ll be as old as me. You’ll be a 33 year old man
and all I will remember is that for your 32nd birthday I got you a nice shaving set,
an old-fashioned one with a badger brush & straight razor & leather strap
because you never splurge on yourself. This 9 year old,
the one with the still smooth skin and the hair that hangs in his eyes,
will be gone and so will the mice with their twitching whiskers
and their too-fast hearts.
Dear Owner of Pride and Bravado / by Dawn McGuire
You’re parked in my space.
I thought about calling security
but there is none.
I thought about going back home
but got the dreads.
It’s coffee and sweets next door
and a kid who still thinks he can be anything
refills my cup.
I’m getting untwisted.
Useless to infrastructure.
Keep the spot.
After We Say Goodbye at the Newark Airport Two Years Ago / by Eva Maria Saavdra
Every time I inhale I think of you, friend.
Think of stop smoking, the way I taste.
I say I’ll quit, soon. The truth is my mouth
is all Marlboro and unkind words.
I wish I had something more to say
than I’m sorry. I can offer disco fries
in a Jersey diner and some small talk.
There is so much loss around us
and it’s difficult. It’s as if we’ve been born
to perfect the art of mourning.
I say in my culture we honor our dead
with offerings and while I can’t
force you to do the same I can tell
you that the premise is preservation
of memory. And this is all that matters
or the last time you laughed with her,
the last embrace, the last kiss on your cheek.
Let this move you forward;
move you toward getting through the day.
Catlike / by Susan Vespoli
Fall from sky catlike
drift like talc
land on 4-cleat
feet. Thud like
ground like lace,
on dirt, a fur kite
balanced by tail
to alight catlike.
Day 5 / Poems 5
Charlie Farmer: A Mythography, Vol. 1 / by Mike Dockins
—for Frank O’Hara
He drops F-bombs like he’s the belly of a B-29
tilting away from a perilously luminous string
of Japanese harbor villages that taunts, “Is that all
ya got?” These tiny explosions are interminable,
& from space his jaw looks like the 4th of fucking
July. He owns 7 zillion records (kids: look up vinyl),
& each sleeve holds the requisite obscure $1.99
quasi-punk album, but also a bonus: a kitty-cat.
If you can handle the complex mathematics,
this means that he’s got 7 zillion kitty-cats: each
more obsequious & claw-kneady than the next,
each whose mysterious motor drives the cosmos
another kitty-cat mile, makes the cosmos rattle
& hum. His poor roommate—his lungs sad little
wheezy balloons—sleeps in the dumpster, sneezing
away the spiders & the cockroaches, whispering
a song along the dumpster keyboard, O dumpster
keyboard, O quandariness. Charlie is the spit
of Frank O’Hara, & we hope that he will not hook up
with a dune-buggy before he can peel off the vodka-
goggles & purr (however majestically) in the muggy
street. (Scribble your lunchy poems, Charlie, but stay
away from Fire Island.) His atheism-o-meter is forever
cracking 10 (it goes to 11), & some leafy evenings
it even cracks 11 so atomically that even capital-G
dissolves in a puff of irony & pronouns, & J. Robert
Oppenheimer—lusting in his grave for plutonium,
& who is sweating a lot by now—rolls over to sneeze
away the spiders leaning on the john door of his
coffin, & everyone, & Charlie & I, stops breathing.
Progression / by Atoosa Grey
We are stone-faced
after years of the insidious
We are tied
together with weeds around our necks
We are immense
in our weakness
We never say goodbye
for goodbye means forever
and forever is too many years
When the Ceiling is Low / by Dawn McGuire
You want infinity.
I want you inside me.
We can negotiate.
A Visit between Abuela Maria and Her Grandchildren 10 Years before Her Death / by Eva Maria Saavedra
Push the curtains aside; part them as a red
grape parts from its cluster. This is one of the last times
we see her, a black bag overflowing with pieces
of cloth is placed at her feet. Sewing uneven
scraps, she pieces together a set of bed sheets
for each grandchild. A bridal gift, she explains
and smiles. She offers us cinnamon and clove tea,
a bit of milk. We bring her a sack of tangerines, an old spool
of white thread, enough change for one long distance phone call.
Dalai Lama / by Susan Vespoli
Tenzin Gyatso. O
Look how he laughs at us
Namaste back to you,
Day 4 / Poems 4
Chad Prevost: A Mythography, Vol. 1 / by Mike Dockins
He was conceived when Mt. Tamalpais was still
an active volcano. His parents—goddess of wandering
& god of wondering—knew something epic was coming,
so they caught a red-eye from ancient Greece, landed
at SFO, & suffered a tedious train ride on the BART
(entropy, blind saxophone bums; picnic, lightning)
to the old Mt. Tam station, where they hailed a taxi
up to the peak. In the backseat, eyes red as the bloody,
bloody Aegean, they made out, as everyone does in taxis,
& at the edge of the volcanic caldera they got sexy,
as everyone does at the edge of a volcanic caldera.
When they knew that Chad, little bean, was conceived,
& that he was already scribbling poems on the dark
placenta walls, they both jumped into the volcano,
as everyone does after they realize that their magic
son has been conceived & has begun scribbling poems
upon the dark placenta walls. They died miserably,
of course, because when you jump into the womb
of an active volcano, bad things happen, even for Greek
goddesses & gods. But Chad, little bean, survived:
the volcano spit out the womb-sac, & the magic baby
landed somewhere in Walnut Creek, or Tracy,
or Pleasanton, or even as far off as Fresno. Wherever,
he met another baby at the local diner, & together
they hitched a ride to the top of Mt. Tam (making out
the whole way), only to find just a regular mountain,
not a mythical mountain. From the peak they could see
the American doldrums spread out like American doldrums,
& his baby girlfriend broke into tears when he pulled out
a pencil & began scribbling poems on the dark placental
walls of the new world. That, or she was hungry. But Chad
had destroyed death, & he has continued to destroy death,
even his own—something nobody, nobody, could explain.
Arrested / by Atoosa Grey
as if oxygen
were unnecessary for a man
as if hope were
a curse word
as if there was ever
as if turning off the television
turns off a war
in a world where voices fill
the city with the drum
Dog Whisperer and Reality Show Star Cesar Millan Confirms He Is Alive after Website Claimed He Died / by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
I hate when I wake up to find myself dead. Morning
is challenging enough without the added burden
of my passing. I feel for Cesar, I really do: to die
in the hospital’s cardiac unit with all those tubes
hanging out of his arms, the machines beeping.
What a nightmare, though, at least it was fast
and neat, an open casket kind of death for sure.
But still, not to realize you’ve died, not to know
your heart, your life’s little drummer boy
has seized, locked up, and left the cave of your chest
silent. Suddenly you’re all over
the internet. Everyone is sad, everyone cares;
they plan to hold a benefit for your poor
widow, your apartment bursting with sympathy
bouquets. Animal Planet runs a marathon
in your honor and deep down, deep deep down
you relish the tears, phone calls, and casseroles
church ladies bring to the door. You float
from room to room almost a ghost, only
the dogs trailing your scent. You think,
after the shock has worn off of course, you think
maybe, just maybe, you could get used to this
sort of life.
Translations of Difficult Passages / by Dawn McGuire
A Steiglitz O’Keeffe
that gives nothing
away and demands you take it in
is one of many reasons
must be a mistranslation:
“male and female created he them”
on the one page, Stieglitz’ portraits
of O’Keeffe on the other.
O’Keeffe’s face, stern and sensual
Her breasts also talk back.
Her long fingers thrust up and marry
the binary. An incandescent third
that does not make war with itself
could be another translation:
He and She being just another war
constructed to serve certain ends.
Better to be a pill bug and roll
into a sphincter
when touch is such binding taxonomy.
The last painting O’Keeffe ever made
was a black boulder.
It takes up the whole canvas,
floats in a wash of air, both massive
and weightless, a third kind of thing.
The whole gray scale congeals around it,
then relinquishes to light; not reflected,
as from a sun, but a womb of light
ungendered in stone.
It’s rarely displayed, this painting.
It isn’t a labial flower,
which always draws a crowd.
Maybe it’s unfinished–
It was still on her easel when she died.
Or maybe she just kept it there,
as in war, Alexander kept the Iliad
by his side.
My Partner Asks Me About Immigration Reform / by Eva Maria Saavedra
When we talk about deportation
what we’re really talking about are miles
put between blood. We talk about take offs
and landings, of how you’ve grown,
of how you’ve aged, of how death
becomes a phone call at 3am, a sea
between us, the rustle of my sheets.
I say it’s like the self is doubled
except there is no meeting
point for either of those selves.
You will always be aimless,
you will always feel as if you
left the stove on in your apartment.
I was once instructed to create
my own language and I said
I would create the language
of Fuck you. Don’t toy with me,
it’s easy for a white man
to tell me to create something
that comes so naturally to his mouth.
I Can Feel the Cold Air / by Susan Vespoli
I can feel the cold air
shrink tornadoes into BBs
and swallow my feet
I can feel the cold air
with prayer beads
rubber in your wallet
ring around the collar
with prayer beads
dessert is made from snow
Keep it in a thimble
with butter and coiled snakes
I can feel the cold air
with prayer beads
dessert is made from snow
too cold to swim in
Keep it in a thimble
on the shelf with butter
and coiled snakes.
Day 3 / Poems 3
Joralemon Street / by Atoosa Grey
Imagine the tree bowing
over a wet Brooklyn street.
Imagine it’s cold.
The river just down
the slope. The street sign,
brown and white,
a lane of hundred-year-old
houses that never end.
The snakeskin tree and a leaning
mother wearing one
of her many faces of worry.
Watching My Husband Use the Axe / by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
There must be something wrong with me. I can’t help
the stirring below my navel, the way I find
another excuse to pass by the window
once again so I can watch each muscled swing,
each breath punched straight out of his gut
with the heft of wood and iron blade,
the log surrendering to splinter – me
behind the gauzy white curtains,
wretched with feral longing.
Evidence / by Dawn McGuire
I have trouble remembering what’s important, like what my physicist
friend said in her letter– how many years ago? which is why
everything needs to be kept. Because somewhere in a stack or plaque
or tangle; in the margin of a backless blackmarket paperback
is the main thing.
So I let everything stay put.
It’s getting out of hand.
I play like I have exactly one month to live. I fill bags with styleless
tile samples, Nat. Geographics, every sad, singular sock, all those rain
checks. My attachment issues fill two 40-gallon bags. I am raw, a face
after bad dermabrasion.
I call the yak from the 80’s medical mission up from the basement. I
want it all out, one load. But he’s slow and old, he stalls like he smells
avalanche. I can’t use the switch on a geriatric yak. So, I’m thinking,
here’s the evidence. Unbearable, I.
When just beyond yak back are the bearded orchids of Annapurna
blazing down the trees, their lips cobalt and crimson. I see the jewel-
breasted birds drinking dew. No one knows, it is given to none to
know, how things balance.
The orchids are like I remember your mouth.
Under certain end conditions, the
laws of physics do not apply.
No space, no time,
is what the letter said.
After Receiving a Compliment from Someone I’ve Wronged / by Eva Maria Saavedra
I feel the blood rush to my cheeks,
I wait for a response.
There’s a stain on the wooden floor
in my old room from where a cat
pissed over and over. We didn’t know
he was sick then and once I said stop
drawing and clean it up, you’re not making
money off of your comics.
I said it out of anger, out of youth or
I doubt that will ever happen
to me and then it did.
There was a pause on my part
and I respond our love cannot
be accounted for monetarily.
Didn’t you learn that in kindergarten?
I’m sure your parents don’t see you
as a price tag when they look
at you or do they?
Emily / by Susan Vespoli
wrote poems for therapy:
Phobic gal poetess,
paper-and-pen cure was
better than booze.
Day 2 / Poems 2
City Rain / by Atoosa Grey
Rain crosses the path
from pier to street
like salt or stars,
wets the yellow swing,
and the evergreens
on the street corner.
My breath and the stresses
of rain seem to hug
the city in closer.
Archaeological Dig Uncovers Ancient Race of Skeleton People / by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
- headline from The Onion
Suddenly skin is an ornament. Suddenly
flesh extravagant. What is as real as bone
against bone? No organs, the skeletons grew
from limestone, spines like stalks of corn,
ribs empty wicker baskets. They couldn’t speak.
No chords or melody. Instead
the morse code of fingers
like a hammer on a nail. No evidence
of sinew or tendon, just osseous matter. As if
connected by sheer will. What is as real
as that? Bleached femurs
and clavicles in moonlight
begging to be reborn, skulls
smooth and polished as quartz.
Confusion is the First Duty / by Dawn McGuire
Alice wants to know
where a flame goes
when it goes out–
in a muddle
A phrase scrapes down darkness
A rough beard on skin
When your lips weep and burn
is this pleasure?
(by which light you write this–
We Take the Elevator to the Third Floor / by Eva Maria Saavedra
Of the Hammer Health Sciences Building
holding pizza boxes and bags
heavy with cans of soda.
My co-worker asks me
what I thought of the Narrative Medicine
event at the Frick a few months back.
I know what she means to say is tell me
something that I will agree with.
Fuck what you think,
reflect something back at me
that will make me feel purpose.
A student wrote about killing
mice in a lab she worked in.
Do you prefer it be a mouse
or a person, she asks me.
I don’t want to look at her.
Think of the excuses
you’ve made to justify
the things you weren’t comfortable
with the he isn’t ready
for the responsibility of parenting
and aren’t there just too many
things to get done before becoming a mother.
We are the only people
to quantify death in this way.
This thought scared
me so that it was difficult
to sleep that night,
even though my bed
The Body As / by Susan Vespoli
The body as trophy, as anchor, as spoon;
the body as antennae, as Ouija Board, as river,
as coffin; the body as WalMart, as Gandhi,
as Starbucks; the body as torture chamber,
as oven, as temple, as kiln; the body as haven,
as salvation, as noose, as blossom; the body as toilet,
as trash can, as ashtray, as furnace; the body as
billboard, as emerald, as ruby, as rose; the body
as clothes hanger, as lotus, as mood changer,
repellent; the body as target, as arrow, as cradle,
as mule; the body as predator, as greenback, as
suction; the body as armchair, as pillow, as blanket,
as trumpet; the body as castanet, as waterfall, as drum.
Day 1 / Poems 1
Little Prayer from Somewhere in Queens / by Mike Dockins
in the dark even the blind can feel a speck of light
—“Big Darkness” by Crooked Fingers
May you catch eleven trillion baby tiger sharks knee-
deep in Lisbon’s starry, starry harbor. May you tumble
heroically into a mushroom cloud’s widening halo.
May you sip pinot noir off the belly of your adorable
neighbor. May the bus wheels flatten, & may the buses
crumple into a little urban heap, but may you get a seat.
May you discover that your gods have forgotten you,
but may they buy you an entire roll of scratch-offs.
May the cosmos deflate, sad-little-balloon cosmos,
& may that final sad little speck be your sad lungs.
May you pull into Nazareth, & may all your change
be as sublime as G-major to B-minor. May you jump
into the lovely volcano, & may the magma strum
your mitochondria, G-major to B-minor, always.
May your miseries be squelched by a make-out
session with a bosomy bartender—you know who,
but probably some Katie—& may those bosomy lips
have neither end nor reason, yes yes, bosomy, & may
you willingly miss your flights. May your cab driver
tip you for your trouble. May the urban heap of buses
catch fire. May it always be 5 o’clock at the beach bar,
& may the tsunami unroll back into its dismal whatever.
May your old fangless tabby mewl her heartbreak
like a wind across Keuka Lake & all the way to Queens.
May the tectonic plates beneath your sad little hamlet
be too exhausted even to mewl. May you never again
see a graveyard. May you discover a new constellation
in the shape of a mythical heap of incinerated buses.
May you reach the age of 30, & may you stay there.
May you reach 30,000 feet, & may you stay there.
But should you reach the age of 42, may you wish
sad luck upon your sad self, especially if you reach
42,000 feet, a place that would kill you if it could,
& it could. May all your bees return from wherever
the hell they’ve been, & may their barbs be dull.
May Lisbon’s starry, starry harbor become impossibly
starrier. May all of your mushroom clouds be magic.
May you sprinkle the ashes of your Ph.D. like confetti.
May your fingers be crooked & your darknesses big.
May a flea-circus of moths seamlessly pull starry coats
from their starry loom, & may the loom be luminous.
Ooooh. It’s the end, so may all your amens scatter
like moths, but may those moths, from their looms,
spin their poverty into useless honey, amen amen.
December / by Atoosa Grey
A woman is intent
on keeping nervous thoughts
under sleeves, her sleeves
being the end of a road.
The union between two
people, like the temple
between the eyes. An
inward blink. A passage
that leads to a swarm
of bees, highlighted
by the moon
to madness, plugging into
the light that pales
slightly from behind
the winter window.
And Suddenly I Can No Longer Help My Nine Year Old Son with His Math Homework / by Leigh Anne Hornfeldt
Fractions were our unraveling. Nightly
we bent over each problem, the numbers and symbols
as unsolvable as grief. I’m supposed to have answers,
a myth you’ve believed since you were born,
and one that I nourished and tended
to like a houseplant. Now, dead branches.
Now, doubt. Memory is no help. Even that old oracle
the internet is useless, to ask the right question
one must understand the problem. OK then.
Here’s what I know: a woman lies
in bed, worries night after night, divides herself
into equal parts for her children,
still can’t carry, still has to borrow,
and comes up lacking.
Noise / by Dawn McGuire
Listen to the birds.
This is all I have to say,
my heartbroken friend.
Not that you speak the language.
There is no language that makes
sense of living then dying.
My son says my hand becomes
a bear paw batting the air when
I’m emphatic. It’s the hand
of my father, hand of the seven
passions, limbic annotator of my
life force as it yields, imprecisely,
to words. At Thanksgiving table
the old engineer says “If I didn’t make
things that make noise, I’d disappear.”
The composer says “If I didn’t make
noise who would know me?”
Dawn, the birds awaken
and I collate indecipherable
whistles and tics.
We are not separate. My father
as he batted away his last air
said, “Don’t be afraid.”
My Mother and I Fight about My Partner’s Political Beliefs / by Eva Maria Saavedra
Because she says I have known communism
to be lazy men who only know how to take.
I think this untrue and say the existence
of a real communist state relies too heavily
on our ability to be selfless. Society doesn’t
allow us to think in these terms.
But what do I know I’m not even
a communist and I would rather talk
about something else like the weather
or something that actually pertains to me.
We steer the conversation toward
current events and I can hear the restraint
in her tone. She’s trying to hold things back
because she knows that I don’t care.
When she says what about those riots,
says that boy is dead because he should’ve
been at home. I think my mother
forgets how brown her skin is at moments.
I ask her to remember the time
we were stopped by two cops in Paterson.
How they stood on either side of the minivan,
one asked the questions the other silent
with his hand on his gun. We knew not to speak
then because anger is much easier
to swallow when it’s on a white tongue.
I think what do you expect,
my 4-year old niece is in the backseat
and why is it okay for you to be ready
to use that gun. We are expected to live
in anticipation of the other’s reaction
and that isn’t living, I assure her.
Busybodies Anagram / by Susan Vespoli
Three of my neighbors are busybodies.
One day I will tell them to MYOB, but bide
my time for now, stay on my own side
of the avenue, let my piss subside.
Last time I saw their bodies
aimed and firing from behind school buses
and cars speeding our street, I busied
myself with not noticing their busy
mouths and waving fingers, wanted to douse
them with my garden hose, add a dose
of Dawn dishwashing liquid to suds
out their gossipy issue
with me: their angelic paid-her-dues
neighbor. But I’ve been sued
before for far less. Go back inside, you bossy
trio of bitches. And guess what? They obey.