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 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 April 2016 are Emily Borgmann, Sarah Bushman, Brit Callahan, Kevin D. LeMaster, Jacey Blue Renner, Billimarie Lubiano Robinson, Ina Roy, Reagan Upshaw, and Genevieve N. Williams. 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 and choose their name from the 30/30 dropdown menu.) 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 29 / Poems 29
Day 29 / by Sarah Bushman
Remember the gentlemen on the train with the mirrored sunglasses and how you could see the movement of the train the cars and graffiti and train tracks and future developments and ruins of apartments at the speed of the train like watching tv or
Wish I could video it and him they’re turquoise and green and it’s so cool to see it reflected back in movement.
Cinematically this would be a moment.
More on transformation: molting and shedding and all that good stuff it’s time how do we change physically animals shed lizards leave skins we cannot unzip our skins and start again how do we get to the equivalent
Partitions of Light / by Brit Callahan
You were my sun and moon,
my secret noontide stars
cloaked in the brilliance of
the day. You were the
resilience in my direction,
the imminence residing
in the belly my daze. Cherry
heat shuffled from it’s mother’s
bed, brushed coal, cast from
it’s perch and raised in the
shadow of flame, unable to
perform it’s obligatory bask
in her unconditional blaze.
Our faces flush, bloom, ease
about seeking the most
direct rays of chipped
devotion. Our faces
pirouette in the slight
adulations, scenting of dust
soaked in the eaves and the shadows
strained from the colored taught
skins of stained-glass. Our swivel,
comprised of automated devotion,
gathered like the long bodies
and heavy husks of sunflowers,
in our arms, a chemical cocktail
of crass impulse. Our countenances
tip, reveal a sheer white glare
blotting features and grins and mirror
the empty light back
upon the other.
We Cannot Touch The Words / by Kevin D. LeMaster
they escape breath
like starlight that
transforms the mouth
into a lit cavern
moaning from its depth
I travel deep
into your throat
until your moisture
wets my hair
catches my nostril
with deep baritone
let us not mince them
batter and fry
eat them again
choke on their meaning
spit them out on the table
until we are excused
no one understands
your bleating utterance
can you say it again
something we can grasp
with our fingertips
Just Like A Magnolia Tree / by Jacey Blue Renner
What tired song is this?
Notes kneel down to pray,
collect alms for the waking
hours we cannot speak, our
tongues measured by the silence
of our bodies at rest, at peace in
a place we can’t remember, but
can’t resist. Our steepled hands
hum Oh, my Nola, Creole lips
crack slow jazz, lift brass from
toes to toes to sloe. Weight of the
cleft on our backs as we weigh
the world on shoulder, blades.
We clap prayers.Tap the words
to The Lord’s Prayer with our
brogues. A little malt to seal
our sold promises, reveal where
we want our lives to paddle,
which scale, which solo, always
a soprano to heal the wounds we can’t unsee.
Small Comfort / by Genevieve N. Williams
These are the ways I indulge
like my morning coffee routine:
I let sit, then push through
thick red swirling black,
steaming like hot earth,
like the clay roads I walked
after long days cleaning stalls,
putting up hay, breaking horses.
I can still smell the neighbor’s soybeans
waiting in neat rows, feel soft wheat
come apart between my fingers.
These days, I drink from a white porcelain mug,
soup-sized, bought from Sur la Table,
and it’s perfect in its blankness,
like my memory can be
when I won’t look at all the hurt
I’ve swallowed, or the shape it comes in.
Isn’t it okay, sometimes, to let go
of the question? To bring a mineral sweetness
to your lips and drink its answer
which isn’t an answer but comforts
anyway? When I clean out the French Press,
I compost the grounds, rinse the glass clean.
Please scroll past comments form to read previous days’ poems.
Day 28 / Poems 28
Day 28 / by Sarah Bushman
A weird muted version
when does she go back home
A layer of water on the counter
A potted plant planted in a community garden
She wants to be fossilized a way to live on when she is no longer in that space
Not dead, per se, just no longer there
A hermit crab that left its old shell
A kid picks up the shell on the beach and finds the opal rainbow
The Language of Wishing / by Brit Callahan
Upon catalyst completion,
the wishful apparent
compliant and starshine
rifts. It’s pliable in the cool
metal maw. To pry,
to wedge, mouthing like
teakettle and rakish caw.
Well-supplied they harbor
secrets separate, sift through
skin and bone, serrated
hands, united, comb, feral
and fuming the secular
pleasures of one, of another.
The tight simmer and heat
tingle, lacing nerve, blanketing
white ash, snow dapples
bare thighs, slabs of flesh
fresh for the final taking.
Blank Sound Of All Four Letter Words / by Kevin D. LeMaster
sound and eloquence
have built a wall
everything is on one side
and I on the other
unable to hear
no rounding of “Os”
or the rolling “R”
something is amiss
at the end of my tongue
lost beyond time
no longer resonate
between these jowls
no longer pass these lips
the end of all high language
more walls to house
all four letter words
Window Washer / by Jacey Blue Renner
Standing on the scaffolding, always out,
never in, watching while washing, lives
of other mothers, doing the work of twenty.
First the water (shine shine shine), then star-
wash to scrape away the cosmic dust, the wander
lust. Buttered toast in hand, bucket at the foot
fall. Dry before the streaks, before the luster fades
from gold to dulled lopes, wilted lotus, hungry other.
bone / by Ina Roy
by a long-gone
a shard of bone
through the silt
in sunshine —
to rise from
Replies / by Reagan Upshaw
I have received the instructions that you sent
and will follow them this instant to the letter.
I am, believe me Sir, and quite sincerely,
your humblest and your most obedient servant.
I have received your silken handkerchief
and used it in the cause of my schnozzola.
I am, most noble Madam, quite sincerely
your humblest and most worshipful admirer.
I have received the cookies that you mailed
and will throw them in the trash without delay.
I am, my dearest Mother, quite sincerely
your most immense and diabetic son.
I have received the pink slip from personnel
and will visit you tomorrow with a rifle.
I am, my soon-to-be late Boss, sincerely,
your most disgruntled former employee.
I have received my ring back with its box
and will wear it in my nose or in my navel.
I am, my loved-and-lost One, quite sincerely,
your most tattooed and shaved-head ex-fiancé.
I have received the paper you submitted
and wonder how you finished kindergarten.
I am, dear clueless Sophomore, quite sincerely,
your most appalled and underwhelmed professor.
I have received your latest batch of poems,
and I shall waste no time in reading them.
I am, my dearest Poet, quite sincerely,
this magazine’s most humble editor.
A Guide to Surviving What You Can’t Remember / by Genevieve N. Williams
Trauma stays tucked in ribcage and hip,
stuns you out of dreams you can almost see.
You wake too quickly, and the image slips
from your open throat, from your pulse’s grip.
You practice saying, Nothing happened, disagree
that trauma stays tucked in ribcage and hip
until you are bent and crying on the lip
of your yoga mat, and you don’t know why. The key
to all this, you think, is lost when the image slips
and you wake too quickly. Flip
off the sweaty blanket, make some tea.
Trauma stays tucked in ribcage and hip—
stretch it out of you, let your sweat drip,
release whatever dams your sea.
You wake too quickly, and the image slips
but you are stronger than whatever trips
through your dreams. Breathe—
even as trauma stays tucked in ribcage and hip,
even if you wake too quickly, and the image slips.
Day 27 / Poems 27
Less Invoking “God” / More Naming Children “Love” / by Emily Borgmann
For the YES Writers
This is a prayer for kindness handed to you like you’ll always give your last candy.
This is a prayer for your blinding light, for what can hold light.
This is a prayer for the god by any name who feeds 5000 from a little fish and bread.
This is a prayer to bloom the voice of god into warm rooms golden, open for you.
Need is a raft you cannot mend in a sea burned away to dry earth.
Need is hard to name like What next? is hard to name in a flood.
Need is a language requiring translation on the busiest day of silence.
Need is often like this: handfuls of nails and how to wipe your own tears holding them.
The gut bleeds like you didn’t know it could: lava, or it spills night.
Oh, and about the night: the stars and moon so sure of their power.
But about that night: the cold is a fist shaking the throat.
But the summer day: heat is a leg-size speaker at ear when a little quiet could help.
You are strong like bridges join pieces of earth over water, like mapmending.
You are strong like a wanderer looks at the sky blank and finds a new map.
You are strong like asking into a stone’s long face for a low note of recognition.
You are so strong that stone will answer in symphony for your years of screaming into it.
Here let me hold this boat for your safe passage, here let me stop.
Here let me only give you a boat, let me ask if you wanted the water.
Here let me ask you what you want, here let me wait with you for answer.
Here let’s listen, you are building the water, the boat, the passage, I’ll wait here.
Day 27 / by Sarah Bushman
Stress tests and possible
need for worry only four days left of
this month that you love/hate
there you go diving into the lush up to your elbows but this is you
going slow this is me going slow
one at a time
don’t worry I’ve got it all I’m thinking about tomorrow for once
I just don’t understand how
the sun is so perfect at this time creates a surreal state for my
brain to visit
in my sleep
I don’t feel old
the supposed-to walks
into the room and
I can look it in the face and say I know I’m getting there
There’s so much more
under the skin
my poetry is back lash my dreams are getting too real I chip away and
chip away at this old paint
Commune / by Brit Callahan
Bogged down by necessity and grind,
her linear spine contorts. Benign
tribulations, barnacled and sharp
in the rash light. Dappled Ivory
and obsidian,shadows in which
to reside. The tides rise, crash,
create an insolent barrage if strangling
kelp, slick-shine beasts knifing through
the rush, assailing her rooted
foundation in sand, the silt stirred,
churning about ankles in a mix
of the sightless. No purchase
found, calves bulge and strain
against the salt-lipped currents.
A curtain of hair lashes about
her face, as absent of ripple and
sloop as summer’s night silk. Her
secrets and whispers lost, locked
tight behind partially slit eyes.
The moon tips silver, edges the waves
in her prolonged arch, gleam
fraught with her long ache.
Lamp Lit / by Kevin D. LeMaster
we can not
justify the darkness
draw light from day’s rim
the position of the slip
that sails between
frost and Spring
grouted Summer’s tendrils
keep things steadfast
and the frozen flesh of Winter
These Flowerheads / by Jacey Blue Renner
We bind our hollow
strings together with broken
thistle, wait for the blooms
to fill the aorta, pulse with heraldry,
blood lines winding the story of we,
of where, of us, in all these battlements.
Hold the stem, prickles facing all that ails us, while the storms growl on.
Habits of Hunger / by Ina Roy
You eat the cartilage of chicken legs.
If there’s any part that is edible,
you chew and you swallow.
There was a time when
you peeled the skin from your fingers
and ate that.
The technique for eating
Oscar Meyer baloney: peel
off the burgundy skin,
clean it with your teeth,
Eat off the edges
In tiny bites, so tiny that the circle is smooth
almost unnoticeably smaller.
Breathe between each circumference.
Eat the skin last.
One slice only.
That’s all you’ve got.
You’ve moved a long way
from that hungry place.
Now you search for poetry, but
you’ve been laid bare —
empty like a clean, dried bone.
Chew, crack, feel it splinter on your tongue.
Hope for marrow.
Giving Advice / by Reagan Upshaw
You want to help your children.
Which is better — stern
no-nonsense talks about
the things they need to learn
to be successful: skills
in office politics,
credentials that can help
to open doors, the tricks
to building useful friendships,
attracting mentors, speed
in choosing a profession,
insistence on the need
to zero in on something
they can do well, providing
a swift and certain road
to getting a good living?
Or laissez faire? For me,
my parents felt the finest
course was to go easy.
They told me, “If it’s honest.,
we don’t care how you make
your living.” Was that true,
or did they know their son
too arrogant and too
impulsive for direction?
Later, I wished they had
applied the reins and led me
away from making bad
decisions over and over.
But that assumes that I
would listen to advice,
consider, and obey.
A notion quite at odds
with who I was. Sometimes
of all parental crimes
I felt myself a failure
with nothing good attained,
fit only for a bad
example to be shunned.
And yet my children prosper.
Though different from each other,
they took what they could use
from me or from their mother.
Of course, it’s not your choice:
lecture as you will,
your children make their choices:
security or thrill,
what calls to them will find them,
to be embraced or dared.
You stand aside and watch them,
guilty, hopeful, scared.
Tornado Warning / by Genevieve N. Williams
is of course
reminding me of you,
you, soft moon,
that doesn’t touch down
but sucks whole signs up
anyway, and leaves
limbs of trees
What kind of hex is this
that I should be driving
north on the same road
the storm is traveling?
The wind rips roofs off,
some corner of a living room,
a dusty bookcase once forgotten
now precious in its insistence on surviving.
I want to drive through
all that has broken us—
our lightning split.
Tonight, I text you:
Please be safe,
and the storm moves
north of us.
Day 26 / Poems 26
View from a Glass-Bottomed Boat /by Emily Borgmann
The bottom of this boat is a window.
My sky, all the daughters drowned in the lake.
This one, whose hair flails like her arms did not,
whose head is a reedy crown, roots still thirsted
in this murder pool, seems to ask for a ladder.
She has seen the next world like a plastic heaven
boxed on top of her drownt one. She is used
to wearing her skin damp, a street people spit upon.
Her mouth is an O; she keeps swallowing water.
Today I walked out into the ocean, limitless.
It was only a lake, gravel-footed, its seaweed
the water-thinned hands of the drowned girls.
This lake is full of car crashes. Who drives the cars.
Who asks: from whom were they fleeing.
The road does not lead here. A young girl is a path
which boomerangs birth from water and back.
Airless. Breath-less. Body a stone thrown or sunk.
She drove for days. The last one drove across
three states to dive here. To sleep this water, this window.
If I put my hands down to her hands,
she still screams water.
But the comfort.
I put my hands up to the window, daughter
with hair of reeds. Hair, ornamental,
beating my boat harder than her heart ever did.
Fix these black-eyed engines, dirty water.
If a girl is a glass-bottomed boat on a dark night,
water, tell what makes a girl. What would breathe.
Her father owns her mother,
sews balloons inside mother mouth.
Father wants daughter to go to a good home.
Mother wants to drown her sooner, spare her.
Over these forsaken, this window skims murders,
boat watches the daughter never home safer.
Her house is on fire. Her baby dolls live
in the microwave. She is stronger than a doll, less revered.
Where once the size of a window
ran the size of escape. Her lifelong insurance plan:
zipper mouth. She chance might make it then.
Clouds on the lake lantern the tiny vials of her blood.
Her mother thought to drain her first, save the life.
Her father’s boat jumped into the air like a fish.
Down onto her head.
And he the rudder that loved her purest.
What if she comes to pieces. Which arms will
hold the men. Which arms will they hold back.
Comb her hair, return doll to its box,
remember when she was born, under a tree.
She wants to sing the tune about
how it all bloomed blood from there.
Put her back next to the comb and plastic purse.
Box of shoes is all she needs to enter this world.
One reached for the shoulders marching before her.
Rubbed the cup of her thumb up the other razored back.
These marches like enemy lines. Skirted and ribboned.
I sleep once inside this boat, run half full, half empty.
My sleep, this boat that is a cave too welcome in water.
Once I was inside a girl. Once I daughtered, weathered.
Sky a window, see the lake throat its next fish, another glass.
Me and the Men Go /by Sarah Bushman
Me and the men go
blank stare into space
what is this life
I got shy and didn’t want to share
I want my hair lighter again it’s April
I’ve got the itch of transformation
molting I get it every year
crowded brain secret radio transmission on blast
body is clumsy trying to move too quickly
stop and pause and breathe
no need to feel
the pressure but you feel it
you always have you
feel everything too strongly, in fact
by breath by radio transmissions or whirring windows or
screaming dinosaurs your solo life was so quiet
Confluence /by Brit Callahan
presented with choices jeweled
and numerous, hidden beneath
the lip of several cups.
Which laced liquid, steaming
as it cools, draws you along
the richest truth? Which cup will
slake the gnawing, the rasping
lips? The lips peering over
the bronze rim, the chicken-
scratch etched in the base,
barbwire trimming your
gullet this need insufferable.
Ease over the brim, copper
bellies engorged with treasure
or spoil. The vessels capable
of birthing a second life
or rob you of the one
your living. Pillars of
light bear down, our
echoes bounce along their
marbled flesh, cumulonimbus
rise, aerial cathedrals worthy
worship in the milky riptides.
Relinquish the dripping cup.
Madonna And Child in Repose /by Kevin D. LeMaster
she retired with the small one
pressed against her breast
the pureness of mother and child
a stillness in oils
the silence crept in
a foreign object clouded
the peripheral for a second
then was gone
the contents of her skull
chase a bullet
the child retained
her untouched soul
no one sent her to God
in spite of her
no smaller word
was ever uttered
Collateral /by Jacey Blue Renner
Are we only borrowed
oaks, rope swings loping
against the wheeze, branches
old as sin, old as yes please,
tethered to the promises of our
youngest loves, the ones who
keep us on our feet, running
through thickets in search of Gruffalos,
paddling through luminescent
bays, catching starfish with our vintage
mouths. Open & close, the tongue
grazes the palate, presses out dreams,
pauses just enough to graft a sculpture,
build with twigs an adoration chapel, pray for the infinitely loved.
amrita /by Ina Roy
the birds of 2 a.m. sing complexities. a northern mockingbird perches on the fence outside your window; his songs float, gentling the sharp light of the small and chilly moon. he is an old friend.
if you stand outside in the cool damp air, you are surrounded by the sleep of day birds – lesser goldfinch, blurred morning dove, red-tailed hawk — whose quiet cushions the world.
walk into the slight fog of the night, you, who was once the girl driving to every pulse of music, pulling along the freeway as if she were riding thermals. that girl who hovers beneath your skin. there’s immortality in that moment that hangs between you and her. believe that you can walk and walk and walk faster, blur into a winged thing, alive with feathers and diffuse as first twilight, before death can touch you.
Letters Home /by Reagan Upshaw
I found and went through them tonight. Letters saved
by my mother, written to Texas from Fort Sill,
from Fort Benning, from Germany, back in a day
without e-mail, when what were still termed
long distance calls were expensive and rarely made.
I was struck by that young man, how open he seemed.
Not that he bragged of sexual conquests or delved
too deeply into hopes and fears, but still
he seemed to discuss his feelings quite naturally
as he soldiered through the routines of his daily life.
He knew that all good children write their parents.
A letter received from home was a letter owed.
And the letters were mostly mundane, preoccupied
with doings at work, with plans for leave to come,
requests for things to be sent, and thanks for cookies.
Yet there seems within those letters an openness
impossible to imagine later, after the Army,
when his letters grew ever fewer and more polite,
how-are-you-doing, tell-me-about-church letters,
revealing little and concealing a change of heart.
Why the change? He was married by then;
perhaps he could have but one real intimacy.
Or perhaps his recognition as a grown-up
of the scars his parents had given him made him cold,
made him take this passive revenge for damage done.
Whatever the reason, closer proximity,
cheaper long distance rates, more telephone calls,
the letters stopped. Tonight, his parents long dead,
a man encounters his young self and his letters
and sends them again to the parents he now knows loved him.
Perspective /by Genevieve N. Williams
When I push my seven-grain toast
into a pool of salted sweet cream butter,
I’m dog- and cat- and saltwater fish-sitting
for friends who are out of the country.
Alone in their open kitchen, I’ve begun to forget
the clutter of my own life,
and the bread I bite into
is somehow sweeter, somehow better.
What I mean is, at my own home,
bills stack up unpaid
and my married friends pretend
they didn’t just yesterday
scream until a piece of plaster
fell from the ceiling.
What I mean is, sometimes what we need
is an open room, to be alone,
some toast soaked through with butter.
When we return to unpaid bills,
to all the small unspoken hurts,
we can let ourselves taste it.
Our bread will be
as good as we make it.
Day 25 / Poems 25
How Did You Learn /by Emily Borgmann
Absences give their lessons this way: Hold your palms parallel,
part your last swallow of dark, approximate the size
of the rumor’s name keeping you saved or dry without saving.
How to find it, kite bulleting up from inside your well,
what you couldn’t name, or want? You cannot believe
what hovers between your hands, so turn heartside down,
ribs in the dirt room of your own hungry mouth, reach arms
overhead to drop the question into a box on the highest shelf.
You lie there, a question mark or a hook, leave
your clamor a shelf. Now stand up. Reach into the barrel-dark
wet of this waiting room for absence, ask the question
into your arms. Learn like that: Hold your palms parallel
in the dark, watch the sizeable rumor fill true, a magic
hat trick—dove swelling to fit the box made of your thirst, and its name?
The moment your palm is parallel, when she releases her neck
to your hand; its name marks the beat she leans, her body no rumor,
she comes to your mouth like hunger familiar. You stood, mime
reaching into a flock of tongues, your approximate wonder.
April 22nd, 2009 /by Sarah Bushman
For Jenn, Kyle, Liz, Mom, and Dad
From the ruin of the castle outside of Ennismore to the Cliffs of Moher
For the fastening of hands where the old little epic Irish priest from the Erren islands bound them for life wrapping their hands in knit and tartan in the rain misting down sideways it was cold but it woke me up his father hugged me close i can still feel the warmth as i was trying to take it all in the rocky land below my feet the rain the ocean the green the vast beyond forever i felt small his tartan we had to wear a piece of it too
Winking Out /by Brit Callahan
I’m not sure where
to go from here.
The North Star isn’t
shining like she used
to. Whether it be from
smog or the overcrowding
of light, us humans jostling
out the others, trying to
outshine what we expect
from ourselves. Orion
all but winking out, how
is one to navigate in the
light of all the shattered
things bobbing in the waves,
lacking the spit-shine luster.
Lacking the diligent care
manipulated by the world’s
incessant whirling. What light
to guide by, how to orchestrate
shadow and dark, the shroud
to better suit the purposes
illusive even to ourselves.
Where will we mine the source
once we burn out, excavate
her corpse and follow her
into the narrow coffin,
unseen by any eye.
Bleeding Heart Liberal /by Kevin D. LeMaster
my heart bled so loud
it woke the neighbors
this taught muscle
softened by a tender touch
when you said you were leaving
I took my feelings inside
beat them to death
and buried their remains
“I’m still beating”
my heart replied
I’m still here
Javelin /by Jacey Blue Renner
These grey days don’t help the battle-
field, arms tried & tired of shifting unlaced
frets, troublesome wants in all this spin
& whirl of parenthood, of little people, praying
overtly (and not so) that the quell will call,
put an end to adulting, just for a beat, a split
second to feel the drizzle on my face, collect
how I hope to be, how I hope to be, how I hope
I can finally learn to, be. We fly kites in the girdle
of the clouds, hear the sounds they make when the rain begins to dot.
25 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
a somewhere moves air
ghost says yes to heat
“It’s not the dark that kills you” / by Ina Roy
–after Rebecca Hersher, http://n.pr/1TkUCT5
Driving is a minefield.
A red jacket sprawled across a lane
dropped from the back of an open pick-up
or the waist of a bicyclist,
the sleeve fluttering with the passing of a semi.
I see a body, the last feeble wave
begging someone to please help them, please.
For the bloated possum on the side of the road,
the unwary squirrel, the raccoon —
almost always, I pull over, check for signs of life,
the smell unbearable.
This monster has lived under the bed for so long
that skins have grown over its eyes.
Its hands have multiplied like the heads of the hydra.
They wriggle and scratch feebly at the carpet.
The joke I tell my friends:
most of what beats it back
is illegal, immoral, or fattening.
We all laugh together. I’m a wit.
But I feel a shadow fall between us.
In the daylight, a shoe dangling over telephone wire
has someone’s foot still inside
like a photo from Afghanistan.
I wake in the darkest dark,
cross the hall and put my hand
gently on my child’s back
to feel his breathing.
Variations on Some Lines by Millay /by Reagan Upshaw
We were very tired, we were very merry,
Or were we that merry? We were certainly tired.
We had gone back and forth, we were battered yet wary,
We had come to an ending that neither desired.
The hill-top was tumbled, my Jack to your Jill,
And the silence sat there like an overdue bill.
We were very tired, we were very merry,
Yes, merry we were, I remember it well.
We had gone back and forth, we were laughing yet teary,
Sagittarius rose high as Gemini fell.
You adjusted your shawl, and I straightened my tie,
As the moon looked around from its perch in the sky.
We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone to a farm stand to purchase our lunch.
Now you ate a pear and I ate a strawberry
From a brown paper bag. You continued to munch
While I muttered, “God bless you!” to each golden star,
And the music spilled out of the neighborhood bar.
The Wreck /by Genevieve N. Williams
That afternoon my blood sugar dropped,
when I floated through a red light, got t-boned
on the driver’s side, time spiraled out, stretched
its seconds to something larger
as I spun a full circle and then some.
If I hadn’t been driving a car I couldn’t afford,
one with side airbags and other fancy safety features,
who knows what would’ve happened.
As it was, the driver of the red Ford that hit me
apologized even though it wasn’t his fault
and picked pieces of glass from my ear
before walking a circle around his truck
to check for damage. I got rid of the car
I couldn’t afford and that was smashed
into an unusable shape anyway,
and bought instead a $1200 Oldsmobile
whose check engine light never clicked off.
Isn’t that what life becomes,
this weighing of risk? The trading of one impossible
for another until something hits us so hard
we’re spun back to the place we started from?
When I got arrested, I was drunk.
I slid on the plastic backseat
as panic split minutes into parts of minutes.
The bars separating me from the heads of two cops
grew larger than they were, and the cops didn’t move.
I used my boots to escape the handcuffs,
later offering up my wrist in apology,
the symbol loose and swinging,
still clasped in its perfect circle.
Day 24 / Poems 24
You Don’t Learn III / by Emily Borgmann
is a pool
Hot the sun.
Beat the sun
eyes on it, back.
They tell you
you should not.
April 22nd, 2009 /by Sarah Bushman
For Jenn, Kyle, Liz, Mom and Dad
Stand by your new brother’s side that day and forever his men didn’t show but you did and you and now there is a bond that cannot be broken ever and it is an honor
Yellow and red rose petals sprinkled upon the floor words spoken by the father from the erren islands family looked down upon us i did not cry but i wish i would have because i felt the power of the words and the bond it was more than marriage
Steed /by Brit Callahan
I forget how much
I love them, neat hooves,
the wet hay-laden scent of
their breath. Peace. The
angling of their long skulls
wedging between the green
and orange-flecked bars,
endearing. Endless peace
welled within molten eyes,
ropes of forelock sheathing
their secrets. An easy lipping
of pockets and coat cuffs.
Mischievous small gods,
tempting us to climb atop
their broad backs and run
away with them.
Their great weight, braced
like a mountain, leans
against you. Each pat
sending dust and scraps
of straw flying from their
hides. Burying tears, embedding
sweat in their pelt, imbuing their swift feet
with the heat and sudden arrival
of hard-capped desire and sheared
sorrow. When I do remember, I
rise with hope, with the bite
and snarl of wind snapping
through my hair.
Obituary /by Kevin D. LeMaster
it used to file its
jagged edge on society
its rough point
cut us in good ways
in different colors
it was a secret pill
forced down our throats
when we weren’t looking
now it has grown soft
sometimes it dies in front
of our unwilling eyes
in a downpour of purple rain
I see things clearly
and mourn the absence
the empty spaces between
today and yesterday
And It Is Beautiful /by Jacey Blue Renner
This hallowed morning leaves me punch-drunk, taste of lamb’s wool in my mouth. I pull the tulip petals from my teeth, leave them for the mourners to collect as they pass by in the procession, always a top hat, always tails, leading the black cabs, the pall bearers, the ones I will not know again. These doves watch us, tree-high in the cherry blossoms, kneading nests from our sad special, our undeniably unsettling yawns that stifle what isn’t spring, what isn’t new growth. We walk, hand-in-hand through the tunneled trees, stand in the shaded moments to recollect what it once was to be absolutely alone in our sadness, then remembrance hits: together we are unchallenged, together we plants new bulbs, wait for the rains to lift their roots.
24 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
taut silk makes a spider’s web
sirrush /by Ina Roy
after the bottle
is swept to the floor
you get down on
your hands and knees,
the scent of olive,
you move this way and that,
hoping for a flash
of green light
from a shard,
so you can capture it,
save those tender feet
The Tupelo /by Reagan Upshaw
Ito Opilwa does not, to my ear, sound
like “tupelo,” but the Native American,
Creek in this case, seems to be the source
of the tree that named an independent press.
A tongue-twister it undoubtedly is,
leading me to say, “It’s Creek to me,”
or might lead, if I were inclined to puns.
Appropriately, the tupelo is assigned
to genus Nyssa, drawn from ancient Greek
for a water nymph, because of its fondness
for swamps and soggy soil. The Creek name
also can be rendered as “swamp tree.”
What links to literary presses? Three
stand out. First, tupelo wood can be readily pulped
and is used for high-grade book and magazine papers.
Second, the wood is valued by artisans,
especially for carving ducks and other wildfowl.
And third, but not least, its flowers yield
a hard-to-come-by mild, light-colored honey
prized by people of impeccable taste.
To link them all together, may Tupelo Press
publish poems that float as lightly on its pages
as ducks on water, and may all those poems
yield something of that storied golden sweetness.
Our Broken Home is Not Your Metaphor /by Genevieve N. Williams
This morning, the electric mower won’t start.
Dandelions escape our yard to pop up
on the neighbor’s side, uninvited,
and they are likely to call the cops
on us if we don’t stop the invasion
soon. Already, we are in violation
of city code: busted garage door,
open mouth to our interior;
missing siding blown off in a storm,
the exposed skin of us.
We can’t afford to fix every broken thing,
and so we accept the window
with its nonworking latch, the mold
growing like weeds down our walls.
There’s no stopping it—it’s inside
and between the floors.
Every time someone showers, it rains
into the basement
and the ceiling’s plaster cloud darkens
a little more. The electricity is shot
and so we replace overhead light
with corner lamps. One day
we will leave this place
for a new home that won’t fall apart
around us, someplace we can let our yard
be wild, a house that will serve as fortress
against our own undoing.
Day 23 / Poems 23
You Don’t Learn II /by Emily Borgmann
your own need,
for its voice again:
pianos can fit
You think you
waiting for coming.
April 22nd, 2009 /by Sarah Bushman
For Jenn, Kyle, Liz, Mom, and Dad
Pulling up to the ruins of an old castle in what felt like a forest
in my head I was thinking of Sleeping Beauty or Snow White but it was hers
Her version of the fairytale in ruins her green knee high doc martens and striped tights but a prince in a kilt the one she had always been waiting for
Go up the the stairs carefully don’t step too hard these stairs are ancient i kept thinking my heels are touching stones from 1500 1600 i reach down to touch them with my hand and she asks what are are you doing and i say grabbing your train be sure to hold her train but i just wanted to feel that energy the energy flowing from the castle that we were igniting it was old and stagnant but i could see the light at the top of the stairs and it was begging for us to get there
Ferocity Gleams /by Brit Callahan
She is light, sharp, defining the precise
cut and angles of your face, solid,
as reliable as our oak table. The rays
filtered bare, new, cutting its teeth
over the curved horizon, the cusp
as the Earth rolls her shoulder, turns
away from the sun.
She is light split a little too
soon, racing over the rivulets
and slopes winnowing about
the valley below, splayed
bright as neon’s pressed against
the round pane of the liquor
store. Her shine spliced
in two, rushing around the negative
space inhabiting a branch, a dusky
femur, choked dark by errant
debris, left unattended, children
of whimsy. The gleam strewn similarly
through glass, candy-colored
stained and rheumy plastic,
gouged with deep fissures.
The Late Great 1920 /by Kevin D. LeMaster
her eyes lit up like two
dollops of flash
when we talked about
the Bremen and her trip
we were kicked out
we were royalty
she said in her thick German
that weeded and weaved
through her teeth
like the rich deserts she would
prepare on that wood stove
they spent many cold nights
on that deck, unable to afford a
lower birth to come to a country
so unlike the fatherland
the smell is a lot different here
success has its own smell
so does defeat
all can be realized in the time it takes
to snap a picture
somewhere in the back of 1920
Pitchfork Live /by Jacey Blue Renner
Languishing, we two ukuleles, unstrung
tonewoods waiting on Aloha, but getting squalls,
at best. I sing about helipads on the Isle of Wight.
You play, what I intone for the star drunk,
cellos as splints, legs to ride the waves,
sea foam & lobster traps carry your bowed
face, sending it postcards from Big Ben, writing:
Dearest Fawn, don’t you want to leave Cape Cod?
23 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
i find a hole to creep in
Forgery /by Ina Roy
the clause about what to do
when love fails you.
Re-read the directions,
though they’re dog-eared
and stained with past mistakes.
No letting anyone collapse
in your arms
like an old brick bridge
to tell them that it’s okay.
Understand that you’ve
made this choice for them,
like frogs in formaldehyde
for your dissecting pleasure.
The cheap excuse
Is that no-one gave you
an instruction booklet
on being human.
But like a spider,
you know when something is caught in
the web – you feel it pulsing
without eyelids to look away.
You ate. You’re soaking in it.
That’s just a husk
in that silk cocoon.
This is no time to forge
a lie of friendship.
Let all sleeping things lie.
Let the clouds
do their work.
Don’t complicate the fog;
it needs no description as it covers
the hills that once mattered.
Wander into the scent
of night-blooming jasmine —
losing yourself isn’t
the worst thing you could do.
Le Bar Infernal, Tuesday Night /by Reagan Upshaw
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before —
a naked midget walks into a bar . . .
You know that one already? How about
a talking panda tries to drive a car . . .
All right, you’ve heard that, too . . . The Pope’s in town,
he needs to buy some garters for his socks.
The salesgirl tells the Pope – what do you mean,
that joke went out with hammers made from rocks?
OK, a peacock tries to mate a snail
She takes one look and says . . . I can’t believe
you know the punch line! Did you spend your lives
writing for Henny Youngman? Time to heave
the whole megillah out and try again.
I’m dying up here! Sweetheart, can I get
a drink? My ex-wife must have rounded up
these guys and said they had to catch my set.
What is it with you people, anyhow?
You don’t know funny, or you’re not that bright?
Hell’s losers — Heh heh heh, just kidding, folks.
You’re beautiful. See you tomorrow night.
Alcohol Education /by Genevieve N. Williams
This afternoon, new inflorescence on my schefflera,
sticky drips on the carpet, bird feeder swinging,
sparrows catching their balance.
This morning, Brian at the front of the room, typing
onto an iPad that read his words for him in robot voice—
he wears it around his neck from a thick cotton cord.
At nineteen, he was walking on a sidewalk
when a drunk driver swerved and crashed
him into a coma. He will never recover,
not completely, not ever. I have so much
to be grateful for: that night I got my DUI
after driving without headlights on,
no one was hurt. That night, handcuffed
and sliding on tan plastic, I can’t remember,
not completely, but it doesn’t matter,
the not remembering, because that night, I shocked
into a different kind of wakefulness,
and I had to, I have to, drink
in this spring air that breezes in
through my ripped screen window
and be okay with the part of me that’s not okay.
Day 22 / Poems 22
You Don’t Learn /by Emily Borgmann
on the ground
reduced the poem
to size, shape.
to look at want,
April 22nd, 2009 /by Sarah Bushman
For Jenn, Kyle, Liz, Mom, and Dad
Dying her hair green and sneaking late Jameson shots from the hotel bar
(something she remembers and I had forgotten)
Green dress looking in the mirror doing my make up with my non-getting-married-sister in the background sitting in a chair in the corner of our hotel room putting her tights on we are late for pictures
(how were we awake that early, how did we stay awake all day)
Light trying to come in through the windows of the hotel room the small hotel in Doolin it wasn’t just light it was light trying to escape through clouds my mother in the hotel room with my sister
sort of mad, the way mothers do, but relieved
The getting married sister in her dress and two sets of fingers work to bring the bustle up and down something takes over and we go for it and we get it
Ride through the countryside in a limousine taking pictures of mom smiling the getting married sister looking out the window into the trees as we zig zag through the countryside yellow and red roses provide a sweet calm in the car
Empath /by Brit Callahan
A twisted lie, a ramshackle
infidelity, and a clemched fist,
sweat-damp nightmares are
comprised of these. A sweet
concussion of impalings,
eyes wide, counting the
breathes between one punching
puncture and the next. Hollow
sun hung up, pitched in black,
stones slick and little in the way
of purchase, a prick of light
pin holed in the night.
Pressed, limp flower as I am
to this particular principle
and the heart’s perpetual
ash and flame. The pin
shrivels as I sink further.
me to the bottom.
Breaking the Glass (an acrostic) /by Kevin D. LeMaster
best we not discuss what’s shoved into dark corners
rake our flesh over the white hot
erode our feelings
keep quiet, don’t wake the neighbors
in pajamas watching from their freshly manicured lawn
neither of us wanted this, neither of us cared enough not to want this
garrison of insults, battery of holy-war lies
time to burst the knot that binds us together and
heal the wound that has made us vomit words
endure without, writhing in each other’s misery
grace has fallen ill, and has moved to a warmer climate
linger no longer here, I’ve changed the locks
another time we might have loved
see me walk to the car
see me drive away
Tip Ourselves Out /by Jacey Blue Renner
Through the peephole, planets
swirl. Mercury, Mercury, Earth
& Mars, sings our Peregrine cantor,
winds rife with lavender strut.
Stargazers hood-straddle, necks
folded into moon wash, dust trains glowing, glowing, gone.
22 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
a gentle tear
neatly worn edges
a talisman takes the shape of a lost book
after the rain /by Ina Roy
–on the passing of PRN
the dog takes me for
one more run she takes
me for the one who
starts the sun
setting and gives
her white rose petals
from the neighbor’s
on the grass to roll in
she’s like a hallmark
card showing her
white soft belly and
turning her oversized
ears inside out
before she dashes across
the empty dimming street
to stand under
at the huge wind-chime
it gives voice
to the breeze now
cleaned by rain
she is a gift
a first hint
that mourning will
not last forever
that there is
wonder in the singing
of the wind and in
the water that falls
from the sky
April 22, 2016 /by Reagan Upshaw
Sad today. A phone call from a friend
told of the death of some other good friends’ son,
a handsome young man, still, with a dazzling smile,
a smile we hadn’t seen in recent years
as he struggled with his demons. We weren’t surprised
at the call, though we had seen his level times,
whole years in which it seemed he might at last
have shed his dark pursuers. We had hoped
for a lasting love for him, a long-term job,
marriage, children, children that we wanted
not only for himself but as a bit
of his parents, our dear friends, both of them dead
in the space of a few short weeks some years ago.
But it was not to be. I wrote his sister,
the sole survivor of them all, this evening.
I told her earnestly not to blame herself
for not being able to save him, telling her
of an epitaph I once saw on a gravestone:
If love could save him, he would not have died.
But die he did, and of course she blames herself,
though I hope one day she can take some consolation
in knowing that her brother knew she loved him.
One life’s arc. Some stretch across the decades,
others seem cruelly stunted, but if we look
we can find each life complete within itself.
This man had joys and sorrows. He travelled widely
He did much good as a teacher of the young.
He loved, he had some friends, and he is gone.
Let his ashes mingle with his parents’ ashes
in the tides off Skaket Beach, and may his sister
someday trace his features in a child.
Killer of Small Threats, Survivor of What’s Yet to Come / by Genevieve N. Williams
I think I got them all when I flop onto the long couch,
not yet showered, long day building fence
for what would be the east pasture,
sweat dried onto my farm girl body,
film of salt, second skin. I pick at the cockleburs
sticking to my ankles, feel a pull on my head,
and by now, it’s second nature—
I pinch the tiny tic body
and bring it to my front teeth,
where I bite it into an unmoving v,
spit the tickle from my inner lip,
and walk the remaining blood shell
to the bathroom, drop it into the toilet,
and turn on the shower. A mouse peeks out
from a hole above the faucet and startles
at the shape of me. I am killer of small threats,
survivor of what’s yet to come,
and the mouse retreats back into the wall
after nearly falling out in fear.
I do not yet know that feeling, but I will,
how fear can stun you into stillness
when an unexpected shape is suddenly there,
or a hard weight presses against you
and something in you breaks in half.
Day 21 / Poems 21
The First Miniature Reincarnation of Prince /by Emily Borgmann
This is a spring of the edge of loss.
We carry home this worry,
it hollows spring but trumpets
the constant petal swarm, purple
stars fly at our weary faces.
We stop crying, then start again,
turn into our apartment complex
to see a squirrel standing like a statue,
holding an entire slice of thick bread
in mouth by its corner. He cannot help
but pause, proud, sure that good news
is coming from every direction,
that music will turn us back
toward each other in our sweat-shine.
We’ll gather the growing boughs
and clouds of dough, turn this jagged
song about loss over to show
its purple velvet belly, let us eat
the whole piece, squirrel king, it is spring,
our ribs can hardly guitar our hearts.
Hipsters on a Date /by Sarah Bushman
Black hair down
to her waist holding her
tank-bra mesh shirt
haven’t seen her face
suppose I never will
She runs but keeps her pale skin
as she tells him
her hand traces the length of her forearm
Brown vintage bag
hangs hooked under
the bar her body
knees face him
Green cased phone
about to slip
out the back pocket
she doesn’t know
His legs spread partially
to let her in
a yellow Warriors cap
just off the top
exposes his brown
it’s hard to see
him so I
he catches my eye with
a small smile
black shirt faded
What world do we live in
Donald Trump takes New York
his hand lands heavy
she squeaks and
his chuckle is baritone
She shifts the conversation back
to her love of the Warriors
his body shifts to the bar
Queen of Swords /by Brit Callahan
Shiver and dice, a jangle
of nerves ripple down her
spine. She severs heart
parses lungs, decimate
what supportive immune
systems are locked in
play. Logic unable
to track, find the
convoluted virus, pinch,
burn it out at it’s source.
Scrimshaw, rip, tear,
clings to bleached bone,
bone fractured, splitting
at the base. The blood
on the blade justas much
her own as yours. Nothing sings
quite like it, blooms quite like
the concussive repetition of a bruise
Curl long fingers about her own
pulsing heart and his, place them
gently on the cool and calculating scale
and observe the weight, which blood
and busted veins reap true.
The Rough Exterior of a Satin Interior /by Kevin D. LeMaster
the way we look
pressed like roses
against satin sheets
a kinder canvas
our bodies pouring
blotting out day
leaving imagination blind
our nakedness beneath
like nothing has ever
come between us
the radar end of love
the opposite of no
and you melting
like air in the middle
of more air
so much we cannot breathe
Percentage of Illumination /by Jacey Blue Renner
It gets better. Filter honey,
strain stars & shake. Vintage fly
rod to cast long into the Milky Way.
Pull on waders during meteor
shower to keep the Lyrid fireballs off ankles.
Face-lift. Recall that last day
you learnt his face. Old Glory nestled
in his laugh lines, riverbank prop,
like a trophy, war-worn & patched,
gleaming in the pecan sun, effortless.
Name a comet.
Call it something else.
Let it crisp around the edges.
Release his name back into the universe, too small to eat.
21 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
dipped cryogenic cool blues
untouchable red heat of the heart
a prince slips into royal velvet
Domesticities /by Ina Roy
Fish like slivers of glass
swim in clouds in front of me.
Living things as flashes of light.
Outside, the ocean is another world
that I can dip my hand into.
In a different city
I tell a friend my troubles.
And she tells me
of a dead-battery career,
of flu and sunburn, volunteer meetings,
a spouse in limbo, an appliance that works
and a friendship that doesn’t.
With which we declare:
I am a net for the capture
of creatures you have made.
We have so far to go
and the water is so dark;
all I can do is scoop it into the light,
so you can name it
before you must set it free.
When I tell my son that
you can find sea urchins in tide pools,
he looks at me as if I’ve
finally admitted that noise that wakes him
late some nights is aliens
who use our yard in lieu of
more expensive city parking
and with whom I have a civil, though distant, relationship.
Consider the unknown stars, I want to tell him,
consider how many aliens live in the ocean
waiting for us to actually pay attention to
how they talk to us.
You’ll find me much less surprising.
Miracle Elixir /by Reagan Upshaw
(apologies to E.B.B. and thanks for her rhymes)
How can this help you? Let us list the ways:
rub on a dollop and increase your height
to what you want. A drop improves your sight.
A halfback’s speed, a ballet dancer’s grace
are yours with every dab. The passing days
will find you growing stronger, fitter, light-
er, winning loud applause from all the right
people. There will be no words but praise.
All women will desire your manhood. Use
as perfume and watch nuns forsake their faith
to throw themselves at you. Win always, lose
at nothing, victor till your final breath.
Or, sickened of perfection, you can choose
to sip it and achieve an early death.
After /by Genevieve N. Williams
I remember the white cat on our kitchen counter,
his brain exposed, my trainer’s vet sister bent over him,
working. That was what it was to live on the farm—
you go about your daily routine
until suddenly you are mauled
by an animal you’ve grown to trust
simply because of its constant presence.
The cat never recovered, not really.
After his head was stitched shut, he fell down
our cellar stairs and we found him mewing,
lost in a cold room empty except for onions
we’d hung from the rafters.
He started to pee on things, walk crookedly
across the bottom of our beds, and cry into the sour air.
I didn’t know that by asking for help with my back,
which had hurt ever since I’d carried
the heavy end of a chainsawed stump of tree,
that I was vulnerable to injury.
I didn’t know that I would forever after question
my own perception and then ignore that perception
because of my questioning.
I didn’t know I could hurt like that.
After a while, the cat stopped coming around
and we didn’t go searching for him,
knowing without knowing
that he’d wandered back into the jaws
of the same animal that had ripped the top of his brain out,
the same animal that had separated part of him from the all of him.
Day 20 / Poems 20
Wicked Witch Cupcake in the Forest of Knowledge (Mash-up) /by Emily Borgmann
Can we depend upon knowledge,
with its wooden box of miniature sequoias,
secrets swallowing themselves? I can no longer
speak to you, I am drowning; your plane
crashes, the single flight you took alone.
Clinking in-flight glasses spark the Revelations
I couldn’t spot coming, their rotted hives
like LSD flare: how gossip is a kite
impaled on your own yard’s prettiest tree.
This might prove therapeutic in certain settings,
witch-shoed flamingo legs sticking out
beneath your house: loose the wheels
to the radio flyer my voice. How many horseshoes
to validate this luck study, your arms’ humming
muscle—Honey, can we embyo-edit our cupcakes?
Those, I’ll risk perfecting. Your mouth gets no better.
20 /by Sarah Bushman
Sea salts and flowers
In my hair
In my mouth
Lamps that look like giant
Van Morrison is screaming at the Tuesday regulars
And lights sparkle through a glass plate on the ceiling
Giant Frida Kahlo paintings and antique mirrors
This is Oakland
The Chariot /by Brit Callahan
This one’s telling me
to brace, bolt, and run.
To get the hell outa
dodge, and those by far
are abundant in these parts.
Not as abundant as fists
and faces, as sunset eyes
and lush burgundy bruises.
My brother insists it’s
a thing in the milky pollen-
thick air, causing the male
populace to lose their fucking
shit. Rippled glass splintering,
the ice marred, and finally
showing. The finest of acts
executed, the bolting of self
to nothing, gone without
the least fraying cobbled
together apology. The
and paraded, shrugged
the fault. Does that feral
flight burn a trail through
the night, an errant comet
plunging into its own dark?
The Last Pew /by Kevin D. LeMaster
that old drafty church
let in the cold
every time we snuck out
to watch the older ones
around the blind corner
sometimes we would
count the smoke rings
as they passed the steeple
wondering if they went
or just lingered
and dissolved like all
the other clouds
sometimes we would sit
on that long black pew
get too loud
wad paper from
planes we designed
Oft times we would nod off
only to be called upon
by the minister to reflect
on an important point
I still dream of that old building
since torn down and rebuilt
the smell of smoke still permeates
the outside air
all of us still lined up on that back pew
coats and hats hanging on hooks
just behind us
like silent souls
standing straight and high
listening to God’s word
and not moving a muscle
In Taxonomic Order /by Jacey Blue Renner
Tulips lay claim to the body in sunrest—
Photogs trim through grassy slough
pheasants pecking at their heals, wattled
& long-tailed, waiting on Air Force One,
on something presidential, something like absolution.
Hegemony in the lens, a man peels back the sun, eats all the quarters.
20 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
vision being the strongest lie
all hearts are blind
toss your visualization boards into the flames
seven stages, revisited /by Ina Roy
you see death in a hillside of
poppies. you think of flanders,
and rwanda, and twin towers. you see
death mocking you from beneath its little
in the nightmare, you’re sitting
in a puzzle box
that hangs over the Thames
from a wire strung between two towers.
the nightmare is not the box, the wire,
or the towers — it’s not knowing how you’ll
everything and nothing
driving past the mustard plants
that look as lush as fiddleheads —
dust from the fields,
the rotten smell of garlic,
squeeze around your closed windows
not a checklist (bargaining – completed, next —run a load
of towels before depression hits) but the jetsam whirling in the cyclone
of you – a rowboat, a turkey crate, a witch.
night sightings —
who will break it to them,
no second chances to say
For My Daughter on Her Birthday /by Reagan Upshaw
Thirty-six years ago, you came
in your own good time, after a day
of teasing fits and starts. Today your daughter
echoes your precocity at two,
while new life swells within you. May you sit,
thirty-six years from now, amid a group
of smiling family members at a party,
eating cake, drinking good wine, perhaps
holding a new grandchild on your lap.
And on that day, if only for a moment,
may you recall your mother who rejoiced
in who you were and all you did; likewise,
your poet father, sitting at his desk,
who counted syllables and juggled words
in fits and starts with all his craft to send you
birthday greetings all those years ago.
Arriving in Philly /by Genevieve N. Williams
At 1808 Hazzard Street, fog grays her front door.
My ears ring from trains braking above me
and I sidestep a cup of pee,
tear my jeans on broken concrete.
My ears ring from trains braking above me
and punta staccatos up the stairs, chasing us.
We tear our jeans on broken concrete.
From the storefront stereo, from 1,000 miles away,
punta staccatos up the stairs, chasing us.
I am haunted by what hasn’t happened yet.
From the storefront stereo, from 1,000 miles away,
where my lover pulls on her jeans and leaves,
I am haunted by what hasn’t happened yet,
the screaming in the street, the air emptying out of my Omaha home,
where my lover pulls on her jeans and leaves,
and I board a plane for 1808 Hazzard Street.
Day 19 / Poems 19
Poem Beginning with a Line by Anne Stevenson /by Emily Borgmann
When we belong to the world,
we become what we are.
With the whole of my body,
its aching fins and murderous thirst,
the ship of my ribs
so often pinned under slouch,
I am sure that I want to keep myself.
Though I have drunk and dried
and feasted on shame,
though my wounds are clean
and I write letters to beestings,
this is the only carousel spine
I am hired to turn aflame and glow.
In the blue-tiled fountain, my face
waves over pennies unthumbed
from those who knew it best to count
out hope a single cent at a time.
Mine the only cavemouth
will poison the sun for looking in.
Still, it is morning this morning,
it is morning, just take it.
I am turning back then lungful,
smoke-stumble born to whatever
gasping field will lease me.
Tuck in the razor’s silver arms
with their fire alarms clear. In this world,
the bridge over must burst
from my tongue. In these waters, the oars
flutter down from lightning,
I will strike my own god to go on.
The Joy of Writing /by Sarah Bushman
Everything is saved
All over the place
Macbooks you are afraid to open
For fear they will crash
Emails journals chats Google drives
Where is that damn thing?
One poem, one scrap of a poem
It’s one of those poems that can’t be recreated
Written in the moment
About a girl in a bar smoking secretly
in a fireplace blowing smoke up a chimney
Our Lady Death /by Brit Callahan
Why is Death rarely a woman?
Because we’re not pretty when we
cut off the heart, left unpretty when
we shift the camera below our hips,
when the flesh and jaw dangle,
longingly attached to their former
body. Our transformations are
too much to bear. We’re only
objects when the angles are
carved just right, when all
our flaws are neatly pressed
into a thinning line?
Why is she only aching
when she’s creating a life
for you? A body half loved
by you, for you must love
yourself too, or creating a new
body and loving it more because
that budding body is half of you
too. Why is she only aching
when she’s creating a body
in which to house and sustain
Why is death never a woman?
Of course on the sly, she slips
a bit of poison on the side but
is never cast, never given the audacity
of getting her hands really
messy. No girls are pretty
painted in gore.
The matriarch flares, annihilates
spirits every day. Why should she
not succeed at the ending
of all things? There’s the ending
of self upon conception, the ending
of preconceived self upon leaving
fractured families to build constructs
a little less crooked. A serial killing
of every former life before the
partaking of you, long locks moth
eaten in the wind, draped in
the finest shrouds of gossamer
gray silk spun from
spider ashes and curled
from the temples of the aged,
armed to the teeth with scythe
and sawblade. Why is she not
our harbinger of death? The
androgynous shape the same
as any cut from the stripped
fineries of the living.
Canyon Night /by Kevin D. LeMaster
ghosts of ancient tribes
slake their thirst
along the edges of ponds
that rest among old pines
scratching the tip
of their universe
my back door looks
at shadows piercing sky
their occasional whisper
will fall into a canyon
its endless bottom
I often move among them
play hide and seek with night
the distance between
real and unreal can be felt
brushing against shirt sleeve
blurring their edges
with lilac and jasmine
incense and smoke
Constantly & Quietly /by Jacey Blue Renner
Hiss of kettle
steam. Light bright
& boiling over into
nightfall. Laurel vines
wrap round the old
withers. And you, stand
tall next the minted moon,
opulent skyline, fighting jets,
forging ahead into eventide.
19 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Luciano Robinson
waiting for rain in dry conditions
a lost dog poster from four months ago
The World As Reflected In My Spoon /by Ina Roy
Trees grow roots from the sky
and I, like Alice, grow serpentine
and my face recedes like a tide.
Flowers talk but words no longer do
(or perhaps left and right remain
fixed, who can tell?)
I could grow like tomatoes,
upside-down and unafraid,
burgeoning red fruit in my hair and
seeds from my mouth,
glowing from lake-bound sunshine
and eating nothing but midnight air.
The clarity with which far becomes close
how the wanderers behind me become
orange shelter tents in far off
camps and the school a block
away that is half-emptied,
the children moving with their parents
to the next farm for broccoli
as early lettuces are ended.
If I’ll believe in them,
maybe they’ll believe in me.
In the haunted house,
my cart trundles down
a final hallway of mirrors
and a green face appears
as if beside me.
Ghosts never scare me.
Instead I want to know
if he wants to come out of
if he wants to remain,
reflected and in repose.
The Toadstone /by Reagan Upshaw
Sweet are the uses of adversity;
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.
–Duke Senior, “As You Like It”
Why believe that fable? Any fool
Could easily disprove it with a knife,
this idea that a therapeutic stone
having the potency to save a life
would lie within the compass of a toad’s
bewarted head, the stone an antidote
for poison, epilepsy — amulet,
an angel in a dull and ragged coat.
Granted, there were things called toadstones, but
no witnesses attested to their birth.
No matter, those were times when unicorns
and manticores and suchlike walked the earth.
Still, someone must have sought them for himself,
collected toads and killed them, stained his hands
with toad’s blood, finding nothing but the brains
of those unfortunate amphibians.
But no one told the truth. How many years
until such science was debunked at last?
A thousand years, at least, elapsed while men
repeated superstitions of the past.
Today the stone, now labelled bufonite,
is known the tooth from a Jurassic fish
long fossilized, its sole significance
as emblem of mankind’s eternal wish
for good somehow from evil, joy from tears,
for meaning in a tragedy, to find
the silver lining in the cloud, the boon,
the prayer answered, seen with eyes once blind.
Post-Traumatic Dream /by Genevieve N. Williams
Tonight, the room tilts. A flimsy stick keeps my window from springing back up. I don’t know what I don’t know, only that sometimes my eyes are open but my body is asleep, that across from me, Blue Nude turns into grass with an opening black gate, that I am pulled by my heart up and away from myself, and there is a chorus of rising sopranos in a space I can no longer make sense of—it hurts, the rising. I say no, no, no, no, no, no, no until I fall backwards and back into my body. My top sheet billows, and I wake to an emptiness I either chase or hide from—I have stopped being able to tell the difference. I don’t want to know what I don’t know.
Day 18 / Poems 18
Ars Poetica: Finding Time for the 30/30 Project /by Emily Borgmann
What is beyond the door. All those cities to climb past
with feet soft as ocean before you can knock.
How long will you pace, afeared, this side of ready for new lanterns?
How long can you keep thirsty, then fill on mouth moving against the dark?
As if you possess merely a longing for absence: the root-burned tracks of nothing?
Resignation does not fit the code of wonder.
Heaps of mountains will always cover the keyhole.
Legions of hammers will fly from hand: you will not nail the cheery sign
of your own Welcome to drag you over the doorframe.
The cost of desire is the stomach full of desire.
You eat, you want, you are lucky with hunger.
If the full running speed you can reach at waking is,
by the night hour you find, reduced by a power of three,
questions still break you in half like your own breath, held.
There is never enough time, you will break in half,
there will be worlds between what you want to sing
and what you can—still, you step over your own body,
you step over the broken bicycles of your children, do not make repairs.
Use your hands to sound the foghorn: your own attention,
which is pitiful and merciless both, but you only have your hunger’s life
to bright your belly into that next world. How long does it take to open a door?
A Monday Matinee /by Sarah Bushman
Funerals are for the living
They are already gone
He was waiting for her
She was waiting for him
Claimed he could see her
In his last apartment
The doctors said hallucinations
The family thinks love
My aunt had this prayer book
That he carried with him
He kept it by his side during the war
He kept it by his side after she passed
Now it’s with us
The Gift and The Giver /by Brit Callahan
Two hands palm the offering
cup, drenched in gold, cold
metal and comfort with
clink, the chink of metal
shifting in our sights.
Itching palm outstretched,
proffers the little gleam,
the grainy seed carried from
withered stalk to blue cotton
jean to paper packet, rattling,
shifting promise in your ill-advised
favor if all fates well. We can
then meet the insatiable need,
the gleaming maw, the black pitch
and echo of pounding across
the poor. The scale falters, slinks
toward the tipping point,
the slope ascending from your
pretty favor. Their eyes leaden
and gray as they weigh your
worth, as they pierce you to this earth.
Their mouths part, are you entirely
whole? Or are you endless and hollow.
The Better Mouse /by Kevin D. LeMaster
I draw them in
mice to the cheese
their skulls burst
through their eyeballs
there is no beauty
in the execution
trauma to the back
of the head
the last necklace
they will ever wear
in the bargain
their bodies unaware
they have died
for the cheese
Marathon Monday /by Jacey Blue Renner
Baby bean leans in to kiss
my cheek, doesn’t know bombs
from apples, yet. Runners tie up
tight, laces. One last stretched
hammie. One last moment of slow
breath before quickness overcomes
lungs wedged inside rib bones,
shins carrying globes & globes.
Ready steady heartbreak. Pace
to rule the hills, set sail across this wicked city.
18 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
someone whispering your name in the breeze from very far away
15 spaces /by Ina Roy
walk past irises so dark
purple they reflect the
eclipse of the world we
Diners of New York /by Reagan Upshaw
Specialty: fish, obviously. Flounder, swordfish, calamari, sole. Each dessert or coffee breaks in a foam of meringue or whipped cream. Each fork has only three tines.
All dishes smartly done up. Their specialty a candied carrot, bursting like an idea from a head of cabbage. For festive occasions and with three days’ advance notice, a calf’s head which when split open releases a swarm of songbirds.
Like the sizzling of a deep fryer when food is dropped in, the atmosphere crackles with electricity. The waiter arrives at the speed of thought and takes your order telepathically. Specialty: minute steak.
Oysters, oysters, oysters. Tomatoes, here called “love apples.” All tables placed next to open windows through which can be heard the continuous murmur of innumerable doves. The bathroom always occupied – why are they taking so long in there?
Nothing by halves. Each heaping dish served with pomp and ceremony by a procession of waiters. Specialty: lamb charred by a single bolt of lightning. Also, swan tongues. Births often recorded nine months after a meal here.
You never know what you’ll get. Order two eggs, and you may receive one hen’s egg and one grain of caviar. A different waiter takes each order, and food is never delivered by the same waiter twice. Specialty: three-bowl dessert, the first bowl containing frozen ice cream, the second bowl containing melted ice cream, and the third bowl containing only a vague smell, the ice cream having been boiled away.
No guests under the age of 75 permitted. Each table has for decoration a small vase with a single spring of nightshade. At the bottom of the menu, their motto: “Eat with us once, and you’ll never eat at another diner.” Specialty: curious mushrooms.
Untitled /by Genevieve N. Williams
Titles of books around my bed
Where I Live
The Book of Nightmares
Meet Me at the Happy Bar
This is How You Lose Her
The Woman who Fell from the Sky
Our Lady of Ruins
Put This On, Please
Bright Dead Things
Quiver of Arrows
What the Living Do
Lust and Other Stories
What Work Is
Prelude to Bruise
Night Sky with Exit Wounds
Last Night at the OR
Head Off and Split
Narrow Road to the Interior
The Curator of Silence
The Autobiography of Red
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
Day 17 / Poems 17
Poem Comprised of Questions from Yahoo! Answers,
Answered as Advice to the Daughter I Won’t Have / by Emily Borgmann
Q. Are skeletons real or made up?
Best Answer: There are so many things you can learn from books,
. . . . . . . . . . some from your own spine. Do not be afraid to make things up.
Q. Is it possible for tattoos to get passed on genetically from parent to child?
Best Answer: You were born without the flowers I inked on my wrist.
. . . . . . . . . . Skin is new each time. Flowers fire then shrink.
Q. Can you sell your uterus on ebay?
Best Answer: Don’t sell anything on ebay that you could give away.
. . . . . . . . . . People are neon with need. Go find one to wear your extra coat.
Q. Why do dogs sniff the grass and suddenly start rubbing their face
. . .and rolling their bodies in it?
Best Answer: This is the blessing we say on your birthday, baby.
. . . . . . . . . . That you find what makes you roll your body down in welcome.
Hipsters in Love /by Sarah Bushman
I wonder where they are
With their cute hats and
small travel bags
Her bare midriff flat
His beard groomed
Her blonde half shaven head
His slick black hair
She wore black
He wore stripes
Talkin real small
Their smiles of made of runways
They woke up
And decided to just go
Salted Earth /by Brit Callahan
Pinnacle of pearlescent aspirations
slipping through white tipped fingers,
the snick of one opaque orb tumbling
against another. Color coppered vase fired
into shape with heat and a delicate pressure,
erects two sprigs of gnarled hazel hope
for such success. Tilling, churning black silt
a promise wetting the tubular tongue. The air
heavy with the rising mist, bowed under the weighted
violet heads of roses. Unblinking blue eye, unmarred,
bereft of tears, of any sort, of sodden sparked joy
or the tang of sorrow. The tock clicks three a clanked thunk
as the cogs grind and sound together but the crunch emitted
is a far cry for completion. Your branches dry, rasp together,
frame beloved pedestal, empty.
The Brady Bunch and other theme music /by Kevin D. LeMaster
sometimes I hum a few bars
of The Brady Bunch and hope
I’m alone, the childlike brain
like simple math
calculates a moment
when a theme song
an action sequence
could develop my own
that could contain
bars from Mork and Mindy
combined with a great Rockford File
riff, although I’m partial to
I’m a child of seventies sitcom
and eighties rock
no doubt I’m a mixed up
barrel of unwanted cash
confederate and un-spendable
there is no conversion rate
for saggy currency
but the heart still beats
to the tune of Simon and Simon
but I can’t remember the sound
so I just hum along to an unfamiliar beat
and hope it’s right
On the Back of a Napkin from Pret /by Jacey Blue Renner
Dear you: seeing those pigeons (stout!),
coupled & preening, you knew it was
your grandmother & grandfather.
Wore your favorite typeface, thistle
kilt pin, so they’d read the tartan & applaud
the North Sea, the groomed churn of it,
leave you in July holding a mosaic tile
of Abraham Lincoln, and two smoking gun bookends.
Crunch of salt & vinegar to get the taste out, remember the long-loved.
17 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
the politics of often
the space between words
St. Anthony’s Fire /by Ina Roy
By all means, make a meal for a lover. But while cutting mushrooms, keep in front of your eyes the malignancy of fungi. Some cluster between the most delicate membranes, exhaling the smell of rotting meat. Some eat through skin, leaving damp, red pits. Some burrow into kernels, wriggling down reproductive tubules, blossoming into a travesty of food. Like sex of certain kinds, the bread is satisfying, so sweet and good, but bursting with rotten honeydew grainy with sticky spores.
In the end, it’s about propagation. If you make a meal to impress, it may work, or you may kill him or her and be deluged by guilt or by an unexpected rush of pleasure. At the Salem witch trials, old men watched girls twitch and writhe. How carefully they must have avoided touching their lips to the manic frothing. Instead they watched for signs: a neck twisting like an owl, limbs coming loose, flesh burning under bitterly cold skin. Waited to see if the girls were lucky enough to die before being crushed between two stones.
Poem Beginning with Two Stanzas of a Jody /by Reagan Upshaw
(A jody is an Army song, sung in call and response by marching soldiers. It recounts the exploits of the eponymous subject, a man who for some reason got to stay home instead of being drafted. In such songs, half-bitter, half-envious, soldiers come to a wry acceptance of their lot.)
Ain’t no use in going home,
Jody’s got your girl and gone.
Ain’t no use in feeling blue,
Jody’s got your sister, too.
Ain’t no writing that brand new book,
Jody tossed it without a look.
Ain’t no chasing that fellowship,
Jody’s packing it on his hip.
Ain’t no grubbing for that workshop gig,
Jody never had to dig,
Ain’t no poem in Poetry,
Jody’s got ‘em, one two three!
Ain’t no winning that famous prize,
Jody waves it ‘fore your eyes.
Ain’t no reading that sweet review,
Jody got it, ‘stead of you.
Ain’t no filling that tenured chair,
Jody’s butt’s already there.
Ain’t no slaking that raging thirst,
Jody up and got there first.
Keep on marching, who knows where,
Jody, Jody, Jody’s there!
House-Arrest /by Genevieve N. Williams
When my nephew asks to play outside,
I tell him Auntie’s still in time-out. I pull
the bottom of my pant leg down over my ankle
to cover the black plastic band.
When I pull open the front door, slap
of cool air. What happens if he runs
out of sight, if I have to chase him
through the neighbor’s perfect grass
to pull him back to safety?
What happens then?
Will a cop appear on my front stoop,
handcuffs casual and swinging from his belt?
My friend says, Don’t let people see your weakness,
because I cry too much in public,
like the night at work
a customer smirked
and said Michael Brown deserved it,
the mean angle of his mouth—
I started sobbing right there
at a table under the black light,
and I didn’t move
until my coworker pulled me
into the restroom, What is wrong with you?
When my nephew’s in time-out,
he slaps the wall
and I ask him what he’s feeling. He cries,
Why do I have to talk all the time talk?
Why do I have to talk?
Outside the ripped screen, birds
are loud and landing on sunflowers.
I pull my nephew close to me, safe to me.
Day 16 / Poems 16
Personal Ad: Seeking a Stick Figure but BE REAL /by Emily Borgmann
Looking for a coat stand (I like hat stands, too,
umbrella stands okay, no intention to offend, but I’m tall
and my hips are wide, so close-to-ground others
keep the eye drawn down, and I have specific needs,
though I do understand that umbrella stands should have
love, too, especially in this super sunny town. Tell you
what, be open-minded with me, and I’ll do the same
for you—what do I know about what I need, really? Or
wouldn’t I have found it already?) The kind of relationship
I’m looking for is, well, it’s hard to say, but I tried
to summarize below, may be too abstract for you,
but I’m abstract more than, like, into portraits:
Stand close to me in elevators. Help me feel I’m always
nearly crushed with need. Let me loop my arm
around your neck—yes, I am still totally into PDA!
Really I am full of hope that I’ll meet the right maple babe,
and everywhere I am, I’ll feel like I’m moving, the way
a new corner in a new living room at a party can make you
swoon like a planetarium, nothing like your own house, amirite?
16 /by Sarah Bushman
I blink and one hour is
lost spinning in my chair from one task to the next
never quite finishing one thing before I get distracted
by another train
or cement truck
or song i need to listen to
or email i need to check
or text message that needs a response
or Slack message that needs a response
or IM, or HipChat, or any other messaging service
Rotary /by Brit Callahan
Bare, she paced the green linoleum,
the snick of black plastic receiver
as it settles into its mount on the papered
wall. It’s muted black gleam eyes
her from across the room. The sink below,
gaping beneath her shoulder turned against
the careful plastic gaze. The silence deafens.
Perhaps this is why the black-capped chickadee
approaches the stunted brown window box,
home tourmaline petals arrayed about ruby-dipped
nucleus. She could wield the old rotary like a blade,
iron and silver flashing in the ashen light.
She could cleave the caramel communication
in two, gladly part the confusion from
it’s pretty husk.
The sweet wrenching and inaudible pop
as the wisp of bird stretches back
and back, the reversal sudden, a surprise to its
small body and yours. The wind whips its prize,
bejeweled tourmaline from its promised grip.
In that sudden shift, quick without a waver,
you could wield that dirk and are just as liable
for sinking its swift tooth into your own spine
as the guilty on the other end of that rattling
synthetic line. Gaze lifts up, the cumulus rise,
the wind whipping over the peaks, carrying
great envoys of secrets and last season’s
brittle leaves, buffets the beast at her window.
She brandishes her blade, the shine stutters
in the impending dark, your gaze fixed at
the pale breasted bird and wait in the space,
mid-beat, before wingtip kisses wingtip, knuckles
Childless /by Kevin D. LeMaster
She turns to bleed—
her sins, a wilted salad
a barren womb
of dried wheat and berries.
I say to her
in unborn words—
come, be happy that the
reed’s song does
not overtake you.
Still, she sits alone—
looking out onto the lake.
The Earl boys are fishing today.
She calls to them
with a dry branch
across a fallow field—
all they hear
is the sound of breaking glass
and a baby’s cry
somewhere in the distance—
from another direction entirely.
Vinyl-infused & Tear-Resistant /by Jacey Blue Renner
Newsprint bicicleta, spokes from want
ads, from letters to the editor: dear sir,
please right the wrongdoing of this solar
flare, send us the space to walk amongst clouds
unbrunched & removed from the thrum of hardship.
To pedal, the feet must become lithographs,
anchored at the sole with frisked
ink, pressing the toes with their phonics.
After the waterfront, fold the intercity.
Frame & forks fuse into text, into origami
owls, shaded & snoring stoop-side, under the figs.
The baker’s rye sends us sympathy on a loop.
Smells like one hundred years & honesty.
16 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
and a side order of surprise
because it aches so much i can’t write a thing /by Ina Roy
you told me to hold the
pencil in the cleft between my thumb and
forefinger so the black line would shimmer
on my eyelid like the tail of a comet
and chide me don’t rub your eyes
and you said that blue eye shadow
was good on us because girl you don’t look like 70s porn
which was your way of saying it’s okay to be dark
brown when the rest of your
world is cream what it is to be friends is to
learn how to be an indian girl from a black guy
regal and precisely dressed and indulgent
at divorce party number 1 drinking chocolate and vodka
while standing in my bathtub talking to
some guy i’d forgotten i’d invited about
some black and white film or watching
big brother style as i run barefoot down the castro
watching oil drum fires and jack o lanterns and party
horns and men with every kind of shiny and wings and kissing
one last magical night when every bar was
open to friends waiting to happen
and these men walked up and said you are the
most beautiful woman i’ve ever seen which I’d never
heard before how you smiled your benediction
and through you I was closer to seeing
god than i’d been since i was a child at kali puja —
and now they tell me you’re gone and that someone
had to come find you when you didn’t show up for work
and it rips through me that you were alone
because we had so many friends who died alone
because you never should have been alone
though you always were
not because you were looking down
from your great height but because
you always knew exactly
where you were going and didn’t
need anyone but i needed to be there for you and
i wasn’t and these are the thoughts flying like
trash from the rv lot outside of willow springs nebraska
in a tornado circling wrappers and empty plastic
seagram’s bottles higher
and higher trying to remember if I sent a card with a picture
of my son last year and trying not to remember that he never met you though you would have smiled that cynical
smile from when you came to my second wedding
and said well, i had to come; i was curious because
you understood so was I and
you would have smiled that smile at my
son and he would have loved you
and you would have loved him for being
the fruition of those eyeliner nights and
i must stop these thoughts crashing against the
walls in my head and i hear the iron door
clanging shut and behind it there’s you and me sitting
in the troc at 2 am watching the fan
dancers who are stripped down to boxers and sharing
that brief moment before one of us gets up to dance
when we look at each other isn’t that good?
making the fists of my mind bloody but that
door is heavy and closed and that girl behind it with you
listening to that music through our feet and
that perfect moment of just about to dance
but here i hear the music growing
fainter as i move farther and farther away.
Poem Beginning with a Line from Lauren Camp /by Reagan Upshaw
Women leave the room and return with gray hair.
Magicians leave the room – presto! – and return in two parts.
Doctors leave the room with practiced bonhomie and return looking puzzled,
. . . . . . . . unwilling to meet their patients’ eyes.
Acrobats leave the room walking on their hands and return doing cartwheels.
Ballerinas leave the room in a series of grandes jetés and return flat-footed, glum,
. . . . . . . . and rubbing their now-flanneled calves.
Bus drivers leave the room going round and round and return going
. . . . . . . . up and down.
Pilots leave the room holding their arms wide like wings and return chastened,
. . . . . . . . flapping their arms like birds.
Bassoonists leave the room staggering like the drunken men their instruments
. . . . . . . . so often evoke and return marching with military precision.
Poets leave the room in dimeter, trying to decide whether it’s iambic or
. . . . . . . . trochaic, and return backwards.
Football players leave the room springing forward at the coach’s whistle and
. . . . . . . . return lost, having found no one to hit.
Beekeepers leave the room with arms flailing at invisible insects and return
. . . . . . . . as if drawn by some ineffable sweetness.
Painters leave the room seeking some far-off vanishing point and return
. . . . . . . . hunched over as if flinging paint at the floor.
Cowboys leave the room with whoops and return weeping, their empty
. . . . . . . . hands cradling some motherless dogie.
The Statue of Liberty does not leave the room. She stands, steadfastly . . . welcoming.
How Hurt Eclipsed my Little Kid Secrets /by Genevieve N. Williams
I remember thinking in preschool I was an alien.
If I told, I’d get sent back to my home planet.
In our attic apartment, my mother on her knees,
rocking and rocking, strange bird sounds
breaking from her sobbing.
Just lock me up, she said.
Put me in an institution.
I don’t want to be a burden.
My father, with his Jesus Christ evaporated,
disappeared into the next room.
I wasn’t like the other kids.
My ears were big.
My excitement on the playground blacktop
didn’t come easily. I heard things
I maybe shouldn’t have heard,
like how my father was raped by his minister father
and never believed, and that’s why he yelled all the time,
or how my mother’s mother told her Jesus Christ
would steal her babies, and that’s why she cried all the time.
I don’t know why I kept my own
small secrets from them,
except that their hurt
was so much bigger
than my own fear.
Day 15 / Poems 15
I Try to Get Angry at the Moon /by Emily Borgmann
You’ve mothered so many metaphors,
I get mired in the night and light talk,
as if my language can only build
on the object our eyes seek first
in the late hours when the grease of loneliness
keeps hands from clinging to any but you—
sometimes I raise the twin C’s of my hands
over my own head, try to cup your face.
[something about a dish of moon again]
Please stop keeping me up late.
There must be kites and carousels
and ghosts—all manner of dream shelves
other people claim—to pin
my unsleep against. Into my eyes,
these grimy windows stacked a mile high
and a mile wide, all open: Please send
cold rain, please let me furrow in dirt,
face down to not-light, though light
feeds with it. Just lift your chin, Moony face,
on which I’ve caught my brow; I dangle
from you, that old headfall forward
in slow time like a pompom. I never remember
my dreams: am I a mile of windows, stuck open?
Look up from the screen /by Sarah Bushman
Repeating phrases in my head . she sleeps on my back now . you want someone inspirational . there’s wholes/holes in your genes/jeans . will you ever settle
The calm of the south with its warmth and gardens and oceans gives way to grey buildings and dark tunnels and fluorescent lights feel my vitamin d deplete
Pauper and The Fawn /by Brit Callahan
Earth and mortar stacked,
heaving violet orbs they
hang low. Diligence devolves,
old secrets of craft forgotten.
Pensive Pan punishes each
sphere beneath cloven hoof,
remembers there is only one
way to shade and prosper.
Severe Dionysus much farther
from frivolity frothing at the
rapid’s edge. Familiar circles,
stain dark, the body at work.
He pulls, tugs at ancient roots,
spaces each bunch accordingly,
splits limbs for knocked-kneed
support and winds emerald pine
vines, furred with bristles,
frail little fangs combing
through his hair. His musk
and pelt raised along
gleaming with bits of refracted
golden sun. A late day burn
singing through muscle and
tendons. He dusts the dirt
from his palms, grinding
the grime into his life line,
he leans down, picks up
his crown, and rises.
Poppy’s Seed /by Kevin D. LeMaster
adorned in their
bright red clothes
ask us to lay among them
where you spread
your auburn hair
like angel wings
long and pungent
a freshly washed
we laid together
in a field of
not as captivating
as it was reflected
against cherry-red-petaled flesh
the worms have pedaled
through the dirt that now
resembles a dark clay
they have shed their bright clothes
you rest somewhere underneath
somewhere between beauty
Morning Offering /by Jacey Blue Renner
The farolitos wept the night she rose.
Hallelujah smoldered bags sank heavy
against the desert winds, pink bellied.
Her voice, sewn into every cactus, every
piñon tree, whispered the rosary, cones
and nuts bowed in prayer, branches signing the cross.
The cardinal, mantilla in its beak, a timeless luminarie, nestled in the whorls.
15 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
the middle of a spring
Moths That Flee The Light /by Ina Roy
an erasure after “Your porchlight is causing moths to evolve” by Virginia Morell in Science, 4/12/2016
Poem Constructed from 14 End Words
Selected at Random from
The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry / by Reagan Upshaw
It’s cinematic, isn’t it, that luminous flash of thigh
glimpsed as the bed covers are thrown back in the dawn
and we push our bodies out beyond the bounds
of mattress and bedroom. We ease ourselves
into another day as we brew coffee, make toast, scramble
eggs, as we read the paper, savoring a quiet moment
in this place where no one is dying. Spring
opens like a movie around us; a casual glance yields
a cast of characters – robin, goldfinch, squirrel – none of them exiled
like the people we see in the news, those faces glowing
with relief or sandbagged with sadness, needing no tongue
to convey their feelings. A child was born, an aunt died
on the way; they adjust to a new home, a different wardrobe.
We look at them, our gratitude and guilt both palpable.
Female Waiting /by Genevieve N. Williams
I watch the inmate in front of me
remove another woman’s weave,
her fingers making slow half-moon motions
as she loosens each braid
and releases it soundlessly into the trash.
Behind us, a performance of power
erupts into a thing larger than itself.
One cop leans into the counter,
What are you, a pretty boy?
You a fucking faggot?
There is laughter that blurs
into something else, a loudness
that exposes its own fear.
In front of me, the woman pats her head
where her braids used to be.
I stay behind her, in this row
of tender quiet, and I feel safe.
Even later, when I’m in holding,
that motion stays with me,
the hands, the letting go.
Day 14 / Poems 14
Hymn Through /by Emily Borgmann
Your mouth eats
to the song
whether the day
is worth singing
Say it’s clear
have no anchor.
Talk to the sky:
it’s held the swing,
and you in it,
trying to go over.
This is the night
you must tell
your own name.
These, the notes
windmills for you.
Lie to the cellar
on top of it.
A clean plate makes a clean print / by Sarah Bushman
Carving a path in space but it’s not carving it seems etched already
Try to jump off the groove carve a new path in the copper plate
The inkwell is shallow and the acid
ink doesn’t stay in the light
Wildfire /by Brit Callahan
He banks the flame
for the night, tucked coals
and gleaming embers shimmering
like it’s his kin, magma easing
itself into the sea. The fatal
result of self-destructive tendencies.
Bask in artificial heat as it
ripples reality in the furrows
that he see fit. Gently purse lips
and blow viper-tongued flames
in his direction, damp breath,
a second life for blaze and soot.
Charred wood split, black smudged
fingers, greased ash streaked
across his angled face. Pop and
hiss of sap, seeping into the heat
rising sweetness, swirling smoke
in the leery dark. Chasing shadows
with our cinders. The wind swings
around, panic blooms as we suck
back in oxygen deprived pit smoke,
bits of ash stuck in our throats. Ash
rising up out of the flame, arching
off embroiled logs glowing in the
hollow dark. Building up thick
black clouds of smoke
unable to discern shapes in the haze,
attempting to part them with blade-like
palms. You remind him of his greatest fear,
that you are capable of giving him
exactly what he wants.
Silence of the Deafening Stare /by Kevin D. LeMaster
I swear I heard your sigh
in a back room where
we once touched
but you were not there
in that little quirky
place of non-sound
where nothing escapes
we made noise
while dancing horizontal
on your mother’s couch
the wholeness of us
nothing can be read
through our nakedness
we just were
that little escape of air
the roundness of “O”
like a child’s imagination
realized and expressed
just you in that moment
that us that can never be
apart from the you
that is me
Your Dividend is Here /by Jacey Blue Renner
Sun breaks us open
sways heavy on sweatered
shoulders. Orphan lambs,
bottles pressed tight to mouths,
feed from little hands, will grow
to wool. Lazy Daffodils press
into the golden light, drink
right from the hand of God.
14 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
coated lizard belly
wheatgrass stuck between the teeth
medication based on smell
Mother /by Ina Roy
When did I become a wishbone
designed to be torn in two
held by the feet, pulled to pieces?
Turns out that anything can break my heart —
that everything is a parable
a picture of the inevitable —
the house collapsing under the weight of fire,
the flat-eyed gasp of the hooked catfish before
it’s thrown back in Oak Lake,
the feathered tatters of a crow
smeared across the bike path
There’s no escape
from the moebius voice
that splits my thoughts,
whispering please let that not be my child —
not any child —
not my child —
Poem Beginning with an Example of the Blues
from A Handbook to Literature (Thrall/Hibbard/Holman)
and Ending Somewhere Else / by Reagan Upshaw
Gwine lay my head right on de railroad track,
Gwine lay my head right on de railroad track,
‘Cause my baby, she won’t take me back.
My eyebrows getting longer by the day,
The hair on top my head done gone away.
My belly getting wider than I’m tall,
I’m lying on my own Pilates ball.
My wallet flatter than a gunny sack,
Been years since I been even in the black.
My tooth broke on a ham bone when I bit,
Now dentist tell me ain’t no saving it.
My friends they up and died, left me alone,
Now no one near to hear me when I moan.
My soul like Daniel in the lion’s den,
I ain’t been hip since can’t remember when.
I walk right past, don’t even try to score,
Them sweet young things don’t look at me no more.
My writing getting tired, over the hill,
Might’s well be writing with a feather quill.
Post-modernism come and gone, and now,
Ain’t no one care to listen anyhow.
The young folk write their flarf, shoot selfie cheese,
They twitter like the birds up in the trees.
Gwine hop a freight, ain’t no one give a damn,
Ain’t no one posting poems on Instagram.
Holding /by Genevieve N. Williams
Outside the thick metal door, my name—Williams,
called to the empty rows of fat plastic chairs,
called again. I step forward so my face can be seen
through the crisscrossed window.
Inside, E tells me I can trade my poetry for commissary.
I have just given her my lunch:
Orange Drink, bologna sandwich,
six baby carrots, and a cookie.
At the door, the officer wouldn’t hear me
when I said, Thanks, but if I’m going to eat, I need my insulin.
The officer shook her head, Yeah well,
you gotta go to holding anyway, and shut us in.
E tells me they never give out insulin right,
that in Tecumseh, diabetics had to wait
for a nurse to make rounds,
and so their sugars were all over the place crazy
all the time. E tells me she is twenty-three,
she has a baby on the way.
I ask if she is a painter
because her hands are splattered blue.
She pulls back her hair
and points to her forehead,
which is also blue.
She smiles, It gets everywhere.
A different officer unlocks the door.
Outside, I wait again in a fat plastic chair.
E stays in holding, her face flat
behind the crisscrossed window.
Day 13 / Poems 13
Self-Portrait as Thirst /by Emily Borgmann
Empty the river and ask the question.
As if you could decide to empty
but your own hands. Ask the question
you cannot sleep beside:
How to sleep next to what burns your eyes?
What would it take to fill the night?
You break doorways into questions,
wonder what tornado will come
to fill your ears so you stop asking.
How far you’ve run into desert
on empty: the backs of your eyes, even,
sing some river to you. This is a tired
mountain of wanting: saying no against
your own shoulder to keep empty.
13 /by Sarah Bushman
Gold dust on my hands
it was everywhere
couldn’t not touch
it is in my skin now
He has a Morrissey pin on his sweatshirt and he feels like someone from the past but it’s just a signifier a little reminder of an event that occurred that you had friends that looked like him but you don’t know where they are now or what they’re doing
Marvel /by Brit Callahan
A cistern hovers at the end of the lane,
it’s cracked slats enable an unbridled slant
of light to drench the pool below. The water
murky with a belief left unmoored. A kracken
forgotten, slinking in its depth, the hush and slip
of slick tentacle.
Above a child toddles toy soldiers and squeaking
metal trucks along it’s calcified rim. A bit of salt
tinging the fresh water air. He tips toys into the dust
mote riddled abyss.
A girl patters up, barefoot, shimmies into the patchwork
light. Inky black hair pinned with gold and pearl, ringlets
piled high atop her head, chin raised, hips just this side
of puberty. Her mouth drips down, pearls bind a closed-lip
clam about her throat and her face falls as the sun bleeds
into the sea. Fish-tailed servants catch the truth in her maw.
The child’s eyes ignite and he stretches his length across
the mouth of the cistern, the cool air sweet as a kiss on
his bare stomach. Her hand cups his shoulder, as he gazes
down. There’s blood
in the water mother.
Blood in the water.
Lucky 13 /by Kevin D. LeMaster
A Whisper of Horizon
we lay on the grass-fed
hills, watching clouds
and deciding which
should be a boat
floating in a bright
blue sea of sky
his cloud should
but it was a rhino
we both knew it
mine had the tall sail
safe point and harbor
through strong gale
a wisp of nothing
till it was gone
from a Viking funeral
there was nothing left
to signal its defeat
nothing but the blue of ocean
a brief hint of cloud
skipping off its waves
Let the Beautiful Stuff Out /by Jacey Blue Renner
One wing, tucked in, torn in three
places, feathers stretched & strewn
across hip bones—lengthen & lean.
Inside, arteries crest & pulse with lesser
movements, while the tail props itself
upon the scrawn of not-yet fully awakened
spring. Ache of murmurations,, starlings on sit
bones, sun pucker, shape-shift. Swoons
lift the flock. On elbows, they roost now, nest in,
resist the auburn sky, couple up with thousands to form, the Fens.
13 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
roses’ quiet laughter
untrained orphan dogs
a house without its master
Embedded /by Ina Roy
Astronomers are searching
for alien moons orbiting unseen planets,
lurking in the data,
circling the shadows of giant suns I will never see.
Our moon is dry,
sterile and staid.
Once you’ve set foot on it,
it’s hardly exciting.
Three months ago,
an octopus slipped his tank,
slithered down a drain,
The keepers think
he’s returned to Hawke’s Bay,
healed, fed and grateful.
Humans called him Inky,
but he wanted to be known by his true name,
which is as strong and as malleable as
the ocean to which he’s returned.
I’m sure there’s a message in here somewhere,
endurance and freedom,
about love or maybe loneliness,
about finding a place for yourself
even if it’s no place at all.
Ted /by Reagan Upshaw
“How much?” I asked the gallerist.
A portrait of Ted Berrigan
by Alex Katz hung on the wall
behind her. “One point nine million,”
she answered briskly. Wow, I thought.
The painting showed him young and slim,
not portly as he came to be
before his death at 48.
A charismatic sort, Ted claimed
to be the head of the New York School,
and said that anyone could join
by paying twenty dollar dues –
to him, of course. One of his more
amusing schemes for making bread,
or dough, more aptly, for such schemes
were always half-baked. Money was needed
for cigarettes, for rent, for speed,
for books he was too old to steal
anymore, for kids who needed
food and clothes, and for his wife,
who fought to hold their lives together,
and who succeeded, mostly, till
his hepatitis finally won.
His meagre veteran’s benefits
bought a casket, a plot, and a standard
regulation memorial marker
in a military cemetery
somewhere on Long Island.
His books upon my shelf turn brittle.
I don’t know if the young read him
today. The portrait — how ironic
if his immortality should lie
not in his works but in serving
as a subject for a famous painter.
Muse, protect your child, and may
his poetry like his portrait find
a home with later generations.
May his voice – humane, wise-assed,
find an enduring home upon
the tongue of American poetry.
Pantoum /by Genevieve N. Williams
I can’t sleep and so I feed the birds.
Tomorrow, I turn myself in.
Seed dust clouds my feet as a sparrow lands
on the skeleton of a sunflower.
Tomorrow, I turn myself in.
In this blue-black cool, she waits
on the skeleton of a sunflower.
There is a weightlessness to this night.
In this blue-black cool, she waits.
I breathe out the word alcoholic.
There is a weightlessness to this night
like the body of a bird.
I breathe out the word alcoholic,
swallow it back in. The feeder swings.
Like the body of a bird,
my secret floats.
Day 12 / Poems 12
Body Book: First Verses /by Emily Borgmann
1 . I love a body whose knuckles are bruised.
… .She punches a bag to take back her body’s instinct.
2. The sky is a line of bird bodies breaking treebacks.
… .Why are birds the pretend bodies so often?
3. Still, I love a container filled with coin markers.
… .Birthday coins: Stopped Emptying Body into Glass Day.
4. I love a body whose knuckles ink with their own force.
… .My hands, like my father’s, land stronger than I know.
5.The night is a tree of contorted backs, I ask mine break.
… .My pleasure a turn toward birds of light, whip on skin.
6.This long, to find markers to container my body.
… .I’m born like this: day I empty the glass of my body.
What to do when nothing is there /by Sarah Bushman
Pull and grasp at insects floating and flapping in colorful tents black wings against orange and think of your friend’s dream the one where she told you that insect appeared every night in front of a white screen and she couldn’t get it to stop appearing Visit memories of creeks that rise and fall three creeks in three different towns same brown rushing water same smell
Sit in the quiet don’t count back from 200 in increments of threes Stare at the light the change in tone and texture around the whistling in my ear is that the train or the headphones try not to feel let it come rush over like smoke over cyclamen in a courtyard What’s so important really that we need to bite our glasses and stare furiously at a screen we dance in circles like squares around the interaction feel the heavy
Entwine /by Brit Callahan
Serpentine slope, two paths
converge in which we did
not take. The Id and the ego
coil and wind about each
other. A pale torso wrapped
with a tanned bicep, each
part taut with muscled
intent. Difficult to unkink
one from the other, the gravel
path drops and the horizon swallows
the center, unhinges it feline maw
and engulfs the fawn-like start.
Chalk and gritted dirt scratched
into palms, chaffed and filtered
fine by the abrasions of flesh.
Rippled bodies nothing but
bulge and heave and
plead. The roses should
bloom any day now.
Any spring now.
I’ve forgotten where you spill
over in to me and my fraught
ending. Oroborus’ thickly
scaled mobius strip, your
slick length binds.
twisted just so, we come
undone. Tethered by body
and desire’s witness.
Difficult to part them,
to peer past their crooked
coils, cool scales wicking
the fickle heat from your flesh.
The roses should open
any day now.
Day 12 /by Kevin D. LeMaster
we blur the edges
a smeared canvas
we love in sandals
and rock the hair
some would say
others just throw
god our way
and hope we catch
what they have
we try hot dogs
without a mask
and eat all those
foods that cause cancer
we mug for the camera
hold our kids close
no longer come
we go out dancing
where everyone can watch
and scream at a night
that has no morning
Grus grus /by Jacey Blue Renner
Etched over, I trust along reeded beds,
hasps missing from my cobbled backbone
hobbling over what? Bygone waterways? Marshes
set upon by foul? I roam causeless, rippled,
listening to the reverberations of my former (she),
trestle leaning into the speed of the passenger cars.
Fold, half-lift, I am a Common Crane, greying on the rails.
12 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
those bothersome inbetweens
a halo effect
all comings and goings leading to the same place
A Tree To Love Him /by Ina Roy
The madman finds a tree to love him. The love of a tree is a wild and constant thing. Unlike the love of a lover or a father or mother or sister, he says, which tells us something about his background that we hadn’t previously known. When we help them put him in jail because of his love, he sits listening to the tree crying with the wind for him. Eventually, they say, let us release him, and we agree. But he refuses to walk out of the jail, even if he is allowed to go barefoot to his beloved. It must learn to do without me, he says, listening carefully to the voice we cannot hear, and this way is kinder.
30/30 /by Reagan Upshaw
(to the tune of “It Might As Well Be Spring”)
I’ve got customers awaiting their appraisals
And collectors who’ll buy something soon, I pray.
There’s a new blog still unwritten for my website,
And a poem due today.
I’ve got home repairs awaiting my attention
And a tax return that’s due without delay.
How can I give them my attention
With a poem due today?
I keep on wishing I were Auden —
His effortless facility
Would make short work of any ode,
But, alas, I’m only me.
I’ve got creditors awaiting my remittance
And a checking overdraft that I must pay.
I’m writing this while taking a short breather
From the old financial fray.
I’ve got challenges and woes, all the stock creative throes,
For a poem due today,
A poem that’s due today.
Reading Into Things /by Genevieve N. Williams
I don’t want to be like the plastic pink flamingo
in a Midwestern yard, absurd and obvious.
I don’t want to live my life in symbols,
though I grew up with a 4’ x 6’ of Freud
nailed to the wall above the basement staircase,
though my mother said, There are no such things as accidents.
At a reading, the poet next to me
looks at my hands
every time I shift in my seat.
They’re folded in my lap, so I flatten my palms
together between my knees, unsure
what to say with them, or how.
As a kid, I spent time every day staring
at a print of The Garden of Earthly Delights
and its floating ear stabbed by a knife.
It spanned the expanse of wall
above our orange corduroy couch,
and that ear—it terrified me.
At dinner, I drop my fork. It sticks up
out of the carpet then falls.
The fork means nothing.
Day 11 / Poems 11
You Town Square Nude Model /by Emily Borgmann
Then if you are a statue, be the best one,
holding still your river, it’s embarrassing
to keep galoshes dry, what of this position.
So if you can shoulder the drown,
pop up toaster with this weight, stay
with me, town square, say I’m welcome.
When further from water, fish belly,
when nothing you’ve carried answers back,
push mountains stretch sidewalk, you’re born.
On the sixth day her brain willed her body to get up and get out of bed /by Sarah Bushman
A Tom Waits song bedroom lined with camel lights the kind that turns the air gray and the walls yellow green bottles of whiskey thrown about the bedroom work shirts laying haphazardly over the computer chair half empty closet other side vomiting clothes waiting to be hung up drawers open fish tank dirty brown and too much food light broken slatted mini blinds San Diego April beats upon the windows a file cabinet for a night stand with old papers and a pipe laying on its side of the bed is made green bottles to the right side of my bed trailing to the kitchen cats stepping over the cats to remind me they need food I need food my body being sewn into the red and gold duvet overflowing ashtray on the nightstand to the right of me on top of books next to a pile of journals with names I never should have wrote in them because they will be read a yellow light a someone is coming through a door that is not opening or closing putting on that new black dress and pointy heels curling hair trying to go see the Kills and not getting in home to an empty house face first in brown apartment carpet a gentle paw on my head get up sitting in front of the computer trying to write something trying to write anything instead taking selfies before they were selfies long black hair growing big black sunglasses sepia tone the ring in my mouth thinking of swallowing
Justice /by Brit Callahan
Intuition in my left hand
and impartial persistence reins
my right. The pillars crumble,
lavender tapestry billows
and snaps in the sudden gale.
I’ll cleave your gnarled heart out,
separate your black and ash truth
from your starched linen lie.
My scales are never
in your illicit favor.
Clothed in our fair share
of gilt and complications,
I’m leaning hard
toward that gleaming
guillotine. Eyes absent cast
up, compassion bristles
the color of bruise in her
veins, puckered sockets
gape and weep beneath
white silk, the burgeoning rope
cut fine across shoulders,
crimson tinged tears escape their
creamy binding. Staining cheeks
with their tint.
A Statuesque Play acted out in Silence /by Kevin D. LeMaster
these still dead
into empty pools
the rest look on
in fantastic imagination
they stare at each other
at how long the leaves
cling to their
how long the pool
has been closed
taped off with
could happen here
any bronzed statue
but never tell
not with their tongues
welded to the roofs
of their unwilling mouths
Not on the High Street /by Jacey Blue Renner
Can’t decide where to plant
spring flowers, tulips or daffs,
where to hide the rosehips, hedged
rows hiding Newmarket ponies,
(threading needles for Royal Ascot)
Maserati stops for milk & crisps, elderflower
cordial chaser, to whip the winds, send
hooves to the finish, bespoke fascinators frame & gather.
11 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
hound the garden
like black yellow butterflies guarding spring
Midge Music /by Ina Roy
the expressway —
his coolie hat —
his thin, lined smile —
his loose dark clothes —
his loose hands
like a t. rex —
leading the band
in my head
Admonition /by Reagan Upshaw
Gather ye rosebuds while you may,
Cling to a thing that you call your own
Capture the flag without delay.
Bite into life like a terrier’s bone.
Buff up the shine on your résumé.
Star in the press and the evening news.
Sock away cash in your I.R.A.
Rack up the chits and the IOUs.
Glom onto mentors who help you out.
Grab hold of more than the lion’s share.
Dazzle co-workers you put to rout.
Settle your buns in the highest chair.
Go for a laugh and the easy lay.
Follow the rules that you make yourself.
Do what you want, though there’s hell to pay,
Put regret always on the shelf.
But never forget, whether straight or gay,
Coming old age has a heart of stone.
Set aside love for another day,
Die with full pockets and all alone.
Jolly good fellows and Facebook pals,
Find other interests and drift away.
Listen to me, all you guys and gals,
Gather ye rosebuds while you may.
Untitled /by Genevieve N. Williams
When the ghost throws gasoline at me, I’m walking to my car, parked on the street in front of my parents’ house.
I think the ghost must be my grandfather when it hisses, Children don’t leave their parents, because I’m not leaving mine, only going home for the night, but my father left his forever, and for good reason.
On Easter Sunday, we drive into a storm that opens to the warning: controlled burn ahead. The marquis is anchored with sand bags. It blinks unevenly. We drive for miles on the two-lane highway, never see fire, only low clouds and a promise of rain.
How do I begin to tell you what happened?
My father called a hospital: I’m going to kill myself, he said. The person on the other end told him he needed his parents’ permission to get admitted.
Here was the boy begging his teacher not to make him sit down because his butt was bleeding.
Here was the boy called a liar when he said what his father, the minister, did to him.
Even still, I get queasy in churches.
Once, as a kid, I threw up red all over a Christian lady’s Mary Janes. My friends said I’d burn in hell for not believing in God. I don’t know if I didn’t believe in God. I just knew what could happen at the hands of a man who claimed he spoke for Him.
Day 10 / Poems 10
Regular Pretend Grandmother Lightning /by Emily Borgmann
I break your house, slip down the family line,
whisper Who made me? I shout at order: a sky
too filled with eyelash-lit dot diagrams, this house
too small, pocket stone grandmother promises
(what else?): You can hold it, your head, it will break.
Moonriot syrupy self, wait, it’s a birthday cake,
you’ve dodged dumb rock backseats, you’ll throw
the ford mustang over the moon, most like your feet
this fear is shaped, what’s small in silence, how far
the rabbits run from the fence, take yourself outside.
GetInHere and Office and Jake’s read the bar signs,
you wanted so many, these coffee filter snowflakes
like blood gumdropping air against their neon bodies,
you sorted tiny extractions, that manicuring cramp,
then you’re holding your little one: it’s opened, it’s over.
In our own hands we’re smaller than we’d like,
mother-machines make us, and their makers halo lightning
round heads. When I was ten and twelve I had this
pretend grandmother, she made me lemonade and finish
my math problems, I watched her Wheel of Fortune.
Casa Grande /by Sarah Bushman
Built for the world’s trade fair
on the corner of
alive and more alive
getting out from under the hold starting to peel back the shake in my stance green fire escape
cage gives way to friends crawling up and in
white pumpkins by the door
large windows looking
the slight slant of wooden floors creaking
dishes in the kitchen shaking
a typewriter sits on a school desk waiting
walk in closet piled shoes and clothes and childhood dresser inside a floor length mirror
denim skirts brown boots and vests black and white checked linoleum
a claw foot tub sits
cigarette smoke vents
the thin white veil lifts to the light at the top
(whatever color the sky was)
a grey rainbow arches over the roofs of buildings
(after a fresh rain)
let’s go back to the beginning before all of this happened
(his eyes tell me to come home closer be nearer)
Sighting of Reverence /by Brit Callahan
I only believe in signs I can see.
hearsay doesn’t hold much water
Every times the leaves let go,
a murder of crows blackened
the skies for winter, kept watch
as we tied shimmering tinsel
to the neighbor’s shrubs,
bashed black and silver pots
as a New Year’s offering.
They ruffle their feathers,
oil-slick smudges winking
in the orange street lamps.
A blessing, as an old lover
shrieks my name, grips
my bony shoulders
and spins me beneath their
An omen, a grim foretelling,
half-hearted warning. Intention
gleaming as their perspective of
the shaking world is upended
in the glass of their eyes.
I am home when a caw ripples
through the arthritic branches of winter.
My youth strung with a tawny rosary
of red-tailed hawks dotting pitted
telephone poles looming over
or fanning their dappled wings over
the whirling blades of a windmill.
My mother piping through those
telephone cables, reporting every sighting
from across state lines, on her yearly pilgrimage
back home to me. Feathered sentinels
of my keeping during the years apart.
I offer you two fingers besmirched
with a kiss, from crooked lips to open
air, a discreet attempt to acknowledge
your passing. Once pinched tobacco,
rolled out the window in offering,
when my lungs ached and smoke
drifted through my hair.
On the backside of Blackberry Mountain,
an owl lit on the yard light
planted at the end of the driveway
of Mamaw’s Kentucky house.
Where cell signal and the ground
dropped right out from under
your face. Beak tucked into
his chin, his talon-tipped feet shifted
his weight from leg to leg,
the heavy settling of his wide gaze,
if sight had failed, the soft inaudible
thrum of wings, like flipping
pages in a book, would be missed
as he lifted off and entered the black
impenetrable pall of the mountain.
The sudden absence of one’s breath.
I offer you what trembling skeletons
we could unearth from dank cellar
and dry attic, cobwebs weighted
with dust and dew.
Disgruntled eagles, grounded piercing,
bound by wire and mesh. They’re
chattering, breaking the barrier of sound.
Short clips, like claws skittering across
a window, impossibly high, impossibly
sharp. A choir of smashing glass
as a pane greets the concrete.
Here, I offer the star-speckled goose flesh
startled from my skin. I gift you the tangible
reaction pulled involuntarily by the sound
of your voice.
To the sacred communion of your kith
climbing the warm updraft of Minnesota,
white head gleaming in the sunset, wheeling
about that rise.
Nothing this time, but empty coffers,
sudden in your descent, but we speak
in turn, gifting you with whatever
memories you and your kin invoke.
Dead Fields of Bright Yellow Sun /by Kevin D. LeMaster
we used to pluck dandelion fuzz
from the June sky
all that was left of the color yellow
floated from earth into a
heaven we are all unsure exists
they say to have faith
and I kiss you between love and hate
between life and death
and melt the dark edges
no one understands
sometimes we would wave
their skeletal bodies
like bubble wands
sending them into non-existence
like you became
those June days behind us
your retro summer
our silent spring
We Are All Cups /by Jacey Blue Renner
. . . . . . . His voice, like watered over clams, hinges on everything:
. . . . . . . Why does God live up in the clouds?
And my mouth, not a mollusk, more of a paperweight,
stalls, grappling with the weather & the milk moustache
swirl of my philtrum, eventually saying through sawdust:
. . . . . . . The cirrostratus seemed like the best place to build His tiny house.
Through pianoforte eyelashes, he just nods, drifting quietly, into dreams.
10 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
the steps we take to climb
Cyborg /by Ina Roy
Insulin smells of Band-Aids,
the plastic kind;
the pump permeates my skin with
this smell of temporary fixes.
My body has stopped being my own best friend.
It’s a repair kit for others.
When I was still using syringes,
I wore short skirts
and stuck the needle into my thigh
while the waiter took my order.
“Don’t mind me while I shoot up,” I’d say and smile.
The needle’s so narrow it doesn’t hurt.
But I would not flinch and
I would raise the needle high.
It was a show of an act of bravado.
My body is the target
for cannulated needles,
pockmarked with the scars of years
and of complicated insurance plans,
like a billionaire’s asteroid
with someone yelling in my head,
Shouldn’t you be trying harder?
Shouldn’t you be making something of your life?
Pantoum /by Reagan Upshaw
Can aging teach compassion to the proud?
One day the master of your fate; the next,
Someone who has things done to or for.
They tell you not to worry, it’s OK. .
One day the master of your fate; the next,
You can’t remember where you left the keys.
They tell you not to worry, it’s OK.
Accept their help with quiet graciousness.
You can’t remember where you left the keys
To rooms, your car, your life. They want to help,
Accept their help. With quiet graciousness
And humor, recognize yourself as old.
In hospice rooms, in driven cars, past help,
Can aging teach compassion? They are proud.
As you were – now see them one day as old
And someone who has things done to or for.
Dear ________________, /by Genevieve N. Williams
When you find yourself coming to in a bathroom stall, then being lifted off your knees, G-string inexplicably around your ankles, when your boss leads to the sink, where you throw up whatever it was you had ten or more of, it won’t be the last time. You will wake the next morning and apologize to the people you apologized to the night before, and they will be vaguely distant. You will try to remember and won’t be able to. Shame will drum your temples, cramp the arches of your feet. Your friends will say you need to learn how to control it, you should know when to stop. You will downplay your shame, tell them and then yourself yes, next time. You will say this with the sense of dread that comes with promising an impossible thing. You will want to believe it. When your therapist kicks you out of therapy until you get treatment for what she calls your problem with alcohol, you will feel unjustly abandoned. When, several years later, you are handcuffed and sliding on tan plastic, and there are bars separating you from two impossibly tall cops, you will shock into a smallness like when you were a kid trying to comfort your crying parents. In another month, you will welcome the one-year probation and mandatory sobriety, having run from this one truth of you for too many years.
Day 9 / Poems 9
This Has Nothing To Do with Your Desire /by Emily Borgmann
Because I have forsaken a desire for occasion
to mark when/where, I am coming to the world thighbranched
and wet, in a black lace slip for no one: look at me
finger-tracing a circle around my clit as to-do reminder place:
put olive oil on the grocery list, you are going to want
the whip tonight, make sure your skin is oiled, call
your mother, make up the words to a spell, write them down,
this is a stop-good place to run the bookskin over your cheek.
I have touched fewer bodies than I have wanted, far more hands
have run me over than I wished. This has nothing to do
with your desire. Sometimes I want to drive my car for hours
in the rain, but the rain gives its due too soon. Othertimes
I want to hold my ankles wide over my head
like forming a rafter, so I do, in my black slip
I lace a windowpane, open me the air can rush in,
out, so we’ll know the rain (first and last names).
Yes I am larger than your desire has ever been,
yes my thighs pillar strangely to you, pour lava try
cover me for history, oh, Stop her she takes up too much space,
oh, how you’ll lose me. How did they go, your demands of me?
I’ve given up measuring: my waist, wait time registered
before the next mouth I ask, my virtue. Who asked for this count,
report in? Do they satisfy you? I trip down the stairs,
built for shouldering the door open, for tackle practice the boys
ran at full speed against my hip, I leaned into them, this is
what we call strong, this is how we break horses, this is how
I cavewomaned drunk then dry again, please stop measuring
my hips by force I can withstand between them.
Oakland Love #5 /by Sarah Bushman
I’ve been looking the wrong direction out into the bay with the cranes and crates towering over
the red and blue and orange crates and big rigs moving to the port and lofts nestled away in the
industry . . I imagine myself there natural day light on my skin a plant or two around covered in
paint a ship horn in the distance and the trains close by . . I catch myself looking the way of
the cargo and cranes with the city standing watch in the background most days . . I should be
looking into the pockets of houses behind the liquor store watching the new gardens grow and
the boat house yard or the man in the Pentecostal church parking lot handing out coffee . . I’ve
been looking the wrong direction
Mothers /by Brit Callahan
Swollen, brimming with fruition,
emerald shimmering, blue laced peacock
feathers spun through her wheat ringlets,
falling from crest to crown. Four roses,
blooming. An omen, they say.
Cheeks radiate primrose either
with robust vigor, eyes shining,
or with weighted sickness laying
thick in her chest, flushed in
the throes of ills and her ilk.
A pendant of curves and sloped glass
hanging from stemmed throat, pushing
up from dewy breasts, crowning
the gentle swell rising
from her middle.
Motherhood, I think, is something
I’ll never want, regardless of how
many periwinkle little birds whisper
and coax in my ear. I’m much
too busy mothering all the other
lives to spit another onto this
oscillating orb. Pretentious,
no thorn or thistle here, to create.
Great reams of gold undulate with
the tugging fingers of a child-
like breeze. Hand clamped
tight around her billowing
prize, as if I’ll pry it from her
with pointed teeth.
Chocolate Milk through a Pork Straw /by Kevin D. LeMaster
the red bendy straw
holds its savory secret
just beyond my grandson’s lips
a clogged artery
that refuses to yield its chocolatey
he asks if this is a pork-straw
since he has back washed
his biscuits and gravy
into a light brown sea
it reminds him of
reflected in Summer’s hue
afraid to taste what he cannot
see the bottom of
Wind Shear /by Jacey Blue Renner
We hand spin houndstooth skies,
pick through the microbursts for racked hats
& spindles. Rose stems budded & broken, strain
turrets, teapotted Tudor skeletons stained & leaf-lorn.
The rubbish trucks haven’t arrived, grinds & peels piled into the crooked houses,
cornered next the grist mill, farm lands amassing love locks,
tractors plowing under dissent, rows fertile now, ready for the downburst,
for the map man’s hands to guide them through the husks & seed.
09 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
& a buried map no one will ever walk, again
2 A.M. /by Ina Roy
opening the window to
the breeze of a rainy night—
i hear my mockingbird singing from the fence —
the traffic lights have turned away
from their pressure plates and
change colors to
some pattern of their own —
i’m no Juliet or Rapunzel waiting
beautiful in the moonlight
for a tragedy or a prince —
on the sidewalk
the shade of Christopher Robin
hops and splashes in the puddles —
i know the moon will break the grey clouds
and he will float away,
waving from his umbrella —
but for now i watch him reach out,
hear him say so sweetly
Tut, tut, it looks like rain
Tut tut, it looks like rain
Too Hot Not to Cool Down /by Reagan Upshaw
You Take My Breath Away. You Can’t Change That.
You Always Make Me Smile. You Hung the Moon.
I’ll Make You Mine. I Want to Be Your Last.
I Dreamed a Dream. I Long to See You Soon.
You Make Me Feel Brand New. You Set Me Free.
I Feel Love. I Want to Hold Your Hand.
You Make It Feel Like Christmas. You and Me.
I Won’t Let Go. I Wanna Be Your Man.
You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. You’re So Vain.
You Don’t Send Me Flowers Anymore.
I’m a Fool to Want You. I Can’t Stand the Rain.
I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore.
You Think You Know Somebody. You Never Know.
I Should Have Known Better. I Can’t Let Go.
Dear Roenin /by Genevieve N. Williams
Your mother and I took you for walks
when you were just a concept, a far-off wish,
and then when you were a tiny fish thing
swimming in her uterus,
and then when you were large enough
to inspire in her the strange ability to smell
anything wrong, whether fast-food meat,
or the mental instability in my girlfriend’s sweat,
but also anything right
like the wild onions we picked amidst tall grasses,
the home that was your father’s chest,
even my newly-installed safety gates
and their plastic odor
that meant love.
Then when you were little enough
to wrap in blankets and carry
for miles without tiring, we did that,
taking turns breathing your baby scent
and patting your back,
and you were the only thing in the world
that could make us that impossibly happy.
Now, at five, you might fight it, but I still want
your mother and me to push you
in your Pooh Bear stroller
between the blossoming magnolias
and pretend we can protect you forever.
Love forever and ever,
Day 8 / Poems 8
What Was That Love / Which Home You Want Bruised /by Emily Borgmann
Streamers, night trains, candlewicks
so much effort to make the romance fall from shoulders
like a dress you didn’t want to wear,
like a cape you didn’t tell her your name.
What was that love you couldn’t tell from horror,
what bought you that lottery you never ticketed?
She covered herself in bright green mollusk,
you’d simply never seen her kind before.
She confessed half her lies before she said her name;
in this order, the procession seemed a parade.
It is easy to take her down, your vaulted ceiling,
your busted taillights, your darkening to velvet void.
When her name tasted like dust, when her promises
papered the whole house in missing posters,
you shared a fine porch, green trim (her color),
darling her tropicals turned to flare the light, this landlocked state
no match. Outside the domicile, you must trip
through viney blooms, it is positively charged
to run away from her fist-disgust when the path is rose petals,
lined like the big day: the girl trains for this in reverse.
Outside your exactly perfect ruin, a parking garage
stuns you comforted, you can’t ask for more
than this: empty your pockets, nothing you own,
a limousine waits curbside of magic garden picket fence
to steal you from, what was that, love pounds
in your ears, oceans your mouth, she promised that
you’re nothing without her: swimming cave sunwarm
park bench galaxy. May your children stun at their own interiors.
Oakland #4 /by Sarah Bushman
Synchronous yawning morning
train books and laptops and disdain
(a lack in smiles)
A pigeon that looks like a crow with orange feet
(a hybrid maybe)
done done I’m so done
I repeat in my sleep
Loafers and oxfords
I want those
Yellow smoke tufts on grey sky laying on green water propel forward cars and cars familiar
faces in a big city repeating psalms and songs and alluding
kisses on cheeks
Indecision /by Brit Callahan
The bay glistens and shimmers in the distance,
like silk rippling off our favorite frame in the
gales of last summer, when our daughter
was naught but a mewling pip of a thing.
The Earth shoulders the sunlight, keeps her
rays from enveloping the moon, looming
low over the cove, she peers out, a slip
of a crescent, struggling into that gash
The great sliver leveraging itself up
from the sewers, just before tortoise-like,
the manhole cover, leaden geometric shell
slips across the puncture punched in the night.
Salt and citrus twist in the evening air,
sifting through the damp of the bay.
Twin rapiers, frame needling wings
rise above rounded shoulders, their
symmetry gleams, winks deadly with
the moon’s second-hand light.
Tangerine shadows shift, bestowed
by the false light of city streetlamps,
seep beneath the white bandage.
The valleys beneath eyes swollen,
inflamed hillocks press up against
her filmy restraints. She weighs
whether to sever her ties with
sightless nights, brimming with
the choked confusion swept ashore
by the bristling moon and feral
sea or to pluck the burden of foresight
from her small being.
The Waking Hours /by Kevin D. LeMaster
the hours I am conscious
bleed into my sleeping day
blur into night
and I am older still
than my counterpart
when will the living
be the end
like mold that has attached
itself to the expired
we will once have
that painted smile
the drawn down eyes
pasty lips that only beckon
the death they speak of
when sleep has taken over
How to Become a Longshoreman (III.) /by Jacey Blue Renner
Play a seafaring man’s jig first, before the Burns poems curl the edges,
before the piper leaves us, hair undone & tangled with Scotland the Brave.
Unearthed lawn & soil, in the hardscrabble: Ne Obliscaris.
We fold twelve times, a triangle of scars & starred lungs.
Amazing Grace through the chanter now, as I write to you:
Does she look the way you remember? Hold steady, the shoreline is just ahead.
08 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
there are six directions
a body in the dark
hears only one
cleaves me in half,
who skitter away,
leaving only the dry shell
and an aardwolf
nestling in its center.
A soft stillness
of grass shadows,
of echoes of termite wings,
of a forager
who must make her own way.
Reading /by Reagan Upshaw
Ace of Pentacles
Money! A hand emerging from a cloud
holds promised wealth, material good, a new
beginning, thought and passion balanced. Yet
the landscape out beyond the trellised gate
is mountainous with no relief in sight.
Expect no easy gold, the card warns, what
you get will be hard-won and paid in full.
Now start your work and be prepared to sweat.
Knight of Swords
Onward, hero, once more into the breach!
Good fortune favors boldness and resolve.
Let not the blowing cypress tree, a sign
of sorrow, past or present, make you quail.
Who dares, wins, or so the saying has it,
though patently absurd – courage can fail.
What other option have you, though? Onward!
Ten of Cups
And they lived happily ever after. So
the story goes, and so this card predicts.
The harvest in, the marriage happy, children
dancing in playful joy, a rainbow shining
overhead. The pot of gold you dip
your hand into, the harbor reached at last.
Too good to be true, the story seemed, and here
he squats triumphant at the ending, capped
with pentagram reversed. The blazing torch
in his hand points downward, ready to ignite,
not light the way. Why is he here? A card
of failure, misspent effort, wrack, and ruin?
Or rebellion against the obvious story?
Look at me, he seems to say, and know despair.
Or look at him, reject, and start again.
April 8 /by Genevieve N. Williams
Tonight’s new moon, the closest it will be to earth in 2016, they say will usher in big change. They always say that, but tonight I am looking at a sycamore tree and how quickly it’s grown, how its old bark arches backward off its body, the shocking smooth gray of the tree underneath, how the rough peeling pieces still cling at their bases to the thing that is supposed to need them, much like I still cling to an idea of my last love, who didn’t need me, not the way I needed her to need me, shadow of my mother that she was, crying into her knees over some unspoken thing she wouldn’t name, but wanted me to fix, anyway, or especially, for that reason. The wood of a sycamore is heavy and weak, and difficult to split. I am lying here alone in a house that isn’t mine, at the bottom of a dirt road north of the city, and the sky, with its new moon, has swelled to a pregnant black, like the times my last love and I sensed a storm before it was a storm, and we’d stretch toward its threat of arrival, the not-yet of us.
Day 7 / Poems 7
Plausibility /by Emily Borgmann
These cannot be my hands.
These are my hands.
This is the time the water will run over the roof,
this is the time we will boil like lobsters in sunbroth.
And here, this photo reminds that skiing
is most certainly a quick way to die.
But on the slopes, wild and young, we breathed
so much air our lungs sprouted crystalline weeds.
The air is good for us, the air is poison.
How to find the yellow brick road
like how to lose the frontal lobe.
If what she says is true, salmon roe rains
from the sky, and if she is lying, frogs.
Inside some story, the only truth, locked
like a jagged quartz the size of a child;
inside the chamber, the only prince
safe like a stone inside the wall.
We are never going to know for sure.
Surely, we are never going to tell.
Oakland Love #3 /by Sarah Bushman
I believe in the church
of love of alcohol of cigarettes of coffee of weed of music of dancing of sex of singing loudly on crowded trains of hot men colliding on an ice rink of forgiveness of genuine of karma of meditation of now
in my heaven you don’t know you don’t beg you don’t pray you don’t repent
when the yellow warms the grey it makes eyes water it makes wells and whistles inside
there’s no more weak there’s no more
Capillaries /by Brit Callahan
You’re a little rough around the edges.
Like, whatever had a hand in creating
you was interrupted, absent minded,
abandoned you before they could blend
your color evenly, or smooth those stark
lines of your profile, brush the fallout
from your nose.
But your memories, they sting blind in their ferocity
painted aquamarine, drowned out by the crush of brine
water and blushing tide. Hands slip and flutter
as if your inner mechanisms chink and stutter,
oil soaked into the shine and pallor of your skin.
Brass goblet in hand, even the water is flecked
with your metal shavings, those left rolling
loose in the empty pits within your gums.
Broken, disrupted, I bequeath a rose, full bloom,
for each of my own shattered memories, patched
with hope and good fucking intentions. They bloomed
under my tattered devotions. In your pitter and pop
misinterpretation, you culture the heads, slash
and splice the bindings of those abscessed wounds.
Bespectacled face peers close to the loam where
such blooms were raised, focused, you brush aside
the scribblings of their upbringing, the precise
formula of my devotions. How the stems curl in, wily
briars stripped last and coaxing dew drops to alight
on each petal. The sheaf of notes caught in the white
light of noon as they drift below the gentle slope
of our meager sightlines. The glow illuminates
the brittle bridges of skeletal scrawl as it skitters
across the pages, delicately veined deltas, run dry.
Needle through the eye of God /by Kevin D. LeMaster
it passes, like a wick
heat so hot
it would melt any man
except from this angle
it is but a birthday candle
on the top of everything
and I listen for the silence
that comes from deep space
that breath on top of breath
I imagine the day we killed God
drove the needle through his
naked eye, cauterizing his wound
as it passed through
the vastness gone
we are forced to repeat
the world over again
slaying our giants one by one
until our gods lay there
naked, dead, or barely breathing
if the candle goes out, surely some
will be lost but we will never know
what wishes were made
and if they ever came true
How to Become a Longshoreman (II.) /by Jacey Blue Renner
Before you leave her (tawny primrose), sketch her neck, each charcoaled stroke a mention of her pearled loveliness, winnowing the distance from collar to chin, shoulder to shoulder, swan to swan. Measure the bows of her lips, whisper:
I will survive the sinking of three ships to German mines & torpedoes, sketch your wrists, your waist, cull the weight of the waves on a man’s sternum, crush of cargo, vertebrae by vertebrae, thread of anchor’s chain our calibrated history.
07 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
a warm underbelly
coffee bean ink
Plagues /by Ina Roy
The first day, droplets fell from the sky, lavender curls that unfurled themselves into tiny hedgehogs. They lined the sidewalks, cleaning the remnants of the journey from their spikes, watching passersby with black, dewdrop eyes.
The second day, all the managers of pizza shops wore black aprons and arm bands. What are you mourning? newscasters asked them. They looked briefly confused and then angrily refused to answer.
On the third day, we began the search for the bees, but they had withdrawn, leaving trails of pollen dissipating in the wind so we could not follow them.
The fourth day brought an endless circling of bats. They landed on the shoulders of a few, their tiny claws searching hair, as if looking for moths. Before flitting away, they could answer a single question in their high shrill voices. But they could not tell us about the bees, and their mouths exuded white fungal froth. The few on whom they landed were named The Anointed.
On the fifth day, people began to leave the cities. People camped in roadside orchards, singing, clapping, playing djembes, guitars, harmoniums, tambourines. From the sky, each city became a spider extending teeming legs.
On the sixth day, the sun and the moon lay with us in syzygy. The poets wrote songs about conjunctions, but by morning, the songs had faded under the inconsequential sky.
On the seventh day, hedgehogs watched us with bright black eyes glistening with tears they had just learned to shed. They sat, silently lining the roads and dirt paths, as we wandered, unrooted and forlorn.
Wit /by Reagan Upshaw
At her country home one evening, Gertrude Whit-
ney sat reading her favorite Dickens book, to wit,
the novel the author himself liked best: Martin Chuzzlewit.
Her tears welled as she read of Pinch, unwit-
ting worker for a scoundrel. How wit-
less Tom was, with Martin seeming no whit
brighter. Above the canal, built by DeWitt
Clinton, in the sun’s last light a peewit
flapped by, it erratic flight making it seem a halfwit
among the avian clan. Gertrude felt that she had wit-
nessed a miracle, dimwit
that she was. No bon mot, no wit-
icism would make folks see her as a wit.
The First Neurologist /by Genevieve N. Williams
When the first neurologist says
when he shrugs off
the slight chance
Mama has NPH,
when he shakes his head,
no way will any surgeon operate
without a gait test,
Mama can’t walk, can’t name
the difference between
a horse and a dog,
can’t feed herself, or pee, or see
the way the first neurologist leaves
the room, smug,
and Daddy and I stun
silent, our voices stuck
in our open mouths body-less on the floor
like childhood nightmares:
scream and scream—
no sound comes out.
Day 6 / Poems 6
You, Ketchup Packet, Are a Brand of Sorrow /by Emily Borgmann
for Steve Langan
Nine grams each, tiny silver pillows,
so we ask for more than we need,
curse the window-framed worker
for making us ask twice.
We waste each time we ask.
The wrapper costs more than
what’s in it: such a problem
to keep the acidic red from eating through
any number of new skins.
All the industrial condiment designers
had meetings at McDonald’s Corp
to make a new jacket. None were hired.
We have all held you in hand once,
none of us love you; I can’t speak
for every traveling salesmen,
but the time I tried to write you a love song,
I stopped writing songs.
Our teeth tear your strong red lungs,
eyes scan thin banks of parking lot trees;
we make up stories about bears
restless in the grove to waste time.
We’re wiping our chins already,
one packet’s sticky shine heel-splattered
onto the minivan’s self-closing door,
when the bears come for us. Finally,
we’ve fashioned a vision larger than our need.
Oakland Love #2 /by Sarah Bushman
We are all beaten down from this heat
Not enough water to make us feel like we can breathe
Sweaty greasy unwashed morning hair and scraggly
It’s bearing down on us as a reminder
Exposed pale legs
Clairvoyant /by Brit Callahan
Corpse-cold ashen skin, veiled woman flips
muted gold disc between her tapered skeletal
fingers, a reader of bones and dust. Her gleaming
hair, the exact same shade of an abyss, studded
gold beads worked throughout her dark rivers,
curling in on itself, like ever-clever prodding tentacles.
Chipped ice eyes, flake right then left, freezing
her objective in place, sweetening her gaze with
the sort of tithe, your mother wouldn’t abide.
Disembodied hand lifts a honeyed-kiss, a lovely
promise of late summer leaves, the deepest green
before the turn. The hush and rustle, hinting at
the brutal months to come, nature’s shifting
as she scuttles the star-bright in her hand.
The green tucked into her tresses, the beads
clack as she tosses her head, like a fine-spirited
Arabian, parted smiling mouth concealed
by a copper fan, like the knife, unsheathed
beneath the table.
Rosebud /by Kevin D. LeMaster
It was ground
into grease ridden
tile, flat like those you
pressed in books as a child.
This one, orphaned from
a much larger bouquet
lost under foot,
its breath reduced to whisper.
It makes its brief appearance
here, before housekeeping
hides it below the other refuse,
and it becomes myth,
a thorn-less reminder
of nothing special.
Did it play the part
Or was it just a get well,
rescue fro e pavement,
object of rejection?
I pick it up and swear
I can hear, “Rosebud”
escape from its
this failed still heart,
cradled in deaths arms
How to Become a Longshoreman /by Jacey Blue Renner
Lie palms down. sand-dollared & burrowing,
wait for earth spill & lull
of ocean waters to filter through
your strings. Drop eyes below
the tide line, fat breaths to unload noon,
wax evening into conch, salted pores
pressing radials into the seabed bleached
white by the sunlight. Bodies load & unload,
wharf workers knot & whistle, smoke pall
malls before the hold is stowed & sealed.
06 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
an animal who is timid
like water that slows when approaching an incline
Pigeon /by Ina Roy
It’s not all Manon Lescaut, you know.
Some days I barely live.
Days of debris and
loosely twined scraps –
ghost nests, comfort shadows.
Empty coffee cup days.
Once my hair was raven wing
and my tears still clear as dew.
Flights now are fewer and slower,
often torn from the sky.
Undignified remnants of the dodo
ungainly breasted –
scanty, prismatic moments
under the last sun.
April Line-Up /by Reagan Upshaw
(for Charles North)
7:00 AM sunrise 3b
Grape hyacinth 1b
7:00 PM sunset rf
Bleeding heart (dicentra) 2b
As We Burn Last Year’s Garden Waste, I Think about Grace /by Genevieve N. Williams
As red embers glow under smoke rising
from skeletons of basil
gone to seed,
as the hollow bodies
of hot peppers curl into themselves
and blacken to ash,
as bones of day lilies
pop and float up
into April’s night sky,
as thyme withers
into a scent we breathe in
and cough out,
as seed pods from an unknown weed
drift like boats
across the burning,
as the heads of sunflowers
smolder at the ends
of their bent necks,
my friend and I sit silently
by our fire pit. The garden beds
are clean and ready for seed.
Day 5 / Poems 5
Amputation Suite, II: Why Jesus Wept /by Emily Borgmann
You go to your mother as the first part of her body is buried, no,
as the first part of her body is taken, maybe frees her, you go
and wonder how far away you’ve really moved. Sometimes a flock
of your childhood neighbors die at once, separated by walls
in the same hospital where they were born. There is a kind of person
who finds one home in life, never wanders from that solid house,
that rich soil. Then the pastor comes to usher them from this
riot-murky night, he comes to read bible verses, then your mother’s pastor
comes to ask about the amputation. In a flash you are so much older,
you know the name of your mother’s god, or what yours once was,
which is a lot like knowing someone’s maiden name
in this thimble-small town, which is a lot like wanting her god
to tidal wave her body with the force required to learn to walk again.
Then your mother’s pastor asks if he can read some bible verses,
she nods, then the pastor reads from the book of John,
he reads the shortest verse the bible holds, and he tells your mother
why Jesus wept, the pastor says that Jesus was going to raise
Lazarus up in only maybe 30 minutes bible time, but that he saw
Mary weep, upset at his absence, mad at his not saving her brother,
that Jesus wept because Mary thought she was losing
Lazarus, he wept at the pain she held even though he intended
to undo it, his spirit was rough like your mother’s hands used to be.
Why Jesus wept doesn’t matter to you until today, Jesus is not
your lord god savior, Jesus is your mother’s god and you are here for her.
It’s a little like going to a wedding when you hate weddings
because your best friend’s ex-boyfriend is getting married,
and she needs a date to prove she’s okay. You, your sister,
your father, your mother listen together to the Jesus story,
to the Lazarus, your mother’s pastor says that god is almighty,
that god doesn’t give you more than you can handle, and instead
of wanting to throw the pastor’s bible in the toxic waste bin
where things like your mother’s foot now live,
you want god to give to her, your mother. You want Jesus
to see you weep in the family lounge hospital quiet, making a poem
of this day your mother lost her foot, the way you make a poem
of everything, that’s your god, and you want this
big deal redeemer of all fools, of all sinners, of all terrible daughters
and of mothers who hold their twenty-year-old daughter’s hand,
this son of a virgin you want suddenly so much for this
terrible bible time 30 minutes to be past, for your mother to walk you
down the aisle at your wedding, you want giving up not to be
a genetic flaw, you stop. You stop giving up, hold your body stronger today,
set your shoulders back, promise god you’ll take good care, you want
it to be a decision for her, for your mother to come away from home,
back out to the world of casinos and road trips and every good thing
you wished for late at night, she took you there, she ordered you
pizza at midnight and she taught you to read so early, you want
your mother to come back to you like you drove back home to her
today, you’ve ruined so many things and one of them your own body,
you want her to be able to learn to walk again, to build the muscles
thick not ropey like farm folks have here, not for show but for use.
You want her two feet on the ground (one her prosthesis, better trick
than water into wine), you want to come back from thirty-four years
of reckless spilling over your body’s borders, from reckless
spilling of your own saving, because you have lain in so many hospital beds,
you collected your admission bracelets for a year once,
until there were too many and you got bored keeping track of emergencies,
and of the floor tiles where ghosts walk hospital halls, where you wandered
like a ghost, like a sinner, like someone untethered from this world.
You have to stop dying to start living inside the rest of your body,
you want this for your mother, too, but you can’t give it to her
any more than she can hand it to you, you want the both of you
to want so hard, to get sick on the fullness of desire for bodies so light
they almost untether, for wildness you learned from her,
for the genetic ability to say fuck like you’re saying water, you
and your mother stopped drinking now, you and your mother both
grew older a while, you and your mother are too familiar with hospitals
and too strange to each other. This is the time
that everyone is dying, in little pockets of a large hive, you are living
as much as you are dying, every second this is true, what else are you going to do
with your mother’s foot but thank your mother’s god for calling it home,
what else are you going to do but stop crying because you stopped
trying to tell your mother exactly who you are, but kept wanting her to know,
you see now that your mother might want to know you more than you risk telling her,
and did you ever fucking consider how this’d go if you concentrated
on getting to know exactly who your mother is? Your safe passage into this world?
Oakland Love #1 /by Sarah Bushman
Cherry or plum blossoms wind
white and pink petals
blowing off branches walking under
trees and trees and petals little tiny petals
like snow whirring around me
but it’s just spring
with some rain
I want an Oakland kind of love
our first apartment might have bars on the windows and a chain linked fence lined with jasmine
The Elm and the Willow /by Brit Callahan
Storm clouds pile up, heave
themselves atop each other,
crowding round the horizon,
jostle out the light. The naked necks
of vultures thrust and they coast
round thick columns of rising air.
Her neck, once bedecked
with his finest of kisses, is now
strung with bruises. His heat,
a mirage smeared above
the pavement. She curls beneath
the backyard elm, marvels at it’s
strength against wind’s assault.
It rattles the tree’s great antlered helm,
dissipates whatever heat lingers round.
Her elders dead and bone and gone,
their husks gave out or their minds faded
with the aching dawn. The gusts whip dark
hair about her face, stinging flushed cheeks
and flared nostrils.
The finest gifts he bestowed, a broken crown,
paired with split lips, one of his most coveted
of hues. Wind whips dying leaves, an inevitable
bouquet, fires burnt out, now only smoke
and soot remain. A reaping of decay.
The wind swallows up the sound, deadens
the scuffle thump, devours the crow’s dark
caw, sends the blackened mantles
of canopies, shaking off sodden disdain. In gust’s
sudden twist and heaves, clash of heat and ice,
she upends all shelter, uproots every limb, severs
The willow thrashes, lashes, dances in the gale,
bows in the eddies, crooks her slim finger,
snaps and sings, beckoning the breeze.
And the wind caresses her limbs, trembling,
more forgiving than the elm.
She snaps his leaf-litter crown, comprised
of aged conquests and subtle consequence.
She crumples it to dust.
Beat Poetry /by Kevin D. LeMaster
the room is cold
I could write my name
in the hollow of its smoke
fill my air
unable to touch their origin
where is this abyss
what is being wrenched
from my gullet
I vomit my larynx in pieces
as smoke clears
no Jesus came
when I awoke in this hospital
to the sound of my beating heart
where once there was silence
One Call Does it All /by Jacey Blue Renner
More stitches less stuffing as maps lay crinkle-cut in the corner, destinations marked in long-hand, left hand tilt, across the middle crease. Where here how why soon soon soon, until clocks tock unhinges the oiled canvas bag flayed open like a heart, beat. Thump-thump thump-thump, the globe bumping into sloe jazz fizz like a sonogram: slow & steady, slow & steady, slow slow slow, I’m ready.
05: suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
the places that sun cannot touch
moss along fingertips, lichen hair
we eat what grows without us
Nonet /by Ina Roy
To experience winter blossoms,
refrigerate bulbs. In darkness,
they will struggle to find light,
bud in desperation.
This is called ‘forcing’
for a reason —
Zombies vs. Vampires /by Reagan Upshaw
Why all this fascination with the dead?
The living dead, that is. Vampires derive
Their power from attraction mixed with dread.
We want and hate them — though their lips are red
With blood, through them we get to stay alive,
Not molder with the nation of the dead.
But zombies with their awkward, shambling tread
Stalk through our dreams with no good purpose, thrive
On tracking us, their power mixed with dread.
In Haitian folklore, zombies aren’t bad,
They’re merely animated corpses, strive
For nothing, are content with being dead,
Don’t kill like ours. Vampires are well-bred,
Smarter than we. A palace, not a dive,
Is background for attraction mixed with dread.
Zombies are six-pack types, Wilma and Fred,
Not Nick and Nora, yet we still believe —
Why? All this fascination with the dead.
We want their power, even mixed with dread.
Beyond the Broken Familiar /by Genevieve N. Williams
Tonight, my friend reads to me through the phone.
When he reads me Junot Diaz, I am lonely.
I try to picture the shapes his lips make
around the vowels he soothes out,
and I am lonely. I am lonely
because I know I will return
to a growl in the street,
to the woman with her face on her knees
who blames me for everything.
Everyone I have ever loved
has the shadow of someone
from when I was young.
Before he reads me Shel Siverstein,
a favorite poem of his
since he was a kid,
he asks, Are you ready?
He has no idea how
right his question is.
Day 4 / Poems 4
Amputation Suite, I: Thank Your Mother’s God /by Emily Borgmann
When you are from a thimble-small town,
your mother’s pastor comes to the hospital to read
the Bible to her, to talk about the others hovering
on the edge of death, all the friends who grew
near the same crops, same country miles unmarked,
the keen eye for which is progeny, like muscles
that grow thick from repeated motions like throwing bales,
not ropey like flashy Hollywood muscles put out
for show. When you mother’s pastor comes to the hospital
where your mother’s surgeon just sawed off her foot
and ankle, you don’t want to talk to him, you don’t believe
in his god like he doesn’t believe in your queer love,
but today you ride the elevator with him, make small talk
as if you are glad he is here, and you find that you are,
because on a glad day you find out that (thank your mother’s
god) it is not about what you want, what you wish
your mother would say to you about your poems,
it is about the direct line of human need tethering
the body to this world, this world is about tethering
human need so you do not helium off this sphere
in the spare (or thousand) moments that not-being sounds
like comfort, sounds like the softest pillow. When death
is hard work for everyone else but life is hard work
for you, it is a good thing that you don’t get a vote
about your mother. When you don’t want anything from her
any longer, when you want only for her to want
to walk you down the aisle, hand in hand like when you
were in college and wore a red peacoat, when you weren’t sure
who you were away from her hand, back when she was the tallest
mother, when she knew what you wanted, there was a time
when you started wanting what you could not find
in the fields near her home. There was a time when you stopped
calling her house, her town, when you stopped calling
her home. There was a time you needed to find home in your own
broken body, swollen with the pain of wanting, you went looking
for what to do with yourself now that she’d lain awake
with you, right next to you in the bed, she was your watchkeeper,
keeping you from sharp utensils, from all the dangers
that rip the body away from this sane world when the mind
stops asking the body’s permission for its mad desires.
Sometimes you think she wants you broken, to heal you.
Sometimes you can’t make it past the edge of the bed
to wake up, most mornings though you wake up knowing
the woman you’ve become has wandered from the woman
whose body granted her safe passage to this world,
you go back to the small town because they are going to sever her
foot and her ankle from her leg, from her body, from this world,
you go home to make sure of her, keep what you can save of her.
Morning Poem /by Sarah Bushman
it’s all over, past
quicker than i thought
this is a morning poem (correction) this is a morning vacation poem
coffee and cats and ravens and doves in a backyard built for butterflies with poppies
waiting to bloom circled by herons (eight to be exact) new nests in new trees
remnants of a late night campfire hang in my head
the merlot cloud holds what was and what will be (burials at sea)
Tower /by Brit Callahan
our language has wrought.
Can ease towers
to cinders as smoke clings
like second skin. She
invades scent, sight, taste.
Faintly, over the moaning
and popping of boards.
The shrieks reverberate,
no, parting the dingy pall,
penetrate this curtain of
soot and grime. War paint
graced with heat and ash.
Concrete and mortar blister
just as finely as your throat
choked with screams and
Sloughing skin from
the palms outstretched,
braced to pull you up,
before the flames devour
us. Crimson and black
well up, and the glass
trembles at the base
of skull, the heart of
heat. Heave and thump
and scrape and bash.
I’ll sink and bury these
fingers into the pit
of sockets, a child reborn
of smoke and spark in
the night. Only one will rise
to construct the pyre anew.
Alms to our Childhood /by Kevin D. LeMaster
when we were children
we played in the dried leaves
bury ourselves up to our hearts
until the sky’s pinhole
was our only light
we would disappear
like coins in the couch
afraid to end up change
the fear that cancer
would enter our house
and refuse to leave
disease was a myth then
told by parents to threaten us
or dissuade us from any wrongdoing
we quietly hid under the fall clouds
like the dead before us
our heartbeat gave us away
Dickens & Fallon Play Flip Cup /by Jacey Blue Renner
Girdled barman polishes pints
Zombie looping overhead (too broken for a gramophone)
With their tanks & their bombs—
Dickens leads in ink stains
indexed fingers typecast certain expectations,
great before the brew grows laurel against the collar,
vines quirk along necked bones
& comedy sends fiction home to make crumpets
macabre & out of tales to tell this long night.
04 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
Father Figure /by Ina Roy
Bela Lugosi sits on the top step, holding his pipe. Without make-up and a swirling cape, he looks more like Mr. Rogers than a monster. I tell him that I stopped smoking four years ago, so I’m afraid I can’t offer him a light. That’s okay, he says, and puts a smouldering fingertip into the bowl. He puffs, contented, as I settle onto the stair below his. He puts his hand on my head and strokes my hair. My streak of grey must be visible to him, shining in the dim light. I lean back against the wall and close my eyes, six again and ready to burrow into sleep.
Will Out West /by Reagan Upshaw
(to the rhymes of Shakespeare’s Sonnet XXIX)
I saw the lust for murder in his eyes
As he glared across the table in a state
Of deep intoxication, while the cries
Of whooping cowboys jeered him onward. Fate
Had led us to this barroom. Any hope
Of life lay in the sidearm I possessed,
And all my future lay within the scope
Of a poker table’s span. I thought, “At least
I haven’t drunk as much as he.” Despising
My well-earned name as top gun in the state,
He spat, then pushed the table back, arising
To meet a slug. He left for heaven’s gate
Or hell’s, more likely. Now remembrance brings
Only a glass of rot-gut and two kings.
Swaddled /by Genevieve N. Williams
The first thing I remember:
my father standing in the doorway.
I can’t move. A blanket is wound
tightly around me.
I try to free my arms,
then settle into the security
of my flat mattress
and the golden light behind him.
He stays there a long time in that doorway,
looking at me but not looking at me.
My parents said once:
We had you in order to save our lives.
I have forgotten my first years,
but not the angled walls of our attic apartment,
its furnace clicking, its orange couch odor,
the so many newspapers blanketing its floor.
Day 3 / Poems 3
The Things You Do with Language /by Emily Borgmann
Two things you need right now
that Waylon Jennings song on the radio
What you did when you were fourteen
vodka broken bottle whole
tire tread willowweep boyfriend growl
This is something you use
to apply; get used to; put into action;
to waste; bodies; names for them
When the blood is black
cannula candle cupped in wax
swim toward the surface, or the reed deep
Fortune is what you command
is this coin hand in my hand,
can I let go, hold her hand harder
Two dreams you don’t remember
pressure cabin, insertion is a funny word,
grandmother wolfenstein mermaid barmaid
But how could anyone tell the difference
sliver slither thistle thither shiver
zither that’s her what’s her mouth doing on the sill there
#3 / by Sarah Bushman
Sunflower Petals and Knives /by Brit Callahan
Peer into the pitch.
Frigid glass reflects the black
back, slipping through gnarled
veins and desiccated gorges,
baked beds where rivers once lay,
thick and gleaming as the muscled
linear shape, serpentine. Absent
platelets, changling tar sifted
in their place. Easing the blue-lipped
panic in stunning relief.
The mire’s mirror reflects
little, but the dying spark
dashed against the pane.
A pretty bloom of knives, blades
flowered like a steely sun, refusing
to wink in the night.
Odes etched in dank ink,
the sort that fails at bleeding,
Your runes slash my skin
in quarters and eighths.
These bones flame beneath
your silver whisperings,
The rising slack, I’ve granted,
you lash me with, cuffs of
cord blister skin, bristle
at the scrape of rope
breathing against the tender
flick of wrists.
One finger caressing
the taut length,
and black rivers,
The things you do with language /by Kevin D. LeMaster
I wrote this poem in rhyming form
a hobbled gent, all tattered, worn
he walked about his back a bow
went to and fro with head bent low
upon a maid his head did ponder
he loved her well, was never fonder
she blew a kiss with scheme and plot
her kisses vexed, his ruin sought
he vowed to walk upright and straight
he stretched his back and changed his gait
and now the ladies faint and swoon
he courts them now by shadowed moon
this poem done and none too soon
Prime Minister Listens to Bastille /by Jacey Blue Renner
to benumb long haunts.
new moon’s sad neck
illuminates felled migrant camps
lyrics offering: We are the last people standing
At the end of the night.
*lyrics attributed to Bastille, Get Home
03 : suck myself out the heart i give back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
tendrils and roots
such clean deforesting
the mythic memory of a sweet scented urge
Day 3 /by Ina Roy
the things you do with language
you move, hieroglyphs of orange poppies speak in pollen tongues
the things you can’t say but we both want to believe
in the Land of Lost Things
he is made of teeth
his pupils, lamprey mouths
closing around the light
his hands are puppeteers
making maws with splintered canines
jagged and visible only as shadows
perhaps they are like dentures
saved for occasions of need
you think, he will take them out
he smiles, a shine of
his lips protect you
from the endless white rows
of blades shimmering down his throat
his skin sursurrates down your body
one wrong move
an arch to meet his mouth
all tiny steel plates will ruffle upright
you could be covered by tiny moons of blood
little red mouths
before you even feel the sting
April 3, Morning /by Reagan Upshaw
off last night’s frozen branches
as winter holds on.
by branches full of blossom
as spring pushes through.
As the Queer Exotic Dancer Who’s Been Working Here for Nine Years /by Genevieve N. Williams
The man who grips my wrist
and thinks he’s being smooth
as he moves my hand to the hardness in his pants
is nothing new. Don’t worry,
there’s no problem here.
I can slap away even the most stubborn
of insults, like the pointed finger
that declares I’m too good for this place,
or the glossed lips that insist I don’t belong.
I’ve become an expert at saying things
without saying things. At a table by the stage,
a suit elbows its friend: This guy’s my lover.
It laughs into its whiskey.
Inside I freeze—outside I smile.
That’s great! I say, and watch his face fall
down on itself: You mean you’d be okay with that?
I nod and let my closing fists do the growling.
Maybe my silence is enough.
My silence is never enough.
I try to practice psychic splits,
but my body betrays me, always—
shoulders rounding around ribs,
teeth drawing blood from lips.
Often, I can choose when and how
I make myself visible,
except for sometimes, when I’m outted.
Sometimes I’m just too tired
to explain again
why that thing that was said
should not have been said.
Day 2 / Poems 2
Questions for the Daily Pain, Like Light /by Emily Borgmann
for Heidi Sell
Is this what the first human was, unrecognized by water,
and this fire softening my survival to desk lamp size—
is my form evolving, elemental or poisoned? What matter
if it’s natural or not to brittle, to break, I can’t recognize myself,
have evidence only in that I hurtle forward, I break,
but do we ever know the names of what we are inside,
what is outside, what it names on skinsides?
The face betrays so much, this daily pain is cracked glass
embedded in my skin, through it you can see me,
through it I manage to keep my eyes to the world waving by.
I want more than mountains could hold, but weld my desire down
each morning, swallow the ore of it, try not to want answers.
Here I am inside the night to say: I wonder if ever I’ll satisfy
on the answers, or find how to feed on the questions—what if I,
in my thorny suit of chandeliered skin, threw my body
into the questions, shocked with wonder at how much this hurts,
brined in my own blood and nerve-fire—what if I stopped
showing respect to distance, science, doctors: I am a gardener,
or once I was, can I find in earliest cell stages the jaw-open light my own,
can I scream-fire my aching head a hammer to pour busted light over
mountains, grandchildren, placenta of my stories—
Oh, could I blind myself free?
Pink /by Sarah Bushman
I stopped painting my nails black so I can
check my circulation by
I look at girls on the train
Watch the bed of my nail turn white (under the pressure of my other finger)
Watch the bed return from bone to pink when released (It stays white if you’re having a heart attack) Now it’s become a grown up secret (Like a security blanket)
a heart flutter
a muscle twitch
red nails blue nails black nails grey
a time before it hit before it existed now
Hierophant /by Brit Callahan
We talk and natter fragments
whittle them down and hone.
My tribe, black bleak\beak,
clamber stories into the sky.
Exalted skitter-skitch, a claw
twitch across the screen.
The hazy shadow of a shape
flitters and breaks against glass.
Midnight feather rustles dark,
swallowed in the night,
the scarab thrums and sighs,
once jewel bright fails to cinder
and shine in the bulky moonlight.
Paint our faces in sienna lines,
spiraling mandala posed over our
features. Our circular notion of
twisted fortune. Rigid structure,
honey combed and sweet, a grid
work map of blatant heat shimmies
off our surface. We scribe glyphs
into the walls, scrape them flat
and even, thick as pitted bone.
Brass ring in hand we knock
and pray for the rasping bleat
Trip the Blurred Light Fantastic /by Kevin D. LeMaster
I didn’t keep
didn’t spin you
with much flourish
but we moved
like a second hand
Astair and Rogers
and the night was nothing
until we created its music
bar for bar
in the morning
I drank a cup of dark roast
and read your obituary
and I realized I can’t remember
before we met
or the night before
we loved each other
Crash & Cray /by Jacey Blue Renner
Like this, boot heel
churns through desert endings,
overworn & in wait
for spring rift & seed
to part ways with the words
close to his lips, stained:
we are stone soldiers,
frayed slipstreams in our wake.
Sift & grind & slur & shift,
crust of daybreak canteening hips,
lift of nightfall between forgotten, forgotten, windows.
The wind crows in then, yellowed petals in its beak.
02 : suck myself out the heart i give it back /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
aurora borealis haze
the foreign flood of fluorescence
kind of /by Ina Roy
by palm fronds
hangs up and over
lanky goat walk
cause you know
too tall not tall enough
or what you call
raw fringe on
those someday jaws
steel tip stilettos
leans like facing wind
comes on tomorrow
flat fat heels
drill that someday dance
washed with indigo
all nights splinter
Play List /by Reagan Upshaw
Sometimes my wife, hearing me absently humming
under my breath, will turn to me and ask,
“What’s on?” and I will pause to concentrate,
then tell her it’s “My Funny Valentine”
or “Straighten Up and Fly Right” or “I Want
to Hold Your Hand,” or “Take Me to the River,”
or whatever’s playing, for something is always playing.
Throughout my waking hours and, for all I know,
my sleeping ones as well, there is non-stop music
turned down low beneath my consciousness,
inane as Muzak permeating stores
or dentists’ waiting rooms. Sometimes it comes
from having heard the song on the radio
the day before, sometimes a mysterious finger
selects a long-lost number from the list
and presses “Play.” Most often, songs will come
and go without their even registering
to active thought, but sometimes – what sometimes! –
the volume will get cranked up and a song
will play itself over and over without pause.
“Ear Worm,” the Germans call it, that condition
where the mind fixes on something and won’t let go.
Last week, for example, I was in a store whose music
was 70’s Pop, including the Jackson Five’s
“Stop! The Love You Save May Be Your Own,”
and for two days after that, my normal thoughts
were forced to shout to have the slightest chance
of being heard above, “Those other guys
will put you down as soon as they succeed!”
Like a virus latching onto a healthy cell,
the song embedded itself and wouldn’t let go.
Desperate in such cases, I often try
to light a backfire, hoping that two songs
will burn each other out. The other song
can vary. It’s often low-brow fare with a “hook,”
though the opening bars of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony
can also do the trick. When the backfire works,
the mind cannot hold onto both songs at once,
and some supplanting melody begins
to play itself, and my mind gets back to normal.
Emotions rise and fall, likes and dislikes
assert themselves, and the person I call “me”
resumes his daily life but now is chastened
by a fretting that he doesn’t own himself.
Who makes the basic choices if not “me”?
Who picks the melody to which “I” dances?
This Cold April Afternoon /by Genevieve N. Williams
A bird perches on the wall of my garden bed.
She pulls up a worm, swallows its long body.
She shivers, and I lower my windows, wedge
a piece of wood to keep the broken one
from springing back open.
The ground still wet from yesterday’s rain,
I don’t want to say I miss the farm,
but I do. On a day like today,
I would have carried two five-gallon buckets of water
to each horse’s stall, then to each baby apple tree
that lined the arena. I was so strong back then.
Those were the days I didn’t hesitate
to turn over row after row of brome hay
by hand, to lunge in loose circles badly-broken
three-year-olds, to get dragged
by 1200 pounds of gallop
all the way out into the bluestem.
I never let go of the nylon rope.
What happened to the strong woman
I used to be? Lately, I startle awake
at the slightest sound. My heart
is its own galloping animal,
and it drags me
into tall grasses I can’t even see.
Day 1 / Poems 1
Interior: Bank Vault Nightclub /by Emily Borgmann
I ask if you have a safeword,
wonder what Yellow means in your animal tongue.
How does time decide to hand us back
to ourselves: fisted chains guide playground swings—
Do you tell a lover to hold you so surely, but barely?
You are coins snowdrifted in some hotel bathtub,
you are safe more than you are saving.
I ask you the word for fistlock of hair at skull’s base,
gravity’s sweet rock-loose number.
Pull my head back: force me skywatcher, young wonder.
I stretch lungless in a dry bathtub, coin-lip imprints
etching my thighs. You shrink to fit your whole body
inside the lock-eye, blistering for keyteeth at your neck.
Blue /by Sarah Bushman
Tell yourself to remember
when you landed
in LA on
The blue sat where mountains lie
a strip of blue between grey
Tell yourself to remember
to water the lawn
in the afternoon
see your dad young
he used to be dark
black hair and beaming hazel
His blue suit where mountains lie
green grass red brick pink fuchsias
Pretty Poem /by Brit Callahan
This is not a pretty poem.
This is not about me,
or the flat landscape
surrounding this particular
She burns and fangs
and sheds light
with cherry tipped fingers.
This beast does not fit
in your damage
She does not suit
your clinging parameters.
The silk is slipping, shaping
the lines, the light, the contours
you once cut from hip and limb.
is not for you.
Input cracked silence,
against the rasp of your
sigh, or the honeyed
cadence, colored amber
in the fatal
This is not
the bloodied nose gifted
by distraught siblings,
or the buck-toothed behemoths
they will become.
This is not
the sharp-toothed maw,
the void in which
dark decades past.
This is not
a happy ending.
This is not ending.
Flyover Bridge Disaster of 2016 /by Kevin D. LeMaster
the moment weighs like
a burdened ton
too much to hold on shoulders
not so wide as to support
this divided city
the bazaar, flurries with
the scattering of ants
fleeing from their holed up
world, marking each other safe
one by one
though some will not return
crushed by a concrete cloud
heavier than any memory
You Get Rid of the Rough /by Jacey Blue Renner
today rooftops toast like butternut.
forget what rain sounds; young harmonicas
playing like thus, playing oh my hum
they slough the bones of our neighbor,
notes pedaled out & pale
while the century fades on,
continuous & tread-heavy.
years turn tricks into layers of unearth & farrow.
& he grows, wheat-like & fairhaven
a tower between what & then
anchored to the garden with the scrum
bees & smattered lilies, rowing, rowing.
suck myself out the heart i give it back : 01 /by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
a bind that places the hatch
the conger /by Ina Roy
tore flesh from the cheek of an Irish diver —
he clenches his jaw,
the hole twitches like a heart
your cheek is as quiet
as if no blood pulses through
the cream center of your skin,
so smooth and free of masters
i press my ear to your face
as you sleep
your breath leaves no bruise of sound
as it drifts from your mouth
tell me there’s nothing up your sleeve—
tell me there’s no cicatrix
left where someone slid
into the salt rivers of your arteries,
that no one is pitting your bones
toward the day you collapse above me,
crumbling into fine white dust
drifting into my mouth
bated we wait for
the sign that the conger will,
like all great magicians, leave
nothing where something once was
Enueg de Trump / by Reagan Upshaw
(Enueg, from the Old French for “vexation” – a poetic form in Provençal verse in which the poet lists everything, whether trivial or important, that annoys him.)
Please click here to read the poem.
Easter Morning /by Genevieve N. Williams
It’s Easter morning, and I spit red into my sink.
Lately, my gums bleed. I don’t know why.
It’s Easter morning, and I wash the night from my feet,
hang the red washcloth up to dry.
It’s Easter morning, and I click on the TV.
Suicide blast—69 killed, 280 injured—Lahore, Pakistan.
It’s Easter morning, and my friend paces the floor above me.
He paces so much I think the ceiling might cave in.
How do we name this weight that breaks
our tiles? Our secrets are people.
One secret is in a grave that, as a kid, I spat on.
Still, I jolt awake in the middle of the night,
fingertips red from peeling skin from my lips as I sleep.
It’s Easter morning, and we rock on the edges
of our beds, unable to name what pulls
our ribcages inward and whispers to us
slivers of our unremembered pasts. It’s Easter morning,
and we watch our kids run free in the wet grass.