30/30 Project

Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets 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 ten volunteers for April 2015 are Eric Elshtain, Jason Galloway, Jessica Gigot, John James, Sarah Jefferis, Megan M. Muthupandiyan, Pablo Otavalo, Brianna Pike, Ronnie K. Stephens, and Laryssa Wirstiuk. Read their full bios by clicking here.

Please follow their work (by clicking “Follow” on the bottom of the page), and feel free to acknowledge their generosity and creativity with a show of your admiration and support by donating on their behalf to Tupelo Press. (Click here to donate, scroll down to the form at the bottom, and put a contributor’s name in the “honor” field.) Just imagine what a challenge it is to write 30 new poems in 30 days!

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

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Day 24 / Poems 24

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EE24

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The Dinner Party / by Jason Galloway

The six half-candles without light

the polished wood grain’s swirling galaxies
—the nebula of my own reflection

Fussing over the seating arrangements
(dietary restrictions)­­

Eight place settings: eight books
some with words
some books of nothing
—are there enough utensils?

tonight
everyone eats with their fingers

come all of us
come with the matchbooks
come to the table
come and light the lights

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Yesterday / by Jessica Gigot

“Anything processed by memory is fiction.”
-David Shields

The narrator describes the soft
Texture of the sweater she wore over
Her favorite brown dress. The taste
Of a decadent steak dinner and rich,
Chocolate cupcakes still lingers
Over her taste buds. Her wine glass,
Full of water all evening, signals
That a child is growing inside.

The narrator sees a familiar character
Dressed in his suit and tie. He has aged
Since the last time she saw him.
His smile is familiar, as she
Recalls from childhood, but his eyes
Are tired. We celebrated as if tomorrow
Was not a Friday, as if there was no
Tomorrow to speak of. She tells him
She will see him later and in her heart
She clenches their goodbye.

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Ponge: A Version / by John James

Rain slantwise in the yard where I watch it fall, a thin unbroken
curtain, a web, relentless, slow, soft enough from what I can tell—a
lifeless, uphill precipitation, splinter of the untouched whole. Just
off from the walls, to the right and to the left, it falls, more than
droplets, heavier, individuated, here a wheat grain, there a pea,
elsewhere almost a marble. On the rails, on the windowsills, the
rain hurries, sideways, while on the bottom surface of the same it
hangs in convex beads. […]

Please click here to read the poem in its entirety.

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The Girl Who Loved like Rabbits. / by Sarah Jefferis

She was a mini lap breeder.
Until she found the happy moment maker.

The trophies lined her wall.
Because ribbons were too pedestrian.

She had her own cock akin to a Flemish giant.
A lapine of sorts.

The happy moment maker thinks he can write this poem.
How wrong is he.

She was her own liquor mixer.
She liked him better in hand.

And on his knees.
She only ever missed his face.

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PO24

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Opossum Season / by Brianna Pike

My sixty pound mixed breed launches
off our back porch and pounces
in the blackened backyard. Among
the orange lilies, he rises with a large,
gray body dangling from his mouth.

Increasingly desperate screams
into the dark: Drop it! Drop!
But he is blinded by triumph.
Eventually, I drive him off, cursing
him, my husband, the shadows
and our ever failing motion light.

Dragging my dog inside, the opossum
forgotten by the dogwood tree.
I check for bites and blood, but my love,
the killer, sits proud and happy, tail
thumping; opossum hair stuck to his muzzle.

This is not the first time I’ve returned
to a darkened yard, flashlight in one hand
shovel in the other, looking for a body.
To watch a opossum rise from the dead
is to watch a drunk wobble off into the weeds.
Only once did our dog claim a true victim:
a baby, no bigger than a cat. Broken neck
buried out back beneath the lilies.

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St. Benedict’s Cave / by Ronnie K. Stephens

My favorite place to be still
is a mountain town in Italy
called Subiaco.

The best hot chocolate
I ever had was in that town.

We walked to sacro speco
in a line. Twenty college kids
trying to make sense of a man
who hermited himself away
to get closer to God.

I did not feel at home
inside it.

I wanted to leave even before
our professor called to us.

I didn’t touch a thing.

I forgot the rocks wet with cold
sweat and hot breath almost
as soon as we left.

That evening at the monastery
I didn’t get drunk on raspberry
liquor from the gift shop.

I didn’t touch the Merlot passed
around the room like bread.

When we left the next morning
I was a whole person.

I never wanted to return
to that dank hole cut from
the belly of the earth.

My belly has never been a thing
I wanted to cut from myself.

My belly has never been a hole
I crawled inside.

I know how to talk to God.

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Guy Fieri / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

for Adrian

When he’s not playing Grocery Games,
taking a Big Bite out of a sandwich,

opening restaurants to adverse reviews,
or collecting red vintage convertibles,

Chef Guy Fieri is riding into Flavortown
on a bus or in a nineteen-sixties Camaro

for his Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins
and Dives (more simply, Triple-D’s).

His voice like gravel precedes his hair,
which is spiked and frosted with bleach,

and he charms with a unique way of speaking:
food is “out of bounds” or an “off-da-hook deal.”

He honors worthy cooks with a PhD
in deliciousness and sneaks ingredients

past his goatee before a dish is even ready.
“Shut the front door,” he says, as he tastes

pit beef in Baltimore, but my favorite part
of watching Fieri display food I won’t ever eat

is the moment after his discriminating bite
and attempting to discern what he really thinks.

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Day 23 / Poems 23

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from “Other Phases; or, A Little Moon Can Do” / by Eric Elshtain

…in the photograph
we can spin in our own
gravity. It is a cipher

of sky school children
are made to mesmerize,
basement thinking

we’ll call it moon
ensconced as it is
in static persistence

a Hecate exorcised by rote
the picture is nothing’s
calendar, sitting in situ

libration’s one e
away from freedom
oscillating red to blue

lunatic shifts against
matters darkened
by cloud conditions

so wolf-less now, no howl
to speak with and no union
for the tiny astronauts.

This image has no ethic,
of a moon modeled so it knows
its proper station

built for the setting
president, you know
the moon and the sun

are the quotation marks
we live between.

based on a photograph by Adam Schreiber
Presidential Moon, 1969

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The White Bed / by Jason Galloway

form borrowed from Little Map by Jean Valentine

The window

the slits in the morning

the blood
on the sheet
—where is the knife
and the salt when I wake?

The sea
—what was on the other side?

Our passage together
—drunk sailor and craft
without chart
ballast
or
secret

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The Afterwards / by Jessica Gigot

The day after Christmas is Boxing Day
A time, historically, when servants
And tradesmen would receive gifts
From their bosses or employers
After the main stage celebrations.

The day after Earth Day is Thursday
This year–time to carry on with business
As usual. Drive to work, listen to news
Drink a strong cup of coffee
Examine the horizon line draped in fog.

Box Day is now a Black Friday
This Thursday is cold and wet.
Too frigid to touch the ground
To damp to take off your coat,
Stay inside, unless you can’t forget.

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from Specimen of Cruelty / by John James
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To gain a clear idea—the deeds,

Events, the states of society,

Herodotus and his descriptions.

What passed in the world around him.

One person cannot be an eye, an ear

Witness to all the shrunken

Bodies hanging. I cannot

Describe them, those noosed,

Emaciated, some strapped to crosses,

Their swollen bellies protruding.

It is not enough to say that I

Could trace the pattern of their ribs.

History does not remember.

One mind cannot record

What the bloated masses suffer.

In the photographs, piled

Heads. Trains packed tight

With bodies, the bodies, that’s

All they are is bodies. Twenty

Years before the Nazis, two whole

Decades before the deaths

Our schoolbooks remember.

Reading, to my daughter, the old tales,

The crass songs in Mother Goose. Jack

Breaks his crown, an acute fracture. He falters

On the candlestick. Mother

Hubbard locked in a cupboard. A shortage

Of curds and whey. Hegel’s

Philosophy of History, it’s yellowed pages,

Calls me from the shelf.

These are but dim and hazy forms.

April 24, 1915, 250 rounded

Up and arrested. The genocide

Was carried out. Implemented

In two phases. First the slaughter

Of able-bodied males, next the deportation

Of women and children. The old

Marched off to the Syrian desert, deprived of food

And water.

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Why I want to run / by Sarah Jefferis

How we hold
goodbye and hello in our mouths
at the same time. We swap one
for the other. They taste
the same. If I have my hand
on the door will I be able to open it?

If someone is good for us now
are they good for us always?
Why does someone have to be good
for us? Are they medicine?
If I am a mess, are you the janitor?
You seem miles away. Or have I

put my shoes on? This was not my intention.
Not how I wanted to play
the game. I can run out of fear
or out of grace. How do they taste
any different? Your stutter is charming.
Words ahead of you.

I don’t want to be kept
at arm’s length. I don’t want to be kept.
I want to belong. I want to be known.

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Heard on the Eve that Catcalling Became Illegal
or if you prefer, a Poem from Twelve Random Words / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

Damn, that water bottle you’re holding has curves like a vixen in a Hollywood movie —
How sleek and tight it would fit in my hand — so lovely, fragile and hard
like an antique hourglass in a curiosity shop I once visited on a motorcycle ride out west.

I wouldn’t presume, but might I just touch it? It might sound strange, yet I can’t help but ask —
it looks as small and satisfying as the smooth throttle of the bike when it’s cycling hard,
dewy blobs of rainwater collecting at its neck and sliding down.

Is it getting hot in here?

Promptly Virginia’s going to start this class, and you’ll drift over to your yoga mat, taking it with you . . .
Oh, please don’t look at me as if there were pee coming from my mouth —
I only offer a genuine appreciation of that shapely vessel you’re carrying around.

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I hardly ever write in my own language
and it escapes me / by Pablo Otavalo

Then again
I want to write in Sanskrit

I’ve taken tentative steps to Mandarin
and next is Arabic and thus surrounding

the Hindu Kush ….. When the sky is opened
by a rift in a long valley

whereby standing at an entrance
you suddenly sense the sky beneath you

the wall of sky beneath you the mesa
to your left like you ….. suspended

on the back of the spine of the Andes

the sky opens
to the valley you crest

the pines fall to the sides
of the mountain

the eucalyptus edge the four rivers
that pool into this bread basket and you

sense the sky behind
beneath you

the cordillera has shoulders
and you round them and the valley

like the cut of an adze on soft wood
sets the convex mirror and you

portrait …. No, I hardly ever
articulate my language
It’s another borrowed
tongue

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Mourning Dove / by Brianna Pike

It was the mess of twigs and leaves crammed
into the corner of the third story window
that caught my eye while walking to class.
Stepping closer to the window, your gray body
so still that I almost did
​n​ ’t see you blink one ink
black eye. Scrunched in the crevice, your feathers
ruffle in the wind but you do not move, silent
weight pressed into your nest.

Quite the contrast to the Canadian geese flocking
below hissing and shitting and charging across
the green lawns, magnolia trees trembling,
shedding petals. But you hover high, cloistered on
the third floor, warming your eggs, waiting quietly
for your children.

 

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What is Left at the End of Us / by Ronnie K. Stephens

Begin, and cease, and then again begin… – Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach”

I was assigned the poem
junior year in an advanced
English class. The task was
to root it out like a wild pig.
Dig into the hard earth of it
until all the words scattered
at the foot of it. I filled note
cards with quotes. Learned
explication in a library.

Every minute of the
assignment was a hay bale
in summer – heavy and hot
and biting through the soft
palms of a boy too green
for callous.

Now twelve years have gone
and with them two lives
that will only ever be past.
Homes and coffee mugs and
beds and dozens of keys now
simply artifacts of that other
life. That other side of forever.

Boxes sit in storage like urns.
The whole of it a mausoleum.
A burial of families that would
not breathe a single memory.
There is no air, here. Nothing
left for lungs. Just an old poem
about honeymoons and tides.

One man at the window
hypnotized by the ebb and flow
of what once was. What will be.
Every one of our histories
a song cast out to sea.

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Reliable Closure / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

To secure precious
metal and gems

to the ear, a wearer
needs reliable closure:

lever, . latch,
French wire, . clutch,

tension, . thread,
screw back, . clip.

These attachments
are not without fault

and can disappoint
the wearer. Fondling

lobe she finds diamond
lost: a pierced void.

The stud has joined
crumbs or even soil,

underground, deep
like before, undiscovered.

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Day 22 / Poems 22

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“Bad Vugum!” / by Eric Elshtain

“I eat the solid season made of myself.”
Shinkichi Takahashi

One

Tuesday April 21, 6:21-6:26 am, Oak Park, IL

Rumbling boiler
dee-dee-dee chickadee
passing truck

Chickadee
grumbling truck
humming boiler

Car breezing by
gargling chickadee
thumping boiler

Groaning truck
muted music
to-weet! to-weet!

Dumpt, dumpt,
ummmm…boiler
chair squeak.

Hungry chicks?
ummmm, dumpt
chip, chip, chip.

Ummmm—dumpt
airplane?
some electric whine

tang! tang! radiator!
rattle! fridge!
no birds…

Two

something beheaded the tulips
the mudroom’s an asylum of flies
wind’s busy contradicting the trash cans
somehow the day’s already spent
the sky a scratched-off label
clouds loitering like perpetrators

Three

This summer the cicadas
are sure to connive again with God

exchanging crisp skins
the color of laudanum bottles

for a badder version of themselves.

The title, from the song “Sue Egypt,” is a curse invented by Captain Beefheart

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The Cardinal / by Jason Galloway

My father said if the earth
for one moment
stopped spinning
the seas would flood the whole world

today for one moment
the leaves stopped
the worms stopped
the dirt stopped
the mountains and their clouds
all stopped everything
stopped

everything the tide in me
motionless rushing

to song to twig
to holy red
to one moment
to one flightless point in air
to one black seed of an eye . . .

my father was swollen with disaster
he flung his beautiful disasters about
like song that first set the world in motion

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The Sheep Celebrate Earth Day / by Jessica Gigot

For sheep, the earth laughs in grass.
As new spring pastures arise from slumber
The ewes and their lambs grind and ferment
Fresh, green blades. There is a whole concerto
In their rumen, a four-chambered orchestra
That crescendos with a blatant belch. In this,
Sacred universe billions of bacteria and protozoa
Dance and die, only to be reborn as mother’s milk.

I watch as they bustle across the open field.
Grazers by design, sheep will eat all day
Reveling in this land’s verdant offering
Choosing only the tender tips of grass
And the occasional salmon berry branch.
They return their own abundance to the soil
In a reciprocal exchange that requires, not thought,
But a steady belief in their own belonging.

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from Specimen of Cruelty / by John James
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It is better to pick apples on the earth’s surface,

To mine it for gems, or precious metal,

To slash cane, harvest berries, to fill burlap sacks with cotton.

Better on the surface than to lie beneath it.

We accept this as an axiom. We accept

The reliability of material. The bodies are still there.

1840s, Ottoman Empire, the Christian population.

Bodies unlike other bodies. So much sleep ahead.

[…]

Please click here to read the poem in its entirety.

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Wings beating gums / by Sarah Jefferis

When my marriage ended
there were button eyed women who acted as if
endings didn’t occur– pretended
not to speak it over the price of cucumbers.
I have never been that waspy.
And not speaking only breathed more
into the sack of sugar I carried.
I have put it down to remember I once had a self.
To pick it up is to forget.

I don’t want to choose
but I already have and I am ashamed
with hives in my mouth.
Wings beating gums.

The domestic always slaughters passion.
Either parenting binds us or destroys us.
No middle ground. My own blood mirrors
call out—mouths open for me to spit in the little food
I can afford in their puffy cheeks.
Nothing is hidden. Not the broken nest,
or branch or lack of wind, nor the yellow sky above.

And the face I had before motherhood
and this one are strangers.
The first I wanted to eradicate.
I have never been a pretty girl.
Never looked in a mirror and not turned.
I believed in ugly.
And this one surprises me in
photographs I don’t know who she is.

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A Poem From Six Random Words. / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

For Balraj and Sonali

Funny how your humor puckers, salty and black as olive
flesh, a smooth sarcasm bearing caustic bite —
in New York I trace its subversive pentagram
to the Australia Council on Greene Street, its ambulatory
rhythms warming me like a blanket, tactile and ambidextrous.

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Notes From An Unkept
Diary / by Pablo Otavalo

The days keep on going on and on like this
you say and I carefully agree. Like water

falling over the crest of her voice
in silence. It’s a lot about choices, but

you want what you will, and I’ve
been reading Schopenhauer. Dogs go

astray but we rear their children. The round
world turns the anvil to flatten the corners

to tuck under your table. We will
and we falter. We err and we unmake our

bedrock with untested solvents. Olives should be
boycott so long as that awful wall stands

instead the ever perfect mouth of commerce
swallows up their labor like bread. Sleep

is a woman unfurling her hours on the table

nothing surrounds the all that exists
and if that is all that is the case

then enlighten in her silence.

The days keep on going on and on like this
you say and carefully set

a glass of water.

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Catacomb Saints / by Brianna Pike

“The strange enigma that these skeletons could have been anyone, but they were pulled out of the ground and raised to heights of glory.” ~Paul Koudounaris, Art Historian

Splendor stashed in ruined chapels, behind rotting altars and broken pews, jewels gleaming in sockets long empty of human eyes.

Dug from the ground and adorned in gold, gems and fine fabric by the delicate fingers of nuns who spun fine gauze to protect

each brittle bone from dust and decay, wrapped each body in mesh
slipping their own rings gently over bony knuckles.

Revered in villages, children baptized beneath an unmoving gaze, prayers whispered for protection and miracles.

But when these saints were discarded, the faithful wept over the fragile bodies, still believing in their promises of beauty after death.

Written for Emily

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To Myself on my First Birthday / by Ronnie K. Stephens

The day you are born, your mother
can’t make sense of how small you are.
She will remind you of this a dozen times
most years. Your father will only laugh
and tell you how he stored whole boxes
of Ding Dongs in the car for her cravings.

Neither can believe it has been a year
already. This, your first birthday, falls
on Easter Sunday. This, your first cake,
a blue bunny covered in coconut. You take
one bite. Spit it out just as the shutter
clicks. You will never live the picture down.

You will come to love coconut. But not
before you catch pneumonia. Nearly die.
Not before the special shoes that turn
and turn until your ankles are straight
or the bionator that tugs at your jaw
until the underbite is gone.

For you, the body will always be
a warehouse of pain. You will learn first
to hate it hard. Catch your soft skin on
anything sharp. Tear it open until it is
a collection of seams. Know that it won’t
always be so. You will love this body.

You will look at your seams and call them
proof you are still together. You are not
a mess of scraps. You will love the way
every part of you heals. You will love
mirrors again. You will look at cameras
without flinching. Without falling.

I would teach you how to hold yourself
now, but I must get you to sleep. The sun
is hot and the family is loud. You tired
carnival. Let me put you to rest. I confess
this will not be the last time you eat cake
while crying. But you will eat cake again.

You will eat cake again. It will not always
come with so much shame. You are but ten
pounds this afternoon. You will lose entire
years to the shedding of that number.
I promise I will not let you lose these ten.
These first ten are all of you. I give you
my word; I will keep them safe.

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Earth Day / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

I used to believe
that litterers

are the worst
human beings.

How difficult is it
to dispose

of waste?
Later I’d only

date men with
recycling bins,

and stopped
eating meat:

cattle emit
greenhouse gas.

But my carbon
footprint presses

the acceleration
pedal of my car,

and my greatest
luxuries are long

showers and liter
bottles of seltzer.

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Day 21 / Poems 21

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Movie Mesostic / by Eric Elshtain

EE21

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JG21

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Bee Truck Accident / by Jessica Gigot

A found poem

Spring and summer are the busiest season for beekeeping
They work their way north to do fruits, bush berries, vegetables

I-5 abuzz
Semitruck carrying millions of honeybees
Overturned

448 hives, or about 13.7 million bees

Hives crushed

Bees became more active as the sun rose
A front-end loader began scooping
Them up and dumping
Them into a dump truck

TV cameraman reportedly was stung dozens of times

I think everybody there got stung
I think everybody there got stung
I think everybody there got stung

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PUT A BOUNTY ON HIS HEAD / by John James

1.

removed amid the Arab
Spring : the autocrat
who for three decades
ruled: the north now faces
fragmentation : house
arrest under the Houthis :
their rapid advance:
some of the best
equipped security
units remained : overran
the capital six months
ago : missle base
in Sanaa : the strikes
only target the fuel
depot at the base : he sought
to make a last stand

2.

the Houthis said
in a statement to reporters :
Saudi jets hit
the military base : they responded
with missiles : TV aired
pictures of the operation :
what sounded
like machine guns
or possibly anti-
aircraft missles : his aides
left : officials
would not specify
his destination :
Riad Yassin : Yemen
Foreign Minister : said
the airstrikes were welcomed

3.

fled by sea, his last
refuge : captured
its airport and put
a bounty on his head :
hours later, Saudi
airstrikes : departure
of the close : the southern
port of Aden : imminent
fall : strategic country
into proxy : not
involved in operations :
indications say that
others will follow
suit : hands of the foreign
powers : brotherly
Yemen : the crumbling
government : his country
had begun

*Text excerpted and collaged from The Huffington Post article “Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi Flees Home As Rebels Close In,” 3/25/2015

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What Keeps Us / by Sarah Jefferis

What keeps us asunder is the fear of balance.
In theory you didn’t mind kissing. Regret not your elephant
but a little Ganesh who sings, avows the conquest

of what we were and cannot become. Even constant
syllables cannot sort us. I no longer want
what keeps. Us under fear. We have balance:

you on a futon, me in a sleeping bag, a thin scrim of valence
orbits between all those days I couldn’t say what I meant.
But a little Ganesh sings. Vow and consequence

underline hour after hour of conductance
worth more than one more kiss. We cannot even invent
what keeps us. Under the fear of balance

lies her cousin: the blue stillness of repentance.
Oust one and you clear the way for intent.
But Ganesh sings and vows: Conquest

is useless when struggle is beyond skin or sense.
These days I cannot taste you or repent.
What keeps us under. Fear, balance,
and a little Ganesh who sings for love and conquest.

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The Understatement / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

God bless you Bethany Mota–
who could give me such pause,
such a strong sense of mission,
…………………no, cause
when I have to go clothes-
shopping with my daughter. […]

Please click here to read the poem in its entirety.

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April oils
a letterpress / by Pablo Otavalo

“I wonder for a moment what animal I am.”
–Laryssa Wirstiuk

It is not unconditional. Silk
takes to dye easy
once vigorously worked. Milk
boiled and rubbed gently
over leather will clean it
excellently. In a cotton […]

Please click here to read the poem in its entirety.

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Rise & Fall / by Brianna Pike

For Nick & Katie

What you will learn when you are married is that nothing
changes. You will wake the day after your wedding and your face

will still grow pale in the sunlight. Your eyes, blurry with sleep,
will land unfocused, on your lover’s back and you will still see

every mole, freckle and chicken pox scar. You will rise from bed,
where you may or may not have yanked blankets back over you

the night before. You will move through familiar rooms where
there will be dishes in the sink, shoes under the coffee table and beer

cans strewn across the kitchen table. You will let the dog out, his fine
black hair still sticking to every surface. You will return to bed,

burrow beneath sheets, press against that lovely,
familiar back, and realize you cannot fall back to sleep
without the gentle rise and fall of their breath.

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Bubbles, Daddy. Bubbles. / by Ronnie K. Stephens

Even sea monsters need floaties sometimes. – Sarai B.

The bathtub is all science fiction
these days, a menagerie two times
the size of the tugboats my twins
have already pulled apart.

They give new meaning to the drink,
dipping hollow vessels into the water
again and again like parched gods.

Everything is an act of creation
they want to know the name of.

This? A turtle. Turtle.
This? A crab. Craabp.
This? Octopus. Oputus.
This? Also octopus. Oputus.

They chew each one over with
furrowed brow and swollen gum,
their mouths mountain ranges
cutting through red valleys.

I brush their teeth. Teeth.
They chew the bristles until
the toothpaste is gone. All gone.

I wash their hair. Hair.
Use too much shampoo. Bubbles.
They slap their heads. Laugh. Squish
the soap on their fingers. Bubbles.

I fill the cup and pour it out.
They try to catch the water, learn
perhaps too soon, how easily
the things we need most can slip
from our small hands. Our hands
always too small to hold it all,
too stubborn to let go.

*
*

Joshua Tree / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

The silence feels
like someone I’ve left
then found again
on a day I’m not
ready for reunions: no
makeup, unwashed hair.
“Oh, hi there,”
I say to the lack
of sound. The absence
of pleasure makes me
remember sensory plenitude.
But should I approach it?
Should I leave it,
ignore it? I hear
only blood traveling
to my skull,
always rushing.

*
*

Day 20 / Poems 20

*

Plato’s Kill / by Eric Elshtain

a TLS cut-up

Speak as if science
fire together wire
deluded on an Earth like this
or in Fallujah or the Hindu Kush

engulfing all dark matters
optical effects fuel into a stitch
of the sensory experience of corpses.

Soldiers were sobered by the action
of Antigone’s many-world hypotheses
and in each more is lost than gained.

Patriarchal orders
scholars decipher
are one major reason
melodies would seem,
my dear Bozzy,

exemplars of an aerial adventure.
Fairy-tale style, no-dope literature
better done for the sake of spectacle.

*
*

Get Your Plumage Out / by Jason Galloway

for Jan Bailey

Let me sit down a minute

Let me sit down a minute
and figure this all out

Let me set these kitchen bones down
and get myself still

just long enough

Give me a few seconds to say

Please click here to read the poem in its entirety.

*
*

Surrender of the Seed / by Jessica Gigot

Sun brings shadows
Rain brings hope
The arching cotyledons
Curve towards the light

Emergence is not earned

Pore space held by air
Makes room for new growth
Moisture follows gravity–
Light will allow, if you let it in

*
*

Poem for an Hour / John James

I blew too hard on the candle and now it appears
to be bleeding, red wax spilled over the table.
I think I’ll keep it like this. The hard specks remind me
of blazing stars. Somehow, my father’s up there.
Yesterday I bought a jar of honey at Kentucky’s
Shaker Village. The sales clerk said it will alleviate
my allergies—the pollen of the fruit bearing flowers
carried by bees will help me gain immunity.
False. I’m allergic to the pollen blowing in the wind.
In wind, in wind—always in the wind. It’s a helpless refrain,
a chorus of sorts, a cheap fill, syllables strapped
to the cheek. In my winter dreams I want to be buried
in hoarfrost—to stay that way forever, or until
the sun shines. Singing-masters of my soul—consume
my heart away. It freezes in the deep. Dead branches
glisten. I watch the wet bough of a dogwood
slough its cover of ice. Somewhere in the distance
church bells ring—styrofoam plates in a basement.
We ate donuts that way, listened, had our hot
brows smudged with ash. Enough of this wandering.
It spins and it’s spinning. There must be a point to all this.

*
*

Creation / by Sarah Jefferis

Lovegrief hides in the dragon
that eats its own tail,
the Great World Serpent encircles the earth,
the shadow self—
devouring all that is and it not swallowed.

*
*

April lies
before Alice / by Pablo Otavalo

*
I hate it when people talk about time travel
as if

hominids mesmerized by sending each other digital telegrams

with no real sense of how to operate in the present

could convincingly speak of interpolating

the past or sublimating the future, no

*
rather let’s investigate the basic problem with your

celestial mechanics,

that’s right
*

every instant you turn the clock forward or back

the mass upon which you stand moves

correspondingly along its orbit

so miscalculate your desired revolutions

to the instant and you may well land

*

in your desired time but spatially

you stand no chance to know what instant

would not leave you stranded clawing at nothing

and which would have you crushed in such
*

varied ways by earth and atmosphere; no

let’s talk of other things

of shoes and ships

and ceiling wax

and the divine rights of kings

*
*

Joy / by Brianna Pike

She lies large and opulent on her side. Her skin
twitches ever so slightly, animating the black and white
splotches. Her eyes are closed, her head thrown
back, and her mouth open. A thick tooth is visible,
worn to a soft nub.

Her children swarm her belly, suckling her
engorged teats in desperate hunger. They converge
in one twisting heap, crawling over one another
to press their snouts into her bristly skin.

Her only movement is the rise and fall of her
chest or the occasional twitch to remove a fly.
She feels the tug of many mouths, the release
of milk, and at last, she exhales and opens her eyes.

*
*

Strong as the Gods / by Ronnie K. Stephens

You are the unicorn.
The myth no one believes.
I did not believe in you.

But we spent nine hours
on the phone six days after
I learned your name.

I think of the friends
I don’t call. Sending my dad
to voicemail again and again.

And then of you.
The majesty of your comfort.
The blanket of our silence.

How can you be anything but
the unicorn?

What fool would call your magic
a dead thing?

I have never been naked
like this. I have never been
this soft and this scared.

Who will believe me when I tell
this story? Will I get it right?

You are forever the fantasy
I am trying to put words to.

*
*

Super Duper / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

Not even Drano Max Gel
could clear the kitchen
sink, where grey water
had been still for hours.
And there I was: stubborn,
unable to ask for a hand
because I’d rather spend
days pouring baking soda
and vinegar down the drain
than confess my need,
advertise my helplessness.
Scrubbing knives beside
a toilet broke this woman,
inspired me to approach
the super for support.
He entered my apartment
armed with a plunger
larger than my torso
and braved the toxic
waters, reeking of acid.
At my desk, I revised
a book review while he
tended to the emergency
with even compressions.
The metered sloshing
gave way to a sure flush
and the luxury of being
able to ask for support.

*
*

Day 19 / Poems 19

*

The Old Comedian’s Airport Gig / by Eric Elshtain

Slouched rum-dum
fully bow-tied
most likely tight

murmurs a rumpled palaver
into a microphone so manhandled
it fuzzes every tone, makes bad
pockets of ears.

His loafers soft shoe
saw-horse lines to crowds
thin as old smoke screens.

He is a museum
unto himself,
he is a meaning of more
than what he says
or doesn’t say
or won’t dare to anymore.

based on the cover of Charles Bukowski’s
There’s No Business, illustrated by R. Crumb

*
*

JG19

*
*

Sunday Sermon Hike / by Jessica Gigot

Over the ferns
The morning light barely
Breaks below
the canopy.
Ravens calls between
Douglas fir trees tops. Today
Is not like
any other day.
The lake, our midpoint,
Sits in stillness reflecting

Forgotten snags and pink salmon blooms. Today is its own day
A moment that is
ending
And beginning at the same time.
We walk down hill in silence
And
praise.

*
*

Forget the Song / by John James

Please click here to read the poem.

*
*

SJ19

*
*

April missed
another soirée / by Pablo Otavalo

“Was it something you / said about Ovid this
morning : the redgrass
glistens in surf : the pine ”
………………— John James

I’m drawn to the blood
orange moon of midsummer
as I was never drawn
to noon. Do you remember
when Daphne outran her pursuer
and prayed herself enclosed in thin
bark , her hair grew into leaves,
her arms to branches, and her feet
held fast by roots, until nothing of her
was left except loveliness. Her beating heart
under laurel bark often arrested casual
attention. I’m in that time of life, whereby
Madame Bovary should be re-read.

As to break is to build so to
indifference is eternal affection;

nothing perhaps best describes
that which fills the room you have left;

as oxygen rusts bones, and diaries
are not meticulously kept, post-apocalyptic
generations are oft burdened with boredom
and it’s best to ignore them until

they pay attention. It is a commodity, you know,
attention. Bought and packaged.

What I hate most about Public Radio:
the need to explain to those
who think themselves cultured
what it is to be a Patron
of the Arts.

*
*

Spanish Moss / by Brianna Pike

Soft gray shades haunt the trees, hanging
from every branch. Delicate lace the color
of twilight, drapes low caressing bark and leaves.

Legends feed off the air: a Spaniards beard growing
long while his love languished below, never marrying,
waiting, until she too turned to dust.

A princess’s hair spread across tree tops, turning
black to grey, ornamental webs reaching wide then
jumping from tree to tree, gradually taking up residence

across the Florida landscape. Ethereal and lovely moss
drenches oaks in thick blankets, dropping spidery
fingers down to the ground below.

*
*

Pulparindo / by Ronnie K. Stephens

My mouth is a bonfire on the beach,
hot and sweating and full of fruit.

Students watch my face for a reaction.
I hold the Mexican candy on my tongue

until each flavor is a boy at a dance.
The salt scoots itself all the way

to the sides. Chile spreads like flame.
I put another piece to my lips. Another.

Tamarind and mango and pineapple
taste exactly like a first kiss

the summer after eighth grade.
It is a taste that stays

after the candy is gone. After
the name of the girl

and the name of the song
are also gone.

*
*

It’s Hard to Explain That / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

At the corner of Franklin and North Highland
Avenues, early evening, a rawboned man
wearing only jeans is protesting the state
of things: meat eating is simply unethical.

“I don’t eat animals,” he says. “It’s hard
to explain that to human beings.” His hair
is grey and tied like the tail of an aging mare.
His sun-dyed skin wears like tanned leather.

It’s not hard to explain that to me; even here
in Los Angeles, no one bats an eye when
I ask for meals without meals, dairy, or eggs.
I wonder for a moment what animal I am.

Out of range of his chants, I continue to walk
south onto Hollywood Boulevard, where actors
costume themselves as cartoon characters
like Minnie Mouse in an unwashed party dress.

*
*

Day 18 / Poems 18

*

Me and My Social Miscue Blues / by Eric Elshtain

I want to be your smoke bomb
I want to be your lip balm
I want to be your church psalm

I want to be your pie chart
I want to be your high art
I want to be your chicken heart

I want to be your bit part
in a movie about whatever
I want to be your algebra

I want to be your black mamba
I want to be your zebra
I want to be your temperature

I want to be your late Jurassic
I want to be your paper or plastic
I want to be your pant’s elastic

I want to be your dump truck
I want to be your worst luck
I want to be your lame duck

approaching the end of my tenure
acquitted for perjury
and given a suspended sentence

I want to be your antitrust
I want to be your scent of musk
I want to be your outrageous tusk

I want to be your hot air balloon
I want to be your leaving too soon
I want to be your Memphis in June

I want to be your loan approval
I want to be your tabloid canoodle
I want to be Sheba’s footstool

I want to be your final approach
I want to be your swimming coach
I want to be above reproach

I want to be your out too late
I want to be your hot plate
in a movie from the 1930s

I want to be your counterfeit
bill you try to spend
but the bank confiscates

I want to be your after shave
I want to be your underground rave
I want to be your undisturbed grave

I want to be your ethics committee
I want to be your Frank Nitti
I want to be your sitting pretty

I want to be your rocking horse winner
I want to be your dead of winter
I want to be the Splendid Splinter

hitting them out of the park
in slow motion aiming the ball
at a nosy reporter I want to be your

candlestick I want to be your final pick
I want to be your one last lick
at the tree you can’t fell

based on the poem
“I Want to Be Your Shoebox” by Catherine Bowman
that in turn was influenced by a mis-transcription
of the song “Me and My Chauffeur Blues” by Memphis Minnie

*
*

JG18

*
*

Life Cycle of a Poem / by Jessica Gigot

The poem starts first
In the foam nest

Until a pollywog of an idea
Wiggles its way out into water.

No limbs, just momentum
No lungs, just measure

In the new moon darkness
The page sits still

Until those tails
Leap-frog along

Breathing enough air
To finally come ashore.

*
*

April, Andromeda / by John James

*
I am in this world, not self, not seed, not stamen-dusted

pistil flicking in the wind—the eye sees past its limitations.

Crushed petals in the dirt, I’m courting a horse with an apple,

watching its white tail swish along the fence. Somewhere,

the galaxy spins. I smile at the cloudless sky. [. . .]

Please click here to read the poem in its entirety.

*
*

Double Churched / by Sarah Jefferis

Every Sunday I was double churched. Proper
Anglicans—the kneel stand sinners
left caverns between each other, even when
passing the peace. Historians
who sat like candles in high box pews
sealed with President’s names.

Then Southern Baptists in a bright
church with a plain wooden cross,
we sat with the man who built cars.
This man my mother taught to read. His parents
were share croppers—he smelled like oil and grease
and ham. I didn’t know how much he loved my mother.

(I didn’t call him my mother’s boyfriend.)

……………………………………………………………(Her husband at home slept in closets.)

I squished my crinoline dress next to the car maker,
scratched at sparkly tights, took my white gloves off and on.
After school, I learned about catalytic converters
and mufflers and changing the oil.
This man protected me from white men

who cat called me at 12 and 13 outside his garage.
She is just a girl.
He saw me as a child—
not like those who stood witness to my body
like a dock they would land on.

Wish I had kept my ass on that bench
and never returned to the Anglicans. Wish
I could return and thank him. His voice
calls me back down South as I bring you home.
He is the one I want you to meet. He is the one
you would have asked for permission.

When my mother meets you for the first time, she
says how proud the mechanic would have been.
And this is how I learn he ran his own business for thirty years,
how he was a widower who raised
three sons, how he had one kidney.
He would have been.

*
*

April nears
a checkpoint / by Pablo Otavalo

The great wolf has my wrist
in his maw and readies Ragnarök.

In the dying lands the newborn forget
their mother’s faces ….. their father’s names

and there are still edges of forest
resuscitating cities, but some day…

And the Wall of the Temple caught fire,
the moneychangers stumbled,

and like heather and thorn the Wall grew

to split Galilee from herself as its roots
crushed the earth in reinforced steel

and murdered the olive groves. Frost
said something doesn’t love a wall.

*
*

Portrait of an Oak Tree in Autumn / by Brianna Pike

A tall, gangly oak tree
catches the corner of my eye
each summer when it bursts
open in light green leaves.
But as the days grow shorter,
the oak stands wounded,
a red orange smear spreading
from the heart towards the crown.
Leaves blow out onto the street
crunching beneath my feet as I pass
the tree leaning into its own quiet passing.

 

*
*

The Note Taped to a Locker / by Ronnie K. Stephens

after an illustration by Desarae Lee

Row boats and oars have no place
in the sea, but then I never meant
to make it back.

Sharks feel the pulse
of empty vessels and the thrash
of frenzied limbs in swells,
the chest full of stones,
the horizon and the shoreline
swallowed by Poseidon.

Whole summers drift by
at the end of the docks
with bottles and lungs
broken into the drink.

I am a buoy dressed in paisley
and red shoes when they come
looking for the girl left to the blue.

*
*

Bee Sting / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

On the morning radio show,
a caller says he was stung

by a bee, years ago, and still,
as an adult, he feels the prick

of pain on his forehead.
Simply receiving a haircut

or standing in cold rain hurts
space between his eyebrows.

In my car, I’m stuck in traffic
and wanting to touch this

man’s face. I’m imagining marks
of accidents, how some tragic

moments don’t even show.
What’s left to do but poke

the hole of my “innie” navel,
my first attachment to life?

Do not dare bare the midriff.
Do not speak of possible infection.

Do not reveal your name, caller,
for I, the listener, may be held

accountable for your phantom
ache to reenter that early moment.

*
*

Day 17 / Poems 17

*

from “Other Phases; or, A Little Moon Can Do” / by Eric Elshtain

The ecliptic slip
celestial slow blink

some shadows
half-shaped like has-beens

caught-up light
your dumb rock

owes light
to other spheres

hand-held sources
our dreams

are our crystal ceilings
like votes floating

airless, ideas the picture
traps sideways in this circle

where motion flows
ebb warping time

fates turn to life
up to the there to which

we have attached ourselves
some mute rock

our own shadow its eyelid
its plinth

such slow conduct
we feel follows us

based on a photograph by Adam Schreiber
Presidential Moon, 1969

*
*

At Sea / by Jason Galloway

The little raft of hurtful words,
the eyehole in the floorboard. Below,
the dream you can’t remember you are having:
bottles of rain and vinegar;
forgetful speech:
blister, brick, wax
kneecap, blood

But from underneath the eye
electricity in the sky and reflections;
the list you keep:
eyelash, earlobe, perfume . . .

you think the sound of sounds

*
*

Dog Song / by Jessica Gigot

for g.g.

Last night I heard a banjo tune
That plucked on my own heartstrings.
When I realized it was written
For a lost dog, I cried. Not tears
Of joy or sorrow, just acceptance
That even the most innocent of souls
Go astray. I thought of my own yellow
And golden mix, now silently resting
At my feet. She is here for now, loyal
And always adoring, but not forever.
Her song echoes in my head and I know
I will never be the same.

*
*

Desire’s Limit / by John James

So bind me to you,
teeth entering
an apple’s bruise,
a child’s mouth before
the tooth breaks.
The spider has a mind.
A wasp’s wing-beat hum.
Wood lice, fig skin,
the round work
of sleep, used
subway axels dumped
into the ocean.
Wanting is a matter
of names and things.

*
*

The Mistake Tree / by Sarah Jefferis

My name your albatross.
You say my name everyday
you answer the phone.
It’s on every invoice.
Every box of chocolate.
Every check you sign.

Didn’t want to hang you
on my mistake tree
for the town to witness.
Wanted you
on the mantel.
Or a chime blowing
on the porch.
Or in a locket around
my neck.
A necklace is cousin
to the noose.

*
*

April whom
I’ve lost / by Pablo Otavalo

I didn’t think of you at first, at first
I didn’t think of anyone, it’s not

the same to mourn as to find your
chasm side as though along a road

you meet your own unbroken self
unrecognizable. A shard of glass

beneath your skin will work itself out
unless it doesn’t. Asphodel tastes

like colored chalk, and you eat it everyday
because there’s fields of it

*
*

Wild Roses / by Brianna Pike

A secluded alcove, enclosed in bright white
fencing attaches to the back of my grand
parent’s garage. In summer, when I visited,
wild roses crawled up the sides, cradling
honey bees in their petals and sunlight filtered
in through the chain link, dappling the concrete
floor. My grandfather kept his hose coiled
in the far corner and a few empty buckets
stacked along the sides. Sometimes he would ask
me to venture inside this buzzing cave to retrieve
a bucket or turn the spigot and unfurl the green
rubber hose. Often I was only clad in my damp
swimsuit, water mixing with sweat dripping
down my neck and pooling in the dips of my collar
bones. I did not want to enter the cove full of bees,
but I still darted inside, barely breathing the scent
of roses, grasping at my grandfather’s request,
quickly running back to summer sun.

Written for Sam & Jennifer at the request for a poem featuring chain link.

*
*

Honest Response, Redacted / by Ronnie K. Stephens

RKS17

*
*

All This Free Floss / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

For every dental checkup, I won floss
and the expected lecture: “Once
daily take care to prevent plaque
build-up, which causes cavities, decay,
and gum disease.” But I’d never continue
the dull routine beyond one month.
Needless to say, I stockpiled a mountain
of superslip satin, strings silken and minted,
some waxed for gliding in tightened
spaces. Fancy devices like “interdental
agents” were the dentists’ attempts
at appealing to my technological bent
to no avail. Hundreds of meters of menthe
tape filled my powder room. I could’ve started
a boutique with offerings on the blackmarket:
“Oral B Glide Comfort Plus” for your best.
Are you surprised that I chose instead
to protect against gingivitis and bad breath?
At least that’s the answer I present
to my dentist. The truth is I’m sensitive
and endure the hurt simply to impress
a man with sexy gums: beloved flossing one.

*
*

Day 16 / Poems 16

*

from “Other Phases; or, A Little Moon Can Do” / by Eric Elshtain

you’re a meteor made
from crashed earth,

gravity-molded
you have no horizon

until you’re cemented there
some rocks lost, kept private

locked behind cases
in our library basements

pushed into our space
charred information

pressing eyelids into time
carving troves of notions

to be, flattened anachronic
sphere of pastoral cold

you are not a memoir
but a moment

not an optical version
but a comment you are

not a calculus but a collection
you make the sky dull with

an empire version of us
mapping no where we can be

sometimes your signs
vague or over-exposed

as if you have no history but ours
because we’ve picked your tomorrow clean
but for that one footprint we follow

based on a photograph by Adam Schreiber
Presidential Moon, 1969

*
*

My Grandmother in the Facility / by Jason Galloway

The twisted wire in the garden, the rusted
padlock, a hammer’s scar in the tree:
plucking at the veins in your wrist, waiting
all night long for the evening paper.

Here in your hospital chair, the bed with the crank, your
continuous no-time, in your moments of agitation,
out of your dry chest: men’s names
like the sound of crying …. the stream of your life
and only the men’s names.
You clenched your tongue in your ribs your whole life.

What can I offer: your apple, your knife, your salt?
The whole moon and tree with all of their scars?

Grandmother …. rest and sing.

*
*

Early Spring Omens / by Jessica Gigot

The tulips are topped
Before April is over.
Center pivot irrigation
Streams over spring-
Parched fields.
Ah, yes, ain’t that fresh,
They say the ice is melting.
Greenland’s hunters have only two
Months of good ice instead of nine.

I turn away from the numbers
Only to see Mount Baker’s backbone
Is bare while her foothills stand
In green disbelief. A fluke
Or a pattern, I walk barefoot
Into my birthday month.
The lilacs that mark a new
Year have already wilted.

*
*

In Truth / by John James

*
1.

to speak is natural : the waves

and the wolves : harmony

an eleoquence that stirs

in the mind : Duncan put it that way :

some lives are easy to lead backward

*

2.

today I am thinking of my dead :

they are not ravaged : memory

a palimpsest of bad lines : from language

*
we first hear endearments : sweetest

honeymilk : infant song and reverie : les rêves

*

3.

can there be life then : when the branches

put out their cover : lovedrunk :

when the roots are still unborn :

*

4.

chaos on our Ouija board : death’s legs

in a black net : no : I speak my own

song : good things before knowledge :

obedience to a common cause : music

ordered in sign

*

5.

to get back to the beginning : to the labyrinths

of the true : first you start remembering :

you remember to forget : you drown :

you dear : you gesture for the rocks :

*
a world we knew : the one

we wanted to go out into

*
*

Why I Can’t Call You Brother / by Sarah Jefferis

Since you chased me down our mama’s driveway yelling:
suey, here suey, here suey.

Just to tie me down in the fort
And let your friends string me like a harp.

Since you washed me off with a hose,
made Hamburger Helper with meat

reduced for quick sale.
Since you smashed the aquarium with a hammer:

Goldfish and betta flopping on linoleum.
Since you assembled the particle-board bookcase

hollered at wrenches, at floorboards.
Since you cracked your twelve-year-old skull

on the half-ramp, flew in the helicopter
to the hospital. Since mama thought you dead

and I, I was grateful and wishing.

*
*

Asters / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

Asters lashed
in aubergine and white
spike as lavishly
as sea anemones,
above the sponge
glazed pot —

how secretive
they sway
in the dark depths
of attention,
silently harvesting
food from the light.

*
*

Lets set
the light / by Pablo Otavalo

through amber glass:
call it midsummer sun

cast the lake
a greenish slate
in off-white curls

chisel me in
plastic thin
as a handgun

darken incoming
cumulonimbi
center right

place yourself
in denim boyish
girlish waif balanced

on steel pilings
stretching to peril
cue me cuing you

to head out further
into storm
you look great

lost
a scrap of fabric
the wind flicks

into your
eyes— you let go
the unsteady rail—

you look even better
unbalanced
one step

from kissing
hard steel
before drowning

I frame you dead
center greenish
slate brack

water

*
*

April 13, 2015: 18th Month Scan / by Brianna Pike

For Melissa

Quiet and insidious, it took up residence in the soft
flesh of your neck, the lymph node swelling

so large that even the surgeons could not remove
the entire mass. A diagnosis, and then a close embrace,

from those of us who loved you, who waited through
the chemo, the radiation, the wigs. Held our breath

when you rang the bell at your last treatment; held
your hand when you tattooed your wrist because life

did go on and at eighteen months clear, you are
beautiful. You are strong. You are brave. You are here.

*
*

The Moon Responds / by Ronnie K. Stephens

Falling is not always an act of force.
Here it is
deliberate, graceful. Gravity
a thing which must be danced with.

Nothing is
ever very far from home
if you can still feel its absence. Yes, love
is
returning. Yes, love is a wave that
knows its way to shore.

Only a fool
would call this space empty.
Only a fool would want his breath back.

I have
known too many flying rocks.
They love hardest through the fall.

Carve a
place for their fists in my skin
and call it a promise as if I ever asked
any
one of them to stay.

I don’t regret what they cut from me.
I don’t regret
the holes they left.

There is nothing more honest than that.

*
*

A Month Before My Thirtieth Birthday / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

At the ashram I sat cross-legged
on a cot in a shared room, scribbling
the first poem I had written since nineteen:

a promise to myself for the final year
of my twenties. I won’t share here
the contents, but I wear the poem

in a sterling locket around my neck
to serve as a constant and heavy
reminder of what I want to achieve

before age thirty. A month in advance,
I can barely remember the exact
and careful rhetoric I had locked

inside that cold orb. When I open
the latch I’ll know: of my hopes
two have been won. And of those,

one has kept me from another. Oh,
the weight of silver, which must be worn
or suffer from tarnish, color of being ignored.

*
*

Day 15 / Poems 15

*

Here / by Eric Elshtain

Awkward monsters complain, “There’s a wheel for everything!”

Doctors sweetly clasp blue X-rays: thin lids with which light boxes close their eyes

You’ve become a stupid hint for brutes who favor doom to little girls’ pretend ballet (“Their toes will never hurt, thank God.”)

Here this future unfurls before us: a devious cruise of hands

Your past cartwheels mutter, “Find the good grasses. Spin with the apparatus of galaxies”

We slow the hooked hunt and find, in our paladin’s wet sand, a yawning form sodden in the sudden fold, tuck, fold of the waves

They look to the two thousand ways we see comets shed emeralds and bumblebees

Here you should listen to the two thousand words we use to scold ghosts; only then will you feel humans being human

Here germs are too interesting

The egg-eating snakes worm half-way to the world almost as done as the planets we’re digging into

Sailors no longer make their cases to queens

Here there’s a price on our ears and here

the birds belong to the bottom of forests and Earth’s weird assembly dotes on lights that glare back without expression

*
*

Evening / by Jason Galloway

after Outside the Frame by Jean Valentine

One more hour, pray, spring-light,
under everything twitching and glowing.

A moment more.
Still too much dissatisfaction in blossom and limb:
flash, fly, dangle, drizzle, hurry, hide, seek;
abundance, resistance, ostentation, permission;
luster, aroma, hunger;
………………………………….. indoors dinner hour finishes,
the tables wiped, chairs pushed back in, mail sorted;
the people strolling the avenues to appraise the gardens
quicken as porch lights appear one by one;
the creatures retreat with their shadows, one by one.

*
*

JG15

*
*

Banality / by John James

I woke up naked. It was cloudy. I ground
beans for coffee. A bottle exploded. I watered
the cabbage sprouts and fed the cat. I gave
my daughter some yogurt. Mixed honey in it.
Sat down to read. I sped through 40 pages
and stopped. The printer set itself aflame.
My daughter’s slide got up and walked away.
I changed a diaper, washed my hands.
Brushed my teeth to go out. I called the doctor
and made an appointment. The candles
had eyes. I ate a Caesar salad. That afternoon
I went to the grocery. They were out of eggs.
The cart started talking. I bought myself
some bread. When home, daughter threw
up on the sofa. The sofa speaks in monotone.
I ordered a pizza, put books back on the shelf.
Watched the candy bowl inch its way toward me.
When the pizza arrived, I tipped the driver.
He blew fire in my ear. I signed the receipt
and waited for him to stop.

*
*

For the geometric topologist on-line who wanted to see my face / by Sarah Jefferis

You had me with the poem about rain. I don’t even like rain.
To learn your daughter—who you don’t see often—

wrote the images of possibility, no choice but to reply.
Ridiculous to be seduced by a man’s daughter’s poem.

You had me with the video of your hands playing a dance
of birds on harpsichord. I don’t even like harpsichord.

It belongs in the church. But the star tattoos on each finger
turned to constellations. Archers and Dogs

and nine birds wailing in notes.
Apus and Aquila, the Eagle, Columba the dove,

Corvus the Crow, Cygnus the swan,
Grus the crane, Pavo the peacock, Phoenix and Tucana.

Which are you?

You called our conversation asymmetrical.
I thought what does my face matter.

I thought why spoil it. My sentences are prettier.
I thought, I look like a Jew raised Christian now Buddhist.

After days of poems and promises of live recitation
I finally showed my face. Only to receive silence.

You couldn’t begin to see me.
But you had given me your hands

and called yourself paper tiger.
Oh fierce harmless liar.

*
*

The Real Estate / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

At twelve she is
a hawkish seller
offering the
first right of refusal
to her Mother
when her Father
and the other
tempestuous Fates
draft an offer to purchase
for her tears.

*
*

April skins
a rabbit / by Pablo Otavalo

…………….Easter, I got a daffodil
which I beheaded for my
lapel. Pleasure originates
in the inability to describe
a sensation of touch
a balanced proportion
a harmonic octave
ad infinitum
absurdum…

*
*

Measure / by Brianna Pike

If love is measured in words, your father’s love cycles
through his email over and over in the language

of a parent who wants only to celebrate a shy, intelligent
son who builds gravity vehicles, loves computers and plays

violin with a soft gaze of concentration. A son who
will graduate in May, move on with a scholarship

to research, to live, to walk with other students among
echoing halls and grassy lawns. A son who is still his parents

child who competes in Science Olympiad and rides bikes with his dad;
a boy, who if love is measured in words, will never know a blank page.

Written in honor of Macgregor “Mac” Vogelsang at the request of his parents.

*
*

The Astronaut Questions the Moon / by Ronnie K. Stephens

Can you call it falling when gravity
does not live here?

How far are you from the tide?
Do you name it love when you pull her in?

Did I know how to breathe before
I conquered all this empty space?

How many times have you loved something
that only ever slapped your softest parts?

Do you regret the craters they left on your back
when you asked them to come inside?

Is there anything more honest than that?

*
*

The Summer of Beer Lunches / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

At thirteen, you didn’t know the feeling
of endless vertigo and extreme fatigue
was defined by a word, but you still
understood that spending a week
in Wildwood with your family would
somehow cure you.
……………………………….You knew
that dipping your scraped knee
into the Atlantic would facilitate healing,
and the salt air seemed to do the same
for your unnamed, undefined fears.
……………………………….Any one
would continue what lightens her
discomfort, so you attended
to your most peaceful moments:
devouring ice cream for every meal,
power-napping every day at three –
covered in sand – to lyrics of seagulls.
…………………………………………Hell
was the summer you couldn’t get well,
when running to the coast meant
rejecting adulthood. You’d come home
spent from instructing kids for some money
between semesters, and lunch would be
beer: fermented ales, stouts, Belgian wheats.
…………………………………………You would feed
a tiny amber bead to your dog, unplug
the air conditioner, lie over covers, cuddle
with the warm animal until your urban studio
retreats into abnormal stillness: under suds
and beach hot.

*
*

Day 14 / Poems 14

*

Life-Light / by Eric Elshtain

Only robots reach these thorned and glowing things that live under a rain of diatoms and scraps of creatures used to day—abyssal filaments and ribbons at mute rest. We stretch our lives down there, too, with fibers thick with voices we do, themselves coded beams, whispers in lights our human news is thinned within. Just above our births and loves, disasters and leaps, those flashing beasts use light to lure and stun, attract and confuse; this pitched place, tentacle-felt, lucifer-lit, the pool we lean over, listening to echoes and outbursts, and into which we finally fall.

*
*

JG14

*
*

Two Owls Hunting / by Jessica Gigot

One flies high
The other flies low.
Field mice are
lured
Out of their safe burrows
By peculiar whisper sounds
Before the screech
and grab
Arrives from above.

*
*

from Materia / by John James

Here I am, at the end it, hollowed out by sorrow, tent pitched south along the river. Emptiness itself cuts along the bank. I never knew how to fit things into proper categories—what form, what flesh. To say house sparrow, songbird—bright plastic ring. A passerine flits in the wind. Pistil, stamen—pollen floods my nose, powdering tent walls, the acne scars honeycombing her face. When I consider the old ambitions, I let my arms go. I think about the sea’s rush, river’s stop, seepage from a well—everyone believes in one rapture or another, false gods giving way to the palace of the real. The limitlessness of love falters at desire’s end. But this comes out of context. It is summer, I am thirsty. My canteen is empty. There is not enough water. There was never enough water.

*
*

Tuesday Panties / by Sarah Jefferis

I didn’t know I was bleeding till my mama, who was late
for her night shift at the gas station,

yanked me from strawberry Pop Tarts and Scooby Doo,
handed me wash cloth and a thick crinkly pad:

to stick to Tuesday panties.
Mama said I was lucky not to have tampons.

Tampons make you loose, slippery, ready, she whispered
while pouring cream of mushroom soup over egg noodles.

Ready for what? After Tylenol and the blue stink
of the heating pad that plugged in,

I dripped red clumps around the toilet.
Comet made me heave but I sprinkled

that green powder. I smelled
different and creased myself

into a small linen closet. Held
towel to mouth to catch vomit.

I snuck my friend’s tampons out of her fourth-grade cubby,
perched my flat foot on the back of the school toilet

and shoved it in, cardboard and all.
I didn’t know any better.

I bled before first communion,
when I could still eat for free at Bob’s Big Boy.

*
*

Sunnyslope / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

for Melissa and Greg Schumacher

There’s a reverence
I observe
for a well-placed window,
a devotional I hold
for the priesthood
that shepherds space
into light.

Long before we met
through the intercessions
of our children
I intuited your existence
as contemplatives
do God–
giving form to the creators
through the perfect architecture
of their creation.

*
*

April shatters
me whole/ by Pablo Otavalo

Some words crisp
as winter biting

through a scarf
to kiss

your face
raw .. As birdsong

breaks the morning

to rain
your hyacinth hair

and you say something
ineffable

………………and nothing
stirs to take the place
of nightsong

in each an everglade
of afterthoughts

to those who were not
punished alive

no absolution And sculpture

and pastiche and the silent
lament
of twee, the last exhausting

revolution

in the land of the living
the dying receive no alms

and in the afterlife of hysteria
and rudiment there’s no calling

no raising the lantern
to the iris of night

…………………….to Tiamat

when in the height heaven
was not named, and the earth

beneath did not yet bear a name,
and the earth was without form, void

and darkness
was upon the face of the deep

and darkness
upon the face of the waters.

*
*

Reunion Elegy / by Brianna Pike

To walk this campus is to walk among ghosts
of classmates who are permanently embossed

on the back of our reception program in blue ink.
One name stands out as a hulk of a football player;

a boy with a big voice; who sat next to me
in sophomore seminar. I was away, hiking

the Lake District when he broke up
with his girl, gave his dog away and hung

himself from the closet door
in his room. Loved by his professors,

his coach and his fraternity brothers.
Loved. Loved. Loved.

So it is strange to return, to feel comfort
in these familiar brick walls, shrouded in silence.

*
*

The Room I Could Not Find; The Room I Cannot Find Again / by Ronnie K. Stephens

At the center a heavy
wooden door painted indigo
with black iron hinges.
It has neither handle
nor knocker.

Inside it my legs are tired
from all the biking. I lean
against the door and it give
like a best friend until it is
all the way gone.

The hole where the door once was
is purple shadows and hot breath.
This room swallows everything
like a hungry gullet.

In the corner, the abyssinian
we rescued from the barn.
The black dog chasing mother’s car.
The Russian Blue from the SPCA.
The black and white Maine Coon
sprawled across the bathroom sink.
Another Russian Blue.
Every pet I have ever owned
pawing for a place in my lap.

I find the buck knife from grandpa
lying on a whiskey barrel with the watch
my father gave me when I was thirteen.
Both are heavy and rusted and calm.
The blade is dull. The time has stopped.

A lamp I do not remember leans over
a worn copy of my favorite book,
the first edition I ever owned.
It still smells like the night I let a girl
read it on the bathroom floor
after too much whiskey and men.
The bookmark is a bracelet
that snapped itself in half,
a tired turquoise spine holding up
the first lesson I ever learned
in compassion. Awareness = change.

Finally, completely, I see the summer
I hated myself. Six inches carved
from my own belly with chicken bones
and bicycle spokes. It sulks like a child
that knows it has never been loved.

Beside it, the summer I let it go.
Forgave everything I had ever done
to myself. Each apology a spiral
cut into the bogwood. The pendant
itself a smooth moon that hung
against my heart for seven years.

I try to pack the knife and the wood
and the book into the shoulder bag
I carried into the bog years ago.
None of them fit. Their edges,
awkward and sharp, cut through
the canvas, fall onto the floor.

The room becomes the bog, wet
and empty. The door is a road
I reach for, dig into until my nails
give themselves to its skin.

I pull myself from everything
I’ve lost again. Survival
the act of forgetting.

*
*

LW14

*
*

Day 13 / Poems 13

*

See Hear / by Eric Elshtain

Sweet brood
hear every eye
is it for fear,
lofty trees, I see
art now.

Hear’st thou
and only herald,
excel, not
from the stars,
not to tell
in single life—
calls back
the lovely—
make the world
away every where.

for Sheila

This poem uses a patron’s name
to “read through,” à la Jackson
Mac Low, nine sonnets
by Shakespeare.

*
*

In the Village / by Jason Galloway

In the village there is a library with hard words
and heavy books behind doors that nobody opens
steeple bells ring out the nursery melodies at noon
the elders pause to remember a few of the phrases
by evening the people look out to wave and smile
the lights behind curtains shut off promptly at dusk
the roots of the trees raise the corners of sidewalks
but workers return to fill in the gaps by moonlight

*
*

spring stimulus / by Jessica Gigot

April wind howls like a pack of coyotes
Waking me from sleep, chasing me
To the end of the driveway.

I am safe, but these currents spell change
In a month that is barely in swing.

I am ready for a shift of air. Land-locked,
My mental sails fill to take me
Somewhere foreign.

The paper shifts under the pen
The gales have already begun.

I write and sigh and write.

*
*

The Suffering of Blossoms / by John James

Welt, wound, world—the swallows
are sleeping. Three months of silence,
another coming on, and before we
can say anything, leaving. Everything
but the azaleas is sepia-toned. Or worse,
grained with several hundred rose
petals pruned from your mother’s weeds.
What did we arrive at, anyways? Still.
Each morning the stale sun rises. Snow
cover fades in the delta’s heart, soy fields
begging for water. I break from sleep.
Bitterness lights up like a wan candle,
dahlias swaying in the garden. Hydrangeas
dry, wherever they are. Songbirds peck seed
from the sown bed. I don’t see any way
out of it. Baroque breath, mausoleum
of speech, I sleep naked, open a window,
watch the cold cars blink in the distance.

*
*

Sundays / by Sarah Jefferis

I cannot stand the smell of Sundays—
hot compost of them. Sundays sour

canker sore I run my tongue
over but can’t quite see no matter how many ways

I open my mouth.
Sundays a fishbone trapped in

even needle nose pliers cannot reach.
Sundays a blue vase I shatter every seven days.

Sundays are Mary Queen of Scots who stepped up to the galleys,
stripped down to her bodice and gloves and smiled

at her executioners. Took fifteen attempts
to chop her head off.

Sundays a head that won’t split from a spine.
Sundays the priest above me on the Parish Hall couch.

Sundays the day I let my girls:
my blood mirrors—my echoes—my ancestral ghosts

walk back to my x, a woman who once named
her life after me but believes now in the bottle

and any other pussy with cash.
Sundays the day of transition:

is like chewing roaches
with wings and smiling.

I am to believe the woman I once loved
fifteen years ago is still beneath the Merlot

and chocolate. It’s like believing
the stone actually moved.

*
*

Daesin / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

The morning
of the day I heard news
of your death
I encountered an Absence
which I could not name;

It announced itself
in the shroud of snow
that slipped off
the shoulders
of a southbound train.

In dread I stood
as the Veil
was lifted,
kindled by wind-spark
into ice blue flame.

*

Decades become
light years
as my brightest students
recede into dullness,
across the distances
hard to find;

How soon they fade–
little stars
swimming in
the grey matter smog
of this sleepy
suburban mind;

I must confess,
Justine,
you were never charted
among them–
however shy,
however kind.

*
And yet it is You
by whom
I chart my course,
a star
hanging low,
and oh so bright–

You whose
distant presence
frames the emptiness
of space,
faint and ever fading
both day and night.

As if it were you
to bring forth this
Pentacost of Nothing
to form its very name
on your tongue
of fire-light.

*
*

The light hounds
the day / by Pablo Otavalo

In a place we both remember,
through alleyways
lined with sunlight & sand

Behind a chapel filled
with plastic chairs,
under pacific
symphonic waves,

like lovers, alone
at last, like explorers

at a fault line We
kissed &

each breath held
…………………a lita little longer–

Wheat fields under summer
gusts, moist leaves mid-August,
parables of mustard seeds, reeds

edging vermillion rivers, feeding
great lakes, the way you held my hand
the night we lost our way, church bells,

the flutter one scarcely hears
even in Mariposarios, rooms

filled with ripe orchids, ice crushed
beneath your tongue, rice flowing past
your fingers, mandolins breaking,
charcoal, chrysanthemums, the crackle
of Crème Brulée, the day you said

Karenina, pebbles under
springs, understanding

the earth revolves around
a point that revolves around a point
that revolves around a point ad
infinitum, tasting red wine

sacrosanct, rain chasing
itself down window
panes, balancing
on Union Pacific rails, collecting

maple leaves in every fuchsia, drawing
elaborate fish
on cocktail napkins, reaching across

an infinite distance and in another
find ache belying grief & relief
without distinction–

And as we kissed the sun slowed to a crawl
…………..across the azure sky and across the world
no one said a word nor whimpered nor suffered nor died.

*
*

Postcard Portrait / by Brianna Pike

After a photograph of Zora Neale Hurston

I saw you in a bookstore in Manteo
North Carolina where you were swaying
on a stand with Frost, Warhol and O’Hara.

I admired your hat, sloping to shadow one eye.
Your smooth jaw and lone curl of hair hiding
your right ear. Shoulders hunched slightly

forward, and your dress crinkled
at the armpits. A slight lift to your lips
as if you knew pollen, bees and frothing

pear trees. Knew that you would kill a man
with what he loved most, two years before
you picked up your pen and called souls to come see.

*
*

I Would Riot for Less / by Ronnie K. Stephens

I carry a marble in my pocket
because it’s easier to hold

a cold glass thing
than a hand.

Make eye contact with it
in crowded rooms.

Focus on the creamsicle swirl
stuck in the center like an iris.

And then there’s you.
Your eyes green shatters.

I am already a mess of cuts
crushing all over their sharp.

Nothing about you makes sense
to my heart, but when we are

apart my chest is a free diver
too far beneath the waves.

You come to me like a surface
breaking, a deep breath I had

given up on taking. You holy
unending wind.

*
*

Makeup Face / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

To apply mascara, blush, eyeliner,
lipstick, an artist must first consider
a well-lit mirror, curse fluorescents,
and pick a new persona. Then, the
application requires a stretching
and manipulation of the facial skin:
for lips a pursing and eyes a squint;
for apples a big smile; for definition
a catfish kiss. Concealer makes hidden
blemishes of a weekend, markings
of less-than-great decisions. Sparkling
opalescent highlights kick Monday’s start.

*
*

Day 12 / Poems 12

*

Thick with witness / by Eric Elshtain

an eye’s awful offices
take life on a humble
or shoot wire to shock
the sun out of judgement
plucked from trees
bent sinister by standards
no one has the heart for.

Anthems cruel with notes
bankrupt get sung, pale
choruses enrich books—
do not know change—
mistake revolt for chains
wielding power’s blunt
inflections, old hulls
like seedless monies sunk
into a history’s false bottom.

*
*

Different Light / by Jason Galloway

after Clear Sound by W. S. Merwin

Bright cloud springtime afternoon
fewer shadows in the gaps of young trees
across the garden before the wall and blind stones
that have frozen or warmed every day of the year
the entire race of green sings out
in tones neither yesterday nor today
nor a moment ago nor never again
just here just now

*
*

Homesick / by Jessica Gigot

I don’t miss the early morning barn chores or the rafts of dog hair hiding under the
bed. In the field, the seeds and weeds can wait another week and the dirty
dishes will always be stacked to the left of the sink. When I stretch my legs
in the crisp, white sheets of a foreign bed I feel weightless and untrammeled.
I am inspirited as I walk down city streets past curious smells and window
scenes. At a corner I see the faint outline of my frame in a car window and,
suddenly, I remember I am lost.

*
*

The Blossoms of Suffering / by John James

Tell me you remember leaning dizzily over
the pool of crane-eaten koi.Guests dawdled
off in the hallway speaking in the dialect
of bourbon, a blue man talking aimlessly
at the deadening roses, the dumb
pewter used to hold them. When he tripped
into a ditch, no one knew. I imagine
sun falling on his militant cheek, stubble
grouting chin. His skin lay gathering burn.
Shirtless, in the rooms behind him, long
eyed soldiers slugged each other and kissed
the big women astonished at their strength
and the scars of blunt trauma, survivors all
of one horror show or another, dazed,
exhilarated, bored now that Pol Pot is dead.
Packed like carnival rats, or huddled
as old women in churches, I think of them
gulping the muddy water, fish blood spooling
in the rock pond. Stone flanked
with purple crocuses. And after, two days
of silence, another before they could eat
anything, flat Coke dried across the weed-
sick marble. Tell me you remember
the surface of ripples, the wind-swept folds
spelling out a belligerent history, to which
we attach ourselves, hungry, confused, rivering
in the whiskey of our thought.

*
*

Pinkeye / by Sarah Jefferis

I.
Mama mama, there are plants growing out of sissy’s eyes
says my oldest, witnessing our morning ritual:
warm cloth, pressed to unseal the envelopes.
Held, not rubbed.

There is nothing pink about pinkeye.

And the baby stiffens her long torso
flat as a board, lighter than goose down,
and flips her head back and forth.
Even the tears are caved in.

II.
Useless sulfa drops itch the oldest child,
and hives arise, spread like a bad blush
down her chin, encircling her neck,
her throat.

I haven’t slept in days. So I command her
hives to retreat. Tell them this is the body
I made, this is my masterpiece
And they simply don’t have rights.

After Benadryl, she laughs,
breathes again, reminds me
of our plane trip, saying:
from the sky the ground looked like cloth—
the ground is the bird’s sky.

 

*
*

To Sir, With Love / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

It is grievous to think that those valiant barons, to whose stand against the crown the liberties of England were indebted for their existence, should themselves have been such dreadful oppressors, and capable of excesses contrary not only to the laws of England, but to those of nature and humanity. But, alas …fiction itself can hardly reach the dark reality of the horrors of the period. — Ivanhoe

As I close the pages
I think of you in your study
peering out
upon the bare haugh
whose name
had been
was its only form.

Even before
building Abbotsford
you populated
the midlands with itself,
collecting the stories
of the common folk
in dirt before ink.

Vox populi, vox dei
before you had
imagined becoming
a man of law,
you were theirs —
and so I wonder
how you would write him —

the other Walter Scott.

*
*

PO12

*
*

Reflection / by Brianna Pike

Hundreds of mirrors, curve upward and I
am reminded of Bishop’s fish, but this rainbow
is up ended and undulating from a minuscule
reflecting pool. His tail fans out, each small
prism catching the spring sunlight casting
color off every surface. He is modern, cool
chrome among the greenhouse orchids
lilies and ivy, beckoning me closer, capturing
my face on thousands of scales.

After “Standing Glass Fish” by Frank Gehry at the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis, MN.

*
*

The Artist Sets Down Her Pen / by Ronnie K. Stephens

after an illustration by Desarae Lee

The black smack of ink
on her dress bent her double.

Every direction was a half moon
hurling itself through the air.

Even the birds could not tell
if she had learned to fly

or simply stopped falling
from every hotel room

like a penny at the well
wishing only to be still.

*
*

LW12

*
*

Day 11 / Poems 11

*

from “What Can a Little Moon Do For You?” / by Eric Elshtain

the moon is a corridor
the moon is a thimble
the moon is a cheap hotel
the moon is loose
the moon is a canton
the moon is an auger hole carved
into our mad deck for Ahab’s wooden leg
the moon is crucially temporal
how is the moon archived?
the moon is a film played backwards
so does it show the same thing?
the moon dots our mirrors with bits of itself
the moon is inside-out
the moon is a depth of field
an imperfect syntax
the moon is a constitution
the moon is a documentary
are we still in the moon age?
is the moon above a moral life?
the moon is something resisted
the moon’s best business is done in the dark
the moon is a featherdrill
the moon is a rheumatic child
the moon is off the books
the moon is Lebhana
is Luna
is Selene
and there is no passage to it
except through our shadow…

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Looking for the voice / by Jason Galloway

One year I awoke to the wholesome
blazing spring of a dogwood tree

this year the branches reach to the shed
this year gaps show the wood from behind
this year the dogs are howling discontent
this year the insects are causing confusion
this year the maples fling their twirling candies to the air
this year there’s pink and gold and sixty-one other colors

this year there are many other awakenings

this year the dogwood blossoms
tell the same white crisscross truth
but I don’t remember the words to that song

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*

Foreboding / by Jessica Gigot

When the tsunami hits we will leave–
We have been warned by the whales
And dolphins. The Quileute are already
Moving up and inland.

It is not a matter of if,
It is a matter of when.

The Pacific archipelago of Haida Gwaii
Has shifted. Tectonic strain
Sits and waits along the fault line.

It is not a matter of if,
It is a matter of when.

Last night I dreamt of waves
And Japanese ships washing ashore
From a hotel room in Minneapolis.
Even from far away the ocean wields power.

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*

from Materia / by John James

To the feasts of the good the good go unbidden. Children’s hands in snow. Houseboats on the lake, a red and yellow bicycle. The scent of cut wood. Half moons, quarter moons. A lampshade exhausted by light. Stillness in the air. A man and woman riding home from the movies, the warm leather of their seats. Plums, raisins, a shriveled pear. A clownfaced woodpecker picking the shot trunk of a bent pine, jamming acorns into a hole. Her waka-waka call. Leady clay of the lakewater, magnolia leaves. Blue shale in the dimming sun. Bubblegum medicine taken from a spoon. Birches riven by a summer storm. Creek bed, hoof prints. Peat moss, peat spores. Gouache flowers on white canvas, wild fennel, rosemary sprigs heating in olive oil in a pan on the stove. A moment ago I felt sick. There are limits to what can be said.

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The Duplex / by Sarah Jefferis

Our bedroom remained unfinished.

The floor dipped. The ceiling heaved
like an old woman exhaling,

the windows rattled even in the summer.
A broken screen

was a hornet invitation
and a stray calico jumped on a plant stand

chopping the crock in half,
porcelain to paw.

When the garbage disposal choked
from my dawn to dusk vomit,

or from plums I could not stop eating,
seasons tripped over each other

before the landlord came to fix it.
Basement flooded.

Dehumidifier spat four letters
and the dryer trembled.

We made a trail of rocks to the breaker,
but mold grew, green and yellow.

The washer ran, cord floating
like a garden snake.

It was a paradise of mirrors
until I lost our baby.

*
*

And because
I love / by Pablo Otavalo

The trees bow heavy
with the scent of home

And no answer comes
from the enlightened sky

no door opens
to my calling

the living god a flower
girl blind

to affection

The living water a cut
dividing my face

to blackbird and oriole

at the edge
of summer and sorrow

And no answer comes

from the enlightened sky
fire climbs the mountain

and redwood seeds
crackle to bloom

*
*

Wedgwood / by Brianna Pike

In a small room off my grandparent’s kitchen
shiny pine floorboards slope downward
beneath a crystal chandelier. Shades of blue
velvet take shape in a cake stand, serving platter,
butter dish, cup and saucer. Ancient mythology
etched in hard, white paste on each dish.

A collection gathered through countless trips
to antique stores, cramped, dusty spaces
crammed with brightly colored glass goblets,
painted porcelain birds, and brass lamps.
My grandmother scoured each booth, straining
to glimpse a glint of blue and white.

Holding each treasure to the light, she examined
the curve of each small, raised face, delighted
at discovering a genuine find. She held it close
to her breastbone all the way to the register,
only letting go when the shop owner offered
to wrap it in protective sheets of thick paper.

Today, standing in that same small room off
the kitchen, my mother, my sister and I wait
in front of the shelves while my grandmother
whispers who will get her beloved china.
Her fingers caress every piece, recalling each
time she pulled a piece of beauty free from dust.

Written for Scott Luter in request for a poem about a “family heirloom.”

 

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Hero, and that Would be Enough / by Ronnie K. Stephens

for Allison

You entered my class
a sophomore already expert
at blending in, made invisible
more art and less power.

You hardly spoke,
wore only shades of black ,
your impossibly red hair a shock
of color ahead of its time.

There was no way to know
you dreamt of pills. Swallowed
an entire bottle and cursed the sun
when it didn’t let you burn.

You survived the year
against your will.

And that would be enough.

But you came back
a junior on fire; tried out
for the competitive speech
and poetry slam teams.

The poetry coach told you
you weren’t good enough.
You never quit.

Showed up every week.
Put the work in. Played Pecos
Bill and taught yourself
how to lasso every tornado
in the room, how to calm
the angriest clouds.

When the sky fell apart
you stepped in. It was then

I learned you had a speech
impediment for the first time.
A brother who didn’t survive.
Cerebral palsy. Seventeen years
of doctors in another state.
Wanted to die.

Senior year you captained
both ships. Built a family of scraps.
Leaned on us when you decided
to live out loud.

At graduation, you confessed
that you never meant to walk
across the stage. You had a plan.
You meant to leave. But you stayed.

And that would be enough.

Yet here you are in college
still calming storms wherever
you go. Teaching this old soul
over and over what it means
to be brave. To be loved.
To be safe.

Some teachers spend their
whole career waiting for a story
like yours. A student like you.

One cherry bomb
in a box of sparklers.

A cannon heart just waiting
to explode.

You set a thousand chests ablaze
every time you touch a stage.

And that would be enough.

But you are also my friend.
My chosen family.

*
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LW11

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Day 10 / Poems 10

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from “Other Phases; or, A Little Moon Can Do” / by Eric Elshtain

ambition’s looking
glass we pale at
how it displays us
this moon an arrangement
we’ve made with ourselves

a museum of aftermaths
the moon just a phase
we go through a place
we fly to place a capstone
on revolutions

bullet hole moon
that little float you do
ready to make geometries
a collection of knots
we arrogate

a version of doom
packed grey bone
dusty incorporate zone
at a weatherless standstill
an archive

of our most remote behaviors
a picture of a model
of an idea of the moon
no one will point to
this poem and say “That’s the moon,”

but will make
this very mistake
with all of its pictures

based on a photograph by Adam Schreiber
Presidential Moon, 1969

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The Elegy / by Jason Galloway

Daddy, they decided
to print the poem I wrote you.
It’s printed on rubber
and includes a glossy
of that painting on Poetry.

They’ve numbered the lines
of the first stanza so handsomely
and put tidy boxes around the others.

But I forgot—

somebody else owns the rights
and is going to press

even though
your poem has no words.

*
*

Snow in April / by Jessica Gigot

reminds me of walking up
side streets after the show
mimicking the mesmerizing harmonies

a long drive across counties to see sheep
huddled in plastic huts, feeding on sillage,
waiting for winter’s end

now the wintry mix floats past the hotel
window, luscious flakes, a tease
before the spring sun returns

another marker for another journey
another season in another year

*
*

Stay Gone / by Sarah Jefferis

Mud gives me hives. I would not know roots
if they introduced themselves. Worms disgust me.

When you chop them up, they keep growing.

I am allergic to an address, to four walls, or dry wall
and doors. As a child, mama put me to bed with a fairytale:

A girl in a stadium with lions behind her
and three doors. Behind one door is the man God

intended, behind another the ocean, and the third door
doesn’t open at all. I could never choose the correct door.

Door handles make me nauseous. I used to dream of crawling
in the lion’s mouth rather than making the right choice.

I want an orange sky and a cyclone of wind. I whore
for wings. I want a blonde wig and a new name: Joan or Julian.

I will drive and drive with the top down until salt
water fills my lungs. My other body is in the sea.

I will teach my girls how a home is not necessary
how to be a housewife is to tape one’s mouth

closed. Twice. I will give them Kahlo so they know

leaving is not enough

they must stay gone, their hearts are canvass
they can paint without lions or doors or any man

God intended. A lion’s mouth is a cleaner savior.
I will have men and women who are contained in the hours

they appear. I will make them disappear,
I will always have hours before and hours ahead.

I am no longer forecasting, I have set the white dress dreams
aflame, given up on diamonds as if they were gluten,

like a year of Passover—I have traded them for metaphor
the only lover I will strip for, the body I lay my head upon.

*
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Eurydice Speaks / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

I.

Live most certain, my love,
of your last glance
I shall never complain;
live and let me fall
toward Asphodel
to await you again.

When Death bids your return,
come seek me among
the star-flowers,
a pale light
within the dark constellations
of Hesperus’s longing.

With the birds and trees,
streams and breeze,
I swooned to your sweet song;
yet these three days of silence
I’ve understood what
drew me to you all along.

II.

While walking the Meadows
how often my mind
has drifted to Melancholia–
how you placed her on my chest,
asked me to nurse her
at the breast the first hour we met. . .

and how could I forget
those brooding legions of Pathos
who stabbed violently
at my meat
when you brought them over
to eat. . .

I have lingered long and hard
upon thoughts
of your bizarre bromance
with Thanatos
and upon your friend,
Fleeting Beauty–

but don’t get me started on that bitch.

So much chronologic illness
crossed my threshold
in so little time,
how soon I succumbed
to your diseases
of nostalgia and regret.

III.

When I arrived, Hades murmured
a poet in the hand
is worth two in the bed–
he meant to comfort me, perhaps,
or to burn
the knots of my youth–

but as you become diminished
in my sight
I see that beloved countenance
of pain-masked pleasure–
and hell if I didn’t
know it was the truth.

*
*

An Estimated Five Hundred Dollars
in Twenties & Tens / by Pablo Otavalo

The world is full of slights
but hardly anything sticks
to dwell on, not really,

except perhaps, the time
the money for the school
play was stolen. They came

to get me, and left me in gym
shorts and gym shirt
in a small room. He looked

at me and it was understood
he knew I did it. He asked, where
it was, and I asked for details

on the case because, by god,
I could help them crack it. They
brought in my clothes and everything

from my lockers in a garbage
bag and went through every
scrap and every pocket. I knew

it would come to it and
anticipated the indignity
by taking off my shoes.

I asked if someone said
I did it, but the silence
made it clear no one

had to. I was given
a piece of paper to write
down everything I did

after lunch. I wrote an
impromptu book report
on the night Thoreau

spent in jail for not paying
the poll tax, how it shifted
popular opinion helping us

distinguish between
imprisoned and criminal,
accused and guilty. It was

quickly read and labeled
Exhibit A. They combed
the hallway to the gym to

the locker room. I could overhear
their frustration. 3 o’clock
came, went, as the lacrosse

team warmed up, the jazz
band and the swim team
got a pep talk. I was asked

whom had I seen acting
suspicious. They handed
me another piece of paper

to write down names. I drew
what could at first be mistaken
for a hat but was clearly

a snake that had swallowed
an elephant. It was labeled
Exhibit B. The world was

not round, and its edges sharp
& held too near the eye. They let
me go a quarter past six. Exhausted.

When my mother
came home from work
I said nothing.

*
*

Raspberrying / by Brianna Pike

My grandmother trudges
this weed-choked
wasteland every
summer, waiting for my
hands. Brambles cluster
in thorny mazes above
our heads and snag
our thin, cotton sleeves,
tipping the berry bucket
into the dirt. Wasps hover,
smelling the crushed fruit.
One yellow and black jacket
lands on my exposed wrist
and I cry out for my grandmother;
she rushes through the thicket,
pushing me across the dirt
road to my aunt who sits
me down on a wooden
bench and presses a Windex
soaked tissue to the sting.
Ammonia, she whispers as I
thread my grandmother’s fingers
through mine, weeping over
our entwined hands.

*
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Let It Be / by Ronnie K. Stephens

after Lauren Zuniga

the year of getting enough sleep
the year of reading all the books
the year of mirrors
the year of not looking away
the year of highways and friends
the year of eating alone
the year of going for walks

the year of embracing
….wide shoulders
….soft belly
….bottomless coffee
….pancakes at midnight
….your own red heart

the year of embracing
….your own red heart
….and trusting the ones
….who have been keeping it warm
….through all the years this year
….is unnaming

the year of unnaming everything you let go
….nothing can have a bed inside you
….until you give it a name

the year of eviction
the year of moving out
the year of moving on
the year of moving

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RE: “Your Poem” / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

Dear Ms. Wirstiuk: Thank you
you for sending us “Your Poem,”
which we enjoyed so much we won’t
be publishing it: not now, not ever.

Please understand that you won’t be
able to send the poem elsewhere
because it no longer exists except
in your memory, if you remember.

Our guidelines state: we cannot
own responsibility for consumed work,
and yours was delicious: so sweet
and so cold. Let’s not call it “eaten.”

Rather, “Your Poem” was devoured,
one from (we can’t believe our luck)
a batch of calorific, creamy, butter-
smashed words offered freely to us.

The best our staff can do is extend
gratitude, invite you to submit again.
Next time try a new recipe and note
our fondness for pears. Sincerely, Editor.

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Day 9 / Poems 9

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Socialist Surrealism / by Eric Elshtain

I got fifteen doubts
’bout the sinecures
in my mind, planted
vermillion gambollers
who keep coming out
of one small Trabant
that left me right
where I thought
I was going. An ideal
painting fell flat
from its problems
with a sky. Isothermal
Baedekers point out
the worst museums
that’ll display anything
for a damn. Their door-
ways have it in for
my shoulders, so to hell
with their antiquities,
I’m blotting them out
of my books of false
ideologies, wretched
as that is. My globe spins
like a dizzy toon and full
of human feel it yells
“I don’t care how much
you know me!” and orbits
me a final time. My social
sphere just shrunk by one
and the clues I’m closin’
in on all point my way
as if I could be guilty
of botching the placement
of the canton.

*
*

The Advice / by Jason Galloway

When my mother said become a teacher
the invisible moon was drawing the waters
into pools and channels across the sea island
she said it and we turned the pages of our novels
she said it and the tide came cool and quick in our laps
she said it and a cast of horseshoe crabs surrounded our feet
she said it and I charged toward the safety of land
she said it and I should have run for my life

*
*

Aeronautics / by Jessica Gigot

I wake before the alarm
The cat scampers between rooms
While
the coffee slowly circulates,
The only sounds for miles.
Suitcase to car, car
to city
Soon there will be the masses
Routing north, south, east, west.
I
will be one of them, barely.
Slightly agitated, half-awake, breathing. The
terminal is a test of
Humanity. Hurry up and wait and, if you can, don’t
forget to be kind.

*
*

The Milk Hours / by John James

We lived overlooking the walls
overlooking the cemetery.
Dull gold disappearing into a man,
the indigo roads of our city.
The cemetery is where my father remains.
Loosestrife, mullein. These words
mean nothing to me. The room opens up
into white and more white. Sun outside
between steeples. We walked in the garden
for what seemed like an hour
but in reality must have been days.

I remember, now, the milk hours,
leaning over my daughter’s crib,
dropping her ten, her twelve pounds
into the limp arms of her mother.
The suckling sound as I crashed into sleep.
In that year I spoke no language.
Certainty collapsed, rebuilt, folded
into itself. A tent flap blowing in wind.

My daughter, my father—his son.
The wet grass speckled above him.
His face grew vague, and then vaguer.
From our porch I watch snow fall
on the green of bare firs that hung
above the space where he is buried.
Why does it matter how. What gun,
what type. The chopped copses glisten.
Bluesmoke rises. Snowmelt smoothes
the stone cuts of his name.

*
*

As If / by Sarah Jefferis

To acquire the abundance of speech we have to exhume ourselves. Speech cannot arrive with breath. This blue in my exhale is not only my blue. All the world clatters and chimes

and babbles. For many years I answered to a different name. What shall you call me?

Even Li Young Li said: There are voices that wake us in the morning and voices that keep us up all night. Which are you? I want you to touch me as if you want to know me as if you have always known me as if in the knowing I have become your the, and you are my I. That which we fixate on is the thing which we project ourselves upon. I am either all in or all out. There is no middle ground, no half breath. I am not yet the one who got away.

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Mile Marker Eight / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

For Carol Wickersham

North of mile marker 8
you’ll see them
If you choose to look —

But who (between us)
really would bother
with the sight
of two tall trees stranded in
a freshly plowed field,
not lately orphaned
from forest or offspring —

Who (but us) really cares —
would double dare
to delight
at how the crown
of one’s spare branches
grounds the flight
of the other’s lush
green wings?
grounds the flight
of the other’s lush
green wings?

*
*

PO9

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Ars Poetica in Spring / by Brianna Pike

Magnolia trees shed
clumps of petals
that curl into pink
cups strewn across
lawns, gathering rain.

At home, I place
a few loose flowers
in a glass bowl and sit
to write on the remains
of trees. Each stroke
a dark mark falling
from my pen.

 

*
*

Say Its Name and It Will Come / by Ronnie K. Stephens

after an illustration by Desarae Lee

He stands at the top of the maypole
and watches the children spin round
in circles, ribbons weaving together
like an ancestry of ghosts, a lineage
born of bright colors and dancing.

The village calls it the darkest May
Day in history, speaks of a haunting
just past the tree line on the far side
of town, grass bending and flattening
underneath a shrill wind song.

His walking stick becomes a scythe,
wax coat and oil cloth a black robe.
The words plague doctor condense
and rewrite themselves reaper.

He is not a human being
in their stories. No one had ever
even seen the face of the man.

They remember only hollows dark
as pitch where his eyes should be,
beak sharp and curved as a sickle,
the scent of garlic and camphor
wherever he walked.

If he ever had a name, it is gone.
Was he even a man? Who could say?
Now they call it Pesta. Memitim.
Azrael. Santa Muerte. Death.

The story crosses oceans and fords
rivers, learns how to tell itself
in every language. At the center
a birch tree and children and song.

A village on its knees.

*
*

Ikea’s Vegan Swedish Meatballs / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

Oh, retail giant
from Sweden
known for prefab
kitchens and baths,
furniture I’ll fashion
myself: I’m astonished
by your news. Oh,
socially-conscious
store, loved just
as well for gravied
meatballs, you —
with Nordic seafood,
dill sauce, words hard
to pronounce – will feed
me a plate of Veggie
Balls, ten for about five
dollars. Your cafeteria
will keep me satisfied,
full of peas, gluten free,
and debating whether
to get the SAMSPELT
decoration: a pink
deer to sit on my chest
with its real wood veneer.

*
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Day 8 / Poems 8

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On the Take / by Eric Elshtain

“I know a man who once stole a ferris wheel” — Dashiell Hammett

Eastside aristos
cook anxiety data
and banjax
the downtowns
we do our best Americas in.

Banking on stunts,
papers funny
with what-not
all their signals
so much bad radio
their every last grasp
a scheme to keep
getting us got.

But at flag-set
there’s trouble
we see fit to start
though we’ve been
melted out with winds
baked in states’
capitals that don’t
quite go with us

keeping up the big
as our lives
tick along
to kinds of time
not made on watches.

*
*

JG8

*
*

Arborists / by Jessica Gigot

The first one was a painter at heart.
He laid out on the lawn,
Warming and tending his muscles
With yogic-like stretches, before
Tackling the decaying willow.
Each branch was removed with precision,
The stump carefully uprooted and dissected.

There are so many shades of greens here

The second one backed slowly down the driveway,
Pausing to arc his neck out of the truck window
And admire the decades-old horse chestnut.

I love asymmetry in trees

We walked the perimeter of the land
He identified the dawn cedar and sequoia
Caressing their trunks as we passed.

Blue skies are so boring, I need texture

We arrived at the white poplar
Dangling over the neighbor’s fence.

a beautiful tree
a damn beautiful tree

*
*

JJ8

*
*

Sink holes / by Sarah Jefferis

open up
between
what I said
and what you
heard. I am
on borrowed
time. I am
not a great believer
in luck. You hear
I have time
and are lucky
to be
with you.
We bring our own
interpreters to the conversation.
Even hands
cannot spell.
Fingers overtime.
To love someone
is to murder
interpretations, or
perhaps to clean ears,
to listen as if
our lives depended
on it, to stop
hearing what we want
to hear, to stop,
to pay attention.
To translate and transmigrate
requires a kind
of ceasing
and the canyon
in your bed
when I risked enough
to say I live in the land of not like,
and how you replied
you were mine.

*
*

Friday on the Mall / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

After four long nights
spent
binge-drunk on data,
lusting after the
perfection
of a paradigm
or polemic,
the students are hard
at work
somewhere,
sleeping heavy dreams.

Without them
the sidewalk weeps,
veritably rain-drenched
with yearning–
the steam of its concupiscence
unabated but for
the garbage bag
full of bright balloons
lumbering through
its waters,
a giant embryo
of misplaced fun.

*
*

PO8

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Interconnection / by Brianna Pike

Glimpses of orange wings
did not always cause gasps
at the back of throats, but

herbicides, industrialized agriculture,
and the absence of milkweed ensure
that you cannot return to our gardens.

You are safer in fir forests, clusters
of bodies bulge from branches.
Mexico’s warmth encourages

you to separate from the swarm and dance
above the heads of tourists who wonder
at your mysterious migration.

Written for Erica Barrow

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*

I Find Them Everywhere / by Ronnie K. Stephens

the sweet tea
steeping in the midday sun

the couch cushions
the breakfast nook
the carpet in the hall

the tray of eyebrows
waiting to be penciled in

lemon seeds dropped
all over the house
like an orchard in waiting

each time I find myself
on my knees, fingers
digging into the hardwood
is another tree planted

I have fallen so many times
the living room could be
a galaxy of sour stars

and there I am talking
about the universe again
a seed unfolding itself
into branches and blooms

strange how so many
versions of birth I did not
notice until my daughters
also unfolded themselves
from my skin

fruit trees in spring
a sky full of suns burning
all the way through
this fog drunk heart

*
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What Does the Newark Bay Bridge Smell Like? / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

Not like the man in the mall who rushes past you clutching
shopping bags and stretching a muscle tee: is that Armani
Acqua di Gio? Not like your ex who wore those high-end
scents. Not like the flowers he had sent to your office
on Valentine’s Day or the smell of being alone, no food
in your studio apartment. Not like the odor of acute panic,
which is accumulation. Not newsprint of Sunday comics
or the Rio Grande mile approaching Wildwood when tide
is low. Not like your dog’s breath, no matter how often
you brush her teeth. Not like dirty coins found beneath
couch cushions. Not like coffee you bought with change
because you couldn’t remember the essence of cash.
Not the smell of winter ending finally but not pollution
either. The bridge crosses the Newark Bay where water
from the river beside which you were born, one May,
empties: not exactly grape-flavored Pez in a Hello Kitty-
shaped dispenser but closest to the chalky purple candy.

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Day 7 / Poems 7

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Writer Job Recoding / by Eric Elshtain

to J.E.T.

Orbiter crowned jig,
jointed crib grower.
Objecting drier row,
jiber tow cringed or
brewed citron jig or
wired tribe corn-jog.
Reject brood wiring,
jot edgier crown rib,
cob nerdier jog writ.
“Wrong cider, OJ!” Tiber
Cowbird jeering rot…
Joint dirge, brew orc,
birder cowering jot.
Robotic grinder, Jew,
bride injector…grow!
Cowering rob rid jet,
bred rejoicing wort.

Each line of the poem
is an anagram of the name
of one of my patrons…

*
*

What do we inherit? / by Jason Galloway

My mother keeps her grandmother’s walnut
dough-bowl like the Ark upon Ararat,
at times ancient recipes fluttering
from the prow like unclipped ravens and doves.
How much do we just become the people
we admire? Can I find my ancestor’s
gesture in the way my mother drinks tea
and slices her cake? What old way have I
got that was squeezed into my lungs the day
I was born? Whose lip is this, whose finger,
whose heavy dreams and refusal to rouse?

*
*

Her / by Jessica Gigot

The spider hangs on the blue drapes,
Elusive and unwilling to flinch.

I could kill her or set her free.

She could creep up the curve of my
Neck in the middle of the night
And inject tortuous venom. Or,
She could hunt and capture
Our pestering houseflies.

Friend or foe, plain arachnid or grandmother protector?

She continues to hang in perfect
Stillness as I skulk
Behind her in wonder and fear.

*
*

from Materia / by John James

I wanted to make this vivid—burgeoning land tracts, sunlight splayed between grains, haloes of ash around her eyes. Skeleton corn stalks moving briefly in the yard. She told me about bees, how in winter they expel the crimped bodies of their dead, dropping the curled shells one by one into a pile on the ground. Hive’s center, the queen warms herself on honey. I think of the artist who scooped them gently in her hands, sealed them in plastic bags, left them sitting in the window. Here, in the field, wheat shocks quiver in the wind. It smells of oak and pine nut, summer dark, an hour lying in the grass. Raccoons stare from a storm-crossed tree. I wanted to make this vivid, so vivid, to feel the red dirt on my feet. There is no ground, only language. There is no place to stand.

*
*

These are the lies I have told / by Sarah Jefferis

My age, my weight, who I was with last night.
That I didn’t like women. That I did.

That I can be kept. That I belong to someone.
That I want to belong to someone.

That I stopped believing in the fairytale. That I still do.
That I want you for myself. That I don’t care

about the chorus line of blonde women ringing you.
That I believe I deserve more. That I was the priest’s mistress.

That three times before the age of thirty, I took my own life
in my hands, knotted and wrung it by the throat

to choke it quiet, still. Lies withheld, lies behind, lies beneath
within desire, imagined wants forming like volcanoes,

if I say it, surely it will arise. I am a fabricator
who is not soft spoken. An inventor. A perjurer

with tongued artillery. One who polishes
sentences, spits and buffs them till they shine.

A storyteller, a narrative whore.

*
*

April has
to get / by Pablo Otavalo

I had to get the flowers
before I came home

before I came home
I had to get the flowers

myself
before you I had no

recollection no mirror
to see my way home .. In Ur

the fountains stretch to
pavilions and the water

they spill you’d suck
out of the dirt to feed

your children

*
*

Bee Maidens / by Brianna Pike

Ancient oracles scuttle up winding vines only to tumble into tulips
opening wide in a deep embrace.

Feeding in the shadow of petals, they scatter and coast
from bud to bloom to branch.

Lovers of flowers, worshiped by the Greeks, carrying prophecy
to Apollo on their soft backs

these maidens, tiny goddesses with wings, task themselves
with the endless work

of pollination and promise resurrection in the soft green
leaves that light the garden at dusk.

*
*

Covers / by Ronnie K. Stephens

Dozens of stars pinned themselves
against my mouth like hot stickers.

I wanted to explain how I had been
shouting poems in the shower

for months, but the universe
inside me hissed like a dead candle

and blew itself out. It is still a mute
history, every version a spoonful

of orange blossom honey
on my tongue with no chamomile tea

to thin the chapters into something
honest and warm, to let all the planets

form in the space between
two chests and one bed.

*
*

The Specific Anxiety of the Perishables / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

Between my transcendental mangoes
and decomposition stands maybe one
day, but I am stuck with just this tongue.

I imagine an uneaten mango in the trash
and can’t breathe, thinking of wasted
dollars, opportunities missed, starving

beggars who would’ve carved names
into the mango’s yellow flesh, claiming
summer for their own. And then I think

of Mexican farmworkers: how they “live”
in rat-infested camps where pay is withheld.
Their fingerprints encompass my fruit.

The specific anxiety of the perishables
involves having too much and rationing
the excess all to myself, some to my dog.

*
*

Day 6 / Poems 6

*

Memory Flight / by Eric Elshtain

Moths form lunatic sequences
at flickering and winged onsets
trees witness in dead-pan—

the eclipse of off-white Beatrices
spins, evading bats
shaped like blank nights

convening a secret nerve
into which memory turns
as pasts evaporate—

moth-like synapses
relapsed into senses
absolving everything hidden—

minds walk through X-rays
of home—room to room
these moths rouse what life is left

peeking like fresco-flames—
tiny pentacles—souls
for every drawn fury, new veins

on emancipated hands waving
writs leaving imprints of dust
on thoughts as they touch

a hush they leave behind.

*
*

Ink / by Jason Galloway

When I looked full into the rising sun
and then down again my violet ink
turned iridescent and as I stared at
the melting words their middle syllables
vanished from the page as if the swelling
light released all light from its empty page
the pen the hand the eye all wild waters
breaking into particles of nonsense

*
*

Feeding Hour / by Jessica Gigot

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” — Lao Tzu

The sheep line up at the gate,
Waiting for the sound of scoop
And bucket. When I enter the barn
I am not myself anymore, just
A messenger of provisions. This morning
Is like every other morning. My habitual
Offerings of barley and oat do not go unnoticed,
But my hands quickly fade into the faint
Mist of sunrise.

*
*

JJ6

*
*

That Bearded Stranger / by Sarah Jefferis

Nothing is coming to me, for me, at me like grace.
Grace, that bearded stranger wouldn’t even stop on the highway,
he’d drive on by as I stood here, or maybe I mean stand here,

or will eventually stand here, broken thumb and hip out
in the hours when boys are willing to pay.
Even in the bathroom at Water Country USA

or beneath Mathew Whaley’s tabletop tomb,
head and death always in the graveyard
church bells ring as I swallow tourists whose names I cannot recall.

*
*

The Cord / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

Once clamped,
it curled like lips,
thin and yellowing
as a scroll
of ancient vellum,
the tome of her journey;

I barely had time
to peek beneath
its shroud of gauze
as she found her voice
in the hours after birth,
before it was gone —

but her doctor abated my fears
that it had fallen
off too soon,
telling me
it was her first act
of independence.

*
Twelve years later
her voice
crackles like vellum
over the phone,
the testament of a hunger
fully formed;

I feel the sound
growing hard,
and grip the case
of the phone
the umbilical cord
between us.

*
*

Fix It
Now! / by Pablo Otavalo

In the hollow of your
throat a stone

sharp iniquity

and if the law decreed
to the rocks

sons …. daughters
of your enemy

and what of
the Nazarene

who pardoned knight
errant Judas a kiss

with the faith
of a bondsman

in the tribute
paid to the regents

of Caesar what
funeral service

would you
deny the Christ?

*
*

To the Teenage Boy at Starbucks / by Brianna Pike

For Cameron

You take up residence at the neighboring table,
huddled over your cell phone. Basketball
shorts and floppy hair; muttered conversation
and the occasional snort. You are reassured
by the long cord of my ear buds. I am not
a spy, or worse, like your parents.

But, I want to tell you
that you will change your major six times in four years.

I want to tell you
that you will get sick off of cheap beer more than once.

I want to tell you
that you will break hearts and your heart will break.

I want to tell you
all of this is fine. All of this is right. You are not an adult. Yet.

You could be my son, growing inside my body,
the soft flutter just beneath my every breath.

*
*

Thank You / by Ronnie K. Stephens

for the picnics outside Old Main
for running head first into a bridge beam
for falling unconscious into the river
for not dying/for not dying again
for drinking bleach at a dinner party
for inviting me to dinner
for eyes green and wet as an island
for never holding my hand
for always avoiding the word love
for not kissing me in that bar
for not telling your husband about me
for not telling your friends about me
for not answering the phone all summer
for not waiting for me to come home
for not being the woman I left behind
for leaving me behind
for letting me go
for letting me go

*
*

What I Would Ask of the Gun / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

Rather than kill me, awaken
useful skills I hadn’t known

until this incident: dismounts
from galloping horses meant

for skilled cowgirls; Morse code
transmitting; trauma nursing

in emergency room settings;
careful hands for brain surgery;

erasure of a phobia of bees;
correction: abolish my fear

of everything; accomplished
politician; keeper of promises;

established opera personality;
dismantler of gears; sightseeing

tour guide; Grizzly-bear trainer;
truly alive. Awaken the latent

intelligence of fully populating
each moment with sentience.

Allow me to stop the forgetting
that comes with being one thing.

Note: This poem was inspired by Elif Batuman’s article “Electrified” in the April 6, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.

*
*

Day 5 / Poems 5

*

Near the Extinction / by Eric Elshtain

“Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum”

Crashing through stardrives
washed for the grave
comet grit showers us

as once it simmered up
early soups from which
our swampish It began.

But soon we won’t be
to espouse over bones
our own Antigones

weeping in the districts where we refuge.

The Last Disaster
began in a stir
of light and gravity
ringings and swinging booms
taking it to our doing;
wars’ world this, our pluck
undone as undertakers
move in a mauve remoteness
through lowlands,
the Buddha parts of brains
silent as beehives.

Now: cold flocks fold tabernacles mattered, meant by minds
deserts tear through, shaping a Lord across times
thrice-promised by the Very Hand that withered the fig,
millions thrilled into light, printing themselves on dust

until vesper holds still
as our star-craft is christened
and we conspire with ancient ratios

to hurl us
into genesis
once again.

Easter Sunday, 2015

*
*

Proverbs / by Jason Galloway

I’ve lived a que sera, sera kind of life. Guess that’s why I have no problem smoking cigarettes
near gas pumps.

I haven’t exploded yet, but the code hasn’t served me so well. I’m getting older, and have a lot
of ground to cover.

Older people notice the gray in my whiskers and scoff when I complain.

My friend just had a baby at 41 and kept the pregnancy quiet in case something went wrong.
She called it her advanced maternal age.

I haven’t had children. Obligatory parenthetical yet. I haven’t published the Superpoem.
Obligatory parenthetical yet.

I’m struggling with patience. Or should be. The will to power. Tick-tock and all that.

I guess the code is under revision. I’m exploring parts of you can do anything you set your
mind to and maybe the greatest thing we have to fear is fear itself. And something about the
journey, not the destination.

You can have a baby (or not) in 40 weeks and then get on with it. At least you can go to 7-
Eleven to get a pregnancy test.

(Or a pack of smokes.)

*
*

parsley & potatoes / by Jessica Gigot

The skies are clear from a blood moon
Full and falling behind the islands,
While a light frost covers the bare, tilled ground.
Under plastic, my bare hands shiver as I cut
Stems of parsley, a newly awakened green.
The potatoes have been sitting in cold darkness,
For months, almost buried. I pull out the red bodies
One-by-one. Braced by the old and the new, I cut
And chop attentively for Easter morning, celebrating
The alchemy of spring.

*
*

Metamorphoses / by John James
*

Was it something you

said about Ovid this

morning : the redgrass

glistens in surf : the pine

board fences collapsed

along the line : after

the storm a kestrel

in headwind : sand

accumulates on your

feet : puckered seal

skin : the salt-washed

flesh : wreckage towing

upshore : when the

gulls came out I saw

them circling in air

saw them pecking

seals’ eyes : a boy down

the strand rolling

in dunes : I could see

the stomach’s red

wall : the small hairs

on its flippers : blubber

wretched by shark

bite from the belly’s

swell : later seen

from a dune black

water : fish spit

pools : his lips limp

mouth open enough

his teeth trail along

sand : kelp calls

crab-eaten : in the

storm’s wake I wanted

something to say :

the ocean scraped

his insides clean

*
*

Every April / by Sarah Jefferis

First time I caught my father crying—I was hunting
for my prayer-book and white gloves in the orange
room divided in half by a pink shower curtain:
one half for big as shit square computer screens
blinking. Floppy disks slipping off
a card table, behind the curtain were plastic bins
of developer and the black box with the giant eye sat.
I found my father in a closet pawing a photo of him and

his friend—or so he called him—in front of Moose Lodge.
My father’s hairy beard rising, his snotty handkerchief
balled in his hand. I should have turned away. I should have

called my mother. But I have never seen her touch his hand
on an ordinary day, much less a Holy one. I couldn’t reach
him and couldn’t step back. My crinoline stuck to white tights.
I pulled the Easter Bonnet down over my eyes and handed him
a tissue. He made sounds that I thought should not come out
of a man. I don’t know how I knew this. I wanted him to be more
dignified. It was not a quiet cry. This was the day he told me
the stone moved. And in those days I believed. Anything was

possible. I remember it every April when the burnt ham glazed
in sugar and maraschinos sizzles through me here, porch swung
and alone, I hear him wail for his friend who chose a wife.

*
*

Glass-Black Sparrows / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

Overhead the sparrows
follow an invisible thread,
dropping swift
with click and call–

how smooth they fall
through the fingers
of distant trees —
glass-black mindfulness,
Mala beads.

*
*

Starved Rock / by Pablo Otavalo

*
It was the thirteenth of August

the first time we went to Utica

the first time we met Wildcat

and Kaskaskia  ..  we are the lesser

gods the wildlings who’ve forgotten

their language and the still opened

to silence and we took to dusk

easy the first time we saw an ibis

*
*

To A Group of Teenage Girls at Subway / by Brianna Pike

Voices ring through Subway like hundreds
of chattering birds, only stifled when your teeth bite
into bread that sticks to shiny pink lips.

Purple hooded sweatshirts and blonde, brunette
and black hair bound in intricate braids. Bodies lean,
each limb tucked into dark denim. Fingernails polished
glitter, scarlet and turquoise.

Do not roll your eyes
at the soft-spoken, dark eyed sandwich artist.

Do not snicker
at the woman in the stained sweater.

Do not pretend
to eat your six-inch sub then throw it away.

Do not stare
into your compact day after day.

I ask you to be generous.
I ask you to be genuine.
I ask you to be gentle.

I ask because today, while listening to you laugh,
I realized I might, someday, like to have a girl of my own.

 

*
*

Every Sunday is a Revival / by Ronnie K. Stephens

My grandmother rises
and cooks before Church
like a clock.

The menu hallelujahs like a gospel
song and calls out to the neighbors:

red beans, cabbage
biscuits, coconut pie
smoked ham.

We bow our heads at noon.
Come on in if you’re hungry.

There are at least as many
grandfather clocks in her house
as there are great-grandchildren
playing in the front yard.

None of them has the right time
so they chime one after another
for ten minutes when the plates
are ready to be filled.

I try to explain the way we
come together for dinner
without invitation or notice.

How no one in leaves for very long.
Each cousin an hour from the back
door and the hide-a-key.

What I know of family is that it is
constant as the May flies in early
Spring and just as nagging.

What I know of family is that I want
you to be a part of it some day.
I know that

if you ever need a reason to stay
I hope you find one.

*
*

LW5

*
*

Day 4 / Poems 4

*

Seven Beads / by Eric Elshtain

“grasped already, Lord”
—Paul Celan

Her soul hewn
to birth
signs refused

They slept
an Egypt
prepared

Entempled
loss-found
he must be about

Followed
he speaks
against weeping

Behold a king
done backwards
sepulchered so

Swooned-loose,
hearts entomb
a crux of mothers

rent from sons
whose memory
myrrh performs

Holy Saturday, 2015

*
*

Sunrise / by Jason Galloway

All this
strung out
prism pre-show

night’s
wasted western
thunderheads

you widening sky
scrolling now
through gases

crimson glimmer
look down
the glass waters

dazzle white
dandelion
fill me up

fill me up
and rise star
come but seriate

every circular
fragment still every
spherical cross-section

still slow blaze
and burn
speak and speak

fixed eye
look away
dark shutter

look away
look everywhere else
there it still is

even after hours
the burn-eye’s memory
not orange but violet

*
*

Letter to a Former Acquaintance / by Jessica Gigot

Dear M,

You should see me now. I am glowing, or so I have been told, and the gentle curve of my stomach is naturally protruding from the ends of my loose-fitting cotton cardigan. It is flattering to have people acknowledge this change in me, to pat me on the belly and ask when with bright, expectant eyes. I am proud to flaunt this exaggerated silhouette anywhere.

But over a year ago at a harvest dinner, you grabbed both coat ends and said bluntly, “What is going on here?” Perhaps is was the general bounty of the celebration itself that made you assume I was expecting, but at the time I was not, in fact, with child. Perhaps I had one too many servings of roasted vegetables or mixed berry crumble?

Either way I had no reply to your inquiry, but I remember that moment sharply. I felt as if, all of a sudden, the whole room was watching us. I felt blindsided and embarrassed, wanting to crawl into to the barn rafters and squat silently with the owls.

You see, that is something you just do not do. You don’t ask a women if she is pregnant unless she is either i) obviously pregnant or ii) has told you she is expecting. Maybe it was your many glasses of wine talking, but I wasn’t amused.

It ‘s all right. I forgive you even if you are not sorry. If we cross paths in the next two to three months feel free to ask—it should be obvious now.

xo jg

*
*

from Materia / by John James

Speaking in the crude dialect of angels, the beaches south of L.A. “Indians”—it’s how my father calls them. He wipes sweat from his lined brow, red beads from his forehead. Elsewhere, the low motor hum. It drones incessantly in the valley where beside a pink gumball machine the thin faces crowd, their cheeks’ arched ridges, a child murmuring mildly in Korean to her mother who understands but doesn’t and pulls the small girl to her chest. Everything else is past, the tile barely remembered post the moment of experience. Splendid appearances—form and reform. The saw in his hand, I watch my father clip thin planks so that their edges meet exactly, fit them into one another on the fence. His hands are rough and splintered. His face still beads with sweat. He tells me, “That’s how we cleared California.”

*
*

Left again / by Sarah Jefferis

Your current dislocates
all that is
stationary.
………………………A station: Union, Tokyo and Grand Central

Can I will I get off, must I wait
Till the last stop.
………………………Stop the child self interrupting

Stop the child self in musical:
Stop the world I want to get off.

Understand my bones necessitate a musical:
Leather and whip and blue boa.

…………………………………..Begin again.
My current, no longer ours.
Station dislocated.

Which station am I on?
Not of the cross
Not of the air
…………………………..Live or recorded.

Bred in the South, the high South.
More and less refined than now.
…………………………..More or less
here has refined my bones, learned directions
and have no sense of them.

Begin anew.
Dis located.
No base to stand on or slide into.

No waterfront property on stilts.
No birds. No shit. Only wind.

Tsunamis turn me around
So often have looked back so
often I could tongue Lot.
And still salt water I crave.
……………………………………………..Lakes, Finger or Great are useless.

Open mouth insert …… inert heart
head buried in
sand, standing on one foot.
Ostrich thought:

Who always changes.
……………………………………..Who always leaves.
Just once, I’d like my hand on the door first.

*
*

Dogwood / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

The Sunday she bit the vet
and was faced with quarantine
our beloved dog slept
and slept,
……………..as if puncturing skin
……………..were a Sisyphian labor.

My heart wavered at the sight
of her tiny fetal form
falling and rising
free of ordinance,
……………..curled up in an ancient field-next
……………..on the living room floor.

She lay, her long fur kindled
keen with firelight–
the sweet incence of her body
burning bright as wild doogwood–
……………..the wild winter dogwood
……………..whose crimson bark sparks passion
……………..in bitter fields of white.

*
*

April on 
a duvet / by Pablo Otavalo

*
You told a colorful

story of Gorgon an ambulance

siren parallaxing away

to find us a petal of glass a

lutrescent euphoria  harvesting

hydroponic wheat letting the

colorful sleep hoping brine

into consumer products

no one asked you to stay

and nothing like the light

cut under an overcast sky

diffusing to richer

cyans the argonauts

if they’d had it

their way

we’d all be  better

 acquainted with seafaring

rites of the Balkans

*
*

Clueless Obsession / by Brianna Pike

“The very idea that someone could make a movie based on a board game was just so tremendously silly that even though we barely understood what was going on, we could not tear our eyes away from it.” ~ “Something Terrible Has Happened Here”: The Crazy Story Of How “Clue” Went From Forgotten Flop To Cult Triumph by Adam B. Vary

From the opening scene, we were sold on a rambling
mansion set against a stormy sky. We had no clue
what was going on: Red herring, blackmail and flagrante
delicto sailed over our heads in the quick fire banter
of each colorful character. The singing telegram girl dropped
dead on the doorstep, the chandelier smashed and flames
and flames and heaving breaths.

We watched and watched for years until we understood
every allusion and could anticipate every action. DVD replaced
VHS, dialogue shared via text and memes flooded our
Facebook feeds. Now, whenever we are home, we curl under
blankets, eyes fixed to the screen, reciting line after line, together.

Written for my sister, Ashley.

*
*

Camaraderie / by Ronnie K. Stephens

for Gina

You were constantly falling asleep
in Arizona. The spare bed in my dorm,
the workroom at school, my shoulder
on the bus every afternoon.

I knew you drooled when you dreamt
before I knew your middle name.

You are the most awkward shade
of living, limbs tumbling over
themselves, jokes tripping out from
your mouth like toddlers in a foot race.

Remember the first time you cried
in my classroom? How it became routine?

Remember the moment you realized
everything you wore your first year
of teaching looked a hot mess
and no one told you?

I am terrible at keeping friends
but here you are five years later
for all my shatter.

I assumed when I told you about
the divorce, you would Switzerland
your love. You have always been
Switzerland in wartime.

Everything I know about the word
mediate I learned from you. But tonight
you are not middle ground. You are here

readying the bunker with kindness
until the All Clear sounds and I can
breathe outside these walls again.

*
*

I Wished to Be a Gemologist / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

My prized possessions include diamond earrings
bought with my Macy’s employee discount (I swear
I only worked there for the additional twenty percent);
a fourteen-karat gold necklace with dangling gems
I purchased at the Jersey Shore with my first credit
card; a multi-colored tourmaline and silver eternity
band ordered from Home Shopping Network; Ziploc
bag of assorted loose stones like amethyst, topaz,
diopside, peridot; for calm a strand of mala beads;
white opal ring; a small collection of May emeralds;
I’ve removed gems from gifted things, sold the gold
to cover my rent; spent hours watching gilded sales
presentations on Jewelry Television and salivating
but also learning about inclusions, Asscher, carats
versus karats; a visit to my parents where I discover
a wooden box filled with rattling rocks, all the colors
of quartz: rose and wildly iridescent stones that once
I had hoarded and called my most prized possessions.

*
*

Day 3 / Poems 3

*

Opening In, Closing Out / by Eric Elshtain

“Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
John 1:5

Everything you
may perch in me—

I’m that much tree,

that much light
beckoned by black lines.

//

To commit to memory
your face

would be easier
if birds had not reached

an eighth stage
of human mimicry.

//

Spied—biblically—
and pecked
networks of frost

even trees
don’t believe in
count out

a curling world
you work on
with a civil twilight

the moon bemoans.

//

Necks bent sinister,
ravens eye dark corners
your movements
make examples of,

showing omens
for the amens
they really be.

Good Friday, 2015

*
*

The Walk Home / by Jason Galloway

A picture of evening
that you don’t touch
like in a museum—
the world’s luster
of humid blue cool
breath along the beach

the first gauzy moon story—
Do you see that whale, the wide fin?
And there, a fish skeleton?

for you there is no shape
only the moon the eye of a flower
the miraculous adapting eye

brightening and finding
a soft subtle rupture
in the fish-eye-rib cloud

we never take the whole picture
not the overwhelming ocean
out there but just here
the sweetly lapping surf
our gait settling into its tempo

until the shadows of the shore side
rooftops begin to look recognizable

there we pause
our salty lungs and pulse still pulling

you have to tug me over the dune
into the lane of dangling oaks
and dappling ocean sky

we forget to stomp our boots
and come on into the house

*
*

Fetal Movement / by Jessica Gigot

These fluttering movements feel like monarchs
Trapped inside me. My stomach is a mason jar
Holding this black and orange verve.

I remember watching their wings cling
To oyamel fir trees, Abies religiosa, after two
Thousand miles of flight. Generations four
Times removed return to the same trees,
Guided by some nucleotide whispers or
A familiar smell in the wind.

You must trust the twisted route
Over mountain tops, through canals,
To find your own familiar.

*
*

Old Mines / by John James

First the whistling hydrangeas, their dawn
beds breaking, bluesmoke rising

from snowpack—the hot earth heats.
Spring in all its torrents writhes. Avenues,

worms drying on the pavement. Back
there is always past—attic moths

between my palms. Extinct animals, eyes
full of cotton. Earlier—in life—desert

hills speckled with cacti, mountains
hulking through white smog. Now

a manicured lawn, flowers for potpourri.
The dried stalks of palm trees shudder

in the wind. The copses neighboring
the stairs are just a little overgrown.

*
*

On your island / by Sarah Jefferis

Growing up on food stamps meant I
didn’t know imitations are imitations.
The stamps slept in my mama’s blue
plastic Penney’s wallet right next to
real dollars from hours on her feet
at a gas station. Imitation potatoes
in a red box. I swallowed milk she added
water to and ranch dressing on iceberg.

Arugula with balsamic in brick houses I never knew
so all my loves have been chefs. You turn
avocado into guac and I’ll be on my knees—
Roasted sweet potatoes will have me undoing
buttons before I am asked. So in need of the actual
my hunger has no morality. I will blow a stranger
to keep my daughters fed. In line
at a food pantry, in the sea of abandoned wives

who believed in happy endings, I cannot tell
you where I stood before I met you and dates
that come with breakfast dumpling and ackee.
I want to not want to eat your
food. If I eat your island, put your country
in my mouth, I will change my passport. Escape
routes are bloodlines. I cannot be kept. Heart
is tongue and my belly the first to fall. Let us
not eat together. It’s the only way. I can stay.

*
*

Holy Thursday / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

Al-Shabaab attacks Kenyan University, killing at least 147.
The Washington Post

The doe lay on her side
on the highway shoulder —
her soft belly
white as pages
from the Book of Life.

For three days
I sought her pierced body
in the gravel,
took note of her vellum flesh darkening —
the conjecture of her spine —

But today the bloated corpus
broke open —
a text needing no translation,
simply reading
how naive to be hopeful
for tracelessness–
the reprieve of a sanitary resurrection.

*
*

Tools
that I don’t know how to use / by Pablo Otavalo

a calendar a
grinding stone a phonetic alphabet
a soap stand a cake mixer a
syringe a polite turn of phrase adzes
adjudications a guerrilla
semi-automatic derivatives
asphyxiants a press release a half-
blood knot a washing
basin a rosemary a
polarized electron

*
*

Plea / by Brianna Pike

After Virginia Woolf

My room is just a small, crowded closet
that once doubled as a playroom for children;
remnants of their crayons
still mark the walls.

Instead of children, I fill this space
with poetry and a black & white
picture of you, taped to the wall.
But my room is lonely.

I am ashamed of the time spent away.
I am ashamed of what I cannot write.
I am ashamed that I cannot write.

Your letter to Leonard before you went
into the river, pockets full of stones:
love even in despair.

You taught me that.

*
*

Incantation / by Ronnie K. Stephens

for M

Everything about us fits
together like two keys
opening one chest.

We are one chest opening
to make a space large enough
for all the fear we carry.

I cherish most the way
our hands knew each other
the first time they touched.

Our lips, too, met like
old lovers. The rest of us
is a dozen volcanoes

determined not to sleep
until our bodies are red
and hot and empty.

My shoulders are covered
in your explosion, teeth
like tiny craters. A history

on my skin that aches
for days after you leave.
Your ribs and hips also

carry our night sharp
and bruised and wanting
for one more chance

at uninventing this
impossible distance
between my pulse

and yours. I tell you
I feel your pulse at the tip
of my finger. You flex

and unflex against
my knuckles. I wonder if
you know just how good

my imagination is. How
each time you flex
my hips flinch.

I hear you tell me
to come. Your voice
already a familiar song

I sing to myself for weeks
at the grocery store, folding
clothes, at the gym.

Everywhere you are
with me, telling me to
come. I am already home.

*
*

Granddoggie / by Laryssa Wirstiuk

for my parents

I’m one month away from the age
my mother was when she brought me
into this world, but all I have to show
for my reproductive ability is a maternal
instinct for a piebald mini dachshund
named Charlotte Moo, who I rescued

from a pet shack in Paterson, New Jersey
(let’s just say it’s no longer the town
William Carlos Williams once wrote about)
when I found her on “clearance,” alone.
I explained this story to a lady lunching
al fresco on Broad Street, and she said:

“But that kind of dog would be tagged
full price in a Neiman Marcus store.”
Charlotte knew her worth long before
I adorned her with a rhinestone collar
that reads “Moo.” You should see her
shake her rump as she sashays

around the duck pond or how she carries
a branch three times her body size;
I promise you’ve never seen such pride.
At six pounds, she would try to protect
me from gas station attendants,
young children, and unfavorable dates.

As a child I never had a pet, so I’m late
to the game of taking care of an animal;
my parents had doubts, but she’s family
now. Charlotte’s the spoiled grandchild
they love, the queen of their backyard,
alarm that barks if something’s wrong.

**
*

Day 2 / Poems 2

*

…and only in sleep do accidents end /by Eric Elshtain

spying dreams just barely there—
their approach banking on missing waves

whose every gesture
both beckons and dismisses,

their hard gifts heaved onto sand,
securing nothing about my presence.

Twilit at its zenith, the moon
helps, but it can’t count me in

the numbers normal to time
like a monsooned animal—

its face a clock measured
in species lurking beneath its features.

*
*

April /by Jason Galloway

O glorious redemptive singing sound April,
the southern coastal plain fully awake
in its beach forests; knobby bark ladders
already entwined with childish wisteria

though not yet recovered from their pre-vernal anxieties:
the needled path a minefield of sweetgum capsules,
fractured oak limbs crackling underfoot, suspect ivies,
slighter birds of prey squawking and darting overhead.

Without danger—without some tingling poison in the gut—
there can be no glory; the delicate new greens find light
and bow and twist and feather into golds and oranges.
There too, the swoop-sweep courtship calls of jays and larks.

O glorious, redemptive singing sound April,
let me keep my throat pitched to this hosanna,
let me tread your woods with my shoulders back,
perceptively as a spider across this luminous web.

*
*

Tulip Season /by Jessica Gigot

Skagit Valley

April is the time of year
When cars flood the valley.
Lookers, cameras, families
Huddle under neon umbrella blasts.
The buried bulbs have waited
Patiently for this moment
Of emergence and blossom
And they gleam in the morning’s
Generous glisten. In a few weeks,
Each petals will fall into history
Making no noise of their passing.
The green stems will be topped
And the bulbs, now ready for quiet,
Will be dug from the grit and clay.
The wave of watchers will dissipate
Forgetting that around the corner
Their next meal is about to be born.

*
*

Killing Icarus /by John James

after Ansel Elkins’s “The Lighthouse Keeper”

After you catch hold of a moth
You feel its furred legs
Battling your pinned hands.

The white dust of its wings
Becomes resin in your palm,
A shimmer of mica

Dust on your fingers. I bound
His hands with fisherman’s rope,
Stroked the blades

Of his shoulders, as if he had wings.
Sleeping next to the broken
Angel of his body

I wanted to stay there for days, his sun
Coppered skin smelling
Of flax and warm dirt.

I opened a beer and waited,
Watched the gold
Hairs on his arm twinkle and glisten.

It was as if time stood still.
Sun streamed in on his face.

In the morning I thought of cutting
The rope from his wrists
But decided against it.

His face was too perfect,
His eyes the twin buds
Of bare orchids, poised and ready to open.

*
*

What cannot be ignored /by Sarah Jefferis

At first the president ignored them. Then he claimed activists imagined the story. Not because it was too horrific. Not because he doesn’t believe girls could be sold for the price of a sack of Western sugar.
Or that girls have the right to read. But because he wasn’t ready to admit his ignorance. Because they called him Goodluck. And this was certainly not lucky. Not Yet. Or so his advisers told him.

When school girls in his country wrote a play called Missing, a play which reenacts the stolen Chibokan school girls, Goodluck seized the opportunity to save them and be reelected.
His luck had turned. Or so they told him. When each Muslim girl prayed for one of the stolen sisters—as they named them— Goodluck dropped to his knees.

Surely a military operation will result in the deaths of many. He doesn’t want their blood on his hands. Surely he will bargain for Boko Haram soldiers.
He doesn’t want the colonial telling him how to run his country.

The stolen wait in the Sambisa Forest with nothing but Western hashtags and wringing of white hands
glaring at Satellite photos of bourka girls squatting in dirt reciting the Koran.

At night when I summon sleep to no avail, it is their faces that surround me, their voices begging, and the hundreds before them, and the hundreds after.

*
*

The Black and Red /by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

A rich tonic of rain tides in
yet the soft sorrel
continues to wilt —
kohl fields plagued by dropsy
of winter mold;
there the red-winged blackbird stands
stationed among the velvety reefs
of last summer’s sumac,
sleek against the blood-umber
of their waddle-bloom.

*
*

April opens
my mouth /by Pablo Otavalo
*

Today it was olives

rosewood | salt

then walking into the sun

by Sacred Heart

Retirement and Outreach

It was the love of the mountain

that ate you in snow

that harlequin smile

on a governor’s mansion

it was too nice a day to

not mourn and god

you know nothing my

sparrow of char

*

In another grey year

the fox held reigns

to level the mountain

*
*

Fix /by Brianna Pike

“Fix This Now” headline from editorial published on the front page of the Indianapolis Star March 31, 2015 in response to SB 101/RFRA

(1) verb: secure in a particular place or position; synonyms: fasten, attach, affix,
secure.

Breweries, florists, bakeries, and bicycle repair shops
attach circular, blue stickers to windows and doors.
Photos flood Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds;
a city of voices streaming outrage through social media.

Truth? Not everyone is secure in this place.

(2) verb: direct one’s eyes, attention, or mind unwaveringly toward.

Your gaze is direct, unflinching attention
to the camera but you are unraveling
under questions you refuse to answer.
Scramble governor, while voters eye the exits and businesses
move unwaveringly toward the state line.

(3) verb: mend or repair

Mending begins in the low murmurs
of colleagues in the halls of their community
college; continues between strangers in lines
at the grocery store, the post office, and the bus stop.

Repair begins when our murmurs merge and rise to chorus.

Written for Mike Wilson in request for a poem about “SB 101”

*
*

The Archaeology of Leaving /by Ronnie K. Stephens

I save so many wrappers
every junk pile in the house
looks like a thousand coughs
and nervous peppermint discs,
every one a memory not ready
for the corners of a closet
I never remember to clean out.

Paint chips hold my place
in books years after the walls
change seasons, after we sell
everything we own and drive
opposite directions; the distance
between us a sharp riddle we are
desperate to make sense of.

My high school ring is not
in the jewelry box with the pearls
or hooked on a silver necklace
behind the mirror. Nothing is left
but the itch. That and the wallet
you gave to me on the fourteenth
of a different life.

This wallet and its caged bird in my
pocket. I cannot let it go. The side
is still stained with black ink from
our month on rotation in the NICU,
the room numbers where they slept,
your name. Our daughters learning
rotation too soon.

*
*

A Nonconformist Goes Corporate /by Laryssa Wirstiuk

for Carlo

You will be made to “step
up to the plate” by Jennifer,
the company’s HR manager,
who’ll invite you to a meeting
at a cafe down the street.

You will wonder if she’s hitting
on you, breaking HR policy,
but no – she’s just grooming you
or, sorry, asking you to “improve
your grooming habits and mood.”

You will sport properly combed
hair, washed more than once
per week, and you must stop
wearing that paisley silk scarf
around your waist: “too artsy.”

You will need to remove boots
and replace them with Oxfords
in the building’s lobby at the door.
“Our office is climate controlled,
and the weather isn’t on payroll.”

You will need to stop hiding,
since it’s such a small company,
but you will also not query senior
executives about daily memos
you should already understand.

You will leave your MacBook
at home, and the kombucha too,
since “We’re a Microsoft partner
and can’t afford beverage spills
anywhere near our Windows.”

You will cease original thought
like: at least from this cafe seat
you can see the weather outside,
your coffee isn’t Keurig-sized,
and Jen, in biz-casual, is divine.

*
*

Day 1 / Poems 1

*

Our Political Landscape /by Eric Elshtain

Uneven air forges
half-forgetten brains

who think up thermals
dark birds ride straight

to the wolfsbane.
Sure-fingers come close

to drawing in those
who see the ratio

not foxed by our measure
but signaled backwards well

as if through the holes of a sponge.
She binds epithets to events

and conspires out-landish miles
while I invent a gnosis

out of sugar island slavery,
circle lotus seeds,

pelt epithets with moons,
and squall at the first

white words of a schism
green bees uncull from clouds.

*
*

The Seas Receded Once, and We Followed /by Jason Galloway

A path winds around the trunks of palmettos and oaks
in dark primordial air
I forget time

once the sea left shell and tabby
a hundred miles inland—
were we here when the sea was so near
I need clocks and compasses
to reckon how deep

when did we sex ourselves into lungs and thumbs—
before or after the land plants
in their multitudinous sexualities
also elongated their reach

how many thousand years ago
when was man ..… when was woman ..… child
an unfinished thought

when was that man that woman
who first set foot on the floor of the ocean
did they live in time

the earth ticks and delivers sunlight to other shores
but I ..… my store-bought everything
my twenty-four hour internet
my sleepwalking ..… my daydreaming
never do the math

better to think on the stinking marshes
the reptilian forking seaward creeks
the arabesques of aquatic fowl
the imported sand

no way can I gauge depth or breathe underwater
what volume of water is in this body
how much has it lost

how much daylight do I have left

*
*

Fleece /by Jessica Gigot

Before the fall folds into winter
We shear the sheep.
Steam rises from their white,
Now slender bodies, while
The herd huddles together for warmth
Bare shoulder to bare shoulder.

Each belly is full of new life
That will arrive in the spring.
Without a year’s worth of wool
We can watch the ewes swell
And fill, noticing their slightest
Change in form.

The lanolin soaked fleeces, still rough
To the touch, are stationary clouds stacked
In the barn. Some day they will be cleaned
And carded and spun into yarn. For now,
They are a pearly reminder that another
Year had passed.

*
*

from Materia /by John James

Loafing about the kitchen, I forget my body for a minute, no longer material in the industry of living. Light shafts flood the open room. Dust motes fall around me. I wonder if it will rain. Outside, white stems climb the pale wood archway leading to my neighbor’s lawn—what type of wood, I don’t know. It is June, air thickens, I watch the squash buds close. Bees hover over the little flowers, busy in the absence of honey, the honey of absence, the baby’s breath of pollen coating their legs. I look at my face in the glass, comport myself in air. The dust motes, where I see them, move themselves around me. There’s a red dish in front of me, my body. The meat sits. Wine pools in a glass mouth. I moisten my lip with my tongue. I am here. Please. Be ready to touch me.

*
*

From L.A. to Syracuse /by Sarah Jefferis

In three hours I lost seventy degrees
All spice, lemon thyme, a red convertible mustang
Back seat of your Harley
The Desert,
A Joshua tree,
Fireworks above the Queen Mary
Red Wine, olive bread, stolen brie
The Pink dot delivery girl
(my kitty is not purring one size fits all)
Vitamin d
Morphine, Vicodin, a pap
From an ER doc at three,
Vitamin E,
Mango-go-go from Jamba
Sushi from Denka,
San-Sei Soba from Kansai,
Gut Symmetries,
Decorative Art from the Getty
Ganesh at the Opium den,
Massages at the spa
Mimosas, cactus, heat lamps,
Virginia slims, parsnips,
Lola,
Run Lola Run,
The girls from the palms in West Hollywood
Trip hop in The Room
And you.

*
*

Hydrangea

At the Office /by Megan M. Muthupandiyan

At the top of the shelf
a waylaid bud vase lies in-waiting,
its ancient patina of dust and lime
forming the faintest of constellations
across my palm.

As the sugar snows dissolved
on the tongue of spring
the hydrangea heard and obeyed,
bowing down into the guillotine wind
to lose their heads.

Outside the window I see their
parchment skulls
softly rolling or at rest
blanched brown as unearthed bulbs
in the threadbare lawn —

I yearn toward what I must do.

So much depends on this work —
filling the vessels which lie forgotten,
gathering spent beauty
and gracing it with the cause
to give pause once again.

*
*

PO1

*
*

Spring Landscape Featuring Purple Milkweed /by Brianna Pike

White silk cradled in burlap husks, each filament arranged
in overlapping rows of fine hair. At the end of each strand, a tiny
brown seed.

Wind scatters these tiny vessels into decay of slick
oak leaves and frozen clumps of mud.
Skeletal stalks of tall weeds snag the parade of wispy
white sails that shield the robust red peony buds
bursting through the muck below.

Much later, in deep summer, delicate trumpets open,
luring monarchs inside blooms as smooth as milk.

Written for Paula Hearn in request for a poem about “seeds” & “blooms”

*
*

His Grandkids Had Never Seen Him Like This. He Had Never Worn a Beard. /by Ronnie K. Stephens

after an illustration by Desarae Lee

Walt had asphalt for skin
despite the wide-brimmed hat
most assumed he had
never taken off.

His eyes narrowed from
the sweat and the sun
until he forgot what it was
to see a thing without focus
and furrowed brow.

The morning after he sold his house
on the hill, the one he built with
his first and last love, he woke
to buttercups and irises on his chin.

When he walked outside, bees buzzed
around him, a thrumming cloud.
Hummingbirds stopped for a drink.

He held out his hand
and expected to see a branch
but it was only a nest
of arthritic knuckles.

A black-bordered lemon moth
landed and looked him
right in the eye. He remembered
a yellow dress and a picnic
years ago.

Spoke to the moth like it was
an old friend. Said goodbye
to the hill, the strawberries,
the green beans and the house.

Crossed the cattle-guard. Opened
and shut the gate one last time.
Walked out into the field with a basket
some bread, a pitcher of blackberry juice.

Sat on the quilt for a long time
before removing his hat
running a hand through his hair
and giving himself to the afternoon.

*
*

Translations, Mansplations /by Laryssa Wirstiuk

for Cameron

She was astonished by it first, listening
to an audiobook narrated by Ben Kingsley:
Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi.
Instead of “said,” Ben read “ejaculated.”

Let’s set aside for a moment the fact
that she couldn’t stand Yogananda’s text
and focus instead on the translator’s diction:
“said,” “explained,” and “stated” are better,

more neutral and less specific to gender.
According to Yogananda, sexy women are
pure temptation, but when the guru speaks,
he spreads with rhetoric his holy seed.

Refusing to be defeated by an audiobook,
she made it her duty to listen until the end,
but in the process she found other examples:
translations in which “ejaculation” was said.

Tolstoy and other Russian novelists, all men
have been translated without the use of “said”
and, according to one college writing instructor,
one-hundred-and-twenty appropriate synonyms.

Wanting to reclaim the verb for herself
and to make the word safe for female use,
she brought five syllables into the boardroom.
To break the glass ceiling, guess what she “said”.

*
*

*

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