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 seven volunteers for November 2015 are Jenni B. Baker, Jennifer Dane Clements, Margot Douaihy, Gabrielle Freeman, Mia Herman, Mary Moore, and Mattie Quesenberry Smith. Read their full bios by clicking here.
Please follow their work (by clicking “Follow” on the bottom of the page), and feel free to acknowledge their generosity and creativity with a show of your admiration and support by donating on their behalf to Tupelo Press. (Click here to donate, scroll down to the form at the bottom, and and choose their name from the 30/30 dropdown menu.) Just imagine what a challenge it is to write 30 new poems in 30 days!
If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your offer, a brief bio, and three sample poems and warm up your pen!
Day 30 / Poems 30
Famous Authors Give Advice to Next Month’s 30/30 Participants / by Jennifer Dane Clements
Wash your hands before you start. Use green ink. Look always to the sea. . . . . . [Pablo Neruda]
Put the draft in your draft. Padlock your wardrobe until your work is done. . . . . . .[Victor Hugo]
Stand as you work. Use purple ink. Don’t be distracted by rivers and stones. . . . . [Virginia Woolf]
Smoke Dominican cigars. Smoke Cuban cigars. Smoke cigars. . . . . . . . . . . . .. .. [George Sand]
Writing by horseback yields good rhythm and a steady hand. .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . [Sir Walter Scott]
Fifty cups of coffee helps ideas percolate. Fifty one will kill you. . . . . .. . . . . . . . .[Honoré de Balzac]
Sniff rotting apples. Your verse does not, by comparison, stink. .. . . . . . . . .. . . . [Friedrich Schiller]
I Like Love a Good Mystery / by Margot Douaihy
The End / by Gabrielle Freeman
What I heard was savage.
What you said was salvage,
but I was already cocked, rage surge
like the explosive spout of a blowhole,
rage bloom like the deathly flowers
of hollow-points ripping through bone
and brain. What I heard
was the genesis of this particular catastrophe,
a wild thing born hunched in the confines
of an island of blind fury, a prison island built
in the gut of churn, clench, and years.
The mechanism for the short pilgrimage
from beginning to spectacular rabid madness
loaded and sprung.
Letting Go / by Mia Herman
This is the sixth stage
of grief – a final push past
Lastness / by Mary Moore
The poem of lastness, the poem
of no more, might hum
like bees’ wings the tune of being the hive,
the hexagonal cells alive
with wing buzz and savor,
the brooding of aftermath and foreboding;
it might dance the directions,
the flower ode, of violet,
dandelion, iris, as if all
was honey-colored light
in the little brick house
with many windows, the womb room
on the back, its windows open
to the ridge the woods.
Maybe it should speak what the mute
refugee in the news photo says,
his sun burned, big-featured face,
all its lines curved downward,
even the worry lines of the forehead,
even the eyes and the open
generous mouth––imagine his cry––
two boys hanging on
to the only pillar they know,
one on his shoulders, one at his thighs.
The Mediterranean washes his feet,
but only the country of suffering
will let him in.
Maybe it should bring back
Turner’s red and vermillion
sunlight, for he painted sunlight
for what it is, a star’s
near fire. And the ghost ship
he loved, its wan
beiges and whites a sign
of what vanishes into the ash
and pearl of history.
But the refugee cannot find
refuge there. Nothing
we say can undo the suffering.
We paint; we brood like Sister Lucia.
Star Box—30/30 / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
The children know the secrets of this house;
They know their mother wants a star box,
Wants to take a space flight out, past
The Milky Way. They know their mother
Wants to lift the lid, step inside,
And blanket herself in its lining.
—Little Emma made the twilight blue lining,
And it sparkles with glitter—
She wants to sleep and wake up in a place
—warp time, wrapped up, in galaxies—
Where Emma dreamed she had a quest,
In which she found a ram, and this time
The caught ram’s horns
—Elaborate and splayed rainbows—
Were woven and metamorphosing
Into the branches of giant, overarching
Willows with roots
—splayed and exposed, like the branches of myrtles—
Anchored into the edge of a mighty river,
But this time the river was rushing time
Faster than anyone’s quest can run,
Faster than even a mother’s star box will take her.
Please scroll past comment form to read previous days’ poems.
Day 29 / Poems 29
Dispersion / by Jenni B. Baker
M.C. Escher’s Contractor at the Neighborhood Pub / by Jennifer Dane Clements
When he handed me lithographs for blueprints I should have nixed the project. But it is my duty to satisfy the client’s design, to bring his building into all its dimensions. So what if he’s requested courtyards suspended in midair, complete with picnicking families, or seven staircases to form a Möbius band at the center of the great hall? I won’t go back on my word. I’ll cut windows from floorboards and set balconies into ceilings–there’s always room for negative space. My client is a stickler for measure and reason except when he isn’t. I’ll fold gravity into sheets of drywall. I’ll lay twelve hickory stairs and return to thirteen pine. Jigsaw space itself to build basements in the sideways below. With a level and theodolite I can square the circle. Nothing matches but line and curve, the ink on my hands is his sawdust and mortar. I will be the carpenter of his unreality. I will break laws of physics and risk arrest. And when he visits the construction site, I will tell him how very much I appreciate his business.
After the Fire / by Margot Douaihy
Bruises map where heat
Pushed too hard.
An unbroken line
Crawled the wall—
Up, up, up—to the duct.
Smoke snuck everywhere,
Choked the peach tree.
The cedar you carved
In the yard
With your first love,
Now a pond of needles,
Like the shadow of a girl
Hiding under a sink
During the alarm.
As smoke clears,
You kneel in rubble,
Searching for your
Camera. You find it
Under bricks, layer
Leaking layer. Your
Lens is intact
In the middle.
Hold it close &
It shows you everything.
When you hold it close
It cuts you.
The News at Sunrise / by Gabrielle Freeman
At Big Ed’s, you can get a pancake bigger than your face
and eat it all with syrup. Imagine the magic it takes
to wait for the bubbles to rise and pop, that ordinary instant
of transformation. To slip a spatula beneath leavened batter
like hands beneath a sleeping child. Witness the momentous turn.
Since Paris / by Mia Herman
I dream of deadlines –
everyone running, papers
flying. Hell on earth.
Too Many / by Mary Moore
This poem is about what you think
is you as you look at the dust
of wood, plaster, and you
on the dresser, at the constellations of body parts
the oak leaves at the window
mimic then deny,
at the fingernail scrapes on the verges
of the margins of you.
You’re bound into these
little parts or books.
The number of tomorrows suffice
for the selves that occupy each,
some like the azaleas, startle pink
flares caught between the too solemn
yews in my yard, muffs of ruffles too
female for words, others like cuts
of the Mediterranean wedged
into the coastal pines,
slices of the sea which girdle
the middle of earth, its blue shimmer
cumberbund. You are too full
to be still inside
the one body. You keep leaning against
the door jambs and smearing
the outlines like sanguine
chalk, or becoming the outlines
which thicken and shimmer
then like the edges
of migraine. In the dark
you are soothed
into the illusion of one.
A Prayer for the Dead: Erasing the Study / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
This is not your study anymore,
And the stacks of bound journals
Are gone from the desk.
Papers, manuscripts, and books, gone.
There isn’t a student here to remember.
You are not sitting in the place
Where I can remember you,
Regardless of the trips
I took to make it:
Round Rock to Star City;
Virginia Beach to Roanoke;
Capitol Hill to Tinker Mountain;
Luna Ridge to Swannanoa Hall;
Blacksburg, through that ever living,
Tortured road through the heart of Catawba.
Your study. I had grown secure
Finding you there,
With the guaranteed silences fallen
Between each embrace and departure.
Those Guaranteed silences punctuated
Our differences, punctuated your sighs
Of disappointment for how I was living.
Disappointments: I wasn’t really writing,
No, not ‘til I could do it without a drink.
In this guaranteed silence, I realized
I had been unfaithful to you;
Unfaithfulness blossomed at the end
Of every sigh in that study, pendulous,
Because I wasn’t going to say the Word,
The Word, because I was afraid.
Erasing your study today, in remembrance,
I realize, I said it after all, God help me,
In our last email:
“Much love to you….I am thankful for the consideration and care you have given me.”
Time. Time erases this study, even future poets
Who have resided here, yet I am hoping,
Hoping for you, home.
Day 28 / Poems 28
Emergence / by Jenni B. Baker
Pan in Retirement: Suburban Maryland / by Jennifer Dane Clements
Mythological reverence was easy to come by when people knew of fauns, when the world remained pastoral. Now he’s called goat-man, a tabloid term, a monstrosity. Known not for his talent with wind instruments, he’s regarded as a backyard vagrant with horns, disturbing neighbors’ labradors, pulling raccoons from trash heaps and dreaming of opposable thumbs. We humans delight in tales of transformation–frog to prince, duck to swan, man to wolf and back again. Evidence of magical betterment or obstacles to overcome. His tufted caprine chin and cloven hooves do not emerge in moonlight, do not demonstrate extensions of the great and possible, only musky animalic origins. He reminisces of nymphs and lurks in steamy Volkswagen windows, his marble eyes quick to intercept romance. He makes the best of his non-bucolic life. He knows which dumpsters host the best early bird specials, which senior centers allow him to play bocci as though he’s the newest eccentric, a bit unshaven, wearing strange furry pants and bleating endlessly in ancient Greek.
Rusty / by Margot Douaihy
Anniversary roses soured
vase water into a thick moat.
You asked me three times
to toss them. Sick, that smell’s sick.
Not dead, not thriving, but some life
they had. Dusk would not fall.
As thunder punched east,
I called for the cat, a rescue
named Rusty because
we thought of nothing better.
But Rusty didn’t come.
Wind hammered the walls,
hail hit hard, I yelled
my throat raw,
but she didn’t come
when I called her.
She never came again.
On Human Garbage / by Gabrielle Freeman
I may have used the word adorable once,
but certainly not daily, and extra certainly
not more times a day than I can count. But
“I adore you” affects me so that I am not
entirely under my own control. I seek
my fortune, and I get: you are life. You are
lucky. Sweet and delicious. Addicted.
My bedroom is not lined with Christmas lights,
not the cold blue studded glow, not the
ethereal white bites. But passion flickers,
licks the grit of mortar between exposed brick.
Yes, I’m a sucker for the concept of thought
as much as the work of hands. I am glass
that must, in time, be broken. I have been
half-empty. I have been plastic. But I am not
inconstant. I am not bonded to you
as something used, as something beyond
its use. Don’t apologize; I am not worried.
I just miss your body. We are souls fortunate
to have been born amongst the stars. Treasure me.
When I Read Proust / by Mia Herman
I no longer search
for you. I am Odette and
this is our swan song.
Shifty Amanda / by Mary Moore
For Adam Vines’s Poetry Weekend
Stinkbait and chainsaws and mauls packed,
wine, cork-pullers, hotdogs, hard tack,
Amanda is trucking
it to the woods: you think Amanda lacks
the chutzpa to camp, since she’s all
about eyes and ears, will stall
on the sidewalk to revel
in gray-silk-suit café-man’s ogle,
falls into dark moods if her thumbnail
breaks. But Amanda’s got
the woods now: she’ll mint ingots
of words. She’ll eat granite,
loblolly pine, sumac,
and fresh trout to boot,
its rainbow of scales like pixels.
She’s assured: trout’s shimmer will get
under her skin, give her sizzle
bang wallop, or at least the look of it,
the sheen of it, like taffeta,
shifting as she moves blue green blue.
But her verse has the heft
of taffeta too. No elegies, odes, just a few
verses on what’s shifty.
Twilight, Bath County, November 27, 2015 / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
Let there be mineral springs here, all of them,
Hot, Warm, Magnesium, Jefferson, Healing,
And a native man, weary with running, to dip
His hand in, enter what is good.
Let there be a band of five discoverers
To head west—faces, golden in the light—
And spy it from Flag Rock, call it
A homestead for rest and healing.
It is twilight when I remember you,
Randy, how you have been lying there
Three years now, near Wilcuma,
A welcome place for family and friends.
Down the hill, the tourists are welcome, too.
Down the hill, little Eliza and Cullen
Are leaping from lip to lip of Magnesium,
The first discovered well, leaping
Across what could very well be bottomless.
As I am watching them leap from lip to lip,
I imagine angels kneeling, reminiscent
Of the first native man who kneeled there.
The angels, they are stirring healing
Into steaming streams, and their feather-folded
Wings do not hide the glow; their faces,
Golden, even after the sun slips away.
Day 27 / Poems 27
Symptoms / by Jenni B. Baker
The Poem Will Resemble You / by Jennifer Dane Clements
If playing on a loop from kaossilators
on breezy New York porches
If secretly Canadian when from Ohio
and raising goats in West Virginia
If a speckled stone has fossilized
today’s beatless hypnotic textures
If wearing a red business suit and
dwarfed by a man from another place
If the mind is not for Coney Island
but a hand of lakes with frozen fingers
If the color of caterpillar determines moth
and the intensity of storm builds rainbow
If typing newsprint features about film
creates new dances about architecture
If consuming lunch in the chilly buff
with radiant cool eyed hallucinations
If words half erased speak to eye before sound
a billboard peels off in accidental dactyls
If the persistence of memory holds only
soft watches and fading equine silhouettes
If you mountain climb the non-Euclidean way
and yet you still have friends
Hinge / by Margot Douaihy
Autumn suspends the world
between leaving & returning.
Like the colon gluing 11:11,
each hinge is pinned by a wish
of function. Like the hinge,
time can be paused.
Look at the clues: an old bruise
rooted in the meat of the forearm.
Though you’ll hear no gears
in the Lace factory anymore,
a constellation of brick dust
keeps the floor itchy,
alive. The abandoned
factory steps are too pocked,
too cratered for standing,
but deep holes
turn cold rain into mirrors,
too many to count.
Listen / by Gabrielle Freeman
These early mornings
the creek is still, dark coffee,
steam rising. Turkeys
call across water
the long story of warning,
bravado. Of love.
Migraine / by Mia Herman
My grave has been dug
and the shovel is bashing
my skull to pieces.
November 27, 2015 / by Mary Moore
A Turner sun rises over the ridge, white,
smeared gold in the striated clouds.
Sunrise bathes the old brown dog next door,
who stands, head down, Eeyore-like
on the neighbor’s porch, in pink gold light
like optimism. We gave thanks
yesterday for the crisp
stars of the curled oak leaves,
copper in the dawn light;
for the old brown dog now
in the pink who comes from a 50’s
typing exercise, he who
quickly leaped over the lazy fox;
for the cardinal who sticks it out
all winter here and says wheat wheat wheat
or prettygirl prettygirl prettygirl,
depending on your ear;
for the friends who imagine bird calls
in gorgeous unlikely ways;
for the black cat who chirps back at the birds
like the birds as he perches on the window sill;
for the electric heater, humming, its coils
the color of magma,
an orange-red Turner might have used.
I thanked no god, every god,
the universe; the luck of cosmography,
this singular concatenation
of star-dust; the spirit of the Tao,
the I Ching; the giant indigo Buddha
whose ear-lobes droop
with the sounds of suffering;
the red-star Buddha
plastered all over with gold stars
like the grade-school reward
for doing good; the invisible god
who’s hidden like eons
of light and fire in the layers of slate
at Four Pole Creek, who presses
outward in the knotted oak buds
scaled like pine cones
at my window;
the Genesis god of the word
made good, the word made world.
Surely, these are not the gods,
the universe that accommodates
American John who drums
Is Is into followers, who revels
in the picana on Said’s
belly, in the spectacle
of the flaming woman,
Ayesha, of the Norwegian
beheaded for show;
that allows the refugees
to be milled in the glass
teeth of the sea,
to become scarves
of sea loam and glint,
of girls and boys
and puppy dogs tails,
of words hoarded for another day
and paintings not yet begun,
of bird sightings
and the names of trees––
apple, plum, oak––of loves
not yet turned into touch.
Yet it is.
These are those on Thanksgiving Day / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
These are those on Thanksgiving Day
Who will not come to visit:
Stick-bone penury—a penny pinched.
Unsated, fatted gluttony—a penny stretched.
Green-eyed, sniggling envy—a penny eyed and snatched.
Saavy, made up bitch—a penny’s worth of pleasure.
Sleepy, pale punk—not a penny’s worth of much.
Offended pride—didn’t get a deserved penny.
Seething pitfalls, anger—melts a penny a second.
These are those on Thanksgiving Day
Who cannot spare a cornucopia.
Day 26 / Poems 26
Primary Plan / by Jenni B. Baker
Tapestry / by Jennifer Dane Clements
Pull on this thread. It unfurls like
unpracticed cursive in a blank book.
Childhood odes to archeology, secret
histories, metaphors of digging and age.
In secondhand shops she asks felt hats
for stories of heads they knew, their lives.
In mercury glass from yard sales she sees
her own face within the changing colors.
In magazines printed before her birth she
comes to understand her instinct leans
not toward excavation but invention.
The threads of her words grow rich with story.
Pull on this thread. It hangs from the costume
she buttons over herself in a room of bulbs
and mirrors. There is truth in the pretending.
She always does things the opposite way.
Slim paper scripts invite her beneath
words or tears or skins she does not wear,
borrowed personas more authentic at times
as she finds her face in their journeys.
Pastoral retreats waft through a crepe dress,
secrets tucked in pockets of leather coats,
discoveries earned in spotlight and velvet drape.
The threads of their stories adhere beneath skin.
Pull on this thread. It is silken, a life braided
alongside her own. Here’s another, another still:
A bundle or loom, a continuum of strands.
This thread holds others in, a border where
she threatens to fray or snarl, a guide.
This motif is constant. A vein that meets her
heart outside the body and knows its kin.
In this thread she sees her face watching
through younger eyes as it learns what it is
to embroider, how to gather threads and
pattern one over another. She weaves and
weaves because the threads circle her fingers
unknowing of what patterns may emerge,
certain only that they are strongest
stitched together without end.
Big Sister / by Margot Douaihy
Holy Toledo! Big Sister is watching the nuns
of this Ohio convent, tracking who loses faith
when faced with surveillance & mics. Does Sister Mary say Amen because Sister June is transferring to Maine? When the Bishop cancels his lecture on moral failings, which Sister sings hallelujah? Maybe the kind devotion of Sister Grace will inspire you to hear the Call, lend a hand, or smile at a stranger. Don’t miss the miraculous season finale.
At the end of this poem, close your eyes / by Gabrielle Freeman
Imagine you are standing in an open field. Tell me,
is it fallow? Has the plow turned up its rows?
Are there flowers? Tulips waving like
corn? Is it bordered with pine and walnut?
Now imagine an arch. Tell me, is it made of wood?
Is it carved? Is it made of stone? Walk through.
Tell me, are your feet heeled? Are they
bare? Do they sink into the dark comfort of loam?
My field is filled with soft grasses and the unassuming blooms
of spring, tiny violets slung low, buttercups sprung high
on surprise stalks. My arches are smooth and white
like ribs lit from within, a soft glow. I walk though with you.
We are holding hands because I trust my gut. I am listening well
as we pass beneath an arch. Deer pause at the edge
of the field before crossing into the wood.
There is an image of a laden table. There is twine,
and we face each other. A cat’s cradle braids itself between us.
You grasp the stars, and I offer the twine to you. It does not
bind. We pass beneath an arch glow like television
flicker. There is an image of water, chatter of fishmongers.
We purchase crabs, a beautiful salmon. We walk, and the arch
flashes your hands snipping thyme, rosemary. The smell
of coffee, dark and rich, a gift. A dog rubs his head
against your thigh. His ears are velvet. He runs ahead,
each arch lighting up as he passes through. We see the field is wide
and layered in stars. There is an image of a brown leather couch
where we read. The world outside is white, and there is a fire
that you stoke. There is bourbon in glasses settled. Under each arch,
I can feel the comfort of your hand, the warmth of rich earth beneath my bare feet.
Orange Juice / by Mia Herman
My grandparents sit
side by side
at our Thanksgiving meal
My grandmother reaches
for the container of juice
and pours over the contents
listed on the label:
Water, sugar, concentrate.
Her eyes widen with excitement.
New and improved taste!
But then she smiles at my grandfather
as if to reassure him
that even after seventy years,
nothing new and improved
The Prodigal Sun As Sower / by Mary Moore
With a bow to my 30/30 friends who’ve also written about dandelions
Though all male he’s besotted with
the indigenous flocks of wild violets
and dandelions on Appalachian lawns,
on road cuts, verges, margins,
on the mountains’ vertiginous flanks.
As a child, I thought violets were
pieces of sky. Like the cat’s
sensitive whiskers, the faint lines
splaying out from the violets’
center petals meant they too
could feel––the world was replete
with feeling––that’s why the violets
shied away if I touched them:
I was all thumbs,
indelicate for a girl.
Dandelions’ were the sun’s sons.
But, though the sun stars in Turner’s
paintings, in Cook’s every eclipse,
the dandelion’s spherical wraiths
are made from filaments of the moon,
translucent holographs, icons
of the moon.
*Unlike domestic violets, the Appalachian wild violet has stripes, and its four petals are not symmetrical.
Gobbler Day / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
Chalk-to-board, you call in;
The flock’s confused calls
Erupt, cackling remonstrances
For you to provide.
Stick bare, the woods suggest
A grove of lean, wagging fingers.
All things spare accuse.
The Tom echoes: beware, want.
Your heart races to call him out,
But he takes the jocular way—
Greenbriar, berry brush—all thorns,
So you hike the opposite ridge out.
Empty handed, it is best to avoid
That thorny patch, home
To his henhouse of noisome termagents.
Day 25 / Poems 25
The Effect of Exposure / by Jenni B. Baker
Ambassador / by Jennifer Dane Clements
I do not remember
if her heels clicked
against the cobblestones
or if her gray hair
was tied back in a scarf.
Only the chill of rain
numb and hard
as snow-swept coins
when she waved me
beneath her umbrella.
We held no words
in common then.
slow and measured
We crossed the town
sharing in dusk and dry.
Years later I say thank you
in her language
and still smell the evening rain.
What If Falling Wasn’t Falling? / by Margot Douaihy
What if falling wasn’t falling at all?
but I stay in place,
I think of this as I leave
work, gulls scream
out of sight,
high as blood-pressure
on a turbulent flight.
Like the trick of direction
in a painting of rain,
or a rowboat floating
on sunset’s flaming,
as I look closely,
Why do possibilities scare me?
Am I so numb, so un-young,
I keep myself distracted?
I can’t recall
the last time I made time
for a clockless walk,
Maybe I’m not sinking;
it’s the waves
that are jumping,
the globe spinning.
Look. I can open
one eye at a time.
No. The eye
To My Real Estate Developer / by Mia Harmon
What we’ve built with our
lot is bigger than what all
the others knocked down
Gratitude / by Mary Moore
for Marie and Lorie
The stump-tailed cat lives with a blue-haired woman
and a red-haired man in a house whose bricks
are books. Today the woman carries
a pocketful of apricots to a bowl,
and puts a red rose wide as her hand
in a blue and white vase.
Red-gold threads curl loosely
in the rose’s center, filaments
of the sun. The apricots are suns too, furred
like the blond hair on a girl’s bare arms.
Marigolds, named for Mary’s gold
which is mercy, flower in small
blue pots at the windows.
(The blue haired woman is not religious
but remembers where she comes from.)
A sickness got into the black cat’s tail,
his balancer and dancer:
somebody took it away while he slept,
but now he leaps from the wing back chair
to the top of the book shelves.
Pleased with himself, he primps
beside Aristotle. In the house made of books
the red haired man reads, the blue haired
woman writes poems about house,
cat, man. The inky cat lies on a book.
Together they’re a small bonfire, an island of sun.
Twin Trees / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
The hard frost left silence in the woods,
And the full moon, a negative:
The trees cast blackened shadows,
And the crisp ground, hoar ash.
After midnight and its arguments,
I had decided to stay, so we hiked
The path, Tired of Arguments.
Besides, the moonlight had erased
A galaxy of stars from the ridge,
And we were surprised:
Two star clusters, uncommon twins,
Had defied the moon and its glory.
A puzzlement, they were caught
In the branches of twin trees.
Unlike the others, these trees broke out
Of the negative into spangled dimensions
Of light, where the moon had recreated
What it erased, and the frost bitten branches,
Touched, had recast her light
Into an inheritance of crowns.
Day 24 / Poems 24
How to Purify / by Jenni B. Baker
So You’re Thinking of Moving to Wonderland / by Jennifer Dane Clements
Do not smell the roses here unless you mean to fill your nostrils with red paint. It will help to know before you arrive the measure of your exact height. Write it down. Many locals find croquet to be a pleasant pastime, so long as you reserve a newer set of hedgehogs. The older ones tend to be arthritic, you see — understandable after years of beak and lawn. Do not refer them to your chiropractor. It is paramount to maintain the illusion, whatever the cost. Top magazines in Wonderland do not advertise ointments to fade stretch marks caused by the rapid reduction and expansion of the body from the place’s tasting menu, just as pharmacies do not offer medication for rabbit-hole vertigo, only tea and treacle. Never cut the grass — it will yell, and likely bleed, and certainly press charges. It isn’t worth that kind of mess. Besides, there is no hospital here, nor curbside pickup service for one’s trash. Wonderland is just that — all wonder, per the queen’s decree. Designed for everything but the practical. You will not witness the locals standing in line to buy watch batteries or paint, though surely they must. You will not know where that cook found so much pepper. You will not see the public bus that shuttles the Tweedles home to their twelve-story tenement after dark, where Dee microwaves a freezer-burned tray of chicken, Dum flips on the television, and they watch Mork & Mindy reruns until they fall into a restless and ordinary sleep.
Automatic / by Margot Douaihy
Thanks for writing, but I’m currently away from my desk.
I will respond to your message when I return.
Thanks for writing, but I’m currently pretending to be away from my desk.
Thanks for writing, but my cat is currently napping atop my keyboard.
Thanks for writing, but I’m currently napping atop my keyboard.
If the matter is pressing, please call reception and ask someone to shake me.
Thanks for writing, but my twin sister is playing the role of me today.
I had a hangover & she owed me a favor.
Thanks for writing, but I’m currently taking my desk off the grid.
Please forward your correspondence by messenger pigeon
to Latitude 42.3333° N, Longitude 72.6500° W.
Thanks for writing, but I’m currently traveling through space & time
via portal discovered when moving my garden gnome from one shrub to the other.
Thanks for writing, but my desk is currently having an existential crisis &
is no longer a desk. I am at my desk, but it is not a desk. Or is it?
Ain’t Everything About You / by Gabrielle Freeman
I’m not thinking about you in my bed,
in the shower, in my kitchen, in my
car, at the coffee shop, in my office,
at my desk, in my classroom, in my
classroom, in the break room, at my mailbox,
in my office, in my classroom, in my
classroom, in my office, at my desk,
in my car, in my kitchen, in my
living room, on the porch with a Stella
next to the giant concrete lion roaring out
into the night that’s gone silent with the chill
and the urgent patience of deer crossing.
Emaciated / by Mia Herman
“Life near the bone is sweetest” –Henry David Thoreau
Because you can’t get
in past skin and fat and nerve.
I’m purged of your waste.
Amanda and the Man-Soul / by Mary Moore
Amanda likes the mandolin’s twang
she also likes a good man and has one
inside her, her mantra
is Amanda Man Amanda. She suns
today, listens to blue grass, tans
and forgets about the little man.
She is reading Jung.
She is not who you think she is.
She’s just blackened her spiked hair
like a Goth and bathes herself in Aloe
to soothe her fresh tats, her arm cuts.
Not to imply she’s unhealthy. Amanda
thinks the man lives in her chest. She’d like
to evict him, cut him out, but where would he go?
Tragic face, happy face, sly face, and so forth.
Jung says the man inside is her soul,
the sexes crossed. She’s his hidey hole.
Amanda looks up. The sun’s
on the book, on her lap, it’s hot
in her jet black hair. She’d like
a sturdy girl soul, hands thick-knuckled,
chin square, feet splayed from working
the soil. She’d play mandolin
for its moods, both lyric and bold.
But Amanda’s stuck with the middle man.
He thumps in her chest like iambs.
He’s part of I am.
A Housewife’s Manifesto for Preservation / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
This summer I took the time to do what I wanted.
This summer I took the necessary time to be a housewife.
This summer, I conceived this, a manifesto, too:
Blueberries, black raspberries, red raspberries—preserve the fruit of the field.
Garden chives, sage, and thyme—freeze each leaf and limb.
Tomato juice and sauce; salsa, green and red; a bit of love jelly—boil, chop, puree.
Apples from my very own trees—pie in a jar, chutney, rum delight, and butter—conserve.
Banana peppers, green peppers, cucumbers, garlic, and onions—brine, pickle, pressure.
One hog, fattened, from a farmer, sustained, sausage, prime cuts, a little liver—flash freeze!
Let this be an argument for production, reproduction, preservation, and conservation.
Let this be a manifesto for housewives, everywhere!
Housewives, act now: preserve, freeze, boil, chop, puree, conserve, brine, pickle, pressure,
And for goodness sakes, don’t forget the option to flash freeze against spoilage.
Day 23 / Poems 23
Mutations / by Jenni B. Baker
Farm to Table / by Jennifer Dane Clements
A Stock Image Progression in Black & White
- Farmer Holding Live Turkey Talking to Fashionable Woman
- Woman in Dress & Apron Holding Full Grown Turkey in Her Lap
while Sitting with Her Legs Folded, Pearl Necklace, Bobbed Hair.
- Woman Carrying Live Turkey with Grocery Basket
- Woman Luring Live Turkey to Hatchet with Corn
- Plucked Turkey (View from Above)
- Housewife in Kitchen Showing Raw Fresh Plucked Turkey to Son
- Portrait of Young Woman Putting Turkey into Oven
- Woman Basting Turkey on Stove
- Mother Taking Turkey out of Wood-Burning Stove, Showing It
to Pleased Husband and Surprised Son
- Woman Eating Meal at Table with Live Turkey
Us, Twins / by Margot Douaihy
An identical twin is a carnival trick, a scientific experiment.
We were the only twins in Scranton. How cute! The Double-Mint kids.
An identical twin is a code—genetic cipher rope. Two beings from
one egg. Same same room with a room. Twins conspire in the womb.
An identical twin is a made-up language, idioglossia, subtle as sea-star
re-growing a limb.
An identical twin is a kid sleuth. We scrutinized a race: who was faster?
Even if we crossed the finish together, we searched for one difference in a sea of same.
An identical twin is a co-pilot, instinctive as the leg kick that accompanies
the rubber hammer to the kneecap during check-ups that we twins took together.
An identical twin is a window within a hall of mirrors. Messages not in invisible ink but fingerprints that un-twins can’t see.
An identical twin is invaded. Twins in-utero are gentle when touching
each others’ eyes. Even before we could think, we were nicknaming each other.
An identical twin is a Doc. We call each other Doc. What’s Up Doc?
We studied Bugs & Daffy the way a glassmaker obsesses over sand.
An identical twin is an &. You are not a You when you are two.
Your shared world is a fulcrum, a hinge, the load-bearing wall of two rooms.
An identical twin is disappointed. I wanted to stay Us forever. But in the past year, we’ve seen each other as many times as I can count on my hand, a hand with the same fingerprints as my twin.
An identical twin is an engineer, trying to bridge present & past, the you & the her. Every twin must invent her own way to grow up, grow apart together.
Yes, but do you have a glirarium? / by Gabrielle Freeman
All you really have to do is open
your custom-made kitchen utensil drawer,
show me the specially shaped hollows:
this one for a simple mandoline;
this one for an acorn-shaped, polished
alder-wood twine holder. The better to truss you
with, my dear. It’s all you have to do
to make me distrust you. I can’t believe in
custom kitchens, in all the negative space
around your cutlery and tools.
The ancient Romans fattened edible
dormice in gliraria, terra cotta pots
custom-made to raise the rodent delicacy.
Fattened on fancy nuts and acorns,
they were roasted and dipped in honey,
or they were stuffed. Choose whatever herbs
turn you on. Fish a hibernating
dormouse out of your glirarium.
Stick it in your classic, stainless steel
tea kettle. Gaze up at the stars. Repress.
Bravery / by Mia Herman
Every now and then,
I can feel it
at my purple heart,
until it slowly
Woman Reading / by Mary Moore
For Marie Manilla and S. Diane Wellman
In the ash and pearl colored house
in Hat Creek, West Virginia
surely the woman can’t be reading.
She must be driving
a ‘40 Ford pickup, dark green, duct-taped
together, the rust holes in the shapes
of Florida, Utah, Maryland.
Or she’s chawing tabaccy the wad
just getting juicy in her left cheek
as she buys two cans of Coors, all
she can afford at the tail-end
of the welfare check. Or she’s hitching
along 64, shorts too short, frayed at the thighs
waiting for the right guy
in a red Camaro with a finger-thick
gold neck chain.
Instead, she is reading and riding
the reading in a wingback chair.
It’s upholstered blue, viridian, teal,
like the hills out the window
whose curves and flanks
she knows like the map
of rivers on her palms.
A bowl of apricots
sits next to her;
a surfeit fly circling, rests
on the ripest. His wings
open close open.
She’s riding David Walllace’s
infinite sentences like
the ferris wheel at Buckhannon.
They get into her eyes her ears.
They itch like the bite of ideas,
like Socrates’s gadfly questions.
She closes the book, gets up, stretching
her arms, her red hair coiled
on the top of her head.
She can taste the sentences
forming, a sweet surfeit,
words on her tongue.
No One Gets a Fixed Identity Anymore, / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
So you become a calibrated eyeball,
Formulating a face to meet the predicament
Of faces you meet. Getting to know you
Couldn’t be worse—code shift—duplicitous
Puts it mildly—you are haunted by constraints,
Significations, and safe spaces where you can be
Whatever it takes to hold the room, to satisfy
Conferences of daily lovers. Fear. What is it?
What of their eyebeams? What of fittest survival?
What of getting to stand with history’s paginated host?
What is it to stand, right now, on this page?
Will anyone be known by mermaids, singing?
I have given up—code shift—the art of belonging.
Forgetful, I am—code shift—an apple in the eye
Of the other, better lover.
Day 22 / Poems 22
Aspects of Occupancy / by Jenni B. Baker
Plate 19: Pennatulida / by Jennifer Dane Clements
a found poem
splendid specimen, this curious marine creature
seldom encountered fathoms deep, miles out to sea.
her main trunk a cream colour, her petal-like
outgrowths salmon-pink, approaching vermilion.
call the specimen. give her a name. and yet
bestowal of a name does not acquaint us with
her many affinities. digestive and body cavity,
a single shared void. ally to jellyfish, to coral,
sea anemone. her body: peculiar colony of polyps,
main central stem, series of lateral branches
budding on the body-wall. find her on muddy sea
bottoms, from shallow fathoms to ocean depths.
darwin wrote at low water hundreds of these may
be seen projecting like stubble, truncate end up.
it is probable, her power of moving from place to
place when local conditions become unfavorable.
naturalists, observe the brilliant phosphorescence.
it seems probable she exhibits this.
Sourced from: Scott, E.O.G. “Sea Pen Dredged Near Devonport: Remarkable Creature.” The Examiner (Tasmania, AU), 24 May 1941.
Your Emoji / by Margot Douaihy
Hi! May I take your order?
. . . . . . . I’m your glad-face emoji.
Oh. You seem…displeased.
. . . . . . . I’m your sad-face emoji.
I’m sorry, I just can’t trust you.
. . . . . . . I’m your been-had-face emoji.
I’m stuck between two worlds,
. . . . . . . a hanging-chad-face emoji.
But. Maybe I can love again!
. . . . . . . I’m your egads-face emoji.
Look at me, motherf***er.
. . . . . . . I’m your mad-face emoji.
I pledge allegiance to myself!
. . . . . . . I’m your rad-face emoji.
Santa as Himself / by Gabrielle Freeman
Ok. Get this. On Halloween, Santa likes to dress up as himself in his best himself suit, the antique one with the really cushy expensive red silk crushed velvet the elves spent years weaving on a special loom specially imported from Cairo. The one with the arctic fox fur trim and the satin lining, all hand cut and hand tailored. Those elves are magic with a needle and thread, let me tell you. So anyway, he puts on this super fantastic himself suit, cinches up his black leather belt with that gorgeous ornate gold buckle, the one with Dasher’s raised profile on either side…now that is one vain reindeer, but Santa loves him. Yeah, so he cocks his himself hat at just the right angle and sets out to some neighborhood he’s only seen from the skies at midnight to walk around and watch the kids trick or treat. Can you believe it? THE Santa. Just walking around some suburban maze of cul-de-sacs No trick or treaters at the workshop, obviously. So he tromps around in his big ol’ leather boots for a few hours, and then he comes on back for the big push to Christmas. Says it does him good to see the kids awake, not sleeping, you know, walking and running around being kids. Makes him happy. True story! Santa and I go way back. Yeah, he likes Halloween the best. Says he can be himself, not have to dress up in some disguise just to walk around, and nobody expects anything, you know?
Still Life / by Mia Herman
We were driving through the park
with the kids in the back seat,
and their light eyelashes fluttered
like the leaves outside,
and the song came on with melodic basstones
beneath the deep voice,
and we linked our fingers
as we looked for signs,
and I thought,
I wish I could frame this picture.
Hex Wenches / by Mary Moore
for Caroline and the Crones at Crone Inis
I’m throwing a hex wrench into the hex
machine: like a Neoplatonic
magician, I pit like against like
to heal or destroy. The hex
wrench tightens the six-
sided bolts that make brake
parts, carbs, stoves, galaxies
fit together. It’s a fixer and maker.
But it breaks and nixes
the hex machine, which cathunks,
to a halt: gears’ like bronze wheels flack
the walls, and the bolts bolt by, sleek
past us, dazzling like the six-
sided stars of that smart aleck
David. And look:
the bolts are chrome-slick,
industrial beauties. So the hex
But its perfected
hexagonal eye was made to mate,
and by mating, make––
like the poet who makes
by eye and ear, her form less exact
her fit imperfect.
And like the hex
wrench she’s shaped like an elle.
It Turns out Nothing Depends / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
On the red wheelbarrow.
Wood, chopped, checks the chill
Grown guest in this hothouse,
While you clear the forest,
Claim hard work and beneficence.
Around the place, reminders
You have forgotten the field
Where plans matter more than work:
The door sill creaks, unleashed some time
Since you carried me over its threshold;
Wallboard cracks above the upstairs
Door frames; and a seam runs
The length of the ceiling, too, remnant
From the last quake out of Richmond.
The animals have lost their reproductive
State, a study of husbandry here tells it
In simple powers: generational losses.
Day 21 / Poems 21
Sheltered Everywhere / by Jenni B. Baker
Taco Cat Spelled Backwards is Taco Cat / by Jennifer Dane Clements
won’t. Cat lovers revolt, act now.
Step on no pets.
Was it a cat I saw?
Never odd or even,
Cigar. Toss it in a can. It is so tragic:
No trace. Not one carton.
lid off a daffodil.
We panic in a pew,
nosegay ages on.
Red root, put up to order
goldenrod adorned log.
O stone, be not so.
Name no one man.
Drab as a fool, aloof as a bard–
No–it is opposition.
Won’t lovers revolt now,
no word, no bond? Row on.
‘Tis but a tub. Sit.
In words, alas, drown I.
Consider the Flower / by Margot Douaihy
This flower stains my fingers.
That flower blooms at night.
When I sleep near this flower it laces my dreams,
the way minerals in ice change the taste of whiskey.
Instead of words, use that flower for mercy.
I planted this flower after you left,
but too big it bloomed, too fast,
its heart broke its shell, toppled itself.
How is it fair?
The stem in the sun climbs,
while the one in the shadow
is surprised by its weight,
can’t get itself right,
like a torn sail
in a sudden storm.
For Ezra Schwartz’s Family / by Mia Herman
I want to hand out
but these words
are all I have
The Stag / by Mary Moore
“Modern Scottish Gaelic and modern Irish Gaelic dictionaries both give the word Fiadh as having two meanings, i.e. ‘Deer’ and ‘God.’ ” J. G. McKay. “The Deer-Cult and the Deer-Goddess Cult of the Ancient Caledonians.” Folklore. 43: 2, 1932. 144-174.
he appears from the woods, burning,
his branches red-gold in the sun,
the sacrifice already begun,
without shaman or seer,
wearer of pelt, hooves, horns.
His ears almost sheer
with blood light, he stares
at our lit window: it must mirror
and frame the fire
of him. In our fear,
we imagine only we can bear
the flare and fury
of self, can burn
with the knowledge of burning.
But the deer were
gods, goddesses. He wierds
the world, then disappears.
The sun sets fires
in the clusters of oak leaves, poplar
beech, his pyre
and urn: the old gods were born
to be sacrificed: who bears
the tree must burn.
There is Safety in the Sum / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
There is safety in the sum of all the parts;
Steely machinations, wound at click time,
Ratchet good words, crank erasures
In perfect time. Revolutions.
We are at the cusp of another one:
There is more to life than the sum
Of gears and sprockets, more mystery
To the machine than perfect pulse
—Blow revolutions to smithereens—
See it for yourself: currents of devolutions
Are caught, somehow cast, and a stitch,
Gone crazy-invisible, secures all variegated
Enterprises of man. Can we call it good?
Day 20 / Poems 20
Psychology / by Jenni B. Baker
Portrait of Night as a Young Girl / by Jennifer Dane Clements
Sky adds a sweater to her shoulders for every new hour she meets. They vary from beetle-colored to tar-colored to pitch. She makes her home in blankets of the cozy infinite, layering first the woolly atmospheric kind, then heavy ones woven from galaxies. Pores between yarn and yarn release pinpricks of starlight where age has relaxed a stitch. She likes to trace outlines of beasts or men between them. Once she snagged her sleeve on a distant heartbreak. Scratched at the memory so the crescent seam never sealed. But that is texture. That is contrast. That is rupture when rupture gives way to myth or faith or magnetism. She trembles cold when winter laughs but she leaves the bright hole unmended — as though understanding how the shock of such exposure frames the dark, demonstrates complexity, has been known to guide oceans.
11:11 / by Margot Douaihy
Donuts: A Meditation / by Gabrielle Freeman
I look at a tray of donuts, and I think nothing.
I look at a tray of donuts, and I dream of hurling them.
A sapphire lined fantasy of clouds is
a guilt-free smashing environment.
I look at a tray of donuts, and I hurl them.
Loose packed snow against the side of your head,
bits of ice catch in your ear. It rings for days.
I hurl the Turkish coffee, and, for a moment,
it escapes the cup, suspended like globules
in an anti-gravity chamber where
you can follow your coffee around
in slow motion before it smashes with
exactly the same sound as too much wine.
I hurl the wagyu tartare like
cannibal chaos, like wet smack passion
and meat. Like standing on a chair
with a dagger in my mouth.
Anhedonia / by Mia Herman
It’s been a pleasure
but I think I am ready
to leave you behind.
Ballad Of Red and Blue / by Mary Moore
The man in the park thinks my blue hair
is illusion. He looks twice to be sure
he saw what he saw. His dalmatian
is black and white, and wags. He’s heard
that Nepal celebrates Dog’s Day:
he would like a red garland, thank you.
The man’s mouth makes an “O.”
The man says “cool,” then quicksteps away
lest blue pool up in his eyes, soak his shoes,
seep into the dime-sized holes in his soles.
The cardinal perches on beech.
He’s red: his song is red.
Red will be seen, will be heard.
So will the startle-blue of my hair.
What Snow Cannot Erase / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
Snow cannot erase the cardinal,
Nor the blood red berry
Clutched in its bright beak,
Or the bright berries
And their blood, scattered
Splashes of his seasonal droppings.
It is not easy to erase anything
Red in the snow; even
The purest snow
Cannot hide the bloodbaths
In the ravine. Blood-tinged
And feather furious,
The hawk drops to focus
On what can’t be hidden:
A vermillion flash,
The woodpecker wears;
Garnet glint, breastplate
The unseasonal robin dons.
Snow cannot hide the hawk’s bloody beak
And the bodies scattered there.
Day 19 / Poems 19
Caution /by Jenni B. Baker
Mother of Exiles /by Jennifer Dane Clements
What leaks from its origins
finds shelter in the overflow.
This spill of dishwater and soap
swells a sponge useful with suds.
One thing invites another
into the warmth of skin.
Absorption breeds intimacy.
It is commonplace, innate.
A sponge will never reject
what by design it draws close.
Not charity but symbiosis,
unspoken agreement of need.
Cotton gauze held to a wound.
Pot of rice boiling over a flame.
Things created to absorb,
what defines itself that way.
A nation made for huddled masses.
The thumping mess of human hearts.
Amelia /by Margot Douaihy
We live in a little blue farmhouse
near a cemetery where bodies
have been breathed in by roots,
by bark, eaten by woodpeckers.
Meaning: here the dead are winged.
Time does what it wants, it can’t be killed,
does that make it toxic or magic?
There is a dark art to whistling
to a birch branch of cardinals.
Tilt your head, listen to their call:
pretty, pretty. The same word
changes when you twin it.
In our little blue farmhouse,
the wood floors slope wildly,
as all good songs do. Amelia Earhart
fixed engines in our blue garage
in 1922. I imagine her, hands greased,
as I drink coffee on the buckling deck,
my breath candle-white in the quiet cold.
“Do you like my hat?” she’d ask.
“No,” I’d say, “I love your hat.”
If you stay up past midnight
you can see a meteor shower,
but we can’t keep our eyes open.
Tangled, we fall asleep with the lamp on.
Last night I dreamed I opened my palm
& saw a sugar cube soaked in absinthe.
It made my hand drunk.
Maybe Amelia put it there.
Maybe all good things don’t have to end;
they just shape-shift, like a character
who can leap from an adventure shelf
to history in the library where I read
about women who want the one thing
they cannot name. What happened
up there, Amelia? Did it hurt?
We’ll never know how all this ends,
at least we can choose when to start dreaming.
Still Life / by Gabrielle Freeman
sketch it out like you want it.
round table, round plate,
triangle toast, butter square,
cylinder mug, rectangle book
canted to the plate. ink it.
quick strokes overlap,
cross-hatch. squiggle butter melt.
add a parabolic banana.
wash in the background.
blue tipped with orange early morning.
loose green mist of trees.
add tall glass with ice.
pass color block over breakfast.
ink black wrought iron, fern green
plate, mustard golden toast,
cadmium yellow butter,
antique white souvenir mug,
saddle brown coffee,
mustard golden tea.
press in, blend out with fingertips.
wash in light.
outline a state on the mug.
title the book.
stroke charcoal quick along ink lines and pull
to fade, broad strokes and pull
edges to ashes.
this is morning like you want it. still life.
it is implied that we are in the room
just off the deck. I am keeping you
from your toast. you are keeping me
from my coffee.
let them cool.
How To Handle Terrorism: Tips from a Krav Maga Instructor /by Mia Herman
I’m not saying you should look over your shoulder
every six seconds,
but be aware
of where you are:
The Wailing Wall.
The Dead Sea.
The City of Love.
The best defense is to disappear,
to avoid crowded markets
Still, the most important thing is your state
Amanda Violin /by Mary Moore
Amanda resigns from her job
as persona. She wants to be the violin
playing the duet she is
and is in; the red
oak leaves curled like boats
flying in the wind of her going;
the pine that kindles the fire
of her, smelling of resin,
of eons of sun and ice as it burns.
That’s why she dresses in blues
and greens like water, trees and sky:
she wants to be it all,
earth, river and thirst.
Once she’s her own,
she’ll still seep into your mirror,
the quicksilver under the thin
film of glass, reflection reflected
in your eyes, a film of Amanda
you see the world through.
Or she’ll enter the door just behind you,
the wind shadow of your hurry
as you bring in the oranges lemons
and chocolate, the coffee and cream
for Amanda. (She eats only pastries
from Italy.) Her hair ripples
like a mountain stream.
Amanda will speak when you’re spoken to,
hear when you would be heard.
She eyes and is eyed now,
and wears you like an alibi,
though she cannot remember your crime.
You cannot play Amanda.
An Opposition to Shadows /by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
Shadows converge on the antisolar point;
Looming, they oppose light,
But that is where the glory shines.
Undaunted, the halo-glory haunts
Even the darkest resistance,
Because the sun always has your back.
Trust me: I saw it, firsthand.
While the sun was setting, I was rising,
And my intense darkness spread a
Giant opposition from House
To Hogback Mountain;
I had turned my back.
That’s what happens when you
Turn your back: you get the glory.
That’s what happens when you
Turn your back: you get caught
Out in the open with a Heiligenschein,
And you are its Broken Spectre.
What you know—Shadow—
Suggesting no darkness at all,
So when it is supposed to be
Night time—zero time—
You won’t need candles all.
Day 18 / Poems 18
Recovery / by Jenni B. Baker
Penitent /by Jennifer Dane Clements
for a different Mary, after Gentileschi
And certain women, healed of
evil spirits and infirmities
are clothed in silk chiffon and
properly wrought contrition.
Yet I will not wear my hair long
or cover these bare shoulders.
Seven demons were cast from my
body and still I swear like a sailor.
Do you know the meaning of
my marigold dress? You gave
it to me, this trope, a garment
I wear without wanting, a stain.
It has bled into my heart, a venom
to restrain or torment, from you,
accuser of women, jealous of
what I see that you cannot.
Anger hides as sadness on
some faces. Mine, for one.
I will not pretty my expression.
You have decided what I am.
But my companion has left.
I will take to a desert or cave.
My name means fortress, and
alone is the prophecy I must fulfill.
I will see you.
Then I will go.
I will straighten my skirts and
steady my toes in earth or faith.
I will look you hard in the eye
and apologize for nothing.
My Twin Sister’s Daughter Thinks I am Her Mother /by Margot Douaihy
My twin sister’s daughter thinks I am her mother since our voices are identical. My mother tells me to wipe the milk that has collected under the neck of my twin sister’s daughter’s who sleeps in the firelight of Tuesday night. “Even her rolls have rolls,” my twin sister whisperlaughs from the kitchen. My twin sister’s daughter is smiling in her sleep because I sing as badly as her mother. My twin sister’s daughter looks more like our mother than my twin sister or me. My twin sister’s daughter has just learned to grab her own hands & hold them tight as a pious mother, but in the peachpit light of Tuesday night she still reaches for my hands, the same fingerprints as my twin sister. I call my twin sister’s daughter “Little Mother” because once I read it in a book & liked it. My twin sister’s daughter is the one right thing after many chapters of wrong things. In the zodiac year that dragged like knuckle-skin across courtyard brick, I couldn’t think of what to say my mother. My mother was always a sister while my twin sister was always a mother. When blackouts were bad, my twin sister couldn’t remember how she got home, and she became my daughter. My twin sister’s daughter is smiling in her sleep because the way I butcher The Wheels on the Bus is the same as my twin sister. I do not have a daughter, but if I did, I’d hope she was as smart as my twin sister & as devoted as our mother, with none of my obsidian sadness. The milk has crusted under the chin of my twin sister’s daughter. The moon communion wafer has spun the room into a mirror. The sleeping daughter’s mother is my sister, & when were baby twins, I wasn’t sure if I was me or her.
Recollections / by Gabrielle Freeman
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lost his jazz collection
in a house fire in 1983, somewhere around
3,000 albums. Everyone in the universe
followed the Lakers back then. I remember
watching his hands flip that gorgeous balletic skyhook
swish. Kareem’s teammates tried to replace
some of the albums, as records are replaceable.
And so are books. But replacements
are never the records with the carefully-handled
covers and pored-over liner notes. Never
the same 331/3 so well-played you could drop
the needle exactly at the beginning
of that song. You know the one. Never the same
book you gifted me with hands I can’t
forget. I read the whole thing, you know,
in my car that night in 1983
after watching the game with you. After
watching the game with you, there was fire.
And then, just like that, you were gone.
Cancer /by Mia Herman
So now there is more
More of you to love,
my mother insists.
But I am scared
of morphing into
and getting lost
in the masses.
Sun Horses /by Mary Moore
Another Riff on James Cohen’s Chasing the Sun
In those days, people imagined
the sun rode stallions—
hooved and armored with made-to-order
rock-hard gold, beaten to glitter like scales.
They had wings like Gabriel would: dawn
blue and flame proof, they shimmered like frost.
The horses ate flames for breakfast;
evenings, they dined on embers.
The horses of Plato’s Phaedrus
draw the soul’s chariot,
my philosopher says. They flesh out,
they muscle thought, language, desire—
without them, the soul
cannot fly cannot see, eat, be. Plato
knew souls were mortal, like us.
The Greek word eros
came from “ ‘the same roots as the Sanskrit
sun horse’ ”: The sun whose desires
are prodigal too.
Caught with Coronas /by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
We are all under pressure,
Caught with coronas
In eight miles of clouds
And turbulent weather.
We are residents here
With rainbows, ice crystal
Halos, iridescent clouds,
And glories, all weary
With the weather.
Glory, glory, be to Thee
On high, way above
Broadcasted to run this show:
The diffractions and refractions,
Even the distractions, for that matter.
We are in it eight miles deep,
Though we think we can climb out of it:
Troposphere, tropopause, stratosphere,
Stratopause, mesosphere, mesopause,
Thermosphere, and all the other pauses
Past what is material, mechanical.
Glory, be to Thee on high.
Heaven and Earth are full
Of your glory, so blessings to
All who are caught
With the aurora and irisations
Of lenticular clouds.
Blessed be the poor who are
Far from the nacreous clouds,
Crying it out with that pearl
Of a white mother,
Cold with death.
Driving back to House Mountain,
The children and I saw a burst of light,
Erupt from a thin wisp of clouds,
Surrounded by fractions of coronas.
We took the curve, and it was gone.
How could a car trip with the family
Become so difficult to explain? Glory
Is a study of optics and doubt.
Day 17 / Poems 17
Life /by Jenni B. Baker
His Mother Called Him Frankie / by Jennifer Dane Clements
His teeth are sharp and broken
his hands are sharp and broken and
his English, sharp and broken.
He crouches on the curb and
rubs his thumb across the
cold and smooth of soda tabs
wishing they were coins.
Alien Bachelor / by Margot Douaihy
This eligible extraterrestrial is looking for his one human love.
Get into the alarmingly high-functioning brain of Alien Bachelor
as he woos lucky candidates on romantic adventures:
flying saucer rides through meteor showers,
slow dances in the dying light of zombie stars.
As you progress in the series, take the spaceman
to meet your parents & he will take you to meet his Leader.
Follow the interstellar journey as Alien Bachelor presents
space modulators, for, in Alien, a single red rose means
“now I julienne you & your hometown into matchsticks.”
Can you develop trust with a non-human?
Will true love thwart War of the Worlds?
Will you eat astronaut wedding cake together,
or will he eat you? Stay tuned.
Friendship / by Gabrielle Freeman
We mailed fruit to each other because you can.
Not like Harry & David, fancy fruit wrapped
in special tissue or foil and packaged
with nifty cheeses and assorted nuts.
Not like oranges fresh from Florida
cushioned each in its own recycled cardboard cup.
We slapped shipping labels on plastic-wrapped jackfruit,
on hairy coconuts. The coconut is
a self-contained unit. Not likely to leak,
deteriorate, or otherwise offend
in any way. You have to take a hammer
to that shit, and that would mean one heck
of a ball drop by the mail man. I should say
mail person. I should say postal worker.
Anyway, after we field tested fruit,
we tried dry ice and glue. Poultry was proven
because the biddies we received peeping away
in their air-holed box with the cushy stuff
at the bottom all survived and went on to
egg-laying glory. You mailed me a plastic
easter egg stuffed with gold sprinkles and taped up
good one time, and I made prospector’s pancakes
with fresh eggs and coconut milk. There was
a hammer. There was a chisel. There was a
pick. All of which are mailable if packaged
properly. You can’t mail cigarettes,
but cremated remains are ok
as long as they don’t escape because the escape
of remains can cause discomfort. They must be
packaged specially in siftproof containers
and clearly marked “cremated remains”
(label 139 preferred). A coconut really isn’t
a fruit. It’s a drupe, like a peach. And a coconut
tree isn’t a tree. It’s a palm. And we never
ordered biddies, but we talked about it
at length over chicken and waffles.
And a friendship isn’t a ship at all
or even anything you can ship, priority
or otherwise. And…I never made you
pancakes. But when you need me to, I will.
Losing / by Mia Herman
“The art of losing isn’t hard to master”
–Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”
I used to think of loss
like simple subtraction –
me minus keys,
me minus maps,
me minus you.
But I know now
that loss doesn’t leave me
It is an addition –
And when I read
those bits of alphabet
in a book
or across the board,
all I see is my
Amanda Muse / by Mary Moore
Amanda got a new suit
black as the tires on Grandpa’s ’64 Olds
and tagged: all wool, gabardine.
It smelled like an oil field and shined
like the seat of Mr. Dude’s pants.
Amanda’s suit was an imposter
and knew it: otherwise why slump
in the closet dangling sleeves
like flaccid hopes?
Still, oil smells very like money,
so Amanda wore it to interview
a man who wanted to sign on as
persona. He was well suited.
He wanted to mask blond Greeks
and hoped for some ruins to loll
about in, stellae, pillars:
Ionic, Doric would do.
He thought he’d look imposing
betogaed. He spoke with a slight lisp
and looked in a dim light like Keats.
Bemused, she signed him
above the elbow, but that is not
what he had in mind.
He huffed off to find
a more compliant muse,
less apt to take liberties,
better suited to please.
The Immutability of Change / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
Written after Reading George Orwell’s 1984 from Winston’s Mother’s Voice
What we have here, Winston,
Is tried terrain taken again
By another, and the mothers
Making do with a lick on the brink
Of what pours over and is lost:
Milk spills pursed lips;
Salt pours shorn shakers;
Water boils naked pails.
This is what I know
Of the immutability of change:
It is kept with the worm-worn crackers
And rolled between twice-boiled bones.
Day 16 / Poems 16
The Objective of Evacuation /by Jenni B. Baker
The Star Boutique /by Jennifer Dane Clements
When you buy a star from us, you will be purchasing an unforgettable gift that you can share forever. – International Star Registry
That one is falling. Catch it and it’s yours.
Pull open your baseball glove, reach higher.
Reach for the — well, you know. Reach for that.
Don’t follow instructions to put it in your pocket.
A hand-caught star is meant to be displayed. Why
reserve it for bad weather? Pin it to your lapel or hair.
Now browse our crystal case. I have gathered our
finest for you, constellations remade in cut and
clarity, ornaments plucked fresh from the night.
Our stars are certified. Authenticated. Insured.
They ignite discussion in embassy sitting rooms,
garnish royal galas with pyrotechnic chandeliers.
Look: A red dwarf. That’s your starter star.
Stitch several together for a wreath or a quilt
warm as morning, older than fire, bright as time.
Our binary stars appeal to those who share an orbit –
lovers, kindreds, twins. Rockers and nihilists prefer
supernova bursts. The burn and fade and vanish.
We have surpassed the preciousness of earth
yet tailor-made gems are betrayed in refraction.
We long to possess what cannot be held. So here is
your certificate. You own what knows no owner.
Yours to count or write within. Yours for wishing upon,
awaiting dreams. For etching your name on the universe.
Choose Your Own Ending /by Margot Douaihy
On the sidewalk was a dollar. Anyone else would have though “leaf,” but John is a man who notices details. He spent the dollar on a lottery ticket. The lottery ticket won $9,000 in cash. One week later, John was on a plane to the Amazon where he had dreamed of exploring. Not long after landing in Rio, a sun-drenched city with heat as sticky as spider-silk, John joined a canoe trip where a green snake sunned itself on the shore. It was huge, the snake, easily the circumference of John’s head. John paddled closer. Against the advice of the Smiling Tour Guide, John left the canoe to meet the snake on the gritty sand. For one minute, man & snake locked eyes. The Tour Guide sweat so hard his eyes burned; his face, no longer smiling, was striped with terror. John was not worried about being bitten, though, certainly not about the restaurant where he worked in Scranton. This snake is different, he thought, one of a kind! He wasn’t worried about anything: no customers sighing loudly as they waited for extra fries, no bosses yelling, no kids smashing neon gum under tabletops that he would later scrape with a butter knife. Sure enough, the snake was special—it opened its mouth & sang a glorious aria in a language that John could & could not understand. Then the serpent slipped into thick brush as elegantly as a penny sinks into a wishing-well. Though John left the shore, the snake’s song lived on, like dawn reverberating under eyelids after a bumpy night flight. John returned to Scranton, for the first time with a purpose. He toured neighborhood after neighborhood, then city after city, snatching snakes from pipes, gutters, lawn furniture. He wore snakes like scarves, hoisted serpent tridents. Years later, in the bazaar of a city he could not pronounce, John noticed a large tank surrounded by light, in the center, a snake. That slither. That skin, wet black as a startled eye. It inched close to the glass & John knew: My snake! He belted the aria he heard performed by the viper, lift the tank’s lid, lower his hands. Stunned creases in the onlookers’ faces spelled horror. The snake’s eyes changed in no perceptible way, how a hustler might bluff his next move. Then it launched into John & swallowed his head. As John’s hands draped the corner of the glass, his knuckles twitched with the dance of life leaving. In the tank hovered a reptile who could not talk let alone sing, a snake ordinary in every way, except for inside its belly, like a prayer inside a puff of incense-smoke, John’s lips were pursed wildly in Wow.
We are Avalanches /by Gabrielle Freeman
Systems poised to tip.
This is how it works:
Snow. A failure layer.
A sloped surface. A
The snow does what it
does because it must.
You and I were not
born for this pursuit:
money. We were born
for pulling fish from ice.
For bourbon warm, coats,
and fire. For mountains
and memoir. For children
and seashores. The widest sky.
There’s A Name For Guys Like You /by Mia Herman
They are called cowards –
one part “ow” and one part “cards.”
Half pain, half player.
Copernican / by Mary Moore
“Light is not only glorious and sacred, it is voracious, carnivorous, unsparing”
(J.M.W. Turner, quoted in Richard Cohen, Chasing the Sun. 358).
Turner must have hungered
for light’s devouring
glory. That’s why it almost turns
the aqueduct the Romans
built at Spoleto, the stone
itself, into water, into illusion.
Even in the forlorn
repros of Nelson’s
ship, “The Fighting Téméraire,” eons
of fire, of light have almost eaten
the gun ship, its stern
prow gone beige, white, turned
into ash, into urn.
Sails furled, the banished
ship fades and feints,
though it dwarfs the blackened
tug in the foreground.
Opaque as the coal it burns,
the tug is thick with paint, dense
with what is not light, like an iron
shoe. It smokes: a red brown
plume says its engine
like the sun’s is hunger.
At the horizon, low in the painting’s
right quadrant, decentered
center, perches the sun.
Arcs of conflagration
rise from it, vermillion
lead red, crimson.
But the sun itself, this Copernican
engine, is not lemon
or chrome yellow, but wan
as the vanishing gunny.
It’s white as the host
held up at mass: The Christ
of the devouring light.
History’s Delays /by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
The pages are white with history’s delays,
So blood fills another mouthful of pages
With rumors of something sinister,
Oblique wars, and catastrophes.
Each malefactor gets a turn at obliteration,
Wiping us clean off the page.
“I could give a fig for you and your future,” you interrupt,
“No one loves anyone, anyway, and if you’re really
Leaving, I’ll stop thinking of you, too.”
History is white with delay.
Omissions and commissions blossom;
Multiflora of bloody machinations
And pleasurable contortions
Broadcast the real time show,
Rumor realities from nation to nation.
“Keep this kiss off short,” you remind me,
“Don’t even take a page.” You say, “Look here:
I am erasing you, as soon as you leave me today.”
Day 15 / Poems 15
Survival /by Jenni B. Baker
Pavor Nocturnus /by Jennifer Dane Clements
I dream you lycanthropic. You could be anyone.
Teeth whittled for tearing and sinew pierce your jaw,
poised to break bone. A harvest moon. You rock on
your haunches in wait for prey. Nothing human remains.
In dreams you are a wolf and wolves walk among us.
You scratch the ice to mark our movements. Plan to
circle and stalk. Most victims know the wolf before the
attack occurs. We have exchanged secrets, perhaps, or
birthday cards. I brace the door with a cabinet of distrust.
In dreams you are a wolf and so I do not sleep.
My nights are blankets snarled in sweat and fear.
You have come for the kill, saliva pooling from your
sable lip like venom. I know. Your kin cast shadows
of carrion and weeping. I have dreamed that, too.
In dreams you are a wolf and in waking I am haunted.
Horoscope /by Margot Douaihy
We are Starlings /a found poem by Gabrielle Freeman
Massive turning and twisting.
Moving as one is
suspended reality. Possible
Systems poised to tip,
to be transformed.
Metals magnetized, liquids turning
to gas. Each is connected
to every other.
The rules are relatively simple:
When a neighbor moves,
so do you.
Implications extend beyond
yet to be understood.
Sourced from: Keim, Brandon. “The Startling Science of a Starling Murmuration.” Wired. 8 November 2011. Web. 15 November 2015.
What I Think About When People Say I’m “Rough Around The Edges” /by Mia Herman
I am shattered glass –
on the floor, broken, but still
For Paris /by Mary Moore
From the satellites Paris was burning last night,
the city of lights, lighter,
candles blooming on sidewalks, near restaurants
and bars, in the stadium people fled from,
along the Champs Élysée.
Paris allowed Aragon, Breton, Dada’s aleatory
art; it made space for Rimbaud, Baudelaire’s
crescent moon like a white boat on the Seine.
The eighteenth-century buildings,
massive and gray, rectangular even in Montmartre
like Enlightenment ideas of order,
made room for the Steins
collecting Manet and Pisarro, for Picasso,
and now for Gerard de Lume the little known
model, the drunkard and lover
who lights candles in Notre Dame.
Paris is burning with mourning
but will not stop being Paris.
A Slice of Apocalypse /by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
You hang at the edge, knee deep in splash,
Fly-fishing a summer of remarkable pools.
If overhead, the cosmos unspools, what of it?
It’s between you and Falling Creek,
You, knee deep in atmospheric want.
If it is a remarkable summer, you don’t notice,
But for the tug and tight race—a rainbow
Fit for two hands, ready to reel.
If it is a remarkable summer, wouldn’t the stars have told
The night before—glowing down summer’s ceiling,
Somehow mapped by the Milky Way?
You take time to land the rainbow, while apocalypse
Slices the air, and a car crashes through,
Rolls six times while you land it.
You unhook the fish—rainbow of surprise—
As the car slides to rest and the screaming begins.
You find her first, thrown yards from the wreck;
And the little boy, he is crawling out of the broken window.
You and your friend guide the driver up the bank,
And he is slapping his bare chest for cigarettes,
“I need a cigarette,” he says with alcoholic breath.
The boy cries, but you tell him he’s alright, and the woman is too,
Saved from the half-spun wreck. The story can’t get any better
Than that. They are carried away, and no one in his right mind
Would follow them into the future where Apocalypse
Slices summer, and Heaven’s split belly spills its guts
In an abundance of ways, leaving you with a trout, stolen and released;
A hook, cast and recoiled; Heaven, split and resealed; Iridescent catastrophes, lit and dispelled.
Day 14 / Poems 14
While You Are /by Jenni B. Baker
Announcement at the 9th Street Station /by Jennifer Dane Clements
Attention subway riders:
We are sorry to announce
the countdown clocks are
temporarily out of service.
While repairs are underway
please instead watch the tracks.
The arrival of the N or R train
will be indicated by a single rat
splashing through a puddle
avoiding the electric third rail
and ducking under the platform.
The Lengths /by Margot Douaihy
If you want them
to join you,
to go alone.
Your Mask is a Gift /by Gabrielle Freeman
Let’s meet tonight. I’ll be Wonder
Woman, & you can wear your Batman mask.
I’ll take the rocker with the broken
slat if you take the one missing
an arm. Gift me with story, & I will gift
you with wine. Let’s drink until our hearts
forget we’ve been apart, forget that hearts
are just two-fisted vessels of muscle, wondrous
pumps. I will raise strong arms, turn, display my gift
for spontaneous costume change. Your mask
will not quite hide your eyes; I have missed
them. Without you, I have been broken.
It’s cliche, but each time we part, I break
a little more. My big, powerful heart
grips the empty space where you are missing
& drinks it in. I’ll lasso you & wonder
how I’ll let go. If I’ll be able to mask
the truth. Tell me the one about the gift
of a dark night, of the stolen gift
of stars, of conversation broken
only by the crime of sunrise when our masks
fell back into place. When my heart
clenched like a fist. I will wonder
at the texture of your cape, at your belt missing
bolas & batarangs. Proof that I miss
most of your life. We will drink to the gift
of time. I’ll tell you the one about the wonder
of life breathed into clay, of that which was broken.
You’ll tell me the one about hearts
and distance, about necessary masks.
Let’s meet tonight. Let’s drop our requisite masks.
Let’s fly away. Let’s go missing.
Let’s listen close as our fisted hearts
beat open. Let’s drink deep and gift
each other with nothing less than broken
rules & a shared sense of wonder.
Tonight, I greet your mask as a gift
because missing you unmasked breaks
my heart. My wonderful, fist-fighting heart.
Macarons / by Mia Herman
I bit into a macaron today,
the sweet taste
of the French pastry running
along the tracks of my tongue.
And I thought:
The French people must have run
and stained glass churches.
I tried another bite,
sinking my teeth further
into the soft, chewy meringue.
The white icing spilled over
And I thought:
Isis has spilled
us over the edges
and the Middle East.
I placed the last bit
in my mouth, this time tasting
its grainy almond powder.
And I thought:
Was gun powder
the last thing they smelled
before running through streets
and spilling over the edge?
And then I threw up.
More From the League of Bad Puns, On the Occasion of My Seventieth Birthday /by Mary Moore
I dyed my hair royal blue to celebrate
seventy years intestate
with nary a tumor or dangerous mole––
well, the one that’s cut out left a hole––
heart not rumoring murmurs
brain still running with a purr
a buzz and a pun, only occasional hiccups
or blurts. The hair is my get up
my pun on blue-haired old ladies
their waves even as knife blades
and sprayed into submission.
Acrylic was their ruler, their queen.
It’s meant to signal my manumission:
I’ll do what I do and be what I am,
manned up or not (I’m glad for now that I am).
Out of the Wind You All but Loved, /by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
Let there be a consolation for sorrows
Whispered from earth to heaven;
Let there be a consolation for explosions,
Dissolutions, dismemberments, severances,
And bloody issues. It is said consolation
Streams from heaven to Earth,
So you grab the hem, knowing
That out of the wind you all but loved
You can expect a miracle: the ship, secured;
Hems, sails, and ropes—all fulfilled by wind.
You expect it before the wind transpires
From the ocean, before it shifts the mast.
Day 13 / Poems 13
Supplies /by Jenni B. Baker
Nick Szalinski in the Milk /by Jennifer Dane Clements
It is still filicide to eat your child, even if you do not see him on the spoon. Now, however, buoyancy is my main concern. A person will float in a bowl of whole milk, yes, even when that person has been shrunk to thumbnail size. My father takes skim in his morning cereal, and for that reason, I am drowning.
I cannot tell if it is my life flashing before my eyes or the glare from looming stainless steel recalling recent change. Raindrops becoming thrown pools, bees serving as helicopters. Lawnmowers threatening our extinction. Tiny beings find both fear and magic in what bigger creatures neglect. What was it to live at full scale?
When it’s not enough to tread milk I cling to a Cheerio. A person drowning in a bowl of cereal has greater odds here than among other sorts: Cap’n Crunch, for instance, would roll me from its puffed spheres, as would the slick glaze on Honey Smacks or Corn Pops. Oatmeal is the quicksand of breakfast foods. Oatmeal is instant death.
It’s true, I am comfortable in smallness the way all children are comfortable knowing they will grow into the world. But to become smaller is to work against order. We are not the polystyrene sheets colored and baked down as Shrinky Dinks, but complex organisms with processes and hopes as large as they are necessary.
So as I scream and gasp for breath I worry at the capacity of my tiny lungs, at how they can gather enough air to sustain me or my desperate cries. I scream again. The spoon descends, convex metal the size of a ship, an aircraft. Everything vanishes into white. I brace for lifting and teeth. When my short life flashes before my eyes, it will be larger than me. Somewhere close, the foghorn of dogsound anchors me midair, hoping, praying to be seen.
Extreme Makeover: Gnome Edition /by Margot Douaihy
Stressed out parents. Dirty dishes piled in the sink. Cupboard of cracker crumbs. You’re just too busy to shop & sew, so call in the gnomes! Every house needs a peck of pint-size gnomes to bring breakfast-in-bed. In Extreme Makeover: Gnome Edition, one lucky family wins every whim that pointy hats imply. Sure, it takes 23 gnomes to clean the litterbox, but there’s no home business like gnome business, especially when it means crisply turned bed sheets, fresh-squeezed OJ, & silverware so polished you can see your relaxed reflection. When Ty yells Move that shoe!—revealing a charm of plucky gnomes—your face glows, almost as bright as the need to please, tiny brooms ready to sweep, desperate for your approval, whistling all the while, whistling, hour upon endless hour. For big change, go small, gnome what I’m saying?
Bally /by Gabrielle Freeman
Gather round folks! You don’t want to miss this.
That’s right! It’s a once in a lifetime chance!
Come closer to gaze into the abyss!
Not for the timid, this free devil’s dance.
That’s right, I said free! For most, just a glance
is enough to send them screaming, minds rent
asunder! But for you, it will enhance
your character! What an accomplishment!
You will be torn down! Your emotions spent
for cheap! You will get burned! Taken! Used! Reamed!
Played for a sucker, then asked to repent
for sins the likes of which you never dreamed!
Follow me now, and I will make you strong!
If I don’t kill you first.
To The Anonymous Person Who Just Viewed My Linkedin Profile: /by Mia Herman
I know who you are
even though your account
and other details
of your life
are currently set
The click of a button
between the lines
and the fact
that you’re still
The Prodigal Sun As Dead-Beat Dad /by Mary Moore
The prodigal sun is sunning again
on the lanai. He should be topping tupping
the ridge, prodigious star,
seed-breeder, bawd. He prefers lying
on plastic lawn chairs, lay about, and lies
about paternity. His pecs are oiled
rose gold. His sweat beads up like lady tears;
a lucky one runs all the way down
where the seeds are. Though sculpted
he’s no torso of Apollo: all muscle,
he hates poetry’s cant and caterwaul.
When he gets up to swim, he ripples.
His hair is a banner of leaves; his scales
flash like a knight’s chain mail.
Bobcats Are Elusive and Nocturnal: an Anti-erasure Poem /by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
“Bobcats are elusive and nocturnal, so they are rarely spotted by humans. Although they are seldom seen, they roam throughout much of North America and adapt well to such diverse habitats as forests, swamps, deserts, and even suburban areas.” –nationalgeographic.com
Only a glimpse at first,
Curious cat, I caught you,
Shooting down the parallel
Ridge, spying my crippled
Progress as I tried to make it
Back from House Mountain.
It was a hot, July day, midday.
What had you wanted to see
In me, a fellow traveler,
Sharing steep steps?
Once I saw you, you knew it,
And slipped into the crevices
Of that unnamed ridge.
Last winter, I was
Hiking it out my ridge,
Slipping on snowy surfaces,
And I discovered
Your footprints, so I decided
To track you up the ridge,
Back to an outcropping
Facing the balcony
Of my house on Luna Ridge.
You had circled three times, watching;
You had sat on your rump, waiting
For glimpses of mankind, such as me;
You had waited without cover.
It has happened with you
Many times, Felis rufus,
So somehow you are my
Last night, it was during my
Drive along Vista Links Road.
You ran across my pathway,
And shot up the hill.
Of course, seeing you again
Made me brake and pull over.
You stopped, too, and backtracked,
Sat down, with me, for a visit.
This is when I rolled down the
Electric windows, exclaimed,
“Hello, darned cat, back again?”
You just kept on sitting, staring
Into my own curious eyes;
You were unflinching
In your comfortable pose,
Yielding when you flopped onto your side,
Like an overgrown, bobtailed house cat.
When we were poised on the cusp of what is nocturnal,
In the slants of last evening’s light, I knew it:
I want to be your lover and apologist.
I want to resist all that is unobserved, undeserved.
I want to resist any erasure of your pathetic, cat self.
Let me be your apologist.
Let me resist your erasure.
Let me love your furry, bobtailed soul.
Day 12 / Poems 12
Protection /by Jenni B. Baker
The Way I Remember It / by Jennifer Dane Clements
It is my calendar on the brick bedroom wall
. . . . . . with your arrival marked in purple pen.
It is the beluga song of subway escalators
. . . . . . crying out for the ocean or their fathers or the rain.
It is the clutch of pigeons feasting
. . . . . . on late-night banh mi beside a splintered park bench.
It is you after midnight counting laundry quarters
. . . . . . in your Jim Morrison headphones.
It is the storefront display of colored cellophane
. . . . . . modeled by tin-foil automatons in hats.
It is the half-deflated balloon in the shape of a frog
. . . . . . limping in the shadow of a toddler’s delight.
It is the trapezoid of your hand curled over charcoal
. . . . . . chasing my outline across the page.
It is the forgotten grocery list orphaned
. . . . . . in a store basket requesting only licorice and rice.
It is the fluorescent hum of weekday hours
. . . . . . with the sketch you drew taped to my window.
It is not a toiletry pouch and a row of folded sweaters
. . . . . . or the bent-bristled toothbrush alone on the sink.
It is not the picture of you with your keys in your hand.
It is not the last train pulling away from the platform
fading into dark and cold as though it never met this place.
I Followed Myself /by Margot Douaihy
I followed myself off the M train today, got off at Union Square & jogged to catch up. Do I always walk so fast? Why am I sprinting when the only things at home are incense, week-old lo mein, & chipped earthenware? From behind, my mahogany hair looks as generic as a Halloween wig. I watched me ignore the smiling man selling purses, a familiar stranger. Even with so much to see I buried my eyes in my phone. We turned left, from First Avenue to E. 12th street. The phone-facing me passed lovers arguing on the corner, idling trucks, delivery guy on a dented red bike. I watched me unzip my jacket & reach inside to find keys buried in an ill-conceived pocket. My hair poured down my back the way you pour yourself into Monday just to survive. I looked tired, it was a long Monday, you know, oh I know, & that Monday face is pallid as Kabuki. Black-framed glasses a partition between me & me. During the slow ascent upstairs, I thumbed through mail saying f*** off to an overdue bill—one foot, other foot—too absorbed to notice me following me. What if we all said hi to ourselves, hugged ourselves, squeezed the worry out of anxious limbs, the way a little kiss of venom cures a snake bite? If we held ourselves, would we spontaneously hold each other? Reaching not just for hands, but the tender & bruised parts, the broken places?
Dream a little dream: a cumulative song /by Gabrielle Freeman
There was some land (there was some land)
in the middle of the state (in the middle of the state)
the prettiest land (the prettiest land)
that you ever did see (that you ever did see).
Oh, the land in the state,
and the green field grew all around, all around,
and the green field grew all around.
And on this land (and on this land)
there was a barn (there was a barn)
the prettiest barn (the prettiest barn)
that you ever did see (that you ever did see).
Oh, the barn on the land,
and the land in the state,
and the green field grew all around, all around
and the green field grew all around.
And in this barn (and in this barn)
there was a stage (there was a stage)
the prettiest stage (the prettiest stage)
that you ever did see (that you ever did see).
Oh, the stage in the barn,
and the barn on the land,
and the land in the state,
and the green field grew all around, all around
and the green field grew all around.
And on this stage (and on this stage)
there was a band (there was a band)
the prettiest band (the prettiest band)
that you ever did see (that you ever did see).
Oh, the band on the stage,
and the stage in the barn,
and the barn on the land,
and the land in the state,
and the green field grew all around, all around,
and the green field grew all around.
And on this band (and on this band)
there were your eyes (there were your eyes)
the prettiest eyes (the prettiest eyes)
that I ever did see (that I ever did see).
Oh, your eyes on the band,
and the band on the stage,
and the stage in the barn,
and the barn on the land,
and the land in the state,
and the green field grew all around, all around,
and the green field grew all around.
And in your eyes (and in your eyes)
there were the stars (there were the stars)
the prettiest stars (the prettiest stars)
that you ever did see (that you ever did see).
Oh, the stars in your eyes,
and your eyes on the band,
and the band on the stage,
and the stage in the barn,
and the barn on the land,
and the land in the state,
and the green field grew all around, all around,
and the green field grew all around.
Madlibs /by Mia Herman
You are blank to me.
Our memories are blank, too.
I’m done filling in.
Ode to Curtains in Umbria /by Mary Moore
For My Cohort in 2015’s “Summer In Italy Poetry Seminar”
The curtains at home billow
in breezes like the blue skirts of peasant women
in impressionist paintings,
or they fall into ridges
and furrows like the hills
In Umbria, there were no omens,
only the burgeoning
views: sky earth, shadow light,
and the complements:
the yellow of the inn-keeper’s blouse
the purple of her skirt.
All these contraries invite you
to marry. A bride from Chagall
wearing a lilac-blue veil,
you’d float over
the Umbrian hill towns––
where they hang curtains
flimsy as breath.
Through the lace curtains
of my apartment in Postignano
I could see the pink gold stones
of the castello’s precarious stairways:
they narrow on the inner turns
to triangles a gnat
can’t dance on.
The sun blurs in the clouds,
like Turner’s in Spoleto.
Tipsy on poetry wine talk we wound
up and down the castello
like the paths
of the swifts above us, figure eights,
All the towns in Umbria
end in vowels,
the oh’s and ah’s we make
without a consonant’s
In Umbria all the endings
are openings and the windows
wear mainly the light.
Whispered between Heaven and Earth /by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
Compare it to being trapped
Beneath an upturned, cosmic
Colander. We get to look
Out of our hole-punched prison,
With more than plenty of doubt.
The whispers and faint tracings
Between Heaven and Earth
Are but known bits of light,
Best measured from a desert sky.
Brain comfort, each light-prick
Charges synapses with an awakening,
Electric wash, enervation.
We can get excited in the dark
Cliffs of night. Why doubt it?
These are healing waves
Shared by stars, silenced
—no, whispered—in space,
Messaged from Heaven to Earth.
A promising wave of silent splashes,
Light floods out of arced darkness,
Healing us in desert hours.
Day 11 / Poems 11
Shelter Yourself /by Jenni B. Baker
Stage Directions /by Jennifer Dane Clements
A melody is heard, played upon a flute small
and fine. Or upon guitars first played in London
by a man called Pete. Or by band from Tulsa.
A melody is heard. The curtain rises on a room.
Enter: A woman with a sweet girlish face
and the constitution of a goat, or reindeer,
or unicorn. Quadruped of arguable mythological
birth. Enter singing. Enter singing. There is no
other choice for entrance but song. So enter.
Enter with hair down, singing. Enter with dog
barking at window and thunderstorm. Enter with
satchel full of books. Enter, brewing thoughts
in other tongues steeped in moonlight and soup.
Enter plucking dog hair from jeans and from life.
How to stage this is someone else’s business.
Pause where light hits a mark of colored tape.
When the song changes, cross to center, spirited.
There is always a reason to move. Cross to listen.
Cross the country. The blocking and choreography
should be organic. Do what feels right. The script
indicates watching the proceedings with interest
and amusement. Eyeing the cheese hungrily.
Brandishing an inexplicable sword–no, pen.
No, sleeplessness. Brandishing night itself.
Find a reason for each action. Performers will know.
She waits, waits, listening with ears and eyes both.
Music is still heard. Lights have grown brighter.
The curtain, her blanket, ends the scene.
Quick /by Margot Douaihy
In the 1980s, when the word Saturday was just adultspeak for cartoons, we unrolled ourselves on the living room floor with a plate of Hot Pockets & glass of Strawberry Quick. Like most television sets in Scranton, our TV was housed in a thick wood frame because watching television is art itself. We studied the Looney Tunes like painters pouring into self-portraits. From the second we woke until Dad yelled dinner! we lay side by side, glued to the floor, so close to the TV we fogged the glass, saw our reflections. The musty rug’s gold swans stretched underneath us, like our winged shadows—doppelgangers of doppelgangers. We reenacted the hijinks of Tweety & Bugs & the Dancing Frog before the scenes were over, keeping the joke alive, round-robin, our tiny identical voices trying to mirror vocal ticks that made Bugs Bugs & Me me & Her her. Who were entertaining back then? Ourselves or each other? During each commercial we raced to the kitchen, nuked more Hot Pockets, & returned to our glowing swans careful not to spill our shared glass of thin pink Quick that we refilled together—one twin holding the glass, the other twin stirring. We sprinted at the commercials as the Roadrunner zooms, even now, from Wiley Coyote against the dead arid red I thought was trapped in Looney Tunes until it appeared in mom’s glossy art book, a famous painting of a wilting clock. But Dali was wrong. Time can’t melt or spill itself over a cliff. It roars only forward.
Echoes /by Mia Herman
“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself”
– author Mohsin Hamid in a 2012 interview
But what if I don’t want to find your echoes
inside of me,
bouncing off bones
and sinking into belly fat,
on my body from the inside out?
What if I don’t want to find proof of you
each time I close my eyes,
the memories like little prints
hanging on the line, drying
night after night
in the dark of my room?
What if all I want is to erase you,
cut you out completely
until I am missing
and all my vital signs
and I am finally back
Red Insists /by Mary Moore
My pupils contracted like the dots of ellipses
during the eclipse
but red insists on being seen
the sun morphed into Amanda
who wore a flame for her dress
spectacular . . she’s burning and burning
a martyr to eyes
like the poplar torches
in the last fire but one
we musn’t think of her after
the cardinal out my window perches
on the oak to preach on the uses of red
his red crest is showy
no doubt he sports
it to draw ladybirds
who wear their dulled reds like penance
being a girl is not easy
the sun returns in full bloom its mane
of flames invisible again after
there’s a sun goddess in Chinese astrology
Cohen says somewhere I can’t
find . . maybe I imagined her
elsewhere a dragon eats the world
between flight layovers . . the sun goddess
is flame and source . . origin’s girl
someday she’ll dim . . and red
will go out
It Is Best to Be Silent in the Interstices of Love / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
“Not everything has a name. Some things lead us into a realm beyond words.”
– Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Learn what is pragmatic.
You just can’t go on
Talking to anyone,
So it is best to be silent
In the interstices of love,
But the prison guard
Catches It, coming
Around the corner,
Refracted by your
Shared glances and quietude,
An adoration of doves.
Then, it is—whippings
Trained guards know it
When they see it,
So they pull the trigger.
We are all caught in places
Where barbed wire
Splits tongues: Silent.
They know not what they do.
Day 10 / Poems 10
Three Courses /by Jenni B. Baker
Our Lady of Perpetual Elsewheres /by Jennifer Dane Clements
Not turtle. Not Winnebago. Not covered wagon.
What home must travel she carries in words.
Latitude is a pillowcase changed weekly
longitude the bedsheet that wriggles free.
Someone back home might read these
hotel linens and boarding pass stubs like
tea leaves, finding in each shape a meaning,
but she takes her tea sweet, cold, and leafless
looking to presence more than prophecy.
Not stones. Not postcards. Not seashells
plucked from distant sands. Hers is a museum
curated in voices, laughter, and moonlit snacks.
She can make pralines just about anywhere
and her vowels change after wine. Evidence
of being from. Of origin. Of eggtooth before
wing or flight. There is a story in everything,
she knows, so any conversation is worth having.
Items to juxtapose. Home and not home. The is
and is not. Her passport the first book she will
complete, illustrated in a variety of democratic
inks, each stamp the mouthpiece for a hundred
voices, pollinations of empathy, whose home
is built of breath and sound. A cherry blossom.
A splash of Yangtze. A phrase you said to her
on the train, which she will repeat again and again.
Carving Pumpkins /by Margot Douaihy
Every year the same game—
baby-tooth saw no match
for the ribbed armor.
Despite the cartoon promise
of the season, pumpkins
fight the knife. Lumpy goo
climbs everywhere. Sinewy
newspapers soaked through.
With pumpkin-slimed hands
I break three glasses,
drop the vase from the ex I hate.
Pumpkinpalooza, pumpkin parade.
Gloop crawls walls like Pollack’s drips.
“Pumpkinspiration,” you suggest as a title.
Cats wrestle in pumpkin smash
wearing wigs of pumpkin flesh.
Slipping on pumpkin guts I slide into you,
kiss your pumpkin-smeared lips.
Pumpkin gunk on the ceiling,
pumpkin meat in the sink.
Orange breaches the cold white walls
of the fridge, the original panic-room.
I’m amazed when we finish.
I’ve carved into the skin
not only my self-portrait,
but ours—the marriage
of two drunk smiles.
Creepy-cute triangle eyes laughing
as only flaming squash can laugh.
Coming Back For More /by Gabrielle Freeman
I never did get my jet-pack, and the closest to removing
Chrissy Noble’s blouse my x-ray glasses ever got me
was a prismatic slap once she noticed me goggling
behind the red & white spirals like hypnosis,
mesmerizing. The exercise program never sprouted
bully-beating muscles on my 97 pound weakling
arms or on the flat expanse of my pale, hairless chest.
There were no poolside parties with tiny cocktails
for my brine shrimp. They drifted to the bottom of the scene,
bunched up in mini piles like wet lint. The invisibility cream
gave me a rash like a string of volcanoes in a sea
calm as milk left in a bowl after all the sweet is gone,
and the pills for weight loss, pills for staying awake, pills
for staying asleep, well. They worked just as well
as my ouija board that spelled out “wishy-washy”
when I asked if you still loved me, if you ever loved me.
If you ever think about me. If you are thinking about me.
Right. Now. My fingers rest on the plastic planchette.
Yes. No. Goodbye.
In The Academia /by Mia Herman
Musicians of Grand Prince Ferdinando
crowd around the piano,
their eyes following me
as I make my way
through the dimly-lit room.
They whisper to each other
during a four-count rest
and I can hear the disappointment,
can see it in their permanently pursed lips.
They know a retired musician
when they see one –
long thin fingers
punctuated with calluses
and an old etude
stuck to the sole
of my shoe.
My face colors
and I look down at the red tiles
checkering the floor.
I will hold onto this feeling –
the didn’t push-through-the-pain –
and I will never give up
Amanda Acrobat /by Mary Moore
Amanda wears a blue green taffeta dress
with a hoop at the hem. It’s wide as my door.
Showing calf and thigh, she lifts
the hoop sideways to get in.
It’a almost upright like the many
Walendas’ hoops of fire: they flitted
through them like muscular birds.
But Amanda leaps hopes not hoops
and wears hers now for illusion’s
sake: the wide hem tinies her waist.
She would like a scone and a word,
though she prefers talking
under my breath, behind my back, a balker
and hider, chatter box.
Her cell phone pings, but she’s over it.
Have a drink she says: enabler,
Amanda’s skirt is blue
in one light, the ultramarine
of the open sea, and green
in another, like the Umbrian hills.
(I won’t tell her it sheens
like the wings of blue bottle flies
sussing out what they eat.
Oh oh, there’s death’s null
like church bells.)
Amanda eats a scone and sips her espresso.
She shimmers even when she’s still:
her feats are mostly mental.
I bet she shows up so you’ll know
she’s behind me, the I
in the back of my head.
Let Every Leaf /by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
Let every leaf caught in currents
Speak simultaneous accords
Iterated by the wind.
Unafraid, let them speak
Revelations to the universe.
After all, we expect revelations
Inside this hothouse Earth,
So we have the trees,
Those crowned interpreters
That heft branching limbs,
Splayed from root tip to leaf lip.
It is their lips—listen—
Piercing faces of infinity,
Speaking into places
Tight enough to touch the sun.
Though they endure the shadows
Spreading from hollows to hills,
They know it’s best to kiss no shadow,
And they interpret the gaining wind,
Even through the catastrophes of dusk:
It is best to fear no shadow.
Their wagging tongues translate light into life.
Though they may whisper it, let them interpret.
Day 9 / Poems 9
The Nature of Fallout /by Jenni B. Baker
Fourth Grade Synecdoche /by Jennifer Dane Clements
A breath of dandelion seeds
seduced by wind, these dots,
flung to germinate thoughts
of what one might be
when burst open, scattered.
Our million is not math
but a crude pointillism,
this act of repetition
or meditation or prayer,
or whatever might describe
the transcendence of
small fingers, nailbitten,
hugging Crayola and
blunted Mr. Sketch,
tattooed in pigment.
Our washable million
of lemon and grape ink and
inescapable licorice black,
crumbs from Andy Sackler’s lunch
counterfeit dots in three dimensions.
Our million is a tremelo of color,
a gallery of Mondrian and Pollock
taped above lockers, framed in cork.
Our expanding million,
a resplendent firework display
which never recedes into smoke and night
as we scatter dots across the page,
dandelion seeds seduced by wind,
an act of faith or trust or repetition,
each dot both counted and uncounted,
each dot a million tiny pixels
placed by imperceptible hands.
Pull a Rabbit Out of a Hat /by Margot Douaihy
And while you’re at it, fetch a kitten, too.
Does every closet hide a zoo?
Lions in scarves. Foxes in boots.
When I wear my old jean-jacket,
the one with the elbow tear,
I feel feral, like the only bird
who stayed up North, braved
the cold. The leaves are gone
now, the ground is frozen,
but at least she’s not bored.
The Wind Comes Whistling /by Gabrielle Freeman
There is a figure nearly hidden
in the back of every single one
of my childhood pictures, each fading
square with the brief white border,
each glossy rectangle we were all
so careful about not putting
our fingerprints on, holding each print
by its edges as it slid out
of the envelope. It’s hard to see,
but once you know it’s there, it’s there.
Like a twin of my father: tall,
slender, a wiry strength that comes
not from a gym but from slinging
hundred pound sacks of mail
and suitcases stuffed with shit
no one needs to take on vacation.
Like how the rooms in a house
are obvious once the doors are taken down,
long pins tapped up and hardware unhinged.
The figure looms, its face obscured,
at my father’s back. Disembodied
shadow, the part that no one saw but us.
A specter almost, almost blending in.
They say once a child meets its eyes,
she disappears forever.
Sometimes I feel /by Mia Herman
like a line
between the first
of someone else’s
But then you come
and lift me
Lorie Who Lives In Calgary /by Mary Moore
wants me to write about
scrub jays, California’s blue
who caw like crows in the pinions
then dive at the tomcat,
Gray Davis, whose tail, a plume
of gray and white smoke,
wafts to and fro, a provocation.
Lorie misses the scrub jays
of Davis but married Calgary.
Lorie also wants a rayon skirt,
sheer. Scrub-jay blue, it lacks
a slip. The skirt called Fiona lures
every eye, billowing like a curtain
as she walks: its song is
hush or shush but also see?
She’s nicknamed Fi, the root of fidelity
so Fiona must learn to skirt vows
while flaunting her wearer’s
je ne sais quoi.
The scrub jays are fond of Fiona too:
she wears and is their blue.
Besides, she likes aerial stunts.
But they do not dive bomb
Fiona; they peck and groom
near her hem. She’s in demure
as she sits on the park bench
reading of Queen Latitia
who’s known for her flare.
The blue jays are after
the cat again. Fiona’s
being walked to her door.
But the scrub jay on the juniper
goes still, enraptured
as her blue-jay blue hem
flicks and disappears.
Silence Is the Best Space for Losing /by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
You, and the mourners have arrived,
The fog and mists that haunted you,
Backlit by the moon, at once erasing
The moon, stranded over Catawba.
The moon, that single streetlight home,
Is a beacon for the interminable coming
And going appointed to each particular
Man. In silence, you have asked the terminal
Question: Why are we no better than we are?
Yes, this is a question the hero asks
When he is in the still point—0—
When he realizes he really has gone bad,
Fallen in the night, mixed with sweat
And fog, but it is heroes who ask it best:
Will I be remembered, instead?
Day 8 / Poems 8
Next: Fallout /by Jenni B. Baker
Obsolescence / by Jennifer Dane Clements
The choice to turn back is the last payphone in the county. A man seeking to call his mother in Topeka for her baked chicken recipe will rarely invite that discussion inside its public rectangle, but the man whose Datsun is beginning to melt or whose lover he has just caught smoking post-coital menthols with someone else–for those calls, yes, come in. That urgent timbre. Anthropologists suggest that payphones are byproducts of country music, just as sex education in the 90s began with Madonna’s conical underclothes. But a payphone is also cautious. It offers the choice to turn back in each humble barrier. Door and quarter, memory or book of numbered names, the penalty of long-distance inquiring if your emergency is worth the cost. How do you measure the intensity of your current state of being. Who will you call if you must. Can you even turn back. The last payphone in the county laments George Washington’s metal cameo, the weight of a finger tapping out threes and fours. On the road beside it, the hot gasp of a pickup truck spinning dirt in the wind as it moves forward and forward, ignoring the choice it might have had, once, to turn back, to stay for a while in the height of emotion, to talk to someone, anyone, if only it could find the change.
At the B&B / by Margot Douaihy
. . . . . . . . even the sink is haunted.
The faucet, a reaper’s scythe,
tiny door bricked up behind.
3AM, too thirsty to sleep,
startled by the mirror,
I pour water into the cup of my hands.
One hundred years ago, did a woman
avoid this same mirror, hold cold
water in her palms like a small,
hollow organ? Did she, too,
worry about worry lines,
hate how her left eyelid
fell heavier than her right?
Did she wonder about the woman
one hundred years before?
All of us at the gray mirror,
washing away each year
until we’re facing each other.
You Are Here / by Gabrielle Freeman
I am grateful for good teeth.
Yeah, I know I should say
I’m grateful for my kids
and my family, and I am,
but neither of my parents
has all their own teeth (sorry mom!),
and I’m just glad to be able to
leave the dentist and only say,
thanks for the scraping! See you
in five years. Or ten. Or, you know,
after my kids are grown
with their own dental insurance
if dental insurance even exists
by then and we’re not all
varying sizes of piles of ash.
Well, that’s morbid.
Is feeling morbid an emotion?
She had a morbid fascination
with teeth. What have people done
with all those teeth? If you
boiled the head of your hated enemy,
made the incision, took out
the skull, sewed the eyes and mouth
shut, took the teeth, what did you do
with them? Make a necklace?
How do kids justify the tooth fairy,
anyway? Truth? Isn’t the tooth fairy
scary? Isn’t thinking about
the tooth fairy the littlest bit
like disgust? I’ma pay you
for these bloody rooted bits
of smiling skeleton! *rubs tiny palms together*
Basic emotions vary
depending on your thinker,
analyst, but the emotions most
agree on are fear, disgust, love,
sadness, joy, happiness, anger,
surprise. So, you know, the like button
and the apparently soon-to-roll-out
dislike are just lukewarm, watered down
basic, and hate isn’t mentioned by anyone,
at least in my cursory Google search
while sitting at this bar eating
crawfish and shrimp stuffed hushpuppies
(holy shit surprise!), white wine mussels,
and beautiful brussels sprouts sautéed
with apples, fennel, and hazelnuts.
(oooh. melty happiness.)
No hate in basic emotions.
Disgust and contempt, yes.
But no hate.
I find it immeasurably
to study emotions. Rats emit
noises of pleasure like laughter
when tickled by humans.
Primates are known to carry
the bodies of their dead young
for days. I instruct my son
to display respect for the bones
of a dog I found stripped
of skin in a ditch. I carried them
home: vertebrae, femur, skull,
Submerged each piece in bleach.
My son carries the bones and teeth
to school for share in a shoebox.
There is surprise. There is wonder.
There is no disgust.
I’m sitting here at this basic
hotel desk writing this poem,
thinking about gratitude.
Thinking about standing in a ditch,
a canine skull light as surprise,
heavy as love in my hand.
I’m grateful for bleach, buckets,
and lonely country roads.
I’m grateful for bones, bugs,
and neat little ecosystems.
I’m grateful for children,
for happiness in wiggly teeth,
for the pure joy in fairies who trade coins
for smiles beneath dream-drenched pillows
just before each wondrous dawn breaks.
Bleeding hearts / by Mia Herman
on the line,
pink and whites
off the vine
like wet laundry
drying in the sun.
Two / by Mary Moore
“Two-dimensional animals living on a one-dimensional earth would have to climb over each other in order to get past each other.” Stephen W. Hawking. A Brief History of Time. Toronto, New York: Bantam Books. 1998
The two dimensional dog in Hawking’s
diagram is gray; a digestion tract
divides him in half
head and tail in the top,
feet and belly below.
A comic book bone floats
in the stomach’s oval towards
the hole on the other side for offal.
It’s Berryman’s Mr. Bone.
But nobody could die:
without time, our translucent fourth,
my flat cat would chase
our shadows on the dining room
where the walls lay down with the floor,
would pat them with his cardboard paw
by the absence of throats
would be the first to go:
into, out, through. We’d speak
only flaps thumps and claps
depending on what we top,
bang into, or sidle past,
and without insides and outsides
to accommodate the ears’
hammer and drum,
the world’s stutter, thud, and hum
would be monotone,
not even vibration
for the nerves couldn’t thread
their exquisite silk through our skin.
Timeless, breathless therefore
deathless, too flat to accommodate
Wallace Stevens’s efflatus,
we’d pine for brief
histories, for death to tear or wear
though us, our only mood deflation.
“That such masters as Akhmatova and Zamytin were buried behind four walls for their whole lives and condemned even to the grave to create in silence, without hearing one reverberation of what they wrote, is not only their own personal misfortune, but a tragedy for the whole nation—and, too, a real threat to all nationalities.” “In certain cases, it is a danger for all mankind as well: when HISTORY as a whole ceases to be understood because of that silence.” —Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “Nobel Lecture” 1970.
This is a Reverberation of Losses, / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
And I am sure I heard it in silent sepia.
I was lying, mid-July, breastbone split,
Hoping for the heart of the matter, splayed.
It was in the recovery room when I knew
I was ultimately alone, and that was when I saw her,
Emergent from the background, black spot,
Time-lapsed into an ever approaching woman
Stepping the struggle out, hovering over grass.
Somehow filmed in sepia, she stepped
Across grasslands, while her steps
Multiplied grasslands, and she hunkered
Under heaps of woolen rags and furs,
Approaching starvation, until
I knew her form—woman—lonely woman—
Huddled against aged and timeless Steppes.
I knew her name—perseverance—
And her simple standard—peace—
In her face, I recognized—no one—
No one real—stepping closer to me.
She was a consolation for loneliness.
A consolation saying survive,
She slipped past sepia’s screen,
Lifted from the pages of shut histories,
Black spot, once blotted, but remembered.
Day 7 / Poems 7
A Clouded Glass /by Jenni B. Baker
I Know You From Somewhere / by Jennifer Dane Clements
If my face seems familiar
as you pass me on the sidewalk
it might be that in your youth
you watched me in the live-action
film adaptation of Watership Down.
You may remember the pinkness of my nose
how it quivered when the hawk flew near
and it could be the display of
long-leafed carrots in a shop window
that helps you forge this connection
or it could be my leporine ears.
If while waiting for stamps at the post office
you think that you’ve seen me before
it might be that you saw me
dance the role of Spiced Apple
in a national tour of flavored oatmeal
which tread shopping mall stages
while Santa or the Bunny vacationed.
High-kicking in a fruitsuit I twirled a
cinnamon baton and envied the girls walking
backpacks slung over narrow shoulders
girls who wore bows on their heads and not stems.
If as we sip glasses of cheap chardonnay
at the bistro next to the boot-repair
you get a sense that we’ve met before
you may have spotted me on a campaign poster
stuck in your neighbor’s lawn amid her dead begonias.
It’s true I was not elected Town Philosopher
because I cannot grow a beard
but still those seeking counsel should know
on a windy day my likeness on the yard signs
will either wobble in agreement
or shake its cardboard head.
If as we board the train uptown
you hold my glance for slightly too long,
it might be that I remind you of your date
to the circus when you were fourteen
and living in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Popcorn underfoot like colonies of buttered ants
a white horse named Elvis in a rhinestone cap.
How you stared unblinking at the high-wire walkers
and thought to yourself what must it feel like
to command the breathless attention of others
to do something worth remembering.
Nearsighted / by Margot Douaihy
Mom never knew where we were. Girls! We listened to her call through attic gauze. Girls! She yelled as we played Art Studio; paper-plates as berets & sheets as smocks, we painted Still Lifes of old shoes. It’s Still Lives not Lifes! No it isn’t! Yes it is! We hunted fossils, buried time capsules in walls. Unearthed one treasure, hid another. In college, we rented a convertible to drive home, a Mother’s Day surprise. Sped across town, top down, to the Turnpike, 90 in a 65. Dépêche Mode so loud other drivers glared. Chain-smoked, cursed, didn’t care. We talked about heartbreak, how wild it was that we’d die someday. Drove faster to avoid rush hour, before it got cold, before we got old, compared IRAs, vacation days, wills. Mom’s repeating herself. No she isn’t! Yes she is! We sped home to beat the darkness. With same eyes, neither of us can see sh*t at night.
Gathering Words / by Gabrielle Freeman
Dearly beloved! We are gathered here today,
an assemblage of morally ambiguous
badasses, a cluster of corseted creatives,
a congregation of spontaneous car-dance
partiers, a convergence of adventurous
epicures, a flock of paddle-boarding philosophers,
a heap of hematoma’d humorists, a huddle
of hedonistic snifter-hefters, a mass of
movie-loving marble wielders, a swarm of snarky
buttercream sneakers, to…to…yeah. Um.
I got nothin’.
The Reason I Don’t Write about You / by Mia Herman
You never left me
if it was my hair –
dirty blonde –
not dirty enough for you
or too blonde to know the difference.
You never called me
selfish for caring
about my higher education
and “feminist things like that.”
You never made me
sick with worry
because days turn
at casinos and card tables.
I don’t write about you,
because I don’t know how to write
about the things
that make me happy.
“Mysterious Men In Red” / by Mary Moore
says the newspaper: in red morph suits,
under clear blue sky,
they walk Fourth Avenue
on the yellow line between
left and right, uptown and down.
Riding a whim, liminal
like demigods and superheroes—
they are surprise, unsurprised,
Hence, they’re surreal,
like Dali’s clocks grown
on a red stag’s tree, the violin
that leans on the sky,
the white steeple
like a town hall’s, with one eye
where the clock should be.
It surveils the barren plain.
(The eye must be there
so that seeing can be seen.)
The red-suited men queer
the order of the ordinary.
And the fire-engine red suits,
the color of alarm, say “Stop.”
Red insists on being seen.
When asked why, one says
“Just to be aware.”
The lovely “to be” mystifies
who’s seeing, who’s seen,
but we are all eying
and eyed. The red suited men
create a scene.
They lance complacency
like sun glancing off a windshield.
We blink. They say: see!
The Leaves Here Are Angelica’s / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
Angelica, look at you: Archangelica officinalis
Or Angelica archangelica, an explosion
Of angels and archangels beating it through space.
Your white-robed figureheads shoot,
Breasts forward, from the center node, like a
Fistful of stars, multiplied and mercurial,
Splayed back from each other.
Angelica, why shoot for something
That isn’t there? On the real side,
I see you have plenty— of space—
But Imagination, that tough, tunneled
Topography, fixes four dimensions—
An infinity of ridges, ready—
To greet your recollected face.
Day 6 / Poems 6
Effects of a Flash /by Jenni B. Baker
The Burglar Twins Strike Again / by Margot Douaihy
They carry double-barrel shotguns.
They leave two roses on each vault they break.
They never steal a single jewel;
it’s pairs of rubies or nothing at all.
What else do we know? No witness
can pin them to a scene, for they rob
banks across county lines at the same time,
syncing derring-do on identical gold watches.
Police cannot tell them apart, The Burglar Twins,
mythic blond as Vikings, tall as the Empire State.
Town to town run the dastardly duo,
train-hopping, car-jacking, cackling
identical laughs in stereo.
Each twin has at least two wives,
brood of twenty-two in ten states.
We’ve lost track of their victims:
perfumed widows tricked
by the rogue twins—
gimlets laced with sleep potion.
In separate train cars, as gongs strike midnight,
the twins slide diamonds off ring fingers,
silently as eyes roll back in a trance.
Sinkers / by Gabrielle Freeman
It’s hard to see a person at the bottom
of a pool from above, scanning the surface,
checking for the tell-tale thrashing,
for the splashing calamity of distress.
Sinkers don’t disturb the surface.
They dive deep, arms stretched out overhead,
biceps to ears as they were taught,
to cushion the body’s boundary crossing,
to ease the transition from air to water,
to keep from breaking their delicate necks.
They pull strong with cupped palms, and then,
silent descent. The only indication
the brief echo of breath leaving the lungs.
They are genetically predisposed to death
by drowning, something about
a delay in their electrical systems, a pause
between the heart’s contraction and recovery.
I remember letting out all my breath,
trying to lie on the bottom of the pool,
feeling the smooth black lines beneath
my fingertips, the grit of blue concrete.
I remember looking up into the wavering sun
through three and a half feet of chlorinated water,
the rainbow string of flags at the five meter mark
rippling out. Surface sounds came to me bent,
a record played at too slow a speed.
It was peaceful there, my hair floating around
my face, undulant in the echoes
of all the swimmers’ kicks and pulls.
All hearts stop, eventually. Eventually,
the moments between shock and recovery
become too much to bear, and the blood
that has reached and pulled pauses. It stills.
Is death like that? A sudden sinking down?
A quiet gazing up at a bright barrier? A last
bent echo of children’s glittering laughter?
How Donald Trump Plans on Winning the U.S. Presidency / by Mia Herman
He’ll just comb-over
the issues and flip us the
finger: you’re fired.
Art’s Star-Gazer Lilies / by Mary Moore
For Art Stringer
In the wingback chair John reads Kant.
The star gazer lilies beside him flaunt
their mauve pink petals: my Aunt
loved that color. Art gave Diane
star gazers. Rust-red ballet shoes, the anthers
slant on translucent stamens
in the white throats, pollen
the burden of their dance.
Aunt Anne never flaunted:
she cloistered herself, haunted
by the first lover who’d left her wanting.
But my daughter echoed Anne
when her word mauve won
at Scrabble over three smart women.
She was just ten.
Kant who invented
a multisyllabic language of his own
wore two curls over each ear, blunt
barrels. I think no one taunted Kant
about hair. Art is like Astrophil, swain
who’d have loved the lily. And John
my philosopher droops in the wing
back chair while the colons
periods, semi-colons like ants
wander in a dream he is haunted
by, of Kant. Oh, for a pair of mauve gloves,
my dead aunt says. She’s a haint
now in my winter closet, nestled in
the scarves and gloves a transluscent
hen like the one a nun saw in a vision.
Folded, under a Chapel of Arches, Chapelled / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
Maneuver it by the helm,
All alone, until the wind,
Until the wind can be
Recovered; until then,
We will be folded,
Under a chapel of arches,
Chapelled and protected
From time’s dissolution,
So there is enough
Time to raise the sails,
Turn it around, wager with wind
And its directional changes,
But we grow reclusive, over time,
Folded under a chapel of arches,
Hunched and pressed into artificial
Peace, origami doves, refabricated
Bulletins retrieved from the trash.
Nervous fingers shut us, fold us,
Tear at us, under chapels of arches.
We are waiting for a cipher
To bring something from nothing;
We are waiting for a cipher
To emerge from the interstices of space,
A cipher we have discovered wanting
Fresh air, fresh air and a direction for change.
Day 5 / Poems 5
What a Bomb Will Do / by Jenni B. Baker
Whole Foods Sonnet / by Jennifer Dane Clements
In the ‘90s, I could call you cupcake.
Before sugar’s good name was defiled.
Gluten, back then–just a substance to make
dessert from, not some passé out-of-style
celebrity. Come. Let’s spend our lunch break
shopping fresh terms of affection. I smile:
the produce section could grant your namesake.
I’ll call you broccoli, cherish your wild
cruciferous thoughts. Or beetroot! Redder
than hearts of man or palm, earthy and intense.
My treasured kale, beloved mung bean. (Better
health is a lifestyle, I’ll spare no expense.)
But wait! Too much greens. Let’s be yoghurt or cheddar.
Our love is organic. And even romance ferments.
Runaway / by Margot Douaihy
The first time I left we were 10. Our house seemed so big: hallways spilled into stairwells, gauzy rooms we never entered, paintings we were too young to decode, but some we liked better than others. I was the only twin who needed alone-time, spent hours in the bathroom on the ledge of the tub. I stared into the mirror, black lacquer frame painted with two gold birds. It claimed the wall like a crucifix—the best dark place we never hid. I stared until my eyes burned, until something churned. I emerged from the mirror & strode into the kitchen declaring: I’m running away! Mom, fantastically ringed, returned to her wontons. Dad nodded. Better bundle up then. You stood in the doorway & blocked me. No! You stamped your feet. What will you eat? Beyond the door, fine snow covered the street like silver paint. You cried, tried to reach across the doorway like a gate. Who will you talk to? Now, when I think about us, I see your small arms, too scared to let me go into the unknown, & me, too scared not to.
Be the Good Girl / by Gabrielle Freeman
You said, let’s drive. I keep singing, do you
tear yourself apart like me? like me? like
me? When we’ve had our very last kiss? No,
no, no. This is the song in the car: I
wish you were the one. No, no, no! I keep
singing, we can do whatever we want.
I wish you were the one. Come on baby.
You’ve got me on my knees. I wish you were
the one like sipping whiskey by the lake,
the sun and you and me and all the stars.
No. No. No. You said, let’s drive. I keep sing-
ing, aren’t you scared? I remember you said,
tell me what’s on your mind. Tear out that page.
I fooled around and fell. You make me want
to tear myself apart. I keep singing,
roll the windows down. Remember how it
was? The wind blowing through and gone? You make
me want to. You’ve got me on my. You can’t
stop. You said! Remember how it was? You
said, let’s drive. You make me want to be like
me, like me. I remember how with you.
I need to find myself, / by Mia Herman
he said as we walked
down the tree-lined streets of suburbia.
His voice snapped in half
like low-hanging branches
when you walk right into them.
I walked right into him.
I wanted to say, I already know where you are.
You’re here, on the corner of Kildare Road
when we look at each other
before looking both ways
and you’re there, in the back
of the movie theater, when we sit so close
I can smell your smile.
You’re on the page of the admissions essay
admitting that scoliosis stripped you
of a backbone
and you’re written in the lines of that 3 Doors Down song
Cause in his life he is filled /
with all these good intentions.
You’re here, I wanted to say.
But I walked right into him.
Riff On the Title of M. A. Vizsolyi’s Love Sonnets / by Mary Moore
The Lamp With Wings rests between flights
on the Victorian yellow oak table
the maker of which carved a bird’s tridactyl foot
grasping a globe for each of the table’s
four legs. It’s like a flat-backed dog
with bird’s feet. Monstrous, surreal
the union of species. The lamp winks,
then grooms itself with one leg like a cat.
A few blue words land on the table
like feathers. But it’s the light
in its chest that flickers
like fireflies, the way the luckiest
minds do, between shadow
and light, wanting and getting, begetting.
Of course it flickers when the power
stutters too. No matter: the winged lamp’s
not wedded to place, and it perches
near the wingback chair on purpose;
when the chair flies away, so will the lamp,
along with the poet’s wingtip shoes,
the wing-nuts on his deck chairs,
the teal fledged fir trees out back,
the deer in his yard whose antlers are trees,
and a horse, oh, a winged horse.
Splayed, Listen: Here It Is. / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
Birth. Stay away from death,
No matter how splayed
You are. Keep cutting
Back to the root.
That’s what I’m hoping
Happens, each time
I look for you.
In my dream,
I am climbing the tree,
What does it matter?
I am climbing the tree,
In iterations of ascent,
But the tree, it rotates
Its limbs, each time
I grab for a branch.
I am, limb for limb,
A left child and a right
Child, sinister, then good;
I am the left child of a right
Child, right child of a left
Child, blind to sinister.
I am the left child of a left child,
Twice sinister, and I am
The right child of a right child,
Getting back to the root.
To get back to the root,
I have to climb the tree.
Call it balance, call it
Recalling the beginning node.
Call it searching for you, Father,
Call it coming home, claiming
My birth right before I am born.
When I was born,
I was falling, flailing,
Splayed, fingers from palm,
Arms from belly,
Toes from sole,
Legs from groin,
Grabbing for a limb,
Waiting for a name,
Hoping for amortization.
This Message Will Self-Destruct / by Jennifer Dane Clements
The words I’ve offered in this message are not fit for company:
a cringe of dented biscuits, curdled tea. A syllable’s weight
will one day tip the silver tray toward what you cannot
handle and in a puddle of crumbs and milk you will leave.
It is only a matter of when. So I write to you as if a
snowball the size of a minor planet were chasing me
off the mountain, as if leaving stage pursued by a sleuth
of angry bears, as if fifteen seconds to confetti. Any moment,
this message will vanish in lapsang souchong and wood
pulp, in splinters of ashen calligraphy, or return in night-long
echoes to seize and crackle like sparklers in the grass. My thumb
bears down, snapping smudges from paper, unbending my name.
I should have learned to skywrite. First flight, then fade.
This message is a breath you ask inside the shelter of your lungs.
Syrup-thick, lukewarm, before the pyrotechnics. Archival ink swelling
there, pools of penmanship refusing the char and smoke. This is how
you safeguard from the blast, you see. This is how you prove me wrong.
Chantey of the Mermaid Twins / by Margot Douaihy
Lore & Lai are we, born in the seam
of a fever dream, sailors clinging to life.
Yin & yang are we, opaline scales,
zipper of fin. Guards of the Rhine, we sit
atop rock, two lonely pillars under gate.
When gull laugh at us we crack beak,
eat face. Feathers tickle but meat is fresh.
Most sparkling maiden! cries thirsty captain
lost at sea. Our cries stir tides as ship approach.
Our song whips water, wild as our crimson hair
in salt wind. Echoes are easy when one is two.
How can men make compass & still be fools?
Aubade / by Gabrielle Freeman
There is strong coffee in the morning
and a bicycle I ride into the little town
to pick up the lemon-almond twist you covet
like sneaking a fingertip into buttercream
piped at the back of a cake. The pastry
is softly layered and flakes into the napkin
in your lap. You sit cross-legged on top
of the down comforter pulled loose into place
so stray crumbs won’t get tangled in the sheets.
I watch the sun contour your morning face.
There are eclectic storefronts, and we wander
into a street market where we sample cheeses
and chocolates. I watch your mouth as we taste.
Sweet tang of grass. Deep, earthy melt.
There is a shore, and I stand at the edge,
my feet sinking deeper with each rush,
as you dive beneath the farthest breaker.
I watch the water make an island of your body.
There is a counter dusted with flour.
We stand side-by-side, turn out the dough,
punch it down. Brief rise of yeast. I watch
as your strong hands press and turn.
There is a gentle breeze coming over the water.
I smell the ocean drying in your hair.
There is wine. I watch you trace the flight of bats
with your palms through deep blue purpling black.
There are stars and stars. Your skin’s night luster.
I feel the advent of the sun on this, our first almost
morning. You see, we’ve only just met, and we’ve spent hours
talking under someone else’s strings of party lights.
I have watched a perfect day conceived between us.
I kiss you because I want to. I kiss you
to block your view of the brief orange glow
on the horizon, to keep you here for just another little while
before we both must go.
All black squirrels come from Canada, / by Mia Herman
my grandmother told me
one winter morning
while stirring her coffee.
I tried to picture it –
those twitchy tails making their way across
country borders, searching for something
that had already been buried.
She sipped and smiled,
went on talking
about the cold precipitation
like she hadn’t just spilled
across our kitchen table.
Many winters have passed
since all black squirrels come from Canada,
since the scent of warm roasted beans
rising from her mug,
since the protective shell encasing her
as we lowered her into the ground
but I still catch myself looking
for those dark twitchy tails
as they cross country borders
to find what’s already been buried.
The Brood Hen / by Mary Moore
“Before she came to live here, this Sister Lucia saw a gold brood hen with all her chicks and when she tried to embrace or grasp it, it plunged underground and she saw I no more.” — Sister Bartolemea Riccoboni. Trans Daniel Bornstein. Life and Death in Venetian Convent. Chicago London: U of Chicago P. 29.
Lucia, whose name means light, sees
the brood hen in the blue wan
of dawn, gaudy thing, nature’s art
wrought in gold. . . The maker had molded
each feather: . the rachis like the bole
of a fir tree, the barbs its spindle
limbs, the whole arrow sharp at the tip,
a marvel like Etruscan goldwork,
finer than the calves
Jahweh trashed in the Old testament.
The twelve chicks follow her,
bob and peck like the mechanical
dolls she’d seen once in Modena.
The rooster, off scene, obscene, crows
at the sun: . dare-devil, bully,
wench in orange taffeta,
he says, where do you get off
topping my wall, tupping my hen?
The poor hen knows a bully
when she hears one
and scurries everywhichway,
the chicks, a cadre of followers, apostles
who testify in falsetto.
We don’t know if they poured
into earth, beaks first, decanted,
like the bird shaped pitchers made
at Ravenna . . or sunk one by one
in a puff of dust, as if earth
were their source.
But Lucia brooded them:
hers was their ore.
To Be Caught on Collapsing Currents / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
To be caught on collapsing currents
Is not a bad thing. There is time
For failure, time to sink
And slip on an unwinding spiral,
Settle in, take your seat.
You take the last, the very last seat,
And it is best to float
On an ocean of doldrums,
In a space of no convection,
Rib to rib with the deadliest things,
Such as zero and nothing,
Ennui and boredom,
Rackets of inaction
(Action does no good).
No sense flailing
To catch the wind, no sense
Arching and winding
To catch a peek. Look:
The sharp shinned hawk
Knows the wisdom
Of winging it down,
Keel to pinion,
Winging it down
And mechanical gyre.
Day 3 / Poems 3
Words to Know /by Jenni B. Baker
Reply All / by Jennifer Dane Clements
The associate director who shares an office with
the guy you dated once will not be attending the
team-building seminar next Thursday. Bill in
finance confirms his attendance. John C. and his
assistant do the same. Carla in fundraising, who
you’ve still never met, thinks the event is so freaking
brilliant that it requires a trail of twelve exclamation
points and a shout-out to Laurence in front of the full
staff. Duleep in middle management wants to find a
way to make the team-building process more synergistic.
Interns deploy from their iPhones a seizure of animated
gifs, a link to YouTube captioned with a quote from
last week’s happy hour, a string of abbreviations below
your age or pay grade or comprehension. Althea, Lucy,
and Meredith plan to attend. John M. wants to bring to
everyone’s attention the conflict with that evening’s
board engagement dinner. Nathan will be late — he
must first retrieve his retrievers from doggy day care
(see attached photo). Donna is sorry, she will be watching
her sweet grandkids (see attached photo). Stephen, who is
starting his new job before next Thursday’s event, wishes
he could be there, hopes you stay in touch,
will miss everyone terribly.
Welcome to the Deep-Forest Doppelgänger Academy / by Margot Douaihy
Class begins at 11:11.
Every book is 55 pages.
For breakfast, we have double-yolk eggs
& double-shots of espresso.
Spooking Hotel Guests in Elevators
is reserved for freshman.
The senior thesis is written in twinspeak,
though only one other person can read it.
Students hunt button mushrooms under fern.
Walks up Fog Hill reveal a double rainbow.
At lunch we eat Twin Pops.
A popular major? The Hall of Mirrors
Inside Every Snowflake.
Here triplets don’t exist;
they’re just twins plus one.
If piano duets aren’t your fancy,
we offer doubles tennis.
For dinner we have Twix.
Desert is two scoops of ice cream.
At midnight, in the light of Venus,
we braid sheets like a double helix,
climb down the castle wall into the forest,
searching for the dunicorn, the two-horned cousin
of the unicorn. Two by two we dance
to the bassoon of bard owls in twin pines.
Back in our twin beds we resist sleep,
ears perked for a double-dog dare,
While I Wait / by Gabrielle Freeman
I bought my favorite professor a post card glossed
with Convergence, Pollock’s drip painting large enough
to lie down on, to wrap myself up in, because
he shattered chalk to teach us about chaos.
The card is taped to his locked office door in 1989.
We have been reading O’Hara or maybe Kafka.
The needles of the harrow draw blood down, pierce
the body. I rehearse my measured questions.
I wait outside while thin hot chocolate drips
into a paper cup decorated with playing cards.
I don’t remember if the playing cards on the cups
were a game. Blackjack? Poker? It’s 1989,
and there are no screens for me to look at, no email
notifications, no status updates. I do not have earbuds
or even a Walkman because plastic tape cases
make me crazy with their constant breaking.
I wait as the chocolate drips, and it reminds me
of black spatter at the edges of Convergence.
Perhaps I should be writing this poem with paint,
with a piece of chalk lashed to a craps stick,
with a needle instead of this thin keyboard,
laptop warm on my thighs. It will be 24 years
before I feel the persistence of ink inscribe my skin.
Tattoos of Convergence cannot capture the chaos.
Careful remaking of drips. Studied strips of red,
blocked out blotches of mottled blue. I press
“hot chocolate” for hot chocolate. The automatic nature
of a vending machine. The mechanism drops
aces and eights. I sit outside in the sun and wait
for my professor who I will not call on the phone
because he is large and comfortable and smart
and I prefer to see his face. There is fresh green sod
between my bare toes. I wait and sip the chocolate
that is thin and much too sweet. There is no
Starbucks, and I don’t remember if the vending machine
took dollars, but I don’t think so. I remember hunting
quarters and dimes. My hair is still mostly blonde,
but it will be dark brown before it starts to streak
gray. If I stand at the center of Convergence,
will I understand the nature of its dynamics?
How everything comes together? If I lie down,
will the paint press in, will it bruise? Tattoo
the automatic nature of a crime I must accept as mine
with just punishment? Nothing I have done feels wrong.
I wait for twenty minutes, long enough to drink
down to the thin sludge at the bottom of the cup.
Long enough to begin to strip the paper. I will not
call my professor on the phone because my phone
is back in my dorm across campus firmly attached
to a wire in the wall and anyway it’s a beautiful day
and I have dripped little pieces of the lip of the cup
into the grass where it forms no pattern at all.
I should be able to discern the thing I have done.
Or the thing I will do. Either way, my professor
never comes, and I brush the bits together in the grass,
gather them in my palm like flakes of broken chalk.
I think of him when words come in chaos
and shatter. When words converge. When I press
the stained heels of my palms into my tired eyes.
When I don’t even remember what it was I came to ask.
When taking this prescription, side effects may include: / by Mia Herman
and sense of smell
and the friends
who don’t know what to say
or how to act.
You’ll get things, too
and overactive sweat glands
that soak your shirts and
leave you cold.
*but in fine print,
the pharmacy will point out
that at least the pain is gone.
About Writing a Poem Everyday / by Mary Moore
Nobody the nabobs of nothing and no one
can halt the Fall . . but the prodigal sun’s
slight withdrawal leaves the geometry
of plenty: the elongated stars
the oak splays on the stairs
layers of points teeth curves . . gears machined
to fit no engine . . or air’s . . you can star gaze for hours
I’d eat what the leaves have to say
the scripts of bites and lace
of loss on each one . . but I’ve already scavenged
the eye food the mind find and hinge
the next line on plane geometry
the wide fat arrows of poplar
which point everywhichway though
an abundance of directions is none
Forgotten Hands / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Listen: here it is, erasure.
Erase the hands
That dump the trash
(Apple core, pizza crust,
Cold coffee cup, stinking ash)
The morning after
You took the time,
Busy working until late.
Erase the hands
That mopped and shined
The floor, blotted
The tracks we tread
With our shoe-black dead.
Erase, too, the simple man
That takes the stand,
Sells the newspapers
At the corner, downtown
(A dollar a Gazette for
Some kind of profit).
The saints, they are
Rising from the slits
Of morning, dumping
And washing; polishing
And sweeping; weeping.
The saints, they are shut
Keeping the corridors,
Bearing the mess,
Handing the news.
Day 2 / Poems 2
A Bombing / by Jenni B. Baker
Sleeping with the Zucchini / by Jennifer Dane Clements
Tapered blossoms snatch at dusk like
lungs thirsty for air, uncertain jacinth
puckered shy. Whatever it takes to
reach harvest, this is what I must do.
The core of each kernel trusts blindly:
Yes, whatever it takes. I will startle
the appetite of cabbage worms, repel
aphid jaws. A shock of frost has left you
numb but determined to ripen. Still your
chronometry of pods and bracts, your
pocketwatch meiosis, whisper-bodied
seedling lifts. Still you are not grown.
Other leaves tremble between flourish
and failure. So tuck in. Dirt path, torso-wide.
Plowed and sized for hospitality, a sundown
stay, for the promise of whatever it takes
inviting counsel and touch. Tonight
my quilted cotton stretches over soil, a
thin comforter to the earthen bed. Give
us storybooks of starshine and manure,
harmonies of katydid and frogsong,
lullaby calm to slow my body’s metronome.
I rest between stem-breath and mud,
unsure, in dreams, who planted whom.
LOGIC / by Margot Douaihy
LACE fooled me into thinking an empty center could HOLD
HOLD music on the phone inspires me to give the FINGER
FINGER movements under sheets are pounced on by CATS
CATS prevent me from OVERSLEEPING
OVERSLEEPING helps me waste TIME
TIME is the only remedy for broken HEARTS
HEARTS are reliable as ships made of LACE
LACE fooled me into thinking an empty center could HOLD
Fame / by Gabrielle Freeman
“I’m your number one fan.” Words guaranteed
to make a Stephen King lover shudder.
The Misery hobbling scene: One best-selling
author. One blizzard. One single-car accident.
One number one fan. One axe. One blowtorch.
I want to write like that.
I’m not saying I want you to hack off my foot
to keep me in your bed, but I’d like to be
on your nightstand, captive with a broken spine,
bound to your mind like a frenzied kiss. I want
to write myself into you. I want to cauterize the wound.
Blood Moon / by Mia Herman
When you finally surfaced
there was no fresh red,
no new wound in the sky –
just your scabby brown,
old and oxidized from years
of wear and tear.
And I thought,
Maybe I can heal, too.
Turner in Spoleto / by Mary Moore
for Clodagh Smith
Turner’s all about the sun
just like James Cook—
well not quite, since Turner painted it,
not the disc itself but
the lenticular smear of it.
In Spoleto the giant blur of yolk yellow
dominates: it burgeons
over the Roman aqueduct
whose four arches almost fade away
in all the light. They are blue gray,
like mirrors, or like the water they bore
into Spoleto from the Umbrian hills.
Or like the pale gray of souls just as they pass
in Renaissance paintings of the death scene.
Or the color of spiritus,
the fluid the builders of Spoleto might have thought
carried eidos . . little pictures from the eye
to the heart, the seat of knowing.
It was the heart where the soul lived then,
traveling the vena cava
pulsing through the chambers,
the heart which saw.
When I finally stood on a ridge
in Spoleto, the Roman aqueduct
joining two ridges below me,
I could not believe it still
bore the weight of all that seeing,
had not vaporized wholly
into the heart of light.
Glow Green / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
In the interstices of love,
Glow green keeps crevices
Split out against rock,
Rock, that impenetrable face
Soon sawn by wind and rain,
Even the tiniest grain.
Rock, it can’t resist,
So, pock by pock, it yields
Crevices of acceptance,
And in the dead of winter
It pronounces photosynthetic
Life, even in the deadest light.
This is where simpleton mosses
And straight-laced lichens
Translate steep cliffs,
Stampede House Mountain.
Day 1 / Poems 1
Nuclear / by Jenni B. Baker
Advice from the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors / by Jennifer Dane Clements
Gather debris from shipwrecks. Dig.
Dig more. Carry quarters for yard sales and speak
to the men with the longest beards. Search
homesteads and dirt for colors you’ve never seen.
Use forceful soaps when you’re through.
Remember, a barnacle is but a sequin on a glassy
gown. Dig again. Delight in the casings
of bygone commodities: hair tonic, sassafras,
essence of peppermint, snuff. Everyone
drank moonshine and milk. Be vigilant. Keep
digging. Be a champion of the small, the
discarded, the obsolete. Divide your glance
between sidewalk and sky. You are not a
trash-picker but curator of a thousand vanished
Tuesdays. If you get bored, recycle.
Alanis / by Margot Douaihy
It started how all great things start: by accident.
1995, Pittsburgh, my first house party, a stranger kissed me
in a bathroom so hot the wallpaper bubbled. Smoke traced
the logic of the doorframe like fingers feeling for a light switch
in the dark. I kept one eye open & watched us in the mirror.
Seeing yourself kiss a woman you’ve never met
is like stealing someone else’s memory, which is what happened
with us, Alanis, because at that party I first heard your voice.
If a house fire recorded an album it’d be Jagged Little Pill.
As I danced to Jagged Little Pill, underneath my pink
Doc Martins & thrift-store skirt, was the shadow
of a burned sofa. A sofa on fire etches itself into a rug
like an echo or evil twin. You understand because you
have a twin sister. If a knowing smile had a name
it would be Alanis. I wasn’t shocked when I learned
of your twin. I, too, am a twin, which means, Alanis,
we are one person. There are many points of intersection
between us we’ve re-invented geometry. I wasn’t surprised,
years later, when a long-lashed boy in a Fire Island bar
said: “Alanis, ‘Thank You’ saved my life.”
Twelve boys stood before us with delirious eyes.
Some cried. Some high-fived. Each one said, “Thank you.”
Instead of replying, “Oh, no! I’m not Alanis Morissette,”
I said: “Oh, no, honey, thank you.”
If a magic jukebox with a lifetime of free plays had a name
if would be Alanis. It’s no accident that we both have clones,
long hair, chestnut eyes, full lips, & small noses. It’s no accident
a zygote splits into identical twins. It’s no accident fate doubled us;
a heart-shaped mouth is too heavy for one woman to wear.
Now, when a new stranger squints & asks:
“Anyone ever tell you you look like Alanis Morissette?”
I say: “Isn’t it ironic?”
The Sorrowful Lover Stands / by Gabrielle Freeman
a table is set in the middle of an image
of the high plains. clouds white and clouds purpling
sit at the wide horizon. low roll of timpani.
the table is covered in white billowing
in wind caught like the hem of a dress caught
like hair unpinned. there are grasses in hummocks
clear to the heavy sky. on the table
a heavy candelabra black weighs down
the shroud white like a sail like a crisp
button-down come untucked and stuck in time.
a page turned between movements. a cough.
there is a gash in the earth at the bottom
of the image a crack zagging toward the table
scouring the grasses. a simple case of the earth
opening up and swallowing. I stand
in front of the image. my hair loose caught
in a scouring wind. the hem of my dress billows
behind me. the fabric traces my topography
rolling landscape of blue silk. I am caught
at the top of a breath my chest high.
there is no one at the table in the image
stark against the blue sky at the top.
clear soaring soprano. I stand outside
the image in silence like a gash.
I cannot reach the table and there are no chairs
on which to sit. my mouth is wide
at the top of a breath and the note is caught
in heavy quiet. I cannot make a sound.
In Case You’re Wondering / by Mia Herman
When I lie awake,
watching the stars wink
with varying intensity,
I don’t think of you.
James Cook, Who Saw More Eclipses Than Anyone / by Mary Moore
Once I was murdered, I missed the eclipses,
though it took Richard Cohen to tell me
I’d seen more than anyone. My pupils
got small as the dots of ellipses
when I looked at them through acanthus
leaf or the rainforest canopy. Old Puritan,
I never worshipped the sun
but seeing that penumbra illuminated
much: how darkness can squat
in the light but can’t shut it off, and calamity
doesn’t always follow an omen,
unless you count the native womens’
rebellion; they refused
to cart water or pick plantains
believing the eclipse portended
the volcano’s eruption. But it just rained
and rained for four days and the sun
returned like a prodigal son.
I don’t quite remember,
but I don’t think I had one
to mourn or warn.
Whitsunday’s Unknown / by Mattie Quesenberry Smith
The unknown are blotted,
By History’s delays.
Let them be white,
And their voices,
Move through the trees.
Let every leaf
Caught up in currents
And streak the dust.
It is best to be silent
In the interstices of love,
Between Earth’s hottest
Guest house and Heaven’s ribs,
Splayed. Listen: here it is,
Erasure. Heaven’s ribs lift, inspire
The trees, twist piebald leaves,
Color-burst and broken back.
This is a reverberation of losses,
Unsung, such as you.
This Eve, it should be
A consolation that prayers,
Folded under a chapel of arches,
Can be heard elsewhere,
And it is your voice
I am hoping hit home
Out of the wind you all but loved,
All but breathed, the last time we met.
The leaves here, they are
Lifting and twisting
In the hollows, hallowed.
The leaves here, they are
Caught on the collapsing currents,
Whispering between Heaven and Earth:
Silence has been the best space for losing you.