Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
To read more about the Tupelo Press 30/30 project, including a complete list of our wonderful volunteer poets and to read their poems, please click here.
The ten volunteers for April 2015 are Eric Elshtain, Jason Galloway, Jessica Gigot, John James, Sarah Jefferis, Megan M. Muthupandiyan, Pablo Otavalo, Brianna Pike, Ronnie K. Stephens, and Laryssa Wirstiuk. Read their full bios by clicking here.
Please follow their work (by clicking “Follow” on the bottom of the page), and feel free to acknowledge their generosity and creativity with a show of your admiration and support by donating on their behalf to Tupelo Press. (Click here to donate, scroll down to the form at the bottom, and put a contributor’s name in the “honor” field.) Just imagine what a challenge it is to write 30 new poems in 30 days!
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 24 / Poems 24
The Dinner Party / by Jason Galloway
The six half-candles without light
the polished wood grain’s swirling galaxies
—the nebula of my own reflection
Fussing over the seating arrangements
Eight place settings: eight books
some with words
some books of nothing
—are there enough utensils?
everyone eats with their fingers
come all of us
come with the matchbooks
come to the table
come and light the lights
Yesterday / by Jessica Gigot
“Anything processed by memory is fiction.”
The narrator describes the soft
Texture of the sweater she wore over
Her favorite brown dress. The taste
Of a decadent steak dinner and rich,
Chocolate cupcakes still lingers
Over her taste buds. Her wine glass,
Full of water all evening, signals
That a child is growing inside.
The narrator sees a familiar character
Dressed in his suit and tie. He has aged
Since the last time she saw him.
His smile is familiar, as she
Recalls from childhood, but his eyes
Are tired. We celebrated as if tomorrow
Was not a Friday, as if there was no
Tomorrow to speak of. She tells him
She will see him later and in her heart
She clenches their goodbye.
Ponge: A Version / by John James
Rain slantwise in the yard where I watch it fall, a thin unbroken
curtain, a web, relentless, slow, soft enough from what I can tell—a
lifeless, uphill precipitation, splinter of the untouched whole. Just
off from the walls, to the right and to the left, it falls, more than
droplets, heavier, individuated, here a wheat grain, there a pea,
elsewhere almost a marble. On the rails, on the windowsills, the
rain hurries, sideways, while on the bottom surface of the same it
hangs in convex beads. […]
Please click here to read the poem in its entirety.
The Girl Who Loved like Rabbits. / by Sarah Jefferis
She was a mini lap breeder.
Until she found the happy moment maker.
The trophies lined her wall.
Because ribbons were too pedestrian.
She had her own cock akin to a Flemish giant.
A lapine of sorts.
The happy moment maker thinks he can write this poem.
How wrong is he.
She was her own liquor mixer.
She liked him better in hand.
And on his knees.
She only ever missed his face.
Opossum Season / by Brianna Pike
My sixty pound mixed breed launches
off our back porch and pounces
in the blackened backyard. Among
the orange lilies, he rises with a large,
gray body dangling from his mouth.
Increasingly desperate screams
into the dark: Drop it! Drop!
But he is blinded by triumph.
Eventually, I drive him off, cursing
him, my husband, the shadows
and our ever failing motion light.
Dragging my dog inside, the opossum
forgotten by the dogwood tree.
I check for bites and blood, but my love,
the killer, sits proud and happy, tail
thumping; opossum hair stuck to his muzzle.
This is not the first time I’ve returned
to a darkened yard, flashlight in one hand
shovel in the other, looking for a body.
To watch a opossum rise from the dead
is to watch a drunk wobble off into the weeds.
Only once did our dog claim a true victim:
a baby, no bigger than a cat. Broken neck
buried out back beneath the lilies.
St. Benedict’s Cave / by Ronnie K. Stephens
My favorite place to be still
is a mountain town in Italy
The best hot chocolate
I ever had was in that town.
We walked to sacro speco
in a line. Twenty college kids
trying to make sense of a man
who hermited himself away
to get closer to God.
I did not feel at home
I wanted to leave even before
our professor called to us.
I didn’t touch a thing.
I forgot the rocks wet with cold
sweat and hot breath almost
as soon as we left.
That evening at the monastery
I didn’t get drunk on raspberry
liquor from the gift shop.
I didn’t touch the Merlot passed
around the room like bread.
When we left the next morning
I was a whole person.
I never wanted to return
to that dank hole cut from
the belly of the earth.
My belly has never been a thing
I wanted to cut from myself.
My belly has never been a hole
I crawled inside.
I know how to talk to God.
Guy Fieri / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
When he’s not playing Grocery Games,
taking a Big Bite out of a sandwich,
opening restaurants to adverse reviews,
or collecting red vintage convertibles,
Chef Guy Fieri is riding into Flavortown
on a bus or in a nineteen-sixties Camaro
for his Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins
and Dives (more simply, Triple-D’s).
His voice like gravel precedes his hair,
which is spiked and frosted with bleach,
and he charms with a unique way of speaking:
food is “out of bounds” or an “off-da-hook deal.”
He honors worthy cooks with a PhD
in deliciousness and sneaks ingredients
past his goatee before a dish is even ready.
“Shut the front door,” he says, as he tastes
pit beef in Baltimore, but my favorite part
of watching Fieri display food I won’t ever eat
is the moment after his discriminating bite
and attempting to discern what he really thinks.
Day 23 / Poems 23
from “Other Phases; or, A Little Moon Can Do” / by Eric Elshtain
…in the photograph
we can spin in our own
gravity. It is a cipher
of sky school children
are made to mesmerize,
we’ll call it moon
ensconced as it is
in static persistence
a Hecate exorcised by rote
the picture is nothing’s
calendar, sitting in situ
libration’s one e
away from freedom
oscillating red to blue
lunatic shifts against
by cloud conditions
so wolf-less now, no howl
to speak with and no union
for the tiny astronauts.
This image has no ethic,
of a moon modeled so it knows
its proper station
built for the setting
president, you know
the moon and the sun
are the quotation marks
we live between.
based on a photograph by Adam Schreiber
“Presidential Moon, 1969“
The White Bed / by Jason Galloway
form borrowed from Little Map by Jean Valentine
the slits in the morning
on the sheet
—where is the knife
and the salt when I wake?
—what was on the other side?
Our passage together
—drunk sailor and craft
The Afterwards / by Jessica Gigot
The day after Christmas is Boxing Day
A time, historically, when servants
And tradesmen would receive gifts
From their bosses or employers
After the main stage celebrations.
The day after Earth Day is Thursday
This year–time to carry on with business
As usual. Drive to work, listen to news
Drink a strong cup of coffee
Examine the horizon line draped in fog.
Box Day is now a Black Friday
This Thursday is cold and wet.
Too frigid to touch the ground
To damp to take off your coat,
Stay inside, unless you can’t forget.
from Specimen of Cruelty / by John James
To gain a clear idea—the deeds,
Events, the states of society,
Herodotus and his descriptions.
What passed in the world around him.
One person cannot be an eye, an ear
Witness to all the shrunken
Bodies hanging. I cannot
Describe them, those noosed,
Emaciated, some strapped to crosses,
Their swollen bellies protruding.
It is not enough to say that I
Could trace the pattern of their ribs.
History does not remember.
One mind cannot record
What the bloated masses suffer.
In the photographs, piled
Heads. Trains packed tight
With bodies, the bodies, that’s
All they are is bodies. Twenty
Years before the Nazis, two whole
Decades before the deaths
Our schoolbooks remember.
Reading, to my daughter, the old tales,
The crass songs in Mother Goose. Jack
Breaks his crown, an acute fracture. He falters
On the candlestick. Mother
Hubbard locked in a cupboard. A shortage
Of curds and whey. Hegel’s
Philosophy of History, it’s yellowed pages,
Calls me from the shelf.
These are but dim and hazy forms.
April 24, 1915, 250 rounded
Up and arrested. The genocide
Was carried out. Implemented
In two phases. First the slaughter
Of able-bodied males, next the deportation
Of women and children. The old
Marched off to the Syrian desert, deprived of food
Why I want to run / by Sarah Jefferis
How we hold
goodbye and hello in our mouths
at the same time. We swap one
for the other. They taste
the same. If I have my hand
on the door will I be able to open it?
If someone is good for us now
are they good for us always?
Why does someone have to be good
for us? Are they medicine?
If I am a mess, are you the janitor?
You seem miles away. Or have I
put my shoes on? This was not my intention.
Not how I wanted to play
the game. I can run out of fear
or out of grace. How do they taste
any different? Your stutter is charming.
Words ahead of you.
I don’t want to be kept
at arm’s length. I don’t want to be kept.
I want to belong. I want to be known.
Heard on the Eve that Catcalling Became Illegal
or if you prefer, a Poem from Twelve Random Words / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
Damn, that water bottle you’re holding has curves like a vixen in a Hollywood movie —
How sleek and tight it would fit in my hand — so lovely, fragile and hard
like an antique hourglass in a curiosity shop I once visited on a motorcycle ride out west.
I wouldn’t presume, but might I just touch it? It might sound strange, yet I can’t help but ask —
it looks as small and satisfying as the smooth throttle of the bike when it’s cycling hard,
dewy blobs of rainwater collecting at its neck and sliding down.
Is it getting hot in here?
Promptly Virginia’s going to start this class, and you’ll drift over to your yoga mat, taking it with you . . .
Oh, please don’t look at me as if there were pee coming from my mouth —
I only offer a genuine appreciation of that shapely vessel you’re carrying around.
I hardly ever write in my own language
and it escapes me / by Pablo Otavalo
I want to write in Sanskrit
I’ve taken tentative steps to Mandarin
and next is Arabic and thus surrounding
the Hindu Kush ….. When the sky is opened
by a rift in a long valley
whereby standing at an entrance
you suddenly sense the sky beneath you
the wall of sky beneath you … the mesa
to your left like you ….. suspended
on the back of the spine of the Andes
the sky opens
to the valley you crest
the pines fall to the sides
of the mountain
the eucalyptus edge the four rivers
that pool into this bread basket … and you
sense the sky behind
the cordillera has shoulders
and you round them … and the valley
like the cut of an adze on soft wood
sets the convex mirror … and you
portrait …. No, I hardly ever
articulate my language
It’s another borrowed
Mourning Dove / by Brianna Pike
It was the mess of twigs and leaves crammed
into the corner of the third story window
that caught my eye while walking to class.
Stepping closer to the window, your gray body
so still that I almost did
n ’t see you blink one ink
black eye. Scrunched in the crevice, your feathers
ruffle in the wind but you do not move, silent
weight pressed into your nest.
Quite the contrast to the Canadian geese flocking
below hissing and shitting and charging across
the green lawns, magnolia trees trembling,
shedding petals. But you hover high, cloistered on
the third floor, warming your eggs, waiting quietly
for your children.
What is Left at the End of Us / by Ronnie K. Stephens
Begin, and cease, and then again begin… – Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach”
I was assigned the poem
junior year in an advanced
English class. The task was
to root it out like a wild pig.
Dig into the hard earth of it
until all the words scattered
at the foot of it. I filled note
cards with quotes. Learned
explication in a library.
Every minute of the
assignment was a hay bale
in summer – heavy and hot
and biting through the soft
palms of a boy too green
Now twelve years have gone
and with them two lives
that will only ever be past.
Homes and coffee mugs and
beds and dozens of keys now
simply artifacts of that other
life. That other side of forever.
Boxes sit in storage like urns.
The whole of it a mausoleum.
A burial of families that would
not breathe a single memory.
There is no air, here. Nothing
left for lungs. Just an old poem
about honeymoons and tides.
One man at the window
hypnotized by the ebb and flow
of what once was. What will be.
Every one of our histories
a song cast out to sea.
Reliable Closure / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
To secure precious
metal and gems
to the ear, a wearer
needs reliable closure:
lever, . latch,
French wire, . clutch,
tension, . thread,
screw back, . clip.
are not without fault
and can disappoint
the wearer. Fondling
lobe she finds diamond
lost: a pierced void.
The stud has joined
crumbs or even soil,
like before, undiscovered.
Day 22 / Poems 22
“Bad Vugum!” / by Eric Elshtain
“I eat the solid season made of myself.”
Tuesday April 21, 6:21-6:26 am, Oak Park, IL
Car breezing by
chip, chip, chip.
some electric whine
tang! tang! radiator!
something beheaded the tulips
the mudroom’s an asylum of flies
wind’s busy contradicting the trash cans
somehow the day’s already spent
the sky a scratched-off label
clouds loitering like perpetrators
This summer the cicadas
are sure to connive again with God
exchanging crisp skins
the color of laudanum bottles
for a badder version of themselves.
The title, from the song “Sue Egypt,” is a curse invented by Captain Beefheart
The Cardinal / by Jason Galloway
My father said if the earth
for one moment
the seas would flood the whole world
today for one moment
the leaves stopped
the worms stopped
the dirt stopped
the mountains and their clouds
all stopped everything
everything the tide in me
to song to twig
to holy red
to one moment
to one flightless point in air
to one black seed of an eye . . .
my father was swollen with disaster
he flung his beautiful disasters about
like song that first set the world in motion
The Sheep Celebrate Earth Day / by Jessica Gigot
For sheep, the earth laughs in grass.
As new spring pastures arise from slumber
The ewes and their lambs grind and ferment
Fresh, green blades. There is a whole concerto
In their rumen, a four-chambered orchestra
That crescendos with a blatant belch. In this,
Sacred universe billions of bacteria and protozoa
Dance and die, only to be reborn as mother’s milk.
I watch as they bustle across the open field.
Grazers by design, sheep will eat all day
Reveling in this land’s verdant offering
Choosing only the tender tips of grass
And the occasional salmon berry branch.
They return their own abundance to the soil
In a reciprocal exchange that requires, not thought,
But a steady belief in their own belonging.
from Specimen of Cruelty / by John James
It is better to pick apples on the earth’s surface,
To mine it for gems, or precious metal,
To slash cane, harvest berries, to fill burlap sacks with cotton.
Better on the surface than to lie beneath it.
We accept this as an axiom. We accept
The reliability of material. The bodies are still there.
1840s, Ottoman Empire, the Christian population.
Bodies unlike other bodies. So much sleep ahead.
Please click here to read the poem in its entirety.
Wings beating gums / by Sarah Jefferis
When my marriage ended
there were button eyed women who acted as if
endings didn’t occur– pretended
not to speak it over the price of cucumbers.
I have never been that waspy.
And not speaking only breathed more
into the sack of sugar I carried.
I have put it down to remember I once had a self.
To pick it up is to forget.
I don’t want to choose
but I already have and I am ashamed
with hives in my mouth.
Wings beating gums.
The domestic always slaughters passion.
Either parenting binds us or destroys us.
No middle ground. My own blood mirrors
call out—mouths open for me to spit in the little food
I can afford in their puffy cheeks.
Nothing is hidden. Not the broken nest,
or branch or lack of wind, nor the yellow sky above.
And the face I had before motherhood
and this one are strangers.
The first I wanted to eradicate.
I have never been a pretty girl.
Never looked in a mirror and not turned.
I believed in ugly.
And this one surprises me in
photographs I don’t know who she is.
A Poem From Six Random Words. / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
For Balraj and Sonali
Funny how your humor puckers, salty and black as olive
flesh, a smooth sarcasm bearing caustic bite —
in New York I trace its subversive pentagram
to the Australia Council on Greene Street, its ambulatory
rhythms warming me like a blanket, tactile and ambidextrous.
Notes From An Unkept
Diary / by Pablo Otavalo
The days keep on going on and on like this
you say and I carefully agree. Like water
falling over the crest of her voice
in silence. It’s a lot about choices, but
you want what you will, and I’ve
been reading Schopenhauer. Dogs go
astray but we rear their children. The round
world turns the anvil to flatten the corners
to tuck under your table. We will
and we falter. We err and we unmake our
bedrock with untested solvents. Olives should be
boycott so long as that awful wall stands
instead the ever perfect mouth of commerce
swallows up their labor like bread. Sleep
is a woman unfurling her hours on the table
nothing surrounds the all that exists
and if that is all that is the case
then enlighten in her silence.
The days keep on going on and on like this
you say and carefully set
a glass of water.
Catacomb Saints / by Brianna Pike
“The strange enigma that these skeletons could have been anyone, but they were pulled out of the ground and raised to heights of glory.” ~Paul Koudounaris, Art Historian
Splendor stashed in ruined chapels, behind rotting altars and broken pews, jewels gleaming in sockets long empty of human eyes.
Dug from the ground and adorned in gold, gems and fine fabric by the delicate fingers of nuns who spun fine gauze to protect
each brittle bone from dust and decay, wrapped each body in mesh
slipping their own rings gently over bony knuckles.
Revered in villages, children baptized beneath an unmoving gaze, prayers whispered for protection and miracles.
But when these saints were discarded, the faithful wept over the fragile bodies, still believing in their promises of beauty after death.
Written for Emily
To Myself on my First Birthday / by Ronnie K. Stephens
The day you are born, your mother
can’t make sense of how small you are.
She will remind you of this a dozen times
most years. Your father will only laugh
and tell you how he stored whole boxes
of Ding Dongs in the car for her cravings.
Neither can believe it has been a year
already. This, your first birthday, falls
on Easter Sunday. This, your first cake,
a blue bunny covered in coconut. You take
one bite. Spit it out just as the shutter
clicks. You will never live the picture down.
You will come to love coconut. But not
before you catch pneumonia. Nearly die.
Not before the special shoes that turn
and turn until your ankles are straight
or the bionator that tugs at your jaw
until the underbite is gone.
For you, the body will always be
a warehouse of pain. You will learn first
to hate it hard. Catch your soft skin on
anything sharp. Tear it open until it is
a collection of seams. Know that it won’t
always be so. You will love this body.
You will look at your seams and call them
proof you are still together. You are not
a mess of scraps. You will love the way
every part of you heals. You will love
mirrors again. You will look at cameras
without flinching. Without falling.
I would teach you how to hold yourself
now, but I must get you to sleep. The sun
is hot and the family is loud. You tired
carnival. Let me put you to rest. I confess
this will not be the last time you eat cake
while crying. But you will eat cake again.
You will eat cake again. It will not always
come with so much shame. You are but ten
pounds this afternoon. You will lose entire
years to the shedding of that number.
I promise I will not let you lose these ten.
These first ten are all of you. I give you
my word; I will keep them safe.
Earth Day / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
I used to believe
are the worst
How difficult is it
Later I’d only
date men with
But my carbon
pedal of my car,
and my greatest
luxuries are long
showers and liter
bottles of seltzer.
Day 21 / Poems 21
Movie Mesostic / by Eric Elshtain
Bee Truck Accident / by Jessica Gigot
A found poem
Spring and summer are the busiest season for beekeeping
They work their way north to do fruits, bush berries, vegetables
Semitruck carrying millions of honeybees
448 hives, or about 13.7 million bees
Bees became more active as the sun rose
A front-end loader began scooping
Them up and dumping
Them into a dump truck
TV cameraman reportedly was stung dozens of times
I think everybody there got stung
I think everybody there got stung
I think everybody there got stung
PUT A BOUNTY ON HIS HEAD / by John James
removed amid the Arab
Spring : the autocrat
who for three decades
ruled: the north now faces
fragmentation : house
arrest under the Houthis :
their rapid advance:
some of the best
units remained : overran
the capital six months
ago : missle base
in Sanaa : the strikes
only target the fuel
depot at the base : he sought
to make a last stand
the Houthis said
in a statement to reporters :
Saudi jets hit
the military base : they responded
with missiles : TV aired
pictures of the operation :
like machine guns
or possibly anti-
aircraft missles : his aides
left : officials
would not specify
his destination :
Riad Yassin : Yemen
Foreign Minister : said
the airstrikes were welcomed
fled by sea, his last
refuge : captured
its airport and put
a bounty on his head :
hours later, Saudi
airstrikes : departure
of the close : the southern
port of Aden : imminent
fall : strategic country
into proxy : not
involved in operations :
indications say that
others will follow
suit : hands of the foreign
powers : brotherly
Yemen : the crumbling
government : his country
*Text excerpted and collaged from The Huffington Post article “Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi Flees Home As Rebels Close In,” 3/25/2015
What Keeps Us / by Sarah Jefferis
What keeps us asunder is the fear of balance.
In theory you didn’t mind kissing. Regret not your elephant
but a little Ganesh who sings, avows the conquest
of what we were and cannot become. Even constant
syllables cannot sort us. I no longer want
what keeps. Us under fear. We have balance:
you on a futon, me in a sleeping bag, a thin scrim of valence
orbits between all those days I couldn’t say what I meant.
But a little Ganesh sings. Vow and consequence
underline hour after hour of conductance
worth more than one more kiss. We cannot even invent
what keeps us. Under the fear of balance
lies her cousin: the blue stillness of repentance.
Oust one and you clear the way for intent.
But Ganesh sings and vows: Conquest
is useless when struggle is beyond skin or sense.
These days I cannot taste you or repent.
What keeps us under. Fear, balance,
and a little Ganesh who sings for love and conquest.
The Understatement / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
God bless you Bethany Mota–
who could give me such pause,
such a strong sense of mission,
when I have to go clothes-
shopping with my daughter. […]
Please click here to read the poem in its entirety.
a letterpress / by Pablo Otavalo
“I wonder for a moment what animal I am.”
It is not unconditional. Silk
takes to dye easy
once vigorously worked. Milk
boiled and rubbed gently
over leather will clean it
excellently. In a cotton […]
Please click here to read the poem in its entirety.
Rise & Fall / by Brianna Pike
For Nick & Katie
What you will learn when you are married is that nothing
changes. You will wake the day after your wedding and your face
will still grow pale in the sunlight. Your eyes, blurry with sleep,
will land unfocused, on your lover’s back and you will still see
every mole, freckle and chicken pox scar. You will rise from bed,
where you may or may not have yanked blankets back over you
the night before. You will move through familiar rooms where
there will be dishes in the sink, shoes under the coffee table and beer
cans strewn across the kitchen table. You will let the dog out, his fine
black hair still sticking to every surface. You will return to bed,
burrow beneath sheets, press against that lovely,
familiar back, and realize you cannot fall back to sleep
without the gentle rise and fall of their breath.
Bubbles, Daddy. Bubbles. / by Ronnie K. Stephens
Even sea monsters need floaties sometimes. – Sarai B.
The bathtub is all science fiction
these days, a menagerie two times
the size of the tugboats my twins
have already pulled apart.
They give new meaning to the drink,
dipping hollow vessels into the water
again and again like parched gods.
Everything is an act of creation
they want to know the name of.
This? A turtle. Turtle.
This? A crab. Craabp.
This? Octopus. Oputus.
This? Also octopus. Oputus.
They chew each one over with
furrowed brow and swollen gum,
their mouths mountain ranges
cutting through red valleys.
I brush their teeth. Teeth.
They chew the bristles until
the toothpaste is gone. All gone.
I wash their hair. Hair.
Use too much shampoo. Bubbles.
They slap their heads. Laugh. Squish
the soap on their fingers. Bubbles.
I fill the cup and pour it out.
They try to catch the water, learn
perhaps too soon, how easily
the things we need most can slip
from our small hands. Our hands
always too small to hold it all,
too stubborn to let go.
Joshua Tree / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
The silence feels
like someone I’ve left
then found again
on a day I’m not
ready for reunions: no
makeup, unwashed hair.
“Oh, hi there,”
I say to the lack
of sound. The absence
of pleasure makes me
remember sensory plenitude.
But should I approach it?
Should I leave it,
ignore it? I hear
only blood traveling
to my skull,
Day 20 / Poems 20
Plato’s Kill / by Eric Elshtain
a TLS cut-up
Speak as if science
fire together wire
deluded on an Earth like this
or in Fallujah or the Hindu Kush
engulfing all dark matters
optical effects fuel into a stitch
of the sensory experience of corpses.
Soldiers were sobered by the action
of Antigone’s many-world hypotheses
and in each more is lost than gained.
are one major reason
melodies would seem,
my dear Bozzy,
exemplars of an aerial adventure.
Fairy-tale style, no-dope literature
better done for the sake of spectacle.
Get Your Plumage Out / by Jason Galloway
for Jan Bailey
Let me sit down a minute
Let me sit down a minute
and figure this all out
Let me set these kitchen bones down
and get myself still
just long enough
Give me a few seconds to say
Please click here to read the poem in its entirety.
Surrender of the Seed / by Jessica Gigot
Sun brings shadows
Rain brings hope
The arching cotyledons
Curve towards the light
Emergence is not earned
Pore space held by air
Makes room for new growth
Moisture follows gravity–
Light will allow, if you let it in
Poem for an Hour / John James
I blew too hard on the candle and now it appears
to be bleeding, red wax spilled over the table.
I think I’ll keep it like this. The hard specks remind me
of blazing stars. Somehow, my father’s up there.
Yesterday I bought a jar of honey at Kentucky’s
Shaker Village. The sales clerk said it will alleviate
my allergies—the pollen of the fruit bearing flowers
carried by bees will help me gain immunity.
False. I’m allergic to the pollen blowing in the wind.
In wind, in wind—always in the wind. It’s a helpless refrain,
a chorus of sorts, a cheap fill, syllables strapped
to the cheek. In my winter dreams I want to be buried
in hoarfrost—to stay that way forever, or until
the sun shines. Singing-masters of my soul—consume
my heart away. It freezes in the deep. Dead branches
glisten. I watch the wet bough of a dogwood
slough its cover of ice. Somewhere in the distance
church bells ring—styrofoam plates in a basement.
We ate donuts that way, listened, had our hot
brows smudged with ash. Enough of this wandering.
It spins and it’s spinning. There must be a point to all this.
Creation / by Sarah Jefferis
Lovegrief hides in the dragon
that eats its own tail,
the Great World Serpent encircles the earth,
the shadow self—
devouring all that is and it not swallowed.
before Alice / by Pablo Otavalo
I hate it when people talk about time travel
hominids mesmerized by sending each other digital telegrams
with no real sense of how to operate in the present
could convincingly speak of interpolating
the past or sublimating the future, no
rather let’s investigate the basic problem with your
every instant you turn the clock forward or back
the mass upon which you stand moves
correspondingly along its orbit
so miscalculate your desired revolutions
to the instant and you may well land
in your desired time but spatially
you stand no chance to know what instant
would not leave you stranded clawing at nothing
and which would have you crushed in such
varied ways by earth and atmosphere; no
let’s talk of other things
of shoes and ships
and ceiling wax
and the divine rights of kings
Joy / by Brianna Pike
She lies large and opulent on her side. Her skin
twitches ever so slightly, animating the black and white
splotches. Her eyes are closed, her head thrown
back, and her mouth open. A thick tooth is visible,
worn to a soft nub.
Her children swarm her belly, suckling her
engorged teats in desperate hunger. They converge
in one twisting heap, crawling over one another
to press their snouts into her bristly skin.
Her only movement is the rise and fall of her
chest or the occasional twitch to remove a fly.
She feels the tug of many mouths, the release
of milk, and at last, she exhales and opens her eyes.
Strong as the Gods / by Ronnie K. Stephens
You are the unicorn.
The myth no one believes.
I did not believe in you.
But we spent nine hours
on the phone six days after
I learned your name.
I think of the friends
I don’t call. Sending my dad
to voicemail again and again.
And then of you.
The majesty of your comfort.
The blanket of our silence.
How can you be anything but
What fool would call your magic
a dead thing?
I have never been naked
like this. I have never been
this soft and this scared.
Who will believe me when I tell
this story? Will I get it right?
You are forever the fantasy
I am trying to put words to.
Super Duper / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
Not even Drano Max Gel
could clear the kitchen
sink, where grey water
had been still for hours.
And there I was: stubborn,
unable to ask for a hand
because I’d rather spend
days pouring baking soda
and vinegar down the drain
than confess my need,
advertise my helplessness.
Scrubbing knives beside
a toilet broke this woman,
inspired me to approach
the super for support.
He entered my apartment
armed with a plunger
larger than my torso
and braved the toxic
waters, reeking of acid.
At my desk, I revised
a book review while he
tended to the emergency
with even compressions.
The metered sloshing
gave way to a sure flush
and the luxury of being
able to ask for support.
Day 19 / Poems 19
The Old Comedian’s Airport Gig / by Eric Elshtain
most likely tight
murmurs a rumpled palaver
into a microphone so manhandled
it fuzzes every tone, makes bad
pockets of ears.
His loafers soft shoe
saw-horse lines to crowds
thin as old smoke screens.
He is a museum
he is a meaning of more
than what he says
or doesn’t say
or won’t dare to anymore.
based on the cover of Charles Bukowski’s
There’s No Business, illustrated by R. Crumb
Sunday Sermon Hike / by Jessica Gigot
Over the ferns
The morning light barely
Ravens calls between
Douglas fir trees tops. Today
Is not like
any other day.
The lake, our midpoint,
Sits in stillness reflecting
Forgotten snags and pink salmon blooms. Today is its own day
A moment that is
And beginning at the same time.
We walk down hill in silence
Forget the Song / by John James
Please click here to read the poem.
another soirée / by Pablo Otavalo
“Was it something you / said about Ovid this
morning : the redgrass
glistens in surf : the pine ”
………………— John James
I’m drawn to the blood
orange moon of midsummer
as I was never drawn
to noon. Do you remember
when Daphne outran her pursuer
and prayed herself enclosed in thin
bark , her hair grew into leaves,
her arms to branches, and her feet
held fast by roots, until nothing of her
was left except loveliness. Her beating heart
under laurel bark often arrested casual
attention. I’m in that time of life, whereby
Madame Bovary should be re-read.
As to break is to build so to
indifference is eternal affection;
nothing perhaps best describes
that which fills the room you have left;
as oxygen rusts bones, and diaries
are not meticulously kept, post-apocalyptic
generations are oft burdened with boredom
and it’s best to ignore them until
they pay attention. It is a commodity, you know,
attention. Bought and packaged.
What I hate most about Public Radio:
the need to explain to those
who think themselves cultured
what it is to be a Patron
of the Arts.
Spanish Moss / by Brianna Pike
Soft gray shades haunt the trees, hanging
from every branch. Delicate lace the color
of twilight, drapes low caressing bark and leaves.
Legends feed off the air: a Spaniards beard growing
long while his love languished below, never marrying,
waiting, until she too turned to dust.
A princess’s hair spread across tree tops, turning
black to grey, ornamental webs reaching wide then
jumping from tree to tree, gradually taking up residence
across the Florida landscape. Ethereal and lovely moss
drenches oaks in thick blankets, dropping spidery
fingers down to the ground below.
Pulparindo / by Ronnie K. Stephens
My mouth is a bonfire on the beach,
hot and sweating and full of fruit.
Students watch my face for a reaction.
I hold the Mexican candy on my tongue
until each flavor is a boy at a dance.
The salt scoots itself all the way
to the sides. Chile spreads like flame.
I put another piece to my lips. Another.
Tamarind and mango and pineapple
taste exactly like a first kiss
the summer after eighth grade.
It is a taste that stays
after the candy is gone. After
the name of the girl
and the name of the song
are also gone.
It’s Hard to Explain That / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
At the corner of Franklin and North Highland
Avenues, early evening, a rawboned man
wearing only jeans is protesting the state
of things: meat eating is simply unethical.
“I don’t eat animals,” he says. “It’s hard
to explain that to human beings.” His hair
is grey and tied like the tail of an aging mare.
His sun-dyed skin wears like tanned leather.
It’s not hard to explain that to me; even here
in Los Angeles, no one bats an eye when
I ask for meals without meals, dairy, or eggs.
I wonder for a moment what animal I am.
Out of range of his chants, I continue to walk
south onto Hollywood Boulevard, where actors
costume themselves as cartoon characters
like Minnie Mouse in an unwashed party dress.
Day 18 / Poems 18
Me and My Social Miscue Blues / by Eric Elshtain
I want to be your smoke bomb
I want to be your lip balm
I want to be your church psalm
I want to be your pie chart
I want to be your high art
I want to be your chicken heart
I want to be your bit part
in a movie about whatever
I want to be your algebra
I want to be your black mamba
I want to be your zebra
I want to be your temperature
I want to be your late Jurassic
I want to be your paper or plastic
I want to be your pant’s elastic
I want to be your dump truck
I want to be your worst luck
I want to be your lame duck
approaching the end of my tenure
acquitted for perjury
and given a suspended sentence
I want to be your antitrust
I want to be your scent of musk
I want to be your outrageous tusk
I want to be your hot air balloon
I want to be your leaving too soon
I want to be your Memphis in June
I want to be your loan approval
I want to be your tabloid canoodle
I want to be Sheba’s footstool
I want to be your final approach
I want to be your swimming coach
I want to be above reproach
I want to be your out too late
I want to be your hot plate
in a movie from the 1930s
I want to be your counterfeit
bill you try to spend
but the bank confiscates
I want to be your after shave
I want to be your underground rave
I want to be your undisturbed grave
I want to be your ethics committee
I want to be your Frank Nitti
I want to be your sitting pretty
I want to be your rocking horse winner
I want to be your dead of winter
I want to be the Splendid Splinter
hitting them out of the park
in slow motion aiming the ball
at a nosy reporter I want to be your
candlestick I want to be your final pick
I want to be your one last lick
at the tree you can’t fell
based on the poem
“I Want to Be Your Shoebox” by Catherine Bowman
that in turn was influenced by a mis-transcription
of the song “Me and My Chauffeur Blues” by Memphis Minnie
Life Cycle of a Poem / by Jessica Gigot
The poem starts first
In the foam nest
Until a pollywog of an idea
Wiggles its way out into water.
No limbs, just momentum
No lungs, just measure
In the new moon darkness
The page sits still
Until those tails
Breathing enough air
To finally come ashore.
April, Andromeda / by John James
I am in this world, not self, not seed, not stamen-dusted
pistil flicking in the wind—the eye sees past its limitations.
Crushed petals in the dirt, I’m courting a horse with an apple,
watching its white tail swish along the fence. Somewhere,
the galaxy spins. I smile at the cloudless sky. [. . .]
Please click here to read the poem in its entirety.
Double Churched / by Sarah Jefferis
Every Sunday I was double churched. Proper
Anglicans—the kneel stand sinners
left caverns between each other, even when
passing the peace. Historians
who sat like candles in high box pews
sealed with President’s names.
Then Southern Baptists in a bright
church with a plain wooden cross,
we sat with the man who built cars.
This man my mother taught to read. His parents
were share croppers—he smelled like oil and grease
and ham. I didn’t know how much he loved my mother.
(I didn’t call him my mother’s boyfriend.)
……………………………………………………………(Her husband at home slept in closets.)
I squished my crinoline dress next to the car maker,
scratched at sparkly tights, took my white gloves off and on.
After school, I learned about catalytic converters
and mufflers and changing the oil.
This man protected me from white men
who cat called me at 12 and 13 outside his garage.
She is just a girl.
He saw me as a child—
not like those who stood witness to my body
like a dock they would land on.
Wish I had kept my ass on that bench
and never returned to the Anglicans. Wish
I could return and thank him. His voice
calls me back down South as I bring you home.
He is the one I want you to meet. He is the one
you would have asked for permission.
When my mother meets you for the first time, she
says how proud the mechanic would have been.
And this is how I learn he ran his own business for thirty years,
how he was a widower who raised
three sons, how he had one kidney.
He would have been.
a checkpoint / by Pablo Otavalo
The great wolf has my wrist
in his maw and readies Ragnarök.
In the dying lands the newborn forget
their mother’s faces ….. their father’s names
and there are still edges of forest
resuscitating cities, but some day…
And the Wall of the Temple caught fire,
the moneychangers stumbled,
and like heather and thorn the Wall grew
to split Galilee from herself as its roots
crushed the earth in reinforced steel
and murdered the olive groves. Frost
said something doesn’t love a wall.
Portrait of an Oak Tree in Autumn / by Brianna Pike
A tall, gangly oak tree
catches the corner of my eye
each summer when it bursts
open in light green leaves.
But as the days grow shorter,
the oak stands wounded,
a red orange smear spreading
from the heart towards the crown.
Leaves blow out onto the street
crunching beneath my feet as I pass
the tree leaning into its own quiet passing.
The Note Taped to a Locker / by Ronnie K. Stephens
after an illustration by Desarae Lee
Row boats and oars have no place
in the sea, but then I never meant
to make it back.
Sharks feel the pulse
of empty vessels and the thrash
of frenzied limbs in swells,
the chest full of stones,
the horizon and the shoreline
swallowed by Poseidon.
Whole summers drift by
at the end of the docks
with bottles and lungs
broken into the drink.
I am a buoy dressed in paisley
and red shoes when they come
looking for the girl left to the blue.
Bee Sting / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
On the morning radio show,
a caller says he was stung
by a bee, years ago, and still,
as an adult, he feels the prick
of pain on his forehead.
Simply receiving a haircut
or standing in cold rain hurts
space between his eyebrows.
In my car, I’m stuck in traffic
and wanting to touch this
man’s face. I’m imagining marks
of accidents, how some tragic
moments don’t even show.
What’s left to do but poke
the hole of my “innie” navel,
my first attachment to life?
Do not dare bare the midriff.
Do not speak of possible infection.
Do not reveal your name, caller,
for I, the listener, may be held
accountable for your phantom
ache to reenter that early moment.
Day 17 / Poems 17
from “Other Phases; or, A Little Moon Can Do” / by Eric Elshtain
The ecliptic slip
celestial slow blink
half-shaped like has-beens
your dumb rock
to other spheres
are our crystal ceilings
like votes floating
airless, ideas the picture
traps sideways in this circle
where motion flows
ebb warping time
fates turn to life
up to the there to which
we have attached ourselves
some mute rock
our own shadow its eyelid
such slow conduct
we feel follows us
based on a photograph by Adam Schreiber
“Presidential Moon, 1969“
At Sea / by Jason Galloway
The little raft of hurtful words,
the eyehole in the floorboard. Below,
the dream you can’t remember you are having:
bottles of rain and vinegar;
blister, brick, wax
But from underneath the eye
electricity in the sky and reflections;
the list you keep:
eyelash, earlobe, perfume . . .
you think the sound of sounds
Dog Song / by Jessica Gigot
Last night I heard a banjo tune
That plucked on my own heartstrings.
When I realized it was written
For a lost dog, I cried. Not tears
Of joy or sorrow, just acceptance
That even the most innocent of souls
Go astray. I thought of my own yellow
And golden mix, now silently resting
At my feet. She is here for now, loyal
And always adoring, but not forever.
Her song echoes in my head and I know
I will never be the same.
Desire’s Limit / by John James
So bind me to you,
an apple’s bruise,
a child’s mouth before
the tooth breaks.
The spider has a mind.
A wasp’s wing-beat hum.
Wood lice, fig skin,
the round work
of sleep, used
subway axels dumped
into the ocean.
Wanting is a matter
of names and things.
The Mistake Tree / by Sarah Jefferis
My name your albatross.
You say my name everyday
you answer the phone.
It’s on every invoice.
Every box of chocolate.
Every check you sign.
Didn’t want to hang you
on my mistake tree
for the town to witness.
on the mantel.
Or a chime blowing
on the porch.
Or in a locket around
A necklace is cousin
to the noose.
I’ve lost / by Pablo Otavalo
I didn’t think of you at first, at first
I didn’t think of anyone, it’s not
the same to mourn as to find your
chasm side as though along a road
you meet your own unbroken self
unrecognizable. A shard of glass
beneath your skin will work itself out
unless it doesn’t. Asphodel tastes
like colored chalk, and you eat it everyday
because there’s fields of it
Wild Roses / by Brianna Pike
A secluded alcove, enclosed in bright white
fencing attaches to the back of my grand
parent’s garage. In summer, when I visited,
wild roses crawled up the sides, cradling
honey bees in their petals and sunlight filtered
in through the chain link, dappling the concrete
floor. My grandfather kept his hose coiled
in the far corner and a few empty buckets
stacked along the sides. Sometimes he would ask
me to venture inside this buzzing cave to retrieve
a bucket or turn the spigot and unfurl the green
rubber hose. Often I was only clad in my damp
swimsuit, water mixing with sweat dripping
down my neck and pooling in the dips of my collar
bones. I did not want to enter the cove full of bees,
but I still darted inside, barely breathing the scent
of roses, grasping at my grandfather’s request,
quickly running back to summer sun.
Written for Sam & Jennifer at the request for a poem featuring chain link.
Honest Response, Redacted / by Ronnie K. Stephens
All This Free Floss / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
For every dental checkup, I won floss
and the expected lecture: “Once
daily take care to prevent plaque
build-up, which causes cavities, decay,
and gum disease.” But I’d never continue
the dull routine beyond one month.
Needless to say, I stockpiled a mountain
of superslip satin, strings silken and minted,
some waxed for gliding in tightened
spaces. Fancy devices like “interdental
agents” were the dentists’ attempts
at appealing to my technological bent
to no avail. Hundreds of meters of menthe
tape filled my powder room. I could’ve started
a boutique with offerings on the blackmarket:
“Oral B Glide Comfort Plus” for your best.
Are you surprised that I chose instead
to protect against gingivitis and bad breath?
At least that’s the answer I present
to my dentist. The truth is I’m sensitive
and endure the hurt simply to impress
a man with sexy gums: beloved flossing one.
Day 16 / Poems 16
from “Other Phases; or, A Little Moon Can Do” / by Eric Elshtain
you’re a meteor made
from crashed earth,
you have no horizon
until you’re cemented there
some rocks lost, kept private
locked behind cases
in our library basements
pushed into our space
pressing eyelids into time
carving troves of notions
to be, flattened anachronic
sphere of pastoral cold
you are not a memoir
but a moment
not an optical version
but a comment you are
not a calculus but a collection
you make the sky dull with
an empire version of us
mapping no where we can be
sometimes your signs
vague or over-exposed
as if you have no history but ours
because we’ve picked your tomorrow clean
but for that one footprint we follow
based on a photograph by Adam Schreiber
“Presidential Moon, 1969“
My Grandmother in the Facility / by Jason Galloway
The twisted wire in the garden, the rusted
padlock, a hammer’s scar in the tree:
plucking at the veins in your wrist, waiting
all night long for the evening paper.
Here in your hospital chair, the bed with the crank, your
continuous no-time, in your moments of agitation,
out of your dry chest: men’s names
like the sound of crying …. the stream of your life
and only the men’s names.
You clenched your tongue in your ribs your whole life.
What can I offer: your apple, your knife, your salt?
The whole moon and tree with all of their scars?
Grandmother …. rest and sing.
Early Spring Omens / by Jessica Gigot
The tulips are topped
Before April is over.
Center pivot irrigation
Streams over spring-
Ah, yes, ain’t that fresh,
They say the ice is melting.
Greenland’s hunters have only two
Months of good ice instead of nine.
I turn away from the numbers
Only to see Mount Baker’s backbone
Is bare while her foothills stand
In green disbelief. A fluke
Or a pattern, I walk barefoot
Into my birthday month.
The lilacs that mark a new
Year have already wilted.
In Truth / by John James
to speak is natural : the waves
and the wolves : harmony
an eleoquence that stirs
in the mind : Duncan put it that way :
some lives are easy to lead backward
today I am thinking of my dead :
they are not ravaged : memory
a palimpsest of bad lines : from language
we first hear endearments : sweetest
honeymilk : infant song and reverie : les rêves
can there be life then : when the branches
put out their cover : lovedrunk :
when the roots are still unborn :
chaos on our Ouija board : death’s legs
in a black net : no : I speak my own
song : good things before knowledge :
obedience to a common cause : music
ordered in sign
to get back to the beginning : to the labyrinths
of the true : first you start remembering :
you remember to forget : you drown :
you dear : you gesture for the rocks :
a world we knew : the one
we wanted to go out into
Why I Can’t Call You Brother / by Sarah Jefferis
Since you chased me down our mama’s driveway yelling:
suey, here suey, here suey.
Just to tie me down in the fort
And let your friends string me like a harp.
Since you washed me off with a hose,
made Hamburger Helper with meat
reduced for quick sale.
Since you smashed the aquarium with a hammer:
Goldfish and betta flopping on linoleum.
Since you assembled the particle-board bookcase
hollered at wrenches, at floorboards.
Since you cracked your twelve-year-old skull
on the half-ramp, flew in the helicopter
to the hospital. Since mama thought you dead
and I, I was grateful and wishing.
Asters / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
in aubergine and white
spike as lavishly
as sea anemones,
above the sponge
glazed pot —
in the dark depths
food from the light.
the light / by Pablo Otavalo
through amber glass:
call it midsummer sun
cast the lake
a greenish slate
in off-white curls
chisel me in
as a handgun
in denim boyish
girlish waif balanced
on steel pilings
stretching to peril
cue me cuing you
to head out further
you look great
a scrap of fabric
the wind flicks
eyes— you let go
the unsteady rail—
you look even better
I frame you dead
April 13, 2015: 18th Month Scan / by Brianna Pike
Quiet and insidious, it took up residence in the soft
flesh of your neck, the lymph node swelling
so large that even the surgeons could not remove
the entire mass. A diagnosis, and then a close embrace,
from those of us who loved you, who waited through
the chemo, the radiation, the wigs. Held our breath
when you rang the bell at your last treatment; held
your hand when you tattooed your wrist because life
did go on and at eighteen months clear, you are
beautiful. You are strong. You are brave. You are here.
The Moon Responds / by Ronnie K. Stephens
Falling is not always an act of force.
Here it is
deliberate, graceful. Gravity
a thing which must be danced with.
ever very far from home
if you can still feel its absence. Yes, love
returning. Yes, love is a wave that
knows its way to shore.
Only a fool
would call this space empty.
Only a fool would want his breath back.
known too many flying rocks.
They love hardest through the fall.
place for their fists in my skin
and call it a promise as if I ever asked
one of them to stay.
I don’t regret what they cut from me.
I don’t regret
the holes they left.
There is nothing more honest than that.
A Month Before My Thirtieth Birthday / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
At the ashram I sat cross-legged
on a cot in a shared room, scribbling
the first poem I had written since nineteen:
a promise to myself for the final year
of my twenties. I won’t share here
the contents, but I wear the poem
in a sterling locket around my neck
to serve as a constant and heavy
reminder of what I want to achieve
before age thirty. A month in advance,
I can barely remember the exact
and careful rhetoric I had locked
inside that cold orb. When I open
the latch I’ll know: of my hopes
two have been won. And of those,
one has kept me from another. Oh,
the weight of silver, which must be worn
or suffer from tarnish, color of being ignored.
Day 15 / Poems 15
Here / by Eric Elshtain
Awkward monsters complain, “There’s a wheel for everything!”
Doctors sweetly clasp blue X-rays: thin lids with which light boxes close their eyes
You’ve become a stupid hint for brutes who favor doom to little girls’ pretend ballet (“Their toes will never hurt, thank God.”)
Here this future unfurls before us: a devious cruise of hands
Your past cartwheels mutter, “Find the good grasses. Spin with the apparatus of galaxies”
We slow the hooked hunt and find, in our paladin’s wet sand, a yawning form sodden in the sudden fold, tuck, fold of the waves
They look to the two thousand ways we see comets shed emeralds and bumblebees
Here you should listen to the two thousand words we use to scold ghosts; only then will you feel humans being human
Here germs are too interesting
The egg-eating snakes worm half-way to the world almost as done as the planets we’re digging into
Sailors no longer make their cases to queens
Here there’s a price on our ears and here
the birds belong to the bottom of forests and Earth’s weird assembly dotes on lights that glare back without expression
Evening / by Jason Galloway
after Outside the Frame by Jean Valentine
One more hour, pray, spring-light,
under everything twitching and glowing.
A moment more.
Still too much dissatisfaction in blossom and limb:
flash, fly, dangle, drizzle, hurry, hide, seek;
abundance, resistance, ostentation, permission;
luster, aroma, hunger;
………………………………….. indoors dinner hour finishes,
the tables wiped, chairs pushed back in, mail sorted;
the people strolling the avenues to appraise the gardens
quicken as porch lights appear one by one;
the creatures retreat with their shadows, one by one.
Banality / by John James
I woke up naked. It was cloudy. I ground
beans for coffee. A bottle exploded. I watered
the cabbage sprouts and fed the cat. I gave
my daughter some yogurt. Mixed honey in it.
Sat down to read. I sped through 40 pages
and stopped. The printer set itself aflame.
My daughter’s slide got up and walked away.
I changed a diaper, washed my hands.
Brushed my teeth to go out. I called the doctor
and made an appointment. The candles
had eyes. I ate a Caesar salad. That afternoon
I went to the grocery. They were out of eggs.
The cart started talking. I bought myself
some bread. When home, daughter threw
up on the sofa. The sofa speaks in monotone.
I ordered a pizza, put books back on the shelf.
Watched the candy bowl inch its way toward me.
When the pizza arrived, I tipped the driver.
He blew fire in my ear. I signed the receipt
and waited for him to stop.
For the geometric topologist on-line who wanted to see my face / by Sarah Jefferis
You had me with the poem about rain. I don’t even like rain.
To learn your daughter—who you don’t see often—
wrote the images of possibility, no choice but to reply.
Ridiculous to be seduced by a man’s daughter’s poem.
You had me with the video of your hands playing a dance
of birds on harpsichord. I don’t even like harpsichord.
It belongs in the church. But the star tattoos on each finger
turned to constellations. Archers and Dogs
and nine birds wailing in notes.
Apus and Aquila, the Eagle, Columba the dove,
Corvus the Crow, Cygnus the swan,
Grus the crane, Pavo the peacock, Phoenix and Tucana.
Which are you?
You called our conversation asymmetrical.
I thought what does my face matter.
I thought why spoil it. My sentences are prettier.
I thought, I look like a Jew raised Christian now Buddhist.
After days of poems and promises of live recitation
I finally showed my face. Only to receive silence.
You couldn’t begin to see me.
But you had given me your hands
and called yourself paper tiger.
Oh fierce harmless liar.
The Real Estate / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
At twelve she is
a hawkish seller —
first right of refusal
to her Mother
when her Father
and the other
draft an offer to purchase
for her tears.
a rabbit / by Pablo Otavalo
…………….Easter, I got a daffodil
which I beheaded for my
lapel. Pleasure originates
in the inability to describe
a sensation of touch
a balanced proportion
a harmonic octave
Measure / by Brianna Pike
If love is measured in words, your father’s love cycles
through his email over and over in the language
of a parent who wants only to celebrate a shy, intelligent
son who builds gravity vehicles, loves computers and plays
violin with a soft gaze of concentration. A son who
will graduate in May, move on with a scholarship
to research, to live, to walk with other students among
echoing halls and grassy lawns. A son who is still his parents
child who competes in Science Olympiad and rides bikes with his dad;
a boy, who if love is measured in words, will never know a blank page.
Written in honor of Macgregor “Mac” Vogelsang at the request of his parents.
The Astronaut Questions the Moon / by Ronnie K. Stephens
Can you call it falling when gravity
does not live here?
How far are you from the tide?
Do you name it love when you pull her in?
Did I know how to breathe before
I conquered all this empty space?
How many times have you loved something
that only ever slapped your softest parts?
Do you regret the craters they left on your back
when you asked them to come inside?
Is there anything more honest than that?
The Summer of Beer Lunches / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
At thirteen, you didn’t know the feeling
of endless vertigo and extreme fatigue
was defined by a word, but you still
understood that spending a week
in Wildwood with your family would
somehow cure you.
that dipping your scraped knee
into the Atlantic would facilitate healing,
and the salt air seemed to do the same
for your unnamed, undefined fears.
would continue what lightens her
discomfort, so you attended
to your most peaceful moments:
devouring ice cream for every meal,
power-napping every day at three –
covered in sand – to lyrics of seagulls.
was the summer you couldn’t get well,
when running to the coast meant
rejecting adulthood. You’d come home
spent from instructing kids for some money
between semesters, and lunch would be
beer: fermented ales, stouts, Belgian wheats.
…………………………………………You would feed
a tiny amber bead to your dog, unplug
the air conditioner, lie over covers, cuddle
with the warm animal until your urban studio
retreats into abnormal stillness: under suds
and beach hot.
Day 14 / Poems 14
Life-Light / by Eric Elshtain
Only robots reach these thorned and glowing things that live under a rain of diatoms and scraps of creatures used to day—abyssal filaments and ribbons at mute rest. We stretch our lives down there, too, with fibers thick with voices we do, themselves coded beams, whispers in lights our human news is thinned within. Just above our births and loves, disasters and leaps, those flashing beasts use light to lure and stun, attract and confuse; this pitched place, tentacle-felt, lucifer-lit, the pool we lean over, listening to echoes and outbursts, and into which we finally fall.
Two Owls Hunting / by Jessica Gigot
One flies high
The other flies low.
Field mice are
Out of their safe burrows
By peculiar whisper sounds
Before the screech
Arrives from above.
from Materia / by John James
Here I am, at the end it, hollowed out by sorrow, tent pitched south along the river. Emptiness itself cuts along the bank. I never knew how to fit things into proper categories—what form, what flesh. To say house sparrow, songbird—bright plastic ring. A passerine flits in the wind. Pistil, stamen—pollen floods my nose, powdering tent walls, the acne scars honeycombing her face. When I consider the old ambitions, I let my arms go. I think about the sea’s rush, river’s stop, seepage from a well—everyone believes in one rapture or another, false gods giving way to the palace of the real. The limitlessness of love falters at desire’s end. But this comes out of context. It is summer, I am thirsty. My canteen is empty. There is not enough water. There was never enough water.
Tuesday Panties / by Sarah Jefferis
I didn’t know I was bleeding till my mama, who was late
for her night shift at the gas station,
yanked me from strawberry Pop Tarts and Scooby Doo,
handed me wash cloth and a thick crinkly pad:
to stick to Tuesday panties.
Mama said I was lucky not to have tampons.
Tampons make you loose, slippery, ready, she whispered
while pouring cream of mushroom soup over egg noodles.
Ready for what? After Tylenol and the blue stink
of the heating pad that plugged in,
I dripped red clumps around the toilet.
Comet made me heave but I sprinkled
that green powder. I smelled
different and creased myself
into a small linen closet. Held
towel to mouth to catch vomit.
I snuck my friend’s tampons out of her fourth-grade cubby,
perched my flat foot on the back of the school toilet
and shoved it in, cardboard and all.
I didn’t know any better.
I bled before first communion,
when I could still eat for free at Bob’s Big Boy.
Sunnyslope / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
for Melissa and Greg Schumacher
There’s a reverence
for a well-placed window,
a devotional I hold
for the priesthood
that shepherds space
Long before we met
through the intercessions
of our children
I intuited your existence
giving form to the creators
through the perfect architecture
of their creation.
me whole/ by Pablo Otavalo
Some words crisp
as winter biting
through a scarf
raw .. As birdsong
breaks the morning
your hyacinth hair
and you say something
stirs to take the place
in each an everglade
to those who were not
no absolution And sculpture
and pastiche and the silent
of twee, the last exhausting
in the land of the living
the dying receive no alms
and in the afterlife of hysteria
and rudiment there’s no calling
no raising the lantern
to the iris of night
when in the height heaven
was not named, and the earth
beneath did not yet bear a name,
and the earth was without form, void
was upon the face of the deep
upon the face of the waters.
Reunion Elegy / by Brianna Pike
To walk this campus is to walk among ghosts
of classmates who are permanently embossed
on the back of our reception program in blue ink.
One name stands out as a hulk of a football player;
a boy with a big voice; who sat next to me
in sophomore seminar. I was away, hiking
the Lake District when he broke up
with his girl, gave his dog away and hung
himself from the closet door
in his room. Loved by his professors,
his coach and his fraternity brothers.
Loved. Loved. Loved.
So it is strange to return, to feel comfort
in these familiar brick walls, shrouded in silence.
The Room I Could Not Find; The Room I Cannot Find Again / by Ronnie K. Stephens
At the center a heavy
wooden door painted indigo
with black iron hinges.
It has neither handle
Inside it my legs are tired
from all the biking. I lean
against the door and it give
like a best friend until it is
all the way gone.
The hole where the door once was
is purple shadows and hot breath.
This room swallows everything
like a hungry gullet.
In the corner, the abyssinian
we rescued from the barn.
The black dog chasing mother’s car.
The Russian Blue from the SPCA.
The black and white Maine Coon
sprawled across the bathroom sink.
Another Russian Blue.
Every pet I have ever owned
pawing for a place in my lap.
I find the buck knife from grandpa
lying on a whiskey barrel with the watch
my father gave me when I was thirteen.
Both are heavy and rusted and calm.
The blade is dull. The time has stopped.
A lamp I do not remember leans over
a worn copy of my favorite book,
the first edition I ever owned.
It still smells like the night I let a girl
read it on the bathroom floor
after too much whiskey and men.
The bookmark is a bracelet
that snapped itself in half,
a tired turquoise spine holding up
the first lesson I ever learned
in compassion. Awareness = change.
Finally, completely, I see the summer
I hated myself. Six inches carved
from my own belly with chicken bones
and bicycle spokes. It sulks like a child
that knows it has never been loved.
Beside it, the summer I let it go.
Forgave everything I had ever done
to myself. Each apology a spiral
cut into the bogwood. The pendant
itself a smooth moon that hung
against my heart for seven years.
I try to pack the knife and the wood
and the book into the shoulder bag
I carried into the bog years ago.
None of them fit. Their edges,
awkward and sharp, cut through
the canvas, fall onto the floor.
The room becomes the bog, wet
and empty. The door is a road
I reach for, dig into until my nails
give themselves to its skin.
I pull myself from everything
I’ve lost again. Survival
the act of forgetting.
Day 13 / Poems 13
See Hear / by Eric Elshtain
hear every eye
is it for fear,
lofty trees, I see
and only herald,
from the stars,
not to tell
in single life—
make the world
away every where.
This poem uses a patron’s name
to “read through,” à la Jackson
Mac Low, nine sonnets
In the Village / by Jason Galloway
In the village there is a library with hard words
and heavy books behind doors that nobody opens
steeple bells ring out the nursery melodies at noon
the elders pause to remember a few of the phrases
by evening the people look out to wave and smile
the lights behind curtains shut off promptly at dusk
the roots of the trees raise the corners of sidewalks
but workers return to fill in the gaps by moonlight
spring stimulus / by Jessica Gigot
April wind howls like a pack of coyotes
Waking me from sleep, chasing me
To the end of the driveway.
I am safe, but these currents spell change
In a month that is barely in swing.
I am ready for a shift of air. Land-locked,
My mental sails fill to take me
The paper shifts under the pen
The gales have already begun.
I write and sigh and write.
The Suffering of Blossoms / by John James
Welt, wound, world—the swallows
are sleeping. Three months of silence,
another coming on, and before we
can say anything, leaving. Everything
but the azaleas is sepia-toned. Or worse,
grained with several hundred rose
petals pruned from your mother’s weeds.
What did we arrive at, anyways? Still.
Each morning the stale sun rises. Snow
cover fades in the delta’s heart, soy fields
begging for water. I break from sleep.
Bitterness lights up like a wan candle,
dahlias swaying in the garden. Hydrangeas
dry, wherever they are. Songbirds peck seed
from the sown bed. I don’t see any way
out of it. Baroque breath, mausoleum
of speech, I sleep naked, open a window,
watch the cold cars blink in the distance.
Sundays / by Sarah Jefferis
I cannot stand the smell of Sundays—
hot compost of them. Sundays sour
canker sore I run my tongue
over but can’t quite see no matter how many ways
I open my mouth.
Sundays a fishbone trapped in
even needle nose pliers cannot reach.
Sundays a blue vase I shatter every seven days.
Sundays are Mary Queen of Scots who stepped up to the galleys,
stripped down to her bodice and gloves and smiled
at her executioners. Took fifteen attempts
to chop her head off.
Sundays a head that won’t split from a spine.
Sundays the priest above me on the Parish Hall couch.
Sundays the day I let my girls:
my blood mirrors—my echoes—my ancestral ghosts
walk back to my x, a woman who once named
her life after me but believes now in the bottle
and any other pussy with cash.
Sundays the day of transition:
is like chewing roaches
with wings and smiling.
I am to believe the woman I once loved
fifteen years ago is still beneath the Merlot
and chocolate. It’s like believing
the stone actually moved.
Daesin / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
of the day I heard news
of your death
I encountered an Absence
which I could not name;
It announced itself
in the shroud of snow
that slipped off
of a southbound train.
In dread I stood
as the Veil
kindled by wind-spark
into ice blue flame.
as my brightest students
recede into dullness,
across the distances
hard to find;
How soon they fade–
the grey matter smog
of this sleepy
I must confess,
you were never charted
And yet it is You
I chart my course,
and oh so bright–
frames the emptiness
faint and ever fading
both day and night.
As if it were you
to bring forth this
Pentacost of Nothing—
to form its very name
on your tongue
The light hounds
the day / by Pablo Otavalo
In a place we both remember,
lined with sunlight & sand
Behind a chapel filled
with plastic chairs,
like lovers, alone
at last, like explorers
at a fault line We
each breath held
…………………a lita little longer–
Wheat fields under summer
gusts, moist leaves mid-August,
parables of mustard seeds, reeds
edging vermillion rivers, feeding
great lakes, the way you held my hand
the night we lost our way, church bells,
the flutter one scarcely hears
even in Mariposarios, rooms
filled with ripe orchids, ice crushed
beneath your tongue, rice flowing past
your fingers, mandolins breaking,
charcoal, chrysanthemums, the crackle
of Crème Brulée, the day you said
Karenina, pebbles under
the earth revolves around
a point that revolves around a point
that revolves around a point ad
infinitum, tasting red wine
sacrosanct, rain chasing
itself down window
on Union Pacific rails, collecting
maple leaves in every fuchsia, drawing
on cocktail napkins, reaching across
an infinite distance and in another
find ache belying grief & relief
And as we kissed the sun slowed to a crawl
…………..across the azure sky and across the world
no one said a word nor whimpered nor suffered nor died.
Postcard Portrait / by Brianna Pike
After a photograph of Zora Neale Hurston
I saw you in a bookstore in Manteo
North Carolina where you were swaying
on a stand with Frost, Warhol and O’Hara.
I admired your hat, sloping to shadow one eye.
Your smooth jaw and lone curl of hair hiding
your right ear. Shoulders hunched slightly
forward, and your dress crinkled
at the armpits. A slight lift to your lips
as if you knew pollen, bees and frothing
pear trees. Knew that you would kill a man
with what he loved most, two years before
you picked up your pen and called souls to come see.
I Would Riot for Less / by Ronnie K. Stephens
I carry a marble in my pocket
because it’s easier to hold
a cold glass thing
than a hand.
Make eye contact with it
in crowded rooms.
Focus on the creamsicle swirl
stuck in the center like an iris.
And then there’s you.
Your eyes green shatters.
I am already a mess of cuts
crushing all over their sharp.
Nothing about you makes sense
to my heart, but when we are
apart my chest is a free diver
too far beneath the waves.
You come to me like a surface
breaking, a deep breath I had
given up on taking. You holy
Makeup Face / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
To apply mascara, blush, eyeliner,
lipstick, an artist must first consider
a well-lit mirror, curse fluorescents,
and pick a new persona. Then, the
application requires a stretching
and manipulation of the facial skin:
for lips a pursing and eyes a squint;
for apples a big smile; for definition
a catfish kiss. Concealer makes hidden
blemishes of a weekend, markings
of less-than-great decisions. Sparkling
opalescent highlights kick Monday’s start.
Day 12 / Poems 12
Thick with witness / by Eric Elshtain
an eye’s awful offices
take life on a humble
or shoot wire to shock
the sun out of judgement
plucked from trees
bent sinister by standards
no one has the heart for.
Anthems cruel with notes
bankrupt get sung, pale
choruses enrich books—
do not know change—
mistake revolt for chains
wielding power’s blunt
inflections, old hulls
like seedless monies sunk
into a history’s false bottom.
Different Light / by Jason Galloway
after Clear Sound by W. S. Merwin
Bright cloud springtime afternoon
fewer shadows in the gaps of young trees
across the garden before the wall and blind stones
that have frozen or warmed every day of the year
the entire race of green sings out
in tones neither yesterday nor today
nor a moment ago nor never again
just here just now
Homesick / by Jessica Gigot
I don’t miss the early morning barn chores or the rafts of dog hair hiding under the
bed. In the field, the seeds and weeds can wait another week and the dirty
dishes will always be stacked to the left of the sink. When I stretch my legs
in the crisp, white sheets of a foreign bed I feel weightless and untrammeled.
I am inspirited as I walk down city streets past curious smells and window
scenes. At a corner I see the faint outline of my frame in a car window and,
suddenly, I remember I am lost.
The Blossoms of Suffering / by John James
Tell me you remember leaning dizzily over
the pool of crane-eaten koi.Guests dawdled
off in the hallway speaking in the dialect
of bourbon, a blue man talking aimlessly
at the deadening roses, the dumb
pewter used to hold them. When he tripped
into a ditch, no one knew. I imagine
sun falling on his militant cheek, stubble
grouting chin. His skin lay gathering burn.
Shirtless, in the rooms behind him, long
eyed soldiers slugged each other and kissed
the big women astonished at their strength
and the scars of blunt trauma, survivors all
of one horror show or another, dazed,
exhilarated, bored now that Pol Pot is dead.
Packed like carnival rats, or huddled
as old women in churches, I think of them
gulping the muddy water, fish blood spooling
in the rock pond. Stone flanked
with purple crocuses. And after, two days
of silence, another before they could eat
anything, flat Coke dried across the weed-
sick marble. Tell me you remember
the surface of ripples, the wind-swept folds
spelling out a belligerent history, to which
we attach ourselves, hungry, confused, rivering
in the whiskey of our thought.
Pinkeye / by Sarah Jefferis
Mama mama, there are plants growing out of sissy’s eyes
says my oldest, witnessing our morning ritual:
warm cloth, pressed to unseal the envelopes.
Held, not rubbed.
There is nothing pink about pinkeye.
And the baby stiffens her long torso
flat as a board, lighter than goose down,
and flips her head back and forth.
Even the tears are caved in.
Useless sulfa drops itch the oldest child,
and hives arise, spread like a bad blush
down her chin, encircling her neck,
I haven’t slept in days. So I command her
hives to retreat. Tell them this is the body
I made, this is my masterpiece
And they simply don’t have rights.
After Benadryl, she laughs,
breathes again, reminds me
of our plane trip, saying:
from the sky the ground looked like cloth—
the ground is the bird’s sky.
To Sir, With Love / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
It is grievous to think that those valiant barons, to whose stand against the crown the liberties of England were indebted for their existence, should themselves have been such dreadful oppressors, and capable of excesses contrary not only to the laws of England, but to those of nature and humanity. But, alas …fiction itself can hardly reach the dark reality of the horrors of the period. — Ivanhoe
As I close the pages
I think of you in your study
upon the bare haugh
was its only form.
the midlands with itself,
collecting the stories
of the common folk
in dirt before ink.
Vox populi, vox dei —
before you had
a man of law,
you were theirs —
and so I wonder
how you would write him —
the other Walter Scott.
Reflection / by Brianna Pike
Hundreds of mirrors, curve upward and I
am reminded of Bishop’s fish, but this rainbow
is up ended and undulating from a minuscule
reflecting pool. His tail fans out, each small
prism catching the spring sunlight casting
color off every surface. He is modern, cool
chrome among the greenhouse orchids
lilies and ivy, beckoning me closer, capturing
my face on thousands of scales.
After “Standing Glass Fish” by Frank Gehry at the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis, MN.
The Artist Sets Down Her Pen / by Ronnie K. Stephens
after an illustration by Desarae Lee
The black smack of ink
on her dress bent her double.
Every direction was a half moon
hurling itself through the air.
Even the birds could not tell
if she had learned to fly
or simply stopped falling
from every hotel room
like a penny at the well
wishing only to be still.
Day 11 / Poems 11
from “What Can a Little Moon Do For You?” / by Eric Elshtain
the moon is a corridor
the moon is a thimble
the moon is a cheap hotel
the moon is loose
the moon is a canton
the moon is an auger hole carved
into our mad deck for Ahab’s wooden leg
the moon is crucially temporal
how is the moon archived?
the moon is a film played backwards
so does it show the same thing?
the moon dots our mirrors with bits of itself
the moon is inside-out
the moon is a depth of field
an imperfect syntax
the moon is a constitution
the moon is a documentary
are we still in the moon age?
is the moon above a moral life?
the moon is something resisted
the moon’s best business is done in the dark
the moon is a featherdrill
the moon is a rheumatic child
the moon is off the books
the moon is Lebhana
and there is no passage to it
except through our shadow…
Looking for the voice / by Jason Galloway
One year I awoke to the wholesome
blazing spring of a dogwood tree
this year the branches reach to the shed
this year gaps show the wood from behind
this year the dogs are howling discontent
this year the insects are causing confusion
this year the maples fling their twirling candies to the air
this year there’s pink and gold and sixty-one other colors
this year there are many other awakenings
this year the dogwood blossoms
tell the same white crisscross truth
but I don’t remember the words to that song
Foreboding / by Jessica Gigot
When the tsunami hits we will leave–
We have been warned by the whales
And dolphins. The Quileute are already
Moving up and inland.
It is not a matter of if,
It is a matter of when.
The Pacific archipelago of Haida Gwaii
Has shifted. Tectonic strain
Sits and waits along the fault line.
It is not a matter of if,
It is a matter of when.
Last night I dreamt of waves
And Japanese ships washing ashore
From a hotel room in Minneapolis.
Even from far away the ocean wields power.
from Materia / by John James
To the feasts of the good the good go unbidden. Children’s hands in snow. Houseboats on the lake, a red and yellow bicycle. The scent of cut wood. Half moons, quarter moons. A lampshade exhausted by light. Stillness in the air. A man and woman riding home from the movies, the warm leather of their seats. Plums, raisins, a shriveled pear. A clownfaced woodpecker picking the shot trunk of a bent pine, jamming acorns into a hole. Her waka-waka call. Leady clay of the lakewater, magnolia leaves. Blue shale in the dimming sun. Bubblegum medicine taken from a spoon. Birches riven by a summer storm. Creek bed, hoof prints. Peat moss, peat spores. Gouache flowers on white canvas, wild fennel, rosemary sprigs heating in olive oil in a pan on the stove. A moment ago I felt sick. There are limits to what can be said.
The Duplex / by Sarah Jefferis
Our bedroom remained unfinished.
The floor dipped. The ceiling heaved
like an old woman exhaling,
the windows rattled even in the summer.
A broken screen
was a hornet invitation
and a stray calico jumped on a plant stand
chopping the crock in half,
porcelain to paw.
When the garbage disposal choked
from my dawn to dusk vomit,
or from plums I could not stop eating,
seasons tripped over each other
before the landlord came to fix it.
Dehumidifier spat four letters
and the dryer trembled.
We made a trail of rocks to the breaker,
but mold grew, green and yellow.
The washer ran, cord floating
like a garden snake.
It was a paradise of mirrors
until I lost our baby.
I love / by Pablo Otavalo
The trees bow heavy
with the scent of home
And no answer comes
from the enlightened sky
no door opens
to my calling
the living god a flower
The living water a cut
dividing my face
to blackbird and oriole
at the edge
of summer and sorrow
And no answer comes
from the enlightened sky
fire climbs the mountain
and redwood seeds
crackle to bloom
Wedgwood / by Brianna Pike
In a small room off my grandparent’s kitchen
shiny pine floorboards slope downward
beneath a crystal chandelier. Shades of blue
velvet take shape in a cake stand, serving platter,
butter dish, cup and saucer. Ancient mythology
etched in hard, white paste on each dish.
A collection gathered through countless trips
to antique stores, cramped, dusty spaces
crammed with brightly colored glass goblets,
painted porcelain birds, and brass lamps.
My grandmother scoured each booth, straining
to glimpse a glint of blue and white.
Holding each treasure to the light, she examined
the curve of each small, raised face, delighted
at discovering a genuine find. She held it close
to her breastbone all the way to the register,
only letting go when the shop owner offered
to wrap it in protective sheets of thick paper.
Today, standing in that same small room off
the kitchen, my mother, my sister and I wait
in front of the shelves while my grandmother
whispers who will get her beloved china.
Her fingers caress every piece, recalling each
time she pulled a piece of beauty free from dust.
Written for Scott Luter in request for a poem about a “family heirloom.”
Hero, and that Would be Enough / by Ronnie K. Stephens
You entered my class
a sophomore already expert
at blending in, made invisible
more art and less power.
You hardly spoke,
wore only shades of black ,
your impossibly red hair a shock
of color ahead of its time.
There was no way to know
you dreamt of pills. Swallowed
an entire bottle and cursed the sun
when it didn’t let you burn.
You survived the year
against your will.
And that would be enough.
But you came back
a junior on fire; tried out
for the competitive speech
and poetry slam teams.
The poetry coach told you
you weren’t good enough.
You never quit.
Showed up every week.
Put the work in. Played Pecos
Bill and taught yourself
how to lasso every tornado
in the room, how to calm
the angriest clouds.
When the sky fell apart
you stepped in. It was then
I learned you had a speech
impediment for the first time.
A brother who didn’t survive.
Cerebral palsy. Seventeen years
of doctors in another state.
Wanted to die.
Senior year you captained
both ships. Built a family of scraps.
Leaned on us when you decided
to live out loud.
At graduation, you confessed
that you never meant to walk
across the stage. You had a plan.
You meant to leave. But you stayed.
And that would be enough.
Yet here you are in college
still calming storms wherever
you go. Teaching this old soul
over and over what it means
to be brave. To be loved.
To be safe.
Some teachers spend their
whole career waiting for a story
like yours. A student like you.
One cherry bomb
in a box of sparklers.
A cannon heart just waiting
You set a thousand chests ablaze
every time you touch a stage.
And that would be enough.
But you are also my friend.
My chosen family.
Day 10 / Poems 10
from “Other Phases; or, A Little Moon Can Do” / by Eric Elshtain
glass we pale at
how it displays us
this moon an arrangement
we’ve made with ourselves
a museum of aftermaths
the moon just a phase
we go through a place
we fly to place a capstone
bullet hole moon
that little float you do
ready to make geometries
a collection of knots
a version of doom
packed grey bone
dusty incorporate zone
at a weatherless standstill
of our most remote behaviors
a picture of a model
of an idea of the moon
no one will point to
this poem and say “That’s the moon,”
but will make
this very mistake
with all of its pictures
based on a photograph by Adam Schreiber
Presidential Moon, 1969
The Elegy / by Jason Galloway
Daddy, they decided
to print the poem I wrote you.
It’s printed on rubber
and includes a glossy
of that painting on Poetry.
They’ve numbered the lines
of the first stanza so handsomely
and put tidy boxes around the others.
But I forgot—
somebody else owns the rights
and is going to press
your poem has no words.
Snow in April / by Jessica Gigot
reminds me of walking up
side streets after the show
mimicking the mesmerizing harmonies
a long drive across counties to see sheep
huddled in plastic huts, feeding on sillage,
waiting for winter’s end
now the wintry mix floats past the hotel
window, luscious flakes, a tease
before the spring sun returns
another marker for another journey
another season in another year
Stay Gone / by Sarah Jefferis
Mud gives me hives. I would not know roots
if they introduced themselves. Worms disgust me.
When you chop them up, they keep growing.
I am allergic to an address, to four walls, or dry wall
and doors. As a child, mama put me to bed with a fairytale:
A girl in a stadium with lions behind her
and three doors. Behind one door is the man God
intended, behind another the ocean, and the third door
doesn’t open at all. I could never choose the correct door.
Door handles make me nauseous. I used to dream of crawling
in the lion’s mouth rather than making the right choice.
I want an orange sky and a cyclone of wind. I whore
for wings. I want a blonde wig and a new name: Joan or Julian.
I will drive and drive with the top down until salt
water fills my lungs. My other body is in the sea.
I will teach my girls how a home is not necessary
how to be a housewife is to tape one’s mouth
closed. Twice. I will give them Kahlo so they know
leaving is not enough
they must stay gone, their hearts are canvass
they can paint without lions or doors or any man
God intended. A lion’s mouth is a cleaner savior.
I will have men and women who are contained in the hours
they appear. I will make them disappear,
I will always have hours before and hours ahead.
I am no longer forecasting, I have set the white dress dreams
aflame, given up on diamonds as if they were gluten,
like a year of Passover—I have traded them for metaphor
the only lover I will strip for, the body I lay my head upon.
Eurydice Speaks / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
Live most certain, my love,
of your last glance
I shall never complain;
live and let me fall
to await you again.
When Death bids your return,
come seek me among
a pale light
within the dark constellations
of Hesperus’s longing.
With the birds and trees,
streams and breeze,
I swooned to your sweet song;
yet these three days of silence
I’ve understood what
drew me to you all along.
While walking the Meadows
how often my mind
has drifted to Melancholia–
how you placed her on my chest,
asked me to nurse her
at the breast the first hour we met. . .
and how could I forget
those brooding legions of Pathos
who stabbed violently
at my meat
when you brought them over
to eat. . .
I have lingered long and hard
of your bizarre bromance
and upon your friend,
but don’t get me started on that bitch.
So much chronologic illness
crossed my threshold
in so little time,
how soon I succumbed
to your diseases
of nostalgia and regret.
When I arrived, Hades murmured
a poet in the hand
is worth two in the bed–
he meant to comfort me, perhaps,
or to burn
the knots of my youth–
but as you become diminished
in my sight
I see that beloved countenance
of pain-masked pleasure–
and hell if I didn’t
know it was the truth.
An Estimated Five Hundred Dollars
in Twenties & Tens / by Pablo Otavalo
The world is full of slights
but hardly anything sticks
to dwell on, not really,
except perhaps, the time
the money for the school
play was stolen. They came
to get me, and left me in gym
shorts and gym shirt
in a small room. He looked
at me and it was understood
he knew I did it. He asked, where
it was, and I asked for details
on the case because, by god,
I could help them crack it. They
brought in my clothes and everything
from my lockers in a garbage
bag and went through every
scrap and every pocket. I knew
it would come to it and
anticipated the indignity
by taking off my shoes.
I asked if someone said
I did it, but the silence
made it clear no one
had to. I was given
a piece of paper to write
down everything I did
after lunch. I wrote an
impromptu book report
on the night Thoreau
spent in jail for not paying
the poll tax, how it shifted
popular opinion helping us
imprisoned and criminal,
accused and guilty. It was
quickly read and labeled
Exhibit A. They combed
the hallway to the gym to
the locker room. I could overhear
their frustration. 3 o’clock
came, went, as the lacrosse
team warmed up, the jazz
band and the swim team
got a pep talk. I was asked
whom had I seen acting
suspicious. They handed
me another piece of paper
to write down names. I drew
what could at first be mistaken
for a hat but was clearly
a snake that had swallowed
an elephant. It was labeled
Exhibit B. The world was
not round, and its edges sharp
& held too near the eye. They let
me go a quarter past six. Exhausted.
When my mother
came home from work
I said nothing.
Raspberrying / by Brianna Pike
My grandmother trudges
summer, waiting for my
hands. Brambles cluster
in thorny mazes above
our heads and snag
our thin, cotton sleeves,
tipping the berry bucket
into the dirt. Wasps hover,
smelling the crushed fruit.
One yellow and black jacket
lands on my exposed wrist
and I cry out for my grandmother;
she rushes through the thicket,
pushing me across the dirt
road to my aunt who sits
me down on a wooden
bench and presses a Windex
soaked tissue to the sting.
Ammonia, she whispers as I
thread my grandmother’s fingers
through mine, weeping over
our entwined hands.
Let It Be / by Ronnie K. Stephens
after Lauren Zuniga
the year of getting enough sleep
the year of reading all the books
the year of mirrors
the year of not looking away
the year of highways and friends
the year of eating alone
the year of going for walks
the year of embracing
….pancakes at midnight
….your own red heart
the year of embracing
….your own red heart
….and trusting the ones
….who have been keeping it warm
….through all the years this year
the year of unnaming everything you let go
….nothing can have a bed inside you
….until you give it a name
the year of eviction
the year of moving out
the year of moving on
the year of moving
RE: “Your Poem” / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
Dear Ms. Wirstiuk: Thank you
you for sending us “Your Poem,”
which we enjoyed so much we won’t
be publishing it: not now, not ever.
Please understand that you won’t be
able to send the poem elsewhere
because it no longer exists except
in your memory, if you remember.
Our guidelines state: we cannot
own responsibility for consumed work,
and yours was delicious: so sweet
and so cold. Let’s not call it “eaten.”
Rather, “Your Poem” was devoured,
one from (we can’t believe our luck)
a batch of calorific, creamy, butter-
smashed words offered freely to us.
The best our staff can do is extend
gratitude, invite you to submit again.
Next time try a new recipe and note
our fondness for pears. Sincerely, Editor.
Day 9 / Poems 9
Socialist Surrealism / by Eric Elshtain
I got fifteen doubts
’bout the sinecures
in my mind, planted
who keep coming out
of one small Trabant
that left me right
where I thought
I was going. An ideal
painting fell flat
from its problems
with a sky. Isothermal
Baedekers point out
the worst museums
that’ll display anything
for a damn. Their door-
ways have it in for
my shoulders, so to hell
with their antiquities,
I’m blotting them out
of my books of false
as that is. My globe spins
like a dizzy toon and full
of human feel it yells
“I don’t care how much
you know me!” and orbits
me a final time. My social
sphere just shrunk by one
and the clues I’m closin’
in on all point my way
as if I could be guilty
of botching the placement
of the canton.
The Advice / by Jason Galloway
When my mother said become a teacher
the invisible moon was drawing the waters
into pools and channels across the sea island
she said it and we turned the pages of our novels
she said it and the tide came cool and quick in our laps
she said it and a cast of horseshoe crabs surrounded our feet
she said it and I charged toward the safety of land
she said it and I should have run for my life
Aeronautics / by Jessica Gigot
I wake before the alarm
The cat scampers between rooms
the coffee slowly circulates,
The only sounds for miles.
Suitcase to car, car
Soon there will be the masses
Routing north, south, east, west.
will be one of them, barely.
Slightly agitated, half-awake, breathing. The
terminal is a test of
Humanity. Hurry up and wait and, if you can, don’t
forget to be kind.
The Milk Hours / by John James
We lived overlooking the walls
overlooking the cemetery.
Dull gold disappearing into a man,
the indigo roads of our city.
The cemetery is where my father remains.
Loosestrife, mullein. These words
mean nothing to me. The room opens up
into white and more white. Sun outside
between steeples. We walked in the garden
for what seemed like an hour
but in reality must have been days.
I remember, now, the milk hours,
leaning over my daughter’s crib,
dropping her ten, her twelve pounds
into the limp arms of her mother.
The suckling sound as I crashed into sleep.
In that year I spoke no language.
Certainty collapsed, rebuilt, folded
into itself. A tent flap blowing in wind.
My daughter, my father—his son.
The wet grass speckled above him.
His face grew vague, and then vaguer.
From our porch I watch snow fall
on the green of bare firs that hung
above the space where he is buried.
Why does it matter how. What gun,
what type. The chopped copses glisten.
Bluesmoke rises. Snowmelt smoothes
the stone cuts of his name.
As If / by Sarah Jefferis
To acquire the abundance of speech we have to exhume ourselves. Speech cannot arrive with breath. This blue in my exhale is not only my blue. All the world clatters and chimes
and babbles. For many years I answered to a different name. What shall you call me?
Even Li Young Li said: There are voices that wake us in the morning and voices that keep us up all night. Which are you? I want you to touch me as if you want to know me as if you have always known me as if in the knowing I have become your the, and you are my I. That which we fixate on is the thing which we project ourselves upon. I am either all in or all out. There is no middle ground, no half breath. I am not yet the one who got away.
Mile Marker Eight / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
For Carol Wickersham
North of mile marker 8
you’ll see them
If you choose to look —
But who (between us)
really would bother
with the sight
of two tall trees stranded in
a freshly plowed field,
not lately orphaned
from forest or offspring —
Who (but us) really cares —
would double dare
at how the crown
of one’s spare branches
grounds the flight
of the other’s lush
grounds the flight
of the other’s lush
Ars Poetica in Spring / by Brianna Pike
Magnolia trees shed
clumps of petals
that curl into pink
cups strewn across
lawns, gathering rain.
At home, I place
a few loose flowers
in a glass bowl and sit
to write on the remains
of trees. Each stroke
a dark mark falling
from my pen.
Say Its Name and It Will Come / by Ronnie K. Stephens
after an illustration by Desarae Lee
He stands at the top of the maypole
and watches the children spin round
in circles, ribbons weaving together
like an ancestry of ghosts, a lineage
born of bright colors and dancing.
The village calls it the darkest May
Day in history, speaks of a haunting
just past the tree line on the far side
of town, grass bending and flattening
underneath a shrill wind song.
His walking stick becomes a scythe,
wax coat and oil cloth a black robe.
The words plague doctor condense
and rewrite themselves reaper.
He is not a human being
in their stories. No one had ever
even seen the face of the man.
They remember only hollows dark
as pitch where his eyes should be,
beak sharp and curved as a sickle,
the scent of garlic and camphor
wherever he walked.
If he ever had a name, it is gone.
Was he even a man? Who could say?
Now they call it Pesta. Memitim.
Azrael. Santa Muerte. Death.
The story crosses oceans and fords
rivers, learns how to tell itself
in every language. At the center
a birch tree and children and song.
A village on its knees.
Ikea’s Vegan Swedish Meatballs / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
Oh, retail giant
known for prefab
kitchens and baths,
furniture I’ll fashion
myself: I’m astonished
by your news. Oh,
store, loved just
as well for gravied
meatballs, you —
with Nordic seafood,
dill sauce, words hard
to pronounce – will feed
me a plate of Veggie
Balls, ten for about five
dollars. Your cafeteria
will keep me satisfied,
full of peas, gluten free,
and debating whether
to get the SAMSPELT
decoration: a pink
deer to sit on my chest
with its real wood veneer.
Day 8 / Poems 8
On the Take / by Eric Elshtain
“I know a man who once stole a ferris wheel” — Dashiell Hammett
cook anxiety data
we do our best Americas in.
Banking on stunts,
all their signals
so much bad radio
their every last grasp
a scheme to keep
getting us got.
But at flag-set
we see fit to start
though we’ve been
melted out with winds
baked in states’
capitals that don’t
quite go with us
keeping up the big
as our lives
to kinds of time
not made on watches.
Arborists / by Jessica Gigot
The first one was a painter at heart.
He laid out on the lawn,
Warming and tending his muscles
With yogic-like stretches, before
Tackling the decaying willow.
Each branch was removed with precision,
The stump carefully uprooted and dissected.
There are so many shades of greens here
The second one backed slowly down the driveway,
Pausing to arc his neck out of the truck window
And admire the decades-old horse chestnut.
I love asymmetry in trees
We walked the perimeter of the land
He identified the dawn cedar and sequoia
Caressing their trunks as we passed.
Blue skies are so boring, I need texture
We arrived at the white poplar
Dangling over the neighbor’s fence.
a beautiful tree
a damn beautiful tree
Sink holes / by Sarah Jefferis
what I said
and what you
heard. I am
time. I am
not a great believer
in luck. You hear
I have time
and are lucky
We bring our own
interpreters to the conversation.
To love someone
is to murder
perhaps to clean ears,
to listen as if
our lives depended
on it, to stop
hearing what we want
to hear, to stop,
to pay attention.
To translate and transmigrate
requires a kind
and the canyon
in your bed
when I risked enough
to say I live in the land of not like,
and how you replied
you were mine.
Friday on the Mall / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
After four long nights
binge-drunk on data,
lusting after the
of a paradigm
the students are hard
sleeping heavy dreams.
the sidewalk weeps,
the steam of its concupiscence
unabated but for
the garbage bag
full of bright balloons
a giant embryo
of misplaced fun.
Interconnection / by Brianna Pike
Glimpses of orange wings
did not always cause gasps
at the back of throats, but
herbicides, industrialized agriculture,
and the absence of milkweed ensure
that you cannot return to our gardens.
You are safer in fir forests, clusters
of bodies bulge from branches.
Mexico’s warmth encourages
you to separate from the swarm and dance
above the heads of tourists who wonder
at your mysterious migration.
Written for Erica Barrow
I Find Them Everywhere / by Ronnie K. Stephens
the sweet tea
steeping in the midday sun
the couch cushions
the breakfast nook
the carpet in the hall
the tray of eyebrows
waiting to be penciled in
lemon seeds dropped
all over the house
like an orchard in waiting
each time I find myself
on my knees, fingers
digging into the hardwood
is another tree planted
I have fallen so many times
the living room could be
a galaxy of sour stars
and there I am talking
about the universe again
a seed unfolding itself
into branches and blooms
strange how so many
versions of birth I did not
notice until my daughters
also unfolded themselves
from my skin
fruit trees in spring
a sky full of suns burning
all the way through
this fog drunk heart
What Does the Newark Bay Bridge Smell Like? / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
Not like the man in the mall who rushes past you clutching
shopping bags and stretching a muscle tee: is that Armani
Acqua di Gio? Not like your ex who wore those high-end
scents. Not like the flowers he had sent to your office
on Valentine’s Day or the smell of being alone, no food
in your studio apartment. Not like the odor of acute panic,
which is accumulation. Not newsprint of Sunday comics
or the Rio Grande mile approaching Wildwood when tide
is low. Not like your dog’s breath, no matter how often
you brush her teeth. Not like dirty coins found beneath
couch cushions. Not like coffee you bought with change
because you couldn’t remember the essence of cash.
Not the smell of winter ending finally but not pollution
either. The bridge crosses the Newark Bay where water
from the river beside which you were born, one May,
empties: not exactly grape-flavored Pez in a Hello Kitty-
shaped dispenser but closest to the chalky purple candy.
Day 7 / Poems 7
Writer Job Recoding / by Eric Elshtain
Orbiter crowned jig,
jointed crib grower.
Objecting drier row,
jiber tow cringed or
brewed citron jig or
wired tribe corn-jog.
Reject brood wiring,
jot edgier crown rib,
cob nerdier jog writ.
“Wrong cider, OJ!” Tiber
Cowbird jeering rot…
Joint dirge, brew orc,
birder cowering jot.
Robotic grinder, Jew,
Cowering rob rid jet,
bred rejoicing wort.
Each line of the poem
is an anagram of the name
of one of my patrons…
What do we inherit? / by Jason Galloway
My mother keeps her grandmother’s walnut
dough-bowl like the Ark upon Ararat,
at times ancient recipes fluttering
from the prow like unclipped ravens and doves.
How much do we just become the people
we admire? Can I find my ancestor’s
gesture in the way my mother drinks tea
and slices her cake? What old way have I
got that was squeezed into my lungs the day
I was born? Whose lip is this, whose finger,
whose heavy dreams and refusal to rouse?
Her / by Jessica Gigot
The spider hangs on the blue drapes,
Elusive and unwilling to flinch.
I could kill her or set her free.
She could creep up the curve of my
Neck in the middle of the night
And inject tortuous venom. Or,
She could hunt and capture
Our pestering houseflies.
Friend or foe, plain arachnid or grandmother protector?
She continues to hang in perfect
Stillness as I skulk
Behind her in wonder and fear.
from Materia / by John James
I wanted to make this vivid—burgeoning land tracts, sunlight splayed between grains, haloes of ash around her eyes. Skeleton corn stalks moving briefly in the yard. She told me about bees, how in winter they expel the crimped bodies of their dead, dropping the curled shells one by one into a pile on the ground. Hive’s center, the queen warms herself on honey. I think of the artist who scooped them gently in her hands, sealed them in plastic bags, left them sitting in the window. Here, in the field, wheat shocks quiver in the wind. It smells of oak and pine nut, summer dark, an hour lying in the grass. Raccoons stare from a storm-crossed tree. I wanted to make this vivid, so vivid, to feel the red dirt on my feet. There is no ground, only language. There is no place to stand.
These are the lies I have told / by Sarah Jefferis
My age, my weight, who I was with last night.
That I didn’t like women. That I did.
That I can be kept. That I belong to someone.
That I want to belong to someone.
That I stopped believing in the fairytale. That I still do.
That I want you for myself. That I don’t care
about the chorus line of blonde women ringing you.
That I believe I deserve more. That I was the priest’s mistress.
That three times before the age of thirty, I took my own life
in my hands, knotted and wrung it by the throat
to choke it quiet, still. Lies withheld, lies behind, lies beneath
within desire, imagined wants forming like volcanoes,
if I say it, surely it will arise. I am a fabricator
who is not soft spoken. An inventor. A perjurer
with tongued artillery. One who polishes
sentences, spits and buffs them till they shine.
A storyteller, a narrative whore.
to get / by Pablo Otavalo
I had to get the flowers
before I came home
before I came home
I had to get the flowers
before you I had no
recollection no mirror
to see my way home .. In Ur
the fountains stretch to
pavilions and the water
they spill you’d suck
out of the dirt to feed
Bee Maidens / by Brianna Pike
Ancient oracles scuttle up winding vines only to tumble into tulips
opening wide in a deep embrace.
Feeding in the shadow of petals, they scatter and coast
from bud to bloom to branch.
Lovers of flowers, worshiped by the Greeks, carrying prophecy
to Apollo on their soft backs
these maidens, tiny goddesses with wings, task themselves
with the endless work
of pollination and promise resurrection in the soft green
leaves that light the garden at dusk.
Covers / by Ronnie K. Stephens
Dozens of stars pinned themselves
against my mouth like hot stickers.
I wanted to explain how I had been
shouting poems in the shower
for months, but the universe
inside me hissed like a dead candle
and blew itself out. It is still a mute
history, every version a spoonful
of orange blossom honey
on my tongue with no chamomile tea
to thin the chapters into something
honest and warm, to let all the planets
form in the space between
two chests and one bed.
The Specific Anxiety of the Perishables / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
Between my transcendental mangoes
and decomposition stands maybe one
day, but I am stuck with just this tongue.
I imagine an uneaten mango in the trash
and can’t breathe, thinking of wasted
dollars, opportunities missed, starving
beggars who would’ve carved names
into the mango’s yellow flesh, claiming
summer for their own. And then I think
of Mexican farmworkers: how they “live”
in rat-infested camps where pay is withheld.
Their fingerprints encompass my fruit.
The specific anxiety of the perishables
involves having too much and rationing
the excess all to myself, some to my dog.
Day 6 / Poems 6
Memory Flight / by Eric Elshtain
Moths form lunatic sequences
at flickering and winged onsets
trees witness in dead-pan—
the eclipse of off-white Beatrices
spins, evading bats
shaped like blank nights
convening a secret nerve
into which memory turns
as pasts evaporate—
relapsed into senses
absolving everything hidden—
minds walk through X-rays
of home—room to room
these moths rouse what life is left
peeking like fresco-flames—
for every drawn fury, new veins
on emancipated hands waving
writs leaving imprints of dust
on thoughts as they touch
a hush they leave behind.
Ink / by Jason Galloway
When I looked full into the rising sun
and then down again my violet ink
turned iridescent and as I stared at
the melting words their middle syllables
vanished from the page as if the swelling
light released all light from its empty page
the pen the hand the eye all wild waters
breaking into particles of nonsense
Feeding Hour / by Jessica Gigot
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” — Lao Tzu
The sheep line up at the gate,
Waiting for the sound of scoop
And bucket. When I enter the barn
I am not myself anymore, just
A messenger of provisions. This morning
Is like every other morning. My habitual
Offerings of barley and oat do not go unnoticed,
But my hands quickly fade into the faint
Mist of sunrise.
That Bearded Stranger / by Sarah Jefferis
Nothing is coming to me, for me, at me like grace.
Grace, that bearded stranger wouldn’t even stop on the highway,
he’d drive on by as I stood here, or maybe I mean stand here,
or will eventually stand here, broken thumb and hip out
in the hours when boys are willing to pay.
Even in the bathroom at Water Country USA
or beneath Mathew Whaley’s tabletop tomb,
head and death always in the graveyard
church bells ring as I swallow tourists whose names I cannot recall.
The Cord / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
it curled like lips,
thin and yellowing
as a scroll
of ancient vellum,
the tome of her journey;
I barely had time
to peek beneath
its shroud of gauze
as she found her voice
in the hours after birth,
before it was gone —
but her doctor abated my fears
that it had fallen
off too soon,
it was her first act
Twelve years later
crackles like vellum
over the phone,
the testament of a hunger
I feel the sound
and grip the case
of the phone
the umbilical cord
Now! / by Pablo Otavalo
In the hollow of your
throat a stone
and if the law decreed
to the rocks
sons …. daughters
of your enemy
and what of
who pardoned knight
errant Judas a kiss
with the faith
of a bondsman
in the tribute
paid to the regents
of Caesar what
deny the Christ?
To the Teenage Boy at Starbucks / by Brianna Pike
You take up residence at the neighboring table,
huddled over your cell phone. Basketball
shorts and floppy hair; muttered conversation
and the occasional snort. You are reassured
by the long cord of my ear buds. I am not
a spy, or worse, like your parents.
But, I want to tell you
that you will change your major six times in four years.
I want to tell you
that you will get sick off of cheap beer more than once.
I want to tell you
that you will break hearts and your heart will break.
I want to tell you
all of this is fine. All of this is right. You are not an adult. Yet.
You could be my son, growing inside my body,
the soft flutter just beneath my every breath.
Thank You / by Ronnie K. Stephens
for the picnics outside Old Main
for running head first into a bridge beam
for falling unconscious into the river
for not dying/for not dying again
for drinking bleach at a dinner party
for inviting me to dinner
for eyes green and wet as an island
for never holding my hand
for always avoiding the word love
for not kissing me in that bar
for not telling your husband about me
for not telling your friends about me
for not answering the phone all summer
for not waiting for me to come home
for not being the woman I left behind
for leaving me behind
for letting me go
for letting me go
What I Would Ask of the Gun / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
Rather than kill me, awaken
useful skills I hadn’t known
until this incident: dismounts
from galloping horses meant
for skilled cowgirls; Morse code
transmitting; trauma nursing
in emergency room settings;
careful hands for brain surgery;
erasure of a phobia of bees;
correction: abolish my fear
of everything; accomplished
politician; keeper of promises;
established opera personality;
dismantler of gears; sightseeing
tour guide; Grizzly-bear trainer;
truly alive. Awaken the latent
intelligence of fully populating
each moment with sentience.
Allow me to stop the forgetting
that comes with being one thing.
Note: This poem was inspired by Elif Batuman’s article “Electrified” in the April 6, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.
Day 5 / Poems 5
Near the Extinction / by Eric Elshtain
“Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum”
Crashing through stardrives
washed for the grave
comet grit showers us
as once it simmered up
early soups from which
our swampish It began.
But soon we won’t be
to espouse over bones
our own Antigones
weeping in the districts where we refuge.
The Last Disaster
began in a stir
of light and gravity
ringings and swinging booms
taking it to our doing;
wars’ world this, our pluck
undone as undertakers
move in a mauve remoteness
the Buddha parts of brains
silent as beehives.
Now: cold flocks fold tabernacles mattered, meant by minds
deserts tear through, shaping a Lord across times
thrice-promised by the Very Hand that withered the fig,
millions thrilled into light, printing themselves on dust
until vesper holds still
as our star-craft is christened
and we conspire with ancient ratios
to hurl us
Easter Sunday, 2015
Proverbs / by Jason Galloway
I’ve lived a que sera, sera kind of life. Guess that’s why I have no problem smoking cigarettes
near gas pumps.
I haven’t exploded yet, but the code hasn’t served me so well. I’m getting older, and have a lot
of ground to cover.
Older people notice the gray in my whiskers and scoff when I complain.
My friend just had a baby at 41 and kept the pregnancy quiet in case something went wrong.
She called it her advanced maternal age.
I haven’t had children. Obligatory parenthetical yet. I haven’t published the Superpoem.
Obligatory parenthetical yet.
I’m struggling with patience. Or should be. The will to power. Tick-tock and all that.
I guess the code is under revision. I’m exploring parts of you can do anything you set your
mind to and maybe the greatest thing we have to fear is fear itself. And something about the
journey, not the destination.
You can have a baby (or not) in 40 weeks and then get on with it. At least you can go to 7-
Eleven to get a pregnancy test.
(Or a pack of smokes.)
parsley & potatoes / by Jessica Gigot
The skies are clear from a blood moon
Full and falling behind the islands,
While a light frost covers the bare, tilled ground.
Under plastic, my bare hands shiver as I cut
Stems of parsley, a newly awakened green.
The potatoes have been sitting in cold darkness,
For months, almost buried. I pull out the red bodies
One-by-one. Braced by the old and the new, I cut
And chop attentively for Easter morning, celebrating
The alchemy of spring.
Metamorphoses / by John James
Was it something you
said about Ovid this
morning : the redgrass
glistens in surf : the pine
board fences collapsed
along the line : after
the storm a kestrel
in headwind : sand
accumulates on your
feet : puckered seal
skin : the salt-washed
flesh : wreckage towing
upshore : when the
gulls came out I saw
them circling in air
saw them pecking
seals’ eyes : a boy down
the strand rolling
in dunes : I could see
the stomach’s red
wall : the small hairs
on its flippers : blubber
wretched by shark
bite from the belly’s
swell : later seen
from a dune black
water : fish spit
pools : his lips limp
mouth open enough
his teeth trail along
sand : kelp calls
crab-eaten : in the
storm’s wake I wanted
something to say :
the ocean scraped
his insides clean
Every April / by Sarah Jefferis
First time I caught my father crying—I was hunting
for my prayer-book and white gloves in the orange
room divided in half by a pink shower curtain:
one half for big as shit square computer screens
blinking. Floppy disks slipping off
a card table, behind the curtain were plastic bins
of developer and the black box with the giant eye sat.
I found my father in a closet pawing a photo of him and
his friend—or so he called him—in front of Moose Lodge.
My father’s hairy beard rising, his snotty handkerchief
balled in his hand. I should have turned away. I should have
called my mother. But I have never seen her touch his hand
on an ordinary day, much less a Holy one. I couldn’t reach
him and couldn’t step back. My crinoline stuck to white tights.
I pulled the Easter Bonnet down over my eyes and handed him
a tissue. He made sounds that I thought should not come out
of a man. I don’t know how I knew this. I wanted him to be more
dignified. It was not a quiet cry. This was the day he told me
the stone moved. And in those days I believed. Anything was
possible. I remember it every April when the burnt ham glazed
in sugar and maraschinos sizzles through me here, porch swung
and alone, I hear him wail for his friend who chose a wife.
Glass-Black Sparrows / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
Overhead the sparrows
follow an invisible thread,
with click and call–
how smooth they fall
through the fingers
of distant trees —
Starved Rock / by Pablo Otavalo
It was the thirteenth of August
the first time we went to Utica
the first time we met Wildcat
and Kaskaskia .. we are the lesser
gods the wildlings who’ve forgotten
their language and the still opened
to silence and we took to dusk
easy the first time we saw an ibis
To A Group of Teenage Girls at Subway / by Brianna Pike
Voices ring through Subway like hundreds
of chattering birds, only stifled when your teeth bite
into bread that sticks to shiny pink lips.
Purple hooded sweatshirts and blonde, brunette
and black hair bound in intricate braids. Bodies lean,
each limb tucked into dark denim. Fingernails polished
glitter, scarlet and turquoise.
Do not roll your eyes
at the soft-spoken, dark eyed sandwich artist.
Do not snicker
at the woman in the stained sweater.
Do not pretend
to eat your six-inch sub then throw it away.
Do not stare
into your compact day after day.
I ask you to be generous.
I ask you to be genuine.
I ask you to be gentle.
I ask because today, while listening to you laugh,
I realized I might, someday, like to have a girl of my own.
Every Sunday is a Revival / by Ronnie K. Stephens
My grandmother rises
and cooks before Church
like a clock.
The menu hallelujahs like a gospel
song and calls out to the neighbors:
red beans, cabbage
biscuits, coconut pie
We bow our heads at noon.
Come on in if you’re hungry.
There are at least as many
grandfather clocks in her house
as there are great-grandchildren
playing in the front yard.
None of them has the right time
so they chime one after another
for ten minutes when the plates
are ready to be filled.
I try to explain the way we
come together for dinner
without invitation or notice.
How no one in leaves for very long.
Each cousin an hour from the back
door and the hide-a-key.
What I know of family is that it is
constant as the May flies in early
Spring and just as nagging.
What I know of family is that I want
you to be a part of it some day.
I know that
if you ever need a reason to stay
I hope you find one.
Day 4 / Poems 4
Seven Beads / by Eric Elshtain
“grasped already, Lord”
Her soul hewn
he must be about
Behold a king
a crux of mothers
rent from sons
Holy Saturday, 2015
Sunrise / by Jason Galloway
you widening sky
the glass waters
fill me up
fill me up
and rise star
come but seriate
fragment still every
still slow blaze
speak and speak
look everywhere else
there it still is
even after hours
the burn-eye’s memory
not orange but violet
Letter to a Former Acquaintance / by Jessica Gigot
You should see me now. I am glowing, or so I have been told, and the gentle curve of my stomach is naturally protruding from the ends of my loose-fitting cotton cardigan. It is flattering to have people acknowledge this change in me, to pat me on the belly and ask when with bright, expectant eyes. I am proud to flaunt this exaggerated silhouette anywhere.
But over a year ago at a harvest dinner, you grabbed both coat ends and said bluntly, “What is going on here?” Perhaps is was the general bounty of the celebration itself that made you assume I was expecting, but at the time I was not, in fact, with child. Perhaps I had one too many servings of roasted vegetables or mixed berry crumble?
Either way I had no reply to your inquiry, but I remember that moment sharply. I felt as if, all of a sudden, the whole room was watching us. I felt blindsided and embarrassed, wanting to crawl into to the barn rafters and squat silently with the owls.
You see, that is something you just do not do. You don’t ask a women if she is pregnant unless she is either i) obviously pregnant or ii) has told you she is expecting. Maybe it was your many glasses of wine talking, but I wasn’t amused.
It ‘s all right. I forgive you even if you are not sorry. If we cross paths in the next two to three months feel free to ask—it should be obvious now.
from Materia / by John James
Speaking in the crude dialect of angels, the beaches south of L.A. “Indians”—it’s how my father calls them. He wipes sweat from his lined brow, red beads from his forehead. Elsewhere, the low motor hum. It drones incessantly in the valley where beside a pink gumball machine the thin faces crowd, their cheeks’ arched ridges, a child murmuring mildly in Korean to her mother who understands but doesn’t and pulls the small girl to her chest. Everything else is past, the tile barely remembered post the moment of experience. Splendid appearances—form and reform. The saw in his hand, I watch my father clip thin planks so that their edges meet exactly, fit them into one another on the fence. His hands are rough and splintered. His face still beads with sweat. He tells me, “That’s how we cleared California.”
Left again / by Sarah Jefferis
Your current dislocates
all that is
………………………A station: Union, Tokyo and Grand Central
Can I will I get off, must I wait
Till the last stop.
………………………Stop the child self interrupting
Stop the child self in musical:
Stop the world I want to get off.
Understand my bones necessitate a musical:
Leather and whip and blue boa.
My current, no longer ours.
Which station am I on?
Not of the cross
Not of the air
…………………………..Live or recorded.
Bred in the South, the high South.
More and less refined than now.
…………………………..More or less
here has refined my bones, learned directions
and have no sense of them.
No base to stand on or slide into.
No waterfront property on stilts.
No birds. No shit. Only wind.
Tsunamis turn me around
So often have looked back so
often I could tongue Lot.
And still salt water I crave.
……………………………………………..Lakes, Finger or Great are useless.
Open mouth insert …… inert heart
head buried in
sand, standing on one foot.
Who always changes.
……………………………………..Who always leaves.
Just once, I’d like my hand on the door first.
Dogwood / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
The Sunday she bit the vet
and was faced with quarantine
our beloved dog slept
……………..as if puncturing skin
……………..were a Sisyphian labor.
My heart wavered at the sight
of her tiny fetal form
falling and rising
free of ordinance,
……………..curled up in an ancient field-next
……………..on the living room floor.
She lay, her long fur kindled
keen with firelight–
the sweet incence of her body
burning bright as wild doogwood–
……………..the wild winter dogwood
……………..whose crimson bark sparks passion
……………..in bitter fields of white.
a duvet / by Pablo Otavalo
You told a colorful
story of Gorgon an ambulance
siren parallaxing away
to find us a petal of glass a
lutrescent euphoria harvesting
hydroponic wheat letting the
colorful sleep hoping brine
into consumer products
no one asked you to stay
and nothing like the light
cut under an overcast sky
diffusing to richer
cyans the argonauts
if they’d had it
we’d all be better
acquainted with seafaring
rites of the Balkans
Clueless Obsession / by Brianna Pike
“The very idea that someone could make a movie based on a board game was just so tremendously silly that even though we barely understood what was going on, we could not tear our eyes away from it.” ~ “Something Terrible Has Happened Here”: The Crazy Story Of How “Clue” Went From Forgotten Flop To Cult Triumph by Adam B. Vary
From the opening scene, we were sold on a rambling
mansion set against a stormy sky. We had no clue
what was going on: Red herring, blackmail and flagrante
delicto sailed over our heads in the quick fire banter
of each colorful character. The singing telegram girl dropped
dead on the doorstep, the chandelier smashed and flames
and flames and heaving breaths.
We watched and watched for years until we understood
every allusion and could anticipate every action. DVD replaced
VHS, dialogue shared via text and memes flooded our
Facebook feeds. Now, whenever we are home, we curl under
blankets, eyes fixed to the screen, reciting line after line, together.
Written for my sister, Ashley.
Camaraderie / by Ronnie K. Stephens
You were constantly falling asleep
in Arizona. The spare bed in my dorm,
the workroom at school, my shoulder
on the bus every afternoon.
I knew you drooled when you dreamt
before I knew your middle name.
You are the most awkward shade
of living, limbs tumbling over
themselves, jokes tripping out from
your mouth like toddlers in a foot race.
Remember the first time you cried
in my classroom? How it became routine?
Remember the moment you realized
everything you wore your first year
of teaching looked a hot mess
and no one told you?
I am terrible at keeping friends
but here you are five years later
for all my shatter.
I assumed when I told you about
the divorce, you would Switzerland
your love. You have always been
Switzerland in wartime.
Everything I know about the word
mediate I learned from you. But tonight
you are not middle ground. You are here
readying the bunker with kindness
until the All Clear sounds and I can
breathe outside these walls again.
I Wished to Be a Gemologist / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
My prized possessions include diamond earrings
bought with my Macy’s employee discount (I swear
I only worked there for the additional twenty percent);
a fourteen-karat gold necklace with dangling gems
I purchased at the Jersey Shore with my first credit
card; a multi-colored tourmaline and silver eternity
band ordered from Home Shopping Network; Ziploc
bag of assorted loose stones like amethyst, topaz,
diopside, peridot; for calm a strand of mala beads;
white opal ring; a small collection of May emeralds;
I’ve removed gems from gifted things, sold the gold
to cover my rent; spent hours watching gilded sales
presentations on Jewelry Television and salivating
but also learning about inclusions, Asscher, carats
versus karats; a visit to my parents where I discover
a wooden box filled with rattling rocks, all the colors
of quartz: rose and wildly iridescent stones that once
I had hoarded and called my most prized possessions.
Day 3 / Poems 3
Opening In, Closing Out / by Eric Elshtain
“Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
may perch in me—
I’m that much tree,
that much light
beckoned by black lines.
To commit to memory
would be easier
if birds had not reached
an eighth stage
of human mimicry.
networks of frost
don’t believe in
a curling world
you work on
with a civil twilight
the moon bemoans.
Necks bent sinister,
ravens eye dark corners
make examples of,
for the amens
they really be.
Good Friday, 2015
The Walk Home / by Jason Galloway
A picture of evening
that you don’t touch
like in a museum—
the world’s luster
of humid blue cool
breath along the beach
the first gauzy moon story—
Do you see that whale, the wide fin?
And there, a fish skeleton?
for you there is no shape
only the moon the eye of a flower
the miraculous adapting eye
brightening and finding
a soft subtle rupture
in the fish-eye-rib cloud
we never take the whole picture
not the overwhelming ocean
out there but just here
the sweetly lapping surf
our gait settling into its tempo
until the shadows of the shore side
rooftops begin to look recognizable
there we pause
our salty lungs and pulse still pulling
you have to tug me over the dune
into the lane of dangling oaks
and dappling ocean sky
we forget to stomp our boots
and come on into the house
Fetal Movement / by Jessica Gigot
These fluttering movements feel like monarchs
Trapped inside me. My stomach is a mason jar
Holding this black and orange verve.
I remember watching their wings cling
To oyamel fir trees, Abies religiosa, after two
Thousand miles of flight. Generations four
Times removed return to the same trees,
Guided by some nucleotide whispers or
A familiar smell in the wind.
You must trust the twisted route
Over mountain tops, through canals,
To find your own familiar.
Old Mines / by John James
First the whistling hydrangeas, their dawn
beds breaking, bluesmoke rising
from snowpack—the hot earth heats.
Spring in all its torrents writhes. Avenues,
worms drying on the pavement. Back
there is always past—attic moths
between my palms. Extinct animals, eyes
full of cotton. Earlier—in life—desert
hills speckled with cacti, mountains
hulking through white smog. Now
a manicured lawn, flowers for potpourri.
The dried stalks of palm trees shudder
in the wind. The copses neighboring
the stairs are just a little overgrown.
On your island / by Sarah Jefferis
Growing up on food stamps meant I
didn’t know imitations are imitations.
The stamps slept in my mama’s blue
plastic Penney’s wallet right next to
real dollars from hours on her feet
at a gas station. Imitation potatoes
in a red box. I swallowed milk she added
water to and ranch dressing on iceberg.
Arugula with balsamic in brick houses I never knew
so all my loves have been chefs. You turn
avocado into guac and I’ll be on my knees—
Roasted sweet potatoes will have me undoing
buttons before I am asked. So in need of the actual
my hunger has no morality. I will blow a stranger
to keep my daughters fed. In line
at a food pantry, in the sea of abandoned wives
who believed in happy endings, I cannot tell
you where I stood before I met you and dates
that come with breakfast dumpling and ackee.
I want to not want to eat your
food. If I eat your island, put your country
in my mouth, I will change my passport. Escape
routes are bloodlines. I cannot be kept. Heart
is tongue and my belly the first to fall. Let us
not eat together. It’s the only way. I can stay.
Holy Thursday / by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
Al-Shabaab attacks Kenyan University, killing at least 147.
The Washington Post
The doe lay on her side
on the highway shoulder —
her soft belly
white as pages
from the Book of Life.
For three days
I sought her pierced body
in the gravel,
took note of her vellum flesh darkening —
the conjecture of her spine —
But today the bloated corpus
broke open —
a text needing no translation,
how naive to be hopeful
the reprieve of a sanitary resurrection.
that I don’t know how to use / by Pablo Otavalo
a calendar a
grinding stone a phonetic alphabet
a soap stand a cake mixer a
syringe a polite turn of phrase adzes
adjudications a guerrilla
asphyxiants a press release a half-
blood knot a washing
basin a rosemary a
Plea / by Brianna Pike
After Virginia Woolf
My room is just a small, crowded closet
that once doubled as a playroom for children;
remnants of their crayons
still mark the walls.
Instead of children, I fill this space
with poetry and a black & white
picture of you, taped to the wall.
But my room is lonely.
I am ashamed of the time spent away.
I am ashamed of what I cannot write.
I am ashamed that I cannot write.
Your letter to Leonard before you went
into the river, pockets full of stones:
love even in despair.
You taught me that.
Incantation / by Ronnie K. Stephens
Everything about us fits
together like two keys
opening one chest.
We are one chest opening
to make a space large enough
for all the fear we carry.
I cherish most the way
our hands knew each other
the first time they touched.
Our lips, too, met like
old lovers. The rest of us
is a dozen volcanoes
determined not to sleep
until our bodies are red
and hot and empty.
My shoulders are covered
in your explosion, teeth
like tiny craters. A history
on my skin that aches
for days after you leave.
Your ribs and hips also
carry our night sharp
and bruised and wanting
for one more chance
at uninventing this
between my pulse
and yours. I tell you
I feel your pulse at the tip
of my finger. You flex
and unflex against
my knuckles. I wonder if
you know just how good
my imagination is. How
each time you flex
my hips flinch.
I hear you tell me
to come. Your voice
already a familiar song
I sing to myself for weeks
at the grocery store, folding
clothes, at the gym.
Everywhere you are
with me, telling me to
come. I am already home.
Granddoggie / by Laryssa Wirstiuk
for my parents
I’m one month away from the age
my mother was when she brought me
into this world, but all I have to show
for my reproductive ability is a maternal
instinct for a piebald mini dachshund
named Charlotte Moo, who I rescued
from a pet shack in Paterson, New Jersey
(let’s just say it’s no longer the town
William Carlos Williams once wrote about)
when I found her on “clearance,” alone.
I explained this story to a lady lunching
al fresco on Broad Street, and she said:
“But that kind of dog would be tagged
full price in a Neiman Marcus store.”
Charlotte knew her worth long before
I adorned her with a rhinestone collar
that reads “Moo.” You should see her
shake her rump as she sashays
around the duck pond or how she carries
a branch three times her body size;
I promise you’ve never seen such pride.
At six pounds, she would try to protect
me from gas station attendants,
young children, and unfavorable dates.
As a child I never had a pet, so I’m late
to the game of taking care of an animal;
my parents had doubts, but she’s family
now. Charlotte’s the spoiled grandchild
they love, the queen of their backyard,
alarm that barks if something’s wrong.
Day 2 / Poems 2
…and only in sleep do accidents end /by Eric Elshtain
spying dreams just barely there—
their approach banking on missing waves
whose every gesture
both beckons and dismisses,
their hard gifts heaved onto sand,
securing nothing about my presence.
Twilit at its zenith, the moon
helps, but it can’t count me in
the numbers normal to time
like a monsooned animal—
its face a clock measured
in species lurking beneath its features.
April /by Jason Galloway
O glorious redemptive singing sound April,
the southern coastal plain fully awake
in its beach forests; knobby bark ladders
already entwined with childish wisteria
though not yet recovered from their pre-vernal anxieties:
the needled path a minefield of sweetgum capsules,
fractured oak limbs crackling underfoot, suspect ivies,
slighter birds of prey squawking and darting overhead.
Without danger—without some tingling poison in the gut—
there can be no glory; the delicate new greens find light
and bow and twist and feather into golds and oranges.
There too, the swoop-sweep courtship calls of jays and larks.
O glorious, redemptive singing sound April,
let me keep my throat pitched to this hosanna,
let me tread your woods with my shoulders back,
perceptively as a spider across this luminous web.
Tulip Season /by Jessica Gigot
April is the time of year
When cars flood the valley.
Lookers, cameras, families
Huddle under neon umbrella blasts.
The buried bulbs have waited
Patiently for this moment
Of emergence and blossom
And they gleam in the morning’s
Generous glisten. In a few weeks,
Each petals will fall into history
Making no noise of their passing.
The green stems will be topped
And the bulbs, now ready for quiet,
Will be dug from the grit and clay.
The wave of watchers will dissipate
Forgetting that around the corner
Their next meal is about to be born.
Killing Icarus /by John James
after Ansel Elkins’s “The Lighthouse Keeper”
After you catch hold of a moth
You feel its furred legs
Battling your pinned hands.
The white dust of its wings
Becomes resin in your palm,
A shimmer of mica
Dust on your fingers. I bound
His hands with fisherman’s rope,
Stroked the blades
Of his shoulders, as if he had wings.
Sleeping next to the broken
Angel of his body
I wanted to stay there for days, his sun
Coppered skin smelling
Of flax and warm dirt.
I opened a beer and waited,
Watched the gold
Hairs on his arm twinkle and glisten.
It was as if time stood still.
Sun streamed in on his face.
In the morning I thought of cutting
The rope from his wrists
But decided against it.
His face was too perfect,
His eyes the twin buds
Of bare orchids, poised and ready to open.
What cannot be ignored /by Sarah Jefferis
At first the president ignored them. Then he claimed activists imagined the story. Not because it was too horrific. Not because he doesn’t believe girls could be sold for the price of a sack of Western sugar.
Or that girls have the right to read. But because he wasn’t ready to admit his ignorance. Because they called him Goodluck. And this was certainly not lucky. Not Yet. Or so his advisers told him.
When school girls in his country wrote a play called Missing, a play which reenacts the stolen Chibokan school girls, Goodluck seized the opportunity to save them and be reelected.
His luck had turned. Or so they told him. When each Muslim girl prayed for one of the stolen sisters—as they named them— Goodluck dropped to his knees.
Surely a military operation will result in the deaths of many. He doesn’t want their blood on his hands. Surely he will bargain for Boko Haram soldiers.
He doesn’t want the colonial telling him how to run his country.
The stolen wait in the Sambisa Forest with nothing but Western hashtags and wringing of white hands
glaring at Satellite photos of bourka girls squatting in dirt reciting the Koran.
At night when I summon sleep to no avail, it is their faces that surround me, their voices begging, and the hundreds before them, and the hundreds after.
The Black and Red /by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
A rich tonic of rain tides in
yet the soft sorrel
continues to wilt —
kohl fields plagued by dropsy
of winter mold;
there the red-winged blackbird stands
stationed among the velvety reefs
of last summer’s sumac,
sleek against the blood-umber
of their waddle-bloom.
my mouth /by Pablo Otavalo
Today it was olives
rosewood | salt
then walking into the sun
by Sacred Heart
Retirement and Outreach
It was the love of the mountain
that ate you in snow
that harlequin smile
on a governor’s mansion
it was too nice a day to
not mourn and god
you know nothing my
sparrow of char
In another grey year
the fox held reigns
to level the mountain
Fix /by Brianna Pike
“Fix This Now” headline from editorial published on the front page of the Indianapolis Star March 31, 2015 in response to SB 101/RFRA
(1) verb: secure in a particular place or position; synonyms: fasten, attach, affix,
Breweries, florists, bakeries, and bicycle repair shops
attach circular, blue stickers to windows and doors.
Photos flood Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds;
a city of voices streaming outrage through social media.
Truth? Not everyone is secure in this place.
(2) verb: direct one’s eyes, attention, or mind unwaveringly toward.
Your gaze is direct, unflinching attention
to the camera but you are unraveling
under questions you refuse to answer.
Scramble governor, while voters eye the exits and businesses
move unwaveringly toward the state line.
(3) verb: mend or repair
Mending begins in the low murmurs
of colleagues in the halls of their community
college; continues between strangers in lines
at the grocery store, the post office, and the bus stop.
Repair begins when our murmurs merge and rise to chorus.
Written for Mike Wilson in request for a poem about “SB 101”
The Archaeology of Leaving /by Ronnie K. Stephens
I save so many wrappers
every junk pile in the house
looks like a thousand coughs
and nervous peppermint discs,
every one a memory not ready
for the corners of a closet
I never remember to clean out.
Paint chips hold my place
in books years after the walls
change seasons, after we sell
everything we own and drive
opposite directions; the distance
between us a sharp riddle we are
desperate to make sense of.
My high school ring is not
in the jewelry box with the pearls
or hooked on a silver necklace
behind the mirror. Nothing is left
but the itch. That and the wallet
you gave to me on the fourteenth
of a different life.
This wallet and its caged bird in my
pocket. I cannot let it go. The side
is still stained with black ink from
our month on rotation in the NICU,
the room numbers where they slept,
your name. Our daughters learning
rotation too soon.
A Nonconformist Goes Corporate /by Laryssa Wirstiuk
You will be made to “step
up to the plate” by Jennifer,
the company’s HR manager,
who’ll invite you to a meeting
at a cafe down the street.
You will wonder if she’s hitting
on you, breaking HR policy,
but no – she’s just grooming you
or, sorry, asking you to “improve
your grooming habits and mood.”
You will sport properly combed
hair, washed more than once
per week, and you must stop
wearing that paisley silk scarf
around your waist: “too artsy.”
You will need to remove boots
and replace them with Oxfords
in the building’s lobby at the door.
“Our office is climate controlled,
and the weather isn’t on payroll.”
You will need to stop hiding,
since it’s such a small company,
but you will also not query senior
executives about daily memos
you should already understand.
You will leave your MacBook
at home, and the kombucha too,
since “We’re a Microsoft partner
and can’t afford beverage spills
anywhere near our Windows.”
You will cease original thought
like: at least from this cafe seat
you can see the weather outside,
your coffee isn’t Keurig-sized,
and Jen, in biz-casual, is divine.
Day 1 / Poems 1
Our Political Landscape /by Eric Elshtain
Uneven air forges
who think up thermals
dark birds ride straight
to the wolfsbane.
Sure-fingers come close
to drawing in those
who see the ratio
not foxed by our measure
but signaled backwards well
as if through the holes of a sponge.
She binds epithets to events
and conspires out-landish miles
while I invent a gnosis
out of sugar island slavery,
circle lotus seeds,
pelt epithets with moons,
and squall at the first
white words of a schism
green bees uncull from clouds.
The Seas Receded Once, and We Followed /by Jason Galloway
A path winds around the trunks of palmettos and oaks
in dark primordial air
I forget time
once the sea left shell and tabby
a hundred miles inland—
were we here when the sea was so near
I need clocks and compasses
to reckon how deep
when did we sex ourselves into lungs and thumbs—
before or after the land plants
in their multitudinous sexualities
also elongated their reach
how many thousand years ago
when was man ..… when was woman ..… child
an unfinished thought
when was that man that woman
who first set foot on the floor of the ocean
did they live in time
the earth ticks and delivers sunlight to other shores
but I ..… my store-bought everything
my twenty-four hour internet
my sleepwalking ..… my daydreaming
never do the math
better to think on the stinking marshes
the reptilian forking seaward creeks
the arabesques of aquatic fowl
the imported sand
no way can I gauge depth or breathe underwater
what volume of water is in this body
how much has it lost
how much daylight do I have left
Fleece /by Jessica Gigot
Before the fall folds into winter
We shear the sheep.
Steam rises from their white,
Now slender bodies, while
The herd huddles together for warmth
Bare shoulder to bare shoulder.
Each belly is full of new life
That will arrive in the spring.
Without a year’s worth of wool
We can watch the ewes swell
And fill, noticing their slightest
Change in form.
The lanolin soaked fleeces, still rough
To the touch, are stationary clouds stacked
In the barn. Some day they will be cleaned
And carded and spun into yarn. For now,
They are a pearly reminder that another
Year had passed.
from Materia /by John James
Loafing about the kitchen, I forget my body for a minute, no longer material in the industry of living. Light shafts flood the open room. Dust motes fall around me. I wonder if it will rain. Outside, white stems climb the pale wood archway leading to my neighbor’s lawn—what type of wood, I don’t know. It is June, air thickens, I watch the squash buds close. Bees hover over the little flowers, busy in the absence of honey, the honey of absence, the baby’s breath of pollen coating their legs. I look at my face in the glass, comport myself in air. The dust motes, where I see them, move themselves around me. There’s a red dish in front of me, my body. The meat sits. Wine pools in a glass mouth. I moisten my lip with my tongue. I am here. Please. Be ready to touch me.
From L.A. to Syracuse /by Sarah Jefferis
In three hours I lost seventy degrees
All spice, lemon thyme, a red convertible mustang
Back seat of your Harley
A Joshua tree,
Fireworks above the Queen Mary
Red Wine, olive bread, stolen brie
The Pink dot delivery girl
(my kitty is not purring one size fits all)
Morphine, Vicodin, a pap
From an ER doc at three,
Mango-go-go from Jamba
Sushi from Denka,
San-Sei Soba from Kansai,
Decorative Art from the Getty
Ganesh at the Opium den,
Massages at the spa
Mimosas, cactus, heat lamps,
Virginia slims, parsnips,
Run Lola Run,
The girls from the palms in West Hollywood
Trip hop in The Room
At the Office /by Megan M. Muthupandiyan
At the top of the shelf
a waylaid bud vase lies in-waiting,
its ancient patina of dust and lime
forming the faintest of constellations
across my palm.
As the sugar snows dissolved
on the tongue of spring
the hydrangea heard and obeyed,
bowing down into the guillotine wind
to lose their heads.
Outside the window I see their
softly rolling or at rest
blanched brown as unearthed bulbs
in the threadbare lawn —
I yearn toward what I must do.
So much depends on this work —
filling the vessels which lie forgotten,
gathering spent beauty
and gracing it with the cause
to give pause once again.
Spring Landscape Featuring Purple Milkweed /by Brianna Pike
White silk cradled in burlap husks, each filament arranged
in overlapping rows of fine hair. At the end of each strand, a tiny
Wind scatters these tiny vessels into decay of slick
oak leaves and frozen clumps of mud.
Skeletal stalks of tall weeds snag the parade of wispy
white sails that shield the robust red peony buds
bursting through the muck below.
Much later, in deep summer, delicate trumpets open,
luring monarchs inside blooms as smooth as milk.
Written for Paula Hearn in request for a poem about “seeds” & “blooms”
His Grandkids Had Never Seen Him Like This. He Had Never Worn a Beard. /by Ronnie K. Stephens
after an illustration by Desarae Lee
Walt had asphalt for skin
despite the wide-brimmed hat
most assumed he had
never taken off.
His eyes narrowed from
the sweat and the sun
until he forgot what it was
to see a thing without focus
and furrowed brow.
The morning after he sold his house
on the hill, the one he built with
his first and last love, he woke
to buttercups and irises on his chin.
When he walked outside, bees buzzed
around him, a thrumming cloud.
Hummingbirds stopped for a drink.
He held out his hand
and expected to see a branch
but it was only a nest
of arthritic knuckles.
A black-bordered lemon moth
landed and looked him
right in the eye. He remembered
a yellow dress and a picnic
Spoke to the moth like it was
an old friend. Said goodbye
to the hill, the strawberries,
the green beans and the house.
Crossed the cattle-guard. Opened
and shut the gate one last time.
Walked out into the field with a basket
some bread, a pitcher of blackberry juice.
Sat on the quilt for a long time
before removing his hat
running a hand through his hair
and giving himself to the afternoon.
Translations, Mansplations /by Laryssa Wirstiuk
She was astonished by it first, listening
to an audiobook narrated by Ben Kingsley:
Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi.
Instead of “said,” Ben read “ejaculated.”
Let’s set aside for a moment the fact
that she couldn’t stand Yogananda’s text
and focus instead on the translator’s diction:
“said,” “explained,” and “stated” are better,
more neutral and less specific to gender.
According to Yogananda, sexy women are
pure temptation, but when the guru speaks,
he spreads with rhetoric his holy seed.
Refusing to be defeated by an audiobook,
she made it her duty to listen until the end,
but in the process she found other examples:
translations in which “ejaculation” was said.
Tolstoy and other Russian novelists, all men
have been translated without the use of “said”
and, according to one college writing instructor,
one-hundred-and-twenty appropriate synonyms.
Wanting to reclaim the verb for herself
and to make the word safe for female use,
she brought five syllables into the boardroom.
To break the glass ceiling, guess what she “said”.