30/30 Project

Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.

To read more about the Tupelo Press 30/30 project, including a complete list of our wonderful volunteer poets and to read their poems, please click here.

The nine volunteers for August 2015 are Karen Craigo, Meg Eden, Jen Fitzgerald, Chad Foret, Flavia Rocha Loures, Robert Okaji, Aline Soules, Katherine Barrett Swett, and Pamela Murray Winters. Read their full bios by clicking here.

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

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

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Day 29 / Poems 29

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Special Money / by Karen Craigo

It’s true I’ve broken down, paid
for a gallon of milk wholly
in Bicentennial quarters.
And I forget why I let go
of the Kennedy half-dollars
the tooth fairy once deposited
in my bank of pillows.
But there are bills to pay,
and they can be satisfied
with wheat pennies, or in
Susan B. Anthony dollars, or
the two-dollar bills my parents
brought me from the track.
Nothing is so special it can’t
be made bread. Remember
when they changed the money,
how quickly the old bills
vanished, the modest faces
of presidents replaced
with robust twins? Now
you never see them,
those small-faced bills,
except a couple I saved
that timidly stepped forward
to restore the cable. I’m not sure
if my son remembers the folio
of quarters his grandma gave him,
fifty of them, one for each state.
I wonder if he’d miss Alaska.

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Things Left in Ruins / by Meg Eden
*

the salaryman’s bed is made, his sink dishes a burial in-progress

and that single white dress hanging in the closet—

a polaroid of a girl’s face—so water damaged—more ghost than girl

a rusted fridge, overflowing with porn VHS tapes. One label: ANIMAL SEX

a box of snake bones, intertwined like nautical knots

a limousine, straddling an empty bowling alley

so many molding pianos!

a theme park closet lined with dresses from Russian village girls, hand-sewn

old pachinko faces, boxes in the attic, like festival masks

rows of skis and ski boots, lined up for future customers

a ferris wheel with broken windows

a brain in evaporating formaldehyde

a seventy year old wall of medicine

a wall of refrigerators, washing machines, vending machines in front of the elementary school

a room full of stolen kimonos

a sex toy, hanging from a tree

a picture of the royal family, with the crysanthimum seal—from that time when the emperor was still holy

an English homework paper: a far as, so far as, as long as, as soon as, as~as

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Chesapeake / by Jen Fitzgerald

2

to be brackish
to be tidal
to never sit squarely in one place
to never be fully absorbed—
fully present in one body

from you
create new
species
new modalities
from you
reconcile all their pasts,
all their settlements
and displacements

there will be birds
of prey cutting
your surface with talons
there will be moments
when you pray for stillness,
when you crash the jutted
shoreline with an ocean’s
rage of waves and undertow
there will be no rest

let them fish you
to extinction
let them drag
their nets
to unearth your bed
let them offer penance
let them be absolved

bring their boats
back to dock
bring Atlantic salt
into your underbelly
come back into yourself

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Nodding Melancholically / by Chad Foret

“You will be decorated.
They want to get you the medaglia d’argento but perhaps they can get only the bronze.”
“What for?”
“Because you are gravely wounded.
They say if you can prove you did any heroic act you can get the silver.
Otherwise it will be the bronze.
Did you do any heroic act?”
“No,” I said. “I was blown up while we were eating cheese.”
Rinaldi & Henry, A Farewell to Arms

“So, yes, this city is the capital of Left Within an Inch of Life.
I’d like to see the toes of some subtracted under houses, just as in

that celebrated fantasy, two party horns bereft of all their sound;
yet another malformed villain perseveres to prove a void.” “But the witch

was just the other side of song,” I said. I couldn’t listen anymore,
no shot, because an unnameable bug started strangling in his arm hair.

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A house / by Flavia Rocha Loures

Once upon a time, there was a house,
up on the hills, removed from all sight,
wherein countless couples exchanged vows,
only to break them on some dark night.

It was large, old, with many a room,
and echoes, shadows. From its walls came
whispers of prophecies; stories of doom;
evilness, horrors one wouldn’t dare name.

Powerful, noble, was the household.
Successive generations under
one roof. Until someone left and sold
their soul for the strength of thunder,

therewith building up a narrative
of decay, depravation and crime.
Family bonds wrecked or made captive
to scheming, distrust. In some time,

consumed they were by hatred, violence:
beds on fire, red stains on the pathway;
shattered walls and a sullied white fence.
It hemorrhaged till night turned into day.

There once was a house, laughing with life,
wherein children could still play, so free.
It’s human nature to seek out strife,
however. Naught’s left of it to see.

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Hunger is Hunger / by Robert Okaji

This poem is sponsored by the 1874: First Impressionist Exhibition Blog.

Somewhere we jumped the tracks,
he said, wiping himself clean with my

blouse. But this life’s all you got.
Yeah, I said. Maybe. Look here.

His mouth dropped open
when I split his skull, a dark

moon on a darker night,
white stumps reflected

in the window. The axe
wouldn’t pry free, so I left it

planted there with the good book
and soiled prayers, pants still

bunched around his ankles. Not
all sin weighs the same. I have

found the season and gathered
my stones. I have refrained.

*
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Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XXIX

When Great Step Aunt Aggie told me
to put the cutlery back in the drawer
I played with my toys instead.

Aggie was in her nineties, crippled
with arthritis and osteoporosis, confined
to a chair and in pain.

When she looked down and demanded
why didn’t you do it, I trembled, said
I didn’t have the time. It worked for grownups.

You’ve got all the time there is, she barked
glaring, her beady eyes fixed on mine
her face screwed into a crumpled ball.

Now, when faced with too much to do
in too little time, I know it’s not about time.
I have all there is and all I’ll ever get.

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Penultimate / by Katherine Barrett Swett

What do we want of another being
but being itself coming to swallow
us both in the hot stillness of August.
We sit on the seat of the swing
just wide enough for two
with perfect silence opening
and neither getting up first
and neither growing bored
in the heat of the silence
and neither feeling lust
quite yet, Oh lord,
and nothing rehearsed.
It’s summer a few minutes more.

*
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It’s Not / by Pamela Murray Winters

beauty, it’s just morning: light
leaking around every barrier,
the road swelling
with secrets. It’s not

a holy day
compared with
tomorrow. Light

is inevitable, science, not
metaphor. The road, too:
it’s what you make
by living. May peace
come into me;
may peace
go through me. If my breath

were a figure of speech,
I couldn’t speak.

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Please scroll down past the comment form to read the previous days’ poems.

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Day 28 / Poems 28

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Poem for Naoto Matsumura / by Meg Eden

I know what it feels like to be Adam:
naming the animals
in a post-apocalyptic town.
God said to Adam that man
is not meant to be alone.
At first, I had to adjust to getting
my fellowship from animals.
The silence on what was once
such a busy street was strange.
Sometimes I still wait
for the traffic light to change color,
for a car to come down the street.
Some nights I still expect to see
a neighbor come down the road in front of my house.
But there is no one except the animals.
By the time I returned, many of them
were dead.
I am Adam, I am Noah
herding feral dogs into my ark.
There once were thirty birds on this farm
but by the time I got here there was only
one ostrich: Boss.
Who will want to return to Tomioka?
People say it could be forty years
before anyone can move back here.
By that time, people will have their place
in the city. The animals will be used to
the silence that comes from no humans.
I am never alone.

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Chesapeake / by Jen Fitzgerald

1

The sun rises
to the left
of the moon
pulling
and stretching
its reds over
the still bay
From my webbed
over windows
I admire the night’s
work and mindless
audacity of dark labor
against drifting barges
The katydid choir
have lain down
their voices till dusk—
silence is a blessing
with which I’ve come
to terms
How do we find time
for the quiet
little nothings
that spin
infinity
around their fingers?

*
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Insert Word for Watching Someone Leave for the First Time / by Chad Foret

“I’m going to have to enter that hole.”
Yoshida, “The Enigma of Amigara Fault”

“No, I never learned why
we leave the womb unnamed
as proofs found under fingernails—
Look, Son. Wave, before she gets away.”

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La Ville de la Poésie / by Flavia Rocha Loures

In honor of the annual International Poetry Festival in Trois-Rivières, Québec

Dans la Ville de la Poésie a Québec,
there’s a magical portal that opens up
into a parallel universe of bards.
All its inhabitants breathe, drink, sweat and bleed
poetry every minute of every hour
of every day. The realm of Zénob vibrates
with verses and thrives on bohemian heartbeats.
At the break of dawn, when the portal closes
for a long few hours of quietude, renewal, I
can imagine those walls reciting, the chairs
falling to their sides in laughter, those bottles
of wine and whiskey brought to tears, the tables
enthusiastically applauding, asking
for more, eager to hear what is to follow.
Poetry returns night after night after night,
verse after rhyme after words enchantingly
combined, dans la belle Ville de la Poésie.

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With Summer Purpled Awe / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Charlotte Hamrick.

1
No one wants to be forgotten
or remembered for the wrong reasons,
but how do we attain that sweet spot
between regrettable and a barred
door clanking shut? I was born in
Louisiana. What happened next
is that song living at the edge of
memory, just beyond grasp, its
lyrics gnarled and tangled in the
roots of an old cypress along a
muddy creek. Yeah, that one. I
won’t sing it in this lifetime.
That tune’s never coming back.

2
You stretch out your hands
and a reflection cuts you in half.

3
I should have grabbed you and the dog,
and headed to Texas. They’ve got hills
there that the tide won’t reach, and
trees that won’t die from salt
poisoning, whose branches
won’t be festooned with children’s
clothing and bits of people’s torn
lives, and the stench won’t linger
longer than regret and the effect
of poor choice and dumb luck.

4
There, then gone. I scream
until my voice rasps away
but you are still out there,
still floating, still afraid
and angry and beautiful, hair
forming a halo around your
face, no tears, no sound
but water lapping, and
the flies zeroing in.

5
Next time there will be no party.
I’ll wait alone to greet the rain.
The wind will scour me
as I embrace what comes.

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Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XVIII

We are in Tarbert Harbor on Uncle Bob’s
yacht. Boys cram together on the jetty
fishing lines dropped in the water
to catch one of the plentiful haddies
that swim in Loch Fyne in the 1950s.

Uncle Bob spent years on the Mermansk Run
in World War II. Now, he enjoys sailing
as sport and a way of life. My parents
relax on his yacht, but Uncle Bob takes
my six-year-old self on deck to explain
rigging, tacking, currents, swinging booms
lure me into the same love of the sea.

A shout. A splash. In the jostle of bodies
on the pier, a boy falls twenty feet down
hits the deep harbor water, disappears.
His father dives after him. In the way
of the Scots at that time, neither can swim.
Dad hopes only to grab his son
and throw him towards the jetty ladder
before he drowns himself.

Bob drops into his dinghy, pulls himself
around the yacht. There’s no time to unhook it
and row. He leans over, grabs the son
in one hand, the father in the other
and hauls them into the dinghy.

As they sit shivering on Bob’s yacht,
wrapped in blankets, the father taking nips
from a flask, the boy drinking hot tea
my mother makes in Bob’s galley, I shiver
too. We could have been in Lochgilphead
or Ardrishaig, come earlier, come later.

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Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog / by Katherine Barrett Swett

God-damn my cranky feet and knees
I wanted to hike above the trees.

For the hiker herself the view of the peak
Is better from slightly below.
As I sat on a rock and slowly ate
my hummus and lettuce sandwich
I watched the clouds over the peak
and the bald face of Whiteface.

Esther Whitcomb in 1839
left her farm to hike Whiteface.
She missed her peak,
but found her solitary way,
to what is now called Esther Peak.
I had only hoped to reach
the tallest peak.

My suffragist
Cousin Alice ascended Marcy
in 1908. I imagine her
in her long skirts striding to the peak
like one of the four heroic ladies
of Homer’s In the Mountains,

“One slept in the open air and eat (sic)
griddlecakes made by the guides.
One absolutely forgot husband, child”

“Marcy the highest peak
of the Adirondacks rising above
the timberline is a peak whose ascent
must not be undertaken but reverently,
discreetly, etc. See Baedeker.
I went up it.”

I admire my cousin’s quiet boast,
the modest irony at Baedeker’s expense.

I think of those women in their bonnets and dresses.
Alice went to the woods, she wrote,
to learn to live less dependently.
I wanted to meet her above the trees.
God-damn my cranky feet and knees.

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Poem from a Line by William Stafford / by Pamela Murray Winters

“And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail”

We had a small ornament like that once, rosy-black
china elephants—a family, I assumed—connected
to each other, big to littler to littlest. I believe
there were four. Over time, the cheap chains
between them went black. I suspect, but don’t
remember, that I would play with them by holding
the biggest or smallest and swinging them
in a carousel circle, a crack-the-pachyderm.
Whatever happened to them? I envision them
with ears, tails, trunks, feet snapped off or
worn down. Maybe in that box, the one that holds
my dead mother’s things, that I’ve been afraid
to open for eight years. My family never paraded.
We were three. You couldn’t see our chains.

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Day 27 / Poems 27

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Change / by Karen Craigo

Try to calculate the value
of a rat’s ass, a damn
or darn, a flying fuck
at a rolling donut—
some currency must be
the true one. Odd fact—
it costs two-and-a-half cents
to mint a penny. A nickel
costs more than a dime.
Is there anything
you can hold to convey
the value of intention?
We start to approach
the zinc heart of
the matter—those
are symbols beneath
the couch cushions. Where
you empty your pockets:
an overflowing jar of poems.

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High School Career Aptitude Test / by Meg Eden

All of us, sitting
arm-to-arm with
standardized test papers
and pencils, filling in bubbles
to determine what we should become.

I don’t remember
what job I was assigned—I want to say
it was “auto mechanic.” I remember
that there was no option for “writer”
or “artist.” I remember I laughed
at what I got. Was that because
it was so far off from my interests?
Or that there was something funny
about auto mechanics?

I remember Adam brought in a knife
and the whole time sat there stabbing
his hat, the way some people
draw doodles in the margins
of their class notes, a compulsive fidget.

Patrick got “librarian 2.”
Carrie got “sports announcer” and “puppeteer.”
I don’t remember what Adam got.
I don’t know if I ever asked.

Someone escorted him out of the auditorium.
According to Facebook, he works
at a smoothie shop now.
The past couple weeks, I’ve had trouble
getting my car to turn on. I call my dad
to ask him what he thinks should be done.

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Poem & Motive Opine (Then Fight on a Barroom Floor & Endanger Everybody) / by Chad Foret

“And what is space anyway if not the
body’s absence at every given
point?”
Joseph Brodsky, “To Urania”

“This paleness is a plaque of pantomimes & pity parties.
As an Alphanumerican citizen, I’m here to complain
that my bodice of symbols is clogged with rain.” [. . .]

Please click here to read the poem in its entirety.

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Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I / by Flavia Rocha Loures

In pre-World War II Vienna, within the home
of choice for artists, intellectuals to gather
through the early decades of the nascent century,

there she hung, Adele, magnetic patroness of
the inquisitive, ingenious human spirit;
her essence immortalized in golden beauty

by the hands of master Klimt, her friend in art and
in life. But then the world began to change; Austria,
motherland, betrayed her own once treasured daughter.

Taken, against her wishes, away from home; her
family split apart, in desperate search for safety,
crossing an ocean of sorrow and distress towards

the promise of better days to come. So, for years,
silenced, in anonymity, there she remained
on Austrian soil, known as “Die Goldene Dame”…

for her identity, too, had been stolen. How
to make amends in the face of so much wrongdoing?
How to appease screaming injustice when the truth

is denied despite blasting evidence? In time,
after a bitter pathway of desolation,
incredulity, Adele traveled to join her

loved ones at their new home. And there she now adorns
walls of atonement, alongside masterworks
by the fellow enlightened spirits she adored.

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His Softness / by Robert Okaji

This poem is sponsored by Sarah Rivera.

What name would survive
had you not stepped into the water

that day? Memory assigned
a separate word, another given,

and the face I’d placed with you
appeared in front of me

fifteen years later, in another
setting, miles away

and still breathing. How
may I honor you

if not by name? I recall
the gray ocean and how

umbrellas struggled in
the wind, and reading

in the weekly newspaper
a month after

that you had never emerged.
Now your name still lies there,

somewhere, under the surface,
unattached yet moving with

the current, and I,
no matter how I strain,

can’t grab it. Time after time,
it slips away. Just slips away.

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Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XXVII

Just another half hour
Pleeeeeese

We bairns beg more time
to play tag in the gloaming
of a Scottish summer
that lingers late into evening.

When I become a parent
the nightly bedtime ritual
is turned on me as our son
and his friends plead to play longer.

The gloaming doesn’t exist in Michigan
but we live at the western end
of the eastern time zone, giving us
an extra hour of daylight over Chicago
only a couple of hundred miles
to the west.

If allowed, these boys would play
in the dark, barely able to see
the baseball in a pick-up game
in the street. They’d run
round bases, slide on concrete
ignore scraped knees and elbows.

Just another half hour
Pleeeeeese

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Woodchucks / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Thoreau, ambivalent, would ravage one,
boasting a lurid urge to eat him raw,
but also “reverenced…a rank and savage one”
as representative of higher law.

You thrilled to see one in our puppy’s maw;
a gardener, you wish all woodchucks dead.
“It’s just old nature red in tooth and claw,”
you praised the dog and patted her on the head.

I think they’re lovely slinking through the grass
or standing on their legs to peer about.
I mourn the dead ones as I’m driving past,
admire that fierce one hissing at the dog.

They are largely indifferent to him, you, or me
although they seem to like our broccoli.

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Field / by Pamela Murray Winters

Maybe it’s pale yellow, glinting with frost. It’s 6:40
in the morning, and your breath ghosts as it passes over
your travel mug. You feel the heat pressing from inside,
the cold pressing in.

Maybe it’s raining now, and sunny now, so
your liquid limbs evaporate and go rosy and, with
the green that radiates up, makes you think of Christmas
on the fifteenth of August.

Maybe it’s a new-moon night, and you have to get to the cabin.
At first, with no headlamp, all you see is darkness, but
your senses adapt, and black becomes notes and fillips
leaping, the world telling you its names.

You are the wind over the yellow field, green field,
black field. Everything between you is weather. People love
to talk about weather.

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Day 26 / Poems 26

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A Church / by Meg Eden

I pass the boarded-up one-room church
on my way home from work.
If only someone would inhabit it!
Even knowing that a fox gives birth in it,
or a sparrow holds a nest in the rafters
would remind me that there is always life in God—

And behind it, a silver church rises up.
That’s what the sign calls it, at least—
from the road it looks like a conference center
or a hospital, with all those windows lined up
like floor tiles. Sterile, the kind of place people go
to buy services and leave once they’re met.

This is must be the dream Daniel had
but didn’t talk about: the dilapidated beast
with one steeple is eaten by the glass one
with three. What is the meaning for a prophecy
like this? Something about megachurches,
about people not wanting their parents’ idea of “church”?

The one-room church has A/C units in the windows.
When was the last time someone turned it on?
This old church is so small: like a toy house.
But the ivy around it is romantic, the white-painted panels
and arched windows. Vince says sometimes it’s better
to just build something new than to restore something old.

But he doesn’t get it—that every time I drive by
an abandoned church I think about the last person
who told me that God is dead. My pastor reminds us:
we don’t go to church, we go to fellowship with the church.
Even so, every time I pass a church with my Catholic friend,
she bows. We like places we can identify, enter and exit.

Couldn’t they have added this new church
onto the old one? Couldn’t they have at least
restored it—made it a children’s playhouse?
Maybe a storage shed, even a billboard!
It could be anything really, just as long
as it’s put to use. Unboard the doors.

Give me a reminder that we are not dead.
I see the ivy, I see the tree growing into peeling wall.
Even so, I forget my God—how is that possible?

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Midway in Morning / by Jen Fitzgerald
*

Daylight creaks open the stalls

Early flies form a lazy swarm around trash pails

An errant prize sits, emotionless

Another tick on the calendar till the next tear down set up

in the next town where folks buy the same shirts

and laugh at the same jokes

Make a workweek of it, if you can

Make a life of it

It is in this first light that you know

nothing will ever be new again.

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A Heckler, Quiet / by Chad Foret

“Summer, grass, run, jump, youth! Wake up!
Wake up, oh this is your last chance.”
Charles Whitley, “Kick the Can,” The Twilight Zone

“The washed up sensei barely left those blocks depressed.
I bet his head’s just TV dinners, game show shit—
that tornado of numbers parallels his life—

the rusting exes who’ve accepted his sausage.
That rainbow of waistlines must’ve meant something once.”

Ambulance screams past the windows of the dojo.
The light on the ground outside like a wedding dress

shredded apart in a panic. “He’s on alert
for love, the rapid, waxen doom of debutantes.”

A strand of streetlight, spider’s invisible home,
is the last of an instrument, almost a song.

What is the source of criticism’s subterfuge?
Maybe Kenny G colonics are a culprit.

“When I’m gray & can conceive of our subsets, I’ll
be brilliant, the blood of suspended disbelief,

better than those languid Dimitris brewing beans,
the wisdom of the dead drooling from their zippers.”
One day, he’ll try to open home with his work key,
& he’ll learn his every word was a lawn’s white lump.

Somewhere, a surgeon opens somebody’s baby.

What is a moment but everything’s eminence?
The teacher bows to his class in his gi, then they.
“If all you have is your hunger, that which you love

will live.”

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The practice of living / by Flavia Rocha Loures

laughter
spreads out like fire
like music that floods our senses
in it we are free
like dolphins’ dances
and waterfalls on the sand
changing the landscape
creating a radiant path
through which we escape
into wilderness
into the night that belongs to us
let the fuzz all that buzz tag along
as we savor the splendor of being
because we’re here to master
with ardor
the tender practice of living
better stronger faster
and more musical
more vocal in our convictions
ever more whimsical in our dreams
we are the sounds that reverberate
the moves that emancipate
as effervescent as streams
born of glaciers destined to reach
rich oceans booming with
a diversity of life and emotions
laughter
lends rhythm to silence
as we dance like dolphins
and afterwards
I pin down these words
that had been spinning around me
daring to decipher to uncover
all of the fervor
of the dashing practice of living

*
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Something Lost, Something Trivial / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Darryl Williams.

Another word, another bewildered
moment in transition: the phrase
barely emerges from your mouth
before crumbling back into a half-opened
drawer in the loneliest room of a house
that died seventeen years ago.

I nod as if in understanding, and stoop
to pick up a crushed drinking straw,
the kind with the accordion elbow
that facilitates adjustment.

From a rooftop across the street,
a mockingbird warbles his
early morning medley of unrelated
songs, and you say left oblique,
followed by matches, then
collapse on a bench,
winded. I sit next to you

and we both enjoy the warmth
and birdsong, though I know
this only through the uplifted
corner of your mouth, which
these days is how you indicate
either deep pleasure or

fear. I have to leave soon,
I say, and you grab my wrist
and stare into my eyes.
Broom, you reply. And more
emphatically, Broom!

Though I cannot follow you
directly, knowing both path
and destination, I pick my way
carefully through the years
stacked high like cardboard
banker’s boxes stuffed with
papers and receipts no one
will ever see. I know, I say.
I love you, too. Broom.

*
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Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XXVI

Meet you for lunch at noon. We glance at
our watches, trust they’ll be the same.

America has an official timekeeper
who oversees America’s master clock
an atomic clock that counts in nanoseconds.

An even more accurate clock sprawls
in a basement lab, a mass of wires, binder clips,
and research grade tinfoil that houses
a small chamber of strontium atoms
in a lattice of laser beams.

The goal? Keep perfect time for five billion years
the entire age of the known universe.

But the speed of time depends on the strength
of gravity. Time passes faster on top
of Mount Everest than it does in Death Valley.
We never noticed that sliver of a second before
but the new clock senses a change in time
at the smallest shift.

Even as we compare timepieces to plan
our lunch, they tick at different rates, slip
apart from each other. With this one new clock,
our sense of time loses its anchor. Experts say
we need a network of these sprawling clocks in space.

Their sensitivity to gravity could
give us a map of the inside of the earth
show us where to find water underground
find gravitational waves from black holes
and exploding stars.

But can they tell us the time?

*
*

Bronze Statue of a Seated Boxer, New York 2013 / by Katherine Barrett Swett

My son when he wrestles wears headgear
to avoid cauliflower ear.
He is covered in scratches and bruises
. . . . . . .and similarly stoic when he loses.
When The Boxer came to the museum;
. . . . . . .I dragged my son there to see him.
His shipment here seemed as much a miracle
. . . . . . .as his excavation from the Quirinal.
My son took his arrival here for granted
. . . . . . .as I did when Apollo 11 landed.
“He’s tired,” my son said.
. . . . . . .I agreed,
amazed that he felt empathy
. . . . . . .for a statue from 300 something B.C.

*
*

Cutting My Pinky Finger on the Edge of the Page of the Book of Lovingkindness / by Pamela Murray Winters

It’s the curse of a certain kind
of Christian, the one who thinks lions
are cuddly. If I’ve been

lied to before, it’s worked. I’ve lain down
with beasts and gotten up unscathed.
My curse is my armor, I guess.

Or am I blessed? Kind doesn’t mean
dumb. Smart can mean sting. Sharp
can save the day or open a vein. Trust

is a hang-glide over flaming abysses
(or abscesses or abacuses—
whatever burns). The audience snaps

souvenirs of the pretty colors.
The opposite of bright is not dumb,
but dark. I saw his makeup.

Check out the devil’s Botox
he uses around the eyes. He dares not
be ignored, so he plants his flag

in ignorance. Praise man! I hear
a little piccolo, Scaramouche. Fear
is a clown’s whiteface. Truth

would require soap and a mop.
Bitter words will bubble in his mouth
until he drifts away.

Once a scrim fell across his face; spots
and gels told the story. Now
I’ve read act three. I’m left with

you’ve lied or you’re stupid.
Neither of us is stupid.

*
*

Day 25 / Poems 25

*

Disaster Pantoum / by Meg Eden

Don’t tell me this happens every hundred years:
When I step in the water, my sisters grab at my ankles like tadpoles.
I am swimming inside a cemetery.
I am in my hometown of Atlantis. There are ships above me—

When I step in the water, my sisters grab at my ankles like tadpoles.
When I go into my house, fish fall out of the pantry.
I am in my hometown of Atlantis. There are ships above me,
like clouds. Why am I still alive?

When I go into my house, fish fall out of the pantry.
All my pills expired March 2011.
Why am I still alive? Like clouds,
I am always swimming.

All my pills expired March 2011.
My mouth is the mouth of a bird.
I am always swimming—
My legs are two squids, soft like dead bodies.

My mouth is the mouth of a bird.
My sisters ask why I haven’t joined them.
My legs are two squids, soft like dead bodies—
Fingers cold and wet, raw like fish.

My sisters ask why I haven’t joined them.
They want to eat me whole.
Their fingers are cold and wet, like raw fish.
I can’t go to the beach anymore.

They want to eat me whole.
I am living but barely.
I can’t go to the beach anymore.
I am living in a temporary home in the city,

I am living but barely.
When I close my eyes I’m back in my hometown.
I am living in a temporary home in the city,
but everyone is still half-alive inside me.

When I close my eyes I’m back in my hometown.
When I try to take a walk I see dead friends in the puddles.
But everyone is still half-alive inside me.
Whenever I go to the movies I weep.

When I try to take a walk I see dead friends in the puddles.
When I go shopping, the boxes dissolve in my hands.
Whenever I go to the movies I weep.
Does this happen to everyone?

When I go shopping, the boxes dissolve in my hands.
My mother and father are stuck in a tree.
Does this happen to everyone?
Will someone get what’s left of them down?

My mother and father are stuck in a tree.
They’ve been up there for the past three years.
Will someone get what’s left of them down?
My sisters’ fingers leave marks on my ankles.

They’ve been up there for the past three years.
If we opened up all the houses, what else would we find?
My sisters’ fingers leave marks on my ankles.
My town has been washed clean—if you can call this “clean”.

If we opened up all the houses, what else would we find?
I try to not think about that much.
My town has been washed clean—if you can call this “clean”.
I am a dog—I will eat anything.

I try to not think about that much.
I am swimming inside a cemetery.
I am a dog—I will eat anything.
Don’t tell me this happens every hundred years:

*
*

Midway At Twilight / by Jen Fitzgerald

Those obscene floating beasts over balloons, over rifles, over goldfish bowls—
American obscenity of the never-big-enough, of the who-cares-where it will
live just get the biggest, the best, the bang for your buck, get them before they
get you over a rail. We’re all just making our livings on, off, and in spite of
ourselves. Callers call, it’s what they do, but we keep picking up, keep saying
I got a feeling about this one, this time, this booth, this man, my chances. Because this place
is magical in night, florescent, phosphorescent, aglow. Bulbs whir and monster
truck engines bear down on the broken and cracked castaways. Even our
destruction is bigger-than-life. But night also marks an ending—rage against
it. Booths fold down, burners are turned off as push brooms move earth.
A blond girl drags a five-foot purple raccoon down to the gate, triumphant.

*
*

Miscellaneous Transit / by Chad Foret

“I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.”
Billy Collins, “The Lanyard”

I went along a gnarled grove
where the birds with big shoulders
waited in the shade of jammed fingers—
no, wait, those were trees—but they were like
disrupted indications, human twists of indecision. [. . .]

Click here to read the poem in its entirety.

*
*

FRL25

*
*

A Cheese Omelet at Midnight / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Pleasant Street.

You can’t ever leave without saying something,
no matter how insipid. That sweater looks good
on you. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. I’m sorry
I burned the omelet. Nasdaq has plunged 3%

since last week. And I, in return, can’t let you go without
replying in equal measure. It matches your eyes. I love
to smell rain in August. That cheddar was delicious.
Maybe I’ll start a savings account. Next month.

So I wash dishes when you’re gone, wipe down the
counters, pour salt into the shaker, grab a book, join my
cat in bed. This tune’s been overplayed, the grooves’re
worn down. Maybe next time I’ll say what I mean,

tell you what I want: It would look better in a heap
on the floor. How about a shower here, tonight? Kiss
me and I’ll never think of it again. I don’t give a rat’s
ass about the stock exchange. Step away from that door!

I’ll make your lunch, butter your 7-grain toast, assemble
your IKEA furniture, balance your books, even dye
my hair pink, tattoo a pig on my thigh and drink light beer
in your honor, if you would agree to say what’s on your

mind. On second thought, don’t. Tell me, instead,
what I want to hear, but make it heart-felt. Truthful
and direct. Poached but earnest. Hard-boiled but tender.
I’ll cook your eggs. Invest in me. You’ll earn interest.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XXV

Sometimes I half-wake in the night
and feel you next to me, breathing
warm. My body eases into that familiar
space of comfort, as if you were real.
I drift back to sleep. When I wake
in the morning, you have died
all over again.

At other times, you are so far back
in time that it feels as if you never were.
Someone will ask: what was he like
your late husband? I answer
as I always do: six one, never weighed
more than one thirty five. I don’t get
past the combined figures and how skinny
you were.

At those moments, I can barely recall
your face. I can describe
you Abe-Lincoln-like jaw, your sticky-out ears
your little nose, but they aren’t as clear
as the black Greek fisherman’s hat
you always wore.

I remember how you forgot to take it off
when you took our small son swimming
in Lake Huron. You stood up to your waist
in frigid water in your swimming trunks
and your hat while our son splashed
happily around you.

*
*

After the Pequod / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Melville knows work, and they all work hard
in the brutal service of death and cash,
but after the reveries on the masthead,
the cozy tales of Nantucket and Kokovoko,

after Madame Leviathan and her bloody breasts,
the pictures of whales and how to process them,
the endless classifications of whales and humans,
the gams of men and boats, the spite and affection,

finally they had to arrive at the white captain
and the white whale. It’s such a relief
when the ship goes down and the whale disappears.

Back home, in upstate New York,
the Adirondacks still rise faster than they erode,
and will grow two miles in a mere million years.

*
*

Old Guard / by Pamela Murray Winters

Amazing how often he has to say
Don’t knock on the statue. He’s relaxed
his stance on selfies with anything naked.
It’s campaign summer in a lame-duck presidency;
one has to pick one’s battles. He recognizes the decay
of what he once called culture. At least
they’re paying attention, he jokes. His feet ache
and he’s ready to buy the boat. For now, he lives
for the ones who leave, then stutter-step and turn
or even moonwalk back
to look into the eyes in the paintings.

*
*

Day 24 / Poems 24

*

Evanesce /by Karen Craigo

Used to be our worth was easy
to measure—a coin for each eye,
or one placed above the tongue.
Those were the chips we had
when we rose from the table
and wandered off in search
of something better to do.
I guess this is what remains
when the earth pulls us in,
but isn’t our value in the loam—
how we make the ground
a little softer with our going?
Then someone walking past
can look down and say wait,
here’s some neat old money.

*
*

A Talk with my Husband /by Meg Eden

Let’s buy a Spanish village–
It’s the same price as our house now:
a hundred acres, and all those buildings!
Can you imagine
what that’d cost us here, in Maryland?
Think of it as a life investment.
Think of it as our career.
Don’t you want a barn?
Don’t you want ten of them?
We could take up farming.
We could build it into a resort.
We could retire, in our own village!
It might be costly upfront,
but if we could get a mortgage
on our house, couldn’t we get one
for a village? Think about how easy
it would be, to pack our things
and leave the city behind. To never have
to work again! You think it’s not
that simple? I look at the stones
in the listing pictures: they’ve been here
for five hundred years, longer!
It’s hard to think anything I’ll ever do
could last half as long.

*
*

Midway At Noon / by Jen Fitzgerald

We’ve all traveled far for this,
some rehearsed and weary,

some seeking. Funnel cake
batter flakes in the heat

of sun before its oil bath,
kids palm tokens

and dollars they will all
too easily hand over—

we can make a lesson
of this, our fishbowl, our

anthropological dig—
all the possibilities,

all the unexplored curves
of human interaction—

Spin us, twist us, whip us
like cream on these machines.

There is a whole day left
for us to batter and fry.

Sell us something
you’d never buy back.

*
*

Shuteye /by Chad Foret

“. . . the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself
but rather in the value of that which is put at hazard.”
The Judge, Blood Meridian

I’m falling through a dream
where bodies bleed feathers,
so every opening’s a startling
of birds, flies mad among the [. . .]

Click here to read the poem in its entirety.

*
*

Things children say / by Flavia Rocha Loures

Inspired by and adapted from remarks made by my godson and collected by his mom, between the ages of 2 and 7

Part V. Witty dialogues

From another room, Lucas coughs and says:
“Mom, I just coughed!”
She replies: “Yes, saw that.”
Then he goes: “Duh, mom, you didn’t see it, you heard it.”

Mom: “You look so serious and attentive…”
Lucas: “That’s because my tummy machine is working well and,
with these big ears of mine,
I’m listening to everything around me.”

Mom: “Your toys are set up so funny today.”
Lucas: “Of course, I use my imagination!”

Mom: “Does your little sister cry at night?”
Lucas: “Yep.”
Mom: “And can you hear her if you’re sleeping?”
Lucas: “Of course! Or do you think my ears malfunction at nighttime?”

Mom: “I had already told you not to do that.”
Lucas: “I know… it’s just that the first time you said it,
it didn’t really reach all the way into my head.”

Lucas: “I’d like to get a tattoo.”
Mom: “One day, perhaps.”
Lucas: “I’d like to get it one day today.”

Lucas: “Let’s go play at the park.”
Mom: “But how, with your broken arm?”
Lucas: “Not to worry, I’ll put all my abilities to good use.”

Grandma: “If you don’t behave during tooth-brushing, I’ll take off running.”
Lucas: “But are you gonna run with your injured knee? That should hurt!”

*
*

Katharsis /by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Plain Jane of the blog “Family Rules: Reflections by Plain Jane.” For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors can offer a title, and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

The questions, as always: which rocks to ignore, who will
place them, and how to defy the laws of mathematics.

Note: you will create two separate walls to build one.
You will measure length and depth. You will weigh consequence.

Dig a shallow trench, and set your first two foundation stones
at a slight angle, high points on the outside, low ends meeting

in the middle. Count your failures and multiply them by 100.
Let gravity share the burden, then discard every one. Take

care in selecting your stones. Scorpions lurk in the dark,
underneath. Wear heavy gloves. Use leverage. Seek balance.

Avoid the smooth and rounded, as they too readily relinquish
their footing. Select hard-angled, rough pieces. Accept

faults, and work with them. Stack carefully — the two walls
should lean inward, touching, each bearing the other’s

weight. Work alone, but think to the future, with strength in
mind. Be deliberate. One stone, followed by another. Repeat.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XXIV

I was born in a little town
that went beyond sleepy to catatonic.
We dragged to school in the dark
of northern winter days, watched
the clock hands inch around its analog face
and listened to the drone of teacher’s voice
or sneaked sweeties from our desks
when teacher wasn’t looking.

The lights might be on all winter day
if it was gray, but on rare sunny days
teacher might turn them off
when we went to recess in mid-morning.
We took our balls, our hula hoops—
all the rage back then—
and came to momentary life on the concrete
playground. School lunch was one
of the bright spots of the day.

A harsh bell ruled our comings
and goings, but by mid-afternoon
lights were on again as dark
descended. At day’s end, we had lost
track of how many times the bell
reverberated through school.
We put on our heavy coats
and scuffed our way home
for tea, homework, and early bed.

*
*

Summer Short Subjects / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Queen Anne’s Lace

as if a spider tatted
a stained glass window
in the summer sun

Music

at what pitch
does the river flow
or wind through the pines?

Bike Ride

the corn has grown
so high
it blocks the mountains

Coffee Break

I am waiting
for the weed to blossom
into a plant

*
*

PMW24

*
*

Day 23 / Poems 23

*

Ước Gì / by Meg Eden

My friend asks me if I know what that means.
In class, we’re listening to My Tam
when we should be doing our JAVA homework.
I say “I wish”, the kind of “I wish” as in:
I wish I knew this language /
I wish I wasn’t stuck in the shell of my language /
I wish Vietnamese tones weren’t so hard to learn.

My friend studies me.
For a moment she looks at me like she doesn’t know
what to make of me. What am I, after all?
A foreigner, who sometimes knows
the right words to say? Because I heard them
in a pop song once? How could I know
ước means wish, or she that my wish
might be the same as hers:
to find a language to call home
to burrow into and inhabit it,
to recreate the sensation of going
to a shopping mart and smelling
sliced durian and finding relief
in the familiarity in its sweaty human smell.

*
*

So Gone I Aint Even Know Where From / by Jen Fitzgerald

Get back to loving each other,
leave all those long and lonesome miles behind.

Ray Lamontagne

I come from a city that reinvents itself
by the minute in the spirit
of performance—folks playing
themselves playing a better version
of themselves to impress anyone.
I am the daughter of a family
so unstoppable that they never leave
their island, so complacent in pseudo-
ownership that no boat may move them.
Slaughterers, psychopaths, and animal
lovers alike have mass, have gravitational
pull and drift inward. 32 years of walled
off escape routes, 32 years of trick mirrors
and sleights of hand. But there is an exhale
now, brief and labored but here.
One of us was bound to make it over
the bridge. One of us would run
with no sense of where they were going,
one of us would run this country
ragged and never, ever look back.

*
*

On the Thrown Belongings of a Frustrated Student / by Chad Foret

“The cold goblin spring of the crocuses was past.”
Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

A book of histories vanish
in the shadow of an eyelash.
Eras are galloping backward, I

guess. A fingernail spat, or fragment of moon?
Handsome starvelings smoke, acoustically croon
ruinous skews. The broken are only incredibly open.

*
*

Things children say / by Flavia Rocha Loures

Inspired by and adapted from remarks made by my godson and collected by his mom, between the ages of 2 and 7

Part IV. Being cute and jolly

“You should brush your gums thoroughly…
. . . . it’s where the bacteria like to poop.”

“Great-grandma is so naughty:
. . . . just wants to lie in bed all day!”

“This noise coming out of my belly…
. . . . is the sound of my tummy eating my food.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll pick up the coins from the floor,
. . . . since I’m more ‘elastic’.”

Getting scolded:
. . . . “But why would you nickname me angel,
. . . . if I’m such a prankster?”

At the supermarket:
. . . . “Hmm, let’s go explore this place!”

Placing a golden sticker on my jacket:
. . . . “Here, this way your jacket
. . . . will look more luminous.”

Talking about his cousins:
. . . . “It’s good I’m not going there to play today.
. . . . They keep fighting each other and
. . . . it gives me a headache.”

In the car:
. . . . “I’d like to go check out that building.
. . . . In fact, I wanna see everywhere in Brazil.”

One day, first sentence upon waking up:
. . . . “Recycling is important.”

Playing video-games:
. . . . “This soundtrack is so much fun…
. . . . I feel like running around naked.”

*
*

Ode to Being Placed on Hold / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Mary “marso” of the blog “marsowords.” For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

The music rarely
entertains,
but I find
peace between
the notes,
sometimes,
and embrace
the notion that
I’ve been placed
in that peculiar
capsule between
speech and the
void, imagining
myself somewhere,
floating, free
of care and
gravity,
beer can
satellites
orbiting my head,
with bites of
pungent cheeses
and baguette
circling in
their wake,
a gift you see,
like rain in
August or
a warm voice
saying hello.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XXIII

Did you read my instructions? I ask
my class. Instructions? There are
instructions?

I assign a two-page article
for them to read. Please don’t give us that.
We don’t read. It takes too long.

I test them in the next class,
asking only questions they could
easily answer if they’d read the piece.
Most fail.

Videos under five minutes.
Sound and visual bites, a practice
that began in the days of Sesame Street.
That’s all they want.

Instant gratification recipe:
Open heads.
Stuff with information.
Close with care.
Do not require thought.

*
*

Sestina / by Katherine Barrett Swett

The old man on his plastic chaise lounge
is drinking a wine cooler
and longing for a real cocktail.
He knows he hasn’t a prayer
as, squinting in the sun, he observes
a thin woman approaching, his daughter.

She’s a good woman, his daughter,
but she looks angry as she nears the lounge.
“I see you’re smoking again,” she observes.
“I promise I’ll quit when the weather gets cooler.”
“I know there’s not a prayer,
but at least stay away from the real cocktails.”

“You didn’t used to be so opposed to cocktails.”
He smiles mockingly but doesn’t remind his daughter
she used to joke about one called “Maiden’s Prayer.”
Now she never drinks. He pats the lounge.
“Come sit here in the shade; it’s cooler.”
She always mocks the little rituals he observes.

At first she just stands awkwardly, then observes.
“You don’t remember my first cocktails.
I was in middle school and much cooler
than now, more the kind of daughter
you want. We all went to a lounge
on 79th street. Glass-eyed Mike, preyer

on little rich girls, answered the prayers
of little rich boys. Mike never touched, but observed
us from the corner as we drunkenly lounged,
our parents too busy drinking their own cocktails
to worry where their sons and daughters
were. You guys were middle-aged and so cool.”

Was she less severe when she was cool?
Probably not; then her biggest prayer
was that no one knew she was his daughter.
Not much has changed, he observes
as he raises his imaginary cocktail
glass to her and gets up from the lounge.

No prayer of forgiveness in the cooler
where the cocktails for decades lounged
that she be less an observer, more his daughter.

*
*

After Breakdown / by Pamela Murray Winters

A cool vast space,
like a drive-in movie screen,
opens behind my eyes.

The afterimage of fear, now
it’s a place for light to play,
for a trace of color.

No drama, no narrative,
just dance. The vision opens
like the Y in YAWN,
from the top down.

It is white but not solid.
It allows for the olive and the balsam.

Maybe it’s false snow, a trick of sun on glass
or damage to my eyes.

Winter doesn’t preclude spring.
I almost remember
when they were sequential.

They say without time, everything
would happen in a heap.

Things will get better, I say,
watching the screen quiver. And things

will get worse. Pray the order sorts right.

*
*

Day 22 / Poems 22

*

The Sheep Demand Overtime / by Karen Craigo

We’ve grown tired of jumping
your split-rail fence every single
goddamn night, and anyway,
we’re always the same ten sheep.
You’d know if you paid attention.
See, we circle back to jump again—
we round till the work is done.

It’s never done. So much waiting
and bounding, and then you lose count
at four or five, start us all over again.

We the sheep enjoy neither pasture
nor fence, tire greatly of the leaping.
When you do nod off, you keep to
the shallows. We dare not slip away.

But no one is granted unlimited sheep.
How many do you think you deserve?

*
*

Fruit Salad / by Meg Eden

What am I gonna do with all this fruit salad?
I made it for Bible study, but we didn’t feel up to driving.
Now I have a bowl of cut-up fruit in the fridge,
a bowl of raw whole fruit on the table.
It’s going to go bad soon. It’s going to go bad
before we get to eating it.
It’s going to go bad, and I’ll be crying
as I try to pick out a couple cherries
that aren’t moldy yet, a peach half that’s not quite
fully brown. I have a real guilt complex
about food, you know. One time, my mom threw out
some crab cake fried shrimp and I screamed at her
with that kind of scream reserved for boys found
cheating on their girlfriends, or being the eye witness
to a violent crime. They were one day old
when she threw them away. She said, seafood
spoils fast. My mother threw out perfectly good food,
“just in case.” Whenever she did that, I thought about
kids living in the garbage cities of India, looking
for something edible—if lucky, something
not completely spoiled yet. Maybe that’s why
I know I’ll look through my fruit salad
for something edible. It’s the least I can do.

*
*

The Return / by Jen Fitzgerald

2

Something will have to love me
before my time here is over.

So many miles and markers–
a monotony of states.

I want normalcy.
No, I want a home
anywhere– I want
to be tethered to more than place.

At morning’s first light, I asked a ship
Captain about his successes.
He smiled when he spoke about
children.
Those great equalizers
of adult idealism
really have us
going.

*
*

Tetragrammatonalities / by Chad Foret

“. . . he thought he knew how Christ must have felt as he walked through the world, like a psychiatrist through a ward full of nuts, like a victim through a prison full of thieves.
What a welcome sight a leper must have been!”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

The tree pulled apart by powerlines
is a Phoenix in the static of its own restoration.
I am constantly assaulted by bookshelves clogged with
English teachers’ unimpeded assignations, recalcitrance of zero,
how, stuck in the spirals of barbershop poles, their past as bloodletting’s
lighthouse is missed. The neighborhood ducks as a truck backfires. Pashminas
slink into blacklit intentions. So, what is this voice that says, “Time is a series of straw-
berry seeds,” & “the only human contribution is the one immortal art, because you can’t
perfect the practice of misunderstanding—unless, of course, you call it living, amalgamate
of blood roundest up to the nearest nearness.” When contemporary song exhausts all cliché,
will you appear like a lemon hurled out of the darkness? “I really wish I had made you funny,
lowered inclinations to collapse inside severity. Relax. All your joys & neuroses are strings
I happened to strike one summer.” Shucks. “Everything’s a song, I’m saying! Good grief!”
Sir, we just want to die deep inside of something. “Give every atom a novel’s attention.”

*
*

Things children say / by Flavia Rocha Loures

Inspired by and adapted from remarks made by my godson and collected by his mom, between the ages of 2 and 7

Part III. Sweet baby

“Mommy…

When you go to heaven,
will you keep taking care of me?

You’ll never be alone,
I’m here… always.

Do you know why my heart beats?
Because I love you.

You’re my best moment in life!”

“It’s so nice to get a hug,
. . . .to be held closely tight…
. . . .Any time, day or night.”

“My greatest Christmas present
. . . .is my family.”

“Good night!
. . . .See you all in my dreams.”

New Year’s Eve wishes:
. . . .“I wish everybody I love
. . . .to be healthy,
. . . .and for God
. . . .to watch over them.”

Going away with his grandparents for the weekend:
. . . .“Mom,
. . . .beware of the bad guys,
. . . .be kind to your patients.”

Consoling a friend:
. . . .“Think about good things,
. . . .like the places and people
. . . .you love most.”

*
*

Setting Fire to the Origami Crane (the one floating on Muscongus Bay) at Sunset / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Jilanne Hoffman. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

Who is to say which comes first, the flaming crane
or the sunset’s burst just over the horizon

and under the clouds? There are causes and causations,
an illness named bad air and another attributed to wolf

bites, neither accurate. There is the paraffin to melt,
and the folded paper resting comfortably nearby, with

a small, unopened tin of shoe polish and the sound of
tears striking newsprint. You know the myth of the

Viking burial — the burning ship laden with treasure
and the deceased clothed in all his finery. But pyres

are lighted to make ash of bodies, to ease the soul’s
transition to the heavens. Think of how disturbing

it would be to come upon the charred lumps of your
loved one washed ashore. And other myths — various

versions of the afterlife created to bend wills and
foster hope where little exists — to which have you

departed? There are no returns in your future, no more
givings, and your ashes have dispersed among the clouds

and in the water. They’ve been consumed by earth and
sky, inhaled and swallowed, digested, coughed out but

never considered for what they were. So I’ve printed
your name a thousand times on this sheet, and will

fold and launch it, aflame, watching the letters that
comprise you, once again, rise and float, mingle

and interact, forming acquaintances, new words,
other names, partnerships, loves, ascending to the end.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XXII

semibreve, minim, crotchet, quavers,
semiquavers, demisemiquavers
hemidemisemiquavers
Faster, faster. More and more notes
crammed into a bar.

How many tails on the notes?
How many bars at this speed?
How fast can I change my pitch?
Bother Bach and his many melismata.

My voice coach and I work on the piece
her fingers on the piano moving
just a hair faster than my voice can follow
to pull me along. I practice at home

where no one can urge me on but me.
I play the notes on my own keyboard
and sing along. Even the pace of the MP3 files
my coach sends are fixed in time.

Only when we work on the piece
together can I tease out that little bit
extra. One of us may sing.
Two of us make music.

*
*

Folding and unfolding / by Katherine Barrett Swett

she folds each bright square
and smaller and smaller cranes
spring from her small hands

folded in her lover’s arms
on an island hidden mid-sea
veiled Calypso weaves

an apocalypse
spring unfolding
melting snow

summer house
a strand of five cranes
our wind chimes

*
*

On the Maker / by Pamela Murray Winters

Sometimes the body is bad road
between music and soul:

its ruts and switchbacks,
its interferences. The body lacks

what the music requires.
Where is the music? How can one

travel there? On maps, it’s
a whirlpool or a bouquet of flames.

I knew a man who made music
because he wanted to hear music.

The Moses paradox: his followers
will spend more time in paradise.

*
*

Day 21 / Poems 21

*

A Nickel for Every _____ / by Karen Craigo

Forget for what. Imagine
the roomful of coins,
more arriving each day—
you could roll in them,
put them in stacks of twenty,
grab fistfuls and let them fall
to hear their cuprous song.
When you close the door
you have to toe spare silver
under to to the other side.

What people keep saying
is obvious, laughable,
the floor depressed
from the repetition.
If you really had a nickel
for every time something,
you’d tamp them in wrappers
that just fit your finger,
cash them in for something
no one could ever predict.

*
*

Riding a Motorbike / by Meg Eden

Parking at a restaurant in a city of motorbikes:
Tang parked real close to her neighbor.
I had never been on a motorbike before.
Coming to Thailand, I swore I’d never ride one.

Tang parked real close to her neighbor.
I didn’t know how hot a muffler gets
in Thailand. I swore I’d never ride a motorbike
until Tang and On asked to bring me shopping.

I didn’t know how hot a muffler gets
until my leg burned against one.
Tang and On asked to bring me shopping.
They’ve lived on motorbikes.

My leg burned against the muffler
heated with the Thailand sun.
They live on motorbikes—
I bite my lip and won’t tell them.

Heated with the Thailand sun,
I sit at our restaurant table, leg throbbing.
I bite my lip and won’t tell them.
They ask if I’m OK.

I sit at our restaurant table, leg throbbing.
Even in our divided languages, they know.
They ask if I’m OK.
I look down at my leg: pink-moon crescent.

Even in our divided languages, they know.
From our table, we can see the old city wall.
I look down at my leg: a pink moon crescent
and smother it in my drink’s ice.

From our table, we can see the old city wall.
On sees me
smothering my leg in ice.
I admit to everything.

On sees me
then runs to 7-11 for ointment.
I admit to everything
while Tang keeps apologizing.

Running from 7-11 with ointment,
On hands me the tube
while Tang keeps apologizing.
I rub the ointment

on my hands. The tube
written in letters I don’t know.
I rub the ointment
on my leg, the skin:

a letter I don’t know, peels
like a ranbutan.
On my leg, the skin:
a crusty shell, revealing soft fruit.

Like ranbutans.
Our Pad Thai comes out in Styrofoam boxes:
a crusty shell. Inside, soft fruit.
We eat, chatting up English as my leg throbs.

Our Pad Thai comes out in Styrofoam boxes:
I had never been on a motorbike before.
We eat, chatting up English as my leg throbs,
parked at a restaurant in a city of motorbikes.

*
*

The Return / by Jen Fitzgerald

1

I want this place to be familiar.
Wind dances boughs before lit
windows to make waves in the night.

This place could be beautiful.
If for a moment I exhaled
and left my mark.
All the sun rises–
you’ve never seen such red,
you’ve never seen such glory–

This place defies;
the Chesapeake Bay
is in such stillness

I need this place to transcend
geography– become a cocoon,
vacant but willing.

*
*

CF21

*
*

Things children say / by Flavia Rocha Loures

Inspired by and adapted from remarks made by my godson and collected by his mom, between the ages of 2 and 7

Part II. Fantasizing

“When peeing, we shouldn’t make too much noise,
because there’s a dragon castle nearby.
If the dragon wakes up, it comes into the living room to spit fire.
Then again, this should set off the alarm and
the police would come quickly to get rid of the dragon.”

“Santa these days
. . . . . . uses GPS to find our letters.”

“All this rain!
. . . . . . I think the angels pulled up the rain lever and went to sleep.”

“My friend at school brushed her doll’s hair so hard that the hair fell off.
. . . . . . Then again, the doll had belonged to her grandma.
. . . . . . It was already so old… about time it got bald.”

When asked how he knew a song playing on the radio:
. . . . . . “It was playing while the stork was carrying me here.”

When told that taxi drivers know all the best directions:
. . . . . . “Not in other planets, they don’t.”

Our soccer team has been playing so well.
. . . . . . “I wonder if all the players have taken a magical potion…
. . . . . . or maybe they made a wish upon a shooting star.”

*
*

Before We Knew / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Ursula. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

All thought of consequence
melted with that first touch
of tongue to skin, no respite
to be found in that heat,

no shade at all. I recall
hitching a ride later with a
German couple who lit up
and passed the joint without

asking, and after their
Cinquecento sputtered away,
I walked down to the bar at the
waterfront for an espresso and

to watch the lights spark along
the bay. A few times a week
I’d see a boat putter in and tie up,
and the one-armed man would

display his catch or a carton
of bartered Lucky Strikes, but
not this night. The moon
weighed heavy on my shoulders

as I trudged home, remembering
the way you’d smiled and said,
from some place I’d never
witnessed before, come here,

now, as if I could have said no and
turned around, as if another urge
could have inserted itself
in that moment, in that life, ever.

*
*

Love Song / by Katherine Barrett Swett

When you’re with me
there’s nothing but green
in the green
or sound in the sound
I’ve never seen
that’s hidden between
the greens of the tree
that sound I know
have known for years
but the name I never learned
and I know that bird
without a word
beyond bird

*
*

Spare / by Pamela Murray Winters

the hubcap in the weeds
tilted toward the sun

the bayonet

the baby on the doorstep
in the song in the prison
kitchen

her arms
her heart

*
*

Day 20 / Poems 20

*

DC Pantoum / by Meg Eden

I drive around for a half hour, looking for a parking spot.
There are people parked in expired spots,
even though the meters say “parking laws enforced”.
I want to be my own tow truck and plough the world down.

There are people parked in expired spots—
so many smart cars eating only half a space!
I want to be my own tow truck and plough the world down
into my own eternal parking spot.

So many smart cars, eating only half a space!
Screw small cars. They’re not safe here, anyway.
In my own eternal parking spot,
only appropriately large cars would be allowed.

Screw small cars. They’re not safe here, anyway.
The other day, I drove my father’s truck:
appropriately large. Only these cars are allowed
to make me feel like a man in a girl’s body.

The other day, I drove my father’s truck.
High off the ground with that deep tenor horn,
it made me feel like a man in a girls body.
It made me feel in control.

Low off the ground, no deep tenor horn.
They still haven’t towed those expired cars!
I want to feel in control.
I want to give the world one big giant ticket.

They still haven’t towed those expired cars,
even though the meters say “parking laws enforced”.
I want to give the world one big giant ticket.
I drive around for a half hour, looking for a parking spot.

*
*

Tidal / by Jen Fitzgerald

Brined water kicks up
at rock’s jut
to twist wet sand
into knots.
What is known
becomes foreign–
be grateful
for lunar cycles
and tidal winds.
Cylindrical barnacle
dried to crust
breathes new at high
when the tiniest crabs
defend their crevice.
A child races
waves back to her chair.
Life is everywhere.

*
*

Sometimes, You Can Almost See / by Chad Foret

“I see again those myriad mornings rise
when every living thing
cast its shadow in eternity
and all day long the light . . .”
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “In woods where many rivers run”

the gem of their loneliness.
Beads shaking down the blades
are the fatal masks of ants.
Contracted demolition or some
sizeable molting, the dust
feathers softly cough, garbled
rebar, the phantom paths.
Oh, shriek of fingers leaving

chords, can’t you stay awhile
& sing these rifts, these rusted
floors of fallen leaves, to sleep?
The name of this poem is “Hello!,
Because I’m Happy You’re Alive.”

*
*

Things children say / by Flavia Rocha Loures

Adapted from remarks made by my godson (in Portuguese) and collected by his mom, between the ages of 2 and 7

Part I. Philosophizing, poeticizing

The world looks so small on google maps,
. . . . . . but we know it is so big.

There’s a tiny yellow fish
in the bottom of the ocean.
It looks like a radiant sun
twinkling under the water.

The full moon is
. . . . . . the devil of light.

One thing I hate in this world is when
. . . . . . hell comes into our head and then
. . . . . . we keep bugging the hell out of everybody.

How can the dogs
be sleeping in still,
when being out here
is such a thrill?

On the two different companies contracted by his school to transport kids:
. . . . . . They’re like Coke and Pepsi:
. . . . . . competing to see who gets more children.

Mom: How was your day at school?
Lucas: Great, I’m even sweating stones…
. . . . . . we played all kinds of games
. . . . . . for disentangling bones.

*
*

Tuning the Beast / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Sunshine Jansen. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

I prepare contingencies for all outcomes. No.
I’ve prepared for this: a body. A key. As if

that cloth draped a leg. Not a leg
but the representation of a limb.

Another fragment, brought forth and opened.
Not a limb, an arrow, perhaps, pointing to the sea.

An oar, brought inland and unrecognized
for its purpose, directed or aimless. No, not an oar.

A neck, polished, and a chamber, with strings.
Repetition, fixation. Position. Intent.

I pluck and strum, pick and stroke, maintaining
space, steel above wood, bending notes,

moving sound in time, purposefully, from
this place to that, the left hand, creating,

conversing. The right, reasoning, controlling,
burning its past to the present, allowing,

preventing, rendering beat, consistent
motion, shaping only this moment, this now.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XX

It’s not my wrinkles, my sagging jowls, my
flaccid hair that could fly away on a breeze
if it weren’t attached, it’s the difference
between my outer and inner self.

My gap between old and young has widened.
At twenty, I looked and felt twenty. At forty
I was so busy with husband, family, home,
job, dying parents, I barely noticed me at all.

Now, my left knee no longer bears my running weight
my right middle finger slips out of place. I must
push it back in place even as I wonder when the time
will come when I can’t.

Inside, I defy the image in my mirror. Who’s
that old lady in there? The blue eyes are still blue
but the thinning skin and the liver spots
must belong to someone else.

My students see the outer me, although they’re
surprised at my years. I may be old in chronology
I tell them, but in terms of piss and vinegar
not so much.

When they learn my actual years, they ask
How can you know about computers when you’re so old?
Recently I discovered some of their great grandmothers
are younger than I.

Each day, the same surprise. Each day, the gap in time
grows. Will I ever feel old or will I simply die
with my inner young buried in an outer crust?

*
*

Marginalia / by Katherine Barrett Swett

I read my daughter’s Freud,
her college book, an introduction
to parapraxes, how we avoid

the meanings in our small disruptions.
I read her margin notes, most
summaries, quick explanations

of his points. What’s somehow lost
is her voice. I want to hear her,
some funny crack she would toss off.

I read more and get a little nearer:
she writes “Dad” next to forgetting names,
and something else reminds her of Flubber.

Will I find some note of blame?
I want a clue about intent,
marginal insights that might frame

the subsequent event.
Then this: “if worried about slipping—
tend to” –did she believe in accident?—

“does that make it real?” Mount Hutt slipping
into the afternoon shade, she paused,
loving the view or worried about slipping?

Was it meaningless ice that caused
the fall? Fear or careless joy?
She used to “why” and I “becaused,”

and now I want to why her. Did she try
to avoid the answering void?
I only know my why.

*
*

Hunch / by Pamela Murray Winters

I grew up in a faith without saints,
so it shouldn’t surprise that I don’t know
what to feed them

or what they are supposed to do.
I’ve learned how to find them: by their
dull smooth goodness, or their trees

strung up with little epiphanies,
or the smell of orange. They are not
ghosts, but they hover. They

seem to wait. Sometimes a muse,
when dead, transmogrifies: there is a red bell
in the heart that rings other such bells

and certain votaries tremble. Thus
are tribes made, congregations of
human islands gone evergreen.

I’ve made it up. I no more understand
this bond than I understood, at five,
how a car moves. Daddy would hunch

over the steering wheel; I supposed it was
his posture that instigated the motion,
or maybe his will to travel.

*
*

Day 19 / Poems 19

*

Poem on My Coffee Break / by Karen Craigo

Today I’m fitting in a poem
on the back of an envelope,
something folded in my purse,
pencil breaking on the flap.
It’s meant for official business,
and I’d owe someone $300
if I mentioned how I love the way
the sun through the trees
spots my son, little leopard,
off to school. The IRS requests
consideration for the road
he walks there, for the school,
fighter jets and space toilets.
It’s a mixed bag, isn’t it,
what we get, and even what
I carry in this purse, not
quite as empty as it feels.
Look—I found a mint.

*
*

To the Angel at Golgotha Fun Park / by Meg Eden

You must enjoy that silence
from the top of the hill.
Think: your stone body
was made to recall the stone
rolled away from Christ’s tomb–
but now the stone’s been rolled
over you. How many angels
reside in Kentucky? Someone
made you in the image of angels.
There are so many of you
in the remains of this abandoned
golf course, makes you wonder
if this is a grave for angels
instead of the hill of skulls,
if someone confused Christ
with lawn ornaments, did you
ever get confused about which savior
to serve? Or ever feel guilty
that none of us can really imagine
what angels look like, that your bodies
are caricatures of something holy,
just like this park—well intended,
a defective apple from the tree of knowledge.

*
*

Cool Hand Lukewarm / by Chad Foret

“Then she walked across the dock and up the steep sandy road to go to bed.
A cold mist was coming up through the woods from the bay.”
Ernest Hemingway, “Up in Michigan”

First, convince yourself you are
alone. Look around the room.
Make sure the universe is
watching you whip it
out—no, nothing
naughty, the
manner
in which we enervate, a wide quiet.
Let your irises ooze along it all.
The trouble with serenity’s
we thrive in discord—
He sifts through ashtrays
for the residual centimeters of
secondhand cigarettes laced in spit,
as fall money fistfuls contaminate his past.
She stripped, albeit inadequately,
as much money in her annals as a couch,
oh, but I loved the ripples in her rhythm like wind
in wheat. So consider yourself, an instant, singular, some
fissure’s sudden motive. Repeat ad nauseum: I’m everybody, baby.
Don’t let the college town’s cartoon scam you. It is an inhabited absence.
He folds her funeral program, sends it flying across the silence. An usher combs
the rows with dark fabric. I wish that I hadn’t been born
in a doorway. “—but only say the word, & I shall
be healed.” Any inkling of ode: ambiguous
empires, regal cavalcade of dimming,
beagles hands have abandoned.
You think this is a game?
(Because it is. I’m
so sorry.)

*
*

Down East / by Jen Fitzgerald

The Wendigo
thin as leaves
leaps the treeline
gaunt, free flesh
dripping from its ribs.

Not all myths
claim truth–
. . . retribution.

The Wendigo waits
for sleep, the bastard
lie of rest.

A beast born
of murder who
squats in the pine
with heaving breath..

Close your eyes.

Here is a history,
we tell our children,
blindly.

*
*

FRL19

*
*

Happy Circuitry / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Kris of the Crumpled Paper Crane blog. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

for Margaret Rhee

The body’s landscape defines its genealogy: my father was a board,
my mother, an integrated circuit, my great-grandmother, an abacus,
and her progenitors, tally sticks. In the third century the artificer
Yan Shi presented a moving human-shaped figure to his king, and
in 1206 Al-Jazari’s automaton band played to astonished audiences.
Nearly 300 years later Da Vinci designed a mechanical knight, and
four centuries after that Tesla demonstrated radio-control. Twenty-two
motors power my left hand; Asimov coined the term “robotics” in 1941.
Pneumatic tubes line my right. Linear actuators and muscle wire,
nanotubes and tactile sensors, shape my purpose, while three brains
spread the workload. If emotion = cognition + physiology, what do I
lack? I think, therefore I conduct, process, route and direct. Though
I never eat, I chew and crunch, take in, put out, deliver, digest. Life is
a calculation. Death, a sum. No heart swells my chest, yet my circuits
yearn for something undefined. Observe the blinking lights, listen for
the faint whir of cooling fans. I bear no lips or tongue, but taste more
deeply than you. Algorithms mean never having to say you’re sorry.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XIX

Since my mother’s death thirty years ago
I’ve owned my grandparents’ wedding portraits.
Painted around the time of their 1902 marriage
these works by Duncan McGregor-Whyte
stare down from my walls.

I never knew my grandfather. He was forty
when he married and he died before I was born.
Regular features, hair thinning but still in place
his mustached mouth is unsmiling, but not stern.
My mother spoke of him fondly. He was a surgeon
part of the establishment, but far-sighted for his time.
He opposed the Boer War, unlike the men of his day
and insisted his two daughters pursue education
beyond high school.

I never knew my grandmother in the portrait,
although she lived until I was ten and spent
the last year and half of her life in our house.
The woman in the portrait is twenty-two, slender
blue eyes, a Roman nose, and a hint of a smile.
Warmth radiates from her face—a woman
you want to know.

I have a photograph of my grandmother
taken in the garden of our house. She must
have been only a few months from death.
Mrs. Five-by-Five, anger fills her eyes,
her Roman nose is sharper, defiance
exudes from her tightened lips.

She often raged at my mother, treating her
as if she were still a child. She hated my dog
my friends, noise, anything that didn’t
meet her exacting standards. She played
sly games, feigning heart attacks on days
when Mother planned to take me on an outing.

She had a series of strokes, the last one
when Mother was too ill to accompany her
to the hospital. I had to go. At that time,
our ambulances were black with no windows.
Grandmother was loaded in the back. I climbed
beside her and sat on a rickety seat.

As we drove to the Infirmary, I heard her
gurgle in the dark. I didn’t know how to hold
her hand. Half way there, she stopped. I heard
the engine, the wheels on the road
the siren scream. When the ambulance men
opened the back, she was gone.

*
*

Lines to time / by Katherine Barrett Swett

KBS19

*
*

Gnosis / by Pamela Murray Winters

I saw someone lose
her faith once: feathers
falling from shoulders, blown down
the road, where parents warn
. . . . . . . . don’t pick those up,
. . . . . . . . you’ll get a virus.

For another, it went away
by inches: each improbability
seemed more of a comedy,
less of a law. He told his mother
kind lies.

Most friends have had it
beaten out of them. If there is
a hell, it’s full of arms
that once swung flails.

Some turn from the question,
examine the tomatoes
until the market woman yells
. . . . . . . . don’t touch them!
. . . . . . . . you’ll bruise them!
. . . . . . . . I will bag them for you!

I have many boxes in my office
and dishes of every color.
I resist designers and efficiency experts.
I don’t know where my treasures are.
Now and again I just feel golden.

*
*

Day 18 / Poems 18

*

In the Time Before Tape / by Karen Craigo

In Colonial times, torn money
was repaired with needle
and thread. They’re cloth,
after all—banknotes, I mean.
Even today they are cotton
and linen, little flecks of fiber.

I know what it means when
our money is broken—
how it snaps when we try
to stretch it—but no one said
we could darn it,
stitch exes in a tidy row.

*
*

A Village Becomes Part of the Radioactive Zone / by Meg Eden

What will we do with all these dishes
when we’re dead? The trees
have no need for silverware.
Think of what our mothers would say,
seeing our heirloom china out of the cabinet,
covering the forest floor!
But our mothers are gone now.
We are gone, now—

The forest has become a living room.
The trees cabinets, the ground
a table—Debris makes a table-
cloth, the corrugated roofs placemats.
Who will be the guests? The deer?

Inside one cup, a chipmunk
makes its home. Inside another,
a spider breeds. Soon, her eggs
will hatch and from where
there was one body, there will be
thousands. Think about that—
something lives after all of this.

*
*

Transit / by Jen Fitzgerald

All the roads
All the railways
All the restless rest stops

All the coffee and cigarettes
All the ticking odometers
All the sleepless dreams
. . . . . . . . . . and rising suns

All the blown retreads
All the pay showers and homefries
All the historic districts peddling pasts and hand-made dolls

All the transit
All the movement
All the terrain
. . . . . . . . . . mountains defying the sky–
. . . . . . . . . . cradling lakes

All the arrivals
All the departures
All my kingdom for a rumor of home

*
*

CF18

*
*

A day of awakening / by Flavia Rocha Loures

Dedicated to the thousands of Brazilian people, who came together once more this past Sunday to protest against an abusive, corrupt and irresponsible government.

My homeland is coming alive today.
My people are out to protest, to state
their claim over this musical nation.

In unison: the young, the elderly;
poor or rich; children, their pets… they’ve all
dressed up in yellow and green, blue and white,

to stand against corruption, inflation,
an inflated populist government,
this ailing economy, broken dreams;

high taxes, even higher salaries
for our greedy politicians; and yet,
shameful social services. Red tape that

hampers development and eats away
on jobs and opportunities. We should
have known better. The clock is ticking, fast,

but there’s time, on this day of awakening.
A day to sing our national anthem,
to wave our flag proudly with the winds of

change. A day of indigo skies, green hope,
golden joy, white contemplation. Brazil,
we gather here for you, and all that you

represent; out of unabated love
for your beauty, the strength of your masses;
our commitment to order and progress.

We’ve taken to the streets, peacefully, for
all that’s wrong with our young democracy.
We’ve done it before, will do it again.

So if you’re a public officer, don’t
get too comfortable. We’re watching you,
closely. Brazil belongs to us and we’ll

do whatever it takes to keep it whole.
With a touch of good humor, a dose of
brazilianess, we shall fight for justice,

with bravery, till we restore our pride,
secure our freedom, and the future of
our gentle and beloved motherland.

*
*

Robert Okaji, Forced By This Title to Write a Poem in Third Person About Himself, Considers the Phenomena of Standing Waves, Dreams Involving Long-Lost Cats (Even If He Has Not Had Such a Dream Himself), And the Amazing Durability of Various Forms of Weakness, In a Meditation Which Following the Form of Certain Sung Dynasty Poets Also Happens to Be Written in a Way That Can Be Chanted to the Tune of a Popular Song of His Youth / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Jeff Schwaner. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

Five White cat always made sure no rats gnawed my books.
— Mei Yao-ch’en

His brain is squirming like a toad.
— Jim Morrison

Standing by the water, the poet wonders if,
as in this dream, his dead dog and Five White

might seize the separate ends of a rope and blend
their tugs, matching highs and lows, growls and purrs,

with near stillness, dawn to dusk and back again,
always equal, sharing through death their love

of work and honor. He throws a small branch
and asks the dog’s ghost to fetch, but it remains

at his side, as if reluctant to leave. How to release
what you no longer hold? Shadows disappear in direct

light, but always return at its departure. The
raindrop remains intact through its long plummet.

Words, though unspoken, hang like lofted kites
awaiting a new wind, a separate rhythm,

beyond compassion. He cannot hear it
but joins his dog in singing. The cat yowls along.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XVIII

For two weeks, my father-in-law
drove his sons around their neighborhood.
The boys, aged 6 to 15, had lost Lance
a mutt they’d acquired in a long string
of family dogs.

Lance, they shouted out the car window
Lance. But Lance never appeared
and they had to concede
that Lance would have to come home
on his own, if he came home at all.

Years later, when the boys were married
with homes and children, and their father
was some years in his grave, their Mother
let slip that Lance had been put down.
He’d bitten someone—the boys
hadn’t known—and their parents
decided that he had to go.

We wives thought our husbands
would be angry, but they thought their father
a sly fox and found it amusing. Clever ol’ Pa
they said between laughs, as they reminisced
about night after night of anxious calls
out the car window while their father
just drove.

*
*

Awake / by Katherine Barrett Swett

The tap is the cane on the floor,
the light is the moon shining out
as she opens the bathroom door.
It’s two a.m. and my mother’s about.

The light is the moon shining out
as I toss on the top of the sheet;
it’s two a.m. and my mother’s about
and I hear the pad of her feet.

As I toss on the top of the sheet
and think I’m awake for good,
I hear the pad of her feet
heading back on the creaking wood.

I think I’m awake for good,
but somehow turn over and dream
leaning back on the creaking wood
of my bed in the moonlight stream.

I somehow turn over and dream
that she opens the bathroom door,
and the bed and the moonlight stream
are the tap of the cane on the floor.

*
*

The Artist As Onion / by Pamela Murray Winters

I knew a woman who made art
from the mail. We shared a muse.
(I was an artist incognito in those days,
even to myself.) She sent me her tributes
to him and then, with no word, stopped
answering messages. Was it something

I did, or did not? A gift she gave me became
the gift I gave him, the muse. (I gave
her name, didn’t claim it as mine.) Homemade
of papers of many colors and textures,
with his words on each box. Each one held
another box. Everything ended in glitter.

What did he think as he opened and
opened? Did he predict the final sparkle?
He said nothing. Those who create such things,
and those who give them, dream of the gifted
opening, opening, the layers falling away.
Each of us a box of words and light,

each of us regrowing our skins, the best
maintaining our sharp little centers.
One must take care. The work of our hands
may touch other hands, but hands write
errors and smudges. Let the glitter
go awry, and it never goes away.

*
*

Day 17 / Poems 17

*

Across the Palm / by Karen Craigo

First, money changes hand,
then a palm is offered,
relaxed, inside another.
The fingers curl around
the breast of nothing,
cup it, bear its weight.

Another tracks your lines,
explains that here is what
the heart says, where it’s
interrupted, each hash a love
that tries to change the path,
as a temblor might alter
a river’s ancient course.

You think you know something
about your life, but it’s not
the length that tells, it’s
the brokenness, a fork
for each hurt, and a big one
looms. Is it worth it to you
to hear what your body says
behind your back? Left hand,
fate, right hand a little different:
you can write another story.

*
*

Karate Kid / by Meg Eden

Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2010

I sit next to Kang Fu, the half-Chinese boy in our English club

He tells us to call him Kenny

He says he likes Indian girls for their bright saris and nice bodies

The day he complimented my clothes as bright, I dreamed I was Parvati

Before the movie, we stand for the national anthem to pledge allegiance to the king

During the slideshow, I imagine my arm accidently touching his in the dark

If only my skin was a little darker

If only my eyes were a little darker

Strange to think Jayden, the American, is the kid made fun of in this movie

Everyone in this theater must be thinking about how dark his skin is

(doesn’t he know to use a parasol in the sun? has he tried whitening soap?)

Whenever we go walking, Kenny asks if I’ve put on sunscreen

The college girls show me their secrets: their sun hats, umbrellas, long pants and sleeves

in the summer heat,

They don’t want to be mistaken for farmers

In the sun, my skin gets red with boils

What I would do to be mistaken for a farmer

*
*

CF17

*
*

To my freshwater family / by Flavia Rocha Loures

A tribute to the wonderful people I’ve met over the last 10 years who are working on water to change the world.

These years…
they have changed us.
We’ve shared some triumphs.
Then again, a good amount of frustrations.
Heck, many have called us crazy!
Yet, we’ve made it here.
Together, and you know who you are,
we have come so far,
emerging from the shadows
exultant. Older now…
more mature, if just for the better part of a day;
perhaps more forgiving, in peace.
Our relationships,
forged out of a shared dream,
have turned into a decade long
unbreakable bond.

We’ve seen each other, time and again,
come and go,
onwards and upwards in our gipsy paths.
Goodbyes never become any easier;
helloes grow ever sweeter.

I’ve witnessed in awe as you’ve blossomed.
I miss those who’ve moved on to new adventures.
Year after year, we’ve laughed
at our white hair and wrinkles taking over;
and shared pictures of babies
who are now young ladies and gentlemen.
Since we’ve met,
some have brought new lives into this blue planet
we’ve fought so hard to protect.
Within or beyond our water world,
some have found true love,
or deep, uplifting kinship.
Others have found themselves caught up
in a dark web of surprises…
lives broken, cut short or forever changed
at too young an age.

I smile at the thought of seeing you again.
I feel the weight of knowing that,
in some cases, this may not happen…

But on this day, so many of us are here,
together again,
celebrating at last
hard-won milestones in our fluid journeys.
I’d like to think that the stir we’ve caused
the trouble we’ve made
all that clamor
have played, even if a mini part,
in boosting blue hope for better days to come.

So I thank you,
with the light of one thousand stars,
for stepping into my life…
for carving, ever so subtly,
a VIP spot for you there;
for confiding in me stories and worries,
along with knowledge and wisdom
from your huge, enlightened brains;
such kind, heroic hearts.

Your presence here honors and delights me.
Please stay a tad while longer, at least for a ‘saídeira’*.
Then let’s go for a walk, let’s climb a mountain and
take a pick at what the next ten years
may have in store for us.

May the world’s freshwaters,
and the wealth of life they sustain,
show us the way,
as we go on building the world we want:
ever wet, whole, refreshing and free-flowing,
from the mountains to the sea.

*Brazilian expression for the last toast and drink of the evening, and with which my freshwater friends from all corners of the world are now familiar.

*
*

28 Rue St. Jacques / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Patricia Wolfkill. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

If you believe that drinking beer at age
five, headless lambs pissing on the butcher’s leg,
and squatting grandmothers hissing in rage
should make bad memories, then you might beg

a different tune. I’d trot alone down
the street to purchase baguettes for a few
centimes, add a chocolate bar, and drown
it with milk, an afternoon gouter to

last through dinner. Dad paid a hundred bucks
a month for seventeen rooms, a stable,
garden and cellar. Quacker, the pet duck,
moved next door but returned to our table,

in slices. I never liked him but would
not eat. Try it, Dad said. He tastes real good.

*

Or eating spam fried rice in the courtyard
after kindergarten, and playing cowboys
with Thierry, the kid next-door. We shared toys,
but not comics. Written language was hard

to decipher, unlike the spoken. I
never captured the nuances, and lost
the rest over the years. Today the cost
eludes me, like moths fluttering by. Try

to recall that particular morning light,
how it glanced off the French snow, and the
way our mother smiled at breakfast, no trace

of sadness, yet, the lines marking our heights
rising along the wall, limbs of a tree
we’d never climb, out there, somewhere, in space.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XVII

The atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima
in microseconds. Seventy years later
CNN, PBS, BBC covered special ceremonies
of remembrance.

Taught that the bomb spared many lives
by ending the war sooner, students
from Princeton visited, interviewed survivors
who spoke of vaporized victims.

Skin sloughed off like blanched tomatoes
and blew away on fierce wind. Permanent shadows
of irradiated bodies burned into the stone steps
of the Sumitomo Bank.

The skeleton of Genbaku Dome stood
near the bomb’s ground zero, now the center
of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Particles of plutonium 239 with a half-life
of 24,400 years emitted alpha rays
to lodge in lungs, hang in air.

*
*

Pets / by Katherine Barrett Swett

My dog comes eagerly when I call;
the cat calls me to feed her.
While she remains curled in a ball,
my dog comes eagerly when I call
and fetches a ball, the cat not at all;
she’s hiding if I need her.
My dog comes eagerly when I call,
the cat calls me to feed her.

*
*

Because I Wanted To Sleep Instead / by Pamela Murray Winters

Anger is not the way
to poetry. It chokes off

the flower. It’s an acid bath
that yields no shine.

Anger combs out laughter,
discards it as fluff. It

banishes melody. It warps
the pupil. In short, anger

will get you as far as the door
of the wrong house. Better

you should ride a bike, or run
for office, or scrub the tub.

*
*

Day 16 / Poems 16

*

What It Means to Wait / by Karen Craigo

You count out coins for a jug
of milk—that’s what it is
when you work for tips.
Your purse weighs down
your shoulder, and you always
have something, no matter
the day of the week. Go deep,
you might find what you need.

Seems like everyone likes
that joke—palm your dollar
from the table and slip it
in a pocket, just a way to pull
your chain. They never forget
to put it back, and they grin,
no harm, but their prints
are all over your money.

*
*

Thai Bees / by Meg Eden

Every morning, the fruit woman’s stand
is filled with bees. They always build
their nests inside the pineapple.
Whenever I walk by to buy ice,
they’re swarming in the top corner.
Up against the glass, I can see their legs
sticky with juice. Something inside me
throws up, especially when I see
some of the fruit missing. Does anybody
really buy that bee-fruit? Even though
the woman cleans out the case
every night, the bees always return.
What bad luck! I think about my father’s shed,
and the bees that’ve lived in the walls
my whole life. How my father
will go out in his shorts with a snow
shovel, whacking them until they fall
on the ground like gumballs.
They’re harmless bees—I’ve never
been stung by them. Every spring
they come back full as ever.
They have a home.

*
*

Excerpt from a Cuss Economy / by Chad Foret

“One to the other. One to the other.”
Alien, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” The Twilight Zone

“Word is she’s a Sudoku infected with 6s.”
“Hell, he’s no saint himself, left clandestine pairs of socks

at every household on the block.” “Yeah, well, I seen her
cut rugs to James Brown’s communicable lunacies,
ring sinking in a carousel of Sazeracs.” “His

Messiah complex is explicitly complicit.”
“Yes. One sins, one suns, & then they tag the other out.”

“Aside: my son said shit the other night. I never.”
“Choke that chain: the little tortured topics of today
might take some in him, that science of capacities.

We’re approaching that age—senses tend to genuflect,
so while you have assertion, do well to darken doors.”
“I’ll head it off, I guess. Oh, dang, here comes Melinda.”
“Lordy, how I hate her. God, lend me grace an instant.”
“I overheard those scandals.” “They occupy our prayers.”

“I’ve seen her hold him close through glass. They seemed so complete.

I mean that he cried in her hair then she cried in his.
I do think their fingers will leave photos as they fade.
Like you ladies with your virtue, stains subsist on their
celebrity, a corrosiveness in increments.”
“Melinda, we are light.” “No, you’re two of shadow’s bones.”

*
*

Elegy to a lioness / by Flavia Rocha Loures

The year is 2015. She turns 40 next month. Soon after, I turn 37. That is how long we have been best of friends.

My sister is a warrior, a brave beautiful lioness. She is also a loyal daughter and the mom of the sweetest, wildest cub.

She is a healer of both body and soul, compassionate and attentive, even when all else in life fails to make sense.

Lately, she has been questioning her faith, but prefers not to talk about it. At all costs, she avoids worrying our parents.

Having lived through half her life, as she says, she wonders about what she has achieved. Let us recap, sis, shall we?

You have mastered the rare ability to love unconditionally those around you… and we are devoted to you for it.

Sly and svelte, you have come out of life’s battles victorious; surely scarred, but ever stronger and more stunning.

With grace and dignity, you have created order where entropy would have otherwise prevailed.

To me, you have been an exemplary fortress, a loyal and patient shoulder and ear, an inspiration for many verses.

You have raised a spirited amorous kitten… an untamable angel who has bestowed upon us a collection of delightful memories.

You have kept a home for him every step of the way. Even as your world seemed to crumble, the walls of love and care around him have always withstood.

Now I see you worried and overworked, maybe lonely at times, frustrated with that which you cannot control… but this too shall pass.

You are a survivor and a champion… no matter how huge the obstacle, how rough the path, how hectic the days.

At your darkest hours, remember all that. Hold on to the lioness inside, to her enduring strength to hurt and hunt in the wilderness.

Remember, too, that sometimes she will need to roar and run free. She may even feel like scratching and biting every once in a while.

And she requires her own time and space to rejoice in nature, to yawn and nap… to purr, stretch out and lie lazily in the sun.

Sis, you are perfect… with all your feline imperfections. Happy birthday!

*
*

Setting Fire to the Rose Garden / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Lily June, of the Dear Lily June blog. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

Each flower is a gift, a testament to
another morning’s arrival.
I watch you tend the firestar, its
mango-colored petals flirting with

the fire ’n’ ice’s elegant
red, accepting the pink indictment
of the flaming peace, and the
scarlet fireglow’s blush. You are like

a new sunlight crossing the day,
yet when I wave, a cloud passes over
you. Flames differ in this regard,
knowing they exist only as the product

of heat, oxidation and combustible
material, yet sharing their brief lives
with all who care to notice. I inhale
your dark thoughts, holding them

within, but later assemble my own
bouquet — wood chips and diesel
fuel, ground spinners, snakes,
strobes, rockets, candles, shells,

repeaters and a spark timer — and
place them fondly in the garden. Oh,
how they’ll blossom before dawn’s
first touch. How they will shine.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XVI

The first use of time lapse photography
was in 1897 when Georges Méliès filmed
his picture Carrefour De L’Opera. Others
experimented, but John Ott made it popular
with his film Exploring the Spectrum.
In his greenhouse, he created a symphony
making plants move with music
by manipulating color, controlling water.

On June 3, 2015, CERN re-opened its
large hadron collider, speeding up protons
from 299,792,449 to 299,792, 454
meters per second. It took years to find
an extra five meters per second
to empower humans to learn more
about how the world works.
High energies in particle colliders reveal
the heart of atoms, the structure of matter.

Only four more meters per second
and we could reach the speed of light,
now considered impossible. More speed
in the same amount of time. A dream.

*
*

Three Triolets / by Katherine Barrett Swett

1

I run a bath and wonder why
you always jump into the shower.
I guess you’re not a lingering guy.
I run a bath and wonder why
you barely let the paint dry,
you hate to waste a quarter hour.
I run a bath and wonder why.
You always jump into the shower.

2

I think it’s best to walk not run
You say, “a walk’s a waste of time.
A run is over, a walk’s not begun.”
I think it’s best to walk not run.
The point is doing not being done;
not to miss something sublime,
I think it’s best to walk not run.
You say a walk’s a waste of time.

3

One way to the top is short and steep
The other is gentle but longer.
You say I always want to creep.
One way to the top is short and steep.
I say the ways both end in sleep.
But one, you say, will make us stronger.
One way to the top is short and steep
the other is gentle but longer.

*
*

Exotic / by Pamela Murray Winters

American, accustomed to chocolate
and fur, I fear this landscape I explore,

but explore. I lift dry birds, like hanging bunches
of herbs. (Try a tea from robins

for a hint of apple.) The heron
plunges, headfirst, into the pool, comes up

with jasmine pearls, half-opened. La Sirena
twists them in her nether hair. In poetry, it’s the buds

that are not flowers that intrigue, and the beaks
that open to show the prick of a tongue

but yield no music, and the tomboy girls
and feather-boys, and the graves

topped by lambs
worn down by rain.

*
*

Day 15 / Poems 15

*

At the Farm / by Karen Craigo

Jayne has a job to do—
he stands amid sheep
like one of them, but if
a coyote comes, he’ll sound
his alarm, a rasp like metal
on metal, or he’ll rise up
to stomp the life from her.
You’ve seen him, maybe—
the tall one in the herd,
conspicuous, sole example
of his kind. He looms
above the ovine, specter-gray,
deterrent and sometimes
angel, but lonely, maybe,
or maybe he’s grown
to think himself one of them—
the tall one with the rusted
baa, sole professional,
who stoops to the level
of his fellows to be fed.
Mornings, Jayne demands
his portion—that’s all,
a bucket of grain
he accepts as his due.

*
*

Soi Chang Khian / by Meg Eden

Across the street from our church,
bodies are being cremated.
When we park our van, we see
a dark tower of smoke rising
from the shack at the end of the parking lot.
If we park too close, we can smell
that dark sweaty smell: human
durian. Funny to think
this is the same parking lot
where the women do their aerobics
on Tuesdays, where the town hosts
its market on Mondays. Where do they get
all the bodies they burn on Sundays?
Looking out the window during worship,
the connection is clear: from dust to dust,
all is vanity, I don’t know when
I’ll be one of those bodies but I will be
one of those bodies. In Thai, we sing:
Salvation belongs to our God.
The sky over the parking lot
becomes black with smoke.

*
*

Millisecond Similes / by Chad Foret

“Do one about a guy who loses his watch
& takes so long looking that
when he finds it

he’s lost all his time.”
Samir Patel

Suffer this codex: some babies come blue as the eyes
of my beautiful newborn nephew, mothers’ faces
distant storms gone by the time you get close.
But some are pink as a sunset crazed by
pollutants. I know a guy who pulled
his hamstring rolling around in
money—we instinctively
reach for affliction.

He limps a little when he spends.
The irises of Paige’s son: melancholic halos,
his pupils two cosmos emptied of ancient deaths—yes,

illuminated lack. Sometimes I’m sorry you’re here where even
our fiction’s sarcastic, our wits the squeaky wheels of a fly-ridden wagon
on which we grinningly heave our intimacies. The blind stray in the yard lives lost,
is loss, a soft, cataracted rush of sighs. You are the last living things I’ve seen in how long?

Oh, yes, post scriptum, albeit a little slithery: so there’s this someone puzzling where grass consumes a fence. It’s 1962. (The Bomb’s still in our bones, i.e. we’ve crucified serenity). So,
I, The Voice, Phonological Androgyny, somehow saunter by & say, “Salut! Searching for something?” “My Seiko Diashock.” “So, time is a series of metals?” “Silence, please.” When I go to help, he hisses, so I smile & step aside. Current circa. He found the watch last week, paraded in the street, but now I see him kneeling in the overgrowth again. I ask, “What is it this time?” & he turns, so deeply done. “My Seiko Diashock,” he says, wrist livid in the sun.
(Audrey, honey, we’re outside of time—we’ve undressed distress down Vidalia’s declensions.)

I’ll gladly lose my back
bending down to dance—
God’s a day that doesn’t end.

*
*

Raw / by Flavia Rocha Loures

Art must sometimes get real, raw and apoplectic.
So today I don’t write to be apologetic
to be charming or polite.
Enough is enough – hence I rhyme
scream and shout for a change in paradigm.
I am here to make noise, will keep going
for as long as it takes, as loud as it gets, till you stop
to hear my voice.
My poetry has purpose.
It has wrath, anguish and awe
for humanity seems to have gone astray
on and on, day after day, tumbling down
this cimmerian path…
dearth of compassion inflicting the Earth.

But my poetry also bleeds hope.
It abounds in joy and ecstasy,
sparkles with idiosyncrasy when it becomes about
the power in kind small gestures,
vivacious acts of solidarity,
and in nature’s dynamic balance,
linking together such tenacious
cat’s cradle.

I am here to describe and reinvent,
to protest and celebrate by translating
rebellious feelings into winged words,
like the logomaniac I am.
So will you, in your plutomania,
experiment “freeading”?

*
*

Cutting Down the Anniversary Pine / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Greg Alspach. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

Things expand. Plans change. Clouds disperse,
people move. I remember swimming

through a dream’s warm water, and rising
for air only to find that I no longer lived

within that need, in that space demanding
the physiological transport of oxygen,

where the laws of physics reigned supreme,
and geometry, with a little luck, posited

all the right questions. And then the clock
blared and morning slammed me back.

Trees grow, as do needs and lives and even
cottages. We took down the dead Jack pine

that year, and drank skip-and-go-nakeds
by the pitcherful, while mosquitoes swarmed

me and ignored everyone else. It’s important,
but I still can’t recall the white pine, nor

where you planted it forty-three years ago.
Symbol or not, its treeness intrudes.

So we suffer these things with age, and if
what we cut down carries meaning beyond

cellulose and shade, bark and pine scent,
we’ll bear that mourning, too. So fuel your

saw, brother, and sharpen the chain. Today
becomes yesterday. Tomorrow never waits.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XV

A hummingbird darts through my jasmine
pierces a flower for sugar, flits to the next flower
his green and black body hidden in the shadows
of the green and white jasmine.

How does he know that after he sucks the nectar
the flower needs time to make more? How can
he tell time? Researchers placed sugar in fake flowers
replacing some sugar in ten minutes
some in twenty. Hummingbirds figured it out.

Psychologists once thought we kept time with a
biological stopwatch, but we don’t. Our neurons
compare intervals of sound and know
how much time has passed. Our brains
produce pulses and listen as if they were music.
We etch time into our memories, even
reverse them. Remember when…

*
*

Villanelle / by Katherine Barrett Swett

In every sound I hear I see her lips
laughing or blowing in the silver flute.
The wind goes in and out until it stops.

And when she played, she gently swayed her hips
and kept time gently with her slippered foot.
In every single note I hear her lips.

In every storm I taste teardrops
and feel her stamp her leather boot.
The wind goes in and out until it stops.

And when she’s mad the gale force rips
the gutters off the streaming roof.
In every single blow I feel her lips.

In every crack of every pear that drops
she’s always there among the bruised fruit.
The wind goes in and out until it stops;

it stops its tapping, tossing fingertips.
Let every voice and every song go mute.
In every sound I hear I see her lips;
the wind goes in and out until it stops.

*
*

Christmas Stewardess / by Pamela Murray Winters

Look at her kitten heels, her skirt, her bolero,
her cloche, all the same shade of sky blue. Also
her travel case, which actually opens and
sometimes latches, containing a tiny brush
and a mirror. The latter has no glass, just foil,
the sort you’d get on a Hershey bar. It reflects
no face to speak of, just a blur like makeup tears
pressed in a pink pillow. Her fingers will hold
a coffee cup (not included) but can’t wrap around
anything else. Her arms can swivel to point
at four of the six exits. Her eyes don’t close.
Her mouth doesn’t open. The brush ruins
her coiffure. She’ll never be a pilot. After a few
flights, her left leg tends to fall off.

*
*

Day 14 / Poems 14

*

What Do the Rich Think? / by Karen Craigo

And how do they think it—
eyes closed, fingers locked

behind head? Today the world
laid claim to me—papers

to grade, some chores, a thing
with a deadline, only me

to meet it. Details collected
in hourglass sand. Back of it all,

I could see where a poem
had etched itself on a wall.

If I looked from the periphery,
I could very nearly read it.

*
*

Ode for Perl / by Meg Eden

requested by Momma Kuyatt

From here at the door, you almost look
like a doll—one of those fake cat plushes
they sell at the mall kiosks that are made
to look like they’re breathing. You remind me
of the toys I had as a girl: everything
is so small on you. Your tongue
is like a fun sized candy bar. Your nose
like a fabric button. I could marvel
at you for hours. I’ve never been
much of a cat person but I’m willing
to make an exception. Maybe the very reason
I want you on my lap is because you won’t
climb on my lap. Maybe dogs are too easy
to please, maybe there’s something
rewarding about “winning” you over.
Whatever. This weekend, I’m the one
who’s feeding you. If you don’t love me yet,
I find no shame in buying your love.
I will open can after can of food for you.
I will keep calling for you to come over.
I will continue to hold my ear against your side
to hear you purr. You can pretend to not like me,
but there are evidences you can’t hide:
that subwoofer vibration in your chest,
the way your tail bats the wall,
your tongue like doll-sandpaper
catching my finger. Whether you’ll say it
or not, I think we are friends.

*
*

Activity Tax on LA 1 / by Chad Foret

“You could cut your fingers on the creases in my khakis.”
Yusef Komunyakaa, “The One-legged Stool”

Despotically adult, his smile a spotlighted cartoon bat,
he isn’t aware all sinew is the onset of Iaido.
His eyes don’t say he’s lonely, but he’s started jarring
preserves—soon, a nightclub, alone. He’s
paid to stand & watch you leave. I mean his money’s
directly proportional to absence, like a
hitman’s, I guess, just the faint cosmic swallowing.
We joked about his element, him in
it, a national tollperson’s conference. They’d

strike the projected display with extendable rods,
crazily debate acquisition strategies, wake
at the La Quinta, screaming, “The stink of coin
& palm sweat!” He cannot think if not
confined, refineries like the last teeth of an
older darkness. He gestures, Statue
of Gliberty, placidly awaiting a sending
so brief I just handed Death a

hanky.

*
*

Jubilee / by Flavia Rocha Loures

there is excitement in the air
a speck of magic in the night
a touch of freshness in the heat
so light

as words break in to play and flirt
spelled out with joyous singing might
and those that linger unsaid out
of sight

wherever this may lead us
would you dare, hon, would you follow
spread your wings at dusk over the ocean like
there’s no tomorrow

do you feel your hands vibrating
our hearts are beating so fast
sensations spreading all over
at last

when the dancefloor begins to move
our rhythm is put to the test
freeing musicality at
its best

wherever this may lead us
would you dare, hon, would you follow
spread your wings at dusk over the ocean like
there’s no tomorrow

surrender to this beat, we must
perform with gusto our own part
revel today with joy, at ease
be smart

a world in melodious motion
life’s such an exuberant art
to practice and slowly perfect
at heart

wherever this may lead us
would you dare, hon, would you follow
spread your wings at dusk over the ocean like
there’s no tomorrow

*
*

Latitude / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Cate Terwilliger. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

Sometimes it’s enough to know
that a chicken preceded this egg,

that some crossed the Atlantic,
and others, yes, the road. Perhaps

I am too enamored of this fondness
for imprecision, never certain where

evening ends in your latitude,
where morning begins in mine.

I’ve come to appreciate, late in
life, the finer points of egg cookery,

the beauty of basting with olive
oil, three ways of poaching,

and the tender art of scrambling.
This is of course metaphor, and

not. The truth is seldom so simply
derived. You hold the egg. I

offer salt. Your pan. My butter.
We both bring the heat.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XIV

Evening makes the heat of the day recede
into memory. My work friend and I
drink wine on my patio, a light rosé
of summer refreshment. We accompany it
with a salty snack neither of us need
but both of us want.

We gossip about the ever-revolving
personnel in our university administration.
Someone once told me ‘the queens may come
and the queens may go, but the ants
go on forever.’

I once aspired to upward mobility
taking jobs that took me up ‘the ladder
of success’. The higher I went, the more
I had to pay attention to the itch
in my back.

When I retreated to a less lofty plane
I had a few regrets. No head hunters called.
No one offered opportunities I thought I’d love.
In time, I forgot that world and the people in it.

Recently, the provost in my university
stepped down. An email thanked him
for his years of service, but few were fooled.
Something happened.

The provost will pursue ‘other interests’
and join his faculty department in January.
We’ll wonder at work, but I want to shout
‘you’ll be happier, it’s the best decision
that will ever happen to you, be glad.’

*
*

Art Exhibit / by Katherine Barrett Swett

From his hospital window,
he painted wheat fields,
a faint figure reaping
barely visible in the yellow
of the wheat. “In the face of nature
It is the feeling for work
that keeps me going.”

On display in the exhibition:
a vase he owned
next to the painting
of the same vase
that he owned and painted.

The virtuous infant,
who wins the approval of all
the sneakered visitors,
is as quiet as a vase;
the wailing infant,
despised by all,
is a great artist;
she hits her note and holds it.

The quiet baby
tucked between shoulder
and brown braid
blocks the painting of the sun
tucked between the branches of
Pine Trees at Sunset.

If I could paint, I would paint
the shapes of the bodies
as they block out
the shapes in the paintings.

*
*

Where the Poets Gather / by Pamela Murray Winters

I’d like to go to the Non-Catholic Cemetery
in Rome but—unlike Keats, Shelley, and Corso—
alive. They can’t care or know that cats

sun themselves on monikered marble, that tourists
leave flowers and pebbles, that their coffins
are nudged by cypress knuckles and sprinkled

with enough pomegranates to fill Hell
with hungry ladies in lover-season. The cats
of the Non-Catholic Cemetery have

their own website, in three languages. Cats
have no regard for people who don’t feed them,
and so there are donations. Without animals,

a cemetery can be lonely. Wildwood, on the edge
of Amherst, has bears, and Emily Dickinson’s
cousins. Emily’s plot is in town; there I met

a man who asked me to help restart his car battery.
He had his own cables. I have read
true crime and should have known better,

but I let him link his car to mine. When the job
was done, I drove off before he did,
my literary reverie spoiled. I was curious if

he did this every day and was it he who’d left
a pair of Chuck Taylors, tied together,
behind Emily’s headstone? I drove over

to Wildwood, where I put a nosegay
of wildflowers on the head of the bronze horse,
almost running, but still, atop Deborah Digges.

Nick Drake’s grave is studded with plectrums;
Oscar Wilde’s with lipstick kisses. I barely got away
from Sandy Denny’s before the sunset gate

was locked. At the literary conference,
I meant to go to Robert Lowell’s
but didn’t have a car. Andy Warhol’s

has a perpetual camera on live feed; you
can watch the absence. Is the grave
the one place a ghost won’t visit?

In the Cropredy churchyard, among mates
and strangers and the unfamous buried, I drank ale
from the pub across the road and listened

to the mandolin of my friend Martin, very much
alive, and was so tranquil I wondered why
we reserve “rest in peace” for the ones past caring.

*
*

Day 13 / Poems 13

*

Gathering Eggs / by Karen Craigo

I open a door, no bigger
than this notebook, and out
they rush, in a panic for dirt.

I’m here for their eggs,
something they give up easily,
and I get it, some months
entire paychecks collected
by snake-fingered hands.

There is the matter of food
and water, then I scan the pen
for the sly fuck-you of yard-eggs.

I wonder if they saw
the meteor last night, fast-
skidding like a stepped-on yolk,
but these are early birds, bent
on the business of scratch.

In their boxes I measure
the heat of their orbs,
but one girl waits me out—
quiet-sings her egg song,
eyes me as I back away.

*
*

Elegy for Mt Fuji / by Meg Eden

I sold the painting today. Funny,
how its ugliness is what
I miss about it. It’s shape. The way
the bark rose out of the canvas.
In my office, it became pleasant–
charming, even! A student coming in
for office hours asked if it
was my muse. Yes, I guess you could say
I need a tacky muse. I took
a picture of it before it sold.
When I look at the picture, I think
of my grandfather. What do I have,
as a token from him? I think about calling back
the boy who bought the painting. Apologizing,
using my “I just moved” excuse
for the umpteenth time. But then I think about
that sixty year-old moss, falling off
the canvas, onto my desk. All the baggage
that comes with the old. Where would we put it,
anyway? My husband can’t stand looking at it.
No, we’d have to get rid of it anyway.
What am I thinking?

*
*

Auto Train: Sanford, Florida / by Jen Fitzgerald

my daughter positions her stuffed bear for a photo shoot
she has mastered idle time

it is summer
our car rides cars behind us

sun hits the spaces between trees
like a strobe light

we wait for the attendant to fold our seats into beds
we wait to be carried

*
*

The Lonely Old Man Speaking Too Softly to Understand (Vocabulaerials) / by Chad Foret

“This here is a dry powwow,” he said. “You don’t have any alcohol or drugs in the car, do you?”
“No,” I said, “We don’t have anything except us.”
Sherman Alexie, “Translated from the American”

“Every skull’s got its own zone.
I need Bull Durham nickel tobacco;
it is an adequate eradicator of decades.
At all the stores: handsome strangers grin
in franchised winterwear, stock families paid
to hold hands, tanned models with identical teeth.
When we went crabbing, Daddy said, “No need to slit
a mullet,” as he stuck it in the center. “The bone’s enough.”
He seems to stare behind himself. I guess ruined crabs darken into
driftwood. He starts. “God. God! Dance me down into the body’s debt! So,
I retired from NASA. This is our own little silence isn’t it? I wish I was strong enough
to shake you, but the blood steps backwards. I am a shred of famished rivers. Oh, debt, all debt.”

He said I have integrity, but
I only see him dancing with a scythe
to that Eagles’ song “It’s Your World Now.”

*
*

The Earth is blue… / by Flavia Rocha Loures

Dedicated to my mom, who suggested the title as inspiration for a new poem

… and hearts pulsate in multiple colors
Lives vibrate under the daylight
Deep emotions each step of the way
Thoughts of today, stars of tonight
The earth is blue and fills my core
Enmeshed in spectacles and unknowns
Intricate patterns that sing and roar
Floating and dancing like bubbles and foams
Infinite colors hypnotize our senses
This mazarine sphere spins on so fast
Sometimes I am overly in a haze
Some nights happen to be the best
Blue is beautiful and so is the Earth
Ever immense it is to enchant
Yet so small for the human footprint
We ought to limit it, but maybe we can’t
Blue is this planet, breathing sanctuary
We owe you deference and respect
All life is imbued with intrinsic value
Resilient complexity we must protect
But the blue is fading under our pressure
It is changing from something diverse
Into aching shades of black and white
Perhaps into a sad colorless verse
The earth is water and I worship her
We’re all connected in Gaia as one
Brothers and sisters let’s say a prayer
Then rejoice in blue under the sun

*
*

When to Say Goodbye / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Nori Rost. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title, and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

If all goes well it will never happen.
The dry grass in the shade whispers

while the vines crunch underfoot,
releasing a bitter odor. A year ago

I led my dog to his death, the third
in five years. How such counting

precludes affection, dwindles ever
so slowly, one star winking out after

another, till only the morning gray
hangs above us, solemn, indefinite.

Voiceless. If I could cock my head
to howl, who would understand? Not

one dog or three, neither mother nor
mentor, not my friend’s sister nor her

father and his nephews, the two boys
belted safely in the back seat. No.

I walk downhill and closer to the creek,
where the vines are still green.

In the shade of a large cedar, a turtle
slips into the water and eases away.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XIII

I remember an Enid Blyton story
from my childhood. Emily couldn’t
tell time and didn’t come home
when expected. Her mother set
an alarm clock to tell her
when to come home and buried it
under a blanket in Emily’s doll pram.
When the alarm went off, Emily
was embarrassed and her friends
laughed. She learned to tell time.

When I read that story, I already knew
what the big and little hands said.
I never questioned the premise
of the story or asked if Emily had dyslexia,
vision issues or was simply not ready.

I grew up assuming everyone
could learn to tell time
on an analog clock, but
with digital clocks, why learn?
Only our institutional clocks
are throwbacks to the analog past.

BBC World News recently featured
a story about a man recording
sounds that are disappearing—
a whistling tea kettle, a pop up toaster,
an alarm clock that goes off
with a raucous sound no one
can sleep through rather than
a pleasant tune on an iPhone.

I spent part of my childhood
with no gas, no electricity,
and no running water. I can cook
on a wood or coal stove, trim and light
a kerosene lamp. When someone
talks about ‘the good old days’
I tell them ‘they’re yours’. I can’t wait
for the latest ‘mod cons’—a driverless car
that lets me be mobile, an app
that brings someone to my rescue
if I collapse on the floor, a drone
that drops off groceries at my front door
preferably pre-cooked. I just don’t want
the drone to eat them first.

*
*

Western Wind II / by Katherine Barrett Swett

“The small rain down can rain” –Anon

The rain isn’t coming
the heat is the grey
of the hovering sky
in the middle of day
the dog on her side
the book pages curling
in soggy submission
the fans slowly turning
the bright cardinal flashes
outside a low window
leaves barely moving
the thunder keeps rumbling
the rain isn’t coming

*
*

“Take a picture, it’ll last longer” / by Pamela Murray Winters

for Anna March

Three girls in black and white by the basement door,
in bikinis. Posing. Puberty’s doing its conjure-work:
are they nine? fifteen? The small pale thrust flesh,
the polka-dots: what did we know? It’s forty years
gone: all of us grew up, and only one killed
for being her bold self. Luckier than the girls
up the road in Wheaton. A scant year or two
and we’d fear leaving the house, playing Kick the Can,
and channel 5 would say It’s ten o’clock:
do you know where your children are? And up the road
at the Plaza, the sisters would look at 45s and earrings
and the Easter Bunny, and share pizza,
and a third girl near them would see the creepy guy
and sass off at him, like a bad girl, and live.

*
*

Day 12 / Poems 12

*

Time Is Money / by Karen Craigo

I’m not sure what time it is,
an hour misplaced between
phone and laptop, and it’s never
been my habit to keep a watch.
So here I am in the middle
of time, both early and late,
but with nothing awaiting me,
so it might be said I have all
the time in the world. Strange
way we have of putting it.
I would never hoard time.
Someone might need it, like I
once did, to study the starfish
hand of a brand new boy, or
to count backwards as
the hockey game concludes,
the rocket ship ignites. How
will they launch the silver cup
if I won’t relinquish time?
And anyway, I’m not convinced
it’s what we think it is—
some thread we roll up
in a skein until we reach
the frazzled end of it.
Time is more like that time
I dropped cornstarch in
the Amish store. The stuff
went everywhere, no matter
more resistant to gathering
in a pile, and soon other hands
were helping, pushing the grains
into a mound, those hands
attached to cuffs of dresses
held together with straight pins,
anachronistic, pushing away
time and invention because
zippers and buttons are proud.
And look how my attention
has wandered from our pile of time,
and the stubborn particles of it
that don’t make it to the mound
but escape into woodgrain
and refuse to be pushed.
A figure in black wields
a dustpan, and there goes
our metaphor, or most of it—
into a bin, not cosmic,
but corrugated and clean,
behind an Amish counter,
and all who saw it work
on forgetting the particulars,
keep only a keener understanding
of supernovas. All I’m wanting
is to know what time it is,
which device to put faith in.
I have work to do, a storehouse
to fill, and time is something
finer and faster than sand,
and I’ve seen, oh, I’ve seen
how it gets away from us.

*
*

My Skip-it Broke / by Meg Eden

when my Latin teacher used it one recess.
I don’t remember her asking me
if she could use it. I don’t remember
seeing her on the black-top, skipping
like one of us third grade girls.
I remember going to the coat rack
to get my skip-it, only to find
my teacher, holding the body:
disembodied head and cord.
She apologized. She said
she was curious. I’ve been curious
of lots of things: what it would be like
to run through the woods outside
our school, into the abandoned house
down the street, but I didn’t do it.
I thought about it, but I didn’t do it.

*
*

Hiraeth / by Jen Fitzgerald

I want to tell you about the light that comes through train windows
but a poet knows our language negligent in the verse of varied light:
it makes altars of tables, it hotwires the romantic Victorian gardens
of our consciousness, it hits my daughters face just so— I can see
freckles hint at surfacing: I want to tell you about the people I meet
on trains: there is so much grief: the man at dinner tonight lost 53
years of love: the man at dinner tonight cried and I cried with him:
the man tonight waited until dinner to thank someone for letting him
talk: utter loss in every fold of this planet: stay in transit, dear reader:
stay moving so that the plucked black-feather of this broken place
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . may never scratch you.

*
*

Remembering a Wedding / by Chad Foret

“You seem a cathedral, celebrant of spring which shivers for me among the long black trees.”
William Carlos Williams, Spring and All

After the kaleidoscopic tumbling of bones—
Dandiya-Ross—our bodies burned.
We’d struck each other into
a unanimous sleep.

Unconscious, I watched water walk across Christ,
the aerosol suicides plaguing Ohio,
my ruined hands at ninety,
two prayers pull each other’s hair,
Dad say, “Don’t trust what rain can’t put to sleep.”

I was so white in that visible music,
like pus in a rainbow that’s almost all better,
some alabaster madness, rabidity inside ideas of sound.

Sometimes the body’s edibility cannot seem slower.
With how we romanticize our moments, I forget
the walk to Golgotha took thirty-three years.

I’m imagining the henna, its own secret, sudden nature
overtaking Audrey’s body, when the drunk at the jukebox
declares Ain’t a song in this world that can hurt me no more.

*
*

The one tear / by Flavia Rocha Loures

He’s been the pain lodged in my smile,
a lingering sadness in my eyes,
an agony that makes me insane,
that one tear that never fully dries.

But too many times have I bled.
So many poems I must have cried.
Now I have fought my vilest fears,
that frailty that’d been burning inside.

There is sweet change stirring in me,
like a new age is about to start.
I cannot wait to let you know
of all the wonders in my heart.

Walk with me, darling, hold me tight,
as I gaze deep into the abyss
one last time for needed closure,
for all the aching I shan’t miss.

This long-living despondency,
at last, the time is ripe to dethrone,
transcend into a luminous day
and I don’t have to do it alone.

Feeling diffident, miniscule, this
can no longer be. You are here,
through the bliss of emancipation,
to dry out that one last silly tear.

*
*

A Brief History of Babel / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Nadia Butler. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title, and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

Borders, windows.
Sound.

Trudging up the steps, I am winded after six flights,
my words smothered in the breathing.

The Gate of God proffers no favors.
When the spirit gives me utterance, what shall I say?

Curiously, no direct link exists between Babel and babble.

A collective aphasia could explain the disruption. One’s
inability to mouth the proper word, another’s
fluency impeded by context.

A stairway terminating in clouds.

Syllable by twisted syllable, dispersed.

Separated in symbols.
And then, writing.

To see the sunrise from behind a tree, you must face
east: higashi, or, a discrete way of seeing
the structure of language unfold.
Two characters, layered. One
thought. Direction.
Connotation. The sun’s
ascent viewed through branches
as through the frame
of a glassless
window.

Complexity in simplicity.
Or the opposite.

And the breeze winding through, carrying fragments.

Who can know what we say to God, but God?

I have no desire to touch heaven, but my tongues reach where they will.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XII

The train is due to leave Edinburgh’s Waverley Station
at 9:53. It should reach Dundee by 11:11. Granny’s house
is a half hour drive from the station. Mother orders the taxi for 9:00,
just in case of traffic. “What if the taxi doesn’t come on time?”
Granny makes Mother change the order to 8:30.
“What if there’s a flat tire?” Mother moves the taxi back to 8:00.
“What if there’s an accident?” “What about ice?” It’s February.
The taxi is finally set for 6:30.

No one is on the station platform when we arrive at 7:00.
The famous Waverley wind that requires policemen
to help people cross the street at the top of the entrance steps
pierces our winter coats. I huddle between Granny and Mother
as we stand on the howling platform and they shout over my head.
“Good thing we planned ahead.” Granny smiles. I feel Mother
shiver against me. My feet grow numb.

By 9:43, when the train pulls in, other passengers have arrived
shoulders hunched, heads pulled down into upturned collars.
As soon as the train shrieks to a stop, they rush on board.
We make our way down the corridor. The carriages all
look the same to me, but Granny picks just the right seats.
We load our luggage in the overhead rack. “Too hot in here.”
Granny reaches over my head, struggles with the window
finally forcing it up with a whoosh.

At 9:53 precisely, the train begins to chug and build momentum
screeching its way out of the station. By the time we cross
the Firth of Forth bridge, it has a full head of steam, the wind
has aired out the carriage, and soot from the coal has begun
to seep into the cushions, our coats, our pores. As a rare treat
Mother gives me hot tea from her thermos. I hold it
in my mittened hands and lower my face to its welcoming steam.

*
*

Western Wind / by Katherine Barrett Swett

“Christ if my love were in my arms”—Anon

Once noon is here, I wait for dusk
for dinner and the NewsHour.
I hate mid-day. I’ll take daybreak,
a bird or two, some tea, a shower,
and day begins, but when the light
is flattened out like wind-pressed sheets,
I just kill time. I hate mid-day,
want dark to come, to walk down streets,
past building corners turning red.
I hate mid-day marooned in still
with too much space and time to kill.
Give me the tattered ends of day,
or leave me in my bed.

*
*

After the Poetry Reading / by Pamela Murray Winters

I spent the night’s small hours
not hot exactly, not restless exactly,
wanting a thing that is not gin
or Wolf Alice or donuts, involving
someone unexpected, and that’s

a field of birds who dart up
in a flappy tumult, trigger unknown

the dip in the wooden roller coaster track

but not

that last knowing drop of Malbec under the tongue

the cling of a hand-me-down poor-boy sweater and
its slow unzipping by my own hand

What time is it? Half past crimson,
quiver o’clock, time to put the O
in woman—

no, to put the O
in poet—

because the remembered voice whispering
can I have it
is not a lover but,
licitly, lusciously,
an editor.

*
*

Day 11 / Poems 11

*

Taproot / by Karen Craigo

Sometimes the phone rings
twice an hour, and we don’t
pick up, no more to give
at two-thirty than two,
and three o’clock looks
very much the same.

The trees teach little about debt
but draw themselves upward.
If something blocks their light
they’ll grow around it.

Deep in the ground,
the roots go straight down,
or spread, or pull up knees.
They point themselves
directly at their need.

We’d like to find
an answer in the world,
but honeysuckle shrugs,
and the stare of the io moth
gives nothing away.

*
*

*** / by Meg Eden

Jesus tells me he’s suffered all things.
As a teenage girl, I wasn’t so sure.
In the Gospels, I searched for my sufferings:
Did Jesus have a period?
Did Jesus give birth?
Did Jesus crave marriage?
I told Jesus about the pang in me
for a boy to want me. And Jesus said:
I’ve felt the face of God
turn away from me. Don’t talk to me
about loneliness.

*
*

I 75 / by Jen Fitzgerald

cumulous rises from the highway
like atomic aftermath
as gnats swirl in a rain—
funnel and mist.

we didn’t have money for a pool
but we could afford a sprinkler.
set up in the front yard as a beacon
for neighborhood kids, the thin
streams of water sprouted up,
refracting light to make rainbows
of the grass, make rainbows
of the concrete, make new the street

this road never ends—
you can drive toward a moving
car for an hour

if we can see the curve of the earth
at the horizon, then what of the sky—
does it not too show
an inverse, curve of heaven,
a bent back bow of silver rain?

*
*

Companionshipwrecked / by Chad Foret

“O, bees only swarm when they’re looking for a home.
So I followed them.
I found the bees’ nest in the buffalo’s chest.”
Bill Callahan, “Universal Applicant”

“They left me alone in those numbers, man.”
A friend of another’s buried in drugs
knocked around midnight.

He was simply in his underwear, zip ties
around his wrists. His house had been
invaded. They’d strapped him to his
pool table, killed his fish & then
left him there. He got loose &
ran over, moonlit, & nude.

Someone I love all over said
birthmarks are the doors to old deaths.
There are too many things to think about this.
That fish shrunk inside a fist like the heart of resolve.
To panic at a ceiling with your mouth shut is to swim in the
geometry of ghosts, pachyderm of doubt, a sentient soundlessness.

We need another narrative, kisses interrupted by smiles,
our darknesses exsanguinated. Can’t I awaken by a barn,
some drunken kids nearby, staring at their hands, laughter
stuffed with moonlight? An old stranger jukes parked cars
in the midst of his dementia, sun after sun like a game of
cosmic keepaway. (I mean when I’m dreaming awake.)
Can’t an old woman’s eyes not be wild as a horse’s at
Sekigahara still falling sideways at dusk & in dust?
Can’t the teenagers taken with liquor call to me
across the street, “Excuse me, sir! Where’s
the perfect space to be undressed so
that we may tenderly collide,
shed grief after grief
in a cacophony
of limbs?”

*
*

greetings, saludos / by Flavia Rocha Loures

ciao bello, aloha
oi, hola, hello
sup, yo,
a noite tá boa?

Olá, my friend,
que pasa? I say,
fantastic day
tudo beleza, man

ok, hablamos, partiu
tchüss, ein kuss
besos, baci, bisoux
beijo, baby boo

***

multi-tongue word play
my favorite game
here, I’ll show you
just loosen up, mate:

fiu fiu…
what’s up, hot stuff!
meu nome é Fla, luv,
world citizen from Brazil

et j’aime la poésie
las rimas que viven en mi
por tudo o que senti
and all I’ve yet to see

so auf wiedersehen
bye for now, à bientôt
hope to see you again, so
whatsapp, wechat me

avec toutes les mots,
we’ll verse away, stay up late
neste jogo que inventei
and I can hardly wait

*
*

Reduce Heat and Simmer Gently Without Cloud Cover, Till Sundown. Serves 2 – 7 Billion / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Mek of the blog 10,000 Hours Left. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title, and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

The first worry is that without the clouds
I’ll lose liquid to evaporation,
leaving a salty mess. Nothing thins crowds
more quickly than bad food, the exceptions

being dog farts, pestilence, or firearms.
Then the utensils! Where the hell can I
store that many spoons? Despite its great charms
my kitchen’s much too small. But yes, I’ll try.

The proof is not in the pudding but in
bread or a braised meat, or a simple egg
dish. Nothing too complex. To my chagrin
I may have failed. They pout, demand and beg

incessantly. Time for another flood?
Nuclear winter? Hail? Fresh water to blood?

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

XI

My modern sewing machine
died in the last century
its needle jammed in a thick tweed

its motor giving off that familiar smell
that tells you an electrical implement
has died an unnatural death

I had a treadle machine, a 1905 White
that once belonged to the wife
of Senator Townsend from Western Michigan

Apart from the joy of boasting
about its history, I knew
that machine would sew anything—

pieces of rubber tire onto clear plastic
for a cloak for Oberon
in Midsummer Night’s Dream

pink leather for the seats of a 1959
Cadillac Eldorado a friend showed off
in the Woodward Dream Cruise

When I moved to California
I knew I would live in a smaller space
and I gave it up with reluctance

but I hardly miss it because
I rediscovered the slow pleasure
of sewing by hand

easing material into just the right place
before setting a stitch, placing the needle
exactly where I want the thread to go

*
*

Natural History / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Half-lit halls of lifelike mammals,
displays of lions, jackals, camels,
trophies from another time,
now appear to be a crime.
Children staring scared and squirmy
at the creepy taxidermy;
Lions kill behind the glass,
donors named below in brass.
The end of wealth and artistry:
short-lived immortality
for the hunter and the hunt
whose creations we confront.

*
*

In the Elevator at the Warhol Museum, My Husband / by Pamela Murray Winters

stretches, growing slightly taller, head back,
arms high and at angles, as if he were

the next phase of the Vitruvian Man
drawn by Leonardo. Every tendon taut,
but sure and easy as if he lay in bed

next to me back on the Chesapeake, or
as if a big cat inhabited his body, so often

closed and strange and burdensome. I want
suddenly to climb him, clutch him,
never let go, to be locked in this vault

with him, between floors, forever. The doors
open; he’s Chesapeake Man again, and

we walk out side by side and I know
we won’t turn in different directions,
even though we’re not holding hands.

*
*

Day 10 / Poems 10

*

Bower / by Karen Craigo

It’s not the money, it’s what
the money gives us—a place
that’s ours, something in
the belly, permission to move
through the world. Isn’t this
what the bowerbird says?
Sticks joined in a sturdy arch,
and all around, the things
a bird admires—stones
and pop cans, blossoms
and shells, arranged
by color and type, and,
the ornithologist tells us,
staged, just so, smallest
to largest. He’s using
forced perspective,
an architect’s trick, messing
with scale to suggest
grandeur. If we’re smart,
we hold what we have.
The male bowerbird says
he’ll take care of the one
who watches from the grass.
Pile of feathers, pile of glass,
that which you covet I have.

*
*

Response to the Brother Who Wants to Move in After the Earthquake: / by Meg Eden

You are not welcome here.
You are contaminated.
You probably already have radiation in your skin.
You probably already have cancer growing in you.

You are contaminated.
You breathed in that nuclear air.
You probably already have radiation in your skin.
Your life is a ticking time bomb.

You breathed in that nuclear air.
You carry a power plant inside you.
Your life is a ticking time bomb,
and I can’t risk you rubbing off on me.

You carry a power plant inside you,
but we are genki here,
and I can’t risk you rubbing off on me.
I want to live—

We are genki here, but
the person who touches pitch is defiled.
I want to live.
I don’t want to think about Fukushima.

The person who touches pitch is defiled—
It can’t be helped.
I don’t want to think about Fukushima.
There are places for that sort of thing.

It can’t be helped.
You probably already have cancer growing in you.
There are places for that sort of thing, but
you are not welcome here.

*
*

Heirs / by Jen Fitzgerald

. . . . . . . . . . . make precious
art craves fame
. . . . . . . . . . . bring a pool into being
. . . . . . . . . . . in a place without running water
. . . . . . . . . . . during the Great Depression
medium is money
. . . . . . . . . . . how innovative
. . . . . . . . . . . how daring and darling
. . . . . . . . . . . to beat relentless heat
. . . . . . . . . . . on such broken backs

until we learn to loathe opulence
the spinning rim will never slow
to show the landscape plainly.

joke about last red cent
. . . . . . . . . . . didn’t slaves build your house?

where heat and rum are the great
equalizers of native infamy
and sleeping outdoors

generations later
you’ve still got the biggest pool
generations later
a cat flexes six toes out
into the breeze of a box fan

*
*

“All I Need Is (To Be Buried on This Bridge)” / by Chad Foret

“And I am lost in the beautiful white ruins
of America.”
James White, “Having Lost My Sons, I Confront the Wreckage of the Moon: Christmas, 1960”

A stutterer raised by some malevolent Italian:
his voice is skin whispered off majolica.
He swears he hears Louisiana blink,
mumbling into strange charities,
mostly repurposed garbage,

while swollen with sleeplessness.
“I know a bit about poems: a song
that can’t get its guts back inside;
most flowers are scentless & frail.”

If you sit long enough through his incoherent spiel,
an incomprehensible humanity twinkles—
his life roadkill even vultures avoid.

“You are only how you compliment your lover.”
He claims responsibility for his lemon of a marriage,
& talks about her gravestone slanted, barely in the light,

her interplanetareolas, how he whispered bitter somethings.
From silence to the womb absolved at Lake View Washateria,
his language & brain are incompatible maths. To anyone around,
he’s my epileptic protégé. I know a bit about a poem, too. A word is

a stain on walls of bone.

*
*

Life through lenses / by Flavia Rocha Loures

In honor of the photographer Sebastião Salgado, inspired by his long-term project “Genesis”

waiting attentive patient until . . . the trick of a click his look through the view-

finder of stories of people and this planet people and this planet people and this plan-ting the seeds for changed perspectives

black and white and black and white and black and white an-dancing in harmony under the perfect light

reality shouts . . frozen in time larger than life . . in breadth an-depth in breadth an-depth expansive . . in minutiae daring . . us to dive in

piercing and true and shocking and tragic . . . explosive and human-kind and gentle or nature’s nemesis . . . what is the saga told by Genesis

now you have seen now you know know of the beauty seen the ugly felt reality’s colors . . fluorescing in B&W

*
*

Never Drink Anything Blue / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Jim Feeney. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title, and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

But always keep your options unzipped and
available to whatever slips in; the snake

lives in the attic for the rodents,
but occasionally takes a fledgling peewee

from a nest near its exit, while the scorpion
generally avoids light except for those nights

when moths seem too delectable to pass up.
Our governor whistles Beethoven but switches to

the hymnal when campaigning, and I’ve announced
a need for organic zucchini when craving a craft

beer. Confession is good for the soul, except
when it’s bad for the body. “Think with words,

not with ideas,” Sontag wrote, and Williams said
“no idea but in things.” Of course he was just writing

a poem. Baking is chemistry – measure carefully –
but cook with abandon! Whoever said “keep your

friends close but your enemies closer,” slept
alone most nights, or not at all. Born in Louisiana,

I am the product of an illegal union, but which
half should be interred where? Both sun and

moon rise and set. Is anything incorruptible?
Drink everything blue. Everything.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

X

Pyongyang will turn its clocks
back by thirty minutes on August 15
2015, the 70 th anniversary of Korea’s
freedom from Japanese rule.
The North wants ‘Pyongyang time’
decrying ‘wicked Japanese imperialists’
and thinks they can redress this
by returning to the time zone in place
before the Japanese made Korea
move to Tokyo time in 1912.
South Korea has no plans to change.

Despite derision from the U.S.,
you’d think Americans would understand.
Only in 2006 did Indiana finally accept
daylight savings time throughout
the whole state. Arizona still doesn’t
accept daylight savings time
except for the Navajo Nation.

What is it like to be a worker who
toils through a day not knowing
when it begins or ends?
Half the workers in the Kaesong
Industrial Complex live in the south
half in the north. Many near where
a U.S. time zone changes often
work in one zone and live in another.
Do workers keep watches on work time
or home time? Do they switch
back and forth every day? Or
have cell phones taken over time, too?

*
*

Flat / by Katherine Barrett Swett

I’m in a ditch by the road
repeatedly blown by truck wind;
the grass has not been mowed
and scratches my arms and thighs.
Wanting no stranger’s aid,
I sit here with my knee
brushing the Queen Anne’s lace,
and listen to the loop of the bee.
If this were Breughel’s Harvest
I might be taking a nap
leaning against a tree,
but no one is haying now,
and a car may mow me down
if I lie in the ditch and sleep.

*
*

A Rose / by Pamela Murray Winters

I am learning to feel ever so slightly sorry
for the terribly beautiful:

that they are seldom alone
and never invisible;

that they will not have had to learn young
to be smart or pious;

that they will be helpless or desperate
against the years’ erosion.

You think I’m elaborately mean,
but I try. I see them minimized,

lissome executive summaries of humanity,
personalities subsidiary to that glow.

Do the old ones carry small photos
of their earlier selves, flash them,

discreetly, at cashiers and postmen?
Still, give my history a year

of perfect nineteen, helpless to chase the gazes,
skin mildly sore from the becoming blush

prompted by whispers. How would it
change me at fifty to have known

the limber, lithe, unblemished pain?

*
*

Day 9 / Poems 9

*

Offering / by Karen Craigo

Good measure, pressed down,
shaken together, running over,
will be put in your lap.
—Luke 6:38

Last week I put stamps
in the offering—a useful
sort of gift, the kind
I’d want a God
to value.

I’ve given less,
given more, like
a gift card for ice cream,
or all the change from
the bottom of my bag,
two fistfuls, and if God
blessed me, surely
some counter
did not.

We can give only
what we have.
One Sunday
I wrote a poem
and set it there
on the stone faces
of currency.
I suppose someone
had to tally the value
of that.

*
*

Will Poxon Read Sharon Olds’s “I Go Back to May 1937” / by Meg Eden

I have to think of him every time I read this poem.
I think of him on stage senior year, the winner of our school’s
Poetry Out Loud competition. Him, reading stop
with his eyes out to the sound room at the back
of the auditorium, as if he was in fact looking at that picture
of his mother, of his father, and I hated
how well he read that poem, how well he read everything.
Will in his sweater vest. Will, the student teachers said
would do something great with his life. What was the big deal
with Will, anyway? I was the one writing poems.
Will was the one reading them.

My AP US History teacher told me
that Albert Einstein—or maybe it was
Thomas Edison—carried a notebook around with him
wherever he went, motioning to my beat-up
spiral bound book of poems.

I didn’t even think about Sharon Olds, or her poem
until I read it again in college, hearing Will Poxon’s voice
against my teacher’s as she read it aloud for us.
Now, I unearth that same poem from the years
of papers in my desks. Looking at that poem, I go back
to that picture of a picture. I say stop.
You are the wrong poem, Sharon.
You are not supposed to be in this poem, Will.
You probably don’t even remember this poem, Will!
Put me back in that auditorium. Tell me
there will be many more poems,
many more readings, that this moment
will become a poem, that nothing
is wasted, that nothing is wasted,
that high school is almost over.
That there will be more poems.

*
*

Mile Marker Zero / by Jen Fitzgerald

This is no beginning,
this is an exclamation—
this is an island that hurricane
waits to be ripped from Florida’s
long leg to spiral
toward the Pacific.
New Duval drag queens coronated
nightly in a city obsessed
with conchs as Georgia O’Keeffe
painted only to know flowers.
Polydactyl Hemingway heirs
curve their backs against wrought
iron gates in beckoning,
like they’ve can show you
what it means to know
generations of loss.
To start here is to reverse over seven
mile bridge and the endless keys—
blue and green endless keys
of tiny deer and giant lizards—
endless keys of efficiencies
and sun baked tattoos—
endless keys of roadside flotillas
and mangrove sprouts—
endless keys because the road
in is twice as long as the road
out when you end at zero—
turn back to face the single
lane highway of your past.

*
*

At Walmart’s Automatic Exit, an Elderly Lady / by Chad Foret

is paid to say goodbye.

*
*

Southern constellations / by Flavia Rocha Loures

With a golden moon floating low in the skies,
a starry night bursting with promise,
China bids me farewell.
She knows
I am homebound.
I need to
“sunwind”.

Next time
I see this yellow moon
there will be more green to it
with the unique constellations of southern skies
as canvas.

For now, I sit in silence
and witness a gathering of colors
slowly take over darkness out there.
I think about the days ahead
swarming with possibilities
like recent Xiamen nights.

Change
it is everywhere, I can feel it
oozing through my body
pulsating in the horizon
vibrant and inspiring as
permanence could never be.

Oh, golden moon,
you are changing, too – hence
the clever smile, excited glance, dynamic hues
in you, and in those few familiar faces
I shall be missing after all…
like the stars that disappear, one by one,
to give room to the stunning sunrise
gaining shape out of my window.

It takes courage to see it unfold
this bittersweet ride of transformation
all the way along a rainbow.

*
*

Cyborg Sky Burial / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by the blog Atomic Geography. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title, and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

Who will render the fleshless,
the bones which are not bone?

This cloud holds water.
That one preserves thought.

All emptied vessels serve the same purpose.

Consciousness exits the head and rises
to the next state, preceding rebirth,
zeros and ones blending in various combinations,

scattering within the molded skies
and joining others to remake something new,
another mind, another body. The same.

Programmers guide the spirit for seven weeks.

How many times have I returned,
replicated yet different,

undiminished, uploaded?
The priests chant, smile and laugh as they
release the discarded parts, feeding
the angels, which later soar above the plateau.

Alms for the birds.

Prayer flags wave through the juniper air.

Pulverized bones and memories are mixed
with barley flour and thrown to the crows.

A drone appears and they scatter.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

IX

a pulmonary embolism
strikes my father in 1968
starts the long slow slide
to a finish line that’s
eighteen years away
endless hospital visits,
sleepless nights
calls to come “in case”
surgeries to drain cups
of fluid from the pericardium,
strip his varicose veins,
insert stents when his
kidneys fail
his congestive heart fails
his body betrays him

a brain aneurysm
strikes my husband in 1999
his time to death is nearer
eighteen seconds
than eighteen years
He’s barely into middle age
slender with low lipids
low cholesterol
low blood pressure
healthy as a newborn babe
but…

If we had a choice, is a shorter
swifter life better than a long
slow slide? Would we trade
some good years to avoid the bad?

*
*

Dust / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Constance Woolson died
In Venice January 24;
an apparent suicide,
she was not 54.

Henry James said half one’s feeling
for her was anxiety.
He wrote it repeatedly
in letters that scholars find revealing
of James’s ongoing anxiety.

He thought her cheerful manner a facade
as flowers set in the window
have nothing to do with what’s inside.
Did he think how
the pots might fall below,
the careless maid knocking
them off the windowsill?
His metaphor is shocking
as Woolson was the pot that fell.

She would hate the bios and novels
about her love-lorn melancholy.
She was a writer who wanted readers;
and, of course, she was lonely,
living abroad, far from home, to save money.

I reread her novels most years.

I like the smell of old papers and books,
of library stacks, forgotten lives.
I take them like snuff in the afternoon,
the past boxed up like Bluebeard’s wives.

Who isn’t lonely as she grows older?

I clean the embossed spine
of East Angels, bought for nothing
when second-hand books first went online.
I spend hours dusting
and wiping each shelf with lavender oil
to fight off mildew and soil.

The last Christmas she turned down
all invitations. She wanted to be alone
With her things and memories.
Her gondola wound
for miles around the lagoon.

I am now her age, and I don’t believe
she killed herself for love.
Hers was a deeper grief,
and she was not afraid to die;
she wrote that repeatedly.

James couldn’t get over
that suicide is very impolite
–it seemed so out of character–
like refusing to eat your host’s meat.
I think she reached the limit
of memory, writing and stuff.
Even a gentle lady has the right
to say enough, not enough, enough.

*
*

My Mentor Says the Word “Squirrel” Should Never Appear in a Poem / by Pamela Murray Winters

What does he know? Many things, but not how to pull the strings
across the neck of a Fender and make the taillights disappear
into a film noir. Or how it feels to touch a woman’s breasts
that are your own. Or how to laugh at something harmless
and irredeemably stupid. Now, women friends:
I have one who knows who’s going to die
and when. Another who was married to a
serial killer. Several who escaped
cults. One still in. There are
many things to be known,
and any man who thinks
he knows them all is
hellbound to be
regarded as
squirrely.

*
*

Day 8 / Poems 8

*

At the Fair / by Karen Craigo

Seems simple enough — get the ring
over the lip of the bottle and win
a prize. My son aims for green,
has his eye on a bike. It’s cool
hanging there, just a little dusty.
Let’s talk about midway economics.
A few dollars will get you dull darts,
limp balloons, a bucket of rings
that almost fit the target. I doubt
he’ll make it, questions of skill aside.
He keeps aiming and missing,
changing it up, but stays determined
in the shade of what he could have.

*
*

Ode to a Pair of Okinawan Sandals / by Meg Eden

Your hibiscus flowers have smeared
a little, broken thong—I’ve had your soles
repaired so many times, the woman
at the shoe shop said, these are special shoes.
Yes—she could tell from the dents
in your wooden body that you are the island
I carry with me, you are an island
quickly eroding under me that must constantly
be built up and restored—

No matter how much I tape you up,
you have become unwearable,
resigned to the back of my closet.
Remember how, in high school, my cousin
said I sounded like a clomping horse?
You, glad to take on the role of a horse:
your wood against the sidewalk,
the sound of the paranku drum.
You, wearing each step of mine
in your side, you my crucifix—
how can I make you depart me,
even if you are without use?

*
*

Everglades in Gloaming / by Jen Fitzgerald

This place is varied light
where language, useless,
stretches a tired arm toward meaning.

Silhouetted cranes glide
their vulnerability just above the brush line.

I drive the corridor in this failing time
as panthers stir the reeds.

Don’t let me see one—
not prepared to haunt myself
with visions of elegance and instinct.

I don’t yet know what I mean to hunt
as the brightest stars begin to push through,

dreaming of morning.

*
*

-lessness (Sunrise at the Abattoir) / by Chad Foret

“Who are you people? What is this state?”
Janet Tyler, “Eye of the Beholder,” The Twilight Zone

“A burgeoning sun’s an unbrushed molar.
I regret almost everything I’ve said.
One more milquetoast climax & the wife’ll
whup me blue with her grocery divider.
Look at them. Soon they’ll be edible threads.
Why does our work suddenly sicken me?”

“What befits the apex of repression
like a Tokyo nightscape, Roppongi’s
vertical language beckoning mutely?”

“Flies alight like I’m not aware I’ve died.”
“Every frailty machinates a phantom,
a memory with its mouth stuck open,
the same old stories rolled up under arms.”

“I used to fall from the edge of any
signifier. I’m so entrenched in my
tropes I have no eye for the authentic,
how when I drive there’s arrows pointing
everywhere at once.” “Trees try not to touch.
This is innate knowledge of division.
History succumbs to untended lawns.

Look. Tails swat pests like pendulums deboned.”
“I mean, is anyone around at all?”
“You ever see them do an old cochon,
kind of akin to kalua pua’a?

You dig halfhearted holes in the earth—
just visit Mansura’s stiffened infants.

(We leave them above, but they burn the same.)
You should check Spanferkel stuck in its trot!”
“What’s your point? I need irony explained.”

“A thing overwhelmed by antithesis,

economies built around nature’s wrath.
So, I guess we’re anti-obstetricians—”
“I feel like I’ve contributed to dust.”
“A space itself is always innocent.”
“Man is a violence colored alive.”

“You’re kind. You know, you’d make a great martyr.”
The troubled one shouts up. “Excuse me! Yeah,
you! I don’t want to be The Everyman

Delirium, material! I’m fore-
going all conceptual fiascos!

You better put your goddamn pen down now!”
“Yeah! Take a step away from metaphor!
Let us die undefined!” Okay, okay.

It’s raining, or The Falling All Around.

*
*

Wonderlands / by Flavia Rocha Loures

…and so I venture into these lands
fun and adventure at the reach of my hands
I embrace this journey with all my will
travel far and want more still

cheery faces populate my memory
we’ve exchanged life’s magic
some of its tragedy and
bonded over humanity’s legacy

then off I go again, myself
and mother Earth, to explore
learn (unlearn) some more
can’t wait for what lies in store

along travels
the unexpected
all I love
to no one belong

*
*

Bent / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by my good friend Stephanie Kaufman. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title, and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

We’ve seen some version of the nail
curled over, its head angled at 90 degrees
or parallel to the body, just above

the penetration point. Three years ago
a tornado powered a single straw stem
through the oak’s bark and into its trunk,

illustrating the Old English beonet, for
“stiff grass,” and sadly conjuring the image
of a blade affixed to a firearm’s muzzle, the

etymology of which lies elsewhere, in Gascony.
And when we consider mental inclination,
signifying deflected, turned, or not straight,

we might also include an earlier past
participle meaning “directed in course.” But even the
tree’s armor could not deter the twister’s

wrath, and the hammer, no matter my aim
or purpose, seems intent upon glancing off
the nail, twisting it, leaving us, again, bent.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

VIII

There are no clocks in Vegas casinos
no distracting windows
just flashing lights, clashing color
cheap alcohol and food
punctuated by endless cranks
of handles on slot machines

day or night, two hours or ten
who knows? who cares?
slots, roulette wheels
green baize tables
that’s what matters

go in at noon, come out at noon
today, tomorrow—who knows?
time stands still when you wait
for the dice to stop, the card
to flop, the ball to pop

take an elevator up the half-sized
faux Eiffel Tower
with its glued-on bolt ends
ooh and aah at neon lights
as you look across the towers
built by timeless losers

*
*

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park / by Katherine Barrett Swett

It was winter when we visited
but everywhere
in the museum and park
light and peace
surrounded
a monumental grief
fierce not dark

witnessing

the opening of the wound
not the hard scar
fire floating
paper holding fire

*
*

Five Piercings / by Pamela Murray Winters

for Elayne Angel

1.

My birthday. A quick pain. Me, my mother, my neighbor: thirteen, fifty-three, and ten. I love the idea of pure gold in my body.

2.

Seventies. Symmetry.

3.

Away at the beach. On a dare. Christine effervesces. I want to impress her. I am an introvert; expression comes with a little blood.

4.

Eighties. Its twin.

5.

I can’t remember where or when, only that it’s entirely mine. My gift, and not myself. My aunt would ask if I lost an earring. What I had was not remainder, but lagniappe: a glancing touch from a passing angel. Any metal will do. I hear the song of whatever I hang there. It’s never going to go away.

*
*

Day 7 / Poems 7

*

One Hundred Grand / by Karen Craigo

for the $31.25 I have on me

I haven’t told you, but I carry dollars,
folded crisp, in this pouch I wear.
The thinking is that the law
of attraction will kick in, and soon
I’ll be swarmed with greenbacks,
ungainly as mantises in flight.

Ever fork over a five-spot, thinking
you’d grabbed a one? That must be
what happened to the Woodrow,
a hundred thousand captured
in one bill, because there was a time,
I guess, when a hundred grand needed
to be portable. You’d walk down
the boulevard, buying mansions,
tossing up scraps of green
in your very own ticker tape parade.

Wilson looks dubious,
the adjusted value of that rectangle
close to two million today. He peers
through his nearly invisible pince-nez
and barely comprehends. Me,
I’d like to have a bill like that,
or just touch it, green on the obverse,
orange in back, like a rare moth
too gorgeous for the pin.

*
*

The Woman on St. Heather Lane is Dead. / by Meg Eden

While I’m walking, a neighbor drives up
to tell me this. I’ve walked past her house
my whole life: the one with the rose bush,
the rusty 50s pool. What was her name?

The neighbor says she always looked so sad
before she passed away. And that wasn’t like ­_____,
she says. The neighbor’s eyes begin to water.
I try to look sad, but today is too sunny for mourning.

I nod. She grabs a tissue from her passenger seat.
I’m here to pick up my daughter, she says.
But I’ll miss ­­­­_______. She was such a strong member
of this community. I’ve lived here my whole life

and I don’t know this woman’s name. I can’t remember
the dead woman’s name. Everyone is so old here,
am I supposed to know who they are?
The neighbor knows who I am. She says,

You’re the Eden girl, right? The one
that lives in the stone house? I nod.
She asks me how my father’s doing.
I say he’s alright, that he’s putting up

one stone at a time. The bus pulls up
and her daughter jumps into the seat
with the tissues. The woman waves goodbye
as she backs up down St. Heather Lane,

past the dead woman’s house. Only now
as I write this years later, I remember!
The dead woman was named Louise.
Her house is still empty. When I drive by,

I think about jumping into that pool
and nobody finding my body.

*
*

Everglades at Dusk / by Jen Fitzgerald

Into where do we retreat
when the grass expanse stretches
for lengths of sky—

like my grandmother
unfurling yards from a bolt
using her arm’s length?

Two then four then six.

This land unsettles your step
in short lies of stability.
No one here is sure
this is where they were meant
to land.

Dead pan amphibians
gaze

as pilots tie up their boats
and head back to the way stations
of nature’s working life.

. . . . . . . .I trust a man who has lived
in one spot his entire life.
. . . . . . . .I’d tie myself to that idea of home.

*
*

Famous Maniac’s Last Say (Pink Slips to Those That Let Him Speak) / by Chad Foret

“I must say that to die with one’s sword still sheathed is most regrettable.”
Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

Summarize atrocity for our audience?
Beware my waxing any sort
of sophic. (I delivered beloveds to dun.)
In New Orleans, on the walls,
there are paintings of the streets outside,
because we’ll never remember
what matters—is my blade any different,
highlighting that ache, & don’t
we, unable to see, desire immobilization?
Brother Thomas knelt at the feet
after bludgeoning a way to golden gloves.
Song of the city’s terrible bones:
a slow sinking into sideways, burial sound,
a Mardi Gras album worked until
it bears an infamous fruit. Joy apes its way,
emblem’s infertility, estuary craze,
& so I thank the gone, lust, autobiographica.
I’m just outside alive, wailing on its
windows, & locality rots in its urbane light.
I like to sling this hurt around, doom
a braggart’s pseudoscience, & when Milky
Ways darkly conclude, when a wither-
ed hand pilots killswitch, the contaminant
prick, any human want, will nod darkly,
the crudest bloom, & every edge’ll draw
red, the laminated knowledge of the dead.
Now you’re the same amount of sucker
for somnambulance as I, the considerate ru-
ins, & I swear you my innocence, no
not its existence in this case of subtraction or
a moonlit undoing, but the cantank-
erous cretin how far in these hollows the dead
beyond dead can speak absolutely:

those teeth are ransomed diamonds, he’s swing-
ing his lunchpail but its empty in-
side—a kindness catatonic. Deep inside the truck
stop shitters of this neverlasting
soul, there’s incendiary light, vapid tongue of blue
cerebra, blathered nether. I am
the violent clarifier, the even keel of agony, crimson
wax of handshake validation.
Knives split entirety like a neighbor’s curiosity. I am
down with prison romance,
mourners, the glue between needs in a darkened room.
My life is your sentence,
the genders’ trial by area, the anatomic lace of our race,
poison city of concept-
ion. Don’t knock corruptitude, the overwatered blossom,
mea culpa of Lifetime
Channel aneurisms. You’ve all made your dimes dancing
for despicables. Isn’t
this our engine of grief, heist’s sojourn, the animal’s need,
algorithmic wreck?
My woman’ll miss my Swisher Sweets stink, when I came
in from the storm,
reeking of removal, strangely arranged in another’s insides,
my heart tangled
in their elsewhere. The American unlikelihood of imagining
alternatives is
the little mind of massacre. Kneel to the everyman’s intimate
timidities. I
don’t doubt your sense of justice, just the justice of the senses.
Reduce me
to smoke (A.P. Southwick’s terrible seat), shoot the final liquid
down the
ends of my doors, make me mock the tick of a rusted attic clock,
dare me
into death (victims’ families afoot); just inoculate my godforsaken
night.
The ultimate stroll: between two brinks, the long anemic heart amid
dark
calisthenics, other flower. Milord, light’s laughing in my face. Can’t
you
hear? So long, you malicious initiates—soul was merely a calamitous
id.
There is nothing left of me but you, was never much of me when I, but
I.
Oh, light shivers through my bones. Quiet. I’m about to enter everything.

*
*

IMG_1611

The musician with the blue flower / by Flavia Rocha Loures

. . . . . . contemplating
the sun sink into the sea, the artiste
held a blue flower, delicately in his
creative grip, seeking in its hues
inspiration, inebriating scents,
like absinthe, flower flowing in time
space, the water, fingers nimbly moving
in the air, to the rhythm of the waves
the sunset, and the dance of dolphins
eagles and voices, he turned and glanced
at possibility, sparkling blue eyes
like the flower, sapphire and indigo
petals, sky-like leaves, depth and beauty
magic of music playing in silence
quiet crescendo of magnificence
all the way to zenith, to eruption
then he knew, truly had it, that feeling
floral cerulean composition of
. . . . . . a lifetime

*
*

The Neurotic Dreams September in April / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by artist/writer Ron Throop. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors may offer a title, and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

Already I have become the beginning of a partial ghost, sleeping the summer
sleep in winter, choosing night over breakfast and the ritual of dousing lights.
This much I know: the moon returns each month, and tonight you lie awake
in a bed across the river, in a house with sixteen windows and a cold oven,
where your true name hides under the floorboard behind the pantry door.

*

Differences season our days — from flowers to snow, root to nectar — take
one and the other lessens in its own sight. One day I’ll overcome this longing
for things and will be complete in what I own, living my life beyond the
page, past the white space and dead letters. When I mention hearts, I mean
that muscle lodged in my chest. Genetics, not romance. Tissue. Arteries, veins.

*

Dark cars on the street. Cattle grazing in the damp pasture. The liquor store
sign glaring “CLOSED.” Separate yet included, we observed these scenes but
assigned them to the periphery, grounded in our own closed frames. In a
different time I would transcend my nature and strive to withstand yours.
Look. That star, the fog silhouetting the tombstones. A bobbing light.

*

Love is a gray morning, a steel-toed shoe or coating of black ice; nothing
you do will repeal its treachery. There, on my stone porch, I will inhale the
smoke of a thousand burned photographs. The sun will descend but you won’t
share it, and I’ll no longer hum your tune. When I rise no one sees. Or
everyone stares. Imagine that great cow of a moon lowing through the night.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

VII

I fly to Reno from Detroit
for a job interview. It used to take
three or four hours. Now
it takes six to seven with
a stop in Denver along the way.

The interview goes well
but I’m not convinced
I’d like to live here.
They tell me they have opera
because Waylon Jennings
will be here next week.

Reno is the bowling capital
of the world, something
I discover on the way home.
My aisle seat is in the back
so I am among the first
to get on the plane.

Next come the bowlers
each with two or three balls
they store in the overhead bins
some in multi-colored bags
most loose. We take off
to a persistent thunder overhead.

There’s no sleep on this red eye.
The bowler next to me says they’re
celebrating a victory achieved
in an arena with hundreds of lanes.
Heavy drinking ensues, punctuated
by raucous laughter and
the continuous rumble overhead.

Sleepless, I close my eyes and
imagine myself in an Agatha Christie
mystery which I title
Death by Bowling Ball

*
*

The Story in the Laundry / by Katherine Barrett Swett

“As long as I know there’s a story there I can go on sorting laundry”—Shirley Jackson

1

I missed you in that underwear?
I only get to see it on the chair,
or while I’m hanging laundry on the line?

2

Why fold it when
you just have to unfold it
again?

If you make your bed,
don’t you have to lie in it?

3

Why have babies?
They just turn into teenagers.

4

A pair of bluebirds
perched on the line
for such a long time,
There are no words.

*
*

Small Repair / by Pamela Murray Winters

The man in tweed on the TV
on the dentist’s ceiling
says we once had two souls,
a big and a little. I think it’s the little one
that hides or flees
when I’m getting my teeth fixed, in tests
requiring stirrups, and when I sleep.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . To sleep is to trust
the waking. You could always
go down one staircase too many
and not come up. Sleeps are my remedy
when I crave stopping,
my small pseudosuicides. Healthy
for now, despite the dental evidence,

. . . . . . . . . . . . . I know my little soul,
which flashes and tumbles and
loves, could use a trim. Shaggy,
reminiscent of the mission kitchen
and the posters of the lost,
it needs to straighten up, grow up,
be here, and stop hurting.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . Only the last is the one
I resist, the one that would make
little soul into big, the unpersoning of
the unknown. Finished, tooth number 8
looks like its neighbor at 9, as if I never
thrashed in some dream and spoke
the unspoken, chipping it away.

*
*

Day 6 / Poems 6

*

At the Food Bank / by Karen Craigo

A couple times I went there.
I was hungry and more: I wanted
something lovingly offered, a grace
I didn’t have to sweat for.
Those days my skin was enameled
in grease from standing at the fryer,
pulling up basket after basket
before the long walk home.
It wasn’t a job that could be said
to help anyone, to do anything
good, although who doesn’t like
fries, when they’re hot and salty,
not snuck, but served in the open,
on the side of something more.
At the food bank they gave me
cans and pasta, day-old bread,
and, when I was lucky, roadkill—
a deer or an elk, something
that had given up on foraging.

*
*

Gulliver in Ruins / by Meg Eden

after Sylvia Plath

The Japanese theme park Gulliver’s Kingdom was only open from 1997-2001 before a lack of visitors shuttered it.
Cyriaque Lamar

Lying in your palm, I see
the nostrils of Mt. Fuji. I see
inside the broken-in eyes

of a toy shop. I see someone has signed
their name across your face—
what a shame. Not even ten

and someone has been demolishing you
over and over, daily. Since birth,
you’ve been defeated: your eyes

as vacant as the shops down the street—
what have you been thinking about
for the past ten years?

You, against Mount Fuji,
pinned with your tattooed arms
to the foundation of an old cult complex.

What did you do, to keep the kids
out of those suicide woods?
What could you do to replace

the memory of terrorism and make this
your kingdom? What could anyone do
in your position, after all?

The neighbors still smell Sarin gas
when they go out to walk. A perpetual fog
hovers over you, over the mountain,

over all of us. Do you dream
of being open again? Or does
the silence suit you? And what about

that door in your side—what do you carry
inside you that I can’t get to, Gulliver—
I can’t save you, Gulliver—I can’t buy

enough souvenirs, I can’t pull out
the weeds between your thighs, I can’t
clean your eyes, or get in your lips—

we are stuck, Gulliver. We’re both
bankrupt in bodies too big for us.
We’re grounded for life, you could say!

*
*

Everglades in High Heat / by Jen Fitzgerald

mangroves like finger bones
dipping into
tea stained water
. . . . . . warped and bent

pilots feed the gators at dusk,
train them to know the whirring
fan so customers can snap
photos in heat and haze
that dances the surface
like so many motes

tea stained water
. . . . . . where mangroves
like warped and bent
finger bones, dip

pilots spin their boats
through clearings
. . . . . . with half-hearted yee haws
hopping off to rustle
gators from the brush

warped and bent finger bones
like mangroves dip
into the tea stained water
stirring

*
*

Glancing Through the Personals (All Day Long the Light) / by Chad Foret

“Yeah, one fine morning
I’m gonna ride out.
Just me and the skeleton crew.
We’re gonna ride out
in a country kind of silence.”
Bill Callahan, “One Fine Morning”

Newly Single Cougar seeks Burdened by Success. Mandatory credit check.
(I am an expertly disguised pretender to the thrown.)
Lowest applicable: community college’s Dean of Admissions.
(Please someone turn me in a room to music.)

Minimal karats: enough to seem racist—I want to blind a
woman when I haughtily lift a hello, those sabretooth
tigresses ferally old, lipstick wackily applied like
the guts of a gazelle. (I want to publicly love
so strangers say, “What in God’s green
name?”) Please do not expect me to
stomach a remedial midriff. (I
stare long into keyholes,
that distant smoke,
like a person

in the desert
incrementally eaten by heat,
sunburnt distances’ trembling immensity.)

I expect to be treated like the ladiest of ladies. (Once
home, I’ll freebase coffee liqueur.) The remotely unambitious
need not apply. For them, I recommend the dead. (As I slowly grow more
wrinkled like love unraveling on bedspreads, I’m closer to accepting we’re all aching

into irrigated.) I will be waiting by my phone (as if another number).
(My voice cracks with fake country, an undiscovered nation
in every pretension.) I’m the light at the end of your
tunnel. (Middle of July, Rome, circa 64, the
likes of Nero’s lawn where believers
were howlingly illuminated.

My lips just move. There is something in momentum, how of
all the annals of the body, Jesus chose to sing the feet,
the blood, arms of darkest crystal exiting men.

We are strangely engineered,
so mercifully endangered.
Every layer of rouge
is a retroactive
want. Oh,

I want to love like
gently damaged bodies, how
strays climb trash & chew the moon.)
Don’t assume this offer stands forever. (Just
someone barely speak my name impossibly slow,

hold these hollows inside out.)

*
*

Quechee / by Flavia Rocha Loures

Wild Child
in shambles you came to me
bleeding, small and thin
imperfectly mended
looking so fragile
weak

Wonder Cat-Thunder
little did I know of your strength
bravery, passion for life
even as you struggled
with the burdens of
recovery

Witty Kitty
I could see how much you missed it
the freedom of the streets, you
were born to explore, now
you’re the master of
our yard

My Quechee
long it took you to open up, to feel
safe and loved, understand
our bond, see that you
had found a forever-
family

…through it all, somehow
you’ve always known
the way home…

*
*

Your Armpits Smell Like Heaven / by Robert Okaji

This poem was sponsored by Plain Jane of the blog “Family Rules: Reflections by Plain Jane.” For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, donors can offer a title, and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.

But your breath could melt a glacier at three
miles, she says, and then we might consider
the dirt under your nails, the way you slur
your sibilants, and how you seldom see

the cracked eggs in a carton, a downed tree
branch in front of you, the ripened blister
of paint in the bedroom, or your sister
lying drunk on the floor in her own pee.

Back to your armpits. Do you realize
we could bottle that aroma and make
a fortune? I inhale it and forgive

your many faults. The odor provokes sighs
and tingles, blushes I could never fake.
Ain’t love grand? Elevate those arms. Let’s live!

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

VI

My father’s factory
was on Stirling Street
half way up the Hilltown.
In the fifties, no one was allowed
to drive all the way up that street
without taking a detour
Cars would stall on the steep grade
and roll back into the main road.

Stirling Street was level
but getting there was a challenge
for my young legs.
I thought I’d never make it
lungs in overdrive, legs throbbing.
No matter how many times
I trudged up that road
it felt like forever.

When I grew up and moved
to the States, I hiked
with my husband. We even
went to Colorado where the Rockies
were steeper than the Hilltown
but they felt easier.
My lungs still couldn’t get
enough oxygen, my legs
still seized up, but it wasn’t
the same. My body was
strong enough for the climb
and it didn’t feel like forever
because I chose it.

*
*
Before the Cursive / by Katherine Barrett Swett

For Samuel, who likes to print

We lived in a Golden Age
of letters square
and carefully spaced
by sturdy fingers
no slithering across the page
no racing
to a finish where
no one ever lingers.

*
*

Rebels, 1966 / by Pamela Murray Winters

Andy’s in narrow pegged pants, everyday cloth shirt:
the same uniform my brother-in-law, who never liked
shopping, wore for 20 years. Gerard Malanga looks

like a referee in specialty porn: dark and light stripes
alternating down his back. His hair is gold even in black
and white. They spread the cloth on the floor, ready

for roast chicken and grapes and vinho verde, but next
is a black screen in a frame, lowered. That it is face down
makes us care more. These objects are large enough for

two abreast. They move quickly. Andy’s tortoiseshell
shades have slid down his small nose. Gerard’s hair is
a bright swirl—there must be dark among the light

for such lines—but this is about Andy’s vision:
Gerard is borrowed muscle for the thick bar of wood
they almost fumble as they lay it down, flush to the frame

at one end, and draw it all the way across.
The first patent for a credit card imprinter came
eleven years later. Back and forth, firmly, as they crouch

fore and aft. We barely see objects disappear until
what’s left is the dropcloth and, on it, the rebel Brando.
He ripples as the two men lift, drag, gently spread

his leather-metal beauty to show the camera. You can see
faint lines from the pull of the wood and from the cloth,
a good linen now hanging in a museum in Pittsburgh.

Yards away, by the elevator, the soundless loop
in which the actor/biker is made and remade.

*
*

Day 5 / Poems 5

*

Working the Retriever / by Karen Craigo

This machine we called the Retriever operated on belts. It was always moving, brought metal bins from the sub-basement, a giant room, though I never once saw it, but sent maintenance there ten times a night: a bin offline or upended, gumming up the works, patient charts scattered among the gears. I was a clerk then, six bucks an hour, good money for a summer gig that was mainly easy, if a little dull. When all went well, I stuck lab reports or X-rays in the record, one folder, one bin at a time. I was alone at my machine, plenty of downtime to view platelet counts or photos of kidney stones, or to note the penned-in tumor on the diagram of a breast. But sometimes, a crisis: a patient in the ER, unresponsive on the table, unspecified cause of morbidity. I had to act fast, find the chart with the allergy, the condition, the med that contradicts, and haste meant everything. Once or twice a doctor shadowed my chair, both of us rigid and listening to the old motor strain. But the Retriever kept its own time, and somewhere deep below it made a grab, haphazard, and lurched the data skyward. Finally, there on the conveyer, the bin, its fifty records, among them the one with the answer or with none, filed, one hoped, correctly, all the info laid out with care, anchored in place by a little piece of tape.

*
*

Getting my Hand Stamped at Chuck E Cheese / by Meg Eden

There’s a boy my age on duty, reading Wuthering Heights.
It’s two in the afternoon on a school day. There are no
children here, no children except us: high schoolers
wanting to shrink into a ball in a ball pit.
The lights are less impressive than I remember. The arcade
is smaller, and well-lit. When I was a girl, every room
was dimly lit, and it made you wonder
what might be hiding in the corner, what wall
might not be a wall but an escape route into another universe.
Now, there are no secrets, only uniformly painted walls.
The animatronic stage is curtained off, pop songs
I don’t listen to are playing from the speakers.
I don’t have enough tickets to buy anything except
some tootsie rolls, and my mom isn’t here
to redeem the prize I want. Has this room always been
so small? We get in the photo booth. Two of us
can barely fit inside, the rest of us have to fit
our heads inside, bodies hanging out, tripping
on cords. When I was a girl, I wanted to work
at Chuck E. Cheese. I came here after school
in my uniform, and moms would ask me
to fix the broken machines. Now, I’m broadening
my career choices. I’m thinking about becoming
a poet. That boy is still reading!
He’s leaned over as if he is actually invested
in what happens to Heathcliff, as if he relates
to Heathcliff. I never liked that book much.
Too dark for my taste. But I don’t have to like it.
I knew I was going to get a college degree.
We’re in Glen Burnie right now and some people
have to work at Chuck E Cheese for their whole lives.
This boy reads as if everything is at stake.
This boy reads like he’s going to college.

*
*

Taos Pueblo / by Jen Fitzgerald

3

Wild dogs roam the ditches
and rivets of this village—
take pats and fry bread
from tourists.
Except the one, white bitch
under the make-shift pergola
where the women sell turquoise
and beaded mastery.

She doesn’t let anyone touch her
the woman whispers.
Only my mother can feed her.

What desperation keeps you
from food, what truths
line your coat?
It was the fists and boots
that broke her.

*
Taos Mountain Medicine men
hide in altitude and mist,
warn off tourists with shot guns.

*
Her mother sits, back to the village
center—
peddling wares and tiring,
the smallest initials
hand-carved into silver.

*
*

& Away / by Chad Foret

“Iron is the ultimate nuclear ash.”
James Trefil, Space Atlas: Mapping the Universe and Beyond

The hippest cremation on record? Clyde Tombaugh’s.
He’s fused to the wall of a shuttle in space,
which may turn out to be a pupil,
with only Pluto’s leprous alopecia (also The Massive
Silence) for company, but there are lonelier yet,
& alive, fastened to the inside of a metal
cavern gone slow into the Third Zone that is as black
as the back of an eye. He wins in sadness, but if ash
could be envious, he’d wish to return to bright hurt,
to want, be so wearily in love. He does not know

your gown around the roots is another sky entirely.
Who’s that gazing through the window, his ghost?
If only characters are ever remembered, this quiet
is too illegitimate a stage—every act’s a lifelong

death throe, but filtered through confetti. I am waiting
for the mime on the corner to show her true colors.
Those kids have been poking her all morning.
I’m afraid none of us are ready for the
opposite of silence, something
absolutely alien that
cannot stop

shouting I am always. When the light
or dark comes quickly, you know what I am
going to hold, as rain leaves flags like you know

what.

I don’t know why I want to say
no one leaves Louisiana whole.

*
*

Today / by Flavia Rocha Loures

“What day is it today”, he asks.
To which she responds:
“It’s the day of revolution,
of creativity in motion.
He opens
those big brown eyes,
puzzled and wide,
like the horizon.
She continues:
“It’s a day of possibilities,
but most of all,
it’s just the right day to flirt
with the impossible.”

“You see,
you’ve been planting the seeds
to harvest tomorrow;
building today
to inhabit in the future;
watching
beautiful summers go by,
as you envision, design
such perfect plans,
only to see them come
undone.

The present is
the best of all presents,
the key to everything
in the supremacy of the here
in the heartfelt totality
of the now.”

He kisses her, why wouldn’t he?

Betraying her own words,
however,
she pulls away,
apologizes,
heads home.

****

The wind roars, rain pours
ever so viciously,
as if the skies
had lost their best friend.
“It’s ok”, she tells herself,
“Summer will soon be upon us.”

But when it’s late, it’s much too late.
Time, as it turns out,
has shut
his brown eyes down

sometime
last autumn.

*
*

What We Say When We Say Nothing / by Robert Okaji

The rain has died and everything follows:
black, white – the law’s supposition. Their bodies

glisten only in memory. One says look at me from the steel
table as the scale registers the heart’s

weight. Another cries uncertainty in the most certain
of circumstances — laid open, emptied then closed,

the simple mechanics of ritual and form. Throughout my
dreams a line of dark figures shimmer in the cold

corridor, end-to-end, supine and unmoving, assigning
loss. I have fifty-six years and more questions than

answers. The drought testifies to a wrong. A woman
visits her son. A father weeps. Our silence complies.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

V

I am invited to supper
at a nearby suburban home
with its kidney-shaped pool
concrete patio, outdoor furniture,
pots of flowers, manicured lawn

In the neighbor’s yard
a redwood towers—unpruned,
twisted limbs, leaves responding
to the growing wind

Three or four hundred years ago
its seedling self must have nestled
beside a parent tree, shaded from
sun by a forest community

How long did it take us
to change that community for our own?
Only two redwoods remain—this
and the one at the end of the block

Even if they could seed again
someone would pull
their offspring as weeds

Grown, they are admired
if they keep their place
Only then will humans
express sorrow when they die

*
*

Adagio from Schubert Cello Quintet / by Katherine Barrett Swett

He’s dying and delicate sorrow
is plucked from the cello;
a violin calls back, “vibrate.
You can still vibrate.”

The other three slowly join
like quiet clouds sharpening
figures bleached out by the sun;
and then they all come in.

Invisible birds shout in the heat:
“O heavy air! O lively strain.”
The laundry hangs still,
its shadow straight and narrow.

They call from tree to tree
loudly for the rain; the rain
must be coming from the hill
with its crashing feet.

*
*

Factory Tours / by Pamela Murray Winters

Whereas the china company guide
pronounced it kill, the one at the guitar maker

says kill-in. Either way, it takes fire,
and this reminds me that I still take issue

with my fourth grade teacher, who red-X’d
my sample sentence: The heat was immense.

She said I meant intense; I knew
and know the difference. Shoved down

by sun, choked by the steam of the
locker room, tongue shot with holes

from the pepper seed. Fire and water
render us changed, or more ourselves.

The guy who says kill says Wood
wants to return to its natural state as I marvel

at maple clamped into curves, a song
for the eyes. But it’s near the end

of the luthier tour that finally I hear a hand
stroke strings, and it’s then the tears come.

*
*

Day 4 / Poems 4

*

Shell Money / by Karen Craigo

In many places currency
began as shells. Doesn’t that sound
like the work of a poet,
picking up a shell, lifting it
to declare this glistening thing
is a thing of great worth. Previously
its value was known only
to the snail. Once evicted,
she must have felt it keenly,
its merit. Woolf knew.
All you need is a room
to fit one, and a little stipend,
something to keep you fed,
but the shell is both chamber
and allowance. We poets excel
at declaring the worth
of small things, but I believe
we’ve done a disservice here.
The value of the cowrie starts
and ends in the pleasure of the morning
beachcomber, or in the mollusk
who finds to her delight
she perfectly fits in its walls.

*
*

English Lit Class / by Meg Eden

Ms. Wilson was allergic to dry erase marker dust.
She wore latex gloves when she wrote on the board.
She wore latex gloves whenever she was in our classroom.
She complained about the boards, but wrote on them anyway.
She wore these skirts with slits down the middle that showed her legs
but I was in eighth grade and didn’t want to look at her legs.
Her hair looked like it was perpetually wet. It was crinkled
in those trendy thin waves. Maybe to another girl, she’d look trendy
with her bright striped tops. Maybe to a girl
who had never grown up with dress codes.
Ms. Wilson made us memorize the ending of Beowulf.
She made us memorize part of the Iliad in Greek.
All I remember now is: Maenen aida thea—my something goddess.
I drew all the gods and goddesses for Ms. Wilson once.
I drew them in anime—the only style I knew how to draw in–
she asked me why they all looked like children and laughed.
Ms. Wilson made us read Antigone and Oedipus.
I don’t know why this was called English Lit when we read nothing
that was originally in English. Ms. Wilson didn’t seem bothered
when Oedipus plucked out his own eyes, when he slept
with his own mother. I still have nightmares about it:
a fate that, even when known is inevitable.
I have nightmares where I pluck out my own eyes,
I pluck out a friend’s eyes and eat them
like gumballs: so wet and tough, I have to chew
for a while, like eating squid.

*
*

Taos Pueblo / by Jen Fitzgerald

2

Women from Indiana buy
decorative smudge sticks.
It’s so nice that you don’t
light these—
and catch dreams in hand-hewn
thread hung over beds and forgotten.

All the air is sage and piñon;
you’ll made a mystic of me yet—
you’ll sell me versions of myself
from a Staten Island girl hood
that I beg to forget.

. . . . . . How can I make you envious of my
horse-thief lineage—
of our massive transatlantic migration
as though any of us came here
knowing what we were getting into?

I am not an emissary but I have
things to apologize for.

There is no power to light
your small rooms. There is no
water to wash laminate floors
laid over mud.

But I will give you everything
I have for a moment of solid
ground.

*
*

Memories Befriended: Sleepover & a Following / by Chad Foret

“This is not a poem.
This is not an apology to the Muse.
This is the cold-blooded plea of a homesick vampire
To his brother and friend.
If you do not care one way or another about
The preceding lines,
Please do not go on listening
On any account of mine.
Please leave the poem.
Thank you.”
James Wright, “Many of Our Waters: Variations on a Poem by a Black Child”

To the tallest silence hearts surround,
two shadows exited the storm.
What were we but breathless centuries
as they grew against the glass?
All light serrated in its fatalistic muzak.
But I’d never really had friends
& we circled so close in that room, like
the famous promise losing stock,
that I am in some small way grateful to
malevolence gathering randomly,
whetting songs on this delicate chaos,
lessening miasma, however brutal
the clarity. They sank when thunder
tore my dog from sleep. The grass
snake shaken at the neck (oh, yes,
the mouth where thought & form
divorced), left for me come light
& ragged as a savior’s shoes—
I know when I crack a jewel
& chew its fruit, I return to
the worried & the dead &
a kindness inconceivable
like a life-saving swerve
breaks a red-eared slider’s
only secret. A strange wheel
carries its calamitous sinew. The
beer abandoned on his truck bed
made it all the way to Houma—
you should’ve seen the packs of
strays set aside their differences
in the reddest miracle I’ve ever.

*
*

Rule breaker / by Flavia Rocha Loures

wandering the backstreets of Xiamen
I find myself in wonder once again
astonished at nature’s strange ways
to whisper secrets
and cast spells
and break men’s rules
as the night grows quieter
the darkness deeper…

… just up until that moment when
an explosion invites the light back in

*
*

Scarecrow Sees / by Robert Okaji

Da Vinci maintained that sight relies on the eye’s
central line, yet the threads that hold my
ocular buttons in place weave through four
holes and terminate in a knot. My flying friends
perceive light in a combination of four colors,
unlike the farmer, who blends only three. The
octopus knows black and white but blushes
to escape predators, while I remain fixed,
evading no one. Certainly my sense is more
vision than sight, and not the result of nerve
fibers routing light. Crows choose colors
when asked, but a certain shade of yellow
eludes them. And who would hear, above
the flock’s clamor, my claim to see this world
as it is? Grayscale, monochrome, visual
processing and perceptual lightness measures
mean little to one whose space accumulates
in uncertain increments – what is a foot to an
empty shoe? If I painted, which hues would
prefer my attempts, which would distract or
invade my cellulosic cortex, resulting in
fragmentation or blindness? Fear is not
limited to the sighted alone. I look out over
the field and perceive the harmonious
interaction of soil and root, leaf and sun,
the beauty of atmospheric refraction and
the wonder sprouting daily around me. Then
as one entity the crows explode into the blue,
leaving me alone with the shivering stalks,
questioning my place and purpose, awaiting
the next stray thought, a spark, a lonely
word creeping through this day’s demise.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

IV

‘What does the enemy say?’
my father asked regularly.
He waited for me to run
back and forth to the clock
to tell him what the big
and little hands said.

I never had to ask why
he called the clock an enemy.
We were late again.
Mother tapped her foot
complained that her stomach churned.
I slid into the other room
to avoid my father’s thunder.

I grew up to clock tyranny.
I’d wake at five thirty
alarm still piercing my ears
as my feet hit the floor
and the grind began—

shower and dress in ten minutes
eat breakfast while I pack lunch
set out meat to defrost for dinner
speed to work
hurry to meetings
rush to my son after school
fix dinner in twenty minutes
help with homework
finish chores
collapse into bed at midnight

When my son left home
and my husband died
I was alone, and thought
the tyranny would end
but the clock has given way
to time’s growing pace.
My memory laughs at
those childhood plaints
about why it takes so long
for grownups to get ready.

*
*

Red Fuji / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Sleeping daughter
in the next bed
I woke to red Fuji

Every morning
wakes to my daughter
still dead

You should have woken me
she later said

Summer day Boston
Hokusai exhibit
Fuji blue and red

*
*

Karstic / by Pamela Murray Winters

In the dream, I have a new house coming. The plans are
a hive, a warren. Karstic: pregnant with caves. Staking
territory, it behooves one to look for distance as well
as capacity—and, more to the point, to pass through the fewest
other places to reach home. In the dream, my father’s hands
shake as he holds the blueprint. Alive, he would be 98.
In the house on Maple Avenue, we had Apartment One.
My parents’ bedroom had no door, just a sliding pleated plastic
signal flag. Railroad flat: room after room. Ours was almost
a train, but I got my own space, sanctuary. As my beloved
watches men on TV excavate the lockers of strangers
for treasures, I think I’d live there still, if they let me, at least
till the poem is done. To be an only child, and then marry.
Let this be a lesson. My father shared his childhood bed
with brothers. Here’s one in the dream, Warren, the beloved
next younger, the war dead, but here the one with whom
he studies the page of what this night’s sleep says I will have.
The things my father’s people never had are numerous. When
he died, I went to London, to stay in Hyde Park Mansions;
this turned out to be apartments, where my friends had
tolerably grand quarters in something larger. My house
has many rooms: awake and desperate to write, I have decamped
to the high corner among evergreens, closed the door,
cranked the A/C down past seventy, trying to find that chamber
in myself where the lantern light goes far enough.

*
*

Day 3 / Poems 3

*

Northern Song Coin / by Karen Craigo

It should ache to have
too much. Picture the lord,
bent from the weight of coins
he carried strung on his neck.
I’ve turned one in my hand,
looked through the center,
the square hole an idea of Earth,
spread out like a picnic cloth
within the sphere of heaven.
They would insert a rod
in the making, the edges
of the cast bronze smoothed.
Maybe all our money needs
a window so we can see clearly
the palm that receives it.
Take the man reaching up
from the sidewalk, and the dog
that sits beside him. The dog
knows something about worth,
has been offered a sandwich
by the one who had none.

*
*

Painting of Fuji /by Meg Eden

It’s begun to fall apart now, after all these years:
the snow on Mt. Fuji is cracking,
the bark of the mountain is leaving debris on my desk.
My husband thought it was an arts and crafts project
when I brought it home from my parents’ house:
a gift my grandfather saved for me, knowing how much
you love Japan, my mother said.
She’s held it for me, for my first house.
These sorts of things aren’t her responsibility anymore.
Maybe I can chuck it in a campus dumpster—no,
the ghosts aren’t worth it! Would someone take such a thing?
The forest is made of something once moss-like,
now black, dry and rough. It comes off, the trees
glued to it are broken in half and peeling off
like old stickers. On the ends, the picture trails off
to show the grizzly wood underneath.
What was he thinking, the man who made this piece?
Was this the souvenir trope in the 40s,
was this what every American going abroad bought
for their mantles back home—and how did they frame it?
My grandfather bought this picture. Maybe
he bought it with someone in mind. He spent
his money on this. I let it sit in my office.
It would be wrong to do otherwise.

*
*

Taos Pueblo /by Jen Fitzgerald

1

In your creation myth the blue lake
is god fissuring you into being.
There is dust and walls 5 feet thick—
curved like rib bones and rough
to the touch. In your creation myth
there is a violence, a cracking and
stretching till Rio Grande Gorge
thrusts its cliff sides to the sky
like outstretched arms. In your
creation myth there is reaching—
for a place far from the azure
of your birth. Youth is bold
enough to stare down death.
In our creation myth I am brave
with a memory long as the under-
ground labyrinth filtering rain
through rock and pouring an
endless mineral bath over backs
of new life rising from blue lake.

*
*

Come Let Me Hold Your Crying Close / by Chad Foret

“As the plump squirrel scampers
Across the roof of the corncrib,
The moon suddenly stands up in the darkness,
And I see that it is impossible to die.”
James Wright, “Today I Was Happy, So I Made This Poem”

Candlelight dinner in the junkyard dark.
They are in love, real love, like the body
loves the body, how only scabs can attest.
Some dogs bark a derelict epithalamium, &
they perspire in this fictive of violets. Past &
future squabble in keenly-plated cake crumbs.
This is the gentlest collision: rag, weight, heat,
no narrow vow corroborating regrets. The moon
is ashamed, & by that I mean no shadows dance,
& each kiss slams a door in the face of the secrets
of this universe. She laughs like an old maid amid
asphyxiation. “O, Moon, you negative bruise, you
tagalong light,” they go with gleeful toothlessness.
This is a little peace like a half-broken bird adjusts
in the air. They hoist the sun & the long, slow rust.
“I’d never guess our bodies are the place where all
the dead arrive—this heavenly mauve of Makers
met. What more do we need with crises to fuse?
We are the song that falls to its knees forever.”

*
*

Stars / by Flavia Rocha Loures

Oh my, I miss the stars
such heavy clouds
grey polluted skies
taint my heart
burn my eyes

Oh I yearn for the stars
all these city lights
have blinded me
the world’s out there
I cannot see

Oh my, I need the stars
seek out the moon
through outer space
flown into infinite’s
deep embrace

Oh I, I feed off stars
nourished by suns
with planets I twirl
in cosmic moves like
a little girl

*
*

Calvin Coolidge — Live or Memorex? / by Robert Okaji

(The title was sponsored by Ron Evans. For a $10 donation to Tupelo Press, sponsors can offer a title, and I’ll write the poem to accompany it.)

They say the wind in Alvarado bypasses closed doors, slips through
book-laden walls and plate glass and into your dreams where it circles
and accumulates, whirling, whirling, steadily gaining force, gathering
loose pages and errant thoughts and memories too combustible to
burn, ignoring time’s compression and the gravity of dying suns, forever
counting, talking, thinking, looking up and out between the long nights.

unable to sleep . . . . . . he opens a window . . . . . . daring the wind

The 30th President of the United States breathes and writes at the junction
of an invisible house and a wheat field in Alvarado, in the guise of a
74-year old haiku poet. No longer the solemn ass, Cal laughs and speaks
and observes his two birthdays, recalling Harding’s scandals and Dorothy
Parker’s “How can they tell?” with equal relish. Sometimes he dresses
in tails and top hat, and speaks in 17-syllable phrases. Sometimes.

spitting out sake . . . . . . in the shadow’s glare . . . . . . death forestalled

Alvarado’s laureate is leaving it all behind – the presidency, the books,
the kolaches – catching the next breeze out of town, a silver-tongued
dust devil riding the word, spewing puns all the way to Arizona. But
buried in a waterproof box near Oswald’s grave, 314 cassette tapes
capable of shattering crystal carry his voice further than their unwound
lengths, whirring incessantly, celebrating life, praising the long wind.

standing in the sun . . . . . . wisdom blows by . . . . . . no questions today

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

III

You might want to come now
medical euphemism for ‘the end is near’.
I arrive at the hospital to find
Mother has gone into Cheyne-Stokes.

breath in
breath out
thirty second pause

a rest so long that I wonder
if she’s already gone, but she gasps
and the cycle repeats.

breath in
breath out
a minute

until she takes another breath.
I sing to her. ‘ I saw three ships come sailing in
on Christmas day in the morning.’
I look in her eyes. Can she hear?

breath in
breath out
forty-five seconds

I hold her cold hand, feel her icy feet
She’s dying from the outside in
her face white, her body
unable to move

breath in
breath out
a minute and a half

Her head jerks back on the pillow
her legs judder to full length

breath in
breath out

‘Pray, wither sailed those ships all three
on Christmas day in the morning.’

*
*

Stuff / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Why do I have four typewriters reserved
against calamities that I’ll outlive
and have to write about? I’m pretty sure
that I’ll be dead, but they will still survive

with no one left to write. I’m pretty sure
My dinky plastic sharpeners once shaved
pencils long lost. I’m absolutely sure
I’ve stuff I long to toss that I once craved.

The worst part of the object fallacy:
to try preserving you in things you’ve left.
If I had none of it, none of the pelf,
–old word good only for a rhyme, bereft
of quickening sense or easy intimacy—
would I remember better you yourself?

*
*

Nose Job / by Pamela Murray Winters

Rauschenberg and Johns considered him “swish.”
People remade themselves back then, but more subtly.
Andy began wearing the platinum shock coiffure

in his 20s, to surprise people with his youth. Andy
excised a single letter, a whole syllable, a slice of Byzantine.
And rhinoplasty, round to sharp: an extravagance, or

his first use of an aesthetic assistant? His earliest
controversy: rejection from a swank juried show
for his painting of a goonish child, finger in nostril,

called The Lord Gave Me My Face, But I Can Pick
My Own Nose. Rauschenberg and Johns made their moves
in secret. Andy Warhol’s commercial work paid the rent

and the surgeon. In bed alone at 20, what faces
did Andy dream of making? Was his sleep troubled
by narrow breath, the cirri and nimbi in his head?

*
*

Day 2 / Poems 2

*

May I Take Your / by Karen Craigo

When the Klan came,
the diner was packed,
customers sunburned
and famished, all of us
trying to be nice.

Big rally that day,
and I’d carried a sign: Hate
not welcome here. Cops
kept a lawn between us.

I flashed what I’d drawn
on my order pad: swastika
X’d out in red. Everything else,
I did it the same, built salads
the way I’d want them, refilled
drinks, brought food
hot and on time.

Tips were good that night
and I used them. Fin
of a grand wizard or five
from a farmer will buy
the same dozen eggs,
and both give you back
a little change.

*
*

Crofton Elegy / by Meg Eden

Route three had a gas station and some farms.
One of those farms was the Cheney’s.
My dad saved some of the beams, as many as he
could fit in the back of his truck.

There was that old antique store on the corner,
which had been closed for years, and every time
we drove by I’d look in the windows, trying
to see what was inside. I could see things stacked

up against the windows: chair legs, tables
(was that a doll in the back?). Above, rooms
we assumed were living quarters. Now it’s a Wawa’s.
There are two McDonald’s on this road now.

I remember when going to church, all that went past
the trailers: fields. I remember the trailers
along the road, one with a pink doll in the window.
it looked like something from Ah! Real Monsters, or maybe a Clefairy,

some pink blob of a creature. There were old Sears homes
lined up, with dogs chained in the front. One person
had a pet goat. Now, those houses are torn down
for high class townhouses. I have to think

to try to remember what things looked like. I don’t think
anyone took photos of those sorts of things, but I remember.

*
*

Barefoot, Red Rock, Solo / by Jen Fitzgerald

Altitude like ache and rushing blood
as to the temple or through the gorge.
To rise is not to ascend. But descent
is plummet, is a place the mind drags
the body through, over rocks worn
round by water, under skies pulling
lengths of cloud to the horizon.
I walked through many passageways,
melded entry and exit in infinite
succession, in return pristine state—
attempted. Believed there were
states to return to, believed there
was a version of myself worth saving.

*
*

4th With Wife & Gulf / by Chad Foret

“Why, look here, one night
When I was drunk,
A bulk tree got in my way.
[. . .]
You may not believe this, but
It turned into a slender woman.
Stop nagging me. I know
What I just said.
It turned into a slender woman.
James Wright, “Blue Teal’s Mother”

I. Fishing by Moonlight

Sunset crazed at the end of the island: an iris seduced epileptically up,
glare in the sweat of a fieldworker’s back, or diamonds
cascading from some assassinated hand.

I haven’t caught a fish all weekend, so I
suppose I drowned a bunch of living things
to no true end, like charring an orchard to roast

a newt, the Gulf a strange altar where the sacrifice resides.
Aloha light—fireworks display, the delicate aggression
& orchestrated massacre of blackness—distraction.

Surf-fishing is the opposite of swordplay,
blade of the moon a sustained disassembly,
tunas beached in traces, tiger shark-serrated,

sclera billowing red like thunderclouds of gore.
The ghosts of crabs tear sand like coins.

“This lure will ruin well,” swore Local.
His kindness helped me shred
the cheek of a hardhead cat, chain
its hunger to ascension.

Sheepshead frenzied by barnacle chum,
or sunburned children sucking hookahs?
Rastafarian says his Word was here first.

You bait a shrimp to the rhythm of its natural shape,
or through the cloud in its mind as its mandibles stiffen,
& a rusted vessel’s bones sink like some neglected s’more.

This is near where my parrain first taught me to fish,
to eradicate the shame of the bait completely, &
now I can’t look at a knot without weeping.
I went over water where Katrina took the camp.
Somebody else had built there. James is still
sitting atop that pier’s destruction, body
aloft, legs underneath, enlightened.

Waterbugs spread on the slime-covered wood—
wait. I’m mistaken. That’s the essence of shadow.

II. Fishing in Moonlight

Like a Japanese businessman loosens his tie
in Aokigahara when finances’ sour
(too damn deep a green),

the menhaden sway into seine & shag,
the opposite of oyasute.

Maybe trout, in a rage, rip moronic
imitations we have doodled into plastic

like we might a funeral caricaturist.

I thought the crabs in the bucket
were pork rinds frying.
Coonass gossip on a busted truck-
bed, Cajun skin sunned
so red it seems infected, inside out.
They Toodeloo! & bow.
The pogies stare up, uselessly small.

The fisherman’s crosseyed patience,
the way the irises kiss, has alone led
some women to suffer his manhood.

The sword is our loveliest violence,
a severance coalescent its lexicon.
Wines overloaded with arsenic
coming in with the tide like
immolated rolling pins.

“We’re so alone when we drown, & noisy!
Our waters would boil if burdened with humor.
In this, our reddest moment: deducible brilliance.”
(The beachcomber’s wisdom topples with bourbon.)

The seasonal explosions illuminate her loveliness,
the long, dark grin of the shore growing shallow,
the waves like a woman’s bangs rising as she falls,
& the crabs less transparent than her tailbone hair.

Orange bikers swollenly neck above Olde English,
a tattoo of a needle in the eye of a camel.
Light’s departing splendidly,
dead Americans,
no

need to rise, which is to say
we’re magically gone,
a disintegration
of glories,
but

my how my wife
just stands in the surf,
a romance of excrements.
She is the Sun’s next excuse.

*
*

Fenix / by Flavia Rocha Loures

I take a deep breath
inhale every last bit of hope
my lungs can store

I borrow blue from the skies
green from the oceans and
color over countless red stains

in you
I pull an invisible chord and
fashion a smile
pull your hair up
for there’s much work to do

sweat and tears will nourish the land
a runoff of new beginnings
bound to replenish aquifers
reconnect wetlands and streams
and lost souls

strive to rebuild we shall
that which our forbearers
had destroyed

***
In the aftermath of a tragedy
hope is all that remains,
like the ashes of the Fenix.

*
*

Stuck / by Robert Okaji

(The title was sponsored by Curtis Bausse. For a $10 donation, sponsors offer a title, and I’ll write the poem to it.)

As in yesterday’s light
pressed in a wildflower,

or its silhouette
embroidered in cotton

and mired in a basket
of discarded handkerchiefs

in a small town’s
second best junk shop.

Three days ago an oak’s
shattered branch pierced

my leather glove
and entered my left palm

painlessly, until I noticed
blood trickling down my

upraised arm, which
invoked the word stigma,

a mark of shame or scar
of carelessness borne of

a pointed instrument. Driving
to the next job and the one

after that and the next, I note
that the clouds pulse in time

with my throbbing hand,
that the cloth binding the wound

has fused with the blood and
scab, and that all my days

reconvene in a descending
spiral, slowly, ever

slower, heavy and dense,
but I drive on,

sweating the last gallon
of gas to squeeze the old Ford

towards one more job, one last
stop before we sputter in the mud,

unable, as always, to remove
myself before it’s too late.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

II

“It’s too nice to be indoors.”
Mother makes me put down
my book and go outside.

I bang on Christine’s door
but she’s been naughty
and can’t come out to play.

I try my friend Valerie
but she has to go to the dentist.
I go home and sit on the stoop.

Elbows on knees, chin in hands
I stare at an earwig crawling up
the stem of a seeding poppy.

It crawls into the seed bur
and disappears. What is it doing
in there?

Mother has gone to
the back yard to hang clothes
on the line. I sneak

into the house to look at the time.
It’s only been fifteen minutes.
Will it never be tea time?

*
*

Song / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Can you wait
for Queen Anne’s lace,
Black-eyed Susan,
her orange face,
the meadow higher
than your knees,
heron fishing,
skunky breeze?

Can you wait
till autumn comes,
the pears are ripe,
chrysanthemums,
tomatoes hanging
from the vines,
jeans and sweaters
on the line?

If you must,
can you wait
till winter leaves,
the snowdrops fall
to peonies?
Can you wait
another year
and never
disappear?

*
*

PMW2

*
*

Day 1 / Poems 1

*

What Change Is / by Karen Craigo

You offer a dollar
and get back chimes—
that’s what change is.

Didn’t you say
you wanted it—your life
a little static, job prospects
poor, and you feel poor, too,
what you get, gone
before you touch it.

Sometimes you walk
from room to room belled.
The silver in your pockets
betrays you.

But here is a poem
in praise of what’s left
and all the hands it has known:
beggar, banker, tooth fairy,
and a child at a counter, waiting
to be seen, as the coins go
warm in her palm.

*
*

My Father Shows Me Where to Get the Best Dirt. / by Meg Eden

He brings me out to the woods, where some old logs
have decayed, half in the ground, their bodies
like surrealist art sculptures.
My father reaches down and cups the dirt
in his palm: black
with the half-body of a worm
wringling between his fingers.
Chocolate for plants.
I get up close to sniff it:
this is the place I was born in.
this is the smell of the place I was born in.
LIke a seed, I was planted
in my father’s woods.
My father explains that this is the best potting soil you’ll find
that people pay big bucks for this stuff.
I take that to heart.
Every time I have something that needs planting,
I go into the woods to get the dirt. In the process,
I gain a colony of some new bug species.
All the while, my mother goes to the store
and buys bags of Miracle Grow.
I asked her once, why she bought
what we already have. She said
the bags were small and easy to carry.
I’ve learned to not ask. My father
has learned not to ask. My mother
buys plants that die because she forgets to water them.

*
*

Our Lady / by Jen Fitzgerald

They dress her in blue to bring the rain—
. . . . . . say she is central,
. . . . . . say Christ is in a casket on the side of St. Jerome’s—
. . . . . . been there since the Spanish dropped him off in 1500.

They stand her between idols—
. . . . . . say she is ancient,
. . . . . . change her gown to orange
. . . . . . for the harvest
. . . . . . and fix her gaze over hand-hewn pews.

They have no need for the forgiving god on conquest—
. . . . . . know that time roots
. . . . . . as corn stalks stretching wiry toes out
. . . . . . for the promised baptism.

*
*

Diagnosticisms / by Chad Foret

“My head’s burning off and I got a heart about to bust out of my ribs.”
. . . . Barry Hannah, “Love Too Long”

“Have we arrived at dark restoration,
the lack that creeps from rage to rage?”
The doctors set down stethoscopes,
morbidly nod at shadow’s inception.

“Blossom inversion’s the likely conclusion.
What’s life but lust’s depreciation?

(Our bedside manner’s darkly regarded.)”
“Your dirge may err on unbearably loud,
like a dumptruck reversing for seasons.”

“Then why’s my heart around old music? Warmth

is our holiest war. Everything’s aglow.
Suddenly, this sorrow is too stupendous,
Grand Isle’s blue mornings seem perfectly

suitable pyres—a failure of light
so softly becoming success.”

“Here’s a stack of mourning pamphlets—”
“I sense laughter’s wonderfully limited
omniscience, that deeply tempered cope, &

the eyes of forgiveness opening gently.
In a ramshackle park at the end

of LA, I swung high above the bar.
I fell on my guts, lost all my air.
I remember that limitlessness.
*

I once pissed myself while walking back by,
but falling’s just a gentler immortality.
I was the antithesis of disease.
Gentlemen, I weirdly long to see
the windows red with all my hours,
refineries needling an evening sky,
so kindly cram these copays up
the body’s oldest comedy.”

*
*

To be a godmother / by Flavia Rocha Loures

… and to be away
leaving the most colorful chunk
of one’s aching heart behind

just how fast
does he grow, this munchkin
yet our lives remain entwined

Lucas “hurricane”
my nephew, more like the son
I’ve been otherwise denied

wit, compassion
online, such delicious laughter
till I can be by your side

*
*

Scarecrow Remembers / by Robert Okaji

I recall nothing before my eyes captured
the horizon and the looped whorl of night’s
afterglow, the first crow-plumes
crossing from left to right, awakened to
everything but my history and what
preceded the morning. By midday
I had mastered the secret language of
corvids and learned to interpret the wind’s
folly. When the sun eased below the hills,
I divined the angle of declination and tilted
my head to true north, thinking this is my
calling, to point the way. But how few
of us bottle our life’s cause to sip as
needed. Later my dark friends whispered
the truth, and we laughed among the
rustling stalks as I pointed the way
not to the Alhambra or even Wichita,
but to the choicest kernels. Placed here
for one purpose, another claimed me.
I am the future without past, the present
decaying, tomorrow’s joke, impermanent
and shadowed. I am anomaly, risen.

*
*

Perception of Time / by Aline Soules

This is what I hope will be one of a series of poems on “the perception of time.” I write this as the first poem of a group of 30 to be written in August, 2015 as part of the 30/30 project. I have just given this a “number” at this point, although the numbers may change as I revise and see what I create over the month. — Aline

I

We’re going to take a train
to the seaside at Carnoustie.
My friend Christine and I
run outside with our pails
banging our spades on the sides.

Sun sparkles beckon.
We jump up and down, run back
in the house to stare at the clock.
It’s moved three minutes
since the last time we looked.

We have our swimming suits,
our pails, our spades. Our mothers’ bags
are filled with towels, a rug to sit on,
a thermos and a chittery bite
for after we swim.

What else do we need?
The train might leave without us.
Let’s go!

*
*

The First Time I Smoked in 30 Years / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Walking home with my son,
twenty-one, a smoker,
I had, of course, begun
the day by nagging him to stop,
but then we’d had some wine
at dinner with my mother
whose Parliaments I used to steal—
the tripartite filter
imprinted on the tongue’s tip.
Every brand had a special feel.
My husband smoked camels;
you had to spit the tobacco out,
or pick it off your lip
I tell my son none of this lore,
and he hands me a Marlboro.
They cost a dollar each now.
The wine, the hot June night,
the sidewalk underfoot, it tastes great.
I feel twenty. I could be
walking home with his father
1981
Instead I’m with my son,
smoking my only cigarette
since 1982.

Now he’s twenty-two,
and he’s quit; I didn’t start again.
It was enough
to crush the years.
It was good; it was enough.

*
*

Sickbed Silver Factory, 1937 / by Pamela Murray Winters

The boy jerked, the boy ticced, exhibited
the grasping hand known as the milk sign.
They called it St. Vitus Dance. Julia

came home from prayer, hands bearing
faint scent of wax and the funny papers.
Andy loved the picture shows and pictures.

Andy, accursed, outcast at only nine,
wrote to cowboys and divas and army men.
Here’s a photo, colored up like a corpse:

To Andy Worhola From Shirley Temple.
The curls outshone by the alopecia of rouge.
This maquillage was Hollywood’s, not Andy’s.

Not yet. Movement, color, motherlove his tonics.
He was an artist already, already singular.
God and the holy mother knew this boy.

What do they do, these mothers of the strange?
Some children go lost. Some, dumped at the curb.
Some rename themselves, are smudged, are erased.

Sometimes one is given the keys, unlatches
everything, hurtles through doors into springtime.
One mother stands in a patterned room,

watching the thin curtains blow in, blow out.
One boy turns back, grabs her hand, maybe
slows a hairsbreadth, hopes she’ll run with him.

*
*

*

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