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 February 2016 are Diana Adams, J. Peter Bergman, ava m. hu, Matthew Landrum, Joan Leotta, Clyde Long, Mary Anne Morefield, Nancy L. Meyer, and Randall Smith. Read their full bios by clicking here.
Please follow their work (by clicking “Follow” on the bottom of the page), and feel free to acknowledge their generosity and creativity with a show of your admiration and support by donating on their behalf to Tupelo Press. (Click here to donate, scroll down to the form at the bottom, and and choose their name from the 30/30 dropdown menu.) Just imagine what a challenge it is to write 30 new poems in 30 days!
If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your offer, a brief bio, and three sample poems and warm up your pen!
Day 7 / Poems 7
Who Does She Talk To? / by Diana Adams
A man outside is asleep
under a tree
the crack in the window pane
is upsetting her
she is economical
even her name is plain, Ann
his name is Itsuki
ocean in Japanese
when will wake up?
she almost drowned him
in the backyard pond
she talks to herself
trying to turn it another way
so it becomes a day
without a pond
rock at the window
Internally Netting / by J. Peter Bergman
. . . . Before the internet there were no interruptions.
I could think aloud, work in a crowd,
write what I felt about things that I felt,
explore to the essence of concepts with constricts
discovering all that was hidden within.
. . . . Or finding as much as I could without messages.
No one would pop up, say “hi”, or “what’s up?”,
insist upon chatting when I needed time alone,
feed me their wants when I wanted to know my own,
pounding the pavements within my own soul.
. . . . Though “you have mail” doesn’t mean I must open it,
I would think “oh, God, it might be important,
be something, or someone,” or “somehow I’m changing,”
be somewhat involving, insisting, arranging
the hours ahead of me not as I wanted them.
. . . . Before the internet I still made decisions.
I did what I did, when I wanted to do things.
I listened to chatter my brain was creating
no matter how crazy my thoughts seemed to be then
they still were my own, and not somebody elses.
. . . . Internally fishing, and netting my own words.
No one internetted with fierce and defiant thoughts
caught in my mind, crying out self-reliantly,
facing the world’s pages open, outrageous,
without interference from electronic sources.
Infidel / by ava m. hu
inside a flute.
as emerald as
of her hand
Haiku Seven: Essential Poem Seven
Even her own red
mantra is secret, a red
bird crossing the night.
These City Walls / by Matthew Landrum
We stood atop the castle walls, the four of us, watching the lights
of the ferry as it cut a slow path through the purple midsummer sea
past Aegna toward Tallinn Harbor. The old city spread out beneath us,
church spires pricking the subarctic sky, cafes set atop battlements.
serpentine streets feeding back on themselves. Carlotta said the difference
between God in Catalan or Castellano is like the difference
between Teutonic and gin and tonic and asked if we believed.
I said I did and Fredrik told us about Uppsala and people he had known
who’d grown up under the thumb of dogma. We listened for a while
to a group of girls playing the acoustic guitar and singing
in Estonian, passing a joint between them. It felt like home,
our first and final night in this fortress by the sea. The cathedral steeple
was topped by a cross with a crescent moon set into its base. Carlotta said
she was Catholic but didn’t believe in God. It was past midnight
and we had to catch a bus to Riga in the morning. We walked
back to the hostel along streets that wound like arguments of doctrine,
circling back to the same center. We said goodnight and walked in rain
to separate sleeps beneath massy walls built to withstand winters and sieges.
Forever rain / by Joan Leotta
I woke up this morning to the
Sound of sleet and rain.
All day rain.
My stomach was
A ball of pain
That kept me abed
Away from my computer
My husband is making
The chili I will not
Are all that I can handle
Is it the weather,
Is it a cold, mild flu?
Is it the bad dream
I had last night.
I just want to
Feel better again
Look out and see sunshine.
Sleep’s dealt hand / by Clyde Long
Adrift in currents of a dream,
I am a floating traveler
–who forges forward step by step,
leash taut with canine force,
driving paws and wolfish will,
proceeding ahead intently
–who wars in mind’s battlefields,
both the hero and the villain,
every volley killing just one as
the other lives to fight again
–who drives into blackest night
not greeting the dawn, escaping
from, not to, speeding in overdrive,
radio off the air, seeking time to think
–who is alone, so alone, in a midst,
yet companioned in solitude with
silence echoing and mind unwinding
spools of spun swirling thoughts
–who is a fawn in his bower,
flanks speckled, surely a goner
if found by man or beast, hidden
by brush and momma doe’s fear
Love Sonnet or Why I didn’t Get My Mail / by Mary Anne Morefield
Beyond the garden wall, a rustling in the jojoba.
With a click I slammed the gate, retreated,
stared at two pairs of eyes, four pointed ears,
ran through a list of desert possibilities,
remembering the mountain lion devouring
a rabbit on my neighbor’s patio, how she
slid open her door, banged cooking pots
with a metal spoon to try to save the rabbit.
Two bobcats ran from the bush hissing
and growling. Were they planning to attack?
They ignored me to bump, chase, pounce
and retreat, an ancient bobcat mating ritual.
I thought it wise not to disturb them.
That big cat was going to have his way.
By Here, By Now / by Randall Smith
On the Seventh Day,
God said, Let there be Reflection and Rest,
and it was So.
Which was good because even
the car dealer-
ships in Eden had to close. Bob Banks
paused the Immaculate
Toyotathon and Buy-Back Bonanza
for a moment of silent repose. Henry
the Model-T Money Line, then unplugged
his 60-Foot Air Dancer
in Red, a Mesopotamian marvel and the tallest
being in the known
world neither living nor dead.
Everything and Everyone stopped, except
the Poets, who, frankly,
disobeyed. They called a Secret Meeting
by the Prime Sweet
Gum Tree where the first Deer was just
being born. They scribed
copious graphite notes while legs, shoulders,
and head dropped
to the Five- and Six-Pointed Paradisal
No matter the wobbly, wondering
steps—leave it to Poets
to get around, refusing to settle for a Blue Book
Trade-In and wary
of every Promise that says Stop Here! Stop
Your Eyes, and Take the Zero-Down.
—for my 30/30 friends, past, present, and future
Please scroll past comments form to read previous days’ poems.
Day 6 / Poems 6
Curiosities / by Diana Adams
Take your time says the man
in the meat department
& it feels like a vacation
he knows it’s all about to go down
the rising sun is sinking
still there’s a shine to pursue
& a whole republic of other things
the crate of pears I ordered
books that arrive everyday
for you, the limitless desert
you call shopping
my daughter says a man
who looks like cat
won’t allow her to wake
so he can live in her dreams
that will do for now
Habitats / by J. Peter Bergman
When I was a young woman I was feckless,
(unable to assume responsibility) and also the same word
with a “u” – but I was lovely, funny, a delight to know,
remarkably popular and never without a date.
The perfect mate for a man who was competent,
capable, so presuming and presentable that even
my father found him worthy of my attention;
not to mention he had money. He was my honey.
Yet before that I was a collie, with luxuriant fur and
a long, slender snout and fluffy, floppy ears that
brought tears to the eyes of all who watched me
frolic. I lived with an alcoholic who never appreciated
this dog muster, this constant companion and watcher,
this fog-buster who got him up in the mornings, made
him eat and dry-out and heat up for a day of work
he’d otherwise shirk and, oh, not feed me. He was so needy.
One step back in time I was a pebble on a granite
surface, who never had to worry about anything at all,
except perhaps being underfoot, unleashing the accident that
caused a man to fall and break his back and in that fall
create a havoc that panicked a boulder that rolled into
bolder defecation of stones that forced a landslide which ended a
town in the valley below except for one man
who heard the span of shockwaves calling. He was enthralling.
The time I was the man I stood my place in nature,
au naturel, and with no shell or subterfuge reported on the
swell of my own manhood which delighted me – it was the oddest
thing I knew. It made no sense that seeing one whose breasts were
larger than my own could make me prone to movement in
my lower parts. They tell me hearts are often broken when a man
discovers that he can’t control the way his body just reacts and this
impacts the way he fights for what he’s never owned. He was unthroned.
Now I’ve advanced again and find myself to be a simple molecule
that thinks about the ways it might expand into a more complex
and sexless thing that only has to split to be complete. I am effete.
Channel / by ava m. hu
From whose lips
interior of soil,
a broad strait
to water, seeds
the smell of you
flowers like bolts
is this the sound
of god? Are we
in the deafness
of outer space?
I can see where
they light fires
on the river,
for the dead,
I can see where
we were together
before we were apart,
the tigers of days
pass between us,
as if you were
a looking glass,
a ritual object
used to access
of the other-world,
the same as
my mirror reflection,
Haiku Six: Essential Poem Six
the god inside you
as if you were looking
glass, as if I were you
The Baltic Line / by Matthew Landrum
for Fredrik Ek Sotka
A thousand islands fall away, as our ferry, The Baltic Princess,
makes headway through the archipelago. Larger ones have villages,
harbors snug below headlands, clustered homes, shops, and watertowers.
There are islets too with single summerhomes set on lime beaches.
So easy to imagine the lives we might have there — tan flesh, hair dripping
after morning swims, amber hunting in the shingle, wine and novels in the sun,
the boundless blue on blue of the skywater Baltic summer. But the boat sails on
toward Åland and Finland with a thousand more islands and unrequited lives.
Three hours into the eleven hour trip to Turku and we’re settling in
for the haul. You’re reading a book on linguistics for school and I’m shuffling
through hands of solitaire, sitting cross-legged on the chipped green paint
of the Baltic Princess’s sundeck. I deal in descending stacks, single draw,
and lose and lose as you study glide insertions and diphthongization, vowel shifts
that radiate out from the Indo-European homeland in predictable ways.
And this is friendship: to be alone next to each other, comfortable in the silence
of the other’s being, a deck of known values reshuffled into endless combinations.
We watch her land on the railing as the Baltic Princess clears the outer skerries
of Åland then flutter to the sole and huddle beneath our bench. We coax her out
with a few crumbs of ginger cookie and pour water into a bottlecap.
You lift her in your hands, tiny stowaway, last passenger from the final port of call.
Her warm body weighs less than a letter. There are fifty miles of open water ahead.
It’s the first time in my life I haven’t been able to see land. The bird sits still
in the hollow of your hand. When the ship reaches the outer islands of the Saaristomeri
she wings away into this new country with its incomprehensible language.
Cold / by Joan Leotta
Cold hands warm hearts.
When snow gilds
lawns and trees
that glitters in the sun
it’s easy to forget
this chill simply gilds
with transitory beauty.
Thrust your ungloved hand
into a snow bank.
Remember those whose
lives are scarred by cold
of winter without heat
of winter without food
of winter in bombed out towns
or planned escapes in groups of fifty
in boats that lack
room for five
to lands that do not want them.
Cold, so cold.
When you feel searing pain,
remove your hand.
Place it on your heart.
As the beating of your heart
under sweater and coat
warms your hand
let your warm heart
reach out to those others. Then,
reach out a warmed hand
to those whose lives
are cold with lack of
Food, shelter, safety–
whose hope is frozen
when others’ hearts are cold.
Adjusting to change / by Clyde Long
What is your earliest childhood memory?
Well, I remember Figgy, my imaginary friend,
and my cowboy outfit with two six-shooters, and
strands of rubber bands my babysitter made.
Remember anything painful?
Well, there were ear aches all the time. Oh —
and the baby chickens, the baby chickens for sure.
I remember our basement and the steep stairs
leading down. There was a coal-burning furnace
and a chute where the coal was delivered.
Weak light leaked in from a window well
above a laundry sink next to the furnace.
Between the furnace and the sink was a
trash can for dryer lint and, well, trash.
It was just after Easter, I was three.
Mom asked me, where are your baby chicks?
I recall the lead pipe from under the sink,
and the downy yellow feather balls, warm
in my hand, fitting through the opening
of the empty Tide box.
Mom found the chicks in the trash and freaked out.
I said, oh, those ole baby chickens will be alright.
Our old time pediatrician gave meager comfort,
“At least he didn’t do it to his new little brother.”
A Withering of Muscle / by Nancy L. Meyer
We strew our animosities
in fistfuls, like fertilizer
flicking greenish swerves left
and right. Word by word
each syllable a propeller
Where is the berry pie,
cream to cut the acidity?
Tongues check the corners
no sweet quiet, no
withering of muscle.
Parched clay in a court-
yard, sun scrubs anything
From some untended gutter,
from a forgotten cranny
seepage through a crack
in the adobe
we each decipher
as we will. And our
settle like puddles
in the troughs
of our mouths.
In the Pompeii of the Syrian Desert / by Mary Anne Morefield
Is This the Oldest Image of the Virgin Mary?
New York Times, January 31, 2016
In the Pompeii of the Syrian Desert
not covered with ash but buried by Romans
when the Sasanian army was invading
In a house church uncovered centuries later
a wall fragment with a faded image
a veiled woman bending toward a well
In a museum the fragment identified as
an encounter between Christ and a Samaritan
woman, but something seems wrong.
Jesus is missing. The women is alone
turning to listen to someone unknown.
Could this be an image of the Annunciation,
the oldest image of the Virgin Mary
as described in the Protevangelium of James:
she took the pitcher and went forth
to draw water and behold a voice said, Hail…?
No lovely young woman. No winged angel
beloved of Renaissance painters
just a woman interrupted as she draws
water from a well to drink, cook a meal
and afterwards wash the dishes.
Canonical or non- canonical?
Mary in the house church baptistery
of third century Syrian Christians?
And as a scholar brings this to light the site
of Dura-Europa high above the Euphrates
is being looted by ISIS. Syrian Christians flee.
Madonna With, and Without, Child / by Randall Smith
I met my wife when her 5-year-old son
was dying from cancer.
Single mom, divorce, death, etc., etc.—
you get the drill.
The long March night Jonathan died,
she cradled him
in the hospital bed while a mutual
“The Lord’s Prayer” a cappella,
while the sun
thought about rising again, while she
in Jonathan’s ear, You’ll see
Jesus. And I’ll be
there—I’ll be there, soon. How
can I ever
put in words that I fell in love
with this woman
while she stood by her son’s cross
and then washed
his body with a fresh cloth in something
that had just
begun to resemble morning
and a new,
strange day of unfamiliar
—for all who have lost a child
—and, somehow, found a way to live
Day 5 / Poems 5
The Librarian / by Diana Adams
You can see the missionary
through the downpour
it’s missing a few turrets
I gave it a trim, took off too much
wanted it to look nice
for our brunch
In other news, the lifespan
of librarians has been extended
I get four more years
by the way you’ll have to pay today
I forgot my wallet
during a melancholic attack
I’ve done worse things
I tied the village idiot up
to the northeast building
look he’s still there
Budapest That Night / by J. Peter Bergman
IV. Condensation / by ava m. hu
love is elusive.
you for me.
Haiku Five: Essentials of Poem Five: Condensation
Substitute love for
air, you for me, gunpowder
breath, your hands sparrow
Lakenvelder / by Matthew Landrum
for Ram Pratti
From the first hesitant crows of the broilers,
we realized half the unsexed chicks we’d mail-ordered
were roosters. With unclipped wings they could flap
high enough that the run couldn’t keep them;
they roamed the yard, pecking at tomatoes and beet greens.
We’d chase them away from the kennel, where one got mauled
when it hopped the fence while the dogs were out,
and gather them in from their perches in the lilac bushes
and peach tree each evening. Their stranglecries woke us
in the night. At six months, it was time to cull.
They’d become aggressive, pecking the hens,
attacking Dominique as she kneeled to pick runner beans
in the garden. We nailed a cardboard cone to a tree
and selected five roosters, one for each of us.
I had the first and set him upside down in the cone.
He was calm. I could feel the swallow
and gurgle of his throat as I stretched his neck
to the blade. The spurt of the jugular surprised me,
how long he blinked, the way he jumped, headless,
out of the scald pot and landed on his feet in the grass.
Lakenvelders are nicknamed shadow on a sheet
for black heads and sickle feathers on pure white bodies.
I cropped him and pulled out the viscera
and didn’t know what to feel. My first kill––
a handful of white feathers, a bucket of offal,
blood on a sheet, a shadow passing.
When the book club meets / by Joan Leotta
When the book club meets
I have to clear my house
Of writer’s clutter
Bits of note
With ideas are stuck into a notebook
I hope I can find them again
My stories trake a backseat
To the book on topic for today
The wright Brothers
How high did they fliy?
Leonardo where are you.
Two in our group have flown
Across the River Styx.
Another is absent
Having flown north for surgery today
We will talk
About the book
Its style, its fine points.
Did you know their sistger played
Such a large role in their success?
Do you like this as well as MCCullough’s other books?
We are readers,
Escaping into fiction and nonfiction each day for a short time
Yet as members of the book club
We talk of these flights of fantasy or
Fantastic works of reality
But no matter the cahtter
We cannot escape the
Reality of our own lives
All good books
Will come to an end.
Coyote deliverance / by Clyde Long
Our dens have been barren, no rain. Seaside mists are not
enough, cover is gone for voles and mice, no food for pups. Our
numbers shrink, we retreat still hunted by ranchers as we yip
and keen under kohl-blue constellations singing our night music,
sad tales of woe.
Now the air sings of rain, exciting the soil and quickening seeds
long dormant. Roots burrow into the earth quenching their
thirst, leaves sprout, new seeds form inviting the voles
and mice. They come and so do we, for them. Our dens will fill
with life once more.
silver showers –
vernal earth embraces
predator and prey
After and Before / by Nancy L. Meyer
Inspired by Adrienne Rich
Let it down or it won’t
stop grinning, the engorged ghostly thing
the cackle, no, the contrail of your death
webbed with honeycomb and white lies.
It will drop into chasms
slotted in ocean cliffs spewing white foam and thunder
it will tremble on a thread, grow sticky
in the sunbeat
it will collapse under the carapace you constructed
–plates of tule fog, padding of rime on the ferns
–each pounded rivet of a smile
unless you unsnag the thicket of rotted leaf
and twigs rammed against the boulders
let the snowmelt ravage downstream,
the pinkish brown rocks of the bed
show through. You need only
open your lips soft and speak.
like butterflies with azure wings / by Mary Anne Morefield
thousands of words fill my study in books shelved
along the walls words that float through the air
as sun light filters through the windows
some linger from dreams that fled with morning
a special few are pinned to the wall beside my chair
rare words I’ve collected like butterflies with azure
wings that arrived from some exotic place to perch
in my summer garden rare words like minim
and scatteration words checked in the dictionary
to make sure they were real and not fictitious
words waiting to be released in case I choose to use
them in a poem on an ordinary day to make that day
exciting but what poem could contain the two
a minim scatteration is unwieldy probably impossible
there is nothing minim about the scatteration
of pink petals beneath the beauty bush beside the lane
the flowering crab apple by the back yard fence
or the dream catcher flowering cherry flinging
its blossoms at its erect and proper neighbor
a prickly american holly minim must desert
this poem so you can enjoy the fragrance
of this springtime farmyard scatteration
Andry H’Tims @thing_finder / by Randall Smith
Once, in my spare time, I wrote
I’m not proud of this, but, frankly,
I was in a bad place.
Apparently, it was a long bad place, and
I’ve got the Favstar Pro
stats to prove it, which, frankly again, pisses off my wife every
six months at $29.99 a pop.
Among a certain virtual demographic, I’m famous for such memorable,
140-character-and-under lines as—
The size up from my current T-shirt is called Poncho.
I love making plans. Or, as I call them, Disappointment Starter Packs.
How much Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup before it’s really not a SlimFast shake anymore?
Poodles are just dogs that listened to too much Kenny G.
I flossed today and found our hamster.
I am never happier than when something I am supposed to do is cancelled.
Not to brag, but I’m the first person in my family to choose college over falsified disability claims.
If you’ve never used duct tape to hold on part of a car, I don’t understand your kind of wealth.
In psychiatrist’s waiting room watching Disney show with a talking dog. Please tell me there’s a show with a talking dog.
Happy Meals don’t work.
Finally watched Frozen with the kids and I’ve gotta say that part with Jack Nicholson and the axe was terrifying—kids still not sleeping.
If I had to choose between being mauled by an animal and being talked to death at a party, I would….how long does a mauling take?
brb, gotta get a chicken out of the house.
During job interviews, I cite numerous addictions as examples of dedication, organizational ability, and discretion.
I buy BBQ ribs from a gas station near my house. In case you need help with wine pairings.
That old lady in the wheelchair really misjudged the turning radius of my minivan.
Velveeta is what happens when Americans get a hold of cheese.
I shop at Costco because I want to be outlived by my toiletries.
The difference between a hoarder and a collector is shelving.
Frankly, every cell in my body is a sleeper cell.
Not to brag, but I once completed a Toyotathon.
If you set a bear free and it returns to eat you, you probably should learn more about bears.
I may not be much to look at, but I’m also old and heavily in debt.
I fill all my empty soul places with macaroni & cheese.
Not to brag, but I’ve almost lost enough weight to get in my van without a spotter.
The life expectancy of all my pens is approximately 1/2 of a check.
One neat thing about growing old is finally getting to see all your veins.
I’m never more alive than when I’m trying to put down my coffee before I sneeze.
One cool thing about writing poetry is you never have to worry about anybody reading it.
Some of my friends from college are taking early retirement—I’m taking Xanax and antacids.
Is anyone else having trouble building their city on rock and roll?
If anyone needs a pet, I just ate a noodle off my leg.
And this recent gem, which deserves a thumping drumroll right after:
I can’t even. —broken level
Da, Da, Dump.
It’s okay that you’re not still reading. That’s to be
expected, and Twitter helps
you get used to the lack of real serious
things to say
and not being listened to all the way
to the end.
I’m sure you can’t even imagine
what all this has done
for my marriage, parenting, debt
and career development.
Just can’t even.
—for Just Bill @WilliamAder, who first saw the genius
—and @BossyBritches72, @loribuckmajor, @amishschool, @LindaInDisguise, and @ashleycrem, who fanned the eternal flame
Day 4 / Poems 4
The book of / by Diana Adams
The sideboard is covered with decanters
damp hands arrange the cheeses
your nervous about my next move
as careless friends fill the room
I remember elements of this moment
in a disenchanted haze
It was just before I stumbled
out of the half open door
into the French dream
that I am still stuck in
I stare at a mustard jar
on the table at Le Petit St. Benoit
sitting where Camus sat
I write everything down backwards
to slow down time
if it goes too fast you will be gone
Still, I need to be here for a spell
just like the street juggler warned me
we must all, at all costs, avoid
being in the book of nothing
Seven Words in Turkish / by J. Peter Bergman
A word that means my husband,
And that also means my wife.
A single word that means the same
To anyone who weds.
It means the one who legally beds
Newspaper to the uninformed.
A word that makes you see
The eyes that gaze upon
The open and eternal sea of
The human thumb, the digit that’s most often bashed
By hammers, doors that quickly swing and shut,
Or bitten by an angry Neapolitan male
Until it swells beyond much use or recognition,
Or much ambition.
“Some friends” is its meaning,
It’s musical resonance leaning you toward the truth,
Showing the joy and the rhythm of friendship
With ruthless, relentless, redactive reactions
That sing to me.
Deniz (Deneez) and Dar (Dahr) sing out
of Sea and of Mountain.
ªelâle (Shelarleh) is waterfall, fountain, et al.
Words that both mystify minds with their beauty
And call up their images,
Caught in their sounds.
IV. Evapotranspiration / by ava m. hu
What will you take with you?
The sun drives water
the muddy axis
of the body,
the silk of leaves
Soon, molecules collide,
drawing lines into
spilled on ink.
If you are afraid know
the sum total,
of your life,
will be accounted for.
And so, you rise
like a wildflower
through the pipes
of the city
you loved the most.
What will you take with you?
Nothing, he said.
The sound of your voice?
That will remain
Nocturne / by Matthew Landrum
The oil pump at the edge of the property line clanks out the hours
of parabolic stars and the sleep of horses. Your nails trace a Sagittarius
on my back. Your kisses taste of late wheat. Here in the ease of summer,
the future keeps its distance. Fireflies flick in the mist, neurons firing
in some collective brain. Tall grass stirs in the fields. There is a limit to everything –
oil, summer, desire. One day the well will run dry. The price of gasoline
will raise eyebrows, end our long drives to see each other. But for now
that autumn is only a name like peak oil or peak love. Citron and sugarcane,
the sweetness of an unrefined thing: your hand – so small – against my chest.
The stars have no eyelids to close in grief, exhaustion, shame
and must keep their sordid watch through these hours of our depletion.
2-4-16 / by Joan Leotta
The day my dad died.
I think about Feb 4
Today it is rainy and
In 1988 it was
Cold, cold cold.
When I got the call
“Your dad had a heart attack”
Cold cold cold
As I waited for Joe to return
from a meeting two hours
away, I packed the car for
our children and the two of us.
I mailed Redskin shirts
to our nephews…
something normal to do
in a life moment
not so normal.
Joe arrived. We headed out’
in darkening skies,
through the mountains
on the turnpike
Joe dropped me
off at the hospital
I ran to Dad;s room,
held his hand.
In minutes, they declared him,
Cold cold cold.
In truth I felt his
Spirit passing as we
barreled down the highway
Cold cold cold
The nurses were so
good to try to say
he lived until I got there,
waiting for me
as he had always done
Cold cold cold
is the face of death.
But thanks to the nurses
Dad’s forehead was still
when I kissed him goodbye.
Ode to my first car / by Clyde Long
I worshipped at the altar of speed.
It had to be fast and badass and clean.
I pinched minimum wage pennies with
hormoned dreams of girls and horsepower.
Fantasy got real when Pete put it up for sale –
Chevelle SS, Hurst shifter, midnight blue.
A thousand hours I’d saved, a self-made man.
We made a deal and I was born anew.
The Chevelle was my sheet metal sanctum,
a home away from home, my new me.
We ruled school’s parking lot stable with
pinstriped hood scoops and chrome wheels.
Swiftest steed, nighttime flash, burning
rubber through fourth gear to the red line.
Running fast, scared, sirens wailing closer.
Home at last, garage door down, lights out.
Our triple digit runs whimpered to an end,
four-barreled thirst gulping my paycheck;
OPEC’s coup de grâce showed us no mercy.
First love traded for a Bug and big speakers.
Nursery Rhyme / by Nancy L. Meyer
On Mondays, following the rhyme, she strips
sagging beds, bottom sheet only—how did he use thirty
rags to polish Aunt Faith’s antique rocker, good -sized
ones at that— fills the wicker basket, leaves
it at the top of steep stairs for him to carry down. Wash
Day. Rain or shine, she likes the rhythm,
counts on his filling the wringer washer, the pit-a-pat
of cloth shifting in water, feed the rollers squeezing dry
each piece and then to the scene, special enough to paint,
her alcove, cotton rope taut in its wood frame, leaves
of the lilac hedge hem three sides. Violets hide. She stands with
wooden clothespins one in her hand, one between her lips like an egg.
Always join two edges with one pin, even socks, whites
together, housedresses, soggy denim. She dredges
each from the basket, the ache in her back rewarded with a fine
stretch to the line, damp cotton in sun, sugary
scent of handkerchiefs in the breeze. She lets
the cloy of lilac run through her, stands
a moment musing which color oils she’ll mix on
her palette, how to smudge in the jay perched on the chicken wire.
Humming now Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesdays child…she wracks
her brain, that’s’ not Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday….thank goodness
I never iron, she smiles to herself.
Golden Shovel poem after first two stanzas of “Candying Mint”, Alan Michael Parker, 2015 Best American Poets
There in the Fly-leaf Inscription / by Mary Anne Morefield
I didn’t think of him this morning
. . . . . . . as I laughed and chatted with a friend
. . . . . . . on a brisk walk through the chilly desert
. . . . . . . dashed to the grocery store
. . . . . . . to take advantage of 10% off,
. . . . . . . the once a month senior special,
. . . . . . . stocked up on vegan soups
. . . . . . . for next week’s out of town visitors.
I didn’t think of him this noon
. . . . . . . as I sat down for a salad
. . . . . . . stood at the sink to wash dishes
. . . . . . . dragged the trash can from the curb
. . . . . . . to hide it where no one can see it,
. . . . . . . as per regulation- nothing unsightly
. . . . . . . in this community.
But when I settled to read a book of poetry,
. . . . . . . he was there in the fly-leaf inscription:
. . . . . . . To Mary Anne
. . . . . . . . . . . . . From John
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Christmas 2002
. . . . . . . So like him. Nothing flowery.
. . . . . . . A book he knew I’d love. One I keep rereading.
Although I had other things to do,
. . . . . . . I spent the afternoon with him.
How Beautiful Upon the Mountains / by Randall Smith
. . . . . . .Are the Feet
Our precocious daughter climbed
out of her crib
when she could barely walk,
loose from the confines
and final goodnights. We found her
sitting on the bottom
steps of the stairs—her stilled
as Persian walnuts free from
husks, her diminutive brown toes
set of ellipses spelling w-i-l-l-s
in the dark for God and every-
one to see.
Day 3 / Poems 3
False Portrait /by Diana Adams
Those aren’t blemishes
they’re characteristics of Victorian glaze
she appears open & closed
the eyes squint into the mottled light
lobsters are chilling in a crystal bowl
the table and the walls are blue
it keeps getting better
there are no doors or windows
to this room full of eagerness & restraint
yet he will come on time with wine
be polite but not honest
some & none of this is true
why listen to me?
Melville’s Roses / by J. Peter Bergman
Having just edited Herman Melville’s final book of poetry and fiction, Weeds & Wildings, chiefly; With a Rose or Two written in 1891, the year he died, which will be published on February 13, I find myself fascinated by this man’s dramatic creative energy and his humane and flowery soul.
No one supposes a century-old utterance
by a man in his seventies
would change our reaction
to the body of his work.
But a poet with a mission to refine his aging image
might discover in his trunk
notes that sing in redaction
his mindset in Spring.
Might his garden of a mountain that produced
his finest images
have also found topics
like red roses of Summer?
. . . Leaving us thrilled with
. . . these songs of a mummer?
Could that mind have provided him with
men of the turgid sea,
whales of the tropics
white-woven in ocean-grey? –
This man who would author that horror of tragedy
left life with his roses bloomed:
bare but enchanted, gem-
notes of rose and clover.
His Weeds & Wildings remind us of who he was
deep in his memories
where he had planted them
while he was younger,
. . . Giving us evidence
. . . of his youthful hunger.
III. Transpiration /by ava m. hu
You move from one body
to the next.
Not yet, it’s too soon.
Depending on the number of aerial
parts that move above ground,
depending on your hands,
depending on the number of times
you said hello and goodbye,
depending on the number of times
you followed through
with what you promised,
this is the sum total
of all the parts
that move above ground.
You can’t take them back again.
You can’t take them with you.
Weathervane /by Matthew Landrum
The weathervane turns with a southwind that brings the damp
and extols the rank rot of callery pears in blossom. Above the sway of poplars,
stars pace out their circuitous paths, colossal stones skipped on a universal sea.
It’s true that lost time will never return but difficult to capture the present.
I have seen foxes, blazes of fur against the darkening green; heard their yaps
pierce the host of mosquitos encircling the air, pure in their single desire.
A callow moon crests above the treeline. The rusted weathervane sways
and creaks. It can’t say I’ve been tricked into believing the moon,
that its pale light is the prescience of dawn, or that I’m getting older.
It can only tell the direction of prevailing wind, how life shifts
with seasons, first this way, then that, how the only way
to hold onto a thing of love is with open hands.
St Blaise Day / by Joan Leotta
Today when I got up
I brought my hands to my throat
If you were raised Catholic,
you know the drill.
February 3 is
St. Blaise day.
No worry over fishbones!
Or throat infections!
St Blaise’s blessing
Is a bulwark against
all thorat infirmities.
You know the drill,
brought to the base
of your throat by
your parish priest.
He chants a blessing
(now in English)
Your throat is safe
until next year.
Pray bless repeat
Still, being Italian
I wear a scarf to
ward off colds.
Especially in February.
Pray bless repeat.
as I reflexively
bring my hands to an
peering at myself in the mirror,
does St. Blaise
smooth out chicken neck?
Pray, bless, repeat.
Memory’s caliber /by Clyde Long
Beautiful lethal industrial evil –
my brother’s blued steel legacy,
he of no kids but his toys,
harmless yet armed anyway.
Easy to fetish, Italian charm
yet efficient in its mission.
It’s holstered and tucked away;
its loaded magazine tempts fate.
I don’t need it to remember him,
I have his happy art on my walls,
and some of it inked onto me.
(The pistol slumbers
darkly in its warren,
ready to do my bidding)
Maybe it’s time to melt it
like Dali did with his clocks —
Persistence of Memory for me.
What of Infection? /by Nancy L. Meyer
I don’t want to believe her. Stomp into CVS between aisles of laxatives and sunscreen, step in behind the inchworm line of supplicants clutching prescriptions. Why do I always wait ‘til 5?
I think about the 5-toed bear claw, ebon sheen worn smooth in the deerskin pouch strung on the shaman’s neck. Water ladled on hot rocks. The cackle, then a dervish of steam. Lying on a blanket staring up at the stiff-flapped opening of the teepee.
We clap until the gods listen, my grandson murmurs. We don’t need golden pagodas. Just settle between the roots of the Jurupa and be with the ants hauling mountains on their necks. Then your ears will grow long like the Buddha’s and the pharmacist will call your number.
Grown-ups never learn. Their elbows are chafed and wrinkled. They fill their craws with stale bread, worried off the same loaf they buy every day at the same grocery. The grandchild skips away to chew on daisies smelling like toes let loose from his gym shoes.
White-coated daveners scurry behind the counter, offer with upturned palms Penicillin in its amber cylinder, runic symbols wrapped around. In case the ping-pong ball lump—an insect gall— reappears under my right jaw bone where it manifested from nowhere at seven this morning. What if my globule contains a koan? dust from a moon rock? And I reject the gift.
After Mary Koncel, The Weeping Icon
Lost in the Wonder of Small Things /by Mary Anne Morefield
When he was three or at most four, he had a way of wandering,
of getting lost in what I thought were dangerous places, lakes
where he might drown or beaches crammed with unknown people.
I’d turn from watching sailboats with spinnakers skim across
the water, and he’d be gone. In a panic, I sent the older children
running this way and that to bring him back to safety.
Quietly he’d appear, innocent and unaware we’d thought he’d drowned
or was lost. He’d simply say, I was exploring. See what I found,
and held out his hand with a shell, a pebble, or a penny.
Lost Lion Population Discovered
. . . . . . in Remote Ethiopian Park / by Randall Smith
. . . . . . . .—CNN
Anecdotal lions be like, Who you to say we been
lost? We ain’t
been lost—we know down to every atom of scat and cat
where we been, be,
and belong. In baobab trees and sun, by the fresh water,
in our deep, sub-
Saharan brush poised for plump ungulates to kill
and devour. You
call it Alatash National or Dinder Park. Make it a Disney-
that’s what you do. Don’t bring yo’ big-headed
fireworks, paver stones, and wildlife observation
drones. That’s what
you do. Dinder and Disney my sweet, fat Wild
We call it Home. Who you? And where
you been and what done?
Go back, my camera-strapped, camouflaged friend
while you still got time
and all yo’ hakunas and matatas. Intact. Go back,
lost soul, to London, Anaheim,
or Dubai. To imagineered Castles for Sleeping Toads
and metal towers
that spirit you to the sky. Consider this. A bulky costume
and gaudy stage
makeup do not make you a Lion or a Man. Take note
of the Great Rift
Valley and find a place—a river or lake—to put
your paw in sand. Then leave us
alone to languish by the headwaters of the Blue Nile.
Remember, sons/daughters, we frisked
with Lucy, the Leakeys, and Diamonds before they each
were nothing more than bones.
—for Facebook friends who love animals
—after “Mary Poppins II: That’s Ms. Poppins to You” by Allison Joseph (who inspired the tone)
Day 2 / Poems 2
The New Agenda /by Diana Adams
I had the theater people over
to paint our house
blue chartreuse maroon
the walls have nothing to do
with us, what a relief
& through the many purple doors
they’ve added anterooms
to invite people we don’t know in
so we can have a few moments
Just so you know
in this particular house
you must wear a hat
so we can spot you
when you enter into conversations
I’ve put out some leaves
in the garden
& inked in
lawn chairs and trees
the woman in the corner
has been installed to laugh politely
to keep us positive
life itself & the hills have a way
of clogging progress
remember your violin?
it kept us moving forward
following the logic of music
Winter Overnight /by J. Peter Bergman
On the eve of the blizzard,
At home in ski country
Watching weather maps chart the
My house was overly warm:
Blazing fire in the living room,
Bleating steam from the radiators,
Oven hot with red meat roasting.
Mere inches predicted in our hilltown
While feet and more feet were anticipated south—
Charts showed on all of the channels.
Friends to call
Scattered in places unaccustomed to
High-piling snow marring travel, limiting
Access, delimiting life, determining limits,
Though that, for me,
Nothing different from normal.
And through the night
And into the day
And into the night that followed
Not one invaded my town, or
Invested my county or region,
Though snow was legion for hundreds of miles.
. . . . . . . . A winter forming overnight,
. . . . . . . . Sparing me just to
. . . . . . . . Bundle an unfamiliar landscape.
Water Cycle /by ava m. hu
The way water
does into clouds.
The way a ballerina does
in her pink shoes.
The way a baby does
from the corolla
of her mother.
The way you
when you touch
Water is poured
into a ritual bowl
before the body
of the dead
until it overflows.
And from the cloud
such a noise.
You made it
and snake guitars
crash like the waves
you evaporate from.
Atacama /by Matthew Landrum
Flowers blossom in the Chilean desert after the first rain in years.
Hills turn a mallow dusk. Freight trains cut through valleys
specked with violet and yellow. After our daughter’s stillbirth,
during your postpartum depression and our long turning away
from each other, our therapist told us to keep sleeping together
in the same bed, even if we weren’t feeling it. So we did for months,
lying there not touching. When the perfunctory turned passionate,
it surprised us. Suddenly we were newlyweds again.
But that season faltered into a final word and the slow construction
of alternate lives. I haven’t seen you in three years now.
In Chile, the Atacama subsides to sand tones and rusted rock.
Drought returns on the dry winds of summer that lift and scatter
a million withering flowers’ seed as dull as dust, as light as air.
Haiku (rhymes with two) /by Joan Leotta
Toast, my morn’s manna
Butter spread, topped with honey
Day’s auspicious start
Walk to the water /by Clyde Long
Tonight’s a blur of horns and headlights
and crime lights and blinking stop lights.
I am alone times two, so alone.
I cross pavement and gravel and grass
without question or qualm or fear,
drawn to the river’s dark thrust.
Things collected upstream pass by
whispering, come with us on our journey,
tip a toe in, then a step then another,
swim with us to the sea, we’ll ascend
from this rivulet to the world of currents
ruled by the moon and heaven above.
Eyes Just Closed, after Robert Hass /by Nancy L. Meyer
A track in sodden clay, something heavy but what body,
Fur mottled or rug thick, a yellowed negative from a Brownie
Camera the figure disappearing in the cramp of a filing cabinet
Drawer unopened since she died, more memory than a cool hand.
Where the animal that must have passed here, how else
The trace, whether you trust the evidence of the print or not
Some clawed being had loomed, hot and exchanging breath
In the night, tingling the air and the rip of its teeth tearing at
The Scotch Broom, might be a little scary if you could not see
How big, in the dark, the creature pressing down on the earth
Right here, and now you are gone.
Give Me Punxsutawney Phil /by Mary Anne Morefield
A tan mug meant for morning coffee sits
on my patio between yellow bells and agaves
waiting to measure rain which the radio promises.
A tan mug bought from the grocery store the year
we moved to Arizona when everything was new:
saguaros, javelinas, scorpions and rattlers.
A tan mug with an emasculated kokopelli,
a prehistoric hump-back flute-playing fertility deity,
a trickster who chases away winter.
Last night, rain pounded roof tiles and skylights, raced
through downspouts and washes. Thunder rolled. Lightning
flashed. The temperature dropped. The tan mug filled.
A trickster who promises spring and brings back winter?
Back east it’s simpler: a ground hog, a shadow,
a prediction and always six more weeks of winter.
The First Noël /by Randall Smith
In grad school, my good friend Nina
asked if I had ever
touched a Black woman’s hair.
Which I had not.
She laughed, held my hand to her head,
and pressed my fingers
deep into the combed wool of herself.
Until I could feel
the human difference and the same,
the solace of natal sheep
who—when called to adorn a manger—
simply got up
from fields where they lay, like queens
and kings, and came.
—for CoCo and Roland
Day 1 / Poems 1
The Lesson /by Diana Adams
There was supposed to be a lesson
somewhere around here
I checked behind the red velvet curtain.
Nothing. A dog could sniff it out
if it could get by the enormous doorman
I don’t think it is about being nice
nobody has time for that
it is something smaller
a riddle perhaps, like those math questions
seven swans under an elm tree
. . . . how many apples do they have?
I put the glasses on that were left
on the marble table
they showed me what I thought
I would see, some kind of journey
another museum, sleepwalking
most of time, I end up alone again
lesson enough for me
Paeon /by J. Peter Bergman
Poem One: Heathen /by ava m. hu
They say you are
the most beautiful species
that has yet to occur.
You, hidden in the dark
pockets of my coat,
blue silk no one
could give a name to.
Do you disregard the classics
for bread and milk?
Do you disregard art
or does art disregard you?
Is it love or bust or
the will of heaven?
Is it oil floating on water or
white paint splattered across
the face of a masterpiece?
Do you yell to the river,
“Take me in?”
The fins of carp rub
against river rocks.
You change the course of a river.
Reconnecting lakes, tributaries,
your luminary watery fingertips
cross over, cross over with me-
“Come to me,”
black rocks whisper
over the crashing
One last swirl, you said.
After you drowned
in the river, the water
dreamt of you.
False Spring /by Matthew Landrum
We take the weather at its word though it’s February
and we’re old enough to know better. We say, don’t you see
the way the river opens its hands to meltwater,
how the wind carries the scent of soil and damp?
Soon life will return to us. It could stay like this
and trees deluded into bud break to unnipped blossom,
windshields prove clear of frost each morning. But it’s early to trust
the warmth. There’s fog this evening and a stiffness in the knee
that could be sign of a turn in temperature.
That tree full of robins could have been mistaken
in their flight schedules, and all of us foolish
for falling for it again when hope tells us lies.
February 1 /by Joan Leotta
Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit!
My friends write
This mantra of English luck
On facebook “walls”
Today I know they will.
Tho the lucky rabbit
is not my legend,
I note the books all
say it once or twice.
I suppose in threes
warding off the bad that comes in triplicate
No, tho this mantra is not my household god,
I raise my coffee cup
to those of you who do celebrate
this fine furry refrain–
Rabbit rabbit rabbit!
Walking with Thich Nhat Hanh /by Clyde Long
Our ancestors are with us
always as our soles grip
Mother Earth. We breathe them
in with steps and we heal them
breathing out, so healing ourselves.
Sun not yet awake I wake.
I dress and walk into nature.
Its creatures stir from slumber
as day’s world comes alive.
I savor each beautiful step.
Busyness is not a life force, quite not.
Busy walking is not progress, arrival
is not a goal. Here’s a goal – stop.
What to make of this? Your next step
in peace, on its own, brings you to you.
A contract is two minds meeting.
Staircase and I have a contract.
It is my walking path up and down.
Each step must be taken mindfully
or I must start over, acquiring joy.
Walk for those who cannot,
breathe in for them, exhale slowly
for them. Feel your good fortune
loving the solid Earth, your feet
massaging her, feeling her beauty.
Warm Pool, Wild Mint /by Nancy L. Meyer
More fire pond than swimming hole
Scott’s Pond, in the back meadow
they aren’t mowing this summer. We sit
shoulders touching in the grass, toss pebbles
to the far side; the polliwogs are swelling.
Queen Anne’s lace hems our private circle
among dragon flies darting crimson,
the white noise of bees. I admire your toe nails
cut straight across, the sandpapery feel
of your heel, how you massage my calf
with your other foot, kneading the belly
of the muscle until all the fibers line up,
warping a loom.
If I could peel you back, polish rib
and vertebrae, the long bone of your arm,
slide my fingers around the turns
of intestine, would I know you
better? I hold each cell between
thumb and finger, hold it up
to the light, measure us out.
Psalm 85 or so much depends /by Mary Anne Morefield
Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss
Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other
Truth and Mercy have met together; Justice and Peace have kissed
It seems, my poet friends, that
so much depends not so much
on red wheelbarrows and white chickens
but on the larger matter of translation.
First one might ask if the meeting
with truth has happened or is yet to be?
The same must be asked about peace.
Was there a kiss or merely a promise?
Next we must confirm who will meet,
who will know the joy of kissing.
Will truth meet with love or mercy?
Must peace choose between her two beloveds?
Perhaps it helps if you read Hebrew,
which I do not, or set these lines
within their context to understand
the psalm as a prayer, a lamentation,
but that is not the job of poets
or is it? Call it love or call it mercy.
Call it justice or righteousness.
Say it loud: Truth and Peace.
Read the daily headlines:
10 Children Among the Dead
as Migrant Boat Capsizes off Turkey.
Students Say Racial Hostilities Simmer.
Say that is our context. Now add
those words in whatever translation.
Call it a prayer or a lamentation.
Forget wheelbarrows and chickens.
Say it out loud
or quietly pray it!
Dear Michael Stipe, /by Randall Smith
When we were young
and full of grace
and spirited as rattlesnakes,
we sat, once,
back-to-back at Russo’s Gyro
Athens, already launched
flight paths to separate moons—
you to sing
about Andy, yeah, yeah, yeah,
to hear the coyotes’ iconic yips,
barks for the first time near
the turning earth-
dark treeline of my family’s
farm. So long
for a basal being to travel East
until he calls a place home.
But, we both
believe in coyotes and time
as an abstract
which—in part—explains away
between you and me
we since have done in space
betwixt the horns
of all our thin, fever-fell days—
yeah, yeah, yeah.
for D.D.—who took me there first
Tyrone’s O.C., Athens, GA, 10/31/81