Day 29, Poet 29: Jessica Cuello
The Foot of Montségur
A rumor said we crept in
and dug like animals
a hollow for the grail.
The friars weren’t listening
at Albi or Verfeuil.
We buried nothing.
I think of the spaces
where we existed.
Landscape is a corner of my eye:
papery like dry ashen leaves.
The crusaders brought a map
with blue cut into
the outline of our Languedoc.
I touched the lightweight edge,
the places where our caves would be;
we worshipped in the walls.
I loved to steady the child’s head
with a light touch on the ear,
her patient stare while I combed
the long hair back, breathed the cold
cutting air, and buried the afterbirths.
I knew there was no mistake
about the body and routine.
God did not send us out, but back.
The most physical of all, I rocked
as in a body, what I felt
a boat must be.
I see rocks, transparent,
how grainy water is,
and finally I watch the iron
density of flame.
All night, sun sets on the town.
Easily they fit us in the circle.
We are the last of us.
Previously published in Pricking (Tiger Bark Press, 2016).
Jessica Cuello is the author of Hunt, a feminist response to Moby Dick and winner of The 2016 Washington Prize from The Word Works. Her other collections include Pricking (Tiger Bark Press, 2016) and the chapbooks My Father’s Bargain (2015), By Fire (2013), and Curie (2011). She was the winner of The 2013 New Letters Poetry Prize, a winner of LUMINA’s poetry contest (selected by Carolyn Forché), the recipient of a 2015 Saltonstall Writing Fellowship and the recipient of the 2014 Decker Award from Hollins University for outstanding teaching. https://jessicacuello.wordpress.com/
Day 28, Poet 28: Aimee Nezhukumatathil
I Could Be A Whale Shark
I am worried about tentacles.
How you can still get stung
even if the jelly arm disconnects
from the bell. My husband
swims without me—further
out to sea than I would like,
buoyed by salt and rind of kelp.
I am worried if I step too far
into the China Sea, my baby
will slow the beautiful kicks
he has just begun since we landed.
The quickening, they call it,
but all I am is slow, a moon jelly
floating like a bag in the sea.
Or a whale shark. Yes—I could be
a whale shark, newly spotted
with moles from the pregnancy--
my wide mouth always open
to eat and eat with a look that says
Surprise! Did I eat that much?
When I sleep, I am a flutefish,
just lying there, swaying back
and forth among the kelp-y mess
of sheets. You can see the wet
of my dark eye awake, awake.
My husband is a pale blur
near the horizon, full of adobo
and did not wait thirty minutes
before swimming. He is free
and waves at me as he backstrokes
past. This is how he prepares
for fatherhood. Such tenderness
still lingers in the air: the Roman poet
Virgil once gave his pet fly
the most lavish funeral, complete
with meat feast and barrels
of oaky wine. You can never know
where or why you hear
a humming on this soft earth.
Previously published in Asian American Literary Review.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s fourth book of poetry, Oceanic, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon and her nature essay collection is forthcoming from Milkweed, both in 2018. She is poetry editor of Orion and is the Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi's MFA program.
Day 27, Poet 27: Amy Miller
Worried Man Blues
Halfway through the song,
the dog bumped
his big black
pit bull head
against my leg
and I stopped--
between the banjo
and the guitar player
who never sits down.
My ragged chords caught
their breath, the bow
dropped and turned
and pressed against the fiddle,
freeing one hand
to hold that warm,
with its own dark valley
Previously published in Gold Man Review.
Amy Miller’s poetry has appeared in Nimrod, Rattle, Willow Springs, and ZYZZYVA. Her chapbooks include I Am on a River and Cannot Answer (BOAAT Press) and Rough House (White Knuckle Press), and she won the Cultural Center of Cape Cod National Poetry Competition, judged by Tony Hoagland, the Jack Grapes Poetry Prize from Cultural Weekly, and the Earl Weaver Baseball Writing Award. She works as the publications project manager for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and blogs at writers-island.blogspot.com.
Day 26, Poet 26: Annie Stenzel
The Garden Came First
Eve was framed. (bumper-sticker)
Perhaps she was already
weeding. You know how it is:
step into the yard
for a moment because
you hear birdsong
down at the ground and see
everywhere. You have to do
something, which means
you have to decide:
oxalis or chamomile?
vinca or Bermuda grass?
dandelion or morning glory?
So, which one was put here
Previously published in Quiddity.
Annie Stenzel was born in Illinois, but has lived in several places on both sides of this continent, and in a number of other countries. She received both a B.A. in English Literature and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Mills College in Oakland. Her poems appear in a wide range of print and online journals, from Ambit to Rat's Ass Review, with stops at Blue Lyra Review, Catamaran Literary Reader, Eclectica, Kestrel, and Quiddity, among many others. By day, she works at a mid-size San Francisco law firm. Her full-length collection, The First Home Air After Absence, will be published later this year by Big Table Publishing Co.
Day 25, Poet 25: Dominique Christina
We become poets
In an attempt to tether words
To social consciousness.
Sitting cross-legged and anxious in
Wing-backed chairs we
Sip lattes to news of regimes
Firing American-made artillery into
Crowds of folk,
Their bodies pickled by the sun
They line streets in countries
We never think about and
We suck our teeth and
Ask a thesaurus to become a machete
And as romantic as passivism is
I dream of dictators falling headfirst
Into karma and forget to be afraid
If I could write this shit in fire,
I would write this shit in fire.
This ain’t poetry.
It’s rage, unmuted.
A verb, a means, an end,
This is my body.
This is a sacrifice.
This is an offering.
This is Southside Chicago,
Red Hook Projects in Jersey,
Roosevelt Projects in Brooklyn.
This is severed hands.
Clubs against flesh,
Black boots to pregnant bellies,
This is sterilizations,
Leg irons and chains,
The bit and the noose,
This is a war cry.
Tell Massa I’m coming back.
Carrying fire in my knapsack,
Tell him I am Patrice Lumumba
Fannie Lou Hamer
Tell him they have been born again in me.
Tell him I found my mother tongue
Buried under the rubble of
The World Trade Center
Tell him this shit ain’t no poem.
This is me, running naked
From sugarcane and cotton fields
Having dropped my croaker sack.
Tell him he can call me karma.
I am re-fleshing the bones.
A witch, a root-worker,
A sorceress, a priestess, a gangster…
Tell him this is the result of segregation.
Tell him this is the result of integration.
Tell him I have never been invisible.
Tell him he has never been invincible.
Tell him I will melt the barbed wire and
Steel bars of prison yards
They will flow over him like lava.
I am returned
I am blood-thirsty
I am fangs and hooks and
Swollen feet in welfare lines,
The gauntlet thrown down,
Lines drawn in the sand
I am apocryphal.
Historical deletions gathering themselves
Up and into textbooks,
I am the niece of exploitation
On a rice and pancake box,
Come to collect the royalties
For Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben…
I am a line of smoke,
A rain dance,
The tomahawk used to kill the first invader,
A passbook in South Africa,
A Whites Only sign on a courthouse door
The streets of Benghazi pocked in
Prayer beads and shell casings,
The juxtaposition of faith and savagery.
Tell him I am African wide hips and
Peace symbols on assault rifles,
It is the deepest kind of contradiction.
If I could write this shit in fire,
I would write this shit in fire.
Tell Massa I’m coming back.
Howl in the wind, I’m coming back.
Bur in his heel, I’m coming back.
I’m coming back Massa.
I’m coming back Massa.
I’m coming back.
Previously published in They Are All Me (Swimming With Elephants Publications)
Dominique Christina is a mother, published author of three books, licensed educator, 2x Women of the World Slam Champion, 2011 National Poetry Slam Champion, 2013 National Underground Poetry Individual Slam Champion, social agitator, and intersectional feminist. She is the only person to win the Women of the World Championship twice. Her work is influenced by her family's legacy during the Civil Rights Movement. Her grandfather, who is in the baseball hall of fame, was a shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. When he left, Jackie Robinson, who later integrated baseball, took his place. Dominique's aunt is a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient for being one of 9 students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas. Dominique is sought after to teach and perform at colleges and universities nationally and internationally every year. Her work appears in numerous literary journals and anthologies, the Huffington Post, IBTimes, Upworthy, Poetry Magazine, etc. http://www.dominiquechristina.com/
Day 24, Poet 24: Janet Norman Knox
Lunar Longing: Do Moons Have Lips?
First word? Moon.
We’re not sure if it is the m
of mama or divine bovine hum,
this naming of satellites to spin
a planet, outer spacey, cosmo naughty,
having mastered the o-ring and its fallacies,
its aborted missions witching fluids
can tap moon rocks in her pockets.
Women thirst a milky blue.
Dowsing the moon is a matter of debate,
iceglint below a dry surface
in the crater’s shadow, a pocket
of H2O lodged by a meteor hunk hurled
across the black vacuum, which sucks
all manner of moisture into the void,
her last words—Mulled Moon, Must
Moon, Mute Moon.
Previously published by Fourth River.
Seven-time Pushcart nominee and finalist for the Discovery/The Nation Award, Janet Norman Knox's poems have appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, 5 AM, Crab Creek Review, Rhino, Bellingham Review, Fourth River, Diner, Seattle Review, Adirondack Review, and Diagram. Her play, 9 Gs and the Red Telephone, was featured in Feminist Studies. She received the Ruskin Poetry Prize (Red Hen Press) and the Los Angeles Review nominated her for Best New Poets. Her chapbook, Eastlake Cleaners when Quality & Price Count [a romance], received the Concrete Wolf Editor's Award. http://www.rattle.com/ereviews/knoxeastlake.htm Janet collaborates with artists Anne Beffel (Jack Straw Foundation and Duwamish Revealed Grants) and Vaughn Bell (4Culture and Duwamish Revealed Grants). She currently has an exhibit at the Jack Straw Foundation Galleries. Her play, Artifact Pattern—Observations on the Behavior of Homo Sapiens in Change, was hosted by the Bainbridge Island Art Museum in 2016. Janet is an entrepreneur and Environmental Geochemist, her company turning 30.
Day 23, Poet 23: Jeannine Hall Gailey
Martha Stewart’s Guide to the End Times
Of course you know I love those little drones, so I’ve stockpiled them. Those and
lemons. I’ve learned the hard way that life without lemons is barely worth living.
Animal husbandry 101: Fill your own organic pantry. Which breed of chicken
will give you the best eggs under stress? Pg. 13.
Leave the fondant til later. You can always do a ganache topping for your cupcakes
in a pinch. So simple!
Evacuation map for New York City, Boston, the Hamptons, with scratch-and-sniff
icons: page 24.
Survival skills are just like hostess skills: a little preparation, a little spying (with
the drones,) a little determined defense-driven hedging of the grounds. Razor wire
goes beautifully with your holly thicket.
Guide to storing munitions in attractive wicker boxes: page 52.
If your water isn’t as clear as it should be, use up those charcoal filters first, but after,
try a solid iodine tablet in your home-dug well. In these times, it’s a good thing.
Culinary tips for after the mega-store raid: mixed nuts have a long shelf life. Throw
in a little rosemary and toast them over an open flame for anytime elegance. More
ideas for those family-sized tubs of popcorn: page 68.
Now’s the time to get out your hurricane lamps! They create a lovely glow in these
Previously published in Field Guide To The End Of The World (Moon City Press, 2016).
Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of five books of poetry:Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review and Prairie Schooner. Her web site is www.webbish6.com. Twitter handle: @webbish6.
Day 22, Poet 22: Lisa Flowers
Excerpt From Diatomhero: Religious Poems
I was two places at once:
One side of my body bleeding indistinguishably into Oneness, like an inkblot,
The other sketching the actual picture,
Past and present lives
Back to back, in a Star Wars trash compactor.
After awhile I opened my napkin and recognized myselves,
Two Versailles rivals turning fans to each other’s disdain,
A flattened hydra peeling itself off a window,
“Beast turning human,” like Nora Flood’s lover.
But there were no sounds,
Languages rushing at me, like insects
Suddenly displaced from recognition,
Czech buzzing into my left ear, like a swarm of flies,
German booming out into the forest,
The dullness of tomato plants
Buzzing with flies
That had no sound or life
In either dimension,
A photograph of what my perception had looked like when it had been mine.
So I didn’t know if I weren’t a
Soldier, hidden among the tall marshes,
Dressed in one of those grass suits
Or Miss Jessel, beckoning across the river:
A brute’s opaque smear coming up the other side of a retina filmed over
As frosted glass, behind which he still moved with his candles
Suddenly running clear,
Like the eyes of the first people
Before ancestry polluted them
Little shoots of green coming up, in the Original Dark Eye of Jerusalem
To make hazel
With its hope of fecundity through the earth.
They said, after the war, we lost each other
I said, after our deaths, we lost each other
Refugees, displaced persons
I had no way of knowing I’d not just picked an armful of my
Daughter, reborn as lilies
For an Easter bouquet,
That my son wasn’t a dog
Busily digging his old human bones up out of the earth
And gnawing on them;
One of a flight of Canadian geese
Circling over the airports where the dying swallow their memories as drug mules,
shit them out and break them open in the next life,
Like Aesop’s golden egg
The freezing looking into photographs of a sun that can’t warm them
The starving looking into photographs of food they can’t eat
Knowing that they can no longer stretch out the past
As a frugal mother stretches out meat and potatoes
From casserole to stew.
With ever more mouths to feed,
Until five hundred lives cannot consume the rations for one,
And we are too menny.
But even in one life
When I said, “I can’t live without you”
It meant a lifespan in a body
I could not live without
that kept changing
Into a different body.
As if I were committing adultery
On the you of 21 with the you of 51.
Appropriating someone else’s love
And calling it mine
So that, at eighty
I couldn’t wish to stand dazed, in the photograph of myself on the street we lived on in 1950
A sepia handkerchief that had once been red in my lapel
Without simultaneously being a widower, lying awake nights, weeping
Shooting blanks into the air
That might fertilize whatever was
Left of you, in the air around me,
Engendering little ghost children
Who would peer at me, noses against “the transparent glass of the world”
Like urchins at Christmas displays
Faces all plastered with ectoplasm, like sticky jam.
Prelude to the moment
When a soldier, dying on the battlefield in ancient Greece
Flows into his reincarnation as a
Girl, blonde and Norwegian, in the high country
His life wrenched out of him like a discus
That goes flailing off to the Lord
Trailing roots, black against the sky
As reincarnation only on the
Rebound, like love
The solar eclipse picking up our images like a Xerox
Albeit in a delayed assembly;
In “millions of tiny pieces,” like Mike Teavee
The invisible, becoming durable as humidity,
And just as scientifically proven: an element inciting a reaction: sweat, an increase of insects,
Anything indigenous to a climate
And just as wonderfully taken for granted
By those who exist under it
Dying to and in that as naturally, casually as: the sun.
We knew it rose on the other side of the world
But we didn’t care
Any more than any more than a sluggish reptile in Texas
Is aware of the vast majesty of the land stretching around it
To Nebraska, or The Rockies, or the Badlands
Or anywhere but the corner on earth in which it is tucked away.
Plants in Australia
Turn to the sun only on the continent they’re indigenous to
and know no more about Antarctica than the polar fishes about the Kalahari
Any more than two incarnations of the same person, one centuries ago, one now
Her hair flying back into his face like a Springsteen song
Know which is “the real” them
Stuffed with mirrors
Donning contact lenses with every other life,
The original color always under the new;
Each eye reflecting the life it inhabits:
A fret of Russian cloud sliding across your iris one life,
Birds in a perfectly blue sly, en route across Minnesota, in another
Genealogy turning on a color wheel
The weight of a soul
Up and down, like Liz Taylor’s size;
Deprivation stuffing abundance into every other life
One bloodline exsanguinated,
The next offering it a transfusion.
Previously published in the collection diatomhero: religious poems (Vulgar Marsala Press, 2012)
Lisa A. Flowers is a poet, critic, cinephile, ailurophile, and the Reviews Editor for Tarpaulin Sky Press. She is the author of diatomhero: religious poems, and her work has appeared in various magazines and online journals. Raised in Los Angeles and Portland, OR, she now resides in Colorado. Visit her here.
Day 21, Poet 21: Megan Fernandes
White People Always Want To Tell Me That They Grew Up Poor
White people don’t like when
like to remind you
that you are Indian, not black.
never say that to you.
a home for you
It is like an elegy.
Poverty must be
is like sky.
My daddy is a daddy from Africa.
An Indian boy from Tanga.
He is a papa
a doctor, the only
of his siblings,
seventeen in all,
to really get out
and climb towards
that enslaved him.
Only white people
can imagine a past
that was better
Only white people
You grew up rich, they say.
Your daddy is a doctor.
They want me
their whiteness, too.
They want to
like the tentacles of
What they are really
How dare you
have what was rightfully mine.
I want to say:
my daddy holds storms
from a world you’ve never seen.
He is a doctor
because being a doctor
was a way to unbury
I want to say:
It is not me you hate.
It is that you were
not given what whiteness
what your TV said
all white people could have.
My daddy didn’t have a TV.
My daddy is from Africa.
My daddy is not a thing like your daddy.
Our house was not a thing like your house.
Our household was not held by anything
you could name. If you swam in it,
you wouldn’t even know
it was water.
Previously published in The Common.
Megan Fernandes is an Assistant Professor of English at Lafayette College and lives in NYC. Her work has been published or is forthcoming Rattle, Guernica, Denver Quarterly, Hayden's Ferry Review, The Common, Thrush, The Adroit Journal, The Boston Review, etc. You can find out more about her work here: https://megfernandes.wordpress.com/
Excerpt from A Single Throat Opens
I want to tell you a story
that never happened. I want to tell it so often
truth won’t matter.
This is misleading, however.
Truth never matters.
Adult children of alcoholics (ACA) lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth. This is the
third of thirteen characteristics according to the ACA website.
Have you ever played the ice breaker two truths and one lie? I’ve played this so many times at
different functions, professional or otherwise. It’s liberating. To deliberately lie and be rewarded
Here, I’ll begin: My father is an alcoholic. And because he never hit me I believed well into my
twenties he was a good alcoholic.
Look me in the eyes; tell me where the lie resides.
Melts wax, burns wick and wood, wounds flesh
in a little circle. Here, where I pressed
a lit match into the skin
of my left forearm.
“Don’t cry. Your wounds are
beautiful if you’ll love mine.”[i]
My father, like fire, consumes the thing
that sustains him
until both diminish to nothing. Now,
tell me about your father.
[i] from William Matthews’ poem “Oh Yes” (The question: would you like one more drink?)
Published in A Single Throat Opens (Black Lawrence Press, 2017)
Meghan McClure lives in Washington. Her work can be found in American Literary Review, Mid-American Review, LA Review, Water~Stone Review, Superstition Review, Bluestem, Pithead Chapel, Proximity Magazine, Boaat Press, Black Warrior Review, among others. Her collaborative book with Michael Schmeltzer, A Single Throat Opens, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in June 2017. Visit her on Twitter at @meghantmcclure or at her website meghantmcclure.com.
BIO: Michael Schmeltzer was born in Japan and eventually moved to the US. He is the author of “Elegy/Elk River,” winner of the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award, and “Blood Song” (Two Sylvias Press, 2016) his debut which was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award for Best Book of Poetry Published by an Independent or University Press. He earned an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop. His debut nonfiction book, “A Single Throat Opens,” written in collaboration with Meghan McClure, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press. His work can be found in Black Warrior Review, PANK, Mid-American Review, Rattle, and other journals. Visit him on Twitter at @mschmeltzer01 or at his websitemichaelschmeltzer.com.
Natasha Kochicheril Moni is a writer and a licensed naturopath in WA State. Enjoying this blog? Feel free to put a little coffee in Natasha's cup, right here.