Day 8, Poet 8: Lana Hechtman Ayers
Red Riding Hood As Wild Child
I used to love to walk
in the woods in the rain.
Mother said it was because
I was a brainless child,
stupid and wild.
She was also fond of asking,
“Were you raised in a barn?”
And I kept wanting to answer, Yes
Mother, that makes you a cow,
but I knew to hold my tongue.
In my red cape, I was never cold.
I could go out in any storm
and be completely safe and warm.
Grandma made that cape with love
for sure, but it also seemed
sprinkled with a bit of fairy dust.
It was a magical sheath,
and I was lucky to be entrusted
with its power to make
others adore me when I wore it.
The showers of praise I received
made me feel special as I never had.
The hooded cape suited me, all
the neighbors said, these same folks
who never noticed me before.
But to my mother, I was still an ordinary
brat, the reason for everything wrong
in her life (like father leaving her
for a younger wife) and no coat
was ever going to change that.
Whenever I could arrange to sneak out,
I did—in rain, sleet, snow.
I tried to be discreet, shutting the creaky
back door, quick and crisp.
It was always a risk.
The front door was an impossibility.
Mother was usually passed out
drunk on the couch, but the slightest
rearrangement of a particle of dust,
and she’d be up and ranting.
“Red, get back here!” she’d scream.
“Scrub those pots till you
see God’s face in them.”
No matter how hard I polished, I never
saw anyone’s face in them but my own.
Previously published in Red Riding Hood's Real Life (Night Rain Press, 2017).
Lana Hechtman Ayers has authored nine collections of poetry and is about to release her first speculative novel—a time travel adventure. She manages three poetry presses and works as a manuscript consultant. Lana lives on the Oregon coast where she enjoys the near-constant plink of rain on the roof and the sea’s steady whoosh.
Day 7, Poet 7: Kamari Bright
One day, the Moon will love herself. She will no longer play second to sun. She will no longer be the
reflection to another’s light. She will emanate tar black velvet over every living thing. In our blindness
we will feel her light, like evaporated honey on our skin. She will not pull travelers & tides & wombs to
her. She will not need their adoration.
When the moon loves herself one day she will not be able to hide her face. She will break orbit, other
moons in tow, and revolve in her own magnetism.
And they will wake up one day, the great grandchildren of my great-greats, with the sun in their eyes.
And will blind themselves that morning & dread the emptiest night they will ever see, on the day the
moon loves herself. On that day, they will wonder why she ever loved them to begin with.
Previously published in NILVX: A Book of Magic, Vol. I Issue IV: Sphere of Luna.
Operating with the belief that everything she creates is intended to foster understanding of self and surroundings, Kamari Bright is a St. Louis-born writer who has had work featured in publications, included in exhibits, and released her first book through 7 Publishing in 2016.
Day 6, Poet 6: Christine Hemp
The Tune of It
A response to Hailey Leithauser’s poem
“Short, Sweet” for 32 Poems Magazine
down the sheet
like notes rising
sounds abound repeat
upon the ear
slant rhyme cambering
the iamb (lifting) into
(yes the tune of it)
Previously published in 32 Poems, with accompanying Celtic flute by Christine Hemp.
Christine Hemp has read her poems and essays on NPR’s Morning Edition, and her awards include a Washington State Artist Trust Fellowship for Literature. A poem of hers traveled over 1.5 billion miles on a NASA mission to monitor the birth of stars. She is author of “That Fall.” Hemp also plays Celtic and jazz flute, often weaving poetry into her performances. A former art critic, she is drawn to writing poems from paintings and sculpture; one was featured recently at a Seattle gallery which paired writers with single pieces of art. Hemp teaches poetry and nonfiction at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival. She lives with her husband and horses in Port Townsend, Washington.
Day 5, Poet 5: Vandana Khanna
Prayer to Recognize the Body
There must be a word for this
heart-growing, to explain these teeth,
stinging skin like a gift, tremble of
hair coaxed from sweat and scalp.
The next thing I covet: the third eye’s
velvet blink, the green pulse in my veins
of a forest I can’t make myself step out of.
And what of all the things remade, swabbed
free of salt? Because who can tell
the difference in the dark between
antlers and branches and bone, between
the thick-haired chest of an animal and you.
Previously published in Passages North.
Born in New Delhi, India, Vandana Khanna is the author of two collections: Train to Agra and Afternoon Masala, as well as the chapbook, The Goddess Monologues. Her poems have won the Crab Orchard Review First Book Prize, The Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize, and the Diode Editions Chapbook Competition.
Day 4, Poet 4: Tyler Tsay
Substitutes For "Before My Father Was Diagnosed With Cancer"
they pushed a man
was the sun
& be castles
i sit atop your shoulders
& stay there.
i do not
anyone that loves
they took the tumor
& gave back
so much less
a rageful wind
the phone remind
me i am losing you
thousand miles away
in you still--
so i rebuild
break the rules
break the rules
the birds sing
& in it,
your glorious laugh
your soft hands
Previously published in DIAGRAM.
Tyler Tsay is a student at Williams College and the Program Director of The Speakeasy Project (thespeakeasyproject.net). His work, both past and upcoming, has been or will be published in The Offing, The Margins: AAWW, BOAAT, Vinyl Poetry, DIAGRAM, Boxcar Poetry and others. He is the recipient of the Bullock Poetry Prize, awarded by the Academy of American Poets and judged by Camille Rankine, and the former Editor in Chief of The Blueshift Journal (theblueshiftjournal.com). When not doodling, collecting quills, or composing cello pieces, he loves a good view, though having an atrocious fear of heights. And yes, fezzes are definitely cool.
Say that it bloomed, put down roots, lodged
like an egg in a nest, snow in a cleft, wedged
for a winter’s nap, say it
turned three times round, curled up
with its nose toward the door.
Say myometrium. Say wand. Say gel,
neoplasm, adenoma. Say benign.
Put a light bulb behind it and watch it
Say the raven is growing
a new planet in your body.
Should the nascent body bloom, say
is this the beak, that the beginning of legs.
First published in North American Review and later included in Jenifer's second poetry collection,Grayling.
Jenifer Browne Lawrence is the author of Grayling (Perugia Press, 2015), and One Hundred Steps from Shore (Blue Begonia Press, 2006). Her work appears in Bracken, The Coachella Review, Los Angeles Review, Narrative, North American Review, and elsewhere. She lives on Puget Sound, and edits the Seattle-based journal, Crab Creek Review. Say hi on twitter @jeniferbrowne.
Day 2, Poet 2: Natasha Marin
The Lesser Temple
Before the rain came, like a stampede of lakes,
I had climbed halfway down the mountain alone--
only the tremor of exhaled lullabies
could flatten the tympani of my chest.
We had interrupted nuns and monks
in the summit village midway through a meal.
My stance of guilt and his entitled stride.
Not holding hands, even when the barking dog,
charged with protecting such holiness,
kept teeth and relentless noise beside me.
I would end up crossing that same dog three more times
like an omen
as I had forgotten something precious
at the point where the green coupling gives way to the sky.
There where he had stopped to share a breathless cigarette with me.
There where I used two rusted bobby pins to become beautiful again for the photos.
I found my way to the top the second time, found the little plastic bag,
lingering where I had abandoned it to my excitement.
The foretelling. The chalking up.
The durations we entertained together and apart.
I could’ve slipped easily like a pickax finding blood through flesh,
like a scream finding absolution in the air,
sliding like broken angles off of the side of the mountain,
but still he didn’t follow me.
He was always convinced that my skin made me resilient.
I didn’t need protection.
I wasn’t graceful, I was strong.
I wasn’t fragile, couldn’t be.
But he could justify every maligning move with just a shrug.
When I made it back to the holy village, full of flowers and flat paths,
the dog was there. But I had found a large stick in the jungle.
It was black with rot, but thick in my hand.
With each step toward the one who had led me here,
I hit the ground and held my head up.
The dog noted my accoutrement—the master I carved out of air.
Allowed me to pass. As I was only a heart beating--
I passed the stone temple, roped off, but filled with colorful offerings.
I ended up at the lesser temple.
Tile floor dipped concave like a swimming pool at the center.
And I made him wait,
while I acknowledged the majesty of the space I had allowed myself into.
The space of moot summation. The space of makeshift rationale.
Let my eyes close for a moment. And took a breath.
I hadn’t yet begun to cry because I hadn’t yet begun to feel sorry for myself.
That would come later.
Natasha Marin is a conceptual artist primarily engaged in the work of digital engagement and community building. Natasha's methodology pivots around co-creation and she uses platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to find, connect, and build alliances among individuals and communities. Her work (often done in collaboration with non-artist-identified folks) supports building a creative legacy with sustainable communities through different levels of engagement, modes of connection, and methods of encounter. She is a recovering poet, author of Milk, creator of Reparations, #WomanCentered, Red Lineage, & Black Imagination.
Day 1, Poet 1: Alison Pelegrin
Hot Sauce Shrine
I used to be a high priestess of tail-feather feel-good
mumbo jumbo, naysayer extraordinaire
cobbling together some crazy quilt catechism
to cling to as I tangled in the world’s thorns,
frantic, fearing the chill soon to come.
I haven’t turned holy roller or handler of snakes,
but things changed slowly, or all at once.
Maybe it was when I drove through a dust devil
and inhaled its grit of cut grass and cigarette butts.
I’ve taken to praying since the whirlwind
shook me loose, or anyway I dip my head
at stoplights until I get distracted by scenery,
or birds, and the prayers come out confused.
I’m clueless--my angel of place smokes blunts
and speaks to me in bug bite braille. I know
to visit St. Roch and turn his statue to the wall,
but I hunger for alone time on an island
with an organ that plays itself, or to whisper
all my secrets to the hot sauce shrine.
I read that the world is a dream of God,
and now I don’t know what to do with my hands.
The world is God’s dream and I am a sparrow
passing through song and the brass glow of fire,
or maybe that is wrong, and I’m trapped inside,
stunned against the glass or down the chimney,
terrified of kind hands that sweep me to the door.
When I wake I’m walking the moonlit labyrinth
with wet feet, and the birds are quiet because
I have terrified them with the thunder
of my stumbling. Oh God of everything that creeps,
I light a candle and ask my question:
Is it pilgrimage enough if I spend my life
remembering the few seconds I was a bird?
Previously published in Waterlines (LSU Press 2016).
Alison Pelegrin is the author of four poetry collections, most recentlyWaterlines (LSU Press 2016), and Our Lady of the Flood (Diode Editions 2018) and a winner of the Diode chapbook prize. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the NEA, and is on the graduate faculty at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Bee: Botanical::We: Poetry
On the eve of April 1st, consider me a bee prepping you for something sweet. Last year, I hosted my first 30/30 blog tour for poetry month and it was so fun, I'm doing it again. Starting tomorrow, join me in celebrating the new-to-me or new-to-you poets who range from emerging to local to nationally recognized writers.
If you or someone you know might like to be featured in the future, feel free to tap me via my contact form. I'm happy to consider adding you to the mix. Otherwise, kick back and enjoy what I hope you will find to be a diverse and wickedly talented collection of poets.
Everything's Coming Up Opossums
With the sun in Scorpio and the moon in Gemini, I couldn't be a prouder parent to a stranger creature. Yes, I'm talking books! Lay Down Your Fleece, my latest chapbook published by Shirt Pocket Press, arrived today. Inside, you will find at least four poems that have never before appeared in print, along with a veritable barnyard of animals (horses, pigs, opossum, mice, dogs, and gulls), one Breitbart reference, and many pieces that are no longer available via other sources (bless the journals that survive and those that don't.)
This is my slim, Southern collection so I promise you vernacular and all the things a girl raised in the South, but not of the South, can give you via line break and lyric. Think of all the reasons a poet might lay down her fleece, then turn to the fifth poem to find out the real answer.
If you, too, would like a copy to peruse or with which to snuggle, you're most welcome to buy one directly from the press (it may state that it is unavailable, please disregard this and click on the pre-order option and it will deliver you to PayPal where you may buy one or more copies for $8/each) or at one of my upcoming readings--like say, tomorrow night at Vermillion when I read for great weather for media (7-9 pm). You will be there, right?
But for now, a poem:
It wasn’t Limerick, Ireland
but Pennsylvania and I
turned the key but the key
didn’t turn the car.
You ran back
and forth across the street
as though you were
conducting a relay with time
but time didn’t listen
and you, with your parts--
question of which
I took to the shade as any
in heat, stood by a tree
that bore apples all meal--
I offered you.
You told me the battery
was what I needed. I told you
to make my car go.
If there was a field
full of corn, then
one of us was the silence.
(Previously Published in The Blueshift Journal, subsequently published in Lay Down Your Fleece, Shirt Pocket Press, 2017.)
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.