“Constellation of Masquerades” by Trenna Sharpe

Scientists have created Anteros out of a fruitfly.
A simple gene tweak and a bug becomes a god,
Irresistible to every other fly that finds it now.
This means nothing for us, for the gods do not exist
outside the stairwells of imagination, the whirligig
nature of human desire. We’re in love! we say.
We’re in love! With the open palms of history,
with the potatoes growing silently in the garden.
I could grow moss in my pocket, and never be alone.
I am lost without it! I am not lost. I am standing at a threshold
of mossiness. There is cold weather coming in either direction.
The wind curls itself around my body and sings
and it tells me that every chemical in my body passed first
through the body of a star, so I have nothing to worry about.
I was dead before I reached me. My spindly legs are the result
of the atmosphere, the rough journey down to the face of this earth.
I’m a crippled constellation masquerading as human.
The glint in my eye is more than just an expression. My sense
of direction is skewed for good reason. I’ll never find a point to end on.
Everything happens in circles. One day my life
will get caught in the orbit of another, and no one
will know which way to follow.

“Road Map” – Elisabeth Zachary

…we must learn to bear the pleasures as we have borne the pains.        
Nikki Giovanni

Stories tied tightly in bags of sacred sorrow,
Tangled paper tucked away like treasures but forgotten.
I think of California sadly,
Three children born so quickly during a hot, dry season,
In a place so far from home.
Cowering in daylight dark apartments,
Winking through window cracks,
To glimpse silhouetted strangers beckoning at the door
Nursing the fear of a three day notice to pay or quit
Breathing the shame of night after night alone.
I think of those days sadly,
California sunshine sparkling against the windshield, brightly beating
On back seat babies tucked into blanket envelopes,
Sleeping gently, eyes closed sweetly,
Hands curled into delicate fist balls against sweet, fresh faces.
Driving unknown city streets in Glendale or Big Bear or Pacoima.
Unfriendly places far from familiar faces,
Places to write bad checks for diapers,
Places to get well, to breathe better air.
Places chosen with the hope that redemption resided somewhere near,
Somewhere mapped with a compass rose.
Radio loud, smoking with the windows down,
Cigarette ash burning sharp red against window wind.
Wind whistling lullabies through the car.
Humming in my ear,
Blowing against my face, across my skin
Swaddling me sweetly to remind me I am often lost
But find my way somehow somewhere.
What of other places that came before?
Those other whispered, childhood sorrows,
Of looking into windows from winding roads,
From Mosheim to Woodmore, across Route 66,
All the way to California and back again.
Precious coddled sorrow memories,
Stacked carefully against the wall with pictures, letters, scribbled late night journals,
Holding tightly to close little treasures of hurt and ache,
Each wrapped in strings of delicate sorrow,
Lullabies singing loss, brave battles lost,
Sweet, still sorrow held near.

“Locusts” by Laurel Jones

I can taste the silence when they leave, like
copper or dirt and I wonder if they know what it is
to be still and alone. Sometimes I can hear them
when I’m sleeping, a voice in a solemn place.
Their noise echos around the room like the stretch
of flowers, sound searching for light. If I could
gather up their dried overshells that they leave on trees,
behind car tires and on benches, maybe I could hold
their outer layer the way I hold my own bones inside me–
close and pressing. Still, not quite hollow, my bones sleep
cradled within me: the bumps of the spine, the curve of the
ribcage. The thin, pointed fingertip. These are the rocks
I carry within my chest. The locusts have been listening
to my heartbeat; pulsing, sweet. They have been quiet.
They have found the crop. If I asked, they would know the answer.
They would tell me that it’s not death– only bones
like at the church at Kutna Hora with the
40,000 dead all piled and bleached white together.
The locusts stay together and hum. I touch my arms.
I feel the hardness. I will have a garden on my grave.

“Infiltrator” by Daniel Myers

I did not realize there was a chameleon
in this poem until now. In the space
between the last lines, he protrudes
like a misplaced dab of white out.
He is skillful in his hiding. Even maniacal.
Like other chameleons, he will stalk his prey
for years. Time is no impediment for chameleons
because they can hide from it as well.
I look into my chameleon’s meandering eyes.
One is looking at me. The other swivels
across the room like a top. It stops
at the knife (on my wall) that I
supposedly use to cook. It stops at the picture
of the Yankees celebrating yet another world series.
I hate baseball. It stops on a deer head
that I bought. His eye stops finally at the window
staring past the woods and watching a man
climb onto a bus that isn’t there. His other eye
never moves. He seems scared. Desperate even.
Latching onto this poem like wet ink on a page.
Chameleons can hide from anything. Even other chameleons.

“Death in a Man” – Kyndall Proffitt

I wonder what Daddy saw in that deer’s eyes
Before he put the bullet through its head.
And how Mother’s heart felt
When she looked at him and smiled
And congratulated him on his kill.
When she lies beside him at night,
Feels his skin and studies his face,
I wonder if she can see that deer’s eyes
Trapped inside of Daddy’s.
Or if she wants to run from his bed
When she feels it kicking through his skin,
Warning her to set herself free.

“Helium” by Vanessa Parks

At absolute zero, helium is the only liquid. Here,
it is frictionless, free of viscosity.
I watch grey clouds suck a balloon
into their midst. A toddler cries out for it and
collapses in the sand. Weighed down by
winter clothes, he rolls around, trying to get up.
I am suddenly reminded of Dante’s Satan,
crying and stuck in ice. At any given time,
15% of the world’s oceans are frozen.
As I kayaked around Alaskan glaciers,
I was amazed by the cold that ice emanates,
the kind of cold that works its way inside your
gloves and past the jingling door of
a ginghamed pizzeria. It’s cold the way
I didn’t call out for the balloon too.

“Spittle” by Case Duckworth

My body is attached to your body by a thin spittle of thought.
When you turn away from me, my thought is broken
and forms anew with something else. Ideas are drool.
Beauty has been slobbered over far too long. God
is a tidal wave of bodily fluid. Even the flea has some
vestigial wetness. We live in a world fleshy and dark,
and moist as a nostril. Is conciousness only a watery-eyed
romantic, crying softly into his shirt-sleeve? Is not reason
a square-jawed businessman with a briefcase full of memory?
I want to kiss the world to make it mine. I want to become
a Judas to reality, betray it with the wetness of emotion.
The coin that holds the two sides of experience will become
a mobius strip trailing snail slime to infinity.

“The Addict” by Gavin Cross

There’s a photograph, crumpling
under the glass top on my dresser,
of the snow angels we made
on the frozen lake. It was there
You told me you felt most at home
in the sky. among treetops.
The cool, light sugar of pine.
But no one photographed the day
You took a breath underwater.
The day you decided you needed
The salt in your lungs,
the biting, savory heat, to live.
So you spend your time divided
among the two. Wondering who’s
a fish and who’s a penguin.
I say it’s simple. If you love both
worlds, make your home in the sky.
But how could I know?
This is something you’ve learned.
Psychologists call it a conditioned
response. I call it muddy water.
No ice. I hate winter and so do you.
something we have in common.
Remember the lake is still frozen.
the only warmth the snow angels
holding back the water’s breath.

“Friday” – Megan Denton

Maybe giddy, with the excess of bookshelves,
or firewood, it is possible to unfold forever, forgotten.
But, first, I must adjust my fragile roots: from here,
I can see the cabin, where I would hold out
a fistful of grace for you, father, an opportunity
to test the backbone. I’m bringing you a sun,
with splinters in it, from the center of my
wide-eyed choir, of yellow crayons I’ve kept
for us. I’ve gathered nearly two fists full
of forgiveness, belated; not any comfort will do.
I am bringing you the only beautiful thing
in the yard between my cabin and yours,
and I carry it like a jewel, or my favorite
sea shell, all yours, if you keep me.
And because you’re sick,
because there’s a shadow on your love,
I want to bring you something picked
by my hand, a child’s drawing of the sun.
I would still be winter, had it not been for this.

“State of Confusion” – Monika Groppe

“Where are we going again?” the young boy
asked as his father began pulling out maps
for the family trip. “The grand ole State of
Confusion!” the father replied, flattening
the maps on the table. “I grew up there, in a tiny
brick house on the upper west side of the
state, shimmering Lake of Lost Reflections
in our back yard.  Never was there a dull
moment! People didn’t move like they do
here. as if they are giant chess pieces
moving directly from one square to
another. In the State of Confusion,
everyone holds their breath and swims
toward their destination, letting bubbles
tickle their face as they go. When they tire,
they turn over on their backs and float
until their energy is regained. At times,
you wouldn’t get to where you intended
for the current was strong, as if powered
by Fate.” “But dad, I thought you didn’t know
how to swim!” “I can’t, son. But in The State
of Confusion everybody does things they
don’t know how to do. Babies whale
with a suckling sense of justice, children’s
feet no longer touch the ground
when they reach their parent’s age,
grown up. Adults sit and talk for
hours and hours without doing a single
thing. It’s a miraculous place, really.”
“Why did you leave then, dad?” “Because,
son, I thought I knew better.”