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Alice Held

Alice Held

 
4/11: by Alice Held
 
my least favorite word is the one i say the most.
slur apologies throughout the day more than people say my name
apologize for apologizing too much
as if my tongue felt the need to pick up the ones you dropped
sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry
 
i need to remember that silence only resembled unity when i was with you
so through every mumbled apology of mine, i drown out
the noise of your sorrow directed towards me, i have trouble noticing
where your apologies lie-
they are there in every syllable of your name
in every car i think i’ll see you in
in every poem my brain denies but my heart embraces
 
watching
waiting
alive
 
Isaac Scobey-Thal

Isaac Scobey-Thal

 
4/10: “Samantha Lost Her Mind, Jesse Lost His Voice” by Isaac Scobey-Thal
 
1.
Jesse used to scream so loud
When we went to the beach
That he would lose his voice
His throat would be crackly with sand And hoarse like the empty waves crashing But then at dinner
He’d eat sweet corn and smile
And laugh again
I don’t see him laugh as much since then
 
2.
I’ve known Samantha’s mind was gone
Since my memories of her face began
Her eyes looking at the distance we could never fathom
Her hands tight to her thighs
Like they’d never come alive
Her mouth muttering messages just light enough for her breath to catch Her ears open, like she was listening to the soft call of the beach
That no one else could hear
Her mind was gone
 
3.
Jesse was not a bad brother to her
It’s just that he didn’t understand what she was
So he’d pull her pig tails
And push her around
And their parents would quiet him for that
He was a boy with her
And they resented him for that
It went deeper, though.
It was as if Samantha’s mind was concrete
It was hard and fast
And they couldn’t change it
But Jesse’s was just clay
They could still mold it, shun it
So they would hear Samantha’s undistinguishable muttering And they’d push Jesse
They’d tell him to be quiet
As if the command would somehow ricochet off of him And absorb within Samantha.
 
4.
As they grew older
Jesse started using swear words
And his body got thick
But Samantha’s mind couldn’t fill out like his frame And he got impatient
She stayed oblivious
And their parents got tired
The cycle began
Samantha would hear the beach calling
They’d try to listen, but to no avail.
 
5.
One day during our family beach vacations
Me and Jesse were sitting in their suite
Watching a boyhood movie
And Samantha ran out of her room
And she was screaming
And we couldn’t understand
Her mother ran to her
And put her hands on her shoulders
And tried to help her breathe
And Samantha cried that she’d lost her book
And her mother looked her in the eyes
But she just kept on screaming
Like a nail of an idea she couldn’t get out of her head And Jesse closed his eyes and shook his head
But she couldn’t find her book
She couldn’t catch her breath
And her mind was gone
And so was Jesse’s temper
He cried
“Samantha, it’s a fucking coloring book, shut up!” And her mother turned to Jesse
And pointed at his chest
And she said
“You shut your mouth
You have no idea who she is”
Samantha is crying now
Jesse talks back
But their mother zips his mouth closed
With years of bottled up frustration
And Samantha is on the ground now
And her mind is gone
And Jesse sits down
With just a little bit more of his child soul Battered out of him
And he closes his eyes
Their mother returns to Samantha
And wraps her in her arms
And she squeezes her so tight
It’s as if she was trying to transport
A little bit of her sanity
Into the empty spot on the back-left side of Samantha’s brain Samantha is screaming
With a gaped mouth and her eyes closed
And her mother’s eyes are shut tight
To block out the engraving of this scene on her all-too-tired brain And Jesse is crying quietly
And his eyes are closed
So no one can see his red eyes
And his tears
 
6.
At 16
Jesse’s been silenced so often
That he’s lost his voice
His clay mind has been beaten by the beach sun
And dried into adolescence
His discrete giggle was left on the sand
Where the waves can eat at it
And Samantha’s lost her mind to starlight and wave whispers Jesse’s lost his voice
Samantha’s lost her mind
I wish I could find them both. 
 
4/9: “Bare Into the Earth” by Isaac Scobey-Thal
 
When my father told me bedtime stories
he spoke in terms of miles traveled,
distances lost or gained.
He spoke of crumbled dirt against
cracked heels
because it was important to remember
every inch that had created my life
had been covered by
bare soles
over the earth.
 
In bedtime stories I first learned
how to worship grandparents
who walked barefoot
through lifetimes
I could only reach in dreams.
Great-grandmother, my father told me how
you left your sister in a potato field
when you were young.
You crouched low because around you
soldiers fired guns.
You left your village alone,
and your sister never left at all,
because America would only welcome immigrants
who came unscarred,
and your sister’s blind eyes still bled
as you left her ducking under bullets
she could not see.
 
You wouldn’t have looked back
as you walked farther and  farther away,
but each narrow gouge dug by your toes
into the dirt
would have rooted you to bullets
and potato fields behind you.
And after you were gone I think your sister knelt
and smoothed her fingers over
every shallow gash
like healing scars,
attempting to absorb all trace of you
so that only her hands would remember how to follow.
She didn’t know then how some footprints
cannot be erased.
 
Great-grandmother, did you think of your sister later,
in 1933 when you spoke the word Holodomor
and your entire country starved?
Did you think maybe she was buried then,
among the millions in mass graves,
swallowed by a hunger so large you almost believed
your blood felt it too?
Did you wonder whether her eyes closed then
or after,
when tanks rolled into your village and your home burned?
As you laced leather shoes over
clean white socks and toes,
were you reminded that your sister was buried
with bare feet covered in dirt?
Did you remember the roots you lay so long ago?
 
When you met your husband
he also spoke the language
your sister still whispered to you in your dreams,
and his feet remembered walking,
callused and bloodied,
over mountains and continents to reach the ocean
that had taken him to you.
You loved him because his feet, too,
remembered Ukraine,
and villages and siblings
who burned
 
Great-grandmother, I listen to news of your country,
whose feet are still bare and cracked,
whose mouth is still gaping in hunger,
whose blind eyes are still forced to bleed.
I will listen to your story.
I will take it with me into my dreams.
I will press my feet bare into the earth.
 
Sofia Fall

Sofia Fall

 
4/8: “Bare Into the Earth” by Sofia Fall
 
When my father told me bedtime stories
he spoke in terms of miles traveled,
distances lost or gained.
He spoke of crumbled dirt against
cracked heels
because it was important to remember
every inch that had created my life
had been covered by
bare soles
over the earth.
 
In bedtime stories I first learned
how to worship grandparents
who walked barefoot
through lifetimes
I could only reach in dreams.
Great-grandmother, my father told me how
you left your sister in a potato field
when you were young.
You crouched low because around you
soldiers fired guns.
You left your village alone,
and your sister never left at all,
because America would only welcome immigrants
who came unscarred,
and your sister’s blind eyes still bled
as you left her ducking under bullets
she could not see.
 
You wouldn’t have looked back
as you walked farther and  farther away,
but each narrow gouge dug by your toes
into the dirt
would have rooted you to bullets
and potato fields behind you.
And after you were gone I think your sister knelt
and smoothed her fingers over
every shallow gash
like healing scars,
attempting to absorb all trace of you
so that only her hands would remember how to follow.
She didn’t know then how some footprints
cannot be erased.
 
Great-grandmother, did you think of your sister later,
in 1933 when you spoke the word Holodomor
and your entire country starved?
Did you think maybe she was buried then,
among the millions in mass graves,
swallowed by a hunger so large you almost believed
your blood felt it too?
Did you wonder whether her eyes closed then
or after,
when tanks rolled into your village and your home burned?
As you laced leather shoes over
clean white socks and toes,
were you reminded that your sister was buried
with bare feet covered in dirt?
Did you remember the roots you lay so long ago?
 
When you met your husband
he also spoke the language
your sister still whispered to you in your dreams,
and his feet remembered walking,
callused and bloodied,
over mountains and continents to reach the ocean
that had taken him to you.
You loved him because his feet, too,
remembered Ukraine,
and villages and siblings
who burned
 
Great-grandmother, I listen to news of your country,
whose feet are still bare and cracked,
whose mouth is still gaping in hunger,
whose blind eyes are still forced to bleed.
I will listen to your story.
I will take it with me into my dreams.
I will press my feet bare into the earth.
Isabel Sandweiss

Isabel Sandweiss

4/7: “Slicing Peppers” by Isabel Sandweiss 
 
She said the heat was so piercing she thought she would die.
I kept slicing habaneros,
membrane by membrane,
I sliced
and roasted
and stung.
I let the butter bubble my fingertips
I thought, maybe she’s right.
 
The cabinets were coated in pepper smoke,
Jalapenos long like her gaze.
the seeds burst and ripped open the air,
sharp water dripping from her eyes
she watched as my hands sliced
and searched for familiarity in my humming,
wondering all the while where I had learned this tolerance
 
Hot smoke cracked from the frying pan
and I smiled.
Mom’s eyes popped
sharp Jalapeno seeds,
both sets of eyes wet
but only hers were crying.
 
Membrane by membrane we dissected the peppers
and I felt her trying to recognize me.
I wanted to tell her I could still see myself in the windowpane
Mom, the smoke is warm in our lungs.
Mom, can’t you feel the promise in the heat?
Mom, we can still breathe.
Instead, I kept slicing.
 
I blended and buttered and seeds continued to cut the fragile air
the smoke covered the countertops and
when it became too much I watched her leave,
gasping and coughing
eyes stained red.
 
I kept slicing the habaneros,
watched the seeds break in the pan.
I took a deep breath and continued to hum.
My fingertips tore apart membranes
as I thought of my mother
and around me all that remained was the heat and the you.
 
Ellen Stone

Ellen Stone

 
4/6: “Cold Road Spring” by Ellen Stone
 
Down in the river valley, we stream
on old roadways above the Susquehanna
watch the spring come on and sawdust
coat the hillside.  Road crews have strewn
it, left from their pruning.  April calls sweetly
to the turkey vulture winding on a wind swirl.
 
We climb above the Cumberland Valley, swing
west toward Thompsontown, Cuba Mills, small
town Pennsylvania.  Workers in celery green spread
cement smooth over an asphalt patch, signal
us past, blinking orange arrow left, syncopated
on, off while a blue mountain ridge spires
 
above the low farmland.  Sun gleams off cars sparkling
in the thin sun.  We slow and a girl sings softly
in the back seat.  Oak leaves, shale and Styrofoam
litter the roadside as we roll through.  White silos
from an old barn point skyward, church steeple
at the Cedar Grove Baptist Church.  We speed
 
up toward Mifflintown.  Dairy farms and corn stubble
fly by.  Slow dance with the tractor trailers, swoop
down near Arch Rock Road,  a hard guitar solo
rings from the radio.  More buzzards and a strange
haze up the mountain angled to a soft grey shifts
like a morning mist.  The hillside is scattered
 
with rock slide, careless and wild, granite stretching
up as far as we can see.  Electric Avenue toward Selinsgrove,
we climb, rock outcrop to our right, a deep silent
blue valley to our left.  April awakens, fresh and scarred
yellow as forsythia, black as Country Jack’s, old stone
foundations, Strode’s Run Creek flows, cold road spring.
 
Tracy Scherdt

Tracy Scherdt

 
4/5: “Salt of The Earth” by Tracy Scherdt
 
I inherited the words
my grandfather used to describe what the bottom of
bomber planes look like,
and how he saw Lillian in the clouds of Japan.
The words my mother would use to
describe a sewing machine’s heart beat.
These words I absorbed into flesh,
a bone structure of verbs.
 
I learned how to use the words by
picking up the letters off of pages pulled
from bookshelves low enough to reach.
My inherited words,
read before they were spoken.
 
When I speak, you can hear
my Michigan accent full of
grandmother’s cooking,
thick cream and real maple syrup.
The words I learned to wrap my sounds around,
stick to the backs of my teeth.
Maple syrup, fear.
I worry they’d fall silent surrounded by
too much noise.
 
I’m old enough now to learn the letters on
bent postcards sent from Germany,
from the country forgotten
by my voice but not by the bridge of my nose
or the sharpness of my last name.
 
I haven’t yet worn my heritage in that way.
I’ve let the words drown in the space
between 1942 and 2013
in the time while you were still alive
in the years you could have taught me
what being German American meant,
and what words you’ve taken from
men who would have rather been the thief.
 
My hands molded from German farmers,
the salt of the Earth,
filling my cuts with a burn that reminds me
of homesickness.
My hands, meant to be writing the homeland
into the soil
next to potatoes,
and the flag we took down before the war.
 
And I still can’t choke out the words to thank my great grandmother
for giving me her name.
 
Katie Taub

Katie Taub

 4/4: “zion” by Katie Taub 
 
I don’t know where I fit in
Socially, yes, on a micro scale this may be false
but expand that to my people
a supposed chosen few
and hell
I don’t think we’ve ever found our footing in the sand
the grains of which have been torn apart and melded into glass beneath our feet
a beautiful outcome
only to leave scorched souls and a lack of footprint
caramelized skin for the scapegoat of sorts
appreciated
feared
fearing
all together
irreconcilably different
oh how vast the ignorant minority i feel when i deny the color of my skin because it no longer patterns with how i was treated
how in the middle ages i would be crucified for denying myself its existence
but yet I am grouped in with the rest of them
to say that the book does not match the cover would be an understatement
an overstatement of fact
and i am denied by these statements because i have supposedly wronged the people by whom i have been marred
my entire lineage
the thick sanguine red is no different than the blood that courses through any of your veins
in vain i deny myself of assign my life to a color whereas you fight to keep me on the UV spectrum
hell, i am as pale as god almighty
but when i am seen as successful
i am at war with a double standard
my standard held high
with conjoining triangles ladened upon blue and white breaths
a symbol worn on a shield of my people
at once i am the oppressor and the oppressed
the lion and the lamb
the calm and the storm
the sickness and the antidote
and guttural elocution 
can only differentiate us so much
 
Kiley Paige

Kiley Paige

4/3: By Kiley Paige
 
This Guy.
Under  this sky,
There is this guy.
Who likes to look fly,
While the birds fly.
This guy gets high,
Likes to say the end is nigh.
Will use hair dye,
Oh no, in his eye.
His girlfriend is kinda shy,
With a sigh, she says bye.
And now he’s all alone.
 
Ken McGraw

Ken McGraw

4/2: “Pennicooke’s Fiddle” by Ken McGraw
 
He plays violin and you
will do anything he asks.
But all he asks you to do is
listen.  And you listen.
 
His song is the cut
of a ragged blade, sudden laughter
from a second story window.
 
Your hand smoothes his bed as you
lean back; you watch his arm saw
across the small body like a woodcutter:
again and again and again, the fall
of trees inexorable under that
persistence of love.
 
You cover the scab
on your knee, hide its itching, its ache.
Your anguish ages this love a day
into a year, and finally into bricks half
buried in dirt.
 
You have been with him
forever, and his songs have always played
for you: the pleading of birds in a lilac
bush, spring after spring.
 
Abby Stone-Lauer

Abby Stone-Lauer

4/1: “Berenstain Bears for Breakfast” by Abby Stone-Lauer
 
My tiny fingers skimmed through the colored pages
as I awoke one morning.
My long hair tangled
by a restless nights sleep
I passed the glossy front cover without thought,
making my way to the rough white paper that followed.
I’d look down,
trying to make sense of the symbols on the page.
Before preschool,
my mother would read to me.
Soothing me with her words,
and images of the tree-house down on the sunny dirt road.
I was mesmerized
lost in deep bear country.
At sunrise,
I’d eat my waffle with peanut butter for protein,
syrup for a treat and dream
of honeycomb for breakfast.
A bear’s morning snack.
Worries never come the way of bears.
I long to be a bear.
A Berenstain bear

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