Pics & Poets 2023

Motif put out an open call for visual artists and poets to submit work for an experimental new event: Pics & Poets. Artists and poets were randomly paired. Each participant had two weeks to create a new piece inspired by their partner’s original submission. Creativity ensued.

For one night only, the work was displayed at the WaterFire Arts Center alongside painter and AS220 founder Umberto Crenca’s Divine Providence show. The matching artworks and poems hung together, poets read their work aloud, and the audience cast votes for their favorites.

It is our pleasure to present a few of those favorite matches in print. Art inspires poetry. Poetry inspires art.


“Owl Girl” Digital art by Brendan Maddock
Who is She 

Glasses of air are heavier in the morning
Fuller than the nights before
And I’m left to wonder 
Did it spill upon the earth 
Across the floor. 
I’m lying here 
My body branched in limbs 
And curls and mirages 
Becoming more and more aware 
I’m only as far as my blood rushes. 
What can you hear 
Maybe there’s loudness in silence 
But I can only make out 
These notes of compliance. 
I stare into the mirror in front of me 
And ask, who is she? 
She is certainly not the bits and pieces 
I feel so sharply within me. 
A daughter within parameters 
A dreamer in life’s brevity 
A Capricorn clutching her freedom 
As the tides wash her of sensibilities 
Who is she? 
She’s put storm windows on teary eyes 
Yet it’s the rain inside that floods her vision 
I’d take the shutters off my skin 
But only know hammers to lock me in 
I’m lying here 
It’s slipped my mind who am I 
And the mirror offers no suggestions 
Why am I not made of mountains and 
Made of earth, sky, and other dimensions 
Perhaps I was before I woke 
But now I’m not 
I stare into the mirror in front of me 
The world in front of me 
Who, who, who is she?

– Jill Miller


Resurrection & Revival

Falling for you, like I fall for the flowers. 
Every phase more exquisite than the last; yet they each must come to an end. 
Do we mourn the darkness of what we don’t understand? 
Or enjoy the rebirth and beauty .. 
All which comes from death. 
There is no better teacher of life than the seasons.

- Lindsay Brierly

Like Hela Cells 

if i die mid experimentation working with tuberculosis will I be used like Henerietta Lacks if it’s not 
written on a document does the brain lose its privacy as if rotted thoughts cannot still be trapped by skull 
before my body fuses with mother earth will my cells be enslaved by latex gloves pretending to hide white 
hands will my stem cells proliferate more melanin begin to paint an institution in night help nature 
create this “Blackface” granting them funds for incorporating my color in their bigger picture watch how 
useful i can become when my breath is snuffed and my cells begin to divide into 


Do not excavate my organs I do not concede my blobs of tissue to wipe your face clean your tears for a 
Nobel Prize for tagging my culture as an asterisk I do not grant my unconsented name to be worn as a 
mask I do not auction my body to be remembered for your science’s immortality let me denature when I 
die have only the covers of 8th grade science textbooks and the occasional park bench remember me let my 
discoveries inspire unheard voices before my cells become controversy

– Kenny Bradley


I am myself, even when I am not 

When the universe made me, 
she whispered all her secrets in my ear. She said, 
You’ll never know you can fall asleep until you close your eyes. 
I said, I don’t know anything, and I never have. 
So she asked, what do you wish you knew, then? 

I wish I could tell you that I haven’t forgotten 
when we were just kids, and we would crush every bug 
just to see what color its blood was. Blue. Last night, I 
drank from a cup that smelled like you. The water 
was sweet and warm and blood-blue, 

even when I spat it right out. 
I told the universe that I think I feel you 
every time I enter a room, when the first thing I notice 
is a mirror. It tells me that my body is soft, 
and that is the best thing about it. 

She asked, did you know 
that you don’t always have to be the hero 
of your story? I said, I don’t know anything, 
but I am myself, even when 
I am not.

– Rachna Iyer


“Colossus of Crossroads” by Emma Malbon
We Are Here

Give me your tired your poor your helplessly addicted your hopeless alcoholics
Give me your worn out your broken your mad ones howling at the moon on a Tuesday night downtown
Give me your forgotten
Give me the truth of the mad American night that the mainstream has thrown away
These are my people
The true American heroes
Methadone messiahs in thrift store finery
I want their knowledge and wisdom
I want the wisdom of mortified flesh and a soul in agony
When the American dream turns its back
I will be here
To hear your story and lift you up
You matter 
You have value
Our society may have failed you but you have not failed your society
Take your fear and anxiety, bring it to Main St
Take the horror of the real America
And throw it in their faces
You are not lost
You are the REAL
You are the ones who make people stop and think
Tell me your story
Break my heart
Knock my dick in the dirt and make me feel
I am here for you 
Whisper my name 
Let me lift you UP
To remind you of who you are
You are a force while they are a farce
Bring your tears and your fears to the doorstep of power and avarice 
Bring your rage
And I will match it with mine
We are here 
And we are coming for you America

- Brian Shovelton

Begin with Me

There was no particular reason, 
No special holiday or season. 
I just awoke and as I lay, 
I heard my gentle spirit say, 

“Please, no routines today. 
For once, just go a different way. 
Please...just give us this one day.” 

Now I’d heard that voice several times before, 
But I had always chosen to ignore. 
Responsibilities overruled!!! 
Too many things to always do. 
Too many people to answer to. 
If I wasn’t there, what would they do? 

But today, for some reason...I don’t even know why, I 
heard my spirit and finally I obliged. 
So I called in...with a feeling of dread. 
“OK. Goodbye,” 
Is all they said. 
So I responded, “OK,” 
And I went ahead. 

No real plans. Just headed out. 
I walked around and ventured about. 
A cup of coffee with a fancy name. 
A long walk down that pretty lane. 
Bought a scarf I didn’t need. 
It was green...and nice, indeed. 
I tossed it on and moved along, 
Then started humming some old song. 
I didn’t even know the name. 
‘Just popped itself into my brain.
And I must have hummed for quite a while 
‘Cause people looked at me and smiled. Now 
usually, I am quite shy. 
But today...I smiled back and then waved, “Hi.” 

I walked along my little stroll, 
Loosening typical self-control. 
I embraced all that I saw in this world, 
Like I hadn’t done since I was a girl. 

Yes, I took it in and absorbed it all 
And by the time that dark began to fall, I knew that something had to give 
If I was truly going to live, 
And love, and laugh, and lift my heart. 
And today -- today would finally be the start. 

Then I stopped for a moment and I thought: 
When did we become so overwrought? Who 
said to have success that we should Make 
stressful ways our greater good? 

Am I keeping up? 
Am I doing okay? 
Why do we live 
By what others say? 

‘Cause it’s a race. 
Until we die 
So shut up. Don’t think. 
Do not ask, “Why?” 

We’ve responsibilities, okay, yes. 
We have our jobs and days of stress. 
And things and stuf to all sort out 
That pressure us so, and leave us in doubt. 
We’ve got to do them, yes I see… 
But today it became quite clear to me:
You see, my spirit, she made me listen today 
To what, for so long, she’d been trying to say. 
But sometimes my head is too darned hard, 
And I find it difficult to lower my guard. 

I just couldn’t be “Supershe” for this 24. 
I needed something, just a little bit more. 
I needed time. I needed air. 
I needed to just...just be here. 
With no clocking in and no deadlines. 
I needed to simply clear my mind. 

She said: 
“Take care of what you have to, Dear 
But when I speak, please stop and hear. 
When I’m telling you to take a break, 
Just listen please, for goodness’ sake. 

Yes, live responsibly and keep your word. 
Don’t let your duties go deferred. 
Just make it a point to let in the joy. 
Because you are are ROYAL!!! 
You’re not in this world to only pass a test, 
To be filled with worries or consumed in stress. 
And Darling...never forget...that you are truly so very blessed. 

And remember, you have the power to be 
The face of peace that others see.” 

And so I heard, 
And I cherished each word, 
And by nightfall, 
I had embraced it all. 

And tomorrow, I will step back into “my role,” 
But...I think I will do so with a bit more soul. 
I’ll take a break and maybe even a walk. 
I’ll stop by someone’s desk to talk.
I’ll remember to smile a wee bit more, 
Because life needn’t be such an awful bore. 
I can crack my day open and make it more bright 
And be that someone who adds a little more light To 
the gloomy, moody, draggy day, 
Because it doesn’t need to be that way. 
Amongst all of the noise and the deadlines and the chatter, I 
can remind those I am with that they matter. We’re not just a 
bunch who gather for eight hours To simply perform duties 
and to be devoured By rules and demands by those who hold 

And I say, 
“Thank you, my spirit, for making me see 
That the goodness you gave is not only for me. If 
I take care of me, I can appreciate others, 
And be kinder and gentler to my sisters and brothers. I can say that I see your plan. 
I get it now...I understand. 
If I want more joy to be felt, and heard, and seen. I 
must always first, begin with me.”

- Clarisse Annette Brooks


I'm sick no jokes, pay attention closely,
Sick and lonely no one to hold me
Boldly she told me I was her one and only
I'm so sick of these lies because she's f*kin Anthony
I'm sick of fake friends who never promote me
I'm sick of being talented, even my family doubt me
I'm sick of the sh!t radio stations play mostly
If a never social media, you woulda never hear about me
I'm still in a cold dark world, sickened how my life nah sparkle
I'm sick of crying tears with no one to talk to
Ajani hears me grumbling inna de bathroom, askin "daddy who and you a argue?"
"I'm just sick of being broke son, can't do wah me waan do."
I'm sick of fake foods and fake medications
I'm sick of fake news, fake information
Some sick and confused with fake education
Amaziyah The Great views?
We are living among a sick generation.

- Craig "Amaziyah The Great" Kirkland

Mountaineers Attacked By Bears

It was an awfully cold day 
Up in the mountains 
With that mean sort of wind 
That wicks cusses from a gentleman 
When the river freezes over 
And cedars start shivering 
And nothing’s happening 
Except for time-wasting 
At the mountaineers’ cabin 
Benny and Bobby 
And toothless Billy Joe 
Benny is the tall one 
Bobby, round and low 
Gathered by the lantern 
And a smoking woodstove 
Retelling the same stories 
In gruff, bearded baritones 
Bobby said to Benny 
“This log is nearly through 
Go out and get another 
Before my toes get blue” 
With a grumble and a mumble 
Benny left to go outside 
Leaving door ajar 
A feeble act of pride 
Beef stew and whiskey 
Was thick in the air 
To Billy Joe and Bobby 
Had roused a cave-full of bears 
In the dim lit cabin 
With a stupor thick as molasses 
The mountaineers remained oblivious 
To a hairy trio, most carnivorous 
It was only when Benny 
Returned from outside 

That he realized his two friends 
Had grown into five 
Panic ensued 
But Mountaineers don’t run 
They have painful gout 
And ash-ridden lungs
Billy Joe grabbed the poker 
And Benny clutched a shovel 
Bobby made the bold decision 
To sock one in the muzzle 
The cabin shook 
The lantern lost its light 
And the bellows of beast 
Rang out into the night 
The mountaineers awoke at dawn 
With no memory of before 
But found the cabin in disarray 
It all strewn on the floor 
Billy Joe still had no teeth 
And Bobby was still wide 
Benny had some cuts and bruises 
But couldn’t think of why 
It’s a shame they don’t remember 
‘Cause what a story to share! 
Between the booze 
And rotten beef stew 
“Mountaineers attacked by bears”

- Jill Miller

Ode To Harrison Bergeron

Emperor and Empress defying gravity
Read to me for the first time
In a dusty shaded room
Raspy English teacher timbre
I was the only one who heard your story Harrison

Thor and a Ballerina
A story told a story written
Dancing dancing
The most beautiful idea
Of Rebellion towards strength and Beauty
Rebellion ended like they often do from
The barrel of a gun

Who knows what kind of Empire
Would you have built with our Empress
Perhaps the idea itself was the most beautiful
Perhaps you shined in those moments you escaped
The pull of earth
Gravity defied to embrace the self
You'll dance forever to me Harrison

- themantheycalljohnnythreefreebeers


Fall is where things go to die
Little sentimental things like
A favorite piece of jewelry
Timed turned green
And memories stayed
Even though you let go of the piece
Cutting edge
Clarity see
Right through me
Into the colorful inside
Value my worth 
Weight in per carat

Or simply put
Places where you go
With a broken heart
To bury the pieces
Or where you go to 
Break a heart
But cant stand to bury the pieces
Bitter pumpkin orange squashed
Slices of life cut into sections
Follow the math
The logic cant be flawed
You plus me
Dont equal anything at all

Maybe just couldnt get enough
Oxygen into the situation to breathe
Or maybe couldnt shine bright enough
To see
Or maybe jealousy got the best of me
Or maybe
Fall is just simply where things go to die

We bury the hatchet
Put the past behind us
Get stabbed in the back
From a ghost in our past
And Wonder why winter is wet
With lights, pure, innocent
Dazzling to look at
Distract from all those dead things
Yet to be dug up
Those dead things to be celebrated
Moved on from
And eventually heal

Time is this cruel unforgivable beauty
Always falling forward 
Sometimes high noon
Sometimes you hit ground
And dont know how to get up
Just laying still
Fall is where things go to die

- Mr. Orange Live
Glad To Be Black (2021)

I'm glad to be black 
And Indian, too, in fact.
That's how I feel
About being real.
Born in Woonsocket, 
Blessings came knocking.
But it wasn't until I was grown,
And who would have known?
I taught myself how to read at three
And started writing with glee.
My black hair was pretty and long.
My passion for life was strong.
When I got older,
And at the time, some folks got colder.
An autism advocate as black skin
Made me the young woman within.
Jealousy occurred because of me
Knowing so many things.
Especially information and languages.
Those people didn't understand
What to me, God has given.
And there's some who still don't now.
That's kind of foul.
But oh well.
With God's help, I'll excel.

I might be viewed as rude
When I'm actually being true.
I might be viewed as ignorant 
When I'm actually being confident. 
I might be viewed as a harasser 
When I'm really telling the truth after. 
As a black woman with a disability, 
With people, I want tranquility.
I want respect like everyone else. 
When need be, I'll ask for help. 
I'm going to stay true to myself
And nobody else.
There are people who say they love me.
But in reality, in the corner, they shove me.
Smiling in my face one day
But then they turn the other way. 
As someone who is unapologetically black,
I don't like that.
I believe in the power of unity,
And I need to focus on those who are nice to me. 
I'm glad to be who I am in God's eyes.
With my writing, who knows what the future lies?

- Ondrea Robinson
When I Hold the Mic

When I hold the mic oh how it excites my soul
I need it, I need it to let go
the release in me comes from so deep
nothing and no one can tame the beast
the beast that unleashes 
When I hold the mic
it’s like my body is there and my spirit is watching I’m floating
nothing holding me back 
I can’t stop as the words seep out my mouth, my heart beats
no thinking it’s just my mic and me
When I hold the mic
I’m paralyzed I can’t move the vibe the energy it takes control the
music begins to evoke my soul 
I let go 
No one knows the power I hold
the dark 
the good, the bad, the ugly 
the light 
who am I what is me 
begins to release the beast
When I hold the mic

- Othannah Tomasina

“Golden Lotus” by Max Cordeiro
I Am. I? Am. I? Am. I? Am.

For Victoria Lucas, pen name to Sylvia Plath

It was a queer, sultry summer,
the summer they convicted Derek Chauvin,
and I didn’t know what I was doing in Ann Arbor.
I’ve never worked hard, not for a day in my life, but
that June I convinced myself I was doing research
and sat in coffee shops listening to conversations.
I didn’t write about them afterwards, but I did
wipe my kitchen counters just the way
my mother used to. A nice old man from the
dollar store followed me all the way home, and I
swallowed my knuckles, calloused and stained with
pepper spray, and then I dreamed I was on the counter in
a yellow tank top gently licking his paws. We are not so
different, you and I. We take what our mothers
gave us, leave it with our sons and daughters. I
never asked to be a golden lotus amidst fierce
flames, and I don’t think you did either.

- Rachna Iyer

Cemetery Dreams

My mother dreamed of being laid to rest in a cemetery of green

   with paths of stone and birdsongs across centuries

These cemetery dreams included plots for me and my husband 

   to rest beside her in our time for eternity

She would say, “There is no God”

Yet these cemetery dreams made her glad and hopeful

   to face death with courage, know love will endure

   fill her empty spaces with an aroma of freshness

   a touch of summer’s breeze

   under the calm shade of tree canopies

After a life of exhaustion, in her older years

She moved from a dark apartment caked with dust

   in a city built of cold concrete

To be near us and our sprouting sons

   where lush trees danced outside her windows

   she could sit in the sunrays that lit her newspaper

   which she devoured every day with joy

For a while she loved a man

   his charm and sparkle obscuring unkept promises

She tried to love herself but could only see ugliness in the mirror

Took diet pills to eradicate swaths of her belly and arms

   an attempt to make shrinkage the cure to her depression

Having babies gave her purpose

To protect and love them as she had not experienced

So began her journey towards love and generosity

   like a flower that buds between cement slabs 

   where it is least expected to grow

Recalling her early years 

   that single orange in the ice-box there to feed a family for a week

Those lonely subway rides as a teen

   when she would daydream about a time she would want to live

   not feel the empty inside her body hollowed out

The angry mother who made her wash each tile of their floor 

   with a toothbrush, still called her dirty and fat

The mean older sister who hovered over her, an Ice-Queen

    casting a shadow so dark it blinded others in her wake

Trees calmed her

   their majestic branches and green leaf songs

   soft vibrant white cherry blossoms, the texture of her cheeks

Seeking refuge from a childhood of being unloved

- Sandra Levy

“Rainy Day Espressoh” by Rachel Brask

In response to Mark Binder’s “Do you drink coffee?”


Shared Space

Welcome! come in complete me.
Color me in find the right number that will guide you through this canvas of who
I am and what I want to be, through my eyes you will see and create a recreation in unity.
Color by numbers 1 blue 22 yellow,
Sit on the couch soak in the space
create, let this be therapy
don’t want to overthink should we use markers, crayons or paint.
Come come closer sit lets snug and make a masterpiece created with love
help me add to this canvas 1 plus 1 makes the perfect 2
red and white makes pink the color of love when cold turns blue.
Color by numbers stay in the lines don’t hide or deny this strange feeling inside
when you stroke I stroke Boom Shaka laka no smoking in the room
with every stroke there’s smoke as we move together, boom!
The clock strikes 2 yellow and blue make green guide me 55 brown orange 43, fill in my space.
Color me in stay within the lines pretty pretty picture tells no lies
Only the story through your eyes and mine
Poetry and Art become one , align
come in and share with me your side.
Complete me

- Othannah Tomasina

“Timeline” by Emma Malbon

I can see the future
All possible futures
Just as I can see the past
All in the blink of an eye
I am the hub
With spokes that radiate outwards
Supporting the wheel
That turns for humanity
From now and then
To here and when
The breath of the universe
Will slow yet never stop
Taking the time
To revel in its grandeur
And divinity
Do not waste time
Looking for answers
Within the ruins of yourself
The answers are already there
Within and without
In this and all times
Let emotion temper the intellect
And be the light
That guides the wheel
As it turns for us all
Remember who you are

- Brian Shovelton

“Reflecting Pool” by Gina Lerman
Reflecting Pool

Midnight gymnast
Scampering off into the woods
With a jump, skip, hop
Entertain the thought

That maybe I’ve been wrong
All along
That maybe the end
Really is the beginning

That for now I am temporary
And with everything reaching inwards
What once terrified me
I now keep close (because)

Maybe the end
Doesn’t have to be
(You’d make me smile
And then everything would be okay again)

Walk this path
It makes me think of you
Sit in this spot
It makes me think of you

Listen to the breeze
It speaks of you
And things start to look
Beautiful again

- Katie Rejto

“The Dress” by Jade Sisti
From Flowers

From flowers, come dresses
From flax and cotton
To make thread and linen
To sew with a needle

From flowers, come fruits
From blossoms to peaches
To make pie
To eat with a knife

From flowers, come drugs
From opium poppies
To make morphine
To shoot with a needle

Women come
From flowers

- Brydon Conti

What Fireball Does As The Devil

This is what Fireball does as The Devil.
It's an alcoholic drink that makes you think
Like everything's in a hot uproar and burns.
Cinnamon Whiskey with a twist of fire
Causes people to tell the truth about
What they really think of others.
Fireball burns into the mouth,
And it's really, really, really a deep burn
That can't be shaken off for a few days.
The Devil comes out of you by saying
You're responsible for all the wrong happening.
Many people choose to drink this to
Shove their problems away and act like
Everything is okay.
But I'm here to tell you that drinking Fireball
Makes you see red, and the Devil will not
Want you to get ahead.

- Ondrea Robinson

my life is a black and white t.v screen  

a series of 
cradled by 
the hypnotic laughter of  
my blanket 
the trumpets horn  
of denied  
I choke down 
in my  
the long flash of orange 
illuminates oceans blue 
beyond the  
I make a deal with the white man and fall out of palm trees, 
into lush pools of suits 
where I was promised color, 
in exchange for dreams 
the new pictures are fake to  
touch, like 
christmas trees 
it looks like I am free 
but they just 
painted over 

- Mara Hagen

Art Teacher Tuesday

As my mind recaps on the experience,
I told Motif my day start great.
The morning was cold,
I'm running late.
Glanced at the time,
few minutes past eight.
I grabbed Dunkin Donuts and hot chocolate,
Even though I was approaching class late.
Art Teacher Tuesday was like fun in the sun,
Painting pictures with my classmates.
This is relaxing, somewhat soothing to my past heartbreak.
Soft acrylic on my heart's canvas,
Satisfying to my heart's space.
Melanie Ducharme helped us to apply colors of love,
It's quite lovely what we make art creates
I told Dana it's exciting,
reciting poetry in an art space,
While painting,
It's entertaining.
It's breathtaking how we make art great.
But what makes it even greater as creator,
The combination of colors that grabs your attention,
transforming your mind, in a calm state.

- Craig A. Kirkland

Golden Goddess & The Rising Sun 

Protector of the Heavens 
Angel on Earth
Capable of moving mountains 
For all that it’s worth 

The God of War sent the sign 
It was golden hour, her time to shine 
She descended to his defense 
This one last time  

Thunder began to crackle    
Lightening is released  
She doesn’t have to say a word  
The rumbles let her speak 

With that golden arrow 
Twin flames ignite
Welcoming the rising sun 
& saying goodbye to the night

- Lindsay Brierly


Marrow of my palms bathe enchanted in midnight air 
no longer beseeching the moon to open her kind eyes
finger beds rested_revive dance with grace and wisdom
my hands no longer shackled 
my grief a landscape traveled
feather fingers nimble
finding love anew
losing you a time ago as a dancing child swan
i awake a woman who remembers beckoning
laughter to begin again
wrists touching splayed open holding
time in my grip 
raising spirits with rising palms
quenching grief’s great thirst
unleashing love’s waterfalls
dragon fire fingertips melting glaciers
somber resonance resisting capture
sensual soliloquy of desire_urgent
gestures creating language 

Needing to speak to know myself wanting
to be free as a bird is free 
beyond tragedies of fractured cities
i cannot tell if i am dancing in courage
or desperation to survive
a music box caught in my knuckles swallowing
my pain playing its tune wishing
movement will heal me
my star born constellations shining
jewels hoping to be seen
for my radiance 
performing a song of windswept leaves ablaze

- Sandra Levy

“Hands of the dancer” by Thomas Terceira


We are feeling ourselves like a masquerade
when the party ends we return to our ugly reflections
but it doesnt matter because i want to make love to your mind
the way a grenade makes love consuming everything with it
including life and thought
I will know you as intimately
as a coupled secret between breast
I want to make love to you
till your speaking in an unknown dialect
recanting and chanting our future

They will hire your screams
command it be their voice in their misery
making wishes like Disney
blowing candles four leaf clover
and melt away into fantasy
that they have what you have

and what you have is Juliet’s poison
the conduit to our eternal love
A nevermore midnight dreary
where the raven tortures their war
plucks there jealously out from its beak
what they dont know is the misery that follows

after it's all said and done
and we made a mess of our nature
hidden our morals in full view

shame proclaims itself mighty (but this too shall pass)
and we lay there, attached to the bed of problems (same book different page)
breaking silence -but at least we have each other.(we spit acid)
we recall memories as if we were old (she was a snake)

we just hold each other like the past we never let go of
or the mistake we cant forgive ourselves for
we hold on because we know love will walk out that door
as soon as we let go.

we dont believe in things that might return
we see all the signs life puts up reminding us what we are missing
but we are just lost in each others feelings
dancing in each others melody
until the masks fall off

until the parade ends
until they refer to us by two name but one personification

- Mr. Orange Live

Ode to Sometimes I be Introvert by Little Simz 

I am two worlds apart, 
orbiting myself at a pen's length. 

One of me is a dense body, 
expected to pull masses, 

when my craftsmanship decides 
to escape my notes app gravitational pull, 

spew rocks, debris, ozone gasses, 
everything must be toxic into the microphone, 

let an audience get high 
off my fault lines. 

Become a “star” 
illuminate my public persona. 

The poet of me is “extrovert” 
studied like solar system. 

Has astronauts walk my craters, 
dive into all my past rubble, 

have my life be unearthed, 
so scientists understand my dusty ashes, 

since that is what is expected when a tongue 
plays with static, 

a room braces for you to be electrifying, 
wants every life story before you know their names. 

This poem is how writing has let others think they can probe my soul, 
dig my roots and control me, 

that I am the same set of cells, 
on and off a stage, 

how I am measured only, 
in how much my plight can give an applause 

and be showered in your

But, One of me hides the fact 
that my craters hold water. 

No one has seen me cry. 
No one has seen me stare at my own reflection in the puddle. 

Sometimes I be Introvert 

How my mental capacity 
is a suitcase at the end of a road trip, 

it has added one more piece of dirty laundry 
and still expected to not buckle and find its way home. 

How this poem, 
is to the therapist that does not know me yet. 

How this poem is to the dead homies 
I’m afraid to visit the graveyard of old conversations. 

How this poem is to feeling like a ziplock bag, 
translucency does not mean I want to have my contents traversed. 

How it's easier to open up 
About opening up. 

How most days I want to be Pluto. 

large enough to be remembered, 
but not letting my privacy revolve around you.

- Kenny Bradley

Thresholds...on the move

Upward reaching
inspirited fingers eager to weave fluid heart songs
of tethered pulsing decay
feathered in neverending flight

Crossroads abound here

Songs of tender entanglements
reaching, spinning dendritic
tapestries of death and lifeforce

Threads in a dance of
unraveling interwoven uncertainty
blessed are we

Blessed are we
integrating birdsong into
ancestral bodies primed for the
keening...may we crumble and cry together

Singing forever into rupture
into cracks and voids ripe with the imaginative
tendrils of myth

What story is this, my beloved?
What trinity of hand, heart, flight? Land, sea, sky?
What liminal spell has been exposed here...

Land learning hands to dig into dirt and drop into muddied
histories of
Oceanic hearts engorged, salty, ebbing and flowing
pulsating and churning up
into moon
Mist, swirling through sky
towards unknown infinite eternity

My beloved, this... is a lost love letter of not knowing
A prayer to the blackness
An invitation to be birthed there in the dark

and blossom into blurry unfurling bodies
boundless, porous

As tides—ripe to disrupt the story

seeping in fields of mystery

Blessed, blessed be.

- Emma Malbon

My Multicolor Self

What if I found shoes to match my long red beard?
Or should that be a beard to match my shoes?
Perhaps, you can take a good look at me
So that you can then help me choose?

I think that because my beard came first
That this is what should lead
I bought the shoes long after
So I’ll list them next, you see.

Now for my face and arms, 
There is no cause to be confused
They remind me of the lovely sky
Because they are bright blue.

Now I mix and match my shirt and pants
To add some variation
I buy tons and tons of each of them
So that there will be no duplication.

Now my only matters are my cheeks and nose
They do their own thing on my head
My nose is such a deep dark blue
And my cheeks have a splotch of red

Most people are just one color
To me that is quite a bore.
I love my multicolor-self
I am so fit to be adored.

- Clarise Annette Brooks

Get Out While You Can

Is it kooky to fear the cucuy?

Under the mattress, nothing is there
Or is there?
Is the fear that blossoms with the thought of getting out of bed
Or just a thought?
The shearing teeth of sidelong looks.
The glowing eyes of disapproval. Distraught, Destructive, Disappointed.
Real? Imagined? Lurking beneath you or imagined before you.

Maybe only the bed really knows

Contemplate exposing an ankle to its capricious maw, that thing beneath the bed.
Leaving the nestling snug comfort of safe covers. 
Or contemplate exposing much more than an ankle. How would that end? 
A baleful bloodbath beckons.

The talons of tomorrow may eviscerate 
Or evaporate 
as reality collides with imagination. 
Collides with the unknown. 
With hate, anger or distrust.
Will it pounce?

Maybe only the bed knows for sure.

The demons beneath will not slay openly. 
They lurk within errant glances. 
Whispered assessments. 
The hot breath of innuendo. 
Detractors in the dark. 
Nesoxochi summons shadows that ask you whether they exist.

Ask the bed, but
Only the sleeper knows for sure.

- Mike Ryan