Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets will run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
The seven volunteers for June 2014 … and Margaret Young. Read their full bios by clicking here.
Please feel free to acknowledge their generosity and creativity with a show of your admiration and support by donating on their behalf to Tupelo Press. (Click here to donate, scroll down to the form at the bottom, and put a contributor’s name in the “honor” field.) Just imagine what a challenge it is to write 30 new poems in 30 days!
Day 30 / Poems 30
For Du Fu / by Margaret Young
We’re not after the peaches
of immortality here today
Fame’s just a schooner that shows up
in the distance on calm afternoons
between Marblehead and the Misery Islands
we’re so glad Jan took that for a title
now we can all steer clear of them
write odes to dirty coal and cars
in our corner of the provinces
toasting with paper cups of coffee
Day 29 / Poems 29
Thinking of Du Fu and Parents on a Summer Afternoon / by Margaret Young
The tide looks permanently high
in Salem Sound today, bright sun
warming seaside towns crowded
with festive visitors in groups
Some poets drive out, leaving
children playing together
Let’s go see J.D.’s play
drink fruity beer at Gulu Cafe
the kids OK, check phones
then an old lady stranger falls
shattering the afternoon with quiet
blood. An ambulance, we wait,
watch people leaving the museum
where seascapes hang alongside
room-sized battle scenes
talking about poetry
and librarians in the sunset
Day 28 / Poems 28
Four Years / by Margaret Young
I stayed on in the M Street house but moved to its western side. There was a dog named Che that sometimes licked our feet under the table. Other dogs in the neighborhood would howl at distant ambulances. Huge boxes of apricots arrived. Laundry dried outside in minutes, except when it didn’t. Some of us reading Lorca, some bent over bags of dirt.
First in a series of attic bedrooms, that false sense of detachment they bring. All those cardboard boxes bumping up and down little staircases. Like borrowing other people’s dogs: you’ll never have to hold their heads when the needle goes in. The tomatillos practically grew themselves. Somebody must miss smoking in bars.
Drawn to river banks, bridges where I could watch the water slip under. Sometimes a heron pretended to be my mother. Messages got tangled in fences, those grates over storm drains. My glasses fell in, my contact lens. The same page over and over, still not getting it. At least there was good radio, songs that made us tilt heads in the same direction.
The only way to run was in squares around cornfields. I hid from old ladies, exhausted by their cheer. We’d drive to Grafton just to see a waitress frown. Puppets part of a normal workday. You showed perfect timing at the party where my ankle bracelet chimed. I succumbed to the parade and wound foil stars around my bike basket.
Day 27 / Poems 27
After Alan Michael Parker’s “A Prisoner of Things” / by Margaret Young
If only this tea were icier
if only the history were salt.
The idea here is to dissolve,
says the water—
or to wave at the horizon,
say the trees. Or to hum
until the socks dry,
until the sunset disagrees.
The idea here is to gaze,
says the window.
What’s going down?
asks the frog in every rhyme,
he who spends all summer
oh hey, the kids in the basement
have killed a spider.
The idea here is to fade
gracefully, says the light.
If you remembered what you needed
would you recognize it now,
says the window.
The chickens roost inside the past.
You’ll understand someday,
says the dirt.
Cool dirt, says the dirt.
Over here, says the horizon.
Day 26 / Poems 26
Institute / by Margaret Young
One summer I taught Young Writers Institute
in Pittsburgh, at a school on the north shore
of the Allegheny, near the aviary, I lived
in Point Breeze, rode my bike. My co-teacher
was a real teacher during the year, public
school special ed, she spoke very clearly,
overused the word nice talking about poetry.
I wanted to tell her, tell the children
Bertolt Brecht said art isn’t nice but
I was too nice. The classes ended
at lunch, the kids there all afternoon
doing playground things and crafts
but writing teachers headed home,
one day so hot I stopped my bike and walked
into the river, dress and all.
Day 25 / Poems 25
Bartok’s House / by Margaret Young
A table piled with onions, knives.
Deep red cherries in vinegar, catching
a chunk of late sun from the window.
Out back, violins hide in the hemlock
trees, shake them furiously, then
go all hushed.
Up and down the stairs they go,
the sleepy mice, the sacks
of muddy lily bulbs.
Ghosts in the fireplace doing standup.
Nobody warned us, one goes, we’d miss farting.
Breathing, sure. They crack each other up.
Oboes on the roof with metal pigeons.
Cellos in the cellar with wine.
In the middle of the living room, the grand
piano opens like a huge black oyster.
Day 24 / Poems 24
Real Estate / by Margaret Young
Another June, the embarrassing roses
brandish their sexual petals, the swan-
necked excavator digs up the shady street
while men in vests and helmets stand
like ruminants among their orange cones.
Elm seeds, brown paper nipples, drift
. ……………….It’s not enough to live next
to the graveyard: you must take them by
the soft dry hand, the ones standing
among rectangles, spelling out names,
a glance around to try to guess who’s next.
Day 23 / Poems 23
When We Were Cars / by Margaret Young
We stopped at Quaker Steak and Lube in Erie,
my father likes the Vermilion River one
he drives to in his Porsche Speedster.
Why car theme, asked our five year old
as we sat in booths beneath a hubcap wall
Because it’s cool, said the waitress
(who then carded me, take that, exes)
Because they’re beautiful, you added, pointing
at the red Corvette shell aloft between TV
screens and giant full length Elvis photo.
Nostalgia! We’re teaching it already, like
that’s the guy whose song he danced to
in his class, when he learned air guitar.
We remind him of his first word, uck,
for anything large and wheeled, and second,
cah, for all the smaller ones
and how for two entire years he was
Lightning McQueen, a movie racecar,
and we answered to the names and spoke
in accents of Mater and Flo, the rusty hick
truck who teaches Lightning compassion
and the matriarchal diner owner who served
cars cans of oil they drank in booths like people.
Day 22 / Poems 22
Ode to Arugula / by Margaret Young
At the first taste
we turned away, troubled.
Tongues burned from green smoke.
Arugula grows arrows, jagged
and vivid, plumage of a bitterbird.
Skunky cabbage, maybe your baby leaves
are all some ever taste, slender digits
no sharper than a spoon.
But as our mouths grow ripe
with frowning, kissing,
drinking and speaking of bitter things
we taste arugula again, now crave
that rank edge, blue note,
foxy strut, a leaf more
wild and rude than lettuce.
Day 21 / Poems 21
Radishes / by Margaret Young
When I bite your skin