Reader Poem — Manuel Velez

Manuel Velez was inspired by the July dis•articulations prompts to write this poem:

A farmworker offers advice to hummingbird flying among the grapevines.

Never let them count the thrusts of your wings;
the sublte motions that stir in their minds
images of nightgowns floating across ballroom floors.

They’ll never see how each thrust tears away
at your body and weakens your soul.

Never let them see past your rainbow plumes;
the playful dance of colors that reminds them
of exotic pearls resting softly around their necks.

They don’t see that underneath the rainbow
lies the cold grey reality of a life spent at work.

Never let them measure the rhythm of your beating heart;
The soft vibrations that sing to them like a silent lullaby,
a serene moment of meditation.

They’ll never know that each beat is a growing
desperation for survival.

No, hummingbird, never let them see who you truly are;

A creature trapped in the monotony of labor.
A perpetual existence of constant movement.
A life whose dream is for only enough nectar
to survive another day.

Let them be mesmerized by your motions and captivated by your colors.
Let them believe that your true beauty is to be free.
Let them value that which least defines you
because it’s the only way they’ll find any value in you at all.


Reflections on the Process — Olga Garcia Echeverria


This collaborative writing exercise was quite a journey. I liked that I didn’t really know where I was going. Most challenging was the act of sitting with someone else’s words and trying to inject my own poetic voice and vision into the disarticulated mix. I played a lot during the past couple of weeks and put together several drafts of different poems, but in the end, the image that kept tugging at me was that of a purple-colored woman, bellowing through time. I didn’t know who she was at first, but at some point in the writing process, I realized that the story of Sandra Bland was weighing heavy on my mind and heart, and that fragments of her were bleeding into the poem I was piecing together. This disarticulated poem is for her.

July dis•articulations poem—Terry Wolverton

In July, Terry gave collaborating poet Olga Garcia Echevarria four prompts. Olga engaged in fevered writing with each prompt and gave the results back to Terry. This poem is composed by Terry of words from Olga’s fevered writing.


An atheist, a dolphin and a homo
walk into Heaven. God looks up but cannot
decipher their cratered faces. Rose water
spills onto the altar silk, marking it pink.

Long-stemmed and small-boned, I scatter whenever
rain spills against the church boat, unanchored in
a chalky sea. Amethyst breath of the moon
touches my face, baffles the infinite word.

You are native to the fierce depths, I am wrapped
in guns and dirty laundry. When we fuck we
go to Paradise, minus the amber ghosts.
All that upward leaping is just like marriage.

I keep imagining your sad, translucent
mouth, a haiku in space with no gravity.
Those plush goodbyes made me gasp with poetry,
La Luna pillowed on the surface of time.

Sharks are now people. Women are pagan. Earth
is littered with injury. Heaven spotted
with scientists, armed with examples. God knows
who are the dead, red jelly in the charred heart.

July dis•articulations Poem — Olga Garcia Echeverria

At the beginning of the month, Olga gave Terry four prompts. Terry engaged in fevered writing with each of them and gave the results back to Olga, who then used the words from that fevered writing to create this dis•articulations poem.


Bam! Just like that.
Another woman of color
eradicated by the system.

Why not start a wildfire
with all the newspaper articles?

It makes as much sense
as anything.

She needed
more hummingbirds
more salvia
more seconds on the Universal clock

She needed
more nectar to sip
more time
to let it all hang out
to sit serenely, thinking
to small talk at dinner
to gossip with friends

She needed more time
to write
to birth
to live

to sleep
inside the safest place, her own navel,
spinning wheels of energy, yellow
Chakra vibrating, the mystery
of the undulating Universe
dripping from her fingertips

She needed more softness,
this purple-colored woman
bellowing through time,
wildfires in her eyes…

Reader Poem — Henry Medina

Henry Medina was inspired by the prompt, “Goldfish the Size of Dinner Plates Are Multiplying Like Bunnies”

Goldfish the Size of Dinner Plates Are Multiplying Like Bunnies”
(Kevin Drum, Mother Jones, 6/26/15)

I am an old man, Asian and wise. The shadows of the wisteria fall against my wrists like tattoos. My steps start a communion with the sacred morning. The sun rises like a plate enormous, reflecting thousands of rays of lights like swords of a warrior that wants to dominate the world. Only my fish, enormous and orange, wriggling calmly under my bridge, know that the battle never begins.

Reader Poem — Henry Medina

Henry Medina submitted this poem in response to the prompt, “Woman Gives Birth, Fights Off Bees, Starts Wildfire in Northern California.”

Woman Gives Birth, Fights Off Bees, Starts Wild Fire in Northern California (Joseph Serna and Veronica Rocha, LA Times Local, June 30th)

Has it ever occurred to you that we live in a Salvador Dali painting? For example, your dog exploded with a buzz of hornets, and your mother’s umbrella is an eternal fire. Yesterday a cascade of skin passed by my house like a sidewalk, and images from the mirror skated over it like couples in love. Among so much entangled hair there are black telephones that we can use to call the dead. And that woman so sad, why does he keep looking at me? Doesn’t she realize that her face popped from my toaster like a piece of bread, happy and ready to smell the world?

Reader Poem — Henry Medina

Henry Medina wrote the following poem in response to the prompt, “What Gaining a Leap Second Means for the Hummingbird.”

What Gaining a Leap Second Means For a Hummingbird (Nicholas St. Fleur, New York Times, 6/30/15)

I added a grain of sand to the beach, and the sea groaned under the burden. I subtracted a ray of light, and the star collapsed like a pile of sticks on my lap. O delicate world, please take me down from this spider web that has me suspended over a copper-colored sea, where my shadow appears and disappears with each sunset and sunrise. And now how to cope with an extra second? The hummingbird suspended at the level of my face does not decide if it wants to drink of me or not. In that second of doubt, my heart breaks.

Reader Poem — Henry Medina

Henry Medina wrote the following poem in response to the prompt, “Trust Me. Butter is Better.”

Trust Me. Butter is Better.

In the evening with the mist rubbing its eyes, I confused the word “Better” for Butler, and that immediately made me think of William Butler Yeats the poet. Or perhaps I thought that the word Butter gave light to Yeats. Or maybe I thought that all the world is Yeats. That he can destroy everything and present everything again neatly folded in a poetry with four lines per stanza and a pain, no an ecstasy, achieved in fewer than 14 lines. O sonnets unfinished, O almost-achieved wisdom, how can tell if I am a man or light?

July Fevered Writing — Terry Wolverton

Terry Wolverton produced this fevered writing  based on four prompts given her by this month’s collaborating poet, Olga Garcia Echeverria. Olga will be writing a new poem incorporating her choice of these words.

Trust me. Butter is better than spackle on your sandwich, id better than motor oil on your toast, is better than hair gel on your waffle. Butter is one of only a few foods that is yellow and yellow is the color associated with the navel chakra. One’s chakras need to be vibrating, the wheels spinning so the energy can circulate throughout the system. Only then can we trust. The safest place to be is inside your own, strong energy field, my yoga teacher used to say. Maybe no place else is safe at all. The butter drips from my fingers.

Woman gives birth, fights off bees, starts wildfire in Northern California. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all have such busy lives. My day started cleaning up dog diarrhea. That was before I had to go to the DMV. But no one is writing a newspaper article about me. It doesn’t pay to give birth these days. The planet is already overcrowded, the freeways are a nightmare, and bees are being eradicated by pesticides so soon there won’t be any food for any of us. Why not start a wildfire? It makes as much sense as anything.

What gaining a leap second means for a hummingbird. Just last week my friend was complaining that she needed more time. Then–bam! They stuck another second on the universal clock. How they did this, I’m not sure–and where I spent that second I can’t recall–probably on Facebook or something. Or maybe I took an extra second to look into your eyes and saw some softness there for the first time in a long time. Or msybe I slept in. How the hummingbird spent that second is a mystery to me; perhaps it sipped nectar from the purple salvia in front of our door.

Goldfish the size of dinner plates are multiplying like bunnies. The goldfish keep their secrets. They do not gossip and they do not show their cards. They are poker faced, unlike the bunnies who pretty much let it all hang out all the time. You can always tell what a bunny is thinking, but goldfish are inscrutable. Even at dinner, they say little. They sit serenely with their fins undulating, gills bellowing. They seem attentive, but are not much for small talk.

Readers who are contemplating writing your own poems may work with just the prompts or choose to use one or more passages of fevered writing to inspire your poems. Best Reader poem we receive in July will win a $25 prize.

July Fevered Writing — Olga Garcia Echeverria

This month’s collaborating poet, Olga Garcia Echeverria, produced this fevered writing  based on four prompts given by Terry Wolverton. Terry will be writing a new poem incorporating her choice of these words.

Space is hard to decipher. Whenever I try to be an atheist, I look up and get baffled by things I cannot see, like moons made of ice. Jupiter’s menstrual red hot spots. La Luna’s fierce chalky gray cratered face. The Milky Way—fuck! Space is hard, but I imagine it soft, plush to the touch, a down pillow wrapped in silk, cold, littered with glitter, metallic dark blues. Space is hard, but I imagine it liquid, the blackest of oceans with infinite depths.

Dolphin leaps onto boat, injuring woman…and sharks that keep attacking people at the beach baffle scientists. Last time I walked along the shore, I spotted/dodged black rubbery oil spill blobs. Charred jelly fish. Dead seagull. Plastic water bottle(s). Amber seaweed. Scattered red and yellow long stem roses, altar to the sea.

Poetry is against gravity. A haiku, so small boned, can weigh 1000 pounds. It rains upward. We all become unanchored to the surface of the earth and spin like dirty laundry into space. Freeways melt into mercury rivers. Snow hardens in the sun. Space space space is a breath, an opening of the mouth, the beginning of a kiss, or a final goodbye, gasp. It’s the slit of an eye, an ocean in my heart, hot hot pink, translucent amethyst purple. I went to the Falls and saw ghosts in the mist. I went to the Falls and saw ghosts in the mist.

Guns in Paradise—you can take it with you, you know, your gun because God, like us, loves guns and it’s sad to say but even in Paradise its good to be armed. Nowadays they’re kinda letting everyone into Heaven, those homos, for example, what with the legalization of marriage, first it’s Civil, then it’s Church, then, mark my words, it’s Heaven. Even women who’ve had abortions are being let in. Paradise used to be like, like…well, like Hawaii (minus all the native Hawaiians, of course, since they’re pagans), like that but with a shit load of guns. Now it’s gone to shit, but I hear it ain’t all bad. You know in Paradise, you can hunt freely, no permits needed, no animal rights organizations (at least not yet), just you, you, you, and your bad ass guns to shoot shoot shoot…

Readers who are contemplating writing your own poems may work with just the prompts or choose to use one or more passages of fevered writing to inspire your poems. Best Reader poem we receive in July will win a $25 prize.