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Mel McCuin


unseen birds recite

an aubade, I listen for

a familiar voice.

For the past few months, while I have been social distancing in NJ, words and the emotions they are tied to have felt slippery to me. I can’t hold a thought for more than a few seconds before more thoughts come, and I simultaneously feel that the world is under water, while also seeing a string of endless possibilities, as dizzying and numerous as the ants that forge a trail along my garden wall.

Every day, I make time to sit on my patio and commit to writing at least one haiku. It has to be about something I am seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, or smelling as I sit. It has to be about that moment. It doesn't have to be perfect and no one will see it unless I want them too. It is solely for me. It keeps me writing and in my present body, and it helps me hear how I am doing.

And it might seem strange to say this considering all that we have endured and continue to endure--thousands of deaths due to Covid-19, the continued murder of black and brown men and women at the hands of police, the Trump Administration’s continued assault on the LGBTQ+ community and undocumented people--but the one constant emotion I have met and sat with while writing haiku has been an abundant, persevering joy.

I have felt joy after a late spring rain, when

a snail scales the bark

of my rusted storage door:

winter wait ended.

I have sat with joy while my neighbor reveals a peculiar habit on a breezy day:

afternoon wind flips

book pages, Next Door’s clippers

snip too long toenails.

I have dressed with joy for what might be the first time in my life. No gender rules, only the pleasures of a shaved head, purple bangs, a pair of dangly squid earrings, blue lipstick, jeans and t-shirts, no bra…

bare legs in the sun,

coarse hair on thighs waves gently

against brazen skin.

I have marched alongside my queer and black friends and neighbors, as we demand our right to live and breath in the USA. I have rejoiced at seeing millions of others shout the words so many black people have been chanting since Emmit Till, Amadou Diallo, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Toni McDade, the words that ring out each day on the evening news...

at night windows burn

lavender with TV light-

“No Justice! No Peace!”

And when the day’s work is done, when I have sent the last email and talked with the last student, and I am sitting once again on my patio, scented with citronella, feeling the heat escape its cement floor, I listen. I listen for the small voice that guides me to the next joy:

la golondrina

sings the sky a deeper blue,

street lamps light our path.



I was in the process of writing this when I took this picture. That day felt like a squid earrings, tye dye dress kinda day.

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All images other than author photos and artist artwork ©Matthew Batt 2020