Just like a Brood X cicada

I’ve stayed buried

holding quiet in the dark

as years moved by

beyond me

with skies bleeding pink

weeping gray

blinding blue

Some things must survive like this

most of their life spent 

suspended and still

in service to an unfathomable nature

that doles out gifts unevenly

Living under ground

tucked tightly in

holds its own muted beauty

There is wonder to be found

in that slurry

Yet even the cicada

can’t solely exist subterranean 

After nearly two decades 

of dark suspension

they are compelled to push upwards

shed their shadowy garb

and morph from pale grubs

held to ground

into golden-winged, 

fire-eyed, fearless dragons  

that ride on air

Are the cicadas’ four to six weeks in the light enough

after seventeen years of darkness?

Are these moments enough where I stand

in a slant of morning sunlight on my porch 

instead sit in an office, sit beside a hospital bed, 

sit in a waiting room, sit on hold

with an insurance company?

The answer is held in the cacophony

the collective, ruckus roar we make 

as loud as a jet engine

as loud as 11 on the amplifier

as loud as the crowd singing along

to their favorite song 

We will make this enough

The Coming Punch


The Coming Punch

I could not turn off the news

for a year


like lighthouses

blaring warnings


I wanted to see the end coming

watch the punch delivered

and not be cold-cocked


Instead of rubbernecking

passing a wreck

I felt the metal twisting around me:

pandemic, blue murdering black,

numbing death tolls,

the dismantling of democracy lie by lie,

sedition, siege

a mad, wanna-be king


I’ve been in too many brawls

white knuckled it on derailing trains


I need to know when to brace

reach for the oxygen mask

duck and cover

into a bag of tortilla chips


So I watched the California hills burn

and leave us bare

raw, parched, scarred


Leave us desperate and nearly destroyed


Through it all, I held tight

to this tender thought:

may this uncontrolled burn

have prepared a fertile soil

for justice, civility, peace, and sanity

to take root and flourish

Each Way


On a warm, fall evening, as leaves fell in showers of yellow
and orange-red, three boys biked by as I took my dog
for a lazy sniff.

The first flew past, claiming the middle of the street
as he stood on his peddles, arms stretched wide
to each side. Handlebars untended, he tipped
his helmeted head skyward and fearlessly
took the steep hill as free as a bright leaf
in a determined breeze, his joy leaving ripples
in its colorful wake.

The second was not far behind. After crossing
the intersection, he quickly moved from perilous breadth
of a road that could manifest a moving car
to the sidewalk just in front of me
and my sweet and sturdy pitty. He peddled hard
in an attempt to keep up with his unfettered friend.

The third boy passed by a bit later,
on the sidewalk right next to me, his pace steady
and measured, glittering helmet secured tightly
under his chin. He stayed his safer,
if slower course, always on the sidewalk,
chasing the others, hopelessly behind,
yet kissed by the same wind,
welcomed by the same hill,
no matter his pace.

Each boy on his journey made me feel and remember:
the freedom and exhilaration;
the tantalizing draw of the daredevil maneuver;
the awareness of a potential to break if I risked too much;
and the desire to sometimes stick to the path
that offered me the best chance of making it back home.



She had wanted a princess phone
For her bedside
A dedicated line
For a dedicated life

Maybe she’d become a nun
Even though black really didn’t suit her
She did like incense
And gold filigree

Her options were quite limited
By lady parts and the influence of the moon

Children made her shudder
Too often shrill and sticky
Leaving her feeling
Like newspaper lining a bird cage

She would hold the Valium bottle
Next to the bathroom sink
Labeled for her mother
Look in the mirror
And see nothing worth study

She did make nice cakes
Moist and just the right level of sweet

She’d sit down beside her mother
A magazine on the dining room table
Gloss and color for each of them
To admire

She could be a librarian
Holding and sorting
Other’s stories
More valuable than her own

Circling the Drain


Don’t forget to turn off the light
in every empty office building
and factory

Those chickens can’t pluck themselves
so let them be cage free

They can live off all the milk
being dumped down
farm drains
as people queue up
for a single box of food
in the lines of cars
wrapped around the cities
like ribbon

At least there is plenty of room
for kangaroos
on sidewalks
but they can’t help
the shuttered economy
as they only window shop
despite their deep pocket

Who is feeding the young man
wrapped in a sleeping bag
who waited for me
all those weekday mornings
on the steps outside the coffee shop

I think of his face
gaunt but smiling
his please
and sincere thank you
as I’d hand him breakfast
and walk to my office
fighting the urge
to bring him with me

My house has empty rooms
that should be filled
I am pouring milk down the drain
believing it is the most
reasonable option

Julie Ayers

Learning to Sleep, Again


How can it be time
to charge my keyboard again?
I only need to do that monthly,
or less.
Has that much time passed
as I’ve sat quietly
and relearned
The freezer’s fullness
has risen and ebbed
while I unearthed recipes
and reverted to
home cooking.
We used to sit and search
the Sears & Roebuck’s catalogue
for things unavailable
at local stores.
Now, as I make masks from fabric
left at my door in boxes,
I’ve discovered
I know how to use
the sewing machine
stored in my basement
for decades.
All the new things
I’d been pushing myself
to learn
have been set aside
as I revisit
the old
I mistakenly believed
I’d mastered.
Sleep. Hunt. Gather. Eat. Clean.
A change in medium,
but an elemental thrum.

Julie Ayers

Comfort Desert


My comfort tastes bitter
even as I sip tea and read
and answer my daughter’s
“What’s for dinner question?”
for the 100th time today.
Our freezer is stocked well
and that causes
as much unease as ease.
Someone else’s hunger
gnaws at my contentment
as I reply, “Spaghetti.”
I don’t question
the wisdom
of the stay-at-home order,
but am sickened
by all the cupboards empty
as our promises
of equality and justice.

Julie Ayers

Piece of Shit


To the piece of shit
who killed my friend’s daughter
while professing his love for her
may you not only be tormented
by regret over your actions
but endure feverish anguish
as you sit in your jail cell
while she is mourned
in a world that has reached
the apex of pain

Julie Ayers
NaPoWriMo Day 10



Texts flew
and power flickered
as a fierce wind blew
on the bright day
that a mother and son
were lost and drown

Cocktails were mixed
and joyfully consumed
during a Zoom happy hour
while a woman
was murdered
by her boyfriend

The coffee perked
as we ate our cereal
in our pajamas
while a mass grave
was dug in the center
of New York City

Sanity and reason
are strained
as we all try our best
to emerge intact
mentally and physically
from the hell wrought
by Covid-19

Julie Ayers