Friday, 30 June 2017

Comfort Woman

by Tanya Ko Hong

On August 14, 1991, in Seoul, a woman named Hak Soon Kim came forward to
denounce the Japanese for the sexual enslavement of more than 200,000 women during WWII. They were referred to as Wianbu” in Korean and “Comfort Women” in English.

1991, Seoul, South Korea

The voice on TV is comforting,
like having a person beside me
talking all the time
while I eat my burnt rice gruel.

Suddenly in Japanese
But we didn’t—
Those women came to us                                                               
for the money.
We never forced—
I dropped
my spoon into my nureun bap

On the screen
a photograph of young girls
seated in an open truck
like the one I rode with Soonja
over the rice field road that fall

Awake in a cold sweat
I gulp Jariki
bul kuk
bul kuk
but my throat still burns

It’s 3 a.m.
I reach for a cigarette
blow a smoke
and the white smog spirals
like Soonja’s wandering soul

They called me, wianbu—
a comfort woman—

I had a name.

1939, Chinju, South Kyangsan Province

We are going to do Senninbari, right?
No, Choingsindae, Women’s Labor Corps
Same thing, right?
Earn money
become new woman
come back home—

Holding tiny hands
red fingertips
bong soong ah
balsam flower red
together and colored by summer’s end
red fingertips

ripening persimmons
bending over the Choga roofs
that fade into distance

When the truck crosses over the last hill
leaving our hometown in the dust
Soonja kicks off her white shoes Ko Mu Shin

1941, That Autumn

That autumn night, Japanese
soldiers wielding swords
dragged me away
while I was gathering pine needles

they fell from my basket
filling the air with the scent of their white blood.

When you scream in your dream
there’s no sound.

Grandma’s making Song Pyunon the maru,
asking mom, Is water boiling?
Will she bring pine needles before my eye balls fall out?

I feel pain

They put a long stick between my legs—
Open up, open, Baka Chosengjing!
they rage, spraying
their sperm
the smell of
burning dog
burning life

grunting on top of me—
Under my blood I am dying

1943, Shanghai, China

One night
a soldier asked all the girls,

Who can do one hundred men?

I raised my hand—
Soonja    did    not.

The soldiers put her in boiling water
fed us.

What is living?

Is     Soonja    living  in  me?

1946, Chinju Again

One year after
I came home.

Short hair
not wearing Han Bok
not speaking clearly
Mother hid me in the back room

At night Mother took me behind the house by the well and washed me
Scars seared with hot steel like burnt bark
like roots of old trees                                                                                          
all over my body
under the crescent glow She always smiled when she washed me

My baby! Your skin is like white jade, dazzling
She bit her lower lip
washing my tummy softly like a baby’s
but they ripped open my baby house
with the baby inside

What is dying?

Mother made white rice and seaweed soup
put my favorite white fish on top
 —but Mother, I can’t eat flesh.
She hanged herself in the granary that night
left a little bag in my room
my dowry with a rice ball.

Father threw it at me
waved his hand toward the door

I left at dusk.

30 years
40 years


Mute    mute     mute

bury it with me


                        They called me, wianbu—

                        I had a name.
1991, 3:00 AM

[That night,
the thousand blue stars
became white butterflies
through ripped rice paper,
and flew into my room.

One, One hundred, One thousand butterflies—

These endless white butterflies going through 
the web in my mouth,
going into my unhealed red scars,
stitching one by one—
butterflies lifting me, heavier than the dead
butterflies opening my bedroom door, heavier than shame.]

I stand.

* * * * *

This excerpt  of  “Comfort Woman” was first published in Beloit Poetry

Korean American poet, Tanya Ko Hong, has been published in Rattle, Beloit Poetry Journal, Two Hawks Quarterly, Portside, Cultural Weekly, and elsewhere. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles, and is the author of four books of poetry, most recently, Mother to Myself, A collection of poems in Korean (Prunsasang Press, 2015). Fluent in Korean and English, Tanya is an ongoing advocate of bilingual poetry, promoting the work of immigrant poets. She lives in Palos Verdes, California with her husband and three children. Find out more at 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Kneeling and Falling

by Florence Weinberger

Has my mother fallen to her knees?  Memory
is never enough, I believe her head’s nearly touching
the radio, I’m old enough to know Roosevelt’s voice,
I can hear the dusk of war in his grief, and see,
my mother’s hand is at her throat. 
She tells me, years later, no matter whose war,
the Jews will be on the losing end.

Jews are forbidden to kneel to anyone, not even God.
Only on the Day of Atonement, the cantor falls
prostrate, humbled for all of us, and I, in the dazzling
cathedral where Lori got married, couldn’t fold
to the kneeling bench at my feet.

Keening without consciousness, my father dropped
as if he’d been struck when my mother died,
and slowly my sister and I raised him up. 

Sometimes in yoga when I double over into
the child’s pose, knees and elbows tucked under,
I could be that girl sunk down next to my young mother
and it looks a lot like prayer.

* * * * *

"Kneeling and Falling" was first published in Miramar

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

All Memory is a Lie

by Florence Weinberger

I knew, when I was two,
the woman I followed up the stairs on all fours

was my mother, and the child she carried my little sister.
My vocabulary too crude to describe her shoes.

Did they have laces, was she wearing hose?
No one tracked me to freeze that crabbed climb,

the way they posed me bare-assed
on fake leopard when I was five months old—

And the kitchen that we entered when we reached
the top (I don’t see my father)

has an ice box, and an iron tub she bathed me in.
There must have been an ironing board, a hot iron

carelessly left plugged in, a sink over which
she peeled potatoes, so she could wrap my burning fingers

with those cooling strips.
Why is it I remember my mother’s tears

when my sister speaks only of her laughter?
Maybe it’s because all the memories we carted

as we moved from house to house, from coast to coast,
the ones we kept in shards and flashes,

were always wrong and always vivid and seldom shared.
Maybe it’s because memory is all scars, and still alive.

* * * * *

"All Memory is a Lie" was first published in the Topanga Messenger.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

How to make a good pumpkin pie

by Grace Marie Grafton

It’s near Thanksgiving. In her anguish
she wishes to conjure a narrative that would
lure the family out of their parallel distractions,
their cold slumber. How many hands
carry the small memories?
Did Dad really hunt that deer,
did Grandpa grapple with the thief
under the sycamore, was there
the gleam of a gun? Nothing as serious
as murder but never the lifting of the rug.
Her aunt wept but turned her head away,
everyone knew whose baby
it was, but portraits weren’t
allowed and nobody asked for filet mignon.

So she hauls out the cloud shawl
to cover the nicks in the diningroom table,
harvests pomegranates, unstitches
the web that veils the doorway.
A display of brushes and paints,
watercolor paper in a pile, an old record
of children’s shouts and laughter in the yard
under the tarpaulin. Her nephews –
their daring percussion, her daughters
braiding and unbraiding everyone’s hair.

* * * * *

"How to make a good pumpkin pie" was first published in Sin Fronteras.

Grace Marie Grafton is the author of six collections of poems, most recently 'Jester,' published by Hip Pocket Press. She has taught thousands of children to write poetry through her work with CA Poets in the Schools.

Monday, 26 June 2017


by Grace Marie Grafton

Lend my heart to a passion flower in Surinam
because it has guardian ants and there
my heart would be, tucked down
between the stems of the pistils
and the ants would assume it to be integral
to the flower and would guard it from all threat.
I'd be safe. At least, my heart would be.

Yesterday I heard a poet say 'the price of love.'
Of course she didn't mean legal tender or even
a ring or deed to a house. She meant sorrow.

Do the guardian ants love the flower, their job?
I'd like to think so, maybe an insect kind of
love but I know I love the passion flower and,
despite the fact that I know it will die and
I will die (the ants too), it still feels good.

I want to share my passion with their
passion, just look at the color of those petals,
just look how beautifully my heart fits under the
cerise punctuation of the pistils, look at the articulated
dangerous complexity of the ants' legs.

* * * * *

"Passion" was first published in Askew.

Grace Marie Grafton is the author of six collections of poems, most recently 'Jester,' published by Hip Pocket Press. She has taught thousands of children to write poetry through her work with CA Poets in the Schools.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Another Morning on Earth

by Meryl Natchez

On the altar in the living room, pictures of my parents,
my brother at 40—one of the last photos—Larry’s parents,
my mother and her sisters on Atlantic City Boardwalk in the 30’s,
and Erwin, my mother’s last love, for the besotted, lively gaze
she turns on him, though I try to keep him
behind the flowers. Perhaps they watch me,
even watch over me. When I fell
and it was just bad enough
to put up railings and walk more slowly,
I felt they had given me a warning.
Or when the baby is here, or when we gather,
turkey or brisket or pot de crème, or an ordinary morning,
open newspaper or book or laptop, the ramekin of salt
on the table—there they are,

I change the flowers as they wilt,
alstroemerias, anemones, the last sweet peas,
because I want my dead to keep watching out for us,
for the children and grandchildren and beloved friends
in this chancy world where death lurks on the landing
or in the car, or microbes
or snipers or breast
or bone or stomach.

What do they think about the time I waste?
Such an abundance that I throw whole hours
into online Scrabble or Threes with the excuse that they
are a form of meditation,
because it’s hard to be here now,
now being a confused elixir
of sun and fog and email and bird shadow and superstition
and chicken feet and toast and news
and insatiable longing and I have to pee, a fusillade
of random moments that can converge
into a ravishing pattern,
which I have, from time to time and briefly, glimpsed.
But mostly I wander the planet with blinders on,
going somewhere fast.
I like to keep moving.
I like my time full.
And I like to believe that because
their photos look out from their niche
in the living room, they are present, and if
I keep a fresh parade of flowers on the altar
they will keep on keeping me
from harm.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

With today's brilliant poem "The Conservation of Matter" by Meryl Natchez, Writing In A Woman's Voice goes on a week's summer solstice vacation until June 25, 2017. Happy mid-summer days to all!

The Conservation of Matter

by Meryl Natchez

                                    for J. E.

I follow the hump of the whale exhaling
as it heads for the Bering Sea. I want to see it, and see it again,

closer. Or branches in a storm, their exuberant dance
with the wind. Even rain on a New York street,

cigarette butts in the gutter, taxis splattering. I can’t get enough of it.
You say: When we die we cease to exist. Everything else

is illusion. But what about that law of physics:
the conservation of matter? How water changes to

steam or ice—mass plus energy
equal to the first wet splash.

And this hard-won companionship, smelted
in a blaze day after day—surely something endures.

Slowly, light turns the bay slate blue.
Night departs. Morning reappears.

The dead look out from their accustomed photos,
stopped in time, but not altogether silent.

The last whiff of the whale’s breath
transforms into ocean, air.

Friday, 16 June 2017


by Judith Offer

for Toni Locke
Stand still;  I am trying to fit this poem around you,
Around your wrinkly smile and your eyes of sky,
Around your recorder waiting on the piano bench;
While you drift to the dining room,
Drawn to the afternoon sun spreading  gold
Over your geraniums and your jig saw puzzle.
If you would come back in here
And listen to what I have so far,
The way you always have,
I’m sure this poem would gather neatly around you.
But I stand here, mouth full of pins,
And you float further away,
Across your spare kitchen, out your porch door,
Over the bird feeder and the bird clothesline.
I basted the pieces of your poem yesterday,
A New England style that will be the real you,
Never blustery, nor braggadocio:
A Boismoitier duet, or a Baton,
Or maybe a folk song from your book.
But on you float, over the wormy apple that made good sauce,
Toward The Food Mill and Farmer Joe’s
And I suppose Laurel Books.
The fine fabric of your new poem
Is the one you wove yourself, Toni:
The warp, things unspoken but judiciously lived:
How you kept your body moving;
How you didn’t own things you couldn’t use;
How you tried to make sure
Everyone’s children knew the songs;
How you collected real friends,
The ones who did something for someone else.
The woof is the things you were moved to say:
How you learned to edit a newspaper,
So the people could hang together on the truth;
How you enjoyed and admired your children,
And their children and their children;
How fast and furious and funny life is,
And how impossible to control.
The poem is almost done;  one fitting won’t take long.
I know you’ll love it; you’ll wear it forever.
If you will only come back over here and stand still. 

* * * * *

Judith Offer has had two daughters, five books of poetry and dozens of plays. (Eighteen of the latter, including six musicals, have been produced.)  She has read her poetry at scores of poetry venues, but is particularly delighted to have been included in the Library of Congress series and on “All Things Considered,” on NPR.  Her writing reflects her childhood in a large Catholic family—with some Jewish roots—her experience as teacher, community organizer, musician, historian, gardener, and all-purpose volunteer, and her special fascination with her roles of wife and mother.  Her most recent book of poetry, called DOUBLE CROSSING, is poems about Oakland, California, where she lives with her husband, Stuart.

Thursday, 15 June 2017


by Judith Offer

We are the women of small histories/
            diaries, journals, letters to our sisters/
whose mothers recited earlier accounts
while mixing turkey stuffing or brownies
in any coffee-flavored kitchen.

We are the keepers of  lesser treasures/
            relish recipes, songs our uncles sang,
            steps to the old dances/
whose children are relentlessly photographed
and ride the years from sharp to fading
in masks of cellophane.

We are the bearers of background memories/
            his last words, her first song,
            Thanksgiving before the war/
whose grandchildren will grow
to remember us
and theirs, them.

* * * * *

 "And Theirs, Them" first appeared in the author's collection The First Apples.

Judith Offer has had two daughters, five books of poetry and dozens of plays. (Eighteen of the latter, including six musicals, have been produced.)  She has read her poetry at scores of poetry venues, but is particularly delighted to have been included in the Library of Congress series and on “All Things Considered,” on NPR.  Her writing reflects her childhood in a large Catholic family—with some Jewish roots—her experience as teacher, community organizer, musician, historian, gardener, and all-purpose volunteer, and her special fascination with her roles of wife and mother.  Her most recent book of poetry, called DOUBLE CROSSING, is poems about Oakland, California, where she lives with her husband, Stuart.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Culture of Rape

by Kathleen Murphey

Nolan Bruder and Brock Turner,
Birds of a feather, flock together,
Drug and Rape, Drug and Rape.

Whether his sister or a stranger,
he’s got a dick, so he’ll stick it in,
screw it if she’s unwilling.
Judges care more about him than the victim;
one brutally raped by a swimmer,
the other, a minor, raped by her brother.

Doesn’t seem like there is much honorable
about judges William Follett and Aaron Perskey
when they condone the abuse of young women
by turning the perpetrators loose.

These cases should be national disgraces,
and yet, the president of the United States
grabs women by the pussy, so why shouldn’t they?

Watch out girls and women,
we live in a culture of rape,
and pretty soon, without insurance coverage
for birth control or access to legal abortion,
we’ll be just like Offred from
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale.

* * * * *

Kathleen Murphey is an associate professor of English at Community College of Philadelphia.  Recently, she has been writing fiction (both short stories and poetry) on women’s and social justice issues.  To learn more about her work, see

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Cleveland, 1962

I’m glad I went with my father
to see the bridge abutment going nowhere.
He had seen it when he drove by
in his City bus, was curious, told me
with some excitement, and I, fourteen
and usually bored, for some reason
said I’d go. And so we drove down
trashed deserted streets to the dead-end
where a bridge out over the tracks
was gone now, all but the huge orange
metal braces, some cables the size
of my father’s waist, and he told me
how it must have been, showed me
on the street across where it must
have joined, how you must have been
able then to drive right over
to Little Italy, and I smiled and nodded.
I think I did.

* * * * *

Gail Rudd Entrekin is Poetry Editor of Hip Pocket Press and Editor of the online environmental literary magazine, Canary (  She is Editor of the poetry anthology Yuba Flows (2007) and the poetry & short fiction anthology Sierra Songs & Descants: Poetry & Prose of the Sierra (2002).

Her poems have been widely published in anthologies and literary magazines, including Cimarron Review, Nimrod, New Ohio Review, and Southern Poetry Review, were finalists for the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry from Nimrod International Journal in 2011, and won the Women’s National Book Association Award in 2016. 

Entrekin taught poetry and English literature at California colleges for 25 years.  Her books of poetry include The Art of Healing (with Charles Entrekin) (Poetic Matrix Press 2016); Rearrangement of the Invisible, (Poetic Matrix Press, 2012); Change (Will Do You Good) (Poetic Matrix Press, 2005), which was nominated for a Northern California Book Award; You Notice the Body (Hip Pocket Press, 1998); and John Danced (Berkeley Poets Workshop & Press, 1983).  She and her husband, poet and novelist Charles Entrekin, live in the hills of San Francisco’s East Bay.