Sunday, 31 December 2017

TO SAY GOODBYE

by Donna Joy Kerness


To say goodbye is to find a million perfect words
that can bring laughter into the steady rhythm of death-
goodbye, is the slight tickle of skin drying after interims
of tears that sustain the inevitable drop into an inescapable
silence which causes scratching to become as awkward as
the stuttering opening of a GOODBYE


Saturday, 30 December 2017

Transcription of Audio: Meeting with Miss Jewel Eppinette

by Nonnie Augustine


No one has touched me for a long, long time and I believe that is why I am dying. This is a notion that is new to me but it has persisted over the last few weeks and I believe I finally have apprehended the truth. There was a time, I remember all too well, when I might indeed have died from being touched too often, too deeply, and too profoundly but the dangers present at that time in my life have certainly been gone for some time. My insides down there and my outsides all over my body are becoming numb and will, I feel sure, soon cease to carry on with their intended purposes. The skin on my arms and shoulders has not been kissed or caressed and my navel has continued without attention or admiration for a fair number of years. I do touch myself and of course my dear cat will sit on my lap but I do not see that these touches are adequate. Neither am I speaking of the tactile attentions of doctors, servants and so forth. They are in my pay. No, I am dying because there is no longer anyone who desires, with passion or even warm affection, to touch me. I have lost this pleasurable experience, and, yes, I believe its loss is what is killing me. Maybe I should consider an encounter with one of those Burmese pythons that are overwhelming our Everglades and let his intense squeezing kill me quickly. I wonder how I might obtain one? 

Dr. Lyle has determined that heart failure is in progress within me and I agree with him.  My heart is failing, but as I've explained to him as emphatically as I could during our brief consultations I do not believe he perceives the true nature of this unfortunate circumstance. Hearts wither when we require nothing from them other than the maintenance chores they perform for us as a matter of course.  For a heart to remain in good health it needs to be exercised, challenged, torn, pulled this way and that and above all enlivened by engagement with robust humanity. I follow my doctor's instruction in every possible way but I continue to weaken and have come to rely on my own assessment of my dilemma. Although I am often alone, when I am in the company of others they are invariably unwilling or unable to penetrate this sphere that surrounds me. There is a barrier that neither they nor I can see but I feel it and I believe they do, too. 

For some time now all I've encountered in my life is respectful or indifferent behavior. I am thankful that I at least have memories of lusty men who used me as thoroughly as I did them and who felt free to express themselves with uncensored speech. I also cherish those women who laughed and cried with me and who revealed themselves in conversations on thousands of occasions. I remember people who sought to know me and that is a fine thing indeed and one which I failed to appreciate until fairly recently. I can't name anyone now who I think of as more than a polite acquaintance. No one has raised their voice to me or employed rude language in years! It is no wonder that I am becoming deaf. Hearing is a sense that needs to be stimulated by vigorous conversation between people who want to damn well be heard. I have given up alcohol, but I might consider going to a tavern in order to hear the boisterous, belligerent and morose or the gleeful, silly, and inane talk from people who have lost their inhibitions and damaged their judgement through over-indulgence in consumption of their preferred drink.

My vision at least continues to serve me well, I feel sure, because of my collection. As you assuredly already know, my parents were friends of Georgette and René Magritte and were excited about the artistic direction he was pursuing during the time they were all together in France. Monsieur René painted me dozens of times and my parents then bought the paintings which of course was of great benefit to both my family, as it later developed, and to the Magritte household at the time. I continue to spend some part of every day with these images and this study has kept my vision and I believe, my mind sharp. 

Here, in this painting, as you can see with your no doubt excellent young eyes, I am depicted as a pretty seven year old girl, dressed typically for a well-off child in 1927, but I ride my hobby horse on bare floorboards. The room, with its large windows, was unlike any room I had ever been in whether in Paris or anywhere else I traveled with my parents. The views were so strange to me—stormy seas, dark streets lit by street lamps that have eyes peering from them, rolling hills and meadows seen from a very high perspective as if my room were in a tower. Or are all those scenes paintings within the painting, I wondered. (I was a precocious child.) And who are those formally dressed men who stand around me but steadfastly ignore me and my wooden pony? This was the first painting with my image in it that I beheld of Monsieur René's and it frightened me. Madame Georgette smiled and told me that her husband (who was in Germany for an exhibition at the time) was a man who adored mystery and that he also adored me and would not want to make me cry.  She said she would ask him to talk to me about the painting when he returned, but we never did have that talk. 

However the suited gentlemen in the painting did talk to me and they explained to me how I could climb out of the window onto the street scene. I did this four times, and although the sidewalk was always empty of people, I did hear voices from inside the various buildings, dogs barking, and cats yowling. My walks in the painting were always at night, of course, so I never did hear any birds. Even though I was very young, I intuited that this was something I had better not share with my parents. Then, after my last exploration of this kind, my father happened to walk into the library, where the painting hung on the north wall, and saw me climbing down the library stepladder. Daddy was upset because he found me out of bed late at night, my skin felt icy to his touch, and there was dirt on my slippers.  My father didn't often get angry with me and every time he did I would cry, which is how I responded to his anger that night, but unfortunately I pointed to the painting and said it was not my fault, it was the fault of the gentlemen in the painting. My parents removed the oil and kept me from seeing the other paintings in which I appeared until I was in my teens. When they hung the Magrittes in this house, which they built in 1934, I discovered I had lost the ability to visit “my” street or converse with those mysterious men. I believe that loss was due to my having gone through puberty.  Even when I could only enjoy the paintings in an ordinary way, they have been a wonder to me and, as I may have said, I've continued to ponder each of these canvasses every day even now, well into my 94th year. I have set myself the task of finding a good home for them and you will have to persuade me that you will take care of them, ensure that they will never leave the South, and make them freely available to others, especially children under the age of fourteen. 

Please, have another piece of my cook's lemon cake. I envy your apparent enjoyment of it. I have lost my sense of taste and my sense of smell—losses which are abominable to me and I am glad I didn't know these senses would disappear with prolonged survival or I might have surrendered to death a few years back. I do not wish to linger on in life much longer, however. I have several more curators to interview and once I have made a decision and seen that my collection has found its proper home I will depart this diminished life of mine in a fashion of my own choosing. I do miss being touched and the feeling of another's warm flesh under my fingertips, perhaps more than I regret any other loss that has come with advanced age, but I suppose finding someone to furnish me with a Burmese python is rather eccentric, even for me. Once the python squeezed me to death with his nasty, forceful pressure I would be gone and unable to protect my cat, or much less cherished neighbors, as I'm sure a python could slither over my walls, from his or her (the females are larger I hear) aggression. I will abandon that line of thinking altogether.

* * * * *

Transcript of Audio: Miss Jewell Eppinette first appeared in Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.


More about Nonnie Augustine at http://www.nonnieaugustine.com/

Friday, 29 December 2017

ARROGANT MAGNOLIA,

by Nonnie Augustine


the first to open all, poised ten feet above our fuss.
As far as she's concerned … well, she's not, is she?
Her splendor cows me.
On this Tuesday morning I feel aged, dry, critical, although
I've used my potions.
Lousy sleep. Awake at 4 a.m., 5, 5:30. Sweaty.
And I feel short.
"Arrogant" comes to us via Old French from Latin— 'claiming for oneself',
from the verb arrogare.
Soon the fraying, browning, finishing. Disarray happens.
An old record plays. Mother and nuns scolding:
"No one likes a complainer."
"Wipe that look off."
"Jesus suffered."
My sweet dog's done her business and here is the poor bloom (soon to die) again.
The magnolia deflects my murky sensibility. Flowers, leaves, trunks, weeds, grass—
all of it—brushes me off. Of course.
Home and somewhat smoothed, despite the visit from my scolds,
despite the niggling moans from death.


* * * * *


"Arrogant Magnolia" first appeared in Olentangy Review and it is part of Nonnie Augustine's new book, To See Who's There

Thursday, 28 December 2017

IT’S PERSONAL

by Donna Joy Kerness


By myself, but not alone-
where red birds strut
outside my window-

I can hear the sleek black manx
licking his fur
and sucking his claws,
while my naked body 
purrs on cool crisp sheets
in preparation for dreams,

I descend
into the soft soundless pillow
of afternoon silence,

Feeling the fig tree quiver
with hungry birds,
I begin to eat the hours before me-

By myself, where the window,
a gaping eye
fills my room

with outdoor music………


Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Chant of a Million Women

by Shirani Rajapakse


My body is a temple, not
a halfway house you enter for
temporary shelter from
the heat and dust swirling through trees.
It’s not a guest house to book a room, spend
a night on your way to someplace else.
Not a transit lounge
to while away the hours until            
your next flight to fantasy seeking
greener pastures.

My body is my temple.

Enter with reverence.

Keep your shoes at the door your
hat on the step. Bring flowers as offering.
Garlands of jasmine wound tight, pink
lotus piled up high on a tray, petals opened,
lips inviting, alluring.

Place oil lamps on the floor.
Let the light guide the way, chase away
shadows trying to hide in gloomy corners.

Burn sweet incense, let the perfume linger
on the air, climb on the tail of a
gust of breeze
and travel unhindered.

Murmur sutras to supplicate.
Sing songs of praise.
Call out my many names amassed
down the ages.
Place those trays of fresh fruit,
succulent, ripe and oozing, at the side.
My body is my own.

Not yours to take
when it pleases you, or
use as collateral in the face
of wars fought for your greed, or zest to own.
Not give to appease the enemy, reward
the brave who sported so valiantly in the
trenches, stinking of blood and gore.

It’s not a product.
Not something to bargain, barter for goods
and services, share with friends,
handed around the table,
a bowl of soup, drink your fill,
use and abuse as you please.

Don’t adorn me in expensive silks and gold,
and gift to the Gods, or
wrap me up in a shroud,
imprison me, maim my thoughts
that shout to get out.
No religious decree, no social pressure,
you have no right to own.

It’s mine and mine alone and you have
no authority to take it away from me.


* * * * *

"Chant of a Million Women" is the title poem of Shirani Rajapakse's poetry collection Chant of a Million Women (August 2017).

Shirani Rajapakse is an internationally published, award winning poet and author. She won the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest 2013 and was a finalist in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards 2013. Her collection of short stories Breaking News (Vijitha Yapa 2011) was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award. Her poetry collection Chant of a Million Women was self published in August 2017 and is nominated for a Reader's Choice Award.

Rajapakse’s work appears in publications around the world including, Flash:The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Litro, Silver Birch, International Times, City Journal, Writers for Calais Refugees, The Write-In, Asian Signature, Moving Worlds, Citiesplus, Deep Water Literary Journal, Mascara Literary Review, Kitaab, Lakeview Journal, Cyclamens & Swords, New Ceylon Writing, Channels, Linnet’s Wings, Spark, Berfrois, Counterpunch, Earthen Lamp Journal, Asian Cha, Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry Review, About Place Journal, Skylight 47, The Smoking Poet, New Verse News, The Occupy Poetry Project and in anthologies, Flash Fiction International (Norton 2015), Ballads (Dagda 2014), Short & Sweet (Perera Hussein 2014), Poems for Freedom (River Books 2013), Voices Israel Poetry Anthology 2012, Song of Sahel (Plum Tree 2012), Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology, World Healing World Peace (Inner City Press 2012 & 2014) and Every Child Is Entitled to Innocence (Plum Tree 2012).

She has a BA in English Literature (University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka) and a MA in International Relations (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India). 

She interviews, promotes and reviews books by indie authors on The Writer's Space at https://shiranirajapakse.wordpress.com

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

On Being Propositioned at 60

by Kathryn Jacobs


At birth we're more like angel food, all fluff
and sponge and cream of tartar, till the years
compress us, make us savory like fudge,
or rich and dense like cheesecake. One small wedge
is all the tongue can handle now that we're
so concentrated, tart and sweet enough
to make you shiver, flavors too intense
for neophytes who feed on Wonder bread
and Kraft and hot dogs – for whom bland is king;
those smooth blank faces. Start by coveting
your comfort foods then. Because once you've fed
on those of us whom time has textured, dense
is all you're going to want, and you're too tame
to interest us. But thank you all the same –


* * * * *

"On Being Propositioned at 60" was first published in Voices on the Wind

Kathryn Jacob is a professor at Texas A & M - C and Editor of Road Not Taken. She has five volumes of poetry out: two of them anthologies and three chapbooks. The most recent is Wedged Elephant, by Kelsay Press. She also has a book from University Press of Florida called Marriage from Chaucer to the Renaissance Stage. She has twenty-something articles, and she has published well over a hundred poems at journals like Voices on the Wind, Acumen, Mezzo Cammin, Measure, and Southern Poetry Anthology.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

THE LONGING OF ADVENT

by Mary J. Breen


When I was four—so my mother told me—I entertained the parishioners at St. Teresa’s Christmas concert with a rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, complete with Shirley Temple I’m-too-cute-for-words finger-wagging. Even at four I’d already grasped why You better watch out. I knew that Christmas was about arrivals: the coming of the Baby Jesus, and the coming of Santa Claus, and the coming of presents.

My father was a devout Catholic, and for him, the four weeks before December 25th were The Longing of Advent—a time of spiritual preparation, a time of yearning for the coming Savior and the rewards of the next world. My mother’s preparations, however, were much more of this world. Like all the mothers I knew, she shopped and she decorated and she baked. She made Christmas cakes—light and dark—and Christmas fudge—maple cream and chocolate—and sugar cookies cut into the shapes of half-moons, stars, and bells, and then coated in thick white topped with sprinkles and tiny hard silver balls. They looked wonderful but they were hard as rocks.

Our principal Christmas decorations were the over 200 Christmas cards we received every year and which my mother hung on strings stretching from one side of the living room ceiling to the other. She also taped cards to the back of the panes of our solitary French door. Those cards with religious themes—The Star of Bethlehem, The Holy Family, radiant angels and humble shepherds—got first billing; winter scenes, Santas, and cartoon reindeers got the back rows. In a doorway, she thumb-tacked what I thought was an amazing red paper honeycomb bell that folded flat when not in use and which my tall parents bumped into every time they passed through. We had no wreath for the door, and no Christmas-themed candles, glasses, or plates; just the “good dishes” and the “good silver” that were taken from their newspaper wrappings only at Christmas and Easter. We had no Christmas tea towels or napkins, but we did have a white crinkly plastic tablecloth emblazoned with large red flowers that my mother said were poinsettias. None of us had seen a real poinsettia then, nor real holly or mistletoe, but we knew there was something magical about mistletoe since mischievous or dastardly suitors in cartoons were forever clutching sprigs of it as they pursued frightened maidens.

We also had a tiny winter village, and by the time I was eight or nine, I was allowed to set it up on the kitchen table beside the salt and pepper. My mother would give me a mirror the size of a dinner plate for the frozen pond, and some cotton batting for snow, and I would arrange the little white plastic church, the little white plastic shops and houses, and the tiny snow-topped evergreens around the pond. However, much as I tried, they never stayed put on their snowy hills and they were forever tipping over, especially during meals. On the pond was an oversized red Santa with a loaded sleigh and reindeers, the front pair already in flight. Our Santa had only six, not eight, reindeers, but if I looked down at their reflection in the pond, then there were twelve. I was very proud of our village as it seemed to me to be exactly the kind I’d seen at the beginning of TV shows of the day, those tranquil little towns in the distance being dusted with fake falling snow.

Everyone I knew had a real Christmas tree, usually a sweet-smelling fir. Because of the required solemnity of Advent, our Christmas tree could be set up but not decorated until Christmas Eve. My father would hammer two crossed pieces of kindling into the bottom of the trunk to give it a bigger base, but this never worked very well, and, like my little plastic trees, it often toppled too, shattering balls and lights, and making my parents a little testy with each other.

My mother bought and wrapped and mailed off all the presents. Except for those from Santa—Here comes Santa Claus!—which didn’t arrive until Christmas morning, they were all in full view under the tree alongside the parcels that friends and relations had sent. Although she didn’t forbid my shaking or poking or sniffing the gifts, I had to proceed very carefully so as not to knock over the wobbly tree, nor make it appear that I had in any way actually peeked. And that wasn’t easy as wrapping paper back then was thin and flimsy, and no matter how many stickers people used in those dark days before Scotch tape, the paper often tore away in chunks.

Apart from a cardboard star with silver pebbledash on one side, ours was a completely secular tree with the standard decorations of the day. We had no perching elves, no perching birds, no perching angels, and no precious ornaments made by precious children. We just had a string of large coloured lights that all went out if one bulb failed, and large, very fragile red glass balls—not the new pink ones that look like 3-D anatomy lessons. We also had my mother’s thick cookies hung from loops of red wool; peppermint candy canes that, with their crooks broken off, made tasty drinking straws; fuzzy velvet candy canes that looked like large red and white pipe cleaners; a rope of scratchy silver tinsel that looked like a giant caterpillar, and tinsel icicles. My mother was usually fed up with the whole task by this point, so she would just throw the tangled icicles on in clumps and be done with it.

My parents had not, of course, taken the Christ out of Christmas. The music cabinet beside the tree was the designated spot for our cardboard cut-out crèche, a two-foot-wide diorama that my parents called The Crib. They got it when they were married in 1938, and I still have it, now greatly battered. The stable and a huge yellow star beaming down on its roof are the only three-dimensional parts. The figures that fit into (and fall out of) little cardboard slots in the foreground are flat, and so are the background boards that show the Little Town of Bethlehem, some small cypresses, and two distant mountains. Inside the stable are a flat donkey and cow, and closer to us, a flat Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus in his manger, no crib for a bed, not swaddled, but calmly sitting in the prickly straw wearing the brightest halo of them all. Come and behold Him. In the grass on the left are slots for the adoring, flat, ragtag shepherds and their flat sheep and goat; on the right are slots for more sheep and the three flat Wise Kings and their flat camels.

On Christmas Eve, I was allowed to set up The Crib—everything except the Three Wise Kings. They had by far the best outfits, and the whole scene looked lopsided and empty without them, but the rule was that they (and their well-dressed camels) could not arrive until January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. My parents called it Little Christmas, and they considered it a very special day as it commemorated the first introduction of the Messiah to us, the Gentiles. So, in our house, the Three Wise Kings stayed in their box until the Twelfth Day of Christmas, giving them at most three days in the light before they were packed away for another year.

As the date when Santa Claus is coming to town approached, I spent a lot of time wondering what gifts I might get, longing for the new dolls and doll carriages, the games and toys from Eaton’s catalogue that I’d asked for and which I hoped Santa had heard about when he was making his list and checking it twice. While I was counting down the days to that Silent Night, Holy Night, my father was busy adding Advent prayers to the many prayers we already said together every evening. My focus, he would remind me, should be gratitude for the wondrous arrival of the little Lord Jesus; however, as we prayed, right there in front of me in full view under the tree was a growing pile of presents. Much as I tried to think about this coming new and glorious morn, the longing I felt was entirely for the pleasure of getting at those packages. I’m sure this was evident to my father, as he would quietly remind me that when he was young, he and his sisters and brothers were happy to receive their Christmas gift of one orange each. His words made me uneasy, but they didn’t make me long for a simpler time nor did they make me indifferent to what was awaiting me under the tree.

I think my good father actually believed he could outsmart the forces of consumerism, and turn my attention to the proper reason for Joy to the World. He didn’t scold me, but I knew he didn’t like seeing me more enthusiastic about the arrival of my new six-gun and holster, my new beaded jewellery kit, my new bubbly bath salts, and my new baby doll than for the arrival of the newborn King who came on that silent night, while shepherds watched their flocks and angels bent near the earth to touch their harps of gold. He wanted just one thing: for every heart—especially mine—to prepare Him room, but I was still young and still governed by the very ordinary, worldly interests of a little kid who loved presents.


* * * * *


Mary J. Breen is the author of two books about women's health. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in national newspapers, essay collections, travel magazines, health journals, and literary magazines including Brick, The Christian Science Monitor, Boston Literary MagazineThe National Post, and JAMA Cardiology. She was a regular contributor to The Toast. She lives in Peterborough Ontario Canada where, among other things, she teaches writing.
The Sacred Silver Coin

by Judith Michaels Safford


Inside this brain
sharing space with the hippocampus and amygdala
holding the episodic and emotional memories,
lives a silver coin always positioned
heads up, I win, tails you lose side.
It might as well be called sacred, I protect it so.
Weightier it grows with embellished telling,
at least, providing fodder for poetry.

Lists and lists of names categorized
‘done to me.’
Funny
a coin, to even be a coin, must have two sides
and yet, both cannot be seen at once.
Heaviness weighs me down like Mary Oliver’s words
“…heavier than iron it was as she carried it in her arms,
from room to room, oh, unforgettable!”
This sacred silver coin contracts
my heart, liver, lungs, and aching arms.
It cripples me.

Written, prayed, talked about,
processed, burned in ceremony,
Why does it stay?
Perhaps I’ll employ a
silversmith to melt all blame away.

“What you feed stays,” they say,
like a hungry feral kitten
coming back again to feed, not tamed, or
the javelina and his family grabbing at
any grounded fruit or garbage, ready to knock down
or dig under whatsoever is in its way.
It will not be stopped with its boar like head
and fangs in spite of its narrow butt.

David Carse implies there need be
no coin, because there is no me.
“The invitation here is precisely to stop telling
the story…it is left without polishing, without retelling,
to crumble into the thin air whence it came.”
My little one inside clutching to her breast
her coin
her story book
heavy though it be
simply cries to be seen
and held by me.                          


* * * * *

In 2006, Judith Michaels Safford discovered a radio program on writing poetry. She followed the prompts and mustered up the courage to press the send button. She was invited to read and a door was open that had not previously existed. She finds that her emotions express more easily through poetry. Judith self-published her memoir in 2009. Don’t Sell Your Soul, Memoir of a Guru Junkie. Encouraged by a published poet-friend, she embarked on self-publishing a book of prayer poems. Joyful Surrender, A pilgrimage. Judith continues to practice a 23-year career as a licensed massage therapist. Today her home is Glenwood, New Mexico, where artists of many kind reside. Touching others with hands and poems brings a tremendous satisfaction of purpose to her life.


Saturday, 16 December 2017

Writing In A Woman's Voice is now on winter solstice break from December 17 through December 23, 2017. New voices will resume on December 24, 2017. Happy winter solstice to everyone in the northern hemisphere and happy summer solstice to those in the southern hemisphere and much happiness to all in all your other seasonal celebrations.
Winner of the Purple Heart

by Marty Eberhardt


Tall, fair, athletic, an excellent student
He was headed,
By everyone’s calculation,
For greatness.
The habit of discipline kept him achieving
After the war, but it could not stay his hand
From the bottle.

He was the war hero who cried
As he shoveled a dead squirrel
Into the garbage,
The man whose hands shook
On the steering wheel
As he drove across a bridge.
He listened, of an evening,                  
To opera,
Eyes martini-soft with memories.
His family watched for the soft eyes,
Then the sudden angers.
The irony pricked them:
His anaesthetic grew their pain.

How many hearts
Lie bruised like his
In the breasts of soldiers?
How many of their children
Speak with a steady voice
Belying their tremors.
Let us not forget
To add them
To the spreadsheets of statistics
Detailing the costs of war.


* * * * *


"Winner of the Purple Heart" was first published in the 2015 edition of The Guilded Pen, the annual anthology of the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild

Friday, 15 December 2017

Not Humming

by Laura Foley


On the forced march
from Tientsin to Woosung,
our Marines, ordered silent—
No humming or singing,
snapped the Japanese,
as the men trudged
a hundred miles to prison.
My father not humming
the whole of four winters,
or to my knowledge, since.


* * * * *

“Not Humming” is from the author’s collection Night Ringing (Headmistress Press). 


Laura Foley is the author of six poetry collections, including, most recently, WTF and Night Ringing. Her poem “Gratitude List” won the Common Good Books poetry contest and was read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. Her poem “Nine Ways of Looking at Light” won the Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest, judged by Marge Piercy. A palliative care volunteer in hospitals, with an M.A. and a M. Phil. in English Lit. from Columbia University, she lives with her partner, and three big dogs among the hills of Vermont.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Daddy's Girls

by Laura Foley


He wanted a boy so badly,
he called four girls
a Chinese curse,
blamed our mother,
haunted us, his
unwanted daughters.
Kiss me, he'd insist...
Quickly, we learned
to turn away,
duck his gaze,
but still he broke us,
two to madness,
one to meanness,
one to poetry.


* * * * *

“Daddy’s Girls” was first published in Night Ringing (Headmistress Press).

Laura Foley is the author of six poetry collections, including, most recently, WTF and Night Ringing. Her poem “Gratitude List” won the Common Good Books poetry contest and was read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. Her poem “Nine Ways of Looking at Light” won the Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest, judged by Marge Piercy. A palliative care volunteer in hospitals, with an M.A. and a M. Phil. in English Lit. from Columbia University, she lives with her partner, and three big dogs among the hills of Vermont.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Braided              

by Gail Thomas


When he called her high-strung, I imagined a horse
rearing up white-eyed, not the woman who dusted
down walls every week and sprawled on the floor
braiding strips of wool into a rug.

When I answered the pay phone in the hall, he
stumbled with the news -- break-down. I saw
thin wires snapping, her still body in a white
room. Because you moved away. When I moved

farther, she offered the rug and wrote a letter,
because you were a cold child. Now I change
her diaper, trim chin hair, bring a cactus with
one yellow flower. She calls me angel, my angel.


* * * * *

“Braided” is from the author’s collection Waving Back (Turning Point, 2015).

Gail Thomas,
http://www.gailthomaspoet.com/, has published four books of poetry, Odd Mercy (Headmistress Press, 2016), Waving Back (Turning Point, 2015), No Simple Wilderness: An Elegy for Swift River Valley (Haley’s, 2001) and Finding the Bear (Perugia Press, 1997).

Waving Back was named a Must Read for 2016 by the Massachusetts Center for the Book and Honorable Mention in the New England Book Festival.  Odd Mercy won the Charlotte Mew Prize of Headmistress Press and its “Little Mommy Sonnets” won Honorable Mention in the Tom Howard/ Margaret Prize for Traditional Verse.

Thomas’s work has appeared in many journals and anthologies including The Beloit Poetry Journal, Calyx, The North American Review, Hanging Loose, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Individual poems have won national prizes and Thomas was awarded residencies at The McDowell Colony and Ucross.

Her book, No Simple Wilderness, about the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930’s has been taught in college writing and interdisciplinary courses. As one of the original teaching artists for the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Elder Arts Initiative, Thomas led workshops and collaborated with dancers, musicians and storytellers in schools, nursing homes, hospitals and libraries across the state.

She speaks at conferences and poetry festivals, reads her work widely in community and academic settings, and lives in Northampton, MA. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

All Hallows


by Gail Thomas


I feared grandmother’s faded corset
draped over the shower bar, laces
dangling like naked pink worms.
And the way my gentle father
morphed to monster when faced       
with a leaky faucet or faulty lock.

On Halloween I did not want to be
a princess, though rescue seemed exciting
in an unnamed sexual way. I asked for
matador, like the poster in our rec room
of a sinuous man, twirling his red cape
before the dark beast.

My mother sewed knee pants and
bolero jacket trimmed with gold braid,
black hat, cumberbund and flaring
scarlet cape, complicit in this break
with custom, except
the suit was pink, pink, pink.

No one warns little ghosts about
the price of desire, the body’s betrayals,
and oh, the masks of want.


* * * * *

“All Hallows” is from the author’s collection Waving Back (Turning Point, 2015).

Gail Thomas,
http://www.gailthomaspoet.com/, has published four books of poetry, Odd Mercy (Headmistress Press, 2016), Waving Back (Turning Point, 2015), No Simple Wilderness: An Elegy for Swift River Valley (Haley’s, 2001) and Finding the Bear (Perugia Press, 1997).

Waving Back was named a Must Read for 2016 by the Massachusetts Center for the Book and Honorable Mention in the New England Book Festival.  Odd Mercy won the Charlotte Mew Prize of Headmistress Press and its “Little Mommy Sonnets” won Honorable Mention in the Tom Howard/ Margaret Prize for Traditional Verse.

Thomas’s work has appeared in many journals and anthologies including The Beloit Poetry Journal, Calyx, The North American Review, Hanging Loose, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Individual poems have won national prizes and Thomas was awarded residencies at The McDowell Colony and Ucross.
Her book, No Simple Wilderness, about the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930’s has been taught in college writing and interdisciplinary courses. As one of the original teaching artists for the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Elder Arts Initiative, Thomas led workshops and collaborated with dancers, musicians and storytellers in schools, nursing homes, hospitals and libraries across the state.


She speaks at conferences and poetry festivals, reads her work widely in community and academic settings, and lives in Northampton, MA. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

Auschwitz-Birkenau               

by Nanette Rayman


Taste the color of red, a noxious crimson gas the way
you would smell the street after a fierce acid rain. Promise
to tell the extraneous pink dahlias to bless
my people. Our song has always been
blue and white. Press your animal thumbs
to your ashen foreheads, press hard
into your heartless green envy of our survival
beauty. If you cannot get past your gray heritage, try
again slowly. Think of a child stacking block upon block.

After each block, pray for your own souls. The marrow
of my people endures. So insistent is the rain,
we endure and this memorial only makes us know
you are more shameful. We rise like a great tribe
of birds—free. We can soar as high as Ein Sof. The sun
rises alongside the countryside. We rise like a united
fist. We are the birds. Ziporim.
Baruch HaShem.            

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Bless Him -------

by Nanette Rayman


He tried real hard to take his own life.
All the people on Wall Street acted
as if wind blew them past. They didn’t even bless him.      
No one stopped to help him. I put my arm around him       
and called an ambulance. I blessed him.             
He asked me to ride with him to St. Vincent’s Hospital.
He was younger than me by a lot. With no self-
pity, just seams of jangling sadness, he said: My baby left me. I love her
so. I need her. Wind blows up and down the stairs of The Stock Market.
Administrative assistants pull at their pencil skirts and lean like lamp posts.
He asks me to go for coffee forgetting he’s taken too many pills.
To get swallowed up by this sweet sick man I would descend like
a spastic bird. To descend quickly into a subway station I would
have to leave him among the financial ruins, among the suits
and stone and browning bananas not sold today on fruit stands.
I waited with him ‘til the paramedics came. I went with him
to St. Vincent’s Hospital and watched the charcoal shoved
down his throat. Nurses were angry at him. They did not bless him.
Not everyone who falls is caught. Not everyone is saved.

It never stops now, the stars, the what-happened
which has no ground to stand on—Baruch HaShem,
I’m saving myself for someone now,
falling off my pumps on Wall Street.
I thought I saw him walking toward me today.