Wednesday, 31 July 2019



Saunter–Cast–Headway

Eve West Bessier


The slow road
is the one less traveled.

Speed, the pandemic addiction.

What is cast away
as dross from the mill
of making incessant headway?

The treasures of a saunter
on a pilgrimage of meaning.

Feel of earth on the sole.
Scent of new rain on sage.
Song of autumn’s last cricket.

Feel of Earth on the soul.





* * * * *

Illustraiton by Eve West Bessier

Eve West Bessier is an award-winning author of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. She is Poet Laureate of Silver City, New Mexico. She is also a Poet Laureate Emerita of Davis, California. Eve holds a Master of Education from UC Davis, and a BA in English from San Francisco State University. She is a social scientist, studio musician, jazz vocalist, voice coach, visual artist, and nature enthusiast. You can find more information, including performance videos and recordings on her website. www.jazzpoeteve.com

Tuesday, 30 July 2019


Cedar–Habitat–Sabbatical

by Eve West Bessier


If I could take a sabbatical,
a leave with pay for rejuvenation,

I would seek out a wild habitat
for my too tamed mind,
a place with elevation, a wide view,
a few cedar and juniper trees,
an aspen grove on a high slope.

A place where sunlight plays
on granite and the emerald skins of lakes.

A place where I can breathe thinner air,
bathe in alpine coolness,
and remember from where I came,

and remember my own name,

and remember the nature
of the golden ratio,
and the shape of change.





* * * * *

Illustration by Eve West Bessier

Eve West Bessier is an award-winning author of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. She is Poet Laureate of Silver City, New Mexico. She is also a Poet Laureate Emerita of Davis, California. Eve holds a Master of Education from UC Davis, and a BA in English from San Francisco State University. She is a social scientist, studio musician, jazz vocalist, voice coach, visual artist, and nature enthusiast. You can find more information, including performance videos and recordings on her website. www.jazzpoeteve.com


Monday, 29 July 2019


Telling the Bees

by Joan Leotta


Dear little creatures,
as I look out the window today
I send these thoughts to you—
may you be blessed on this, his day.
I have no hive to shroud
in mourning cloth so
I pour honey on my toast,
libation to our connection.
Take my love to him, my sweet boy.
On the day he was born,
this day, 37 years ago, I could not
taste honey—no food allowed before the birth—
yet I tasted of his sweetness when
I kissed his soft baby cheek
as they placed him on me
newly taken from my womb.
Now he rests and I know you visit
his place, tasting of the clover
flowers sprouting up among the green
where he was laid nigh 20 years ago.
Some people think that grief has a timeline
ending, they want no talk
of tears, time when he walked among the bees.
So, I greet you, dear ones,
honey sweet as he,
dear to me,
take the touch of my lips to him,
remind him that a mother’s love
is forever.


* * * * *

Joan Leotta is a writer and story performer whose poems have been published in a number of journals including Writing in a Woman's voice, Ekphrastic Review, Silver Birch, The Lake, and others. She often writes about her family, strong women, and food. She is fascinated with bees and their importance to human life.

Sunday, 28 July 2019


Agoraphobia

by Kelsey Bryan-Zwick


Forgetting how to leave the home
to spend all the spoons it takes
to mouth past the cats, to dress
to hello and awkward lip small talk
with friends that know you but also
know how nervous you can get
just trying to get through one sentence
without the word surgery.
     

* * * * *

Kelsey Bryan-Zwick is a Spanish/English speaking SoCal poet and artist with a B.A. from UC Santa Cruz in Literature/Creative Writing. She is the author of three chapbooks, the most recent being Watermarked (Sadie Girl Press) a hand bound edition which intermixes both her poetry and art. Disabled with scoliosis from a young age her poems often focus on trauma, giving heart to the antiseptic language of hospital intake forms. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Kelsey’s poetry appears in Incandescent Mind, petrichor, Like a Girl, Lummox, Storm Cycle 2015, Short Poems Ain’t Got Nobody to Love, Cadence Collective, Eunoia Review, and Redshift 2. Find her at kelseybryanzwick.wixsite.com/poetry



Saturday, 27 July 2019


Lady Liberty Sings the Blues

A new cento by Billie Holiday/Emma
Lazarus/Sylvia Plath/Kelsey Bryan-Zwick

When I shun my light, the earth forgets
I ignite and everything spills out again
(I think therefore, I’ve known regrets.)

I dreamt for tempest-tost a place to rest
Sang for the homeless, the tired, the poor
When I shun my light, the earth forgets.

Golden door tarnished, my lips go silent
And a calculated meanness conquers all
(I think therefore, I’ve known regrets.)

Body, rusted beacon, book-ash dishonest
Lost moon, hollow giant, childless mother
When I shun my light, the earth forgets.

Copper eyes search for home, for our nest
But I’ve gone blind, in exile from myself
(I think therefore, I’ve known regrets.)

I should have loved you without request
Yet as I do: love is love’s consequence.
When I shun my light, the earth forgets
(I think therefore, I’ve known regrets.)


* * * * *

Kelsey Bryan-Zwick is a Spanish/English speaking SoCal poet and artist with a B.A. from UC Santa Cruz in Literature/Creative Writing. She is the author of three chapbooks, the most recent being Watermarked (Sadie Girl Press) a hand bound edition which intermixes both her poetry and art. Disabled with scoliosis from a young age her poems often focus on trauma, giving heart to the antiseptic language of hospital intake forms. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Kelsey’s poetry appears in Incandescent Mind, petrichor, Like a Girl, Lummox, Storm Cycle 2015, Short Poems Ain’t Got Nobody to Love, Cadence Collective, Eunoia Review, and Redshift 2. Find her at kelseybryanzwick.wixsite.com/poetry


Friday, 26 July 2019


THE OPEN DOOR

by Kathy Duby


The open door admits a ribbon,
only a ribbon, of sunlight
to warm me as I paint.
Massive, scarred, and ancient,
built for a castle, not a home,
rough-hewn planks
held together with wooden pegs,
diagonal braces, not nails or glue,
the door bears wrought-iron hinges,
hardware featuring sculptural ornamentation.
Outside the door
the chest-high stump of a tree,
felled by lightning a century ago,
guards the doorway,
living remnant of the mighty oak,
which once towered
over my dwelling.
In the late afternoon sunlight
the trunk is gray like an elephant
wrinkled and pock-marked,
but on full moon nights
the trunk glows silver,
beacon to strangers
and friends alike,
who wander the road nearby.
Beyond the tree-trunk sentinel
three hills rise
one behind the other
like oncoming waves
rolling across the sea.
I long to climb those hills
ride those waves
but cannot know such freedom.
I paint all the hours
I am awake,
using all the dayligh
to see the shadings,
gradations and hue
of the only colors available.
When I grow tired
I sit on the stone floor.
Outside, the sky is glowing red
sunset approaches,
deep red rays seep down
over the distant  hills.
The flaming sun
touches the summit
then melts slowly down
behind the farthest hill.
Darkness comes on fast,
red fading away,
hills going black,
tree stump disappearing.
I lie on the floor now,
growing cold.
It is all illusion,
the door, the hills,
the sun, the tree,
a mere mural
painted on the wall
of my padded room
with my only colors -
excrement, then blood.


* * * * *

Kathy Duby lives in northern California and is about to turn 75. She has been writing poetry for over 60 years. Her poems spring from the heart, or from voices in the head, or from the gut. Those from her heart are lyrical, those from her voices arrive fully formed, narrated by the inner voice, those from her gut address the harsh topics of incest and child abuse. Poetry is her favored form of expression. Others include collage art, altered books, humor, and fiction.


Thursday, 25 July 2019


A Dancer Long Lost: Chinnama Devi, Queen of Vijayanagara

by Maitreyee B Chowdhury


The Tungabhadra was in spate,
the rains better than ever.
The breeze from the river, now habitual visitor.

At ten each night, the curtains would lift on a precious Zenana -
lover of the queen, the river sang.
Chinna Devi sat in abstract silence,
the red dot that adorned her hand bordered an enriched terracotta wall.
She was Sita in decadent unsettled-ness,
prisoner of her own accord -
queen of Vijayanagara, dancer at heart.

Soon it would be time for Mahanavami –
Durga would be worshiped in every possible human form,
memory brought bheebatsa!
Twenty dancers would dance on the dusty road -
with her mighty lover, this dancer would watch,
alone.

Hands moving from trishula, to anjali to swastikam.
The Dasara Dibba would come alive again.
Nine days and nine nights,
the poor would rejoice, alms be given,
kindness thrust upon, Sultans unknown.
Her legs spread, this queen sat,
a courtesan in every thigh.
The hair soaked in blood,
curled -
beggars in every papilla.

The breeze tonight sang of yesterday,
of a far away Matunga asleep.
All summer she had danced on those stones,
bare feet burnt -
as her lover in disguise,
(a future king) watched.

Purandaradasa had sung,
while the rain poured,
a hundred fifty year old Champa
in Vittala temple blossomed.
Tonight her old friend slept
with the Vijayanagara jyoti as its crown.

The Andhra Bhoja, third ruler of the Tuluva
Kṛṣṇa Deva Rāya would be awake still,
and yet he had not called her.

Just beyond the dot on her hand,
a red dirt road stretched -
The Neem had turned yellow.
From another unadorned street on another wall,
another queen sat, and then another -
Like prisoners of time,
dolls of passion gone mute,
bereft of dance, laughter and shringar -
they held court, over his highness’s groins.
The Varaha, sun, moon and dagger -
flew strong on every temple pillar,
how they mocked her tonight.

In the corridors of courtesans,
sleep is uneasy - frightening even.
Growing placid, almighty and a queen - became a morning bath, soon.
She had shrunk her feet and grown three breasts.
Fine silks moulded her thighs,
in the corner of a tiny foot,
an anklet, somehow survived-
every night, the curtains sang Raag Biraha,
the price of a crown too high.
The right thigh twitched,
desire ran down empty halls of a stone empire.
Nimble shadows ran on dusty roads,
down to the courtesan’s lane - of familiarity and songs.
Her home lay empty and lit every night, somewhere there
out in the Bazar.
The smell of Jasmine had poured into her lover’s vein,
crystallized her anklets,
kings and queens, they had become.

The Sultans came,
an empire looted, Vijayanagara died.

On moonlight nights, near empty and broken
Saalumantaps,
a courtesan still dances with the Tungabhadra.
Matunga echoes her call,
a lone Krishna weeps on Shaivaite land.


* * * * *

Footnotes

Chinna Devi was the wife of one of the most powerful kings of the Vijayanagara kingdom (13th century- Modern day Hampi).  Prior to becoming the queen, she was a courtesan and dancer, who helped the king while he was on the run. The two fell in love and the king promised to marry her once he was reinstated to the throne. But because of the fact that she was a courtesan, history and most official records don't recognise her, instead laying more emphasis on the king's first queen whom he was compelled to marry.

Tungabhadra - Name of a river that flows through the Vijayanagara empire.

Sita is a reference to the mythological epic Ramayana. Sita is the wife of Ram, the protagonist of this epic, a large part of her life was spent as a prisoner to demon king Ravana, from whose kingdom she was eventually rescued after a prolonged war.

Mahanavami - Every year, the Hindu goddess Durga is worshiped for 10 days in a festival called Dussehra. The ninth day of the worship is called Mahanavami and is supposed to be very auspicious.

Trishula, Anjali, Swastikam - Symbols expressed during classical dance.

Dasara Dibba - A stone platform within the royal enclosure of Hampi, used to celebrate the festival of Dasara (Dussehra).

Purandaradasa - A court singer in the Vijayanagara kingdom.

Champa - A flowering tree (Michelia champaca).

Vijayanagara jyoti - A fire torch kept atop the Matunga hill that was never extinguished to symbolise the power of the Vijaynagara empire.

Andhra Bhoja - King of Andhra (Andhra is a part of the southern part of the Indian territory).

Tuluva - The name of the third ruling dynasty of the Vijayanagara Empire.

Neem - Botanical name, Azadirachta indica.

Shringar - A Hindi word, used to denote a woman getting ready (beautifying herself) to meet her lover.

Varaha – Boar (refers to sign on the Vijayanagara flag).

Raag Biraha - A note in Indian classical music - Biraha denotes sense of longing.

Saalumantaps - Shops from the Vijayanagra era, still present in Hampi.

Zenana - Persian word for women (Has reference to the Zenana Mahal in Hampi).

Bheebatsa - An expression in Bharatnatyam (classical Indian dance), it is an expression of disgust.

Matunga - A Hill situated in Hampi, was part of the Vijayanagara empire.

Jyoti – Fire (reference here to the royal torch that was lit every night on Matunga Hill).

Andhra Bhoja - A title given to Krishnadeva Raya - meaning the king of the Andhra land.

Shringar - to dress up.

"lone Krishna weeps on Shaivaite land" - The Vijaynagara emperors were known to be worshippers of Shiva (Shaivaite - Hindu deity), but after the conquest of Utkala (present day Orissa) by Krishnadeva Raya, this temple was built for worshiping Krishna (another prominent Hindu deity). Till this day it is the only Krishna temple in an otherwise Shaivaite territory.


* * * * *

"A Dancer Long Lost: Chinnama Devi, Queen of Vijayanagara" was previously published at Open Road Review. 

Maitreyee B Chowdhury is a Bangalore based poet and writer. She has three books to her credit - Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen: Bengali Cinema’s First Couple (Nonfiction), Where Even the Present is Ancient: Benaras (Poetry) and The Hungryalists (Nonfiction). She may be found at https://www.maitreyeechowdhury.com/.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019


The Fledgling              

by Lisa Fields          
               

I flutter aloft
ragged and fast
into the headwind—
seeking my tribe
I alight on false branches
time and again—
join in the chatter
then fall mute
tucked beneath the leaves
to roost alone—
I long
to be enfolded
in that space
of you—
beneath your breath—
until
passing mid-flight
my vision clears—
the emptiness
was never real—
my tribe
are the solitary ones—
on the edge
of bright gatherings
we flicker
and connect
through common spark
then
separate
to nestle
into
peaceful solitude
of velvet night—
alone


* * * * *

Lisa Fields lives in Southwestern New Mexico. Writing poetry expresses her desire to be immersed in a state of balance. Her inspiration comes from the joy of wild places and the challenge to live happily in the domesticated world. She is a contract writer for Quirine Ketterings, Professor of Nutrient Management in Agricultural Systems, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. In her home state of NY, Lisa served the farming community as an Extension educator for 10 years, and then worked for 10 years as a self-employed advisor.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019


MY FATHER’S LEGACY

a companion memoir to yesterday's story post

by Dianne Moritz


Mother always said she married my father because he was gorgeous. He was. The photograph, now framed and hanging on my staircase wall, confirms it. Still, a photo shows only a shallow truth. The back story isn’t always as pretty; it’s complicated, murky, sometimes ugly.

My mother, Norma Jean Pittenger, met my father, DeVoe (Joe) Harriott, in the spring of 1944 at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where they were both enrolled.

“Joe was the best-looking guy on campus,” my mother said. She had seen him around, usually with coeds flocking near like preening pigeons, and admired him from afar. One fateful day, Joe staggered into economics class, tardy and drunk. The professor was not amused. Mother was. Joe asked her to go for coffee that afternoon. She accepted.

“Surely there were other things you appreciated about Joe,” I often remarked.

“Oh, he was charming, stylish, intelligent, witty, tall, and fun,” Mother answered, “but, God, he was handsome.”

Mother, with her smooth brown skin, long ebony hair, and perfect Pepsodent smile, got the guy. A few months later, after a night of bourbon and 7-Ups, they were married. Joe pulled Norma into his car and drove straight through Iowa to Kansas. They tied the knot at a justice of the peace off the highway, two friends along for the ride, as witnesses.

Joe had been married before. Mother had known that he had fathered a couple of kids (he claimed one daughter), but she didn’t care. She was 20 and in love. Soon after the elopement, Joe transferred to the University of Minnesota. He and Mother moved to Minneapolis and set up household in the bleak Quonset hut village for married students.

Minnesota winters are brutal and long. I was conceived in November 1945. Perhaps coincidentally, Joe took to carousing like an old tomcat right about then.

“Let’s see . . . I’ve got my ID. Got some money. Got some rubbers,” he would say, patting his right hip pocket as he bolted out the door. Mother fumed, and I’ve heard this tale more times than I care to remember.

Mother, miserable, powerless, wrote letters to Gramma, begging her to take the train from Des Moines to visit.

“Please don’t have any more babies,” Gramma warned, but Mother was already pregnant with my sister, Renee.

Years later, eons after Joe died an alcoholic’s death, cirrhosis of the liver, in a sleazy downtown Minneapolis hotel, Mother, full of cocktails, leaned across the kitchen table and jabbed her finger in my chest.

“I know why you’re so f***ed up!” she slurred. “I always left you home alone when I went to the laundromat.”

“Wonderful, ” I said, “you’d be charged with child abuse for that today.”

“You don’t have kids. You can’t understand,” she retorted.

Seething with anger, I should have stormed from the room. I didn’t. I longed to hear more. Her stories were like misplaced pieces from the jigsaw puzzle of my life.

I don’t remember my father; I have no memories of him whatsoever. I know of him only through Mother’s repeated narratives and from what I conjure up in my imagination.

As a teenager, I came across a poem Joe had written in school, scrawled in pencil on a scrap of notebook paper, buried beneath some snapshots. I gleaned nothing from it. In the pictures, Joe looks pleasant. He’s grinning and cuddling his daughters. In one, I’m sitting on his lap; in another, Renee is laughing down at him as he holds her high in the air, his back to the camera.

Mother claimed Joe was out boozing the night I was born. He showed up at the hospital the next morning, hung over. He took one look at me and said, “She’s scrawny, isn’t she?”

“You’re the spitting image of Joe,” Mother always said. “And you absolutely adored him. You’d stand at the window in the late afternoon and wait for Joe to come home. When you saw him outside, you’d shout, ‘Here comes my daddy now!’”

Picturing this scene, I feel a great melancholy wash over me; I quickly close the curtains. I’m unable to gaze into the past for too long without wondering what might have been.

The inevitable end to this tale is actual fact. My mother caught my father with another woman. One rash night, while a neighbor watched us girls, Mother hopped on a bus, traveled downtown to Joe’s favorite hangout, didn’t find him, stalked to a nearby hotel, rode the elevator to “Joe’s door,” and tried to break it down with a fist and a curse. In the retelling, Joe opened that door and a marriage ended, just like in a B movie.

I don’t want to know the grimy details of that encounter and, from there, Mother’s accounts turned vague anyway.

Joe graduated from college soon after that, which necessitated our move from married-student housing. He packed us off to Des Moines while he hunted for a place to live. We never saw him again.

Mother filed for divorce, found a job, and we stayed with Gram until Mother remarried.

“Didn’t you consider leaving when you knew Joe was cheating?” I asked my mother a thousand times. “And didn’t you ever think about planning ahead?”

Mother had no answers.

My father, Joe Harriott, was, at best, an attractive, troubled man; at worst, a selfish, colossal jerk. Countless clues pointed to his instability, but my mother chose to ignore them.

I want to hate my father. I want to hate my mother.

As time passes and memory blurs, I’ve come to accept these people, my parents. They’re human, flawed and fumbling like the rest of us, after all.

For most of my life, I feigned indifference to my father. While my sister tried desperately to make a connection with “Daddy,” through letters, cards, and telephone calls (I have no idea how she got his address or phone number), I didn’t. Years later, I learned that I had frequently passed by the very spot where Joe spent his final months while I, full of hope and promise, walked to my first career job at Dayton’s Department Store in Minneapolis in 1968. I find this both ironic and depressing.

My glamorous, intelligent, screwed-up father died at 50 in a fleabag hotel room, sick and alone, having never reconciled with his two (or four?) daughters. What a waste. What a tragic, unfathomable waste.

Sometimes I indulge in a reverie . . . .

I envision a reunion with Joe. I look him in the eye and ask, “Why? Why did you leave us?” But Joe has no answers, either.

The trouble with fantasy is that it distorts the truth. When I think of my father, I always see a beautiful, elegant man, a man ambered in time. I see that movie-star handsome guy in my dated photograph.

Soon . . . reality creeps in . . . as a door creaks open . . . I’m face to face with a bloated, wrinkled, washed-out loser. The drinking life is a hard life; it destroys beauty, glamour, potential, relationships . . . everything.

Still, my mother was wrong — I do understand some things. I understand want. I understand need. I understand loss. This is my father’s legacy.


* * * * *