Tuesday, 27 October 2020

THE ABBEY OF SENANQUE

                                                        by Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard


was built in 1148 in the valley
beneath Gordes in the South of France
for monks who wanted to spend their life
in prayer and contemplation. It is made
of eloquent stone with arches upon
arches at different levels so that even
the high windows are arches, just
stone, no embellishments to distract us
in our search for grace, and is a place
where we enter the mystery of
the creation, where the past, present
and future are intertwined, and we enter
ourselves, finding an immensity
to ponder in our brief time on this earth.


* * * * *

Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard (http://www.margueritegbouvard.com/) is the author of ten poetry books, two of which have won awards, including the MassBook Award for Poetry. She has also written many non-fiction books on women's rights, social justice, grief, illness, and The Invisible Wounds of War: Coming Home from Iraq and Afghanistan. She is a former professor of Political Science and Poetry, a former Resident Scholar at Women's Studies Research Center and Environmental Studies at Brandeis University.

Monday, 26 October 2020

A STRANGE LANDSCAPE

by Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard


Who could have foreseen this strange
landscape; empty apartments
with new locks spelling eviction,
a subway with only a few people,
schools without children as if a war

had struck without warning leaving
a new kind of devastation, a tide
not of refugees, but of a new
and complex disease that is moving
throughout our country like a massive

invasion, that knows no boundaries,
the grandmother who lies dying
in the hospital, the man who cannot
breathe, the young woman who
is unable walk because of the pain

in her muscles turns out to be
caused by blood clots. How do
we navigate this new war zone,
with some people driving a bus
because it is essential, some people

working at home, our differences 
now magnified, but pain is always
around us like sudden heavy
rain, like wildfires. The soldiers
that are called forth during

this deadly war are doctors, nurses,
emergency technicians who fan
out throughout our country,
like a war zone, yet we are short
of supplies for these soldiers, of supplies

for compassion and understanding
for coming together to face
a pandemic, to move beyond
our differences, arguments, and
denial, to hold each others hands.


* * * * *

Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard (http://www.margueritegbouvard.com/) is the author of ten poetry books, two of which have won awards, including the MassBook Award for Poetry. She has also written many non-fiction books on women's rights, social justice, grief, illness, and The Invisible Wounds of War: Coming Home from Iraq and Afghanistan. She is a former professor of Political Science and Poetry, a former Resident Scholar at Women's Studies Research Center and Environmental Studies at Brandeis University.

 

 

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Naked Athena

                                                            by Grace Richards


appears,
as if suddenly sprung
from the crowd’s collective consciousness,
on the fifty-first night of Black Lives Matter protests in Portland.

O Holy Virgin,
warrior maiden for the modern age,
helmet replaced by black pandemic mask,
she treads lightly but steadily, unfazed by the clamor
and confusion, heedless of the sharp, sporadic retorts of gunfire,
the acrid clouds of smoke rising from pepper bombs exploded on the ground.

Our Queen
parts the unruly throng like waves
upon the Red Sea, her path leading to the line
of militiamen with big guns and tear gas, secure in their camouflaged anonymity. 

At the intersection, she faces them, vulnerable and bare.

O Mother of Mercy
Our sweetness and our hope

She begins a yoga routine there,
in the street, her poses graceful and precise.
Her beauty radiates, captivates protesters, press and police

spray-painting is ceased;
reporters shoot videos soon to go viral;
guns are lowered;
silence descends.

When she sits upon the rough asphalt,
knees drawn up, legs
splayed wide,
the police

stand down and retreat, defeated
by the Loving Goddess Eternal,
divine embodiment of peace.

* * * * *

Grace Richards worked in the TV and film industry in Los Angeles and later taught ESL at the college level in Southern California and at the University of Oregon. During the last few most dramatic years, she has found her poetic voice. Her work has been published in on-line journals, such as Willawaw Journal, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, and Herstry blog, as well as in the anthology Poems on Poems and Poets. Her first chapbook, Mid-Century Modern and Other Poems, was published in September 2019.

 

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Small Is Beautiful

by Gabriella Bedetti


Running across
a railway overpass
in full sun,
I startled a mouse.


With no hesitation,
he took a hard right
and ran top speed off
the side of the bridge,


clearing it by two feet,
plunked on the tracks,
and, slightly shocked,
walked away.



* * * * *

Gabriella Bedetti's essays, poems, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in New Literary History, Still, Gravel, Asymptote, Ezra, and Rhino. She is a professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University. She received an Artistic Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women to work on a poetry collection exploring issues of aging and ageism. With two student assistants, she is leading a Collecting Memories Circle at a local retirement community. In June, you can find her blogging on https://lexpomo.com/. She and her spouse are translating Henri Meschonnic’s poems from the French. https://gabriellabedetti.wordpress.com/.

 

Friday, 23 October 2020

THE LONG RUN BACK

by Michelle Terhune


I quietly shut the back door and reached down, laying my hands flat on the ground on either side of my feet, slowly stretching the restless night away. I straightened up and started to run, at first in the grass just at the edge of the long, winding driveway, not wanting the kutcha kutcha of my running shoes on the gravel to awaken our sleeping pair of dogs in the just-light pink of dawn.

I reached the end of the drive and turned left onto the asphalt, already sweating despite the cool spring morning. Starting to run faster, I settled into a familiar rhythm of legs and arms moving forward and back, alternating opposites, propelling me onward like they had hundreds of times before. My movements, speed, the length of my stride required no conscious contemplation. I gave in to the run and my thoughts as I headed toward the sunrise, every footfall an affirmation of me. Of life.

The air smelled like honeysuckle and lilacs, cattle, and turned earth, ready for seed. That smell of the soil always reminded me of hope, expectation, faith. It smelled like God. God, coupled with this serene morning routine, had been my salvation during the past few years. I’d remained married too long to a man who lied and cheated while asking me to be patient so he could figure out what he wanted to do. And I’d been complicit in the indecision, not wanting to fail a second marriage and needing time to figure out what I was going to do after every plan I’d made had been displaced. I ran in place, self-confidence supplanted by self-loathing and trepidation as I hung on to something no longer in my grasp without knowing what else to grab onto. It had taken a lot of miles to convince myself that I could not be diminished by someone else’s capricious choices, no matter how painful they had been for me. This humble morning ritual had prevented me from stopping completely when I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

The asphalt ended and I turned right, onto a gravel road that then turned to dust, waving at the neighbor who lived at the end of the pavement. I’m not sure when that paralysis-ceasing moment arrived. Perhaps it wasn’t a moment but a series of sundry spaces of time during which I started to regain confidence, reassert my independence, rediscover that woman who had vanished while she grieved, hiding behind rage and tears, incapable of finding joy in the rest of her life. She had been an abject stranger to me.

As I approached a long, steep hill, I started thinking about my breathing, in and out in that precise rhythm with my footfall, lengthening my stride for the climb. Experience had taught me how to avoid getting a side ache when the terrain changes. Experience had been a ruthless teacher, but the lessons learned became inexorably linked to my soul. At the top of the hill, I turned around, halfway through my five-mile run, heading back to the vacant house where a cold glass of water and a hot cup of coffee were waiting for me.

I waved again at my neighbor at the end of the road. Although we’d had few actual conversations over the years, I knew he looked out for me silently, making sure I came and went unharmed, like so many people in my life. I never had been nor ever will be truly isolated without my permission.

I veered left and back onto the asphalt, my feet started moving faster, striking the surface to the rhythm of an old Reba McEntire refrain “…Nothing feels as good as letting go….” I started singing the lyrics in my head, crescendoing as I raised up on my toes, heels kissing the ground, sprinting the last 50 yards to the end of the driveway before slowing to a walk, simultaneously exhausted and invigorated.

The dogs greeted me there, tails and rear ends wagging wildly, whimpering joyfully and licking the salty sweat off my legs as I petted them, smiling, using my voice for the first time that day. They darted in and out of the hayfield on each side of the drive as I walked toward the big empty house in the middle of the field. For a time, it had been both my refuge and my prison, but eventually it had become just another house I had moved into and would soon move out of. Long after I’ve left, it would continue to stand in that field but changed, bereft of my spirit, my strength, of the life I had given so willingly. I would fill another house somewhere with myself.

A month later, I quietly shut the back door of the house, put the key in the wood pile and closed the trunk of the car. I lingered there for a moment, observing the familiar hayfield, green waves in the quiet evening breeze. My dogs ran to me, anticipating something undefined but trusting me unconditionally. I patted them on their almost-matching heads and opened the door so they could jump into the back seat. I got in the front, started the car and began moving forward, down the long, winding drive, the windows open and the sound of the tires crunching gravel. I looked in the rearview mirror at the dogs and at the house fading away behind us. I reached the end of the drive, looked to the left for the last time, then turned right onto the asphalt, pushing the gas until the car settled into its familiar rhythm, wheels propelling us toward the sunset on the road it had traveled hundreds of times before.

As I looked in the mirror at the dogs again, noses out opposite windows, sniffing the summer air, I took a deep breath, exhaled, then smiled. Tomorrow, I’d start running a new route, still solitary but never alone.


* * * * *

Michelle Terhune is a freelance writer, author, reader, traveler, and foodie. Her writing has appeared on hundreds of websites and dozens of digital and print publications without attribution. She did get credit for an essay published in Another Chicago Magazine and for reported features in COMO Magazine and Missouri Life Magazine.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Amazing Grace

by Tobi Alfier


She stares at a pink double-decker bus
as she throws her ring over the side rail.
Even the seagulls don’t participate
as she starts over.  As the brackish brown

of sea and ghostly sky meld flawlessly.

In port in Saint John, New Brunswick, the red
is red, yellow is bright yolk breakfast hue,
and green is blinding against the moldy
brick of worn-out buildings and lonely seas.

A solitary piper cries slow hymns
perfect for this sky the shade of absent,
a gray so dense and pale even streetlights
are dimmer than lighted candles in church. 

A new building is dotted with “Sold” signs.
It looks like a burned out and ruined shell,
hidden promises under construction;
but the yellow ladder on the fifth floor
tells her have hope, you are worth looking for,   

and someone is going to look for her.
She will wait. One province over and a
bit inland, a man rises to leave home,
his shadow passes across the window,
the daylight breaking like a late fall tide...


* * * * *

"Amazing Grace" was first published in The Helix Literary Magazine (Fall 2011)

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” was published by Cholla Needles Press. “Symmetry: earth and sky” was just published by Main Street Rag. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

A Slice of Ruby

by Tobi Alfier


Ruby lived by swampland all her life. Tourists sometimes said it with a sneer: it smells, it’s dirty, but they said the same thing about New Orleans. They said the same thing about Paris! Well her well-loved landscape wasn’t dirty, wasn’t dangerous because of outlaws and crooks, and didn’t smell like piss. You just had to watch out for gators and mosquitos, but she learned that young. And she learned to stay away from the juke joints on Saturday nights—she was a pretty little thing, and sometimes alcohol could do things to a man that they’d regret come church on Sunday. Ruby had on occasion had her back pushed up against the outside wall, music and stompin’ bursting out the open windows, but men knew her uncle, and Ruby carried a knife, and even the strongest barrel-made moonshine didn’t have a chance to work them up stupid before some angel on their shoulder beat the hell out of the devil in their pants.

Such a contradiction in this haunted, mesmerizing medley of greens and golds, shot through with sun rippling the water—while every street sign and neon drive-thru was shot through to hell with buckshot, the writing instrument of anyone over 16 with a truck and a gunrack. Ruby was getting’ on that age but still she walked to school each morning, her bare toes squishing in the track, sometimes dry as bones, sometimes muddy with last night’s rain. She didn’t care. And yes her muddy feet said she was poor but also said she loved the earth, and she loved school. Ruby carried her lessons in the backpack her older sister Jade picked up last August at the church donation and give-away. But Jade decided she’d had enough, carried herself north with a boy who was leaving to make his mark in Nashville, one guitar, a banjo, a baggy full of change, and two phone numbers written on a matchbook from the nudie bar where he subbed sometimes— after the real musicians got too drunk to stand. Jade packed just a few things in a shopping bag, left the tell-tale charity backpack at home, and Ruby grabbed it for at least one more year of writing sums, practicing her letters and carrying any books she could get. Reading under the covers at night, flashlight illuminating the pages, was her favorite way to spend an evening, and she didn’t need to make no apologies for that.

Mama worked hard to make a good life for her girls. She told everyone she’d married too young and too wrong; she gave up on Jade once she given them all the slip, but didn’t want the same to happen to Ruby. So Mama cooked, and swept, and worked her ass off in the local hunter’s motel, the one with sheets faded yellow the color of dirty blonde whore hair. And she always kept a little cash hidden in a biscuit tin in the pantry, just in case. Ruby tried never to take it, she always thought of it as Mama’s getaway money. She borrowed a bit once a year to buy a couple pairs of underwear—she couldn’t go commando to gym class. Otherwise she didn’t need nothing. Everything was there for her among the willows and the wild skies. Her people, her stories, ties for her hair and a swimming hole. Whatever else does anyone need.


* * * * *

"A Slice of Ruby" was first published in Better Than Starbucks (November 2018).

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” was published by Cholla Needles Press. “Symmetry: earth and sky” was just published by Main Street Rag. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Tuesday, at the River

by Elise Stuart


You step down from the truck,
take a few steps,
and already there is water,
water wedded to mud.
Up a short incline of earth
there is a trail that is dry and sun-baked,
weeds and cactus along the edges.
A green gate.
Limbo through the middle
while your dog slips under the bar easily
and your friend climbs over the top.
You keep walking,
the sun heats up everything.
A small pile of stones, a marker,
means - turn left.
A tiny path becomes visible.
First you smell it, then see it
the Gila river,
a long-moving stream,
shallow, with a few deep pools.
Your dog follows his nose
exploring wild, untold stories.
He keeps the secrets to himself.
You wade into the cool water,
sun hot on your shoulders.
All silent, except the water.

On the way back you walk slowly,
tired from the heat blaring,
looking for rocks, feeling their edges,
then coming to a place where the water rose up once.
Surprised how high the swath of the river can be,
leaving large pieces of wood sculpted by sun and water.
You feel you are deep in another world,
that makes you want to be kind to everyone . . .
The ground becomes too hot for small dog feet.
Take turns carrying him until you
arrive at the mud,
at the beginning,
where the truck waits
to take you back
to that other world.


* * * * *

Elise Stuart is a writer of poetry and short stories. She’s facilitated numerous poetry workshops for students in Silver City schools, feeling how important it is to give voice to youth. Her first poetry book, and then her memoir, My Mother and I, We Talk Cat were both published in 2017. She lives in Silver City, New Mexico with four cats, a sweet rascal of a pup, and her piano.


Monday, 19 October 2020

The Lungo Drom*

by Raine Geoghegan


Bare,
blistered feet.

She walked
over stone
on grass
through thicket and brush
in water,
snow,
flowers and mud.

Her hair grew long,
flowing like a river.
Tiny silvery fish latching
onto each tendril,
longing for the open sea.

At night
she slept in bushes, caves, beside trees.
She dreamt of fire.

She drank from streams,
picked heather, lavender, rosemary for healing,
exchanged them for bread,
kept on walking.

Her hair turned white.
Her bones thinned.
Her body bent over
and her eyes grew weak.
Still she kept on moving.


One early morning under a mottled sky
she stopped.
The moon shone in her body.
Light fell on the ground
and she knew
this was her atchin tan.


* * * * *

Romani jib (words):  The lungo drom  -  the long road; atchin tan  -  stopping place/home

"The Lungo Drom" was previously published in the Words of the Wild anthology 2018.


Raine Geoghegan, MA is a poet and prose writer of Romany, Irish and Welsh descent living in the Malvern Hills, UK. She is a Pushcart Prize, Forward Prize and Best of the Net 2018 nominee. Her work has been published internationally in print and online with: Poetry Ireland Review; Under the Radar; The Travellers’ Times and many more. Her first pamphlet, Apple Water: Povel Panni was launched in December 2018 and previewed at Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2018. Her latest pamphlet, they lit fires: lenti hatch o yog is out now with Hedgehog Press.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

great aunt tilda, a funny old malt*

by Raine Geoghegan

me great aunt tilda, now there was a character, a funny old malt. she was me dad’s aunt on the lane side of the family. she always wore men’s clothes, dark coloured trousers, shirts, waistcoats, a black stadi with a gold ‘at pin on the side and a little purple feather. she smoked a swiggler, her fingers yellowed from nicotine. she carried a carpet bag wherever she went, inside a flask of strong black tea with a little drop of panni in it. she’d refuse anyone else’s tea, sayin’, ‘yer never know what they put in it.’ she spoke in a deep voice. when she got in a temper it grew deeper, us gels would be frit to death.

every friday night she’d go the brown bear, ‘ave a few drinks with the family, often getting skimmished and if granny amy was there she’d end up fightin’ and cursin.’ the men would ‘ave to pull ‘er off me granny, they just couldn’t get on, those two. before she went ‘ome, she’d shout out. ‘i’ve’ad enough of this place, I’m goin’ ‘ome to get a sooti.’ she’d walk all the way ‘ome, over seven miles. she never would get on a bus, didn’t matter ‘ow far she ‘ad to go.

when she turned sixty, she packed up ‘er covels and went to the care ‘ome in shepperton, phil common it was called. we all thought it strange but she said that she didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. she still went calling and did ‘er little bit of shoppin’ but that was ‘er ‘ome until she died, I think it was some eighteen years later. she’d never married, said she was ‘appy without an ‘usband. sometimes, she told jokes and rokkered a lot in romani, ‘rokker more romanes’, she’d say.

if someone was ill or grievin’, she’d say, ‘I’ll burn a bit’ve salt for ‘em.’  If someone got in a car or did something adventurous, she’d say ‘if yer goes and kills yerself, don’t come back and blame me.’ me dad always spoke of ‘er but he used to make us laugh when he said, ‘our tilda’s a funny old malt, always’s ‘as been, always’s will be.’


* * * * *

*Glossary: Stadi – trilby hat, panni – brandy, swiggler – pipe, calling – buying and selling clothes, rokkered – spoke, skimmished, tipsy/drunk. malt – woman, sootti – a good sleep

"great aunt tilda, a funny old malt" was previously published on the Ofi Press online literary journal in 2018, as well as in the author's pamphlet, they lit fires: lenti hatch o yog by Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2019.

Raine Geoghegan, MA is a poet and prose writer of Romany, Irish and Welsh descent living in the Malvern Hills, UK. She is a Pushcart Prize, Forward Prize and Best of the Net 2018 nominee. Her work has been published internationally in print and online with: Poetry Ireland Review; Under the Radar; The Travellers’ Times and many more. Her first pamphlet, Apple Water: Povel Panni was launched in December 2018 and previewed at Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2018. Her latest pamphlet, they lit fires: lenti hatch o yog is out now with Hedgehog Press.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

When I Return to Paris

by Debra Southworth


When I return to Paris I will stand under the Eiffel Tower, gazing upwards, arms akimbo,
Wearing the black slip I bought on the Champs Elysees in 1977 and the
Pink beret from 2018 pulled over my ears or cocked to one side, artist-like.
The slip is a tiny bit tight, but I’ll squeeze it down over my grandmotherly hips
and hope it doesn’t creep its way up in a bundle around my waist.

When I return to Paris I will perch on a stool at a sidewalk café, legs crossed,
One candy apple red high heel dangling seductively from my right big toe.
I hope I can keep my balance at least until I order my sweet white wine. I will
Walk back to my elder-hostel barefoot, heels slung over my shoulder like some
Grand hunting trophy.

When I return to Paris I will rent a stylishly small, yellow convertible sedan,
Drive unreasonably fast through the countryside to Normandy, one hand
Out the window catching the breeze, the other
Gripping the steering wheel for dear life.
“La Vie en Rose” will blast from the radio.

When I return to Paris (and I will), the aroma of every boulangerie on
Every corner in every arrondissement will beckon me,
Crème Brulee, Macaron, and Madeleine, my dear old friends.
My heart will burst and the slip will surely be
a bundle around my waist.


* * * * *

Debra Southworth wrote her first poem at age 13, well past bedtime, hunkered down under the covers, flashlight in hand. More recently, her poem, “Diagnosis,” was included in the 2020 edition (Apple) of Writers in the Attic anthology series. She has a B.A. in English from the University of Redlands. Idaho is home!

Friday, 16 October 2020

HOMELAND

by Deborah Sfez


In my mother’s womb I arrived
at my Homeland.
From the side wall
of her uterus, I heard the waves

crashing.
I, who was nothing
but a five months old fetus,
Floated in my private sea, enjoying

the waves’ movement
Inside and out,
While she
stood on the deck
And her belly, going
up and down

Underneath her lightweight dress.
When I came into being
I understood that I
Have arrived
At a foreign country
And that its language,
Was not
My mother-tongue.


* * * * *

Deborah Sfez is a multidisciplinary Israeli artist, born in 1964, working in Côte-D'Ivoire and Israel. She is a recognized Artist in Israel and internationally and has won several photography and art awards. Her work can also be found in the archives of several Museums. Her tools are photography, moving image, filmed performance accompanied by texts and music and sound composition. Her path, atypical, begins with studies of literature and languages and then by learning the trades of Fashion and Theater Costume.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Still Waiting on the Lady to Set Things Right

by Kathleen Murphey


My Fellow Americans,

            Although I’ve been dead for nearly 140 years, my spirit won’t rest because what I see in the United States of America is an utter tragedy.

            After being a slave and walking to freedom, I became an abolitionist and a suffragette, and at that Ohio convention in 1851, I told them, among other things, “I can’t read, but I can hear. I have heard the Bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again.”

            It is nearly 170 years since that Ohio speech, rand there is a racist in the White House, Black children being killed by the police, Black people (not slaves and not living under Jim Crow) but perpetually discriminated against and getting the short end of economic and educational opportunities. Why is that? What is wrong here?

            Langston Hughes published “Let America Be America Again” in 1936 and “What happens to a dream deferred?” in 1951. And then there was the Civil Rights Movement, and Americans (White and Black) fought to dismantle Jim Crow—but, oh, how racial bigotry lingers.

            Black Lives Matter—now there are some women worth noting, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, started something special in 2013. Unfortunately, more Black deaths have catapulted the BLM Movement to a long overdue discussion on systemic racism in America. Poor George and poor Breonna and too many other Black babies. And though the racists try to blame the victims, there are loud and persistent voices calling for justice and equality. I’ll try to send some of my spirit energy to their aid. Lord knows they’ll need it.

            What we need is a uniter—someone like Martin Luther King, Jr., with “I Have a Dream” or Bobby Kennedy with his speech announcing the assassination of Martin.

Martin’s powerful 1963 speech is too long to quote here, but these few lines seem like so little to demand. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  Is it really so hard to make Martin’s dream come true?

Imagine a uniter calling Americans to come together as Bobby did in Indianapolis that horrible night in 1968:

 

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is
not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love
and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those
who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black…. say a
prayer for our own county … for understanding and that compassion.”

 

Bobby’s words so different from the vitriol that spills from the mouth and fingertips of the current president. Just a disgrace. Black Lives Matter, and that man is a dangerous fool!  Poor Bobby, they shot him too.

 

            On a more upbeat note, I heard a snippet of song the other day by a singer named Beyoncé.

 

            “Freedom
            Freedom
            I can’t move
            Freedom, cut me loose
            Singin’, freedom
            Freedom
            Where are you?
            ‘Cause I need freedom, too
            I break chains all by myself
            Won’t let my freedom rot in hell.”

It’s a crying shame that so many have to call for freedom and justice and we are still so far from achieving them. I am still waiting on the Lady to set things right, but we seem to have a whole lotta women all hot and bothered, and men with them, too. So I am hoping they will be the tipping point because we have been asking for the same dang things for way too dang long!  Maybe we don’t need to wait for another version of Eve to set things straight. Maybe we can do it ourselves—together with love and compassion and empathy.

In 1867, I said, “I have been forty years a slave and forty years free and would be here forty years more to have equal rights for all. I suppose I am kept here because something remains for me to do; I suppose I am yet to help to break the chain.” How could I know that my spirit would be called back because “something remains for me to do”!  

Something remains for all Americans to do—make justice and equality a reality for all Americans—Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, male, female, no-binary, LGBTQ+, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist. And let’s not forget equal pay for equal work (I was talking about this back in my day) and women’s rights are human rights (and that includes women’s reproductive rights). As a former slave, I know first-hand that being able to choose to have children or not is a fundamental right. Recently, I saw a picture of a woman protester with a sign that read “Keep Your Laws Off my Uterus.” Now that should be Gospel.

It is about time that these words from the Declaration of Independence rang true for all: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [human beings] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Well, I say, “Amen to that!” I have all along. Let’s get to work, my fellow Americans, because my spirit could use some rest.

Yours very sincerely,

Sojourner Truth


* * * * *

Kathleen Murphey is an Associate Professor at Community College of Philadelphia. She had her first play performed as part the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, P Pan and Beyondland, with performances at the German Society of Pennsylvania on Saturday September 15th and Sunday September 16th, 2018. More information about her and the play can be found at her Website, www.kathleenmurphey.com

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Love In Three Stages

by Sigrid Bergie Feliciano


1

At first the world held its breath,
stared wide-eyed at us.
I did not see the hunter
trembling in your dark eye,
or question flowers you brought
stolen from others’ summer gardens
like love lifted, colored and growing in my heart.
For days our bodies rose
on the wild blue smoke of your piano music,
poems braceleted with sun, with moon.
Oh, you were sweet in July, in August.

2

And then silence. A week.
Too many doubts then spoken
under a broken archway.
In September, the tree’s hard oak groaned.
One night you called,
words smudged on a phone receiver.
Leaves went on piling, piling
in innumerable voiceless flakes.

3

October’s house fills with the first cold of winter.
Outside the moon is a pale petal,
a forgotten swimmer in darkness,
and my mattress is a soft body of dream.
I sleep alone in a matchbox room.
The sheet slides over me
like a white wing.


* * * * * *

Sigrid Bergie Feliciano. The author of Turning Out The Lights which was a Minnesota Book Awards Poetry Nominee. Among awards from The Loft, New Rivers, elsewhere, her recent honor is an international Naji Naaman Literary Prize 2019. Her poems have featured and appeared in journals and anthologies cross the country and round the globe and of late in A Cavalcade Of Stars, Mad Swirl, Burning House Press, The Galway Review. She lives with the ancient oak and pine, coyote and mule deer, and her husband in the foothills of Los Angeles. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

 

To the Women Who Make Us Feel Okay

by Dona Ravandi


remember me?
i was the girl who called before i came.
the one with an allergic reaction.
remember how you told me that everything gon’ be okay?
i remember how i felt protected, warm not from the hives, but from your assurance.

You are a physician assistant.

remember me?
i was the girl who came in crying.
the one who was scared of the procedure.
remember how you held my hand, telling me that everything gon’ be okay?
i remember how i felt safe, not because of the background music, but because of your comfort.

You are a nurse.

remember me?
i was the girl who asked you to read my essays.
the one who raised her hand as high as she could.
remember how you nodded your head, telling me that everything gon’ be okay?
i remember how i felt encouraged, relieved when you called on me to share my story.

You are a teacher.

In a world of question marks, you are all a light that shines the words everything gon’ be okay.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Iris

by Cynthia Anderson


At the optometrist, the young woman
helping me choose new frames

has a tattoo on her forearm—
a woman’s name. A lover?

No, she tells me, my mother.
My husband joined the military

so we moved cross country—

I can’t afford a trip back

to Georgia to see her—
this way, she’s always with me.


* * * * *

Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, and she is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. She has authored nine collections and co-edited the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens. Recently she guest edited Cholla Needles 46, which is available on Amazon. www.cynthiaandersonpoet.com

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Native

by Cynthia Anderson


Once a psychic named Reverend Johnnie
told me I’m a native of Planet Earth—
that my very first incarnation was here,

500,000 years ago. He was delightfully insane.
He told my friends Martians would come
for them within a year and initiate them

into ancient mysteries. It became
our favorite joke—“Where’s that
spaceship? You’re still here?!”

Reverend Johnnie wove his cosmic tales
with such enthusiasm, you wanted
to believe him. He seemed to be

saying, There's a way out.
All the things about your life
you don't like can be explained.

Maybe you feel like running away.
Maybe you feel like staying put.
Either way, it's glamorous!

Beautiful! Bigger than you know!
As for me, and this great love
I have for everything I see—

I belong here. I’m a native.


* * * * *

Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, and she is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. She has authored nine collections and co-edited the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens. Recently she guest edited Cholla Needles 46, which is available on Amazon. www.cynthiaandersonpoet.com

Saturday, 10 October 2020

The Son He Never Had

by Evie Groch


With a wink and a grin
he’d always say to me
You’re like the son I never had.
I basked in those words,
so proud my father elevated me
to a status so high,
a status most daughters couldn’t reach.

I earned that praise – accompanied
him to work sites, helped him
clean vacated apartments,
went on walks with him
to visit his friends on the corner.

I even wielded a hammer,
sanded wood, painted walls,
learned to drive the Chevy
at fourteen under his keen eye,
a secret just between the two of us.

He conveyed to me there was
nothing I couldn’t do.
And then, after becoming
a mother of two girls,
I started to wonder.

Why hadn’t he appreciated me
for the daughter I was?
It was too late to ask,
but he could have said,
You’re the daughter I always wanted,
and that would have sufficed.


* * * * *

Evie Groch, Ed.D. is an Educational Consultant and Field Supervisor for new administrators in Graduate Schools of Education in several bay area universities.  Her opinion pieces, humor, poems, short stories, recipes, word challenges, and other articles have been published in the SF Chronicle, The Contra Costa Times, The Journal, MarketPlace, J Weekly and Games Magazine. Many of her poems are part of published anthologies. Her travelogues have been published with Grand Circle Travel. Travel has always influenced her writing. The theme of immigration holds a special place for her, having herself immigrated to the U.S. at the age of three.

Friday, 9 October 2020

My Dead Friend, Jessie

by Natascha Graham

Jessie had what I didn’t have
And most wanted
She had five brothers and sisters
confidence
And curly hair
Where we were both
“Free-spirited”
She was the bolshy, kick-ass superhero
And I was the daydreaming book nerd

We used to hide in homemade dens
With books and read
In the dappled sunshine between leaves
We used to run as fast as we could
On the green behind our houses
We used to count bees and wasps
And tell stories about stinging caterpillars
And killer ants

We took trips in the boot of her parents’ van
Lying, squashed and sticky, tan skin on tan skin
side by side on flat hot black metal
Sucking Coca Cola lollipops and
Laughing in hisses and snorts and whispers
And sticking our legs and bare feet up so they’d show out of the back window
And her mum would yell for us to stop

We poked jellyfish with old grey bulrush stalks
At Shingle Street,
where the sky was as flat and blue as the sea
And the water stretched too far to see
And we ran with my wrist in her hand
Through miles of water only up to our knees
Around flat stoney islands
Where we sat in the sunlight, with the shells and broken off crab claws
With wet hair in our faces and
legs outstretched
All brown and flecked with sun-bleached hair
Toes sparkly and crusted with sand and salt
Sharing secrets and stories until the sky turned pink and orange and gold

We sat on the grass outside our houses
And watched Joe Pimble turn his eyelids inside out while he stood on the kerb
Jealous that we had dug a hole in the ground
With a smuggled out spade
And found a box of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
All covered in dirt
And we hung them from trees
By their necks
From where he could see,
But not touch

She called my mum and dad
Mum and dad
And we sat on the kitchen worktop
Whilst my mum made hot dogs and chocolate crunch
And we stuck wet fingers into the packet of rainbow sugar
Sucked them clean
And poured out a bag on sunflower hearts
And raced each other to eat them with chopsticks

Jessie did everything I wished I could do
She shouted at boys
I ignored them
And she climbed trees higher than I ever could
But always reached down to pull me higher
And she came up with plans and dares and tricks
That made me feel smug and proud and fearless
Because she was my friend, Jessie.


* * * * *

Raised simultaneously by David Bowie and Virginia Woolf, Natascha Graham is a fiction writer, artist, and screenwriter who lives with her wife in a house full of sunshine on the east coast of England. Her work has been previously published in Acumen, Litro, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Yahoo News and The Mighty.

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Sweet Pastry and Coffee 

by Nitza Agam


I have returned home. It is my mother’s birthday.

It feels right to be in her native country in her hometown in Israel in my favorite bakery café on a Tel Aviv street. I am three blocks from the ocean and the heat of the day has not hit yet. A cool breeze envelops the city before the oppressive humidity makes it impossible to be out for long. The city is alive: buses run, people rush to work, mothers hold their children tightly by the hand taking them to day camps, a large truck with a Coca-Cola sign passes by, and two teenagers showing off their stomachs in fashionable jeans cross the street.

In contrast to the city’s movement, this café is an oasis.


This café has been here forever, at least since I lived in Israel, and that was over thirty years ago. My mother and I sat here often eating pastries and drinking strong coffee. The same elderly woman (could it be the same?) is in charge: a heavy-set Russian Polish woman who speaks Russian to her employee. Her daughter seems to be her sole worker. The pastries sit on shelves on display: the cheese borekas (knish), spinach, the potato ones with some sesame on the shell, the ones filled with chocolate or meat, and ones filled with poppy seed. I can’t find those pastries in the States; they just don’t exist. It is like being in a time machine; nothing has changed. 


I have lived outside this country, my mother’s homeland, in chosen exile in San Francisco for the last thirty years. Here in this café, time stands still. French music plays in the background, a woman lights her cigarette as she sips her espresso. I continue to watch the landscape of people and realize it is a very different reality than the one I remember: an Ethiopian female soldier passes, striking in her exotic good looks and sharp army uniform, and seems as at home here as any soldier: this is a new face of Israel. The Ethiopian Jews did not live here thirty years ago and have experienced many ups and downs in their immigration here. A religious soldier with a yarmulke on his head waits for a bus. I see more and more religious soldiers and more people who identify as religious. A young father with a baby bottle in his pocket pushes his baby in the stroller. Fathers are taking more control of being caregivers here, too.

The elderly Russian mother barks orders to her daughter who is at the cash register. More people come in to buy coffee and cake. They sit at tables outside or in the café with a newspaper or a cigarette. Some speak on cell phones. It is Israel in a different time; the owner has passed the legacy to her daughter, new waves of immigrants move into the country changing the texture and flavor and forcing the mainstream to take notice of other races and faces, the religious become more of a majority than a minority, and family roles change where it is no longer just the mother taking care of the children. French music plays in the background and the sound of Russian and Hebrew being spoken mix with the music and the sounds of the traffic. I savor my strong, sweet coffee and the variety of small pastries on my blue china plate.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

I love you.


* * * * *

Nitza Agam writes mostly memoir and poetry based on her life experiences. She lives in San Francisco and her work has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, Momentum Magazine, Poetica, and Independent Teacher. She has published two memoirs titled Scent of Jasmine (2011) and Love Letters to my Mother (2016). An essay will appear in Adanna Literary Journal. She believes in the importance of documenting her life, the past and present, and her hopes and fears for the future.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

In the Shadows

by Penny Harter


Despite the cooling car, today’s ride is
so hot and humid that I slow down in the
shadows cast across the pebbly macadam
by tall oaks and creep along, hoping to find
again the grassy lane that runs into the woods.

Down that lane yesterday a deer stood on
spindly legs, freely nibbling fresh green shoots
along the wooded edge until she noticed that
I’d stopped to better see her. Sadly, she froze
in place to stare back, her delicate body alert.

Although I doubted that the deer would reappear
today, I longed for another moment’s grace that
would lead my spirit down that lane, lure me
from my time and place into deer time. And I
hoped not to frighten her.

And she was there, this time with two fawns
who seemed unafraid of my car, leaning against
her flanks. I was happy to learn that my deer
was a mother, guiding and protecting her young,
knew that was why she froze again in fear.

I seek glimpses of lives that aren’t my own,
am grateful for this grazing deer family—for
their freeing me from my own frozen stance
these endless alien days, and for calling me
to home on this planet that we share.


* * * * *

"In the Shadows" was first published on the author's "New Blog" at pennyharterpoet.com.

Penny Harter’s work has appeared in Persimmon TreeRattleTiferet, and many other journals. Her poem "In the Dark" was featured in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry column. Her most recent collection is A Prayer the Body Makes (2020). A featured reader at the 2010 Dodge Poetry Festival, she has won three fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, two fellowships from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), and awards from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the Poetry Society of America. For more info, please visit: pennyharterpoet.com

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Sky's Edge

by Molloy Foppiano


Oh I am stranded on the sky’s wonderous edge;
soaring through the skies at intense speeds I'll never come down.
The breeze flits through my lashes flicking them open,
letting them flutter like the birds beside me.
I am one with it.
I exist in the wind the same it does me.
I breathe and out pours pools of clouds that swirl beneath my feet and fill the brims of the town below.
They are low and deserve to feel such highs;
such beautiful beginnings; what an amazing feeling it is to be truly in and out with time and earth.


* * * * *

Molloy is a 17 year old writer who has just begun the journey that is poetry and creative writing. Like most writers she imparts personal experiences into her work. This ranges from her struggles with anorexia to a recent bipolar diagnosis to the ludicrously simple woes of time. She is currently and will always be growing into the edges that writing has to offer her.

Monday, 5 October 2020

Before Andromeda can swallow us

by Molloy Foppiano


Before Andromeda can swallow us
expand our stars,
spider-web our intricacies,
contract the void,
suffocate the noise with an unknown silence

Before 115 images of home
that were etched into plates of gold
can be displayed
          or
crash and burn

The spitting,
          cussing,
               drinking,

gingham madonnas 
and linen mariners
whose cars fill the expressway
in a snapshot of the year of ‘77
will drive to the ends of the earth
and carve their existence
into the tables
in the bars that swallowed them whole

And the New-Age Poets will follow the curves
and the lines
left by those forgotten Authors
as they enjoy their final meal
before the blackhole consumes
Andromeda.


* * * * *

 

Molloy is a 17 year old writer who has just begun the journey that is poetry and creative writing. Like most writers she imparts personal experiences into her work. This ranges from her struggles with anorexia to a recent bipolar diagnosis to the ludicrously simple woes of time. She is currently and will always be growing into the edges that writing has to offer her.


Sunday, 4 October 2020

Eclipse

by Alethea Eason


January 10, 2020
I have no poetry tonight,
Only a memory of the day
When seven ravens on a snowy lawn
Took flight, one by one, and rose
To a weakened sun.
I need to write of mystery
To birth a wider margin inside my soul,
That might translate the nonsense of this world,
And bring back a time that never was.
I am sure the earth will still breathe
Under a diamond sheet of wordless stars,
As a shadow moves across the moon,
In the empty bowl of this winter night,
While planets unravel a messy birth.
I have no poetry tonight,
To welcome a new age, or none,
To feel safe in my own skin.
A crying child with roses cut,
I want to summon a second sight
For cadences are out of step,
And listen to ravens greet the dawn,
When icy fingers lace the earth.
To trust something good ahead.


* * * * *
* * * * *

Alethea Eason is an award-winning writer and artist who has found happiness and her true home in the intersection of desert and mountains in southern New Mexico.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Fantasyland

by Alethea Eason


I didn’t know that the swan’s wings were clipped.
I believed they were perfect unlike anything else in Anaheim.
I wanted a dress like Sleeping Beauty’s. I wanted seven
in different colors, and a wand, and a tiara of crystals
in my politically incorrect desire to be a princess.
I bought rock candy with the coins in my plastic
red change purse. When I squeezed, the slit
down the middle opened like lips. It didn’t occur
to me to make a sexual metaphor in 1964,
but the brightly colored crystals sent me into sugary ecstasy
that certainly rotted my teeth. My reputation had to wait.
A year before, in second grade, sitting on the cafeteria floor,
we watched the movie. I felt the puncture of my own
index finger when the poisoned needle pierced Aurora.
Now, at eight, bobby pins stung my scalp. My mother
secured my black mouse hat (with a bow) to my thick
dark hair with those little bastards.
The calliope music lured me across the sill
of Fantasyland to King Arthur’s carousel. I yearned
for the black horse with the white tail and purple mane.


* * * * *

Alethea Eason is an award-winning writer and artist who has found happiness and her true home in the intersection of desert and mountains in southern New Mexico.

Friday, 2 October 2020

 

Forbidden

by Annie Stenzel


The neighbor’s sign is unequivocal: don’t even think
about these apples on my tree.
But he can’t stop me.

          I stare at those globes and let my thoughts
          water, my mouth go wild.

          Was an apple my first fruit? Who can say.
          No one is left to quiz on the subject.

Another neighbor says: we’ve lived here
close to 30 years. He will not share. Don’t even ask.

           Nowadays, I need to slice a nice Northern Spy
           into neat pieces before I take a bite.

           At the market, fruit after fruit after fruit.
           But only apples are the apple of my eye.

The neighbor’s sign reads, please! I am the man
who planted this old tree. All of its fruit belongs to me.

           Or maybe not. His house is catty-corner from my door. I keep
           to my side of the street; can’t read the sign from here

           And yet I peer across the way, see how the apples dangle
           full-ripe and all aglow on autumn afternoons

           or spectral, illuminated by October’s moon.


* * * * *

Annie Stenzel was born in Illinois, but has lived on both coasts of the U.S. and on other continents at various times in her life. Her book-length collection is The First Home Air After Absence (Big Table Publishing, 2017). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in print and online journals in the U.S. and the U.K., from Ambit to Willawaw Journal with stops at Chestnut Review, Gargoyle, {isacoustic*}, Pine Hills Review, Poets Reading the News, The Lake, and U n l o s t, among others. She lives within sight of the San Francisco Bay. For more, visit anniestenzel.com
.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

This month's Moon Prize, the sixty-first, goes to Nancy Mercado's poem "Catcalls to My Brain.



Catcalls to My Brain

by Nancy Mercado


No 1980’s tight young ass to pounce on anymore
No smooth skin to assault anymore
No frightened little girl to follow
Down cold shitty Lower East Side streets anymore

Now-a-days the boys catcall my intellect
Corner me in conference rooms
Universities
In restaurants

¡¿Oye mami cuántos libros has leído?!

¡No sabes na bruta!

Where did you graduate from mami?!

Your university degree means nada nena!

They attempt to inflict
Injuries with blank pages
To drown me out
Under piles of exclusions
To erase my existence
To whittle me down
To a stub

N o t h i n g

Silence.

These days my catcallers
Are the intelligentsia
Postmodern jeering elitists
Hyperbolic hipsters swooping in to take charge
Our modern-day land grabbers
The white settlers of the information age
Revolutionary revisionists

My cat-calling boys come with females in tow these days
Sold out dames of trendiness
Fast talking fools
Puking memorized conceptual hullabaloos
Living delusions

They are lost souls

Existing in their own holograms of fame
Convinced masses in the world
Know their name
Believe their immortality

Don’t my catcallers understand
They have yet to be born?


* * * * *

© 2020 Nancy Mercado

"Catcalls to My Brain" was first published in Gargoyle (2020).

Nancy Mercado is the recipient of the 2017 American Book Award for Lifetime Achievement presented by the Before Columbus Foundation. She was named one of 200 living individuals who best embody the work and spirit of Frederick Douglass on the occasion of his bicentennial by The Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. For more information go to nancy HYPHEN mercado DOT com.