Thursday, 31 December 2020

CROSSING

by Shikhandin


The season slides off your shoulder. A tidy pile
of days. A folded-up-laundry list
of things-you-could-have-done-but-didn’t.
May’s sun veils the plumes of a sly fever
roaming the deserted streets of your city. Five times
a day the Muezzin calls to the faithful. Each time
you lift up your head to see the muted
hours of unreconciled sorrow flow past…

Soon this year too, will close like a protracted

sigh. Disappear like the legendary
Saraswati, and join the underground
aquifer of time. Swiftly,
like spilled water in summer, this age
will evaporate. Scattering your imprints
like fossilized small creatures.

Wish them well, before your heart takes

a turn. A sickled figure looms at the river’s bend,
lengthier than a late afternoon shadow. Watching
life drip like dew from a bent blade
of grass. Heed
the misty waters into which your shrouded feet
will eventually dip. Your soul fluttering
frantically for anchor. And, the boat ready
to row you gently down the stream

Empty your heart, now that humanity is slipping

off all needless raiment. And, desire is pure,
seeking nothing more than an
Earth of abundant joy.
Life may recede, but the season
of giving remains, as clear as a mountain
brook. Life’s flume, slaking the seekers.


* * * * *

Shikhandin is the pen name of an Indian writer who writes for both adults and children. Her published books as Shikhandin, include Immoderate Men (Speaking Tiger Books) and Vibhuti Cat (Duckbill-Penguin-RHI). Prior to that a novel and a short story fiction were published. Impetuous Women is forthcoming from Penguin-RHI. Her poetry and prose have won numerous awards in India and abroad. She has been nominated twice for Pushcart. Her work has been widely published nationally and internationally, in print and online journals and anthologies. Details at
Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Shikhandin/e/B07DHQM6H5/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1533117978&sr=1-2-ent

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorShikhandin/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/writershikhandin/


Wednesday, 30 December 2020

This month, a second Moon Prize, the sixty-seventh, goes to Jill Crainshaw's poem "Cedars in Snowy Places."


Cedars in Snowy Places

by Jill Crainshaw


Winter.
Solstice.
A gyroscopic dance
choreographed by Earth’s axial tilt.
Sun set still in winter
longest night
shortest day
Yule
midwinter
The land is vulnerable now,
sometimes covered by snowflakes
that have let go of something
somewhere
up there
and parachuted down to enchant
rooftops
and leaning-over farm fences
and autumn-tarnished grass.
And while tulip bulbs linger
in unseen silence
beneath the austere earth,
cedars in snowy places
fragrance the cold air
with emerald stillness
and praise the December moonlight.


* * * * *

Jill Crainshaw is a poet, preacher, and teacher. Through her writing and teaching, she celebrates life’s seasons and seasonings. She and her two dogs, Bella and Penny, look for poems each day in their back yard. Sometimes Jill writes them down. Check out Jill’s most recent book, Thrive: How professionals 55 and over can get unstuck and renew their lives on her website, jillcrainshaw.com.

 

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

 Just a photo.



Today's full moon's Moon Prize, the sixty-sixth, goes to Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad's poem "Portrait of Mother, aged five months."



Portrait of Mother, aged five months

by Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

In the pages of a leather album
between moth-eaten sheets
of rice paper, Mother rests on her belly,
in a photo from 1952. She gazes
in sepia and gray, five months old, wearing
just her birthday suit. An heirloom
glistens around her neck - a string of
gold beads like jasmine buds. Her ears
are adorned with matching studs,
and you can almost hear the jingling
of the bracelets on her dimpled arms,
the tinkling of the bronze prayer bell
she clutches in her cottony hands.

Five month old Mother in the vintage photo,
is an intact being. She doesn't fret yet
about the grape-black skin that drapes her.
The polar opposite of her own mother, who
is sandalwood-rose, Mother is a monsoon nimbus -
the lone inheritor of the atavistic trait
that gives her her onyx hide.

Five month old Mother has no inkling
of the uncharitable barbs about her coloring
that will stalk her throughout her life -
how they will lacerate her at every juncture
from the moment she comprehends language.
For now she beams and tosses her pinwheel curls,
eyes gleaming like mahogany moons.

For a moment the portrait breathes.
Five month old Mother seems to blink
as the beginnings of a smile distends
her lips. In this precious sliver of time,
her innocence shines untainted - no one has yet
planted the poisonous lie within her
that she’s some lesser breed of human.


* * * * *

© Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad 2020

Author's note: I wrote this poem after my mother sent me a photo of her as a baby. My mother is a black-skinned woman of South-Asian descent. In many South-Asian communities, black-skinned women are shunned. Throughout her life, she was made to feel like she was not good enough, because of her skin colour. My poem references this colorism. When I saw my mother's photo, I was overwhelmed. I thought she was incredibly beautiful. The innocent baby in that photo was so oblivious to how she would be treated. 

Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is an artist, poet, and pianist of Indian heritage from the Middle East. She holds a Masters in English. Her recent works have been published in Neologism Poetry, The Ekphrastic Review, Nigerian Voices Anthology, The Maier Museum of Arts Journal of Ekphrastic Poetry, Poetica Review, Silver Birch Press, and several other print and online literary journals and anthologies in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Africa, and Europe. Her poem "Mizpah" was awarded an honorable mention at the Glass House Poetry Awards 2020. She is the co-editor of the Australian literary journal Authora Australis.




Monday, 28 December 2020

“Things we lose are usually underneath something else.” -Benette R.

by Alexis Rhone Fancher


1.
I dream there is hair in my food.

In the morning, my lover says, “Yes, there’s 
a long hair in every dish you feed me.”

A strand of myself in every serving -
and he eats it like a condiment.

2.
“Looks like the same m.o.,”
the detective says, examining our broken
pane, bent screen. “He likes you 
long-haired girls.”

3.
I find myself alone in the kitchen, eating
rice I don’t remember cooking.

4.
When was the last time we had any fun?” 
my lover sighs. 

5.
I mean, who are we when we 
enter the Jacuzzi, and who are we
when we emerge? 

6.
I dream there is food in my hair.
And gum. And a switchblade.

7.
“For the vast majority of people,”
my mother said, just before she died.
“The thing that’s going to kill you
is already on the inside.”


* * * * *

“Things we lose are usually underneath something else.” was first published in decomP magazine (2017)

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry, Rattle, Hobart, Verse Daily, Plume, Cleaver, Diode, Duende, Pirene’s Fountain, Poetry East, Pedestal Magazine and elsewhere. She’s authored five poetry collections, most recently, Junkie Wife (Moon Tide Press, 2018), and The Dead Kid Poems (KYSO Flash Press, 2019). EROTIC: New & Selected, from New York Quarterly, and another, full-length collection (in Italian) by Edizioni Ensemble, Italia, will both be published in 2021. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weeklywww.alexisrhonefancher.com

 

Sunday, 27 December 2020

COMPLICIT

by Alexis Rhone Fancher


1. Mosquitos copulate against my screen door.
When I flick at them, they float farther down screen.
Still fucking.
I’ve known men like that.
Men who turn disaster into opportunity.
Call it Karma Sutra.

2. Yesterday my ex calls.
Another crisis. I can’t stop listening.

3. Every time we see each other, it’s like
we’ve never been apart,
he says.
I have no idea what he’s talking about.

4. He steps into my personal space
like a virus.

5. On Spring St. there’s a dead rat on the sidewalk,
his stiff paws and foot-long tail.

6. We decide to give it another try.

7. The mosquito zapper in the bedroom sparks
and sizzles.

8. That joke about marrying a schizophrenic -
fuck a different man every night.

9. In the morning, my ex is so up in my face
he could lick me.

10. The rat is on the sidewalk. Still dead.


* * * * *

"Complicit" was first published in Moon Tide Press’s Anthology Lullaby of Teeth (Sept. 2017).

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry, Rattle, Hobart, Verse Daily, lume, Cleaver, Diode, Duende, Pirene’s Fountain, Poetry East, Pedestal Magazine and elsewhere. She’s authored five poetry collections, most recently, Junkie Wife (Moon Tide Press, 2018), and The Dead Kid Poems KYSO Flash Press, 2019). EROTIC: New & Selected, from New York Quarterly, and another, full-length collection (in Italian) by Edizioni Ensemble, Italia, will both be published in 2021. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weeklywww.alexisrhonefancher.com

 

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Writing In A Woman's Voice is on solstice sabbatical until December 27, 2020. Happy solstice and happy holidays, Everyone! 

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Cedars in Snowy Places

by Jill Crainshaw


Winter.
Solstice.
A gyroscopic dance
choreographed by Earth’s axial tilt.
Sun set still in winter
longest night
shortest day
Yule
midwinter
The land is vulnerable now,
sometimes covered by snowflakes
that have let go of something
somewhere
up there
and parachuted down to enchant
rooftops
and leaning-over farm fences
and autumn-tarnished grass.
And while tulip bulbs linger
in unseen silence
beneath the austere earth,
cedars in snowy places
fragrance the cold air
with emerald stillness
and praise the December moonlight.


* * * * *

Jill Crainshaw is a poet, preacher, and teacher. Through her writing and teaching, she celebrates life’s seasons and seasonings. She and her two dogs, Bella and Penny, look for poems each day in their back yard. Sometimes Jill writes them down. Check out Jill’s most recent book, Thrive: How professionals 55 and over can get unstuck and renew their lives on her website, jillcrainshaw.com.

Friday, 18 December 2020

The Changing Colors of Skin

by Carole Mertz


Though I had no ideographs

like those of a Chinese girl,
I relished the joy of selecting
the colors from the crayon
box. Age, seven years,
my hair was curled by Mother
into fascinating long ringlets,
fascinating even to me.

The marks I made on the page
were likely the first chapters of
my little-girl life. Frustrated though,
I had no just-right color for skin. That
changed, Crayola adjusted. Our
world adapted, too, into these
many new shades of skin. Life
became as fascinating as my curls.


* * * * *

"The Changing Colors of Skin" is from Carole Mertz's forthcoming collection Color and Line (Kelsay Books, January 8, 2021)

Carole Mertz, poet, reviewer, and essayist, is the author of Toward a Peeping Sunrise (at Prolific Press) and the forthcoming Color and Line (with Kelsay Books). She is book review editor at Dreamers Creative Writing and served as judge (in formal poetry) for the 2020 Poets & Patrons of IL contest. Carole resides in Parma, OH.

 

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Fading Orb

by Charlotte Hamrick


My gaze was always captured by the pale moon

mark on your bottom lip. It rested just right 
of the full crescent curve,
beckoning a fingertip touch or 
taste of tongue. Was it there 
from birth or a scar from a mad lover’s 
bite? Sometimes I see it late at night shining 
just below the ceiling of my bedroom, 
a fading orb from another life.


* * * * *

Charlotte Hamrick’s creative work has been published in numerous online and print journals, most recently including The Citron Review, Flash Frontier, and Emerge Journal and was a Finalist in Micro Madness 2020. She reads for Fractured Lit and was the former CNF Editor for Barren Magazine. She lives in New Orleans with her husband and a menagerie of rescued pets.

 

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Heavy

by Charlotte Hamrick


City lights ride 

the shimmering air,
the horizon stretching

gray and purple,
drifting closer to home.
On the stoop

shadows of lace 
yawn beneath
our feet as we settle

into a quiet so deep 
there is no bottom,
no net to catch our fall.

How long
since our bodies
tumbled,

our voices
trembled.
You stand, stretch, 

pull the door securely
behind you. I stir
my drink with a finger,

lick away moisture.
Trees sigh beneath 
the weight of dying leaves.


* * * * *

Charlotte Hamrick’s creative work has been published in numerous online and print journals, most recently including The Citron Review, Flash Frontier, and Emerge Journal and was a Finalist in Micro Madness 2020. She reads for Fractured Lit and was the former CNF Editor for Barren Magazine. She lives in New Orleans with her husband and a menagerie of rescued pets.

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Christmas Party Bernalillo County Medical Center, 1973
Christmas Memory and Joy to Our Imperfect World

by Nancy Harris McLelland 


Over the loudspeaker, “Christmas party radiology conference room at noon.”
We chipped in for cold cuts, brought goodies—cheese and crackers, jello salad,
Mexican wedding cookies. Mary Dullea brought posole to eat in paper cups.  
Spiked punch lasts fifteen minutes.  Mrs. Petty whispers, 
“We shoulda made chicken soup for Dr. Kopperman.” 
Sandra brought bunuelos, made them in her Mexican cooking class. 
Consuela spits hers into the wastebasket, hisses to Teresa, 
“I’ve never tasted anything like that.” 
Sandra gets huffy, “They’re Mexico City style.  Not New Mexico.”

Kyle, the security guard, plays Santa.
Evie gives me three pair of bikini panties,
each with a drink recipe. Mary Dullea whispers 
she’s selling hot Navajo jewelry for her brother-in-law in Window Rock.
The custodians have their party upstairs. 
Lucille comes down to ours and complains, 
“They’re playing Spanish music. I can’t understand a word of it.” 
She writes her recipe for sweet potato pie on a “While You Were Out” pad.
It’s her new husband’s favorite.  He’s from the Bahamas, hates Albuquerque.

Mrs. Petty passes around a Christmas card to slip into Poopsie’s in-box. 
Poopsie is  secretary to Dr. B, the chief of radiology.  
The card is a photo of a penis with glasses and a little Santa hat.
Underneath it says, “Season's Greetings.  Guess Who?”
Poopsie won’t come to our party. The way she refers to herself
as “eg-ZEC-ative secretary,” I know she won’t show. 
Evie thinks Poopsie is having a mad affair with Dr. B.
That may be true, but I think Poopsie hates  all of us equally, 
especially this time of year.

Evie is thrilled to be pregnant.  We laugh 
when she pops a button because her boobs are getting big.  
The conference room is near the nursery and the maternity ward. 
When someone opens the door, you hear an infant cry. 
Mrs. Petty whispers, “Baby Hay-Soos,” every time.


* * * * *

For Nancy Harris McLelland, home means Nevada. She divides her time between Carson City, the capitol, and Tuscarora, an almost ghost town in the ranching country fifty miles north of Elko. She publishes on her blog, Writing from Space—Memoir, Essays, and Poetry from the Wide, Open Spaces of Northeastern Nevada www.writingfromspace.com and is also accessible through her Facebook page Tuscarora Writers Retreats.

Monday, 14 December 2020

Our Lady

by Katie Kemple


The same big Catholic family always
sat in the first pew on Sunday, beautiful
boys and girls, button down, neatly brushed
and groomed. And their mother twisted
her shiny hair in a clip, always looked

concerned, stoic and lovely, a doll of wonder.
I could not watch another, if we happened
to be at her mass. The definition of Mary
the mother. How I worried for her health,
her safety. One pregnancy after the other,

well into her forties and rarely a smile,
but never a frown. A cherubic child
with Down Syndrome in her lap. The picture
of suffering for something greater. No
doubt her children went on in the Jesuit

tradition to become successful businessmen,
engineers, doctors, esteemed professors
and superior judges—mothers, too,
some of them. I wondered what she would
have done if she hadn’t been so fertile.

I pined for her soul in another life
and wanted to know her secrets. She
was my personal Madonna, a Catholic
mystery. Why do I still think of her today
even? What makes a woman dedicate

her life to a faith guaranteed to bring
her pain? To submit to save everyone
else first, to be humble, to be put upon
again and again, is that what womanhood
is supposed to be?

I saw it in her and walked away.


* * * * *

Katie Kemple's poetry has appeared recently on Right Hand Pointing, The Collidescope, The Racket, The Sock Drawer, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Harbinger Asylum, and The Dewdrop. She writes in Southern California, by way of upstate New York, Boston, and Virginia.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Haiku

by June Crawford Sanders


yes, I made my bed
made the patchwork quilt also
guess I'll lie in it


* * * * *

June Crawford Sanders lives on the side of a mountain in the Sierra Nevadas. A tiny Texas flatlander great-niece asks how do you keep from sliding off. Favorite pastimes include writing, photographing bobcats, bears, and birds that come to the backyard water fountain, playing piano, and camping. Her poems have been published in What the Elephant Said to the Peacock by DempseyandWindle, UK, Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology, and in a tiny Poems-For-All book published by Robert Hansen, San Diego.

Saturday, 12 December 2020

As If There Is Meaning

by Marcia J. Pradzinski


The hospital elevator dings and delivers me
to ICU to my mother stroked comatose

I step into her room            my legs hesitant  heavy

as if 
her dying body weighs them down
and she doesn’t want me to see her
motionless     drained of energy

the very energy that fueled her hours ago
to bake a batch of blueberry muffins

as if
she knew her family would need nourishment
after seeing her body           lying stone-still

I walk to her bedside to fix
the crumpled sheet

my fingers skim the back of her feet
her toes reflex up and down

as if
to say
good-bye



* * * * *

Marcia J. Pradzinski is the author of Left Behind, a chapbook released by Finishing Line Press in 2015. Her poetry has been published in various journals, anthologies, and online websites. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in RHINO, Sonic Boom, Your Daily Poem, Origami Poems ProjectAeolian Harp Anthology 6 of Glass Lyre Press, and After Hours

Friday, 11 December 2020

 Recovery Regimen

by Lily Amaral

I ease myself towards the shower, afraid of disturbing their restful sleep— my newest babe and my darling. Their faces mold into mirroring expressions as I misstep, the floorboard suddenly creaking. My heart leaps. I anxiously watch their breathing, almost rhythmically in sync. I just need a few more minutes of tranquility. Postpartum is noisy.

I dread leaving the shower. I loath to use the damp towel I should’ve washed two days prior. I step out, surprised by the warmth of my towel—freshly cleaned. I beam with relief. He’s always thinking one step ahead of me. Postpartum is forgetful. He knows I’m still healing.

I recline on the couch, our new babe resting upon me. I’m tired, but more importantly, I’m thirsty. I cherish the look he gives me when he brings me my tea. He waits until I take a sip, with a grin spread across his lips. He asks, “What do you think?” As if he was bringing me some exotic drink. I smile and tell him it’s lovely. Postpartum is needy. 

I examine the clutter I’ve neglected. Dirty laundry is strewn across the floor, empty bottles nest upon the open space of nightstands, wet nursing pads stack up in random places throughout the room. He watches as I glance around with anxiety. He shakes his head and chuckles about my worrying. He assures me that he’ll help keep things clean. Postpartum is messy.

He asks me what I want for dinner. I say spaghetti. He tells me with sympathy that we’re out of noodles. I struggle to change my made-up mind. He rolls his eyes and sighs. He gives me a kiss, slips his shoes on, and leaves. I know he’ll go to the store and an hour later we’ll be eating. Postpartum is picky.

I look in the mirror and see someone I no longer recognize. I feel empty after carrying something inside me for so many long weeks. My shoulders shake and my chest heaves as I mourn the loss of my body. He comes to my side. Postpartum is grieving. He knows I’m still healing. 

I lay in bed unable to sleep. I know that this babe will wake any minute and be hungry. If only I could sleep more soundly between feedings. I look over at my peaceful husband with affinity. Postpartum is exhausting, but I know that he needs sleep.

Besides, tomorrow when I wake, he’ll bring me my tea.
There’ll be a smile on his face, and he’ll ask, “what do you think?”
He’ll beam with sensitivity.
Postpartum is loving.


* * * * *

Lily Amaral is currently an undergraduate student at California State University Stanislaus. Lily is an emerging writer, beginning her journey in introducing her work to publishers. Her latest work explores the unique dynamics present within various types of relationships. When not writing, she balances her time between being a mother, student, and substitute teacher.

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Nostalgias

Beatriz Dujovne


Gaslights do their luring in the dark. 
Orange auras, veiled faces, 
widows’ silhouettes in serpentine 
procession along the riverfront.

The glow carves nostalgia 
from the foliage. Horse-drawn 
carriages, women in corsets, 
curvaceous dresses, 
hair piled into crowns.
Prague? London? 
Buenos Aires perhaps.

His absence and I sit on a bench 
under yellow reflections broken by 
swaying leaves, embracing and 
sharing this immense grief,
saying goodbye again. 

A gentle rain soaks us
in dreamy, romantic,
exquisitely brief fog.


* * * * *

Beatriz Dujovne is a licensed psychologist with a private psychotherapy practice. She is the author of In Strangers’ Arms: The Magic of the Tango (McFarland, 2011) and Don’t Be Sad After I’m Gone (McFarland, forthcoming) and has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed psychoanalytic journals. Her poems have recently appeared in January ReviewFront Porch ReviewPoetica Review, and Amethyst Review.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020


 Just a photo. 

Portrait of Mother, aged five months

by Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad


In the pages of a leather album
between moth-eaten sheets
of rice paper, Mother rests on her belly,
in a photo from 1952. She gazes
in sepia and gray, five months old, wearing
just her birthday suit. An heirloom
glistens around her neck - a string of
gold beads like jasmine buds. Her ears
are adorned with matching studs,
and you can almost hear the jingling
of the bracelets on her dimpled arms,
the tinkling of the bronze prayer bell
she clutches in her cottony hands.

Five month old Mother in the vintage photo,
is an intact being. She doesn't fret yet
about the grape-black skin that drapes her.
The polar opposite of her own mother, who
is sandalwood-rose, Mother is a monsoon nimbus -
the lone inheritor of the atavistic trait
that gives her her onyx hide.

Five month old Mother has no inkling
of the uncharitable barbs about her coloring
that will stalk her throughout her life -
how they will lacerate her at every juncture
from the moment she comprehends language.
For now she beams and tosses her pinwheel curls,
eyes gleaming like mahogany moons.

For a moment the portrait breathes.
Five month old Mother seems to blink
as the beginnings of a smile distends
her lips. In this precious sliver of time,
her innocence shines untainted - no one has yet
planted the poisonous lie within her
that she’s some lesser breed of human.


* * * * *

© Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad 2020

Author's note: I wrote this poem after my mother sent me a photo of her as a baby. My mother is a black-skinned woman of South-Asian descent. In many South-Asian communities, black-skinned women are shunned. Throughout her life, she was made to feel like she was not good enough, because of her skin colour. My poem references this colorism. When I saw my mother's photo, I was overwhelmed. I thought she was incredibly beautiful. The innocent baby in that photo was so oblivious to how she would be treated. 

Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is an artist, poet, and pianist of Indian heritage from the Middle East. She holds a Masters in English. Her recent works have been published in Neologism Poetry, The Ekphrastic Review, Nigerian Voices Anthology, The Maier Museum of Arts Journal of Ekphrastic Poetry, Poetica Review, Silver Birch Press, and several other print and online literary journals and anthologies in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Africa, and Europe. Her poem "Mizpah" was awarded an honorable mention at the Glass House Poetry Awards 2020. She is the co-editor of the Australian literary journal Authora Australis.



Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Sweet Time

by Elya Braden


It’s 6 a.m., dark and drizzling, the cold
riding the warm smoke of our breath
like a virus, invading our cilia, icing our lungs.
Running with my best friend over black roads
glistening in the golden, bobbing circles
of our headlamps, we fling our daily troubles
into this shared dawn, giving feathers and flight
to the stones we carried in our solitude.

Suddenly, she slows, stops. She died, my friend
gasps, the memorial service is tomorrow.
Rain sparkles her cheeks. A dog barks.
I pluck a pine needle from her shoulder.

Who? I ask. Polly, she answers.
Our daughters go to the same pre-school.
I’m shaking and it’s not with cold,
or it’s more than cold.

How? I ask. What I want to ask is:
Could this happen to you? To me?
What I want to know is: It won’t.

Her cold turned into pneumonia. The doctor
told her to rest, but with three kids
and
a husband who travels, what could she do?

She collapsed at the supermarket.
They rushed her to the hospital,
but it was too late.

I hold my best friend and let her cry.
I don’t know her Polly, but I know so many
Pollys, mothers running faster and faster
on the treadmill of their to-do’s,
praying for the energy to not slow down,
to not fall off. We stand rooted
to the ground— two birches,
branches entwined to brave the wind.

How we stretch these moments like taffy.
Time all lazy and sticky and slow. Time,
the plus and minus that beats our hearts.
Time, which we measure, slice and wrap
into small sweets we palm and dole out
to husbands, children, bosses.

Each night, we fall into bed empty-handed,
our mouths watering for a taste, pink and
lingering, of our own sweet time.


* * * * *

Sweet Time was originally published in KYSO Flash (2018).

Elya Braden took a long detour from her creative endeavors to pursue an eighteen-year career as a corporate lawyer and entrepreneur. She is now a writer and mixed-media artist living in Los Angeles and is Assistant Editor of Gyroscope Review. Her work has been published in Calyx, Causeway Lit, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Prometheus Dreaming, Rattle Poets Respond and elsewhere and has been nominated for Best of the Net. She is the author of the chapbook, Open The Fist, recently released by Finishing Line Press. You can find her online at www.elyabraden.com.


Monday, 7 December 2020

A Dancer’s Notebook

by Nina Rubinstein Alonso


My summer sublet’s on West 16th Street, a tiny third floor studio with a steel bar built into the door so it’s harder to kick in. Walking to morning ballet class during this garbage strike means avoiding steaming trash bags, pawed, bitten, ripped and chewed by stray dogs, cats, rats, pigeons and whatever scavengers.

Armando’s ballet studio is above a hamburger joint, pliĆ©s and pirouettes in a fog of frying meat. His gold chain displays a cross, a crescent, a star of David and a Buddha, as it’s New York, everyone from everywhere. You’re green oceans away in Australia.

Hot, but toss a jacket over my jeans and t-shirt, as men stare, suck their teeth to be especially disgusting.

Friday Miguel arrives in his rattling green Oldsmobile, holds me when I can’t sleep, buys chorizo down the avenue, heads back to Cambridge Sunday afternoon.

Afternoon class is 83rd and Broadway, four flights up, Richard and Barbara Thomas’ high-ceilinged studios. While changing into leotards, dancers check each other out, one emaciated girl counting six almonds for lunch.

In Boston last summer, high nineties, no fans, no water bottles, we’re doing fast petite allegro, when things go foggy, and I pass out. David, a Brit from the Royal Ballet, pounds his cane, chain smokes, accuses us of ‘deliberately destroying the art of ballet,’ kicks people out who annoy him, his voice in imperial command mode, and this time he’s yelling at me. 

“What are you doing down there? Stand up! That’s what you get for being vegetarian. Eat something substantial!”

Somehow, blur-headed, I stand up and keep jumping.  

Late June a Cadillac rear-ends my VW Bug, shortening it a foot —whiplash, ankle sprain and stiff neck—but I take class anyhow. August David decides to close the Boylston Street studio and move to Florida. With parting rage he takes his cane and bashes studio mirrors, one sharp crack each, so they’ll be useless to anyone else.

Hard to sleep here, too much coffee, cockroaches scrambling even in the refrigerator, blast them with Windex.

Yesterday Miguel called complaining of back pain, seeing a doctor.

Richard Thomas is starting class when a woman rushes in—black leotard, black tights, black ballet slippers, black sunglasses, white cotton gloves—and squeezes herself between me and another dancer at the barre. The studio’s bright, but not sunglasses bright, and gloves mean she won’t touch the barre like the rest of us, avoiding who knows what lethal contamination, or maybe she’s got a rash? 

Richard notices she’s nuts, turns away. What else to do with the grab bag of types that show up for open class? He studied with Nijinska, performed with Ballet Russe, danced with his wife Barbara in Alicia Alonso’s company in Cuba and Balanchine’s in New York. Yesterday a choreographer from American Ballet Theater was here, but it can be anyone, including some with marginal sanity.

Richard’s in his usual short-sleeved sport shirt, plaid Bermuda shorts, white socks and white ballet slippers, demonstrating combinations with intricate footwork, telling jokes to lighten the mood. He teases Twyla Tharp, “What’s that stuff you’re putting on stage,” but she smiles and keeps dancing. When his daughter’s in class, he scolds that she’s forgetting corrections he’s ‘told her a thousand times,’ typical parental headache.

Sundays most studios close, but Madame Ekaterina has class at noon. Elderly, small and stiff, she sits in a chair and shows steps using ballet finger signals. The studio is full, a crush of bodies, the style classical Russian, strict and severe, no whining, no complaining, hide what hurts, get past it or get out.

Tonight I’m exhausted. Wish we could talk, as you know me and would understand, but you’re in Victoria, painting visionary canvases, left the States years ago with your daughter after a divorce. I’ve got an ice pack on my left ankle, aching from jumps in Barbara’s class, no idea whether it will calm down enough to let me sleep tonight or dance tomorrow.

Miguel called, back pain worse, another doctor doing more tests.

Air conditioning cranked high, I still smell rotting street garbage.

I’m waiting for something to click, not sure what to do next, too jittery to enjoy performing. 

I’m worried about Miguel, so when my sublet ends late August, I move back to Boston, look for a teacher I can work with. Not Shana, an anorectic filter-tip smoker whose chihuahua sleeps through class, never barks, stretches a doggy bow and follows her out of the studio.

Some of us hear her puking in the bathroom battling whatever she puts in her mouth. One winter day she arrives in a big mink coat. Mrs. Harrington glances from her desk, “Nice fur.”

Shana says, “Gift from my ex to make up for throwing me through the living room picture window, a few bruises, nothing broken but the glass.” Sickening, but I pretend I’m busy reading, heard nothing. Mrs. H. lights a cigarette, blows a balloon of smoke, sighs, as if that’s the way things go sometimes.

Shana corrects three students, ignores twenty-seven others, tells Mrs. H., “Can’t make me look at them, too short, too tall, too clumsy, too fat, can’t move.”

Thursday another teacher, Bob, calls in sick, actually hung over. Mrs. H. asks me to teach for him, and it goes well. Soon the school gives me four classes, then four more, and it turns into a job, lousy pay, but free ballet tickets and classes. I think of teachers I’ve had, narcissistic, scolding, impatient, demeaning, and the few decent souls who give of themselves, really teach.

One afternoon I park my old VW Bug, bumper duct-taped from last year’s crash, and see a puppy whining on the sidewalk, dumped like a fuzzy brown piece of trash. I take him inside, and Mrs. H shakes her head, “You softie,” but brings a bowl of water. I never owned a dog, have two cats, but take him home, spread newspapers, buy puppy food, not sure how Miguel will react.

I remember your dogs, Micah, a mellow black Lab, and Loki, a hyper Weimeraner. Still have the chair you gave me because Loki wouldn’t stop chewing one arm. Covered it with a shawl, repaired it years later.

Miguel looks at the puppy, laughs and starts patting him, amazing, as we don’t smile much now that we know how sick he is, chemo starting next week. The cats sniff the puppy, somehow accept him though he’s no fancy dancer, just a scruffy bit of life.

Not sure what to call him until a friend says the planets were aligned with Jupiter the day I found him, so he’s Jupiter, a mutt with a name suggesting cosmic realms.

For three years I drive Miguel, my love, back and forth to the hospital for treatments, until July 18 when, incomprehensibly, it’s over.

People talk about ‘getting by loss,’ say whatever they need to survive, but I find no comfort in greeting-card platitudes about suffering and death.

I’m still teaching ballet, crying while I drive to and from classes.  

Today snow’s piling up outside my window, and your email describes blazing summer, drought and wildfires. You ask how I’m doing, and I’m not sure how to reply, what words to choose, because I can’t make things better than they are, can’t lie.    


* * * * *

Nina Rubinstein Alonso’s work has been in Ploughshares, The New Yorker, Ibbetson Street, Muddy River Poetry Review, etc. Recent stories appeared in Southern Women’s Review, Broadkill Review, Peacock Literary Review, Writing in a Woman’s Voice etc.. Her book This Body was published by David Godine Press, her chapbook Riot Wake is upcoming from Cervena Barva Press, and a collection of stories is in the works.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Jeremy

by Sharon Waller Knutson


The mother of the precocious
four-year-old with chocolate
eyes and eyelashes dark
and curly as the Maybelline
TV commercials always

has an excuse why she can’t
afford to pay me or put him
in preschool and why
she can’t pick him up at 3 pm
when her shift at Dairy Queen
ends, and I don’t care because
I wish he were mine, but when
it’s time to close the bookstore,
and I can’t reach her, I’m worried.

He isn’t. Don’t worry about it,
he says. I’ll just live with you

and Big Foot, my big black cat.
I say, Oh, I wish you could.
I order pizza and read him
every kid’s book in the store.
Finally at 8:30 pm, his mother
shows up smelling of Listerine,
with no explanation or excuse.

Jeremy cries and clings to me.

When he is sixteen, the same age
his mother was when she had him,
he drops by the bookstore and asks
if I remember that day. I say I am

surprised he even remembers me
because I hadn’t seen him for years.
He says: Of course, I remember you.
You were not my babysitter.
You were my mother.


* * * * *

Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in a wildlife habitat in Arizona. She has published five chapbooks including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields and in various journals including Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review and The Song Is…

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Retrospective, At the End

by Sand Pilarski


I think about us, alone, at the end of the world;
our lives peeled back,
the very fabric of reality unfurled.

Or if we were stranded, on an island, you and I;
long waves breaking,
palm trees swaying in the breeze against an azure sky.

What if we were the last two explorers at the Pole,
our fuel all gone --
and just our heat to keep alive body and soul?

I would take my chance with the penguins or polar bears,
trudge out the door,
teeth gritted, on snowshoes, loudly mumbling, "Who cares?"

With strung-together coconuts I'd set out to sea,
in my bare skin,
afraid of death by jellyfish or shark -- not me.

Apocalypse dissolves the universe. Out you go,
into the void,
my swift kick making sure that you reap what you sow.

You're such a jerk. To you, my value was less than dirt.
Your greatest crime?
Never noticing that your inattention hurt.

Friday, 4 December 2020

...Young

by Sand Pilarski


On my doorstep
So different
After so many years
Than when we were...

A split second
of confusion
Then loud exclamations
Like when we were ...

Your hair longer
Mine much grayer
You and I changed our shapes
From when we were...

Both of us changed;
Other careers.
Retired from battlefields
Fought when we were...

Peace ascendant,
Calmer spirits
Unlike the memories
Of when we were...

Much wiser now
Staid, yet happy
No foolishness afoot
As when we were...

And promising
To stay in touch,
We vow to remember
That when we were...

We rode the wind
We strode the earth
We were invincible
Yes, when we were ...

We say goodbye
Remembering
Our wild gusts of laughter
Oh! When we were...

Your smile is just
As beautiful
As when our glasses clinked
Back when we were...


* * * * *

"...Young" was first published on Piker Press.

Thursday, 3 December 2020

one lone panda
to Brigitta, freshman year of college, 1985

by Julia Fricke Robinson


one lone panda stands guard
over an almost spotless room
we can tell you won’t be back for a while
even the cats have deserted their post
at the foot of the bed

so many changes
lie ahead of you, decisions
I can’t interfere with, relationships
I have no privilege to share
it pains me, as this empty room reminds me

only hours ago I smoothed a head full of curls
read bedtime stories
of girls growing up to be doctors
boys who wanted to be ballet dancers
even then you were on a threshold

now you dream of your own child to rock
can you begin to understand
that solution is only temporary, and you too
at forty, will find yourself pausing at the door
of an almost spotless room

making small talk
with one lone panda standing guard


* * * * *

"One Lone Panda" is from Julia Fricke Robinson's memoir All I Know (2020).

Julia Fricke Robinson divides her time between visiting children and grandchildren in Colorado, Indiana and New York and living, dancing and writing in a community of artists, writers, performers, activists and otherwise interesting people in beautiful Silver City, New Mexico, where the weather is just about perfect.

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Of Salmon

by Julia Fricke Robinson


For what are we anyway, but salmon
flipping, flopping
as far as 2,000 miles upstream
refusing food, hardly daring to breathe
longing toward the water of our birth
leaping, straining, following our noses
to our own regeneration

Water, once clean and cool
like rain, before acid became an adjective
before clear-cutting sent armloads
of untethered earth avalanching down slopes
into rivers, like a woman's menses
cleaning hills of their barrenness
clogging spawning fields like over-filled tampons

And what have we to give each other
but more of the same
more flipping, more flopping
more daily rehashing of too-long days
across six o'clock news
no mention of the sunset
no strains of Beethoven, Mozart or Vivaldi

What more do we have to hope for
after all these years of freedom
having done it all at least once
having loved and lost
having wanted but not dared
having agonized without surrender
it is all so old

Yet in the deep throaty yawns of memory
I recall, only fleetingly, the taste of you
the shimmer of mucus on the new-born thought
the seduction of untainted pleasure

And, in that memory, an old gene
a left-over spark of a story not yet told
stirs, and I listen, as the salmon
unmindful of the end of the world
hearts straining to remember
struggle upstream once more


* * * * *

"Of Salmon" is from Julia Fricke Robinson's memoir All I Know (2020).

Julia Fricke Robinson divides her time between visiting children and grandchildren in Colorado, Indiana and New York and living, dancing and writing in a community of artists, writers, performers, activists and otherwise interesting people in beautiful Silver City, New Mexico, where the weather is just about perfect.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

This month yields a second Moon Prize, the sixty-fifth, and it goes to Alethea Eason's poem "The Wall." 


The Wall

by Alethea Eason


Metal shafts lay down shadows on the border,
south and north. Human tracks trace the line,
disremembering the grace of nature.

Javelina loses a baby through the bars.
Rattlesnake sneaks through, citizen of neither country.

Ocelot’s allegiance is forced and unexpected.
She slumbers beneath a cottonwood
that sips from springs on the other side.
Her thirst has declared its native land.

On the top of the shafts, blackbirds converse
in grackle language about their passports
made of sun and a wind whipping from the sierras.


* * * * *

"The Wall" was first published as one of the prize-winning poems in Desert Exposure's 2020 Writing Contest.

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.