Saturday, 18 September 2021

Writing In A Woman's Voice is on equinox sabbatical until September 26, 2021, on which date this month's Moon Prize will be announced belatedly. Happy equinox to all! 

The Color of Autumn

by Tobi Alfier


Autumn’s first morning is a heart drawn in frost
on her windshield, a note with a phone number
under the wiper-blade, a curious lookaround
at tool and die shops across the street,
opened early for overtime, jolly banter
from the open doorways and no one looking
her way.

She calls the number, finds he’s been watching her
since before the time change brought light
—peach and gold on her dark curls as she leaves
the gym for work that will never dispel the puzzle
of this mystery man.

A windswept brogue that gets more pronounced
with drink, he shares a house with four
tool and die mates. They tease him about
waiting for her. He gets barked at for slowing
down, it turns the whole mood south.
She knows none of this, imagines him strong,
and brave. Clean cotton shirt rolled up
highlights a brilliant tattoo of songbirds,
a pack of Marlboro Reds tucked into
the right side.

He is a left-handed artisan,
and he holds the secret of her inside—
like butter-rum candy turned over and over,
sweetness that waits to be part
of their first kiss. Strangers
that first time, just the beginning.

She’s halfway to crazy with imaginations,
and frightened, knows she’s a magnet
for strays, can’t believe for once
this might be real. He is nothing       
but good, she is uncertain she knows
what that is. A foreigner to happiness,
she lets the butter-rum dissolve without tasting,
and with hard knowledge held close
and unspoken, knows deep inside
they will always be strangers, a note
she’ll unfold again and again, the number
like cold breath, hanging in the autumn air.  


* * * * *

"The Color of Autumn" was first published in Soundings East and is part of the author's collection Symmetry: earth and sky (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2020)

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee.  Symmetry: earth and sky was published by Main Street Rag. Her chapbook Grit & Grace was published by Orchard Street Press (March, 2021). She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).

Friday, 17 September 2021

Goodbye to Matt Paust with endless gratitude

As many of us know, for the past several years Matt Paust read and commented here or on Facebook on every single woman's voice posted in this blog, a bit more sporadically towards the end. Here is link to an obituary in his own words: https://socialistjazz.blogspot.com/2021/09/mathew-paust-rip.html. I trust he will continue to hear our voices and our gratitude and remembrance and love wherever he is now. 

Goodbye Matt. Your generous, quick, brilliant spirit remains.

Night Songs

by Allison Thorpe

                                                For Billie Holiday

 
Whenever Stella and my mother got together
out came the Mogen David and the Newports,
behavior my father would stomp in an instant.
 
They'd sit out on the screened back porch,
let Billie Holiday drift over the lake
like a silky sailboat.
 
Feral, I would creep from my bed,
listen to my mother's soft sobs,
Stella's fuck him whispered over and over,
 
then Stella would grab my mother
and they’d dance to Billie's Blue Moon,
Stormy Weather, My Man Don't Love Me,
 
twirling and waltzing around the patio,
arms fluid as liquid persuasion,
until they were singing Billie so loudly
 
the stars quaked and fell,
and I’d sleep, finally, to the healing
heartbreak of women.


* * * * *
 
"Night Songs" originally appeared on Workhorse Publishing website.

Allison Thorpe is the author of several collections of poetry, the most recent being Reckless Pilgrims (Broadstone Books). Her work has appeared in such journals as So To Speak, Appalachian Heritage, Still: The Journal, Split Rock Review, Roanoke Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Gingerbread House. She'd love to be an international poker player.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Throwing It Away Doesn't Mean It Didn't Happen

by Juliet Cook


You can't throw away an open wound.
You can't stop it from dripping until it pours
down every ceiling in this house, every room you enter
even though you pretend to feel safe and able to stick
it into one room's drain. What if that drain never unclogs?

It's your fault for pulling an ex-friend's hair out
of the bathtub drain and placing the hair on a condescending letter
as if you were better than them because you didn't shove your own hair
down that drain. Instead you obsessively hacked your own hair off
and stuck it inside a tiny garbage can with the bathroom door locked.

You repeatedly locked doors and sat on counters near the sink
against the mirror, divided your face into numbered sections
and secretly conducted your own compulsive rituals against yourself.
You somehow let yourself believe your own anxiety
and obsessive streaks made more sense than someone else's depression.

You can try to stitch yourself shut before it heals.
You can stitch shut your own mouth, but if you do,
it will rip itself back open when you least expect it,
hurling blood, stinging every room red
with tears and half dead hissing rat heads
with giant fragmented fly eyes. Portents of demonic surveillance
aiming to reveal that your bad parts outweigh everything else.


* * * * *

Juliet Cook's poetry has appeared in lots of print and online publications. She is the writer of quite a few poetry chapbooks, recently including Another Set of Ripped-Out Bloody Pigtails (The Poet's Haven, 2019), The Rabbits with Red Eyes (Ethel Zine & Micro-Press, 2020) and Histrionics Inside my Interior City (part of Ghost City Press's 2020 Summer Micro-Chapbook Series). Her most recent full-length poetry book, Malformed Confetti, was published by Crisis Chronicles Press in 2018. She is brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, and dark red explosions. You can find out more at www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Does Lard Go Bad?

by Juliet Cook


You envy new experiences because
once you get old, less and less people care,
not even you. Because at least half
the older people prefer to surround themselves
with younger people. At least half of your life
is gone, sucked into the eyes staring at the bodies
of those 30 years younger than you.

Because kids, grandkids, and scantily clad models
get more attention than middle-aged women.
Because pregnant bellies are so sexy,
but a flabby middle-aged gut is the total opposite
of life. Because the bodies you rolled
your eyes at 20 years ago are now you
and more than half your life is inside other people's trash bags.


* * * * *

Juliet Cook's poetry has appeared in lots of print and online publications. She is the writer of quite a few poetry chapbooks, recently including Another Set of Ripped-Out Bloody Pigtails (The Poet's Haven, 2019), The Rabbits with Red Eyes (Ethel Zine & Micro-Press, 2020) and Histrionics Inside my Interior City (part of Ghost City Press's 2020 Summer Micro-Chapbook Series). Her most recent full-length poetry book, Malformed Confetti, was published by Crisis Chronicles Press in 2018. She is brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, and dark red explosions. You can find out more at www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Becalmed       

by Nina Rubinstein Alonso  


Sunday Emilia and David meet Sam to go sailing on Chesapeake Bay. “Where’s Leah?”

“Tried to make it work,” he says avoiding their eyes.

The afternoon breeze is soothing after the sticky humidity of downtown DC, David working the tiller, Emilia reading aloud from the Times about a psychedelic music festival in up-state New York, Sam scanning financials.

David lights a joint. Curious, Sam takes a puff. 

“Don’t feel much.”

“Relax, just try it.”

Sam’s looking at the water, pockets of light rippling and disappearing.  “Blinky lights on the waves,” he says.

“Poetry,” says Emilia, “You’re high.”

“Nope,” not into that sort of thing as he’s an investment lawyer, enjoys working chess problems and crossword puzzles, but his wife just left him.

Watching tv that night Sam hears words above the sound track saying, “relax, just try it.” He’s popping a can of beer, knows audio can be hacked or manipulated, happens with microphones, computers, telephones, but recognizes the memory tag, Emilia and David’s coaxing.

Monday after work he’s jogging on his new treadmill, figures he’s in decent shape for thirty one. Vacation in a few weeks, maybe meet someone new.

He has questions about pot, but can’t ask David and Emilia or they’ll say he’s projecting anxiety. Friday they invite him for dinner with some friends, “one woman’s an artist, another a therapist,” Emilia said.

He’s wary of psychological types who label emotions as if they know everything, once mentioned that he doesn’t remember dreams and got scolded for being ‘suppressed.’

When a guy at work asked if Leah took off with someone else, he replied, “We had problems, better end it before kids, a house and a dog.” 

He thought a baby would help, but she'd push him away saying, “Babies can’t cure a hopeless situation.”



He’d scold that she was being immature when she yelled or slammed doors, go smoke his pipe, pour a drink, do chess problems. Once she threw an article about ‘sexual problems’ at him, but he’s not reading that crap. Angry situations sap a man’s energy, and he suspects other men of exaggerating their powers in bed.

The day before leaving she said, “I was a nineteen year old virgin, knew nothing.”

He was at work, and she clearly planned to avoid him. He can picture her gripping her purse and suitcase, getting on the elevator, the door sliding shut. Maybe he should have asked if she’d slept with someone else but doubts she’d admit it, leave him guessing alone in an empty apartment. He remembers the last office party, her smiling with that tall, curly-haired guy, an architect from city planning.

At the Friday night party Sam asks why everyone’s in jeans.

“Dude, at Consumer Crusaders we wear whatever, including denim. My boss has side-burns and a circus-impresario mustache, no jackets, no ties.”

“Really?” Sam says with an Anglophile lilt, as he likes jackets and ties, but only one other man is in a jacket, pale yellow, ‘mod,’ matching his dyed yellow hair. 

David says, “Get rid of your strait-jacket, dude, cancel Brooks Brothers. Wine’s over there,” pointing to the side table serving as a bar.

Sam places bottles of Merlot on the table, uncomfortable, considers leaving.

Emilia’s in a stringy black halter top and slithery green slacks. “Everyone in Consumer Crusaders?” he asks. 

“Some, the others from Del Cabo Arts Center,” where she teaches design and paints ochre, pink and greenish gold canvases. 

Pot’s floating in from the balcony, and what if someone calls police?

Emilia notices. “No worries, mi amigo, es bonito,” and pats his shoulder. 

Sam’s attracted to her brown eyes, woven braids, café au lait skin, surprised when she grabs his sleeve, leads him to the bedroom and pulls off his jacket.

“Loosen up!” Tingles where she’s touching him, undoing his tie, unbuttoning cuffs, pictures shoving her onto the pile of coats, ripping off her slithery green slacks, screwing her silly, but stands motionless while she rolls up his sleeves.

“Cheer up, blond zombie. Here’s a tissue, forehead’s dripping.” 

He wipes his face, follows her to the living room, takes a few puffs of the joint David offers.  “Doesn’t do much for me,” he says.

“Tough case, try another toke.”



Music’s floating in from the balcony, mellow Spanish guitar. Vacation in Cancun? He closes his eyes, not wanting to appear needy. 

“Relax,” says Emilia.

Next puff he’s coughing, scattered and unsure, conversation floating by in broken pieces. He see David slicing French bread, people wandering in from the balcony in tie-dyed t-shirts, one Asian woman in a gauzy black blouse, bra-less breasts soft and round.

A muscular olive-skinned man sits next to him and starts tuning a guitar, and Sam adjusts sideways. “Me llamo Gustavo,” the man says.

“Sam,” he answers, noticing wide silver rings on the man’s fingers, Mexican? Gustavo’s speaking rapid Spanish to a pony-tailed man stretching on the rug.

“Where are they from?” he asks Emilia.

“Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca.” 

“Heard from Leah? The divorce is final soon.”

“She’s not coming back, if that’s what you’re asking.”

He wants to meet someone new, but not that bra-less woman in her gauzy blouse, supposedly a noted sculptor.

Sunday they’re becalmed on Chesapeake bay in a sailboat going nowhere, no wind, no motor. David’s cracking peanuts, popping them in his mouth, tossing shells overboard, watching them float. 

Emilia says,“Next week we’re meeting a woman who communicates with spirits.”

“Phonies making a buck,” Sam’s scowling.

“Sure, there are phonies,” David says,”but this one’s real.”

Emilia hesitates then, “My best friend Judy saw her dad in a dream, heard him say ‘I’m leaving, I’m leaving.’ Next day her mom calls sobbing that he’s dead, heart attack. Nothing phony about that. He came to say goodbye,” tears streaming.

They stew in silence glad the wind comes up filling the sails, moving them toward shore. 

Emilia and David stop inviting Sam, and he stops calling them.  If they meet by chance, both say how busy they’ve been.

He vacations in Cancun, gets a nasty sun burn on his long, white back, mangles a few Spanish words ordering meals, though no need since everyone at the resort speaks fluent English. The guests are mostly couples, the rest uninteresting women.



September he trades his Chevy for a classic Mercedes convertible, gray, the car he’s always wanted, buys a black captain’s hat and invites Emilia and David for a drive.

They accept out of curiosity, Emilia thinking, “He looks like an ad for expensive booze.”

As they whiz past fields and farms, David squeezes her hand in a signal way, indicating Sam’s gone overboard. But they feel sorry for him as they’ve known each other since college, invite him now and then, but with other people, never alone.

Sam’s dating a new paralegal in his office, Rennie, petite, with short gold-streaked hair. “Pretty and smart,” he tells Emilia when they meet by the cheese counter at the supermarket.

“Nice,” Emilia says and tells David, who admits he’d like to see what Sam’s up to.

Rennie is from Ohio, first time living beyond parental control, excited to tell them she’s dating a lawyer with a classic Mercedes convertible. She’s hinted to her roommate Vera that ‘interesting things are happening,’ but doesn’t admit that Sam’s ended her virginity rather uncomfortably, glad Vera doesn’t ask prying questions. 

Over Thanksgiving dinner Sam tells his mother about Rennie.

“Isn’t it soon to get serious?” as she was hoping his divorce might bring them closer, but he’s more distant than ever. “She’s young, and you don’t want a hasty rebound remarriage.” 

Sam shows no signs of uncertainty. “Experience, as they say, is a great teacher,” smiling over the pumpkin pie. 

He brings Rennie to David and Emilia’s solstice party, showing them not everyone has to smoke pot or wear jeans. Rennie’s excited to meet artists and people with government jobs, considers Sam sophisticated and smart, doesn’t complain about his performance in bed.

“Overgrown Barbie doll,” David says.

“I gave up on him that becalmed day I told him about Judy’s dad,” Emilia sighs.

Mid-April Sam and Rennie stand before a Justice of the Peace as she’s already pregnant, smiling as he slides a gold ring on her finger.



* * * * *

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